Saturday, August 27, 2005

"Real Time" Update

I caught "Real Time With Bill Maher" again last night. His guests were Cindy Sheehan via satellite from Crawford, author and would-be Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, and the following panelists: playwright/actor Eve Ensler, columnist Dan Savage, and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

There weren't any major blowups on the show - it wasn't as if there was someone like Kellyanne Conway last week lobbing incendiary propaganda all over the place. I thought Eve Ensler was the most opinionated panelist of the three, and she frequently prefaced her remarks by stating that she had traveled to the areas she chiefly spoke about (Iraq and Afghanistan in particular), so it was hard for me to argue with her, particularly because I agree with her 100 percent on the Iraq War. Bill Maher, however, pointed out to her that Muslims, living in strict accordance with their teachings (and I'm trying to distance sane, respectable Muslims from the crazies) can have a problem with the role of women in such a society, and Ensler seemed to take that thesis and imply that that problem is universal for all men in all societies before Maher headed her off. I'm glad he did that because, at that point, Ensler was starting to aggravate me, to be perfectly honest.

Mike Huckabee was a revelation to me. I couldn't believe I was watching a Repug with a self-deprecating sense of humor! My God, I hope Karl Rove didn't see the program, or else he'd have Huckabee kidnapped, sent back to the factory and turned into a good, unquestioning Bushco zombie. He definitely was there to tow the line on the war, but he did sound conciliatory to Cindy Sheehan up to a point (I'll get to her shortly). Maher also had fun with Bushco deciding that Karen Hughes was qualified to be in charge of a U.S.-based network broadcasting propaganda to Arabs about the war, and everybody was laughing over the absurdity of that, and Huckabee defended it also, though you could tell he was trying really hard not to laugh also. I also give Huckabee credit for losing 110 pounds and writing a book about it.

For my money, Dan Savage was the most informed and wittiest of the panelists. I didn't think it was possible to make a humorous remark about the 9/11 hijackers and not have it end up as tasteless or offensive, but he pulled it off (he was talking about the motivation behind the hijackers, which had nothing to do with Muslim extremism in his opinion, but a portion of the female anatomy that is referred to with a "p" word and recalls a feline pet). He also made a witty observation on the just-issued report that there are more single adults in this country than married ones; he stated that, because Maher is single and childless and Savage, a gay man with a partner who is parenting one child and trying to do so with another, in fact Savage is assuming a traditionally more heterosexual role and Maher a more homosexual one, which brought a few hoots. Savage also made what I thought was a telling remark about left-wing versus right-wing pundits (in light of the Pat Robertson fiasco); namely, that left-wingers are snide and sarcastic, but right-wingers are nasty and dangerous (not an exact quote, but close...snide and sarcastic - moi?:-). Something else that came out between the group discussion is that, apparently, these new photos and tapes from Abu Ghraib that have come out must be even more horrific than the last ones (dear God in heaven...).

Now for Cindy Sheehan...she continues to impress me with her courage and forthright attitude. She's definitely bringing some '60s era naiveté to the entire situation as far as I'm concerned, which I believe is truly commendable; I got a kick when Maher referred to her as "the fourth Dixie Chick." I think that there is not a self-glorifying bone in her body, though I was a bit startled to hear her admit that she was glad Bush didn't meet with her because of the momentum generated for the peace movement (maybe I shouldn't be, though). I was glad to hear her say that, not only do they want our forces back from Iraq now, they want to make sure this never happens again (amen, sister...hello, Democratic Party, are you catching this?). The only bad thing was when I heard that Al Sharpton is coming down to meet with her (as I said, the Dems are totally missing the boat on this - it's pathetic that Sharpton is the only outside "name" figure giving her support).

Kinky Friedman was funny, making a joke out of his campaign, though I think he's serious about getting the 50,000 signatures to get his name on the ballot (and Huckabee chimed in with a joke also about being I said, the guy is far from a typical Repug).

Best line: In the "New Rules" segment with Maher telling Exxon, Chevron, etc. to stop sounding so benign to the public, Maher said that, "oil company executives are just like seagulls because both would steal a french fry from a baby."

If I can recall other stuff from the show, I'll post it here.

The Bitch Of Bombast

I read this and this and this concerning the female right-wing criminal who, as I noted elsewhere on this page, once said Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the offices of the New York Times instead of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City (setting the precedent, as far as I'm concerned, for other right wingers including Pat Robertson to publicly state that they wanted to kill somebody), and I immediately recalled this quote from David Podvin on The Smirking Chimp last year (Daniel Pearlstine and Time should feel particularly stupid right about now for writing a cover story on her).

Ann Coulter is not merely eighty pounds of toxic sewage wrapped in six feet of reptile skin - she is the vicious ghoul that remains after conservatism has been scrubbed of its camouflage. Satan's concubine has been vocal in her belief that torturing anyone identified as the enemy is good, and that torturing them using the most excruciating techniques is better. Coulter is not alone in the desire to feast on human suffering. Although she is considerably less circumspect than other right wingers, it is instructive that not one prominent conservative has repudiated her.
Update: At least this is a step in the right direction (courtesy of The Huffington Post).

Update (again, 10/24/05): Some people never learn...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Check Your Math, Ricky

Today's great Inquirer Letter #2 (and I am DEFINITELY glad to give this a plug - I wasn't familiar with THIS big lie)...

In an Aug. 10 interview on National Public Radio with Ed Gordon (archived for listening on NPR's Web site) U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa) made the argument that affirmative action is a "government set-aside program" that "benefits a very small number of African Americans" and is "on the way out." Portraying the Republican Party as the victim of an unfair media, he asserted that "more Republicans, by the way, voted for the Voting Rights Act, voted for the Civil Rights Act, than Democrats did."

Let's look at the votes. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed the House with 217 Democratic and 111 Republican votes. In the Senate, the tally was 49 Democratic and 30 Republican votes. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with 152 Democratic and 138 Republican votes in the House, and 46 Democratic and 27 Republican votes in the Senate.

So on neither act and in neither chamber did more Republicans vote for passage than Democrats.

I hope that now that Sen. Santorum has been informed of the truth, he will not make that false claim again.

Stephen J. Ferenchick
You would hope so, Mr. Ferenchick. But of course, we're talking about Scumbag Santorum, so anything is possible.

Everyday No Bennies

Today's great Inquirer Letter #1...

Andrew Cassel's Aug. 21 column "From Nielsen to Wal-Mart" ignores some inconvenient facts.

He writes that Wal-Mart has fought unionization of its employees, "which is their right," while they have "declined" to join unions. In fact, there are numerous complaints before the National Labor Relations Board that Wal-Mart has used illegal tactics of intimidation to prevent its employees from unionizing.

Cassel argues that there's nothing wrong with Wal-Mart expecting its employees to rely on government programs for health care. He presents the situation as a choice between paying for Wal-Mart employees' health care with public funds versus paying for it with higher prices, which would be borne by Wal-Mart's customers. But the taxpayer money that pays for the government programs not only helps keep Wal-Mart prices low, it also enriches Wal-Mart executives and stockholders through high profits. This creates a disincentive for corporations in general to pay living wages and health benefits.

Glenn Frantz

The Defense Secretary You Have

Whispers (Getting Louder)...

You've probably heard that John McCain is going to meet with Bushco in Crawford this weekend. Maybe Rummy is going to get shown the door in an effort to boost Dubya. Gee, I'd so miss his squint, clipped speech and snarly, combative attitude, wouldn't you (to say nothing of his clueless job performance)?

We'll see.

Pass it on...

Chuck Taylor Hi-Tops For Me

I had meant to critique a column I read today, but I couldn’t find a link for it. Oh well, luckily this Guest Opinion appeared in the Courier Times today from teacher Robert Chesbro (yep, continuing to dump on Dubya…so many reasons).

I almost keeled over in my Eggs Benedict when I read Suzanne Fields’ “Reviving middle class values.” Although difficult to discern after several reads, Fields’ premise was that middle class values are in decline, apparent by the clothing choices of some youngsters today, and that this has certain negative affects on black communities and society as a whole.

Her case in point is the foot attire adorned by the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse players on their visit to the White House. I agree with Fields that even in the presence of the former drug and alcohol abuser that 49 percent of us tolerate as our “mandated” president, I would at least look somewhat respectable. Although if ever there were a president deserving of inappropriately dressed guests it would certainly be Bush.

I agree with Fields that certain clothes should be worn for certain occasions. For example, I would not wear my flight suit to a photo-op promoting the end of a war if the war were not over, and I would not wear my fluffy L.L. Bean down jacket with the detachable fuzzy hood to an Auschwitz memorial as our vice president did.

Her argument breaks down when she insists that Bush must have more credibility than Clinton because he keeps his coat on in the White House. This is like saying a fish likes water if it wears a hat; it makes no sense whatsoever. Fields, in her right-wing diatribe, should apply the same scrutiny to members of her party as well as Clinton.

Fields would undoubtedly advocate proper public behavior and must therefore apply her rationale to Jenna Bush’s antics, who was seen sticking her tongue out to reporters in St. Louis. She must also apply this rationale to the parents that raised this child, the father of whom was recently seen extending his middle finger to a camera, or mumbling to his cohort the infamously distasteful description of a reporter at a press conference years ago. And what about Cheney’s use of the f-word on the Senate floor?

What is most offensive about Fields’ piece is that she ignores the elephant in the room. Has Fields failed to see that the administration of Bush has launched some of the most immoral tactics in the history of politics, all shamefully capitalizing on the aftermath of 9-11?

Bush also coerced Congress into a unilateral approach to international policy by which a prescribed war in Iraq was launched on the premise of phantom weapons of mass destruction. What’s more immoral: lying about sex with a White House intern, or lying to 600 million people to the tune of nearly 2,000 American bodies and $184 billion, and then smearing the credibility of those that demand more integrity?

Fields should be scrutinizing the antics of the White House residents, not its guests. Shouldn’t the Bush Administration be setting examples for moral conduct, like trustworthiness and acceptance of alternative viewpoints, especially if they use moral values and education as a political platform?

With the pathetically immoral corporate criminals that comprise the quasi-fascist regime controlling the United States, it’s no wonder values are declining. What’s the point of adhering to sound moral principles when nice guys finish last, and Karl Rove walks away clean? In the words of Fields: “It’s so sick.”

Save Our Bases!

Good news on the local base-closing front (from the Inquirer: hopefully, this will benefit Willow Grove Air Base – we should know soon)…

A federal judge handed those hoping to save Willow Grove Naval Air Station a significant victory this afternoon, ruling that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must get Gov. Rendell's approval before disbanding the base's Air National Guard unit.

Even before the Base Closure and Realignment Commission could vote on the fate of Willow Grove, U.S. District Judge John Padova ruled in favor of Rendell's position that he, not the Pentagon, is in charge of the 111th Fighter Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, the main unit at Willow Grove.

The judge further ruled that "the portion of the BRAC (Department of Defense) report that recommends deactivation of the 111th Fighter Wing ... is null and void."

The 111th flies A-10 attack jets.

The base closure committee in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, was just nearing the part of its agenda where it was scheduled to take up the Willow Grove closure. The impact of the judge's ruling on the commission was not yet clear.
And nationwide (also from the Inquirer)…

WASHINGTON - The base closing commission voted Friday to keep open Air Force bases in South Dakota and New Mexico - rejecting the Pentagon's plans to close them - as the panel labored toward conclusion of a politically delicate task that has brought alternating sighs of relief and exasperation in communities across America.

Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota would remain fully operational and Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico would stay open - at least until Dec. 31, 2009 - but lose all of its aircraft.

The decisions cheered in the base's home states were setbacks for Pentagon leaders.

The Ellsworth vote was a blessing for South Dakotans who feared losing some 4,000 jobs and a victory for Sen. John Thune and the state's other politicians who lobbied vigorously to save the base. Thune, a freshman Republican, unseated then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle partly on the strength of his claim that he would be better positioned to help save the base.

"This fight was not about me," Thune said just after the vote. "This whole decision was about the merits. It had nothing to do with the politics."
Right, and I’m the tooth fairy – if it involves Bushco, it involves politics. Someone in that cabal must read The Daily Kos, though, because he was posting about this earlier in the week. The bottom line, though, is that jobs are saved, and politically, I don’t care if that benefits Dems, Repugs, or both.

I came across a story that provides more background from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (here). I thought the very last paragraph was a bit curious in this one:

Though the focus of yesterday's hearing was the impact of base closings on homeland security, all invited Homeland Security Department officials, including Secretary Michael Chertoff, declined to testify.
I wonder why? Chertoff is the guy who said a few weeks ago that DHS has to decide whether to devote resources to preventing attacks from planes that could kill 3,000 people versus a train or subway attack that could kill 30, or words to that effect, and I immediately took issue with him on that claim. It’s curious to me, and a bit startling actually, that Chertoff wouldn’t speak up regarding the impact of base closings on the safety of the affected communities.

Update: Damn! (may have to register). Maybe the Air National Guard will be saved by the ruling.

Never forget that Bushco was responsible for this. Given that, even with the problems the Dems have, why would you EVER vote for a Repug again?

Bambi On The Run

From the “Air America” Web site (re: “Hundreds Of National Park Officials Protest New Rules”)

Proposed revisions of National Park policy have created a furor among present and former park officials who say the changes will weaken protections of natural resources and wildlife while allowing an increase in commercial activity.

"They are changing the whole nature of who we are and what we have been, I hope the public understands that this is a threat to their heritage. It threatens the past, the present and the future. It's painful to see this." said J.T. Reynolds, superintendent of
Death Valley National Park.

The Bush administration official pushing the changes is
Paul Hoffman, appointed in 2002 as deputy assistant secretary of the Interior, and was formerly the director of the Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyoming.

The controversy is yet
another attack by the administration on our national parks; including diverting up to 28% of park funding to 'anti-terrorism activities and competitive sourcing studies', and misleading the public on scientific issues.
As long as we're exploring Bushco's environmental policy, I should republish the following item from the old site (gives me a good excuse). This is a Guest Opinion from the Bucks County Courier Times written by Deborah Colgan, R.N., in response to a writer named Robin Hoy who voted for Dubya last November because she was under the mistaken impression that a good "christian" man of such "moral values" would take it upon himself to actually exercise sound stewardship of something handed down to him that he doesn't own and is obligated to preserve for future generations.

Robin Hoy’s March 13 Guest Opinion states: “While many of us helped vote Bush into office…(we) did not intend our vote to translate into a green light to harm God’s earth and its creatures.”

Excuse me? Just what did you think Bush was going to do? Voting for Bush declared your approval of his policies. If environmental protection was a concern, as Hoy states, she could never have voted for him. When she cast her ballot in November, Bush’s environmental stand was clearly established.

In 2001, Bush began his assault on the Clean Water Act by relying on flawed studies that claimed regulation of CO2 would be too costly and that CO2 wasn’t covered under the CWA. He suspended a ban on the awarding of contracts to companies that violate federal laws. Bush sought to relax requirements of the Endangered Species Act and considered lifting the ban on the recycling of radioactive waste in consumer scrap metal.

He began his move to weaken CWA rules that required power plants to employ anti-pollution devices when upgrading their facilities – a key rule that would significantly reduce polluting emissions. He proposed relaxing Army Corps of Engineers rules designed to protect streams and wetlands and furthered the opening of protected National Forest lands to road building.

In 2002, Bush announced his Clear Skies initiative that would allow three times the mercury emissions, 50 percent more sulfur and more nitrogen oxide emissions. He slashed toxic waste cleanup funding. He began efforts to exempt the military from federal environmental laws. He took actions to make mountaintop mining easier, which literally removes mountaintops and fills in surrounding streams, completely destroying the habitat.

He further weakened the CWA by redefining areas that are designated as waterways and changed the rules that identified a waterway as polluted. He refused to finalize rules that limited pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), a major point source of pollution.

In 2003, Bush refused to ban the herbicide atrazine, whose presence in our drinking water is a known carcinogen. He continued his practice of eroding protections against mercury in our rivers by using bad scientific data and exempting chlorine plants from emissions restrictions. He exempted some oil and gas drillers from regulations designed to reduce pollution run-offs.

He ordered administration staff to keep quiet on the debate regarding the toxic chemical percholate. He speeded up the process for oil and gas development in order to side-step environmental protection examinations. He lifted the ban on the sale of PCB-contaminated land and he proposed allowing low-level radioactive waste in landfills.

In 2004, with his campaign in full swing, government scientists, as well as 48 Nobel laureates, decried the administration’s practice of ignoring sound scientific advice when developing public policy. The National Council of Churches publicly denounced the administration’s actions that “weaken critical environmental standards.” The White House manipulation of scientific reports on mercury was exposed – language was changed to minimize the real threat of mercury on public health. Bush proposed increasing the amount of selenium releases, a toxic metal known to be poisonous.

The sale of Bureau of Land Management lands for drilling, mining and development were increased. Logging rules that require wildlife populations to be considered in the management of National Forest lands were altered, as well as limiting the process for public input in such decisions. Bush violated an international treaty by allowing certain agribusinesses to continue with the use of methyl bromide, a known contributor to ozone depletion and cancer rates.

And this is only a brief glimpse at Bush’s destructive first-term environmental record.

If someone says they share the tenets of your faith, it doesn’t mean he will act within your personal definition of morality. So be careful if you vote for someone based solely on religious ideology. Ms. Hoy asks, “Whose mandate is this, anyway?” Well, if you voted for Bush, it’s yours.

Such Good Friends

Gee, doesn’t it make you feel good to know that our dear buds the Saudis managed to turn the horror of 9/11 into the beginning of a period of prosperity by divesting from us as much as they could? Why, it seems like only yesterday when Henry Kissinger and his pals hooked up with these characters to make each other richer than they already were. Now, the Saudis (through a combination of deceit, cleverness, and our own greed and stupidity) are venturing elsewhere and leaving us to try and manage a war in Iraq with no end in sight and an economy barely producing wealth for the have-mores and doing very little else.

(Oops, I forgot to mention how the Saudis bankrolled all kinds of foreign “intelligence” escapades for us during the Reagan Administration, who could conveniently pass the buck to Bill Casey when it all hit the fan on account of the fact that he was dead. If you don’t believe me, fine; read “Veil” by Bob Woodward, and you see what I mean).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

John Roberts Update

P.U., this guy looks stinkier all the time, doesn't he?

More than 80,000 people signed on to our Freedom of Information request for all the work done by Supreme Court nominee John Roberts on 16 crucial cases during his tenure in the first Bush administration's Office of the Solicitor General. This week we delivered your signatures -- tens of thousands of them -- as part of our request.

So what will we learn if the Bush stonewall ends and the Department of Justice fulfills our FOIA request? We'll know what John Roberts actually thought about the vital Constitutional issues at stake in each of the 16 cases. We'll get his unvarnished opinion, expressed in the memos he wrote to the people he worked with every day.

Once we know what he thought of these issues, we'll know more about the kind of Supreme Court Justice he will make. Will John Roberts fight to protect our most fundamental freedoms? Or will he advocate a narrow, partisan interpretation of the Constitution that strips Americans of our rights or erodes the progress we have made?

Just looking at the public record, you can discern a pattern of hostility to civil rights. Here are a few of the cases we requested information on:

Metro Broadcasting v FCC (1990)
Roberts argued against letting the FCC use affirmative action in distributing broadcast licenses. This case was a rare instance of the Solicitor General stepping in to block an action of the federal government to increase opportunity.

Board of Education of Oklahoma City v Dowell (1991)
In a brief signed by John Roberts, the Solicitor General's office argued against a court ruling that ordered a school district to prevent racial segregation. Roberts's brief opposed the efforts of African American families to argue that Oklahoma schools would become segregated again.

Freeman v Pitts (1992)
Roberts signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn a lower-court decision that required a Georgia school district to ensure its schools were fully desegregated.

Lee v Weisman (1992)
Roberts filed a Supreme Court brief arguing that a school district should be permitted to invite clergy to lead public prayers at a graduation ceremony.

Voinovich v Quilter (1993)
Roberts co-authored a brief supporting an Ohio redistricting plan that minority voters said violated the Voting Rights Act by concentrating minority voters in a small number of districts.

What little we know about John Roberts's record on civil rights is troubling -- at the very least. In his work in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, he demonstrated a consistent hostility to efforts to ensure equal opportunity and justice as guaranteed to every American under our Constitution. But there's more that we just don't know. That's why we need the full story.

The Bush Administration now has less than 20 days to respond to our FOIA request. We'll continue to update you as we learn more, and tell you about some of the other important issues covered in the cases we requested.

Thank you for your support,
Tom McMahon
Executive Director
Oh, and by the way, I think these characters are just more Repug shock troops. I'd really like to know more about their credentials; the CNN story gets into that a little bit, but not much. The key is this language:

(Jennifer) Braceras and others referenced recent opposition to Roberts' nomination voiced by liberal activist organizations such as People for the American Way. Those groups' attacks on Roberts, Braceras said, "are as predictable as the sunrise and as preposterous as the man in the moon."

She dismissed PFAW President Ralph Neas' comment this week that Roberts would try to turn back the clock on civil rights as a boilerplate radical agenda attack that special interest groups would make on any Bush nominee.

"The truth is that, contrary to the cartoon-like portrayals of John Roberts by special interest groups, John Roberts is a fair-minded jurist who will judge each case on its own merits," Braceras said.

Braceras is a Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Of course she is. This is just another orchestrated attack on people who actually have the unmitigated gall to disagree with Our Grand High Exalter Leader, President 36 Percent Mandate, just like the omnivores (note to anonymous poster: not a bad word) confronting Cindy Sheehan's supporters in California from Free Republic and Moving America Forward ("forward" into what, God only knows).

Thursday Roundup

It looks like tomorrow is the day of decision for Willow Grove Air Base (not holding out much hope, to be honest, knowing Bushco as we do…maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised). Also, Connecticut has had a good week between challenging “No Child Left Behind” and saving the New London submarine base…congrats to them.

Marie Cocco sized up John Roberts pretty well in her most recent column, I thought (how could we have expected anything different, and what a tool to tell Reagan not to appoint Sandra Day O’Connor, by the way).

Interesting stuff at The Chimp today, comparing the U.S. with Great Britain at the height of its power (here)…Molly Ivins on Karl Rove and Plame-gate…Cenk Uygur (who is rising fast up my list of fave columnists) weighs in on Bush’s approval rating vs. Clinton (and Nixon’s while Watergate was raging, interestingly enough)…and finally, this details something in the “No Child Left Behind” scam that may be too far “under the radar” to get noticed, so I’m pointing it out here (Salasin should check on former Defense Secretary William Cohen, because if he even served in the military at all, I’m sure he wasn’t a general).

A Repug After All?

I’ve admired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in the past for his rulings and his outspoken nature, because I usually think he’s right (he was dead-on in his assessment of the court’s performance in the Florida vote recount in November 2000, for example).

However, this particular quote from a recent speech in Las Vegas concerns me (as documented in "The Waah" as Atrios calls it...couldn't find any lamenting of poor, victimized Judy Miller today):

His own view (concerning the Connecticut "eminent domain" decision), Justice Stevens told the Clark County Bar Association, was that "the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials."
(Yes, I know I initially defended the eminent decision in a half-hearted way because I thought, based on the way the judges ruled, that they would rather let private entities have the right of eminent domain than the federal government, and in this particular case, Stevens and the majority thought it was an appropriate use. However, upon further reading and consideration, I realize what a bad precedent the Supremes set by this, though I expect that another case will one day make it to a hearing with them and they will rule in such a way as to invalidate the initial decision and probably create a new set of problems in the process.)

I think Stevens, at this stage of the game, is trying to just play the “elder statesman” and go out being loved by all (go ahead and rip the death penalty – that plays well). In a way, I can’t blame him, but in the process, I hope he doesn’t accidentally give aid and comfort to all of the right-wing zanies trying to get Roberts confirmed to “the show.”

Randy "Old Europe" Gets Down!

I highly recommend the travel videos by Rick Steves if you ever come across them in a bookstore, video seller, or some online service. He goes to some obscure locations in his journeys and really digs for some out-of-the-way treasures and gives you, I think, the best overview of the local culture and history that he can.

I’m giving him a plug because I came across an editorial he wrote in today’s issue of USA Today which continues to be timely under these dark days of Bushco dominance, with these fundamentalist crazies getting WAY too much media attention (re: James Dobson writing a book that supposedly teaches your son how not to be gay, Pat Robertson and his lunacy – and by the way, I could care less that he apologized; he would never have done so if he hadn’t been called on his outrageous behavior).

Memo to Bushco, by the way: note what Steves does when he sees that a TV is showing a program that is objectionable to him because he doesn't want his kids to see it. He turns it off and takes it out of the room. It's called using your brain and exercising parental judgment. We're capable of doing this ourselves; we don't need you or your fundamentalist hypocrites to make up our minds for us in that regard.

The Uncle Sam Collection Agency

Looks like a lot of people are trying to declare before Bushco sics Silvio and Paulie Walnuts on you with the brass knuckles and truncheons (a “Sopranos” reference for the uninitiated).

And this column from Molly Ivins reminds us just what a reprehensible piece of garbage this law truly is.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Eat Up, Red Staters

I came across this a few minutes ago from the AP again (made it to today's Inquirer after all)...

U.S. puts on more weight, mainly in the South

Of all states surveyed, only Oregon didn't get fatter between 2002-04. All fell well short of federal goals.

By Kevin Freking
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Like a lot of people, the nation's weight problem is settling below its waistline. The states with the highest percentages of obese adults are mostly in the South: Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana and Tennessee.
Kickin' back too many "Little Debbie's" while watching those tractor pulls on "Spike" TV in between country music videos, ah reckon...

In the entire nation, only Oregon isn't getting fatter.

Over the 2002-04 period, 22.7 percent of U.S. adults were obese, up slightly from 22 percent for 2001-03, the advocacy group Trust for America's Health reported yesterday, citing data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yes, I'm aware that this is a legitimate issue pertaining to diet and lifestyle, and I'm really not trying to trivialize it. It's just that this article poses the problem and then presents a "solution" that...well, let me put it this way; calling it "simplistic" is being kind.

Alabama had the biggest increase. Its obesity rate rose 1.5 percentage points to 27.7 percent.

Pennsylvania ranked 15th among the states in obesity, at 24 percent, and New Jersey ranked 40th at 20.3 percent.

Oregon held steady at 21 percent, and Hawaii was not included in the group's report, "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2005."
Catchy title - sounds like Bushco putting our tax dollars to work for us again.

While certain regions of the country fared worse than others, particularly the Southeast, the organization said no state met the federal government's goal of a 15 percent obesity rate for adults by 2010.
"2010," huh? Wasn't Roy Scheider in that one? Well, you know what they say - the sequel usually isn't as good as the original anyway.

An adult with a body mass index - body weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared - of 30 or more is considered obese. The measurement is not a good indicator of obesity for muscular people who exercise a lot.

"Bulging waistlines are growing and it's going to cost taxpayers more dollars regardless of where you live," said Shelley Hearne, executive director of Trust for America's Health.
Families and children are hungry, and that's going to cost taxpayers more dollars also, though filling that need is a genuinely worthy cause. However, it's easier to produce a scare headline with a dramatic-sounding quote like this, so there you are.

Why the geographic patterns? Experts don't have any one clear answer. Some suggest urban sprawl plays a role. Others say it is easier to find a burger and fries than apples and asparagus in poor communities.
Assuming that's true (and it very well may be), how about doing some genuine reporting and try to find out why?

Delia West, a professor of public health in Arkansas, said demographics play a part. The South has a larger percentage of minorities, who have shown an increased risk for obesity, West said. She said Southerners also tend to lead a more sedentary lifestyle than their counterparts in states such as Colorado or Oregon. People will find fewer jogging trails in Little Rock than in Denver, she said.

Also, the Southern diet probably plays a role, said West, a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

"We know the difference between purple hulled peas and speckled butter beans," she said. "But we make them with bacon fat or salt pork, so even though we're getting the micronutrients, it often comes laden with these extra calories."
The left hand defeating the purpose of the right again, I see. That's what I like about the South.

Hearne said the United States is stuck in a "debate limbo" about how to confront obesity. She urged government action on several fronts, such as ensuring that land-use plans promote physical activity, that school lunch programs serve more healthful meals, and that Medicaid recipients have access to subsidized fitness programs, such as aerobics classes at the local YMCA.
All good ideas.

OK, now here is where it gets interesting (and this is why I bothered to post this). I don't know where they drug up this character from, but I can guarantee you that if he came from The Cato Institute, then he's another one of these professional know-it-alls who probably read "Atlas Shrugged" at some point or went to a Dale Carnegie course and considered one or both to be life-altering experiences, became a Republican if he wasn't already, and then decided that anyone in the world who wasn't just like him was automatically wrong.

Radley Balko, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said he was wary of the call for more government action on obesity. The institute is a think tank that prefers free-market approaches to problems.
Oh yes, it's all that bad, bad government's fault, isn't it? I mean, the free market has produced such wonders, hasn't it, such as mass airline bankruptcies, lax adherence to safety regulations in every industry you can name, massive offshoring of jobs, fouling of the environment, and consolidation and concentration of media monopolies. Sure, the free market; that's the ticket!

"I think obesity is a very personal issue," Balko said. "What you eat and how often you exercise, if that comes within the government's purview, it's difficult to think of what's left that isn't."
No it isn't, but you're saying that to try and scare people, like this Freaking guy did earlier in the story. Nice try.

Health policy analysts say obesity increases the burden on taxpayers, because it requires the Medicare and Medicaid programs to cover the treatment of diseases caused by obesity. The report issued yesterday said taxpayers spent $39 billion in 2003 to treat conditions attributable to obesity.
Do these "health policy analysts" have names or affiliations? Or are they one-eyed, incandescent microbes from the planet Zorblatt spewing love spores into the ionosphere?

(Sorry, too much coffee...time for a fistful of Xanax again.)

It is not clear that the government really knows how to persuade people to make better decisions, Balko said. He said open-ended entitlement programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, don't provide much of a financial incentive for people to watch their weight.
No, but they do provide a safety net (growing smaller all the time) for patients dealing with severe or life-threatening illness or physical pain (oh, I forgot...have to let the free market do everything again, right. Drat that burdensome instinct of compassion again!).

The government just picks up the cost of treating diseases for those patients, regardless of the amounts, he (Balko) said.

He said he preferred that the government give Medicaid and Medicare recipients an incentive to open medical savings accounts, which would allow them to save money when they do not access the health-care system.

"If they knew they only had so much to spend, or what they did not spend could be saved," Balko said, "then maybe you could instill a certain sense of responsibility and ownership."
Oh mah god...typical Repug boilerplate again. Savings accounts, savings accounts...WHAT THE HELL GOOD DO THEY DO WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE THE MONEY TO PUT INTO THE ACCOUNT! And people who don't eat right don't have "a certain sense of responsibility and ownership"? You sanctimonious jackoff!

If you're interesting in hearing a serious answer, here it is. People don't eat or exercise right because of the stress of juggling jobs and family lives in some cases. In others, it's because bad eating habits are highly desired by the fast food and pharma industries, since the profitability of both are enhanced. In still other situations, people just make "dumb as meatloaf" decisions about diet and exercise.

I know, as a parent, juggling time to eat, among other things, comes with the territory. But here is what I remember growing dad worked, my mom stopped working for a few years to take care of my brothers and I until we got older, then she went back to work, my dad worked pretty regular hours, we went to school at regular hours, and WE ATE AT REGULAR HOURS. We were blessed and lucky to be sure, but we were also typical in this regard.

Give people good jobs so they don't have to work two, three or more jobs in a household to make ends meet (assuming you can even do THAT as things are now), and one of the ripple effects, if you will, will be more family time around the dinner table because everyone will be together. That will have all kinds of good consequences, and eating better is one of them.

But no, you Cato Institute puke, you can create better sound bites and media moments by making it sound like John Q. and Jane American are at fault across the board, right?

Spare me.

Memo To A Horse's Butt

PA political stuff coming up (consider yourself warned)…

Boy, did I see red when I read about this (haven’t gotten to the Inquirer yet today, and I don’t know if I will).

So Andy Warren of PennDOT is going to give up his $110,000-a-year job to run for the Democratic nomination to oppose Repug Mike Fitzpatrick in the general election next year for the 8th-district seat in the U.S. Congress, huh? No two-week notice either, I gather (how professional, even for those life forms in Harrisburg).

Warren is an opportunistic turncoat who bailed on the Republican Party to join the Dems. I don’t have a problem with someone leaving the Repugs, but please spare us this phony baloney excuse that you would have “reformed the party from within” if you had risen higher in the Repug ranks. You’re trying to pad your resume by taking a very-ill-advised shot at the U.S. Congress with the only party that will let you do that, and in the process, you’re diluting an already-crowded field of good, decent, and marginal candidates.

All of that being said, Warren is undeserving of holding public office (as opposed to the appointed patronage gig he just stupidly walked out on) because he has one of the worst temperaments for an official that is supposedly representing the public that I have ever seen. Like many major metropolitan communities, major road construction projects have been a fact of life in this area for as long as I can remember, and whenever a story appeared in a newspaper about it (usually documenting driver frustrations along with other information), you could bet that Andy Warren would be quoted representing PennDOT with some incendiary words to get people even more aggravated than they already were (witness the Schuylkill and Route 202 construction projects, anything related to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, etc.).

As proof of what I just said, I offer Exhibit A.

Since I live in Bucks County, it may seem strange for me to side against Warren and support residents in Huntington Valley, PA just outside of Philadelphia in Montgomery County. But I do (and yes, partly because I’m one of those baaad people from Philadelphia who moved out into the pristine hinterlands of Repug dominance).

As background, I should add further that the Woodhaven Road construction project (of which I am personally familiar, because it affects family members and friends of mine), the subject of Warren’s idiotic remarks, has a long a dubious history in this area. It is a consequence of poor-to-nonexistent regional planning and development. Basically, the road is a three-to-four-lane highway in each direction that is forced to abruptly end at Roosevelt Boulevard (part of Route 1).

Two main options have been pursued to improve the road access: 1) building an interchange between Woodhaven and Route 1 and 2) expanding Woodhaven into Montgomery County (the most popular option, with PennDOT anyway). Both of these options have very painful consequences for area businesses and residential communities alike. Every few years, PennDOT announces that they’re going to resurrect this project (in all honesty, something needs to be done to improve traffic flow, but it’s easy for me to say that because I live elsewhere), and every few years, residents and businesses go nuts over it and it gets shelved again (Joe Hoeffel honestly tried to get it moving again and got his nose bloodied over it, and I don’t think Allyson Schwartz is even going to go near it).

So maybe the fact that the Woodhaven Road project could possibly turn the lives of the affected people upside down would tend to make them “less civil,” wouldn’t it? And by the way, with all due respect to the good people in Newtown, Pa., I’ve read of plenty of incidents where they haven’t been very “congenial” (specifically when it comes to development of office complexes near their plush, vernal surroundings).

Don't Ask About RU-486 Either

Also in today’s Bucks County Courier Times is a Guest Opinion from Theresa Strenge, R.N., of Lower Makefield, who lambastes Planned Parenthood and its founder Margaret Sanger as being a racist bigot and a supporter of Hitler. I’m not going to do research into Sanger’s life to try and refute these charges since it’s quite possible Strenge is right. However, Henry Ford also supported Hitler as he documented his philosophies on the workplace, including theories which Hitler and the Nazis parroted in their own propaganda (you can look that up). Does that mean that we should never buy one of his company’s automobiles again? I have my own reasons for avoiding Ford for all time, but the company founder’s philosophy isn’t one of them.

Strenge puts out some genuine crackpot stuff in her screed, saying that government funding of contraception for the poor is “adored by adult male predators,” and she rails against contraception saying that it increases divorce, child abuse, and both teen and unplanned pregnancies without offering a shred of statistical evidence to back up these fantastic claims.

The true goal of Strenge’s column, though, is to extol the virtues of Natural Family Planning. This is of interest to me because I said a week or so ago in a post called “Those Who Can’t Shouldn’t Teach” that NFP is not a means of birth control, but is instead a means to determine the optimum conditions for conception.

Not being a woman or a medical professional, I can’t speak authoritatively on the effects of birth control pills or other forms of contraception. However, I believe it is better for our kids to have the best information and means at their disposal when it comes to issues of physical health, which this is first and foremost. Abstinence is the best policy for many reasons, but if something happens with our kids, they deserve protection instead of being left to fend totally for themselves when it comes to pregnancy and the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. And according to the polling data I see on this subject, the vast majority of the people in this country agree with me.

One more thing: Strenge describes herself as stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years with 6 kids. Hmmm…just a hint of a double standard there, do you think?

Propagandizing Even Unto Death

I couldn’t find the AP link for this one yet, but I’ve included most of this story from today’s Bucks County Courier Times:

ARLINGTON, VA. - Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with “Operation Enduring Freedom” or “Operation Iraqi Freedom” at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere. A mock-up shown to many families includes the operation names.

The vast majority of military gravestones from other eras are inscribed with just the basic, required information: name, rank, military branch, date of death and, if applicable, the war and foreign country in which the person served.

Families are supposed to have final approval over what goes on the tombstones. That hasn’t always happened.

Nadia and Robert McCaffrey, whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq in June 2004, said “Operation Iraqi Freedom” ended up on his government-supplied headstone in Oceanside, California, without family approval.

“I was a little taken aback,” Robert McCaffrey said, describing his reaction when he saw the operation name on Patrick’s tombstone. “They certainly didn’t ask my wife; they didn’t ask me.” He said Patrick’s widow told him she had not been asked either.

“In one way, I feel it’s taking advantage to a small degree,” McCaffrey said. “Patrick did not want to be there, that is a definite fact.”
I truly grieve for the McCaffrey family, and Mr. McCaffrey is showing great understatement, I think. It sickens me almost beyond words to see our young men and women tossed onto the pyre at the altar of Bushco’s unbridled avarice. And to see them continuing to link Iraq with 9/11 – and make no mistake, that is the point of putting these slogans on these markers – makes me just about physically ill.

Next Time, Aim At Charlton Heston

I don’t know who is a bigger idiot in this story, Judge Paul D. Lewis or Boston mayor Thomas Menino.

The kid was definitely stupid to fire a loaded .38-caliber handgun on a street corner, but he is developmentally disabled with no prior record, and he handed over the gun to the police without resistance.

Gee, maybe we should try something which is admittedly more difficult, and that would be to do something to actually control the flow of gun traffic so this kid never has an opportunity to break the law to begin with. Of course, this will meet with the predictable hue and cry from all of the hardcore types worrying about whether or not they’ll be able to hunt quail and pheasant in their backyards any more if straw purchases are made illegal or one-gun-a-month is passed into law.

I’m not unsympathetic to Judge Lewis and Mayor Menino. It’s just that they’re looking for an easy fix for a problem made complicated by a noisy special interest group. Also, if this kid is incarcerated for any length of time, he will become a statistic in the corrections system that we’ll probably have to end up providing for into his adult life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Run, Dubya, Run

Is it just me, or have others noticed a lot of stories surfacing lately about how Dubya is this big fitness fanatic? And I should care...why?

If he were as big as William Howard Taft and subsisted on a diet of Yoo Hoo and cheese twists, I wouldn't care (I'd be all for it if it actually helped him demonstrate basic competence on the job).

With this in mind, I'd like to present this from USA Today sports columnist Ian O'Connor (makes some great points).

"God, is this guy ever going to do anything but dump on Bush?" some right-wing die hards out there may be wondering. Let me answer that as succinctly as I can.


Black Gold Roundup

I know Outsourced America referred to USA Today as "America's Coloring Book," but sometimes they do come up with good stuff. Under the headline for this article titled, "Oil Money Up To No Good," I found this little tidbit:

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Saudis met U.S. demands by ending government support for Islamic charities linked to terrorism. But individuals in the kingdom continue to send cash to groups that support anti-American terrorists.

"We know wealthy Saudis are funding terror. With higher oil prices, they just have more money to do so," Bronson says.
Starting that war in Iraq looks smarter and smarter all the time, doesn't it? Let me see now...where was it that 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists came from again (with another anniversary coming up soon, of course)? No, don't tell me, I'm keen to guess.

Oh, and I JUST KNOW Pat Robertson will be interested in reading THIS part (and Bushco slapped him down for saying in public what the true goal towards Chavez is in private).

Soaring oil prices also are causing problems closer to U.S. shores. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, flush with record oil revenue, is sending subsidized oil shipments to Cuba's Fidel Castro and increasing military spending. Earlier this month, Venezuela announced a purchase of long-range surveillance radars from China. The U.S. has accused Chavez of funneling arms to leftist rebels in neighboring Colombia, which he denies.

At home, Chavez has lavished oil money on his constituents in Venezuela's poorest neighborhoods. Through "Mission Mercal," a network of government-run groceries, Chavez provides half-priced food to more than 10 million people.

The social largesse cements the president's political standing. But economists such as Claudio Loser, former head of the IMF's Western Hemisphere department, say such spending can't continue indefinitely. Already, inflation is galloping at 18% annually and is expected to hit 25% next year.
Also, it turns out that, according to this article, China, having just been jilted in a bid to buy Unocal, is trying to buy a major oil producer in Kazakhstan for $4.2 billion, though they're getting competition from India on this. I guess they both need all the power they can get, since it looks like China will be building the PCs and India will be writing all the code for them (Eckert and Mauchly must be doing somersaults in their graves right about now).

In Case You Thought I Forgot

(I haven't said anything about Plame-gate either because there isn't much to say. Arianna Huffington has been absolutely relentless on Judith Miller, which is richly deserved - they should give out Pulitzers for blogging, since Arianna would definitely qualify. I still think there's stuff going on behind the scenes to try and get Fitzgerald to lay off Rove and Libby also, but we'll see.)

Before he went down last week, Harry Reid scoffed at the notion that it was a foregone conclusion that John Roberts would be confirmed to the Supreme Court, with Reid cautioning that the hearings and screening process, if you will, still had a long way to go. What follows is both part of that process and a description of how we can help move that process along.

I wrote to you last week about being a part of a Freedom of Information Act request to be filed today. As it stands now, 60,945 people will be formally requesting the release of the most important documents about the record of John Roberts, President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court.

We are preparing the request right now to be filed by close of business today. If you would like to be a part of the formal request, please add your name

The request, which you can read by clicking on that link, will be submitted to the Department of Justice because it pertains to Roberts's time as a high-level appointee in the office of the Solicitor General.

In that office, Roberts worked on dozens of cases that were argued before the Supreme Court. Yet administration officials refuse to release records on 16 key cases that offer the best possible view of how Roberts would handle the most crucial issues facing the nation's highest court.

They have tried to muddy the waters by dumping on the press and the public tens of thousands of pages of far less useful material -- while ignoring a specific request from Senators for all information on these 16 key cases.

The scope of the request was limited to these 16 cases in order to make the review of this nomination as smooth as possible, but the administration has responded by stonewalling and preventing the Senate from getting the full Roberts record.

These 16 cases each have an impact on our basic freedoms: civil rights, equal opportunity for all, women's rights, our right to privacy, and access to justice. Senators -- and ordinary Americans -- need to know whether Roberts will be a guardian of these fundamental freedoms or an ideological activist.

A lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court deserves full consideration of the nominee's record. Please consider
formally joining this request:

The administration is obliged to respond within twenty days to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, and I will continue to update those who join the request on its progress.

Thank you for your consideration.

Joseph E. Sandler
General Counsel
Democratic National Committee

I'll Miss That Voice well as the great actor and person behind it.

(P.S. - Cigarettes often have a link to pancreatic cancer, another reason to throw them away once and for all.)

Score One For A Blue State

According to an AP report today, Connecticut filed suit challenging the unfunded mandates of Bushco’s “No Child Left Behind” PR stunt, arguing that Dubya should either fork over the dough to implement the so-called “reforms” or give up the mandates altogether. As you can imagine, this met with the requisite hard-line posturing from Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who doesn’t seem to know much about education as far as I can see, but does know how to attack a PBS cartoon series and placate her frothing-at-the-mouth Repug conservative base.

Good for those brie-eating, white-wine-spritzer-sipping, L.L. Bean-docker-khaki-and-cotton-pullover-shirt-wearing politically androgynous intellectuals (I hope Christopher Shays appreciates the tongue-in-cheek characterization).

(I actually attended a few days of training for one of my late-but-definitely-not-lamented former employers a few miles west of Hartford, and I found Connecticut to be an odd state geographically. I drove up Route 15 en route to MA once, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. However, in the area where I attended my training, it was an odd mix of big-box retail clutter, hills with two-lane roads leading into thick woods a la “Deliverance,” and I-95 that went on for days. It definitely had a "Twilight Zone" kind of feel to it.)

Back to the story - as a refresher, I should point out that Spellings inherited her job from Rod Paige, who originally came with Dubya to the White House after rigging test scores in the Houston school district to comply with requirements in Texas, which devised a similar con job as NCLB (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose have thoroughly investigated this whole issue, both in their book “Bushwhacked,” which I recommend and more voters should have read before the 2004 election, and in articles written for The Texas Observer – here is a sample).

This link from the Christian Science Monitor provides more background, as well as this from the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages. Finally, Dick Meyer of CBS News wrote this over two years ago, but I believe what he says still holds true today.

Update 8/25: Richard Blumenthal is my hero for standing up to that b...oh, wait a minute; I guess I'd better not use bad words or else another anonymous commentor will take me to task again without commenting on the susbstance of what I'm saying...that not nice person Margaret Spellings regarding the No Child Left Behind scam (yes, I am trying to bring people together if I can...RATIONAL people, that is).

Demagoguery 101

I know it’s pointless to point out what an utter whack job and hypocrite Pat Robertson is for recently stating that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez should be assassinated (see, according to Robertson, it would be so much easier and simpler to just go kill him than to start another war, since, well, gosh, he poses a threat to us, doesn’t he?…curious words from a “man of God”). It’s also a bit of a waste of time because Atrios and Media Matters for America have been all over this already in typically expert fashion.

However, in his statement, Robertson recalled one of my pet peeves when he said this:

... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly.
This Wikipedia link gives the proper background on what Robertson is referring to.

As you can read from the link, the Doctrine was stated by our fifth President, James Monroe, in a response to further attempted colonization of our new country by European powers. And actually, the idea for the Doctrine didn’t even come from Monroe, but from John Quincy Adams, Monroe’s secretary of state who would succeed Monroe as president. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison wanted Monroe to side with England, but Adams was worried about Russian intervention also (having served as a foreign secretary in that country back then) as well as Mexico, which was a much more powerful country back then. Adams said we should basically just tell everybody to mind their own business, and we would do the same in their affairs, not seeing the sense in making permanent allegiances with anyone (though we were buds, usually, with the British Navy for all the years of their dominance).

To further clarify what Robertson was trying to say (spending WAY too much time trying to make sense of the words of a crazy person, but what are you gonna do?), I should point out that he was, in fact, referring to the Roosevelt Corollary of the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that we have “the right to intervene in Latin American affairs.” However, that was reversed by the Clark Memorandum of 1930, which stated that we had no right to use military force against those nations.

Of course (and you can file this under the “law of unintended consequences”), our government has been supporting all manner of interventions in Central America and the Caribbean region for decades "on the sly" to abide by the Clark legal requirement (also noted in the surprisingly up-to-date Wikipedia article, with aiding the Contras in Nicaragua as well as guerillas in El Salvador as some of the most notorious examples).

So, let’s review:

1) By referring to the Monroe Doctrine, Robertson is recalling something from an entirely different context and point in our country’s history when we were trying to establish ourselves and keep other countries from taking us over.
2) He’s really referring to the Roosevelt Corollary, which was invalidated by the Clark Memorandum anyway.
3) He at least could be discrete enough to keep his mouth shut and pay someone in Venezuela to pop Chavez if he wanted to, since the Clark Memorandum never said anything about that (e.g., didn’t foresee all of the CIA antics to get rid of Fidel Castro, who nobody likes anyway, though you can’t just violate a country’s sovereignty whenever you feel like it, a lesson Bushco obviously never learned)
Oh, and one more thing. I seem to recall a great deal of outrage, and rightly so, among most of the somewhat civilized and developed world when the Islamist crazies issued the fatwa on Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses. Well, doesn’t this qualify as a fatwa by Robertson on Chavez?

Cenk Uygur of The Huffington Post apparently agrees with me.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The MSM Assault Continues

Since the Philadelphia Inquirer isn't going to publish my Letter To The Editor in response to right-wing Repug shock troop Robert Day (I think the guy lives out in Chester County somewhere..I don't remember exactly where, but it would fit), I'll do so here.

In the matter of Cindy Sheehan and opponents of the Iraq War who support her, what evidence does Robert Day have that Michael Moore or any left-leaning politician or media celebrity is "actually helping to promote the terrorist cause"? If so, has he contacted the U.S. State Department or federal or local law enforcement agencies? How can he presume to know that Cindy Sheehan's son Casey, a fatality of the war, would disapprove of his mother's actions?

Why do Mr. Day and like-minded conservatives continually recycle the beyond-tired boilerplate of "dealing with the threat in Iraq rather than Philadelphia or New York"? How many times must it be proven that Iraq had no connection to 9/11 and terrorists can, unfortunately, strike pretty much wherever they want?

Also, Mr. Day states, "even (Sheehan's) family has been reported as saying they do not agree with her." What reporter or news agency reported this, and on what date?

Mr. Day would do well to base his argument in facts instead of supposition provided to him by the Republican National Committee. After all, demagoguery masquerading as intelligent dialogue can do more to "destroy our freedom and our culture" than the legal and peaceful acts of protestors exercising their Constitutional right.
And from supposedly-left-of-center media cipher Froma Harrop comes this mugging (in a fit because she didn't like a chick-friendly CNN newscast including Soledad O'Brien, though I'm glad the network doesn't have that Bill Hemmer or Hummer or Humjob or whatever the hell his name was - I think he went to Faux News, which is appropriate).

(On CNN) There was the obligatory mention of Cindy Sheehan. She is the grieving Army mother who sat outside the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas, and protested the Iraq war.

Sheehan is unaware that her 15 minutes of fame are up. She scored an extra minute or two for recently remarking that "my son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel." That got the notice of pro- and anti-Israel camps, but hastened her ongoing transformation from sad figure to attention-seeking nut. It was over for Cindy, but then her husband filed for a divorce.

The girls (the other newscasters) zeroed in on the divorce. In a kind of news summary, the seriously blond Kelly Wallace read, "A military mother whose son was killed in Iraq appears to be staying strong, despite some more trouble at home." She looks up, and adds, "So some tough news for her." Sighs all around.

Soledad O'Brien raises the possibility that the husband's political opinions might differ from Cindy's, not that any of these newshounds have bothered to ask him. And there's no speculation, much less reporting, on what Casey Sheehan, the son who died, might have thought. At this point, someone at the hair salon would have put down the straightening wand and opined that Casey was, after all, a grownup who had volunteered for duty.
I didn't hear the quote from Sheehan about America and Israel, but would Harrop or anyone else honestly deny that the el nutso right-wing Repug master plan was to turn Iraq into something like a Bushco proxy state so that it could wield the desired influence and take some heat off Israel (not advocating one way or the other for Israel with that comment)?

Of course, I took exception to Harrop's snide derision of Cindy Sheehan. Does Harrop honestly think that, somehow, this is all some kind of ego trip for Sheehan? I'm quite sure Sheehan would rather have her son, husband, and (generally) her life back than be the center of media attention. And of course, as far as Harrop is concerned, I guess Sheehan is supposed to just sit down, shut up, and not bother anyone with what must be her overwhelming grief.

I don't know if Harrop is the parent of a son, but I am (I imagine that she isn't, because if she were, she would have realized how inappropriate it would be to speculate on what she thought Casey Sheehan would have thought of all of this, whether we are talking about a legitimate newscast or a pay-per-view broadcast of the Psychic Friends Network). And I can guarantee you that, if I were in her shoes by some God-forbid horrible turn of events, I'd want to maintain a continuous vigil in the face of the murderer responsible and exact anything I could from this person, and I wouldn't give a damn what any smartass columnist had to say about it.

What Goes Up...

I read about what is going on with Northwest Airlines and had started to write a post about how only airlines in the U.S. have had labor trouble (though British Airways has also, which is uncharacteristic for that carrier), but as I checked around, I found out about similar problems with Quantas, South African Air, Asiana Airlines, etc. So basically, my whole thesis got shot to hell, because it looks like most of the rest of the world is feeling the same pain.

As we know, Northwest is getting squeezed by gas prices, competition, offshoring, residual 9/11 fallout, and other factors, even though other carriers have managed to either turn things around or flourish. One concern is how this is going to impact organized labor, and I think we know the answer to that already. Northwest’s management seems to be pursuing a “divide and conquer” strategy, since the flight attendants didn’t honor the picket line since they knew they’d be fired outright if they did, and the airline wants to do all it can to look favorable to the pilots union in an effort to get them to accept concessions also.

Basically, from what I can see, labor is in full retreat, unfortunately (highlighted by the AFL-CIO split, though the Inquirer’s Jane M. Von Bergen wrote a story about a month ago about how the two unions have reunited locally to work on a construction project in Philadelphia – I meant to link to it, but I never got around to it). I think the split will end up helping the unions in the long run, partly because I think Andy Stern has more of an idea of what has to be done than John Sweeney, who for my money doesn’t quite have the same take on things and trusts the politicians too much instead of bugging them to get their act together on behalf of their true constituency. I think Stern is likely to win out, reunite the unions, and change their tactics. Assuming I’m right, whether or not it would even work remains to be seen.

I mentioned that I didn’t find what I was looking for when I was checking this out online, but I did find this. I think what Shannon Jones says in response to “BG” is food for thought, and it gives you an idea of the mountain we truly face.

(And as if we needed a reminder about why we have to fight this battle at all, consider this.)

(One more thing – if you think there’s a chance in a million that I’ll ever fly on Northwest Airlines after reading this, think again.)

They're Dying For THIS?

That bubblehead Kellyanne Conway also said, the other night on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” that it was hypocritical for us in this country to criticize Iraq for not giving women their rights in the new constitution, equating this denial of basic liberties with the fact that we haven’t elected a woman president in this country, so how do we have the right to say anything (Bill Maher verbally slapped her down for that, by the way, noting Conway’s sleeveless dress and saying, “At least in this country, we have the right to bear (bare) arms” (supply your own rim shot).

Something that is definitely not funny, though, is this item from the Air America site to further refute what Conway said:

US diplomats gave their okay for Islamic law to be enshrined in the Iraq constitution on Saturday. One secular Kurdish politician was dismayed: "We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites," he said. "It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want."
I guess they'll be breaking ground on the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce office in Tehran any day now.

P.S. - The Daily Kos is pillorying Wil Marshall of the DLC and Hillary Clinton today for, shall we say, being "vague" or "standoffish" (or just basically having no guts) in criticizing Bushco on the war. They should turn to who else but David Sirota, who reports that vets in Pensacola, FL interpret criticism of the war as an attack on the policy makers, if you can call them that, and not the forces themselves.

P.P.S. - The only thing more pathetic than Bushco's continued shilling for this war while Dubya's approval ratings sink like a stone is the total inability of the Democrats to capitalize on this situation, as shown in Dick Polman's column (Ed Kilgore epitomizes the bought-and-paid-for DLC establishment, by the way).

Intrusion Is Good Sometimes

Ben Burrows of Elkins Park, Pa is “King For A Day” for this Inquirer Letter To The Editor, as far as I’m concerned:

Re: "A stand that lacks moral authority," commentary, Aug. 18:

As a measure of his own moral bankruptcy, surely there is little to match Jonah Goldberg's attack on Cindy Sheehan, who supported her son's decision to go to war, whose moral stand has already cost her her marriage, and whose tenacity has impressed even those who oppose her.

Goldberg's accusation that Cindy Sheehan is a bully is nonsense. His attempts to justify the "chickenhawk" revolutionaries (who launched the Iraqi adventure) as some kind of heroes would make great material for Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show. His attempt to belittle truth and authenticity (by anchoring it to identity politics) was a truly inspired red herring. His ridicule of Maureen Dowd for writing that the closest bereaved ought to be able to write the epitaphs of their relatives' deaths is tantamount to the intrusiveness that Goldberg and the right inserted into the Terri Schiavo tragedy.

In the end, it will be said that on the brink of success the right squandered a winning hand by betting the house on an inside straight. Goldberg should go home while he still has his pants.
Goldberg is a whack job from way back, as far as I’m concerned. He once ridiculed “Silent Spring” author Rachel Carson for saying that DDT was carcinogenic – Goldberg said it wasn’t and Carson’s claim “was based on inexact science.” It was so laughably easy to prove Goldberg was wrong (by going to the CDC and American Cancer Society web sites) that it was pathetic.

Here is further proof of what Burrows is claiming above, by the way.

Here is still more proof (and support for Cindy Sheehan) from Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

State of Disgrace Continues

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted today that our august legislators in Harrisburg, while voting themselves the now-infamous 16-to-34-percent pay raise, had the opportunity to pass legislation to subsidize life insurance premiums for Pennsylvania National Guard members summoned to active duty, and of course they didn't do it, being the crooks and bottom feeders that they generally are.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PA is one of 21 other states with pending reimbursement legislation. Eight states have already acted and have begun subsidizing the premiums. They are: Georgia (through an income tax credit), Illinois, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington.

I have no information on the other states, but I'll update this post if I find out anything on them.

Republicanus Ignoramus

I caught some of "Real Time With Bill Maher" last night - I missed Paul Hackett subbing for Cindy Sheehan in the beginning, but I heard about 10 minutes of the panel discussion with Chris Rock, Repug pollster Kellyanne Conway, and Repug career-hanger-on Asa Hutchinson.

Chris Rock is great, but he's totally out of his element in these shows because his thing is going off on his own riff with not much of a script to follow. As for Conway, I had to wonder how lobotomized she truly was to keep repeating the Repug script about Iraq..."it took this country years to pass our Constitution, I guess the people who oppose the war want to see Saddam's 'rape rooms' return, Hillary Clinton supported the war," etc. Conway is merely continuing the now-futile sleight of hand on the right in an attempt to fool people into continuing to think that Bushco's war for oil and empire is actually a just cause. It isn't, and it never was, and she should give up. As for Hutchinson, he didn't say much aside from the usual propaganda himself.

(Actually, I have a confession to make: At this point, whenever I hear a Repug speak who has a Southern accent, as Hutchinson does, I tune this person out. I know I'm 'painting with a broad brush,' but guess what? This country had the chance to replace the dim-bulb coward we currently have with qualified but dull-as-dishwater John Kerry, and we know what happened, and the people who helped Dubya return are from the South and the West, and with that in mind, I'd like to bring back this oldie but goodie from last year.)

Another thing - the Bucks County Courier Times stated that approximately 1800 of our people have been killed "in the global struggle against terrorism." No. That represents Iraq, which, as we know, had nothing to do with terrorism against us in the beginning. Our people who have died in Afghanistan, those killed on the Cole, the African embassy bombings, 9/11 of course...THEY were victims of the global struggle against terrorism. The 1800 were victims of the "Blood And Oil" Bushco campaign.

Finally (and make no mistake about this), the price of gas is high because a fraction of it is coming out of Iraq than that which had been planned by Bushco, subsequently driving up the price due to tight supply (another byproduct of both their greed and tragic miscalculations).