Friday, September 30, 2005

"Real Time" Update

(After some serious overtime at the hands of “the man” – or, “the woman,” to be more precise – an illness, and unexpected family circumstances, I am FINALLY getting to this!).

Last week’s show began with a parody public service announcement on behalf of repealing the estate tax (“Hi, I’m Bill Maher. Won’t you help the neglected children of these millionaires? For a donation of just $2,000, you can buy a Republican politician of your choice.”). I thought the monologue was funny in light of Hurricane Rita, with Maher observing that, since it was due to hit Texas, “Barbara Bush could now insult survivors closer to home.” Also, in light of the Jet Blue scare with the landing gear not working, Maher supposedly quoted a crew member who said, “we could’ve fixed the problem if one of our passengers had had a pocket knife.” Observing the passing of activist Molly Yard, Maher said that “she died angrily in her sleep, and her last words were ‘That’s not funny’.” And, with the release of the “!00-minute Bible,” Maher noted that, “the Ten Commandments had been distilled down to ‘Avoid Tom Sizemore’.”

The first guest who appeared via satellite was Willie Nelson, and of course Maher asked him how he was faring with Hurricane Rita (the first question was “Is your stash dry?,” which was funny…even funnier to me was that Nelson answered yes with a straight face). Nelson said he thought people were a little more prepared for Rita after Katrina. In response to Maher’s question asking if “the good ole boys have a dysfunctional relationship with the Republicans, since, by voting for Republicans, they’re voting against their own interests” (a question every red stater should be asked as far as I’m concerned), Nelson more or less laughed and gave an answer along the lines of “you’d better not ask that question down here.” Nelson also noted that this is the 20th year of Farm Aid, and Maher asked him about the Chicago Tribune report that said that only 20 percent of the money had actually gone to the farmers and 80 percent went to other costs related to the concert, and Nelson said that those numbers were backwards. Nelson kept repeating that “we need to keep our raw producers (i.e., the family farmers) strong” in response to a question from Maher about why we should continue to subsidize them, with Nelson noting that we subsidize other industries, most notably energy (and fast food also). Maher finished by asking Nelson about use of alternative fuels, and Nelson noted that he has a van and a Mercedes that run completely on bio-diesel produced by our farmers, and we should be seriously looking at bio-diesel as an alternative energy source (amen, brother).

The next guest who appeared via satellite was Repug Rep. David Dreier of California, who supposedly was going to replace Tom DeLay after DeLay was indicted this week at long last. From what I read, however, Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Majority Whip, is going to become the Majority Leader instead, though you can bet DeLay will find a way to worm himself into everything even if he ends up in the slam, which he deserves (once again, Howard Dean turns out to be right, though once again, he opened his mouth way too early). I’ve also heard whispers that Dreier may have been cut out because he supposedly is gay; even if he is, that’s totally irrelevant to me one way or the other.

Anyway, in response to Maher’s question about Bush “putting everything on ‘the card’” in the way of managing (?) the federal budget, Dreier came up with some flaky statement that the current conservative economic policy “is being borrowed from JFK” (I find that to be a highly dubious assertion, though I honestly don’t have time to investigate it) and that the economy “is continuing to grow” (“for who,” I asked myself as I watched this). Also, Dreier took a shot at the Democrats for not joining the panel “investigating” Hurricane Katrina this week (the one, of course, where Mike “Heck Of A Job” Brown was so belligerent), saying that, “we told them they’d have subpoena power.” I was reminded later after Dreier said that that the reason why the Dems bailed was because they wanted an independent commission to look into the Katrina fallout, not some bunch of sympathetic pols creating some temporary headlines and then moving on and basically forgetting about the whole thing (of course, as we know, Dubya and the Repugs don’t like commissions unless they’re investigating alleged Democratic misdeeds…to digress, that’s what the poobahs in Harrisburg are trying to do now with the pay raise issue, stalling the bill to repeal the raise “in committee” and all that).

Dreier kept harping on “waste, fraud and abuse” in the budget, and Maher kept trying to point out, once again, the fact that these clowns were handed a surplus from Clinton and pissed it all away. Also, speaking for myself, I’m sick of hearing this idiotic posturing from these Repug clowns (read Paul Campos’ column this week to learn about true “pork” in Alaska, by the way, versus the poor New Orleans grandmother who was wrongly incarcerated for 17 days) when, among other things, they’re standing in the way of resurrecting something like a Truman Commission to look into waste, fraud and abuse spent in Iraq, and that runs into the BILLIONS!

Maher then introduced the panelists, who were news commentator Katty Kay, British MP George Galloway, and Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens. Maher immediately marveled at the fact that he had “three Brits” on the panel at once.

Maher started by asking everyone if Americans are viewed as selfish around the world because nobody wanted to give back the “pork” from recently passed legislation, and Katty Kay (who I think presented herself better than Hitchens or Galloway, though all were good) pointed out that Nancy Pelosi had given back about $70 million for hurricane relief. Hitchens said that, “well, Bush gave up bourbon for Jesus,” which was kind of funny, though I think the group was transitioning to another subject; Hitchens, as he did multiple times, snuck in plugs for Bush and the war, saying throughout that “coexistence with jihadists is impossible” (Hitchens is correct, but like all supporters of Dubya’s illegal war, he’s failing to acknowledge that we wouldn’t be dealing with jihadists in Iraq if we hadn’t blown the place all apart first). Galloway, later in the show, came back with this (having to do with religion): “Bush hasn’t found God, but he’s found ‘the party of God’.”

I should comment on both Hitchens and Galloway at this point. I was afraid Hitchens was going to come across as a typical Repug sympathizer and generally as a propagandist and a blowhard (like that obnoxious creep Dan Cenar the week before…oops, there I go with the names again: my bad), but he really didn’t, I thought. He is a man of formidable intellect and persuasion who, on this issue anyway, happens to be completely wrong.

After watching Galloway, I now know why he has a reputation for stagecraft. He even looked Californian with some kind of buzz cut, slick tan, and some kind of ‘80s-Don Johnson-ish white sport jacket look going (I wonder if he was wearing loafers with no socks also…couldn’t tell). I thought there were going to be dustups all over the place with him and Hitchens; Galloway was getting egged on, but he seemed to laugh off what Hitchens was saying, coming out at one point with, “I don’t know why he has such a personal interest in me. Isn’t it funny?” I could tell how serious Galloway was, though, because at one point, Hitchens made a crack and Maher leaned over to Galloway and said, “Hey, did you hear that? He made a joke,” and Galloway continued to sit there sober as a judge, which actually made the whole moment funnier.

I found myself agreeing with a lot of what Galloway said, though Galloway clearly supports the Palestinians over the Israelis, and as far as I’m concerned, a pox should be suffered by both of those houses. I don’t know how the Israelis could expect the Palestinians to be docile when they’re bulldozing Palestinian homes, but on the other hand, I don’t see Israeli suicide bombers blowing up school buses either. Also, while the Israelis were withdrawing a week or so ago, Hamas still lobbed a few bombs in their direction and killed them while they were trying to pull out (Hamas, and in both an actual and de facto way, the Palestinians also – some of whom cheered on 9/11 – don’t want coexistence with Israel, they want death to Israel…and how much do you want to bet that Dubya is pleading with Sharon not to strike back because our people in Iraq would suffer reprisals? Way to go, President Stupid Head!).

Maher asked the panelists a question I was wondering about for a little while (though I suspected the answer anyway), and that is this: could Bush be Prime Minister in Great Britain? Galloway said immediately that Bush couldn’t make it through “question time” in Parliament, though Hitchens noted that others wouldn’t make it either, with Clinton probably being the exception. Galloway pointed out that Margaret Thatcher handled “question time” better than anyone he’d even seen, but Bush couldn’t last five minutes (if you’ve never seen “question time” during a session of the British Parliament on C-SPAN, trust me…it’s a raucous exchange, and you have to be on your toes or you’ll get torn to shreds).

Maher also said, “you like smart leaders in your country, but we seem to be suspicious of them,” and Hitchens used that as an opportunity to sneak in a dig on Clinton. Maher quickly replied with, “What else did Clinton lie about besides a ‘BJ’, as opposed to Bush?” and Hitchens kept quiet on that.

Maher, again on Bush, said that The National Enquirer ran a story recently saying that Dubya is supposedly drinking again (what took him so long, I wonder?), and this led into some “photo funnies” or whatever they’re called on the show, with Bush’s face pasted onto a Nick Nolte mug shot, among other pix. The funniest one was a picture of Bush doing lines of cocaine off of Kate Moss’s naked butt cheek (lots of jokes about Kate Moss on this show), and Hitchens defended Bush for bowing to what was supposedly an ultimatum from Laura to give up boozing. If Dubya has stuck to that and substance abuse in general, then I definitely give him credit for that, but for absolutely nothing else.

Maher then interviewed Andrea Mitchell, NBC White House correspondent who was plugging a book, and Maher asked her if she agreed with Dan Rather’s recent statement that there is a “climate of fear” in newsrooms, and Mitchell did not agree.

(I have to back up here for a minute and note that I watched Mitchell on one of our local news stations here for years in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and I definitely respect her as a pro in the business. When asked by Maher if she thought the press had been backing down under Bush, Mitchell said no and pointed out the fine work by some correspondents during the Katrina disaster, including Anderson Cooper, and Mitchell mentioned that she had many run ins with former Philadelphia mayor and police chief Frank Rizzo, so much so that Rizzo had tried to get her fired, but her bosses stuck with her. Mitchell brought that up to point out that many news people do get backing from their management, but that goes largely underreported. Coming from her, I would give that statement more credence that I might if it came from someone else.)

The only statement Mitchell made where I took issue with her was when she said Clinton didn’t pay enough attention to bin Laden. I think Clinton did the best he could with that, though I think, when he ordered air strikes on response to the African embassy attacks, he was acting on outdated intelligence. Besides, ownership of the ‘bin Laden problem,’ if you can call it that, rests with Dubya as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t see him doing a thing.

Going back to the panel to talk about the war again, Maher asked, “Can we finally stop saying ‘we have to fight them over there or else fight them here’?”, and Hitchens brought up some anecdote (as he did a few times) about how a Muslim nation somewhere basically captured American and British sailors and said they’re prisoners around the 1800s or so because we consider them to be infidels (couldn’t quite get all of this…Hitchens has a thick accent), and Thomas Jefferson (who must have been President at that time) responded by attacking them, and ever since then, we’ve been fighting Muslims (I would argue that the antagonism between Christianity and Islam goes back much further than that to The Crusades, but what do I know?). Hitchens, of course, never bothered to address the fundamentally illegal way that we carried out the war in Iraq, though Galloway came closer to that, as you might expect.

Katty Kay responded to Hitchens by saying that, because of the recent bombings, “everyone in London feels that the attacks are coming to them.” Galloway, repeating himself a bit, correctly stated (I think) that, “ten thousand new bin Ladens have been created by the war.” Hitchens said that he thought bin Laden as a “one in ten thousand guy,” and Galloway said he hoped so. Then, Galloway pointed something out that you NEVER hear about in this country, and that is the fact that the Reagan Administration was responsible for training bin Laden in Afghanistan, but nobody seems to remember that. Then Galloway added that the Republicans tolerate people in Florida trying to carry out terrorist activity against Cuba (yep, I think he went off the deep end with that one a bit also).

There was one bit in particular in the “New Rules” segment that was great, and led to Maher’s hilarious closing remarks. Basically, Maher said that we should put the new New Orleans, when it is rebuilt, in the middle of Kansas (“Where else to dump The Big Easy but right smack dab in the middle of Bob Dole’s Viagra Farm?”). He also added, “Kansas could use some jazz, some blues…some blacks,” and “New Orleans needs a new home, and Kansas needs to get the stick out of its ass.” Here’s another line: “Don’t think of it as 100 million Creoles taking over. Think of it as the March Of The Penguins.”

(Now you know another reason why it took me so long to get to this.)

The show is off tonight and will return next Friday October 7th.

"The Hammer" And The Tentacles

(Note: I changed the title of this post because, upon further consideration, I realized that I detested the original one.)

The deep-dwelling, slimy sucker has finally been captured, and it’s making headlines around the globe. I personally think that’s a good thing, because that will probably lead to jail time for Tom DeLay:- ).

Here’s more on this developing story (and another) from correspondent Adam Felber.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The High Ground Is Shrinking

Yes, I know Dubya got John Roberts sworn in as chief justice today (and Bob Casey, Jr. said he would've voted for him...Earth to Bob, hello?) and Ron Wyden caved also (and, like everyone else, I'm waiting to see who Judy Miller names as her source, though why do I have the feeling that all of this is just more theatrics to protect Bushco and give her a nice payoff?).

Update: I wonder how Rove got Libby to "fall on his sword"? And of course, ol' Judy, Judy, Judy is still her typical "self-promoting-oh-woe-is-I-the-supposedly-heroic-journalist" self as always.

Also, as Arianna points out here, the presidential campaign standard bearer last year still has a problem on Iraq (Kerry should bother to read the 9/27 post from The Bulldog Manifesto to see why it's OK for him to show a spine on this one).

Memo to the Democrats: Even though Bush apparently got some kind of a tiny bounce in the approval rating from his "handling" of Hurricane Rita (though I've always thought the numbers on those things were jimmied all over the place), he's still a wounded "lame duck." I say that knowing full well that, unfortunately, he and the Repug Congress (and Supreme Court) can still do a lot of damage.

All of this, as we know, has been authored by our red state brethren, and to commemorate me doing this for a year (I wish I'd thought of this on Tuesday), I'm going to bring back the person who I consider to be the unmitigated voice of red state intolerance for one more shot, and by that I mean someone who isn't a media hack collecting a paycheck or a right-wing blogger.

This person's name is Cynthia Sneed, and please allow me a minute or two while I set this up.

During the presidential election last year, The Philadelphia Inquirer had a feature running during the election called “Red State/Blue State” in which they ran opinion pieces on particular issues, and they asked two red staters (Joe Franklin, Cynthia Sneed) and two blue staters (Terri Falbo, Tim Horner…I had some communication with Tim, and he’s a cool guy) to write about a particular topic. The feature was sponsored jointly with The Inquirer and the Anniston (AL) Star.

I actually read a few of the red state pieces and tried to understand these people, but I realized that they were all horribly misinformed and/or hopelessly biased towards Bush and against Kerry and “the liberals”, so it wasn’t worth my time to keep at this futile exercise.

The link below will take you to Cynthia Sneed’s column in response to the question of, “What are your feelings, hopes, and fears after this election?” I should say that Joe Franklin’s response to that question was a bit more reflective and showed somewhat of a desire to unite the two groups of people who have been at each other’s throats in this election. Ms. Sneed’s response, however, was something else altogether.

Infuriating, isn’t it? Doesn’t the self-righteousness, intolerance and sarcasm of this woman just churn your guts? I particularly want to punch her in the mouth over her implication that, somehow, her sense of outrage over September 11th is somehow superior to my own or anyone else’s.

(Please note that the prior sentence qualifies as another exception to what I state elsewhere on this site; namely, that I don't advocate physical violence against anyone. As with the other exception, this is also related to September 11th.)

Every time I get down and feel like "throwing in the towel," I just read Cynthia Sneed's bilious nonsense, "pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again" just like Mr. S. says, and the outrage is all fresh and new again. It works wonders for me, and I hope it does for you also.

By the way, on a wholly other note, as a goodwill gesture, I should ask that you add Brandoland to your blogroll today. Brendan's a good dude and he helped me out, and all he's asking is the same treatment in return so he doesn't have to steal any more gas:-).

Money And Joan Both Swear, Bob

Why is this news?

When Joan Baez performs on behalf of Amnesty International, she gets nary a mention in the media. When she contributes to a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, it’s more “ho hum” time (with both her music and financial support). But use bad language in a prime-time PBS documentary about a guy with whom she has had a professional and romantic relationship for years, and it becomes a headline?

Am I the only one who doesn’t get this?

I personally didn’t see “No Direction Home,” Martin Scorsese’s documentary on Bob Dylan, when it aired the other night, but I will one day. Of course now, though, I suppose my curiosity is supposed to be stimulated enough to wait in anticipation for Baez’s “F” blast, which apparently comes about an hour into the program.

Gee, I wonder if this means that she should pursue a new career in standup comedy (possibly as the female version of Andrew “Dice” Clay)? I can see it now…

“Little miss muffet
Sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey, which were farmed and processed from the brutalized labor of third world nations suffering under the yoke of imperialist oppression guided by the dictates of the International Monetary Fund.

Along came a spider
And sat down beside her
And began a lecture about the coming decline of capitalism at the hands of the weary mothers of the world, the ghost of Joe Hill, and the cataclysmic turmoil generated by the hegemony of globalization upon Islamist states.

And when the spider was done, he asked, 'Yo, what’s in the bowl, bitch?'”
If the majority of the people of this country choose to ingest spoon-fed pabulum such as that which CNN proclaims as “news” (as illustrated by this example) and believe that they are actually “informed,” then we, collectively speaking, are truly a nation of zombies.

One more thing: the next time you hear some conservative hammerhead screaming about “liberal media elites,” make sure they read this.

We Can Only Wish

This hits a little close to home for me, but it's still funny stuff (thanks, B)...

Subject: George W to be Outsourced

Congress today announced that the job of the President of the United States of America will be outsourced to overseas interests as of September 30th. The move is being made to save not only a significant portion of the President's $400,000 yearly salary, but also a record $521 billion in deficit expenditures and related overhead.

"We believe this is a wise move financially. The cost savings should be significant," stated Congressman Thomas Reynolds (R-Washington). Reynolds, with the aid of the Government Accountability Office, has studied outsourcing of American jobs extensively. "We cannot expect to remain competitive on the world stage with the current level of cash outlay," Reynolds noted.

Mr. Bush was informed by email this morning of his termination.

Preparations for the job move have been underway for some time. Gurvinder Singh of Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India will be assuming the office of President as of September 1st. Mr. Singh was born in the United States while his Indian parents were vacationing at Niagara Falls, thus making him eligible for the position. He will receive a salary of $320 (USD) a month but with no health coverage or other benefits.

It is believed that Mr. Singh will be able to handle his job responsibilities without support staff. Due to the time difference between the US and India, he will be working primarily at night, when few offices of the US Government will be open. "Working nights will allow me to keep my day job at the American Express call center," stated Mr. Singh in an exclusive interview. "I am excited about this position. I always hoped I would be a President someday."

A Congressional spokesperson noted that while Mr. Singh may not be fully aware of all the issues involved in the office of President, this should not be a problem. Mr. Singh will rely upon a script tree that will enable him to respond effectively to most topics of concern. Using this tree, he can address common concerns without having to understand the underlying issues at all.

"We know these scripting tools work," stated the spokesperson. "Mr. Bush has used them successfully for years."

Mr. Bush will receive health coverage, expenses, and salary until his final day of employment. Following a two week waiting period, he will be eligible for $240 dollars a week unemployment for 13 weeks. Unfortunately, he will not be eligible for Medicaid as his unemployment benefits will exceed the allowed limit.

Mr. Bush has been provided the outplacement services of Manpower, Inc. to help him write a resume and prepare for his upcoming job transition. According to Manpower, Mr. Bush may have difficulties in securing a new position due to limited practical work experience. One possibility is re-enlistment in the Air National Guard. Should he choose this option, he would likely be stationed in Iraq, a country he has visited. "I've been there, I know all about Iraq," stated Mr. Bush, who gained invaluable knowledge of the country in a visit to the Baghdad Airport's terminal and gift shop.

Sources in Baghdad and Falluja say Mr. Bush would receive a warm reception from local Iraqis. They have asked to be provided with details of his arrival so that they might arrange an appropriate welcome.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Gonna Fly Now!

What a day - first, DeLay is indicted (blasting prosecutor Ronnie Earle, of course, who usually goes after Democrats, though DeLay is simply too repellant to ignore), and now this...

(And, if you visit and go to Geno's at 9th and Federal while all "duded up," remember to do the "Philly flip" with the tie while your "cheese with" is dribbling down your shirt.)

I'm A Member Of The DBT!

This post has a vulgar expression in it, so be forewarned if that sort of thing bugs you. I didn’t come up with it, however, but I feel that I have to respond to it and some other stuff related to it (like most other interesting stuff in the “lefty blogger” world, I heard about this first from Atrios today).

The link discusses, in part, the case of LaToyia Figueroa, the missing Philadelphia-area woman whose search was aided by members of the blogging community in Philadelphia. It also contains some highly uncomplimentary words about said bloggers in general from Noel Weyrich, a writer with Philadelphia Magazine. I’m referring in particular to this:

News professionals know too well that nothing kills a promising story faster than a fuller grasp of the facts. You think you've got something special, but you make some calls, do some research, and end up with nothing worth pitching to an editor. Bloggers—unedited and unaccountable—get to run with whatever they have at hand. Dick Brain and his brethren bloggers (the Dick Brain Trust) live in a state of blissful ignorance because they are, in general, defiantly ill-informed amateurs. LaToyia was black, her disappearance was unnoticed, therefore it was unnoticed because she was black. Don't confuse them with the facts. Their minds are made up.
How fortunate for you, Mr. Weyrich, that you can bring your formidable talents to bear and practice your craft with such notoriety. But I suppose you believe that only you and your MSM brethren can disseminate the news that is so critical to the process of dialogue and formulation of thought and opinion that is necessary if this country is to function as a truly democratic republic. And in the case of your publication, of course, such “news of the day” is conveniently flavored for your demographic and placed strategically so as not to interfere with your magazine’s true purpose, which is to promote often unnecessary cosmetic surgery, advertise junkets to trendy resorts, furtively disclose gossip about celebrities that many people don’t even know exist let alone care about, and shamelessly plug whichever “Jewelry Row” shyster happens to be running a sale that month.

I’ve never bothered to point this out before because it really isn’t something for anyone else to be concerned about, but I happen to be running this site gratis. My compensation is zero. Bupkes. Zilch. You got it? Sure, you could argue that it is partly a vanity exercise on my part, and to a small degree, I suppose your right. But as a member of the “Dick Brain Trust,” I feel obliged to defend myself against your attack.

I have pointed this out elsewhere, but apparently it is necessary for me to do so again here; if you and your colleagues were truly doing your jobs in reporting the news, either as straight news or features, there would be no need for me, or bloggers generally I suppose, to even exist. So maybe instead of grandiosely dismissing us in such vulgar fashion, you might actually recognize that we have something of worth to contribute.

And Weyrich continues to “dig his hole” with this:

Laci (Peterson)’s story was Hollywood. LaToyia's story—unmarried, scratching out a living, knocked up by some lowlife probationer—isn't. Push the hot button of race, however, and it's very easy to make an oversimplified case that the media puts a higher value on missing white women.
This is truly funny. The media puts a higher value on white women generally, Noel, whether they’re missing or not (though it helps to get better ratings if they are). Rightly or wrongly (mostly the latter, I would guess), that is the rule of thumb. What do you think the reaction would have been to “the runaway bride” if she had been black, Asian, or Hispanic? Do you honestly think anyone would have noticed enough to even care?

The fact that you need to be reminded of that is astonishing.

Want more proof? What about Shoshanna Johnson? Lori Piestewa? Did they get much “face time” on TV? No, because it all went to Jessica Lynch. Even though all three were captured in Dubya’s illegal war (or killed, in the case of Piestewa), do you honestly think Lynch didn’t get the most coverage (and a heroic narrative to boot which turned out to be made up) because she was a pretty blonde?

Oh, but somehow bloggers such as myself, being members of the “Dick Brain Trust,” aren’t supposed to upstage our MSM “betters” by pointing that out and should kow tow and grovel at your feet instead.

Well, as Sisyphus said Noel, your magazine’s demographic is changing (think “urban contemporary”), and bilious attacks like this aren’t, I suspect, going to help you keep up with your new target audience. You should ask Larry Platt about how to approach this subject in the future, by the way, since I think he’s interested in actually having a dialogue about race as opposed to your idiotic rants.

Update 9/29: By the way, speaking of race, Bill Bennett has an absolutely charming idea about how to handle crime.

Update 10/05: Regarding the Bennett statement, Atrios nailed it yesterday when he criticized Richard Cohen’s column on it (if Cohen wants to criticize the Democrats for not having ideas, he should put forward a better argument than the one in his column). Also, here is another link to the Bennett dustup (again, sourced to Atrios) that has, I think, some important information to consider.

Say Hello To James Earl Bush

Somehow, I think Dubya is about as serious about energy conservation as he is about looking for those pesky WMDs under his desk in the Oval Office. Of course, Time has to cover this with a straight face, I guess (or else Pearlstine will give up the notes of MORE reporters under duress).

That Dubya sure is a kidder, isn’t he folks? Do you think it’s a coincidence that he’s spouting this line of malarkey after summer has ended and people are back from their vacations so they’ll be doing a lot less driving, meaning that his buddies in Big Energy are going to be merely making obscene profits, as opposed to grotesquely obscene profits?

Actually, I had sort of a moment a little while ago where I felt a link of sorts between Dubya and Jimmah, and in the most shameless and self-promoting manner that I know how, I will link to it here.

No Helmet and No Brains

This has only a passing connection to anything related to politics, but I don't care. It addresses a big pet peeve that I have as a resident of this state, and I'm grateful to Stewart L. Cohen, president of the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania, for bringing up this issue again (this appeared in today's issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer).

Helmet law costly in lives, cash

I am a pro football fan, a lifelong Eagles fan, so I fully appreciate that the all-popular sport can bring attention to social issues in a way that few other things can.

On its Sept. 18 Sportscenter program, ESPN televised a report about two football players who also have an interest in riding motorcycles.

One of them, Jamie Henderson, a former defensive back for the New York Jets, was in a motorcycle accident in April 2004. Despite his injuries, he is now conditioning himself to get back into pro football. "I'm alive because I wore a helmet," he told ESPN. State law in Georgia, where he was riding, requires motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Henderson's story was followed by an interview with Ben Roethlisberger, star quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He said he liked to ride a motorcycle but didn't want to be told to wear a helmet.

Noting that it was all perfectly legal, Roethlisberger said, "Pennsylvania law doesn't make me wear a helmet... ."

Ironic, isn't it, that a person whose profession requires that he wear a helmet to protect himself in an organized contact sport can legally go bare-headed on the road at speeds of 65 miles per hour?

I thank ESPN for putting Pennsylvania's wrong-headed law back in the news. Its proponents will say it's a dead issue, settled by the General Assembly in 2003. I say the issue should never die so long as people are dying or suffering permanent injuries as a result and the rest of us are affected.

Who, for example, pays the medical bills for brain injury when there is an accident, especially when a motorcyclist suffers a catastrophic brain injury? How does Pennsylvania's law affect our overall medical policy?

The fact is that when private insurance runs out - and that happens quickly in catastrophic brain injury hospitalization and rehabilitation - Medicaid picks up the tab. That means taxpayers like you and me.

Medicaid is out of control. In Pennsylvania, the 2006 Medicaid budget is about $4.4 billion. Based on a study issued last month by the National Highway Safety Administration, it is indisputable that allowing motorcyclists to ride without helmets will cost lives and dramatically increase Medicaid costs in Pennsylvania.

The NHTSA study examined Florida's experience after it legalized riding a motorcycle without a helmet five years ago. In the three years after the law's repeal, the state saw an 81 percent increase motorcycle-accident fatalities.

The NHTSA study also found that head injuries have become more expensive to treat.

The average hospital cost to treat such an injury was $45,602, more than four times the $10,000 insurance non-helmeted riders are required to carry. Preusser Research Group, a Connecticut research firm specializing in transportation and highway safety, conducted the study for the federal agency.

In the three years after the repeal, 61 percent of the 933 fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing helmets.

"The numbers are pretty compelling that Florida has paid a high price," said NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson. "There is enough here for any state contemplating a helmet repeal to realize there are serious consequences."

Helmet laws are not about singling out boys and their motorcycle toys. They are about common sense. We are told to buckle up, so why can't we be told to wear a helmet?

The Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania has some questions for our state legislators. Is there any legitimate reason why Pennsylvania does not require motorcycle helmet use? How much is this helmet law costing Pennsylvania taxpayers? If helmet use were required by law and enforced, how many lives - and Medicaid dollars - could be saved for the benefit of others? Is there any reason why Pennsylvania Medicaid dollars are being spent to subsidize reckless behavior?

It's time to require all motorcyclists in Pennsylvania to wear helmets.

Freedom of choice? It has trumped public safety and the public interest.

The Double Standard

The snarling, angry countenance of Mike Brown was all over the place online yesterday, with stories of him banging his hand on the table where he testified in response to a question/statement/speech from Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut (who actually isn’t bad for a Repug: I agree with the Democrats, however, who said that an independent commission should have been appointed for this…Dubya doesn’t like them, though – remember how hard he fought against the 9/11 commission with Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton? – since he’d rather see his party engage in pointless character assassination for the benefit of the media and then hope that people forget what the original issue was actually all about).

Brown also acted meek and cowed in response to a scolding from a Texas legislator (it makes me sick and disgusted to see anyone suck up to a Texas politician by the way, be they a Dem or Repug), though that was buried near the end of the stories I read about this. Likewise, Brown’s supposed self-righteous indignation was included in the banner headline in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

What a pity that he didn’t bring such determination and resolve to doing his job when it actually mattered.

On the other hand, you had to look for a link to this story of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco testifying before the same congressional committee today. The link to this story appears under the “Special Coverage” banner on CNN’s site, and the tone of the story is completely different from the Brown story yesterday (though I’ll admit that Blanco didn’t engage in the same childish character assassination as Brown, only saying that Brown lied under oath, which is damning enough actually).

Oh, and speaking of Texas politicians, you can file this under “chickens coming home to roost,” at long last.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

In Praise Of A True Texan

(By the way, I haven’t forgotten about the “Real Time Update.” I’m just taking my time with it for a variety of reasons, one of which being that the show is off this Friday.)

I’ve read some letters from the conservative shock troops out there (or, as Atrios refers to them, “the 101st Fighting Keyboarders”) who, in a continuing, 24/7/365 effort to prop up Dubya, are now stating that, “well, whaddaya know? Because of the cleanup from Katrina, Bush has the opportunity to become a ‘big-government president’ like another former president from Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson.”

There’s a word for a statement like that which equates perfectly with the substance that you wipe off your footwear after spending a few hours on your ranch cleaning out the horse stable (going a LONG way not to curse, I’ll admit).

As you can read from the Wikipedia article, Johnson taught in a Texas high school before he entered politics. He also served in the military during World War II and received several commendations. Johnson was also elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1937 and the U.S. Senate in 1948, rising through the ranks to position himself near the top of the party by the time of the 1960 presidential election. As we know of course, he became president in 1963 upon JFK’s assassination and was elected to a term of his own in 1964.

Questionable events and circumstances surrounded his ascent, but nonetheless, he rose largely through his own hard work and determination. His presidency will be remembered primarily for the success (and excess, to a degree) of his Great Society programs, as well as the turmoil due to the escalation of the Vietnam War. Indeed, you could argue that Johnson’s popularity as president (for a time) stemmed partly from the fact that he knew the U.S. Congress as well as he did.

Regarding Vietnam, Johnson clearly agonized over the turn of events, finally deciding not to run for another term as president in 1968 largely because of it. From the moment he left office, he let his health go with smoking and failing to keep up his exercise regimen, which was necessary due to the severe heart attack he had suffered many years earlier, requiring continual fitness on his part. This led to his death from another heart attack (his third) in 1973. In essence, Johnson committed suicide because of the war.

Considering all of this, it is easy to contrast Johnson, a largely self-made man (though, then as now, Kellogg, Brown and Root figure largely in anyone’s political ascent in Texas), with Dubya, who has had everything in his life handed to him. Also, it is even more preposterous to think that Dubya would perform any kind of “governmental social engineering” on behalf of anyone except his fellow millionaires.

I would humbly ask that you ponder all of this the next time you hear about a genuine leader (though Johnson clearly was not a saint, and I personally don’t think he had a hand in the assassination) being contrasted with a pretender who, God help us, currently holds what is still the most important job in the world.

Happy Birthday To Me!

I started the old site a year ago today with a link to this Common Dreams column from E.L. Doctorow, and if anything, Doctorow’s words are truer today than when he originally wrote them.

By the way, speaking of Dubya (as we usually are), I realize that he has no clue about the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which bans our military from participating in police-type activity on our soil (passed in response to that little dustup that happened a few years prior to that called THE CIVIL WAR), but it would only be a short step from sending in troops to legitimately aid in cleanup (which is wasting them as resources as far as I’m concerned) to using them to drive out “undesirables” while Halliburton starts erecting pleasure palaces all over the new New Orleans for “the right people.” I realize Dubya is also too stoo-pid to realize that, if God forbid a revolt begins in this country, that is how it will start.

(Also, The Bulldog Manifesto has a lot more detail on the Posse Comitatus Act today.)

He Should've Stuck With The Horsies

So Mike “Deer In The Headlights” Brown is now trying to save his sorry butt before a congressional panel, huh?

Go to the “My Hometown” link and watch the video, and then ponder the words of a man named Joseph Welch, you sorry excuse for a human being.

(Oh, and one more thing: let's review and find out how we got to this point while "Brownie" is telling us how bloody wonderful he is for "resolving 150 presidentially declared emergencies," or whatever the hell spin and nonsense he's trying to foist on us today.)

Freedom Fries All Around!

And Dubya can provide some Vichy water from us, or maybe even some Victory Gin. (Doubleplusgood that - thanks, B...)

BATON ROUGE, LA. - The White House announced today that President Bush has successfully sold the state of Louisiana back to the French at more than double its original selling price of $11,250,000.

"This is a bold step forward for America," said Bush. "And America will be stronger and better as a result. I stand here today in unity with French Prime Minister Jack Sharaq, who was so kind to accept my offer of Louisiana in exchange for 25 million dollars cash."

The state, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild.

"Jack understands full well that this one's a 'fixer upper,'" said Bush. "He and the French people are quite prepared to pump out all that water, and make Louisiana a decent place to live again. And they've got a lot of work to do. But Jack's assured me, if it's not right, they're going to fix it."

The move has been met with incredulity from the beleaguered residents of Louisiana.

However, President Bush's decision has been widely lauded by Republicans.

"This is an unexpected but brilliant move by the President," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. "Instead of spending billions and billions, and billions of dollars rebuilding the state of Louisiana, we've just made 25 million dollars in pure profit."

"This is indeed a smart move," commented Fox News analyst Brit Hume. "Not only have we stopped the flooding in our own budget, we've made money on the deal. Plus, when the French are done fixing it up, we can easily invade and take it back again."

The money gained from 'The Louisiana Refund' is expected to be immediately pumped into the rebuilding of Iraq.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Sorry About That, Chief

(It was too easy…actually, in a way, I’m not.)

Cenk provides some interesting food for thought here that I haven’t quite bought into, but even though I don’t entirely accept his premise, I definitely agree with his conclusion. I have to admit, however, that given the recent report from the grand jury about the archdiocese of Philadelphia, it’s hard not to be a naysayer (or “doomsayer,” if you will?).

“86” That One, Frist!

In response to hard-hitting, probing questions regarding this story, the Republican senator from Tennessee had this to say:

Sen. From HCA: “I categorically deny those allegations. This sort of scandalous muck racking could lead someone to believe that my office is for sale, when in fact it cannot be bought at any price.”

Me: “I find that a bit hard to believe.”

Sen. From HCA: “Well then, would you believe that I can be had for a boatload of options for a biopharma startup and full deniability in the matter of my blind trust regarding this allegation and any that may arise in the future?”

Me: “Nope. I don’t think it would take that much.”

Sen. From HCA: “How about knowledge of the whereabouts of Garfield the cat? I’m a little out of practice on my experimentation techniques, if you know what I mean.”
Oh well, so much for my dumb tribute (in memoriam…Tennessee Tuxedo was my favorite, actually).

Catapulting The Propaganda

This morning’s Inquirer reprinted, on its editorial page, a typically propagandistic Glenn McCoy cartoon depicting John Bolton, of all people, lending help to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan while Annan is supposedly ignoring the “oil for food” scandal. Of course, it had been a typical Repug tactic throughout to focus attention on Annan (as Norm Coleman did clumsily a few months ago) and away from Dick Cheney and Halliburton on this, which is where the focus really belongs.

(Program note here: blogging may be light for a little while…I’ll keep you posted - no pun intended.)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sunday Funnies

(Not laughing I guess, though for this, you would define “funny” as “pathetic”…)

This Guest Opinion appeared yesterday in the Bucks County Courier Times from Chuck Thompson, who, according to his bio, “has more than 13 years experience as a journalist followed by more than a decade and a half in the public relations and marketing industry. He is currently a partner in C&C Communications, a marketing communications firm based in Levittown.” I like a good rant against Dubya as well as anyone, though I think Thompson is “all over the place” a bit, though it’s good that he recounts the fact that Dubya was as useless as a businessman as he has been as a president.

It is now four years since the attack on the World Trade Center that changed the world forever. The Homeland Security Advisory System code level is yellow, which means it is elevated and right in the middle of the five possible levels.

Security levels. Remember them? They were elevated and lowered almost daily during the final months of the last election to keep people frightened so they would vote for the “strong and steadfast” George w. Bush. It was one of Karl Rove’s finest moments, next to insuring that a referendum over gay marriage was put on the ballot of every state that could have swung the election towards the Democrats.

Since Nov. 2, 2004, the security levels have become a footnote in the Great Republican Spin Machine. Does this mean that, miraculously, we have become safer after Nov. 2 of last year than we were before? With Iraq having been turned through the U.S. invasion into the greatest recruiting ground for al Qaeda terrorists ever, I sincerely doubt it. It certainly isn’t safer for the men and women of America who have been thrown into an illegal war without the proper training or equipment and who are dying daily because of the disgraceful planning and lack of foresight of their military and civilian leaders.

And now our attention is focused on an even greater tragedy than 9/11 – greater, indeed, in that our own government rather than a foreign enemy perpetrated the death and misery following in the wake of Katrina. It is time to get angry. It is time to raise the security level to red – severe – because of the threat to our nation posed by the reign of Dubya. Consider his record:

- The oil business he launched in 1978, Arbusto Energy, was a financial disaster and never turned a profit. He was saved when it got swallowed up in a 1982 merger, engineered by a couple of Bush family friends, with another energy company called Spectrum 7, which named him C.E.O. of the new company.

- Four years later, Spectrum 7 was itself floundering under $3 million in debt. Yet another energy company run by a family friend, Harken Energy, came in and bailed out Bush a second time and gave him a fat wad of stock options and a $120,000 annual salary, but no actual work to do.

- After a number of deals that still bear close scrutiny, Bush sold off $848,560 in Harken stock right before the company imploded and decided that perhaps the oil business wasn’t for him after all. In April 1989, Bush invested $600,000 of borrowed money in the Texas Rangers and started drawing an annual salary of approximately $200,000 with the title of managing general partner. When his partners finally sold the Rangers in June 1998, George’s percentage was worth $14.9 million. Not bad for a $600,000 total investment.

- After his appointment to the office of president by other Bush friends on the Supreme Court, and heading into August 2001, Bush spent less than two-thirds of his days actually working. His 30-day vacation that year was second only to the record 31-day vacation of Richard Nixon, another Republican luminary. The rest, of course, is pretty well known history.

We now have a record deficit, a medical delivery system that is a disgrace, increased poverty, record high oil prices, the loss of respect from the rest of the world, a war without end and now a disaster relief agency that allowed an untold number of citizens to die in the wake of Katrina because of the good ol’ boys friends of George ran it like he conducted his businesses in Texas.

Now that we must finally realize that the real risk in the U.S. isn’t as much from possible terrorist attacks as it is from the actual destruction being perpetrated by a bumbling administration, shored up by a spineless Republican Congress. It may be time for a national discussion about enacting legislation allowing for a recall on the federal level. The discussion alone may be cathartic and spur the equally spineless Democrats into standing up for principles rather than looking for ways to keep their jobs.

Reality Yes, Jingoism No

According to the police chief quoted in this report, about 100,000 people attended the march against the war on Saturday.

And maybe 400 people attended this glorified photo-op today.

Atrios also noted earlier today that the call went out to the right-wing propagandists to ante up some dough to support this misguided enterprise, and all that came back after they finished passing around the pot was about $600. Gee, I wonder if there’s a message there?

To all of the chicken hawks and everyone else listed under “The Dark Side” on this page (and you too, J.D.), I have only this to say:

The truth hurts, doesn’t it (yes, I know it’s not original, but it fits).

Update 1 9/26: Speaking of jingoism, boy, was I wrong about Gov. Mike Huckabee. Atrios has more information on that today (maybe Rove really did get to him after all).

Update 2 9/26: Thanks again to Atrios for sending me here and putting me wise to more on this (turns out my 100K number was low.)

A Time For Penance

I couldn't imagine my life without my faith, but at this moment, I'm ashamed to be part of an organization that is performing the knee-jerks attacks and victimization in which the Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently engaged.

Tom Ferrick Jr. Report: Reading between the lies

By Tom Ferrick Jr.
Inquirer Columnist

The cardinal calls the report "very graphic" and, brother, is he right.

Parts of it are strictly X-rated, but you couldn't call it salacious.

Sickening is more like it, given that the perps were priests, the victims children, and the crime scenes were rectories and churches, even a confessional.

The grand jury report released Wednesday documented child sexual abuse cases by 63 Roman Catholic priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Their victims numbered in the hundreds.

"We should begin by making one thing clear," the jury report says. "When we say abuse, we don't just mean 'inappropriate touching' (as the Archdiocese often chooses to refer to it). We mean rape. Boys who were raped orally, boys who were raped anally, girls who were raped vaginally."

Like the cardinal said, very graphic. Still, if you can stomach it, I recommend reading the complete report. Go to for all the official documents.

You certainly will wince. You may even cry.

What hit me first was the white-hot fury of the grand jury. Touch any page and the prose could burn you.

It is anger born of frustration. Despite the horrific nature of the crimes, none of the priests can be prosecuted because of Pennsylvania's statute of limitations of five years on such crimes.


These were offenses whose victims did not step forward sometimes five, 10 or even 20 years after the rape.

The jury says that were it not for similar legal barriers, it would have charged Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and other archdiocesan officials for covering up the cases, for shuffling offender priests from one assignment to another, for their failure to report credible cases of abuse to the police. Ditto for the late Cardinal John Krol.

For Catholics, the report is especially jarring because you will see familiar faces.

I saw six: three priests who taught at Cardinal O'Hara High School when I went there; another who was a longtime resident at Sacred Heart, Manoa, where I went to church as a child; two others whom I knew as a reporter.

Read the report and you'll also see these cases were carefully investigated and meticulously detailed. In short, the D.A. had them nailed - the offender priests and the archdiocesan officials.

Which presents a problem for the archdiocese: How do you counter the truth? Easy. As the old saying goes, if you can't attack the evidence, attack the man.


Hence, the fury of the church's response, which called the report a "vile, mean-spirited diatribe against the Church," called the grand jury members and prosecutors "inquisitors" and labeled the whole endeavor as "anti-Catholic."

A footnote in the archdiocesan response even compares the jury and the D.A. to the Know-Nothings of the 1840s, a proto-Ku Klux Klan group that was virulently anti-Catholic, anti-Irish and anti-black.

It conjured up an image of D.A. Lynne Abraham, wearing a white hood and carrying a torch, chasing elderly priests down the street.

It's ludicrous, not to mention insulting to the Jewish D.A., her prosecutors and the grand jury members - a goodly portion of whom are Roman Catholic.

The other message, the one delivered by Cardinal Justin Rigali, was, in so many words: Why pick over the past? Let us move forward. The church has reformed. It has procedures now to handle these cases. We have turned over a new leaf.

To sum up, a 2,000-year-old institution known for continuity and resistance to change, is - mirabile dictu - now the vigilant guard against priestly sexual abuse. Hmm.

(Excuse me, but I'd rather trust the cops and the D.A. to do that job.)

But that's the line many Catholics who go to church this weekend will hear from the pulpit, along with criticism of our anti-Catholic D.A.

Remember to be respectful and try not to laugh.