Friday, August 19, 2005

Part Man, Part Monkey

After reading this excellent Guest Opinion in today's Courier Times, I'll let you decide which is which (kind of ties into the Hentoff critique below a little).

This was written by Mark Zacharias, who, according to his bio, has a B.S. degree from Princeton University in Chemical Engineering, a M.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from MIT, and is currently employed as an Information Systems Architect with American Express in Philadelphia.

A bill has recently been introduced in the Pennsylvania House (PA House Bill 1007) that specifically endorses the teaching of "Intelligent Design" theory in public classrooms.

A simple analogy can help illustrate how truly outrageous this bill is: How silly would it seem if a similar bill were introduced endorsing the teaching of medieval alchemy as an alternative to modern chemistry? Or if one were introduced endorsing Ptolemaic cosmology as an alternative to the modern Copernican view? What these analogies demonstrate is that motives behind the push to teach "Intelligent Design" are not scientific, but political in nature, ultimately grounded in a political agenda whose aim is to break down the Constitutional separation of church and state.

In a Courier Times article on June 25, "Intelligent design theory in classroom draws mixed reaction," supporters of the bill were described as claiming that "intelligent design has no religious underpinnings." If Intelligent Design theory is not based on religion, then on what is it based? Intelligent Design is certainly not science, and to even consider that it is, as many of the legislators quoted in the article apparently do, demonstrates a total ignorance of the scientific method.

Science is a process whereby specialists spend years learning the facts and theories of a particular field, and then conduct experiments to expand the body of relevant facts, occasionally proposing new theories or altering new ones as necessitated by new evidence. At any given point in time, these experts maintain a consensus regarding the most promising theory or theories, "based on their expert evaluation of the existing evidence." Intelligent Design Theory is not supported by one shred of scientific evidence, and it is for this reason that the overwhelming consensus among evolutionary biologists and zoologists is that it is not a viable theory at all. As Massimo Pigluicci has written in Free Inquiry magazine, his colleagues that are evolutionary biologists will typically think of a creationist as a "mistaken fool".

In claiming that "intelligent design has no religious underpinnings," the supporters of this bill must think that the rest of us are extremely gullible. Since Intelligent Design Theory is not science, the motive for teaching it simply can be nothing other than religious faith. But the teachings of a religious precept in public classrooms is a clear violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which mandates the separation of church and state. Any legislators or judges who cannot see through the extremely thin "scientific" facade of Intelligent Design, to the clear fact that this bill is unconstitutional, are being swayed by their religious bias.

Separation of church and state is vital to the continued success and the future of our nation. Ancient and modern history is full of examples demonstrating clearly that once the theologians get a foothold in politics, things rapidly deteriorate. While clearly the majority of the U.S. population is Christian, we should think twice about using the power of government to enforce Christian beliefs. Not only does this undermine the critical separation of church and state, but it also discriminates against the millions of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Humanists, Sikhs, Bahais, etc. who are citizens of this great nation.

Give 'Em Hell, Harry

This is nothing to mess with, boss. Rest up, take all the time you need - walk away from all of this crap for awhile. The Daily Kos wishes you a speedy recovery, and so do I, along with a great many others.

Kudos To The Birthday Boy

Dear President Clinton:

Congratulations on celebrating your 59th birthday today. I and much of the world commend you for your work with former President Bush to aid the Tsunami victims in Southeast Asia and everything you’ve done in the fight against AIDS in Africa. I personally wish to extend good wishes also to your family: Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and your lovely daughter Chelsea.

I have added a link from The Onion concerning the administration of the individual who has followed after you to provide a bit of amusement. I have to admit, however, that though it was funny at the time it first appeared, the sad, pathetic turn of events that has followed under his watch, thus actually realizing some of what is being parodied, has dissipated the humor a bit.

At this time, I have been reflecting on your years in the White House, and I have to say that I cannot recall in my lifetime a greater period of prosperity. That was brought about as a result of your team, including treasury secretary Robert Rubin, but it was also a result of beneficial developments beyond your influence (that is, the development of personal computers and the job growth spurred by the Y2K situation). It must be disheartening to see all of the good work of your administration squandered by the group that followed you.

In the wake of 9/11, you were criticized by some for either not pursuing Osama bin Laden aggressively enough during your term of office. Though it has come to light that some questionable intelligence was used to pursue him after the African embassy bombings, I believe you were diligent in attempting to bring him to justice (assuming you could trust the Taliban anyway...besides, 9/11 didn’t take place on your watch). As you have pointed out, the only terrorist attack that took place under your administration for which no one was brought to justice was the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and that was due in large part to the fact that we do not have an extradition treaty with South Yemen, the country sheltering the suspects. This is opposed to the Bush Administration that followed you, which to date has not obtained a single conviction for the 9/11 attacks (a German court acquitted a suspect in the attacks today, and three al Qaeda members are currently on trial in Spain for the attacks as well.)

I have to also say that, though I have not completed reading “My Life” yet, I have found it to be enjoyable, illuminating, and well written. Also, I wish you good luck with your foundation (a link appears on this site).

Once again, I wish to extend to you the very best. Please follow your doctor’s advice closely and maintain your good health, partly because we hope to see you continually on the world stage for some time to come.

Now He Tells Us

Nice of you to FINALLY come clean, Colin. However, you’re an unindicted co-conspirator also. This is but a fitful first step on your long, LONG road to redeeming your good name.

Thought Isn't "Free" For Some

I’m still stuck in the Bucks County Courier Times for now, and a column appeared from Nat Hentoff today lamenting what he perceives as the liberal bias that is rampant in our universities (and of course, a book has been written about this topic, or else Hentoff wouldn’t even have bothered to say anything).

Anyway, here is all of what he said that I will allow for publication here:

For years, "diversity" has been a driving goal for college administrators, but only when tied to racial diversity, which itself is usually attained through affirmative action. But now, influential members of the establishment — led by the American Council on Education — have actually recognized the crucial "diversity" needed in all levels of education — diversity of ideas. Eureka!

The present domination by liberal opinion on many college faculties — often verging on this majority's intolerant orthodoxies — was revealed in a recent study, "Politics and Professional Advancement among Faculty," by Stanley Rothman, emeritus professor of government at Smith College; S. Robert Lichter, a professor of communications at George Mason University; and Neil Nevitte, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

As summarized in the June 24-26 New York Sun, the result of this study — confirmed in previous reports in the widely respected, nonpartisan weekly, Chronicle of Higher Education — reveals that campus liberal professors "outnumber conservatives 5-to-1. It also concludes that conservatives get worse jobs than liberals."
OK, stop. Enough.

(Oh, and by the way Mr. Hentoff, the book is titled, “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty.” At least get the title right, why don’t you.)

Before I say anything else, I would ask you to read the article from this link about Lichter and Rothman’s own bias on this subject (as I’ve said before, conservatives look into a mirror in a crowded room and see everyone’s refection but their own). I’m not quite sure how they got Neil Nevitte to buy into this, because his credentials seem pretty legit (probably paid him off).

Also, here is some exposition of this fraud from Mel Seesholtz (the writeup on the PA resolution that was just passed a couple of months ago appears halfway down in the article. I’ve been meaning to get the lowdown on this Gibson Armstrong character for a little while now, and I’ll keep at it). Screaming “liberal bias” at college campuses is a full-time job for conservative shill David Horowitz, by the way.

As I’ve said before, I’ve respected Nat Hentoff in the past for his jazz writing and social conscience, but those days are long gone, unfortunately. As he continues to recycle conservative talking points and lend his skills to the service of the right wing echo chamber, he sinks deeper and deeper into the muck of an intolerance that is far worse than anything he professes to despise.

Wise Words

(PA political stuff…)

From Gerald Pollack or Northampton, Pa, whose letter was published in the Bucks County Courier Times today:

Once again Mike Fitzpatrick (R – U.S. House, 8th District) has shown his true colors by voting for CAFTA.

It lowers trade barriers between the United States and South American countries (My note: this ties into the Costa Rica story I put up here yesterday). What that means is a loss of American jobs that pay very low wages to workers. This bill also harms U.S. sugar growers and textile manufacturers.

We should remind Mike Fitzpatrick he was sent to Congress to protect jobs, not to vote to give them away. Let’s show Mike Fitzpatrick in November 2006 what it means to lose a job.
(And to help in that effort, a link to the Patrick Murphy for Congress site appears on this page.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

One Truck, One Idiot, So Much Damage

As I read up from other sites today and received the latest news on Cindy Sheehan and her brave vigil with everyone who supports her (including, I would suspect, anyone who may be reading this), I recalled reading the Smirking Chimp column today by Bill Berkowitz on the film that Michael Moore is preparing and the drug companies’ apoplexy over it because Berkowitz mentioned the “Truth Tour to Iraq” in his column.

You remember that, right? This was the stunt organized by a bunch of conservative loudmouths and funded by the usual suspects (Move America Forward, Free Republic, the PR firm Russo, Marks and Rogers, which had ties to the Gray Davis Recall campaign – and with Ahh-nold’s popularity sinking, doesn’t that look smart now?) in an effort to show, once and for all, that everything is just peachy in Iraq and it is all the fault of that dreaded liberal media for reporting otherwise.

Well, I did some investigation to find out who the people were who went over to Iraq (in response to the tour Sean Penn organized a little while back), and here they are: Melanie Morgan, Howard Kaloogian, Mark Williams, LT. Col. Buzz Patterson, Martha Zoller, Michael Graham, Brad Maaske, and Dan Hare.

Most of these people are right-wing shouters in the San Francisco area, and Kaloogian is a failed ultra-conservative candidate for the Senate, among other activities. I know about Williams personally because he spent time on WWDB, the former talk show radio station in this area, in the late 90s. During that time, we were served the requisite dose of anti-Clinton bile, which played well with some because Williams gave a younger, fresher face to conservative intolerance.

Brad Maaske wrote something on a message board somewhere and noted that, golly, he was actually a half mile away from a suicide bomber! Wonder how our people who were a hell of a lot closer to that made out?

As for Graham, he wrote a column during his visit which I will link to here (if you read it, don’t say I didn’t warn you if you toss cookies). Please note that none of his quotes are attributed to our service people by name, and he admits to his pro-Bush bias in the course of writing something he fancies as a “news” report.

I’m not going to highlight every one of these shills, but I’ll just add this item and this item from the good people at Media Matters for America to show Melanie Morgan’s lack of credibility, and leave it at that.

(Oh, one more thing – Itsez has a quote from Newt Gingrich about Iraq today which is unusually informed for such an obnoxious blowhard. The participants in the “Truth Tour” should read what he has to say.)

Oh, I can hear some people now – “He’s just so negative and against everything our people are trying to do in Iraq.”

That’s wrong of course. If people want to fly over to Iraq and have a bunch of publicity visits with our people and take photos with them in friendly locations, that’s fine. I’m all for anything that helps build morale. Only DON’T pass it off as the real story of what’s going on. Bob Hope used to put on great shows for our people overseas and made great personal sacrifices for them, but he didn’t pretend for a minute that he was a politician or anything approximating a media correspondent sent there to report on a story (he was conservative to be sure, but he had the right to be that way, even though I definitely did not agree with him).

I respectfully ask that you consider all of this as you read the item from this link posted to The Daily Kos. It is a truly wonderful Email by a man named Perry Jeffries to that alleged human being named Larry Northern who mowed down the crosses at Camp Casey with his pickup truck. It is one of the finest correspondences that I have ever read. THIS is about genuine human life and death depicted with true eloquence, not some arranged, approved, orchestrated media show.

Finally, never forget what Bushco and their sycophants had to say about Northern’s disgusting, contemptible actions. Nothing. And I don’t want to hear a word from them about it now. Bushco had another “gut check” regarding the war in Iraq they started, and they failed again.

Update 8/19: Support Democratic Senator Russ Feingold as he calls on Bushco to do something they probably will do anyway before the elections next year.

Our Next Growth Industry

(aside from the military anyway...)

And to think, our MSM cousins got suckered into that story about Vicente Fox and the stamp, when they could have been devoting more coverage to this (and yes, I know I did too awhile back, but here’s the difference – I don’t get PAID to report on this stuff, and they do). I mean, it's not like Fox is really going to stop it, though.

Update 8/27: As long as we're looking "south of the border," let's take a look at illegals again with this hard-hitting column from a highly unlikely source and author for this page (with an even more highly unlikely, but commendable, suggestion...indirectly, this came courtesy of The Huffington Post.)

At least Arizona is being forward thinking and trying not to get cheated out of the deal with this.

Aside from Bushco and their pseudo-religious, corporate greedhead “born again” minions, did anyone ever believe that we would be able to control drug trafficking only on the supply side (pressuring Colombia when we felt like it), and not doing anything seriously on the demand side here, but instead trying to prosecute cancer patients in Oregon who want a little grass to help them with their chemo? Or was I naïve not to realize that the whole “war on drugs” was a PR stunt from the word go and was never intended to amount to anything anyway? And of course, border enforcement has been such a priority under Bushco, what with Wal-Mart, Con Agra and the like needing all of those illegals the way they do…

But at least the investor class doesn’t have to worry about this, because, according to one of their house organ publications, the next “hot” place for offshoring of our jobs will be below where all of the drug trafficking is getting moved to anyway (interesting geopolitical coincidence – I’m sure Vivek Paul is leasing office space even as I write this). At least the Mickey D’s in Penndel will always be hiring (“I’m lovin’ it”).

(I can just picture the interview process now – “So how long exactly were you a mule for Mr. Carillo’s organization? Do you have a criminal record? What version of MS Office products were you using before your bust, anyway? What are your strengths and weaknesses?”)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Qu'est-ce Que Sais Overtime?

I don’t really care about the problems of unemployed French actors (as depicted in this story). Sorry, but that’s where my liberal sympathies end.

Here is the paragraph (buried deep down, of course) that got my attention, though:
The French average seven weeks of paid vacation a year -- two more than the country's labor laws stipulate. They work an average of 1,441 hours per year, compared with 1,661 hours for the British, and 1,824 for Americans, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports.
As usual, we in the U.S. work the longest hours. And we’re the ones who have to worry the most about offshoring, cutting back or elimination of our benefits, and foreign workers holding down our wages (not their fault personally – blame the employer).

I’m trying to pick up OA’s slack on this. Just let me know when it’s time to “go to the mattresses,” OK?

What, No "Archie" Comics?

I read this item today (a history of salt?), and felt inspired enough to recommend some reading material for our commander-in-chief as a public service. What follows are my recommendations with some brief highlights and some reasons behind the selections:

“Slaughterhouse-Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr: In the book, the Tralfamadorians capture earth man Billy Pilgrim to live in a zoo-like geodesic dome on their planet and recount events in his life in random order. The Tralfamadorians also kidnap the B-movie starlet Montana Wildhack to be his mate. Assuming you have a soul, the book will help you with searching it and reflecting on your own life, particularly the passage that recounts the bombing of Dresden in World War II, witnessed by our hero. It might also give you a clearer picture of the horror of war aside from sanitized, abbreviated briefings and reports by embedded journalists.

“Catch 22,” by Joseph Heller: As a former member of the Air National Guard, the background of this story should be familiar territory for you, though the pilots depicted in this story are flying in actual combat as opposed to taking 18-month leaves that are totally unaccounted for in any official records to work for Texas politicians. You certainly have Yossarian’s belligerence and scheming tendencies. Besides, the whole conversation between Yossarian and Doc Daneka about whether or not Orr should be grounded (which also provides the book’s title) sums up your administration’s illogic perfectly.

“The Last Lion,” Book 1, by William Manchester: Since you laughably fashion yourself as a Churchillian figure for our times, it might be best for you to read about his life so you have a clue of what you’re talking about the next time you start flapping your jaws about him. Manchester’s recounting of the formative years of Churchill’s life prior to his election to the British parliament is fascinating reading, though his almost poetic prose is dense at times (much like you). Also, try to imagine the courage and bravado that Churchill displayed when he escaped a South African prison farm during the Boer War, which will provide a hint as to just how far you fall short compared to other leaders on the world stage.

“Mornings on Horseback,” by David McCullough: One of our finest historians wrote this tour de force about Theodore Roosevelt, another one of your professed heroes. If for no other reason, is it important for you to read this book because, after doing so, you may truly come to understand how Roosevelt respected the beauty and wonder of our God-given natural resources in this country in the hope that some of that attitude might, by some improbable chance, be imparted to you also. You may also be particularly touched as you read about how Roosevelt escaped to the Dakota territory to find solace after the devastating twin losses of his first wife and his mother, truly “roughing it” during the last days of the Old West. But again, I’m not holding out hope that reading about how a great figure’s life was shaped as a response to tragedy will mean anything to you.

“A Confederacy Of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole: I realize that you have absolutely nothing in common with Ignatius Reilly, the Big-Chief-tablet-scribbling, overweight, virginal (according to girlfriend Myrna Minkoff), overbearing (well, maybe you do at that) protagonist concocting his mad ramblings about the human condition in and around New Orleans in this ostensibly comic story. However, maybe forcing you into something like the world Reilly experiences might – might – also force you to understand the consequences of the horrific actions of your administration on some of our most vulnerable citizens (and some of them deserve that fate for their actions, I admit, but not as many as you might think).
There you have it, Mr. President. These are my selections. I hope you find them to be illuminating, whether you are reading them on your vacation or after you return to Washington, D.C.

A Legacy of Iraq

Did anyone honestly think something like this WOULDN'T happen as a result of Bushco's illegal invasion?

It is not possible to overstate the dangerous, monumental incompetence of this administration (and we must continue to do so despite the predictable character assassination from their minions).

Also, in the matter of foreign policy blunders, Eric over at Move Left has some important information about how the CIA told the Dutch to lay off Pakistani scientist and nuclear profiteer Abdul Qadeer Khan in the 80s while we involved ourselves with Pakistan in Afghanistan (I swear, can somebody tell me ANYTHING positive that emerged from our escapade there? But does anyone hold Ronnie Reagan's feet to the fire in Clinton-esque fashion over it? We know the answer to that one.)

About Nine Months Too Late

This appears courtesy of The Huffington Post.

Any effort to fix our broken electronic voting system in this country should be paired with legislation sponsored by the great Rush Holt (D-N.J. in the U.S. House) mandating a paper record for any such vote.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dems, Repugs Bleed The Same

Long one coming up (but I guess I was due)…

I came across a column written by a lady named Rosa Brooks on Yahoo News a couple of days ago, and I’ve been meaning to say something about it. I’ve heard this argument put forward online and in print media, and I want to respond. Brooks, by all appearances, is no dummy and has worked on behalf of a variety of worthy causes, which make her remarks even more astonishing to me. She is syndicated through the L.A. Times, which carried her column.

Uncle Sam to the liberals: I need you!

Getting progressives into uniform can close the military-civilian culture gap.
First problem: there can be a difference between a liberal and a progressive, and mixing up the terminology is a bad way to start writing a column.

AS A NORTHEASTERNER and a child of the left, I grew up knowing almost no one in the military. Shaped by Vietnam and the Cold War, my parents' generation of progressives distrusted U.S. military power. As a young child, so did I. I remember cheering at the Central Park concert celebrating the end of the Vietnam War. A few years later, I marched enthusiastically with my family to protest Reagan-era draft registration requirements.
So you’ve established your “liberal cred”…”bra” and “vo”.

But a lot has changed since then.
…dramatic shift in time coming up - fast forward through a late 80s, "Thompson Twins"-"Tears For Fears" and 90s "Nirvana-Pearl Jam-Live" soundtrack in your mind for effect, OK?…
My own generation has been shaped not by the Vietnam War but by globalization's discontents: ethnic conflict and the rise of terrorism. With the post-Cold War fragmentation of the Balkans, the Rwandan genocide and a multitude of other brutal conflicts…
Which almost all of us know of from watching them on T.V. as opposed to being actively involved…I’m only making the observation, not trying to be “snarky”.

…I — and many other young progressives — gradually came to see the U.S. military as an imperfect but indispensable institution for stopping humanitarian tragedies.
Yes, but the problem is that once we show up on the scene, we are unable to leave without things degenerating even more or not without physical harm coming to our people.

Since Sept. 11, the military has seemed even more crucial. Indiscriminate terrorist attacks threaten every dream of peace, and combating globally diffuse terrorist networks requires an unprecedented mixture of criminal investigation and military force.
It also requires leadership with a modicum of common sense, which we don’t have at the moment.

Although many progressives continue to regard the military with slight unease, no one imagines anymore that we would be better off without it. This week, the Washington Post reported on new classified military plans for responding to terrorist attacks in the United States — including potential nuclear, chemical or biological attacks so catastrophic that the military might be required to "take the lead" in responding, as one official put it. The term "martial law" was not used, but it was implicit.

Such troubling scenarios would once have seemed the stuff of paranoid fiction. After 9/11, they seem far too plausible.

That's why I've started urging all the bright young liberals I meet to join the military.
OK, so let me get this straight. She wants liberals, progressives…whomever…to join the military as a domestic force to fight against terrorism and help clean up after an attack. That’s an interesting idea, actually (though that should include conservatives, including the “Young Repugs” who want to “support the Iraq War” from the comfort of their living rooms and Friday happy hours at a local watering hole).

I seem to recall, though, that we instituted an organization called The National Guard that had a duty to do something like what Brooks mentioned. But in one of the truly awful “bait and switch” tactics of Bushco, guard and reserve units have ended up seeing as much fighting and taking as many casualties as our regular volunteer forces. Please explain to me why anyone would volunteer for these great services after this cruel stunt from Bushco.

Sure, U.S. military policy is flawed in many respects. But that's not a reason for progressives to shun the military. On the contrary, it's one of the main reasons that liberals need to reexamine their long-standing aversion to military service.
Uh…OK. So under this logic, I should jump off the Scudder Falls Bridge between PA and NJ into the Delaware River because, though it’s probable that other people who have tried this have been killed, I as a liberal might actually live? Sure…

There is a significant and growing gap between military and civilian cultures. While about a third of the general public identifies themselves as Democrats and another third as Republicans, a January 2005 Military Times poll found that 60% of military respondents were Republicans, 17% were independents and only 13% were Democrats.
If you’re in the military, you’re going to gravitate towards the Republican party, regardless of what your orientation may be before you join. Your CO is going to try his or her best to shove it down your throat. The only possible exception could be if you are African American.

A generation ago, the military was far less partisan in its composition:
It was also far less politicized. In my father’s time and into the ‘60s, the military was composed primarily of Democrats. Many of those men had fought in WWII when this country, flat on its back from the Depression, faced global domination. These were ripe conditions for the Democrats – again, not trying to be a smartass – and fortunately, they had a leader at that time who could galvanize public opinion in their favor (right, Itsez?).

A plurality (46%) called themselves independents, while only 33% were Republicans. On numerous key social and religious issues, military personnel today are far more conservative than the typical American.
Again, this is due to the politicization of the military, among other factors.

In today's polarized political atmosphere, anyone who finds this troubling needs to be willing to work for change from inside the military, not just from the outside. Otherwise, the cultural and political gap between the military and civilian society will only widen.
The military, in general, is like The Borg in the “Star Trek: Generations” series. Join us, and you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. It’s totally foolish to think otherwise, or try to intervene from the outside (see Clinton, Bill, and “Gays In The Military”).

The Vietnam War-era draft pulled in a disproportionate number of poor young men because educational deferrals allowed elites to avoid service.
You’re correct. Was that right? No, but the rich getting off the hook and the poor getting stuck doing the dirty work is as old as war itself.
But at least the draft covered the whole country. Today's volunteer military is drawn disproportionately from conservative Southern states and economically struggling rural areas.
Interesting point, and I don’t know what to do about that. However, I don’t believe that encouraging people of a particular political, geographic or other type of persuasion/orientation/location to volunteer to get themselves killed in Iraq is the answer.

Meanwhile, many of the elite universities, which tend to be liberal, booted ROTC off campus in the wake of the Vietnam War. Today, the percentage of students from elite universities who join the military is minuscule.
Again, I don’t know what to say about that other than that recruiters will tell you ANYTHING to get you to sign on the dotted line. I know someone who was told he would learn about computers after he enlisted. He got stuck in a motor pool for a year overseas and learned nothing that helped him obtain a job in his career.

Progressives should embrace military service because we can't afford to let the gap between the military and civilians grow.
Uh, the gap would grow regardless of whether or not progressives joined because they would lose their political identity (or they would at least have to hide it).

It's deeply unfair to expect those Americans with the fewest economic opportunities to do our fighting for us.
Yes, but again, that’s as old as war itself. Besides, under Bushco, more and more people, liberals/conservatives/whatever, are falling under the category of those with the “fewest economic opportunities.”

And as globalization and terrorism blur the lines between "domestic" and "foreign" affairs and between "civilian" and "military" affairs, having a military that is regionally identified and politically partisan poses real dangers to a pluralistic society.
It’s already posed a danger because of how our service people consistently vote for Repugs on their absentee ballots. However, that is their right of course, assuming they are legitimate ballots.

Liberals should also remember that the military may have some valuable lessons to teach the rest of us. For instance, minorities make up more than a third of all military personnel, and 20% of the officer corps. That's a far higher leadership representation than that boasted by Congress or by most big universities and corporations. Unsurprisingly, most minority military personnel think that minorities are treated more fairly in the military than in civilian life. Wouldn't it be nice to transfer some of that racial egalitarianism to civilian culture?
She’s going round in circles on this argument, as far as I’m concerned. Transferring “racial egalitarianism to civilian culture” is a concept that sounds like it came right out of a college textbook from Vasser or Sarah Lawrence. My guess is that some kind of intellectual “sharing of the wealth” is a good deal more complicated than she makes it out to be here.

Progressives need to get over their reluctance to serve in the military. Only when we're all willing to serve in the military will we have a military that can truly serve us all.
I think she just wrote the script for the latest recruiting ad.

Let me just finish by saying this. The military can be a great way of life for the right young man or woman in this country (though I’m saying this in anticipation of that fine day, which is far off in the future unfortunately, when there is something approximating a ruling government in Iraq and all of our people are home). However, I don’t think anyone (including Charles Rangel) should try any longer to force it down someone’s throat. And if it represents the only opportunity for some people, I don’t know why I am supposed to feel bad because that is no longer the case for me.

One absolute final thought: I would propose that, instead of liberals/progressives entering the military to try to change things, we should be concentrating on supporting all of the service people who have turned to the Democratic Party as a result of Bush’s Iraq debacle, such as Paul Hackett. THAT is the best way to bring about change affecting the military – indirectly is the best way we can hope.

Who's Guarding The Purse?

When I read stuff like this, it continually amazes me how people actually think Bush and the Repugs are bona fide conservatives.

From the "Air America" web site:

Five years into his administration, the president has yet to exercise a single veto, a record unprecedented in modern history. With no presidential restraint, Congress has gone on a record binge of profligate spending, raising concerns about the traditional system of checks and balances.
And more...

According to a recent article in The New York Times, the rise in the average price of gasoline last week was the largest since records have been kept. The national average of regular unleaded stood at $2.55 yesterday, and most analysts expect the cost of fuel will continue to rise through Labor Day.
If anyone ever tells me that the Repugs are the "party of fiscal conservatism" again, I'm going to have a great big belly laugh right in their faces.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Them That's Got Shall Get

I haven't posted anything on this for a little while, so I'll just put up Tom Turcol's report in The Inquirer and add some comments. Besides, Atrios has been covering this well, and I have to admit that the Inquirer has also.

Forrester's riches may no longer be asset

His insurance business threatens his funding and focus on Corzine.

Having fueled his unlikely political rise, the personal wealth of Douglas Forrester could now undermine his drive for the New Jersey governor's office.

The millionaire Republican's campaign was in limbo last week as he defended himself against questions over whether he violated a state law that bars the owners of insurance companies from contributing to political campaigns.

The controversy, coupled with revelations that he built his fortune largely through government contracts in New Jersey, has abruptly turned Forrester from aggressor in his race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon S. Corzine to a candidate mired in political damage control.

At every turn in recent days, Forrester's attempts to discuss policy or criticize Corzine were obscured by questions concerning the nature of his insurance business. Increasingly nervous Republicans fear those questions will be an ongoing distraction, if not a crushing blow, to his campaign.
It's nice to see a Repug squirming over this stuff for a change.

Independent analysts also say the issue could become a major liability for the Republican.

"This has the potential of robbing him of his central campaign theme, that he is the voice of change who will take on the politics of business as usual in Trenton," said David Rebovich, who teaches political science at Rider University in Lawrenceville.

Voters, Rebovich added, "will see endless commercials about how he made his fortune off of government contracts, and the perception will be that he is something of a hypocrite."
Perception equated with reality in this case.

Forrester spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester dismissed those assertions, saying people "will see through any charges as a desperate attempt by the Corzine campaign to muddy the waters."
"Desperate attempt by the Corzine campaign," huh? Hey, he's leading, lady, and your guy is going to sink fast over this mess. You tell me who's "desperate".

Forrester has said legal advisers assured him that he is exempt from the New Jersey law, intended to curb the political influence of insurance companies and other regulated industries, because he licensed his company, Heartland Fidelity Insurance, in Washington, D.C.
Yeah, I read about this before. The D.C. "office" is a tiny suite with 8 people in it. Your basic "front" company, actually (referred to this way again later in story); doing that is a common tactic for many business trying to get a tax break and sneak through loopholes in insurance regulations. Even though everybody does it, let's just be honest, OK?

But Forrester has acknowledged that employees who negotiate and administer the contracts work out of the New Jersey offices of his health-benefits company, BeneCard Services Inc. In addition, most of his insurance clients are in New Jersey - primarily municipalities, school boards, and other public agencies.
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

Forrester is seeking a quick ruling from the state Department of Banking and Insurance on his assertion that Heartland is an out-of-state company, placing him outside the law that bans political contributions.

But the department responded with a request for detailed records of Forrester's businesses, a move that could deny him the "quick and definitive clean bill of health" that Rebovich said Forrester needed and instead cloud the status of his campaign spending indefinitely. And Assembly Democrats, in labeling Heartland as little more than a "front" company, said they may hold legislative hearings, which would further inflame the matter.

A worst-case scenario for Forrester would leave him unable to continue underwriting his campaign and force him to raise millions of dollars quickly, a highly improbable task less than three months before Election Day.

Forrester and the Republicans, for example, raised only $300,000 at a fund-raising event featuring Vice President Cheney last month in Princeton.
Forrester also got a bunch of dough from a fundraiser attended by Karl Rove. Frank Lautenberg said Forrester should give back the money because of the Plame affair and Rove's remarks about liberals. Lautenberg is right, but good luck waiting for that to happen.

(And only a Repug or a very rich Dem would preface a figure like $300K with the word "only".)

"Game, set, match," one state Republican leader said in assessing Forrester's chances under those conditions. "It would be sheer chaos." The official, who requested anonymity, noted that any money Forrester could raise would be dwarfed by the millions to be spent by the wealthier Corzine.

Forrester spent $11 million in winning the GOP nomination in the spring and has been expected to spend an additional $15 million to $20 million on the fall campaign.

Election experts noted that federal courts, whatever the circumstances, are reluctant to deny a candidate's right to finance his own campaign.

More likely, they said, Forrester would be cited because of the $244,000 he has contributed to Republican candidates and organizations since he formed Heartland in 2003. Those Republicans could be forced to return the money, which would be a political embarrassment for Forrester.

At best, Forrester could continue funding his campaign - but at a great political cost. Disclosures about his business are weakening his claim that he is the reform candidate, according to Rebovich, at a time when he is scrambling to catch up in the polls.

"Even if he's found to be legally right due to a technicality, it's the kind of parsing that gets politicians in trouble with the voters," Rebovich said.

Democrats also plan to accuse Forrester of escaping some New Jersey taxes by licensing part of his business in Washington, a potentially damaging line of attack in Corzine's anticipated barrage of television commercials this fall.

The furor has all but eclipsed reports concerning Corzine's $470,000 loan to a state union leader with whom he was romantically involved. Corzine later forgave the loan to Carla Katz, president of the state chapter of the Communications Workers of America, when their relationship ended.

Those revelations disrupted Corzine's campaign for days, and Forrester had hoped to capitalize before his own business came under scrutiny.

Sylvester, speaking for Forrester, said the Corzine campaign was attacking the Republican's insurance business "to distract from Corzine's relationship with the head of the largest [employee] bargaining unit in the state."
OK, I have to tell you that I'm not the biggest fan of Corzine either, since everyone can see what he wants to get out of this campaign (besides the governor's job). However, Corzine has been a good soldier for the DSCC, though he's a carpetbagger in his own right also (not in the same league as Forrester, though, not by a longshot).

However, here is the main point I want to make (and hence the title of the post).

Never, NEVER underestimate the ability of the Repugs to raise money. Even if Forrester loses in court and has to give up the $244K he raised through his insurance company, he will find a way to raise outside dough and make this a horse race (what do you think Scumbag Santorum is doing right now?).

I hate to point that out, but that's the depressing reality.

Update 8/19: Welcome to the Friday Fights (Forrester reeks more and more from this have to register).

Monday Roundup

I have no idea if this is a joke or not - I guess it is - but it sure would be interesting if it wasn't (courtesy of The Huffington Post). I wonder if he'd be the doomed buddy from "The Deer Hunter," the crime boss from "True Romance," or the tap-dancing host of "Saturday Night Live"? Imagine the possibilities.

Also, for the record, this is a list of who served and who didn't (a constant source of illumination for me), courtesy of The Daily Kos.

Also, Paul Craig Roberts provides a cold slap in the face using the most nightmarish (and accurate, unfortunately) language he can to describe Bushco and their intentions.

Standing With Cindy

A group of people working constructively on behalf of a just cause are capable of greater things than a single person working unconstructively, regardless of whether that person has a gun or not.

Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice and we want answers. All we're asking is that President Bush sacrifice an hour out of his five-week vacation to talk to us, before the next mother loses her son in Iraq.

- Cindy Sheehan, August 12, 2005

By now, you've heard of Cindy Sheehan, mother of Army Specialist Casey Sheehan who was killed in Iraq, and her vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

What you may not know is that Cindy is a regular DFA Meetup participant in Sacramento. She has held vigil outside the president's ranch for over a week now.

President Bush has refused to meet with Cindy. On Saturday, he said that there are lots of people who have "something to say to the president" and "it's also important for me to go on with my life."

But Cindy says that she won't leave until President Bush meets with her to discuss the war -- even if it means spending all of August there.

We need to show that Cindy is not alone. Cindy has asked supporters to hold candlelight vigils in their communities to remind people of the terrible price of war. Democracy for America is teaming up with MoveOn and True Majority to organize nationwide "Vigils for Cindy Sheehan" on Wednesday, August 17, starting at 7:30 PM local time.

Click below to join one in your community:

President Bush's Saturday schedule included a two hour bike ride, an evening Little League Baseball playoff game, a lunch meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a nap, some fishing and some reading. Don't you think he can take a few minutes to meet with Cindy?

Join a vigil this week to show support for Cindy and ask President Bush to do the right thing.

These vigils aren't rallies or places to give long-winded speeches. They are moments to solemnly come together and mark the sacrifice of Cindy and other families.

Thank you for standing with Cindy.

Tom Hughes
Democracy for America

Check out the vigils' co-sponsors:

P.S. After your local vigil, email Democracy for America to share a photo and description of your event:

Update 8/19 - Thank you, Sen. Chuck Hagel, for providing a voice of sanity that Bushco needs to listen to very much (buried in the story, of course).

A Letter To Larry Mattlage

Dear Mr. Mattlage,

I just read the CNN story mentioning that you fired your gun into the air within earshot of protesters supporting Cindy Sheehan outside the ranch of your neighbor President Bush. Despite your explanation that you are “getting ready for dove season,” I think this is curious behavior for someone who stated that he was originally supportive of the protestors when they first appeared.

I’m sorry that the view from your home and your roadside access is temporarily being hindered. In the case of road access, you should contact your local law enforcement authorities and have them warn the protestors or set up barricades enabling you to negotiate through traffic. I’m sure that Ms. Sheehan and the other protestors would be reasonable enough to grant you such access.

In the case of your view, I just think you’re going to have to live with it for a little while. Besides, who are you to tell the protestors that they have, apparently to your thinking, spent enough time near your property making their case and should leave? Is there some type of local, state or federal standard that exists defining the length of time for an aggrieved party to stage a peaceful protest in this country? If there is, could you please notify me about it, because I am not aware of one.

Also, I must ask you these questions. Has any family member or friend of yours either been wounded or killed as a result of military conflict? Have you yourself ever been wounded in the service? Have you served?

Can you for a minute imagine the pain of Cindy Sheehan who knows that her son is dead and merely wants an explanation from the man who ordered him into battle as to why (I know Bush met with her once before, but she wishes another meeting – why is this a problem)? Can you imagine the pain of other parents who have lost sons or daughters under similar circumstances? Don’t you think their right to peacefully protest is more important than a temporary obstacle that does not allow you a full view from your property? Don’t you think Cindy Sheehan and other parents who have lost children in the quagmire of Iraq created by George W. Bush rate better treatment from this President than for him to drive by them as they protest in his Suburban SUV with tainted black windows, ostensibly to go to a little league baseball game?

One more thing: as a resident of Crawford, Texas, you and your town have reaped the accidental benefit of sharing a home with the person holding the most powerful job in the world. This is the other side of that benefit, if you will. I didn’t hear you complaining when things went your way, so I shouldn’t hear you complaining now that they don’t.


P.S. - I think this post by Chimpy sums things up well also.

Update 8/16: Oh, by the way Mr. Mattlage, do you support this? Larry Northern, the life form responsible for this from Waco, is gutteral scum.

Update 8/17: If I could buy your relative a beer for this, I would do so.

Dr. Death Returns

Dear Self-Satisfied, Co-Opted, Well-Moneyed, Well-Connected, Republican, Vietnam-Era Liar,

Iraq ALREADY IS “a breeding ground for terrorists”!

Oh, and “the divisions within the United States” were the reason for our failure in Vietnam, huh? How about the carpet bombing of Cambodia you and Tricky Dick ordered while the latter told the world that “this is not an escalation of the war”? How about the fact that 58,000 young men and women were ground up in your quest for détente with China and the isolation of the Soviet Union in the process? Oh, and I seem to recall that that little burglary thing ended up undercutting Nixon’s grand vision of remaking Southeast Asia also. So now I guess that leaves only Walter Cronkite to you to blame, doesn’t it, you cowardly hypocrite?

I love the fact that you casually point out that, even to you, Bushco hasn’t pointed out what the objective is in Iraq (or so you’re telling us, but as far as I’m concerned, if you belong to The Carlyle Group or know anyone who is, then you DO know and have known for some time).

I know Joe (MBNA/Bank of America Is My Daddy) Biden has been after Rumsfeld for some time, and he’s absolutely right, especially on the body armor issue. John McCain made a stirring statement, and he’s also right to say that that should be the goal, but Bushco has hammered him like they hammer anyone who doesn’t kow tow to them, so I understand why he wouldn’t say much beyond that. And Richard Lugar seems to be in a mode where he’s trying to restore his image as a foreign policy pragmatist after totally knuckling under to Bushco on the Bolton fiasco.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

What Goes Up...

More joyous business news from Saturday, courtesy of the AP:

"The (stock) market has been watching oil prices obsessively, afraid that higher energy costs could lower consumer spending and increase business expenses. The fear is that higher oil prices, coupled with the Fed's year-plus streak of interest rate hikes, could plunge the economy into a recession.

'The Fed raising interest rates at the same time oil is going up is like pumping the brakes twice,' said Stephen Wood, portfolio strategist at Russell Investment Group. 'If the Fed is raising rates, they will be successful in slowing down the economy. It will happen; it's like the law of gravity.'

Wall Street is beginning to see hints those fears may be realized. Almost two thirds of those surveyed for an AP-AOL poll expect fuel costs will cause them financial hardship in the coming months."
All of which proves that many people in this country and the vast majority of what passes for our political leadership learned absolutely nothing from the energy crisis of the '70s.

So Bushco and the Fed are going to slowly raise interest rates some more and, subsequently, slowly let the air out of the housing bubble, the only sector of this economy which is doing anything except generating wealth for the investor class. Could these people actually do anything right if they tried?

(...and I didn't even say a word about the trade deficit.)

Limbo Time With Dubya

I have three remarks to add to this (aside from the fact that I don't think "the base" would look at anything objectively even with the aid of a lobotomy):

1) Dear Jerry Fleming of Athens, AL,

Do you know that George W. Bush, religious man that he purports to be, has not joined a congregation in the area of Washington, D.C. where he spends the majority of his time taking up space in the Oval Office? Don't you think that belies his "moral values" rhetoric just a bit?

2) Dear Trisha McAllister of Grenada, MI,

There are actually some politicians out there who go with their instinct over what the polls tell them. Some are great, others are average and a few are genuinely awful. However, these people live in "the reality-based community" that Bushco despises. When are you going to get it through your apparently thick head that Dubya is a corporate shill unwilling to face facts while awaiting "the rapture" and his anticipated ascent to Heaven? He has the blood of almost 1900 of our people on his hands along with thousands of innocent Iraqis. Does that register on your radar at all?

2) Dear Charles Jones of The Brookings Institute,

For you to even imagine comparing Dubya to Harry Truman is a bilious insult.

The Beat Goes On

According to today's Philadelphia Inquirer, our state legislators are at it again. Forty two (42) of them and 54 aides have preregistered to attend a conference (and please...don't call it a junket, or else Raymond Bunt, a Repug of Montgomery, will be upset) in Seattle beginning this Tuesday. Such topics that will be covered through discussions and workgroups include the growing methamphetamine crisis, renewable energy technology and "How To Be An Effective Committee Chair: The Crash Course."

If it weren't for the Shylock-ish pay raise that the bottom-feeding majority of this bunch just ramroded through in the dead of night last month, this conference would probably be no big deal. But they did, so it is (and yes, Matt "Courage" Wright is going to attend - Dave Steil is also, but I'll cut him some slack because he didn't vote for the raise).

Here is an excerpt from the story:

Rep. Gene McGill (R., Montgomery) said critics may argue that "we should stay chained to our desks and spend no money. But the reality is, we believe there is a benefit to these kinds of training conferences."
OK, fair enough. You all go (even though it's going to cost us $180,000).

But here's what I want in return. I want DETAILED descriptions of your activities posted to your web sites (and you all have your own, something else that is probably on our dime). I also want to know how you plan to use your newfound knowledge to craft legislation of benefit to us. And don't send out mass mailings telling us what you did, because you can bill us for that also (gee, what a sweet racket!). Putting it up electronically on the web is cheaper.

I'll cut you people slack for now. But I had better see something of use from this expense, or I won't be so charitable next time.

Update 8/19: Why am I not surprised (I think you have to register)?

Chip Away At The Stone, Part Two

What follows is a Guest Opinion in today's Bucks County Courier Times written by Joyce A. McClain, a retired paralegal and crime prevention specialist. I don't think her fine words need any further clarification from me.

Some memories can last a lifetime. I still remember the shock of seeing the seemingly endless rows of flag-draped coffins lined up on the airport tarmac that filled my television screen in the '60s and early '70s. I remember attending the funeral for my husband's 19-year-old nephew who had been killed in Vietnam.

His pregnant wife received a letter from him the morning of his memorial services. He'd married his high school sweetheart just days before shipping out. Barely a bride, then a widow.

I remember the only son of our blind neighbor. He was headed for college until he was drafted. We all were relieved when we heard he had returned home. I remember thinking: Thank God he's safe. Then I saw him, a slender young man, laughing and talking to trees. His body was intact but his mind was lost somewhere in Nam.

I remember the demonstrations and opposition to the war. It was the power of the people's will that finally forced an end to the war.

There are some important similarities and differences between then and now. Now the names and faces of our fallen play across the television screen in silence; the administration knows the staggering reality check of seeing our young men and women returning home in pine boxes.

Then our reports out of Nam were stark and real, daily reminders of the horrors of war. Now, our reporters are embedded, their reports sanitized. Then the press was instrumental in ending the war. Now the press helped sell the war.

Then we had a balance of power. Now we have an unrestrained party with monopoly control over every branch.

Then the Gulf of Tonkin incident of 1964, an incident that was never proven to have taken place, was used to massively escalate our presence in Nam. Now this Teflon administration created elaborate lies that were their justification for Iraq. Just as Teflon was recently deemed to be a carcinogen, so too is this administration dangerous to democracy and our health.

It is a truism: united we stand, divided we fall. We stood united after 9/11 and the world stood with us as we pursued bin Laden, the person the administration publicly identified as the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. We fell divided as we switched course midstream and took a detour to Iraq.

During Bush's recent speech from Fort Bragg, NC, he repeatedly linked Iraq and 9/11. The world knows what he cannot admit: there was no link between Iraq, Saddam, and 9/11. Bush spoke of the insurgents and the terrorists as though they are one in the same. The insurgents are Iraqis who are resisting an occupying force. They will always resist our presence.

While he is correct that Iraq has become "a hotbed for terrorists," this occurred on our watch after the invasion, and it happened for two reasons: the borders were not secured and the Iraqi army was disbanded.

The foreign jihadists swarm unrestrained into Iraq, The borders are still not secured - but the oil fields were secured on day one. We are less safe than ever because Bush didn't consider the consequences of the invasion for America or for Iraq. He makes decisions in the blink of an eye, certain that his line to The Father is unerring but that line does not go beyond his ego.

"The Downing Street Memo" and the minutes of six other meetings between March and April of 2002 by British top officials to Tony Blair are all authentic and incriminating documents. They reveal Bush's obsessive determination to topple a sovereign government that posed no imminent threat to us. This administration has become the purveyors of death, torture, rendition, and al Qaeda's number one recruiting tool.

Whatever happened to accountability? Was this was fought in the name of Oil, Strategic Position, Empire Building or Sheer Stupidity?

The American public, especially the families of those who died, deserve the truth about the war. Why it was fought, how it will end. How many more soldiers will be shipped home permanently disabled or in body bags before we raise a united voice and declare enough is enough?

Chip Away At The Stone, Part One

David Reynolds of Lower Makefield, Pa wrote this excellent letter that appeared yesterday in the Bucks County Courier Times.

As important as it is to stay on top of the Roberts nomination, I think the guy will get in unfortunately because he seems to be able to hide his ruthless conservatism behind a nod, smile and a wink if necessary in Reagan-esque fashion (unlike the snarling maniac John Bolton whose recess appointment will expire next January). Also, I didn't see the NARAL ad, so I can't comment on it. If I do, I will.

The Supreme Court nomination (of John Roberts) succeeded in more ways than one. It is not likely a sheer coincidence that the unraveling story of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by Karl Rove and at least one other White House adviser, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, suddenly became absent from the headlines. I was dramatically reminded of the story, however, while watching the televised Senate hearing on the subject of classified security guidelines and law as regards our intelligence community on July 22.

The panel's testimony was striking in a number of ways. First, the panel itself was quite bipartisan. Second, its members soundly dispelled all of the calculated myths being deployed by the White House against Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador to Iraq who received high praise from Bush One as a hero after the Gulf War.

Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst, organized this panel of former intelligence officers. Point by point, Johnson took on the now-familiar talking points being repetitiously spun with the intention of discrediting and slandering still further the reputations and motives of Plame and her husband. The myth is that she was not a classified operative at all, and was merely a "desk jockey" and that it was she who sent Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate the alleged sale of nuclear material to Iraq, an allegation now well known to be based on a forged document.

The most sobering point brought home by Larry Johnson and this panel, however, was that irreparable damage has been done to the intelligence gathering community worldwide, which has ultimately had a deep and negative impact upon our ability to collect information and protect the American people.

The word is hereby out internationally to anyone thinking about collaborating and going covert with us, that the U.S. is not to be trusted with your identity. The unprecedented leaking of an intelligence agent's identity by a president's high officer, for cheap political reasons at that, is no trivial matter.

Johnson stated within his report that he voted for George W. Bush because he had grown tired of a presidency that asked what the meaning of "is" is. Now he finds himself wondering about a presidency which raises the far more serious and disingenuous question of what the meaning of "leak" is.

My hope is that the American public, and the news media, will not go back to sleep on this issue and will join Larry Johnson in asking President Bush to stop playing semantic parlor games and come forth with a full explanation.
We have to keep "fighting the fight," but I don't think that is a day we will ever see.