Saturday, December 31, 2005

Doomsy's Do-Gooders And Dregs

I suppose it would be a good idea to revisit 2005 one last time before we toss it into the ashcan, so here's a look back.

Like most years, it had some ups and downs, but all in all, we made it, so that's something to be thankful for (and I'll try not to take easy shots at "the usual suspects," though that will be difficult to avoid).

Darkest Moment

Release of the grand jury report on pedophile priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Most Inappropriate Wording From A Politician

Jim Kolbe

Continuing Search For A Pulse Award

Bob Casey Jr.

Biggest Story

Devastation of Hurricane Katrina

Biggest Non-Story(ies)

The "Runaway Bride"
Daylin Leach's Blog

Update 1/7: The Philadelphia Inquirer named Leach today as one of the legislators who gave back all of a portion of the infamous pay raise to the state recently (see below). That's another reason why I don't care about his blog.

Weirdest Story

The naked "Zorro" guy in Doylestown, Pa.

Most Outrageous Moment Of Thievery

The PA pay raise scam

Most Inappropriate Comparison By A Politician To A Dairy Farmer

John Perzel

Most Shameless Political Grandstanding

"Dr." Bill Frist diagnosing the terminally ill Terri Schiavo on T.V

Most Pornographic Republican

Mary Carey

Most Courageous Performance By A Conservative

Andrew Sullivan on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (particularly when he said, "I'll never trust this guy (Dubya) again.")

Worst Columnist

J. D. Mullane (lots of competition runner up would be Richard Cohen for saying that Patrick Fitzgerald should give up on trying to determine who "outed" Valerie Plame because it's too complicated; it only takes eight letters to figure it out, Richard, and those would be K-A-R-L-R-O-V-E)

Most Disgusting Attack By A Repug Mouthpiece On Fox Whose Father Is A Journalistic Legend

Chris Wallace

Worst Writer Pretending To Be A Political Operative

Scooter Libby

Most Courageous But Disgruntled Government Official Who Brought Down A President

Mark Felt

Worst Performance By A Businessman Pretending To Be A Politician

Doug Forrester

Best Political Story

Victory by Smith/Caiola in LMT Supervisors election

Worst Political Story

Bush wiretapping scandal (I've got more coming up on that)

Silliest Sports Soap Opera

The Terrell Owens saga

Most Underrated Deceased Celebrity(ies) From '05

Ernest Lehman
Shelby Foote also
(both men would probably scoff at that characterization)

"Don't Let The Door Hit You" Award Winner

William Rehnquist

Most Esteemed Individual To Leave Us In '05

Rosa Parks

Political Rogues Gallery

Mike Brown
"Duke" Cunningham
John McCain
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Creepiest Political Actor Who May Yet Make A Comeback, Unfortunately

Scumbag Santorum

Person Of The Year

John Edwards (at least two reasons: his letter taking the blame for supporting the Iraq War and his foundation to fight poverty at Chapel Hill, N.C.)

Have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2006!

Thursday, December 29, 2005


OK, now I’m good and riled up!

So, these geniuses at The Pew Internet and American Life Project are making a big deal about what men and women do online, I see. Well, aren’t WE just prone to generalities!

I mean, suppose I want to read more about “The Hero’s Journey” into “Original Experience” and the time and spatial properties of his concept of eternity as theorized by Joseph Campbell in his discussions with Bill Moyers. Or suppose I want to read more online about healing through the use of biorhythms and herbal aromatic therapies. I guess I’m not supposed to do that, am I? Is it because I’M A GUY??!!

Well, I have another side too. Maybe I want to stroll in the forest and explore the inner recesses of my soul on occasion. Maybe I actually want to read Emily Dickinson aloud at times at a coffee house somewhere (and risk incurring wrath not unlike that visited by John Belushi upon the guy playing the guitar in “Animal House”). Maybe I want to be cuddled and nurtured in a fluffy white cloud that will gently transport me to my “happy place.”

But no!

I feel unfilled if I don’t read the stock ticker and determine if my shares of Amalgamated Widget dipped a point or two and figure out how to do an online share transfer into a less aggressive security if I have to. It is my duty to read the news online about the cat that managed to stay afloat in the river in Montana and “Mrs. Partridge” taking her clothes off. I feel an insatiable craving to read every last, excruciating detail concerning the rehab of all of the Philadelphia Eagles’ football players currently on injured reserve.


Alas, my viewing is confined to that which is easily categorized and defined by some pusillanimous, online know it all. I am unable to probe the inner depths of my being. It’s enough to drive me to despair (sigh).



Alito Of Him Goes A Long Way

Consider this a primer for the upcoming hearings, which should be very interesting to say the least:

Thing One:

I’m here to ask as best I can
Would you like Scalito Sam?
It’s true he strenuously feels
As U.S. Court judge of appeals
That government needs no assist
Being a strict “constructionist”
From liberal groups with a ”solution”
Of reading in the Constitution
Entitlement, advocacy
And thus a right to privacy
A Princeton grad and Yale law
“Concerned alumni,” Seton Hall
There’ll be no confirmation crisis
Conforming with Cornyn’s “stare decisis”
Beyond the law, his dedication
To the Italian American foundation
Shows a man we must protect
A scholar and an intellect
We mustn’t let “the left” deter
This conservative of character
So I’ll ask again, as best I can
Would you like Scalito Sam?

Thing Two:

I would not like Scalito Sam
I’ll summarize as best I can
He ruled police were right to shoot
An unarmed youth while in pursuit
Who ran from cops in Tennessee
After a $10 burglary
Everyone should be dismayed
By his attack on Roe v. Wade
Pro-choice rights have been hard earned
The ones he’d blithely overturn
Even “Casey” he resents
Without spousal consent
He thinks discrimination’s swell
When found at Marriott Hotels
And don’t fight it at MCP
On grounds of disability
At Congress, he and wingnuts are aggrieved
“Exceeding grounds” on family leave
He finds punishing police abhorrent
Who strip search while carrying a warrant
Immigrants cry in frustration
At his regard for deportation
On this, the high court does guffaw
At Sam’s contempt for “settled law”
“Concerned Alumni” sought his clout
At Princeton, which would thus stamp out
The gains, thus made in small degrees
By women and minorities
And now, he thinks we all are saps
To fight illegal wiretaps
For these and reasons many more
I won’t concur, but do abhor
Promotion, and by cruel design
Ascension of this Philistine
I’ll answer straight as best I can:
And neither should you.

Sources: Completed questionnaire submitted by Alito to the Judiciary Committee,, Think Progress,, The Washington Post, TPM Cafe, and the L.A. Times (I would have linked to all of them, but it would have made it difficult to read).

Here is an interesting link to information on Alito, particularly opinions he's written, from the Philadelphia Inquirer (registration required, of course).

One more thing - I definitely apologize for that awful pun.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

With Tauriq Aziz As Mr. Carlin

I know Bushco wants to keep everything under wraps concerning the release without charges being filed against the two scientists who helped develop Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons. However, through some intense investigative journalism on my part and some even more intense hallucinating, I can now announce with total certainly the reason why Dubya released them.

It’s because they’ve been signed by Fox Television to star in a brand new sitcom! It's the "Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax" Show!

Here is the preliminary script for the pilot episode…imagine the two ladies sitting down on an elevated train in Chicago, one wearing a beige trench coat and the other carrying a newspaper under her arm, sitting next to a short, bald man with a slight stammer. After exchanging pleasantries, they leave the train, descend the stairs and head for home.

They take a few minutes to relax and work in the kitchen, when they hear a knock on the door. The person knocking (airline pilot Howard Borden) then opens the door and enters the room.
Rihab Taha: Hello, Howard.

Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash: Hello, Howard.

Howard (holding a sugar bowl): Hello, ladies.

(Cue canned audience applause)

Howard: My, you both are looking particularly lovely today in your black shawls and long skirts to hide your appearance.

Rihab: Well, you know what they say in Iran, Howard. Better to have a black shawl than a live Shah!

(Cue canned audience laughter)

Howard (sitting down on the couch in the living room, putting each hand on his knee): Oh Rihab, you’re such a cutup. But I have to say, Huda, that it turns me on to be around a woman like you who keeps her thoughts to herself. You know what they say about the quiet ones (snicker).

(Cue canned audience “woooo” sound, or whatever that’s called.)

Huda (muttering as she chops away furiously on a cutting board, destroying an onion and crying slightly): Better to feed my entrails to the buzzards than to fornicate with an American infidel like you!

Howard: Sorry, Huda, I didn’t quite catch that. Can you repeat it please?

Rihab (elbowing Huda in the ribs and cursing quietly at her in Arabic): Err…what she said Howard, was….was…was that, she’s been shopping at sales but getting all flustered, but when Howard stops by, she gets so “in a state” that she doesn’t know what to do.

(Cue canned audience laughter)

Howard: Aw, Huda, that’s sweet of you. Hey, by the way, do you have any sugar? I need it for my coffee. I usually load up before I take off. I’ve got a transatlantic run tonight.

Rihab: That’s nice. Where are you flying to?

Howard: I don’t know.

Huda: Weren’t you going to ask someone before you stepped onto the plane, you imperialist oppressor?

(Cue canned audience laughter)

Howard (giving Huda a bit of a funny look): Well, yes, of course. It depends whether or not I’m flying direct to Heathrow from O’Hare or “laying over” first at Newark. I’ll find that out when I arrive at the terminal.

Rihab: Well, this is so interesting, Howard. But I’m sorry to tell you that we don’t have any sugar. However, Huda and I have been working on a new recipe, and we’d like to give you a taste and see if you like it.

Howard: Really? My, how thoughtful. I’d love to give it a try. What’s the occasion?

Huda (growling slightly): “We’re throwing a party, and I just made some punch.”

Howard (getting up and walking over to the kitchen): “Sounds great.”

(Howard takes a small glass of a clear liquid and walks from the kitchen back to the living room, sitting down on the couch again and bringing the glass up to his face near his nose.)

Howard: “Hmmm, this has an unusual smell, sort of like bitter almonds a bit. Reminds me a bit of some Scotch I once had, Glenfiddich™ I think.”

Rihab (laughing slightly with Huda): “Oh, it will feel warm as it goes down all right.”

(Cue the murmur sound from the audience, or whatever that’s called)

(Howard takes some of the drink and put the glass down on the coffee table, placing his hands on his knees once more. At the same time, Rihab and Huda start laughing and shaking slightly. As soon as the glass touches the coffee table, Howard grabs his throat and falls over onto the floor, screaming hoarsely as he tries to get up.)

Howard (growling and gurgling): “GAAAACK! I THINK MY ESOPHAGUS IS ON FIRE!”

Rihab (laughing out loud along with Huda): “What are you talking about, Howard? Did I use too much vermouth?”

Howard (throwing his legs out but otherwise immobile): “YOU HORRIBLE BITCHES! WHAT DID YOU DO??!! I THINK MY LIVER JUST EXPLODED! AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!”

(Howard kicks his legs one final time before collapsing, dead on the floor. Rihab and Huda slowly walk over towards him, hovering over the body.)

Rihab: Any signs of a hematoma? Any bleeding from his nose, mouth or ears?

Huda: No, there are no visible signs indicating that he has been infected with the new strain. But it may mutate, so we’d better pack and leave quickly.

(Rihab and Huda both walk quickly to their bedrooms and start packing.)

Rihab: Now, we have to move to someplace else and get new jobs. What are we going to do?

Huda: Oh, we can go to California. They hire illegal aliens for nannies all the time.

(Cue canned audience laughter)

Rihab: Maybe San Jose or someplace near Mexico? (talking as they continue to pack)

Huda: No. My aunt lives in San Francisco. She used to watch this family with four girls. One man takes care of all of them, and they live in an old Victorian.

Rihab: That might be good. What is the name of the family?

Huda: I think they’re called the Tanner family.

(cue the “Full House” theme – “everywhere you go, everywhere you see, botulism for you and me…”)
OK, was this sick and twisted? Yes, I know it was. But as far as I’m concerned, that also describes that fact that we had these two women in custody for almost two and a half years and could not make a case against them, even though they were designated as “high value targets” by Bushco. We also will probably never know what kind of “quid pro quo” took place to prompt their release.

This whole episode is STILL more evidence to me (as if we needed any) that we have a presidential administration guilty of arrogance, stupidity, and impeachable incompetence. And even I know that that is not funny in any way, shape, or form.

Update 12/29: I'm chastising myself at this moment because I meant to point out that I was inspired (possessed?) to write this post after reading Robert Scheer's excellent column on The Huffington Post. The very last paragraph should be read by every citizen of this country.

Guns Don't Kill, Canadians Do

I somewhat agree actually with John Thompson of the MacKenzie Institute (first clue that this story has to do with Canada is that the name “MacKenzie” is involved) in that illegal gun traffic from the U.S. into Canada is only one part of the problem (I would call that the “front end” and classify poverty and displaced immigrant populations that don’t have much to do as the “back end,” and as we know, it’s much easier for jingoistic politicians of either stripe to address the “front end”), but I think Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin pretty much acknowledges that. All he’s asking for is for this country to try and tighten up the flow of illegal guns a bit, and we know how far a request like that is going to get, especially with the Repug cabal we currently have that is bought and paid for lock, stock and barrel by the NRA calling the shots.

Actually, speaking of our buddy Charlton (“Try To Pry This Weapon Out Of My Cold, Dead Hands”) Heston and his bunch, I would ask that they read this information about the Canadian Firearms Act of 1995 and imagine how it would read (assuming it would even exist at all) had the NRA quashed it the way they do that with gun legislation in this country (I mean, the NRA is such an agreeable bunch, after all).

This paragraph caught my eye in particular.

A national survey commissioned by the Canadian Firearms Centre in 2000 found an estimated 2.3 million firearm owners.

More than 1,000 Canadians die every year from gunshot wounds, most of them by their own hand. In 1996 the total firearm deaths amounted to 1,131, of which 815 were suicides, 45 were accidents and 156 were homicides.

The violent crime rate has been steadily declining in Canada over the last two decades, and progressively fewer crimes are being committed with firearms. In 1978, Canada recorded 661 homicides, a rate of 2.76 per 100,000. Of these, 250, or 37.8%, were committed with guns. In 1998, Canada had 555 homicides, a rate of 1.83 per 100,000. Guns were involved in 151 of the homicides, 27% of the total, the lowest proportion since statistics were first collected in 1961. Robberies using firearms accounted for 18% of all such crimes in 1998, down from 25% in 1988 and 37% in 1978.
The story from the link also mentions that the law is being challenged by gun owners in the province of Alberta who raise cattle, as well as aboriginal tribes and other associations of gun owners. I respect the fact that they are completely within their rights to do that.

Also, let me be clear; if a law abiding citizen in this county owns a firearm and that person practices gun safety and learns how to use the weapon correctly, then as far as I’m concerned, it is that person’s property and no one has the right to confiscate it as long as no crime has been committed.

However, I think Canada is doing the right thing by trying to establish common sense guidelines that are subject to change as dictated by court rulings. I don’t read about any hand wringing in Canada when it comes to renewing a law to ban the sale and manufacture of assault rifles, and I’m quite sure that Canadian gun makers don’t have the same type of ridiculous blanket immunity from liability that U.S. gun makers have (not that that could have done any good for Richard Johnson of Philadelphia, who Tom Ferrick, Jr. of the Inquirer introduced us to earlier this year).

What, Me Read?

So NBC Anchor Brian Williams recommended a book on Theodore Roosevelt to Dubya the other day, apparently. I also have a recommendation to Dubya for a book about Theodore Roosevelt, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

I happened to come across this item at Barnes and Noble when I was doing my Christmas shopping, which is the most perfectly apropos tome that I can think of for this administration (actually, I’m being kinder than I should).

Here are other recommendations for Dubya from earlier this year (assuming he’d appreciate the irony and humor, which is a HUGE assumption, I know).

(By the way, the rest of this Yahoo news “story” is par from the course from our lapdog “liberal” media.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Her Next Reality Show

So let me get this straight, OK?

- It sounds to me like Bushco is trying to advocate granting more power to federal courts to rule in probate cases that, until now, had been the jurisdiction of state courts (another dramatic contradiction on the part of "the party of states rights," as far as I'm concerned). As pointed out in the story, Anna Nicole Smith lost in the Texas courts in her inheritance battle, but if the Supremes ends up giving more power to the federal courts, that will help her case (and I wonder if the Washington Post was trying to be cute when pointing out that Smith, a former porn star, was involved in a case that "could reach a climax"?)

- It also sounds like, in the process of doing this, Dubya is trying to stab another former "Skull And Bones Society" Yalie in the back (the deceased J. Howard Marshall II by name).

- Defending the jiggling, pulchritudinous (when her weight is OK) litigant can hardly be considered a sap to the "moral values" crowd.

So what other reason could Bushco possibly have for getting involved?

Easy. Maybe Dubya is actually reading this blog, and he's following my lead on "For The Love Of America" posted below.

(Either that, or I'm still delusional from my medication to even post on this...more probably the latter.)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

What Child Is This?

This is the great news that O'Reilly and the Dobsonite clowns will never despoil, even though they profess to be acting in His name.

THE BIRTH OF JESUS (Luke 2:1-20)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David): to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them unto heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that head it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the good things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Merry Christmas, and may you all have a joyous holiday season!

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Christmas Nightmare

Before I say another word, kudos to Sam Seder of “The Majority Report” for taking on Bob Knight of the Christian Family Focus Values Fascist Coalition during a recent fracas on CNN moderated by scary right-wing uber-babe Kyra Phillips last week – transcript here.

(Yes, I know that really isn't the name of Knight's organization, but as far as I'm concerned, it's just another wingnut bunch trying to ruin the holiday season.)

(Another note: I rewrote the lead to this post because, despite my temporary incapacity, that does not absolve me of the duty to communicate correctly using the English language.)

OK, without any futher ado...

My wife in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter’s nap (aided by a few vodka shots and frosty “Stein” full of Dinkelacker Dark on my part), when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but stuporous images about the following:

- The Easter Bunny lobbies Dubya with supposedly top secret intel that Santa Claus has weapons of mass destruction (it would come out later that EB did this out of jealousy because he thought Kringle was getting way too much attention from the kids instead of him; EB also did this to hide the fact that he had been convicted of embezzlement by a Jordanian court).

- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appears at the U.N., holding up a sprig of mistletoe, stating that she has proof that Santa has found a way to use it to spray mushroom gas or other invisible, deadly toxins with it. She ends her statement with this quote: “with a bunch of these, he could take out the entire New York City subway system.” It will be discovered later that this information was obtained by “water boarding” St. Patrick.

- Health and lifestyle gurus across the country decry Santa Claus for contributing to the obesity epidemic facing our country by virtue of his appearance.

- Bill O’Reilly launches a boycott of any retail store, newspaper, TV or radio station that refers to Santa Claus as part of Christmas because “he’s contributing to crass commercialization in opposition to strict adherence to Christianity, the one true faith.” O’Reilly then goes into a hysterical, obscenity-filled rant against Jews, Muslims, cat torturers, the U.N., liberals, and
Andrea Mackris.

- Dick Cheney appears on Rush Limbaugh and states that he has “incontrovertible evidence” that Santa Claus is working on a “dirty bomb,” when in reality what was presented to Cheney by Karl Rove was some reindeer poop scraped off the roof shingle of the home of a member of Dubya’s “Pioneer Club” of campaign donors. The New York Times breaks this revelation in an Op-Ed page column by former senator Tom Daschle, which spurs Judith Miller out of retirement to write that Santa stuffs his sleigh with toys made through slave labor in third world countries, with Santa knowing full well that half the toys are defective. Miller also writes a “tell all” book about the escapades of Mrs. Claus, who supposedly participated in multiple orgies while Santa made his deliveries, engorging herself at the expense of some renegade elves and some heretofore unknown sugar plumb fairies.

- Fox News organizes and sponsors massive book burnings of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Moore.

- James Dobson encourages the head of the FCC to ban all Christmas music from the radio airwaves until from December 24th to 12:01 AM EST on December 26th (probably not a bad idea, when I come to think about it).

- School boards throughout the state of Kansas incur millions of dollars of litigation expenses because of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits filed over whether or not Santa Claus evolved or suddenly appeared through the benevolent wish of a cosmic life force.
After all of this, I awoke in a panic and checked to see if everything was safe and secure in the house, knowing that we could still take solace from this holiday season (take that, O’Reilly!) of peace and joy, awaiting the potential of gifts from “the big man” and, more importantly, joyous expectation of the arrival of The Little Child from Bethlehem. Fortunately, all was well.

And then I made sure the cat was OK.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

An Angel Returns To Heaven

I had been meaning to post about this all week, but I did not have the consent of the family and I had to be careful not to violate HIPA regulations. Fortunately, however, John Morrison of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote this wonderful tribute instead:

Mary Kate Marlow, 11, a very special girl


ONE CAN only hope that Mary Kate Marlow knew of the positive impact she had on people.

People were drawn to the little girl in the wheelchair, whether in school, church, a shopping mall, the street.

What was it about Mary Kate that drew people to her? The sparkle in her eyes, a countenance that many described as angelic, her strength as she coped with a hopeless disease?

It wasn't what she said, because Mary Kate could not speak. In fact, her only voluntary movement was the blinking of her eyes.

Yet, this little girl managed to go to school every day, where she was adored and fussed over by both teachers and fellow students.

"The kids fought over who would help her out of her wheelchair and push her into class," said her aunt, Kathy McCabe. "Her classmates couldn't have been more accepting of her."

Mary Kate died Sunday of complications of nueral axonal dystrophy, a congenital, progressive condition that gradually paralyzed her. She was 11 and lived in Holland, Bucks County.

Jake Weiner, a 9-year-old classmate at the Newtown Elementary School, might have said it best when he wrote to Mary Kate's parents shortly after her death.

"I learned a lot about Mary Kate and how she communicated with her eyes. Because we spent time together, I was able to understand her really well. Her eyes told me a lot about her, her thoughts and her friends.

"There are so many good things I can say about Mary Kate. She was a great listener. I could always talk to Mary Kate and tell her about the things going on in my day. I knew that Mary Kate was someone I could talk to if something was bothering me or if I just wanted to talk.

"Mary Kate was happy. I could tell this by the shine in her eyes."
In class, Mary Kate wore a device called a SCATIR (Self-Calibrating Auditory Tone InfraRed) switch that fit over her head and her eyes to record her blinks in a computer. She was one of the first to use the new technology, developed at the University of Michigan.

That was how she was able to respond in class as she took the school's sixth-grade curriculum.

"She was very communicative," said her aunt. "She was a fascinating little girl. She never questioned anything about her life.

"It was amazing the good she brought out in people."

Her mother, Eileen, Kathy's sister, said it's difficult to define the impact Mary Kate had on others.

"We took her to church every Sunday and people would just be drawn to her," said Eileen, a critical-care nurse at Nazareth Hospital. "She was more than just a girl in a wheelchair. She was something beyond that. She had an angelic countenance, her eyes just sparkled.

"If you believe everyone has a mission in life, that was hers, the effect she had on people.

"She loved being with people. It made her happy. Her nieces and nephews would come into her room and talk and sing to her, and her eyes would get wider."

"She touched so many lives," said her father, Tom Marlow, an executive for Kinder Morgan Corp. "She always gave to people."

Tom recalled the time Mary Kate met an uncle who was skeptical of her ability to communicate.

"She just closed her eyes for a couple of seconds and that was how she said, 'Hello Uncle John.' He was convinced."

Mary Kate also is survived by her brother, Tommy, 6; her grandmother, Kathleen Conklin, and a "special aunt," Sister Maureen Conklin.

Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Bede the Venerable Church, 1071 Holland Road, Holland. Friends may call at 6 this evening at the Fluehr Funeral Home, 800 Newtown-Richboro Road, Richville. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Children's Hospital Pulmonary Medicine, c/o Dr. Howard Panitch, 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia 19104

You cannot possibly imagine the love, sacrifice, and dedication that the Marlow family poured into Mary Kate's life during her years on this earth, by the way. And from what I heard about the viewing tonight, it was truly touching, full of tributes from everyone, including Mary Kate's classmates mentioned in Morrison's column.

It is a crime for any parent to have to bury their child, and it is an obscenity for any parent to have to bury their child this time of year. However, we who were close to Mary Kate (we are friends of the Marlow family by virtue of the fact that my wife provided critical care for Mary Kate and the young one has played with their son) know that, as difficult as it is to accept this, we must find a way to do just that and know that she is at eternal peace at this moment. Beyond that, we are sure that she is playing and chatting up a storm amidst fields of eternal sunshine with bows in her curly, chestnut hair dangling in the wind.

The life of any child is a gift from God, and that was never more true than in the case of Mary Kate. Though we celebrate the coming of the savior at this time of year (we who are Christians), we know that Mary Kate, having left us here on earth, now enjoys eternal life. May we all live lives of the type she lived that will allow us the blessing of joining her one day.

In The Spirit Of The Season

Yours truly is currently facing a collision of illness and heavy holiday/workload B.S., so I only have this important reminder for now from Dr. Dean (I'm also working on something that isn't ready yet...I'll put it out there as soon as I can):

Over the next few days we will gather together with our families and loved ones to celebrate the holiday season. As we take the time to remember the ones we love and welcome the New Year, it is important not to forget those who have suffered and sacrificed so much in the past year.

In particular this holiday season the families of our wounded, brave service men and women and the families displaced and devastated by the Gulf Coast Hurricanes deserve our special attention.

This time of year can be especially hard for families with a service member who has been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. At the time when a family most wants to be together, the unfortunate reality is that many wounded service members must receive specialized medical care great distances from their families.

A foundation called Fisher House creates comfort homes, built on the grounds of major military and Veterans Administration medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to loved ones during their hospitalization. Every year Fisher House serves more than 8,500 military families.

As we send our thoughts and prayers to all our troops and their families, and express thanks for the sacrifices they make on our behalf every day, I ask that you consider supporting the Fisher House Foundation by clicking

As the headlines disappear for those affected by the hurricanes and their aftermath, the suffering continues. Tens of thousands are still scattered across the country in temporary housing.

We need to rebuild. We must provide homes for those affected and rebuild the communities that have been torn apart. Habitat for Humanity has been instrumental in building new homes for those who lost everything this past fall.

Habitat for Humanity is the American community at its best -- people coming together to achieve a common goal for the common good. Please consider helping them continue their vital work by volunteering with your local chapter or making a contribution


All of us at the Democratic Party wish you and your family a happy and safe holiday season.

Thank you,

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
Also, please read about Rep. John Conyers' effort to censure and impeach "Our Kid," as Brendan calls him.

Posting will be sporadic into the first week of January. Thanks for hanging in there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

God Bless Us Every One, Even Him

In response to this item from The Huffington Post, I would like to republish these words from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof:

Let us all pray for Bill O'Reilly.

Let us pray that Mr. O'Reilly will understand that the Christmas spirit isn't about hectoring people to say "Merry Christmas," rather than "Happy Holidays," but about helping the needy.

Let us pray that Mr. O'Reilly will use his huge audience and considerable media savvy to save lives and fight genocide, instead of to vilify those he disagrees with. Let him find inspiration in Jesus, rather than in the Assyrians.

Finally, let's pray that Mr. O'Reilly and other money-changers in the temple will donate the funds they raise exploiting Christmas - covering the nonexistent "War on Christmas" rakes in viewers and advertising - to feed the hungry and house the homeless.

And please, please, please, PLEASE Mr. O'Reilly, don't forget me!

(By the way, my guess it that this great column by Hendrik Hertzberg did it.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

For The Love Of America

As we prepare for the holidays, I think it’s time for all of us to reflect on our country in general and our government in particular. Yes, I know I do that regularly here, as do any of you who choose to read this content.

In the spirit of the season, I would ask that we temporarily suspend any rancor and ill will towards people we view as adversaries (well, not for too long I guess, especially since Atrios found a quote from Dubya dated April of last year stating categorically that he would not conduct wiretaps on American citizens without court approval, and also because other sites (most notably the L.A. Times) have reported that the New York Times knew about the wiretaps by Bush before last year’s presidential election, but chose not to report it at the time.

OK, that’s it; sorry I got off track. Now, it’s back to “playing nice, goodwill towards men,” etc.

I think we should all be looking for ways to improve our government, and this presidential administration in particular. That is necessary because, based on the most recent information I can find, President Bush (trying to afford a measure of respect here…I may need to slap myself to stay focused) received no “bounce” whatsoever from his most recent speeches on Iraq.

So here is what I have in mind – I’m just going to “throw it out there” and see if it flourishes, moults, or gets run over by a panic stampede.


Short of your resignation or impeachment, that is the BEST POSSIBLE solution to the problems facing you at this moment (and how pathetic is THAT?). You and your handlers fancy yourselves as masters of spin, dictating the language and controlling the pictures to create an impression that puts you in the best possible light (generally anyway, with some glaring exceptions, especially recently).

Oh, and by the way, please have Karl Rove leave the room immediately. What I will ask in this post is something that requires independent action on your part, which I realize is something he will never allow.

I know the immediate ramifications of any action taken on your part based on my suggestion. Basically, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and the other Pharisees who support you would immediately call for an intervention followed by a burning of you in effigy in anticipation of actual physical violence against your person. That is why it is critical that you make any announcements related to this idea outside of the continental United States.

I also know that the individuals I just mentioned have an awful lot to do with your installation as President and persuading their like-minded, blinkered, intellectually emasculated flock of red state sheep to vote for you again in 2004. Basically, without them, you’d be driving your “RV” into a ditch in Crawford somewhere after too much “Dickel Brothers Sour Mash” (oops…sorry; stop it! Bad doomsy, bad doomsy – pardon me while I chastise myself). With this in mind, I ask that you recall the potential for greatness that somewhere could possibly exist in your administration and what it could take to achieve it (more than anything that could be summoned in the entire cosmos, I’m sure, but I’m trying anyway). I’m only asking that you somehow make an attempt to follow in the path of your predecessors for the sake of posterity.

President Eisenhower worked with the Democratic senate (led by Lyndon Johnson) in the 1950s to create civil rights legislation. Bill Clinton gave the Republican congress virtually everything they wanted in supporting NAFTA. Hell, even Nixon (one of the all-time-leading anti Communists) went to China (and, as far as we know, he didn’t even call in anywhere for “take out”).

What I’m saying to you, Mr. President, is that you have to show some “leadership” (a frightening concept, I know). To do that, you must bridge divides and make peace of a sort with those who hate you (well, only a few at a time anyway, since we’re talking about half the country at this point).

Your followers will accuse you of some kind of Clintonian sellout if you start populating your government with supermodels and uber-gorgeous female personalities. But doing something like this will show that you know how to learn from your “betters.” It will mark your transformation into a leader who many more people will take seriously from now on. I know you've taken a step in that direction already with Condi Rice and her "angry, black dominatrix" thing, but you need to do more, sir. You need to do so much more.

Some will be shocked. Some will be mortified. Some will ask, “What took so long?” Still others will no doubt climb to the top of Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral and take a swan dive into the next world (probably not one where they want to go, knowing them vaguely as I do).

I mean, let’s look at some of your current cabinet members. Your Commerce Secretary is a man named Carlos Gutierrez, about whom I know virtually nothing. I have a feeling that he’s skilled and eminently qualified. Get rid of him and bring on Paris Hilton instead.

Hey, she started a little internet cottage industry by making that porn video of hers. I’d say she knows more about commerce than some government lifer or “K” street lobbyist.

You labor secretary is Elaine Chao, who typically dresses and looks like a person selling insurance. Give her the boot and tab Britney Spears for the job. Actually, I’d let Spears have her child first before you do anything (yeah, I know…what a cheap joke about labor). The only person whom Chao could appeal to in a similar fashion would be a middle aged Asian man who longs to feel stirrings in his nether regions once more as he purchases a term life policy.

I can think of at least two other reasons why Spears would be a good fit. One is that she’s going to need some kind of a steady job after she has to play sugar momma to her man whore husband in the divorce settlement (I sometimes wonder how Kevin Federline could have pulled this off, but the only reason I can think of is scatological in nature and not appropriate for this site). Another is that she deserves a payoff from your administration for her totally vacuous show of gum-chewing support to Michael Moore in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Another way to improve the scenery is to appoint Jessica Simpson as the new head of the FCC as opposed to the Dobsonite zombie currently taking up space in that position. She knows just how much to show her rack and shake her cans within the limits of decency in that video for “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” the lame cover of the 60s hit by Nancy Sinatra, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only qualification that she needs.

So there you have it, Mr. President. Ensure your place in history for what thus far has been a mistake of a presidency by making some “eye candy” part of the equation. Besides, I’ve inadvertently received all kinds of Email generated by Repug sympathizers pointing out how conservative women are hotter than liberal women. Well, try “walking the walk” as long as you guys can “talk the talk,” OK?

Thank you, sir, and Seasons Greetings you, the missus, and your non-serving-in-Iraq daughters.

P.S. – If this post doesn’t give my “hit count” a spike, then I might as well give up.

Monday, December 19, 2005

March Single File To Your Doom

I just went to CNN’s site and saw that the Quick Vote question was, “Do you agree with President Bush that secret wiretaps are needed to protect the American people?,” and 41 percent polled actually said yes.

Unfortunately, I thing the “lemmings” analogy from some commenters to this story (via Atrios) is frighteningly appropriate.

(Oh, and if someone can detect some particle of brainwave activity between both Katie Couric and Tim Russert, I’d appreciate it if you’d notify me.)

Sit Up And Beg

So Joe Klein of the august MSM corporate publication Time Magazine (which I don’t miss subscribing to one bit, by the way), in the most recent issue, has decided that it’s time to “pin a few medals” on individuals who, in his estimation are worthy of this supposed great honor for their accomplishments during the prior year (with everyone else’s “end-of-year highlights” lists rolling out all over the place, whether we want them to or not). As I will attempt to illustrate, Klein maintains true lapdog form in his biased and oversimplified comments.

Klein’s column is called “In The Arena” as an homage to Theodore Roosevelt, which is praiseworthy enough. The first person Klein cites as worthy of tribute, however, is none other than Dubya himself. Klein acknowledges disagreements with Bush, but also gives Bush credit to acknowledging a Syrian dissident named Dr. Kamal Labwani numerous times in speeches. I applaud the brave sacrifices of Dr. Labwani, but Klein mentions that Bush has acknowledged the mistake of supporting “repressive regimes in the region.”

That’s funny coming from Bush, who, along with his family, has been playing “footsie” with the House of Saud – one of the most repressive regimes on earth – for years. Also, I know Pakistani president Musharraf is now a “good guy” since he has supposedly been helping us in the “war or terrorism,” all the while turning a blind eye to nuclear profiteer Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Also, I’m long past tired of hearing justifications for the Iraq War for human rights reasons when that wasn’t the basis upon which it was sold to us (but I should point out that Klein stated in a prior “Arena” column that the reasons for the Iraq War don’t matter to him any more).

The reasons for the Iraq War ALWAYS matter. The fact that Klein needs to be reminded of that is beyond pathetic.

Also, this quote from Klein irked me as well.

“He (Bush) has had a difficult year.”
“Difficult” is relative, isn’t it? Dubya has quite rightly lost some of what people perceive as a measure of populist prestige (yeah, I know…real scary, but I know of more than a few individuals who look at Bush that way – just keep spiking the “kool aid” and everything looks fine, I guess), but that is the extent of his losses. Try explaining how Dubya’s year has been “difficult” to an Iraq War veteran who has lost a limb, or the family or friends of an Iraq War veteran who has died, or an Iraqi family that has taken no side for the insurgency but still paid with the loss of life of a family member or friend or wounding of same, or the loss of electricity and running water in a climate where disease is flourishing, most notably affecting children. They could teach Dubya a thing or two about their “difficult” circumstances.

Klein also acknowledges that Bush has finally renounced the use of torture. As I stated earlier, how pathetic is it that he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into that realization? Also, from what I read, Condoleezza Rice still traveled around Europe telling lies about how we don’t send detainees to other countries for torture. Why should they believe us when we have about zero credibility with them at this point anyway?

Next, Klein mentioned “The Governator,” though Klein, as an opponent of the death penalty, criticized Schwarzenegger for the execution of “Tookie” Williams. Klein, however, immediately pissed away the goodwill he engendered on that in my book by complimenting Ahh-nold on “taking on the powerful teachers and nurses unions.”

Oh course, far be it for Klein to acknowledge that The Governator has been more than a tad disingenuous in dealing with the unions himself.

Klein then chose to salute John McCain for his courage, which is a given in terms of his military service. Unfortunately, his service in politics has turned out to be another matter. However, I do share a bit of agreement with Klein in his praise of Repug Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. I’ve been back and forth on Graham also, though he has done the right thing by pointing out that Dubya has failed to be accountable on Iraq. However, when all is said and done, Graham is a Repug after all, and that trumps any praise I could give to him.

This column by Klein would have counted as nothing but a typical, garden-variety homage to the Repugs, and I would have dismissed it as such, had it not been for this next-to-the-last paragraph in the column:

Speaking of judicial nominees (linking back to Graham), Senator Barack Obama deserves notice for his criticism of Democratic advocacy groups that opposed the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court in their usual vituperative fashion—even though Obama himself opposed the nomination. "Whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose," he wrote to the puerile liberal Daily Kos blog. Thanks, Senator, for taking a stand in the service of civility.
It should be noted that Obama’s position on the issue of the Roberts nomination, though commendable, is ground that he had to make up as far as I’m concerned because of his support of the fraud bankruptcy bill earlier this year (along with the scandalous help of other Democrats, including John Kerry).

What really got me, though, was Klein’s slap at the bloggers who opposed the Roberts nomination. I would take personal umbrage at this, but I know I’m not that big of a fish in the overall scheme of things, so I won’t. Even though it was a losing battle, I’m glad that I fought it.

However, I DO resent Klein’s attack on The Daily Kos. The Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “puerile” as “juvenile, childish, and silly.” If Klein has a particular problem with this blog, then he should tell us what it is. As for me, Kos and Atrios are required reading for me on a daily basis because I find a wealth of information from the individuals who contribute to those sites (volumes more than anything I ever received from Time as a magazine and especially Klein’s column in particular, which is a big reason why we let our subscriptions lapse).

I find The Daily Kos to be the exact opposite of Klein’s description. Is it irreverent from time to time with occasional salty language? Yes. But I find the name-calling on the right-wing sites to be even worse. And by his own name calling (admittedly with $10 dollar words instead of swearing), Klein is no better than what he is criticizing.

So, while acting as a right-wing propaganda tool, Klein has shown only a token attempt at balance in his writing and instead plies his trade as a true hack, masquerading behind some sort of long-ago-earned liberal “cred” that he has now soiled beyond all recognition.

Go trot back to your Bushco handlers and ask them how high they want you to jump to receive another tasty treat, Klein, and spend more time reading Kos, Atrios, Crooks and Liars, Think Progress, this site if I may be so bold to make that suggestion, and other lefty blogs that are out there. You may actually learn something.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

No Pulitzer For You

While the Philadelphia Inquirer publishes Letters To The Editor chastising Hillary Clinton and singing hosannas to Joe Lieberman for his support of the Iraq debacle (in a Sunday Review and Opinion section misnamed with the vague moniker of "Currents," which seems to shrink each at five pages), and supports the victory of the McCain Amendment on torture (which is good, but how pathetic is it that Dubya fought that as ferociously as he did?), here is what that august bastion of journalism at its ivory tower on 400 North Broad Street had to say about Dubya's decision to spy on Americans without court oversight.


I'm sure an editorial is forthcoming, and it may be excellent, but timing has a lot to do with this stuff. Meanwhile, MANY newspapers in this country have already spoken out against it (all you have to do to note which ones is to go the The Huffington Post). This includes the Kansas City Star (in RED STATE territory, for crying out loud).

Let's stop printing these dippy columns on men and women's relationships and your cutesy Christmas stories in space that should be taken up with the words of more writers like Trudy Rubin, OK?

Update 12/22: To be fair, they nailed it today (registration required). The problem is that everyone else beat them to it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


They were both self-promoting grandstanders in their way (here and here), but they both made significant contributions that are sorely needed today.

I once read that Anderson drove J. Edgar Hoover nuts by, among other things, rummaging through Hoover's trash for information he could use in a column. Proxmire, of course, brought us his "Golden Fleece" awards also (a bit disingenuous at times, but it least it showed that someone was watching how our money was being spent).


I don't care about the elections in Iraq (oh, and by the way, the only reason the Sunnis decided to participate so heavily this time around, as opposed to their failure to do so during the election to ratify the Iraqi constitution, is because they got the word that a heavy turnout would be more of a reason for us to get the hell out of the country).

What I DO care about is the fact that we have a dangerous, lunatic demagogue sitting in the Oval Office who truly feels that he is above the law.

Atrios and The Huffington Post are absolute, must-reads today (so is Brandoland).

Kill Tookie Williams Deader Than Dead

That seems to be the mentality behind most conservatives (or really, anyone who disagrees with them, if you get right down to it).

What else explains this nauseating, racist cartoon from Glenn McCoy that the Philadelphia Inquirer, in their everlasting stupidity, decided to publish this morning? How can this be anything but a sap to lizard-brain paranoia and the most base instincts you can imagine as opposed to reasoned and informed dialogue?

I suppose this is but a small step from the brilliant reasoning posited by Michael Smerconish lately that stated that Tookie Williams must die because he had the bad manners to cite Mumia Abu-Jamal in a book dedication. Surely, lethal injection wasn't punishment enough for such an offense. Why wasn't Williams drawn and quartered as a pay-for-view event sponsored by Fox television?

I will probably be linking to this great post from The Bulldog Manifesto for a long, long time that sums up the questions surrounding the Williams' verdicts and his execution, as well as a testimony to the fact that he turned his life around and made great contributions to keep kids away from the gang violence he helped cultivate in his youth.

Oh, and I suppose the person McCoy is depicting in the cartoon is Albert Lewis Owens, the 7-11 store clerk Williams was convicted of murdering in 1979. How convenient for McCoy that Lewis happened to be white. And if you think I'm making too much of this, try substituting Mark Chapman for Williams and John Lennon for Owens, or Mikhail Markasev for Williams and Ennis Cosby for Owens, and guess what? You have illustrations of totally different circumstances with TOTALLY DIFFERENT visceral effects, that's what (with the common circumstance that three different people are being murdered).

If Williams' execution had somehow enabled Owens, or any of Williams' other victims, to return to life somehow, I would have been all for it. However, the simple, basic, metaphysical fact of life, as we know, is that that is impossible. The best we can do is weigh all the facts at hand and make the best possible decision. And as far as I'm concerned, executing Williams based on what we know was a criminal act of state-sponsored murder that was no better than the crimes of which Williams was originally convicted.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Nine Days To Go

This just in…

- Rep. John Dingell gets the “Holiday” spirit (glad he’s keeping his day job...obligatory hat tip to Atrios)

- Andy Williams in intensive care due to unusual shrinking accident with white turtleneck sweater

- Newly discovered documents tell the story of how Bing Crosby threatened to blow somebody’s head off if he didn’t get his “figgy pudding” PDQ!

This column from Kate Fratti of the Bucks County Courier Times provides some insight also, I think (hope you've done most of your shopping by now, but just in case...).

Toy stores no trip down memory lane

If you've not browsed a major toy store in recent years, I urge you to get right to it. Especially if you've been wondering what's wrong with today's kids.

The answer, I think, might lie in their toy selection.

What's that? You're so out of touch you think children still play with Etch-a-Sketch, pogo sticks, Matchbox cars and doll babies?

Go now. Go to the toy store.

I'm not suggesting you buy a thing. Just stroll the busy overstocked aisles and be as dazzled as I was recently by the overindulgence and weirdness that constitutes play.

For instance, you can still purchase a kid a Radio Flyer Wagon with removable sides for Christmas, but it would seem awfully quaint. Irrelevant, really. Especially when the receiver pulls it up alongside the kid who woke to find under the tree a $299 motorized C5 Corvette with working headlights, a real FM radio, horn and retractable cup holder. I kid you not. A place to put his sippy cup.

For the more outdoorsy first-grader there is the $299 Kawasaki Adventure 4x4 with a one-year bumper to bumper warranty. Or Little Tyke's rough and tough Hummer Adventure Series at $279.

While you can still buy pop-up books for your favorite little person, just know that her pals "age 6+" could be the recipients of the Little Tykes DVD Player with remote control - $79.99. Some will get the little blue 13-inch TV - $99.99.

Can you spell overindulged?

How about strange?

Remember your first diary? The one with the white patent leather cover and tiny brass lock and key to keep out creepy little brothers. Forget it.

Today's girl has Girl Tech's "Password Journal." For about $27, it comes with a voice activated spring-loaded cover. Tucked inside is paper on which to scribble her innermost thoughts. The pen has a built-in radio AND "a shredder."

Of course, if brother is determined to snoop, there are toys for that, too.

A spy tool kit by Spy Gear runs $14.99. It comes with a real "listening device" and a notebook to record conversations. There's another kit with a camera he can wear as a watch. It holds 24 exposures.

Can you spell stalker?

If he's snooping after lights-out Kids Station Toys offers a long-range night vision headband with a Batman theme, $29.99.

In the "makes-no-sense-at-all department" is FlyWheels Rapid Fire Launcher. It lets the owner shoot hard rubber wheels long distance. Just wheels.

"Like throwing rocks in the house," mused Gary, a Northeast Philadelphia man shopping for two nephews. The toy is not intended for indoors, but Gary was picturing the toy in the hands of his sister's 4-year-old who can't read those directions. The image made Gary grin.

"For five bucks, I'm measuring the entertainment value of upsetting my sister vs. the safety of their cat," he said.

I suggested something more creative for the toddler but had second thoughts. Even old standards like Play-Doh have been weirded up for this newest batch of kids. "The Chomp and Chew Diner" kit, for instance, invites the creator to form pizzas then feed them to the ugly little plastic figurines. The dough is forced up into the doll's head, which then sprouts Play-Doh hair.

If there was any comfort at all, it was the manufacturer warning to parents: "Contains wheat." Aha. Some things don't change. Kids still chomp and chew Play-Doh. What a relief.
Irving ("Bag Of Glass") Mainway (the bad toy maker played by Dan Aykroyd on the original Saturday Night Live) would be proud.

The King Of All Media Departs

It’s incumbent on me, I guess, to comment on the last non-satellite broadcast of the Howard Stern show, which took place today (broadcast on Yahoo also). As I write this, I’ll assume that you, dear reader, know nothing about him. I realize that’s a bit of a stretch, but I hope there are a handful of you out there.

I definitely have mixed emotions about Stern’s exit from “free” or “terrestrial” radio (whatever the correct term is for what is, for the most part, heavily pre-programmed and pre-filtered garbage broadcast on the frequency discovered by Edwin H. Armstrong many years ago). I wish him luck, and I thank him for the moments of entertainment he actually managed to provide. I also want to commend him for doing something with the medium that no one else thought could be done.

He has stated often that he invented the format he has followed for many years, but that isn’t true. Others in radio, such as the radio team of Hudson and Landry in Los Angeles, and to a much lesser degree Don Imus many, many years ago, dealt with the type of scatological fare that Stern trades in on a continual basis, though this content was much tamer for its time. The difference with Stern, however, is that, through smarts, guile, deception, dedication, loyalty to his listeners and a staggering amount of old-fashioned hard work on his part and that of his expert term of talent, he has managed to create not just radio broadcasting success, but a genuine movement of a fashion bordering on cult worship.

I remember when he came to the Philadelphia market in the early 80s broadcast over WYSP FM. He went head-to head with radio personality John DeBella of WMMR, who had become the top DJ for the much-sough-after 18-to-34-year-old male marketing demographic (DeBella had achieved this by dethroning a 70s-era-easy-listening radio personality named John Harvey who represented some kind of match between John Denver and an urbane, sophisticated wiseass…way too mellow as the 80s beckoned, and DeBella tore him up). One of the first things Stern did was stage a mock funeral to drum up support, which was a clever but utterly tasteless gesture to promote his show (with main sidekick Robin Quivers in tow). Stern also found a way to get a testimonial for his show from DeBella’s troubled ex-wife, their divorce having just been completed. DeBella’s ex-wife eventually committed suicide, though no one to my knowledge blamed Stern for that and Stern expressed sorrow profusely over it.

Stern of course eventually toppled DeBella, and DeBella kept his show on WMMR for a time before he was let go. After this occurred, DeBella landed on WYSP also, and Stern held a joint news conference where DeBella acknowledged that Stern was number one, with DeBella also trying to promote his show that would follow Stern. This arrangement lasted for a time until DeBella was let go from that show also. He is now the morning personality on WMGK, the “classic rock” station in this area.

I should also note that Stern has also shown moments of genuine class. DeBella’s sidekick on his show in the 80s was Mark “The Shark” Drucker, who Stern actually hired in his capacity as a radio station general manager many years ago (it’s easy to forget just how accomplished a professional in the radio business Stern really is). After the DeBella “Morning Zoo” show broke up, Drucker picked up other radio jobs in the Philadelphia area, finishing his career at the AM all-news station KYW 1060. When Drucker died of cancer earlier this year, Stern was very felicitous towards him, pointing out that, in all the years of hurling insults back and forth with DeBella, Stern never attacked Drucker because of his fondness for him as a person and a professional.

Despite all of this, I have to admit that I never gave much thought to Stern until my wife introduced me to the show. I have heard him at times when he has been genuinely funny, either in improvised moments or scripted routines. However, most of the time it is obviously that he is either repeating popular bits in the mode of “Saturday Night Live” or “pressing people’s buttons” because he doesn’t have anything else to do. At the occasion of the death of Frank Sinatra in 1998, the only “contribution” I remember from Stern on that occasion was sarcasm. He also seems to blindly champion people who are “friends of the show” such as former New York senator Alphonse D’Amato regardless of all else. I realize that it’s Stern’s right to do that, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. Stern also frequently defends Republicans over Democrats, though I definitely don’t think that that’s intentional. I noted elsewhere that I thought Stern was wrong to chastise Mario Cuomo, and in Stern’s defense, he did everything in the world that he could to help John Kerry last year, and I don’t think Kerry even gave Stern the benefit of a phone call for Stern’s Herculean efforts (aside from showing rudeness, it was also an indication of Kerry’s essentially “tone deaf” campaign).

What I would also say in Stern’s defense, though, is that I cannot imagine how difficult it is to prepare and execute his extremely popular radio program the way he does (and getting up each day at the ungodly hour of 4 AM). During his morning broadcasts, it would not be unusual for him and his crew to begin at 6 AM and go on past 11 AM EST, especially if something newsworthy was happening (the news segment with Robin Quivers being the last one on the show, though Quivers of course contributed throughout the broadcasts). Also, Stern is a good interviewer and has a GREAT voice for radio. I cannot communicate strongly enough how exasperating it is to try and listen to a whispery, mumbling radio person amidst a kitchen full of activity on a busy morning before work and school (suffering from “NPR-itis,” I guess…are you reading this, Windsor Johnston of WRTI?). How much sense does it make when you can’t hear someone who makes their living with their voice?

One of Stern’s shining moments came on September 11th, 2001, when he stayed on the radio for hours in a state of near-total exhaustion so people had the opportunity to call in and communicate their whereabouts to loved ones, describe what was happening on that day from hell, and generally sound off. Years prior to that, Stern managed to talk a would-be jumper down from the George Washington Bridge, which he reminded everyone of today in his “last of a dying breed” farewell speech during his raucous sendoff party.

Basically, Stern is an acquired taste. I’ve always found it best to tune in periodically to find out if he has an interesting guest (which, as far as I’m concerned, he hasn’t had since James Woods appeared months ago), or if he and the rest of the group (including Fred Norris, Artie Lange, and formerly Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling) are doing or saying something funny. If they are, I listen. If not, I switch to another station or my own music. I also got a kick out of Gilbert Gottfried stopping by for the news segment. Periodically also, some of Stern’s “Whack pack” crew provide amusement (as has Richard Christy with his song parodies…he was a quantum leap over “Stuttering John” Melendez, who he replaced). Also, all of the guests on the show appear willingly to promote something. Event though ridiculous stuff often goes on with them, everyone signs onto it of their own accord.

I once had a discussion with a family member who was shocked to hear that I listened to Stern from time to time, wondering if it was in conflict with my faith. I said it was at times, but I know when to draw the line. When I thought Stern went too far (especially with the young one nearby), I turned off the radio, whether at home or in the car. Besides, there are plenty of people in public life right now claiming to be Catholic who are not acting in accordance with any faith that I was every taught or encouraged to practice (John Roberts comes to mind right away, as does Scumbag Santorum of course, and I could probably make this post considerably longer if I tried to list all of them).

However, I will acknowledge that Stern’s show frequently crosses the line of civility and good taste. However, if Stern hadn’t done that, given the times in which we live, someone else surely would have before him (EVERYONE crosses it now). Stern wasn’t the disease; he was a symptom, and remains that to a certain degree today. The last question I’ll remember hearing from Howard Stern was one he asked a guest at the rally this morning who was a dwarf: “So, how many other dwarf chicks did you bang?”

Another indicator to me that it was time for Stern to leave commercial radio, in the face of truly insane, ridiculous pressure from our government and the fundamentalist crazies who Stern rightly calls “the American Taliban,” was the fact that most of his farewell speech this morning was heavily edited by WYSP. As for us, we probably will sign up for Sirius to hear him next year, but that is on hold pending other matters. Besides, I’m happy with Preston and Steve on WMMR for the foreseeable future.

So, to sum this all up, I just want to wish Howard Stern and his crew the best (“Private Parts” was genuinely entertaining, for the most part, like the show itself) and say thanks for the good times. Anyone who succeeds at something when everyone in the world is throwing dirt all over him is OK in my book.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Too Darn Hot

This post shouldn’t be necessary, but unfortunately, it is.

As many of you no doubt know, a United Nations summit was recently held in Montreal to deal with the problem of global climate change, specifically the rise in global temperature which poses many threats to humans and other forms of life on this planet. This editorial from The Philadelphia Inquirer (registration required) sums up just far this country has to go on this critical issue.

Here is an excerpt.

"I think it's crazy for us to play games with our children's future," former President Bill Clinton said Friday at a United Nations climate conference in Montreal. "We know what's happening to the climate; we have a highly predictable set of consequences if we continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and we know we have an alternative that will lead us to greater prosperity."

The majority of countries has the right idea. The world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases - the United States - is wrong. The world needs to do more to slow global warming.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was right at the conference: "To recalcitrant nations, including the United States, I would say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience, and now is the time to listen to it."
The rest of the editorial is quite good, and I hope you are able to read it. What follows is a fine Letter To The Editor that appeared yesterday in the Inquirer on the same subject.

Is it any wonder that the U.S. delegation to the climate-change talks in Montreal did not return phone calls or e-mail at the conclusion of the conference ("Nations to pursue limits on emissions," Dec. 11)? At least they realize that there is no way to defend the indefensible.

While the rest of the industrialized world came together in good faith to agree on a post-Kyoto framework for mitigating climate change, the U.S. delegation once again played the role of the obnoxious audience heckler.

The Bush administration's do-nothing stance on climate change, which has been financed by their friends in the fossil fuel industry, is underpinned by a belief that the American public is not really paying attention. Unfortunately, they are right. So once again, the international community will pursue binding emissions reductions without the world's most prolific polluter taking part.

Americans must awaken from their slumber and educate themselves about global warming. Staking claim to the moral low ground on this issue will have severe consequences, and history will judge this administration, and those who apathetically followed it, very harshly.

Bernard J. Enright
Limerick, PA (
But I suppose for the purposes of “fairness and accuracy,” I should present the view from Wingnuttia on this subject. Here is an excerpt from a screed by Peter C. Glover which he wrote for something called “Wires For The Bunker,” which the Inquirer featured in its “Blog Cabin” section.

...The Earth has always heated up and cooled down in cycles over the course of centuries. Welcome to the latest natural warm-up. I have yet to hear a single liberal admit they got this wrong, too... .
I will present examples later to prove how laughable that statement truly is.

For the record, I do believe we can all help to cut greenhouse gas emissions (though targets must be realistic) and that the way forward is to couple this with a program of technologically cleaner developments. But climate change per se is not solely down to man's actions. There is a God, you see - and he controls these things. Climate change is largely cyclical, and history tells us it always has been. Any modern belief system that does not factor this in is simply being driven by its own ideological agenda. It certainly is not a truly scientific one.
I’d rather have a “belief system” that is in part driven by ideology than one that is completely and utterly devoid of common sense. Trusting God and, in the process, absolving oneself of the responsibility to do good and practice stewardship is truly madness. Besides, I thought “intelligent design” pertained to man’s development, not the destruction of the atmosphere.

With this in mind, here are three examples to illustrate the urgency of this problem:

Global Warming Impact Example 1: As pointed out by the Union of Concerned Scientists in this link, the water temperature in the Gulf Coast has risen by one degree since 1970. and that alone can make the difference between a Category 3 and a Category 5 hurricane (believe it or not, Katrina was only a Category 3 when it hit New Orleans).

Global Warming Impact Example 2: The Wall Street Journal reports on how polar bears are drowning because of melting ice floes.

Global Warming Impact Example 3: According to the Guardian, the Pentagon is telling Dubya that climate change is a greater threat to us than terrorism (God only knows if he's actually listening, let alone comprehending).

Oh, but what is Bushco doing about this threat to our existence? As Molly Ivins notes, they’re expunged the data from the report they submitted based on “scientific” study (we KNOW how much Buscho just LOVES to hear a contrary point of view from people who actually know what they’re talking about, don’t we?). Her column also notes more “bait and switch” Bushco maneuvers concerning AmeriCorps (I haven’t found out much lately on how they’re funding this network of programs, but I’ll keep looking).

As the Inquirer said in its editorial yesterday,

The United States should stop stalling and make a serious commitment to slowing global warming, or, as Clinton quipped, the world will risk attending future climate-change conferences "on a raft somewhere."
Please take a moment to ask your senators to take the first step toward curbing global warming pollution by supporting the Climate Stewardship Act (click here for still more background). To take action, click on this link.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It Sure Is

Dubya speaks...

...and so do the people of this country.

He could make the speech fifty times instead of four and get the same result, so shut up already, willya?

Update 12/15: Dear God...

Update 12/16: Dubya, you bastard (note to any trolls: please spare me the rhetoric about how this has made us safer, given this administration's propensity for obfuscation, spin, and outright lies)...

And put this in the stocking for "Our Kid" also.

The blogger Hilzoy at Washington Monthy (via Atrios) has it right (think of that eleven-letter word that begins with "i").

Play Nice With The Repugs?

I’m going to piggyback on an Atrios post all over the place here, but I have to provide my take on this.

(Here are a couple of notes. First, I link to other sites where they toss around “F” bombs and other profanity with no hesitation. Personally, I think that language should only be used in the most extreme circumstances, and I know it turns off people who aren’t regular readers of a particular site. That’s as it should be. However, I also believe that other people’s content shouldn’t be censored on that basis because they may have something quite important and/or interesting to say. Second, there’s a lot of “blogger shorthand” out there referring to people by name or commenters in general. As nearly as I can tell, “Tweety” is Chris Matthews of MSNBC, and “Pumpkinhead” and “Less Than Large Russ” is Tim Russert of “Meet The Press.” This information will help as you read the “First Draft” post.)

A journalism professor at the University of Maine named Michael Socolow wrote a column for the Boston Globe about how the “conflict” between Bushco and the MSM press corps is supposedly turning off viewers. In a related vein, Marty Kaplan of The Huffington Post authored this great piece yesterday about the fire that Dan Froomkin, the ombudsman for The Washington Post, is taking for trying to hold Dubya to the same measure of accountability as the one to which his predecessors were held.

As the blogger at First Draft stated so brilliantly (you can link to Socolow' column from that post), the problem isn’t the supposed conflict between Bushco and the press. The problem is the exact opposite of what Socolow describes.

I also want to point out that I was fortunate to be taught by some great journalism instructors at Temple University. One was a former Philadelphia police office who was severely wounded in a gun battle, recovered, went back to school and got his degree in the business, and became an accomplished reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer who recently retired. Another was a reporter and editor who won a Pulitzer prize for his coverage of the Attica prison riot in 1971. These guys saw more conflict than anything that could be imagined by our dear MSM cousins; I can assure you that they never retreated when it came to reporting about it, and they rightly expected their students to do the same thing.

With that in mind, let’s recall some moments of T.V. journalism where there was courageous reporting of one type or another. Listing them all could make this post ridiculously long, but there are two that come to mind immediately.

One was a little dustup between President Richard Nixon and Dan Rather. As noted in a Wikipedia article on Rather:

During the presidency of Richard Nixon critics accused Rather of being unfair in his coverage. At a Houston, Texas news conference in 1974, Nixon fielded a question from Rather, still CBS's White House correspondent: "Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather, of CBS News. Mr. President..." The room filled with jeers and applause, prompting Nixon to joke "Are you running for something?" Rather replied "No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?"

CBS apparently considered firing Rather and its news president met with administration official John Ehrlichman to discuss the situation. According to NBC's Tom Brokaw, the network considered hiring him as its White House correspondent to replace Rather. But CBS' plans to do so were scrapped after word was leaked to the press.
I can remember another occasion with Nixon where he wandered off, so to speak, in response to a reporter's question (these days, a "handler" would have chided him for going "off message," but that's assuming anyone could have "handled" Nixon), and ended up making what came to be known as his "I Am Not A Crook" speech. What was sad was that there was a lot of truth in what he said, but sadder still was the fact that he was truly oblivious concerning the context in which he was making his remarks. It was funny to watch the quizzical looks on the faces of the reporters also. It ended up being an illuminating moment of a sort for Nixon, it was great theater for TV, and it probably got good ratings also.

I can also recall a moment on “60 Minutes” where Mike Wallace interviewed former president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn after Carter’s loss in the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. During the interview with Rosalyn, Wallace noted to her that she wasn’t saying much in response to his questions and acted angry at him. Wallace asked her about it and she said curtly that she had been taught not to say anything at all about someone if there was nothing good to be said. The anger she directed at Wallace through her facial expressions and body language was palpable, causing Wallace to exclaim, “oh my.”

This is how reporters are supposed to do their jobs. As First Draft noted so well, they are supposed to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” to quote John Kenneth Galbraith.

Also, concerning Mike Wallace, I couldn’t help but note the response of his son Chris to Wallace’s rebuke of Dubya recently. That apple has certainly fallen miles from that tree, hasn’t it?