Sunday, July 31, 2005

Future Headlines - Part 8

New York Bomb was Domestic

(AP) Philadelphia, PA – March 18, 2008

____________________________, a consultant for the team investigating the terrorist bombing of New York City on September 11, 2006, and a former CIA operative revealed today that analysis of the blast pattern, debris and trace element analysis confirms that the bomb was almost certainly created in the United States and definitely used the missing weapons grade nuclear material that was stolen from a Defense Installation in April of 2006. During a press conference held by the investigation team, _____________ disclosed that evidence from the site revealed a bomb design that was very similar to designs developed over a decade ago by the CIA. “The implications are very disturbing,” the consultant continued, “the revelation of infiltration at a high level security Defense facility, and now evidence of a weapon designer with a background in U.S. Intelligence, suggests a domestic terrorist group that is highly connected and extremely well funded.”

Reaction was swift across the nation. Leaders of both houses of Congress immediately called for hearings into the security lapses and for an in depth investigation into domestic terrorist groups and their activities. Calls for reform of American Intelligence agencies and departments were made by numerous Washington politicians. A spokesman for the Whitehouse however, urged the American people to remain calm. “The President has asked the leaders of Congress to help him assemble a working committee to begin planning appropriate counter terrorism measures to combat the rise of domestic terrorism in the nation. But he also wants to assure the American people that measures taken since the New York bombing have significantly increased domestic security, and he hopes that the citizens of this great country will demonstrate to the terrorists that America will not be held hostage by their cowardly acts. President Bush urges his fellow citizens to continue to live their lives normally, though with the heightened sense of awareness that his administration has been advocating for some time now.” The President is expected to reinforce those words during a nationally televised press conference tonight at 8 p.m….

Santorum, Edwards, Likely Nominees for President

(AP) Philadelphia, PA – March 18, 2008

After early wins in critical primaries, including the Pennsylvania primary last week, polls indicate that Senator Rick Santorum, and former Senator and Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards will easily wrap up their party nominations for the highest office in the nation. Current polls give Santorum a wide margin in such a pairing. A recent Gallup poll revealed Santorum would beat Edwards in a Presidential election with 59% of poll responders saying they would vote for Santorum, compared with only 32% for Edwards. Even with 9% of voters saying they were undecided, the poll indicates Santorum to be a heavily favored front runner….

See also:
Part 1 Part 2
Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6
Part 7

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Future Headlines - Part 7

Anonymous Source Reveals Nuclear Bookkeeping Discrepancy

(AP) Washington, DC – January 5, 2008

Someone at a Defense Department Nuclear Weapons facility apparently falsified the official records at the facility in an attempt to cover up the disappearance of weapons grade nuclear materials from the site. Crediting an anonymous source, investigators said yesterday, that they had received a copy of a memo and a disk with computer records that clearly show someone at the facility had tampered with the records and changed various entries to make it appear that no materials had gone missing. According to a lead Pentagon investigator, only someone with extremely high security clearances would have had the computer access and authority to gain access to the records and make the apparent changes. Speaking on behalf of the investigation team, a spokesman was quoted as saying, “This suggests the frightening possibility that there is a spy or terrorist operative at work at the highest levels of the Department of Defense.” At a later press conference however, a Pentagon spokesperson denied such a conclusion saying, “the investigator spoke too quickly and jumped to an unwarranted conclusion. Considerable further investigation into this matter is necessary before any conclusions can be drawn, and it behooves all of us, and all Americans to remain calm and allow the investigators to continue their work. There is no reason at this time to panic and there is absolutely no evidence at this time that the security of the Nation’s Defense system has been compromised.”

Some experts however disagreed. During an interview on Nightline ____________________, an expert in domestic terrorism and an advisor to the Clinton administration said, “if the memo and computer records are in fact authentic, and the Pentagon has not suggested otherwise, then that is a very serious problem indeed. At the very least it is evidence of a very high level attempt to cover up a serious breech in security at the facility and at worst suggests a conspiracy of exactly the kind described by the investigating team – a spy or terrorist operative who has infiltrated a Nuclear facility at the highest level of operation.” Later in the interview….

Polls Suggest Further Republican Gains in 2008 Elections

(AP) Philadelphia, PA – January 5, 2008

A new poll released today reveals that terrorism continues to be the major concern of the American voter. Although economic issues including the rising rate of unemployment are gaining ground, 31% of respondents cited terrorism as the number one priority for the American government. And Democrats continue to see little good news in the polls. Pairing various Democratic nominees for President against the front running Republican Rick Santorum (Senator, PA), the poll reveals all Democratic candidates trail by more than 10 percentage points. The closest race would be between Senator Santorum and Senator Hillary Clinton, with poll responders picking Santorum over Clinton by a margin of 53% to 41%. And while Grass roots efforts to draft Senator Clinton into running continue to grow, the Senator has not formally announced her candidacy. Among official Democratic contenders for the nomination, Santorum beats John Edwards by a margin of 57% to 33%, Joseph Biden 61% to 31% and Evan Bayh by a considerable 64% to 22%….

See also:
Part 1 Part 2
Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6

Monday, July 25, 2005

What was Tim Burton Thinking?

I was probably 6 or 7 years old when my mother first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to me, and in the years after she read it to me and I read it myself easily another 20 or more times. I saw the first movie a dozen times or more. Gene Wilder WAS Willie Wonka. And even though there were some changes to the story in the book, the movie was pretty faithful, and I loved it. So it was with some reservation that I went to see Tim Burton's take on the story. I had read that Burton's version was truer to the book, so I was pleased with that news, but as much as I love Johnny Depp, I didn't understand that choice for Willie Wonka - I mean after all, Willie Wonka is getting old, he is thinking about retirement - right? How was Johnny Depp gonna be able to pull that off?

Well I saw the new movie this weekend. It was a real disappointment. Don't get me wrong, it had its moments, but overall, it just wasn't very good. First of all, who ever is writing that Burton's version is closer to the book than the original has clearly never read the book. Burton changes the story in strange and unexplainable ways, including a complete re-write of the ending which is way overly sweet and sentimental and completely pointless - hey Tim, guess what, the book has a happy ending - a VERY happy ending. You felt like you needed to make it happier? All you accomplished was to make it sappy. And as I expected, Johnny Depp couldn't pull off Willie Wonka. Willie Wonka is certainly a quirky character, (just as Gene Wilder played him) but Johnny Depp plays him as unbalanced, mentally disturbed, bordering on insane. Perhaps most strangely, Depp portrays a Willie Wonka who seems to hate kids - that doesn't make any sense at all.

Perhaps the biggest surprise and disappointment was the special effects. Violet turning into a blueberry is clumsily rendered and looks terrible - it actually looks more real in the first movie! The candy meadow and chocolate river were better in the first movie as well. And the Oompa Loompas? In the new version they are all played by one man so all the Oompa Loompas look alike - they're all clones. Plus Burton tries to give them a "modern" twist forgetting that they are a stone age tribe that is rescued by Wonka, but never exposed to the outside world. The chocolate factory becomes their home and they are as sheltered there as they were in their remote tropical homeland. All in all, Burton's version of them just doesn't feel right.

Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I am being too loyal to the first movie and even to the book. I don't know. All I can say is, I was very disappointed. I love Tim Burton movies, I love Johnny Depp - I really believe he is one of the best actors of my generation, but this time out they fall short. Skip this movie, and rent the original. Better yet, read the book.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Bush Did His Homework

There is no doubt about it, Bush did his homework on this one. Bush's nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts Jr., is exactly the kind of candidate Bush was looking for. Roberts is a solid conservative (he definitely leans further right than O'Connor), and he is eminently qualified to serve. His judicial and legal background are strong and solid; there is no hint of extremism. And his work (he has served as a lawyer and argued many cases before the Supreme Court, and has also served as a judge on a U.S. Circuit court of appeals) is thoughtful, intelligent, and solidly based on law - he has managed to avoid any suggestion of personal bias in his arguments. It seems unlikely that Senate Democrats can reasonably block his appointment. And so, Roberts will almost certainly be confirmed as an Associate Justice in September. The balance of the Court will most definitely shift to the right. How this will affect individual rights and civil liberties in this nation remains to be seen.

Future Headlines - Part 6

Supreme Court Upholds South Carolina Constitution

(AP) Washington, DC – November 16, 2007

In a landmark 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld a carefully worded amendment to the constitution of the state of South Carolina that makes Christianity the official religion of that state. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Scalia noted that early in the history of the United States, numerous States had official or State sanctioned churches, and wrote that because the amendment does not compel the citizens of the State to either profess to be Christian or to worship, and does not place a religious requirement on any candidate running for office in the state, the amendment does not violate the Constitution of the United States.

Several States including Texas, Alabama and Utah are currently in the process of amending their constitutions in a similar manner. Utah’s amendment would go a step further explicitly making the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormons, the official religion of Utah….

Investigation Into Deaths of Supreme Court Justices Halted

(AP) Washington, D.C. – November 16, 2007

The lead investigator of the FBI task force investigating the assassinations of two Supreme Court Justices on December 21, 2006, announced today that it was closing the official investigation and turning the case over to the Cold Case unit as an unsolved case. At a press conference on Thursday, the investigator told reporters that in the absence of further leads or evidence, the FBI investigation had reached a dead-end. Stating that the assassinations had been carefully and expertly planned leaving almost no evidence behind, and that given that there was an absence of claims of responsibility, the FBI had exhausted all the physical evidence and leads and could not conclusively determine who was responsible for the assassinations.

The two justices were both killed by suicide car bombers who ran their vehicles into the cars occupied by the two justices. Despite the similarity to tactics used commonly by Al Qaeda and other extremist Islamic terrorist organizations, the FBI spokesperson did indicate that the physical evidence at the scenes pointed to more sophisticated bombs and methods than those generally employed by international terrorist group, and suggested that a domestic terrorist group was more likely the culprit in the assassinations. Further, the investigator implied that the nature of the weapons suggested that who ever designed the bombs used in the car bombings may have had military training in bombs and explosives….

See also:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Future Headlines - Part 5

Democrats Demand Investigation Over Republican Memo

(AP) Washington, DC – March 16, 2007

A secret party policy memo believed to be widely circulated among Republican leaders including high ranking Senators, and possibly the President himself is creating a real stir in Washington D.C. and across the country today. Dated February of 2006, one paragraph in particular has caused Democrats to call for an investigation of the Chairman of the Republican party. In part the paragraph reads:
It now appears that little can be done to reverse the trend in public opinion. As poll numbers supporting Republicans and a conservative agenda continue to slide it looks like nothing short of another 9/11 type attack on American soil could reverse that slide. Without such an event to rally the American people around it appears that our party stands to lose several seats in the Senate and as many as a dozen seats in the House of Representatives….

Many political analysts agree that the bombing in New York City in September of 2006 turned the tide of public opinion and led to the landslide victory of Republicans in the fall elections. Those victories have translated into a sweeping conservative legislative program being enacted at the Federal level.

High ranking Republican officials have called the controversy a Democratic smokescreen and a ploy by Democrats to draw public attention away from more important national concerns….

Investigation Confirms Missing Uranium

(AP) Washington, D.C. – April 17, 2007

A Pentagon official reported today that a Federal investigation into reports of missing uranium at a National Defense installation confirmed that a small quantity of weapons grade uranium was in fact missing and had been first reported missing in early 2006. The official went on to say that it appeared that a miscommunication and further misunderstanding had lead to the report being suppressed and filed away and said that the miscommunication led to a serious delay in investigating the missing uranium. Though the official would not say exactly how much uranium was missing, when asked if the amount was sufficient to create a weapon, he did confirm that a small explosive device could have been fashioned from the missing material. The official did stress that the investigation into how the materials went missing and who may have taken the uranium was now being intensified and classified the investigation as “of the highest possible National priority.”

See also:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I'm Back

Got back from vacation on Sunday and spent yesterday recovering. Had a great time, but now I'm ready to start blogging again. Of course I am waiting with anticipation for this evening's announcement by Bush of his nomination to replace O'Connor on the Supreme Court. You know I will have lots to say about that. In the meantime Headlines Part 5 is on the way and will be posted momentarily.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Off to the Beach

Well faithful reader....or two. I'm off to the beach for 10 days. I'm really looking forward to the time off. Hope you will check back here when I return. Until then....

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Future Headlines - Part 4

New Congress Acts Rapidly

(AP) Washington, DC – February 9, 2007

Within weeks of being sworn in, the new members of the House and Senate along with returning incumbents acted quickly on a legislative agenda, giving indications of what is to follow for this historic session of Congress. With large majorities in both the House and the Senate, Republicans have set a “no-nonsense” tone and made it clear they believe the November elections were a mandate from the American people to enact conservative, values based legislation. The Senate quickly confirmed Bush’s two nominees to the Supreme Court giving conservatives a majority on the Court as well.

Acting in concert with the Senate, the House quickly passed a bill outlawing abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is at emminant risk. Although most experts on Constitutional law fully expect this law will be struck down as unconstitutional, they agree this will happen not on the basis of protecting privacy and individual rights, but rather on a States’ rights argument, opening the door for individual states to outlaw abortion. In addition, both Houses of Congress passed two Constitutional Amendments, one, popularly referred to as the Defense of Marriage Amendment would define marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman, thereby outlawing and invalidating any existing marriages between two people of the same sex. The second amendment now referred to as the Defense of Christianity Amendment, would, among other things, permit local and state boards of education to allow prayer in school, and would allow creation, or “intelligent design” to be taught along side evolution in science classes. Both amendments will now be sent to the State legislatures for ratification….

Pentagon to Investigate Reports of Missing Uranium

(AP) Washington, D.C. – February 9, 2007

Responding to a report published by the Washington Post quoting an anonymous worker at a Department of Defense weapons installation who said that a small quantity of weapons grade uranium had been discovered missing there sometime in April of last year, officials at the Pentagon said that they were opening an investigation into the matter. A Pentagon spokesman said that it could not be confirmed that any weapons installation had reported a loss and raised the possibility that the anonymous source was, in fact, a disgruntled, former employee who wanted to stir up controversy and create a panic….

See also:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Kansas, Courts, Education and American Values

Think this nation is on an even keel? Think there is nothing seriously wrong with the course this country is on? I'm not gonna make a diagnosis here, I'm just going to point out a symptom; one simple example of "mainstream American values" at work in our political system which impacts what may be the most vital function of our society, the education of children.

Kansas high court may close schools

Saturday, July 2, 2005; Posted: 8:27 p.m. EDT (00:27 GMT)

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) -- The Kansas Supreme Court said Saturday it will consider keeping schools closed because state legislators have failed to comply with the court's demand for more money for public schools.

The order was the latest development in a school finance lawsuit filed in 1999 by parents and administrators in Dodge City and Salina. They argued the state did not spend enough money on schools and distributed its aid unfairly.

The court ruled in January that legislators had failed to fulfill a constitutional duty to finance a suitable education for every child, then followed up with a ruling in June demanding additional money.

The justices had ordered legislators to provide, by no later than July 1, an additional $143 million, which lawmakers failed to do.

Saturday marked the 11th day of a legislative special session called by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Some legislators wanted to approve changes in the state constitution to limit the court's power, and an impasse over that issue held up passage of an education funding bill.

Now, look me in the eyes and tell me nothing is wrong. I wonder which party controls the Kansas legislature? Hmmmmm....couldn't be the Republicans now, could it?

The Supreme Court - Really a Big Deal?

I've been of the opinion for a very long time now that the Supreme Court of the United States is the most powerful political institution in this country. The Constitution of our country establishes, in theory, three equal branches of government which provide checks and balances for each other thereby ensuring that no one branch gains excessive power. It is actually a remarkable structure that has endured for over 200 years and has served the nation incredibly well. The Supreme Court, the highest court in the judicial branch of the government, is a unique body. The Constitution is not specific about the make up of the court, and in fact the number of justices on the court has changed a number of times, but currently sits at nine. But what is clear in the Constitution is that the justices are appointed by the president, with the "advice and consent" of the Senate, to lifetime terms assuming "good behavior" on the part of the justices. Thus a justice serves on the court until he or she dies or chooses to retire (resign). These are not elected positions, there is no term limitation. The current court has served for more than a decade without any changes (the last justice appointed to the court was Stephen G. Breyer who was appointed in August of 1994).

What makes the court so powerful is the principle of judicial review established by the Supreme Court itself in the landmark ruling of Marbury vs. Madison handed down in 1803. In this ruling, the Chief Justice of the court, John Marshall, held that the Constitution was the supreme law of the land, and that it was the responsibility of the Supreme Court to make rulings held to this principle. Thus, Marshall argued, if an act of the government (a law, an executive order, etc.) somehow violated the Constitution, it was the role and responsibility of the court to declare that act unconstitutional and therefore, null and void. This then was a significant check that the judicial branch of the government had over the legislative and executive branches - it could, based on the justices interpretation of the Constitution, declare actions of both branches null and void. As the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court was the final arbitrator in these matters as decisions from the Supreme Court cannot be appealed.

Throughout the history of the United States, the Supreme Court has broadened the concept of judicial review in a manner that has made the court a very powerful body. In essence the court has gone from interpreting whether specific laws are constitutional to interpreting whether the principles embodied in those laws are constitutional. That is to say, the Supreme Court ultimately determines what rights are enumerated in and protected by the Constitution of the United States. The rulings of the Supreme Court can only be overturned by the Supreme Court itself (which will only happen if there is an ideological shift in the Court) or by amending the Constitution.

During her term on the bench, Sandra Day O'Connor has sat in the center of the court, ideologically speaking. She has been the key vote in numerous 5-4 decisions in a number of high profile cases central to protecting certain rights. In cases involving a womans right to choose, she has upheld the Court's ruling in Roe vs. Wade. She has also been a key vote in helping to keep the line between church and state clear and defined. In this role, O'Connor has significantly shaped the ideology of the current court, and her replacement will have a major impact on the future leaning of the court. With so many cases being decided 5-4, a single vote can move the court in the complete opposite direction.

Pay close attention to what is happening in Washington over the next few weeks, and by all means weigh in! Use your voice and contact your Senators and let them know which direction you believe the Court should be heading. The choice of a new Justice to the Supreme Court may be the most important decision made by the government for decades to come.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Not Good News

Oh this is not good....this is not good at all. We know Rehnquist is going soon, he's either going to retire or die. But I haven't beem too worried about that. Rehnquist is one of the most conservative justices on the Supreme Court right now and Bush almost couldn't replace him with anyone worse. But today, Sandra Day O'Connor announced she is retiring. A moderate conservative, O'Connor was the swing vote in many important decisions from the court, particularly decisions protecting a woman's right to choose. Bush says he will act swiftly to replace O'Connor, and this could be VERY VERY bad.

Excuse me while I go throw up.

Future Headlines - Part 3

Assassination of Supreme Court Justices Shocks the Nation

(AP) Washington, DC - December 22, 2006

In what security experts are calling a highly sophisticated and coordinated act, two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court were assassinated last night in suicide car bombings similar to those so frequently committed by terrorists in foreign lands. The car bombings occurred almost simultaneously at approximately 9:00 p.m. last night, and both Justices were killed immediately.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was on her way home from a private dinner party when a car ran into the vehicle she was traveling and detonated on impact. A witness at the scene reported seeing a non-descript black sedan race through a red light and hit the car in the intersection. In a similar scene just miles away, Justice Stephen G. Breyer was killed when a car slammed into a parked limousine he had just entered after leaving a posh Georgetown restaurant where he had been dining with friends. Two innocent bystanders were also killed the explosion, and several others were wounded. One witness described the scene as “the kind of thing you would see on an evening news broadcast of a terrorist attack over in the Middle-East or something.”

With their deaths comes the silencing of two of the most liberal voices on the Supreme Court of the United States. When asked, at a White House news briefing, about possible nominees to replace these justices, a White House spokesperson simply replied, “the President, and the nation as a whole is still in shock and mourning over the untimely deaths of these two great Americans. It would be inappropriate at this time to begin talking about or even considering how we will replace these two voices on the highest court. The President believes the nation must focus its attention finding the terrorists responsible for these vicious and brutal crimes and seeing to it that they are swiftly brought to justice.”

Computer Simulation Sheds Doubt on 9/11/06 Theory

(AP) Philadelphia, PA - December 22, 2006

Stressing that their work was preliminary and still subject to further analysis, scientists working with the independent commission investigating the 9/11/06 bombing of New York Harbor released some initial findings today that shed some doubt on the prevailing theory that the nuclear device was housed in a container on a ship registered to the nation of Yemen which had arrived at the docks just that morning. Dr. Joseph Parofsky, one of the scientists leading the investigation revealed today that residual analysis of debris at the scene and a sophisticated computer simulation replicating the situation at the docks that morning seem to indicate that detonation could not have occurred on the Yemeni ship as previously thought. Based on the computer simulation, other ships docked near the Yemeni ship and open water behind the ship would have resulted in a significantly different shock wave pattern than the one exhibited by the actual blast. Rather the simulation suggested that the detonation must have occurred hundreds of yards from the open docks….

See also:
Part 1
Part 2

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