Friday, March 17, 2006

Let The Feds Do It

(…if our local elected officials are going to botch the job, I mean…)

I’m pretty much staying in this area today with these posts, as it turns out.

As I read the article in the Bucks County Courier Times about the fact that new voting machines have been selected by the county commissioners, and I saw the quote from Deena Dean, the director of the county’s board of elections, I couldn’t help but remember Theresa LePore, the Supervisor of Elections for Palm Beach County in Florida, which was the epicenter of the recount storm in the 2000 presidential election between Dubya and Al Gore.

See, LePore thought she was actually doing the right thing also by making the butterfly ballots easier for the predominantly-senior-citizen population to read, though in the process she introduced the potential for fraud that didn’t exist before by messing up the layout of the ballot (instead of the presidential candidates lining up as Bush, Gore and Pat Buchanan, it appeared as if Buchanan was second, and he received a lot of votes intended for Gore – there were many other problems of course, but that was one of them).

How many ways did the Bucks County Commissioners mess this up?

Well, in addition to dragging their feet because they really didn’t want the new machines anyway, thus risking federal funds, they ended up purchasing the most expensive type of machine (the Danaher Corp. machine) that DOES NOT guarantee a paper trail of each vote.

(By the way, Danaher is the last name of the characters played by both Maureen O’Hara and Victor McLaglen, who are brother and sister, in “The Quiet Man,” so this post has an Irish theme also!)

Oh, but the county’s residents are going to be more familiar with the interface, if you will, of the new machines, since apparently it is most like that of the machines that are being replaced. And apparently, THAT was the determining factor. That’s important, sure, but that shouldn’t make or break the deal. What’s the problem with a short-term learning curve on the new machines as long as they ensure accuracy?

I believe that it will literally take a federal law to ensure paper-trail compliance (such as the one Rush Holt once sponsored in the U.S. House – click here for more). There are some things that states should do as opposed to the federal government, but this isn’t one of them.

And even though Sandra Miller, the lone Democrat on the board of commissioners, ended up voting against the machines, what did she think she was going to accomplish by trying to show up the Coalition for Voting Integrity?

Another thing – I have to laugh at the way the Bucks County Courier Times, in an editorial today, framed this whole issue as if somehow “activists” are to blame for the government making the county spend the money on the new machines. Florida, November 2000…voting officials in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade holding up keypunch cards to check for fully-punched, hanging versus partially perforated or dimpled chads…the Repug-orchestrated Miami-Dade riot to stop the recount long enough for Katherine Harris, Bush’s Florida campaign chairperson, to certify the results and send the whole mess to court…these machines have been purchased in an admittedly feeble attempt TO MAKE SURE THAT NONSENSE NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN!!

Also, I don’t completely understand why the representative from Election Systems and Software would have denigrated his own product the way he did by saying that the company’s optical scanning machine would be less reliable than the Danaher touch screens – why would this person blow the sale by doing that? However, even though the ES&S machine apparently won’t be used (as of now, anyway), I want to point out some drawbacks of the Danaher machine (as mentioned in an editorial this morning in the Courier Times which, despite this, heartily congratulated the commissioners):

What the critics (of the Danaher machine) prefer is a paper ballot prepared by the voters and read and stored electronically. This would create the opportunity for a hand count if needed.

The paper record provided by the open-face (Danaher) machine can be printed out, which means it simply reflects the information stored in the machine. And if that information is in dispute or has somehow become corrupted, there is no written record to compare the electronic data to.

This is where the new system could run into trouble, although the new machines could be retrofitted for paper ballots if state election officials approve it. Meanwhile, the commissioners will have to cross their fingers, which isn’t to suggest they made a risky pick.
Of course they didn’t make a risky pick. They just picked a machine that doesn’t allow for a backup and created the potential for a legal “hornet’s nest” if something ever goes wrong.

Just to repeat, click here to help make sure the feds take care of this, since Jim Cawley and the Bucks commissioners apparently can't handle it themselves.

Imeacht gan teacht ort

(It's Gaelic for, "May you leave without returning," a totally appropriate wish for the subject of this post - this will probably be it for the "Irish thing" today.)

Andy Warren’s campaign for the Democratic nomination to run against Mike Fitzpatrick for the PA 8th District U.S. House seat continues to reach new depths. Now, as a commenter reported at Above Average Jane’s site last Tuesday:

Andy Warren, not content with having his subordinates slander (Patrick) Murphy in blog commentary, has now recruited someone to challenge his signatures."
Also, on Wednesday (from the Courier Times):

Patrick Murphy, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. 8th District congressional seat, which is held by Republican Michael Fitzpatrick, is being challenged by a Bensalem voter. Murphy's petition challenger is Jane Faust, a Democratic voter from Bensalem, according to Larry Otter, the attorney representing some Cleansweep candidates in the court actions. Otter confirmed that Faust is the same former Republican committeewoman convicted in 1996 of forging signatures and consequently barred from holding elected office.
(For anyone unfamiliar with the PA Cleansweep slate of candidates, it should be pointed out that they formed as a result of outrage over the now-infamous PA legislative unvouchered-expense pay raise from last summer.)

I cannot find a link at the moment, but I remember reading Josh Nanberg, Patrick’s media contact, stating that there are approximately 11,000 signatures in question, but Patrick has substantially more than that to get on the ballot even if the signatures in question are found to be invalid, which is HIGHLY unlikely.

Andy, if this is the best that you’ve got, then you’re even more of a pitiable candidate than I imagined (and while this “dirt” plays out, you draw attention to Bucks County’s Red Cross shelter from your web site – is this your version of “good cop, bad cop”?).

Give up.

A Shillelagh Over The Head

Begorrah! Little Mikey Fitzpatrick is in need of a lesson, I would say (this is a bit of an update to the “Waging” Fairness post from yesterday, pertaining to the national minimum wage legislation proposed by U.S. House Rep. George Miller of CA).

Fitzpatrick voted to kill a vote on raising the minimum wage. Fitzpatrick voted against even considering giving America's lowest wage workers a raise, by rejecting consideration of a bill that would gradually raise the minimum wage by $2.10 – from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years. Civil, 8/10/2005 . Roll Call #365. Additionally, on May 18, 2005, Rep. George Miller introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over two years; the bill has over 100 co-sponsors - Mike Fitzpatrick is not one of them. H.R. 2429. The minimum wage has not been increased in eight years and 7.5 million American workers would directly benefit from a minimum wage increase. By contrast, members of Congress have raised their own pay seven times in the past eight years, including 2005.
To “he who does not wish to receive a hat tip,” many thanks once again (and I LOVE the secondary window opening up within the page - I'll try to do that some, maybe not; popup blockers create havoc with that sort of thing).

Blarney and Brilliance

Top o’ the mornin’ to y’all! Why, ‘tis a bit of a fine Spring day, with the dew still risin’ apiece o’er the bog and Barry Fitzgerald stumblin’ drunk out of a bar with the sun shining in his eyes and “The Bells of St. Marys” playin’ in his wee noggin from a pint o’too too many of the Guinness, whether he wants to hear it or not…

(yeah yeah, I know - just trying to have some fun...)

OK, so without further ado, here are some memorable quotes for this day:

The tears of the world are a constant quality. For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.

Samuel Beckett

When I came back to Dublin I was courtmartialled in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence.

One drink is too many for me and a thousand not enough.

Brendan Behan

Apostles of Freedom are ever idolized when dead, but crucified when alive.

The Irishman in English literature may be said to have been born with an apology in his mouth.

James Connolly

Those who are animated by hope can perform what would seem impossibilities to those who are under the depressing influence of fear.

Maria Edgeworth

Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.

I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use--silence, exile and cunning.

James Joyce

The safest road to hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

C.S. Lewis
And this is a bit of an oldie but goody from the old site last year (Irish personal ads from The Dublin News - hope it all worked out for everyone):

Heavy drinker, 35, Cork area. Seeks gorgeous sex addict interested in a man who loves his pints, cigarettes, Glasgow Celtic Football Club and starting fights on Patrick Street at three o'clock in the morning.
Bitter, disillusioned Dublin man, lately rejected by longtime fiancée,seeks decent, honest, reliable woman, if such a thing still exists in this cruel world of hatchet-faced bitches.
Ginger haired Galway man, a troublemaker, gets slit-eyed and shirty after a few scoops, seeks attractive, wealthy lady for bail purposes,maybe more.
Bad tempered, foul-mouthed old bastard, living in a damp cottage in the arse end of Roscommon, seeks attractive 21 year old blonde lady, with a lovely chest.
Limerick man, 27, medium build, brown hair, blue eyes, seeks alibi for the night of February 27 between 8 PM and 11:30 PM.
Optimistic Mayo man, 35, seeks a blonde 20 year old double-jointed super model, who owns her own brewery, and has an open-minded twin sister.
One more thing - just don't get too loaded today, OK? I don't want to see anything untoward happen to anyone. Besides, I need all the readership I can get!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Russ Feingold Is A Traitor"

Dr. Dean weighs in (and I use a bad word at the end because it's appropriate)...

That's (the title of this post) what Republicans want you to think.

They are so scared of having a legitimate debate about Iraq or national security that they have only one reaction to news of their failures or calls for accountability.

On Monday, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold introduced legislation to censure the President for breaking the law by creating a secret domestic spying program. Agree or disagree with his proposal, as a Senator -- and as an American -- he has the right to speak his mind and express his views without Republican Senators questioning his patriotism.

But that's exactly what happened. This week Republican Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado, in an interview with Fox News radio, said in response to Feingold's action that he has "time and time again [sided] with the terrorists".

Send a message to Senator Allard: shame on him for questioning the patriotism of another Senator. Sign this petition and it will be delivered to Allard:

Agree or disagree with Russ Feingold's censure resolution, it is completely out of bounds to suggest that anyone demanding accountability is siding with terrorists. It is simply un-American to question the patriotism and loyalty of a Senator who wants the Congress to live up to its responsibility.

We've heard this cowardly nonsense from Republican leaders before. They attacked decorated Veteran and Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha for getting real on Iraq. They attacked Democratic Leader Harry Reid for shutting down the Senate to demand answers about manipulated pre-war intelligence.

They have ended the careers of generals who questioned Bush Administration talking points, and they even attack their own when respectable Republicans speak out on the disaster this administration has created in Iraq and its failure to close the gaps in our security here at home.

And time and again, the Republican controlled congress has consistently failed to conduct real oversight of the Administration, choosing instead to protect the Administration.

But polls show that nearly 70% of Americans reject this president and the Republican Congress that has failed to hold him accountable. And together we will hold Republicans accountable at the ballot box this year.

That's why the Democratic Party is putting the infrastructure on the ground now to fight in all 50 states. People everywhere are saying "enough is enough" -- and we will be ready to organize and fight everywhere with your help.

Please contribute whatever you can to make it happen:

The sick behavior of desperate Republicans will only stop when we fight back, and 2006 is the time to do it.

Thank you,
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
Also, I think it was Atrios who mentioned earlier that, when asked about Feingold's motion for censure, White House mouthpiece Scott McLellan said something to the effect that, if some senators don't want Dubya to intercept al Qaeda's phone calls, that's their right.

Typical lying, fear-mongering bullshit...

"Waging" Fairness

This column actually appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer a week ago, and it contains a lot of the standard boilerplate that has been used to defeat attempts to raise both the minimum wage for states as well as the federal government.

Minimum wage hike? Maximum problems
By Mike Flynn

Oscar Wilde once cynically remarked, "All bad art is the result of good intentions." The same is often true of bad economic policy. A case in point: This month, the Pennsylvania Senate will consider a bill to raise the minimum wage - possibly to as high as $7.15 an hour.

The minimum wage was introduced in 1938 to combat the exploitative working conditions in an economy reeling from depression and economic shocks. Although economic realities have drastically improved since then, much of our discourse on the subject has not.
I think this Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Inquirer on Tuesday (referencing an earlier opinion column) shoots Flynn’s “economic conditions have greatly improved” myth all to pieces.

Carl Witonsky has it correct when he notes repression in China and compares it to the destruction of the middle class in the United States ("Repression U.S. style," March 7). What he doesn't seem to realize is that his outsourcing to a foreign country is what has spurred this destruction.

An unemployed machinist or computer technician doesn't give a hoot that the middle class in China or India is progressing. He is forced to take a minimum-wage job because outsourcing has eliminated his job and driven down wages and benefits. We are regressing to the days of long hours, low pay and no benefits - to say nothing of dangerous working conditions.

It's time for people to realize that the jobs this administration has touted as having created are too often minimum wage and/or part-time with no benefits. Try paying for health insurance with that.

Patricia Lee Sicilia
Continuing with Flynn's column...

Many still imagine the minimum wage as one of the front lines in the battle for economic justice, with unscrupulous bosses on the one side and the downtrodden masses on the other.

If only it were that simple.
If Flynn cares to look, I’m sure he wouldn’t have to go far to find “downtrodden masses” in soup kitchens and halfway houses. Also, just because the majority of unemployed people are on “mail claim” doesn’t mean that that “downtrodden mass” no longer exists either.

Caricatures like these have long allowed adherents of wage-hike policies a political free ride, despite the obvious costs of their proposals. If a company is forced to raise wages, it will also be forced to cut jobs or reduce hours in order to maintain a profit margin.
Companies do that ANYWAY even when they’re profitable. All it takes is one downward turn in the God-almighty stock price for the clarion call of “10 percent workforce reduction” to start sounding and the parade of unfortunates to the company conference rooms for the dreaded “meetings with H.R.” to begin anew.

Usually, entry-level positions are the first to be cut. This is a mere setback for a teenager starting his first job, but a disaster for a single parent, or sole earner of a family household.
I don’t know what information Flynn is basing that statement upon, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. In my experience, there are two main criteria that are used by companies to determine who stays and who goes: 1) salary, and 2) function (it also happens at times to settle old grudges, I'm displeased to admit). If you work in a “cost center” that doesn’t create revenue to sustain itself, and you’re bringing in what is by comparison a big salary, then usually you’re one of the first to get let go. However, if you earn less, you’ll probably keep your job, but your workload will at least double.

According to David Macpherson, a Florida State University economist, a wage increase in Pennsylvania would lead to the loss of more than 10,000 entry-level jobs and the economy would take a $350 million hit.
Is it too much to ask to provide a bit more information on how Macpherson came up with this grim assessment, such as how long he studied the PA workforce and what industries he surveyed, for example?

Meanwhile, the supposed benefits are minimal. Nearly half of all minimum-wage earners are teens or young people still living with their parents - many of them quite wealthy. Most are part-time employees. Eighty percent of the benefits of a raise in the minimum wage would go to families that are not poor.
How does Flynn come up with this “eighty percent” number? How does he define “not poor”?

Since he doesn’t have answers, I thought it best to include the following information (accessible from this link (concerning Pennsylvania's attempt to raise the minimum wage)):

How Many Pennsylvanians Would Benefit?

According to the Pennsylvania Dept of Labor and Industry, 257,000 or 7.9 % of the Pennsylvania's hourly workforce would benefit from a one dollar per hour increase in the state's minimum wage. 528,000 Pennsylvanians or 16.3% of the state's workforce would benefit from a two dollar per hour increase in the state's minimum wage. (According to data compiled by the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry from 2003 U.S. Dept. of Labor BLS Current Population Survey)

Who are Minimum Wage Workers?

- According to the PA Department of Labor and Industry, 75% of minimum wage workers are adults aged 19 and over. It is not true that the minimum wage is mostly an issue for teenagers.
- About 25% are in the 19-25 age group, where the reduced buying power of the minimum wage is a major factor in pricing college out of the reach of many working families. In the 70s a student could pay for tuition, room and board at a state college with a part-time, minimum wage job working on average 20 hours a week. Today, even a full-time minimum wage job would not come close to meeting college expenses. A student paying in-state tuition at would have to work 40 hours a week plus overtime to earn basic college expenses. For example, West Chester University tuition, room & board charges total $10,614 -- not including university fees, textbooks, transportation, etc. (And of course, a full-time student can not work full-time. Consider also that our neighboring states have lower college tuition rates and higher minimum wages—talk about brain drain)
- Women are twice as likely to earn the minimum wage as men. As we all know, a small family in poverty is, all too often, a mother with one or two children. It is no mere coincidence that nearly one out of five children lives in poverty—their mothers are minimum wage workers.
- Of adults over the age of 25, senior citizens are twice as likely to make the minimum wage as their younger counterparts.
Continuing again with Flynn's column...

While there remains a perception that large corporations will merely be reaching a little deeper into their already deep pockets in order to finance the wage hike, 97 percent of Pennsylvania firms are small businesses. They would be particularly ill-equipped to deal with the costs of raising employee wages.
How does Flynn define “Pennsylvania firms”? Firms based in this state, doing business in this state, or both? Does he account for firms that are based elsewhere that have some kind of operations or presence of one type or another in this state?

This is not to say that nothing useful can be done. Legislators have a great opportunity during a special hearing March 21 and 22 to work toward developing an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the commonwealth. This program, providing tax-free income, was originally instituted to reimburse working families for their federal income tax. Its success led a number of states to enact their own programs.
A tax credit? Is this guy serious? How the hell is that going to help a low-wage earner support themselves or a child, pay health care costs (which probably are exorbitant, because I’ve never heard of a low-wage job with decent benefits) and also pay commuting costs, as well as other expenses?

The Pennsylvania legislature could increase the credit according to the number of children in a household. Under such a program, a household head working full time and making minimum wage could potentially earn an effective wage rate of more than $7.20 an hour.

Working families with incomes of less than $25,000 a year receive 94 percent of federal EITC benefits. The program is specifically tailored to help those who are most in need. A wage hike, by contrast, simply disperses the money to whoever is making minimum wage, regardless of family income.
First of all, if a family income is approximately $25,000 a year, then we’re talking poverty of Dickensian proportions, and the tax credit would provide only marginal relief anyway. Second, sure the wage increased is “dispersed,” and then it is probably consumed immediately by the costs I mentioned above.

As former President Bill Clinton said: "We can increase the Earned Income Tax Credit by a couple of billion dollars a year and, far more efficiently than raising the minimum wage, lift the working poor out of poverty."
Yes, I know both Clinton and Gore supported the Earned Income Tax Credit, but Gore also supported raising the minimum wage. Also, Clinton wanted to let the states handle the minimum wage issue, and I believe he was talking about the best means for the federal government acting by itself to address the issue of unemployment and “the working poor” in this country.

As stated in this Wikipedia article:

Alternatively, in the United States, many economists see the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC, a wage subsidy) in the Federal income tax as providing the poverty-fighting benefits of the minimum wage without the non-budgetary costs, while being superior to most welfare state anti-poverty programs. One problem has been that many of the working poor (the target of this program) have a hard time with the tax forms needed to receive the EITC payment. There may also be long delays between when the money is needed and when the EITC payments are received. That is, a person might become eligible for the EITC in April but then get laid off for the rest of the year. But this person would not get help from the credit until nearly a year later (since Americans pay their taxes in April). Further, like with the minimum wage, those people working at home taking care of children and other loved ones do not receive any benefits; only those doing paid labor are rewarded.
Resuming Flynn's column for the last time...

There is no reason why the needs of low-income families throughout the state cannot be met with reasoned, considered policies. It is not enough merely to want to do good. To paraphrase somewhat, the road to economic stagnation and increased unemployment can be paved with good intentions. And good intentions are not enough.

Mike Flynn ( is director of legislative affairs at the Employment Policies Institute in Washington.
Flynn’s arguments are the typical sickening nonsense I always hear whenever anyone tries to raise the minimum wage. In Pennsylvania, there are three different bills in the legislature dealing with this issue, and my guess is that small businesses and an army of lobbyists have already worked them over ad nauseum to make sure they all get the breaks they want. For me, the bottom line is that it’s time for someone to “light a fire” under our politicians on this and move with speed (which of course, the Repugs will do eventually and try to claim credit for everything). After all, they had no problem getting it in gear on their unvouchered-expense, 2AM legislative pay raise last summer before ending their session, did they?

(Don't) See It Now

I read the blog entry that George Clooney supposedly wrote for The Huffington Post a day or so ago, and for CNN to say that it was “profanity-laced” or “profanity-filled” is patently ridiculous. I would link to it myself, but due to the controversy, it has been removed from The Huffington Post site.

It was a statement defining the fact that he is a liberal in a way that encouraged other people who felt the same way he did to do the same thing. I don’t recall exactly how he attempted to tie it to “Good Night and Good Luck” aside from linking to a promotional movie (which I was unable to run, by the way), but one of the reasons why he or his publicist wrote/compiled the post was to capitalize on the fact that the movie will be released to DVD shortly.

Arianna Huffington provided an explanation about the mixup that is entirely credible to me. The whole dustup is unfortunate because it diminishes from the fact that Clooney and Huffington are on the same side anyway, and provides grist for journalistic insects like Matt Drudge to portray the Democrats as squabbling little kids once again (as Peter Daou and others have noted so well, the “narrative” is more important than the actual story to our dear MSM cousins).

Get Busy, Liberals!

This appeared in the Opinion section of USA Today on Tuesday (trying to catch up on some stuff). It was so preposterous that it actually made me investigate the group this author claims to belong to, which is called the New America Foundation, run by Ted Halstead and James Fallows, who apparently have written the books “The Death of Sixties Liberalism,” and “The Radical Center.” Philip Longman is a “fellow” with this organization.

The liberal baby bust
By Phillip Longman

What's the difference between Seattle and Salt Lake City? There are many differences, of course, but here's one you might not know. In Seattle, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. In Salt Lake City, there are nearly 19% more kids than dogs.
I haven’t visited either of these places, but I have it on good authority that, if you’re looking for a place full of lefty nut jobs, Seattle is your destination (must be because of the rain – and yes, I know this is a gross generalization based on random anecdotes that I can’t link to, and I know the statement that Salt Lake City is full of a lot of uptight Mormons who are completely intolerant to any way of life except their own falls into the same general category, but there you are).

This curious fact might at first seem trivial, but it reflects a much broader and little-noticed demographic trend that has deep implications for the future of global culture and politics.
The fact that it seems trivial is because it IS trivial.

It's not that people in a progressive city such as Seattle are so much fonder of dogs than are people in a conservative city such as Salt Lake City. It's that progressives are so much less likely to have children.
Gee, I don’t know about that. We actually know couples who don’t share our political opinion who are deciding not to have kids for other reasons. Does that make them unusual somehow? I have a feeling that the answer to that question is no.

It's a pattern found throughout the world, and it augers a far more conservative future — one in which patriarchy and other traditional values make a comeback, if only by default.
OK, now this is where I start to get steamed. Since when is social or political progressivism or liberalism (whichever you prefer) separate from “traditional values”? In its best moments, these attitudes are based on an understanding of spirituality that preaches and practices compassion to people who are in need of assistance for whatever reason, a fervent desire to better oneself, and the courage to speak “truth to power,” based on the teaching of the Quakers. Those values are as “traditional” as you can get as far as I’m concerned. If they need to “make a comeback,” then DON’T blame it on liberalism or progressivism.

Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists.
“Secularists” meaning those heathen lefties who are all home wearing their tie dye T-shirts, listening to Grateful Dead CDs and smoking pot, in case you hadn’t guessed by now.

As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families.
I would guess that, if a couple decides to raise a large family, some sort of trait tied to ethnicity or religion or the fact that they grew up in large families themselves would have more to do with it that political beliefs.

Today, fertility correlates strongly with a wide range of political, cultural and religious attitudes. In the USA, for example, 47% of people who attend church weekly say their ideal family size is three or more children. By contrast, 27% of those who seldom attend church want that many kids.

In Utah, where more than two-thirds of residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 92 children are born each year for every 1,000 women, the highest fertility rate in the nation. By contrast Vermont — the first to embrace gay unions — has the nation's lowest rate, producing 51 children per 1,000 women.
I don’t know what the birth rate in Massachusetts is, but I would guess that it is not an insignificant number since the population is largely Irish Catholic, and you’d be hard pressed to find a group with a more prolific religious/ancestral upbringing than that one. Do I need to point out to you the political persuasion of that area?

Similarly, in Europe today, the people least likely to have children are those most likely to hold progressive views of the world. For instance, do you distrust the army and other institutions and are you prone to demonstrate against them? Then, according to polling data assembled by demographers Ron Lesthaeghe and Johan Surkyn, you are less likely to be married and have kids or ever to get married and have kids. Do you find soft drugs, homosexuality and euthanasia acceptable? Do you seldom, if ever, attend church? Europeans who answer affirmatively to such questions are far more likely to live alone or be in childless, cohabiting unions than are those who answer negatively.
This sounds like a gross oversimplification to me, but I don’t know anything about living in Europe, so I can’t really argue with Longman on this.

This correlation between secularism, individualism and low fertility portends a vast change in modern societies. In the USA, for example, nearly 20% of women born in the late 1950s are reaching the end of their reproductive lives without having children. The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and '70s, will leave no genetic legacy. Nor will their emotional or psychological influence on the next generation compare with that of people who did raise children.
So Longman is saying that 20 percent of the women born in the late ‘50s didn’t have kids. That means (let me get out my handy dandy calculator) that 80 percent of those women did. That’s a pretty substantial number. Also, Longman doesn’t have exact numbers of how many of the 80 percent tended to be liberal or conservative, only that they were “drawn from the countercultural movement” (let’s all “paint with a broad brush,” shall we?). To quote Dubya (and how often do I do that?), this sounds like “junk science.”

Single-child factor

Meanwhile, single-child families are prone to extinction. A single child replaces one of his or her parents, but not both.
I see that Longman is a bigger “math whiz” than I am.

Consequently, a segment of society in which single-child families are the norm will decline in population by at least 50% per generation and quite quickly disappear.
Really? I would think that, instead of disappearing, they would increase because single kids who marry would have single kids themselves in many cases because they would understand that kind of an environment. Also, for financial reasons (and neither I nor Longman have said anything about that, which I would argue is the number one factor behind whether or not a married couple decide to have kids), a one-child family is a practical solution.

In the USA, the 17.4% of baby boomer women who had one child account for a mere 9.2% of kids produced by their generation. But among children of the baby boom, nearly a quarter descend from the mere 10% of baby boomer women who had four or more kids.
So it sounds to me like this country’s population is going to get really gray really fast while the number of younger Americans dwindles. We’ve known that for some time, and at the end of this post, I’m going to go off a bit with my own opinion on that. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the politics of the vast majority of the people of this country.

This dynamic helps explain the gradual drift of American culture toward religious fundamentalism and social conservatism. Among states that voted for President Bush in 2004, the average fertility rate is more than 11% higher than the rate of states for Sen. John Kerry.
The divorce rate is higher also. How do you then account for the distinct possibility that many kids who grow up in some kind of custody arrangement are going to be more concerned about trying to put their lives back together than actually caring about either mommy or daddy’s politics?

It might also help to explain the popular resistance among rank-and-file Europeans to such crown jewels of secular liberalism as the European Union. It turns out that Europeans who are most likely to identify themselves as "world citizens" are also less likely to have children.
Longman keeps mixing up the populations of Europe and this country while trying to make his case, when in reality he isn’t doing a very job in either location because of the enormous amount of generalities he tries to pass off as scientific evidence.

Rewriting history?

Why couldn't tomorrow's Americans and Europeans, even if they are disproportionately raised in patriarchal, religiously minded households, turn out to be another generation of '68?
A large majority of the people who were raised during that time tended to be conservative despite their exposure to those bad “progressive secularists.” Again, I think it is because of ethnic and cultural factors that you can’t quantify for the purpose of scientific analysis.

The key difference is that during the post-World War II era, nearly all segments of society married and had children. Some had more than others, but there was much more conformity in family size between the religious and the secular. Meanwhile, thanks mostly to improvements in social conditions, there is no longer much difference in survival rates for children born into large families and those who have few if any siblings.
Survival rates have VIRTUALLY NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO with the size of the family into which a child is born! It has more to do with economic, genetic, and social factors affecting the life of the child and access to quality medical care than anything else.

Tomorrow's children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents' values, as often happens. But when they look for fellow secularists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

Many will celebrate these developments. Others will view them as the death of the Enlightenment. Either way, they will find themselves living through another great cycle of history.
Longman actually makes a good point here about the “baby boom” generation, which may go down, collectively, as the most spoiled bunch of narcissists that the world has ever seen (and I’m a member, so I can say that). In the 50s, the entire political and economic focus of this country was aimed at perpetuating the middle class, and that was partly accomplished by journeying out of the cities into the suburbs (that also meant turning our backs on the cities, but that’s another topic). As some of us may remember, this was the era of Levittown, T.V. dinners, one-earner households and the Ford Fairlaine automobile with the wooden door slots. Those days are dust in the wind, and that is largely a negative development as far as I’m concerned. Subsequent to that, the political and economic focus of this country changed from perpetuating the middle class to acquiring and consolidating wealth for the benefit of a percentage of this country’s population that shrinks by the minute, despite Repug propaganda over lo these many years that “you can be rich too” (though that goal was achieved for a lot of people during the boom of the ‘90s under – ironically – a Democratic president). I’m hard of my generation because, in the name of drinking the Repug “kool aid” doled out more effectively by Ronald Reagan than anyone else, we allowed the institutions and sense of civic responsibility so valued by many of our parents to disappear by not fighting to uphold them (and I don’t mean to absolve myself on that either). And a consequence of this to me is the decision by many Americans to either not marry or marry without having children in the pursuit of wealth or out of avoidance of past mistakes by their parents or family.

Besides, who’s to say that younger voters who were brought up in conservative families aren’t going to take a long, hard look at their beliefs after living through the utter debacle of the George W. Bush presidency and figure that liberals/progressives/Democrats/whatever aren’t so bad after all?

Those to me are the biggest factors that decide whether or not a couple decides to have kids. Ethnic and/or other cultural factors come into play as far as I’m concerned, but political considerations to me have not one shred of impact. And to me, the capability of a child maturing into adulthood to measure life experience, acquire knowledge, and ultimately develop core beliefs that would be manifest in a political affiliation one way or another is too complicated of a process to be quantified in some half-baked opinion column such at this one.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Giving Us A Lube Job

At least they were sworn in this time.

Oh, but oil company mergers are needed so that our ever growing economy can continue to provide opportunities, realize development efficiencies and streamline operations, right? Oh, and bigger profits also? Why, how on earth did that happen?

Anyone who doubts the clout of these individuals should read about their reaction to Dubya’s most recent claim in his State of the Union address that this country should work towards energy independence.

But still, of course, the oil company executives continue to search for sources of oil to keep our economy growing (for who is the big question, though). What else can you expect from such great Americans (as noted here):

(Sen. Carl) Levin (chairman of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations) cited a 1999 internal memo from BP Amoco PLC that said "there are significant opportunities to influence the crude supply/demand balance," two of which were to "offer supply agreements [with other major oil companies] in exchange for [refining] capacity shutdown" and to "move product into southern Ontario." But Ross Pillari, BP's group vice president for U.S. marketing in Warrenville, Ill., told the panel that "all these suggestions were rejected."

Not satisfied, Levin asked, "Would you agree these proposals are outrageous?"

"Yes, I would," Pillari said. "People were counseled on the inappropriateness of these suggestions."

In a confidential 1998 memo discovered by subcommittee investigators during their 10-month probe of gas pricing in the United States, a Marathon Oil Co. "Short-Term Price Outlook" said: "As OPEC and other exporters' efforts to rein in output began bearing fruit, Nature stepped in to lend the oil producers a helping hand in the form of Hurricane Georges, which caused some major refinery closures, threatened off-shore oil production and imports, and generally lent some bullishness to the oil futures market."

"This is an amazing document," Levin said about the reference to the hurricane that killed hundreds of people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in September 1998. He asked Gary R. Heminger, president of Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC, "What do you say about that?"

"I apologize that my company would take pleasure in a hurricane," Heminger quickly replied. "We would not want anything to happen to anyone."
Sounds to me like someone "got their hand caught in the cookie jar" (tsk tsk).

And I was motivated to stand up and salute Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas…surprised?) over his introduction of the “Gasoline for America’s Security” bill (GAS for short…couldn’t Frank Luntz come up with anything catchier than that?) as noted here (also note that I didn’t specify the finger I used to “salute” Barton):

A number of the bill's provisions were removed during house debates, most notably a proposal to weaken air pollution controls for thousands of industrial facilities. This would have occurred through a rollback of the so-called "new source review" program, which dates back to amendments to the 1977 Clean Air Act.

Chris Cooper of GRACE questioned whether these measures--considered more extreme by environmental advocates--were only included to make other aspects of the bill seem less so.

"Sometimes you have to wonder if the political strategy of the industry is to put in something so damaging to the environment to give cover to moderate conservatives," he said.

Other aspects of the bill would instruct the president to designate new refinery sites on federal lands, perhaps in national parks or retired military bases. The bill calls for the expedited approval of refinery permits by moving legal debates from state and local courts to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C, and it would allow refineries to appeal to the government for compensation if operations are stalled by unforeseen regulation or litigation.

No new refinery has been built in the United States since 1976 and memos from the 1990s reveal that major energy companies warned they needed to reduce the number of refineries in order to boost profits, according to Public Citizen.
But of course the first and foremost concern of these titans of industry is meeting our country’s growing energy needs. Of course. Right.

And I’m the tooth fairy.

"Real Time" Update

The show started with a comedy bit with a man and woman (“Somewhere in South Dakota,” presumably married) and the woman holds up the results of a pregnancy test, and tells her husband that the test is positive. Almost as soon as she tells her husband she’s pregnant, the phone rings, and a lady phone rep from “EPT Services” says, “We’ve picked up a conception. Is everything all right?” and the woman says yes, with both she and her husband looking surprised while the rep says, “I notified the governor, and we’re sending someone right away.” As soon as the woman hangs up, the doorbell rings, and a gruff voice at the door says, “We’re here to protect the fetus.” The voice over for the commercial says, “EPT Security. Protecting South Dakota’s Unborn Since Last Monday,” with two armed guards standing next to the man and woman who are sitting on the sofa.

In the monologue, Bill Maher said to the audience, “I think I know why you’re in such a good mood; the Dubai Ports World deal is dead. Now port security will go back to the same people who handled it before – nobody.” Maher also said that “an unnamed American entity will take over and the rumor is – get this – that it’s Halliburton” (God, I hope that’s a joke, but you never know). About Bush, Maher said, “Talk about arrogant…you know how Bush always stands in front of these backgrounds with writing in front of them? The one he stood in front of today said ‘Eat Me’.” “I’ve said many times,” Maher continued, “that Bush doesn’t know a lot of people. It was either going to be the Arabs handling port security, Halliburton, Harriet Miers, or Sammy Sosa. And he’s still fighting for the deal! Bush said that canceling the DPW deal sends a bad message to the Arab world. You know, not like invading their countries, putting them on leashes, making them masturbate…but bad.” And speaking of “putting them on leashes,” Maher said “they finally closed Abu ‘Ghraib-ass’ prison. And I don’t know if this is a coincidence or not, but in the same week, they’re closing Neverland. Look, there’s no place now for a young pervert to work out new material. And speaking of perverts, the president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops has been accused by a woman who said she was molested 40 years ago. Now I’m no defender of the Catholic Church, but some of these charges are getting preposterous. I mean…with a woman?” Maher also noted that “they caught those three scamps setting those church fires in Alabama. They said it was just a big joke that got out of hand. I guess when they’re being sodomized in prison, they can think of it as just ‘poking fun’.”

Concerning homeland security, Maher said that we’re being told that the birds carrying the dreaded ‘bird flu’ could reach our shores in three months, though “Bush is fully prepared – he’s going to have Cheney shoot them.” Cheney’s approval rating is at 18 percent, Maher said, “and more people disapprove of Bush’s character now (my note: he has any?) and they no longer consider him a strong leader on terrorism. I guess, as far as Bush is concerned, there’s a little bit more to this Presidency thing than just not getting blown.” And even the cabinet members are bugging out; “Gail Norton, the secretary of the interior who has been ‘guarding the environment’ (Maher allowed time for the audience to laugh over that one) is stepping down, saying she wants to spend more time strip mining her family.” And for Norton’s going away party, “they gave her a watch made out of redwood bark, some wolf skin, and the balls off a dead owl.” And finally, “What would a monologue be like without a Britney Spears update? She’s pregnant again (glad she’s not in South Dakota, I think to myself), meaning that Kevin Federline’s sperm works better than he does.”

Maher then interviewed Pete Rose via satellite from “Hall of Famers” in Las Vegas, partly to tie into the World Baseball Classic. Maher asked Pete Rose about Barry Bonds and the latest revelations about steroid abuse, and Rose said that baseball “dropped the ball” around 1995, when “players grew about 3-4 sizes” and started hitting a lot of home runs with no one asking any questions because it increased fan interest in the game. “Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente…you didn’t see those guys hitting opposite field home runs, but some skinny shortstop was doing it.” Maher said, “Willie Mays was on juice – he admitted it – and Keith Hernandez was snorting coke. Shouldn’t those guys lose titles?,” and Rose kind of dodged that question a bit out of respect to his peers I thought, and said, “Hey, I was the cleanest of the bunch. If I’d taken steroids, I’d have 6,000 hits.” Maher said, “Yeah, but wasn’t this country founded by cheaters?,” while citing various examples of famous Americans bending the rules (interesting thought). Rose more or less agreed, saying that cheating has been going on forever; “When I used to bat against Gaylord Perry, you had to hit the dry side of the ball.” Maher asked, “What about athletes who ‘do it for the game’?” and Rose said, “They do it for money,” to which Maher replied, “and for pussy.” Rose again mocked baseball’s “blind eye” attitude further by saying “yeah, these guys have hand-eye coordination, and steroids makes you hit the ball farther, and you expect these guys to lay off this stuff? Hello?” Maher said, “I have your rookie card...we didn’t like you, but we respected you (I think Maher said once that he used to root for the Mets, which would make sense). Why don’t you just say, ‘I have the hits and the records – I don’t need your Hall of Fame’,” and Rose pretty much went along with that, adding that, “"I'm baseball's best ambassador. You know, I'm here in the Forum shops 15 days a month taking pictures with grandmas and shaking hands with little kids, and signing autographs for moms and dads, and spreading the goodwill of baseball. Players make so damn much money today they don't think they need to sell the game." adding that “I played every game like it was my last” (I can personally vouch for that). Regarding the World Baseball Classis, Maher, in an observation which, though correct, was borderline racist to me, said “the Spanish have taken over baseball, blacks have taken over other sports…what about white guys?” Rose responded by saying, “I guess they all went to Enron” (and speaking of those crooks, I haven’t had much to say about the trial because it looks like Skilling and Fastow are both pointing fingers at each other, and I don’t think Kenny Boy has even testified yet…if and when he does, I think that is when everyone will start paying attention to the trial in earnest – the only reporting I see on this now is in the Inquirer’s Business section.)

I can’t let this go by without adding some personal thoughts on Pete Rose. I have a “blind spot” regarding him since he more than anyone else was responsible for the Phillies’ 1980 World Series win, which, despite the two Stanley Cups won by the Flyers over 30 years ago (God, it’s been that long), was the most joyous sports experience I can ever remember. The Phillies had been SO AWFUL for SO LONG, and when Rose caught Jose Cardenal’s foul popup in Game 6 against Kansas City after it popped out of Bob Boone’s glove, we KNEW they were going to pull it off, and Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson one batter later to wrap it up.

However, the bylaws for Baseball’s Hall Of Fame are clear. You can’t bet on the games. Is this hypocritical in a sport where steroids have run rampant and players have used “junk” of one type or another for decades? Yes. Did Rose ever threaten or actually carry out violent acts as Ty Cobb did? No. But as I said, the rules are clear. However, I believe that any Phillies fan (and I’m a “fair weather” one compared to others, including the “leather-lunged” pea-brained Neanderthals who continually harass both home and opposition players at Citizens Bank Park) owes Rose a debt for, more than any other player on the 1980 team, accomplishing a miracle.

The panel discussion began with Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review (whose work includes some new screed with the charming title of “Party of Death”), activist Gloria Steinem, and actor/comedian Larry Miller. Tying back to the comedy bit in the beginning, Maher said that South Dakota “wanted to take the new Supreme Court ‘out for a spin’,” and Steinem said that the comedy skit “wasn’t wrong, because 75 percent of Republicans are for choice.” Maher asked this decidedly tongue-in-cheek question; “If you define abortion as murder, shouldn’t we kill the woman too?” and Steinem went along with the irony behind Maher’s question reminding that the law says that penalizing the mother is apparently up to the discretion of the prosecutor, “even in the case of rape or incest” (my God). Steinem then took out a pamphlet written by one of the crazies behind this legislation, and one of the jewels from this horror tale said that “97 percent of the time, children of incest are normal,” with Maher’s pithy observation that “that’s good news for Prince Charles.”

(Here's a link to a site with more information on the South Dakota nonsense - under "Women of South Dakota, Take Notice," but I should warn you that this site has graphic content.)

Larry Miller said, regarding the South Dakota law, he was “astonished that the hottest button issue is now going to be decided in a state with 12 people,” with Steinem saying that “only 12 people in the legislature voted against it” (that may or may not be an attempt at humor on her part – I don’t know the exact total). Maher also mentioned the story of the 24-year-old computer technician who got his girlfriend pregnant, and now, since he’s said he didn’t want the baby but she did, he’s saying he shouldn’t have any responsibility (nice guy). Maher referred to this case as the “Roe v. Wade for men,” which to him sounded like cologne (“I’m wearing it now…”).

Steinem said that, “we don’t know enough…was there a deception?” and Maher half-jokingly said, “Contraceptives don’t fail, rubbers don’t fail,” and Ramesh Ponnuru said, “that’s the slogan of every deadbeat dad. Instead of trying to get out of it, he should take responsibility,” an entirely correct thought which was met with polite audience applause. Besides, as Larry Miller said, “every guy at 24 says something stupid…that’s how it started with Robert Blake.”

As far as the interaction between the panelists, the episode was basically “The Bill and Gloria Show,” with Steinem making a lot of interesting points in that quiet, patient and persistent manner of hers – I’d forgotten how good it was to hear her speak on these shows in a way that doesn’t “dumb down” what she’s saying, even when I didn’t agree with her. I’m not sure exactly what was going on with Larry Miller; he came on with a beard, which was definitely a new look for him, but he said some really “off the wall” things (such as consistently repeating his thought that “there are going to be nine different Democratic parties” or something like that, and trying to come off as some kind of “conservative lite” in the process). As for Ponnuru, he frequently sat there with this big, dumb grin on his face, saying very little (I’m finding that that’s a standard conservative pose as a response to the growing hostility towards Bushco these days, what with all of their little schemes falling to pieces while innocent people in this country pay the price for their stupidity and arrogance), though I agreed with some of what he did say, surprisingly, until the very end.

Maher said, “there was a lot of corporate news between Enron and the AT&T/Bell South merger…greed and shark-like efficiency is really the root of all evil. Bush (understands this stuff, presumably). How could he blow it on Dubai? We’ve been dealing with the Arabs forever,” and Steinem said, “Bush has to make these deals to finance his debt.” Maher again said that, “we live next to Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles, and only 5 percent of our container traffic is inspected,” and Larry Miller said, “on what other issue are you going to find Jimmy Carter agreeing with Rush Limbaugh?,” at which point (I think) Miller led into his “nine different Democrats” theory for the first time. Ramesh Ponnuru said that “there was anti-Arab prejudice involved,” a notion I categorically reject, though I understand that he has to say something like that. Maher, tying in corporate nonsense with the Iraq War, said “the Pentagon contested a 250 million dollar bill against Halliburton for shoddy work, saying that, according to the contract, ‘the contractor wasn’t required to perform the work perfectly’”…how can you (presumably pointing at Ponnuru on this, with Maher even exhorting him to get mad at one point in a joking way) justify this with FDR’s edict that ‘we will not have a single war millionaire’ from World War II?”

As sort of a response to that (but not really), Miller said that his nephew had graduated from boot camp, and he said “they (presumably the entire unit) are ready to do something – the only reason we’re sitting here is because they’re ready to go” (an admirable thought, and we should all be grateful to them, though I don’t know what that had to do with corporate profiteering from the war). Steinem pointed out that the majority of the people of this country want us out of Iraq, and Miller said, “I don’t care who’s president in ’08 (with the discussion centering on John McCain and Hillary Clinton), but they’d better get better faster at this or lives will be wasted (and they haven’t been already, I think to myself as I watch this?). Steinem asked Miller, “What is better?” (presumably, continuing to fight or getting our people out of Iraq), and Miller said “there’s something going on, and it’s not because we’re awful” (huh?). Steinem pointed out that “our presence is a source of Jihadi recruitment,” one of the correct points that have been made many, many times on this show, making me wonder why more politicians don’t get this by now. Maher said, “Cheney said the other day, ‘the terrorists who have gathered in Iraq’…please. They’re there because of us.” Ramesh Ponnuru finally spoke up and said “we should build up the Iraqi forces to fight themselves,” and I’m thinking “sure, we’ll build them up SO THEY CAN BLOW EACH OTHER TO PIECES!” (now that I think of it, I disagreed with Ponnuru more than I realized at the time). Maher then spoke directly to Larry Miller about some orthodox Jewish rapper named Matisyahu, and Maher used this for a comedy bit about other undiscovered Jewish rappers such as “Ol’ Dirty Testament,” “Kid Lox,” and “My Son, The Doctor, Dre.”

Maher then interviewed John Burns of the New York Times via satellite who had recently returned from Iraq, and Maher asked Burns point blank if there was a civil war going on. Burns immediately said “yes, and it has been going on for some time. The only question is the scale and how that impacts troop withdrawals. There is no sign that the insurgency is relenting.” Maher said, “it looks to me like a Mafia war. They’re targeting insurgents and leaders, especially al Zarqawi, targeting ‘capable people’.” Burns said “That’s one of the reasons why they can’t form a sectarian government…also, a sectarian political class is preventing a consensus from emerging three years into the process.” Maher then echoed the tired refrain of bringing back Saddam, and Burns said “I don’t know if that would be good because of the tyranny of how he ruled. There were many mistakes made, but my feeling is that if this fails, as I have to say, on the balance of the odds, it seems now likely to do, it's probably not going to be because of American mistakes, but because the mission was impossible in the first place.” Burns added that, “we have good leadership over there now (Casey, Abizaid, etc.), but it’s very uncertain if they’ll prevail. Drawing down troops could further destabilize the area, but delaying troop withdrawals is a political problem. There’s a whole tidal wave of opinion against it” (Withdrawal? The war in general? Unsure…).

Returning to the panel discussion, Maher pointed out that “(William) Buckley came out against the war recently, saying ‘our mission has failed’ (and how does THAT ‘support our troops,’ I wonder to myself?), and also George Will. Who’s left to defend?,” and Ponnuru said that “neither defended the war” doing his very best “Pontius Pilate” also. The entire panel agreed that Burns gave “a balanced, judicious assessment,” with Ponnuru saying that “this administration has slowly and painfully righted its diplomatic course (really?), but it may be too late.” Maher mentioned something about what appears to be an ongoing investigation into the death of Pat Tillman, pointing out that Tillman “was a Democrat (something I didn’t know). ‘Oh my God, he read Noam Chomsky!’ I think there’s a cover up,” and Ponnuru said “I don’t know how much more you can investigate” (oh, I’m sure you can do a LOT MORE investigating into that).

Maher asked, “Did we show strength against the Arabs (in starting the war),” and Steinem said “we showed stupidity and re-enforced all Arab notions about America” (her bluntness was refreshing, and seemed to take the audience by surprise a bit). Ponnuru spoke up quickly and said, “Burns said it would be a good idea to topple Saddam Hussein,” a statement that, of course, would require a great deal of research to actually verify (I just assume conservatives are usually lying when they say stuff like that based on my past experience – hey, if Ponnuru is right, I’ll give him credit). Maher pointed out that John Edwards said last week that he was wrong on the war (actually, John Edwards said that every eloquently last November). Gloria Steinem said that Congresswoman Maxine Walters voted for the war because she thought the president had the power to do that anyway (I’m quite sure Congresswoman Walters has since been “schooled” on the error of her ways now – I hope so anyway). Maher mentioned the wiretapping, and Steinem pointed out that Bush breaks the law, and instead of calling Bush on it, the Republicans change the law instead. Maher made the odd remark that, “since Bush has fought the rest of the war on terror so badly, maybe this is the only tool he knows how to use,” which only proves that smart people can also fall into the trap of lizard-brained thinking also. Steinem said, "But if he invaded the wrong country, what makes us think he's going to wiretap the right people?" (good point). Larry Miller started to say something like, “I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world (to do that),” and I’m thinking at home that Larry Miller should acquaint himself with the FISA, and Steinem said, “All (Bush) has to do is talk to a judge.” Ponnuru then said, about FISA, that “responsible critics said that the only problem with the law is that we didn’t involve Congress,” and as I pondered who Ponnuru considered to be a “responsible critic” who might actually take his balderdash seriously, Maher announced that it was time for “New Rules.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bum Voyage

I know I once sided with this guy (sort of) in his spat with the Eagles, but now that he has been officially released, I think it's appropriate to revisit this post also, which is more emblematic of his stay (written before the stock of Antwaan Randle El would skyrocket with the Steelers. Hey, who knew?).

Owens showed a ton of guts and earned respect everywhere for his gritty performance in the Eagles' Super Bowl loss to the Patriots last year, and he destroyed all of that goodwill through selfish, arrogant behavior (a sports parallel to someone we know?).

Incurious George

Maybe the reason why your approval rating continues to sink, Mr. President, is that Americans of all political stripes appreciate a leader who tells the truth (I wish someone would poll the voters in this country and ask them if they’d trade this misery of what passes for leadership on your part against “the meaning of the word ‘is’” and the minor-by-comparison misadventures of the previous White House occupant).

This will do absolutely nothing to help your case in that regard.

Sit Down And Shut Up

Revealing words today from Arlen (“A Woman’s Right To Choose Is Inviolable”) Specter in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Letter To The Editor section:

I strongly disagree with the comments of Jennifer Stockman, on behalf of the Republican Majority for Choice, criticizing U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum ("S. Dakota abortion law is an assault," March 8).

While Sen. Santorum and I disagree on issues, I believe that he has done an excellent job for Pennsylvania and ought to be reelected. Without his support, I would not have won the 2004 Republican primary. Sen. Santorum's reelection is my top priority in 2006.

The organization which identifies itself as the Republican Majority for Choice ought not to be actively seeking to defeat Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter
Washington, D.C
So Our Man Arlen is coming out in his support for the South Dakota Abortion Law, is he? Can someone explain to me how that makes Specter a “moderate”?

One more question; will the last pro-choice Republican to leave kindly turn out the lights?

Rock-A-Bye Baby

Aww, let’s give Andy Card, Stephen Hadley and Dan Bartlett some warm milk and cookies and put them to bed. Gosh, what do you know…they’re tired.

Eric Boehlert had a good analysis today, I thought, on The Huffington Post about how stories we read are framed for the GOP’s point of view. I consider this to be a perfect example.

Why should I feel sorry for these cretins? Where were the sympathetic columns towards the Clinton White House over the media-manufactured Monica Lewinsky scandal (“gee, doesn’t Joe Lockhart have dark bags under his eyes today? Must be the relentless media questioning at the White House press conferences. And how are John Podesta and Harold Ickes holding up in the face of all of this adversity?”).

The fatigue Bushco is experiencing comes from their now-unwinnable battle to prop up their “house of cards” administration (no pun intended) while the winds of self-inflicted turmoil swirl around them.

Dim The Lights Again

I loved the fact that she gave Warren Beatty so much crap in "Reds" (though I liked the movie, it seemed to be nothing but Beatty as John Reed taking train trips back and forth and Communist Party political BS, though I guess that was largely the point, and seeing Jack Nicholson play Eugene O'Neill was fun too).

Also, when taking a break from writing a term paper for college one night, I saw that "Queen Of The Stardust Ballroom" was on a commercial TV station (before the days of Comcast, and yes - there actually WAS such a time), so I watched it (Charles Durning co-starred). It was a sweet little movie - no big deal, just a two-person character study pretty much, but it was entertaining.

I always admired her for the simple decency she managed to portray in her characters. We can never have enough of that sort of thing, especially now.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cancel Your Time Subscription

The fact that this copy was allowed to sneak through in yet another "Can Bush Rebound?" story is worse than any full-pags ads for Rush Limbaugh or limp, unctuous hosannas to the ruling cabal from lap dog Joe Klein:

One Bush adviser sees political promise for the President in a nuclear peril. "Certainly, there's going to be a serious showdown on Iran," he said. "He's very relevant on that, and that may help his numbers a little bit."
I'd gladly trade the survival of life on this planet as we know it for a slight, illusory uptick in a poll that is already skewed towards the Repugs anyway.

God, what a film Stanley Kubrick would have made of this presidency.

Cook Corbett, Toast Totaro

Apparently, this started as a feud between Lancaster County District Attorney Don Totaro and county coroner Gary Kirchner over Totaro’s objection to the release of details in the murder investigation of Cortney Fry to the Intelligencer Journal. Now, however, it has evolved into something wholly other that I never thought I would see (I also thought I’d never see our national government build a case for war totally on lies, so that shows what I know).

So now, Totaro and Corbett have decided to seize hard disks from computers in the Intelligencer Journal’s newsroom as part of a grand jury investigation into whether or not Kirchner gave reporters for the Intelligencer Journal his password to access a restricted law enforcement web site.

Note: I know Corbett and Totaro aren't mentioned in the Inquirer story, but Senior Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach is instead. I can't imagine that she somehow wouldn't be working for Corbett on this, though.

William DeStefano, the lawyer for the reporters, nailed this:

"Permitting the attorney general to seize and search unfettered the workstations will result in the very chilling of information," DeStefano wrote. "Confidential tips, leads, and other forms of information will undoubtedly dry up once sources and potential sources learn that Lancaster Newspapers' workstations were taken out of its possession and turned over to investigations."
Maybe these two chuckleheads should reacquaint themselves with Pennsylvania’s Shield Law, particularly this paragraph:

No person engaged in, connected with, or employed by any newspaper of general circulation or any press association or any radio or television station, or any magazine of general circulation, for the purpose of gathering, procuring, compiling, editing or publishing news, shall be required to disclose the source of any information procured or obtained by such person, in any legal proceeding, trial or investigation before any government unit. Note: This statute also applies to radio and television stations as long as they maintain and keep recordings or transcripts of the actual broadcast or telecast available for inspection.
I would dismiss this as local yokel BS, but this is a battle that definitely must be fought on behalf of our right to be informed and act as responsible citizens of this country.

Try The Obits Next Time

(It would be a stretch I guess to say that that's where you can read about the demise of the fourth estate, but not if they keep going like this.)

I picked up this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer to read their coverage on Russ Feingold’s call for censure of Bush over his illegal NSA spying, figuring that I would get in-depth reporting on this laudable show of a spine from a Senate Democrat who, between this and his efforts to hold off approval of The Patriot Act, is standing about fifty feet tall in my book these days.

So I check out Page One, and the story isn’t in the banner headline (though it was for the Bucks County Courier Times, with the erroneous caption stating that Sen. John Warner of VA was a co-sponsor – I thought that was too good to be true, and it was…when you drill down into the story, you find out that Warner ridiculed Feingold’s call for censure; the Courier Times ended up with some major egg on its face, so to speak, which is actually a shame, so I’m sure they’ll be backpedaling like crazy now).

The headline story on Page One is the seeding of the Villanova men’s basketball team as Number One in one of the four “brackets” in the upcoming NCAA tournament (I am hardly a college basketball expert, so I just told you about all that I know). Also on page one is a story about a blood test developed at the University of Pennsylvania that offers early disease detection, along with two opinion columns: one by Dick Polman about how John McCain is sucking up to Dubya and the other right-wing jackbooted Repugs, and a column about Ehud Olmert, the de facto head of Israel with the incapacitation of Ariel Sharon.

(You will NEVER want for stories about Israel and the Palestinians in the Inquirer, by the way. I’m not complaining because I’m sure there’s a good reason for that, but I’m merely stating a fact).

The other front-page story of the purchase of the Inquirer by McClatchy Newspapers is a bit of a stunner to me (I expected Gannett or Media News to take over), and I’m not surprised of the story’s placement.

Still nothing on Feingold’s resolution, so on I go.

Page Two contains in-depth columns on the death of Slobodan Milosevic, which now appears to be shrouded in questionable circumstances since a medication was found in his system that may have led to his heart attack. Also on page two is a story of Afghanistan’s effort to eliminate the opium trade.

Page Three? A huge ad for the Frank Kerbeck Cadillac dealership (God, their radio ads are obnoxious) and a story admitting that death squads are alive and well in Iraq (can you say John Negroponte?)


Page Four? More “below the fold” opining by Polman on Bush and McCain.

Page Five? A profile of Bushco chief of staff Andrew Card (You remember this guy, right? He’s the one who, when asked whether or not Bush would invade Iraq in 2002 said “You don’t roll out a new product in August” and who said, while the Kerry campaign was trying in vain to sort out the voting shenanigans in Ohio in the 2004 election, said that Bush was offering Kerry “the respect of more time” - i.e., "hurry up and cave so we can start the party" - before waiting for Kerry to concede).

Gee, could the Inquirer have missed the story somehow?

Page Six is devoted exclusively to the sale of Knight Ridder to McClatchy, and Page Seven has news summaries from the U.S. and the world, a story of an explosion that killed four of our troops in Afghanistan, and more below-the-fold coverage of Villanova’s tournament seeding and the U of P blood test.


I decided to keep going mainly because I wanted to check out the editorial section, seeing as how I was practically there anyway. Page Eight contains a comprehensive list of lender rates for home mortgages which the paper usually offers on Mondays, though it used to be in the business or local news sections. I don’t know who decided to put this information in a section ostensibly pertaining to U.S. and world news.

However, my search would not be in vain. I FINALLY found the story of Feingold’s censure resolution on Page Nine, the LAST PAGE before the editorials and letters. It’s your standard rip-and-read coverage on this sort of thing from AP reporter Douglass K. Daniel, which makes sure that the phrase “a liberal Democrat” are the first three words of the story. Also, buried – and I mean, BURIED – in the story is Feingold’s quote that the President’s actions were “in the strike zone” in terms of being an impeachable offense. The only good thing I can say about that is that it appears in front of Frist’s typically idiotic response that Feingold’s call hurts Bush, a “leader” with “a bold vision” who is “making our homeland safer,” which is about what you’d expect from someone who kills cats and is potentially guilty of securities fraud.

(And by the way, the online search for this story was equally frustrating given its import; I clicked through about five different screens listing linked content to get to it.)

Do I ever need to point out how this story would have been handled if it had to do with Bill Clinton (I’ll get to the “Real Time” update soon, but Bill Maher said the other night that, “If Clinton had been a Republican, Congress would have made blowjobs legal, and that would have been it.”).

Actually, as I realize that officials of Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. are already talking with “a potential buyer” pending the McClatchy sale (see, McClatchy said that, though the Inquirer and Daily News are good papers in his estimation, they’re in “underperforming markets”), I’d like to put forward this idea so we don’t have to do this whole stupid dance over again:

I don’t know how we can do this, but someone should set up a company composed of subscribers of each newspaper, making them shareholders in the company, in the same model as the Green Bay Packers football team as well as The Vanguard Group. If you’re a subscriber, you’re a part owner. Trade the stock publicly and ride with it. Done.

And then, given that the pressure to kow tow to certain well-moneyed constituencies would be greatly reduced, if not removed altogether, MAYBE we could look forward once more to the sort of coverage that treats dramatic, important news stories appropriately.

Update 3/13: georgia10 at The Daily Kos has more.

Update 1 3/14: And apparently, since the Senate Democrats are all too busy cowering in their corners to decide whether or not they should support Feingold, it seems that I must link to this post again because it is sadly apropos.

Update 2 3/14: GO, RUSS, GO! (and by the way, if you want to contact Colorado Repug senator Wayne Allard and call him out for the bedwetting coward that he is, you can contact him from this link).