Sicko Trailer


Above is the trailer for Michael Moore’s Sicko. Previous discussion on Sicko is posted here.

Obama Responds to Attacks from McCain and Romney on Iraq Funding Vote


Senator Obama addresses the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists at their annual convention in Chicago. He speaks about conditions in Iraq in this excerpt. Obama responds to both the attacks on him from McCain and Romney for voting against the appropriations bill and comments on McCain’s claim that Paris Hilton could be riding a bicycle thru the Anbar province dressed in a bikini, such as below, and still be safe.

Richardson Calls For Replacing IWR With Resolution Requiring Bush to Leave Iraq

While most of the Democrats in Congress voted against giving George Bush another blank check on Iraq, those outside of Congress have not had the opportunity to formally cast a no vote. John Edwards has spoken out in favor of forcing Bush to get out of Iraq, and Bill Richardson has released the following statement:

Governor Richardson calls today’s vote on Iraq War funding a “missed opportunity”

SANTA FE, NM — New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson today issued the following statement regarding Congress preparing to pass proposed legislation that would provide continued funding for US military operations in Iraq without setting a timetable for withdrawing US troops.

“The best way to support our troops is to get them out of Iraq, and this bill will not move us any closer to that. The Democratic Congress is missing an opportunity. They should repeal the original resolution that gave the President the authority to take action against Iraq and replace it with one that requires the President to take all the troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. Congress has the authority to do that under Article One of the Constitution and under the War Powers Act and the President cannot veto it. Congress should not pass any appropriations beyond the date of de-authorization. By doing it that way, Congress would both fully fund our troops and get them out of Iraq as soon as possible.”

SciFi Friday: The Finales

Lost ended the season with the most intriguing finale, both with events on and off the island. The portions of the story usually involving flashbacks showed Jack attempting to contact Kate after seeing an obituary. I quickly guessed that this was not a flashback but a view of the future after they got off the island. I may have predictedthis more quickly than some who didn’t realize this until the end since I have written recently about the differences in how some of the flashbacks have been used, and even speculated on showing such glimpses of the future after their rescue.

There was one moment which created some doubt that this was the future when Jack asked the new chief of surgery to get his father down, to see which one was more drunk. Jack probably talked of his dead father being alive due to being drunk, but there are other possibilities. The empty casket earlier in the series might indicate that Jack’s father is really alive, or perhaps Jack and Kate returned from the island to a point in time before the events of the series analogous to what once happened to Desmond. We also do not know what this happens compared to the narrative on the island. This could be occurring after the rescue hinted at the end of the episode on the island, but I bet Ben was partially right and they are not rescued until much later. I suspect that Desmond’s vision is correct and they are flown off in helicopters, but that they wind up back where they started. Perhaps somewhere along the way Jack tells the lie which haunts him in the events off island.

We are never told who it was that died, but reportedly blowing up the scene shows that the obituary has a name begins with a J. That leaves many possibilities, including John, James, Jacob, and Jin. As the obituary drove Jack into contemplating suicide, unless it involves events which we have not seen yet, my guess is that it was Juliette, which also explains Kate’s lack of interest in going to the visitation.

We also find that Kate is no longer a fugitive, and that Jack believes leaving the island was a mistake. My predictions that Locke would live and Charlie would die turned out to be correct, but I never guessed that Walt (or at least a vision of him) would play a part in Locke’s survival.

(Update: Further Thoughts on the Lost Finale)

While the finale of Lost just created more questions, Heroes ended as predicted with New York being saved from the explosion. If only he thought it through, Nathan should have realized that Peter could have picked up his ability to fly on his own and there was no reason for Nathan’s sacrifice. Hiro also managed to kill Sylar much to easily. It wasn’t the best episode, but didn’t distract from the fun of the series. In contrast, by the end of 24‘s finale I was practically shouting for Jack to jump, and end it all. I hope the producers keep their promise and move on to a new format, as they have now done this at least one too many times. In an attempt to do something new for the show, this season began with a nuclear explosion near Los Angeles. However, once it occurred, there was little left of interest. Heroes handled the idea of an explosion in a much better manner by holding it off as a vision of a possible finale for the year.

Another disappointing finale was on Veronica Mars. While it might have been fine as a season finale, this left too much open for an ending to the series. It was also disappointing that, after Veronica showed her ability to torment all those who crossed her path, she had to back off on taking revenge on the guy responsible for taping her and leave this to Logan.

Jericho also left many loose ends due to being cancelled, resulting in many protests to CBS. They responded on the show’s message board by promising to provide a closing for the series:

We have read your emails over the past few days and have been touched by the depth and passion with which you have expressed your disappointment. Please know that canceling a television series is a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people at the Network, the production company and the incredibly-talented creative team worked very hard to build and serve the community for this show — both on-air and online. It is a show we loved too.

Thank you for supporting Jericho with such passion. We truly appreciate the commitment you made to the series and we are humbled by your disappointment. In the coming weeks, we hope to develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story.


Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment

Fans are hoping for a made for television movie to properly end the series, but I doubt they would spend the money if ratings for the show were to low to justify a second season. More likely they’ll put up something on the web site to provide an ending for the cliff hanger.

While I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if there is a made for television movie to end Jericho, Amy Sherman-Palladino has raised the possibility of revealing her planned ending for Gilmore Girls in a television movie.

There was another major event on a show besides Lost which involved a major development related to a long standing mystery. On How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Lilly got married but Ted and Robin broke up. We know this was an inevitable step after finding in the first episode that Robin is fated to wind up “Aunt Robin” to Ted’s children. It appears that it will take as long for Ted to find his eventual wife as for the characters of Lost to really find a way off the island.

Iraq War Leaving US With Insufficient Helicopters For Disasters

Then conservatives call to stay the course in Iraq under the delusion that staying indefinately will increase the chances for stabilization of the region, they ignore the costs of staying. They are oblivious to the cost in terms of strengthening al Qaeda and Iran while weakening the United States in the middle east. They are quick to ignore the cost in lives as it is much less than in some previous wars. It is difficult to comprehend to full monetary cost with numbers in the billions. Perhaps looking at some of the more mundane effects at home will begin to demonstrate that we are paying a price to continue this failed policy. The Blotter provides just one example today:

While the Defense Department has pushed extra equipment to units in hurricane-prone states in part to compensate for what has been ordered to Iraq, an investigation has found some Plains and western states have few if any helicopters on hand to respond quickly to a disaster.

And a backup system of sharing helicopters between states may not be as helpful as it’s billed, experts say.

“We’re on the ragged edge” in Nebraska, the state’s adjutant general, Roger Lempke, told a panel of concerned U.S. lawmakers Thursday, describing the absence of helicopters in his state. Nebraska’s contingent of Blackhawk helicopters are deployed in Iraq, leaving few aircraft for disaster relief missions at home.

The central and western United States faces a summer of predicted above-average wildfire activity and an unusually high spate of tornado activity.

Nebraska’s situation is not unique. Arkansas National Guard can’t count a single helicopter of its own in-state, although it is borrowing a few from neighbors. National Guards in Kansas, Texas and Montana report the vast majority of their helicopters are deployed out of state, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Colorado’s National Guard has deployed 17 of its 20 helicopters to Iraq, leaving three to help domestic missions like fighting wildfires.

Earlier in the month, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius complained that,  “hat the state is missing vital National Guard equipment because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” hampering their response to the recent  tornado.  The White House denied these charges and tried to blame Sebelius for the shortages, despite documentation that she has  protested  about such shortages previously.  This story  today lends further credence to Sebelius in that matter.

Bush Ignored CIA Warnings Of Risks of War

While the Bush administration claimed we’d be greeted in Iraq as liberators, most people with any understanding of the middle east were skeptical. It was easy to attribute Bush’s miscalculation here as a product of his ignorance. Now it appears that, just as with warnings of the 9/11 attack, Bush ignored warnings of the chaos which would result from his invasion of Iraq. Reports to be released today show that the CIA had warned Bush of the probable outcome of the war:

In a move sure to raise even more questions about the decision to go to war with Iraq, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will on Friday release selected portions of pre-war intelligence in which the CIA warned the administration of the risk and consequences of a conflict in the Middle East.

Among other things, the 40-page Senate report reveals that two intelligence assessments before the war accurately predicted that toppling Saddam could lead to a dangerous period of internal violence and provide a boost to terrorists. But those warnings were seemingly ignored.

In January 2003, two months before the invasion, the intelligence community’s think tank — the National Intelligence Council — issued an assessment warning that after Saddam was toppled, there was “a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other and that rogue Saddam loyalists would wage guerilla warfare either by themselves or in alliance with terrorists.”

It also warned that “many angry young recruits” would fuel the rank of Islamic extremists and “Iraqi political culture is so embued with mores (opposed) to the democratic experience … that it may resist the most rigorous and prolonged democratic tutorials.”

None of those warnings were reflected in the administration’s predictions about the war.

In fact, Vice President Cheney stated the day before the war, “Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

A second assessment weeks before the invasion warned that the war also could be “exploited by terrorists and extremists outside Iraq.”

According to George Tenet’s book, At the Center of the Storm, there were also other warnings:

One of Tenet’s clearest arguments regarding the administration’s dismissal of all but the rosiest assessments of post-war Iraq comes in his description of a White House meeting in September 2002. There, a briefing book on the Iraq war was laid out for policy makers.

“Near the back of the book, Tab ‘P’, was a paper the CIA analysts had prepared three weeks earlier,” Tenet writes. “Dated August 13, 2002, it was titled, ‘The Perfect Storm: Planning for the Negative Consequences of Invading Iraq.’ It provided worse case scenarios:

“The United States will face negative consequences with Iraq, the region and beyond which would include:

  • Anarchy and the territorial breakup of Iraq;
  • Region-threatening instability in key Arab states;
  • A surge of global terrorism against US interests fueled by (militant) Islamism;
  • Major oil supply disruptions and severe strains in the Atlantic Alliance.”

“These should have been very sobering reports,” says Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst at the Brookings Institution. “The administration should have taken them very serious in preparing plans for a difficult post-Saddam period. And yet the administration did not do so.”

Update: More Info on CIA Warnings to Bush on Iraq

John Kerry’s Senate Floor Speech on The Iraq Supplemental Funding


Part 1


Part 2

Gore Has Less Patience For Politics

Today’s story on Al Gore not running (yet?) comes from The Los Angeles Times. One Hollywood publicist feels as I do, that Gore is watching how the race turns out and hasn’t made a decision:

Clearly, the remaining Arctic and Antarctic ice could shrink to fill a cocktail shaker before even the most skilled forensic psychologist (or screenwriter) figures out exactly how Gore is leaning on this matter.

This much is evident: The man who spends most of his life these days warning about dire events looming in humanity’s future is, in fact, living in the moment politically.

“Al has made a very smart choice in not entering the fray and waiting to see what happens,” says longtime Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman. “We haven’t seen how things are going to play out with the current candidates.

“I honestly believe he hasn’t made up his mind.”

If Gore does enter the race, Bragman says, he’ll have endless fundraising opportunities in Hollywood, no matter how far along in the electoral script he might make an entrance.

“They gave the guy an Oscar, after all,” Bragman says, referring to the best documentary award given to “An Inconvenient Truth.” “He’s not only adored in Hollywood as a politician but also as a member of the community, as a filmmaker. He can marshal support from all the power players.”

Gore isn’t even sure that politics is the field for him:

Privately, it’s obvious that Gore isn’t over the sting of the 2000 election. The prospect of another national political campaign genuinely confounds him.

“I don’t think I’m particularity good at politics,” he confessed in the interview at the Four Seasons. “There are a lot of things about politics as it currently exists that I don’t think I’m necessarily very skilled at.

“I’m not being falsely self-critical. I just find that I have less patience and tolerance for the contrivances and artifices that seem to succeed in the current political environment. The balance has shifted in American politics to reward an emphasis on means rather than ends, toward manipulation rather than reasoned discussion.”

He wonders if the politics of reason faces a “headwind” in the current political culture.

“I’m under no illusion there is any position in the world with as much potential to change the course of events as the president of the United States,” he says. “I don’t misunderstand that. But that’s not the same as concluding that that’s the best way for me personally.”

Having “less patience and tolerance for the contrivances and artifices” might be exactly what we need in a candidate.

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Hillary’s Partial Plan for Health Care

Hillary Clinton, possibly as a consequence of the response to the horrible health care plan she devised on her first attempt, is being more vague this time around. The New York Times reports that Clinton has started to unveil her current plan, but is taking the safe route, concentrating on the less controversial issues. The news report states, “Mrs. Clinton’s plan has three parts: lowering costs, improving quality and insuring everyone. Her speech yesterday focused on lowering costs as a way to help pay for health insurance for the 45 million Americans who have none.”

Mrs. Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said she would cut health care spending by $120 billion a year through prevention programs, coordinated treatment of chronic diseases and computerized record keeping.

In addition, she said she would reduce costs by allowing imports of cheaper drugs, more use of generic drugs and by having the government negotiate the prices of drugs covered under Medicare.

In a speech at George Washington University in Washington, Mrs. Clinton said the health care system was broken and her mission as president would be to fix it.

She attributed the rise in costs to increases in obesity and in diseases like diabetes, asthma and heart disease that she said could be combated by focusing on preventive efforts.

She also blamed the insurance industry, saying that it spent billions of dollars a year trying to figure out how not to cover people who have expensive, pre-existing conditions. She would allow anyone to join a plan, lowering costs by spreading the risk among larger pools of patients.

There will be little controversy over better utilization of computerized records, preventative care, and management of chronic diseases. She goes out on the limb a little more by indicating she will take action against some of the practices of the insurance industry:

“As president, I will end the practice of insurance company cherry-picking once and for all by allowing anyone who wants to join a plan to do so and prohibiting insurance companies from carving out benefits or charging higher rates to people with health problems,” Mrs. Clinton said.

The third part of her plan, insuring everybody, is the tough part which involves decisions which are more likely to be controversial but there are no reports of her discussing this aspect.