Saturday, July 23, 2005

Land of Pharaohs Tinged With Blood

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is never shy about waging a crackdown when he thinks he has to, and you KNOW one is coming after this.

Labor Pains

God, this is sad.

In an excellent column in today's Inquirer, columnist Jane M. Von Bergen describes how some rank-and-file workers feel about the sparring within the AFL-CIO that is currently taking place. Here is what she wrote:

They say nothing is as American as baseball. Fifty years ago, when the AFL-CIO was founded, one could have said the same thing about labor unions. One in four Americans belonged to a labor union; now, only 12 percent of the nation's workforce is unionized.

Tomorrow in Chicago, the AFL-CIO may split in two, a potentially seminal moment in labor history and one that's been chewed over for months by union leaders, consultants and pundits.

On Wednesday in Camden, the Riversharks pulled out a seventh-inning rally to defeat the Newark Bears, 6-4, at Campbell's Field. It was a pleasant night, with the humidity down and Philadelphia's skyscrapers etched in soft relief against a pink sky.
The AFL-CIO splitting up?

Nobody knew, and not too many cared.

"What's a labor union?" asked Rodney Black, 17, a Camden high school senior who works at the ballfield making funnel cakes.

It was way too serious a topic for Jeff "Beep-Beep" Pennell, a nonunion clown from Maple Shade who was volunteering at the ballpark that night. "I really don't know," he said. "Have fun. Beep. Beep."

In Chicago, the debate is over how to increase union membership. One side wants to spend more of the labor movement's financial resources on grassroots organizing. The other side puts the focus on politics to elect officials who would enact more labor-friendly policies.

At the ballfield, the question was much more personal. Do unions matter?

"I don't think any kind of union matters," said Mount Ephraim's Harry Smith, 34, who attended the game with his son Zachary, 5.

"If your company wants to get rid of you, they are going to find a way to get rid of you - union or not," he said. That's what happened to Smith, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, at his last job.

Now he has another union job, as a maintenance worker in Mount Ephraim's streets department. "The union does fight for you on wages and benefits, like sick days," Smith said. "That's one good thing about the union."

Nonunion paratransit driver Jesse Banks, 49, from Northeast Philadelphia, wishes he were still making the money he earned when he was a Teamster, behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.

"There are some positives," he said, as he methodically worked his way through a tray of peanuts. "The workers need a voice when they find themselves in a tough situation."

But his feelings are mixed. The trucking company owner told union negotiators he couldn't afford what they sought. No compromise was reached. The company closed, and Banks lost his job. "If the union could have accommodated him, we would be in business now," he said.

Frank Ross' feelings aren't mixed. In the spring, the Collingswood customer-service employee helped his company's management defeat a Teamsters organizing drive designed to unionize many of the 260 employees at Lehigh Press Inc. in Pennsauken.
"I wish every union in this country would shut," he said. "Unions are for the lazy and the weak. I used to work on the docks in Gloucester City, and it was ridiculous. They get paid outrageous wages for nothing."

Lauren Ryan's feelings aren't mixed either. An emergency medical technician from Gloucester City, she has seen first-hand what her father's union - "I think it's the Steelworkers" - did for her family when her brother was killed in Iraq in November.

There was a memorial service on the West Coast, she said, "and they gave us the airfare to fly out there. My dad didn't even have to ask. He just asked for some time off. It was awesome that they did it."

The AFL-CIO's Family Feud

What's going on?Last-minute negotiations to repair a rift in the nation's largest conglomeration of labor unions, the AFL-CIO, are looking increasingly unproductive. The AFL-CIO's convention starts Monday in Chicago.

What's next? Leaders of the some of the largest unions, including the Teamsters, the Service Employees and the United Food and Commercial Workers, may decide tomorrow to leave the AFL-CIO.

Over what?The dissidents want more focus on grassroots organizing and less focus on Democratic-oriented politics.

Then what? If the national unions break up, local branches of the unions will see if they can find a way to work together anyway.

You think I’m going to blame Dubya and the Repugs for this, don’t you?

Well, you’re wrong. The fault for this, as far as I’m concerned, lies primarily with the Democrats, and their capitulation to Repug business interests and the agendas of Beltway insiders, especially during the Clinton years.

For a high-school student to ask “What’s a labor union?,” represents a total failure at the grass roots level to educate people regarding the difference between the agendas of the political parties and defining their core constituencies (the shameful legacy of all of the “me too” Democrats out there, who David Sirota quite rightly rails against so often). It’s also the fault of the public elementary school system in this country for not teaching about this important part of our history, but that’s another story.

The importance of labor unions and their history should be understood by every working person in this country. Also, I think the AFL-CIO faction that wants to do more at the "grass roots" level has the right idea, since I think hoping for the politicians to do the right thing at this point is an exercise in futility.

I don’t have an issue with the people who are saying that unions matter less in this age of globalization, because they’re right unfortunately. These are the people interviewed in Von Bergen’s story and others who are driving tractor trailers, loading freight at our ports, and working in any one of hundreds of other types of jobs.

Also in the business section is an article that analyzes the latest round of layoffs, mentioning, in addition to the layoffs at Hewlett Packard, those at Kodak. This paragraph stood out in particular:

U.S. corporations announced plans in June to cut 110,996 jobs - the highest monthly total in 17 months - and July's toll could turn out to be steeper. Overall job cuts are on the rise in 2005, reaching 538,274 through June, according to Challenger's monthly job-cut analysis.
Here's more from AOL Business News.

This continues the worst economic stewardship under a presidential administration that I can ever recall in my lifetime (yes, I know, the layoffs aren’t entirely Bush’s fault, but, like Herbert Hoover many years ago, he doesn’t have a plan, an answer, or even a clue about what to do about it, or even an inclination since he’s a lame duck anyway).

Oh, and by the way, right below the story about the AFL-CIO appeared an article about how Kimberly-Clark, based in Irving, TX, is cutting 6,000 jobs (hint: globalization). I’m sorry that Frank Ross’s job won’t be one of them.

Update 7/25: The Daily Kos has a great report today on some of the unions that have split off from the AFL-CIO and how, though that isn't a good short-term development, it may be positive in the long run.

Update 7/27: Molly Ivins has a good analysis also.

A Sports Interlude

See Terrell Owens Run.

See Terrell Owens Run and Catch The Football from Donavan McNabb.

See Terrell Owens Avoid A Forearm To His Neck from Charles Woodson.

Run, Terrell, Run.

See Terrell Owens Talk To His Agent.

His Agent Tells Him Terrell Will Make Only $3.25 Million Dollars This Year.

Entire Neighborhoods Don't Make $3.25 Million Dollars In A Lifetime, Terrell.

Spend, Terrell, Spend.

See Terrell Owens Tell The Eagles He'll Hold Out For More Money.

See Terrell Owens Change His Mind And Report To Camp, Pretending To Make A Sacrifice.

Hustle, Terrell, Hustle.

See The Eagles Trade Terrell Owens And His Greedy Butt To The Pittsburgh Steelers Because, Though Antwaan Randle El Is A Talented Receiver, He's Not As Good As Plaxico Burress, Another Selfish Egomaniac Who Just Left And Signed With The Eagles' Rival, The New York Giants.

Goodbye, Terrell. Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Welcome To Wingnuttia!

(Thanks to Atrios for coming up with that one - long one coming up.)

You know, people, I should tell you that I try to keep an open mind about things. I really and truly do. However, I must point out that the Bucks County Courier Times carried a column today written by this carbon-based life form named Alan Caruba titled, “What My Father Didn’t Know: McCarthy Was Right.” Caruba is, of course, referring to the infamous Joe McCarthy and his communist witch hunts of the 1950s.

Don’t worry, you’re not imagining things. You read that correctly. And, as is almost always the case, I’d write to the paper about this, but I already have something else in the pipeline.

As you may have guessed, Caruba has written a book. It is called “Warning Signs,” published by Merril Press (I don’t mind giving it a plug, since I sincerely doubt that anyone who may be reading this would want to buy it – actually, I’m mentioning the publisher so you’ll know to avoid any of their other books in the future, since they funded this nut job.)

Anyway, I started to read Caruba’s diatribe, and of course it’s chock full of the typical right wing Repug agit-prop (“liberals this, New Deal that, leftist propaganda machine, etc.” – another “pot, meet kettle” moment as far as I’m concerned), but I thought, “well, maybe it’s somehow possible I could learn something I didn’t know in the midst of this drivel, so I’ll keep reading.”

(Caruba also goes back and slams Alger Hiss, who was convicted of perjury before a grand jury but not of espionage, and Hiss spent the rest of his life into his 90s trying to clear his name, with his health failing and losing his eyesight in the process. Hiss did achieve a measure of recompense, actually outliving his tormentor Richard Nixon, who built his political career upon the Hiss case.)

Well, the kicker came for me with this paragraph:

“The fact is that Joe McCarthy was right, but by now his name has been turned into a dirty word by the same liberal, leftist propaganda machine (see?) that today is trying to convince Americans that the President ‘lied’ to them about Iraq. They had to wait until the FBI’s first director, J. Edgar Hoover, was dead before they dared to slander his reputation.”
After I read that paragraph, I threw the newspaper across the room (a juvenile thing to do, I’ll admit, but it properly conveyed my disgust).

This, of course, is a typical Repug tactic. Attack, attack, attack, attack…throw so many charges out there that they can’t all possibly be answered at once with a reasonable argument. As for Bush and Iraq, that has been thoroughly covered. As for J. Edgar Hoover (huh?), he was in the mobster Meyer Lansky’s hip pocket because of all of the gambling debts he ran up, as well as the fact that Lansky had in his possession some – shall we say, uncomplimentary? – photos of Hoover in drag (“The Secret File on J.Edgar Hoover” by Anthony Summers is a good read in this vein). As a result, organized crime had a heyday under Hoover’s watch. Also, Hoover fed McCarthy all kinds of lies and misinformation that McCarthy used to ruin innocent people.

(I should mention – and I talked with my uncle once about this, who is now in his 90s and hanging on – that, at the time a lot of these people either joined the Communist party or knew someone who did, and I’m talking about the era of the Great Depression, this country was flat on its back. Communism was doomed to fail, fortunately, but back then to people who had nothing, it may have held out some misguided promise of success. My point is that hindsight is always 20-20.)

There are two main reasons why the Repugs attack history this way and hope to get away with it 1) People have short attention spans, for legitimate reasons of having extremely full lives or because of sloth or carelessness, or 2) Individuals who were part of the era from, say, post World War II until the Reagan era began in 1981 (which historians will mark as the beginning of the end of this country one day when “the book” is written) are dying off, their stories are fading into memory (including John Henry Faulk, who had to sue and spent every dime that he had to see that the HUAC was abolished), and the media, collectively, is ignoring their stories and, as a result, our history, doing so to our great peril.

This is also the reason why the Repugs go on the warpath at times over college curricula, saying that it is “too liberal,” and some professors are that way also. Yes, that is the case in selected instances, but as usual (see the University of Michigan lawsuit in which Sandra Day O’Connor ruled in favor of the school), the Repugs try to turn the exception into the rule.

Well, I should ignore this lunatic Caruba, but I’m not going to. If you want to inform yourself and get a true sense of what went on during the period in which Joe McCarthy ran roughshod over people’s lives and ruined their careers, creating a climate of fear and paranoia during the Eisenhower “feel good” era (and yes…I know McCarthy got going under Truman), here are some links:

Also, the films “The Way We Were,” Guilty By Suspicion,” and the public television miniseries “Concealed Enemies” are highly instructive concerning this period.

The Repugs want us to forget our history, our culture, and ultimately, our way of life so they can impose their rule for good and forget where we were and how we got here.

We must NEVER let that happen.

Empathy vs. Egomania

I'm just going to publish this excellent column from John Salveson, printed in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, it its entirety, since I believe it speaks eloquently for itself. Salveson is the local spokesman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests.

By now, you're probably familar with U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's comments about the Roman Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal:

"Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."

Santorum's remarks reflect a profound misunderstanding of this scandal. Those of us who were abused by a trusted, often loved, clergy member could describe in exacting detail the first time we were violated - but few of us knew or cared whether the assailant was a liberal or a conservative.

We weren't considering the societal currents that led priests to force us into oral sex. We were terrified, violated and abandoned. And then, if we went to the church for help, we were lied to, berated and abandoned. Our church leaders chose, and mostly still choose, to protect the child rapists in their midst rather than helping the child victims.

Two reasons prompt this response to Santorum's comments. The first is a sincere desire to educate the senator and his colleagues about the truly important points of this issue. Toward that end, we invite him to attend a meeting of clergy sex-abuse survivors to learn about their experiences.

Second, we ask this powerful member of the Senate and staunch advocate for family values for help. We need him to assert his influence to hold church leaders accountable and to protect children.

For decades, thousands of children in America have been sexually abused by thousands of clergy of various denominations. Most of those who supervised these clergy knew they were abusing children but continued to move them from assignment to assignment to avoid scandal and liability. As a result, thousands more children were abused.

Despite all this, the federal government has made no attempt to understand how this could happen. I can't name a single member of the U.S. Senate or House who has taken any action on this issue. Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts were understandably upset by Santorum's slam at Boston's ethical culture. But they, too, have failed to take any action to hold the Catholic Church hierarchy accountable.

These are the requests that I and other members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests make of Santorum and his colleagues:

Convene Senate hearings to find out how members of the clergy raped thousands of American children for decades, yet avoided prosecution, through the protection of their superiors.

Direct the Justice Department to investigate the criminal behavior of our country's religious institutions related to the sexual abuse of children.

Further direct the Justice Department to explore the use of federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to prosecute those who conspired to leave children in harm's way and allowed sexual predators to have continued, unfettered access to fresh victims in new parishes and churches.

Survivors Network, a national advocacy and support organization, made similar requests to the Justice Department in November 2003. Santorum could initiate his work by finding out why no action was taken on our request.

Imagine what would happen in Congress if its members discovered that children were being systematically sexually abused in our public schools and that superintendents were moving the abusing teachers from school to school to shelter them. Imagine what would happen if such abuse and cover-up were uncovered at a national chain of day-care centers. Or the Little League.

Politicians would fall all over themselves to "do the right thing," expose the wrongdoing at public hearings and change the laws so that it never would happen again. But because the Roman Catholic Church is at the center of this scandal, this hasn't happened. Our elected officials in Washington have allowed the Catholic Church to operate above the law.

We are waiting for Santorum and his Washington colleagues to act. What will they do?

Stiff Wind In A House Of Cards

The Bucks County Courier Times led off its business section today with the headline, "Jobless claims down sharply," and the accompanying AP story references some institution called the "Conference Board" based in New York that came up with the related statistics, but as the story also mentions, "many analysts believe the expansion has begun slowing from last year's torrid pace in response to Federal Reserve hikes in U.S. interest rates."

Gee, sounds like, to me, we're still hoping and praying that the housing "bubble" doesn't burst from raising interest rates too much too soon. Also, now that China is off the dollar, we are definitely going to feel some pain in the way of paying more for their generally crappy products (though that SHOULD help us compete and save some jobs - we'll see).

Playing Catchup

(That would be me..)

Molly Ivins weighs in on the overall sorry state of things (sorry to be a downer, but this is chock full of important stuff).

The great Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald weighs in also on Colorado Repug wingnut Tom Tancredo (as I've said before, if this were Dean/Hillary/Kennedy/Kerry or another Dem, our corporate media would be working themselves into a frenzy by now, with the Repugs calling for censure).

E.J. Dionne has some cautionary words on Bushco Supreme Court nominee John Roberts (it would be nice if the Dems read what he has to say...we can only hope).

The Plot Thickens

(not very original, I know...)

More on Rove/Libby/Plame/Russert/Novak and a cast of thousands (or so it is starting to seem) from here (courtesy of Bloomberg News, The Smirking Chimp, and The Daily Kos).

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Yuan To Feel Good About This

(Or, as I always say, no matter what kind of day you’re having or how hard it may be raining outside, it’s never an occasion to avoid a really bad play on words.)

Matt Singer, guest blogging for David Sirota, has a good post about China deciding to un-peg (word?) its currency against the dollar (let’s see what that does for our economy, though I think this is the economic equivalent of sending in some charwomen to clean up after the bombing of Dresden in WWII…think about it). He also slams “The Governator,” currently commanding a rip-roaring popularity rating of 34 percent in Kaa-Lee-Fuurr-Neee-Aahh.

(Knowing how badly he’s sliding, I wonder if Ahh-nold has been on the phone in negotiations with James Cameron for the next “Predator,” movie, where he has to fight a jungle beast that has mysteriously vanished but inexplicably turns up inside the remains of the Titanic? I can just imagine what kind of big summer movie “box office” that would do, and of course, Celine Dion would sing the movie’s “love theme.”)

So Much For Vigilance

This morning's CNN Quick Vote question was whether or not we needed to know more about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts before he was confirmed, and 35 percent of those polled actually said no.

(My message to the 35 percent...have another G/T, adjust your beach blankets, slap on some more SPF 40 and go back to sleep.)

And lest we forget, this is the quote and the author I'm referring to in the title.

Update1: P-U! Hey, you 35 percenters out there, can you say "quid pro quo"?

Update2: David Sirota - who else? - has a post on 7/22 describing how Roberts is a corporate shill (no surprise, I guess).

Thursday Roundup

Our prayers and hopes go out again to Londoners in the wake of more terrorist bombings. They taught the world a lesson in courage and determination during World War II, and it looks like they will be forced to again.

Speaking of pain and misery, apparently the leaders of Iraq are cozying up to Iran, as reported by Billmon and Arianna Huffington. Oh, that’s just great – our people are getting blown to bits so our “friends” in Iraq can cozy up to the enemy (actually, who is our friend and who is our enemy over there? Dubya, that’s one for you. Karl, Dick, Rummy, Condi…anyone?)

I’ve been saying for years that that whole damn area will go Muslim fundamentalist one day, and rest assured when I tell you that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and even I saw this coming.

Stephen Crockett chimes in with an overview of this country’s descent into a plutocracy (the analysis is a bit simplistic, partly because it lets the Democrats and lazy, uninformed voters off the hook, but he’s essentially right), and Chris Floyd, in typical unsparing fashion, puts all of the pieces together in Bushco’s insidious scheme (including more new reeking, fetid stuff on John Roberts).

Speaking of Roberts, it looks like Bushco got a one-day reprieve in coverage over Karl Rove blowing of Valerie Plame’s identity (great digging on the Niger letter at Brandoland, BTW). A group of CIA agents testified yesterday that, by compromising her identity, the White House compromised also the identity of other operatives. Also, apparently there was some document that noted beyond any doubt (with an S next to her name) that her identity was secret (Update: this is what I'm referring to).

(I saw the story, but didn’t have time to link it…lots of other stuff going on that is hindering my blogging efforts, though I have been dumping tons of content here lately, so maybe it’s just as well for now.)

Atrios has a letter noting that Scumbag Santorum has refused to pay any tuition money to the Penn Hills School District for his children who attended the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School; worse, he may win the legal challenges and actually get away with it. Also, apparently Santorum’s wife was a lobbyist who made a ton of dough before she decided to be a “stay-at-home mom,” thus enabling the big-faced, white idiot to hammer working women. I almost don’t have the words to describe what I truly think of this person (however, the Dems better run on more that “Santorum fatigue” next year, because, unfortunately, too many people will have forgotten this stuff by then).

(Update: In another act of moral cowardice while everyone was preoccupied with the second near-attack on London, our august representatives in the U.S. House approved Patriot Act II.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Good Job Hiding The Missing Digit

(Now you really didn’t think I was going to use “the tag line” did you?)

What an interesting life (though, with nine kids, it sounds like he was as prolific as a tribble:- ). It also sounds like “Star Trek” was just a part of his long story (and I salute his ability to father a child at 80!).

He had been sick for the last few years, so I’m glad he’s finally in a better place.

What...He Didn't Charge A Fee?

Let’s see now...regarding this story, maybe the boy could have made it out, but Rosenhaus could have accidentally slipped back in and sunk to the bottom without saving himself, or maybe he could have slipped on the phone that he’d dropped and fallen and cracked his head open, or maybe he could have fractured his wrist in the process of administering CPR and not realized it until after the boy had recovered…the mind boggles with possibilities.

(Yes, I know I shouldn’t say this because I mention on this site that I don’t advocate violence.)

See, you have to know why we in the Philadelphia area despise this guy. He basically sought out Terrell Owens, who is hardly a wallflower to begin with (though Owens showed a ton of guts in the Super Bowl) and brainwashed him into holding out for more money from the Eagles (with Owens’ typically understated comparison of himself to Jesus…oh brother!).

Rosenhaus, Scott Boras...put all of these scummy sports agent characters on a slow boat to China without oars. Or water.

Birds, Bees, and Bush

(In the title, I’m referring to Dubya and his administration, by the way....long one coming up.)

I’ve been trying to post something about this for the last couple of weeks, but I’ve gotten interrupted for various reasons. Well, here goes.

There have been a few stories coming out lately about how bad the “abstinence only” policy of the Bush Administration is for the reproductive and overall sexual health of teenagers in particular (as well as women in general). Nicholas Kristof, in a recent New York Times article (which I’ll get to shortly) referred to the policy as “a scandal”.

Sheryl McCarthy of Newsday also reported this on July 15th…

Abstinence-only sex education for teenagers took another hit last week when a prominent group of pediatricians came out in support of giving teens access to birth control.

In an article in the July journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the organization's committee on adolescence concludes that while pediatricians should encourage adolescents to postpone early sexual activity, they should also make sure youths have access to contraceptives, including emergency contraception.

The recommendation flies in the face of the abstinence-only approach being pushed by the Bush administration and religious groups. And dramatically, the article abandoned the academy's former policy that called abstinence counseling "an important role for all pediatricians.


"Because there isn't any evidence that that message is effective," said Dr. Scott Spear, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and chairman of the national medical committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

"As scientists, we're saying we don't want politics to trump what's healthy and safe for young people."

The academy's report is one more in a series of studies that have concluded that the just-say-no approach has no proven record of reducing sexual activity or pregnancy among teenagers.

And this one comes directly from the doctors who treat young people.

Yet the Bush administration is relentlessly pushing on with its efforts to make sure that the abstinence-only message is the only kind of sex education available to young people.

In 2001, a few years after the push to expand such programs began, the federal government spent $80 million on abstinence-only programs. It will spend $167 million in this fiscal year.

"We've got more than 10 years of federal financing to the tune of $700 million for abstinence-only, and no science shows that it's effective," Spear told me.

While no one, including myself, wants to encourage sexual activity among teenagers, the abstinence-only policy is flawed because it chooses idealism over helping young people with the lives they actually lead.

The academy found that 45 percent of high school girls and 48 percent of high school boys have already had sexual intercourse. And while the teenage pregnancy rate has been dropping in recent years, the main cause has not been increased celibacy, but the use of more effective birth control, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

The problem with abstinence-only is not that it promotes abstinence, but that it's anti-birth-control. A Columbia University study in 2000 found that while adolescent pledges to remain virgins until marriage delayed the age of first intercourse briefly, when the pledgers did have sex they were less likely than non-pledgers to use birth control.

A congressional study done last year found that abstinence-only programs were rife with misinformation: teaching students that condoms don't help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and that legal abortions lead to sterility and to premature births. They also promote sexual stereotypes about boys and girls.

Frankly, I'm less worried about the fact that a 17-year-old girl has sex with her boyfriend than I am about whether she has thought the decision through carefully, has chosen a caring partner, and is using a dependable form of birth control.

The problem with the Bush administration's approach is that it's practicing faith-based medicine, and one of the results is that 900,000 teenagers still get pregnant every year.

Groups such as the academy need to keep telling the truth until the message sticks, and until science and sound social policy begin to trump politics
Kelly Mangan also wrote this in January…

In George W. Bush's first budget to Congress (April 9, 2001), he scrapped the provision that required insurance companies to cover contraceptives for 9 million federal employees (something House democrats later reinstated). Bush insisted that this measure was meant to save money, but if were we really concerned with saving money, perhaps he should have spent less on tax cuts to the rich instead of axing programs that benefit women.

Also on April 9, Bush blocked U.S. grants to family-planning groups that provide contraceptive and abortion services/counseling overseas. While the president has certainly done his part to limit the knowledge and options of women abroad, the focus of Bush's war on women is at home.

On March 1, 2002, Bush appointed Tom Coburn and Joe McIlhaney to lead the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Both Coburn and McIlhaney have spoken out against condom use, and have worked to push abstinence as the only means to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS (Source: Planned Parenthood web site).
(My note here…Coburn, unfortunately, was elected by the voters of Oklahoma to the U.S. Senate last year after he said that “same-sex marriage is a bigger threat to our country than terrorism,” and also after he said that he would check the Constitution to see if it represents, “the moral code that I follow.” Stand up and take another bow, you red state numbskulls!)

Bush nominated Justice Janice Rogers Brown for U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Brown upheld the right of Catholic hospitals to refuse employees' health coverage to include birth control.

Dr. David Hager--whom Bush appointed to the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs--refuses to prescribe contraception to unmarried women in his gynecological practice. Bush also appointed Dr. Joseph Stanford to the same committee. In his family practice, Dr. Sanford refuses to prescribe birth control at all (Source: National Women’s Law Center press release, July 2001).

At the 2002 U.N. Population Conference, Assistant Secretary of State Arthur Dewey- another right-wing Bush appointee- promised that the U.S. would block any U.N. policies that contain the words "reproductive health" or "consistent condom use." Delegates from all over the world said America's position at this conference put women's health at risk, and even the delegate from Iran said that the U.S. Government had been overrun by religious extremists.
Oh, great (or, as Kos would say, "pot, meet kettle...").

Bush also appointed acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford and Acting Drug Chief Stephen Galson, who decided not to approve the Morning-After Pill for over-the-counter sales. And just incase Crawford and Galson didn't realize how they were supposed to decide, it was clearly outlined in a Jan. 14 letter to President Bush from 49 conservative state legislators. The letter demanded that President Bush stop the FDA from deciding in favor of Morning-After Pill over-the-counter.
Here’s more from Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times in February…

To get federal funds (for sex education), abstinence-only programs are typically barred by law from discussing condoms or other forms of contraception – except to describe how they can fail. So kids in these programs go all through high school without learning anything but abstinence, even though more than 60 percent of American teenagers have sex before they’re 18.

Other developed countries focus much more on contraception. The upshot is that while teenagers in the U.S. have about as much sexual activity as teenagers in Canada or Europe, American girls are four times as likely as German girls to become pregnant, almost five times as likely as French girls to have a baby, and more than seven times as likely as Dutch girls to have an abortion. Young Americans are five times as likely to have H.I.V. as young Germans, and teenagers’ gonorrhea rate is 70 times higher in the U.S. than in the Netherlands or France…

In contrast, there’s plenty of evidence that abstinence-plus programs – which encourage abstinence but also teach contraception – delay sex and increase the use of contraception. So, at a time when we’re cutting school and health programs, why should we pour additional tax money into abstinence-only initiatives, which are likely to lead to more pregnancies, more abortions, and more kids with AIDS?

Now that’s a scandal.
Mangan finished her January column with this…

Over the past four years, we have seen that progress on women's issues is obstructed at every turn by the Bush administration-he and other Republicans have done everything in their power to take away women's contraceptive, abortion, childcare, and healthcare options. But women, united, have the power to change this.
Not just women, but everyone. Especially now, since Bush has nominated Roberts for the Supreme Court, whose hostility towards issues of women’s reproductive health has been well documented.

I think we can all agree that we want everyone – girls, boys, men, women – to have the best information on this subject at their disposal that we can provide. We also want to get this notion that “oral sex isn’t really sex” (practiced by Clinton before he was forced to “see the light,” unfortunately) out of their heads for good. The stakes are just too high for us not to do that.

A Voice Of Reason Speaks

I think Joe Conason’s latest is an intelligent version of the dreck Steve Chapman wrote a couple of weeks ago. Conason addresses the situation with Judith Miller, which he smartly recognizes as different from that of Time reporter Matthew Cooper (a distinction that numbskull Chapman didn’t make).

I have to admit that I’m coming to recognize the differences in the Miller and Cooper cases also, partly because of Conason’s column (re: the Valerie Plame matter, of course – by the way, I caught a pix of her in Time, and she’s a hottie, which I guess isn’t surprising since she’s married to a high-profile, “balls to the wall” dude like Joe Wilson).

After reading an interview with Miller’s editor at the New York Times (Bill Keller, I think – appeared on Atrios), he said something along the lines of “I wish Fitzgerald would just end this now and let Judy out,” and I’m thinking, oh great – then it really would be all for nothing if Fitzgerald picked up his marbles and called it a day without sending up Rove and other Bushco crooks, just so Judy Miller could get out of eating prison food and watching rap videos in her minimum security slam in Alexandria, VA. I’m slowly coming around to see Joe Conason’s point on this, though I still think Miller’s shilling for Bushco on Iraq War II and slamming of John Kerry are separate matters and should be treated that way.

I think Miller is on shaky ground in this, but I’m starting to come around to Cooper’s position, especially since the guy has to face “drawn swords” all over the place from Fitzgerald, Pearlstine (Time’s editor), and others. Cooper is trying to do the right thing, and it’s becoming more clear that Miller is trying to be some sort of “freedom of the press” heroine, shielding people who don’t deserve it.

Update: William Safire, though a respected columnist, is still a conservative shill, and the fact that he supports Miller also is making me rethink my position along Joe Conason's lines even more.

Who's Gonna "Shoot" J.R.?

(Sorry for the dated '80s reference.)

We'll find out more about this guy John Roberts in the coming hours and days, of course, but I look at it this way: he must have done a circle jerk with James Dobson or one of these characters at some point, or he never would have made it this far.

I have two quick notes. The first is that (and I hate to admit this) Bushco foxed the punditry again (not hard to do, really), probably by floating disinformation about Edith Brown Clement (Ruthie Ginsberg may get lonely at times...oh well). The second is that Santorum has gone on record as saying that this guy is "brilliant," which is a really scary red flag. USA Today also reported this morning that Roberts argued against Roe v. Wade. Oh, fun...

This is about what we could have expected from Bushco, really. No compromise, no middle ground...nothing. Still, though, I think Harry Reid played it the right way by sounding conciliatory, for now.

Update: According to David Sirota's blog, Roberts was also a Bushco "shock troop" (my quote) during the 2000 Florida recount fiasco. This is starting to reek more and more...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Slap In The Face

(I've been trying to find some story or come up with some commentary to lighten things up a bit around here, after the posts on the NRA, Santorum, Westmoreland and Eric Rudolph, but I'll have to keep looking.)

"Job cuts are a good start..."

If that line had been buried somewhere in the story, that would have been bad enough. BUT THIS WAS THE HEADLINE!

Oh, and we're supposed to feel GLAD that ONLY 14,000 people were let go by Hewlett Packard instead of 25,000, which was projected by industry analysts! And, as far as this bought-and-paid-for media clown Paul R. LaMonica is concerned, the WORST PART was that - omigosh! - the SHARE PRICE WENT DOWN!!

This "story" (which probably came word for word from a company press release) is revolting and sickening. Yes, I realize the CNN/Money audience is composed of people trying to figure out where to invest their dough, which is the American way and completely legal and encouraged, but somehow I don't think that audience is composed totally of the same heartless swine as LaMonica.

If you're reading this, please do me a favor. Contact CNN and demand that LaMonica is fired (and I assure you, I don't make that statement lightly). Then he'll come to appreciate a "good start" for himself!

P.S. - If you know someone at Hewlett Packard who was affected by this abomination, please post a comment or send me an Email (link in the very bottom right corner of page), and I'll feature it. I'm a tiny little guppy in the blogosphere, but I'll do what I can.

Big Faced, White Idiot Time!

It's been a little while since we took a shot at Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum, so I thought we were due again (thanks, Atrios).

As inconceivable as it is that Santorum says and believes this stuff, I should point out that a political analyst somewhere said that what he is in fact doing is drawing the battle lines for the next election and trying to energize his conservative base. I don't want to imagine for a second what goes on in the minds of people who actually support this cretin, though.

Take Your Gun Party Somewhere Else!

Since I don’t live in Columbus, OH, I don’t have the same familiarity with the issue of gun violence in that city that the people living there do. I just know that, in PA, the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh tried to pass assault weapons bans, and our august state legislators basically passed a law that said that those cities weren’t allowed to do that and couldn’t attempt to do so again (tells you just how powerful the NRA is in my state).

Well, Columbus just passed an assault weapons ban (here is some background), and as surely as the Pope is German, the NRA cancelled their 2007 convention that they had planned for that city. This topic is the subject of today's CNN Quick Vote, with about 45 percent saying the NRA did the right thing, and about 55 percent saying they didn't.

I went to the NRA’s site to read their spin on this (predictable, I know, but I needed to get a better understanding), and of all their typical propaganda mentioned in their “news release,” this paragraph stuck out:

Speaking at a press conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre stated that the NRA would return to Columbus when the Legislature enacts a preemption law that would override the Columbus ban.
Surprising that they would do this? No, since as I said above, this is their typical tactic. It’s just that I am continually amazed at the sheer, unmitigated gall of many conservative groups (and some liberal ones on occasion) when they make it sound so matter of fact that they intend to hammer people into submission to get what they want.

The NRA fights everything. What’s the problem with “one gun a month”? Anybody? What’s the problem with a ban on Teflon-coated bullets? As Ted Kennedy once asked, “Do deer wear bulletproof vests?” Making purchases illegal at gun shows without a background check? What’s the matter – reek too much of common sense?

Everybody knows our cops out there are outgunned. Most police are good, but all of them deserve a fighting chance.

The entire pro-gun vs. gun control argument should be framed in terms of what makes the most sense for the cops, but largely because of the NRA, that never happens. Also, I don’t know any product manufacturer anywhere that has immunity from prosecution for the product they manufacture, but that’s what the gun lobby has.

There’s a lot more that can be said about this issue on one side and the other, but I’m going to leave it for now after I say this. I’ve had the privilege to work with people who are members of the NRA, and they are extremely responsible individuals who practice gun safety and teach respect for guns to others. I have absolutely no problem with these people. Also, if someone legally owns a firearm, that is their property and no one should be allowed to take it from them unless it is used in the commission of a crime.

The problem I have is with the NRA’s leadership – you know, including Chuck “Pry This Weapon Out Of My Cold, Dead Hands” Heston…this bunch of lunatics that positively insisted on holding their 1999 convention in Denver, CO just says after the last victim of the nearby Columbine massacre was buried. They’re stone nuts!

(Here's an update - for that stupid remark about Porsches and sniper rifles at the end of the story, Chuck Cunningham should be made to awaken to the sound of gunshots in the middle of the night.)

The Meaning Of The Word "If"

Oh, so now Dubya says heads will roll in Bushco “if a crime has been committed" (hmmm...).

Under that logic, let’s consider this. The Enron scandal broke around February-March of 2002, right? So it is now July 2005, and Ken Lay, former chief executive and chairman, STILL has not come to trial (though that is scheduled to take place next January). So does Dubya mean that we could be looking at the possibility of THREE YEARS worth of investigations of Rove, “Scooter” Libby, Cheney et al before a verdict would be rendered in a potential criminal trial (which, in all likelihood, would not take place until after this crew is mercifully out of office anyway)?

Putting aside the fact that this is an unbelievable flip flop by Smirk (which he got caught in because, when he made his original statement about people being let go from the Plame mess, he probably didn’t expect it to amount to much), it also points out a basic fact of Bushco life, and that is that Rove runs everything, and he quite simply is not going to go anywhere unless he is manacled and let out of the White House by U.S. marshals (and wouldn’t we all LOVE to see that!).

Monday, July 18, 2005

Paging Beelzebub

Warm up the spit in Hades - here comes another one.

Oh yeah, right; I remember how you sued CBS and Mike Wallace for saying you deliberately gave Lyndon Johnson the wrong body count numbers during the Vietnam War. Well, if you and McNamara weren't responsible, then who was? Dean Rusk? Clark Clifford?

Dubya's murderous mess in Iraq is, unfortunately, an appropriate tribute to you (yes, I know you were a distinguished veteran, and maybe I should lay off, but I can think of approximately 58,000 reasons why I shouldn't).


The most appropriate punishment I believe that we can administer to this cretinous jackal is to give him the very thing he denied to his victims, the only condition being that it is granted to him in a cinderblock cell behind a locked gate until the end of his miserable existence. His pleas that he acted for some "higher cause" in his demented mind is the typical lunactic logic of a murderous zealot.

Dubya's Enemies List

The only reason why I don't link to the Greenpeace site is that they use "cookies," and to my knowledge, none of the other sites that I link to do that. I wish Greenpeace would stop that dumb practice, but what are you going to do?

They may be watching us, people, based on this.

Good. That's all the more reason to keep up the fight.

Land of Lost Opportunity

Paul Craig Roberts writes generally about economic news, and I'm linking to his most recent column because of what I said 10 days ago ("Jobs Gone Yesterday, Here Today"). What he writes about is a lot closer to the depressing reality, and the reader comments provide a lot of illumination also.

Duty, Honor, Country, and $$$

USA Today is reporting on how re-enlistments are up beyond the Army’s targeted numbers, which is good news. The main reason seems to be (as reported in the story) that huge cash bonuses are being handed out, ranging from about a grand to $150,000, with the average bonus at $10,000.

God bless our service people now and always, and may they be delivered home safely to their families and loved ones once their work in Bushco’s scurrilous scheme to annex Iraq unto their empire is completed. However, as far as I’m concerned, this is another example of Bushco’s hubris/arrogance/whatever, assuming that our people are doing this for any other reason except to get the dough, which they’re definitely entitled to (this is particularly the case given the fact that enlistment numbers are down so far to such a huge degree).

By the way, there’s an excellent post at The Daily Kos today called “Right and Wrong” which, as far as I’m concerned, is a good companion piece to what I wrote about “The American Reich” on July 4th.

Fool Me Once, Twice…Whatever

OK, so we turned on the radio this morning and heard that Viacom had dumped Howard Stern, and he was just going to be on hiatus until he starts with Sirius Satellite Radio in January next year. But then, an hour goes by and…gee, whaddaya know? It was just a practical joke. He and the whole crew were back on the radio again. And of course, they were playing tapes of news stations reporting that they were gone and having a good laugh about it.

To me, the problem is that he already did this on April Fools Day a few months ago, and people went nuts of course, and then he and Robin Quivers came back on and laughed at everyone, saying “Look at the calendar people, ha ha.” OK, you got us. But then you did the same thing again today.

Howard, if it weren’t for you, I think just about everyone doing morning radio would be out of a job, unless they worked for an all-news or publicly funded station. You proclaim yourself as the King of All Media, and for the most part, you back that up. Good for you.

However, you should stop screwing with us like this. In our market, there are two good morning radio personalities named Preston and Steve who just came from a lousy station with no frequency to WMMR, which, in this market, is as good as it gets for their format. They are an excellent alternative for us when you leave the air.

We will probably go with Sirius (XM, however, has a lineup that’s just about as good…O&A can be funny, though the stunt that got them tossed before going to satellite was completely beyond tasteless), but we’re going to think about it some more after today.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

God Knows He's Right

The Bucks County Courier Times carries a column that appears on Fridays called "From A Faith Perspective" with representatives of different beliefs commenting on their areas of expertise. I think some of the columns are pretty interesting, and I'll try to highlight them from time to time.

One regular contributor to the column is a man named Ayhan Ozer, who is affiliated with the Turkish-Muslim Cultural Association of Levittown, PA. What he writes, though, is far from the typical extremist diatribe you might expect from someone who is radicalized in one way or another. He usually presents a pretty clear and well thought out opinion.

I believe he did this again in his most recent column, which I'm posting below.

"In recent decades the search for new answers to the old problems of Islam is unfolding on a scale never before seen in Islamic history.

As the world becomes inundated with the news about Islam and Muslims, they examine their faith in the context of political, social, and intellectual challenges of the contemporary life (sic).

The questions such as what are the proper relationships of Islam and the state? (sic) Should religious scholars have a role in political governance? If intellectual freedom is a right, how far can a moderate Muslim go, for instance, the challenging of the Quran, or the Sunnah, or expressing doubts about his faith?

These are burning issues in Islam, and now they are being debated in some circles.

If we look to the Muslim world, there are several common denominations among individual states. Most of them are backward, anti-modern, poor, and lag behind the times.

Some of the learned Islamic scholars attribute this to the fact that Islam dries out vital resources of the state and its people, it stunts the creativity and aspirations of its adherents, and it hinders free thinking.

By imposing its own divine rules on temporal affairs, Islam pushes states back to the 7th century level. No wonder there is not any innovation and progress in the Islamic world for the last 1300 years. (sic) Also, by confining women to veil and depriving them of education, they shoot themselves in the foot.

To answer some of the above questions, Islam and the state should be separate. Divine and temporal are two different things. If we allow them to mix together then the religious scholars automatically should have a role in the governance of the state. We need to look at Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Arab world for the answer.

Religious scholars can only do harm to the state and the well being of its people. They are, by and large, alien to positive sciences, reason and progressive thinking.

They are heavily sedated with dogmatic teachings, and there is no spark, let alone a fire, in their mind.

Today's problems are dynamically complex: that is, the cause and the effect are far apart in space and time. They are socially complex, involving actors with different interests and persuasion. They are generally complex requiring solutions that are new, unconventional, and unfamiliar. And they are philosophically complex, requiring scientific rationality and spiritual enlightenment simultaneously.

We need an overarching, multidisciplinary and holistic paradigm to address and solve all of these issues. And holism sees living nature as interacting wholes that are more than the sum of their parts.

Therefore, Muslims cannot isolate themselves from the whole, and interaction is essential. They define themselves as tolerant and charitable. Out-reaching, they should show that those claims are not in the abstract.

There are signs, however, that point to a deep yearning among many Muslims for new thinking in Islam which they deem essential for political reforms and cultural vitality. Some progressive minded Islamic thinkers acknowledge that "The most critical problem facing the Muslim world is neither political nor economical, but deep confusion in our thinking and learning process in relation to ourselves, to Islam and to humanity at large. Without a relative, rational and objective Islamic discourse, our relationship to Islam will remain as a sentiment to the past."

Resistance to new thinking in Islam comes from several quarters. Authoritarian governments restrict public debates for their own sake. Tradition-bound religious establishments, allied to the state, reject new interpretations of Islamic scriptures because they are still a majority.

Political opportunists prefer religious slogans to genuine freedoms.

Orthodox Islamists read the Quran in a literal way, and maintain that theirs is the "correct" way of Islam, and all others heretical. Finally, extremists threaten new thinkers of Islam with violence.

All those developments, however slow, suggest that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the road to the light is perilous.

The conservative forces are more vocal and are likely to remain in control for some time to come.

We may not notice, never mind heed, that those pioneers are working to modernize their faith with ideas instead of debasing it with bombs, and they are on the march."
I'll leave it up to you to see either the planned or unintended parallels that Ozer draws, I think, between Islam and much of Christianity, as well as the faux Christian evangelicals.

Message From Our Sponsor

I know Liberal Oasis and other fine blogs out there report on the Sunday punditry parades, which to me are total disinformation and propaganda barely concealed by shouts, character assassination and other cheap theatrics.

I know from whence I speak on this, because I watched "This Week with David Brinkley" for years. Brinkley, as a hopelessly jaded and world-weary journo, was actually funny at times because you could tell he never took it completely seriously (Brinkley, in my mind, tarnished himself by shilling for ADM before he died, however). At the end of the show, they would have a roundtable discussion (probably still following that format now, I guess, only with Pretty Boy George S. running things), and Brinkley would throw out a topic to George Will, who would pontificate in as sanctimonious a way as possible (and actually provide factual information on occasion) before Sam Donaldson would work himself into a lather responding to what Will said, and then the guest journo (usually Tom Wicker) would chime in with something else. On the whole, it wasn't bad. After that, I would watch "Dr. McLaughlin's Gong Show" in the afternoon and work myself into my own frenzy of sorts listening to the total conservative garbage seeping out of Novak, Pat Buchanan, Kudlow, Barone, Wattenberg et al.

Soon after all of this, though, I ended up getting married and putting all of this aside because I matured and became more sophisticated (and also because my wife told me she'd club me over the head with the Farberware skillet if I went back to watching this stuff:-).

My point (finally) is that I'd sooner give myself an appendectomy with a fondue fork than go back to watching these shows. I'll get my information from reliable sources elsewhere, thank you very much. I'll try to cover a wide range of topics here and make this site as interesting as I can, but I'm afraid I'll have to draw the line when it comes to the Sunday media barking heads.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.