Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mea Culpa Again

I just finished teeing off on a phone rep trying to raise money for the Democrats. I apologized in the middle of my rant to this young lady because I know she was told to call me, but I still feel bad. We need all the help we can get, and I here I am stomping over her idealistic impulse to make a difference.

But here’s the reason why I was so steamed. For reasons upon which I don’t care to elaborate, it is a problem for us to receive phone calls from unknown sources, and our record showed that we were receiving, on average, six “unknown source” phone calls a day. This constitutes a nuisance to us. And without even checking, I knew the source of the phone calls was the Democratic Party.

Another reason why I feel bad is that I know the Democrats have to resort to this stuff because they don’t have the resources (re: money) that the Repugs do. The Repugs can just have someone stop by door to door (which actually is illegal in our development) or have a local person, probably a neighbor, stop by, give you their pitch, and ask you to write them a check.

However, I don’t need to tell anyone reading this about the struggle we all face to make ends meet. If I were personally able to toss money to the Dems whenever they asked (a la George Soros), I would do it. But that is impossible for me.

Also, here is a thought. Maybe the Dems, before they put the bite on us for more dough, should do, say, just a little bit better of a job of DEFINING THEMSELVES AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE REPUGS! Before you ask me for money, make sure that John Kerry, Barack Obama and Dick Durbin vote AGAINST the fraud bankruptcy bill instead of FOR it (and make more noise when the Repugs decide not to allow a break for any Hurricane Katrina victims who may have to file after October 17th when it is due to go into effect). Make sure, as I noted earlier, that “the senators from MBNA,” as Atrios refers to Biden and Carper, vote as if they actually remember who got them their jobs! And maybe, just maybe, Joe Lieberman, despite his civil rights “cred” from the 60s, should finally make it official and become a Repug.

David Sirota kind of put his foot in it this week when he said the leader of Iraq (whoever that figurehead is) said he supported a timetable for withdrawal of our forces and the Dems should do the same, and then a commenter found a link to a story on Yahoo News that said exactly the opposite. However, Sirota’s point is fundamentally correct. How can people feel that the Dems are in their corner when too many of them think they can get by supporting a “Repug Lite” agenda?

(Also regarding Biden, he made some kind of wishy washy statement on Iraq this week along the lines of, “well, we have to see this though, but at a point if we’re not making headway, we ought to think about a timetable,” etc. Senator, in case you don’t know this, by my count, about 262 people died this week in car bomb explosions. I think more decisive action is required than announcing some words that constitute nothing. I seem to recall a Democrat from another time, speaking about a war fought in another country into which we became entangled, saying, “it’s their war, and we ought to let them fight it.” We remember him every November 22nd, in case you don’t know who I’m referring to.)

I know Howard Dean understands this problem, but I hope he can somehow get everyone “on the same page” regarding a solution. If so, then maybe it will be easier to raise money for the party and it won’t be forced to keep shaking down longtime donors such as myself who, though not contributing financially as in the past, are still trying to make a difference (hence the existence of this site).

Friday, September 16, 2005

Repugs Hate Kids

Seriously, what other conclusion can you draw?

I’ve been looking for a link to this story, but somehow I can’t find it. It seems that, according to the AP, “the Senate yesterday narrowly turned back a challenge to the Bush Administration’s strategy on mercury pollution, leaving intact federal rules that give power plants flexibility on how they reduce emissions of this dangerous element”.

The vote was 51-47 to uphold the rules, though the bottom line remains that Bushco will turn a blind eye while the environment continues to be fouled by its friends in industry. You don’t even ask if Scumbag Santorum voted to overturn the federal rules, but the problem to me is that Arlen Specter, for the second time in two days, cowered before the Bushco altar, as it were, and caved (yesterday, he voted to opposed the Katrina Commission) by not voting to overturn the rules also.

And then, as if to add insult to injury, red-state knucklehead Jim "Outraged By The Outrage Over Abu Ghraib" Inhofe makes this pronouncement.

“In reality, this is a political exercise in futility,” Inhofe, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works committee, said (my note: the fact that Inhofe has been granted the power to do anything more significant than manage a fruit stand is proof positive to me that, indeed, “The Four Horsemen” are saddling up). “Who in this chamber would truly believe that the President would sign legislation to repeal his own administration’s rule?”

Who indeed?

Well, Sen. Inhofe, since you think it is fine to continue to pollute our water with mercury (and I know you firmly believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that global warming is just some scheme concocted by “environmental extremists” despite Katrina’s devastation), I think you may be interested in reading this (of course, there’s a lot of text and some big, medical sounding words thrown in, so you may need a couple of people to help you).

God, this state elected both Inhofe and Tom Coburn (who was too busy doing his crossword puzzle to pay attention to the mundane details of the John Roberts confirmation hearings) to the Senate. Am I being too unkind if I wonder if residents of this state should be allowed to breed?

There's Hope After All

The Bucks County Courier Times reminds us today that the Repugs (thus far) have not achieved total success in their attack on “liberal academia” (and make no mistake – THAT is the reason why civics and social studies programs have been cut…starved for lack of funding actually…in public schools across the country). A byproduct of that is a generation that has not been taught about their basic duties as citizens of this country, as well as the “building blocks” of our government such as the Constitution. This plays right into the hands of the investor class as they carry out their onslaught against families and working men and women in this country who believe they are powerless to stop it.

God bless the kids as they try their best to carry on the rich legacy handed to us by all who have sacrificed on our behalf (and woe to those who would try to steal it from us).

Don't Have A Cow, Man

(I love to work in a "Simpsons" reference wherever I can.)

I guess this is "makeup week." I mended fences with Nat Hentoff yesterday, and I'll do the same with John Grogan today, since he's back to his old form (re: more PA politics).

Tragically, the space aliens still have not returned our dear State Rep. John Perzel back to Earth.

As I first reported last week, there is an alarming body of evidence that the House speaker was abducted by intergalactic invaders over the summer and is being held against his will in a distant galaxy.

In his place is a wooden, detached figure that looks like John Perzel and walks like John Perzel but clearly is a distant impostor with no grounding in reality.

In his first public appearance after the legislature gave itself a double-digit pay raise at 2 a.m. July 7, the Philadelphia Republican, speaking in an oddly robotic voice, seemed to know nothing at all about the raise that he helped engineer behind closed doors. "There is nothing to talk about," he chirped. How strange is that?

Now, it has gotten more bizarre.

Appearing before Republican loyalists last weekend, the Alien Perzel suddenly regained his lost memory and mounted a passionate defense of the pay raises, which ranged from 16 to 54 percent and came atop cost-of-living increases each of the last 10 years. Yet still, the invader inside Perzel's suit emitted only strange and incomprehensible gurglings.

I quote: "The people who are milking the cows in Lancaster County are making between $50,000 to $55,000 a year. They are immigrant workers... . I am trying to point out, you are paying someone to milk the cows $55,000, and you are saying it is excessive that members of the General Assembly make one-half of what a congressman makes."

And on that farm...

The aliens stole our speaker and gave us Old Farmer McPerzel in his place. Ee-i-ee-i-o!

Only a distant alien unfamiliar with Planet Earth, and the difficult row immigrant workers are assigned to hoe, would attempt such a cosmic leap.

Our politically savvy Republican leader wouldn't possibly attempt to justify his own considerable pay by trotting out migrant workers as examples of excess, would he?

Let's see, on Old McPerzel's imaginary farm, migrant dairy workers rake in $50,000 or more a year, not so terribly far behind his own $145,553.

And for what? Tugging on teats all the day long. Why, of course, lawmakers deserve their raise!

With an oink-oink here...

Just like Farmer McPerzel, those cushy migrant workers no doubt drive taxpayer-provided sedans with comprehensive insurance and free gas.

And an oink-oink there...

They receive top-of-the-line health benefits, full dental and eye-care plans, and a generous pension. Just like Old McPerzel.

Here an oink, there an oink...

Every day that they show up to the big milking shed (and I mean BIG) in Harrisburg, they receive an automatic $128 allowance to cover meals and lodging. Just like Old McPerzel gets.

Everywhere an oink-oink.

They get free stamps and a staff to lick them.

Earth to Mr. Speaker

When the migrant workers have it this good, well, heck yes, it's time for lawmakers to boost their pay. On Planet Perzel, this all makes perfect sense.

Reality check: Real immigrant dairy workers in the real world don't make anywhere near that kind of money. They receive none of those perks and benefits. Scant few of them get any health coverage at all.

Many are lucky to make $20,000 a year. The Inquirer interviewed one Lancaster County dairy worker who puts in 60 hours a week at $8 an hour. Even if he worked every week of the year, he'd earn less than $25,000.

Yet Beam-Me-Up Perzel holds these lowly workers up as his prime defense for justifying lawmakers getting richer at taxpayer expense.

Forgive him, citizens. He knows not what he says. It's the alien talking.

In Pennsylvania, dairy farmers work long, hard hours, and we the people get something in return: fresh milk by the gallon.

The state legislature sometimes works long hours, too, even on occasion holding no-discussion votes in the wee hours of the morning when few are watching. And what do the people get in return?

Just plain milked. Ee-i-ee-i-o.
For more John Perzel highlights (lowlights?), click here.

Always With The Looting

I have a question.

Am I the only one who is sick of hearing about the lawlessness that broke out in New Orleans as a result of the Katrina disaster? Is it possible to add some realistic context to this story, maybe even with a few anecdotes about how people worked together to save each other from the water, provide food and/or shelter, assist the National Guard with search and rescue operations…you know, boring stuff aside from the death and mayhem that our dear MSM cousins generally love to stick in our faces?

The implied racism couldn’t be more obvious to me. Let’s just say, for example, that Katrina had hit Newport, Rhode Island instead of the Gulf Coast. Somehow, I think there would be a lot more stories along the lines of “people braving the elements” and doing the generally heroic stuff that I mentioned in the first paragraph, along with the other “knew it was coming for years and living in dread but trying to be prepared” themes that we are generally fed from the news media when a natural disaster hits (I guarantee you that Wolf Blitzer wouldn’t condescendingly refer to the victims as “so poor and so white”). I can also guarantee you that nobody would have to wait FIVE DAYS for FEMA to confirm that people were dying and the entire town was being washed away.

I’m Caucasian, but I can definitely understand why African Americans are furious about this.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sublime vs. Ridiculous

Taking a break from politics for a minute or two…

I would like to extend a hearty “Yee Hah!” to Britney Spears for giving birth to a baby boy yesterday (I’d fire a shotgun into the air without looking for no good reason if I could to celebrate further, but I guess I’ll have to settle for watching a Nextel Cup auto race and a bar-fight-filled music video with Toby Keith). I hope she and Kevin Federline (he of the two children from a former girlfriend) and their progeny are doing well. I complimented Mrs. Federline a few months ago on finally mastering the mechanics of conception, and I’m glad that parenthood has arrived for them without any complications. Even maturity-challenged individuals have a right to experience 2 AM feedings, a nonstop stream of “Barney” TV shows, and projectile vomiting as part of the joys of parenthood.

(By the way, I heard this morning on the Preston and Steve show in WMMR in Philadelphia that the couple closed a wing of the maternity ward where the baby was born so the Federlines could perform something called “sock sledding,” which is undoubtedly some nouveau riche hillbilly ritual. My guess is that it is intended to celebrate and encourage fertility, but what do I know?)

I happened to hear about the birth of the baby while I was watching a documentary about the film actress Greta Garbo the other night on Turner Classic Movies to commemorate what would have been her 100th birthday on September 18th, and it got me to thinking (always dangerous, I know).

It’s not really fair to compare Britney Spears to a film actress since, to my knowledge, she hasn’t appeared in a movie except for her 10 or so seconds in “Fahrenheit 9/11” where she stared vacuously at Michael Moore and chewed her gum while stating that, “we should just trust our leaders” and, basically, take a pass on our duties as citizens in this democratic republic (of course, we have been “reaping the whirlwind” ever since because too many of our fellow citizens followed Spears’ idiotic lead…yep, you’re right: I always have to work in politics somehow).

However, for better or worse, Spears is an iconic figure for our times among female entertainers not just because of her ability (which is marginal at best as far as I’m concerned…from what I know, she’s been performing slight variations of her one hit over and over ad nauseum), but also because of what she represents to her fans. I would argue that her great fame and acceptance stems from the fact that she embodies what other women want to be in many ways (highly independent and self-sufficient with a minimum of talent and, of course, highly desirable to men also).

In her day, this partly described Garbo, though that doesn’t do justice to her enormous acting ability and dedication to her craft. Garbo started her film career as a “vamp” and a “femme fatale,” but who later in her career defined her film persona through more complex roles and characters (Marguerite in “Camille,” “Anna Karenina,” “Ninotchka”). At the height of her fame, she was definitely the most popular female actress in the world and made a fortune for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studios (the BS she and everyone else had to put up with from Louis B. Mayer was legendary). She was atypical among actresses for her day in that she was highly independent and self-sufficient as well, and that came across in her screen performances and the few details that were revealed about her personal life. What also came across when watching her onscreen was that she had the most exquisitely beautiful face of any actress before or, perhaps, since she made her films.

Again, maybe it would be more fair to compare Garbo to an actress like Renee Zellweger or Nicole Kidman (Hilary Swank has come out of nowhere as well – “Million Dollar Baby” is a great movie, though it is a dark, intense character study that is not a typical action movie at all). However, I’m thinking about female stature in the media here, which, again Garbo certainly had to a level never seen before up to that time. And I would take Garbo’s beauty, allure and complexity over Spears’ empty-headed, generously proportioned, generic blonde “brand” any day of the week.

A final note: As long as we’re on the subject of Hollywood, let us note the passing today of one of the great, legendary directors.

"Silent As A Judge" Indeed

The latest developments in the John Roberts nomination saga kind of make me hark back to this.

I've chided Nat Hentoff in the past for defending Bushco on a variety of fronts, including the Terri Schiavo travesty, but I have to give him props for this evaluation of the guy who probably, for better or ill, will be the next Chief Justice.

Also, I would definitely trust the counsel of Alan Dershowitz in these matters (we'll see how correct he is if Roberts gets on; even if somehow the committee doesn't recommend him, I'm quite sure he has the numbers to make it if it comes to a floor vote - doesn't make me happy to admit that, but we have to be practical about this stuff.)

Update 1: Bless you Howie for fighting the good fight, which we all must do. I'll get my letter together shortly.

Update 2: Go, Harry, Go (take your best shot anyway).

The "Cheesed Off" Congressman

According to The Daily Kos yesterday, Repug Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin was one of eleven of his fellow heartless party members who voted against an emergency aid package for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

This, sadly, is in keeping with a general pattern of behavior for this guy, as documented in this column from a couple of months ago (realizing that Peter Rodino once chaired the House Judiciary Committee with Sensenbrenner now following in Rodino’s footsteps, as Van Deerlin points out, makes me realize just how far we have fallen).

One thing Van Deerlin neglected to mention was that Sensenbrenner is one of these guys who regularly goes after the entertainment industry in an effort to get it to “clean up its act.” In another context with a less extreme agenda, I might actually applaud what he's trying to do. However, his agenda IS extreme. Sensenbrenner is a typical right-wing zealot who wants us to watch nothing but inoffensive pap that rates his approval (think of the 24-hour "Full House" channel, with "news" breaks from Fox on the half hour).

I think somebody in this story needs to cut back on their consumption of dairy products. It might lead to a whole new outlook on life.

Update 1: Courtesy of The Al Franken Show, here is a link to the official record of how the Senate voted on the legislation to establish a commission to investigate the Hurricane Katrina disaster (Scumbag Santorum's "Nay" vote was expected, but Arlen Specter has some explaining to do...this doesn't sound like "the people's business" to me, ladies and gentlemen.)

Update 2: Concerning the vote mentioned above, John at AMERICABlog is "all over it."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Take A Skate, Guys

I don't usually get into sports much, but with the NHL finally beginning a new season, I'm just "tapping my stick," figuratively, to four greats who have just retired.

Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils - Lord knows I got tired of watching him splatter guys all over the place, especially when they wore the "orange and black," but if he were a Fly Guy, I'd be cheering his every move (like I may end up doing with Derian Hatcher this year if he can stay healthy). He won a few Cups and gave as good as he got. The league shouldn't have let him get away with some of the forearm/shoulder shots he dished out to guys' heads, but that is because of the sometimes stone age nature of the sport, and he just played within those archaic rules. He won at least two Cups, maybe three...I don't remember exactly.

Al MacInnis of the St. Louis Blues - He won a Cup with Calgary in '86, played well defensively, and possessed a 100-mph slap shot. MacInnis played in the NHL for 23 seasons, which is unbelievable. He managed to recover and continue to play from many severe injuries, including one to an eye that kept him out of most of the 2003-2004 season. He exemplified class, skill, and sportsmanship. My only regret is that I didn't see him much because he played for Western conference teams.

Ron Francis of the Carolina Hurricanes - As noted on ESPN, Francis played for Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto, and leaves the game with a resume few can rival. He is second to Wayne Gretzky with 1,249 assists, and ranks among the league's all-time leaders with 1,731 games (third), 549 goals (19th) and 1,798 points (fourth). He won a pair of Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992, and helped the Hurricanes make a surprise run to the Cup finals in 2002. In addition, Francis was a three-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the player exhibiting sportsmanship and gentlemanly play combined with playing ability.

Mark Messier of the New York Rangers - Quite simply, Messier is one of the greatest team leaders in sports history. I'm not even going to try and summarize his accomplishments; the information from
this link will begin to give you a picture of what he did. The Edmonton Oilers lost a whole bunch of great players from the mid '80s until the early '90s, but their Cup reign didn't end until Messier went to the Rangers. As much as I dislike the "Broadway Blueshirts," I had to admit that watching them win that Cup in '94 (especially with former Flyer coach Mike Keenan) was a truly great moment in sports.
Update 10/19: Add one more All Star and Cup winner to the list.

Welcome To Bushville

(By the way, I’m sure any blogger who may be reading this has joined the “Impeach Bush” coalition by now. If not, please click the button under the exchange links in the right column to find out more.)

Here is a link to information on the FEMA-supervised conditions for refugees from Hurricane Katrina (sounds a lot like the Okies moving west to escape “the dust bowl”…real “Grapes Of Wrath” stuff).

I forget who the Repug was, identified on “The Huffington Post” yesterday, who said that “God did to New Orleans public housing what we’ve been trying to do all along,” or something like that (referring to Katrina, of course - Update 9/14: Because of the amazing "My Hometown" video from "Bring It On" that I've linked to in the right column, I found out it was Repug U.S. Rep. Richard Baker of Louisiana...the arrogance takes your breath away sometimes), but believe me, those remarks sound like they come straight from Wingnuttia, to quote Atrios, but rest assured that these people are serious about this stuff (which, I think, puts the story in the link above into the appropriate context).

And why stop at herding people into difficult living conditions? (Oh, but “The Beautiful Mind” thinks this is such an improvement for them, and her daughter-in-law was out there trying to spread the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" mantra also.) Why not, say, just for the heck of it, decide to start rolling back civil liberties, court rulings that ensured people’s rights, and a fair wage established by congressional legislation?

And who has authored all of this? (I hate to keep taking shots at my own race, but sometimes the shoe really does fit after all, though this cabal of oppressors is much higher on the economic and political “food chain,” if you will, than I will ever be.)

Update: The Smirking Chimp has another chilling tale to tell in Bush's "Battle of New Orleans."

Good Luck, Ginny

More PA politics...

Ginny Schrader withdrew her candidacy for the Democratic nomination to run against Repug Mike Fitzpatrick for the U.S. House’s 8th district seat yesterday. I think she would have made a good rep, but after a couple of tries, I think it’s plain that the voters don’t want her there. The Bucks County Courier Times said last year that she should “aim a little lower” to get some background in government before she takes another shot, and I reluctantly have to admit that they’re right (which makes Andy Warren’s move all the more ridiculous, since he was already set to coast his way out of the picture in PA state government).

Besides, I know Patrick Murphy is trying to make his case to the blogger community, and that will definitely help him (in this day and age, I actually don’t think a Dem can make it on any level without that type of support).

Swann "Slants" Right

I’ve teed off on Lynn Swann in the past because, even though he is absolutely one of the all-time great NFL wide receivers who played on some of the all-time great Pittsburgh Steeler teams, in my mind, his qualifications to run for governor of Pennsylvania are as thin as the zones on the football field into which he would run to make spectacular receptions before he was creamed by an NFL defensive back.

I give him credit for his accomplishments, and he has as much of a right to seek elected office as anyone, but let it be known by one and all that I support Ed Rendell, driving 100 mph down the PA turnpike and all. And right now, I see NOTHING in Swann’s background or qualifications that earns my vote over the Democrat incumbent.

And I’ll be honest with you – though it is completely expected for Dubya to want to “chill” with his new famous homey (re: the photo on the home page of ESPN’s web site), it still sickens me to see The Man Who Allowed New Orleans And The Gulf Coast To Drown as well as preside over the staggering loss of life in Iraq (and never forget that the CIA had a chance to take out al Zarqawi before Iraq War II even began) trying to attach himself to a pro athlete or celebrity trying to earn a job that (so far) I believe he doesn't merit.

Mr. Swann, I respect your athletic accomplishments and the life you have made for yourself off the field. But as far as I’m concerned, you are now a Repug, with your vacuous, empty rhetoric that hides your true intentions.

And I’m going to call you out, because now, it’s smash mouth time.

Waddling Into The Truth

OK, I’m good and steamed now.

The Daily Kos reports that, in a never-ending effort to try and distract this country from Bushco’s myriad horrific screwups (trying to use polite language here), the right-wing noise machine (courtesy of The National Review) is focusing on the documentary “March Of The Penguins” as testimony that intelligent design is practiced in real life and is not merely theoretical (link to New York Times article here).

You know, as much as I despise the Repugs, I really have to give them credit for creativity. I never would have even thought to concoct such preposterous nonsense.

I took the young one to see this movie a few weeks ago, and it is wonderful. I was familiar with the story of the Emperor Penguins before the movie, but even though I knew a lot going in, it was still interesting and new to me. The movie was directed by Luc Jacquet, and the photography from National Geographic is amazing (especially some of the underwater shots while the mother penguins are looking for food).

Another good thing about the movie (as any parent with a young child is aware of) is that the length is perfect (about 75 minutes). He started to get antsy after about an hour, but ended up making it all the way through.

So this movie is some kind of life-affirming declaration about “family values” in the “culture wars,” is it? (I’ll ask the question again – I’ve done so several times and never received an answer; who started this so-called “culture war” anyway? If nothing else, I think that phrase is ridiculous because it trivializes REAL war, which we are DEFINITELY FIGHTING in Iraq, where over 100 people have died from car bomb attacks over the last two days, lest we not forget – update: more getting killed today.)

Well, I have news for you. The Penguins are “monogamous” during the period when they mate and take care of the egg, in which they show incredible sacrifice in the face of sub-zero temperatures and triple-digit wind chills, to say nothing of the birds of prey that come after the penguins and try to steal the babies just learning to walk the minute they stray from the herd. But after they do this and return to the ocean on their way back to Antarctica, they basically return to their partying ways looking for food and generally taking it easy (a break they definitely earn by raising their progeny in the face of these horrific conditions). In the spring, the whole cycle begins anew with new partners in accordance with their “coding” from nature. So, far from showing a “lifetime commitment,” these brave mammals are really randy, libido-driven, uninhibited little bastards who are, to paraphrase Dan Aykroyd on “Saturday Night Live,” “hopping from mate to mate with the frequency of a cheap HAM radio.” What kind of “family values” are those:- ).

(I just checked back to the New York Times story a bit further down and saw where some fundamentalist nutball says that the movie also condemns gay marriage. Yeah, right. Gay Penguins. Are these people loopy, or what?)

There’s another moment in the movie I want to point out for the benefit of all the right-wing crazies (though I readily admit that they probably aren’t reading this anyway). Aside from the few minutes in the movie that shows the mother and father penguins getting picked off by other animals when they’re looking for food (lesson: Penguins succeed by working together, and the minute they stray, many of them die. When have you ever heard of penguins arguing with another about whether they’re a liberal or a conservative…yes, I know that’s a silly argument), the saddest moment of the movie comes when some of the penguin eggs are exposed to the cold and freeze to death, killing the penguin baby (hey, this is nature…the penguins practice a tedious ritual of exchanging the egg by rolling it from one to take care of it so the other can get food, and some of the penguins mess up the ritual). When that happens, sometimes the mother penguin tries to steal another egg for herself, but the other penguins form a group to stop her. It’s a heartbreaking moment, actually, when you see all that the penguins endure to get to that point only to lose their child (my guess is that it is something like Cindy Sheehan and other parents of our service people killed or maimed in Iraq must be feeling).

Here’s the bottom line: “March Of The Penguins” (and, by the way, Morgan Freeman’s narration is perfect) is a great movie about nature, which has no political agenda, but treats everything and everyone of any political affiliation the same way (need I point out again how that has been displayed in the Gulf Coast recently?).

Update 9/15: Hmmm...never too old to learn something, I guess.

A Job For Ralph Kramden

(A “Honeymooners” reference for the uninitiated - or possibly Lloyd Bridges)…

I hope this puts a rest to the new, big Repug smear about Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco dropping the ball on not using school buses to rescue Katrina victims on New Orleans once and for all (as if THAT is a critical issue in light of all the other governmental screwups – trying to use polite language).

Update: Speaking of Katrina, if you can find the spot in this story where it states what the makeup of this Senate panel is going to be (how many Repugs vs. how many Dems), I'd appreciate it if you let me know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Stupid Caucasians Strike Again

None more so than the preznit…mighty decent of him to restate the obvious, isn’t it (re: the CNN screen shot with the text in the red headline)? He should polish off that sign on his desk in the Oval Office that Harry Truman put there and read it in between sessions on his Gameboy.

(the headline states that Bush takes responsibility for the poor response by the Feds to Katrina - I thought the screen shot resolution would be better).

Arianna Huffington (who, in no way, reflects the title of this post) recently said that the Repugs are now using the aftermath of Katrina as an occasion for “gleeful opportunism,” and, as if on cue, the NRA issues this bit of bombast.

“Hey Wayne, can you do me a favor? The living room is starting to capsize and we need some 1 percent milk and a loaf of whole wheat bread. Go wade on over to the Piggly Wiggly, smash the storefront window and grab some for me, OK?”

Condi Needs A New Pair Of Shoes

(I love the look on her face in this story, by the way, a variation of which we’ve seen so often over lo these many years…typical Repug – always ready for a fight).

This country is supposed to be diverse, Madame Secretary. We’re not supposed to get special awards for that.

And I also love the bland generalizations about “What we’re supposed to do about race in this country,” by the way. Are you prepared to lead a panel discussion of Republicans and Democrats meeting with everyday Americans on this issue (and note that, by offering a bipartisan makeup of the panel, I’m taking a lead that you own party isn’t prepared to follow concerning the makeup of the so-called “Katrina Commission”).

(Actually, I think she’s more correct in her remarks than she realizes, but in typical Repug fashion, she’s twisting the context. Yes, this, in part, is “a vestige of the Old South,” which you and your fellow Repugs have encouraged and cultivated, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980 that began in Philadelphia, Mississippi, scene of some this country’s most horrific racial violence).

Monday, September 12, 2005

"Real Time" Update

After some funny stand up (“I heard that Monica Lewinsky wants to be a psychology major in college…she wants to blow people’s minds”), Bill Maher interviewed Walter Maestri via a remote feed, the director of emergency management for Jefferson Parish, LA, and though Maestri admitted that a lot of people didn’t leave because they thought they could “ride out” Katrina, he was still pretty PO’ed at FEMA for the reasons we’ve already described.

Maher then spoke to Joe Scarborough via remote, a pretty well-know right-wing barking head, who said that “blame is equally shared because everyone dropped the ball.” I don’t believe that, and neither did Maher, but Scarborough, with his “aw shucks, Bill” country boy act said with this dopey look on his face that, “hey, Bill, I don’t know if you’re trying to pick a fight, but I already said that I thought Bush was partly to blame.” Scarborough was quick to echo one of the right-wing talking points coming out of this, that “Jeb Bush and Lawton Chiles, a Republican and a Democrat governor of Florida, didn’t have the problems like they did in Mississippi and Louisiana,” and Maher was quick to point out the electoral vote importance of getting this sort of thing right in Florida. I could get a bead on Scarborough pretty quickly, but I can see how he can manipulate people who don’t know what he’s all about.

The three panelists were Jim Glassman of the American Enterprise Institute (referred to him in an earlier post…the show was due for a right-wing nut job, and though he wasn’t as strident as bubblehead Kellyanne Conway from the first show, he filled the bill), Cynthia Tucker, op-ed writer (editor?) for the Atlanta Constitution, and George Carlin. Glassman immediately starts with the “everybody screwed up” line, which is true actually, though he’s trying to echo Scarborough and make it sound like blame should be apportioned evenly. Cynthia Tucker quickly pointed out that New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin asked for help repeatedly and didn’t get it. Carlin’s rhetoric, though I agreed with the substance of it (“people in New Orleans are chronically poor because of a badly tilted game”), was pretty incendiary towards Glassman, but the problem is that he engaged in generalities about how the poor in this country are systematically screwed over without providing data to back up his argument, and Glassman pretty much took him apart on that score.

Also, regarding the media coverage, I thought Bill Maher made an excellent point (Maher was pretty feisty, though he did take it easy on Glassman a couple of times, telling the audience, “hey, he has to tow their line, so cut him some slack”). He said that when Bush said there would be zero tolerance for looting, that was the signal to the media to make that the primary focus of their coverage (if that’s true, then the MSM is even more pathetic than I thought, but I can see Maher’s logic on that). Maher pointed out that the coverage of the looting should have been proportional to the other, more important elements of the story, which I agreed with 100 percent. And as if to inadvertently support Maher’s argument, Glassman immediately chimed in with something on “The mob angle” again, as well as “the complete breakdown of law and order,” and Cynthia Tucker, who I thought was the most well-spoke panelist, calmly and rationally refuting Glassman’s arguments, pointed out that there were so many rumors about what was going on down there that we can’t be completely certain of what happened.

More Glassman lines: “Nature unleashed a fury on New Orleans. Why can’t we just recognize that,” and “mistakes were made” (no shame at all). In response, Tucker pointed out that “the 82nd Airborne can get anywhere in the world in 18 hours. Why can’t it get to New Orleans in that amount of time for a food drop?” Glassman proceeded to throw a bunch of generalizations out there before Maher asked him, point blank, if we should repeal the tax cuts because of Katrina’s damage, and Glassman tap danced his way to a non-answer. Maher also pointed out that he thought Bush’s recovery team was like Harvey Keitel (“The Cleaner”) in “Pulp Fiction,” which I thought was clever (emphasis on appearances, that is).

Also, the group managed to discuss Barbara Bush’s quote about the homeless in the Astrodome, and that led Maher into a funny Hallmark card parody. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. appeared via remote to promote his book and also give a despairing look to the state of mankind in general. Vonnegut remarked that he thought people in this country were getting stupider, and Glassman took issue with that afterwards, pointing out how many college students are enrolled in this country, though Tucker and Carlin pointed out that those numbers are going down, and more sciences students are studying overseas. Glassman then said something to the effect of, “well, we cured cancer in this country,” and the panel immediately seized on that, pointing out what a foolish remark it was.

Also, on the subject of Bush nominating two judges now for the Supreme Court, even Carlin acknowledged that we can just about kiss Roe v. Wade goodbye, with Carlin adding sarcastically, “The court chose Bush, so Bush should be able to choose the court.”

In Maher’s closing remarks, he said that Bush “governs like Billy Joel drives,” and called Bush “a catastrophe that walks like a man.” Maher also made an extremely convincing case, I thought, for Bush to give up the presidency altogether (I’ll try to get a transcript of what he said, because I thought it was poetry).

Update 1: In a similar vein, E.J. Dionne does the best job to date, as far as I'm concerned, of sizing up Dubya's failed reign.

Update 2: Thanks for the "prop" to Pixel Monkey (right back atcha) and check out his 9/14 post to read Maher's closing remarks.

Cause And Effect

Cause: This stupid argument that has been boiling in this country over the last 25 years about states rights versus the role of the federal government, foisted on us largely by the Repugs, particularly Ronald Reagan and William Rehnquist, which to me originates back to the Civil War and is a byproduct of the festering dislike of the North by the South and has been cleverly exploited by the Repug pro-business and fundamentalist conservative coalition.

Effect: What we’ve been watching on our TV screens in the Gulf Coast area for the last two weeks.

Anyone who thinks the “cause” argument I mentioned above is theoretical only hasn’t been paying attention.

As any person of common sense knows, there are things states should be allowed to do (I’m not big on state-by-state abortion laws, but I’ll acknowledge that right, as well as anything related to gay marriage), but there are things that ONLY THE FEDS CAN DO, and it is beyond tragic and disgusting that there aren’t more people on either side of the aisle who seem to understand that.

Actually, I thought this Letter To The Editor in the Inquirer today summed it up well:

President Bush and others who share his political philosophy have built careers convincing people that a strong federal government compromises life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Why, then, would he be quick to direct the antagonist to come to the rescue of those in need?

The slow response could have been predicted as surely as the storm was.

Rebecca C. Greenhow
West Chester
Louisiana can’t coordinate enough forces from National Guard units in other states to lend a hand because some of their own Guard forces have been deployed to Iraq. Louisiana couldn’t coordinate food drops (which should have happened) or transportation of refugees to other states for shelter. Only the Feds can do that.

To get a better context, I think it would help to review FEMA’s history. Jimmy Carter creates the agency and got it to run well. Reagan comes in and lets his buddies run it, but fortunately nothing happens (I can’t recall anything, nothing like Katrina anyway). I don’t remember what H.W. does, but I don’t think he did much either. Clinton comes in and brings in James Lee Witt to rebuild the agency and get it to run well and do what it’s supposed to do. Dubya gets in and brings in Joe Allbaugh (who subsequently leaves after the “Mission Accomplished” farce to make money referring reconstruction jobs in Iraq to Halliburton) and then Mike Brown. I’m sure you see the same pattern that I do.

Update: The beat goes on in the Gulf Coast reconstruction (by the way, you can see that 86 percent of those polled thought the jobs should have been awarded through competitive bids).

Finally, to get an idea of how desperate some of Bush’s supporters are regarding their hero’s failure regarding Katrina, I heard this argument from an American Enterprise Institute right-wing know-it-all named Jim Glassman the other night on “Real Time With Bill Maher” (the update is forthcoming). He said, “Of course the states screwed up. We had two hurricanes hit Florida last year, and everything ran well and we had nothing like this. It seems that Florida can get its act together, but Louisiana and Mississippi can’t.”

(I swear, all you can do is laugh sometimes…in a related vein, Glenn McCoy had a sick and truly propagandistic cartoon in today’s Inquirer to support the garbage from Glassman that I mentioned above.)

Gee, maybe the fact that last year was an election year and the incumbent’s brother was the governor of Florida (as well as the fact that the state decided the 2000 election…well, sort of – I won’t go there) had something to do with it, or am I just being cynical again?

One more thing: If you continue to be as PO’ed about this as I am, then please go to the prior post and sign Jim Dean’s petition to establish an INDEPENDENT bipartisan commission to investigate this travesty.

Fight For The Commission

I just signed on a minute ago.

Last Thursday, Jim Dean called for the White House to quit dodging responsibility for mishandling the response to Hurricane Katrina. Since then, over 32,000 people have joined the drive to get the White House to establish an Independent Commission to find out what went wrong and make sure it never happens again.

That's a good start -- but to get the Bush administration's attention, we need to gather enough signatures to send an unmistakable message that Americans want answers. We need to get 50,000 people to support an Independent Commission -- by Wednesday.

Sign the petition

We saw the scenes of thousands stranded in the devastation of New Orleans. We heard the stories about whole Mississippi towns still overlooked by FEMA a week after the storm. Yet Bush still has his team of political cronies -- complete with Michael 'Heck of a Job' Brown, the director of FEMA -- in place to lead the recovery effort, despite their record of costly mistakes.

This is madness. We know the people of the Gulf Coast need massive help in rebuilding their lives. They can't afford more mistakes. That's why this recovery effort needs sound, experienced leadership. We can only get that by finding the sources of the mistakes and rooting them out.

Let's get 50,000 signatures on the petition for an Independent Commission by Wednesday. Sign it

Bush's press secretary gave Americans who want accountability the back of his hand last week. He wrote off the outcry about Katrina -- from us, and from across America -- as a "blame game."

To families still living in shelters, campers, and tents -- looking for loved ones and wondering if they can ever go home -- this is no game. Those are the people the White House needs to answer.

This is a pattern. When the CIA leak investigation into Bush advisor Karl Rove heated up, the press secretary said, "Now is not the time to talk about it." Simple questions from the press about the failed Katrina response now get the same answer: "Now is not the time."

Nonsense. In a government of the people, a president owes answers to the people. We can make that happen -- but we need 50,000 signatures by Wednesday to send Bush the message that America wants an independent investigation of the response to Katrina.

here now:

Thank you,
Tom Hughes
Democracy for America
Update: Brown is out for good (go back to the horsies, Mikey). Actually, this is a surprise...I can't remember the last time (or even the first time) someone in Bushco bit the dust, but Brown was a minor player by comparison, and "President 39 Percent Mandate" needs a scapegoat.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The PR Flaks Earn Their Dough

Nice photo, Karl. You've got your guy giving the firefighter a firm handshake, and have him wearing a denim shirt to give the appearance of a regular guy. Great body language also...all kinds of sympathetic angles of interaction and posture between Dubya and his props to make it look like they've actually known each other for longer than five minutes.

(Yes, I know that's a cheap shot at the rescue workers and their great efforts, and I apologize, but at this point, if they decided to participate in Bushco propaganda, then they should be slapped down also.)

And of course, it wouldn't be a Repug photo op if the flag wasn't stuck in there somewhere for everyone to see.

Damn, I have to admit that these guys are good, which, unfortunately, is part of the problem.

The Horror On A Beautiful Day

“Autumn in New York is often mingled with pain…”
“Autumn in New York,” by Vernon Duke, 1934

How the hell am I ever going to explain this to the young one?

I sat today on our front step and watched him dig in our garden with great effort, unearthing one of his Matchbox cars that he’d buried between a begonia and the green Vinca (this was a Woody wagon, circa 1962) so he could race it with a metallic blue Camaro of approximately the same era and size on the sidewalk.

It was at that point, with my mind temporarily on hold, that it started coming back to me (the words of actor David Ogden Stiers, who played Major Winchester on M.A.S.H and provided the narration for Ric Burns’ documentary, “New York: The Center Of The World,” summarize it all too well – they are blockquoted below):

“On a perfect, almost achingly beautiful late summer morning in September, a day of almost infinite clarity, referred to as 'severe clear' by reporters, the unthinkable happened. The center of the most powerful nation that hadn’t been attacked on its own territory in nearly 200 years would encounter a horror the like of which had never been seen before.”
I take a sip of coffee and read, in the Inquirer, about The Center of Peace, a small spiritual community in Philadelphia, which will hold its second annual Stand for Peace rally at 11 a.m. at LOVE Park, 16th Street and JFK Boulevard. I also read that the Agape choir will then headline a 9/11 peace concert at 8 p.m. at Irvine Auditorium, 3401 Spruce St. That concert will be opened by the Common Ground Community Choir, an interfaith, multicultural ensemble from Philadelphia and the nearby suburbs. Visiting Buddhist monks from the Drepung Goman Monastery in India will perform a prayer ceremony for world peace in the Philadelphia area also.

Such wonderful, hopeful gestures of healing and goodwill. Perfectly appropriate. Truly the best medicine.

There’s only one problem.

I still want to see everyone dead who had anything whatsoever to do with any of this (I know I state on this page that I don’t advocate physical violence against anyone. I’m making an exception here).


“In a little less than two hours, with an almost poetically horrifying symmetry, the symbols and instruments of New York City’s uniquely air-minded culture – skyscrapers, industrialization, and the mass media – would be turned back against each other in a devastatingly lethal effect.”
He looks up at me, since he notices that I’ve been staring off a bit sipping my coffee and not saying anything. I can only imagine the look on my face, since I can see a trace of apprehension on his own.

“Around 8:45 AM, the west side of Manhattan heard the piercing of a jet plane moving south down the Hudson River. Everything about its trajectory was wrong. Heading south along an airway normally reserved for northbound traffic, it was moving much too fast and close to the ground. Nearly 500 miles per hour at an altitude of just 900 feet, more than twice the speed allowed for aircraft that low.”
Mike Bane of Marsh and McLennan, Larry Senko of Alliance Consulting, Don Jones and Joshua Reiss of Cantor Fitzgerald (the whole goddamn company died that day also)…

And Don Havlish of AON…

Victor Saracini, the pilot of the plane that hit the south tower of the World Trade Center…

The entire “Windows Of The World” restaurant including most of the staff…

So many others…

“It took less than 90 seconds for American Airlines Flight 11 to hurtle the entire length of Manhattan Island. A little after 8:46 AM, the huge 137-ton Boeing 767 flashed across Canal Street to the north tower of the World Trade Center, and tore through the north wall of the tower between the 93rd and 99th floors, instantly killing everyone onboard and wreaking incomprehensible carnage inside the building. An observer noted that the building ‘took a hell of a punch,’ creating five vertical ‘sways’ that ran up and down the length of the entire structure."
“Dad, are you OK?”

I temporarily refocus and come over to play with him for a few minutes. I then busy myself by coming back inside the house and tending to the wash and feeding the cat. I continue performing these tasks, watching him from the front window.

Watching, and thinking about nothing once more. Nothing, but…

“At 9:02 AM, a little more 15 minutes after the first attack, millions of people in the metropolitan region of New York City and tens of millions more across the country and around the globe were staring intently at the smoldering skyline of lower Manhattan, when a dark shape (United Airlines Flight 175) appeared above the horizon of the New Jersey lowlands and came across the upper bay, over the Statue of Liberty, and it smashed into the south wall of the south tower.”

“A massive shower of paper rained down from the sky (we would later discover than many personal photos in the John F. Kennedy archive had been destroyed also), and, as columnist Pete Hamill recalled, ‘an amazing fireball came roaring towards Broadway’."
He comes inside the house for some milk and decides to go back downstairs to watch Nick Toons and play with his Kinex™ and Magnetix™ toys for a little while, but not after I make sure he scrubs his hands first.

I was driving westbound on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and listened to KYW News Radio as all of this unfolded four years ago. I recall news announcer Harry Donahue as being more indignant than anything else at that moment, though I honestly can’t imagine how a TV or radio announcer would find the composure to handle themselves with something like this going on, and I believe that he did his job as well as he could. Of course, by the time I arrived at work in King of Prussia, PA, everybody knew and was watching the events unfold in conference rooms or their hand-held devices. Soon afterwards, our management held a meeting to make sure we knew the whereabouts of everyone who was traveling, and also to make sure the people visiting our offices called home to their locations so everyone knew they were all right.

“When the planes hit each building, the kerosene jet fuel ignited a fire instantly across multiple floors. The amount of paper in the offices sustained the fire long enough for it to melt the center steel building supports.”

“The second plane had struck the south tower at 9:02 AM. By then, the first teams of fire and rescue workers had already arrived at the foot of the north tower, and they met with horror and devastation that defied the imagination. There were corpses everywhere, along with the mangled bodies of men and women who had already jumped from the upper floors of the building, including the remains of passengers from Flight 11, some still belted into their seats.”

“The gaping black holes in the buildings where the planes had entered marked a stark dividing line between life and death.”
A year or so ago, I watched some footage shot by a French film crew run by two brothers who happened to be making a documentary on New York City firefighters at that time. I remember watching where they entered the north tower, and you could hear what sounded like gunshots, causing everyone to flinch, though it turned out that that was the sound of the bodies of the people who had jumped hitting the roof above them.

A little while after our company meeting to check on everyone’s whereabouts (when we were getting ready to go home, since our management – in an unusual moment of wisdom for them – realized that we weren’t going to get any work done in light of all that was going on), I remember that a real upbeat guy who everyone liked, a logistics business analyst named Cornee (I think he was Swedish or Dutch) came out and told us that the north tower had collapsed (again, some people had seen it live). His face was completely blanched and I thought his knees would buckle at any moment. I thought mine would too, actually. As I had almost arrived home, I heard that the south tower did likewise, watching the pictures of both soon afterwards.

All of the events of that almost unspeakable day have faded a bit. The sense of panic and desperation has certainly subsided. However, I cannot imagine that this day will ever again, in my life, be anything but permanently a time “out of joint” with everything else.

Also, despite what I think of Bush (especially in light of the bungling related to Hurricane Katrina), I do not believe that he knew the 9/11 attacks were coming. I believe that his administration ignored every imaginable warning sign (primarily from Richard Clarke) for three reasons: 1) The assumption from the prior Clinton Administration was that the next administration would assign the same priority to events that they did – with al Qaeda getting the Number One spot there – and as far as Bushco has ever been concerned, anything from Clinton was BAD; 2) Devoting resources to counterterrorism to thwart something like 9/11 took resources away from their number one priority, which was the invasion of Iraq; 3) A catastrophe like 9/11 fit into the conservative “Project For A New American Century” written by Paul Wolfowitz and others as a means that could be used to consolidate popular support for the Bush regime.

Also, I don’t believe they knew 9/11 was coming because Barbara Olson, wife of connected conservative lawyer Ted Olson, died when her plane hit the Pentagon, and if they were really trying to stage something, no one of their own kind would have been killed (she was also a popular TV spokesperson for the Repug agenda). However, a co-worker has suggested that Flight 93 was shot down over Pennsylvania, and I think that is a very plausible theory (also, Rumsfeld made a slip of the tongue a few months ago that leads me to believe that that is true). Finally, it is a blight upon the conscience of all the nations of the world that, to date, no one has been convicted of these monstrous acts.

I notice that I haven’t heard from the young one for a little while, and since he’s in the house, I think this is a good sign. I feel that I can go on now a bit more and tend to what else needs to be done, since I’ve had my moment to reflect now, and I can, for a little while anyway, put aside the remembrances of four years ago, when I first encountered the horror on a beautiful day.

Update 9/15: Cenk proves my thesis that bin Laden is protected and will never be caught (at least, not by Bushco).

Update 9/18: I meant to include this with the original post for reasons that will become apparent as you read it.