Saturday, April 22, 2006

Next Time, Try "Condi's Watermelon"

I think Ben and Jerry's actually missed a great marketing opportunity here. They could have created beer-flavored ice cream in a partnership with Yuengling and everything would have been fine (hey, if anybody can make a flavor like that work, it's these guys).

By the way, the title of this post refers to this story.

Let's see now, the Seattle college professor apologized. Is that enough? No. He agreed to attend "cultural sensitivity training." Is that enough? Still no.

Here's Chelsey Richardson, one of the students who brought the issue to "college officials":

"It's not just the question; it's beyond the question," Richardson said. "It's the roots of where the question came from."
From what I've read on this (this article and another one on The Huffington Post), "where the question came from" was an addled area of the brain matter of the college professor that caused this unfortunate incident. Was mentioning Rice an idiotic thing to do in the question? Yes. Was it racist? I believe not, since this professor apparently had no history of prior behavior like this and so quickly apologized and tried to make amends.

To me, you can just lump this in with Cynthia McKinney screaming about "profiling" last week when she forgot to wear her ID pin and was stopped by a Capitol security person prior to an apparent altercation; Round 2 of the latest "pity party." And of course, the freeper site Newsmax is all up in arms, which isn't surprising really. After all, this involves one of their right-wing icons, and by making noise and pretending to be tolerant, they can appeal to liberals on this also.

You want to talk racism? OK. Start by the emphasis on the looting during Hurricane Katrina. Start with the bona fide issues mentioned in the column by Cynthia Tucker from the McKinney post. Start by the response certainly of this administration and congress to the ongoing neglect of our cities and toss in just about every administration and congress that has preceded it for the last 30 years or so. Basically, start talking about systemic, economic racism, OK? Don't waste my time with the antics of a self-righteous congresswoman (who has done a good job, on balance, I have to admit) or a college professor mentioning a black political leader in an inappropriate manner as part of a math question.

Preoccupying ourselves with the symptom instead of the disease perpetuates the problem. After all, "the roots" are what matter. Isn't that so, Ms. Richardson?

Nice Tool

In keeping with a nature theme somewhat in honor of Earth Day, I present this CNN story of a carpenter who wanted to be one with Mother Earth in a highly unusual way.

Also, here, here, here, and here are more links to old posts related to the environment that you may want to check out (gets me out of coming up with something new for now). Let's go plant a tree or seed some grass or something, or maybe walk a little bit extra or ride a bike if we can, OK? (can't do it in these parts because it's raining like crazy...maybe tomorrow).

Update 4/23: Here's more from Plutonium Page at The Daily Kos.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dude, It's Over

Aw, c’mon Silvio! Be a good sport; call Romano Prodi and acknowledge that his center-left coalition has actually won the election, OK?

I mean, when Bush called Prodi to congratulate him, Yahoo news reported that that was tantamount to Bush conceding for you. I mean, is that something He would do?

Hey, it was a sweet ride, but all good things must come to an end.

And by the way, I couldn’t help but notice this paragraph towards the bottom of the Yahoo news story.

Prodi also came under fire from Clemente Mastella, the robust leader of the small Catholic Udeur party, which has already staked out the ideological ground to the right of Prodi's coalition.

In an interview with a Catholic weekly magazine, Mastella said his party would support Prodi, but would pull no punches when it came to moral issues.

"There will be no bargaining on values," said Mantilla, adding that it would not even discuss plans to introduce formal state recognition for same-sex couples, nor reform of the labour laws -- two changes regarded as crucial by parties on the left of the Union.
I mean, I know we’re talking about a strict Roman Catholic country here, but do you think they took at least a little bit of a lead from us on that issue? Am I crazy to think that there was a conservative “meeting of the minds” between Bush and Berlusconi/Mastella on that one?

Update 5/2: Si bene, bene...

Only Good News For Andy

Let’s return now to the 8th Congressional district and the Democratic primary campaign, OK?

I’m going to piggyback on a good post from Above Average Jane concerning the blogs of candidates Patrick Murphy and Andy Warren. As you can read, the Murphy blog is a bit more tolerant of contrary opinion and the occasional bit of snark than the Warren blog is.

After I read this Wednesday evening, I thought I’d act as a reasonably informed and involved citizen and leave a comment on the Warren site (under Warren’s post called “Enough Is Enough”). In my comment, I pointed out that, though Warren stated on his site that he was the only candidate who supported bringing our troops home from Iraq right now, Patrick Murphy had also stated that on his site (I don’t know for certain, but I’m quite sure Patrick did so before Warren – Josh Nanberg of the Murphy campaign said that this was so, and also Patrick’s site was up and running before Warren’s site). I also remarked that I thought Warren’s campaign was disintegrating over this stupid “residency” non issue pertaining to Murphy that Warren keeps yakking about. After I posted my comment, I received a notice that the comment was currently pending moderation.

OK, fair enough.

So I checked back yesterday evening, but it turns out that my comment had not been published. I then entered another comment, previewed it, and did a screen capture (you can view my unpublished comment here).

I’ve checked back at the Warren site several times so far today, and my comment has not been published. At this point, I don’t expect that it will.

Now, for disclosure purposes, I should back up at this point and mention that I have this site set up for comment moderation also. However, I wrote a comments policy that appears near the bottom of the right-hand column that states what is and isn’t acceptable (I could not find this at Warren’s site). The only thing I really don’t tolerate is if someone calls me names or uses the comment forum to pontificate on anything they feel like that may or may not have a connection to the posted topic. The bottom line is that if you act like an adult here, you’ll be absolutely fine. I know it may seem silly to have comment moderation since I don’t get a lot of comments, but it seems that whenever I turn comment moderation off, I start having an issue with somebody.

Besides (and here is an important distinction), I’m not running for elected office. Andy Warren is. Given that, you’d better be ready to take the good with the bad.

And honestly now, what does that say about Warren that he apparently doesn’t realize that?

Update 4/23: And here all this time I thought it was just me, when apparently this has been going on for a little while now (Jon Laramie of the Warren campaign must be contemplating a new career as a stand-up comedian, suggesting that Patrick Murphy could work for Andy Warren after May 17th...the problem with that, as with any bad joke, is that the punchline has to have some basis in reality - Laramie's opening act could be "Tina," who referred to Patrick Murphy as "a closeted Republican").

Dumped At The Pump

By the way, as we continue to drown in high gas prices (and seriously now, when has the price of gas NOT gone up before spring and summer?), I thought it would be a good idea to recall that the Iraq War was also sold to us, in part, as a means to keep the price of oil from rising out of sight (of course, like most everything else related to Bushco, that turned out to be a lie). And I give Sen. Charles Schumer credit for at least trying to stand up to this.

Some of these Friday funnies deal with that subject, along with The Defense Secretary We Have and the saber rattling over Iran (try to laugh anyway, OK?).

Update: Before she rose to network media prominence, she worked in this area as a legitimate reporter who was serially abused, professionally speaking, by former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo. My, how times have changed...

Update 4/28: The Bushco beat goes on...

Immobulus, Red Staters!

Having seen three “Harry Potter” movies and planning to see the fourth soon (“Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire”), I think I can qualify as somewhat of an expert on this subject, even though I am a “muggle” of course.

I have to laugh whenever I hear of stories like this or read someone say that these books and movies are a bad influence on kids. If you cast aside all of the amazing, wondrous mystical imagery, you would find that these stories, at their core, are about imagination, bravery, the value of friendship and self-reliance, the importance of “mentoring” to others…you know, all of the things that make most red staters break out in hives.

(By the way, Mrs. Rowling, if somehow you should read this, I’d like to point out that I have a link to PayPal halfway down the right-hand column of this page. If you could toss a pound or two my way for getting in a plug like this, though I realize you don’t need it, I’d be ever so grateful.)

"In Country" I.T.

So now it sounds like the next big information technology stomping ground for the Fortune 500 crowd will be Vietnam. Could offshoring of jobs from India and China be far behind?

Good. Let them get a taste of our reality for a change.

The one thing that always gets me about stories of corporations seeking expansion overseas into countries that are just now approaching some level of industrialization (Vietnam) or countries that, basically at this point, are new superpowers (China) is that there is an implied benevolence in the story along the lines of “we’re sharing the wealth (supposedly) at these places out of the goodness of our corporate hearts, and look how everyone’s lives will be improved.”


There is never even a token acknowledgement any more in these stories of human rights abuses that may be going on in China and Vietnam, among other places (which is just ducky for Bushco, of course, since, as I pointed out Wednesday – “down time” yesterday for yours truly to take care of some other things – we’re not even going to seek a seat on the newly-reforming U.N. Human Rights Commission). It would be nice if Mr. Gates and his fellow captains of industry would at least make a passing reference to these circumstances or attempt reforms however they can, since, you know, this country is supposed to be about peace and freedom and democracy first and foremost…you know, the stuff we learned in school.

I realize that we can’t keep our heads in the sand and ignore the progress in these countries, which is, to some degree, a good thing. But we should at least speak to ideals of self-governance and free expression, especially in a country where we once fought a brutal, divisive war that scarred a generation of Americans and Asians alike.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

For The Love Of Money

Right about now, I would guess that a lot of you are waiting on your tax refund (I hope so anyway, unless you’ve already received it). And of course, the inevitable bills will arrive before Uncle Sam antes up (utilities, rent, mortgage, food, car payment…you don’t need me to tell you, right?).

Well, the New York Times published an article on April 10th about executive compensation which I am just getting around to commenting on now (here's the link; no remuneration to me will be involved as far as I know). Sorry to get you steamed, but it does dramatically illustrate the pleasant circumstances for the "have mores" versus the rest of us.

Featured prominently was Ivan G. Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon. The article points out the incredibly cozy relationship between executives and consultants who determine their compensation.

As noted in the article:

Marc C. Reed, executive vice president for human resources at Verizon, declined to identify the company's compensation consultant, noting that the Securities and Exchange Commission did not require it. "We understand the potential perception issue," he said in an e-mail message, "but we think it's important to honor the confidentiality of our advisers, and we have always ensured there have been no conflicts of interest."

Executive pay has been a subject of criticism for decades. Even though last year's pay figures showed slower growth than in previous years, the fact that executive compensation often has little relationship to the performance of the company has contributed to a growing sense among investors that pay is diminishing shareholder returns.
Fortunately, this is not being ignored.

"Everybody should have an interest in controlling this explosion in executive pay," said Frederick E. Rowe Jr., chairman of the Texas Pension Review Board who is also chairman of Greenbrier Partners, a money management firm in Dallas. "The wealth of America has been built through the returns of our public corporations, and if those returns are being redirected to company managements, then the people who get the short end of the stick are the people who hope to retire someday."
Of course, the usual gaggle defending this piracy is noted, including John Snow, who, as the article mentions, “was a member of the Verizon board from 2000 to 2002 and on its compensation committee in 2001.”

So what games do the consultants play to pull this off? Glad you asked…

Consultants help select the companies to be used in peer groups for comparison purposes in judging an executive's performance. Picking a group of companies that will be easy to outperform is one way to ensure that executives can clear performance hurdles. Another is to structure an executive's pay so that it is always at or near the top of those in his industry regardless of his company's performance. This pushes up pay simply when others in the industry do well.
And here is something else to consider…

Even though stock exchange regulations require compensation committee members to be independent of the executives whose remuneration they oversee, their connections with those people can run deep.
Enforcement? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

OK, I know what you’re thinking, right? “Dag, Doomsy, this stuff is boring. And I know the white-collar crooks keep ripping us off, but aside from voting for Democrats and hoping for the best, we really can’t do anything about this.”


Let me introduce you to U.S. House Bill H.R. 4291, sponsored by Barney Frank along with George Miller, David Obey, Charles Rangel, Nydia Velasquez, and Martin Olav Sabo (if I have to point out the political party of these individuals, then you haven’t been paying attention).

As far as I know, this is still “stuck in committee,” or whatever the approved language is for the fact that it isn’t going anywhere. Based on my admittedly limited knowledge on this, it looks like the bill is a good starting point to address the ills mentioned in the New York Times article. The bill amends the act that created the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934. It attempts to set more realistic executive compensation guidelines, including shareholder approval of any “golden parachute” compensation this individual would receive upon termination.

(I wish the bill would mandate stock options as expenses; I don't think that was covered by Sarbanes-Oxley. I have to look into that some more.)

Use this link to contact your representative and tell them you support this bill. That will help to get the ball rolling.

Just remember, as Don Henley of The Eagles sang once, “a man with a briefcase can steal more money than any man with a gun.”

Tying Our Own Hands

I wonder if, when Dubya met with Vicente Fox on those Mayan steps a couple of weeks ago, he spoke with him about this?

I mean, no wonder they want to come here, right?

Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to apply pressure on Mexico to improve its own economy and not engage in criminal tactics against their “undocumented” workers? Wouldn’t that then give the workers an actual incentive to stay in their own country?

Couldn’t we advocate through the United Nations Human Rights Council on behalf of the migrants and try to stem the flow of “undocumented” workers into this country, thus making it possible for more American citizens to obtain work and lessen any post-9/11 security risks?

My guess is that the answer to those questions is yes. However, there’s a problem, as noted here.

Is it completely disgusting that Cuba and Iran – Iran! – are seeking seats on the council? Absolutely.

But here is what grownups do in a situation like this, as opposed to Bushco. They sit down and talk, discuss, mediate (or try to anyway), bargain, and try to accomplish something. They don’t stamp their feet and march away, a la John Bolton, saying the council is “fundamentally flawed.”

You have to admit, though, that there is a certain lunatic Bushco logic about this position. As noted here in this good Inquirer editorial (the Inky sure is “schizy” about this stuff these days), this is yet another example of showing blatant disregard for policies and protocols that are observed by allegedly civilized countries run by responsible leaders.

One more thing: Frist helped form Bush’s warped opinion on this, which was expected, but another person responsible was Chris Smith; I think Smith did a good job on the House Veterans Subcommittee from ’01 to ‘04, believe it or not, but he’s a total Bushco zealot when it comes to everything else.

One more final thing: as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in writing and ensuring passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. I can never imagine that she would have sided with the current administration and its childish attitude.

Say It Ain't So, Scottie

I’d heard rumors about this for a little while now, as have you I’m sure, but as is usually the case, it’s hard to accept the reality when it hits you in the face.

So, apparently, Tony Snow is being considered as a replacement. I’m glad he seems to be recovering OK, and he should be a good fit if he accepts it because he’s a world-class liar also.

Update: The Political Wire link came from a friend of mine, as did this.

The REAL reasons why Scottie stepped down:

- Wants to spend more time with his family: James Frey, Jayson Blair, and Stephen Glass.

- So many of his pairs of pants have inexplicably burst into flame that it has become virtually impossible to get dressed in the morning.

- Chronic motion sickness from excessive spinning.

- Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to tough questioning from Helen Thomas.

- There has been so much "good news" coming out of Iraq that the White House decided it is completely unnecessary to have a press staff.

- Policy of not commenting on "ongoing investigations" has made it virtually impossible for him to comment on anything anymore.

- New job: Washington Post Ombudsman.

- Can't handle the constant barrage of hardball questions from the White House Press Corps. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Just kidding.

- Disregarded advice of commanders who said a larger military force was necessary for successful invasion and occupation of Iraq; failed to plan for post-invasion occupation; personally supervised torture of detainee(s) at Guantanamo Bay; arrogant and imperious; recently was the object of unprecedented public criticism from six highly respected former generals. Considering this appalling record of failure, it is surprising it took this long for him to lose the confidence of the Commander in Chief. (Now, wait a second...)

- Mastered "lies" and "damned lies" but still struggling with "statistics."

- Finally grew a conscience.

- It's the only way he could get out of upcoming hunting trip with vice president.

- Wants to investigate whether it is possible to do other things "like a rug."

- Breaks into cold sweat when he thinks about trying to explain upcoming Iran War.

- Hoping for cushy job in a) Jack Abramoff's lobbying firm, b) Tom DeLay's office, c) Duke Cunningham's office, d) Katherine Harris's senate campaign, e) Scooter Libby's office, or f) any place that will hire him (correct answer is f).

- The job just hasn't been the same since Jeff Gannon left the White House Press Corps.

- Considering the fact that the Bush administration has been such a huge success and has done so many awesome things to make this country great, the only possible explanation for the president's low poll numbers is poor performance by White House press secretary.

- The rats are abandoning ship.
So, that means it’s time to relive some golden McClellan moments (and how exactly again is this a demotion for Karl Rove, assuming that would ever happen anyway in this administration?).

Twin Remembrances

This site provides a summary of the counter-terrorism legislation proposed, drafted and ultimately passed since the Oklahoma City bombing, which took place 11 years ago today. It may be surprising to note that much of what was included in The Patriot Act was originally proposed under the Clinton administration, though under Clinton, there was a much more thorough review process, and the phone wiretapping provisions were removed of course.

Also, the biggest earthquake in San Francisco’s history took place 100 years ago today, as noted here. Also, I posted on this some time ago after Hurricane Katrina hit and the subsequent aftermath, and I explain why. I should point out, by the way, that I know I link back to a lot of old stuff from the site, and I do that because I honestly think it provides context; also, though I don’t know the statistics, I’m hoping that I’ll get extra traffic over time to this site, and this gives people who may be coming here for the first time the chance to read legacy content.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Lapdog Joe" Returns

(No, I’m actually not talking about Lieberman, who’s making noise like he’ll run as an independent candidate for the Senate if he loses the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont…heh heh).

TIME Magazine media whore Joe Klein has been getting quite thoroughly eviscerated in the online community lately, and I was not at first going to say anything because my “betters” were already doing that.

(This is what Joe was up to the last time we checked, by the way.)

However, I received a copy of the magazine with his column hyping his book “Politics Lost” about how those nasty, son-of-a-gun political consultants have just ruined everything, gosh darn it. I read it and was about to write a scathing, incisive, eloquent literary masterpiece in response, but Ari Melber had the unmitigated gall to write this great post instead, so I’ll just cop out and link to that.

This takes you to Crooks and Liars, which captured Klein on “This Week” defending Bush’s “nuclear option” on Iran, with George Stephanopoulos quite rightly describing that option as “insane” (by the way, remember when Congress was talking about “the nuclear option” regarding Bush’s judicial nominees and we actually WEREN’T being literal?).

I also have a link to The Rude Pundit pertaining to Klein, but before you check it out, I should tell you that there’s a REASON why this person is called The Rude Pundit, OK? This person’s writing is terrific and goes in all kinds of directions, just about all of them highly scatological. So without further ado, here’s the link.

I want to point out something else that I think is important; this is something that has either been overlooked or is too uncomfortable to point out. Sure, Klein deserves ridicule for being a self-serving media huckster who plies his wares for whichever political ideology is in favor at the moment. But as long as he’s talking about who has ruined politics, I think other people are partly guilty also.

Of course, the politicians who totally “hike up their skirts” (only figuratively, as far as I know) to well-heeled lobbyists are guilty. So are judges who want to be friends with the politicos in power (see Scalia, Antonin).

But when we as a people don’t bother to inform ourselves concerning the important issues in our community, and when some say that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting free speech “goes too far” and we don’t know or care enough to refute that idiocy, or we don’t care about campaign finance reform or the Jack Abramoff scandal currently unfolding or the “Scooter” Libby case and communicate that we don’t care to the politicians who are only too happy to return to the status quo that favors them at every turn, and when we don’t communicate that the environment should be PARAMOUNT above all issues, and when only about 50 percent of us bother to vote in a PRESIDENTIAL election…well then, guess what?

If politics are “lost,” then that’s partly our fault too.

Update 4/21: After reading this, I'm wondering if The Rude Pundit was exaggerating after all. I mean, Klein can't soil himself dealing with those filthy, pissant little lefty bloggers, can he?

No Loophole Left Behind

Try as they may, including rigging the test scores, Bushco and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings just can't make this whole "No Child Left Behind" thing work without spending the money (as I've said, if in no other way, Dubya is consistent in that he once declared himself "a CEO president," and he definitely acts like one).

I had something to say about this awhile back, and if you want to check it out, here it is.

Leaking All Over Us

The Philadelphia Inquirer concocted this gem of an editorial on 4/13.

Editorial Out of saddle, into puddle

It was refreshing, in a sense, to hear President Bush come out in favor of government leaks.

Of course, when you're the president and you specifically authorized the leak, you don't call it "leaking." You speak of truth-telling.

"I wanted people to see the truth," Bush said Monday in defending his decision to release a secret government report in 2003 about whether Iraq sought to obtain uranium for nuclear weapons.

Whether the President's leak offered people the truth, as opposed to politically expedient spin, is an open question. But Bush's admission that he personally authorized this disclosure should induce him to dismount the high horse he has been riding about leaks.

The President and other top officials have expressed indignation at leaks that reflected poorly on the administration. When news surfaced about secret CIA prisons holding suspected terrorists in eight countries, including in Eastern Europe, it spawned government investigations into how the information got out, and threats to throw reporters in jail. When the media reported that the President had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a warrant on U.S. citizens, Bush said the disclosure helped our enemies. More probes began.

Let's acknowledge some basic truths. All presidents leak at one time or another. All presidents wax indignant when someone else's leak embarrasses them.

Remember when President Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in 1998 to retaliate for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa? Critics accused Clinton of bombing an aspirin factory so he could look "presidential" during the Monica Lewinsky furor. Administration officials soon leaked the news that the CIA had taken soil samples revealing traces of a potential nerve gas agent at the plant.
I’ll get to that in a minute.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan claims a distinction between disseminating declassified information "in the public interest" and leaking sensitive, classified national intelligence. Of course, in this case the information was declassified only because the President wanted it leaked. The question remains whether the leaks about Iraq and uranium were aimed at the public interest or the President's political interests. Then, as now, Bush was under fire for misleading the country into war.

As for the truth on Iraq's WMD program, that's still a moving target.
No it isn’t. Remember the Duelfer report from two years ago? Apparently the Inquirer has forgotten.

The Washington Post just reported that U.S. investigators had concluded on May 29, 2003, that those infamous "mobile biological laboratories" found in Iraq had nothing to do with weapons. One expert called them "the biggest sand toilets in the world."

The team transmitted its finding to Washington two days before the President declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction." That's more uncomfortable news for a wartime president. Can another leak be far behind?
Ultimately, I have no idea what the hell this editorial is all about. Is the Inquirer seriously trying to equate the outing of Valerie Plame with bombing ordered by President Clinton on a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan which may or may not have been making chemical weapons? Please tell me whose cover was blown when Clinton ordered the attack. I must have missed that bit of detail when the story first broke.

If you want to blame Clinton for this, you could do it because the attack may have been based on outdated intelligence, and it also may have come at a time when we were still negotiating to get bin Laden (and of course, we did not know at the time that Unocal was negotiating with the Taliban to build the trans-Afghani pipeline, as noted here…given that those sensitive business negotiations were underway, how could that NOT end up undercutting any punitive effort on our part against the Taliban in Afghanistan? We can’t both get their money and punish them at the same time.).

This is the Viewzone excerpt I’m referring to so you don’t have to scroll through everything.

2. December 4, 1997 - Representatives of the Taliban are invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Subsequent reports will indicate that the negotiations failed, allegedly because the Taliban wanted too much money. [Source: The BBC, Dec. 4, 1997]

3. February 12, 1998 - Unocal Vice President John J. Maresca - later to become a Special Ambassador to Afghanistan - testifies before the House that until a single, unified, friendly government is in place in Afghanistan the trans-Afghani pipeline needed to monetize the oil will not be built. [Source: Testimony before the House International Relations Committee.]
And I LOVE the trivial way they end the editorial by stating in effect, “Oh, Bush willingly lied AGAIN about these supposed mobile labs which were empty trailers; just keep leaking, sir.”

What a wondrous editorial hallmark for Philadelphia’s supposed “newspaper of record.” I guess this is the Inky’s way of parroting the new editorial policy of the Washington Post in which Deborah Howell and Jim Brady believe that the reporters must report, but the editorial writers can do anything they want (or, as Howell states so sanctimoniously here, "news stories are to inform, editorials are to influence").

Clearing The Air

Think Progress had a good post recently on William Wehrum, Bush’s nominee to head the EPA (the gory details on this guy can be accessed here). The Philadelphia Inquirer had a good editorial against Wehrum today also (a lot of repetition between the two).

This is particularly important because this Saturday the 22nd is Earth Day, and David Muhly, the regional representative of the Sierra Club in Bland, Va., wrote this a year ago with that in mind.

Conservative evangelicals recently sent a letter to President Bush that said, "Protection of the global climate is an essential requirement for faithful human stewardship of God's creation on Earth." The National Council of Churches, which represents more than 100,000 congregations nationwide, has begun to describe stewardship of the Earth as a critical "moral value."

Thirty-five years ago, the first Earth Day was celebrated, on the date after the birthday of legendary conservationist and Sierra Club founder John Muir. The timing was no coincidence. After all, Muir was the prototypical environmentalist, having translated his love for the Sierra Nevada into efforts to protect natural areas throughout the West.

Today, the whole idea of there being a single model for environmentalism itself deserves some questioning. These days, the most compelling voices for environmental stewardship are as likely to be a minister, a hunter, a nurse, or a factory line worker.

In an increasingly polarized nation, environmental issues may be a natural way to unite groups across the political spectrum. Recent trends both at the national level and in our own backyard underscore this opportunity.

It's not just religious groups. Hunters and anglers are the most vocal proponents of wetlands protection, and they represent a formidable obstacle to anyone proposing to weaken existing protections. Working families have also taken up the environment as a cause; they know better than anyone that developing clean energy technologies will create good jobs. And Latino and African American families continue to be on the front lines battling air and other pollution that disproportionately affects their communities.

The truth that environmental politics can unify supposedly separate constituencies is as true in the Appalachians as it is anywhere. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates this trend than the fight to protect our wild forest areas, roadless areas, on our own national forests here in the Southeast. But it's not just a question of protecting wildlife habitat, or recreational opportunities, or the chance for solitude and spiritual repose. This is an issue deeply bound up with the future of human communities.

We can see this in the rising concern among many communities. As the recent controversies over logging in the Woodfin and Asheville watersheds in North Carolina have demonstrated, for example, folks are rightly concerned about development in the critical areas that supply clean water for their communities. National forests supply clean water to millions of Americans and thousands of communities across the country. More than 60 percent of the clean water in this country has its headwaters in our national forests, many of these areas in the same backcountry areas at risk from the weakening of roadless area protection proposed by the administration in Washington. A diverse coalition of political voices has joined to say that we need to protect our watersheds from logging, and our roadless areas in our national forests from any efforts to weaken the protections already extended to them.

And the need for clean water is one thing we can all agree on. As the administration prepares to roll out yet another attempt to weaken protections for and allow logging in our roadless wild forest areas in our national forests, state governors have the opportunity to join Govs. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, Mike Easley of North Carolina, and Phil Bredesen of Tennessee in their support for protecting this critical resource for all Americans, not just some vested interests with a financial stake in opening up these areas.

What we have learned over and over again is that everyone has a stake when it comes to protecting our air, water, and natural places. The values we are talking about - fairness, responsibility, health and safety - are universal. And many of the solutions to our environmental challenges are well within reach, if we work together.

"When we try to pick out anything by itself," John Muir famously said, "we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." That's truer today than ever.
A reminder about Wehrum: as the Think Progress post noted, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will try to put a hold on Wehrum's nomination if it moves to the Senate floor.

It Goes Both Ways, Dubya

So Bush says that he’s the “decider” on Rummy, huh? And of course, the right-wing echo chamber has gone into hyper drive to spin the criticism of Rumsfeld by retired generals the way it wants to (hat tip to Atrios).

Well, we can decide too.

No Prayer

Lots to catch up on over the next few days, and I’ll do my best.

The Bucks County Courier Times provided this bit of amusement this morning from Suzanne Fields (though they did call for Rummy’s head yesterday, which is miraculous for them).

I usually stay with the television channel after Fox News Sunday for the first five minutes of the Rev. Joel Osteen's sermon from Lakewood Church in Houston. He always begins his message with a joke, often funny, sometimes a bit corny, but usually with a nugget of insight if not truth.
Yep, I guess that’s part of the Sunday freeper daily regimen, though I actually look forward to hearing a lot more than “a nugget” of truth or insight after the Gospel reading. And if you want to find out more about this Osteen guy, here is more information.

I guess I’m kind of “old school” in a way, but I know when I have to do penance (sometimes after writing some of these posts). It’s uncomfortable at times, but I know I have to be reminded of that on occasion. Whenever anyone tells me nothing but how wonderful I am and how wonderful everything else is without any balance or acknowledgement that often things really aren’t that way at times, I am naturally suspicious, and it sounds like this Osteen guy is nothing but a cheerleader.

The other Sunday he told of a big-game hunter out to get a grizzly bear. He prayed for prey. He tramped through the big woods for hours, but never saw even a trace of a grizzly. Weary and dejected, he finally sat down on a hickory stump and leaned his gun against a nearby sapling, to rest for a while. Suddenly, he looked up to see a mighty grizzly bearing down on him. With no time to reach for his gun, he breathed a desperate prayer: "God, give this bear religion, so he won't kill me." The bear halted dead in his tracks, rose on his hind legs, spread his mighty paws, and looked to the heavens with thanksgiving. "Thank you, God," the bear shouted, "for sending this wonderful meal I'm about to eat."
What a knee slapper, huh? It is a bit of a metaphor for Bushco, though, when I think about it.

Mixing religious faith and politics is front-page news, as anyone who reads a newspaper knows, and the pastor's joke mocks the notion that God answers specific requests. But prayer is not about a wish list, and a recent study (financed by a foundation grant of $2.4 million) purported to find that prayers for specific works of God, as in curing disease, are not effective. But the faithful understand that prayer is about seeking the will of God, and being content in it.
“The faithful” who I know understand that when we pray for something, sometimes God says no. We each have experiences of how difficult it can be to deal with that. Sometimes you are NEVER content with it. I guess that’s what Fields is saying, though apparently not this Osteen guy.

When I read what Fields said about “being content,” I thought of the scene in “Forrest Gump” where Jenny comes back home with Gump to her shack where she grew up being abused by her father. Even though he is long dead and the house is an utter wreck, in her rage, she picks up rocks one after the other and throws them at the house, suddenly stopping, and in the folksy, poetic way that Tom Hanks as Gump delivers most of his lines in the movie, he merely says, “Sometimes, you just run out of rocks.” I wonder if that kind of feeling or emotion is something that Osteen or Fields or some of these other “holier than thou” types will ever understand.

Oh, and by the way, here comes the hook.

President Bush is often criticized, usually by those of no faith, for talking about his faith in the public square, for referring to it as guidance in making public policy, but in doing so he is well within the precedent of those before him as occupants of the Oval Office.
Do you have quotes from any of Dubya’s predecessors as proof? I thought not.

This quote from Joe Biden in the most recent live “Real Time” episode bears repeating here:

Smart people pray. This guy uses it in a way to avoid having to know the hard things. The idea that you should pray after going to war or making a hard decision – I understand that. Republicans use prayer as a political organizational tool, not a road to redemption (applause, and rightly so). I met with Bush a lot, and I said to him, “How can you say these things without knowing the facts?” and he says, “I have good instincts” (yeah, for ruining everything he touches). If he conflates prayer with his decisions about where to send missiles, then that’s dangerous. That’s over the edge. I think he makes these decisions based on his instincts and then prays that he’s right.

The "social gospel" of the 20th century shaped the civil-rights movement and the protests against the Vietnam War, for example, and this president's policy of "compassionate conservatism," of faith-based initiatives, is an attempt to harness the spiritual energy of believers. Moreover, the president's faith may be even more central to his foreign policy.
Quoting Bill Maher from the same episode:

I constantly read about how people in this administration didn’t know crucial information on Iraq, like that there are Sunnis and Shiites – you know, really big stuff like that – and my guess is that while Bush was praying, he should have been learning instead.

Oh, and did you catch the way Fields takes two COMPLETELY contradictory concepts and hammers them into one sentence in an effort to make them sound legitimate? First she mentions the Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement as a “social gospel” (I’ve never heard that term before – though church leaders protested also, notably the recently deceased Rev. William Sloane Coffin, it was not a movement based in a particular religion) and then mentions “faith-based initiatives” which, as far as I’m concerned, has a fragmentary connection at best to the 60s protests in the sense that they are primarily window dressing to put a happy face on systemic, long-term problems affecting those most vulnerable in our society, much like, apparently, whatever type of theology Osteen is preaching, if you can call it that.

George W. Bush is often compared to Woodrow Wilson, whose father and grandfather were Presbyterian ministers, and to Ronald Reagan, who saw the world as split into warring camps of good and evil.
Please let me know who is making these astonishingly idiotic comparisons of Bush to a visionary statesman like Woodrow Wilson so I can properly ridicule that person (and of course, Wilson held out long past the last moment to send our troops to war, which turned out to be exactly the right course of action, whereas Dubya charged into it).

Elizabeth Edwards Spalding finds another comparison. "When it comes to faith and foreign policy . . . " she writes in the Wilson Quarterly, "it is more fruitful to compare the Methodist Republican Bush with the Baptist Democrat Harry Truman."
If this Spaulding person believes that, then she’s been drinking from the same freeper Kool Aid as Fields.

President Truman praised faith as a force for good against the "Bolshevik materialists," for containing communist expansion in the Cold War and for sending troops to save South Korea. The moral challenge as articulated by Mr. Truman linked faith and freedom, inspiring him to confront a foe that denied that "human freedom is born of the belief that man is created equal in the image of God and therefore of governing himself."
Harry Truman was responsible for the Truman Committee which oversaw military wastefulness in World War II prior to becoming president, supervised the formation of the United Nations and U.S. entry into that body, oversaw the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after World War II, and had a plaque on his desk stating “the buck stops here.” These acts bear no resemblance whatsoever to anything Dubya has or ever could hope to accomplish as well as his conduct as president. And for Fields to imply that there was some kind of religious rationale for the U.S. to send troops to South Korea is one of the most absurd statements that I have ever read.

When George W. set out to liberate Iraq, his faith contributed to his belief that America had a mission to shape a balance of power to favor freedom. Spalding writes that George W. is less a Wilsonian idealist than a Truman individualist, who believes that our conflicts must be won on moral grounds. Both presidents have drawn on the story of the Good Samaritan for both domestic and foreign policy inspiration.
I’ve already pointed out how ridiculous it is to compare Bush to Truman, and if anything, it is more ridiculous to try to compare him to Wilson. By the way, here are some quotes from our 28th president that I found to be illuminating:

A conservative is a man who sits and thinks, mostly sits.

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.

Once lead this people into war and they will forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance.

Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned.

Oh, and I'd like a linguistics expert to explain to me when the definition of "liberation" became "destruction in the quest of empire expansion."

Mr. Truman looked on the East-West dichotomy as an intellectual and spiritual struggle for men's minds. He saw the Cold War as a battle between the "world of morals" and the "world of no morals."
Again, Fields provides no link to an actual quote from either Truman or Wilson.

In his second inaugural address, with the threat of terrorism looming large, George W. said that "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democracy movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." The message was spiritual in the sense that man will use his free will to create a democracy if there is no tyrant to tyrannize. The elections in Afghanistan and Iraq were thus crucial.
Ah yes, the elections. Let’s disregard the fact that they have had little effect on the governance of these two countries, shall we? The Taliban is taking over Afghanistan again and Iraq has deteriorated into civil war. “Oh, but that’s only happened in four of the Iraqi provinces, you libtard.” Yeah, the four provinces WITH THE DENSEST POPULATIONS, MOSTLY HELD BY THE SUNNIS!

Again, it is laughable for Fields to insinuate that there was a religious component to the struggle against communism in which Truman was heavily involved. It was geopolitical at its base. You want to argue there was a moral component? Sure. But a religious one? Please…

Mr. Truman observed a moral dilemma emerging from the communist rejection of God. George W. sees the evil in radical Islam's rejection of decent and civilized behavior as taught by Judaism, Christianity and the tolerant strain of Islam. Both men regarded the clash of good and evil as central in the global battle for men's minds, with the devil always in the details. Man has free will, but he must sometimes be inspired to choose freedom.
Please explain to me how Iraq can feel “inspired” to choose “freedom” when we blast the country to pieces fighting a war waged for reasons that turned out to be lies. I don’t want to hear this “spreading Democracy” garbage. All together now…Iraq had WMD and links to al Qaeda, and Hussein could hand off WMD to al Qaeda to cause another 9/11. All lies…

Dubya has NO CONNECTION AT ALL to any president who has preceded him because he doesn’t want to govern. He wants to rule. He has decided that that is the role of the President, and given the near-total acquiescence of Congress, I’m tempted to ask again the same question Bill Maher asked of Biden a few nights ago: “Why do you guys even bother to show up for work?”

Update: I’m sure Fields thinks something like this is just peachy, by the way (re: the whole “moral values” thing – hat tip to Atrios).

I think Digby nailed this; there should be no need to have some ceremony stating these things. It should be implied conduct if that is what the daughter chooses – yes, abstinence is best, but statistically, it’s not realistic to assume it will be that way. Besides, there should be some ceremony like this for sons, which would be equally screwed up.

And I don’t consider this be anything like a religious or even a spiritual activity. No one is performing this act on behalf of something perceived as a greater holy force than what may or may not exist on this earth. In other words (as Digby says), the father is presumed to be the surrogate “god” or “high priest.”

Just don’t ever wonder why I take shots at red staters with behavior such as this. We can laugh at its lunacy, but the ones who are really getting hurt are the kids, and that’s definitely not funny.

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Real Time" Update

(Not from last Friday, which was a rerun with Bradley Whitford and Michael Eric Dyson, but from the week before…)

This is in rough form (including some rough language) because I’m trying to get it out here as fast as I can.

“Celebrity Personal Assistants” bit (“Save The Assistants” and “Make A Call” foundation working together to help abused assistants) – “This is Polly. She was rescued from an abusive talent agency” (holds card upside down and blank side out and Maher flips at her).


“Sssh folks, not so much applause. Katie Holmes is giving birth in the next room, and we need it very quiet here.”

“Let’s see…what’s been leaked to the news? Libby says Bush himself approved it, but I find that hard to believe. Bush is allowed to see classified information?”

“Bush could be in bigger trouble. A lot of the intelligence was cherry picked by illegal immigrants (double whammy).”

“The immigration bill is dead for now. The Republicans didn’t want this bill maybe because they wanted a wedge issue like gay marriage was in ’04. That poor Ricky Martin just can’t catch a break, can he?”

“Apparently, 11 million illegals would be put into three groups: mild, medium, and caliente.”

“Bush wants to build a virtual fence that would be monitored by DHS, when they aren’t busy having virtual sex. Brian Doyle of DHS was arrested, and some chats went on for hours. You know DHS…they take forever to come” (ba dump).

“I don’t mind that (Doyle) is a pervert, but if you can’t work for DHS and smell an Internet setup, then yes, you sitting around with your dick in your hands.”

“Given DHS’s record, I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind. Let the Arabs run the ports after all.”

“It’s such a sleazy world. I’ve done the NYT crossword puzzle just about every day, and there was a shock this week; the word “scumbag” was used, and the clue was Tom DeLay.”

“DeLay stepped down; said he wants to spend more time in prison…yesterday, he quoted a lot of MLK; ‘free at last.’ I’m glad he likes the black experience. He’ll get a lot of that in prison.”

“Speaking of slimy things, they found the missing link between land and water life, a 375-million-year-old fish. Bush said “maybe, but we should also teach that it’s a 2-year-old striped bass off Kennebunkport.”

“Taxes are due a week from today, and you can make your check payable directly to Halliburton, or do what I’ll do; I’ll file my first joint return. ..I’m not getting married, I’m sending the IRS an actual joint with a note that says, ‘If you think I’m paying for this war, you must be high’.”

Satellite Interview with Cynthia McKinney

BM: Hey slugger…I know you can’t talk about this, but you got into a scuffle with Capitol police…people have to know a little bit.


BM: (recounts)…Once in awhile, a new guy doesn’t recognize you and asks you to stop…

CM: We’re talking about a lapel pin, and I wasn’t wearing it. I guarantee you I’ll be wearing it from now on after this.

BM: Why did you get all “don’t you know who I am?”

CM: It wasn’t like that, I was going about my business, acting like a normal member of Congress (my note: there IS such a species? – she switched right to talking about Halliburton and possible war with Iran, which leads me to believe that she’s trying to cover up something).

BM: It sounds like someone going to a club who didn’t get “love” from the doorman…that it’s more about ego than race.

CM: That’s wrong.

BM: Do you consider yourself “a big shot” in Congress (note: this recounting sounds like it was a confrontational interview, but it was hardly that).

CM: No, Tom DeLay is a big shot. I represent the little guy, the average, ordinary American in my district. I care about global warming, electronic voting machines, the war, increase in defense spending, etc.

BM: I’m with you on this.

CM: I didn’t say this was racial…we have an issue of race in this country. W.E. B. DuBois said the problem of the 20th century is the color line and people living together with dignity and justice. That’s what we need to concentrate on (yep, when any politician starts making a “stump speech” in a situation like this, then they’re trying to deflect attention from their own actions).

BM: You’ve said a lot of things that blew me away…You said Bush knew about 9/11 beforehand, and I said I don’t think he knew about it afterwards (ba dump)

CM: We’re still trying to figure out what he knows. I was talking about the warnings into the administration – Gore and the 9/11 Commission said it also.

BM: You voted against the resolution to go to war…do you think you should get more credit?

CM: It’s not about the credit, it’s about leadership (25 percent of homeless people are veterans…don’t break our promise to them – more stump speech).

Panel discussion with senior White House correspondent for something called the Washington Examiner named Bill Sammon, actor Ben Affleck and Senator Joe Biden (D, Delaware).

BM: (sucking up to Biden since he just announced that he’s running for President in ’08; totally unbelievable to me that that apparently was ignored everywhere).

BS (appropriate abbreviation): Refreshing to hear a candidate announcing his intention to run (blah blah about Hillary being the dominant player to work his wingnut audience into a lather).

BM: Leak story…Bush hated leaks in the past, once accusing the Washington Post of treason over a leak.

BS: When the President declassifies information, it’s not technically a leak (please), but it is when the New York Times publishes classified information on NSA spying.

BM: The New York Times got it from the Bush White House!

BS: Not the NSA spying program, which harms national security (I already can’t stand this guy, and he’s got this deranged freeper look on his face also).

BA: Let’s say it was a mistake, which is possible. You can make the declassification argument but not for political means to hurt another guy.

BS: True, but you have to keep it in context…Wilson wrote the Op-Ed piece in the New York Times and the Bush Administration was defending itself.

BM: But they were doing it in a way that they were denouncing (Wilson, and outing Wilson’s wife, of course). Seriously, what can’t Bush do? He can imprison U.S. citizens without trial, tap phones, can go to war without a declaration from Congress, sign laws then attach “signing statements” which basically say that he’ll ignore the law…why does Congress show up for work? What stops him from breaking any law he wants?

JB: (Finally, but it would be worth it once he got going)…All those people (pointing at audience) are stopping him; the public has figured this guy out. I’ve been there for seven presidents. I’m 107 years old, but there are 44 guys older than me.

BM: You’re a seven-term senator.

JB: The idea that a president of the United States leaks the identity of a CIA agent and blows her cover…what the heck do you think that says to every other agent in the field? I don’t know exactly what he leaked, but it undermined the faith the CIA agents have in their government.

BA: Around the Bush/Cheney/Libby leak emerged the name of Valerie Plame, countering the yellowcake uranium thing in the NYT.

BS: A lot of critics are conflating the two…

BA: Probably also leaked the name (I think HuffPo “ran with this” last week).

BS: Even the prosecutor is saying Bush didn’t leak the name (probably hasn’t determined that yet).

BA: They shoot you in the battlefield for that. It’s treason. We’re not talking Tom DeLay here, “oh, I’ll do a year for taking corporate money.”

BM: This is coming out now since Libby is in court. Speaking of DeLay, he stepped down this week (cheers). We were talking last week about how Brazil is going to be energy independent…can’t achieve big goals in this country anymore because nothing happens without somebody getting paid off, and DeLay is the poster boy for the crony capitalism that has turned America into something less than a first rate power.

BS: That allegation…he’s a poster boy for the left (and this guy is supposed to be a correspondent?). This will help the Republicans actually, because the Democrats can’t use his name any more to raise funds.

BA: (DeLay) gerrymandered (his) district (in Texas) so severely that it looks like the map of Italy. “The poster boy for the left”? He’s an incredibly powerful Republican who’s also now a criminal, and you blame Democrats for pointing that out?

JB: I never worked with DeLay.

BM: Did he get anything on you? (everybody laughs)

JB: DeLay will be around for as long as this prosecution is around, which will be awhile, and it will allow you and the audience to believe that this is a failed country and everyone is bought off. We haven’t had a leader to challenge the American people to do the things they’re ready to do. These people (audience) are ready. We all talk about 9/11. If Bush had decided after 9/11 that “I have an energy policy, but it’s going to be painful, and this is what I expect you to do,” the people of this country would have responded. It was a squandered opportunity. We don’t have leadership.

BA: It’s a good opportunity for the American people to rally around this issue (ethics, back to DeLay). What’s legalized are the lobbying relationships which don’t represent the American people at large, so let’s find a way to pass legislation to separate ourselves from lobbyists.

BM: When DeLay/Abramoff hit the news, there was a fear in Congress, but then they saw that people weren’t interested, so it went away.

BS: Also realized that part of the problem is that existing lobbying laws aren’t enforced.

BA: A guy in a fedora and a trench coat comes to your house and offers you a deal (laughing)…it’s not that DeLay is that crooked, it’s that he’s that stupid, right out of Inspector Clouseau.

BM: Does Bush pray about Iraq?

BS: I think he prays a lot, period (so should us all that he doesn’t do anything else stupid).

BM: Somebody did a 9-year study that found that prayer doesn’t work.

BS: I interviewed Bush when he decided to start the war…he said he walked about the south lawn and prayed (I share the D.L. Hughley’s sentiment that he voiced weeks ago on this show, by the way…namely, that whenever he hears somebody saying how Bush is so moral and religious, he feels like he’s going to lose his f*cking mind – also, I’d like Bill Sammons to meet me face to face, as long as he feels that he can impugn my faith the way he wants; if he were to do that, I’d tell him that the only reason why I wouldn’t punch him in the eye is because my faith doesn’t approve of it.)

BM: I constantly read about how people in this administration didn’t know crucial information on Iraq, like that there are Sunnis and Shiites – you know, really big stuff like that – and my guess is that while Bush was praying, he should have been learning instead.
JB: Smart people pray. This guy uses it in a way to avoid having to know the hard things. The idea that you should pray after going to war or making a hard decision – I understand that. Republicans use prayer as a political organizational tool, not a road to redemption (applause, and rightly so). I met with Bush a lot, and I said to him, “How can you say these things without knowing the facts?” and he says, “I have good instincts” (yeah, for f*cking up everything he touches). If he conflates prayer with his decisions about where to send missiles, then that’s dangerous. That’s over the edge. I think he makes these decisions based on his instincts and then prays that he’s right.

BM: You’re right, being a person of faith has become a “third rail” in American politics. If you’re running, you’d better tell everyone you’re a faith-based person. I don’t even know what you’re religion is (talking to Biden) and I think that’s great. I’m sure you have faith, but I think it’s more appropriate not to look into it, like we’ve done in this country (I wholeheartedly agree, Bill).
BA: Al Smith was a big deal and Kennedy also, because they were Catholic, and Eisenhower had an influence.

JB: But they weren’t advertising it. I have my own faith, it matters to me, but the thing about the Republicans is that they use it as a tool, but Democratic elites (huh?) communicate that they don’t respect people’s faith. My mom says a rosary every Sunday (for a deceased family member), and I said this to one of my colleagues (he mentioned “Charlie” – I wonder if he was referring to Schumer?), and he said it was “quaint,” and I wanted to rip his goddamn Adam’s apple out. Who the hell are you to tell me what my mother does is “quaint”? People of faith don’t want us to share their view. They just want to know that we respect them.

BA: I’m a Christian, I’ve prayed. But touting religion absent of any thought is a terrible, almost criminal mistake. History is filled with people of great faith who contributed to both art and science. It’s not mutually exclusive.

Satellite interview with Kevin Phillips, plugging his book “American Theocracy” (nice segue)…

BM: Have you been listening to our discussion?

KP: Yes

BM: Right or wrong?

KP: I wasn’t sure of the conclusions. They’re funny and our leadership is funny, so it all works out.

BM: In your book you’re saying we have the first religious party in power in America, kind of radical thinking for someone who isn’t a radical. True?

KP: A bit of a stretch for people to think that – data from most pollsters indicate that people associate religiosity with the Republican party (yuck). I think that’s a problem because, within the Republican party, bringing together religion and politics creates dangerous ideas.

BM: Bush was in Cleveland and someone asked about your book and the relevance of the apocalypse in Mideast strategy, and he kind of avoided the question, but he is an “end timer.” Doesn’t that affect someone’s policy and their thinking, given that that affects those of use who don’t think end times are near?

KP: I think that’s right. According to Newsweek, 45 percent of Christians believe in “end times” and Armageddon. With the 55 percent of evangelical, Pentecostal, and fundamentalist groups that voted for him, the percentage is a lot higher. If Bush said he believed in this, 30-40 percent of his electorate (those not in the groups mentioned above who voted for him anyway) would have to say “oh boy.”

BM: You talk about excessive debt and dependence on energy in your book…stuff going on in “other empires” that were about to fall. Name some.

KP: Not hard to do, looking at a lot of history of countries in later stages, trying to spread their theory on religion around the world and outspending what they have. This is happening in this country. It’s ironic that Bush majored in history at Yale because he doesn’t know any more about history than he does about making fried calamari.

(back to panel)

BM: The missing link was found this week between sea animals and land animals, and it just struck me bothers creationists to think that man crawled out of the slime and that exactly what happened with this thing. What do you think Bush thinks of this and why are the fundamentalists so secure about us not coming from the apes?

BS: This will reignite the whole argument about whether or not intelligent design should be taught along with evolution. Bush came out some months ago and said that it should (of course).

JB: This is reversible. We don’t have to go down this road. I refuse to believe that the majority of the people in this country believe this malarkey. There are a lot of people frightened now because they feel they don’t have control of their lives and they can’t turn to the government for answers. They turn to fundamentalist answers, but that doesn’t mean government doesn’t have a way to explain a way through this and get out of this. When government plays into this notion that Armageddon is on the way, you just fuel it. We have to fight this. I refuse to believe that this is what the majority of the American people think.
BA: I think Biden is right (snuck in a plug for the movie “Armageddon”)

BM: I think a lot of people believe the world is 6,000 years old, but what the Democrats have to understand is that those people will never vote for them, so why do so many Democrats try to fish in that pond?

JB: The fish that aren’t biting are the 52 percent of the Americans who don’t vote (what a sickening number), and they’re looking for a rational, sensible, optimistic request to do something.

Iraq again

BM: (Bush) got it from the left and the right this week…Rice and Jack Straw went over and told Iraq to form a new government, and John Kerry wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times saying we should get out by May 15th is there’s still no government. Look, they’re middle Easterners. They’re bargainers. You have to threaten to get out before they make a deal. I know. I dealt with a Jewish guy who built my house (ba dump).

BS: Let’s indulge Kerry on 5/15. Either a unity government is formed, or what? Civil war?

BM: We already have that.

JB: Bush is already removing troops. I guarantee you he’ll be down to 100,000 troops by the end of this year and 30,000 by the end of next year. Bush says conditions on the ground will dictate withdrawal. What has happened over the past 30 days to justify pulling out 30,000 troops? They’re getting out. The real question is how we do it to keep a regional war from happening. What is the plan? The problem with John’s plan is that it has a date, but it doesn’t tell you what to do when the rest of the world falls apart. What do you do when you have the Turks and Iranians in Iraq and there’s a regional war? (Kerry’s plan) doesn’t tell you that. This administration has a plan how not to lose but not a plan about how to win. You gotta tell the Sunnis, if you don’t play along we have to pull out and figure out how to stop a regional war (among Iran, Turkey, and the Sunni states). You guys have to set up your own government, and when you do, you’ve got to figure out how to share the revenue. The Sunnis want a piece of the action. The problem is that there’s no plan; these guys (Bushco, presumably) don’t know what they’re doing.
BM: (talking to Biden) You’ve been criticized for speaking too long, but I should point out to the American public that sometimes it takes more than 30 seconds to explain something so it makes sense (applause). Don’t back away from that the way Al Gore backed away from global warming.

JB: The U.S. Defense Department put out a report two years ago saying the biggest threat to our physical security is global warming, and these guys are acting the same way about that as they do with creationism, like it’s not happening.

BS: If you polled the American people, global warming vs. terrorism, they’d probably say terrorism.

BM: That doesn’t mean that they’re right (note: for the disagreements I’ve had with Maher at times, I have to point out that he is a relentless spokesman for the environment, which is laudable).

BA: This is semantics (huh?). I want to go back to Biden (re: Iraq). I want to figure out how to get out.

BS: We’re vested at this point. We have to have some role in forming a unity government so we can pull out.

(My note: I’m so tired of hearing this garbage. Why doesn’t Sammons instead try to explain why we’re building an embassy in Iraq the size of a small city if we really want to let Iraq eventually govern itself, assuming that will ever happen anyway of course.)

JB: If we didn’t have to worry about regional war…I’d say, “have at it, guys.” Question is not when we get out, it’s what we leave behind (re: oil maybe at $125 a barrel, and what would Israel do if Iran moved in, and what would the Saudis do?). This is a chaotic circumstance. Bush, instead of making speeches, should be on a plane flying to capitals in the region making that point. Nobody benefits from a civil war. We refuse to talk to anybody – Iran is the “bad guy,” but guess who we talked to to get Karzai in Afghanistan? The Iranians. These guys are ideologically driven (don’t know if Biden is talking about Bush, Iran, or both at this point). Bush has to widen this and come to a regional agreement. We can’t pull out of the Middle East.

Time for “New Rules”...

I have to tell you that Joe Biden held court in this show. I know he voted for that fraud bankruptcy bill because of MBNA – that will never make it right, but that’s the political reality of course – and I wish someone had asked him, “Why exactly aren’t you supporting Russ Feingold’s call for censure anyway?,” but all that aside, I thought he came across very, very well and looked truly presidential. When Biden spoke, it wasn’t the typical left or right-wing pundit flapping his or her gums. This was someone talking who knows what’s going on, and everyone sat, listened, and learned, including yours truly.

(also, I just learned from Maher's HBO site that there must be video available of Sammons responding to Biden after the show. Hey, he already had the chance to say something. At this point, he should just shut up and go home.)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Don't Eat Too Much Candy

May you all have a happy and blessed Easter (I believe this is Passover to anyone who observes that also).

If you don't observe anything, may you have a happy and blessed long weekend.