Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saturday Videos

Stone Sour ("Through Glass")...

...Happy Birthday to Marianne Faithfull, a true warrior (performing the Phil Ochs tune "There But For Fortune" on "Hullaballo" in 1965; not Digby's great blog, but the former T.V. show)...

...Happy Birthday also to Mike Nessmith and Davy Jones of The Monkees ("Words" - some kind of goofy background noise, but this is one of my favorite songs by them - surprised?)...

...and Joan Osborne ("Time Won't Tell" from this year's "Pretty Little Stranger" - something kind of contemplative as we bring the year to a close).

Doomsy's Do-Gooders And Dregs (2006)

Well, what would it be if we didn't have some final kudos to extend and parting shots to deliver before this year fades into memory?

As you can see, I've spent a good amount of time accumulating this stuff - I hope you enjoy it.

Runner Up Do-Gooder of the Year

Joseph Nacchio, former CEO of Qwest, who refused to turn over phone records to NSA in fall ’01 despite the fact that Verizon, AT&T and Bell South did (and I don’t care if in this case if he was investigated for securities fraud)

Another Runner Up

Steve Almond, former adjunct professor of English at Boston College, for resigning after the school allowed Condoleezza Rice to give the commencement address.

Another Runner Up

Bill Richardson, for telling "St." McCain that he’s wrong to request more troops for Iraq, and that any possible solution to that mess has to be a political one.

Most Unnecessarily Contrite Shooting Victim At The Hands of the Vice President of the United States

Harry Whittington (this has sound)

("Deadeye Dick" also went hunting on Election Day apparently; we never received word of any casualties.)

Bad Sport Of The Year (Runner Up)

Author Annie Proulx who wrote the original story for "Brokeback Mountain," lamenting that film's loss of the Best Picture Oscar to "Crash."

Bad Sport Of The Year (Runner Up)

Isaac Hayes for leaving “South Park” because Matt Stone and Trey Parker lampooned Scientology (Hayes is a member...I should add, though, that I think "South Park" gets a little tiresome in its lampooning of religion in general - just my opinion, for what it's worth).

Most Overplayed Celebrity Dustup

The spat between George Clooney and Arianna Huffington over whether or not it was Clooney blogging or his publicist at the time of the release of "Good Night And Good Luck" onto DVD.

Most Delusional Political Campaign Operative

Jon Laramie of the Andy Warren campaign (Warren was defeated in the Democratic priamry last May by Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy) who suggested that Murphy “could work on Andy’s campaign after May 17th the same way he worked on John Kerry’s” and referred to a commenter with an alias as one-time Murphy campaign manager Josh Nanberg, which the commenter vociferously denied.

Most Chickenhearted Attempt To Honor An Antiwar Protestor

Georgia Senator Steen Miles (why am I not surprised that this came from Georgia?) who introduced a resolution to honor Jane Fonda and then voted against her own resolution when it came to a vote.

Most Insane Linkage Between Abortion And Immigration

Georgia Republican Nancy Schaefer (Georgia again?).

Hero of 2006 (Runner Up)

Arizona governor Janet Napolitano for vetoing that state's "fetal pain bill."

Anti-Choice Numbskull Of The Year

Repug Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey for trying to get the "fetal pain bill" passed in the U.S. House after Napolitano vetoed it.

Most Paranoid Delusion of a U.S. Invasion

That fine Christian man Dr. Earl Tilford of Grove City College envisioned Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba joining Dubya's "Axis Of Evil" in a May column that appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times.

Most Inappropriately Tactile Moment Involving A Foreign Head Of State, Possibly In An Attempt At Evangelical Conversion

Dubya’s “laying of hands” on Angela Merkel.

“To Boldly Go Where No Man Ever Imagined Another Man In A T.V. Science Fiction Series Would Ever Go” Award

Faye Flam of the Inquirer discussing some Kirk-on-Spock soft core porn.

Most Tedious Moment Of ‘Fear And Smear’ Campaigning

Santorum’s speech to the National Press Club on 7/20 in which he criticized Condoleezza Rice, among others, for opposing the Iran Freedom and Support Act, of which Santorum was a co-sponsor; Rice opposed the legislation because she said it “would hamper her ability to negotiate alongside U.S. allies”

Most Pointlessly Commercialized Exploitation Of Air Sickness

The decision by U.S. Airways to advertise on barf bags.

Darkest Bushco Moment Of The Year

Aside from ignoring the ISG report, I would nominate his veto of the stem cell research bill, the only veto thus far of his fraudulent presidency.

The “No Divinity Shapes Her Ends” Award

Former NJ attorney general Zulima Farber for trying to get various vehicle violations fixed for her “friend” Hamlet Goore.

Most Irrelevant Notation of a Doctored Photo Award

Charles Johnson of the freeper blog Little Green Footballs for blowing the whistle on the Reuters freelancer who doctored the photos of the bombing in Lebanon, which apparently falls under the category of "do as I say, not as I do," based on this.

Do-Gooder Of The Year (Another Runner Up)

Judge Anna Diggs Taylor for ruling against Dubya’s domestic spying.

Most Offensive Iraq War Apologist

Christopher Hitchens for giving the finger to the "Real Time With Bill Maher" audience.

The “Art Hopefully Never Imitating Life” Award

The UK drama that fictionalized Bush’s assassination (hey, even I draw the line somewhere).

The “Channeling Edward R. Murrow For Real” Award

Keith Olbermann’s response to Rumsfeld on 8/31 (followed by an equally withering commentary on Dubya for his 9/11 propagandizing a few days later – the commentary in response to Kerry’s backfired joke was probably the best).

The “Actor Who Knows More Than The Screenplay Author And The Director” Award

Harvey Keitel for trying to straighten out the factual problems (good luck) in “The Path To 9/11.”

The “You Are Always On My Mind, I Think” Award

Willie Nelson for his bust for pot and mushroom possession in September.

“Dregs Of The Year” Nominees

Mike McCurry and Christopher Wolf for their “Hands Off The Internet” fraud.

Song Parody Of The Year

Paul Hipp of HuffPo for his take on the Ted Haggard travesty (this has sound: story here - Hipp's parody of Cheney's shooting of Harry Whittington takes second place)…

Highest Profile Democratic Politician For Whom "No-News" News Was Continually Generated

Harry Reid (and apparently now, the freepers are mad at him because he said he wouldn't be able to attend any of the funeral functions for Gerald Ford...unbelievable; Nancy Pelosi is the runner-up for this one based on her support of John Murtha for House majority leader - meanwhile, Trent "Jim Crow" Lott wins the role of Senate Minority Whip by one measly vote, but nary a mention is made of that).

Non-Genius Of The Year

Karl Rove, for the GOP’s loss of Congress in the November elections.

Dregs Of The Year (Runner Up)

Robert Barchi, president of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, for allowing “The Gross Clinic,” perhaps Thomas Eakins’ masterwork once housed at the university, to be sold to an art consortium including heirs who are owners of Wal-Mart, which would have allowed the painting to be housed in Arkansas (11/11, Philadelphia Inquirer); fortunately, the sale was prevented. Barchi's memorable quote during this fiasco was “we’re not a museum; we’re not in the business of art education.”

Do-Gooder Of The Year (Runners Up)

Sen. Christopher Dodd of CT for standing up to Dubya on his “Military Commissions Act.”

Jim Webb for his answer to Bush’s question about his son (and his great column in the Wall Street Journal)

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post (his 11/30 “Bullshit” column)

Ink-Stained Wretch Of The Year

Columnist J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times…as much as I wanted to throttle him for some of his fawning pro-Bush columns, he wrote that, if the Democrats were serious about helping Patrick Murphy win the 8th district U.S. House seat, they would have found a way to have Bill Clinton campaign with him. Well, that’s what ended up happening, and it definitely created some excitement that only helped Patrick in his successful bid to defeat Mikey Fitzpatrick.

Idiot Of The Year

Michael Richards for his racist rant followed by an apology festival a la Mel Gibson, then his statement that he “feels Jewish” after he went into an anti-Semitic rant prior to his racist rant, and then it turned out that he wasn’t really Jewish after all.

Wow, first he insults blacks and then Jews. I guess Arabs would have to be next then, right?

Dregs Of The Year (Runner Up)

Officials at Valley and Desert Springs Hospitals in Las Vegas as well as Universal Health Services Incorporated who persuaded the SEIU nurses at the two Las Vegas hospitals to agree to a "cooling off" period in contract negotiations just before they were locked out and replaced with scab nurses.

Do-Gooder Of The Year (Runner Up)

Bob Maxwell, formerly of the Department of the Interior who of course had to be fired by Bushco because he performed his oversight function so well and saved the taxpayers so much money.

Campaign Of The Year

Murphy-Fitzpatrick actually takes second place to the PA House contest for state representative between Dave Steil and Mike Diamond in District 10 won by Steil; they both stuck to the issues, and Diamond actually wrote a letter congratulating Steil that appeared in the Courier Times afterwards (yes, it happens that way sometimes).

Update 1/1/2007: My bad - Steil is in District 31, not 10 (thanks to anonymous commenter).

The “Resurrecting Mikey’s ‘Delete Online Predators’ Nonsense” Award

That “straight talker” and “maverick” himself John McCain (a lot of this garbage sounds exactly what Fitzy came up with – McCain morphs more and more into a version of Dubya with each passing day)…

Anti-Semite Of The Year

Don Imus, for his remarks as recorded here by Media Matters.

Let’s forget about Mel Gibson and Michael Richards for a second. Imus uttered these insulting words on or about December 8th, and it wasn’t picked up by anybody. Not CNN, MSNBC, AP, Fox – nobody!

Why didn’t HE get sentenced to some “mass apology festival” showing contrition to Norman Lear or Alan Dershowitz or something?

Most Ignored Remembrance Of A Presidential Crisis

November marked the 20th anniversary of the Iran-Contra scandal, but aside from and this blog, I didn’t see any mention of it anywhere. Of course, our corporate media was too busy commenting on the size of Barack Obama’s ears to notice along with the fact that his middle name is – horrors! – Hussein, so I guess that’s their excuse.

CD Of The Year

“Kaskistocracy” (hey, just trying to give Luke and Tommy another assist, OK?)

Most Public Imaginary “Hacking” By A Winning Democratic Primary Candidate

Ned Lamont (or so said the Lieberman For Myself And Not Really Connecticut Campaign - more on Ned Lamont later).

Invisible Man Of The Year

Porter Goss, former head of the CIA who seemed to completely disappear after this scandal was brought to light (and by the way, in "State of Denial," Woodward mentions that former Bushco stooge Andrew Card made sure that Goss attended a management training course after he was named head of the CIA...if you're going to get that kind of a job, shouldn't you know that stuff already? Goss said he was unqualified, and it seems that he was telling the truth).

Misinformer Of The Year

ABC (echoing a post from Atrios on 12/23)

Homophobe Of The Year

Crazyland Repug Sen. Sam Brownback (re: Janet Neff and same-sex commitment ceremony)

Most Bigoted Virginian In Need Of A History Lesson

A shocker – George Felix Macaca Allen actually DOESN’T get this award. It goes instead to Repug congressman Virgil Goode.

Good Sport Of The Year

Believe it or not, Rick Santorum for his gracious words about Bob Casey, Jr. when Santorum conceded on November 7th.

Bad Sports Of The Year (Winners?)

Mikey Fitzpatrick and his legion of followers for their incessant and absolutely juvenile mean-spirited whining about Mikey’s loss to Patrick Murphy in the recent PA-08 U.S. congressional election (the most recent episode is Mikey’s interview recorded by the Philadelphia Inquirer with stenographic accuracy…gee, is it asking too much for Philadelphia’s conservative newspaper of record to actually provide some background and context into why Patrick DEFEATED HIM because he was a BETTER CANDIDATE and Mikey’s record was so HORRIBLE??!!)

Stupidest Storyline Of The Year

Lots to choose from as usual: narrowing it down, do you think it was A) Sandy Berger’s admitted destruction of 9/11-related documents at the National Archive and the subsequent ramifications up to and including the collapse of the republic (yes, it was stupid on his part, but it was over-reported, analyzed, spun, critiqued and lied about into infinity, and it probably always will be), or B) The promise that Jack Abramoff would name Democrats in his massive lobbying scandal (and short of that, the fact that Dems received donations from Abramoff clients, which somehow was as bad as receiving donations from Abramoff itself...and by the way, Abramoff is in "the gray bar hotel" now; if he's going to name Dems, what's he waiting for)?

Well, my choice would be C) The idea that, no matter what calamity befalls us domestically, what new disaster occurs in Iraq, or anything at all really, it can somehow result in good news for George W. Bush. And that insanely idiotic notion is echoed here (via Atrios) by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and a person I used to respect.


Gordon Parks, Maureen Stapleton, Coretta Scott King, Dennis Weaver, Syd Barrett, William Styron, Mike Douglas, Peter Boyle, James Brown, Ed Bradley, Glenn Ford, Wilson Pickett, Ahmet Ertegun, Frank Stanton, Billy Preston, The Pennsauken Mart, Goodnoe’s, Blog Cabin, Brandoland

And now, without further ado...

Do-Gooders Of The Year (Co-Winners)

For the longest time, I considered Russ Feingold a lock for this because of his motion to censure Dubya on the NSA spying, but I think it's also appropriate to include Ned Lamont for his U.S. Senate candidacy that, among other things, stirred up opposition to the Iraq war against the “conventional wisdom” of the DLC. Congratulations!

I thought the following from Act For Change was a neat summary of what we accomplished in 2006 also:

Through both our ActForChange and Citizen Action Letter programs, you sent more than 3.7 million messages this year, and helped convinced decision-makers to do the right thing on the following issues:

• Permanent repeal of the estate tax -- The Senate adjourned this year without making Paris Hilton's generous tax breaks permanent -- an unnecessary giveaway to the already-wealthy that would have made our national debt even worse.

• Judicial appointments -- Despite repeat attempts, four of President Bush's unqualified and ideologically-extreme nominees (Myers, Haynes, Wallace and Boyle) were never confirmed for lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

• John Bolton -- President Bush gave him a recess appointment as UN Ambassador and repeatedly sent his name up for permanent confirmation, but the Senate wisely declined to act, and Bolton resigned in early December.

• Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- This proposed amendment would have been the first to enshrine discrimination into our U.S. Constitution, but fortunately Senate conservatives fell far short of the 67 votes necessary to pass the amendment.

• The Cheney-Specter wiretapping bill -- S. 2453 would have retroactively authorized all of the President's warrantless wiretapping, but it never passed the Senate, and expired when the 109th Congress adjourned late this year.

• Reauthorization of Voting Rights Act -- In July, Congress renewed and strengthened the Voting Rights Act, including bilingual ballots and other protections for language minorities in 500 jurisdictions. The law also requires federal observers to document and deter intimidation and discrimination at the polls.

• Punitive immigration legislation -- H.R. 4437, if passed in the Senate, would have made it a felony to provide any assistance whatsoever -- such as a drink of water to someone dying of thirst in the desert -- to undocumented immigrants. Fortunately, the Senate passed different legislation, and the two versions of the bill could never be reconciled.

• National Uniformity in Food Safety law -- This legislation would have preempted state regulations and set a uniform, and completely inadequate, national standard for truth in labeling on the foods we eat. This legislation never passed the Senate.

• Corruption in Congress -- Following exposure of their unethical (and potentially illegal) acts, Representatives Ney of Ohio and DeLay of Texas both resigned from their seats in Congress. (We're still calling on Representatives Jefferson and Doolittle to do the same.)

• State-level victories -- In California, we helped convince the Public Utilities Commission to create a $3 billion solar energy program (the nation's largest); helped pass the Global Warming Solutions Act to mandate a 25% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020; helped pass AB 774 to prevent hospitals from overcharging the uninsured; helped pass AB 1870 to require a visible smoke test as part of statewide smog check inspections; and helped persuade the governor to formally request protection of all 4.4 million acres of the state's roadless wilderness. In Oregon, we helped convince the Environmental Quality Commission to officially adopt the California clean car standard. In Washington, we helped pass expanded family-leave legislation; and helped convince the Washington Pharmacy Board to require that all pharmacists fill prescriptions (including emergency contraception) regardless of personal objections. In Texas, we helped establish the Neches River Wildlife Refuge, and protected school funding equity through amendments to House Bill One. In Utah, we helped reject the teaching of creationism by stopping a plan to add 'Divine Design' to the state's curriculum. In Arizona, we helped pass a bill to provide tax incentives for solar energy installations. In Massachusetts, we helped secure a $1.25 million increase in funding for state housing vouchers for low income residents. In New York, we helped convince the state Environmental Review Board to move forward on strict regulation of mercury emissions from power plants.
I think that's about it (probably enough for now), and I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2007!

Update 12/31: Yep, I would definitely say that Rep. Thomas Caltagirone qualifies as a last-minute candidate for Dregs Of The Year based on this.

Friday, December 29, 2006

While We're Celebrating

OK, so now we killed him. But I'm still wondering about a few things.

Who exactly are we supposed to be supporting over there anyway?

I mean, the Shiites don't support our most recent plan for a coalition in Iraq, and since al Qaeda is Sunni (as Jeff Stein pointed out in his little "gotcha" exercise with incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee Silvestre Reyes), and we've now likely driven the Sunnis closer to al Qaeda as a result of Hussein's execution (we've made Hussein, who was Sunni, a martyr against a common foe, namely us) even though some Sunnis were fighting al Qaeda, who exactly are our troops supposed to be supporting?

I'll be honest with you; until someone gives me something close to intelligent answers to those questions, I will categorically tell you that I don't care whether or not Saddam Hussein is dead or alive.

Friday Videos

Happy Birthday to Jeff Lynne of ELO, who hits the mark tomorrow ("All Over The World" from the 1980 movie "Xanadu," with Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck, I think, and Gene Kelly going out in style in his last film role; yep, this is a brainless guilty pleasure of a production all right)...

...also to Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder of The Moody Blues ("The Story In Your Eyes").

By the way, I should be getting back to regular blogging shortly.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Follow-Up On Ford

As others including Atrios have noted, The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the front-page treatment today to comments by now-deceased President Gerald Ford for an upcoming book project, including this excerpt:

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with Bush's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush, but of Vice President Cheney - Ford's White House chief of staff - and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld - who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.
This, to me, is a lasting remembrance of President Ford that is not very honorable.

If he believed that the Iraq war was a mistake (as well as the conduct of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, his two one-time protégés), he had a duty to speak out as soon as possible, and not hide away his comments in an "embargoed" interview so that he would have the cover of his demise to protest himself against any repercussions.

Update 12/29: And for anyone who subscribes to this notion that it's somehow bad form for past presidents to criticize current ones, Atrios dug up this interesting tidbit about what "the sainted Ronnie R" had to say about Bill Clinton around 1993 (and exploding Ronnie's misinformation would likely be the subject of another post).

Update 12/31: Jerry and Joe Long provide this admiring remembrance of Ford tinged with appropriate sacrasm towards other Repugs who will never measure up by comparison.

The Campaign Begins

The following is a brief video from John Edwards announcing his candidacy for President in 2008, among other things. Please take a minute or two to watch - thanks.

Update 12/29: If Edwards has some DLC clown mad at him, then he must be doing something right (via Atrios).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mikey's Year-End Whine

And trust me when I tell you that it doesn’t get better with age.

Yes, here I go beating up on the Philadelphia Inquirer again, and I’m doing it because, in this case, they’re granting a forum to Mike Fitzpatrick so he can grouse some more about his loss to Patrick Murphy in the recent PA-08 congressional campaign.

You know, Mikey, I really hope you took time to help Patrick transition into the job like a good sport. I’m a bit concerned because I saw absolutely nothing in the Bucks County Courier Times or elsewhere that gave me any hint that you were doing that. I didn’t see any news reports, and I sure as hell didn’t see any photographs of the two of you together.

This really is quite pitiable, actually. I have to admit that I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to political campaigns (honestly not trying to brag, just show my age for what it’s worth), and truly, I have NEVER seen a case like this where a losing politician in a campaign and his followers have bawled so relentlessly over it. It’s so bad that other political candidates who lost on November 7th are writing into the Courier Times and telling them to shut up.

Still, though, Mikey is hinting at another run in this article by Christine Schiavo (if he had any shame, he and his supporters would apologize to everyone in the world for their utterly childish conduct).

Mike Fitzpatrick wonders whether voters really knew him.

It is an unsurprising reflection, given that the departing Bucks County representative lost his seat by a minuscule margin to a young Democrat who has never held a public office.

A month after the painful loss, Fitzpatrick, 43, of Levittown, concluded that he hadn't spent enough time and money telling voters about the 10 bills he introduced as a freshman congressman, or the 10 years of achievements he racked up as a Bucks County commissioner.
OK, time out!

I read this somewhere and took note of it and I can’t recall the source (pretty sure it came from the Courier Times), but I pretty much agreed with the sentiments of the writer, so before Mikey reminds us of how he was utterly used and abused (the poor darling…maybe David Ignatius of the Washington Post should write a column about Mikey to help him feel better in the same way he did for Dubya), allow me to repeat this.

Mike Fitzpatrick lost this election primarily because he allowed himself to be tethered to the Bush administration on the Iraq war. It also didn’t help that he was part and parcel of a recently-defeated Republican congress that supported Social Security privatization, made student loans more expensive, failed to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission (including those related to rail security), opposed embryonic stem cell research, included an estate tax cut in legislation to raise the minimum wage, and did nothing about health care costs expect finagle the horrific scheme of Medicare Part D and the infamous “donut hole.” Other reasons why Fitzpatrick lost are the failed Swift Boat smear by Young Philadelphia Republican Kevin Kelly which Fitzpatrick allowed at his press conference, along with some truly scurrilous mailings from the National Republican Campaign Committee.
Are those enough reasons for you, Mikey?

Back to the Schiavo article…

"Seven of my bills became law," he said as he prepared to leave office last week. "I don't think voters in this district know that."
Yep, Mikey, I guess we’re all just a bunch of idiots all right. You’re too good for us : -).

Fitzpatrick may get another chance to remind them.

In an interview last week, Fitzpatrick left open the option of a rematch against last month's victor, U.S. Rep.-elect Patrick Murphy. Family, friends and supporters are urging him to run in 2008, he said. But his decision may depend on Murphy's performance.

"He made a lot of promises on the campaign trail," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm going to be watching."
You do that, Mikey. Watch Patrick do his best to represent us the way you were supposed to after you smeared Ginny Schrader and won in 2004 (helped in no small part by riding Dubya’s political coattails back when he had them as J.D. Mullane was gushing about President Stupid Head as part of the “great man” narrative he was polluting us with three days a week in the Courier Times).

And of course, I know your carping will never stop. You’ll be doing absolutely nothing constructive except shooting holes at anything Patrick Murphy does.

So are the voters, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics & Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.

Murphy rode a Democratic wave to victory in the Republican-dominated Eighth District that covers Bucks County and slivers of Montgomery County and Philadelphia. Analysts projected a tight race, and were proved right when Murphy came out 1,518 votes ahead out of 249,794 ballots cast. Keeping the seat will be a challenge, Madonna said.

"Patrick Murphy is going to have to both perform and be very careful to watch his back," he said. "Of all the 30 seats the Democrats picked up, this is one of a handful that's volatile."

Fitzpatrick knows that if he opts to run in two years, he'll have to start raising money soon. But before he decides, he wants to return to practicing law in Bucks County, attending parent-teacher conferences for his six children, and helping lead his sons' Cub Scouts pack.

"My boys are 9, 8 and 6. They don't remember when I was not in office," Fitzpatrick said. "The office defined their dad."
I swear to God, an election hasn’t even started yet, and we’re being reminded yet again about Fitzpatrick’s six kids as part of Mikey’s own “average Joe next door” mythology.

Any parent has parent-teacher conferences. I do – it’s just part of the business of parenting. Attending them doesn’t make you anything special. The Murphys will have to do that also when their daughter is older, regardless of whether or not Patrick is still in office. Will that receive a special note in the Inquirer one day too, or are “family values” anecdotes like this reserved for Repugs only?

Fitzpatrick said he didn't believe voters rejected him as much as they did President Bush and the Iraq war. Sending a message to the president meant voting against all Republicans, he said.

He wished he had been more effective reminding voters of his independent record during the campaign.

"I wish I would have been more effective in getting the word out about my accomplishments," he said. "I wish I would have spent a more significant portion of the money getting that message out."
At this time, I want to step back for a minute if I could.

It’s kind of pointless to keep repeating that Mikey continues to act like a spoiled brat here. And if I were a Bucks County resident who voted for Patrick Murphy, I would feel highly insulted after reading this regardless of whether or not I was a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent…whatever.

So I want to tell you the reaction of my mother in law when I reminded her about this article – she had read it a day or so ago also. She lives in Philadelphia in that sliver of territory that is included in the 8th district, and though she has often supported Democrats, she has also supported plenty of Republicans. I consider her to be a highly fair and open minded person, and when I asked her if she read this article, she said “yeah” and rolled her eyes and shook her head a bit in manner that showed her disapproval.

So this isn’t just me, folks.

Voters, apparently, were looking for an antiwar, anti-Bush candidate like Murphy, who criticized American policy in Iraq and called for a withdrawal of most troops by the end of 2007.

Though Murphy built a campaign around the war, Fitzpatrick sidestepped it to focus on the environment, Internet predators, Social Security, medical insurance and other issues.
There was a hell of a lot to Patrick Murphy’s campaign than the war, and the way this is written, it makes it sound like a vote for Patrick was a protest vote against Fitzpatrick and nothing more.

If Ms. Schiavo is interested, she can read the post from this link to get some idea of what I’m talking about.

He offered no concrete plan for Iraq and had a hard time persuading voters that by calling for an undefined new strategy he was challenging Bush's policy.

"It wasn't our year," Fitzpatrick concluded.
No, Mikey. The voters didn’t support your “undefined new strategy” because your strategy wasn’t “undefined,” it was nonexistent.

Madonna called the election "unusual" in its anti-Republican fervor. But, he said, 2008 promises to be different.

"If Fitzpatrick is going to run, he probably has a year or even less to be a civilian," Madonna said.

Even as he shrugs off questions about his political future, Fitzpatrick sounds like a politician more in retreat than defeat. Even as he licks his political wounds, he doesn't regret the fight.

"I've spent a good portion of my life in public service. It's a job that I've loved," he said. "As tough as this election was, I'd do it all over again for the honor that comes with representing my community in Congress."
Cue the flag snapping in the brisk wind against the night sky amidst the rockets red glare while Mikey sings to The Star-Spangled Banner, right hand on his chest.

Patriotic imagery notwithstanding, please pardon me while I gag.

“Surge” + Execution = Impeachment

In a seeming effort by Dubya and the neocons to repeat every single mistake made during the Vietnam War, we now have the so-called “surge” option on the table concerning Iraq, with diarist Kagro X calling this for what it truly is (replaying the bombing of Cambodia which, according to Nixon and Kissinger, was NOT an escalation of the war…oh, please).

And by the way, don’t be fooled by the following Inquirer editorial – I’ll do my best to explain why.

Christmas didn't do it. Neither did the overdue changing of the guard at the Pentagon. Nothing happening in the United States has eclipsed news of the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the implications of that failed operation.
When you state that something has “failed,” doesn’t it mean now that you should automatically end it? Is the Inquirer now saying that we should withdraw? Dear reader, if you can figure out the answer after reading this claptrap, please let me know (and though it is a blessed season, why would Christmas matter concerning Iraq?).

The most recent stories from Iraq are especially sad. Bombings killed dozens of Iraqis yesterday, putting the civilian death toll above 51,800, according to the Iraq Body Count project.

The death of a pet goldfish is “sad.” When a bicycle is left out in the rain and the baseball cards on the spokes get all wet so they can’t help the tires make that whirring sound any more when you ride down an icy hill (which you’re not supposed to do anyway, of course), that’s “sad.” The fact that the NHL hockey team representing the city of Philadelphia may not win a game in the month of December is “sad.”

The Iraq war is far more than “sad.” It is a tragic, ruinous, catastrophic blunder.

U.S. troops also continue to die in combat. A poignant milestone was passed this week: The U.S. military toll in Iraq of at least 2,978 dead since the war's start in March 2003 is more than the total number killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

What's a president to do?
Don’t you love it? Don’t you love the fact that Dubya is being allowed this detachment from his mistakes by our corporate media? I think the author of this editorial must have read the recent column by David Ignatius in the Washington Post attacked by SadlyNo via Atrios today.

Actually, Dubya gets a very slight scolding in a couple of sentences, but that’s it. Boy, it’s a good thing Dubya is a Repug here, because if he were a Dem, he would really be in trouble.

A growing chorus, joined recently by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, agrees that the fighting in Iraq has dangerously stressed the U.S. military.

Even President Bush has ceded that point. In an interview with the Washington Post, Bush said he was "inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops, the Army, the Marines."

That's a big admission from a president who has trouble seeing his mistakes, let alone acknowledging the need to fix them. The self-proclaimed "Decider" now needs to deal with the short- and long-term consequences of exhausted armed services.

In the short term, Bush and new Defense Secretary Robert Gates should reject proposals for a temporary "surge" in the number of soldiers patrolling Baghdad.
Rejecting the “surge” is good. However, I don’t know where the Inquirer thinks these additional troops are going to come from without a draft, and if that is their totally wrongheaded solution to this, they should have the guts to stand up and say so.

The administration and its ideological supporters are kidding themselves if they think 20,000 more soldiers will tame the sectarian violence long enough for the weak Iraqi government to gain strength and credibility.
And you guys are kidding yourselves if you don’t follow up on what I just pointed out.

Besides, a quick surge simply puts more soldiers in harm's way without reevaluating what U.S. goals should be pursued in Iraq and which tactics will take us there.
That’s actually another good point (amazing).

In the long term, Bush and Gates can rebuild American armed forces by adding as many as 70,000 permanent, active-duty military personnel to the Army and Marines worldwide. The United States will need fresh troops should war break out on a different front.
As I and others have already pointed out, though, the last thing Bushco needs is more troops that they can abuse to fight their illegal wars.

The expansion will be expensive - $1.2 billion per year for every 10,000 soldiers. It will be a lengthy and challenging project, not one that can respond to the immediate crisis in Iraq. Still, Bush has made the expense a national necessity.
And are you going to hold Dubya's "feet to the fire" over the fact that, yet again, he has no idea of how he would pay for this except to “put it on the card,” as Bill Maher among others has noted?

The quality of U.S. soldiers is not in question. Our men and women in uniform are as brave, determined and skilled as ever. Iraq has made them all the more so.
So I guess that was a "pretend" benefit of this horror as far as you're concerned?

The damage has come from the administration's disdain for nation-building and its attendant need to send enough troops to keep the peace.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld championed a sleek military that relies on technology more than boots on the ground. That approach works well in some situations. It guided the United States to quick, initial victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But consolidating that early success required far more soldiers than Bush dispatched to either country.
It also required political tact and diplomacy, not just after the war but prior to it as well.

It required many, many more troops than the United States has available if the president really sought to transform those countries from terrorist havens and despot-cracies to friendly democracies.
Apparently it is necessary to repeat yet again the fact the Iraq didn’t become a “terrorist haven” until after we invaded, overthrew Saddam Hussein and subsequently lost the peace after winning the war.

Afghanistan and Iraq provide other lessons for how wars might have to be conducted in this new era of global terrorism.

Rumsfeld was right that high-tech weaponry gives the United States an edge on the battlefield. But so does having adequate troops to flush out insurgents, civil-affairs officers to help rebuild national governments and physical infrastructure, and peacekeepers to maintain order while political processes take place.
Is it me, or does our corporate media seem “a day late and a dollar short” on this? Shouldn’t they face accountability also because they never questioned “the decider” and his bunch using the language in the prior paragraph until now? Maybe they should have done so before more of our people were killed and maimed, to say nothing of innocent Iraqis, don’t you think?

Gates is known as a foreign-affairs realist. That's a welcome change from the foreign-affairs rhapsodists who have dominated this White House. Realism now needs to guide what happens next for our armed forces.
Oh, but remember boys and girls – according to Dick Polman and others, it’s the Dems who are “weak on national security,” all the time and never the Repugs (everyone who believes that, clap your hands and then sprinkle yourselves with pixie dust).

As I read all of this, I couldn’t help but recall this great post from Prof. Marcus in which he cites Steve Clemons of The Washington Note and his concerns about the pending execution of Saddam Hussein.

Given all of this, how can impeachment NOT be on the table when Dubya and the rest of his crooked bunch continue to disregard the clearly-expressed will of the vast majority of the people of this country?

The Enigmatic Wolverine

On the one hand, he was a distinguished naval veteran, earning the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine engagement stars for operations in the South Pacific during World War II. He helped solidify our relations with China and entered into the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union to advance human rights. He also (in his post presidency) co-chaired the National Commission on Federal Election Reform with Jimmy Carter, created as a result of the 2000 electoral fiasco; basically, I would consider him one of the last of the socially moderate but fiscally conservative Republicans.

But Gerald Ford also refused to bail out New York City during its financial crisis in 1975 after Mayor Abe Beame requested his help in the midst of a recession, led congressional resistance while he served in the U.S. House to the Great Society programs of President Johnson, and in all likelihood, doctored the Warren Commission Report to support the single-bullet theory of Arlen Specter regarding the assassination of President Kennedy. And through his cabinet appointments, he helped launch the political careers of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (Poppy Bush, for all intents and purposes, was already on his way).

All told, though, I think Ford was a good man with a few skeletons hanging in his closet (as we all have), and history has judged his pardon of Richard Nixon as the right thing to do on behalf of the country. That will be debated far into the future, as it should be. And I’ll always wonder if a “quid pro quo” was involved when he was appointed vice president as an attempt by Nixon to try and quell impeachment-related unrest in Congress, though Ford flatly denied it, and I think all we or any of us can do is take him at his word (and the line about Poland not considering itself under Soviet domination in the presidential debate with Carter in 1975 was truly the stuff of legend – hey, everyone’s allowed to “drop the ball” at one time or another).

Though he would be allowed to have a state funeral if it turns out that that's what he wanted (U.S. presidents, upon leaving office, can make their own funeral arrangements), I think something more modest would be in keeping with his legacy.

(I just realized that it might be helpful to point out that the Wolverines is the nickname for the Michigan sports teams, and in Ford's case it applied to football, though he also played and coached other sports also, including competitive swimming.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Another Giant Leaves Our Midst

I haven't seen anyone else except CNN note the passing of Frank Stanton, the person responsible more than anyone else for the one time-legendary status of the broadcast journalism practiced by CBS News, personified of course by Edward R. Murrow, though there is a large group of people responsible for that as well.

The news professionals of "The Tiffany Network" would not have been able to practice their craft without Stanton watching their backs. An example is portrayed in "Good Night And Good Luck" where William Paley (Frank Langella) confronts Murrow (David Strathairn) and Fred Friendly (George Clooney, who also directed) over the Joseph McCarthy broadcast, and Murrow immediately tells Paley (who was a businessman above all else) that he didn't hear from Stanton that the program should not be aired, a factor which weighed heavily in Murrow's favor.

And by the way, you are given some indication in the CNN story how much the practice of journalism has suffered since the days that Stanton and news professionals of his type held sway when you read the incorrect sentence telling you that the McCarthy broadcast was aired as an episode of "Person To Person," a mistake so unbelievable that the author of the copy should be automatically required to enroll in a "History of Journalism" course (the McCarthy program was an episode of "See It Now").

Update: I should've checked the Philadelphia Inquirer a bit more - my bad.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, though I'm including this video as a tribute to the one and only (TRULY one and only) James Brown, who died at 73 on today of all days (R.I.P.; no cause of death has been identified as of yet - here's "Sex Machine/Get On The Good Foot" from the '70s, as nearly as I can tell)...

...and since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

Update 12/26: The Inquirer actually did something useful for a change and provided this link to more song excerpts and information on James Brown from Rolling Stone.

...also, here is what I had planned to include originally, and that is the complete broadcast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," courtesy of yours truly and JoeLovesYou at YouTube (give it a few seconds to load, and you have to turn up the volume a bit). Enjoy!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Two Christmas Grinches

This charming Letter to the Editor appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning.

This many days past the Nov. 7 elections, the score reads: Number of interviews given by Democrats, morning, noon and evening - 368. Number of new ideas - 0.

Democrats have been content to let the president and his staff do all of the heavy lifting while they practiced the only talent they have ever honed - calling people names and taking cheap shots from the sidelines.

War-weary segments of the electorate will soon come to know what liberal pretenders have always known but wouldn't admit: That only President Bush had the courage to identify a cowardly enemy by name, force them out from the rocks under which they live, and take positive steps to hunt them down.

As the next few years unfold, two things will become clearer. One, that the terrorist infestation is far more deadly, devious and widespread than has yet been publicly acknowledged. And two, our incoming liberal friends who are busy picking out the drapes for their new offices have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

E. J. Messersmith

St. Davids
Like you, no doubt, I'm busy getting ready for the holidays at the moment and thus too busy to respond to this freeper knuckle-dragger, who doubtless is just looking for a pointless argument anyway.

And also, while I just about always take time to read Dick Polman's column, I didn't today although the headline said something along the lines of "the Democrats have to shed their image as weak on national security."

Let me guess - I'll bet Polman took some anecdotes pertaining to this narrative (which may be real or the stuff of political urban legend, leaving it up to the reader as always to figure out which is which) and then picked up some anonymous quotes from some American Enterprise Institute or Hoover Institute types to accompany the anecdotes, added a dash of innuendo and supposition and voila! We have this week's column by the alleged political "expert."

Bah, humbug!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday Holiday Videos

Time for yours truly to get a bit sappy here, with Karen Carpenter singing “Merry Christmas Darling,” with a new audio track…really pared it down and took out the orchestration (I don’t know who she thinks is going to pick up those letters on Christmas Eve :- )…

...I meant to add this earlier, but here's the "Gumby" Christmas Special from SNL in 1982 with Eddie Murphy (of course), Gary Kroeger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Joe Piscopo (funny stuff)...

…Greg Lake performs “I Believe In Father Christmas” (none of us are getting any younger either, people, so let’s be nice, OK?)…

…and Mariah Carey (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”).

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Seasonal Videos

Sarah McLachlan performs "O Little Town of Bethlehem"...

...and Band-Aid from 1984 ("Do They Know It's Christmas?" - not really sure if they "checked their egos at the door" or not, but they accomplished something positive - and let's forego for now all the Boy George snark in the spirit of the season, OK?).

A Christmas Miracle

We Saved "The Gross Clinic"!

The following report appeared in the Inquirer this morning...

'Gross Clinic' to stay in city

By Stephan Salisbury

Capping as wild a fund-raising ride as this city has ever seen, Mayor Street gleefully announced yesterday that Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic had been purchased by local institutions and would remain in Philadelphia.

It was a successful conclusion that few thought possible only several weeks ago.

At a packed City Hall news conference, officials said that the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts would share ownership of the 1875 masterpiece.

The two museums, which have led a frantic six-week fund-raising campaign to buy the huge canvas from Thomas Jefferson University, have agreed to take on a still-undetermined amount of debt and pay a record $68 million for what is widely viewed as an embodiment of the city's intellectual and creative life.

Officials highlighted four large contributions to the fund-raising effort: $10 million from the Annenberg Foundation, chaired by Leonore Annenberg; $3 million from H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest; $3 million from Joseph Neubauer; and $3 million from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In total, over the last several weeks, about $30 million has been raised and more than 2,000 contributions have been received from about 30 states, officials said.

"I think it is a fabulous day - a fabulous day for Philadelphia, a fabulous day for Thomas Eakins," said Anne d'Harnoncourt, director of the Art Museum. "We are all thrilled and humbled by the extraordinary outpouring of support."

"This has truly been an example of civic pride and accomplishment for the entire community," said Lenfest, chairman of the Art Museum board.

Wachovia Bank has agreed to provide the backup financing that allowed the museums to sign an agreement of sale yesterday with Jefferson. No city or other government money is involved in the purchase.

Hugh Long, chief executive officer for Wachovia's MidAtlantic Banking Group, declined to provide any details on the financing. At one point he said, "It's all a secret."

Museum officials likened Wachovia's role to the provision of bridge financing.

Fund-raising for the painting continues, the officials emphasized. Jefferson had set a Dec. 26 deadline for local institutions to put their money on the table. Now, however, the university has extended that deadline to Jan. 31.

If a gap exists between contributions and sale price at the end of January, Wachovia will cover it, the officials said.

Herbert Riband, vice chairman of the academy's board, said it is possible that some works might be sold from museum collections to help cover the costs of the transaction. But he said that was only a possibility.

Jefferson officials did not attend the news conference. Brian Harrison, chairman of Jefferson's board of trustees, issued a statement saying that the university "is pleased" that the painting will remain in Philadelphia and become "accessible to millions of people" visiting the museums. He added that the university was "also pleased that our agreement of sale with PMA and PAFA gave them an additional 30 days to continue the fund-raising period."

The painting, now housed in Alumni Hall, 1020 Locust St., will be on view in the near future first at the Art Museum and then at the Pennsylvania Academy. It will move back and forth after that, probably with lengthy stops at each institution, but details have not been finalized.

Street said he is sending legislation to City Council that would "establish a registry of all important" objects and works of art in the city. Such a registry, he said, would serve as an alarm system if a work is threatened with sale or removal. He offered no further details yesterday.

On Nov. 10, Jefferson stunned the city and its own community by announcing that The Gross Clinic, which had been purchased by alumni for $200 and given to the school in 1878, would be sold. The buyers were a partnership of an unbuilt Arkansas museum, backed by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Christie's auction house brokered the deal, which contained a provision giving local institutions 45 days to match the purchase price and retain the painting in Philadelphia.

At the time, the university said that proceeds from the sale would go toward fulfilling an ambitious 10-year strategic plan that would transform Jefferson's Center City campus.

But many at Jefferson, particularly university alumni, were shocked by news of the sale, and the alumni association urged its members to support the local fund-raising effort.

Yesterday, Lorraine King, president of the alumni association, and Stanton N. Smullens, a member of the alumni executive committee, both said they were extremely gratified by the outcome.

King, who has said the painting represented the heart of Jefferson, said its proximity will at least allow doctors and students to visit it.

Smullens said, "Schools are not bricks and mortar; there's also a soul, and this [painting] is tied to Jefferson's soul completely."

The initial buyers of the painting - the National Gallery and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., where Wal-Mart has its headquarters - issued a joint statement following the new deal:

"We are disappointed that Eakins' Gross Clinic will not be coming to the nation's capital or America's heartland. However, we are pleased for the city of Philadelphia."

Officials at the two museums had no further comment.

The object of all the attention is a dramatic 8-by-61/2-foot painting that depicts Dr. Samuel Gross, an acclaimed Jefferson surgeon, conducting an operation before students in the school's amphitheater.

Gross is caught in a shaft of light, a bloody scalpel in his right hand. His patient, a boy, lies beside him, a large surgical incision in his thigh. The boy's mother cringes behind Gross, and the artist painted himself observing and drawing in the background.

Eakins, born in Philadelphia and a graduate of Central High School, was 31 when he took on the subject. His intention was to test his growing artistic powers and to create an homage to Philadelphia's greatest medical achievements; the painting was, then, a metaphor for the city's progressive intellectual life.

But squeamish art jurors at the Centennial Exhibition, where Eakins hoped to show it in 1876, rejected the work, citing its gruesomeness.

Jefferson alumni were deeply taken with the painting, however, and purchased it from Eakins to present to their alma mater, where Gross taught. The painting has been at the school ever since.

Eakins went on to teach at the Pennsylvania Academy, where in 1878 he was dismissed after removing the loincloth from a male model.

Despite such disappointments, Eakins remained in Philadelphia, painting its citizens and landscapes until his death in 1916.

Since then, his stature as an artist has continued to rise, and the place of The Gross Clinic in the pantheon of American art has been secured. The $68 million being paid for the painting is a record not only for Eakins but also for any pre-World War II work of American art.

At yesterday's press conference, Street said he believed it would have been an "irrevocable loss" if the painting left Philadelphia, and he noted that "a couple of thousand people from all over the country" agreed and voted with their dollars.

D'Harnoncourt said that yesterday's announcement amounted to "poetic justice" for Eakins. "He has always exerted a powerful presence," she said.
And I respectfully part company with some of my blogging "betters" here I know, such as Will Bunch and D-Mac (hey, nice job with the Wal-Mart "happy face" can do such cool stuff with Javascript, I know), but as commenter Linda noted in response to Will at "Attytood," you don't sell off your heritage - I don't care what else you can buy with $68 million.

If the Waltons want something to show off at their new gallery, they can stop by the New Jersey Convention Center on Route 130 in Pennsauken. The last I heard, they still have year-round flea markets, and I'm sure they can pick up some LeRoy Neiman paintings for a song.

Don't Beg His Pardon

Dubya showed mercy to 16 convicts yesterday and commuted the sentence of someone convicted of a drug offense. As noted here…

Six of the federal offenses were drug crimes, while others included bank fraud, mail fraud, the acceptance of a kickback, a false statement on a loan application and conspiracy to defraud the government over taxes.
I guess I would be just some impudent liberal blogger if I speculated as to whether or not Dubya felt as if these people were kindred spirits based on his own past behavior (I know, so much snark, so little time…).

As the CNN/AP story also noted…

Bush remains among the stingiest of postwar presidents on pardons.

President Clinton issued 457 in eight years in office. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, issued 77 in four years. President Reagan issued 406 in eight years, and President Carter issued 563 in four years.

Since World War II, the largest number of pardon and commutations -- 2,031 -- came from President Truman, who served 82 days short of eight years.
And with that, I should note that my blogging until the end of the year will now be highly sporadic (there are a couple of “must” posts coming up, but everything else is up for grabs).

Pundits Should Be Labeled Also

This letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning.

Cokie Roberts’ and Steven V. Roberts’ commentary from Nov. 28 reached a new level of idiocy. They suggested we should rejoice at the fact that most of our goods are made abroad. Try telling that to the millions of workers who have lost their jobs due to outsourcing in the last decade.

We should sacrifice good jobs, with pensions and health care benefits, so Cokie can buy cheap trinkets at Wal-Mart. In these trying times, I think we should show how patriotic we are by spending our hard-earned money on American-made goods. A simple Internet search will connect you with companies that are still supporting American workers instead of exploiting children. To save the middle class we need a strong manufacturing sector. We can save our children’s future by spending our money on goods and services made in this country, not China.

Kirk Heilner
Northampton, PA
As we know, the issue isn’t just the junk made in China and dumped into this country for consumption, but stuff made anywhere overseas (sorry if I sound like Lou Dobbs a bit too much, but trust me; we buy our share of electronic and motorized toys made especially in China, and most of the stuff is truly awful). And Mr. Heilner is so, so right about manufacturing and the middle class.

And I want to thank him for jogging my memory on the column written by these two last month. He’s right – it was truly idiotic and full of the typical “free” trade lies and nonsense that Democrats and Republicans alike have been foisting on us for far too long. But I didn’t respond to it at the time because I couldn’t find an online link to it.

Well, I just found one, so here it is (never mind - the link is flaky).

A TV commercial 20 years ago, urging shoppers to buy American-made clothing, contained the memorable refrain: "Look for the union label." That era is long over. Buying only domestic garments would leave your kids shivering this winter.
And we're supposed to be happy about that?

Maybe you’re right, but how do you know? Are we just supposed to take your word for that? Any information on which clothing manufacturers are based in this country versus overseas? Any information on how much clothing purchased by retailers such as Old Navy or higher-end stores is made in this country versus overseas?

Oh, how silly of me – I forgot that the Robertses are self-appointed Beltway media geniuses as opposed to actual reporters.

But here's a heretical suggestion for the holiday season: as you purchase sweaters and games and bikes to put under the tree, look for the foreign label. Notice how many of your gifts are made abroad, and take a moment to realize you are benefiting from globalization and free trade.
How am I “benefiting” from something cheaper that is going to be more cheaply made than something in this country?

I’ll give you a good example of quality, which is the exception these days unfortunately: toys from Tyco. Every toy we’ve bought from them was made in this country (including Shell Shocker and Terrain Twister, the motorized contraptions that curl into a ball, spin around and generally run amok). They’re expensive, but you know what? They last. They don’t wear out or break a day or so after you bought them. And, in all likelihood, they weren’t made by some likely emaciated underage boy or girl in a Third World country working for the equivalent of pennies a day under the threat of imminent violence if they didn’t meet their quota.

And how is this country “benefiting” when we prop up the regimes responsible for this stuff in the name of making a quick buck?

Free trade is hardly a popular idea today. Just before President Bush flew to Asia, Congress slapped him in the face by shelving a market-opening pact with Vietnam. The deal will probably be approved next year, but the vote signaled a major shift in public sentiment.
His own Repug Congress “slapped him in the face”? I don’t think so.

As noted here, the legislation was “fast tracked” in anticipation of Dubya’s visit to Vietnam, but as it turned out, they wanted more time to review the legislation and ultimately passed it anyway during their final week in session.

As former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, a strong advocate of open markets, told bankers meeting in Hong Kong: "There's a tremendous backlash against trade liberalization. It's one of the biggest challenges facing the global economy."

This backlash is not only dangerous, but wrong-headed. Every economic study confirms that free trade is a powerful engine for growth and prosperity, by far the best anti-poverty program anywhere. All those workers in China and Chile crafting toys for Santa can now afford American-made movies and computers.
Sorry, but we have to take care of our own people at home first before out-of-touch columnists or anyone else should try to indulge themselves.

But there's a problem.

Even though free trade creates far more winners than losers, the losers tend to be louder and more visible. It's easy to put a picture on TV of a shuttered factory or an unemployed worker. It's much harder to show a family who earns more from expanding exports, or pays less because of inexpensive imports.

So someone whose job has been eliminated due to outsourcing/offshoring is “a loser”? And it’s somehow their fault when pictures appear on T.V. of shuttered factories or unemployment lines? And I'm still waiting to see families benefit from this in the way that the Robertses describe.

I was so shocked by these remarks that I actually did a little bit of research into Cokie Roberts to find out what could be in this woman’s mind that would allow her to think that these comments are acceptable, and this is what I found.

She is the daughter of the late Hale Boggs, former House Majority Leader and a 1964 political science graduate of Wellesley College. She has accumulated all sorts of honorary degrees and recognition for her academic achievement. She was also appointed by Dubya to something called “The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation” (so she’s really going to be impartial...right; that no doubt explains her "slap in the face" remark above). She is an accomplished journalist and author to be sure, and to her credit, she is also a breast cancer survivor.

But I have no evidence at all that she has ever held a manufacturing or service job at any time in her life, so how the hell she thinks she’s qualified to write about the economy is something I cannot imagine.

As a result, political demagogues, most of them Democrats, have exploited the anxieties that are inevitable in a rapidly changing economy. One example: Jon Tester ran for the Senate in Montana charging that trade deals were putting "our jobs and the viability of family farms and ranches across Montana in jeopardy."

That's nonsense, but Tester won, and so did several dozen other Democrats who fashion themselves as "populists" on trade but would better be described as fear-mongers. That's where the "foreign label" idea comes in.
I’ll try to explain this for Roberts as best I can; I don’t live in a farm state either, but apparently I have more knowledge on this than she does.

When overseas interests (or interests in this country, actually) are allowed to exploit trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA by acquiring farms or agricultural properties – or anything, really – in Montana or elsewhere and bring in workers cheaper from elsewhere to work at those locations, you’d better believe that that’s depressing wages in that community, and that has ripple effects all over the place when it comes to supporting other area businesses, charitable donations, etc. Also, these interests can use their clout to achieve market advantage in ways that family farms cannot, such as depressing prices to the point of driving out smaller competitors. Tester is talking about stuff like that.

Now it will remain to be seen how much he or anyone can really do, but at least he intends to try (of course, that means Roberts and her friends may have to pay a few cents more for farm-state items they may find at Sam’s Club and similar places such as breakfast cereal, hence the whining and carping).

Many American families who profit from trade don't know it. They don't realize the benefit to their budget when they fill out their Christmas lists with foreign-made gifts at Wal-Mart or Target.
Still waiting for you to make your case…

Free traders are notoriously poor at public relations. A second way to promote their cause is publicizing the American companies that are growing because of exports. Many workers don't realize the products they make, package, load, ship and market are sold to foreigners.
This may be the most condescending piece of columnist garbage I’ve ever read. Workers are too dumb to realize that their exported goods “are sold to foreigners”?

So the problem isn’t the fact that people are losing their jobs due to outsourcing/offshoring and our government refuses to account for how many are lost and actually provides tax incentives for companies to perform such heinous cruelty. The problem is that “free traders are notoriously poor at public relations”?

Would you like some brie with your Chardonnay, Cokie darling? Let’s talk a stroll onto the veranda to watch the polo match while the “workers” neatly unfold the table linen so the cutlery and bone china can be properly displayed. Oh, and don’t forget the crystal champagne flutes also.

One example: a company called Dunlee-Philips in Aurora, Ill., which makes high-tech X-ray tubes for medical scanners. Company president Pat Fitzgerald told the Chicago Sun-Times that 40 percent of his business is now overseas: "I think if you're only looking at your market as being the U.S. market, you're missing something."

Neil Hartigan, head of Chicago's World Trade Center, pointed out that as firms like Dunlee-Philips expand, they open opportunities for other businesses. "We're trying to develop the service side of it," he said. "These people need accountants, they need lawyers, they need suppliers."
Roberts continues to look only at the “demand end” of the equation, of course, as opposed to the “supply” end.

In fighting the anti-trade backlash, the new Congress has a role as well. Rep. Charles Rangel, the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, says that "trade is one issue" that's ripe for bipartisan cooperation. He can start by brokering a new farm bill reducing lavish federal subsidies to agriculture, which have helped stymie global trade talks.
First, even Jon Tester has said that he doesn’t like federal subsidies for farmers, but they need them to help with the cost of materials to help them stay in operation. And what’s more important, helping our people in a somewhat imperfect manner, or tossing them aside altogether? I would advocate for them if, for no other reason, to prevent more of these awful trade deals.

Second, if Roberts thinks Charles Rangel is actually a friend of workers in this country, then she’s more out of touch than I ever realized (as David Sirota notes here).

Then he can kill the insane embargo against Cuba, a country hungry for American products.
I absolutely agree with Roberts 100 percent on that.

But the biggest problem facing free traders is the stagnation of American wages.
I would say so also (and even a defender of this odious stuff acknowledges that this is happening, by the way).

That provides fertile ground for the charge that globalization is depressing domestic income. The answer is not shielding American companies from competition, which won't work anyway. It's making American companies (and workers) more competitive than ever. That means subsidies for retraining and research; it means lowering the barriers for foreign students and entrepreneurs who want to create and invest here.
At the time she and her husband wrote this, anything mentioned in that last sentence (which I support – they make somewhat more sense at the end of this column) was totally unachievable with a Republican congress and President Stupid Head sitting in the Oval Office. At least the first part of that awful twosome has been eliminated.

No matter how competitive Americans become, however, globalization will always cause some folks to lose out, like those workers who used to make garments under the union label. They can't simply be discarded. They need help in coping with hardship -- lower drug costs, better health coverage, extended unemployment benefits.
Again, I agree with that, but these are just empty words…everything the Roberts have said already would defeat this, especially under Bushco.

Free trade is in America's national interest. That's why you should look for the foreign label this holiday season.
And to keep their conservative “cred,” the two of them have to repeat this nonsense at the very end.

To provide something close to a response from the reality-based community on this, I located a link to a Council on Foreign Relations Q&A on the effects of offshoring on our economy, and the following is noted (we know this, I realize, but it bears repeating).

Economists…concede that the low level of job creation in recent years has made it more difficult for workers who lose their jobs to outsourcing to find new ones. Some 3 million private-sector jobs have been lost since the U.S. economy peaked in 2000, most of them in manufacturing.
I’m not going to highlight anything else from the CFR article because, though it is good with pro vs. con viewpoints, it contains mostly background material explored by me and my lefty blogging “betters” at various times. Suffice to say that this has been legitimized partly because of the Robertses and others of their ilk for whom those paying the price of job loss are utterly invisible.

In the event that the Robertses observe Christmas (maybe – the Wikipedia article tells me Steve is Jewish and Cokie is Roman Catholic), I hope they both receive coal in their stockings (made in China, of course).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday Videos

Somehow I omitted Alan Parsons from the birthday list yesterday (he of the Alan Parsons Project, engineer for Pink Floyd on "Dark Side Of The Moon," etc. - this is a slightly chopped up version of "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You," from "I, Robot," a piece of vinyl that I totally wore out many moons ago; tough call between putting up either this or "Don't Answer Me," but the subtitles did it for me here and the whole kitschy look and feel)...

...Frank Zappa would have been 66 today ("Cosmik Debris," from 1984)...

...and back to the seasonal stuff; Westlife and The Cranberries perform "The Little Drummer Boy" at the Vatican in 2001...

...and Elton John rocks out ("Step Into Christmas" from 1973, I think).

In Our Name

Thanks to Andrew over at Pixel Monkey for jogging my memory about the case of Donald Vance that was written about recently in the New York Times.

Vance is an American living in Chicago who was working with a contractor in Iraq and whose only “crime” was to be “associated” with the organization whose flaws he had been instrumental in illuminating, as noted in Andrew’s post.

So what happened as a result? Well, as the Times story tell us, he was captured by the U.S. military and tortured.

Now, let’s take a moment and really consider this again, please.

An American working in Iraq was captured by the American military and tortured by the American military.

Not the Shi’ites, or Sunnis, or al Qaeda, or any other faction that you would care to include in the unholy human stew presently boiling over in Iraq.

The American military.

To our knowledge thus far, Vance posed no threat. However, this is how he was treated.

American guards arrived at the man’s cell…shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.

“Even Saddam Hussein had more legal counsel than I ever had,” said Mr. Vance, who said he planned to sue the former defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, on grounds that his constitutional rights had been violated. “While we were detained, we wrote a letter to the camp commandant stating that the same democratic ideals we are trying to instill in the fledgling democratic country of Iraq, from simple due process to the Magna Carta, we are absolutely, positively refusing to follow ourselves.”

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s detention operations in Iraq, First Lt. Lea Ann Fracasso, said in written answers to questions that the men had been “treated fair and humanely,” and that there was no record of either man complaining about their treatment.
And as we know, silence equals consent as far as Bushco is concerned (and as Andrew points out, we truly have become what we sought to destroy).

What The #@$!!

A lawyer for Fox (I’ll try to forego the snark, but I’ll probably fail) argued recently in a federal appeals court that the FCC’s rules on profanity (re: indecency) are unfair (and remember that, according to the Supreme Court, there is a legal difference between indecency and obscenity).

I would be heartened about this development except for the fact that it arises from grievances on the part of Cher and Nicole Richie from their words on the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards programs broadcast on Fox. The network is unhappy because the words for which they were fined were also used in the broadcast of “Saving Private Ryan” (or so they allege).

I along with most other human beings with a pulse can recognize the very different contexts between a film about World War II and a television show featuring fatuous celebrity self-indulgence, but I was still concerned when government lawyer Eric Miller said that C-SPAN, the network broadcasting the legal proceeding in which the words of Cher and Richie were quoted in open court, would not be fined because a news broadcast would not be intended "to pander or titillate."

This is typical of Bushco’s nanny-state mentality on these matters (and I know from whence I speak on this a bit as a resident of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania).

I mean, suppose we have C-SPAN on as we often do and the young one happens to wander into the room in search of whatever new Bionicle creation he has concocted. At that moment, the lawyer for Fox happens to quote Cher or Richie and the young one hears it and repeats it at school the next day.

I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I’m saying. I just think it’s more than a little funny that the network mouthpiece for the Republican Party is actually in a position now where they’re complaining about the policies of the regime that they support and helped to install.

And I thought these comments were instructive from Bruce Fein, found in the Moonie Times of all places.

Five commissioners in Washington, D.C., however, have but the faintest idea of what passes for patent offensiveness outside their own parochial experiences. They make indecency rulings more by visceral reaction and political calculation than by evenhanded and predictable standards. The commission's wildly inexact definition smacks of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's befuddlement in seeking to define obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964): "I know it when I see it."

That definitional elusiveness invites discriminatory enforcement by the commission to retaliate against political opponents or adversaries. Media owners who support the president or commission policies will be treated with kid gloves. In contrast, the government's detractors will be required to incur enormous legal fees and suffer damage to reputation in fending off trivial indecency allegations. The free marketplace of ideas will be chilled and the media's constitutional role to scrutinize and scold government will be crippled.
And as the story notes, Fein was former FCC general counsel under Reagan.

Well, if the fines get lowered against Fox for the outbursts of Cher and Richie, it can only help in what may yet emerge as the next battle in this “war” (perhaps a silly way to describe it), and that is the one led by nutjobs like Ted Stevens to limit Internet “indecency.”

God, what bullshit :- ).