Friday, January 13, 2006

Sic Semper Tyrannus

(Hey, he's basically from Virginia anyway, so I can use that title.)

You're a reptile.

Try spouting this garbage (registration required) in front of an audience of employed, adult taxpayers instead of Valley Forge Military Academy cadets who have no choice but to obediently listen to your insufferable bile.

Try finding a clue regarding the true extent of the sacrifice made by our fine young men and women in the services in the name of this disgusting greedhead enterprise in Iraq (while the nuclear threat in Iran grows more dangerous each day).

Here's one: try giving this speech in front of John Murtha and see how a real man gives you the upbraiding you deserve.

Better yet, why don't you go over there and actually try to fight this war yourself, as long as you're cheerleading so furiously for it (and the only thing more pathetic than your servile prattering on behalf of your handlers is the fact that your main Democratic primary opponent, "Sideshow Bob" Casey Jr., remains "uncommitted" - certainly to winning, I'd say).

But no, you won't do any of this, will you? Of course not.

Actually, I was wrong to call you a reptile.

You're really a coward.

The Flickering Candle

I'm basically lifting this entire column by Clark Hoyt, The Philadelphia Inquirer's Washington Bureau editor, because as far as I'm concerned, it illustrates two things: 1) how much of a first-class news organization Knight Ridder can be, and usually is based on what I read, and 2) how far the Repugs will go to silence anyone who disagrees with them and possibly destroy people in the process. It appeared in the paper's editorial section today.

Story on Alito's record is based on facts

On Dec. 1, Knight Ridder's Washington bureau sent a story analyzing the record of Judge Samuel Alito to our 32 daily newspapers and to the more than 300 papers that subscribe to the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Written by Stephen Henderson, Knight Ridder's Supreme Court correspondent, and Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News, the story began:

"During his 15 years on the federal bench, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has worked quietly but resolutely to weave a conservative legal agenda into the fabric of the nation's laws."

Assisted by Washington bureau researcher Tish Wells, Henderson and Mintz spent nearly a month reading all of Alito's 311 published opinions, which are available in a commercial database or in the archives of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, where Alito has sat for 15 years.

Henderson and Mintz cataloged the cases by category - employment discrimination, criminal justice, immigration and so on - and analyzed each one with help from attorneys who participated on both sides of the cases and experts in those fields of law. They interviewed legal scholars and other judges, many of them admirers of Alito.

They concluded that, "although Alito's opinions are rarely written with obvious ideology, he's seldom sided with a criminal defendant, a foreign national facing deportation, an employee alleging discrimination or consumers suing big business."
You might find this neither surprising nor controversial. Alito, after all, was nominated by a president who said that his ideal Supreme Court justices were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the high court's most reliably conservative members.

Yet controversy has erupted.

Within days, the Senate Republican Conference circulated a lengthy memo headlined, "Knight Ridder Misrepresents Judge Alito's 15-year record."

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a leader in the Alito confirmation process, sent a letter to the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, a Knight Ridder paper, denouncing the story as "neither objective nor accurate." The Inquirer published it on Dec. 7.

The White House offered an opinion piece by Jeffrey N. Wasserstein, a former Alito law clerk who identified himself as a Democrat and said his former boss "is capable of setting aside any personal biases he may have when he judges." Knight Ridder/Tribune distributed it to all of our papers and subscribers on Dec. 11.

A conservative columnist, whose glowing tribute to Alito is now featured in television advertisements supporting the nominee, declared the Knight Ridder story "illiterate."

We responded to some of the criticism at the time. For example, some critics cited Alito's votes in cases in which he voted without explanation with other judges for the plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases or with criminal defendants.

Knight Ridder's story analyzed only Alito's published opinions because what a judge writes from the bench is the best window into his or her legal reasoning. A judge's unexplained votes are often on procedural grounds that have nothing to do with legal philosophy. And the Knight Ridder story didn't say that Alito never sided with plaintiffs who alleged employment discrimination, criminal defendants or consumers suing businesses. It reported accurately that he seldom did, and that the pattern of his written opinions was unmistakable.

The controversy erupted again this week at Alito's confirmation hearings. After Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) referred to the Knight Ridder story, Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) introduced a critique of the story by the Republican staff of the Judiciary Committee into the record of the hearings. Kyl said the story "has, to my understanding, been rather completely discredited." The first paragraph of the Republican critique, however, said the story was based on "dozens" of Alito's opinions, creating the false impression that Henderson and Mintz didn't examine the judge's entire body of published work.

The Republican National Committee circulated a blistering personal attack on Henderson to some reporters, taking quotes out of context in an attempt to portray him as biased.

The RNC said Henderson "admitted he was previously an editorial writer," as though that very public part of a distinguished reporter's career was a secret that he'd been trying to hide. The RNC statement then linked Henderson to editorials he didn't write.

This hysteria over a carefully researched article that documents the obvious - that Samuel Alito is a judicial conservative - is the latest example of a disturbing trend of attacking the messenger instead of debating difficult issues.

Fact-based reporting is the lifeblood of a democracy. It gives people shared information on which to make political choices. But as people in new democracies risk their lives to gather such information, in this country fact-based reporting is under more relentless assault than at any time in my more than 40 years in Washington.

On the radio, on the Internet, on cable television and in print, partisans on both sides attack any news reporting that fails to advance their agendas or confirm their biases. Zealous partisans in both major parties have adopted a "with us or against us" attitude. It's not only unhealthy but also, I believe, dangerous.

Our job is to be neither with them nor against them. It's to find out the facts, as best we can, and to report them as fully, fairly and accurately as we can.

I invite you to reach your own conclusion about Knight Ridder's Alito story. You can read it - and some of the Republican critiques - on our Web site,, by clicking on "Alito: Knight Ridder Washington's coverage" on the right side of the page.
By the way, speaking of Scalito, go to "Crooks And Liars" to see video of him "vacating" the hearings as fast as he could and leaving "crying Martha" about ten paces behind stuck in the crowd (nice guy).

Bushco's "New Math"

Tell you what...I've heard this so many times that the words almost don't even register with me anymore (gosh, why not tell Chertoff or somebody that we're on "orange alert" for today, or whatever the color is, just for old times sake?).

If this is true, then this unholy bunch of murdering, terrorist thugs doesn't know how to count, because I think we've killed the No. 2 guy in this organization about a dozen times now (as noted by Atrios and Bill Maher, among others).

Update 1/14: Oh, I see now - they were all too busy buying disposable cell phones at Wal Mart so they can use them to blow us up, and that prevented them from double checking their math (actually, I think THEY can count well enough - it's our "leadership" that needs some remedial lessons). The preceding hat tips for that go to Atrios and Crooks and Liars; Atrios pretty much sums up Bushco's Iran policy for the rest of the year today in an amazing post.

(Hmmm...speaking of "New Math," I wonder what a certain piano-playing teacher at MIT would have to say about this?)

The Whacked-Out Reverend

Partly because of the fact that the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is this Monday (his actual birthday is this Sunday), I want to revisit one of the “usual suspects” from the recent “Justice Sunday III” farce that took place a few days ago, and that would be the Rev. Herbert Lusk.

Here is more background, and this is an excerpt from an article about Lusk’s performance that appeared in The Philadelphia Daily News (lots of “wheeling and dealing” and unconfirmed reports regarding the likely Knight Ridder sale later this year, by the way):

By far the most rousing speech -- more sermon than speech -- was given by Greater Baptist's pastor, the Rev. Herbert H. Lusk II.

Citing the harsh criticism he has faced from liberals and other black leaders, Lusk said: "I've been called a sellout. I've been called an Uncle Tom, and the New York Times called me a maverick in the black church." Lusk said he welcomed being called a maverick if it means supporting "the original intent of God Almighty" in opposition to abortion and the "redefinition of marriage. . . . Brothers and sisters, we will not go down without a fight."

Lusk warned adversaries: "My friends, don't fool with the church because the church has buried a million critics. And those the church has not buried, the church has made funeral arrangement for."
Wow, Herb, are you going to be selling same-day or advance-sale tickets to the Inquisition on North Broad Street? Curious language from a professed “man of God,” wouldn’t you say?

In my ongoing quest to understand why people who may (or may not) have very worthy goals and desires continue to allow themselves to be used by the Repugs, I found this column from James Straub dated a few days ago. The following is an excerpt:

Evangelical conservatism is no all-white backlash phenomenon, however. For the modern evangelical passions have their roots in the poor, multiracial early Pentecostal churches of southern California. Evangelical religion maintains an enormous presence in the spiritual life of African-American and Latino communities in the United States, and the Republican Party is making its electoral inroads into those communities through the pulpits. Not only did the Republican Party dominate among white working-class people this last election, it won a majority of Protestant Latino votes. And in Ohio, where the black, evangelical secretary of state campaigned vigorously for Bush (in blatant conflict with his election supervising duties) and megachurch pastors like Rod Parsley speak (hypocritically but convincingly) to multiracial congregations about challenging racial prejudice and promoting a black middle class, Bush won 14 percent of the state’s black vote. This is not a relationship equivalent to that of white evangelicalism, of course; the grass-roots born-again Christianity that produces Chicago’s Kanye West or LA’s Tommy the Clown bears little connection to the bigoted zealotry of Tom Delay and James Dobson. But the Republicans are increasing their electoral showings in communities of color almost exclusively through socially conservative evangelical religion, and continued success could give them permanent majority-party supremacy—a fact they lustfully comprehend.

This is exactly the intention of the Bush administration’s office of faith-based initiatives, a promise to direct eight billion dollars to religious social service groups. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the money is largely being funneled to evangelical churches in African-American and Latino communities that badly need the services. Two examples from Philadelphia give a sense of the breadth of this little-noticed repositioning of Republican theocracy: In one New York Times article, the Baptist minister Rev. Luis Cortes was featured parlaying a friendship with President Bush into several million dollars in federal grants for a youth employment program, housing counseling, and AIDS education. His growing network of Republican-funded social service programs now encompasses Latino communities in half a dozen poor cities. The article noted,

For a glimpse of one of the political currents running through the program, consider the after-school effort run by Mr. Castro, where a group of schoolchildren recently convened for what might be described as a Pentecostal poetry slam....“President Bush is Christian,” said Sade Melendez, 10, after a recent rehearsal. “He doesn’t believe in abortion, and the other man does.” “John Kerry believes in lesbians,” said Jorge Granados, 10. “He said if the baby was in the stomach, you could kill the baby,” said Krystalie Ocasio, 9. “He stinks,” Sade said.
By the way, lest anyone think this truly ugly sentiment regarding John Kerry, a Roman Catholic, is confined to traditionally poor, inner-city neighborhoods, I should remind you that I heard it from one of the young one’s friends, in an area where “the right people” live.

Meanwhile, a mile east in North Philadelphia, the Bush administration has used millions of dollars in federal aid to court the “praying tailback,” Rev. Herb Lusk, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back turned preacher at Greater Exodus Baptist Church. Lusk heads People for People, Inc., a church-based social-services empire that has broken ranks with the mostly Democratic Philadelphia black clergy to support Bush, claiming his bottom line is halting gay marriage.

Beyond mobilizing election-day support for the president (in another rust-belt swing state), Lusk has also given Bush political cover for his treacherous abandonment of the Global AIDS Fund by hosting Bush to speak on AIDS at Greater Exodus. Such a location and betrayal are particularly ironic in Philadelphia, since it was largely African-American mass protests on global AIDS led by ACT-UP Philadelphia, working with existing HIV/AIDS services and drug recovery houses, that helped win the creation of the global fund in the first place. The effective, progressive and socially activist network of AIDS programs and addiction-recovery centers that united in these protests, however, starve for funds while well-connected gay-bashing tailbacks build fiefdoms next door.
And of course, Lusk received funding from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times Foundation, with Dubya acting as the “go between” (nice).

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to detect the reek of something you might call “faith-based intolerance.” Somehow, I’m sure this escaped Lusk as he did his little boogaloo shuffle with the smiling, condescending nod of Scumbag Santorum plainly visible for the cameras to see.

Finally, I’d like to link to this bio on Lusk from Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council site to point out the last sentence, which I found to be particularly humorous:

Herb Lusk was not traded or cut by the Eagles, but left because he was compelled by the Spirit of God to do so.
Lusk was also compelled by the fact that his mediocre days was coming to an end because a previously unproven young running back named Wilbert Montgomery was beginning his storied career with the Eagles, one in which the team would go to the Super Bowl two years after Lusk retired.

Say It Ain't So, Joe

One of the two “senators from MBNA,” as Atrios and others refer to them, fell flat on his face with this one (at least he has a slightly less pungent voting record than Tom Carper, which was partly the subject of a whole other rant some time ago…and by the way, “Joe Mentum” continues to give liberals a “lap dance” and nothing more by saying that a filibuster of Scalito “is on the table”).

Yes, the hearings are a show, which is truly pathetic by itself. Yes, as part of that, there was all kinds of “coded behavior” going on, such as Our Man Arlen bending over and puckering up to Scalito at the end yesterday to proclaim his ultimate fealty to the Repugs. Yes, there was searching to hear Scalito say that Roe v. Wade was “settled law,” which he wouldn’t do lest he and the other Bushites incur the unholy fury of the Dobsonites and other right-wing moonbats. And of course, the most scripted moment of all was the moment when Mrs. Borkemada shed tears on cue from Lindsay Graham’s prodding.

But as dumb as all of this is, it is nothing more than a fit of pique for Biden to say that nothing is a better alternative (which, of course, creates the opening for Specter to take a shot at him, which he dutifully did, pointing out that Biden never complained like this when he chaired the Judiciary Committee).

Suppose there had been no hearings on Robert Bork? Suppose we did not have the opportunity to witness Bork’s utter contempt for the confirmation process and the Senators who were asking him questions? The disdain Bork showed when the senators questioned him on the right to privacy (which isn’t specifically spelled out in the Constitution, but which any life form greater than an amoeba should recognize is implicit in that document) was palpable. And suppose there had been no hearings for Clarence Thomas? (the “Saturday Night Live” parody was worth having the hearings all by itself).

My guess is that there is a whole raft of other stuff about future nominees that would never come out if all of them were sent to the Senate for an up-and-down floor vote without hearings. Besides, for Biden to state that he would toss aside something that doesn’t work without bothering to try and fix it doesn’t sound the act of a presidential wannabe (and as far as I’m concerned, he’s running out of time on that one).

By the way, speaking of Scalito (and Dubya), I thought this was a highly instructive post from the blogger “Georgia10” at The Daily Kos.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Propaganda Poster Boy

It’s been a long time since I journeyed to the site of the Presidential Prayer Team For Kids to find out the new ways that our government is trying to deceive those who are most vulnerable in our country. Assuming I could ever get a straight answer out of the ruling cabal of ideological zealots(and I know I couldn’t), I’d like to know how much money from our tax dollars (or one foundation or another with cozy ties to Bushco) is being spent to produce this.

Well, who do you think this site is promoting this week? Why, it’s that model of clarity and cooperation with the White House press corps (which, with one or two notable exceptions, is composed entirely of lap dogs anyway). I’m referring to none other than Scott McClellan!

Here is the site’s glowing writeup which gives only a patronizing nod to discernible reality:

Scott McClellan has the important job of representing President Bush to the members of the media on a day-to-day basis. His relationship with the White House Press Corps is based on trust and honesty, and he faces their probing questions in order to give the most accurate and helpful information to the people of the United States.

Scott McClellan is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin where he was the president of his fraternity and played varsity tennis. He worked for then Governor Bush during his campaign and was the traveling press secretary for the Bush-Cheney campaign during the 2000 presidential campaign. Prior to holding his current position, Scott McClellan was an assistant press secretary until Press Secretary Ari Fleischer resigned in 2003. He married the former Jill Martinez—a volunteer in the White House—in November 2003. They have a house full of pets—two dogs and three cats, all of them rescued. The couple has no children. Mr. McClellan is a Methodist and recently read Rick Warren's bestseller, "The Purpose-Driven Life."
To commemorate this overdue recognition, I thought that it would be a good idea to recount some of Scotty’s more memorable episodes of providing “accurate and helpful information” through “truth and honesty.”

Why, I recall his attack on Helen Thomas as if it were yesterday (courtesy of Democratic Underground - Update 5/30/08: An actual link was added that I didn't originally include, this from Brendan Nyhan):

McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, the President recognizes that we are engaged in a global war on terrorism. And when you're engaged in a war, it's not always pleasant, and it's certainly a last resort. But when you engage in a war, you take the fight to the enemy, you go on the offense. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here. September 11th taught us -

THOMAS: It has nothing to do with - Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

McCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter. Terry.

TERRY MORAN: On what basis do you say Helen is opposed to the broader war on terrorism?

McCLELLAN: Well, she certainly expressed her concerns about Afghanistan and Iraq and going into those two countries. I think I can go back and pull up her comments over the course of the past couple of years.

MORAN: And speak for her, which is odd.

McCLELLAN: No, I said she may be, because certainly if you look at her comments over the course of the past couple of years, she's expressed her concerns –

THOMAS: I'm opposed to preemptive war, unprovoked preemptive war.

MR. McCLELLAN: - she's expressed her concerns.
“Fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here” – some of the most bogus lies are the ones that truly stand the test of time. Am I right?

Or Scott’s illuminating information on whether or not we harbor detainees who are inaccessible to the International Red Cross; another bout with Helen Thomas (thanks to Paolo, a commenter at The Daily Kos in July of ’04)

MR. McCLELLAN: ...Go ahead. Oh, I'm sorry, Helen. Go ahead.

Q Does the President -- does the United States harbor or hold secret detainees who are not available to the International Red Cross?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, this is an issue that came up earlier in the week and I talked about it at that point. When it comes to the International Committee for the Red Cross, we work very closely with them on detainee issues, and we --

Q I have a follow-up.

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay -- we stay in close and regular contact with the Red Cross on all the issues related to detainees. And they do, from time to time, raise issues and we work to address those issues directly --

Q Why don't you answer the question? Do we have secret detainees and is it possible that they could be subjected to the same treatment as in Baghdad prisons?

MR. McCLELLAN: We work to address these issues that the Red Cross raises directly with the Red Cross. And any issues that they have, we respond directly to the --

Q That's not the answer to the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- Red Cross. We meet with them on a regular basis at a variety of levels, and we stay in close and constant contact with them. And I really don't have anything else to add to this issue.

Q You don't know whether we have secret detainees --

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, Helen, I don't have anything else to add to this issue.
Or this “truthful” exchange from July of 2003 regarding whether or not Karl Rove revealed Valerie Plame’s identity (courtesy of Atrios/Billmon - a related link is here)…

QUESTION: The Robert Novak column last week . . . has now given rise to accusations that the administration deliberatively blew the cover of an undercover CIA operative, and in so doing, violated a federal law that prohibits revealing the identity of undercover CIA operatives. Can you respond to that?

McCLELLAN: Thank you for bringing that up. That is not the way this President or this White House operates. And there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. And, certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step.

QUESTION: Scott, has there ever been an attempt or effort on the part of anyone here at the White House to discredit the reputations or reporting of former Ambassador Joe Wilson, his wife, or ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kofman?

McCLELLAN: John, I think I answered that yesterday. That is not the way that this White House operates. That's not the way the President operates . . . No one would be authorized to do that within this White House. That is simply not the way we operate, and that's simply not the way the President operates.

QUESTION: In all of those cases?

McCLELLAN: Well, go down -- which two?

QUESTION: Joe Wilson and his wife?


QUESTION: Wilson now believes that the person who did this was Karl Rove . . . Did Karl Rove tell that . . .

McCLELLAN: I haven't heard that. That's just totally ridiculous. But we've already addressed this issue. If I could find out who anonymous people were, I would. I just said, it's totally ridiculous.

QUESTION: But did Karl Rove do it?

McCLELLAN: I said, it's totally ridiculous.
Yep, it sure is. That's why Patrick Fitzgerald has "Scooter" Libby on charges for it, right?

So let us all Praise Him in thanks that we have such a fine, upstanding Texas Methodist such as Scott McClellan to read “The Purpose-Driven Life” and provide the American people with everything we need to know to function as informed citizens in this great republic.

Thank You, Gailie!

Yet another typical act of environmental terrorism by our Interior Secretary, and so in keeping with her past behavior.

I also have heard unconfirmed reports of polar bears learning how to surf the Bering Strait to avoid drowning (but global warming is still a myth perpetuated by "junk science," as Our Dear Leader has proclaimed, right?).

May someone leave a dead caribou carcass at her door for this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Suck It Up, Dear

I wish I could take credit for that title, but it came from a commenter at the Washington Post.

In honor of David Letterman for telling Bill O'Reilly that "60 percent of what you say is crap," here is my list of the Top 10 Reasons Why Martha Alito Will Cry Again (Update 1/12: If anyone's keeping track, I went back and added 5 more).

10) John Ashcroft returns to Washington to commemorate the anniversary of his U.S. Congressional loss to Mel “Dead Guy” Carnehan by warbling “Let The Eagle Soar” in the manner captured in the film “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

9) Pat Robertson travels to the rebuilt Ninth Quarter of New Orleans, now full of luxury hi-rise hotels, to issue his latest apology, but he is killed when everything collapses on top of him due to shoddy Halliburton construction.

8) Dubya tries to say the word “vicissitudes” and accidentally herniates his tongue.

7) With worries mounting over the upcoming fall 2006 U.S. Congressional elections, the GOP tries to reach out to “Log Cabin” Republicans for help by producing a Repug-friendly sequel to “Brokeback Mountain” called “Reach-Around Valley,” starring Jeff Gannon (thanks to MJS for the idea).

6) As a result, James Dobson commits ritual suicide.

5) Orrin Hatch releases his next CD of "I Love America" hymns, with special encryption to destroy any PC that tries to burn a copy of the disk.

4) Tom Coburn attempts to protect prostitution as "due process" by re-enacting it in front of C-SPAN cameras on the Senate floor.

3) Don Rumsfeld becomes entombed in the excess body armor that our troops should have been wearing all along (akin to Anakin Skywalker getting the Darth Vader shield...yes, I'm a "Star Wars" geek, I know).

2) Karl Rove jumps down a laundry chute into a hamper of dirty linen in an effort to escape the White House as representatives of Patrick Fitzgerald try to serve him a summons after Rove runs out of reporters to blame for outing Joe Wilson's wife (a real Curly Howard move...woob woob woob!).
And the Number One reason why Martha Alito will cry again...

1) Ted Kennedy pins Arlen Specter in the first "WWF Senate Smackdown!"
(Yes...I'm keeping my day job.)

Think Of The Kids

Local PA stuff coming up...

I've tried my best to stay out the teacher's strike in Bucks County's Pennsbury school district where I live, but I want to direct the title of this post to Nyla Houser, head of the teacher's union (related article on proposed legislation by Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow here - registration required).

I think Mellow's bill goes a little too far; I would allow the teachers to strike no more than once per year. The unions will never relinquish that right.

However, this wouldn't even be a point of discussion if it weren't for the behavior of both sides in this dispute. A tentative contract deal had been reached last August, but the membership voted it down. To make matters worse, the school board then reduced its offer to the union, making the strike inevitable.

We pay school taxes, but this doesn't affect us beyond that (though that's a big impact by itself). However, we know of the sacrifices that parents in this area have made for their kids due to the first strike earlier this year, and nobody wants to see them have to do through that again.

Also, suppose you're a senior trying to finish up and also get accepted at a college and all of this is playing out not once in a school year, but twice. That's ridiculous. Also, the invective on both sides, plainly visible in Letters To The Editor and Guest Opinions in the Bucks County Courier Times, has been pretty dramatic.

If somehow the latest offer isn't accepted by the teachers, then nonbinding arbitration should continue for as long as necessary while the teachers go back to work. It's cruel and stupid for this to play out any other way than that.

Lost In Shadows And Fog

With this post, I am truly going to live up to my blog name.

There are times when I genuinely do not recognize this country as the one in which I was born and raised and lived my life up to this moment.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Monsieurs and Mesdames, moms and dads, I have news for you: the entire future of our republic as we’ve known it hangs in the balance.

Anyone with at least one eye open and a pulse rate for the last five years should recognize the fact that we have a presidential administration in this country that is set on continually concentrating the power they have and acquiring more by the minute. All that stands in their way are momentary fits of defensive action by what passes for an opposition party and the efforts by grass roots forces of political counterattack (Update and further detail here from Peter Daou at The Huffington Post, with a nod to Atrios for the link).

And as far as trying to utterly squash dissent is concerned, why else would they try to sneak something like this into law?

As we know, our founders conceived of three branches of our government, based somewhat on the British model: the executive, legislative, and judiciary (I know this is common knowledge, but it bears repeating). The Repugs have the monopoly on the first two at this moment, and they’re trying to ensure a monopoly on the third.

You can probably guess that, at the very least, this is a post against Samuel Alito, since his confirmation would settle the third item for them. And you would be right, especially given the fact that he, of course, supports Bush’s domestic wiretapping.

(By the way, Brandoland had a great post yesterday about some bizarro question that wingnut Tom Coburn of Oklahoma asked Alito related to Roe v. Wade, I think. As I read it and continue to try to keep up with the hearings, I sometimes wonder if the Harriet Miers nomination was nothing but a feint by Dubya and Karl Rove to whip up more support for Alito and try to put the Dems in a bigger corner somehow; their methods for pandering to “the base” have a lunatic logic wholly unto itself.)

The issue isn’t whether or not Alito is a bad nominee; we already know he is. The issue is whether or not he’s the worst.

This post is also meant to question people besides Alito who support Bush's domestic wiretapping, which is astonishing to me because this is not really a matter of partisan political opinion. This is a clear cut, black-and-white case of the president breaking the law (and lying about it, what’s more – do I have to link again to the April 2004 transcript of Bush’s remarks where he said he wasn’t doing that?). Is this somehow unclear to people besides the Bushco “bitter enders” and the trolls who regularly invade bloggers and posting sites everywhere?

And by the way, speaking of the trolls, allow me to point out the fact that their job is to divert and distract and keep people from analyzing the available evidence and forming fact-based opinions, up to and including trying to squash dissent (a common technique among their “enablers”). As evidence of this, I present this excerpt from “Hannity and Colmes” regarding the West Virginia mining disaster a few days ago, courtesy of NewsHounds.

In blaming the ultra-right zealots, I don’t intend to arrogantly presume that liberals know everything. That isn’t true. It is just that I’ve found that the process of give-and-take among lefties is more in tune with the reality that we live in day to day by percentage, as opposed to the misinformation and innuendo from the trolls which have only a passing acquaintance with empirical evidence. As an example, here is a liberal commentary on the mining disaster from the blogger “Left In The West.”

Sometimes, though (regarding lefty bloggers), I admit that I go to Eschaton and feel utterly lost at times because I haven’t read the latest post from Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum or Steve Gilliard and the accompanying 200th or so comment to what the author said, or I don’t get the inside references to Tweety (Chris Matthews), BoBo (Bob Woodward) or Timmeh/Pumpkinhead (Tim Russert), but that’s an extremely minor gripe by comparison (putting aside the fact that those individuals thoroughly deserve the ridicule they get).

With all of that said, here comes the inevitable comparison to Dubya and the amphetamine-crazed Austrian postcard painter who, in fact, wasn’t even a German citizen, right?

Not exactly.

There certainly are similarities in the methods, though. Hitler’s goal, as we know, was a German empire to rule the world based on fanatical nationalism (hence the slaughter of non-Aryans, the “master race” rhetoric, and their formidable attempt at world domination). Bushco, though, doesn’t care about any sense of nationalist identity (though the Iraq War helped consolidate a nationalist fervor all its own in their favor). The closest thing to some mass movement of a particular demographic group is the “us vs. them” rhetoric and breathtakingly ironic attitude towards their crazed evangelical sympathizers (who are hopelessly naïve, as far as I’m concerned, since they get continually duped and sold out by the investor class of their political party…if you don’t believe me, just find out about what’s going on with that proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, OK?).

It should be painfully obvious that all Dubya and his fellow travelers care about, now or ever, is money and the capitalist expansion and consolidation of their own wealth. And they will say and do anything – pervert any cause, defer payment on any price, neglect any burden, sacrifice anyone’s life besides their own in the most shameless manner possible – to achieve that unholy goal.

To that end, I should mention that Dubya and his family have actually done business with Der Fuehrer and his pals, so it’s possible that they picked up a few pointers on how to be movers and shakers in “the global money dance” along with the IMF, World Bank, The Carlyle Group, and Lord knows who else (partly in the name of globalization).

So this is where we are in this country right now: continually trying to make some sense of what’s going on despite the distractions (dutifully brought to us by our corporate news and entertainment media), clearing up the misunderstandings, and trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle. The shadows and fog have to date hidden the revolution that has been slowly unfolding in our corporate boardrooms, legislatures, and our courts, all to accelerate the fundamental redistribution of wealth that has been taking place in this country especially over the last 25 years or so, thus reestablishing The Gilded Age into remote posterity.

Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it.

Update 1/13: I've only seen two posts by the blogger Georgia10 on The Daily Kos, but they've both been amazing, including this one, which I think amplifies what I said pretty well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mending Medicare

The first message of the year from John Edwards...

We all know somebody -- a parent, a grandparent, an older friend we talk to around the neighborhood -- who is struggling to make heads or tails of the Republican Medicare prescription drug law. It's just completely confusing, and I know it's not the best that we can do for our seniors. It may, however, be the best we can do for the pharmaceutical industry, which should be no surprise since it was practically written by the big drug companies.

There's a lesson to be learned: bad policy that puts special interests before the American people is the cost of the culture of corruption that pervades the Republican Congress and the White House. It is a lesson we see played out in the newspapers each morning and on the television news each night.

Democrats fought against this Medicare sham at the time, and now we're offering three important solutions that could be implemented NOW: 1) Extend enrollment by six months to allow America's seniors to make sense of the confusing options before they have to select the option that works best for them, 2) Allow re-importation of safe FDA approved drugs from Canada, which should bring down the costs of drugs in this country, and 3) Allow Medicare to bargain for lower prices on behalf of all Americans. It is particularly offensive that the drug company-written Medicare prescription drug law actually prohibits the government from negotiating with those companies for lower prices.

Today, I am asking you to please join my friends at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) by signing their petition to Congress:

Tell Congress To Protect Our Seniors and Fix the Medicare Drug Benefit.

Whether it's you, your family, or just an elderly friend, seniors across America are wondering why providing health care cannot be simpler. The reason is clear: the bill was not made for them. It was made for the Republican special interests and, in fact, much of it was even written by the pharmaceutical industry and its legions of lobbyists. It's particularly troubling that this program doesn't do more for the millions of seniors who struggle with poverty every day. Instead of looking out for the people who need our help the most, the Republicans sided with the people they always look out for -- the powerful special interests.

Tell Congress To Protect Our Seniors and Fix the Medicare Drug Benefit.

Let's look at a few numbers compiled at the time the bill was passed:

- Estimated increase in Drug Industry Profits: $182 billion
- Washington lobbyists employed by the Drug and HMO Industries: 952
- Amount spent by drug and HMO industries on lobbying in 2003: $141 million
- Political contributions from the drug industry to Republicans in 2002: $21.7 million (74% of total)
- Price of a one-month supply of Lipitor (the drug most frequently prescribed to seniors) with a Medicare Discount Card in 2003 survey: $67.07
- Price of a one-month supply of Lipitor on $62.99

And that doesn't even get to the confusing mess caused by the dozens and dozens of plans. It doesn't mention the fact that while seniors are locked into a plan for a year, the providers have free rein to raise their rates at any time, which is particularly troubling for the seniors who are living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, re-importation of drugs from Canada -- which even a top executive with Pfizer has said is perfectly safe -- has been kept illegal to ensure pharmaceutical industry profits. And if that wasn't enough, Medicare is barred from bargaining for lower prices like the VA does for veterans.

Tell Congress To Protect Our Seniors and Fix the Medicare Drug Benefit.

The bill was disgraceful when it was passed, but now the seniors among us are about to start paying the price. We have one last chance to get it right.

Tell Congress To Protect Our Seniors and Fix the Medicare Drug Benefit.


John Edwards

P.S. -- This is about what kind of country we want to live in -- do we want to stand together to make sure our seniors don't have to choose between medicine and food, or will we instead allow the pharmaceutical companies to pad their wallets and to pay their lobbyists to keep Congress in their pockets?

I hope you'll stand with me and the DCCC in telling Congress to do the right thing.

Tell Congress To Protect Our Seniors and Fix the Medicare Drug Benefit.
Just remember that this could affect all of us one day.

Glad to see he and the party are picking up where we left off in '05.

Insert Foot Of Clay In Mouth

This is going to get some people POed but I’m not terribly concerned about that. I’ve had this kicking around for a couple of days, so I’m “coming out” with it.

In this area, Joe Paterno, the longtime Penn State football coach, is basically a god, for the benefit of anyone who doesn’t know that. I think he has either the third or fourth most wins of any college football coach in history, which I admit is pretty darn impressive. He is rightly held in high esteem as an educator and a role model for men and women of character, I suppose.

So I wouldn’t be bothering to mention him unless he’d really screwed up, right?

You got it.

This link takes you to an article in The Sporting News that explains why the National Organization for Women is asking Paterno to resign as coach. It has to do with some remarks Paterno made before the Orange Bowl a few weeks ago, specifically, what he would do if “a cute girl” knocked on his door:

“Thank God they don't…because I'd refer them to a couple of other rooms…”
Keep in mind that this came in response to an inquiry about Florida State player A.J. Nicholson, who was accused of sexual assault (as stated in the linked article) and “sent home” before the game.

Do I think Paterno meant to condone Nicholson’s allegedly criminal act? Of course not. I also don’t think Paterno should resign based solely on this.

I don’t think Paterno meant to be negative in any way. I think he just had some kind of addle-brained moment where he thought he was channeling Ward Cleaver or something and said something he wished he hadn’t (I don’t know if Paterno has had any further comment on this…and by the way, the correct thing for Joe to do would have been to ask this sweet young thing what she was doing in a hotel or a dormitory with a bunch of 18-to-22-year-old or so young men who are in absolute peak physical condition with their testosterone raging out of control, quite probably with the assistance of alcohol; “referring them to a couple of rooms” is an answer that, unfortunately, doesn’t indicate sound judgment.)

Now I would ask that you keep this in mind while I point something out.

You may recall that Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Grogan went bananas a few months ago when he was tipped off to and read the blog of PA state legislator Daylin Leach because it contained some sophomoric, scatological attempts at humor. My objection to what Grogan wrote stemmed from the fact that he also chose to ridicule Leach’s job performance based on highlighting something that I think is trivial by comparison. In this case, I believe Grogan’s parental instinct to protect his daughters overtook his sense of what was truly newsworthy; that’s an understandable mistake in my book, but it’s a mistake all the same.

So, what has Grogan – who I basically admire – had to say about “Joe Pa’s” latest performance, given all of Grogan’s self-righteous feminist outrage towards Leach?

Well, if you asked that question also, you might as well just keep waiting for the answer, because I am also. I’ve done some searches to find out, but so far, I believe the answer is nothing (waiting for Grogan to say something is partly why I’ve let some time pass between the actual event and my response).

This, as far as I’m concerned, is just a wee bit of a double standard. Grogan had to do some digging for Leach’s blog – which, this being the Internet, is a public matter ultimately, I realize – but what Paterno said was in a much more open forum with many more people taking notice.

As I said, Paterno’s comment didn’t reflect negative intent to me, but it did reflect an avoidance of reality. I suppose this is prone to happen to someone who is put on as high of a pedestal as he in a form of fan worship that borders on zealotry. Maybe all of these solid, self-righteous citizens driving around with paw decals on their vehicles (after the Penn State “Nittany Lion”) and bumper stickers with the cravenly self-righteous message of “God Must Be A Penn State Fan, Or Why Else Why Would The Sky Be Blue And White?” plastered all over them should take a minute to reflect on this.

(Another type of zealotry is shown in the ultra-derogatory name calling aimed at NOW by the individuals who left comments to the Sporting News story, by the way.)

One more thing: I went to Temple, but don’t think that’s why I’m picking on Paterno. For the record, I believe John Chaney should have resigned after he sent in Nehemiah Ingram to injure the St. Joe’s player in the college basketball tournament last year.

The Sammy Shuffle Continues

Armando over at The Daily Kos points out Alito’s convenient memory lapse when asked about the “Concerned Alumni” of Princeton, a group of which Alito was once a member. Atrios also notes Alito’s backpedaling on his support of strip searching young girls.

All in all, I would consider this to be a pretty pathetic show that should have closed long ago (early in November 2004, actually).

With this in mind, here is an excellent Guest Opinion that appeared in today’s Bucks County Courier Times from Linda K. Hahn, C.E.O. of Planned Parenthood of Bucks County.

At first blush it may seem odd to speak of Judge Samuel Alito’s legacy without knowing if he will be confirmed as the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. But the fact is he already has a legacy and a strategy to dismantle the protections guaranteed in the Roe v. Wade decision and the paper trail to prove it.

Twenty years ago, as a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, Alito drafted a memo to the solicitor general floating the notion that two pending Supreme Court cases provided an “opportunity to advance the goals of overruling Roe v. Wade and in the meantime, of mitigating its effects.”

The phrase “mitigating its effects” exposes Alito’s strategy of making the Roe decision so dismantled as to dangerously limit its protections. Alito supported state-level restrictions such as those in the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act (Planned Parenthood v. Casey) that prevented doctors from providing confidential reproductive health services to young people, forced them to read state mandated scripts, often inaccurate and designed to dissuade or scare women about abortion, and he supported waiting periods prior to abortion procedures, which often necessitated more than one trip to a healthcare provider, a punitive inconvenience and additional expense, hardest for less affluent women and young women.

Here at Planned Parenthood in Bucks County, we have seen the difficulties these women face in overcoming these roadblocks. These obstacles do not influence their decision, nor do they benefit their health, but only make it more difficult to access the care they need.

As the lone dissenter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Alito voted to uphold Pennsylvania’s husband notification requirement, which would have required a woman to notify her husband prior to obtaining an abortion. Justice O’Connor and the majority of her colleagues on the Supreme Court ruled the provision unconstitutional, holding that a state cannot give a man control over his wife, stating, “Women do not lose their constitutionally protected liberty when they marry.”

Alito’s record also reflects his desire for women to deal with the emotional distress, anxiety, and guilt as “part of the responsibility of moral choice” like a juror delivering a death sentence. He also promoted a radical idea that some common forms of birth control should be considered abortion, a view at odds with science and medicine. He supports that insurance companies should be permitted to exclude abortion as a covered medical procedure.

Alito is frankly so far outside the mainstream that his confirmation could radically transform the Supreme Court and create a direct threat to the health and safety of American women. Sandra Day O’Connor is a moderate without an agenda like Alito, and has often cast the all-important swing vote in cases of reproductive freedom. Alito shows open antagonism to women and to the rights and protections that we need. His nomination will turn the clock back and we just cannot let that happen in this country.

Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court makes clear that President Bush, rather than choosing a consensus nominee for this important lifetime appointment, is kowtowing to the ultraconservative fringe of his party. If confirmed, Alito’s far right judicial philosophy will impact the lives of women for generations – all to please a narrow political constituency.

Planned Parenthood urges all Americans not to sit idly by while we, as women, and all citizens lose civil rights. We must remind our senators, especially Sen. Arlen Specter, chair of the Judiciary Committee, that we hold these rights so dear. We should all call Sen. Specter and make our voices heard loud and clear.
I tried 202-224-4254 a couple of times (the office number in the Rayburn Building, I think), but I couldn't get through. I'll try again shortly.

Update 1/11: My bad - Specter is in the Hart building. I got through earlier today.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Damn Nice Of Him

So Tom DeLay has officially resigned his leadership position at the U.S. House of Representatives because of the unfolding scandal with Jack Abramoff. What a guy.

I though this post from the blog called Just One Minute was interesting. Tom Maguire seems to support his suppositions with facts pretty well – I couldn’t detect any obfuscation on his part. As he points out, it is important to note that DeLay instituted the rule by which he ultimately had to give up his post some years earlier in response to a scandal involving Democratic House Majority Leader Dan Rostenkowski. There are times when the Dems overplay their hand, as Karl Rove has pointed out (I don’t want to give him credit for anything, but I have to admit that he’s right, unfortunately), but the Repugs did big time in this case.

Another thing… Howard Dean appeared on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN program yesterday and had a lot of good stuff to say about this issue and other topics (this links you to the entire transcript, but I’m providing an excerpt below so you don’t have to wade through the whole thing – first hat tip of the day to Atrios).

BLITZER: Should Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, who has now pleaded guilty to bribery charges, among other charges, a Republican lobbyist in Washington, should the Democrat who took money from him give that money to charity or give it back?

DEAN: There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal. There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money. And we've looked through all of those FEC reports to make sure that's true.

BLITZER: But through various Abramoff-related organizations and outfits, a bunch of Democrats did take money that presumably originated with Jack Abramoff.

DEAN: That's not true either. There's no evidence for that either. There is no evidence...

BLITZER: What about Senator Byron Dorgan?

DEAN: Senator Byron Dorgan and some others took money from Indian tribes. They're not agents of Jack Abramoff. There's no evidence that I've seen that Jack Abramoff directed any contributions to Democrats. I know the Republican National Committee would like to get the Democrats involved in this. They're scared. They should be scared. They haven't told the truth. They have misled the American people. And now it appears they're stealing from Indian tribes. The Democrats are not involved in this.

BLITZER: Unfortunately Mr. Chairman, we got to leave it right there.
Good one, from Wolf (“So Poor And So Black”) Blitzer.

Update 1: Great digging by Brendan at Brandoland to come up with this little item about Tommy Boy's little adventures in the Marianas involving Enron, among others (still unfolding...I think HuffPo has something on this also).

Update 2: By the way, the next time you hear of Newt Gingrich pontificating about corruption in Washington (re: Delay and others), keep this in mind (courtesy of David Sirota).

Whited Sepulchers All

These frauds and charlatans polluted the city of Philadelphia with their presence over the weekend in something laughably referred to as “Justice Sunday III.” Below is the caption for the photo that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s headline article dated today.

Bishop Wellington Boone, a Christian speaker, addresses the gathering. With him were (from left) activist Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Sen. Rick Santorum (R. Pa.); the Rev. Jerry Falwell; and the Rev. Herbert Lusk, pastor of Greater Exodus Baptist Church.
And here is the Inquirer article.

A fight over courts staged in Phila.

By Carrie Budoff
Inquirer Staff Writer

A North Philadelphia church and the surrounding blocks became the staging ground last night for a national battle over the federal judiciary - between conservatives who see it as hostile to religious freedom and liberals who characterize the political right as bullies of the court.

On the eve of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination hearing, a lineup of influential Christian leaders took to the pulpit of Greater Exodus Baptist Church and targeted what they called an erosion of religious liberties by activist judges.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority political movement that first meshed religion and politics in the 1970s, described President Bush's nomination of Alito as the culmination of a lengthy effort to "mobilize people of faith and values."

"We were able to hold off Michael Moore and most of Hollywood and most of the national media... who fought so fiercely against the reelection of George Bush," Falwell told the packed sanctuary. "Now we are looking at what we really started 30 years ago: the reconstruction of a court system gone awry."

The event, which organizers said reached millions of viewers through local cable stations and Christian networks, was billed as an effort to turn around an increasingly secularized society. But it also provided a high-profile forum to tout Alito as a justice who would exercise judicial restraint and halt restrictions on religious expression in public.

"The Supreme Court has become the supreme branch of our government, imposing its unrestrained will on all the people," said Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.). "The only way to restore this republic our founders envisioned is to elevate honorable jurists like Samuel Alito."

The timing and location of yesterday's event, titled "Justice Sunday III - Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land," were not coincidental.

Philadelphia is home to Sen. Arlen Specter, the moderate Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the federal bench on which Alito has served for 15 years. Organizers also found a welcoming host in the Rev. Herbert Lusk, a longtime Bush supporter whose African American church has twice hosted the President and has received more than $1 million in federal grants for church community programs.

But more than anything, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which organized the event, Philadelphia was chosen because of its history - as the birthplace of the Constitution and religious freedom under the state's Quaker founders.

The first "Justice Sunday" was held in April amid the Senate battle over judicial filibusters of court nominees. The second, in August, preceded confirmation hearings for John G. Roberts Jr., now chief justice. Both were held at southern mega-churches.
Philadelphia's event drew a racially mixed crowd that clapped their hands and pounded their feet to drum-laced gospel beats inside the sanctuary. Lusk danced behind the lectern, and Santorum nodded his head in approval.

The senator was the highest-ranking public official in attendance, showcasing his ties to Christian conservatives at a politically sensitive time for him.

As Santorum seeks a third Senate term, his Democratic opponents are portraying him as too extreme on the right, while some in his Republican base want to see him more consistently conservative. The event's location - a must-win politically moderate region - could complicate the Santorum campaign's goal of shifting his image as a leading voice on cultural issues nationally to a senator focused on Pennsylvania priorities.

The senator's spokesman said Santorum was asked to speak because of his work on religious liberties.

A protest rally, which settled on the east side of Broad Street, attracted several dozen gay-marriage advocates, AIDS activists, and liberal-leaning groups who decried the event as a dangerous intermingling of politics and church. In a conference call held in advance, liberal religious leaders described "Justice Sunday" as a bid by the Christian right to control the judiciary. They also took issue with the message that would be sent by holding the rally in an African American church.

"Their presence here is to demonstrate that 'we are fair, we are for justice' and to give that impression. I don't think they will be successful," said the Rev. Robert P. Shine Sr., pastor of Berachah Baptist Church in West Oak Lane and president of the Pennsylvania State Wide Coalition of Black Clergy.

Lusk dismissed the criticism.

"This is not, for me, a black issue or a white issue or a left issue or a right issue, but a righteous issue," he said at an earlier news conference. "It is all about doing the right thing."
Give me a break, Reverend (and by the way, you may have had the most fumbles of any running back the Eagles ever had).

I though this column from Max Blumenthal of The Huffington Post was illuminating on this subject.

At this point, you may be asking the same question I am regarding this story.

Where the hell is Bob Casey, Jr.? (Update: I know Larry Smar of the Casey Campaign - such as it is - responded, but the candidate himself should have been "front and center" on this.)

Well, do you know what? I’m tired of asking that question. I clicked on the link to his campaign that I had in the right column, and it STILL takes you to a generic online form for signing up if you wish to volunteer.

This is January 2006, and the election will take place in November. That’s not good enough any more.

However, if you click here to Chuck Pennacchio’s site, you will see that he denounces Santorum, Falwell, Lusk and their ilk in a manner befitting the Democratic standard bearer for the U.S. Senate. THAT is the proper response.

And that is why I now give my total support (for whatever it’s worth) to Chuck Pennacchio for the U.S. Senate.

As for Bob Casey, Jr., I bid him adieu. Good luck trying to figure out what you are.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

You Don't Want These Upgrades

J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times concocted a real stinkeroo today. In the process of responding to it, I'll probably end up replicating some of what I said below in my "Who Is Number One?" post. I'll try not to do that, but if and when I do, I apologize in advance.

So without further ado...

There is much hand wringing over President Bush's unauthorized use of wiretaps to eavesdrop on "American citizens."
He gets into trouble right away but using quotes in this manner. That implies that there is some ambiguity in what Bush is doing, and I see none whatsoever. As part and parcel of what he views as his imperial presidency, Dubya intends to reserve the right to take a peek into what we're doing - what our Email says, what web sites we visit, what videos or library books we may take out, what our party affiliation is - whenever he feels like it. Based on the volume of available evidence, even a reality-challenged life form like Mullane should understand that.

The president has defended this by saying he's searching for terrorists.
He'll defend ANYTHING he does by saying that (I think The Bulldog had a great post a few days ago documenting all the shenanigans Bushco has pulled with their inevitable invocation of 9/11 as the reason).

"If somebody from al-Qaida is calling you, we'd like to know why," he said last week.

For many, this explanation in a post-9/11 world pretty much lays the wiretapping issue to rest.
Try to define "many" outside of the Republican National Committee, would you please (if you can)?

But for Americans whose politics have not matured since the hippie era, wiretapping by Bush's National Security Agency amounts to Nixon, Watergate and Vietnam all over again.

Some in the media are even calling for Bush's impeachment.

Hey, let's party like it's 1974!
Just as a refresher, I should point out that, as far as Mullane is concerned, the lowest "rank" he can give to someone is to call that person a hippie or invoke the '60s and its aftermath to try and attack that person's character.

Notice that there is no serious analysis from Mullane concerning parallels between Nixon's craving of secrecy to justify his military actions and attacks on domestic "enemies" versus Dubya's version of the same thing. Notice that there is no serious analysis from Mullane concerning the fact that some conservatives feel the same way that we "hippie dudes" feel (including Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general under Reagan, who said Bush should stop spying or face impeachment). Notice that there is no serious analysis from Mullane about anything, only idiotic name calling and attempts at character assassination.

(By the way, Dick Polman of the Inquirer, who could be drunk and/or gravely ill when writing a column one day and still be ten times as good as Mullane could ever be, wrote an excellent piece on this today, some of which I referred to above.)

Actually, at no time in the history of America has the privacy of millions of citizens been so utterly compromised, and on a daily basis, too.
Get ready for a truly astonishing U- turn.

This has nothing to do with bushnixonwatergate. It's the Internet.

Each time you go online, chances are that any number of unknown prying eyes are watching what you do and where you go. This is due to something called "spyware" and it infests most personal computers.

When you open an e-mail that promises riches from Nigeria, or one that guarantees longer bedroom stamina, when you download video or a cool toolbar utility, bet that you are inviting spyware to embed itself in your PC.
What does this have to do the FISA? Or Bush's pledge to seek a warrant for all wiretaps in April 2004 that he was abrogating even as he spoke those words? Or the comment by Jonathan Turley, a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University and a frequent counsel in national security cases, who argues that Bush's wiretaps represent "a serious constitutional crisis" (nod to Polman again)? What say you, Mullane? Hello?

From then on, everything you do online is logged, recorded and sent to the spyware strangers.

Why? They have their reasons.

Sometimes they just want to send you advertising, tailored to your tastes, interests or proclivities.
Watch out, J.D. That was an awfully big "P" word you used just now. People who think you actually know what you're talking about might be confused.

For example, say you Google "scantily clad twins" or "silicone-enhanced blondes."
Hey, where did you get my favorite search engine keywords from? :-)

The spyware logs this (as do the people at Google) and the racy pop-up ads and Viagra e-mails roll in.

"Most people don't know this is happening, even though 80 percent of PCs are infected," said Audri Lanford, who, with husband Jim, operates the Web site

"It is certainly good for you to think about what you do online as being done in public. You can't go wrong that way. Same with your e-mail," she said.

Or as an IT director told me: "If you've got something to hide, stay away from the Internet."

In addition to logging Web searches you've made, sites you've visited and pages you've viewed, spyware will read your e-mail and access transcripts of your online chats. It can even log each keystroke you make, gaining access to secret passwords.

At its worst, it will swipe credit card numbers and other financial info.
These disgusting applications - "scumware," as computer writer John Fried of the Inquirer refers to them - are certainly capable of doing that, but of course Mullane has to conjure up the worst-case scenario or else he isn't scaring his fellow tiny-brained followers the way he's supposed to.

There are safeguards like electronic "firewalls" and spyware killers. But these can't defeat a mischievous teen computer geek determined to hack your hard drive and look around.
Actually, the people I knew of and read about who have done this sort of thing, such as that creep Stanford Wallace, do so partly to route users to a preferred site or search engine so they can rack up "hits" and get listed on as many other search sites as possible, exponentially adding to their "hit count" and increasing revenue possibilities. The unfortunate side effect for the user - which the spyware writer obviously doesn't care about - is that their garbage code writes to the user's registry, and it thus pretty much clogs your PC and slows your system processes to a standstill, especially Email and web browsing. In that awful event, sometimes the only thing to do is "format C:\" and start all over again, and that is every bit as horrific as it sounds. Of course, if Mullane tried to explain this, he wouldn't be able to engage in the stereotyping that he clearly loves ("hippie dude," "teen computer geek"), so I can see why he wouldn't bother.

How is this any different from coming home and finding a stranger rifling through your personal papers?

Before we get all huffy about Bush's wiretapping, we should ask, what's the bigger threat?

A president trying to prevent terror attacks?

Or hard drive trolls out to snoop, steal and perhaps blackmail?
This is a work of such astonishing idiocy that I am truly at a loss to say anything further about it.

However, as a noteworthy person whose name escapes me once said, out of something awful can come a flourish of wonderment (oh, OK, you got me...I just made that up about about fifteen seconds ago).

With that in mind (sort of), I came up with some products, inspired by Mullane's wretched column, that the current ruling cabal could use in an effort to preserve freedom "for many," as J.D. pointed out with such wisdom earlier. Here they are:

Bushco Not A Virus 2006 - The application decides what processes must be run on your PC based on access rights that are unknown to everyone, including the user. Special manufacturer encryption, approved by top-secret executive orders, enable the installation of cookies and other secretive means to capture all manner of sensitive data for transmission without user approval to the NSA. Instead of a firewall, BNAV comes with a "stonewall" that is activated whenever the user contacts a government official for user procedural information, technical support, or functionality details in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

Bolton Blockers - In the same manner as the individual after whom this software is named, who is infamous for harassing those dependent upon him, Bolton Blockers changes and periodically invalidates parent-child relationships through a patented "intimidation" utility in system code in an attempt to maximize performance. The graphical interface is a facial image of the U.S. representative to the U.N., which appears to be calm and restive when the terminate-and-stay resident application is not initialized, but quickly becomes flushed red with bright glowing eyes when it is operational.

Rove Remover - This document-enhancement tool reviews all memoranda and randomly deletes references to the Democratic Party, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker Magazine, or the MSNBC cable T.V. news network and online Internet service. In an effort to make it appear that the documents haven't been altered, references to the Republican Party, The Fox Television Network, The Washington Times, The National Review Magazine, and The Heritage Foundation are added instead. This application operates in all document formats, including ASCII text, HTML, and XML.

CheneyWare - This free add-on operates in the background from an undisclosed location and inspects all data and application files on your PC, looking for conditional "true" statements that it can alter and thus turn them to "false" statements. It is strongly advised that CheneyWare's settings are configured so it runs against data files only; if it operates against application files, your PC will be rendered inoperative.
All four of these can be yours if you act now! Remember, if you don't, then "the terrorists have already won."

Update 1/9: A lot of this post is an attempt at humor (whatever you may think of it), but these people are serious. Let's see how fast this ridiculous law gets shot down in a court challenge.