Saturday, November 05, 2005

Crash, Eagles, Crash

(haven't had much to say in a sports vein for a little while, so...)

My, what a soap opera of a season it has been for your Philadelphia E-A-G-L-E-S.

All-pro defensive lineman Corey Simon holds out for more money, and instead of trying to meet his demands, they let him walk, and the Indianapolis Colts (who are currently undefeated) say "thank you very much" and sign him (without a "Plan B" to replace him with an equal-caliber player, which is a tall order indeed...I know sports salaries are ridiculous also, but Simon is an elite player). Also, they let go of another fine defensive lineman, Derrick Burgess. They let Hollis Thomas go also, but through no fault of his own, the guy was injury prone. Hugh Douglas has lost a lot over time, but even though they need veteran leadership, they let him go as well. Also departed from last season is special teams standout Ike Reese, who was a fine backup linebacker also.

Meanwhile, on offense, Brian Westbrook attempts to re-negotiate his contract, and the Eagles blow him off, even telling our lapdog sports media that they're trying to bring in washed up Travis Henry from the Buffalo Bills as a possible replacement (Henry signs with the Titans, and I believe he is either injured at the moment or unable to play for some reason). Now, Westbrook is angry and will probably not sign and exit at the end of this year.

And you just knew I was leading up to Terrell Owens, didn't you?

Should the Eagles have re-negotiated his contract? As far as I'm concerned, you can go either way on that (and yes, I know I took a shot at Owens awhile back). But here is the difference - this organization of neophytes which apparently has a hopelessly inflated image of itself (messrs. Lurie and Banner, chiefly) have been "pumping the ether" every way they can to drug the media and football fans around here to the point of thinking that they may actually return to the Super Bowl on the cheap with the team that they currently have. As far as I'm concerned, you should spare absolutely no expense if that is truly your goal.

So anyway, as we know, Owens ends his holdout and appears in training camp, is sent home, returns to finish camp, and then plays and is genuinely productive (even to the point where Andy Reid actually says that he's "a joy to coach," for whatever that's worth). So things roll along basically fine with Owens to the San Diego game which this team stole due to a special teams miracle, and Owens catches his 100th touchdown pass. The Eagles do nothing to recognize that.

Yes, we know Owens is a prima donna and a spoiled, egotistical baby. But he happens also to be an elite position player on this team's offense, possibly the finest wide receiver in football. When you have someone like that on your team, you massage his ego and play along with him as long as he delivers.

So Owens gets his feelings hurt and says some things he shouldn't. He then apologizes, though maybe without a lot of contrition.

Well today, the Eagles suspended him anyway (and I don't care about what the supposed football experts at ESPN have to say; dislike Owens if you want, but it's all about winning, baby).

That tells me that the Eagles' clueless front office is more concerned with settling scores than winning football games. And if I'm a ticket holder for home games, let me tell you how I respond to that.

The Eagles next home game is Monday night November 14th against Dallas.

I don't show up. And if substantially more people do that, there will be a whole lot of empty seats being shown on national TV.

But no, all of you "Joe Sixpacks" out there won't do that, will you? Of course not.

And make no mistake - Lurie and Banner know that too, and that is why they pull all of their penny-pinching crap.

Is Owens worth all of the aggravation? Probably not, but let me remind any Eagles fan out there who may be reading why I feel this way.

Do you remember who the Eagles' starting wide receivers were before Owens got here?

Todd Pinkston and James Thrash.

Pinkston is a solid, steady supporting player, not a marquee, go-to guy on offense. James Thrash is a fourth or possibly fifth receiver and punt returner on special teams.

Hey, if I were trying to get a glee club going, Thrash is one of the first people I'd call. He's a person of character. However, he does nothing to intimidate NFL defenses.

I remember the NFC playoff game against the Carolina Panthers in January, and Thrash was beaten up and manhandled all over the place. At least one pass from McNabb hit him in his shoulder pad, bounced up into the air, and landed right into Ricky Manning Jr.'s hands, and he laughed as he ran back the interception.

On another play, Pinkston ran a pass route, and the entire Carolina defense ignored him and went after McNabb. That was the most unbelievable show of disrespect to an offensive player that I'd ever seen.

When the Eagles got Owens, all of that ended in a hurry. He brought instant recognition and opened up other opportunities for Pinkston, Greg Lewis, and L.J. Smith, among others.

THAT is what I care about. Not some pissy, whiny background noise because Owens isn't as solid of a person as Andy Reid would like him to be (like Jevon Kearse, for example).

But no - we have to have the continued distractions as this organization continues to peddle the fertilizer that this team will actually advance in the post season.

They wish.

(By the way, our sports media is reporting that the decision to suspend Owens was made by Andy Reid. I'm sorry, but I don't think he would do that without Banner or Lurie whispering in his ear.)

Update 11/6: Oh yes, I heard that Owens supposedly had a fight with Hugh Douglas or something, which doesn’t amount to anything for me partly because, as I noted above, Douglas doesn’t even play for the Eagles any more.

Update 11/7: Oh, sure, this will really take care of the whole mess. Tell the guys to plan their vacations and polish up their golf clubs for January, because they’ll have a lot of time now.

Update 11/8: Upon further review, as they like to say in the NFL, I now realize I'm "sitting on a perch" just about by myself on this. Universally, everyone I talk to and everything I read expresses the "good riddance" attitude towards Owens. Oh well, I've been out there before, and I'll probably be out there again.

The "Enemy" Is Us

This appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of today's Inquirer:

One Reader's View
How the Taliban differ from religious right in U.S.

Re: "The Taliban at home," letter, Nov. 2:

I fought in Afghanistan as a Special Forces team commander. I am also what the letter-writer would perceive as a "right-wing religious ideologue."

Though the writer sees no difference between the Taliban and me, there are many.

The Taliban allowed no freedom of expression, no rights for women and no freedom of religion and destroyed anything and everyone that did not abide by their version of Islam. They wiped out entire peoples and villages because they were not Islamic enough. They cut the ears, eyes, tongues and noses off people for "infractions against Islam." They planted bombs and mines in children's playfields. They stoned to death for "adultery" women who had been raped. They allowed the training of terrorist groups to export their version of Islam to the world. They would think nothing of raping your wife and children and making you a slave or corpse. They remind me of the Nazis and Communists.

What do the so-called religious conservatives in this country want? Here is the super secret list: economic opportunity and personal liberty, things such as taxes we can afford; a reverence for the Constitution as the Founding Fathers wrote it; an appreciation for the values and traditions that made this country the finest in the history of the world; an understanding that people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character; and respect for life (no matter how vulnerable or powerless).

The differences are slight, but they are there. I hope this clears up any misunderstandings.

Mark Westphal
How typical - the snarling, sarcastic attitude (and yes, I know I'm guilty on that also); the effective "change of argument" strategy in an attempt to belittle the person who originally wrote the letter, even stealing the quote from Dr. King to further his intolerant cause (Frank Luntz would be proud). I've been reading what this guy has written for years (even though, like J.D. Mullane in the Courier Times, I try to avoid him), and to be honest with you, I'm sick of him.

First of all, Mr. Westphal (I don't know your rank, though your comments are), you deserve our thanks, gratitude, and respect (to a point) for your military service.

However, as for the rest of your screed...please. Yes, I realize that the original writer engaged in a bit of hyperbole by comparing the "religious right" with the Taliban. That being said, though, I should point out that your own sickening bromides are no better.

Stop telling us how virtuous conservatives supposedly are and try explaining your hypocritical words and actions. Please explain to me in language a child can understand how "intelligent design" is science without any Clinton-esque legalese contortions, as you might say. Please explain to me how you can somehow oppose a woman's right to choose in the case of rape, incest, or life-threatening consequences but also support the death penalty. Please explain to me how you support "leaders" such as Bill Frist who turned the Terri Schiavo tragedy into a media circus while supporting efforts to deny medical coverage that would have allowed her to exist into her vegetative state. Please explain to me how you can continue to oppose stem cell research even though it does not encourage abortion in any way. Please explain to me how it is possible for people who supposedly speak for you such as Ann Coulter to say Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building instead of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City (as well as Glenn Beck threatening to kill Michael Moore) without a word of repudiation from you or others who share your beliefs.

When you answer these questions to my satisfaction, I will take you seriously.

Oh, and one more thing. Remember that bin Laden guy that you and our allied forces are over there supossedly trying to capture? (not blaming the forces on the ground, but only our "leadership"). Tell Bushco to stop trying to scare us over the "bird flu" and ratchet up the pressure to get him, proving to us that this murdering coward actually isn't protected by our Saudi "friends."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Pearls For Swine

I’ll try to recap this briefly in an effort to minimize mouse clicks.

A family member belongs to the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, and in the union publication for September/October 2005, there appeared a wealth of information on jobs, outsourcing, trade with China, and many other issues impacting the manufacturing sector and our overall economy. Though I could try to present all of it in a single post, it would be a huge entry (bigger even than the “Real Time” updates), so I’m trying to break it up into sections based on certain topics.

I’ve already presented information on jobs under Dubya and Wal-Mart, so today I’ll focus on CEOs versus the rest of us.

As for “the privileged few”…

“In 1945, corporations paid more than one-third of government’s revenue. Now they pay only 11 percent because corporations, especially multinationals, are voluntary taxpayers. In a world increasingly without borders that block capital movements, corporations pay where the burden is the lowest.”

George Will (believe it or not) – Washington Post 3/31/05

In 2003, the average CEO of a major company received $9.2 million in total compensation, according to the New York Times.

In 2004, CEOs pulled in median compensation of about $14 million, up 25% from 2003, according to a USA Today analysis of the largest 100 public companies filing annual proxies through March 25, 2005.

In 1965, CEOs made 24 times more than the typical worker.

In 1989, CEOs made 71 times more than the typical worker.

In 2003, CEOs made 185 times more than the typical worker.

In 2003, it took a CEO one and a half workdays to earn what an average worker made in 52 weeks.

The assets of the world’s three richest people exceed the total incomes of 600 million people living in poverty in the world’s poorest 48 countries.
Meanwhile, for the rest of us…

10-Year Projections for the fastest job creation sectors of the U.S. (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics):

Top 5 U.S. Job Growth Projections (and wages):

Waitress ($3.99 no tips)
Janitors and cleaners ($10.25)
Food preparation ($7.72)
Nursing aides ($9.11), orderlies, and attendants
Cashier ($8.26)

Also, consider this:

In the past 10 years, temporary employment is up 50%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By 2012, temp work will create 1.8 million more jobs than any other industry!

More “fun facts”:

Minority families lost income in the 2000 and 2003 economic downturn three times as fast as whites.
-1.5% for Blacks
-2.3% for Hispanics
-0.5% for Whites

Today’s Average Premium for Family Health Insurance is $9,086. That is 21% of the median household income of $42,400.

Employee spending for health insurance coverage has increased 126% between 2000 and 2004.

There are more Americans without health insurance than ever before.

Texas ranks #1 in uninsured (my comment: that’s what electing Repugs over and over again will get you).
Here is additional information from a post last month.

Update 11/7: No need to apologize, E.J.

Sorry to be a downer, but facts are facts. Oh well, try giving this site a look to cheer up (kind of amusing). It’s the least I can do.

This Is A Recording

Jobs supposedly created coming in under the forecasted amount for the month/quarter…prior month/quarter estimates revised upwards…stocks slightly up/slightly down (Jeff Brown of the Inquirer said we should buy inflation-indexed U.S. savings bonds yesterday as opposed to stocks for a better yield right now)…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been listening to nothing but this for the last two years at least (before that under Bushco, I was listening to the news that all of these indicators were sinking – at least now they’re “treading water” a bit). At this point, I almost wonder why they even bother to run these stories (I guess they have to tell us something).

And this is supposed to be progress?

Low Even For A Repug

So I guess this is what you do when you're sinking in the polls, huh Dougie? You take a page from the Bushco white-collar crooks and come up with garbage like this.

I can't find a link yet, but I know Forrester teed off on the appearance of some rap/hip hop person at a Corzine fundraiser earlier this year (as if THAT has anything to do with performing the job of NJ governor). Forrester, of course, also appeared with Cheney and Rove at a fundraiser and took money from them also.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dubya Is "For The Birds"

Let's see now:

- Underfunded "No Child Left Behind"...

- Underfunded first responders (and continues to do so) after 9/11...

- Underfunded effort to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in Africa...

Yep, I'd say Dubya is continuing a pattern with this one. Apparently, Mike ("Run For Your Lives! Orange Alert! The Bird Flu Is Coming!") Leavitt is a lot better at scaring people than "shaking the money tree."

Happy Diwali

For anyone who may be observing or curious about it, click here to read more about the Indian Festival of Lights.

A Kick Where It's Needed

The post from this link (link expired - sorry) captures the mood of a year ago today (just as a reminder of why we go to the trouble to "fight the good fight" every day).

And I wonder if subsequent developments concerning "President 35 Percent Mandate" have made Cynthia Sneed happy?

One more thing: That constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that Dubya promised sure is picking up steam, isn't it, you nitwits?

Update: More reasons for Dubya voters in '04 to feel superior - not! (all the "propping up" in the world isn't going to save his sorry ass). Someone also noted that Dubya has longer to go in this term than John F. Kennedy had in his entire presidency (unless we get serious about impeaching him, people).

We Won!

This is what happens when we fight back, people.

Legislators Reverse Raise

By Mario F. Cattabiani and Amy Worden

Inquirer Staff Writers

HARRISBURG - They finally got the message.

After four months of angry letters, biting editorials, protests, and dismal poll numbers, Pennsylvania legislators voted last night to repeal the pay raise they had approved for themselves, judges, and other state officials.

In an extraordinary reversal, the Senate unanimously decided to tear up the entire law, enacted July 7, that made the General Assembly the nation's second-highest-paid legislature.

"We need to repent, repeal and reform," Sen. Jim Ferlo (D., Allegheny) said during a short floor debate.

"Today's vote is about respecting the public," said Sen. Richard Kasunic (D., Westmoreland). "... Democracy has worked."

Hours later, shortly before 11 p.m., the House followed suit, approving the bill 196-2.

"Pressure mounted in individual lawmakers' districts and they had to listen to the public," Rep. Charles T. McIlhinney Jr. (R., Bucks) said moments after the House voted.

But the House version may prove to be troublesome. It added a wrinkle that said if any portion of the bill is thrown out by the courts, the entire piece of legislation dies, reinstating the raises for all.

The Senate appeared poised to insist that such a "non-severability clause" not be included in the final bill, although as of midnight they had not addressed the House changes.

It was unclear what both houses were going to do to smooth out that wrinkle. Legislators are not expected back in session until Nov. 14.

For most of yesterday, Senate GOP leaders were preparing an amendment to an unrelated bill that would repeal only the provision of the law that allowed legislators to accept the extra pay immediately - through legislative expense accounts - despite a constitutional ban against their doing so in the middle of a term. That amendment would have kept in place the raises, but they would not have started for most legislators until December 2006.

When it came time to offer amendments yesterday afternoon, Sen. Sean Logan (D., Allegheny), who voted against the pay raise in July, was the first to be recognized. He offered a plan to rescind every detail of the law.

The bill with that amendment passed, 50-0. There were 27 senators, including 10 from the Philadelphia area, who voted for the raise in July but changed their minds last night and voted to repeal it.

"I think we need to restore some integrity to the chamber and to the Capitol, and repealing the entire pay raise is a great first step," Logan said in an interview.

Soon after the Senate bill passed, some legislators wondered whether they had just run afoul of the state constitution, which prohibits pay cuts for judges. "I know that has to be looked at, but 50 people said this is the right thing to do," Logan said of the question.

In the House, the two top Democrats, Minority Leader Bill DeWeese (D., Greene) and Minority Whip Mike Veon (D., Beaver), were the only no votes for the repeal. The chamber had approved the pay raise 119-79.

Gov. Rendell, who signed the pay raise into law, strongly supported repeal of the unvouchered-expenses provision - which he initially defended as "legal" in July. Last night, he was withholding judgment on the repeal, his press secretary, Kate Philips, said.

On July 7, the General Assembly raised legislative base annual salaries by 16 percent to $81,050. Legislative leaders saw their salaries increase 34 percent, with two of them getting pay hikes of 54 percent.

About half of the 253 House and Senate members have accepted the raise through unvouchered expense accounts since August, adding $950 to $3,111 to their monthly paychecks, the latest of which was received this week.

They would not be forced to give back the money.

Salaries for all but the top leaders, who for years have been paid more than rank-and-file members, would drop back to $69,648.

"We are simply representatives, and we were simply listening," Senate Majority Leader David J. Brightbill (R., Lebanon) said.

The repeal would also end the additional pay for committee heads. Gone, too, would be raises for state and county judges, the governor and lieutenant governor, cabinet secretaries, the state's treasurer, auditor general and attorney general, and other officeholders.

Many legislators said they supported the pay raise initially because judges were long overdue for a raise.

At the time, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy praised lawmakers for showing "enormous courage and significant fortitude" to vote for the pay-raise bill. Asked about judges' losing their raises, Sen. James Rhoades (R., Schuylkill) said: "They are going to have to suck it up like everyone else."

The initial pay-raise vote gave birth to a grassroots antipay-raise movement that over four months has grown into a political force.

An ecstatic Gene Stilp, a Harrisburg activist and one of the movement's leaders, said the political turnabout "shows the power of the people of Pennsylvania."

"Don't tell me people can't change things," said Stilp, who has filed a suit challenging the pay raise in state court.

G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst and pollster at Franklin and Marshall College, called what happened "a citizen revolt and a legislative turnaround the likes of which I haven't seen in 30 years of observing and writing about the legislature."

Although it was contemplated for several weeks, the repeal effort did not take firm hold until Monday, when the first samplings from a statewide poll commissioned by the Senate Republicans came in.

Stephen MacNett, chief counsel for the Senate Republicans, said the findings showed what most legislators had been hearing from their constituents: Despite the passage of nearly four months, opposition was still red-hot, and voters were most concerned about the unvouchered-expenses aspect of the package.

Sen. Robert Thompson (R., Chester), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he had been swamped with several hundred negative letters from constituents on the pay raise. "It shows it has hit a nerve with voters," said Thompson, who voted for the pay raise. "And I got the message."
Still no word of reaction from John Perzel (R-Phila.) on this - :-)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Real Time" Update

(Note – some mild swearing…)

(Also, a note to Blogger - I really wish you guys would fix your database problems so I can save my work more efficiently and it won't take so long to do this the next time.)

The show began with Bill Maher impersonating an “ambulance-chasing” lawyer: “Have you been indicted? Trouble with the law? Subpoenas piling up at your door? Then call me, Murray Kleinman, Attorney At Law. If you or a Republican you love is the target of an irresponsible partisan witch hunt, then call my office,” with one of his clients guilty of fixing an election sent to a “Club Fed,” where he “took two strokes off his golf game.” The ad ended with, “And remember – if it were a real crime, sex would be involved.”

In the monologue, Maher said that he knew everyone was happy that there was an indictment in the Valerie Plame matter, announcing the person charged as “I. Lewis Libby,” and joking that he would get a lot of practice saying that now – “I, Lewis Libby, do solemnly swear…,” etc. Also: “Libby was really trusted by Cheney. He could finish Cheney’s sentences. And now he will – at Leavenworth.” Maher said that the White House already has a plan in place in case other indictments come down; they’ll make sure the indictments are delivered by FEMA.

Concerning Hurricane Wilma, Maher joked that, “thousands of U.S. tourists are now stranded in Cancun, and Mexicans are starting to complain. They’re saying that, if you’re going to come to our country and stay, the least you can do is learn the language.”

Regarding the just-about-now-forgotten nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, Maher said, “the senators demanded her records, so she sent over ‘The Perry Como Christmas Album,’ and ‘The Best of Bread’ (heyyy – watch that:- )." Repeating that George Takei, “Mr. Sulu” on the original “Star Trek” series, announced that he was gay, Maher noted that women's basketball player Sheryl Swoopes made the cover of “No Shit” magazine with the same revelation in the same issue that announced that “Yao Ming is Chinese.”

The first guest in the studio was Helen Thomas, which was a bit of a payback in a nice way since Maher had imitated her the week before, and he recalled that Thomas had asked Bush a couple of years ago when the Plamegate scandal broke why he didn’t just get everyone into a room and ask them who did it. Thomas just shook her head and something to the effect of “Two years and millions of dollars later, you can ask that again.” Maher said, “Why didn’t any of your colleagues ask?” and Thomas said, “Too simple.” Maher then asked again, “Are you referring to the question or your colleagues?” Thomas replied “They’re coming out of their coma. It was ‘the 9/11 syndrome’ and not wanting to say anything to jeopardize the troops, but they’re ‘coming alive again’.” Maher then remarked that Bush “never has to answer a question”; he can just come up with any answer he wants, and nobody calls him on it, and Thomas said, “It takes a lot of nerve, and reporters ‘pulled in their horns’.”

Regarding Jeff Gannon, Maher wondered how he could have so much access to the White House (recounting the quote on Gannon/Guckert’s military porn web site – “I don’t leave marks, I leave impressions”…bleaugh!), Thomas said, “We knew (Ari) Fleischer or (Scott) McClellan would call on him…he had one more friend than I do,” with Thomas noting that she would be in the front row during press briefings, but not at the press conferences (typical Bushco B.S.). Recounting the Kennedy Administration (which I believe was the first presidential administration Thomas covered), Maher asked if the reporters knew about the private goings on at that time, and Thomas said the reporters probably didn’t, but even if they did, there was a code at that time, and no one said anything partly because all of the reporters at that time were men. Maher then asked if the New York Times was in trouble because they misled people concerning the Iraq war, and Thomas rightly said, “they all misled.” Maher then said, “But if a liberal reads it in the New York Times, they must think it’s true,” harking back a bit to all of the stuff last week with that moron Tucker Carlson. Thomas kind of smiled at Maher a bit and said, “I don’t.”

The panel discussion began with Tony Snow of Faux News, Nadira Hira (not sure what organization she’s with), and actor/comedian Billy Connolly (plugging “Garfield II"…Connolly was also terrific in the movie “Mrs. Brown” in 1997). Maher asked, concerning the right-wing nut jobs, why they have no trouble coming down on Harriet Miers, but they seem to be taking it easy a bit on “Scooter” Libby. In response, Connolly said he was “bewildered… in Britain, you wouldn’t get into government if your name was ‘Scooter’ or ‘Newt’.” Maher said, “I guess the waspy background was the reason why,” and Hira added that, “Miers didn’t further their agenda,” which is absolutely right. Snow then chimed in with his first lie/bit of propaganda of the evening when he said, “the charge against Libby is talking to reporters, and it was OK to out Plame because she wasn’t undercover.” (actually, this was a two-fer of BS from Snow – click here and here to access the Media Matters pages that refute this garbage). Maher then said, “It looks like the charges against Libby are perjury and obstruction of justice,” and continued that this is a rehash of some of the Clinton stuff from a procedural point of view anyway. Snow then continued to lie in response when he said that Plame sent Joe Wilson to Iraq and that “the perjury was a technicality.” When someone in the audience yelled out “bullshit” in response (cool), Snow then said, “Well, that’s the conclusion of the Senate Intelligence Committee, so read their report before you tell me it’s bullshit.”

OK, then, fair enough. I went ahead and did just that. I went to the web site of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee (chaired by Pat Roberts - R., Kan. - and Jay Rockefeller - D., WV). I searched both the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq document and the Conclusions (excerpted from the full report) on these individual keywords:

Hussein, Yellowcake, Niger, Plame, Wilson

I couldn't find anything, so I don't know what Snow was talking about when he said that the committee said that Plame sent her husband Wilson to Iraq...if that were true, then wouldn't it be in either one of these documents? Or was Snow just lying at the spur of the moment because he knew he was wrong and couldn’t think of anything else to do? It certainly didn’t say anything about perjury being a “technicality” either.

Update 11/05: I now can see that I took it way too easy on Roberts.
Maher then pointed out an obvious fact that was starting to get lost in the discussion, and that was that naming a classified spy is treason, and he also wondered why Robert Novak isn’t in trouble also (that’s truly one of the big mysteries of this whole thing, since Novak wrote the story that started this whole mess). I thought Maher also came up with a good line when he said, “When the Republicans get their tits in a ringer, it’s the ringer’s fault, but when the Democrats get theirs stuck, we spend $60 million investigating the tit.” Snow then tried to derail the discussion by saying that Bush “Should have let the special prosecutor statute lapse,” just like Tucker Carlson said last week (as I said, they’re consistently on the same page when they spout their propaganda).

Regarding the appointment of Ben Bernanke to replace Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman, Maher noted that “The audience cooed like people do when ‘the retarded kid actually does something good.” Hira noted that “we’re holding our breath for every nomination.”

The next topic had to do with the price gouging of the oil companies in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and Maher said that, “there are three brands out there now – regular, unleaded, and ‘bend over’.” Maher said that “there has to be collusion going on. Exxon-Mobil made $10 million in one quarter…they need competition.” Tony Snow immediately said “Where do you think the profits go? They go back into production. They have a P.R. problem,” and the groaning of the audience was palpable at that point. Maher correctly pointed out that “no other industry makes a profit like this,” and Snow made the ridiculous comparison between Exxon-Mobil’s profit and that of Microsoft. Connolly cleverly came back at Snow with “this is the type of thinking that believes that perjury is only a technicality and Libby is only guilty of talking to reporters. Please,” and the audience gave Connolly a big hand. Connolly said, “this is more evidence to me that we should change politicians every six months”; actually, Maher may have said that because he pointed out that the Repugs, in their “Contract On America,” wanted that, and Snow said something like, “Well, they didn’t expect to win elections when they came up with that, but now that they have…heh heh,” and I was starting to wonder at that point if there was ANYTHING that Snow had said throughout the show that wasn’t total bullshit. Maher, in a vein related to gas prices, noted that, despite the popular fiction, 9/11 and Katrina “changed nothing,” certainly not in the way the oil companies do business and the politicians appropriate money anyway. At that moment (as evidence of that), the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska came up, and the spat between Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Ted Stevens of Alaska was discussed, with Stevens’ fit over giving the money for the bridge for Katrina relief. Snow actually agreed with Maher that Stevens should hand over the money, with Hira pointing out that they have a ferry that runs up there between the two islands anyway.

Maher then interviewed Richard Clarke, who of course is the former chief of counter terrorism to four different presidents who warned Dubya about 9/11, of course, and is plugging his most current book, "The Scorpion's Gate." Clarke showed some empathy to Libby, making Maher wonder why Clarke thought Libby was a good person. Clarke, who is currently teaching at the Kennedy School at Harvard, pointed out that there always seems to be a scandal in government, and he faces young people who wonder if they should pursue that kind of a career if that is the case, and he apparently is continually trying to persuade them that they should (bless that man). Maher wondered why it is bad that people like Libby are discouraged from entering government in that case, and Clarke said that the real world effect of discouraging good people from entering government is that you get someone like Mike Brown in charge of FEMA. Maher pointed out that Clarke remains the only former or current senior Bush Administration official who has apologized for 9/11, and Maher said he didn’t think Clarke had to do that. When he asked Clarke who should, Clarke said “Bush, on behalf of his administration (amen),” adding that, “this administration has told everyone that they can keep this country safe, but we’ve seen what happened in Iraq as well as the response to Katrina. Now we have to worry about the possibility of bird flu.” Maher asked Clarke if we would have gone into Iraq if we’d captured bin Laden, and he said “Yes” without hesitation, pointing out that Paul Wolfowitz, among others, decided to do that as part of their “New American Century” document, pointing out that “they meant to consolidate power anyway, but 9/11 just allowed them to do it a little faster.” Maher asked Clarke why we haven’t been attacked since, and Clarke said, “no idea.” Maher told Clarke he thought he was a hero, and I absolutely second that.

Turning to the Iraqi constitution that was just passed, Maher said that the media treated it like it was no big deal (uh, yeah…probably because our people continue to get maimed and killed over there), and when Maher asked if that had to do with news judgment, Snow leapt back in on cue and said yes, pointing out that “since they can divide up the oil revenue now, everybody has an interest in getting along” (typical Republican thinking). Maher correctly (I thought) wondered if this would override “the Muslim craziness,” including their treatment of women, and Snow of course pointed out that there are women in Iraqi government (shades of Kellyanne Conway), totally blowing off the issue that strict Shia law, which will be implemented in some provinces, treats women practically like cattle. Maher then pointed out that former Republican administration officials such as Melvin Laird and Brent Scowcroft have said that the presence of our troops feeds the insurgency, and not setting a timetable for getting out creates more of a problem, and a timetable would help Iraq get its army together, with Maher also noting that “85 percent of the people want us to get out, and 42 percent want to blow us up.” Snow again pointed out, in response to Maher’s comment about the Iraqi police getting killed, that “people show up over and over to fill those jobs,” with either Maher or Billy Connolly pointing out that “there ARE no other jobs over there.”

Maher then brought up these two generic blonde bimbo teenage girls called “Prussian Blue” (?), apparently two singers who were photographed at a party wearing swastikas (maybe I’m supposed to know who they are, but I don’t care). Maher pointed out that they were “the product of home schooling,” referring to them as “Mary Kate and Ashley Goebbels,” and led into this funny sequence of their "hits" called “Hey Juden,” and “Once, Twice…Three Fifths A Lady,” among others. Maher said he thought the purpose behind home schooling was “to lift open a kid’s head and pour in the bullshit.” Nadira Hira pointed out that “public schools are supposed to help form better kids,” and Maher said that some kids in public schools do bad things, but the teachers there all have degrees for a reason, or something like that, with yet more propaganda from Tony Snow, who said that “home schooled kids have better test scores than kids taught in public school” (Snow was wrong about so much in this show that I didn’t even bother to check for the accuracy on this one). As if that weren’t enough, Snow said a couple of times that, “I know folks in my neighborhood who home school their kids (must be in some “Stepford” community in Kansas, I thought to myself), and all the public school kids want to do is party.” I just shook my head at that point, lamenting such a closed mind, and I just hoped for Snow to shut up and leave. Fortunately, the “New Rules” segment then began, which granted my wish (Maher’s came up with a line, concerning the study that found – supposedly – that only 15 percent of the people in this country believe in evolution, that “if we get any stupider about science, we’ll forget how to make crystal meth”).

Next week’s show is the finale for 2005, and the scheduled panelists include Joe Scarborough and John Waters (interesting…).

Smiling Face, Lying Eyes

From the SMWIA presentation (click here for background).

You be the judge…

- If Wal-Mart were a nation, it would be China’s 8th largest trading partner, ahead of Britain and Russia (according to the Milwaukee, WI Journal Sentinel).

- Wal-Mart is America’s largest employer with nearly 1.3 million workers.

- At 34 hours per week (full-time at Wal-Mart), the average Wal-Mart associate makes $17,114 per year, well below the poverty level for a family of four.

- 660,000 of Wal-Mart’s employees don’t have health insurance.

- Wal-Mart workers pay $273 a month for the company’s family medical coverage and get fewer benefits than Medicaid; $273 is %19 of their $1426.00 monthly poverty level wage.

- In 11 of the 12 states that disclosed employers who have employees on Medicaid, Wal-Mart tops the list.

- Medicaid spending increased 85% from 1997 through 2004; it went from $159 billion to $295 billion, which is nearly twice the rise of Medicare that insures seniors.

- The percentage of children covered by private insurance fell from 65% in 1999 to 59% in 2004, while those on Medicaid rose from 22% to 29%.

- Medicaid paid by federal and state taxpayers has grown from 34 million people in 1997 to 47 million in 2004. 10 million more people are eligible for Medicaid but have not signed up.

- A U.S. congressional study found that Wal-Mart cost the American taxpayers up to $2.5 billion in public assistance.
This is another example of how outsourcing is impacting the working class of the United States. Not only is Wal-Mart creating low wage and benefit jobs, they are transferring the responsibility of their employees’ health care to the U.S. taxpayer! (from the SMWIA)

Click here, here, and here to find out more, and please try to explain to me once again why, knowing all this, anyone would ever shop at that place.

And here is a link to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer from yesterday about bringing pressure on these cretins to provide something approximating respectable health insurance to their employees (registration required).


The Philadelphia Inquirer provides a helpful reminder concerning this story:

"Under Senate rules, the Senate can go into closed session at the request of one senator, provided another senator seconds the motion. Since 1929, when the Senate first allowed treaties and nominations to be discussed in public, the Senate has held 53 closed sessions, most involving discussion of classified materials. Six of the most recent closed sessions occurred during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton."

What goes around...

Update: I thought Marty Kaplan from The Huffington Post had a good take on this.

Empty, Like His Head

Too busy trying to get his hand into ours to take care of his own, huh?

And why exactly again is this news?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Signs Of A Pulse

"Violating rules of courtesy and consent," huh? How about arbitrarily extending the amount of time to vote on legislation twice beyond the limit previously agreed upon by both sides after the offended party (the Repugs) asked for the first extension to begin with? How about the Vice President of the United States dropping an "F" bomb on the chamber floor?

I'm sure Molly Ivins or Joe Conason will have something good on this soon. I don't know much about Pat Roberts or if he's guilty of blowing off the Dems on this, though the fact that he's from Kansas doesn't win him points in my book. I'm sure there's political posturing on both sides, so the Repugs should understand that the Dems are playing by their rules for a change.

Update: John A. at AmericaBlog got the lowdown yesterday.

Stealing The Little We Have

Read this article and this article about Treasury Secretary John Snow and then you’ll know why I trust him only slightly further than I can pee (re: this CNN story).

Keep your grubby hands off my home interest deduction, you bastard! You and Bushco have done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to deserve my trust. Take your shell game somewhere else!

We’ve got to start fighting for this stuff sooner or later, people!!! After watching the Repugs drive this country right into the ground, why the hell would you trust them with something like this?

By the way, I am definitely not trying to trivialize the circumstances of Florence Thompson, the "migrant mother" in this photo, by comparing her suffering with our own present ordeal. I am only trying to remind everyone that Bushco doesn't care if you're already destitute or on the road to actually losing everything. If you aren't in with their crowd, then you're already nothing to them.

Drawing The Battle Lines

I thought Robert Parry's analysis of the obstacles we face regarding President Stupid Head's removal from office was important reading, so here it is.

Also, please read the text from this link regarding the history of the impeachment proceedings of Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, and tell me how well the drip-drip-drip of heresay against Clinton was manufactured to undermine him (and while you're at it, I'd appreciate it if someone could explain to me how any of the impeachment offenses documented against these three men compares to anything Dubya has done since he became president).

Vote For Ron And Greg

More local PA stuff (regarding the Lower Makefield Township supervisors election)...

The following Letter to the Editor appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday from Greg Caiola.

First, I want to thank the BCCT for the editor's note clarifying my comments regarding the Patterson Farm, emphasizing that it will remain a working farm. Second, it is essential that I inject some badly needed facts into the discussion focusing on my record as an Ewing Towhsip, NJ councilman.

When I took office in 1995, the municipal tax rate was $.33, or $412 for a home assessed at the township avergage of $125,000. Upon leaving office in January of 2000, the municipal rate was $39, or $475 per household. This computes to a difference of $63 over five years of $13 per year!

With respect to Andy Raffle's "slice of Ewing" comment - that equates to approximately seven pizzas. This data is supported in the 2001 audit prepared by the NJ Department of Treasury, Division of Local Government Services. The audit also reveals that Ewing's tax rate was one of the lowest in Mercer County and considerably lower than the NJ state average.

Furthermore, during my second term, I successfully led the fight to dissolve a taxing fire district. This effort lowered the taxes for nearly 4,000 households that had been paying an additional $56 annually and receiving no added services or benefits. Additionally, a partial list of improvements in municipal services during my tenure included forming a redevelopment agency to address ratable issues, establishing and staffing an animal shelter, alleviating a serious flooding problem along the Shabakunk Creek that saved residents, businesses and the township hundreds of thousands of dollars, and increasing sanitation services to include condominiums.

This is a portion of my public service record, a record of which I am extremely proud.

Greg Caiola
Candidate for LMT Supervisor
I didn't see the original letter from Andy Raffle that Greg is reponding to, so I am unable to offer further background on it.

The Whited Sepulcher "Speaks"

Local PA stuff...

If it's Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday, then that means it's time for J.D. Mullane to spew more garbage in the Bucks County Courier Times. And it doesn't take much to guess what his target is today. I'd really wished the paper had assigned the story of Msgr. Shoemaker's meeting with the parish last Wednesday to Kate Fratti, the paper's other metro columnist, since she takes more care in practicing her craft and shows more humanity in her writing. But no...

(I would just retype Mullane's column and rebut it point by point since I can't link to it from the awful web site of the Bucks County Courier Times, which I have done in the past, but I don't have time to do that, and I apologize.)

The charges against Msgr. Shoemaker and Msgr. Statkus as "enablers" of predatory priests are horrific and well known at this point. Could they have done more to prevent abuse by these animals? With 20-20 hindsight, the answer of course is yes, but they deserve to be heard in this also.

Mullane doesn't tell us in his column whether or not he attended the meeting the other night (something I was unable to do because his paper trumpeted the meeting all over the place and turned it into a media freak show, and by the time I got there, I was unable to park my car on the small grounds of our parish and school), but if he had, he would have heard Shoemaker fielding all questions from those in attendance and enduring all rants and tirades (which is his job in this situation, I admit). He also would have heard Shoemaker tell those in attendance (and we heard this from a neighbor who was there) that he and the rest of the archdiocese decided to rely on the advice of psychologists in the 70s and 80s when it came to dealing with these animals who prey upon kids, and they told the archdiocese to integrate them into the general population because they thought that was the best chance for reforming them. However, by the 90s, it became apparent that that wasn't working.

Is that a thin excuse? Probably, but Shoemaker and Statkus, among others, were struggling with what to do about this. Does it absolve them for the violence upon these kids? No, but suppose you were a priest and you were told that you would be defrocked if you spoke out about this. Yes, I know this is the Eichmann "only following orders" defense again, but this is the crap we struggle with here in the real world, as opposed to Mullane's imaginary ivory tower of virtue.

(Actually, regarding the issue of his attendance at the meeting, Mullane plays a clever trick in the column. He says something along the lines of "the biggest applause of the evening came when someone said to Shoemaker that he should resign." That implies that Mullane was there, but he could have heard that from elsewhere or even made it up. He could have stated more clearly that he was there, but he doesn't.)

Something which makes me laugh, actually, towards the end of Mullane's column today, is where he tells us that he's a Catholic also and decides to give us a lecture in the faith. Mullane, based on his venomous words and invincible ignorance that he demonstrates on an almost continual basis, shows no acquaintance whatsoever with the faith that I have been taught and encouraged to practice throughout my life.

Mullane, stay out of our parish and leave us alone. I would have thought that you would have learned to find a clue about what you write about after your truly insipid columns regarding the Pennsbury teachers strike, but I now know that I was delusional myself to think that that would have ever occurred to you.

(Oh, and by the way, this is one of "J.D. Mullane's Greatest Hits.")

Monday, October 31, 2005

Treat Yes, Trick No

Every year around now, there's some story pretty much like this one that comes up in the MSM about how one group or another wants to ban Halloween. There are many reasons why this is a stupid idea. One is that, aside from Christmas of course, this is the second most expensive holiday of the year (decorations, parties, et cetera...I don't advocate spending a boatload of dough on Jesus' birthday either, but those two days are partly responsible right now for propping up our moribund economy, primarily in the fourth quarter).

Also, as pointed out in the article (by Eric Dietrich, I think, who is apparently the only adult in this story with common sense), Halloween is an opportunity for kids to play act creatively and retreat into a bit of a socially approved fantasy land (and I hope and pray that his remark about being "creatively weird" isn't prophetic).

But of course, a bunch of anal retentive adults have to get involved and mess it up for the kids, don't they? "Oh, somehow it will hurt my fragile sensibilities if little Johnny decides to play act as Anakin Skywalker turning into Darth Vader. He won't know the difference between reality and fantasy, and besides, he might bop little Taylor on her head with his light saber. And also little Crystal shouldn't dress up like Batgirl, because that means she will be promiscuous later. And they'll all end up as Satan-worshipping ghouls!"

People, unless there is something clinically wrong with your kids to begin with, you should trust their judgment at this time of year. Sure, if the partying or their choice of attire is a bit out of hand, you rein them in if necessary and let them bitch at you for it (we've been fighting battles like that with the young one with increasing frequency, but he is also learning that he has to be more selective in his choices because we're not a rubber stamp for whatever he wants). If they were already adults, then they wouldn't need you to do this for them. But you don't use parental confusion as an excuse to cancel their party altogether if they haven't done anything wrong.

Let me tell you about where I spent much of my day today. We helped out with the Halloween party at the young one's school, setting up games, snacks, and organizing the parade for the kids (the principal was dressed as Peter Pan, by the way). I should also point out that this was at a Roman Catholic elementary school. The kids had a blast and the adults had fun also (and some of them got dressed up and got into the spirit as well).

I have to confess an increasing level of disgust with people who want our kids to be brainwashed zombies with no notion of the theory of evolution, any familiarity whatsoever with the Harry Potter stories if the kids want to read them, or, for that matter, birth control or any means of contraception, filling their heads all the while with propaganda in an effort to scare them away from using their brains and God-given common sense. Trying to take away their ability to play act by canceling Halloween parties is part of this whole right-wing hammerhead mindset also as far as I'm concerned. Cultivating a creative instinct at an early age will enable kids to expand their abilities to reason, engage in problem solving, and perform critical analysis - all tasks that they will have to perform as reasonably intelligent adults.

(Oh, and by the way, I didn't see one kid out trick or treating wearing a mask of George W. Bush. I guess that's what happens when you have a disapproval rating hovering in the 60 percent range.)

(Also, prepare yourself to hear a lot of these arguments recycled shortly when "Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire" opens in theaters. I think the entire Harry Potter series is great because it encourages a lot of the activity I discussed above - kudos to Mrs. Rowling. Also, the stories teach the kids great lessons about teamwork, individuality, problem solving, and self reliance. And better yet, the kids have been READING them! But we can't have any of that in George W. Bush's America, can we now?)

Well, I hope you all have fun anyway...

The World Watches, And Laughs

So apparently, according to this Steve Abrams person quoted in this story, the school kids in Kansas are supposed to grow up with a partial understanding, at best, of the scientific method of reason and analysis, as long as they're also a bunch of intellectual sheep also. Boy, will they be well equipped to compete for tomorrow's jobs with students of other countries!

The most important quote in this story, for me, comes from Michael J. Padilla, president of the teachers group:

Kansas students will not be well prepared for the rigors of higher education or the demands of an increasingly complex and technologically driven world if their science education is based on these standards (which remove references to evolution). Instead, they will put the students of Kansas at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world."
I've tried not to comment much on this because it is stupidly obvious that "intelligent design" is religion and shouldn't be treated as science, but the people who want to foist their agenda on us (these evangelical nut jobs in the south and Midwest, primarily) have money and influence, especially now that they effectively run the government (ugh...).

However, let me take a minute to remind us all that we've been through this entire debate in this country between science and evolution for anyone who may not know that. This link takes you to more information on The Scopes Monkey Trial of 1912, the story of which was used for the great movie and stage play titled Inherit The Wind.

Also, here is more background from a Guest Opinion in The Bucks County Courier Times from last August.

Yakin' Iraq (Don't Talk Back)

(with apologies to the great Leiber and Stoller and The Coasters...)

In the process of researching the myriad half truths and outright lies from Tony Snow on "Real Time With Bill Maher (update in progress)," I came across this link from the great people at Media Matters which, as thoroughly as possible, documents the misinformation that is being peddled about the Valerie Plame matter to date. I'm not sure that it will be possible to read the material from every link, but I'll try.

Also, Kevin Ferris (the Philadelphia Inquirer's Editorial Page copy editor who thinks he's a contributing columnist) wrote a screed on October 21st where he said Bush should "take a bow" for Iraq. I'm serious, and he's been getting rightly pilloried for it in the Letters To The Editor for the last few days. I can't access the column from the Inquirer's site because it's more than a week old (and a Google search uncharacteristically yielded nothing also).

Click here if you want to send the paper an Email telling them that Ferris is an idiot (if I can track down Ferris' Email address, I'll publish that also).

More Vowels, Same Result

I guess Alito is supposed to be the anti-Cuomo or something.

Problems? Where do we begin (hat tip to Atrios, and the Daily Kos has Harry Reid's take on this and his disappointment because Bush blew off the Dems with this selection)...