Friday, October 28, 2005

Raising The States

And now, this message from John Edwards...

Dear Friend,

If you're like me, then you have been watching these last few months as George Bush and his allies in Washington have failed the American people over and over again.

There's not much we can do to change the culture of failure and corruption in Washington. But, there's a whole lot we can do to change the balance of power across the country.

With your help, we'll elect state and local leaders all across America who will fight for our fundamental Democratic values. I am personally committed to funding this next generation of leaders through a program I call "Raising the States."

Today, I am asking you to make a donation in support of this project. We cannot succeed without you. Please make a contribution today.

Support Raising the States so we can change the balance of power immediately.

George Bush and his cronies in Washington have failed to protect our citizens at home. Instead, they were unprepared and unable to respond when a natural catastrophe exposed generations of poverty and struggle seldom seen on the evening news. Further, they have failed to protect our men and women fighting overseas. Instead they wage war without a plan in Iraq while doing little to stop the international terrorism that is the true threat to our national security.

While the big challenges go unmet, it's business as usual in Washington, where ethics and criminal investigations continue to dog Republican leaders, and even the White House. Americans have grown increasingly disgusted with the culture of corruption that seems to permeate Washington.

It is now abundantly clear that change will not come from the top down. We must build it from the grassroots up. We can start working right now to elect new Democratic majorities in state legislatures across the county. Once we put Democrats back in charge, we can begin to repair the damage caused by five years of failed leadership in Washington. And, because the Raising the States campaign will cultivate and support the next generation of leaders, it will be the first step towards putting our party back on top. But I cannot do it alone. I am counting on you to give our campaign the resources it needs to succeed. Please make a contribution today.

Support Raising the States and undo the damage caused by five years of failed leadership.

If you believe we must raise the minimum wage for millions of hard-working Americans who are struggling every day just to get by, then I need your support. If you believe that we must lower health care costs and increase access for the millions of working families who right now simply can't afford to get sick, then I need your support. If you believe that we must invest in great public schools that will open the doors of opportunity for hundreds of thousands of kids and their dreams, then I need your support.

Make no mistake. Our opponents are strong and the stakes couldn't be higher. We are up against a formidable message and money machine. Millions of dollars of special interest money and a communications infrastructure that is decades ahead of our own give the Republicans a huge advantage before our campaigns even begin. As Democrats, it's our duty to level the playing field.

This is a battle for the values we hold most dear: The dignity fundamental to every American who works hard and plays by the rules. The power we have as a grassroots movement to build something greater than the sum of our parts. The principles for which the Democratic Party has always stood. The dream that we truly are united as One America. If you believe that those values are worth fighting for in every state across America, then I need your support. Please make a contribution today.

Support Raising the States and help us fight for Democratic values across the country.

There is a powerful hunger for leadership in our country today. Americans everywhere yearn for the leadership we need to face the monumental challenges we have at home and abroad. It's clear that leadership won't be coming from Washington, so it's up to us to build it from the grassroots up in states across the country. I cannot do it without you. I need your help today.

So far this year, I've raised $3.8 million for Democrats all across the country. I have raised more than half a million dollars in the last six weeks alone and I am just short of my goal of $4 million. We can exceed my goal if we work together, but this fight is more important than just one big number. The very future of our country is at stake. I know I can count on you to help me fight for the One America we believe in.

Thank you so much for your continued support.


Dubya, The Working Man's Friend

A family member belongs to the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, and he forwarded some literature pertaining to “The Outsourcing of America” that I wanted to post here. Basically, he designs electrical signs and displays used by banks, sports parks, and casinos (lots of measuring and cutting and intricate wiring is involved).

I have a lot of material on this, and I’m not going to get into all of it in a single post like this one. I’ll just present a few highlights at a time, such as this (by the way, click here to download the entire issue of their publication containing this information as a .pdf file):

- The average U.S. manufacturing wage is $16.00 per hour or $33,280 per year. The average Canadian manufacturing wage is $20.20 per hour or $42,016 per year. The average Communist China manufacturing wage is 61 cents per hour or $1,268 per year.

- From 2000 to 2003, real median family income declined 0.9 percent per year, a three-year drop of $1,500.

- Real average weekly earnings fell by 0.2 percent from June 2005 to July 2005 after seasonal adjustment, according to data released on August 16, 2005 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.

- The trade deficit with Communist China skyrocketed to $162 billion, up more than 30% since last year and more than double where it was in 2000, the year Congress gave China permanent normal trade relations.

- Canada’s imports from China have risen as rapidly as that of the U.S.

- Canada’s trade deficit with China was the same percentage of Gross Domestic Product (1.1%) as the $124 billion deficit of the U.S.

- U.S. imports from China are more than five times the value of U.S. exports to China (THAT should shock you as if did me).

- At the current rate of growth, China will surpass Canada and become the largest supplier of U.S. imports in 2006.

- Also, to get more of a picture of just how much we have come to rely on imports from China, take a look at
To be fair, this has been going on since before Dubya was installed as president. However, as we can see, it has dramatically accelerated under his watch. The ramifications of this are huge, and not just in terms of the price we pay for gas (which China is starting to gobble up ferociously also). This impacts our wages and benefits and ultimately determines how quickly this country will slide into third-world status.

Also, I want to emphasize that my dissatisfaction here is between our government and that of China’s, partly for waiting too long to unpeg their currency against ours. It’s wrong to blame individual Chinese for this as much as it is wrong to blame individual Muslims for terrorism.

I’ll probably have more to post on this in the coming days.

On an unrelated note, I should also state that I intend, as much as I can, to “stand out of the way” when Patrick Fitzgerald hands down any indictments in the Valerie Plame matter, which are expected to come today. Others have reported on this more thoroughly and consistently than I have, and I would suggest reading the accounts at their sites (AmericaBlog, Atrios, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, The Smirking Chimp, etc.) to get the full story.

Update: Man, what was I thinking anyway? My take on all of this? Glad you asked…

- Libby (sounds like he goes up to a “Club Fed” for some R&R)

- Rove (maybe he resigns too with a hefty fine and a conviction on the statute for revealing Plame's identity or obstruction of justice, though he’ll be absent from this administration the same way DeLay is absent from the U.S. House, which is to say not at all – no jail time)

- Cheney (walks – too big to get taken down for something like this, unfortunately)
And by the way, let’s pray that I’m wrong and Rove/Cheney and others “get it in the neck.”

Also, some thoughts on Patrick Fitzgerald – there was a time on this site when I pilloried him for going after Cooper and Miller and leaving Novak alone, but I was flat, dead, 100 percent wrong. I think Fitzgerald got it right away that Novak – and certainly Cooper and other reporters – were minor players, and the keys were Miller and others in Bushco, and he proceeded accordingly.

I also went after Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman for saying both Miller and Cooper should roll over for Fitzgerald, and my argument with Chapman was that he treated Cooper and Miller the same. I stand by that; Chapman was a dunce. Cooper and Miller could not have been more different cases.

By the way, Atrios has a statement from Ted Kennedy on this (remember him?) which I thought was good.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Trying To Find The Light

Local PA stuff (very timely and in the news)...

I've been wondering what I should say about this all day, and I haven't been able to figure it out, so I'll just "wing it" and see what comes out. I tried to get to the meeting mentioned in this story (you have to register), but I was unable to get anywhere near the church basement because of the heavy turnout. The only way would have been to park my car on the lawn of a resident of Reading Avenue in Yardley, Pa. because every single parking space in the church and school lots was filled, and I refused to do that. I don't think the resident should have had to sustain property damage on my account.

St. Ignatius of Antioch is our parish, and Msgr. Samuel Shoemaker was our pastor. I say "was" because of an account I read on the NBC-10 web site that stated that he resigned. I hope that was inaccurate, but we'll find out of course.

Msgr. Shoemaker was referred to in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer report as an "enabler" of pedophile priests, creating situations that allowed these animals to prey on innocent children. Though that does not entail any sort of legal liability, it is obvious that Shoemaker has been tried and convicted by many in the court of public opinion.

I'm not trying to malign the people who called for his resignation. I'm sure this is an extremely difficult matter for them also, and I have to assume that they have deliberated long and carefully over it. But in my experience, I believe Msgr. Shoemaker is a good man (I come down more on the side of Barbara Durning in the linked story).

Besides, just try to find a priest who was a member of this archdiocese in the '70s and '80s and held a leadership position of any type who didn't get mixed up in this. I'm not saying that to malign all of them or give blanket exoneration either, because there are many more good priests than bad ones. I'm just pointing out the fact that many of these men are victims of a sort also in this (and as far as I'm concerned, Msgr. Shoemaker definitely is also, along with Msgr. Francis Statkus, another good priest).

Having said that, though, these are the only "reforms" I want to hear about in an effort to curtail this epidemic:

- Either lengthen the statute of limitations for charging pedophile priests or eliminate it altogether.

- Start ordaining women as priests.

- Let priests and nuns marry as they do in the eastern Orthodox faith.

If these reforms aren't implemented, we will journey down this painful, tragic road again and again.

Don't Mess With This Man

I meant to get to this a few days earlier, but I’m just able to do that now.

An interview appeared in last Sunday’s issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer with John Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group in Malvern, Pa., which, in terms of assets under management, is the largest mutual fund company in the country (they have been running neck and neck with Fidelity Investments for years, and it’s possible that Fidelity may have overtaken them, but I believe Vanguard is still number one).

Most people who are knowledgeable in the financial services industry recognize that Mr. Bogle is someone who puts his shareholders first and tends to “rattle cages” among the CEOs, boards of directors, mutual fund managers and other “carpet row” types who think they should always get the biggest piece of the financial pie because that is how the game is supposed to be played. Bogle has made a career out of maximizing shareholder return to the fullest extent possible and pointing out the folly of the “corporate” line of thinking at the same time.

Inquirer staff writer Todd Mason (who usually reports on news related to Vanguard in expert fashion, along with Miriam Hill) interviewed Bogle, who is promoting his latest book The Battle For The Soul of Capitalism (registration required to access the article from this link). Here now are some excerpts from that interview which I thought were particularly interesting:

Mason: You say that capitalism is moving in the wrong direction. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Bogle: It has undergone a pathological mutation into a new form of capitalism, where far too large a share of the rewards of investing is going to the managers.

Compensation of chief executives is a national scandal. The way they fudged earnings is a national scandal.

How do you build up earnings, even manufacture earnings, to get the price of the stock up so that executives can cash out their stock options?

The typical CEO, who once was making, 25 years ago, 42 times as much as the average worker, this year is making 340 times.

Mason: Stock prices remain high in historical terms. In that sense, aren't CEOs delivering?

Bogle: Wall Street obviously has always had a bullish bias. You're not paid by a Wall Street brokerage firm to say the market is about to go to hell.

Mason: (In the way of corporate reforms) what remains to be done?

Bogle: First, the mutual-fund industry needs to lay off and let these reforms go through (in addition to Sarbanes-Oxley, the mutual fund reforms proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission). They are fighting it tooth and nail.

The parallel is going on in corporate America. The companies are resisting vigorously giving their owners access to the proxy [ballot] to nominate directors and make business proposals. Corporate managers don't want anyone playing in their sandbox. It's the shareholders' sandbox, for God's sake.

The next thing is there needs to be a federal statute establishing a fiduciary duty of [mutual-fund] directors. It is a requirement that you behave as a prudent trustee, placing the interest of your beneficiaries above your own.

Mason: To get back to your ownership society, do we need Joe Investor reading annual reports and proxies?

Bogle: The ownership society is never coming back. Ninety-one percent of all the stock in America was owned directly by individuals in the 1950s. Now, direct individual owners hold 32 percent.

We have an agency society today, where 68 percent of stocks are owned by intermediaries. The problem with that is that they are not representing [investors]. The managers are putting their own interests first.

We have an ownership society that is gone forever. We have an agency society that is failing.
Obviously, this is not cheery, feel-good stuff, but it’s the truth. We need to hear more of it and give thanks that Bogle is getting out the word (and it goes without saying that we won’t hear this from our dear MSM cousins either - at least not the TV network news, anyway).

Next Wingnut, Please

Looks like Hazel The Cleaning Lady has withdrawn. My guess is that the next nominee will be either Janice Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owen, and boy, would I love to be wrong in either case (it has to be a “gender friendly” selection, or else the Oval Office will turn into a permanent adjunct to the Lincoln bedroom for “Our Kid," as Brendan calls him).

(By the way, Atrios has a post today called "Bowing and Scraping" which absolutely nails the context of all of this...and wouldn't you know that the female right wing criminal is right in the heart of things?)

(I don't know if adding the extra photos will wake up more of the "spiders" or not, but it's worth a shot:-).

“Shoeless Joe” Is Redeemed

Congratulations to the White Sox on sweeping the Houston Astros in this year's World Series. I hope there aren’t too many arrests, overturned vehicles or acts of vandalism during the celebration.

(As a Phillies fan - not as much of one as I once was, though - I can definitely relate to redemption being granted to a long-suffering baseball team and its followers.)

A Coward Then As Now

So now "Ayatollah Jr." in Iran has shown his true colors.

Time Magazine should feel really dumb for giving this insect a forum a few weeks ago (though the publication does have an investigative report by Bartlett and Steele this week, which is some measure of redemption anyway).

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Founding Fathers Knew

As reported on The Huffington Post and many other places, if George W. Bush were to run for election today, he would lose to the Democratic nominee (any nominee, apparently – and again, this is discounting the possibility of fraud in Miami and Ohio last year in the presidential election). Also, indictments in the Valerie Plame matter are due at any time, and according to the latest I’ve read, Dick Cheney revealed her identity to “Scooter” Libby, who then told Judy Miller and others. With that in mind, it is not a stretch to acknowledge the possibility that Cheney is guilty of a felony and working out the details of some kind of a plea bargain at this moment (and Karl Rove, "Bush's Brain," is involved in this unholy mix also apparently).

The House Majority Leader (Tom DeLay) has been arraigned, and the SEC is looking into potential securities fraud involving the Senate Majority Leader (Bill Frist).

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a government in crisis to me. The question, of course, is what do we do about it.

Based on a tip from a friend of mine, I happened to come across this link to The Declaration of Independence upon which this country declared that it no longer considered itself subject to British rule in 1776. Most of us are extremely familiar with the first sentence of this document that pertains to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But if you read on, you will also find these words:

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter it or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
There it is. There’s the answer.

But first, let me say this. I realize that this document was written and approved in an entirely different context than the one in which we currently live. This country was fighting for its very existence in a shooting war on our soil. But except for active hostilities and combat on this continent, how different is the current context from the one our country faced when it separated itself from The Crown? We are systematically oppressed on many levels by the people who hold positions in government in the name of representing us (mainly the Repugs, but too many chicken Dems also). Our jobs, our savings and pensions, our homes, our environment, the schools our kids attend…many of these institutions and critical parts of our lives and that of our families are under attack by the administration of George W. Bush and the sycophantic Republican congress of this country.

So here is my idea, in two parts (and even though the Declaration allows us to abolish our government, I am proposing only to modify it):

- From the date it is announced, let there be a 30-day period of campaigning (no more, no less) among a slate of 10 candidates for 5 positions on what would be a temporary ruling council in place of the current president and vice president of our government. The ruling party would have no more than 3 of their candidates on the council, and the council would dissolve after the 2008 presidential election. Names I can think of for the council off the top of my head? For the Dems, John Kerry, Russ Feingold, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, or Pat Leahy. For the Repugs, John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Lindsay Graham, Susan Collins, or Arlen Specter. This could be the actual slate itself (I'm proposing that the candidates come from the Senate because it would entail a smaller candidate pool that would be easier to manage in the 30-day timeframe and also because the Senate is a body of supposedly more "select" individuals in this country than the House based on traditions of British law after which our government is modeled to a degree).

- Also as part of this election, one Democrat and one Republican would run in both the House and the Senate to determine who would be majority leader in that body. The winner obviously would get the right to name party members to the committees for that body, and believe me when I tell you that that is where the REAL power lies in our government. This would be subject to change pending the outcome of next year’s congressional elections.
Let’s not forget as well that there is a precedent for this based on how other countries hold their elections, holding votes of “no confidence,” and declaring a 30-day period until the next election for campaigning. This is the duration of campaigning for elections in the United Kingdom, for example.

So, if you agree with me, here’s what you do; write to your politicians and your area newspapers and tell them you’re serious about this (also put this idea out there on blog comments at other sites or mention it when phoning into radio talk shows). This is how we “get the ball rolling.”

I’m not trying to steal any of the “Impeach Bush” momentum through the great efforts of other bloggers including The Bulldog and The Martian Anthropologist. It’s just that I think we have a bigger problem here than the removal of a single individual from office.

Are the odds long? Of course. Would this be an uphill battle? Next question.

The percentage here is tiny, but there’s no percentage at all if we do nothing.

Update 10/27: And lest you think I'm kidding (David Obey is truly an unsung hero)...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Least We Can Do

I hoped somehow we would not see this day.

Today marks the day that 2,000 brave servicemen and women have sacrificed their lives for the war in Iraq. Most of us cannot imagine what it must be like for their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. But as a nation, we can take a moment to send our gratitude and support to those families.

Democracy for America is joining with MoveOn and TrueMajority to host candlelight vigils across the country and offer our condolences to the families and friends of the American servicemen and women who have given their lives. The vigils will take place at 6:30 PM tomorrow night, Wednesday, October 26. To find a vigil in your community, visit

If there is not a vigil already planned in your community, then sign up to host one yourself. It's easy. All you need to do is find a place for people to congregate, register it online and gather the group together when people arrive. To host a vigil, visit

These vigils aren't rallies or places to give long-winded speeches. They are moments to solemnly come together and mark the sacrifice of those who have died and their families.

If you can't join a vigil in your community, then please join the "Honor the Fallen" campaign and write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper asking them to place all casualty reports on the front page. With this one small action, we can continue to honor the fallen and remind the public of the dangers that our troops face everyday.

Honor the fallen.

Thanks for all you do,

Tom Hughes
Executive Director
Democracy for America
Oh and one more thing; Michelle Malkin can kiss my ass.

Improving "Efficiency" Everywhere

And Brent Musberger will do the "play-by-play," I'm sure...

Tom Wolfe was talking about "the seven-minute seduction" in this country the week before last on "Real Time." I suppose, in China, they've whittled that down to about three minutes.

(so many scatological punchlines, so little time...)

"Real Time" Update

The show began with a parody of QVC called the “High Value Channel” in which Bill Maher and a female lead were announcing a new product that you could call in and buy, presumably, called the “iGod,” as opposed to the iPod™ of course. The woman cheerfully asked, “How can I practice my evangelical faith at the same time as I engage in hot sex with my lesbian lover?” and Maher jumped in with “With the new iGod, of course!" (I’m messing this up a bit, but this is close enough). You can store all kinds of spiritual material on it, including over 100 psalms! It gives you the joy of Christian worship without all of the proselytizing.” Maher then gave the comely woman a look with a bit of a raised eyebrow and asked, “Lesbian lover, huh? Can I come over one night and ‘bear witness’?”

In the monologue, Maher commented on Bush’s recent visit to California in which Schwarzenegger snubbed him because of the special election set for 11/8 (Ahh-nold wanted Dubya to stay out, see, because “the governator’s” approval numbers are slightly lower than Dubya’s, and he needs Dubya like a dead Philly mobster needs a pair of cement galoshes for a swim in the Schuylkill). Maher said Bush was hurt, saying “My positions on stem cell research and gay marriage are entirely based on that movie where he gets pregnant.” As for the fundraiser that Dubya flew out to attend, Maher said “All of the usual suspects were there, which in this case was a literal description (DeLay, Cheney, Rove, Libby, Frist). I haven’t seen this big of a Republican collapse since Bob Dole ran out of Viagra.” And Dubya is so upset by it all, according to Maher, “that Laura actually had to calm him down; the both of them prayed together for another natural disaster to take place so Bush could sit back and do nothing again.” Maher also joked regarding the testimony this week of Marty Bahamonde, the only FEMA person on the ground in New Orleans when Katrina hit who said that he called Mike “Horsey Time” Brown and was told that Brown was out having dinner or something. “That’s typical for Brown – he couldn’t even cut through the red tape at ‘The Oliver Garden’,” Maher said. Also, regarding Hurricane Wilma, Maher mentioned that it had slammed into Mexico “and Mexico didn’t have any insurance.”

The first guest was Arianna Huffington who appeared as a non-panelist (though she could have helped the panel considerably – more on that later). Maher said, “OK, let’s hurry up and get to the part where Bush gets impeached,” which was worth a laugh, though there are a bunch of people (including yours truly) who are utterly serious in wanting to see that happen. Huffington started to give a bit of a synopsis which anyone reading left-leaning (though I prefer to use the words “truth telling”) sites like this one (I aim for that, anyway) knows thoroughly by now, and Maher tried to head her off by asking her to state the law that was broken. Arianna may have done that, but she kind of zipped through it.

Anyway, for the record, this is the offense that was committed (depending on what Patrick Fitzgerald decides, of course) and the potential penalty (from this article by David Corn in The Nation):

Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent. The punishment for such an offense is a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in prison.
Maher then read aloud that extremely flowery, picturesque note that “Scooter” Libby sent to Miller, to wit...

"'You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. Out west, where you vacation...' See, this is how I know it's bullshit. Who talks like this? If you vacation there, you don't have to say it. It's like bad exposition in a movie. 'Ted, you're my brother.' 'Out west, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters. Because their roots connect them.'"
Upon reciting this, Maher said, “I think the source of the leak is Walt Whitman.” Maher then asked Huffington “Look into your crystal ball and tell me where this all goes,” and Arianna got off on this riff about how Dubya and Arthur Sulzberger are, supposedly, members of “the lucky sperm club” and they have to be stopped.

As I watched this, I realized that this summary by Arianna didn’t do a lot to simplify what, for most people in this country, is a tiresome, tedious affair. I know that Florida Masochist person said something like that, but call me crazy…I think if you’re going to comment on this matter online, you should have a clue regarding what it is you’re writing about. Arianna is, of course, an expert in this whole thing, but Maher wanted her to stay on the matter of what kind of crime was committed and how this jeopardizes and demoralizes our intelligence operatives and their ability and willingness to do their jobs. THAT is the crux of the matter. Sure, the convergence of this with politics and the media is big deal also, but most people don’t care about that. They want to find out how this matter has hurt the people serving our country, and I think Arianna got caught up in the personality BS a lot. She’s awesome, and I hate to be critical, but I think that is what has happened to a degree.

The panel discussion began after that with Tucker Carlson of MSNBC (something called “The Situation” or whatever?), Michel Martin, and Spike Lee.

Maher reminded everyone (as a follow up to what Arianna said), that, around the time the whole “Plamegate” thing broke (yes, I know it’s trite of me to add the “gate” automatically at the end), Helen Thomas said to Bush at a White House press conference (and again, they have been few and far between), “Mr. President, why don’t you just call in everyone and ask who did it?” (Maher imitated Thomas with kind of a whiny voice when he recounted this). Tucker Carlson chimed in right away and said, “This will be a repeat of Whitewater,” and at that point, any notion of credibility that I thought he might have had immediately evaporated. Carlson also said that people will be prosecuted for crimes after the leak, which I thought was ridiculous also – as I stated earlier, the leak WAS the crime. Michel Martin didn’t add much either when she said that “Clinton didn’t let the special prosecutor law lapse, and neither did Bush,” and I’m thinking, “oh, of course…THAT’s what’s at fault here, not the fact that the Bush White House compromised an intelligence operative and, thereby, undermined our intelligence gathering capability and severely hurt morale. No, let’s just disregard the law, and everything will be fine.” Ugh…

As I was mulling this over, Maher played a clip of a few of the barking heads on Faux News (especially Bill Kristol) discussing the Plame situation, and the clip caught them, in typical fashion for the Repug ciphers that they genuinely are, repeating the phrase “the criminalization of politics” over and over and over and over and over when discussing it (a typical advertising technique, and that’s the background for a lot of people in Bushco – drum the message into people’s heads and they never forget it).

Spike Lee then pointed out, regarding this matter, that “when a New York Times reporter (referring to Judith Miller, of course) supports the war in Iraq, that’s gospel to a liberal,” or words to that effect. Maher then came up with this quote:

"The New York Times - but the whole country gives it that weight. It's like the Asian kid in math class. Everybody in the media cheats off the New York Times."
I thought Maher also did a good job this week moving the panel discussion along, mainly because he had to since the interaction between the three of them was pretty lousy…it came across that they didn’t like each other.

Martin pointed out that, “Judy Miller went to jail event though she didn’t write a story,” and I know Martin was referring to Valerie Plame, but of course that comment, though literally true, misrepresented the whole dynamic of the situation, I thought. Carlson further sank in my estimation when he said the Times “was just a daily metropolitan newspaper,” and of course, he had to stick in this comment: “Clinton and Daschle supported the war – why don’t we hold them responsible also?”

(see, if someone unfamiliar with Repug propaganda took what these characters say literally at face value and wasn’t familiar with their tricks, they would think that Iraq War II was started by John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Tom Daschle, and Dick Durbin, and ABSOLUTELY NO ONE ELSE! And of course, it’s a typical Repug cheap shot to go after Daschle, since he was defeated by John “Deep Pockets Pretty Boy” Thune last year – and of course, Ellsworth Air Force Base being kept open had nothing to do with propping up Thune…of course not. Besides, if you’re thinking that, then the terrorists have already won.)

Maher, noting that the union workers at GM and Delphi made concessions because of health care costs, asked what I thought was a good question. He noted that, during the Clinton administration, Hillary tried to implement health care reform, and the Repugs beat her up over it, and Maher asked, “wouldn’t we be better off now if the Republicans had just worked with her a bit?,” and Carlson immediately shot back with “it’s too expensive in countries where the government runs it.” As I heard him say that (realizing that I had neither the time nor the resources to check what he said for accuracy), I had two reactions: 1) I wanted to rip his bow tie off his shirt and shove it down his throat, and 2) It was becoming crystal clear to me why Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” tore his head off last year. Martin said, “We’re a rich country – we should be able to do this,” and I thought, “Yeah, no kidding, Sherlock.” Maher said, “We pay more and get less back (right)…probably more to pharma companies,” and Carlson said “They’re curing diseases, including AIDS,” and Lee immediately said, “Wait a minute. You said they’re curing AIDS,” and Carlson said, “Oh, did I say that? I misspoke” (sorry if this transcription isn’t 100 percent verbatim, by the way…the dialogue was rat-a-tat-a-tat all over the place with Carlson jumping all over the other panelists when he saw an opportunity). Martin said that there are disproportionate costs for end-of-life care (furthering my estimation of her as a “rocket scientist”…), and Maher noted that “seniors vote…we just passed a Medicare bill that isn’t necessary.” Martin recalled that, early on in the Clinton administration, she knew of Republican senators who didn’t want to touch the health care issue because they knew it was “a buzz saw,” so they decided to let the Clintons “stick their hands in it,” so to speak.

I’ve already said what I think of Carslon, but though Martin is an intelligent journalist (I missed the identification of which news organization she’s with, and I haven’t been able to find out that information), she seemed totally uninterested in an exchange with the other panelists (I can’t entirely blame her in the case of Carlson). She complimented Lee on the movie “Four Little Girls,” but it seemed like it was a great effort for her. As for Lee, I wish he’d brought the organization and attention to detail he shows in his films to his presentation on the show. I realize that he isn’t a public orator, but I wish I’d seen a bit more “Mars Blackmon” if you will (minus the “please baby please baby please baby please baby baby baby please”) than “the world weary and borderline pretentious artists struggling with the human condition.”

Maher then showed a picture of a rotting dam in Massachusetts and said, (tying back to his opening comedy bit) “Isn’t that what we do in this country – put our best money into Viagra and iPods without paying attention to long-term issues?” and Carlson quickly jumped in with “Fewer elephants are being slaughtered because their tusks aren’t need for aphrodisiacs since more people are using Viagra,” which left me wondering what that had to do with anything except giving free publicity to Phizer, Inc. Either Maher or Martin recalled the quote from Bill Bradley saying we should “fix the roof when the sun is out,” with Maher noting again that 45 million people in this country don’t have health care. Martin said, “we’ll drive a car made overseas, but we won’t fix social problems,” which, though true, is mixing apples and oranges as far as I’m concerned. Carlson then said, “Our infrastructure isn’t crumbling. Our roads and interstates are fine. We’re in better shape than Italy, for example. That country is falling apart” (possibly true, but irrelevant…can you say that about our bridges and water/sewer systems, for example?). Martin then said that it was “immoral” that we don’t have better health coverage (restating the obvious yet again). The group then discussed the high school principal who cancelled his school’s senior prom, with Maher noting that, for many schools, proms have become pageants/festivals/orgies that are getting out of hand (I don’t know if Maher said that about “orgies”…possibly my paraphrasing), and Carlson, sinking further, said that the principal was envious of the kids, and that’s why it was cancelled (at this point, I could detect some restlessness from the audience with Carlson who, aside from Kellyanne Conway in Week 1, has been the worst panelist of the season so far).

Maher then introduced Chris Webber from the Sixers via satellite to talk about the new dress code of the National Basketball Association (with Webber and Lee greeting each other individually, Lee being a big New York Knicks fan and all). I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to this, but apparently, NBA commissioner David Stern has told his millionaires that they should dress up like profesionals when they’re at courtside and not playing for whatever reason and not look like a bunch of gangstas with the baggy pants, ‘do rag, and “bling” waiting for some type of police activity to occur. Webber (who, believe it or not, was the best panelist/guest of the evening because he came off as a real person, made the best presentation, and HAD FUN…and no, I’m not just saying that because he plays here), provided this quote, that I thought was really good:

"For everybody to say that it's racist, to me, what you're saying to me is that the black man can't be fresh or fly or can't have a suit on."
I think the audience applauded, actually.

In response to Maher’s question which wondered if the dress code issue was racially motivated, Webber said “I believe there’s racial overtones in damn near everything.” Lee asked “What does AI (Allen Iverson – Webber’s teammate here and one of the league’s finest players) think about this?” and Webber said, “He said they can go to hell.”

(I’m still making up my mind on this whole “issue,” by the way – I think it’s a curious marketing move for the league if they’re trying to reach a younger demographic, but fundamentally, they’re right to take this step.)

Maher then mentioned that something apparently happened with some players on the Minnesota Vikings football team on a boat (appropriate for a “Viking,” I guess), and Webber said, “Oh, that wouldn’t happen with me. I have my own boat.” Maher immediately asked, “How big is it? How big is your dingy anyway?” with everyone cracking up (nice to have some laughs) and Webber said, “Be cool, Bill. My mom is watching,” which I thought was a nice touch. After Webber signed off, Lee immediately said that he didn’t approve of the whole “gangsta” look, and he noted that some NBA teams such as the Knicks already have dress codes. Martin noted that a lot of the NBA players are young and didn’t even go to college, “so we should invest in these guys emotionally and spiritually, since now, they go from being a kid to a conglomerate,” which was easily the best thing she said all night. Maher said, “People who were doing well used to shut up,” and Martin said, “If you’re 12 years old and you don’t have a gold-encrusted cell phone, you’re not ‘there’.”

The next topic was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and Maher used the opportunity to plug the documentary Spike Lee is making on it for HBO (there were also plugs for Lee’s new book, which I think were ultimately the reasons why he was there to begin with). Maher then showed some phony promotional posters for the movie, which were good, including “Finding FEMA” which looked like “Finding Nemo.” After that, Maher mentioned the recent “Million More” march sponsored by Louis Farrakhan as a follow up to the “Million Man” march ten years ago (sneaking in another Lee plug to his movie “Get On The Bus”). Maher recalled Farrakhan’s quote to Lee that the government wanted to blow up the levees anyway in New Orleans to get rid of areas like the Ninth Ward, or words to that effect. Lee seemed to endorse that and added this:

"There was a hurricane - Betsy in '65 - they felt the same thing happened, where a choice had to be made. One neighborhood - got to save one neighborhood and flood another. Look, if we're in L.A. and there's an emergency situation, we call from Beverly Hills and we call from Compton. Which one is the cops coming to first (sic)?"
I heard that and immediately cringed because I knew what was coming next, and sure enough, Carlson (who was silent during the whole segment starting with Chris Webber) jumped down Lee’s throat:

"So as you - as you sit here, who is someone who is rich and has options, and are watched by people who are poor and have no options, it seems to me it's your responsibility, your obligation to tell them the truth. And you know the truth, which is, the federal government did not blow up those levees. You don't feed the paranoia and the craziness."
I had a few reactions to that. One was that Carlson should shut his stupid face and not bring up the fact that Spike Lee probably IS rich (and I’m sure Carlson is a pauper – please). The other reaction is that we could never know what our government – this one in particular – may or may not have in mind because all they do is spoon feed us their propaganda (will they ever confirm what is going on in some of these FEMA camps like the one in Oklahoma that lady blogged about a couple of months ago, for example?). However, another reaction I had (which basically ties back to the fact that Lee’s presentation the whole evening wasn’t very good) is the fact that Lee shouldn’t throw out stuff like that without evidence, or else a Repug sympathizer is going to jump down his throat (like James Glassman did with George Carlin a few weeks earlier). Lee could have said, “I have no evidence that our government blew up any levees, but I wouldn’t put anything past them,” and he would have been fine. Lee mentioned the Tuskegee incident and the fact that the speculation he quoted was discussed on CNN, but unfortunately, the moment had already passed. Martin just acted bored and said, “We keep going back to this same old script,” and at that point, I wanted her to just shut up and “take a powder” also.

Somehow, as a result of this, the group turned to discussing Iraq (I think it was because Maher noted that we’re coming up on the grim milestone of 2,000 casualties in Iraq…just keep repeating after me – “Impeach Bush: Downing Street Memos,” “Impeach Bush – Downing Street Memos”…). Carlson quickly jumped in again with “The New York Times doesn’t have as much influence as Spike Lee” (as I said earlier, it’s all about repetition with these guys), and “everyone knew what the resolution for war was all about when it was voted on,” and Maher, to his credit (again, his best moderating performance all year, I thought) said, “No they didn’t. That’s why John Kerry said he voted for the resolution before he voted against it” (the audience applauded, and I thought, “If only Kerry had put it that way last year…”). At that point, it was time for “New Rules,” at which point I said, “Thank God.”

When I got done with the show, I wondered something else about Carlson and O’Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh and some of these other right-wing meatheads. I wondered what their experience was in news writing, feature writing or reporting, or anything close to the legitimate function of journalism. I said somewhere earlier that Coulter is trained as a lawyer, so that explains a lot of her behavior. But what of these other guys? And I’m not talking about a book they’ve written (or had co-authored or entirely written for them) that celebrates the fact that they’re famous now. I mean something along the lines of Norman Mailer, Pete Hamill, Studs Terkel, or someone accomplished in that vein. I know the answer to the question, but I think we should all ask it of these people before we listen to a single word that comes out of their mouths.

Unfortunately, the prospects for next week don’t bode any better. Though Richard Clarke will be a guest, Tony Snow, he of the Fox-big-head-hard-hair propaganda brigade as well, will also appear. I caught his act enough on “Dr. McLaughlin’s Gong Show” enough in the past to know what to expect.

Green Like The Sludge

I’m not blaming Monica Yant Kinney, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s NJ metro columnist, for this one (registration required). At least she’s a columnist who bothers to go out to talk to people and get some background and have some clue concerning her subject matter (are you reading this by any chance, J.D. Mullane?). She has to do her “political gadfly” thing.

However, it should be noted that, by virtue of his campaign appearances with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, Doug Forrester has firmly embedded himself inside the hip pocket of the most environmentally hostile presidential administration this country has ever seen, or hopefully will see.

Kinney is also right to say that Forrester kind of stole Corzine’s thunder a bit on this issue. However, let’s not forget that, unlike a CEO with BeneCard (have to double check to find out if that is still Forrester’s current title), Corzine is still currently a U.S. Senator who has to sponsor and vote on legislation, serve on committees, and perform other types of constituent service in N.J. and Washington, D.C. that limits his ability to make appearances. I’m not making excuses. I’m just stating facts (besides, Corzine has addressed the environment already).

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Brave Lady And A Bus

R.I.P Mrs. Parks (joining special company who recently passed also)...

Another Texas Idiot Speaks

Kay Bailey Hutchison (then…regarding Clinton’s impeachment)…

This has been a case about civil rights. It has been about the right of the weakest and the strongest among us to have equal access to our system of justice in order to pursue legal and Constitutional rights and to fix responsibility for alleged legal wrongs.
No, it was about Monica Lewinsky selling her “personal services” to a man who had a problem with keeping it “in his pants” and understanding the true nature of a conjugal relationship.


But we should all be thankful that our Constitution is there, and we should take pride in our right and duty to enforce it. A hundred years from now, when history looks back to this moment, we can hope for a conclusion that our Constitution has been applied fairly and survives, that we have come to principled judgments about matters of national importance, and that the rule of law in American (sic) has been sustained.
I absolutely agree, Senator. And what a pity that you didn’t apply the mindset and attitude that you describe in the following paragraph (regarding Rove and Libby and the outing of Valerie Plame) to Clinton, you pompous fool (link here).

I think we should be very careful here, especially as we are dealing with something very public and people's lives in the public arena. I do not think we should prejudge. I think it is unfair to drag people through the newspapers week after week after week, and let's just see what the charges are. Let's tone down the rhetoric and let's make sure that if there are indictments that we don't prejudge.
Kos and Atrios, among others, have been on this all day (with Atrios linking to this column on HuffPo from Alec Baldwin).

Update: Speaking of Texans, it looks like someone needs a sense of humor. I didn’t hear Clinton complaining when Bob Dole would campaign in ’96 and “Hail to the Chief” would play as Dole walked up to the podium to give a speech (and taking on “The Onion”? How petty can you be? Maybe I’d better not ask.)

Update 10/25: Here's more from the great people at Media Matters who are truly doing God's work.

I Call That A Dead Parrot

My apologies to The Pythons over this:

Proprietor: “‘Morning, sir.”

Customer: “Good morning (carrying a bird cage).”

P: “Can I help you?”

C: “Yes, I wish to return this parrot.”

P: “Anything the matter with it?”

C: (looks in cage, leans over to proprietor) “I’ll tell you what’s the matter with it. It’s dead. That’s what’s the matter with it.”

P: (looks closely at the bird lying at the bottom of the cage with a thoughtful expression). “Oh yeah, I recognize that one now. We sent it to Suriname.”

C: “Yes, I had it shipped from there via secure transport. Wasn’t cheap for that, you know.”

P: “Oh, I’ll bet. Still, it’s a fine bird. Lovely plumage.”

C: “The plumage don’t enter into it. It’s dead. What happened?”

P: (takes another close look, opens the cage, flips it over)…”Oh, I know now, squire. It had the bird flu. Got it from a buddy in Taiwan.”

C: (looking shocked) “God, man, you have to call the authorities immediately. The flu could mutate and spread to humans and people could die.”

P: “Nah, no chance o’that. We shipped out the bird before anybody ever heard there was a crisis. It was only here for a day or two. How many days since you got it? Feeling alright are you?”

C: (looking apprehensive) “Yes…yes, I’m fine. But you should be under quarantine.”

P: “Squire, I told you. None of our other pets are showing signs o’sickness.”

C: (suddenly grimacing a bit, sniffing). “My God, man, what is that smell. I just noticed it a second ago.”

P: (looking surprised) “Why, I don’t know, sir. Let me take a look.”

(proprietor goes to the back of the store, wanders around a bit, opens some cage doors and closes them, then comes back to the counter…)

P: “Oh, yeah, well…now I see what you mean sir. I was just – you know – just checking out our inventory.”

C: “What other animals do you have?”

P: “Well, we’ve got 148 other parrots we just got in, 12 hens from a private dacha in Morshansk, 13 Croatian swans, and the entire poultry population from the city of Hong Kong.”

C: (looking surprised) “I didn’t think this store was that big. Can I walk behind the counter and take a look, since I’d like to replace this parrot after all?”

P: “Ah, no sir. Sorry. I can’t show you any of the inventory.”

C: “Why not?

P: “Everything is dead.”

C: (almost irate at this point) “Well, it’s no bloody wonder the place reeks! Get someone from disease control over here! You could spread a sickness!”

P: “Not if I keep ‘em all here, I won’t.”

C: “This could be a public health catastrophe!”

P: “Nah. It could never happen.”

C: (folding arms across chest, looking angry) “And now tell me, my good man, just how do you figure on that?”

P: “Well, sir, it’s simple. There are no more animals to infect.”

C: (starting to look resigned a bit) “And that’s how you keep your ‘disease free’ status, I guess.”

P: “Exactly!”
Yes, I know it's really sick, but I couldn't resist. And don't bother to tell me to keep my day job, because I know that already.