Friday, April 07, 2006

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

(That’s the reality on this as far as I’m concerned…Spanish for “my house is your house”).

This Guest Opinion appeared in yesterday morning’s Bucks County Courier Times from Terry Kiely, a resident of Newtown Borough.

Volunteers at emergency food pantries, soup kitchen, churches, and social service agencies may soon find themselves serving five years in prison for “assisting a non-citizen to remain in the United States.”

Section 202 of HR 4437, a bill recently passed by the House of Representatives and supported by Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, would expand the definition of “smuggling” to include humanitarian aid to non-citizens. Emergency food pantries and soup kitchens depend on volunteers to survive. It would be extremely difficult for them to continue providing food assistance to families suffering from hunger with the threat of imprisonment to staff and volunteers.

In addition to the criminalization of “good works,” this bill removes due process protection to asylum seekers and refugees, including children. This bill will mandate the detention of families and other vulnerable groups along our border.

I would suggest federal money would be better spent on improving border security than to house illegal citizens, church workers, volunteers, and staff at social services agencies in federal prisons at an estimated cost of $25,000 a year per prisoner.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese, issued this statement on this immigration reform legislation currently in Congress: “Congress, with the support of President Bush, should seek to repair our broken immigration system by enacting comprehensive immigration legislation that reforms all aspects of our nation’s immigration system, not simply law enforcement. Such legislation should propose an earned legalization program for the 11 million undocumented persons in the country. Earned legalization is not amnesty because the proposal requires immigrants to work for up to six years before applying for legal permanent residency. The bill should include a temporary worker program, which would provide legal channels for migrant workers to migrate in a safe, legal, and orderly manner; and reductions in family visa backlogs, which cause family separation for up to 10 years or more. This approach offers stronger security measures because it provides an incentive for undocumented immigrants and their families to ‘come out of the shadows’ and identify themselves to government authorities.”

I cal upon Congressman Fitzpatrick to examine legislation more carefully in the future before voting to approve it and consider the teachings of his church. This bill discourages the community from reaching out and helping the least fortunate; and, those are most often children. Has it come to a point that hungry children will go without food because their families are hiding from authorities and churches cannot serve them? I am disturbed by my congressman’s vote on this punitive, costly, and ineffective legislation.

Andrew Grove, former chairman of the Intel Corporation and an immigrant to the United States, wrote in an editorial recently published in the Jan. 26 Wall Street Journal, “it scares me because it has the potential of turning neighbor against neighbor – and of changing our country into a place of fear and mistrust…As a Jewish child hiding from the Nazis in Hungary, I saw how the persecution of non-Jewish Hungarians who hid their Jewish friends or neighbors cast a wide blanket of fear over everyone. This fear led to mistrust, and mistrust led to hostility, until neighbors turned upon neighbors in order to protect themselves. Is this what we want?

“…Our country has promoted tolerance and diversity through most of its history, providing an outstanding and attractive example to others…Let’s keep America, America.”
I think the expression of “closing the door of the stable after the horse has already gotten out” (or something like that) was invented for this issue (serves me right for not growing up on a farm, I guess, or else I’d know it). I think the situation with the “illegal/undocumented/whatever” workers was worsened because companies wanted to skirt the law and deny a decent wage to people of this country. I was in a discussion about this recently, and someone said, “Yeah, but then you’d end up paying $2.79 for a half dozen apples instead of 99 cents, so…”

Regardless, you can’t come to rely on these people after all of this time and then all of a sudden treat them like they’re criminals (And why now, I wonder? This question should have been settled after 9/11 as far as I’m concerned.). And you DEFINITELY can’t victimize others who try to help them either.

This issue is a long way from being settled of course, assuming that will ever happen.

The Couric Evening News

Congratulations to the new CBS Evening News anchor. I see that happy talk, no-news news with just a dash of in-depth, confrontational reporting has just about totally absorbed the legacy of hard-hitting journalism represented by landmark works such as “CBS Reports” and “See It Now.” And I’m sure that paragon of corporate integrity Les Moonves will take a break from overseeing the lawyers who are trying to find out how many times Howard Stern referred to Sirius on his old radio show as part of the lawsuit to approve Couric’s deal.

I won’t feel any sense of enthusiasm or excitement until the network decides, if it ever does, to open more overseas bureaus and provide more substantive analysis of the day’s top stories (yes, I know…and then I woke up).

"Profile" This

I’m glad to see that Rep. Cynthia McKinney has apologized for her scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer this week. However, I would really like to see people regardless of their race or ethnicity decide not to play the victim in these matters first before deciding to acknowledge and owe up to their own wrongdoing later.

Also, I thought Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a great column on this.

Reality Intrudes, Thankfully

I’ve been thinking about this woman’s face most of the morning. She is the person who sat next to Harry Taylor when he confronted Dubya on his domestic spying (and of course, Dubya then subsequently went into his song and dance about trying to capture terrorists, totally ignoring the fact that he’s thumbing his nose at the FISA, as well as the ridiculous charge that Congress granted him the right and knew what he was doing all along).

In other employment, I should point out that I once discussed the possibility of relocation to Charlotte, NC with my management. I’m sure the cost of living was lower in that area, and I knew people who rented homes here, bought a single in Charlotte for less money and built up some equity, and then relocated back to this area and bought a single with the money they made off selling their home in Charlotte. It sounded like a sweet deal (this was during those Clinton years when everything was so awful of course, or so the Repugs would have you believe).

But though I’m sure there are a lot of great people in Charlotte and North Carolina generally, I couldn’t get past my memory of journeying through the deep South in August of 1968 when I was young (and believe me, you don’t know what heat and humidity is until you’ve spent time near the vicinity of Fort Bragg that time of year) and witnessing the Confederate flags draped across the front porches, with the good ol’ boys gathered and glaring in our direction as we drove past, having no doubt noted our Pennsylvania license plate. The fact that this state had returned Jesse Helms to the U.S. Senate over and over again played heavily on my mind also. That had a lot to do with my decision to stay put (I probably lost out financially, but I preserved my peace of mind).

Well, apparently, many of those people from the porches who (I’m sure) voted for Helms and/or other like-minded individuals were gathered to hear Dubya perform his circus act. And somehow, Harry Taylor had gotten through the crowd, which I’m sure was “vetted” heavily, and had his “Four Freedoms” moment.

And the crowd booed (as reflected in the shocked, embarrassed – why? – expression on this woman’s face).

I could hurl more insults at these red state life forms, but why bother? They are resolute in their stupidity, invincible in their ignorance. I can’t reach these people. I’d have better luck reading a book on quantum physics aloud to a pile of rocks.

In my way, I’m trying to preserve what this country is all about. Others have bigger “shoutboxes” and better means at their disposal, and they’re trying hard also. The reason is because it is all slowly slipping away from us.

Those people in Charlotte who booed Harry Taylor don’t understand that. And they never will.

Karl Told Me To Do It

(The “if all else fails or the indictment has been prepared and is ready to be delivered” excuse, no doubt…)

See, Mr. President, let me try and explain this to you in language you might understand.

See, our spies help protect us from the bad people. That makes spies the good people, see? Just like us. The spies get information on the bad people so they don’t do bad things. That protects the good people, and we’re all the good people.

When you say it’s OK for someone in your administration to tell a reporter the identity of a spy, that means the spy is found out, so the spy can’t get information on the bad people any more to protect the good people, see? That means the good people are less safe and there’s a lot more spies trying to get information on the bad people to protect the good people who are plenty pissed off, so they may not get as much information on the bad people to protect the good people, see?

I realize these sentences are probably too big for you, and I don’t have one of those cheesy backgrounds with the phrases you like printed all over the place so that when the TV cameras film you, the only picture we get is of you trying to look intelligent with the background and the phrase repeated a zillion times since you think we’re all as dumb as you and we won’t get the concept the first 10, 15, or 20 times you try to shove it down our throats. I know that makes it difficult for you to comprehend what I’m saying.

But try, for God’s sake. Is that really so much to ask?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Let's Send Ricky A Message

I just found this in my "in" box in between the ads for Nigerian porn and penile enlargement (Yahoo, you do SUCH a good job of screening the garbage...thanks ever so much).

Contact: Kelly Groves, 215-519-8133;

April 6, 2006


Philadelphia, PA- The Liberty City Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club will hold a demonstration on Monday, April 10 in front of 12th Street Gym (204 S. 12th Street, bet. Walnut and Locust) to protest owner Robert Guzzardi's continued financial support of right-wing, anti-gay politicians, including PA Senator Rick Santorum.

The 12th Street Gym, a popular institution in Philly's "Gayborhood" and long a centerpiece of the LGBT community, literally boasts thousands of gay members. So why is its owner, Robert Guzzardi, a major financial supporter of ANTI-GAY politicians?

The Liberty City Democrats have dug up the goods on Robert Guzzardi and how he uses the membership dollars of his LGBT clientele to support politicians such as Pennsylvania's public enemy number one, Senator Rick Santorum, who infamously compared same-sex relations to adultery, incest, polygamy, bigamy, and bestiality.

Guzzardi has also donated significant sums of money to dozens of supporters of anti-gay legislation such as Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), author of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), and Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

Guzzardi's public financial records are all listed on Liberty City's website:

Media are invited to attend the protest on Monday, April 10 at 5PM in front of 12th Street Gym.

For more information, contact: Kelly Groves, Co-Chair, Liberty City Democrats. 215-519-8133;
And who knows, maybe Bob "Yes, I Really Am Running For The Senate Against Santorum...Honest" Casey, Jr. will be there (though I'm sure Chuck Pennacchio will make an appearance on his own because he knows it's the right thing to do).


This has nothing whatsoever to do with politics, but I need to vent about this. Basically, I’ve seriously had it with this guy.

First he does that weird leap onto Oprah Winfrey’s couch. Then he trashes people who use medications for conditions related to depression or mental illness. We also find out that a stuntman was burned during the filming of “Mission: Impossible 3”.

Next, we discover that Katie Holmes is going to end up birthing her baby as part of some weird ritual with Scientology elders in the delivery room while she’s supposed to resist screaming out (and of course, she is supposed to be denied medication also…that will all be fun I’m sure – no wonder Nicole Kidman split, but that’s on Holmes as far as I’m concerned).

Now, Cruise has to announce to the world that he was abused by his father.


Ooohh, poor baby Tom. Somehow I think people have endured a lot worse than what you’ve had to put up with and still managed to live full, productive lives in spite of it. Besides, you’ve got what…a gazillion freaking dollars and every conceivable perk a human being could ever want? I would say that things have somehow still worked out for you, right?

This is more the fault of the media than anyone else (as well as people who pay attention to this stuff, and I would not be one of them if it weren’t for the fact that I hear about this guy EVERY SINGLE STINKING TIME that I log onto a web site that is ostensibly supposed to be about actual news).

I didn’t see “Collateral,” “War Of The Worlds,” “The Last Samurai” or “Vanilla Sky,” and I couldn’t get through “Eyes Wide Shut.” I did see the first “Mission: Impossible,” “Legend” (a guilty pleasure, I know), and “Born On The Fourth Of July,” where Cruise played disabled Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic (the Academy Award Best Actor nomination for his great work is probably as close as he will ever come to receiving that statuette).

While we receive every conceivable, possible, ridiculous detail of his life and that of other celebrities, we of course do NOT learn about legitimate news in other areas of this country and the world instead. I know this is an old gripe, but I have to make it.

Tell you what – let’s not hear anything else about this guy until the kids are born and the movie is released, OK?

(Sigh…I can dream, can’t I?)

Alert Level is Red At DHS

My father spent his working life in federal government for years, and I can vaguely recall a time (gets harder and harder to do that any more) when people gravitated towards the public sector, if you will, because they didn’t necessarily want all kinds of fancy perks that they could get in private life, but instead wanted to make a decent wage with benefits and achieve career civil service status and provide something we used to commonly refer to as constituent service. These people were middle class professionals who honestly tried to make a difference in people’s lives (the sort who were utterly demonized when Reagan and the Repugs began the conservative ascendancy for real in the ‘80s).

I started thinking about this after I read this story about Brian J. Doyle, the DHS spokesman arrested on child sex charges.

I am definitely NOT trying to “paint with a broad brush” here. I’m sure there are many, many, MANY fine government employees who go about their jobs then as now, and there have also been “bad apples” all the while as well tossed in from time to time.

However, given all of this, here is my concern (and my hope is that our government has thought of this long before now).

Assuming Doyle had any sensitive information in his head, I hope that he has not been “turned” by someone blackmailing him for information. An unscrupulous individual could have learned about Doyle’s “proclivities” and used them against him to find out information on DHS allocation of manpower, perceived threat areas, bureaucratic problems that could thwart agency effectiveness, etc., basically telling Doyle to provide the information or he would be “outed.”

Also, it is Doyle’s everlasting bad luck that he will be charged in Florida on this. The phrase “far more meaningful and significant” regarding possible sentencing in the event that Doyle is convicted is ominous, though that doesn’t mean that I feel sorry for Doyle in any way.

More Junk Science, Comrade

You may have missed this, but…

I don’t understand how William Cockerham was able to come up with these findings. I wonder how many Russian communists he actually interviewed to come up with the conclusion that a political ideology is bad for a person’s physical well being.

I think the Moscow Times article pretty well summarized that other factors, primarily income, determine how well a person eats and how much a person is likely to exercise, which are much more likely to affect one’s life span than whether or not an aging communist remembers Leonid Brezhnev’s birthday.

Do we now have to look forward to studies discovering that capitalists are greedier than socialists? Or conservatives are louder than liberals? Or liberals are more likely at parties to quote Rod McKuen than conservatives (eeewwww…)? Or that druids are more likely to worship rocks and potted plants?

Of course, given the enlightened attitude towards science in general by this administration, we have less and less of a reason to act superior about this sort of thing (as always, thank President Stupid Head and those glorious red state voters, who apparently, distinguished themselves again today when a brave man named Harry Taylor actually “spoke truth to power”).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Crazy Curt Weldon Strikes Again

First it was this Able Danger business which couldn’t stand up, then the guy gets duped by the Moonies, and now he’s trashing his congressional opponent for maintaining a residence outside of PA (of course, that NEVER happens with Pennsylvania Repug politicians…right?).

(And by the way, Atrios tells us the very poignant reason why Sestak lives out of state which Weldon conveniently ignores…I shouldn’t call people names on this site, but I’m really tempted to break that rule in Weldon’s case).

To help Joe Sestak, click here.

Update 4/7: I guess it's OK for family members to be involved if you're a Repug, right Crazy Curt? What an embarrassment (sorry I hadn't been bugging this guy before now).

Crapo In, Crapo Out

(To be fair, I should make it clear that his name is pronounced “Cray-Poe”.)

You may be wondering why I should care about the activities of a Republican senator from Idaho. Well, I was paging through today’s Philadelphia Inquirer and came across a teen advice columnist who published a letter from Mike Crapo telling teens to be aware of abuse and emphasizing that that does not represent a loving relationship, and also that they should report dating violence. Crapo said that anyone who has any questions or believe that they are in that kind of a situation should contact his web site,, to help locate information on victim’s advocacy and domestic violence advocacy organizations nationwide.

That made me curious about him, so I read more about Crapo from Wikipedia. I found out that he is a survivor of prostate cancer, and though a radical procedure cured him for a time, he suffered a recurrence last year (all political consideration aside, I hope and pray for his full recovery…we all have horror stories with that hateful scourge of a disease, and I do also). Also as noted in the Wikipedia article, Harry Reid even mentioned him to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s Supreme Court vacancy.

It turns out that there is much to admire and respect in this man. However, there’s one big problem with him (being a Repug, you knew there had to be somewhere).

He stinks on the environment (all the more amazing given the fact that he was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award six years ago).

As noted here, Crapo has introduced a bill to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 which is intended, in part, “to enhance the role of states in the recovery of endangered species and threatened species.”

Sounds benevolent enough, right?

Would that that were true.

This text is contained in this Daily Kos link from the diarist Melvin that describes the true aim of the Crapo bill (similar to an equally dire bill introduced in the House by Richard Pombo of California).

Makes Habitat Protection Completely Discretionary (pages 18-19)

The Crapo bill would eliminate mandatory timelines to designate critical habitat for endangered species, instead giving the Secretary of Interior complete discretion to prioritize designations based in part on "minimizing conflicts" with "construction, development...or other economic activities." Even then the Secretary would not be required to implement the schedule, and citizen groups would be banned from seeking court orders to implement any critical habitat schedules or deadlines. All existing court orders to designate critical habitat would be overruled by the bill.
By the way, the person Dubya has nominated to replace pro-business concubine Gale Norton as interior secretary is Dirk Kempthorne, Idaho governor and former Senator whose seat was filled by Crapo when he was elected, and the preliminary information I read is that Kempthorne is as big of a shill as “our gal Gailie” was.

Makes Species Listing Completely Discretionary (pages 18-19)

As with habitat protections, the Crapo bill would eliminate mandatory timelines to place species on the endangered list, instead giving the Secretary of Interior complete discretion to prioritize listings. Even then the Secretary is not required to implement her schedule and citizen groups are banned from seeking court orders to implement any listing schedules or deadlines. All existing court orders to list species would be overruled by the bill.

Killing One Species in Exchange for Another (pages 36-41)

The Crapo bill would create a system allowing developers to buy and sell credits for destroying endangered species habitat. This senseless system would allow developers to destroy the habitat for one species (e.g. Coho salmon) because they have purchased credits to protect another (e.g. Mount Hermon june beetle). It would result in the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of essential habitat areas.

Undermines Recovery Plans (pages 21-28)

The Crapo bill would create a new convoluted recovery planning process that allows industry to rewrite and overrule the decisions of wildlife experts. A newly created "executive committee" made up of industry interests would make final edits and revisions to the recovery plan developed by scientists and agency biologists. Furthermore, the Crapo bill explicitly makes recovery plans "non-binding and advisory."

Creates Roadblocks to Listing Endangered Species (pages 16-18)

The Crapo bill would create an ambiguous priority system for listing endangered species that includes industry interests. Current law requires endangered species listings to be based solely on the biological needs of the species.

Eliminates Federal Oversight of Endangered Species (page 15)

The Crapo bill would require Fish and Wildlife Service to provide a "provisional permit" for any project on private property (except for "ground clearing") if there is no recovery plan in place. The permit would remain in effect until a habitat conservation plan (HCP) is approved. This would allow activities like mining and logging in endangered species habitat to proceed indefinitely with no federal oversight.

Restricts Wildlife Agencies from Improving Conservation Agreements (pages 50-53)

The Crapo bill would take "No Surprises"--a highly controversial administrative regulation--and make it law. The Fish and Wildlife Service would be unable to update or revoke a permit (HCP) that authorizes harm to an endangered species, even if new information indicates that the original plan was inadequate and even if it is causing the extinction of the species.

Pays Off Developers to Not Violate the Law (page 56)

The Crapo bill would create tax breaks to compensate private landowners for conservation work done on private property. However, the Crapo bill fails to limit these tax breaks to landowners who engage in active conservation--the creation or enhancement of endangered species habitat. Therefore, land developers who are required to set aside some portion of their land from development would also be eligible for these tax breaks. That is, instead of paying private landowners to create new habitat, the Crapo bill would primarily be paying developers to comply with the law, creating no new habitat.
I believe there is a body of information out there online detailing cancer risks from environmental exploitation (water and air pollution, ozone depletion, etc.). Crapo should do some investigating on this.

The latest information on this bill can be accessed from this link (apparently, no activity has taken place since last December, fortunately). As Melvin notes, however, this is something that we should protest by calling our senators and telling them to vote against the Crapo bill (and telling our House reps to do likewise to the Pombo bill).

If I were to spend time with Mike Crapo, I have a feeling that I’d find him to be an honorable man in many ways. However, if he fails to act as a steward of the environment, then that to me would undo much of the good work that he has already done.

"Real Time" Update

In the opening comedy bit, Bill Maher, with way too much pancake, a stringy black wig and a faux accent that made him sound like he had sinus blockage, pretended to be Antonio Banderas making a public service announcement in support of illegal immigrants (the “illegal” vs. “undocumented” question would flare up shortly, by the way). “Before you take the hard line, consider this…it is we, the Latinos, who ‘do’ the women Americans don’t want to ‘do’ (as photos of a pudgy looking Melanie Griffith and Lucille Ball with Desi Arnaz – hey, c’mon now! – appeared). Can you afford to let women like these ‘go under’? Take it from me, Antonio Banderas…you cannot!”

This continued into the opening monologue, where Maher said to the audience, “you’re just applauding because you want me to stay in the country.” He added that, “Bush was in Cancun to promote his new video ‘Foreign Policy Gone Wild’. He was there with Vicente Fox and the Canadian prime minister to work out a problem with soft woods, though soft woods were never a problem with Clinton” (ba dump). Switching to a gathering over the last week with the same old zealots called the “War on Christianity” in Washington, D.C., Maher noted that “Tom DeLay, channeling the Merchant of Venice somewhat, said ‘just because I’m a prick, do I not bleed’?” Maher also noted a new study that revealed that “cell phones can be bad for your brain, especially if Naomi Campbell throws one at you.” Maher said the police told her “she had the right to remain silent, pouty and bored by the whole ordeal.” Turning to sports, Maher said that Barry Bonds, upon hearing of Major League Baseball’s investigation of steroid use, “got so mad that he broke his chains and tore down the Golden Gate Bridge.”

The first guest to appear via satellite was Jorge Ramos of Univision, the Spanish network, who pointed out that Univision gets more viewers than the top three US TV networks combined, and Maher asked “Since illegal immigration is suddenly an issue, what is the biggest misconception?,” and Ramos said, “Well, first of all, I wouldn't call them 'illegals,' because, by saying that, maybe many people assume that they are criminals or terrorists. And they have absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Another misconception is that ‘undocumented’ (Ramos’ word) immigrants do not contribute enough to the economy. And that's quite the contrary. I mean, the latest study that I saw from the National Academy of Sciences says that most immigrants, both legal and undocumented, contribute about $10 billion to the economy of the United States every single year," and also “we have this image in this county of undocumented immigrants coming through fences and pipelines to get into this country, when in fact most of them come by plane.” Maher said that “since most undocumented and illegal immigrants are hard working, why is Mexico in such bad shape?” and Ramos said that the immigrants “are leaving because they’re hungry. Mexicans know they can make more money in the U.S., and half a million cross every year” (that’s a staggering number). “Vicente Fox promised a million jobs a year,” Ramos added. Maher asked “Why can’t Mexico fix the problem and do the noble thing?” and Ramos said, “Are (the immigrants) supposed to wait 20 years? The EU countries invested billions, and Mexico needs something like a Marshall Plan…we take jobs the Americans don’t want to take.”

(At this point I had the reaction I’m sure you do also. I respect Ramos – he was very articulate and persuasive – but if you think I want to see one dime of foreign aid go overseas when there are so many people in this country who need jobs, then I’ve got some swamp land in Tijuana to sell to you. I also take issue with this statement that there are Americans passing up jobs that Hispanics are taking instead – I think it’s more employers hiring Hispanics because they know they’re less likely to change jobs for something better, a punitive mindset that I did not see in this country prior to 9/11, I must admit.)

Maher then asked Ramos, “Are white people clueless in this country? We expected 30,000 people to show up at the rally, but 500,000 did instead,” and Ramos said, “What’s going on is interesting. There will be more Hispanics than non-Hispanics eventually in the U.S. The U.S. is the largest Spanish country except Mexico (really?), and Bush is the first U.S. president who thinks he speaks Spanish.” Maher ended by asking, “The whole argument about immigrants put forward by Lou Dobbs and others…do you think it’s racist?,” and Ramos said he thought it was but added, “This is nothing new. Even Ben Franklin thought there were too many Germans for a time in Pennsylvania. The most important argument is economic.”

The panel discussion featured Seth Green, whose new movie is called “Robot Chicken” apparently (interesting), author Erica Jong, and U.S. House Representative Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA). Maher started by saying that, of the two bills in Congress concerning illegal immigration (with all due respect to Mr. Ramos, that is what it is to the majority of the people in this country, including yours truly, and “undocumented” is a polite euphemism), the House bill is tougher (less fair also, I would argue), and Maher said to Rohrbacher, “you’re in the press saying we should let prisoners pick fruit,” and Rohrbacher kind of dodged that I thought, shifting gears and saying, “We’re told all the time that the illegals do jobs we won’t do in the U.S., when in reality illegal immigration holds down wages. Half the Republican Party is too closely tied to big business. The Democrats exploit (the illegals) politically and the Republicans exploit them economically. This affects our tax base, school funding (and Rohrbacher went down the list of revenue streams that are basically cut off when we give jobs to illegals).” I thought that, for a Republican, that was probably as close as I’m going to get to a reasonable analysis on this, even though the “prisoners picking fruit” idea is totally out to lunch, of course, and I have no evidence of his “Democrats exploiting (illegals) politically” charge.

Erica Jong refuted Rohrbacher by saying “As a single parent, I wouldn’t have been able to do my work without Mexican women, since American women look down on child care in my experience.” Rohrbacher said, “We had triplets, and we were able to get by without a nanny,” and I’m thinking, sure, good for you, but not all of us serve in Congress. Maher added that, “Our Mexican border was bigger for a long time in this country, until we trumped up a phony war (and took more territory to shorten it),” and Rohrbacher then said, “we owe it to this country to watch out for our own people and watch out for the middle class,” and at that moment, I just about fell out of my chair in astonishment (don’t worry…Rohrbacher would return to Repug form later, though I have to admit that he’s a bit of a different animal than the typical Bush acolyte, and a HUGE improvement over Ileana Ros-Lehtinen). Maher said, “We want it both ways with immigrants in this country. We have this nonsense guest worker program, and Muslims in France are angry for similar reasons,” and Erica Jong said, “Exactly.” Maher then said, “I’ve lived in canyons and as I drive down (a hill to get out), I see this Mexican lady a lot, and I can tell she’s a housekeeper. I picked her up and started talking with her one day, and it turns out that nobody picks her up. My question is this: aren’t rich white people then just a bunch of pricks?”

Rohrbacher said, “We’re complaining about the upper class here, but (illegal immigration) has a horrible impact on wages. We have 50 million people between 25 and 50 who are unemployed (I don’t know what the latest numbers are, so I can’t say anything about that, but I give Rohrbacher credit for highlighting that), and that includes 15 percent of high school graduates. People with lower incomes are paying the price.” Maher, repeating himself from earlier, said that “the House immigration bill is bad, but the Senate bill is better.”

Also in the news last week was the report of another Downing Street memo that had surfaced (I believe this is the third to date, but I’ll have to check) from 1/31/03 stating that a military invasion of Iraq had been “penciled in,” using Maher’s words, for March 10th. Seth Green pointed out that “this is so indicative of this administration…its expansion of presidential powers reflects a corporate mentality,” and Rohrbacher of course said, “I disagree with that.” Maher said that, “Bush and Blair were planning to paint a U.S. spy plane with the U.N. logo on it and fly it over Iraq and hope that it would be shot down to start the war. Didn’t I see this plot on ‘McHale’s Navy’?” and of course Rohrbacher didn’t like that one at all. He immediately started rattling off all of the right-wing boilerplate – “he gassed his own people, mass graves, genocide, etc.” and I’m thinking, “water wet, sky blue, blah blah blah, oh God when will they ever stop spouting this garbage?” I could hear Erica Jong quite rightly standing up to Rohrbacher saying that we were told Iraq had WMD that they could hand off to al Qaeda, and that’s why we went to war. Rohrbacher responded by saying that, as chairman of an oversight subcommittee, he just found out about all of these documents that have been uncovered supposedly documenting Saddam Hussein’s atrocities, and his subcommittee is still going through them (including his use of 488 Kuwaitis as human shields). I’m thinking, “You know, 20 years from now God help us, we could still hear from these people, ‘oh, what do you know? We found a new spider hole just north of Mosul that had some hidden documents that explains FOR REAL AND FOR KEEPS AND FINALLY AFTER ALL THIS TIME about what a horrible, vicious, rotten, brutal guy Saddam Hussein was after all and why we JUST HAD TO FIGHT THIS STUPID WAR’.” Erica Jong again stood up and pointed out that Rumsfeld did business with Hussein in the ‘80s (you’ve probably seen the same slightly-out-of-focus photo on that that I have). Maher was particularly strong in calling Rohrbacher on this, to the point where I think Rohrbacher was actually stunned a bit by it, and I was a bit surprised also. Maher said, “But what about other dictators?,” and Rohrbacher said, “The world is safer,” squirming slightly as I honestly think I heard catcalls from the audience. Maher said, “Safer with Iraq as a training ground?,” and Rohrbacher said, “They have limited resources, and they’re wasting them in Iraq. We’re fighting them over there…” (you know the rest). Maher said,“You’re just saying that,” and Rohrbacher firmly replied, “No.”

Turning to a study from a Harvard professor that states that women are less competitive than men (trying to measure “manliness”…wonder if any tax dollars are being used on this nonsense – I think the name of the professor is Mansfield), Seth Green said, “The guy behind this has never played Boggle with my girlfriend.” Maher said, “If women are more passive/aggressive but men are just more aggressive, doesn’t that mean that Bush went to war to prove something?,” and Erica Jong said, “this isn’t a gender-neutral society…there are more guys in academia with big, endowed chairs” (FINALLY some double entendre from her, I thought). Maher said, “You mean they’re liberal AND sexist? Wow.” Dana Rohrbacher said, “It wouldn’t surprise me to see two women running for president one day” (an interesting segue, I thought…as I mentioned, Rohrbacher, not being a typical 100 percent Repug clone from the Karl Rove factory, actually has a bit of a brain), and Maher pointed out that the UK, Ireland and now Chile are all countries that are or have been run by women, but Erica Jong said he thought it would be “a cold day in hell” (I think she said “hot,” but misspoke) before that happened here.

Maher then led into a bit based on more whining from Fox that “the media isn’t reporting the good news in Iraq” (as I’ve pointed out here many, many, MANY times, if you send me stories and/or photos of bridges, roads, hospitals, power plants, etc. being rebuilt with the help of our service people, I would be VERY HAPPY to publicize that here), and then showed the following “headlines”: “Turkish Barbers In Green Zone Today,” “Among The Dead, No One You Know,” and “37 Sunnis Shot In Head In Hunting Accident.”

The next guest to be interviewed via satellite was actor/comedian and Maher buddy Robert Wuhl, who was plugging an upcoming HBO special called “Assume The Position,” about “the stories that made up America and the stories America made up”. Wuhl said the show “is more about a point of view and perspective” on history. Maher said that “Bush always says, ‘You may not like me now, but history will bear me out’ (I’m quite sure it will also),” and Maher asked, “Could Bush be thought of as a genius one day?,” a question that just about made me spit up, and Wuhl said, “Absolutely; it depends on who’s telling the story.” Maher, in an example of history being misunderstood I guess, said, “Al Gore actually did invent the internet to a degree and he should have stood up (when he was attacked for it) but here we are” (I didn’t get Wuhl’s response). Maher asked, “Is there too much emphasis on reading and math now?” and Wuhl said he thought it was “a generational thing…in 1944, there was criticism that our kids weren’t learning enough history.” Maher said, “if we give up on any subject, it shouldn’t be history, because it gives perspective (amen). Kids have this attitude that ‘I wasn’t even born yet’ when something happened, and when they say that, don’t we have to slap the snot out of them?,” and Wuhl said, “all generations are self-absorbed.” Sneaking in a plug for Wuhl’s former comedy show on HBO called “Arliss” (and yes, I know it should have the two dollar signs at the end…sorry), Maher said, “You’re something of a sports fan. What do you think of the steroid controversy with Barry Bonds?” and Wuhl said, “I’m one of the few people he talks to…I wonder why they’re only going after him. In golf, for example, the players are straight, but they juice the equipment.”

Maher then turned to this week’s resignation of Andrew Card as Bush’s chief of staff, and Maher immediately recalled Card warning Bush on the day of the 9/11 attacks during Dubya’s “My Pet Goat” moment. Erica Jong said, “there are people theorizing that he knew 9/11 was coming,” and Maher immediately said, “Oh, come on.”

(My note: I’m not in that camp either…yet. However, I’d like to hear a plausible explanation for the fact that Tower 7 of the World Trade Center came down the exact same way as Towers 1 and 2 – some theorize that it was controlled demolition, but as I said, I’m not onboard with that yet – and though we know 1 and 2 were hit by aircraft, Tower 7 wasn’t hit by a damn thing.)

Erica Jong reminded Maher that Dubya was briefed in advance, though, as we know, that was the supposedly “historical” brief in August before Dubya was about to go on vacation (and Harriet Miers had a role in that also, let’s not forget). Dana Rohrbacher said that, “I called them the day before. As an Afghan specialist, we knew that the murder of (Visud? I can’t find a link on this, but I know Rohrbacher is referring to the ruler of Afghanistan prior to the Taliban taking over.) was a signal that something was going to happen.” Rohrbacher, talking directly to Maher said, “You made a significant point a minute ago stating that Reagan was savaged as a buffoon and a warmonger” (the same way Bush is now, presumably – my note: next to Dubya, Reagan looks like FDR, though I can’t imagine anyone except the most bald faced partisan would consider Reagan to be a great intellect). Maher said, “Not enough history has passed yet on Reagan.” Rohrbacher said, “He brought down the Soviet Union,” a typically preposterous remark for a card-carrying Repug, and Maher said, “He shouldn’t get sole credit” (as far as I’m concerned, he shouldn’t get any credit). Maher, returning to Bush and 9/11, said, “This seven minute thing really sticks in my craw. A president is told that America is under attack in the age of ICBMs, and…well, let me put it to you this way; I wouldn’t sit there like Forrest Gump. If Clinton had sat there for seven minutes, would you defend him?” and the audience applauded. Rohrbacher said, “It makes no difference if it’s Bush or Clinton,” and Maher said, “You’re right.” Rohrbacher said, “If it had been a major attack, Bush would have been pulled out of there,” which, quite possibly, is one of the most pathetic statements I’ve ever heard from a Bush acolyte. Maher said, “Bush didn’t know any more than that,” and Rohrbacher said, “It could have been an accident.” Somewhat exasperated, Maher said, “It shows you how lame the Democrats are that they couldn’t beat Bush with that in the election. If Karl Rove worked for the Democrats, he would have made sure that picture of Bush sitting there is the only thing people remembered from that election,” and I nodded with resignation and said “uh huh.” Seth Green reappeared, showing disgust also, and said, “The Democrats always say ‘Stop playing so rough’ and that’s why they always lose.”

Turning back to global warming, Maher noted that “Brazil has a goal to be energy independent, and we can’t be apparently,” and Erica Jong said “that’s what happens when the country is run by energy companies.” Rohrbacher said, “We also provide a lot of resources to defend the world” (…that, presumably, we could use to make this country energy self-sufficient also? Riiight, and how much for our interest versus theirs, I thought, and why exactly should that be a choice for us anyway if we were smart?). Erica Jong said, “But we’re going broke,” and Seth Green said, “We’re even building a new debt sign because the old one couldn’t hold all of the numbers.” Maher brought the discussion back to global warming, and Rohrbacher gave Maher a list of scientists who apparently say that global warming isn’t happening (oh really?), and Maher said he’d look it over, adding that, “apparently, we can’t build levees like they can in Holland or cell phone networks like Japan, either.” At that point, it was time for “New Rules” with a particularly awesome closing commentary.

I should point out that, though I disagreed with a lot of what Dana Rohrbacher said, at least he was civil on the panel along with the other members, who, judging from their actions and body language at the end of the show (and Rohrbacher’s stony silence during some of Maher’s final funny jokes about Bushco) didn’t think much of each other either.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

An Impolite Italian Moment

Madonn’, did you see the latest from Prime Minister Jesus?

First he says he wants to abstain from sex until after the election (what, is he a fanook or somethin’?), then he compares himself with Him, then he’s named in corruption charges, and now he’s describing the stugots of people who oppose him in an uncomplimentary manner.

I would say that Berlusconi’s career in public life is mezza morta at this point anyway. If he’d said that to me, I would have countered with “Va fa napole!”

What a strunz (and thanks to The Sopranos Mobspeak Dictionary for the cool phrases).

The Tom And Jesse Show

Now that Tom DeLay has made it official that he is not going to run again for his U.S. House seat representing (using the term loosely) the 22nd district of Texas, I have something in mind for him, since he apparently will need to fill up his time.

Before I do, though, I have to point out DeLay’s typically cute move to disqualify himself from running for reelection, as reported in Time and at The Daily Kos:

The surprise decision was based on the sort of ruthless calculation that had once given him unchallenged dominance of House Republicans and their wealthy friends in Washington's lobbying community: he realized he might lose in this November's election. DeLay got a scare in a Republican primary last month, and a recent poll taken by his campaign gave him a roughly 50-50 shot of winning, in an election season when Republicans need every seat they can hang onto to avoid a Democratic takeover of the House [...]

DeLay said he is likely to leave by the end of May, depending on the Congressional schedule and finishing his work on a couple of issues. He said he will change his legal residence to his condominium in Alexandria, Va., from his modest two-story home on a golf course here in the 22nd District of Texas. "I become ineligible to run for election if I'm not a resident of the state of Texas," he said, turning election law to his purposes for perhaps on last time. State Republican officials will then be able to name another Republican candidate to face Democrat Nick Lampson, a former House members who lost his seat in a redistricting engineered by DeLay.
(I’m sure this goes without saying, but I’ll do so anyway: if you can, please help Nick Lampson.)

Well, then, Tom, since you’ve decided to bail in an effort to keep the House firmly in the grip of the Repugs, I have a suggestion for you.

Why don’t you devote a good portion of your time to taking care of Jesse Helms?

Oh, come on now, Tom. You tell everybody that you’re an evangelical Christian, so quick to pronounce moral judgments on others. And I know that apostolic good works are something that comes naturally for people who actually practice that which you espouse to us every minute you get. So this should be a “slam dunk,” right?

You see, Tom, Jesse is a sick man now. He is no longer the titan of intolerance who held sway over the Senate for years. He no longer holds up key appointments because those who were sent to him by Presidents didn’t sufficiently cower unctuously in his presence. And apparently he’s too addled to engage in race-bating tactics that played well enough with his tiny-brained red state minions to the point where he was sent back to the Senate over and over again.

Based on what I read, he is apparently in the same state as other family members I can recall, and those of friends of ours also. He must need help with tying and buttoning his hospital clothes, wiping slobber and breakfast cereal off his face and cleaning up after performing bathroom functions. And since Jesse is suffering from dementia, I’m sure it is growing more and more difficult for him to have what we would consider a normal conversation, his mind no doubt lost in some antebellum perversion or romanticized Jim Crow fantasies of one type or another.

Besides, Tom, Jesse is one of the founding fathers of what we have come to loathe as the conservative “movement.” He is one of the individuals who saw the potential for wedding unbounded corporate capitalism with white-hot Southern intolerance. He knew that Ronald Reagan could be the champion for such a force, and Jesse was once smart enough to figure out how to pull it off. To put it simply, if it weren’t for Jesse Helms, you probably would still be a bug exterminator.

So this is payback of a sort, Tom. My guess is that if you have any hope whatsoever of obtaining the peace of another world after this one so hoped for by those who you have led astray, you need to put things right, and swallowing a great big slice of humble pie in the form of tending to your mentor like this would be one hell of a good start.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Schmoozing Their Religion

I need to set this up; I’ll try to get from “point A” to “point B” as fast as I can, though (not very “sexy” stuff…sorry).

There aren’t many TV programs I watch on a somewhat regular basis, but “The Sopranos” on HBO is one of them (and “Real Time” would be another, which rebounded quite nicely this week I thought…I’ll say more about that later).

I have to recap briefly to let you know how far the new season has progressed in case you don’t already. Tony is recovering well from his gunshot wound suffered at the hands of Uncle Junior, and he actually came home from the hospital last night. Before he left, he was visited by Sy (a member of Tony’s “inner circle” who, being a Jew, can never be a “made man”) and Sy’s wife, and as they were visiting Tony, an evangelical Christian (“Denny” I think his name was, but I could be wrong) reappeared in Tony’s room (he and a guy wearing a T-shirt with “Terri Schiavo, 1963-2005” on it had appeared earlier in the show to protest the hospital for dismissing a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control pills…it seemed like they were going room to room – I wouldn’t be too happy staying at a hospital that allowed these characters to do that, not that I ever want to be hospitalized anyway).

The reason I’m even mentioning this is because Tony tells Denny that he and his family are members of a Catholic church (though, knowing about the show, you would know how “at odds” the family members act with it, except Tony’s wife Carmela), and a priest will be appearing in the room shortly. Denny makes some benign but condescending remark about that and tells Tony that he would be better off if he could communicate with Jesus more directly; the evangelicals apparently believe that they can do that. All the while, Sy and his wife are listening with very serious looks on their faces, and then Denny hands Tony a book by Charles Colson, asks that he read it, and then leaves.

At that moment, Tony makes some remark about Denny, along the lines of “this stuff sounds a bit flaky” or words to that effect, and I expected Sy and his wife to say something like, “Well, since we really don’t recognize Jesus as the savior, etc.” However, that’s not what Sy’s wife said. She cautioned Tony not to be so dismissive, saying that “Many Jews feel that the Evangelicals hold the keys to salvation,” or (again) words to that effect.

I was flabbergasted by that, and I had a few reactions. The first was that it was another indication of how good the writing is on this show in that it is so in touch with what is going on in this country right now. The second was that it showed how thoroughly the evangelicals had infiltrated other organized religions with their beliefs, which I think has had wide-ranging implications. The third is that, when this is combined with 9/11, I now have more of an understanding of how so many people in this country could have signed onto the Iraq War without any logical analysis of what was going on.

Now to Catholicism, and I know I have to be careful.

Have the Evangelicals had an influence? In terms of the organization called the Roman Catholic Church, quite possibly the oldest bureaucracy in history, I would have to think that the answer is yes, definitely moving the church to “the right” and more in tune with the doctrinaire practice of third world countries. In terms of how I live and practice my faith called Roman Catholicism on an individual daily basis, I sincerely hope that the answer is no.

I believe that the influence of the evangelicals has moved the church further to the right and towards some jackbooted doctrinaire practice that espouses blind obedience to an “onward Christian soldiers” ideology of which I want no part for myself or my family. Actually, that seems to be the influence of the evangelicals regardless of whatever religion they interact with.

It’s not as if the Catholic Church needed a lot of help to tilt that way even further, of course. I mean, let’s look at their reaction to the presidential candidacy of John Kerry in 2004. I don’t believe that there had been a Roman Catholic nominee for president since John F. Kennedy in 1960, though I probably should check on that.

My point is not totally that the church did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help Kerry, but that Cardinal Ratzinger, who of course became Pope Benedict XVI last year, issued an edict that any pro-choice Catholic politician should not receive communion (and don’t underestimate the power of that intervention by the Vatican in the election; that weighed heavily in the minds of voters throughout the country, even in blue states…Chris Floyd of the Moscow Times had an excellent – and shocking, I thought – column on that awhile back). Basically, the church played a significant role in maintaining the corporate rightist political power structure of this country, represented primarily by politicians who are part of the evangelical movement.

I have to tell you that I can’t come up with a word or a number to communicate how important my faith and sense of spirituality is to me. But it angers and sickens me to see the hierarchy of my church constantly lying down with those running our oligarchical government who do nothing but oppress us on a daily basis (and yes, I know abortion is the “elephant in the room”).

Are there good evangelicals out there doing great work? Of course there are, and we should thank and respect them. But never underestimate the extent of their influence and our need to stand up to these people with reason and the truth.

Going back to “The Sopranos” again for a minute, one of Denny’s remarks as he leaves Tony’s hospital room is that evolution is a theory that keeps us from salvation (again, something like that…I would need to check out the show again to get the dialogue word for word, and I don’t know if I’ll have time for that). Denny tells Tony that “man lived at the same time as the dinosaurs,” and Tony, cutting right to the chase, says, “You mean like ‘The Flintstones’?”

Though it was a humorous remark, it cut right through what to me is the artifice of that argument; the argument to me is ridiculous anyway because it’s yet another example of trying to disavow science and rational thought.

For too many of the evangelicals, that is their goal (and I know Our Lord used the metaphor of sheep constantly concerning Catholicism), but at least the church has moved somewhat away from the “ours is the only faith” to be more inclusive, whereas to me the evangelicals are looking for people from other faiths to ultimately recruit for their own, and moving the other faiths toward them in the process.

This is why I think we should be skeptical on these matters and always think and reason for ourselves. I can never recall a period in this country when free thought was such a perilous exercise. So let’s keep that in mind the next time someone tries to cram a religious belief down our throat no questions asked (whatever that person’s occupation happens to be, and especially if they’re a politician).

If that’s good enough for Tony Soprano, then it’s good enough for me. Bada bing!

Update 1 4/3: This is another "notch on the belt" for the fundies at the expense of a man who apparently will do ANYTHING to be president.

Update 2 4/3: Speaking of religion, I would be truly remiss if I did not acknowledge the person who, in terms of spirit, intellect and courage, dwarfs every public figure mentioned in this post (as you can see, he passed away a year ago).

Same Old Wine

With Andrew Card leaving, it appears now to be open season for Bushco underlings.

Well, I would only ask that Scott McClellan be kept on, if for no other reason than the fact that he continues to be such a “lightning rod” for this administration (and such a fountain of truthfulness and integrity as we know).

And John Snow? Well, we know how much he deeply and sincerely cares about the American worker, doesn’t he?

Actually, I laid out a blueprint for the president to follow some time ago that is bound to give him that long-sought-after “bounce” (though not in the way that the pundits might think).