Friday, January 27, 2006

Dubya Hits The Trail

I mean, seriously now – what else can he do with numbers like these except go out again and tap dance in front of his pre-screened audiences? He’s got to try and start scaring people again. After all, the mid term elections are only 10 months away.

Here one reason (out of many) why he’s still tanking (as a commenter said somewhere, even at an approval rating of 43 percent – and I’m sure THAT is charitable – he’s still failing miserably):

You know that guy David Dye, the assistant Secretary of Labor who walked out of Arlen Specter’s mine safety hearing yesterday (not to be confused with the host of WXPN’s World Café)? Well, here are his qualifications for the job:

Previously, he worked in separate assignments as chief counsel to the House Resources Committee, the House Agriculture Committee, and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Before that, Dye served as counsel to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Later, he worked as director of external affairs for the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration and as counsel to the chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission.

Before coming to Washington, Dye served as the professional staff to two committees of the Alaska Senate-as special assistant to Alaska's lieutenant governor and as a regional and urban planner with the Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs.

Dye received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1970. He graduated from the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., in 1979.

So he's got a Texas pedigree and a referral from Repug demagogue (redundant?) Ted Stevens. How nice.

Aside from that, like everyone else in this administration, his qualifications appear to be that he is an excellent Bushco flunkie. Can you say “Mike Brown”?


Shuffle On Back To Buffalo

(No chance, I know, but I can dream, can’t I? This will probably upset my mom also, since she likes him...oh well.)

This is just another “piling on” sort of post containing subject matter that has been covered pretty well in other quarters, but considering the subject is Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet The Press” (a show title that grows more ironic and ridiculous with each passing day, considering some of the legitimate journos who used to host it), I absolutely have to chime in.

So, according to The Huffington Post, Russert is going to host a panel discussion in media ethics? This is hilarious for at least two reasons:

- His recent line of questioning towards Sen. Barack Obama about Harry Belafonte’s criticism of Dubya, even though Belafonte was not acting in any official capacity on behalf of Obama, which leads to one inescapable conclusion about Russert’s questioning (a “black and white” matter, if you will..I mentioned it yesterday)

- Now, Russert has apparently
fired back at Arianna Huffington for her persistent blogging regarding Russert and his fawning performance towards Republicans and antagonism towards Democrats on the show. He has resurrected the feeble rumor that Huffington spied on Russert’s wife in 1996, which Arianna soundly refuted numerous times, including once to Russert’s face at the 1996 Democratic convention in San Diego.
Also, Marty Kaplan of HuffPo brings us this interesting journalistic adventure from Russert. This is part of an ever-expanding chronicle of Russert’s shameless antics that are being dutifully recorded here and elsewhere (including Fire Dog Lake).

So, considering all of this, I would suppose that Ripon College, located 80 miles northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (the institution favoring Russert in this spectacularly inappropriate way), will be offering these conferences soon as well:

- “Full SEC Disclosure By Elected Representatives of the U.S. Government” (B. Frist)
- Overview of Sarbanes-Oxley Securities Law Reform and Recommended Practices” (D. Kozlowski)
- “Mediation and Conciliation Strategies In International Relations” (M. Ahmadinejad)
- “When You Both Win: Achieving Marital Fulfillment By Denial Of Gratification In Favor Of Your Spouse” (K. Federline)
Something else I wondered about was how the reality of Russert’s shilling and gamesmanship jives (if it does) with his status as a best-selling author. To get a flavor of his work “Big Russ And Me” for some background, I reviewed the introduction to the book and made the following comments:

Over the last two decades, Tim Russert has become one of the most trusted and admired figures in American television journalism. Throughout his career he has spent time with presidents and popes, world leaders and newsmakers, celebrities and sports heroes, but one person stands out from the rest in terms of his strength of character, modest grace, and simple decency—Russert’s dad, Big Russ.
He has also apparently spent time with Scooter Libby and possibly Karl Rove that he has been, thus far, unwilling to discuss, even though he seems to have been given permission to do so by his sources.

In this warm, engaging memoir, Russert casts a fond look back to the 1950s Buffalo neighborhood of his youth. In the close-knit Irish-Catholic community where he grew up, doors were left unlocked at night; backyard ponds became makeshift ice hockey rinks in winter; and streets were commandeered as touch football fields in the fall. And he recalls the extraordinary example of his father, a WWII veteran who worked two jobs without complaint for thirty years and taught his children to appreciate the values of self-discipline, of respect, of loyalty to friends.
Thanks to our submerging economy under Dubya, A LOT of people have to work at least two jobs now, so with all due respect to “Big Russ,” that doesn’t sound like such a big deal right now.

Also, I’ve long since grown tired of all of this “faux revisionism” concerning the 1950s. Roe v. Wade was still years away, so lots of unsafe abortions were getting hushed up, our government was keeping us as crazed over the possibility of nuclear war as they are now over a terrorist attack, and the Eisenhower administration was granting the CIA free reign to carry out covert operations all over the world with dire long-term implications (e.g., Vietnam, Indonesia, Jordan, Iran, Nicaragua and Guatemala - food for thought on that here). Let’s give our thanks to “The Greatest Generation” now and always, but all I ask is that we interject a bit of reality into the discussion also.

Big Russ and Me, written in Russert’s easygoing, straight-talking style, offers an irresistible collection of personal memories. Russert recalls the dedicated teachers who stimulated his imagination and intellect, sparking a lifelong passion for politics and journalism, and inspired a career that took him from editor of his elementary school newspaper to moderator of Meet the Press.
It has also taken him to a career as a bought-and-paid-for shill echoing GOP talking points and maintaining the media story lines that were delineated so brilliantly by Peter Daou recently (see the “Read Why We Fight” link in the upper right column).

It has been an eventful and deeply satisfying journey, but no matter where his career has taken him, Russert’s fundamental values still spring from that small house on Woodside Avenue and the special bond he shares with his father—a bond he enjoys now with his own son. As Tim Russert celebrates the indelible connection between fathers and sons, readers everywhere will laugh, cry, and identify with the lessons of life taught by the indomitable Big Russ.
I know nothing about Russert’s father, so out of respect, I’ll hold off on the snark for now.

As long as I’m posting about what you could call the “Friday Fourth Estate Follies,” by the way, I’d like to award Dishonorable Mentions to Richard Cohen for suggesting the answer for the Democrats (again, in keeping with the “script” Peter Daou mentioned, the Dems are always “weak and ineffectual” or something) is John Wayne, since he and the Democrats are both dead, and Ellen Goodman, a writer I usually admire, for engaging in a bout of hand-wringing over the Alito hearings in a column that did nothing but, once again, advance Daou’s story lines.

Still No Muzzle In Sight

Regarding her latest bile, I have only this to add from David Podvin (a quote from about a year or so ago):

Ann Coulter is not merely eighty pounds of toxic sewage wrapped in six feet of reptile skin - she is the vicious ghoul that remains after conservatism has been scrubbed of its camouflage. Satan's concubine has been vocal in her belief that torturing anyone identified as the enemy is good, and that torturing them using the most excruciating techniques is better. Coulter is not alone in the desire to feast on human suffering. Although she is considerably less circumspect than other right wingers, it is instructive that not one prominent conservative has repudiated her.
She continues to engage in legally actionable activity without reprisal. When is someone going to "call her" on it?

Has It Really Been 20 Years?

From CNN…

I pointed out on the old site a year ago that I guess it would have been consummate bad taste, when we had the Reaganalia festival in the summer of 2004 when he died, to remind everyone that Challenger had absolutely no business flying in freezing Florida weather, but Ronnie wanted the shuttle circling overhead when he gave his State of the Union address. The fact that Morton Thiokol made the rocket booster “O” rings out of butter didn’t help either.

(I still remember the look of utter disgust on the face of Sally Ride - an astronaut who served on the investigative panel that looked into what happened - when she heard the testimony from M-T's engineers; they were speaking in code that the layman probably wouldn't understand, though Ride knew exactly what they were saying.)

Still, though, that should in no way cast a shadow over the accomplishments of the Challenger crew or lessen the respect due to them.

Update: Oddly enough, another tragedy, this time in the Apollo program, took place on this date also.

Update 1/28: I screwed up - the Challenger disaster occured 20 years ago today, not yesterday.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Kerry Steps Up

CNN is reporting that John Kerry will call for a filibuster on Alito, but he needs all the help he can get (Bushco says they have the votes for "cloture," and they're probably right, unfortunately).

Here's a link to the phone numbers of your state senators. Call them and tell them you support Kerry on this.

This is our last shot.

Update: Here's how to help some more.

The Gathering Storm

So CNN reports that all of our foreign policy “experts” are surprised that the militant terrorist coward organization Hamas has done as well as it has in the Palestinian elections.

I have a simple question to ask in response to that: why?

Is Bushco EVER going to get it? Much of the world hates us for a variety of reasons (the IMF/World Bank, the Iraq War, global warming, etc.). With the noteworthy (and fortunate) exception of Canada, leaders espousing their own peculiar brand of nationalism, often of an anti-U.S. nature, are being either elected or installed into office one way or the other in countries in Asia and South America, to say nothing of the anti-U.S. violence fomenting all over the world (I mentioned Hugo Chavez and his buddies in South America yesterday, and while we’re stuck in Iraq and act like we know what’s going on, China grows ever cozier with Iran).

This takes you to a column that describes the rise of Islamist governments across the Middle East, and the forces behind this development. I should caution that there is some anti-American rhetoric here that makes me wonder what the organization behind this is all about. However, I’m including this link because, as nearly as I can tell, the information in the column is factually correct (except for the part where they state that they didn’t expect Hamas to do as well as it did in the election).

I usually stay out of anything having to do with the Israeli/Palestinian problem since you could argue yourself out of breath in favor of one side or the other, but I only know that, though the Israelis have bulldozed homes, they’ve never blown up kids on school buses either. Also, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak “gave away the store” to the criminal Yasser Arafat in 2000, and all Arafat did in response was set off another “intifadah.”

It’s all a tragic legacy of Great Britain’s stupid partitioning of countries they once occupied, which hasn’t worked anywhere (Ireland, India/Pakistan, etc.).

Sorry that I don’t have anything more original to offer on this (as I said, that’s why I usually avoid this topic).

Update 2/3: Trudy Rubin nails it again (registration required).

Better Stick To Print

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a Wednesday editorial page feature called “Blog Cabin” which, I guess, is supposed to be some sort of random sampling of what is going on in "the blogosphere" (I hate that term...sounds like a submerging device in a bad Irwin Allen '60s Sci-Fi movie). The theme of such apparent burning importance yesterday was why the T.V. series “The West Wing” was cancelled and the effect that will have.

Though I didn’t pay much attention to the Inquirer feature, I have to admit that the excerpt I read from Russell Shaw of The Huffington Post was actually pretty good. My point, as you’ll read below, is that they could have featured topics that, if nothing else, generated much greater site traffic.

(I never really watched The West Wing myself, but my in-laws have been regular viewers for awhile. Their opinion is that it was about time for that to happen, thinking the show had pretty much run its course. Besides, seven years is an eternity anyway for a T.V. show, and it will no doubt live on in syndication forever somewhere. I know it was good – people like Dee Dee Myers from the good old Clinton days contributed to the show, and I would watch anything with Martin Sheen for some period of time anyway. Besides, it sounds like they were setting it up for Alan Alda’s conservative character to take over. Seeing that happen in real life has been unpleasant enough; I don’t think too many people want to see that on T.V. also.)

I seriously wonder about the Inquirer’s judgment when it comes to this sort of thing. I should point out that, a few months ago, they printed two posts supposedly representing conservative and liberal points of view on the outing of Valerie Plame, one by some wingnut called The Florida Masochist which did absolutely nothing to help the newspaper reader understand what was going on.

On another occasion, their blogging correspondent Dan Rubin posted some story that was supposedly a big deal regarding the fact that ran an ad over last Thanksgiving showing our troops serving in Iraq in shorts, when some conservative blogger crowed over the fact that that isn’t the standard uniform for our troops, though it is for British troops, so how could those dumb liberals know what they’re talking about? When this was brought up to Eli Pariser of MoveOn, he acknowledged the screwup but pointed out that the most important fact of the ad – namely, that 150,000 of our troops were in Iraq over Thanksgiving – was still correct.

Since I believe the Inquirer needs help when it comes to figuring out and reporting on what it is that’s going on in “the blogging world,” (not much better than the other phrase, I guess), please allow me to summarize what has been transpiring lately at the sites I visit, and I will try to plug some others that are highly worthwhile but less visible.

- Atrios, The Daily Kos, Crooks and Liars, and other sites/bloggers have publicized a site that contains an open letter to Chris Matthews of MSNBC, telling him that he should apologize to Michael Moore for comparing him to Osama bin Laden. All kinds of related stuff regarding Matthews has come out also, mainly the fact that he is an utterly unconscionable shill for George W. Bush.

- The Daily Kos (among others) has a quote from right-wing uber blogger Glenn Reynolds basically stating his overall disdain for reader blog comments because of their “incivility,” though Kos finds
an example of Reynolds’ own guilt on that score.

Update 1: I was looking for an inflammatory quote from Reynolds in the Kos post. This doesn't contain it. I'll keep looking, because I know I saw it somewhere.

Update 2: This is what I was looking for from Reynolds (in the Digby post linked to Kos):

There was a time when the Left opposed fascism and supported democracy, when it wasn't a seething-yet-shrinking mass of self-hatred and idiocy. That day is long past, and the moral and intellectual decay of the Left is far gone.


- Another issue that has received a lot of attention from the individuals mentioned above is the fact that Deborah Howell, the ombudsman for the Washington Post (I believe Dan Froomkin is back in that role now, but I’m not sure – I’ll keep checking)
shut off the Washington Post’s reader comments blog when she decided that there were too many comments containing profanity. After Howell and Jim Brady, another Post senior editor, responded in a testy back-and-forth exchange with other bloggers concerning the exact number of the profane posts, the Post eventually relented and reopened the blog (Froomkin eventually re-entered the fray and said the profane posts constituted “a tiny minority”).

- Tim Russert, on “Meet The Press” last Sunday, asked Illinois Senator Barack Obama about Harry Belafonte’s recent disparaging comments towards Dubya. If Belafonte were working for Obama or acting in any official capacity with his organization, that would be understandable. However, this is not the case, leading to the conclusion that
Russert asked Obama this question because he and Belafonte both are black, and somehow Russert thought Obama would know by osmosis or something, which is borderline (if not overt) racism.
Here are other widely discussed topics at other, less-well-known sites:

- Savant at The Brand New Bag has all kinds of good stuff on the Dubya/Jack Abramoff connection (as does TPM Café).

- Brendan at
Brandoland has been all over the problems with the Iraqi Reconstruction for the last couple of days.

The Bulldog Manifesto/The Talking Dog have an excerpt from an interview with an attorney representing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Itsez is full of populist rage over what working Americans have to deal with today (wages, health care, etc.).

Liberal Serving comments on the apparent reappearance of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a small town in western Maine (I always reserve judgment on that sort of thing myself or withhold it altogether).
I’m actually starting to wonder if the paper wants to portray bloggers generally as somewhere between tweedy academics who actually have talent and all-out cranks who digest cable news programs 16 hours a day and then crank out stream-of-consciousness rants in between ingesting coffee and Skittles. Is that the rationale behind their topic selection?

I guess next Wednesday’s “burning issue” will be the bloggers’ take on the rumors of a lesbian relationship between Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Calling The Invisible Man

Like many of you (I would guess), I’ve seen our heating bills rise this winter, though thus far we’ve lucked out with mild temperatures. However, if this winter holds true to form, we will eventually be socked with an arctic blast over the coming weeks that will require consuming more heat to keep our toes from turning blue, as well as other areas of our anatomy. Also in this area, gas seems to have leveled off a bit near the $2.40-$2.50 a gallon range, depending on where you are (still below the post-Katrina gouging levels, but way too damn high).

When this sort of thing has happened in the past, Congress, leaping furiously into action in an effort to pretend to do its job, immediately schedules hearings, parades a bunch of crooks and cronies in front of the T.V. cameras while waxing its indignation in the most dramatic manner possible, and then goes back to sleep for awhile. This was in effect when the Senate Energy Committee held hearings last November and called in the heads of the oil companies for a friendly little “heart to heart,” which was rudely interrupted when Barbara Boxer actually stood up and did her job by motioning that the executives be sworn in just like anyone else who has sat beside a congressional committee of one type or another. Pete Domenici called forth the fury of Chevron, Amoco, and Exxon-Mobil and put her back in her place.

(I mean…this isn’t just the imperial presidency, but the imperial government right? We can’t have anyone actually represent us…I mean, my God; what was Barbara Boxer thinking?).

Well, I got a crazy thought (getting to the point in a minute). In the past, sure, we’ve called out the head thieves and violators of the environment at the oil companies, but we’ve also called upon the Secretary of Energy to ask him or her “whaddayagonnadoaboutit?”

We all know that Dick Cheney is really in charge in that area, but I knew we had somebody taking up office space with that title acting as a front. The problem is that I couldn’t remember who it was.

Since inquiring minds need to know, I did some trusty Google searching, and it found out who it was. It turns out that it’s some guy named Samuel Bodman.

Who is this mook, you may well ask? Well, it turns out he was a big wheel at that gigando mutual fund company near Boston, Fidelity Investments, before he landed at Cabot Corporation, a specialty chemical maker in the same area. It’s not entirely clear how much he knows about energy, but he definitely knows Bushco, having “cut his teeth” in this administration under former Treasury Secretary Don Evans (see, Evans is, quite probably, Dubya's "best buddy").

This is why Cabot Corporation is noteworthy (from this story):

In October 2002, Bodman's former company came under fire when a United Nations Panel of Experts produced a report accusing the company, along with several other US corporations, of helping to fuel the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) while he ran Cabot by purchasing coltan from Congo during the conflict and illegally plundering the country's vast natural resources.
This explains what Coltan is and why it is important. As stated in the linked text, “When refined, coltan becomes a heat resistant powder, metallic tantalum which has unique properties for storing electrical charge. It is heavily used for printed circuit boards included in cellphones.”

Cabot has publicly denied the allegations in the UN report, but a report by the Belgian Senate states that Eagle Wings Resources International had a long-term contract to supply Cabot with coltan, which it too purchased from Congo during the war.

In response, environmental Friend of the Earth United States (FOE) and the UK-based human rights group Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) filed a complaint with the US State Department last August (2004) against Cabot and several other western corporations for its role in aiding the rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo by conducting business there, essentially inadvertently aiding a violent conflict that contributed to widespread human rights abuses.
What can be done about this?

There is very little the "man on the street" can do to prevent Coltan exploitation as it is not a "visible" component of cellphones that can be differentiated when shopping, but continuing pressure on circuit board manufacturers has lead to many demanding that their Coltan supplies only come from legitimate sources. Similar pressure on other users of Coltan can also help to ensure that only legitimately mined and sold Coltan is used in circuit boards.
I know there’s a lot to digest here, so I’ll try to summarize:

- We’re getting gouged on our heating costs (and nobody can blame Hurricanes Katrina and Rita for it any more, as well as using them as an excuse for bad economic news).
- When Democrats try to stand up for us by demanding accountability, they get hooted down.
- We have a phantom C.E.O. as the Secretary of Energy.
- He doesn’t have much experience in the business (I’m not sure how relevant “specialty chemicals” are…we could also be talking about peyote for all I know), but he does know how to be Dubya’s kind of guy.
- His former company sought a material used for PC board conduction of electricity by aiding a resistance in the Congo that ended up fueling existing wars and leading to widespread human rights abuses, and also ruining the environment in the process (according to a U.N. report).
To paraphrase Brendan…”Samuel W. Bodman – Working For You!” And as far as complaining about the price of gas goes…well, let’s just say that we’re all giving Hugo Chavez and his buddies a good laugh.

Update 1/27: Speaking of Chavez, it turns out that he's going to help the poor of Philadelphia by supplying discounted heating oil (registration required). How pathetic that the supposed richest country on earth has to rely on a South American socialist to provide for its neediest citizens because the capitalist cabal that is busy running us into the ground doesn't feel that there's enough of a profit in it for them.

Conti Take A Joke?

Geez…I mean, just because he got busted on for supposedly using the money he got from the illegal PA pay raise to buy a new hot water heater (by John Grogan of the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others), does that mean that he has to do this?

(and yes...just to set the record straight, Conti returned the dough from the "unvouchered expense" pay raise.)

Actually, Conti really isn’t bad for a Repug, since, when you work in state and local politics in PA, you actually have to provide something that approximates constituent service. I realize that’s something that the Abramoff crooks and the Dobsonite zombies in our nation’s capital will never understand, but fortunately, Conti does.

I can’t help but think this is a great big “middle digit raised on high” from Conti to Harry Fawkes, chairman of the Bucks County, PA Republican party, for supporting Mike Fitzpatrick in 2004 in the congressional election to fill Jim Greenwood’s vacant seat, even though Greenwood himself preferred Conti. Of course, I have absolutely no way of knowing that for sure. Also, since Conti has some talent and ability, it sounds like he has some prospects lined up both in the business world and academia also, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.

One of the individuals Alison Hawkes, the reporter for the Bucks County Courier Times, referred to as a possibility to run as a Republican for Conti’s seat is Dave Steil, our PA state representative. I would support Ginny Schrader regardless, but I’d have a tough time since Steil has actually done a good job.

Oh well. At least it should make for a more interesting campaign.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Don't Love That Dirty Water

(with apologies to The Standells)

ABC and other media outlets have reported that Kellogg, Brown, and Root (which is, of course, a subsidiary of Halliburton, as I’m sure we all know by now), according to testimony of former Halliburton employees at “Camp Junction City” in Iraq, provided untreated water to base personnel for “showering, shaving, and laundry.”

(That sound you heard was Dick Cheney’s heart skipping a beat in joy because that meant an uptick in the company’s share price – see, the cost of cleanup means higher company compensation from the government as part of their “cost plus” arrangement. However, in case The White-Haired Prince Of Evil experienced this palpitation for any other reason, some may want to keep the paddles ready just in case.)

The ABC news link mentions that KBR company spokesperson Melissa Norcross stated as follows:

"Although these individuals claim to have been adversely affected by the water at the site, they have provided no medical evidence to substantiate their claims," she said.
Ms. Norcross, somehow I believe that, if Ben Carter and Ken May were to produce the “evidence” you seek, then you would become as utterly nauseated as they are. Also, patient medical information happens to be confidential, such as the test results of your last pap smear.

This note at the end of the ABC story is “business as usual” also:

Halliburton is not sending any representatives to today's inquiry, and no Republicans are participating in the inquiry.
That’s a great, big, raised-on-high-middle-digit aimed at the whistle blowers and the committee from those good corporate citizens at Halliburton. And you’d better believe the Repugs would avoid this committee like those kids in the swimming pool in “Caddyshack” avoided the Baby Ruth bar.

This link from Halliburton Watch provides more interesting details, including this choice item.

Carter and May also describe instances where a site manager urged everyone to conceal contamination information from the company's health and safety department. According to May, statements were made in an "All Hands Meeting" by then Site Manger Suzanne-Raku Williams, Warren Smith, and acting Medic Phillip Daigle suggesting that if anyone became sick, it was probably from the handles from the port-a-lets toilets and not from water contamination. In response, Ken May resigned out of disgust and frustration.
Yep, those bad “port-a-let” handles also cause syphilis and gonorrhea too. Didn’t Carter and May watch the Army training films?

And I haven’t even mentioned how KBR enforces its strict standards in food preparation yet, have I?

Seriously, if you want to do something about this (the equivalent of chopping at a brick wall with a butter knife at this point, I know, but that’s the type of fight we’re looking at with the Repugs in charge – and, now as always, it must be said yet again: THANK YOU RED STATE VOTERS!), then sign this petition from Rep, Louis Slaughter to set up a Truman-style commission such as the one our former president founded during World War II to investigate fraud and waste.

If you’re hoping for the “DLC-Repug-Lite-Democrats” to do it for us, keep hoping. As Truman himself might say were he with us now, the buck stops with you and me.

Ashes And Sack Cloth Time

Local PA politics (be warned…)

As a Roman Catholic, I should point out that the Lenten and Easter observance is the most sacred time of the liturgical year for members of our faith. It is over a month away, but in spite of that, it’s probably a good time for me to do penance of a sort (and by the way, I am not trying to be irreverent towards that by what I will say afterwards in this post).

Am I going to apologize for anything I’ve said about Dubya, Cheney, Condi, Rummy, Scumbag Santorum, Gonzales, Alito, or any one of a number of other miscreants?

No. The person I have in mind is Andy Warren, one of the Democratic candidates for the U.S. House seat in the Eight Congressional district in Bucks County, Pa. I think the worst thing I ever said about him was calling him a horse’s butt in a post awhile back, but still, I think I should cut the guy a bit of a break.

I’ve had some communication with him recently (really can’t get into the circumstances…long and boring story anyway), and I think he means well enough. He may actually be running for the reasons that he says he is; namely, because he thinks he can make a difference and help this district with the issues impacting our lives and those of our families.

That being said though, I should state flatly that, unless we see the greatest political meltdown in the history of recorded time by Warren’s primary opposition (namely Patrick Murphy), Warren is going to be absolutely flattened by Murphy a few months from now.

This is a link to Andy Warren’s website, which I found after about three different Google searches (a comparison to Murphy’s slick site is almost a cruel exercise).

To say that it contains the usual political bromides is being kind. To say that you get NO CLUE as to what Warren believes to be the most important political issues in Bucks County is being kinder still. There are even word spacing problems and a stray typo or two in the site text.

Also, I have to point out that Warren is not the most photogenic person you are ever likely to meet. I’m sorry if that’s being unkind, but it’s the truth, and people vote based on that stuff (hell, people do EVERYTHING based on that stuff). I’m not a movie star either, but on the other hand, I’m not running for the U.S. House.

(Note: the photo in my profile is that of actor Patrick McGoohan in the mid ‘60s around the time he made the T.V. series “Danger Man” in the U.K., which became “Secret Agent” in the U.S. with that kickin’ theme by Johnny Rivers, probably the best T.V. theme song ever recorded for my money. I’ve always admired McGoohan as an actor and also as a person who has tried to project some sense of morality in the characters he portrayed, even the bad ones. I’d put my real photo there, but I’m more handsome:-).

Andy, please let me speak frankly here. Patrick Murphy has a HUGE leg up on you at this point in the blogger community (I don’t even think most other bloggers even know you exist), which means money and positive word of mouth among other Democrats, and I would guess that most of them are younger voters who wouldn’t respond to you anyway even if Murphy had no web presence at all (Murphy being a “fresher face” aside from his solid credentials). This is partly because Murphy is a veteran returning from a war the majority of the people of this country don’t want us to fight.

Besides, even if, by some cosmic circumstance, you actually DID win the Democratic nomination, the Repugs would find all kinds of ways to push your buttons and make your life a living hell in the general election. And with your penchant for making the wrong remark at the wrong time, you'd be sunk in nothing flat.

I read that when Warren decided to run for the Democratic nomination, he left his job at PENNDOT “immediately” to begin campaigning (if that’s true, then not bothering to give notice was highly unwise). If I were in his shoes, I’d go back to Eddie and try to cut the best deal I could to get my old job back, assuming that is still possible.

Update 1: Speaking of upcoming PA elections, "Sideshow Bob" Casey Jr. and his UTTER, STUPID JOKE OF A CANDIDACY FOR THE U.S. SENATE officially hits a new low (via Atrios). However, Ed Rendell has depressed me unutterably by casting his lot with Scalito as well. And lest anyone be confused by adding this update to this post, rest assured that I would sooner drill a metal stud into my forehead than feel any sense of remorse for these comments.

Chuck, it looks like you're the only shot we have.

Update 2: I just received an email containing all kinds of stuff on Fitzpatrick, including donations from Jack Abramoff (tee hee...thanks to Eric Karp). You can link to all the information here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

In A Broken Dream

(yes, I know that technically doesn’t count as a solo tune…sue me).

After reading this post from the blogger First Draft (via Atrios), in which Gen. Michael V. Hayden of the NSA stated that instead of “probable cause,” illegal spying can be carried out on “a reasonable basis to believe,” I realized how truly blessed I was that I could now vent on what are, to me, two of my most loathsome subjects:

George W. Bush….AND ROD STEWART!!

Yes, he was great with the Faces. Yes, he had a nice run as a solo performer for a time. But guess what, Rod? IT’S OVER. Actually, I’m incorrect about that. IT’S LONG PAST OVER! Don’t ever imagine covering a Cole Porter show tune again, or I may be motivated to perform an act of violence.

Also, I remember those moments of bitchiness you had with Elton John (hey, as long as what he does behind closed doors is consensual, what the hell do I care? Besides, I’ve seen him put on some great shows) and Paul McCartney (whining because you were criticized for remarrying and he wasn’t…hey Rod, Linda DIED, OK? You last trophy wife just got too old for your liking, apparently. You get it?).

With all of that in mind (about Dubya/Hayden/Gonzales…the whole sorry bloody lot)…

If I listened long enough to you
I couldn’t think, because my brain would turn to goo
Knowing that you lie, straight faced while I try
To still find a reasonable basis to believe

General, F.U. – take your warrantless searches
And tell your boss to comply with the law
General, F.U. – Our laws and our courts
Will still be here when you’re gone, after all

Though your methods often give me pause
You listen with a standard lower than probable cause
The Constitution we’ll kiss bye bye, and hope al Qaeda will die
As we look to find a reasonable basis to believe

(tinny violin solo)

If we trusted everything you say
We’d all be brainwashed by the NSA
Ramadi would be blight, no terrorist “wedding” in sight
With no one left to find a reasonable basis to believe
Oh, by the way Rod, one more thing:

Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits…NO MORE COVERS!!

It's Not Over Yet

I meant to get around to this last week, but...

Dear Friend,

Last week I asked you to sign a petition calling on Senate Democrats to stand together and block Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Your response was overwhelming. Twenty-five thousand people across the country signed the petition to make their voices heard -- an incredible accomplishment. And, I thank you.

Today, we are delivering the petition to Democratic Leaders in the Senate to let them know how concerned we are about Samuel Alito and the threat he poses to our fundamental rights and freedoms. While the debate rages on in Washington about the politics of opposing Alito, this petition will remind them that some things, such as the sanctity of our constitutional protections, are more important than the political winds of the moment.

This week's news out of Washington, D.C. is heartening. We applaud a growing group of Democratic Senators, who are taking a stand and opposing the Alito nomination. Samuel Alito is an extreme conservative who showed his true colors in the hearing room. For all the reasons in our petition, this is not a man who belongs on our nation's highest court. He cannot be trusted to safeguard our Constitution.

We have never backed down from a fight -- and we won't this time. Thank you for caring so deeply about our American traditions and values.

Your friend,

This is how someone with true leadership qualities acts in a public forum - basically, they lead. As Molly Ivins tells us in quite possibly her finest column, Mrs. Clinton and some of the "DLC Democrats" would do well to follow John Edwards' example.

Monday Media Moron Number Two

This insufferable partisan dreck actually appeared in the Inquirer yesterday from Kevin Ferris, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to say anything about it.

The wrong committee to probe wiretapping

You can learn a lot in a Senate confirmation hearing.

For one thing, you can learn who's qualified for a job. Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. showed why the American Bar Association rated him well-qualified. He's smart, experienced, and he's a model of sound judicial temperament. He answered question after question - often the exact same question over and over again - calmly, with dignity, and with respect for his interrogators.
Do you mind giving us some insight into the content of Alito’s answers? Do you mind devoting even a spec of your column to the fact that Alito’s answers featured numerous “I can’t recall” moments such as the entire Concerned Alumni of Princeton flap and his decision to rule in the Vanguard case even though he was a sizeable participant in one of their mutual funds? Oh, and I like the way you sneak in “interrogators.” My guess is that there are veterans out there who have been taken prisoner in war who would object to such an offhand comparison of senators doing their job – the whole “advise and consent” thing – versus the enemy subjecting our people to inhumane treatment.

You can also learn who might not be qualified, including certain U.S. senators.
Let the blanket generalizations begin!

Which leads to the third thing:

The Senate Judiciary Committee isn't the right place to examine the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping ordered by President Bush. Try the Senate Intelligence Committee. Or assemble a panel of experts to question witnesses. Just keep it away from Judiciary.
This actually is an interesting point, but the problem is that such hearings, as far as I’m concerned, MUST be conducted in the open. I believe that the Senate Intelligence Committee would reserve the right for closed-door hearings, but I would need to investigate that more thoroughly. As you will read, though, I didn’t follow up on Ferris’ suggestion because his column will quickly dissolve into a comical rant very shortly, one that really doesn’t deserve serious consideration by anyone.

Despite the best efforts of chairman Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) at the Alito hearings, the nominee's actual answers took a backseat to speechifying, smear tactics and partisanship. And the games continued after the hearings. Sen. Joe Biden (D., Del.) complained that the system was broken. Skip the hearings, and go right to the Senate floor, he said. (Why? So the nominee cannot defend himself? Keeps emotional spouses out of camera range?) Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) says the confirmation process is too political. (Pause to let readers' laughter subside.)
Funny, but I don’t recall Ferris complaining about “partisanship” when Newt Gingrich and the GOP attack dogs in Congress barked like crazy whenever Clinton and Gore did anything they didn’t like (Trent Lott and his childish whining about Al Gore’s claim that he “invented the Internet,” when in reality Gore misspoke and meant to say that he took the lead role in government funding for development – absolutely true, by the way – reached almost Biblical portions to the point where it is now virtually impossible to remove the misquote attributed to Gore from the English-speaking lexicon). I also don’t understand Ferris’ bizarre remark that a nominee “could not defend himself” in the event of a Senate floor vote, when in reality the majority leader could call for an up-or-down vote without comment on either side. Also, Ferris (in one of his MANY disingenuous moments) recalls Martha Alito’s crying on cue from Lindsay Graham so it could be dutifully recorded for all time as being initiated by some "evil, partisan liberal."

Yes, there was some Democratic hyperbole, but in my opinion, it was deserved. Acknowledge that there has been hyperbole on both sides with all parties believing they were right, and then move on. And one more thing – I know, as far as you, Glenn McCoy, and your other fellow travelers are concerned, Ted Kennedy is a drunken, womanizing, liberal blowhard. Ha ha – what a riot (keep it up, and I’ll keep making the same snide remarks about Dubya, as well as his past fondness for a certain powdery white substance). Well, I hate to break the news to you, but assuming that you have any pretense of fairness whatsoever, I would ask that you read this (which doesn’t even discuss Kennedy’s military service, by the way). Also, I seem to recall Specter getting all in a huff over Kennedy’s insistence on seeing the Alito letter regarding the whole “concerned alumni” flap, when in reality Kennedy had made the request for the letter on December 22nd, but for some reason the letter had not been produced. That sounds like a reasonable source of disagreement to me.

With luck, the Alitos can tune this committee out after its expected vote on his nomination Tuesday. With NSA hearings scheduled to start next month, however, the shrill partisanship will ramp up again.
As well it should, seeing as how Dubya clearly broke the law in accordance with the FISA and continues to do so.

Of course, there should be hearings on the NSA affair. Even the President agrees.
That’s “mighty white” of Dubya, wouldn’t you say? I mean, especially since, well…you know…we allegedly elected him to office anyway.

Update: Speaking of the preznit, here's to that whopping 36 percent approval rating that was just announced (hat tip to Atrios). Woo hoo!

As Michael Franc, vice president of the Heritage Foundation, argues, the country is now putting in place the tools it will need to fight Islamic fascism for the long term, just as, in the late 1940s, Harry Truman and a bipartisan coalition created the institutions that would see us through the Cold War. Hearings, Franc says, could help set the agenda.
Since Ferris didn’t point out that The Heritage Foundation tows the right-wing Repug line 150 percent with NO ALLOWANCE for a dissenting point of view, I feel I should do that myself. Of course, I’ve seen Ferris point out that and People For The American Way are organizations which traditionally support Democrats, which is just about always the case. Can you say “double standard”?

Also, by "created the institutions to see us through The Cold War”…you mean, “institutions” like the HUAC? It would have been nice if Ferris had prodded Franc a bit more on what he meant, but I suppose that would have conflicted with his apparent role of right-wing shill and talking point stenographer.

"Go back and look at the 9/11 commission hearings," he says. "There was good incisive questioning on big concerns that needed to be resolved by policymakers... . In an open democracy, we need as many of those moments as possible to help understand what's at stake. Not just sound bites, but legitimate constitutional issues."
You can thank Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton for that (and as we know, Kean pointed out towards the end of last year that the Bush Administration and the Repug congress have fallen woefully short of implementing the committee’s recommendations. Also, the 9/11 Commission never even would have been assembled if Dubya had had his way; it took Congress, prodded by the victims’ families, to make it a reality.

There's the rub. Will we get sound bites or incisive questioning from the Judiciary Committee? Or will witnesses merely be props in the back-and-forth between Democrats attacking the administration and Republicans defending it? Such antics risk ignoring the main issue.
As I said, when Repugs attack, they’re “defending America from government waste,” or “fighting terrorism.” When Dems attack, it’s “not supporting the president,” or “advocating a liberal agenda” (or “performing antics like partisan interrogators,” as Ferris might say).

"This is really about penetrating the communications of the enemy in a war where intelligence is more important than in any war we've ever had," says Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted suspects in the first World Trade Center bombing. "We can't conquer their territory. We can't blockade them. Our only effective offense is to gather information to try to find out what they'll hit next and try to prevent that."
No it isn’t. It’s about gathering any kind of information that may be available whatsoever about Americans in order to silence dissent. Why else would Bush care about what kind of search engine keyword searches people are using on the Internet? Do they really think someone is going to “Google” the following: “al Qaeda, bin Laden, terrorism, destroy Sears tower, fertilizer bomb, nuclear warhead”? If they do, then we’re worse off with these clowns that I thought.

As I and others have pointed out already, it is incredibly easy to get a warrant to conduct a wiretap. Hell, you can even go ahead and do it without one as long as you get one within 72 hours. Obeying the letter of the law on this really isn’t that difficult – Clinton managed to do it just fine.

That's the sobering starting point for any hearings on the NSA wiretaps. And there are a host of questions to raise, many of which cannot be answered in an open, made-for-TV hearing:
Why can’t they be answered in front of TV cameras? I guess that doesn’t jive with some Stalinist, police-state fantasy you have of how this country should work, does it?

How exactly does the NSA wiretapping work? Is it necessary? Does it help keep al-Qaeda in check? Is it preventing attacks, saving American lives? Are we sure it's not targeting political opponents? And if it is necessary, how does the program continue? Does the president alone have the authority or does the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in the 1970s, need to be updated to fight a 21st-century war?
These questions, as far as I’m concerned, are largely irrelevant, though I will acknowledge that we should be careful about revealing details on T.V. However, there has already been FAR TOO MUCH secrecy with this government, and it’s not like they’ve done a very competent job with it either.

To answer these questions, the country needs leaders more focused on wartime enemies than political foes. And right now there's good reason to suspect that the senators who grilled Alito are not up to the job.
I don’t think Tom Coburn is certainly up to it, based on his bizarre riff in front of Alito on prostitution during the hearings (yes, I know he meant to lead into yet another attack on Roe v. Wade, which you can kiss goodbye to if Alito gets in anyway - and isn’t it curious that Ferris omits that but takes a shot at Ted Kennedy? Sure…that’s really “fair and balanced,” isn’t it?).

I think this is the deal with Ferris (and by the way, what exactly is “Back Channels”? I guess that’s some type of bogus category name that the Inquirer came up with to make it as nondescript as possible to placate one group or another, like calling “Review and Opinion” the “Currents” section, which doesn’t make sense to me either):

He started out as some kind of faux liberal type who, some time ago, got on his metaphorical high horse about, of all things, paying reparations to slave descendants, but was soundly rebuffed (and by the way, I know John Conyers took the lead on that, but I give Conyers credit for realizing that there were all kinds of problems with that issue and giving up on it – e.g., my ancestry is partly Irish Catholic, and though my descendants didn’t come over to this country shackled, they were about three or four steps ahead of the blight from the potato famine, and they ended up cleaning toilets and doing similar work for long hours in indentured servitude also; since there were anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia and elsewhere in this country into the 1920s, why wouldn’t I qualify for reparations? See where it starts to get “sticky”?)

Since that little misadventure, Ferris has been pretty dogged in “waving his right-wing colors,” even, at one point, saying that Bush should “take a bow” for helping Democracy to flourish in Iraq, or words to that effect, when in reality all that is flourishing in Iraq is violence and the Shiite influence of Iran. I only recall these little tidbits from Ferris’ inglorious work, since I have to admit that I am prone to ignore him based on all of this. However, I actually paid attention to him on this occasion, when I guess I should have known better.

I should actually complain to the publisher about this bilious nonsense, but I have a feeling the paper is more concerned with what will happen to them after they’re sold and how they’ll meet their payroll and maintain circulation, which are huge concerns I realize. However, continuing to kow tow to the right wing bullet heads by publishing dross such as this will not do anyone any good and may, in fact, hasten the paper’s demise anyway.

Monday Media Moron Number One

Today's scurrilous Glenn McCoy cartoon, dutifully republished in the Inquirer, shows a couple sitting at a dinner table with the man reading a newspaper (never the woman to McCoy's way of thinking, I guess) saying "I can't remember why we didn't vote for Al Gore in 2000" in the first panel, and in the second panel, a highly uncomplimentary caricature of Gore on television appears with him yelling, "George Bush should be impeached for spying on terrorists!," and the man reading the paper says, "Oh, now I remember."

I recognize partisan political crap when I read it, but there's a problem here beyond that, and that is that Gore never called for Bush's impeachment in his recent speech on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, though he did accuse Bush of breaking the law, which is absolutely correct.

As I've said before, it must be nice to be a conservative and a Repug apologist and not feel bound by anything that approximates fairness, truth, or reality as we know it.