Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A bad review for Amazon. I ordered a Spider-Man book for my seven year old, who loves the old original comics. I pleaced the order from Amazon about December 2. The confirmation said delivery would be made by December 9 or 10, that the book was in stock, and it would be shipped within 1 to 2 days. That would work, because I wanted to give it to Brian for Hanukah, which was for eight days, from December 7 through December 14.

On December 11, still having not received thebook, I checked the order at Amazon, and discovered that it had not even shipped yet. OK. I cancelled the Amazon order, and bought a copy of the same book through Ebay. I'll still miss Hanukah, but I wasn't going to do business with Amazon under those circumstances.

This episode is somewhat out of the ordinary, because my previous Amazon experiences have been pretty good. Xmas rush problems?
I love Nelson Demille's books. He tells a good story, and his prose is sometimes drop dead funny. Check out his new one, Night Fall. Here's a review. Set in the summer of 2001, FBI terrorism task force agent John Corey delves into the 1996 TWA 800 explosion and crash off Long Island. The official conclusion: mechanical problem in the center fuel tank. Corey's conclusion: read the book. Well written, and disturbing, too.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Well, I've entered the world of wireless networking, via the Netgear WGT624 router and WG511T PC card. I'm supposed to be able to get 108 mbps [or up to it, anyway], but it only wants to connect at a maximum of 54 mbps. At least it works. Sort of. The signal strength weakens badly at the outer edges of my office, so some sort of amplifier or booster will probably be necessary. Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds is picking me up for lunch in a few, so I'll be able to try it out in a wi-fi restaurant.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Here's an insider's view on the fight for Fallujah. I've typed this once already, and the damned Blogger crashed -- lost it all! Anyway, this first-hand account of the recent battle comes from a retired Army Colonel, who obviously got it from someone on the ground. We are also directed to a good presentation on Fallujah facts. Some interesting things to know: 60 out of 100 mosques in Fallujah were used as fighting positions/weapons caches; 3 hospitals were used as defensive positions; 203 major weapons storage areas have been found in the city.

Here's the story, a lot of which we have not heard before:
Well Task Force 2-7 Cav made it back from Fallujah earlier than expected, mission accomplished. It feels so good to be back from a second successful mission that was as difficult as it was dangerous. We left Camp Cooke on Nov 1 and staged at Camp Fallujah for about a week. While there, we got the good news that George Bush was re-elected and we had busy days and nights of planning and rehearsals for the big attack. 2 days before "D Day," a 122 mm rocket impacted 50 meters away from our tents that sent everyone to the floor. We staged there at a remote part of the post and it was obvious that a local national tipped off the "mujahadin" (Arabic name for the enemy) where we staged. From that attack, we lost one soldier and 4 more were wounded. That attack gave the rest of the Task Force enough anger to last the whole fight. After all the drills and rehearsals, the day for the attack finally came on Nov 8. Prime Minister Allawi gave the green light and Coalition and Iraqi forces went all the way.

On Nov 7, a battalion of Marines seized the peninsula to the west of the city to prevent insurgents from fleeing. A brigade (4,000 soldiers) from the First Cav set up another cordon around the city to catch anyone fleeing. The plan was to make sure the insurgents would either surrender or fight and be killed. Intelligence estimates put the enemy between 3,000 - 5,000 strong, so we knew we had a tough fight ahead of us. One of the interesting factors to this fight was the weather although Iraq is unbelievable hot in the summer (up to 130 in Najaf), it was colder out in Fallujah than it was back in New York. Temperatures were typically in the upper-30s and low 40s between 5 pm 8 am. The average temperature here has dropped about 30 degrees in the past month or so.

We moved all of our vehicles and soldiers from Camp Fallujah to a position about 1 mile north of the city. That's also where we set up our TF support area (re-fuel, re-arm) and where we set up the Tactical Operations Center. All day long while were setting up at that location, Air Force and Marine Corps aviators shaped the battlefield with laser-guided bombs and hellfire missiles. Although American forces had not been into the city since April, we had been collecting intelligence on the city for months through unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's), human intelligence, and Special Forces. So we knew exactly where they stored their weapons and where they held meetings, and so on all of these attacks from the air were precise and very effective in reducing the enemies ability to fight us before the battle even started. With each attack, secondary explosions of weapons/ammo blowing up were heard. The Coalition also threw the enemy a curveball by destroying all the vehicles that had been parked in the same location for more than 3 days---the enemy planned to use these as car bombs when we attacked. Again, almost every single vehicle the air assets attacked had huge secondary explosions.

After 12 hours of massive air strikes, Task Force 2-7 got the green light and was the first unit to enter the city. There is a big train station on the city's northern limit, so the engineers cleared a path with some serious explosives and our tanks led the way. While this was happening, my intelligence shop was flying our own UAV to determine where the enemy was. It is a very small plane that is launched by being thrown into the air. We flew it for 6 hours and reported grids to the tanks and Bradley's of where we saw insurgents on the roof and moving in the street---so our soldiers knew where the enemy was, before they even got to the location. We crossed the train station just before midnight and led the way for the Marines by killing everything we could in our way. It took our tanks and brads until 10 am the next day to get 2 miles into the city. They killed about 200 insurgents in the process and softened the enemy for the Marines. 5 of our soldiers were wounded in this first 10 hours, but we accomplished our part of the plan. The Marines mission was to follow TF 2-7 and fight the enemy by clearing from building to building. A lot of the insurgents saw the armored vehicles and hid. They waited for the Marines to come and took their chances by fighting them since the Marines weren't protected by armor like we were. In that first day of fighting, the Marines took 5 KIA and many more wounded, but they also did their job very well. Along the way, they found HUGE caches of weapons, suicide vests, and many foreign fighters.

They also found unbelievable amounts of drugs, mostly heroin, speed, and cocaine. It turns out, the enemy drugged themselves up to give them the courage" and stupidity to stay and fight. The enemy tried to fight us in "the city of mosques" as dirty as they could. They fired from the steeples of the mosques and the mosques themselves. They faked being hurt and them threw grenades at soldiers when they approached to give medical treatment. They waived surrender flags, only to shoot at our forces 20 seconds later when they approached to accept their surrender.

The next few days, TF 2-7 maintained our battle positions inside the city, coming out only for fuel and more ammo. We fought 24 hours a day and continued to support the Marines as they cleared from house to house. If they were taking heavy fire or RPG fire from a house, they would call on our tanks. Our guys would open up on the house with 120 mm main gun or 50 cal. After 5 minutes of suppressive fire, then the Marines would go into the building and clear it. There was rarely anyone left alive by that point. The problem is that we couldn't be there to do that for all the Marines and when we couldn't and they had to clear the building without our help, they took heavy casualties because the insurgents didn't stop firing until the Marines got into the building and killed them.

After 3 days, half of the city had been cleared and Iraqi Forces followed the Marines to re-clear the buildings and clean up the caches. Sometimes the insurgents who had managed to hide from the Marines would stand and fight the Iraqis, so they took some casualties as well. But they did a good job of securing the area and collecting the thousands of AK-47s, RPGs, mortars, and IEDs that were in these houses. All that ammo proved just how intensely the enemy planned to defend the city; after all, Fallujah was the symbol of the resistance against the new Iraqi government. They wanted to keep their safe haven for terrorists like Zarqawi to behead innocent people. Since no Coalition Forces were allowed into the city, they were able to get away with those atrocious acts without much trouble. On day 3 of the fight, we had the most exciting moment for me personally when our Task Force Support Area and TOC came under attack. Insurgents fired mortars and rockets at us everyday, some landing as close as 30 meters from us.

But on this day at 6 pm, just as it was getting dark, we took 3 rounds very close and then to the north 8-10 insurgents opened up with small arms fire on the TOC. Luckily, a tank platoon was back re-fueling and along with the scout platoon, laid down some serious firepower and killed them all in a matter of 5 minutes. But all of us in the TOC got to go out and be part of the fight, firing rounds and seeing the tanks unload on these insurgents. None of us were hurt, but it was an exciting 10 minutes. THEN came the second push through the rest of the city. Although by day 4, the Coalition had already killed over a thousand, many of them fled to the southern portion of the city and took up positions there. Again, Task Force 2-7 led the push a little before midnight. Same mission, same purpose: To soften up enemy strong points and kill as many insurgents as possible to enable the Marines to follow us when the sun rose. The Marines from Regimental Combat Team 1 did just that for the next 5 days---fighting house to house, finding more weapons, more torture chambers, more ammunition, and more insurgents ready to fight to the death. One fighter came running out of a building that our tanks set on fire he was on fire and still shooting at us.

As our Sergeant Major said, "going up against tanks and brads with an AK-47, you have to admire their effort!" Over the next 5 days, the Marines and our Task Force killed over 1,000 more insurgents. In that time frame, over 900 more fighters made the decision to spend 30 years in prison rather than die. The Marines are still occupying the city and helping with the rebuilding process---they still meet some sporadic resistance, usually a group of 3-5, shooting from a mosque or faking surrender and then shooting at them.

We were very disturbed to find one house with 5 foreigners with bullets in their head, killed execution style. Marines also came upon a house where an Iraqi soldier in the Iraqi National Guard had been shackled to the wall for 11 days and was left there to die. These insurgents are some sick people and Fallujah proved that more than ever. 2 mosques were not being used for prayer but rather for roadside bomb making. They were literally IED assembly line factories, with hundreds of IEDs complete or being built. They also had several houses with high-tech equipment where they conducted their meetings. In Fallujah, the enemy had a military-type planning system going on. Some of the fighters were wearing body armor and Kevlar's, just like we do. Soldiers took fire from heavy machine guns (.50 cal) and came across the dead bodies of fighters from Chechnya, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, and so on no, this was not just a city of pissed off Iraqis, mad at the Coalition for forcing Saddam out of power. It was a city full of people from all over the Middle East whose sole mission in life was to kill Americans. Problem for them is that they were in the wrong city in November 2004.

Now that its over, there is a lot of things that people back home should know. First of all, every citizen of Fallujah (non-insurgent) is getting $2,500 USD (that's a lot over here) to fix up their house or buy new things that may have been destroyed in the fighting. Insurgents took up positions in residents houses so we were forced to destroy a lot of buildings. There is over $100 million dollars ready to be spent to re-build the city. This may seem like a lot of money, but I can assure you that it is a small price to pay for the amount of evil people no longer alive, contemplating how to kill more Americans. The intelligence value alone is already paying huge dividends. Some of the 900 detainees are telling everything they know about other insurgents. And the enemy never expected such a large or powerful attack and they were so overwhelmed that they left behind all kinds of things, including books with names of other foreign fighters, where their money and weapons come from, etc. I went into the city 3 times, but after a lot of the fighting had been done. It was amazing to see how the American military had brought the worlds most evil city to its knees. I have an awful lot of pictures that I am going to upload to my web site it will blow your mind to see what the insurgents forced us to do to win this fight. And seeing the pictures of what I saw firsthand will make you very happy to be an American and know that our country has this might if evildoers force us to use it. Our mission in Iraq is to help the Iraqi Security Forces become stable enough to keep this country safe and once in a while fight with our full might to give these security forces a fair chance. When we need to go after the enemy with all we've got, the results have been amazing.

In the fight for Fallujah, our military lost over 50 soldiers and Marines including a sergeant major, company commander, and 8 platoon leaders, along with 40 kids, typically between 19 and 23 years old. I cant even tell you how proud I was to be part of this fight and know these soldiers who were going from building to building to take the fight to the enemy. My Task Force lost 2 more soldiers after the rocket attack at Camp Fallujah, 1 of them that I knew pretty well. It was hard on the unit to deal with these losses, to go along with the 16 soldiers from 2-7 who were wounded. But this was a fight we knew would be dangerous..but worth the risk based on the good that would come out of it. Anyone back home who thinks the world is a safe place needs to come here for a day and learn real fast that there are an awful lot of people out there who hate Americans so much that they risk their lives to try to kill us. We cannot live peacefully back at home right now unless we continue to stay on the offensive against our enemies and fight them in their backyards. Remember, radical Arabs started this war and they continue to fight it, proving to America over and over that they need to be fought. I am hopeful that most Americans understand that you have to accept death to defeat evil; all of us soldiers accepted that the day we signed up. There are some things worth fighting and dying for, and making the world and specially America, a safer place, is one of them. For every Mom out there that you read about who turns into a peace protestor when her son is killed in action, there are 99 Moms you don't hear about who are proud and believe in this mission even more. It sure is good to be back to Taji after our second "field trip." We have an officers vs. enlisted football game tomorrow where I am the quarterback, so I am excited about that. We also have a Task Force Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Despite the fact we have upcoming Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years away from family, friends, and fun all of our soldiers are thankful to be back after this big fight and to have played such an important role in the successful mission.
Bless 'em all, bless 'em all
Bless 'em all, bless 'em all
The long and the short and the tall,
Bless all the sergeants and corporals too
Bless all the privates and above all bless you

Friday, November 19, 2004

I wish I had said this. Wait: I did.

Monday, November 15, 2004

I said it in 2000, and I said it in 2004: If Carville is on board, the democratic candidate wins the presidency. I was giving short shrift to Carville's partner in crime, however, namely one Paul Begala. Courtesy of ABC's The Note, The Sunday Boston Globe reports that Begala, who co-engineered [with James Carville and a host of others] Bill Clinton's successful White House run in 1992, was approached by the Kerry campaign in August to become a senior campaign advisor. After weighing his burgeoning TV career, he called Mary Beth Cahill to say yes, and she never called him back:
So in mid-June, Begala met with campaign manager Cahill at Kerry's campaign headquarters in Washington and said he had changed his mind; he would quit CNN and join Kerry.

The reaction was not what he anticipated. What are you talking about? Cahill asked, according to Begala.

"It seems obvious you don't have a message or strategy-driven campaign," Begala said he replied.

Again, Cahill asked what Begala was talking about. Begala remembers that she looked "like I was going to perform open-heart surgery on her. She said: 'I need to think about this. Give me a couple of days to set that up.' From that day to now, I never heard another word from her. And you know, I was pretty angry. I'm still pretty angry."
Cahill now says she made a mistake in not calling Begala back. You think?

Not to toot my own horn [aw, why not; it's my blog], but I've said for years that getting the horse sense that Carville[or Begala] would have brought to the inner workings of the Kerry campaign would very possibly have been the difference between success and failure. By ignoring the South and placing all your hopes into one traditionally Republican state [Ohio], you are taking a hell of an electoral college gamble. The Democrats lost that gamble in 2000, and they did it again in 2004. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. For shame.

It also points out an "inside the Beltway" mindset I saw in 1985, when I interned for then-Senator Al Gore. I was a third year law student, and was willing to give of whatever skills I had for free [law school credit aside]. Gore's staff, however, was so turf-conscious and fearful of getting upstaged by anybody that they had me doing the xeroxing and signing constituent letters with the auto-pen.

My take is that Cahill responded to Begala's offer with shock and apparent disdain because she was afraid she was going to lose her campaign leadership position with Begala on board. Alternatively, she was afraid he would shake up the campaign that she had been instrumental in developing to that point. So, when Kerry & Co. needed it the most, they spurned assistance from one of the few people on the Democratic side who has ever successfully won a presidential campaign.

And now, Mary Beth Cahill is unemployed.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The New Republic: John Kerry for President. Salient quotes:
The president's war on terrorism, which initially offered a striking contrast to his special interest-driven domestic agenda, has come to resemble it. The common thread is ideological certainty untroubled by empirical evidence, intellectual curiosity, or open debate. The ideology that guides this president's war on terrorism is more appealing than the corporate cronyism that guides his domestic policy. But it has been pursued with the same sectarian, thuggish, and ultimately self-defeating spirit. You cannot lead the world without listening to it. You cannot make the Middle East more democratic while making it more anti-American. You cannot make the United States more secure while using security as a partisan weapon. And you cannot demand accountable government abroad while undermining it at home.

* * * *

On domestic policy, Bush has been Newt Gingrich without the candor. . . . But, rather than explicitly opposing popular government programs, as Gingrich did, Bush has pursued a more duplicitous strategy: He is eviscerating the government's ability to pay for them. His tax cuts. . . will produce what Bush's former Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, has privately called a "fiscal crisis"--a collapse in government revenue just as the baby-boom retirement sends Medicare and Social Security costs skyrocketing. This crisis will sap America's ability to wage the war on terrorism--since government will lack the funds to adequately safeguard homeland security or expand the military. It will create enormous pressure to eviscerate the government protections that guarantee poor and middle-class Americans even the meager economic security they enjoy today. And it will be entirely by design.

* * * *

By contrast, John Kerry has a record of fiscal honesty and responsibility that continues the tradition of Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin. Unlike most Democrats, he supported the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction plan. Unlike most Republicans, he supported Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction package. And, unlike President Bush, he supports the "pay as you go" rules that, in the 1990s, helped produce a budget surplus.

* * * *

In the weeks after September 11, Bush presided over a country more united--with more faith in its government--than at any other time in recent memory. He has squandered that unity and trust for the cheapest of reasons. His administration has used the war on terrorism as a bludgeon against congressional Democrats and has implied that its critics are aiding the enemy. And it has repeatedly misled the public--touting supposed evidence of Iraq's nuclear program that American intelligence analysts knew was highly dubious, rebuking General Eric Shinseki for telling the truth about how many troops it would take to occupy Iraq successfully, and firing Lawrence Lindsey for saying how much it would cost.

The result is a country bitterly divided, distrustful of its government, and weaker as a result. The next time an American president tries to use force in the war on terrorism, he will not merely lack the world's trust, he will lack much of the American people's as well. That may be Bush's most damning legacy of all. He has failed the challenge of these momentous times. John Kerry deserves a chance to do better.
A damning indictment of the Bush presidency, and, to my way of thinking, an accurate one.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Glenn says that when he's elected president, he'll nominate Eugene Volokh for the Supreme Court. Hey, what about ME???

I mean, not to rely on influence, long association and knowing where his skeleton-filled closets are, but I do also have to room with him on our dive trips. That oughtta be worth something.

Anybody there?
From the Wall Street Journal bureau chief in Iraq comes this scathing report of conditions inside the country. Some scary quotes:
I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

* * * *
One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a

* * * *
I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"
Interesting postscript: the bureau chief author of the above is now reported to have left Baghdad for a "long vacation."

Whether the U.S. can succeed in its stated goal to bring stability and democracy is an open question. What is quite clear by now is that the Bush Administration completely failed to comprehend [refused to believe?] that making war would cause chaos, create a clearing house for terrorism, and quite possible lead Iraq into internecine cvil war.

If things had gone well, Bush would have been able to take the credit, and probably the election in a landslide. But things did not go and are not going well, so Bush must take the responsibility.
An outfit called IceRocket has a search engine just for blogs. Check it out.
I just got an email from the Bush campaign, addressed to "Jewish Outreach." The subject was Arafat's "endorsement" of Kerry. Awfully kind of the Bushies to let me know. It does beg the question, however, of why people other than Jewish folks would not be interested in this news. The religious/ethnic stereotyping obviously employed by the Bush campaign is, frankly, reprehensible.

Interestingly, Arafat, technically, has not endorsed Kerry or anybody else:

Arafat deputy and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told WND in an exclusive interview that while "we do not involve ourselves in internal American politics," at the same time "our region has been sliding deeper and deeper into chaos because of certain policies over the past few years, and this needs to change."

While he would not directly endorse Kerry, it was clear Erekat was implying the PA wants a change in White House leadership: "If things continue the way they are, if certain policies toward our region are maintained in the years to come, there is going to be a lot of violence on both sides."
Thus, Arafat has made no direct statement on the matter; an aide is speaking for him. Further, no direct endorsement was made.

Now, this might be splitting hairs, but the Bush trumpeting of an Arafat "endorsement" is just not accurate. Moreover, Kerry has no control over what Arafat or his people do. It would be a mistake to assume that Kerry is pro-palestinean or pro-Arafat simply because a Palstinean fellow made supporting statements about him. That does not compute.

And, while I no more support the Palestinean cause than I do terrorism [maybe the same thing?], it's no surprise that the Palestineans want regime change in the U.S., as Bush has been anathema to them.

Actually, the only good thing I can say about the Bush Administration is that its policy re: Israel has more or less recognized that the Palestineans have not acted and still do not act in good faith. Conversely, my biggest fear about a Kerry presidency is that he would re-elevate the grandaddy of terrorists and further muddle the situation in the Middle East.

Note by the way that I do not use the term "peace process," because I think that there is no peace process without both the warring parties acting in good faith. Given the Palestinean track record, I see no evidence of good faith movement toward peaceful co-existence with Israel. Ever.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

JibJab has competition. Check this out for a, ahem, lighter side to this political season.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

God help us all? A scathing graphical presentation accusing Katherine Harris, then Florida Secretary of State, Supervisor of Elections and head of the Bush campaign in Florida, of illegally disenfranchising at least 55,100 voters. As the presentation says, did she go to jail? Was she censured? Publicly lambasted? No. She is now a congresswoman from Florida. If the animation is accurate, it's devastating.

The Greg Palast BBC newscast upon which the presentation is based is here. And while the report is from 2001, it does beg the question: will it happen again?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bad sign for Bush -- Dwight Eisenhower's son is a Kerry supporter. Pertinent quote:
The fact is that today’s “Republican” Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word “Republican” has always been synonymous with the word “responsibility,” which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today’s whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.
Sen. Kerry, in whom I am willing to place my trust, has demonstrated that he is courageous, sober, competent, and concerned with fighting the dangers associated with the widening socio-economic gap in this country. I will vote for him enthusiastically.

I celebrate, along with other Americans, the diversity of opinion in this country. But let it be based on careful thought. I urge everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, to avoid voting for a ticket merely because it carries the label of the party of one’s parents or of our own ingrained habits.
The implication here is that prominent old line Republicans are deserting the Republican party as having moved too far to the right, too far in favor of the wealthy to the exclusion of everyone else. I agree.

On my way to pick up my car from the shop today, I asked the kid who was driving me whether he was going to vote. He said, "Yes." I said, "Well, you should vote for Kerry, unless, of course, you make over $200,000 per year. In that case, Bush is your man." Sadly, I believe that exactly to be the case.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Finally, a photo of the damage on Grand Cayman.

UPDATE: Here are more photos.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Devastating stories from Grand Cayman, including an unconfirmed report of 50 fatalities:
Angela and her friends Darina Fennel ,Nick Robinson, Darina's sister and boyfriend who are visiting,Emma and Clive and those who sheltered in Walkers Building and Caledonia house are okay, including Mr William Walker and his sons Robert and David.(The rest of the Walker family are not on the Island.)She said the navy ships are trying to get in now although they have been near all day but due to the bad conditions of the waves could not come close.Angela said that where they live just south of Georgetown just next to the water by some miracle, their apartment on the 2nd floor still is intact except for some water damage near the door and windows.and the landline phone seemed to be working ,but they feel it is not safe to live there because of the ocean conditions and they are moving back to a shelter.They have some water and some food left.They have spent the day helping others whose homes are either non existent or badly damaged and trying to help salvage some of the possessions. At this point they have not been able to make contact with other parts of the Island but they do know there are at least 50 people who have lost their lives.She said that they hope they can leave the Island as soon as The Powers That Be can help everyone to make arrangement ,as the Island is not livable given that there is no water , no electricity and the tremendous damage.

I have been trolling for news on my favorite places and people, and am struck by the can-do attitude of the victims on the scene, in terms of getting the infrastructure working again. More Cayman news at CaymanNet News.

UPDATE: Here's that fighting spirit in action:

The absolute priority of the Cayman Islands Government is to ensure the Islands get back on their feet. The Cabinet Secretary, Orrett Connor, said: "The Cayman Islands has picked itself up from hurricanes in the past. There is a tremendous team spirit here, and we are working together to rebuild and regroup. We are absolutely determined to be back in business extremely quickly."

I love these people!

The news from Grand Cayman is very, very bad.
Here's the winner for the most shameless solicitation of the month award: Lawyers for Bush. Considering his well-established record of fighting to put litigators out of business, this come-on indeed takes cojones.
Osama seems to be the least of our worries. Following is an email I just received from a distant family member. It delivers a chilling message:

This past Friday evening we attended services at Temple Bethel in Palm Beach. We went there specifically to listen to a lecture by Dr. Khaleel Mohammed. Dr. Mohammed is a professor of Islamic Studiesat the University of San Diego. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and is an Imam schooled in the Wahabi-Sunni tradition of Islam. The title of the lecture was "Can Militant IslamCoexist with the state Of Israel?"

What we heard was blood chilling,but not at all surprising. His opening statement was, "The people of the United States worry aboutOsama. He is nothing but a tiny offshoot of the problem. The mainproblem is (and I quote) "EVERY SINGLE MOSQUE IN THE USA ESPOUSES FROMTHE PULPIT THAT EVERY SINGLE JEW (not just Israel) IN THE WORLD MUST BEANNIHILATED. No ifs ands or buts!! And these mosques don't even consider themselves militant.Trading land for peace. A big joke!

The Koran states (as he quoted) that any treaty between a Muslim and a non-Muslim nation is not binding and is meant to be broken once the Muslim nation becomes stronger than the non-Muslim nation with whom the treaty was made. So all the treaties with Israel to be made in the future will eventually (and must) be broken once the Muslim nation feels it is strong enough. It took 200 years for the Crusaders to be vanquished and driven from the Holy Land. Israel is a mere 50 yrs old. Islam has patience. Dr. M. has received numerous death threats and is constantly booed and driven off the pulpit in the many mosques that he lectures in because he espouses peaceful co-existence with Israel. The frightening aspect of this is that there a huge 5th column right here in the USA.

I can't vouch for the reliability of this report, but at the same time, I have no reason to disbelieve it. And except for the Israel-Egypt peace, it is consistent with Arab/Islamic practices in the region since 1948.
Osama seems to be the least of our worries. Following is an email I just received from a distant family member. It delivers a chilling message:

This past Friday evening we attended services at Temple Bethel in Palm Beach. We went there specifically to listen to a lecture by Dr. Khaleel Mohammed. Dr. Mohammed is a professor of Islamic Studiesat the University of San Diego. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and is an Imam schooled in the Wahabi-Sunni tradition of Islam. The title of the lecture was "Can Militant IslamCoexist with the state Of Israel?"

What we heard was blood chilling,but not at all surprising. His opening statement was, "The people of the United States worry aboutOsama. He is nothing but a tiny offshoot of the problem. The mainproblem is (and I quote) "EVERY SINGLE MOSQUE IN THE USA ESPOUSES FROMTHE PULPIT THAT EVERY SINGLE JEW (not just Israel) IN THE WORLD MUST BEANNIHILATED. No ifs ands or buts!! And these mosques don't even consider themselves militant.Trading land for peace. A big joke!

The Koran states (as he quoted) that any treaty between a Muslim and a non-Muslim nation is not binding and is meant to be broken once the Muslim nation becomes stronger than the non-Muslim nation with whom the treaty was made. So all the treaties with Israel to be made in the future will eventually (and must) be broken once the Muslim nation feels it is strong enough. It took 200 years for the Crusaders to be vanquished and driven from the Holy Land. Israel is a mere 50 yrs old. Islam has patience. Dr. M. has received numerous death threats and is constantly booed and driven off the pulpit in the many mosques that he lectures in because he espouses peaceful co-existence with Israel. The frightening aspect of this is that there a huge 5th column righthere in the USA.

I can't vouch for the reliability of this report, but at the same time, I have no reason to disbelieve it. And except for the Israel-Egypt peace, it is consistent with Arab/Islamic practices in the region since 1948.

Dumbest. Election. Ever. A pertinent excerpt:

Issues we are not hearing about because we have spent so much time talking about television advertisements:

Millions of jobs lost in the last four years;

Unbearably expensive health care;

A total loss of confidence within the international community in our moral leadership;

The underfunded farce that is the Department of Homeland Security;

The underfunded farce that is the No Child Left Behind bill;

The fact that military assault weapons will soon be making a perfectly legal return to a neighborhood near you;

The deeply illegal outing of a deep-cover CIA agent by Bush administration officials, who did it because they wanted to silence a critic;

The rape and torture of men, women and children in the Abu Ghraib prison, horrors that were sanctioned in writing by Bush's own lawyer and the Secretary of Defense;

The allegation by Senator Bob Graham of Florida that Bush torpedoed any aspect of the 9/11 investigation that came within spitting distance of his friends in the Saudi royal family;

The allegations by several generals that Bush's people started stripping necessary troops and resources from Afghanistan to bolster their ill-conceived charge into Iraq;

The myriad accusations by a dozen insiders that Bush and his people ignored the terror threat until the Towers fell, and then used the attacks to scare the American people into an unnecessary war in Iraq and a mammoth payday for their friends in the weapons and oil business;

The fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq;

The fact that no connections between Hussein, bin Laden and 9/11 have been established beyond the bloviating hyperbole of a few senior Bush officials who haven't yet gotten the memo;

Does anyone even remember Enron?

This supports what I have been saying, that what happened 35 years ago to the two candidates is insignificant compared to what people are having to deal with today.
Grand Cayman got hit HARD by Ivan the Terrible. Here's a sobering report. Here's another one. Reports are that a tidal surge possible flooded the entire island.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

This latest business about Bush and the National Guard is a waste of time, in my opinion. My guess is that everybody pretty much knows that Bush used influence and his family's political power to get into the Texas Air National Guard, and to get special dispensation while serving. Again, no one cares what this guy did 32 yeards ago. It's got a 2-3 day news arc, at best. If the Kerry people are pushing this story on the media, it's a mistake. If it's the media, then you can't stop them anyway.

Interestingly, I have somehow gotten on the email list for the "Bush-Cheney '04 Grassroots Team." Here's their response to the story:

In response to President Bush's Agenda for America's Future and a critique of his policies and Senate record, Senator Kerry's campaign is implementing a strategy of vicious personal attacks against the President and Vice President.

The campaign is bringing in a bevy of former Clinton henchmen, including CNN commentators James Carville and Paul Begala. In August alone, Begala called President Bush a "gutless wonder," said he has a "lack of intelligence," and called Vice President Cheney a "dirt bag." Carville said the President is "ignorant big time" and said "George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are a couple of nobodies."

It's not like Bob Shrum needed encouragement to engage in personal attacks. At a Kerry rally Friday morning in Ohio, campaign surrogate John Glenn compared the Republican Convention to a Nazi rally, and Kerry called the President unfit to lead our nation and once again sought to divide the country by who served and how 35 years ago.

Of course, the President was called a "cheap thug," a "killer" and a "liar" at a Kerry-Edwards campaign event in New York, Mrs. Kerry has called the President's policies "unpatriotic" and "immoral" and DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe falsely accused the President of being AWOL.

Democratic strategist Susan Estrich outlined the strategy last Wednesday in a column warning Republicans to "watch out." "I'm not promising pretty," she wrote before going on to call President Bush and Vice President Cheney alcoholics, then ask "is any alcoholic ever really cured?" ("I can see the ad now.") She deems the President's service as a National Guard fighter pilot "draft dodging," and says, "a forthcoming book by Kitty Kelly raises questions about whether the President has practiced what he preaches on the issue of abortion." (Interestingly, the New York Daily News reported back in February that the Kerry campaign intended to spread such a rumor in pro-life chat rooms late in the campaign.)

So the former Dukakis campaign manager has an advance copy of Democrat donor Kitty Kelly's book, which promises to throw unsubstantiated gossip at President Bush in the same way she falsely maligned the late President Reagan as a date rapist who paid for a girlfriend's abortion and wrongly castigated Nancy Reagan as an adulterer who had an affair with Frank Sinatra. A recent story says Kelly's book alleges President Bush used cocaine at Camp David while his father was President, which is as credible as her story that then Governor and Nancy Reagan smoked marijuana with Jack Benny and George and Gracie Burns.

And tonight on CBS, longtime Democratic operative Ben Barnes-a friend of, major contributor to and Nantucket neighbor of Senator Kerry's and vice chair of the Kerry Campaign--will repudiate his statement under oath that he had no contact with the Bush family concerning the President's National Guard service. (Anyone surprised that Barnes would contradict a statement he made under oath probably doesn't know his long history of political scandal and financial misdealings.)

So brace yourselves. Any mention of John Kerry's votes for higher taxes and against vital weapons programs will be met with the worst kind of personal attacks. Such desperation is unbecoming of American Presidential politics, and Senator Kerry will pay a price for it at the polls as we stay focused on policies to continue growing our economy and winning the War on Terror.
Anybody notice how the Repubs decry the so-called personal attacks, and in the same literary breath, they do the same thing! (see "bevy of Clinton henchmen"] What's happening is that they are muddying the water so throroughly that no one knows what to believe, and in the absence of strong evidence one way or the other, the tendency is to retain the status quo. This tactic, by the way, is commonly practiced by defense lawyers; make it so confusing that the jury has no idea whether the plaintiff's case has merit. In the absence of clear evidence, the jury is inclined to leave things the way they are and not deliver a verdict for the plaintiff.

Kerry is the plaintiff here, and he is losing his case.

UPDATE: The New Republic, in commenting on this story, slams Ed Gillespie for the above "panicky" memo that he wrote, saying, "Ed Gillespie, chairman of the RNC, circulated a panicky memo to supporters on Wednesday claiming that Barnes "will repudiate his statement under oath that he had no contact with the Bush family concerning the President's National Guard service." Gillespie's statement proved to be absolutely false." The article points out that Barnes's interview was completely consistent with his previous story. Ryan Lizza's article goes on to say:

CBS obtained four documents from the personal papers of Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, Bush's Texas National Guard squadron commander. These memos tell a fascinating story about the struggle of a by-the-book commander caught between a self-important young pilot trying to cut corners and wriggle out of the rest of his Guard commitment, and superiors who seem all too willing to let the privileged son of a Texas VIP bend the rules.

That's the real story here, if we're interested in character as an issue. Kerry didn't duck Vietnam service; he volunteered for it. Bush not only ducked Vietnam, he couldn't be bothered to do his duty, even though it was [relatively] cushy state-side pilot training and physicals.

I still say, though, that the Kerry poeple need to ignore the issue and just let the media run with it, if they want.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Don't send a machine to do a man's [or woman's] work. Off the top of my head, it strikes me that of the unmanned devices we have sent out into space in the last few years, there is something like a 50% failure rate. Let's find some cowboys, strap some boosters on, and just GO.
Some months ago, I predicted that the Bush camp had something on Kerry, and would spring it, probably after the conventions. I was half right. This Swift Boat Veterans for Truth nonsense, which surfaced after the Democratic Convention, is what they were waiting to jump Kerry with. Is that the worst they've got? A show of hands please: who really believes that the Bush Administration and the Republican establishment don't control these "527" groups? I don't.

In my copious spare time [i.e., none], I have perused some of the blogs [i.e., Instapundit], and have seen the joyous lambasting of candidate Kerry, and I get depressed. Not because they are right [I don't know that they are], but because the Kerry campaign is running such a lousy campaign.

I have said all along that Kerry has got to dispel the notion of "Northeastern Liberal." He really has not done that. He had to dispel the notion that he is a flip-flopper. He has not done that. He had to craft and convey a "message": a vision of the U.S. that he wanted to bring to the table. He has not done that.

Instead, his campaign has allowed itself to get sucked into the minutiae of who did what, when and where 35 years ago in Vietnam. Who cares? The campaign is REacting, not PROacting. The campaign is not on message, because it seems to have no message at all.

If I were running the show, this is what I would be pushing:

1. The economy: deficit spending tends to depress the economy. Bush has gone from surplus to record deficits in four years. That kind of incompetence takes some doing. And Bush is the first president in history to seek tax cuts in wartime. What's that about? People are most concerned about how they are going to live and thrive. There are many, many people who are not doing as well now as they were four years ago. Tap into this dissatisfaction. Refute the propaganda that Bush had a recession when he entered office in 2001. Evoke memories of how good things were when Clinton was president. It's not all about 9/11. The Bush Administration is letting jobs slip away from us, trade deficits are at an all-time high, and the economy is at best sluggish. It's the economy, stupid. Don't forget healthcare.

2. National Security: Kerry voted for war in Iraq based on misleading information, if not out and out lies from the Administration. While it's generally a good thing for Saddam to be out of power, Americans don't like to be misled -- or lied to. At best, the Bush Administration myopically went to war where the need did not exist. At worst, the Bush Administration went to war based on a vendetta to oust Saddam, no matter what the cost. Whichever is true, it is undeniable that the Administration is giving us now a different rationale for war than it did before we went in [see credibility, below]. However, now that we're committed, we must finish the job, with a coherent plan to win the peace, as well as the war. I don't know what Bush's plan is; Kerry needs to formulate one and articulate it.

3. Credibility: Kerry must refute, simply, the accusations that he cannot be consistent on a position. Seems to me they said the same thing about Clinton in 1992 and 1996. The problem is that Kerry seems to keep shifting, and is not fighting back against those charges. At the same time, Kerry needs to go after Bush and the Republican establishment he controls for their lack of credibility on life and death issues, on civil rights, on the envoronment, on cronyism, and a host of other issues.

4. Distance Kerry from any aspect of the 1988 Dukakis campaign. The Bush people are crowing about John Sasso's possible involvement in the campaign. Comparisons between Kerry and Dukakis are starting to happen. Take steps to stop the references; Kerry must establish himself as his own man, and stay the hell away from Dukakis

There are a lot of people, including Republicans, who are mad as hell at the Bush Administration right now. The Kerry people have got to give them a reason to vote for their man. It's not too late for the Kerry campaign to turn this around, but it's go to get its collective head out of its collective ass and move. Where's James Carville when you need him?
My cousin, Fred "Rico" Hurvich, sent my mother this opinion piece, who sent it to me. I'm not usually one to cite to Garrison Keillor, but he certainly says it loud and proud. An excerpt:
Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy—the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

Also: "It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning." I guess Keillor thinks Kerry is going to lose?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Have George II and his merry men been lying? On the right hand side of the aisle, you'll hear, "no -- just bad intelligence, and besides, we did a good thing." To the left of center, you're likely to hear the slavering growl of "Hell yes, he lied!" I think this compendium is probably from the latter. Notwithstanding the approach, there's nothing here that sways me from my thinking that the Administration at best misled us into war.

The Kerry camp is missing the boat on this issue. Americans will get mad if it becomes clear they were misled into war, with the resulting human and capital costs. Instead, Kerry & Co. are fixating on a 35 year old Vietnam war service issue, which will inevitably paint him as an irrepressible lefty, based on his protest work afterwards. He does NOT want that to happen, yet he has let it happen.

I don't care whether Kerry stepped across into Cambodia in 1968. I do care about how I'm going to make ends meet in this economic environment. It's still the economy, stupid.

Monday, August 23, 2004

People for the American Way and the NAACP have published a disturbing report on voter intimdation and suppression. Among its findings:
In 2004 in Texas, students at a majority black college were challenged by a local district attorney’s absurd claim that they were not eligible to vote in the county where the school was located. It happened in Waller County – the same county where 26 years earlier, a federal court order was required to prevent the local registrar from discriminating against the students.

In 2003 in Philadelphia, voters in African American areas were systematically challenged by men carrying clipboards, driving a fleet of some 300 sedans with magnetic signs designed to look like law enforcement insignia.

In 2002 in Louisiana, flyers were distributed in African American communities telling voters they could go to the polls on Tuesday, December 10th – two days after a special Senate election was held.

In 2000 in Florida, thousands of voters whose names mistakenly appeared on a flawed list of felons were purged from the state’s voter rolls. Despite the ensuing outcry and litigation, the state has not yet restored the rights of many of those voters -- and in fact has begun a new purge of an additional 40,000 names for the 2004 election.

In 1998 in North Carolina, GOP officials openly planned to videotape voters in heavily Democratic districts in a partisan attempt to avoid alleged “voter fraud,” until the Justice Department stepped in to warn that taping minority voters at or near the polls would violate federal election laws.

I was one of those who have been saying about Florida in 2000, "Get over it!" Howver, with documented evidence of denying the franchise to a large number of voters, based on an unforgivable mistake, "I think I'd better think it out again!"

Monday, July 26, 2004

Pal Glenn links to yet another John Stossel hatchet job on trial lawyers -- this time ripping John Edwards for being a good trial lawyer.  As usual, he's just dead wrong. 

"Every product you buy has a built-in cost to cover what lawyers make through lawsuits."  No -- lawsuits about defective or unreasonably dangerous products have made those products safer. 

First, let's call it what it is: people -- through their lawyers -- suing wrongdoers for for injuries caused by their misdeeds.  If it's so wrong that some lawyers make a lot of money taking enormous time and financial gambles on behalf of their clients, then I'd like to know how much ABC pays Stossel.  I'll bet he wants for nothing.  On the other hand, is Stossel jealous over how much Edwards has made in his career?

Why do we have airbags, headrests, even seat belts?  Because the auto industry, having been sued for its failure to make their products safer, finally did it.  A sad truth is that corporate america will not do anything unless it is in their financial interest to do so.  "Hit 'em in their pocket books" seems the only way to get them to make positive changes.  Now, that's not why we file lawsuits, but if one consequence of a case is that the defendant will act more responsibly in the future, that's OK with us.  Us, meaning the public.

A good example is water heater litigation, something I've had some direct contact with.  Did you know that the water heater industry has known since the late 1950s that its gas fired water heaters can ignite flammable vapors and cause a fire?  All they had to do to reduce the potential of this catastrophic occurence 90% would have been to sell their water heaters with an 18 inch high stand.  But that cost too much, so they slapped a 35 cent label on their water heaters, which they knew did not effectively warn the public, and continued to make gazillions of dollars.  All the while, a person a day on average was being burned or killed from a water heater fire.

In other words, they made a financial decision to absorb the costs from successful personal injury cases arising out of their defective water heaters, and did so for decades.  It was cheaper than making their product safer.  Only through the efforts of trial lawyers have they now finally developed new technology to eliminate the threat.

"But paying higher prices is not the biggest effect of what the lawyers do. What may be worse is what the fear of lawsuits do to medical care and innovation."  I think this is just crap.  I tell my doctor friends that all they have to do is their best.  Just like me, if they screw up, they might actually have to take responsibility for their actions.  How unfair!  And frankly, unless it's a pretty bad screw-up, they probably won't get sued anyway.

"Everybody is in mortal fear of being sued."  Good propaganda, but if it's true, it means we've got a lot of really lousy doctors out there.  I'll just say what I have said on this blog for the last year and a half: no decent lawyer will file a medical malpractice lawsuit unless he's damn sure he's got a case.  Example: I just reviewed a possible case involving a psychiatric hospital.  Seems the guy checked himself in because he was suicidal, and they zapped him with all sorts of central nervous system depressors, as well as 100mg of MS Contin [an opiate], twice a day.  Family reported him to be acting like a zombie.  After three days, he was found dead.  Cause of death: opiate toxicity.  The hospital proably killed the guy, but the consultant who reviewed it for us wasn't terribly excited about who was negligent and how.  So we turned down the case, because it wasn't clear cut enough. 

To invest three to five years and tens [or hundreds] of thousands of our dollars, it better be clear negligence, clear causation, and catastrophic damages.  Otherwise, it's too big a gamble.  And I would bet my bottom dollar that most, if not all, trial lawyers feel the same way.

Stossel plays cute, saying first that most doctors are being sued [note the tense] and then saying that 76% of U.S. obstetricians have been sued.  The one is not supported by the other.  Just because I may have been sued in the past doesn't mean that I am one of those lawyers who are being sued currently.   In other words, it's a false or misleading statistic.

Then Stossel takes Edwards to task for a cerebral palsy case he won.  Now, it's very hard to make a case that labor and delivery caused birth injury.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists will have us believe it never happens.  But it does.  I represented a little boy who was profoundly impaired becuase the idiot OB/GYN waited hours before a C-Section, when he should have known the baby was in serious trouble.  In other words, he was reluctant to do what Stossel syas most OB/GYNs do more often: C-Sections. 

I had an expert who did 90% of his work for the defense supporting me completely.  I never even had to disclose him to my opponents, because the case settled fairly early in the proceedings.  Even so, it still took three years and close to $20,000 to get there, and because the doctor had filed for bankruptcy, this child, who was going to require care that will cost $18 million over his lifetime, got much much less, limited to only the doctor's relatively low insurance coverage.  There's justice for you.  And if Stossel had his way, I guess we wouldn't even have been able to do that much for that poor child.

Stossel blames trial lawyers when hospitals cover up malpractice by failing to report it.  Shouldn't he be castigating those institutions for doing the Watergate thing?  For failing to insist that its doctors and staff perform medical services at least reasonably?  Why shouldn't they be held responsible for their misdeeds?

I'm fine with the concept of personal responsibility.  But consistency demands that we hold doctors, manufacturers, and hospitals responsible when their negligence causes injury.

Stossel says that "this kind of fear doesn't make Americans safer."  No, but the people, through their lawyers, holding manufacturers, doctors and others responsible for their negligence or defective products has made us safer. 

Oh and by the way, when the conservatives bitch about big media being liberal, take a look at Stossel and his bully pulpit.  He's touting the straight Republican tort reform -- and anti-Deocratic ticket -- line.

John Stossel: give me a break.

Friday, July 23, 2004

I don't care where you are on the ideological landscape.  You've got to check this out.   It's a hoot!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

In the Techno-Geek category, here's a cautionary tale.

CompUSA was selling a DVD-Recorder for what seemed to be a very good price -- $199, after rebate. It was the Lite-On, model LVW-5001. I took a chance and bought one. I spent $50 extra [25% of the purchase price, mind you] to buy what the CompUSA folks said was a replacement policy. That is, if it breaks within the 2 year period, they will replace it with the same or like model.

I took it home and spent an hour putting it into my TV system. Dead on arrival.

Next day, I took it back. They said they had 3 in stock, but when they went to get a replacement, it turned out that 2 were also defective, and the only other one was a refurbished model. Did I ask for my money back? Did I run screaming from the store? No, and more fool I. I took the refurb.

This one worked, but had two funny characteristics. One, it overheated and failed on may functions. Checking the relevant message board, I found that thse models, unbelievably, do not have either a cooling fan or a heat sink! I also found that the color balance on recorded material was off. I had to adjust my hue and color depth to get a decent picture.

I went into the CompUSA store a week later, described the problems, and was advised to wait a couple of weeks, and then use my warranty plan to get a replacement. Because the 5001 was discontinued, I would get bumped up to the next Lite-On model, the 5005. OK.

I talked to the Tech Support gal a week later, just before my 14 day return window expired. She said to wait a week and then come in and get the replacement. OK.

Last Saturday, I unhooked the sumbitch and took it in. After waiting 45 minutes, I had the new model. And a cash register that said I owed them an additional $218! Turns out the replacement plan only applies my purchase price toward another unit, if that unit is more expensive. It appeared irrelevant that I had a deal with the Tech Suppor gal; besides, she denied having the arrangement with me to replace the 5001 with the 5005. I threw a fit, and after 15 more minutes, they refunded my money. So, I got my money back, but I've got a hole where a DVD-recorder ought to be.

Moral: beware of these replacement plans. They usually do not provide what the sales people say that they provide. Also, beware the bait and switch, because that's what I think was happening. They make the deal with you, and then make you wait, and then finally give you the new unit, and...surprise, it's more money! I'll not do business as CompUSA again, unfortunately.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I don't know Bill Hobbs, but his comment on my earlier post about the Bredesen sellout of Tennessee's workers is, shall we say, misguided. He is also insulting, by headlining the comment "A Lawyer's Whine." For the record, I'm not whining: I'm pissed! He says:

Cutting the high cost of worker's comp insurance in Tennessee will mean increased job creation. More jobs is good. More money flowing into trial lawyers's pockets doesn't create more jobs, just wealthier trial lawyers.

First, no worker's compensation carrier has said that it will cut the cost of comp insurance contingent upon passage of this legislation. History teaches us that that carrot is always dangled in front of us, and then it's yanked away when we lose interest, down the line. So, I have no doubts that the cost of comp premiums will go UP, and not down.

Second, I have been shown no data that the cost of comp coverage is costing Tennessee jobs. All I have seen is the unsupported, bald assertion made by the Bredesen Administration. Having worked with comp for 12 years, I can tell anyone willing to listen that Tennessee's benefits prior to this legislation were quite middle of the road, contrary to the line put out by the proponents of the change.

Third, where does Hobbs get off with the nonsense about "wealthier trial lawyers?" If I was "wealthy," I wouldn't care about the legislation, and I damn sure wouldn't handle worker's compensation cases. By statute, the maximum fee a lawyer may recover for representing a worker's compensation claimant is 20% of the recovery. Most worker's compensation claims are resolved for under $20,000. Thus, I will work a comp case for -- sometimes -- years, and maybe get a fee of $4,000. And don't forget that you sometimes lose. I represented the nicest fellow in the world for 9 1/2 YEARS, tried the case, and the judge ruled against us. You've got to factor in the losses and no recovery claims [i.e., those where there is no permanent injury and therefore no fee], which these knee-jerk tort reformers fail to account for.

Fourth, Hobbs may be right about a 40% cut in revenue. But he fails to understand how the drop comes about, and what it really means. There will likely be a cut in claims made, because the new law reduces potential comp recoveries so low that many lawyers will not be able to afford to take the case. Put another way, Joe Lawyer is not going to take on a case if he's going to lose money on it even if he wins the case! So, there is a two-fold agenda at work here: (1) Big Insurance and the Chambers of Commerce get rid of those pesky employees who had the bad taste to get hurt on the job, and (2) those trial lawyers who operate at or near the profitability line may be forced out of business, which means even fewer claims to worry about. At bottom, this legislation repesents a very cynical approach to protecting our citizenry. Remember, an employee hurt on the job may make a comp claim, and ONLY a comp claim, against his employer. It's the exclusive remedy. The translation of all this, for the uninitiated, is: Bend over, grab your ankles, and....

What really gets me and those like me is that our Governor, who ran a campaign designed to engender trial lawyer and regular folks support, just spat in our faces -- and our clients as well -- by forcing this legislation down our throats. Hobbs's argument is a mirage; it looks real good till you stare closely at it. Then it dissolves.
Spam sucks. While I'm not in the league of some friends of mine [Read Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds], I'm getting 30-40 pure crap emails per day. It seems like I get one every 5 minutes or so. What a pain.

Speaking of Glenn, he's a real sweetheart. He's posted an ad for my firm's web site on his blog ads. This is my great experiment: can an Internet presence generate new cases for a predominantly plaitiff's personal injury firm? Five years ago, I was convinced that the answer was "No." Now, I'm not sure. I figured that the exposure from the mega-hits that Glenn gets is one not terribly scientific way of finding out. If I get hits on the firm's site, then I'll know.

The verdict so far? Not great. I've had like 1 hit all day. Well, I'll give it time. Life is long....

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Apparently I'm not the only one who is scratching his head at the lack of attention given to Al Gore's speech yesterday. I watched most of it on C-Span last night. Boy, he was pissed. And after actually listening to what he said, as opposed, apparently, to folks like these, he made good sense.

Has not our credibility in the eyes of the world suffered due to the prisoner abuse scandal? Aren't the torture tactics used on these prisoners reminiscent of Stalinist gulags and the Gestapo? Aren't we, as Americans, sickened and disgusted by the obvious conclusion that torture of prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions is a top-down policy of this Administration, and not the aberrant acts of "a few bad apples"? Don't we expect reasonable and humane treatment of our prisoners, just as we would expect the same if our people are taken prisoner by an enemy in the future?
I'm just as mad as Gore was.

Look, I'd like to believe that what happened in the Iraq prison and what may be happening in Guantanamo is off the reservation, and that the Bush Administration did not intend to treat our prisoners this way. But then I look at reports that the president's own Office of Legal Counsel has called the prisoner treatment provisions of the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and "obsolete," and that strikes me as a rationale for treating prisoners the way I would expect the KGB or the Nazis to have done. As Wilford Brimley's character said in the movie Absence of Malice, "It ain't legal, and by God, it ain't right!"

Yeah, it IS politics, because Bush is running for office, and so is his opponent. But my rant has nothing to do with politics. We're Americans. We don't do the things that we apparently ARE doing, as dictated by policy from the White House. We have always seen ourselves as the guys in the white hats. This policy changes that for a lot of people.

Frankly, it was refreshing to see a professional politician speak his own mind, without thinking too much of the consequences. If Gore had done stuff like this 3 1/2 years ago, he'd be president now.
In my absence, Tennessee's Democratic governor, whom all us trial lawyers supported, sold us down the river, by pushing forward a worker's compensation "reform" package that is execrable, to say the least. To find out how I really feel, check out my proto-blog post on my new web site, with links.
I've been off the radar screen for a while now. Lately, I can blame my absence on getting my firm's new web site up and running. The only thing I've had real trouble with is figuring out how to update the copyright and date last modified items in the footer. The site is written in Dreamweaver. Any mavens want to give me a hand and tell me how to change that?

Monday, April 05, 2004

I just got a cool email from my mother, forwarding one of Dennis Miller's rants, this time on Palestinians. It's online here, and here, but I've got to put it in here, 'cause it's great:

A brief overview of the situation is always valuable, so as a service to all Americans who still don't get it, I now offer you the story of the Middle East in just a few paragraphs, which is all you really need. Here we go:

The Palestinians want their own country. There's just one thing about that: There are no Palestinians. It's a made up word. Israel was called Palestine for two thousand years Like "Wiccan," "Palestinian" sounds ancient but is really a modern invention.

Before the Israelis won the land in war, Gaza was owned by Egypt, and there were no Palestinians" then, and the West Bank was owned by Jordan, and there were no "Palestinians" then. As soon as the Jews took over and started growing oranges as big as basketballs, what do you know, say hello to the Palestinians," weeping for Their deep bond with their lost "land" and "nation."

So for the sake of honesty, let's not use the word "Palestinian" any more to describe these delightful folks, who dance for joy at our deaths until someone points out they're being taped. Instead, let's call them what they are: "Other Arabs Who Can't Accomplish Anything In Life And Would Rather Wrap Themselves In The Seductive Melodrama Of Eternal Struggle And Death."

I know that's a bit unwieldy to expect to see on CNN. How about this, then: "Adjacent Jew-Haters." Okay, so the Adjacent Jew-Haters want their own country. Oops, just one more thing. No, they don't. They could 've had their own country any time in the last thirty years, Especially two years ago at Camp David.

But if you have your own country, you have to have traffic lights and garbage trucks and Chambers of Commerce, and, worse, you actually have to figure out some way to make a living. That's no fun. No, they want what all the other Jew-Haters in the region want: Israel. They also want a big pile of dead Jews, of course -- that's where The real fun is -- but mostly they want Israel.

Why? For one thing, trying to destroy Israel - or "The Zionist Entity" as their textbooks call it -- for the last fifty years has allowed the rulers of Arab countries to divert the attention of their own people away from the fact that they're the blue-ribbon most illiterate, poorest, and tribally backward on God's Earth, and if you've ever been around God's Earth, you know that's really saying something.

It makes me roll my eyes every time one of our pundits waxes poetic about. The great history and culture of the Muslim Mideast. Unless I'm missing something, the Arabs haven't given anything to the world since algebra, and, by the way, thanks a hell of a lot for that one.

Chew this around and spit it out: Five hundred million Arabs; five Million Jews. Think of all the Arab countries as a football field, and Israel as a pack of matches sitting in the middle of it. And now these same folks swear that if Israel gives them half of that pack of matches, Everyone will be pals. Really? Wow, what neat news. Hey, but what about the string of wars to obliterate the tiny country and the constant din of rabid blood oaths to drive every Jew into the sea? Oh, that? We were just kidding.

My friend Kevin Rooney made a gorgeous point the other day: just reverse the numbers. Imagine five hundred million Jews and five million Arabs. I was stunned at the simple brilliance of it. Can anyone picture the Jews strapping belts of razor blades and dynamite to themselves? Of course not. Or marshaling every fiber and force at their disposal for generations to drive a tiny Arab State into the sea? Nonsense. Or dancing for joy at the murder of innocents? Impossible. Or spreading and believing horrible lies about the Arabs baking their bread with the blood of children? Disgusting. No, as you know, left to themselves in a world of peace, the Worst Jews would ever do to people is debate them to death.

Mr. Bush, God bless him, is walking a tightrope. I understand that with vital operations in Iraq and others, it's in our interest, as Americans, to try to stabilize our Arab allies as much as possible, and, after all, that can't be much harder than stabilizing a Roomful of supermodels who've just had their drugs taken away.

However, in any big-picture strategy, there's always a danger of losing moral weight. We've already lost some. After September 11 our president told us and he world he was going to root out all terrorists and the countries that supported them. Beautiful. Then the Israelis, after months and months of having the equivalent of an Oklahoma City every week (and then every day) start to do the same thing we did, and we tell them to show restraint. If America were being attacked with an Oklahoma City every day, we would all very shortly be screaming for the administration to just be done with it and kill everything south of the Mediterranean and east of the Jordan. (Hey, wait a minute, that's actually not such a bad id . . . ooh that is, what a horrible thought, yeah, horrible.)

While I often disagree with Miller, he's dead right here. What's interesting is that he seems to have changed positions, in that he ranted about the Middle East back in May 2002, concluding that "if I can forgive that motherfucker Sinbad for beating me on Star Search, than Israel and Palestine can certainly get their shit together." He also had some wicked one-liners. Example: "On the other side of the sandbags, you have Ariel Sharon. Now, Ariel Sharon has never been a guy who knows verses 3 through 5 of 'Kumbaya.' But this recent intifada has hardened him like a dead guy on Viagra."

Miller's May 2002 proposal for the Palestinians:
Give the Palestinians CASINOS! It worked here in the U.S. for our Native Americans. Look, all religion has done is to jump-start a grudge war over it's individual beliefs and at least in casinos everyone can get along, have a few drinks, play a little Black Jack and forget their problems. You don't even have to build a lot of new buildings because they already have a thousand-year-old Holy Land theme going on over there. "C'mon, seven. Baby Jesus needs a new pair of shoes!"

He must be wise, because I think casinos are the way to solve a lot of problems, including Tennessee's ongoing fiscal woes.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

From Anne...Straight From the Hip comes a great link to an extraordinary photo journal of a motorcycle trip through present-day Chernobyl, now a ghost town, taken by a woman from Ukraine who writes great English, and has lots more guts than me. Apparently, this is her idea of fun. Regardless of motive, it is a powerful set of photos, not to be missed. Check it out.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

At some point on our glorious and expensive dive vacation, Glenn speculated that Donald Trump was deliberately looking for a lot of positive exposure with "The Apprentice" because his business must be in trouble. I don't know how he does it, but Glenn is right again [transcribed from the NPR audio broadcast]:
Real estate titan Donald Trump, known as a consummate dealmaker, desperately needs a deal to avoid losing his gambling empire to bankruptcy. . . . Donald Trump needs $400 million, and he needs it fast.

I heard on NBC that he owns half the show and gets $375,000 per episode, but I don't think he'll be getting bailed out from "The Apprentice." According to the radio report, he is trying to restructure his debt, which will involve him having to give up control of the casino hotels business.

UPDATE: As usual, I'm behind the times. USA Today reported on Trump's gambling operations' dreadful performance 3 weeks ago.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Musicians? We don't need no stinkin' musicians!
It's official: Bush has changed his running mate! Someone named Orwell....

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

And the nostalgia goes on. Glenn's reader Scott Kent thought my 1979 Etc. photo made me look like Pete Townshend, and Glenn invoked St. Keith Moon. Funnily enough, my drum teacher, Doug Klein told me around that time that I played like Keith Moon.

What I didn't know was that -- I think -- he meant my out of control over the top style. Over time, I have, hopefully, developed a more tasteful style. It's not the years, it's the mileage.

God, I loved those Rainbow, Robin Williams, Mork and Mindy suspenders....

Monday, March 29, 2004

Last week, Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds outed an earlier me, circa 1980. Yes, he took the photo, it was outside my parents' house in Knoxville, and if I look sombre, it's because I was 24 hours post my first root canal. Turn about being fair play, here's a VERY young looking Glenn, also from the halcyon days of Etc. [the band]. Ah, we used to draw a real crowd in those days. Note the woman center background. She's apparently about to fall asleep. Must have been during a break?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Mary Littleton at the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association was kind enough to send me a copy of The General Assmebly's Joint Tort Reform Subcommittee Report, which I can't find online. However, the salient conclusions are quoted as follows:
1. The Committee finds that increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums are and have been a consideration in the decisions of physicians to continue their practice or maintain the same level and type of services. However, there was no evidence that access is being eopardized throughout the state, tlut there was some evidence that specialties in rural areas have been impacted (thought the degree was uncertain and unquantifiable) and might tend to be adversely impacted first.

2. The Committee finds that Tennessee does not really regulate medical malpractice insurance premiums, unlike some other states, but the committee was not able to determine from the limited testimony what the impact on premium regulation would have on premium stability or availability of coverage.

3. The committee has determined that medical malpractice insurance premiums for physicians have increased in the last two or three years at rates greater than in previous years. However, it cannot at this point in time reach any definitive conclusions as to the cause of those increases without further information.

4. The committee acknowledges that there is evidence tending to show a correlation between the imposition of limitations on damages in medical malpractice cases and stability in medical malpractice insurance premiums, but the committee also finds that the correlation was not absolute or quantifiable and that other reforms and factors may contribute more directly and timely to market stability.

5. No testimony was provided by any presenters regarding the need for or the effect of any kind of reforms other than a limitation on damages, some of which other reforms Tennessee has already adopted into law. The committee desires to have more information on how these other reforms are working in other states and what combination of factors or reforms may be keeping medical malpractice insurance costs stable in those states with the greatest premium stability.

6. The committee desires to have more detailed claim and court case information reported and would recommend for passage legislation that would provide the committee with a clearer picture of the litigation and claim trends in Tennessee, the impact of litigation (and claims) on medical malprac;tice insurance premiums, and those actions that might best lead to premium stability.

In other words, there was no proof submitted to the Joint Committee to justify tort "reform" whatsoever. Quite interestingly, the various witnesses before this Joint Committee were ALL from the hospital, doctor and insurance (i.e., pro tort limitation) side of the issue.
Guess what? The emperor has no clothes!

Monday, March 08, 2004

"The next big challenge is to return pieces of Mars to Earth," says Jim Garvin, a Mars scientist at NASA. So let's pile some astronauts in a ship and go GET them! We have the technological capability right now, but do we have the will?

Friday, March 05, 2004

Looks like she blew it....

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I just got a cold call from the Republican National Congressional Committee. Apparently, they got the idea that I'm a Republican, and gave me the honor of listening to a tape recorded message from some congressman exhorting me to join an advisory council [read: give money]. Here's the pertinent part of the message, verbatim:
As a former business owner, I understand the crippling effects overtaxation, government regulation, and red tape has on your business. That's why I'm asking you to serve as an honorary chairman of the Business Advisory Council, an organization of America's top business leaders that was formed in 1995. As an honorary chairman, you'll have the opportunity to meet with and provide input to members of Congress, business experts, and the movers and shakers in Washington at periodical [sic] meetings in the nation's capital. And I'll be sending you an invitaiton to join me, as my honored guest, at the annual black tie President's dinner. It is always the event of the year in D.C.
Then a young woman came on the line and this colloquoy took place:

HER: The latest numbers do show that the President's economic plan is starting to take effect.
ME: Could have fooled me.
HER: Oh, you don't think it's starting to take effect, sir?
ME: Nope.
HER: I'm sorry [pause]. So I take it you are not interested in this call.
ME: Probably not, no.
Hee, hee. So where did they get MY name, anyway?

Anybody else get their message? Money buys access, access buys influence. And by the way, the black tie dinner referred to? I lived in D.C for 9 years and I've never heard of it.

UPDATE: It's all a telemarketing scheme. And, the RNCC/NRCC has been busted before for illegal contributions from foreign nationals. And, "NBC’s Lisa Myers recently not[ed] that awardees 'have included a convicted sex offender and a maker of drug paraphernalia....' "

ANOTHER UPDATE: It wasn't some congressman. Apparently the recorded voice was NRCC chairman Tom Reynolds. This "Business Advisory Council" is a real thing, albeit a fundraising device.
Glenn reports that Hugh Hewitt has given John Edwards a golden opportunity:
Memo to John Edwards and his campaign staff: I know you aren't in the habit of sitting down with center-right radio hosts, even those with a long PBS resume, but my radio program is open to you, each and every day between now and March 2, for all three hours if you'd like. It is aired in drive time in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, the Inland Empire and Sacramento as well as in numerous other Super Tuesday markets, and word has it you are low on cash. Send me an e-mail at, and I'd be glad to have you as my co-host for the next ten broadcast days. Why? Just because I like a good race.

Hewitt broadcasts in several at-play states: Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland and Cinncy. I agreed with Glenn that Edwards would be crazy not to grab hold of that kind of free publicity, especially in the morning drive time. I even sent an email to Edwards's national office as well as all his field offices, urging them to get the candidate on the air with Hewitt soonest. No response, either to me or apparently to Hewitt. Why?

Clearly, Kerry is getting the bulk of the free media coverage, especially with him hitting the Vietnam and veteran issues hard. A canny short term strategy to keep Edwards out of the spotlight, but in the long term, I think the last successful presidential candidate who ran primarily as a war hero was Eisenhower. And to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, Kerry is no Eisenhower.

Meanwhile what flummoxes me is this perception that Kerry is more electible than Edwards. Again, why? Perception is everything, in the stock market and in national politics. Kerry inevitably must be perceived as a northeastern liberal Kennedy democrat. I don't care how many hare-brained electoral strategies the pundits come up with, the presidential election for the democratic candidate comes down to whether he can win at least one state in the south. I simply don't believe that Kerry can do it.

Edwards, on the other hand, is demonstrably southern. He is a better campaigner than Kerry, who is stiff and stand-offish, to my eyes. It is more likely that Edwards is going to take one or more southern states than Kerry. In the bedrock democratic states, the democratic nominee, whoever he is, is going to win. It's the fringe states, and the fringe voters [independents, libertarians, etc.], who are going to make the difference for either candidate. My sense is that if Kerry is the nominee, those on the fence are going to analyze it like this: Kerry flip flops, he might be too liberal for my taste, we are in the middle of a war situation, and I don't want to take the chance on changing horses in the middle of the stream. I'll vote for the democratic nominee, probably, whoever he is, simply because I think Bush is bad for the country, both domestically and in foreign policy. But I feel in my gut that Edwards will be competitive, while Kerry will probably lose handily to Bush.

What I think the Bushies are doing now is hitting Kerry with a low level of negatives. My crystal ball tells me that they have something on him, and are waiting to spring it until after the conventions, when it really makes a difference. Once the Democrats lock into Kerry [if they do], then the Bushies hit, and hit hard.

What's interesting is that they have not even paid attention to Edwards. That's because the only thing they can say about him is that he used to be a very good trial lawyer who represented regular people. If Edwards gets the nomination, I HOPE that the republicans try that argument. I think they'll get their collective head handed to them. The bottom line, however, is that unless Edwards does something significant, like get on Hewitt's morning drive time show in at least 3 at play markets, then it'll be tough for him to catch up, much less win.
Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds appears perturbed that the organizers of the Boston Democratic National Convention are considering establishing a "free speech zone" in a disadvantageous location. Well, they just learned it from the Bushies:
The dissidents were confined to a specific site - a "protest zone" or "First Amendment zone," depending on one's interpretation - across the street.

Besides, Mr. Bush couldn't have seen the crowd, or the signs, even if he had ducked out of the $1,000-a-plate festivities taking place inside the hall and strolled to one of the east-facing windows for a gander.

That's because a wall of KAT buses and Knoxville fire engines had been strategically positioned outside, completely surrounding the Henley Street side of the building. His only view of the immediate area would have been end-to-end panels of orange, blue and red sheet metal.

I would agree that in each case, we see a "crushing of dissent." But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If we are to castigate one, then we should castigate both.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

War of words: Ann Coulter -- she's cute and smart, but nuts -- lambasted Democrats and former Senator Max Cleland for questioning Bush II's National Guard Service. Molly Ivins took gleeful exception to Coulter's remarks:
But for sheer, vicious nastiness, no one cam compete with Ann Coulter, whose latest error-riddled effusion is an attack on former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who has been critical of the Bush administration. Apparently in an effort to make George W.'s incomplete in the National Guard look better, Coulter wrote a column distributed by the Heritage Foundation saying Cleland, a triple amputee, had showed "no bravery" in Vietnam, "didn't give his limbs for his country," is not a war hero. My favorite sentence is, "Luckily for Cleland ... he happened (to lose his limbs) while in Vietnam," her point being that if he had been injured at Fort Dix, he wouldn't be a hero.

He also wouldn't have been under enemy fire at Fort Dix. She says he lost his legs in "a routine noncombat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends." Actually, Cleland lost his limbs when a grenade detonated after he and another soldier jumped off a helicopter in a combat zone.

As for not being a war hero, Cleland earned the Silver Star in a separate incident just four days before he was injured. The citation reads, "during heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, Capt. Cleland disregarded his own safety, exposed himself to rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted them in moving the injured personnel to covered positions. Cleland's gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the United Sates Army."

How lucky for Cleland ...

Not knowing when to shut up, Coulter responds, quoting Jill Zuckman in the Boston Globe:
"Finally, the battle at Khe Sanh was over. Cleland, 25 years old, and two members of his team were now ordered to set up a radio relay station at the division assembly area, 15 miles away. The three gathered antennas, radios and a generator and made the 15-minute helicopter trip east. After unloading the equipment, Cleland climbed back into the helicopter for the ride back. But at the last minute, he decided to stay and have a beer with some friends. As the helicopter was lifting off, he shouted to the pilot that he was staying behind and jumped several feet to the ground.

"Cleland hunched over to avoid the whirring blades and ran. Turning to face the helicopter, he caught sight of a grenade on the ground where the chopper had perched. It must be mine, he thought, moving toward it. He reached for it with his right arm just as it exploded, slamming him back and irreparably altering his plans for a bright, shining future."

And, here's the pot calling the kettle black: "They [liberals] ought to stick to their specialty -- hysterical overreaction. The truth is not their forte."

Who's right and who's wrong? Probably both are both, somewhat. Context, accuracy of quotation, and spin are key in these disputes. However, Coulter loses credibility with me, at least, in that she seems to think I'm a traitor.... ["Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason"] [click "Next Page 9 times to get to the quote].