Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hey 19

According to the American Research Group, President George W. Bush has hit the jackpot: the lowest approval rating for a sitting US President ever - 19%.

That's lower than Carter during the gas crisis (28%), Nixon during Watergate (23%), and Truman's all-time low of 22% during the Korean war.

Clinton? Clinton's got nothing on that.

I don't usually post about polls because polls are quintessential junk news. But I think this says something about his nibs. Remember when he enjoyed massive popularity? Doesn't that seem so long ago, now?

Gee, I wonder why.

"No we've got nothing in common - no we can't talk at all"
- 'Hey 19' Steely Dan

Monday, February 18, 2008

FEMA: the Formaldehyde Enabling and Management Agency

About ready to grab FEMA by the throat after it's craptacular performances over the last few years? Well, choke on this.

More than two years after residents of FEMA trailers deployed along the Mississippi Gulf Coast began complaining of breathing difficulties, nosebleeds and persistent headaches, U.S. health officials announced Thursday that long-awaited government tests found potentially hazardous levels of toxic formaldehyde gas in both travel trailers and mobile homes provided by the agency.


Levels of formaldehyde gas in 519 trailer and mobile homes tested in Louisiana and Mississippi were - on average - about five times what people are exposed to in most modern homes, the CDC reported. In some trailers, the levels were nearly 40 times customary exposure levels, raising fears that residents could suffer respiratory problems and potentially other long-term health effects, it said.


The reason for the persistently high levels of formaldehyde in the units has never been explained, though some experts have speculated that manufacturers may have run out of “low-emission” building products in the rush to meet post-hurricane orders for thousands of travel trailers and mobile homes.

To their credit, the Agency investigated when citizens in their care complained of health problems. But the study, conducted by the Center for Disease Control, started in late 2005, and has taken this long to come out. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club did their own tests in 2006, and made similar findings. But "FEMA officials initially dismissed the environmental group's testing, saying the trailers conformed to industry standards."

Heckuva job, there, folks. Nice to know we've got you looking out for us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'm calling the 08 race

Yeah, maybe a little early, but let's get out the crystal ball and see what it says, because I think the writing's on the wall: It's going to be Obama-Edwards vs. McCain-Giuliani.

Why those Veep choices? Well, it's more about what they're not than what they are.

Edwards is electable and respectable, yes. More importantly, he's also not Hillary, who brings Bill, or Kucinich, who brings moonbeams. He bowed out early enough, this could be his reason why.

Giuliani isn't so electable or respectable, but he's better than most other choices. Thompson might have bowed early to be a veep, but he's still too sleepy to generate the energy. Romney is a Mormon, which, as we're seeing, puts him maybe a step above atheist, Scientologist or Zoroastrian. Huckabee is too much.

That's my prediction. You know I'm right.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

MSU-YAF + Anti-Muslim Professor = Embarrassment all around

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves. When will MSU's token Anti-Muslim Professor learn to put a cork in it? And when will MSU YAF?

Readers of the rANT Farm may remember the sad saga of poor, poor Dr. Indrek Wichman -- a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University who, like many Westerners, was rather disconcerted at widespread Muslim response to the Danish Mohammed Cartoon fiasco. However, rather than handle the matter in an even-handed and mature manner, he wrote a really nasty letter off to MSU's Muslim Student Association - one calling them names, accusing them of things they haven't done or supported, and telling them to "go home."

Dear Moslem Association:

As a professor of Mechanical Engineering here at MSU I intened to protest your protest. I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey!), burnings of Christian chirches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavain girls and women (called "whores" in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris France.

This is what offends me, a soft-spoken person and academic, and many, many, many of my colleagues. I counsul you dissatisfied, agressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile "protests." If you do not like the values of the West--see the 1st Ammendment--you are free to leave.

I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option.

Please return to your ancestral homelands and build them up yourselves instead of troubling Americans.

Cordially, I. S. Wichman, Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

He later backpedaled, however unconvincingly, and the University saw fit to severely punish him by giving him a stern warning to separate his views from that of the University, should he ever decide to write another such letter. MSU declined to call it harassment, but left unaddressed was the issue of his using an official MSU email account to write such an offensive letter, and if a Muslim student could ever take a class with him and not worry about being made to feel unwelcome there.

That was April of 2006. Now, almost two years later, Professor Wichman was all set to shoot himself in the foot yet again, this time by teaming up with MSU's chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, who gained notoriety for being the first university-affiliated student group to be declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (More information on the group, and some of their ties to hate, can be found here).

The fruit of their collaboration was supposed to be a talk on "how Muslims Desire to Deny People Right to Free Speech," to be held at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan on Tuesday, February 26, at 7 p.m. According to the press release, and a facebook event entry, the talk was going to be held "in remembrance of the first World Trade Center bombings, which occurred on February 26, 1993." And was co-sponsored by, amongst others, the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (JINSA).

Kyle Bristow, the chairman of MSU-YAF, said, "Professor Indrek Wichman defended Western culture and freedom when he sent the Muslims Student Association his email in 2006. He only said what most Americans think, but are too afraid to say."

Bristow added that "it is an honor to host a speech by a freedom-fighter."

There was just one problem: The Holocaust Center had no real idea the event was going to take place, as it was booked improperly

Selma Silverman, administrator of the center, said the event was booked without following proper procedures and that the center did not become aware of YAF's background until Michigan Messenger inquired about the planned talk. ... "It should not have been there. It was an accident," Silverman said. ... She added that all groups and events at the center go through a vetting process, and that had not occurred in this case.

Embarrassing? Worse was yet to come, as JINSA disavowed having any knowledge of the speech at all.

"We don't know anything about this, and we don't know how our name got involved," said (Jim Colbert, communications director for the organization) in a phone interview. "We are not part of this."

Unsurprisingly, the Holocaust Center canceled the event. The entry on MSU-YAF's blog, the Spartan Spectator, was removed without comment, as was the facebook event page, shortly thereafter.

Note the tagline: "Because Islam is a wicked, vicious faith." This is a phrase MSU-YAF's Chairman, Kyle Bristow, has used before.

According to Kyle Bristow: Just for the record, I do not think that Islam should be allowed at an “academic institution of learning and enlightenment.” Over the last 1,300 years, what has Islam contributed to the world except for slavery, war, terrorism, and oppression? I do not apologize for not approving of a heresy.

Charming, huh? I bet he and Professor Wichman would have made some sweet music together, on that stage. Maybe all the people who sent letters like this around could have come together to feel the love.

It's really too bad that MSU YAF - who usually have better organizational and communication skills than this - couldn't make this speech happen. The last time Wichman spoke about the matter, he was still making it sound like a horrible misunderstanding, and seemed eager to put the whole mess behind him. Letting him take the stage could have put the lie to that, and let the MSU community see what he's really all about, now that the furor over his comments has died down.

For the record, Wichman absolutely had the right to speak his mind, however offensively, as does Bristow, and any other person who want to criticize Islam, mainstream or radical. But when someone uses a university email account to drop something like that letter to a student organization, claims to speak for "many, many, many of (his) colleagues," and leaves in doubt whether a Muslim student could ever really feel welcome, supported and treated equally in his class, then it's time for that professor to look for another job, as he's shot holes through the principal mission of any institution of higher learning.

And if you have to ask what that is, don't feel bad. Dr. Wichman doesn't seem to know, either.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Dubai Detains Someone for Nothing - Free Cat Le-Huy

31-year-old Cat Le-Huy, Head of Technology at Endemol UK, was detained and arrested during a tourist visit to Dubai for carrying melatonin, an over-the-counter jet lag aid. Though once in custody Le-Huy tested negative for drugs and his melatonin was cleared by officials, he is still in Dubai jail with no charges and no release date.

Dubai, UAE, February 1, 2008 - This past Saturday, German citizen and UK resident Cat Le-Huy arrived in Dubai and was arbitrarily stopped at immigration. Initial inspection of Le-Huy’s belongings by Dubai authorities yielded a bottle of melatonin, a health supplement available over the counter both in Dubai and in the US (where Le-Huy had purchased it). After being taken into the interrogation room, Le-Huy was strip-searched, submitted to urine testing, and was forced to sign papers in Arabic which he couldn’t read. During the bag search, authorities came up with a few trace fragments of dirt, which they alleged to be hashish.

During and after the arrest, Dubai authorities alleged that the melatonin bottle found in Le-Huy’s bag contained other pills. As of Monday, tests conducted by the authorities indicated that the melatonin pills did not contain any other substances and the melatonin was cleared. Le-Huy’s urine sample also tested negative for any drug use. The German Embassy expected that Le-Huy would be released at this time, but authorities have called on an option to extend his detainment in order to investigate the specks of dirt that they found.

From the website The Truth About Dubai, here.

Having lived in Dubai for seven years, I can attest to the fact that what the Dubai Tourism Board thinks and what the airport Immigration enforcers do are two entirely different things. They'll nail you at the airport for possessing drugs you got at the hospital in Dubai, or that are perfectly legal in other countries - even if it's only present in your urine. And once they've got you in jail, it's anyone's guess as to when you'll get out.

Still, Dubai hates bad publicity. The more light we shine on this case, the better the chance that we'll get this poor guy out and home.

The website has a petition to the Emir of Dubai. Please take the time to read and sign it.