Friday, May 12, 2006

A Need On Mother’s Day

As we wish all our moms a Happy Mother’s Day (mentioning this now in case I forget on Sunday), I want to bring back this article from the archives that appeared about a year ago in The Philadelphia Inquirer from a lady named Jennifer Gold.

Remember there are stepmoms, too

Sunday is Mother's Day. I've been doing something I do every Sunday lately - looking through my local papers for stepmom support group notices.

I'm a stepmom of a 12-year-old boy I've known since he was 6. Despite weeks of looking, I have yet to find a single stepmom support group in the entire Philadelphia area. Shocking really, considering that with one in two new marriages nationwide ending in divorce, and 75 percent of these divorcees remarrying, there must be quite a few stepmoms in the region. And, if these stepmoms are anything like me, they could definitely use a stepmom friend to talk to. Trust me.

We stepmoms are in quite a difficult spot. We spend a tremendous amount of time and energy on many of the same things biological moms do. We cook and clean, do laundry and shop. We worry about our stepchildren's health, development and education. We help them with their homework. We nag them to wear a coat, brush their teeth, and clean up their rooms. We play games and laugh with them. We struggle and cry with them. We go on vacation, have family meetings and enjoy holiday rituals. We grow. But, somehow, all of this just isn't that apparent or acknowledged by the outside world. It's like we stepmoms are invisible.

My name has never been listed in my stepson's school directories. These directories are printed yearly and help parents and students collaborate and communicate with each other by providing names, addresses and home phone numbers for all children and their parents, showing two sets of contact info for the children whose parents are divorced. Some even include multiple ways to look up the same information (by child's name, by class section, etc.), but none I've seen include any stepparent information at all. It's as if the school is saying that no one calling our house about or for my stepson would even need to know I exist.

The community interest/calendar-type sections of my local newspapers nearly always include regular notices for groups with names such as Parents Without Partners, Fresh Start (Divorce Recovery), Single Moms, and Mothers & More, alongside other, more numerous, notices for groups focused on a wide variety of health, community and hobby interests. On the family front, I find lots of mom-centered support, but no stepmom groups. I find in one local paper a directory of more than 50 support groups, but again, no stepmom groups.

Where are all the stepmoms? Where are all the community service organizations that profess to serve the comprehensive needs of families?

I try the Internet. The Web site for the Step Family Association of America shows stepfamily support groups in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Ingomar, North East, and Tunkhannock, but none close to Philadelphia. Like many similar organizations, the Stepfamily Foundation provides fee-based counseling and materials, but no information I can find about local support groups. Oodles of Google searches have not led me to any groups. I have sent e-mails to area churches asking for information about any stepmom support groups they sponsor or know of. No responses yet.

So, what's going on here? These days, the difficulties and challenges of parenthood are widely discussed and documented, talked about and therapized. There is an endless myriad of products and services to aid the expecting, new, every phase of your child's life parent. We see child-rearing books, classes, articles, support services and ads for it all everywhere. Yet somehow, the particular needs of stepmoms are largely unmet. I cannot fathom why.

What we stepmoms need most is another stepmom to talk to. Support groups are a great place to focus our immediate efforts to aid stepmoms; each group offers a small community of individuals who share this fundamental aspect of their lives. For many people, this community is what matters most - the simple sharing of life in an environment where those listening have a certain empathy having stood in your shoes.

In honor of Mother's Day, and as a gift to myself, I'm going to start a stepmom group on my own. I think I'll call it StepMoms Seeking StepMoms. Any stepmoms out there want to have coffee and a chat?

This Mother's Day, if you have a stepmom, remember to call her or send her a card. Thank her for whatever moves you most - something you appreciate she has done for you, something valuable she has taught you, some time she was there for you when you needed her. Your thanks and acknowledgment will be the best antidote for her invisibility.
I did a bit of looking on my own and came up with this among other links. I hope it helps.

"Real Time" Update

(I just barely finished this in time this week, but I may not make it next week.)

(Warning: the “F” word appears at the end as part of a direct quote.)

The show began with Bill Maher making a mock public service announcement: “Latinos are marching with a message…they want justice, they want respect, they want those long crunchy Cinnamon stick things. (In that spirit), please join us for A Day Without Jews on May 15th, when we take to the streets. There’ll be no psychological counseling, no accounting services, no dental work. We just want a place at the table…separate checks if that’s not too much trouble.”

In the monologue, Maher noted that the live broadcast was taking place on Cinco De Mayo, “or as Lou Dobbs refers to it, May 5th.” Speaking of partying too much, Maher noted that Patrick Kennedy said after his recent auto accident that he doesn’t remember anything, “but he felt a huge sense of relief that he wasn’t soaking wet.” The police who arrived at the scene, “said they smelled alcohol, but he said he’d just been at a party where he bummed a cigarette from the Bush twins.” Maher noted that “there was no sobriety test, and the police gave him a ride home…I’m not going to say Kennedy got preferential treatment, but they put a trash can next to his bed in case he threw up.” Maher added, though, that it was “nice to see a lawmaker under the influence of something besides a lobbyist.” Regarding the resignation of Porter Goss as head of the CIA, Maher said that it “may have had something to do with that wild floating party at the Watergate Hotel…you don’t want your daughter to be a hooker, because she might fall in with a bad crowd; you especially don’t want her to be a hooker for the CIA, because she’ll take you around the world and leave you in a secret prison.”

Maher then interviewed Gen. Wesley Clark in the studio and said, “This was a shock about Porter Goss. They usually don’t leave too easy…9/11 happened under George Tenet’s watch, and they couldn’t get him out.” Clark said, “It’s gotta be something personal…it’s sad because we need a good legal intelligence agency.” Maher replied, “Yeah, but the bad guys play dirty,” and Clark said, “The agency has to represent who we are. We make more enemies playing the way we do.”

Concerning the heckling of Rumsfeld by Ray McGovern last week (McGovern provided CIA daily briefings for Bush Sr. when he was president), Clark said that McGovern, a 27-year (?) veteran, “did his homework.” Maher asked why the press and the Democrats aren’t asking the questions McGovern asked. Clark said the Democrats have asked the right questions – “we have a lot of messages and messengers”...maybe too many? – but “we don’t have a pure forum,” and then Clark brought up a story where the Democrats had gathered together for a policy forum, but Dubya heard about it and scheduled a press briefing to take place 10 minutes before the Democrats and got full press coverage while the Dems got virtually none (I’m thinking, yeah, that’s typically lowdown for Dubya, but I know that’s how the game is played unfortunately). Maher said that most voters “don’t know your strategy.” Clark then rattled off three points pretty quickly that I was unable to capture all at once, I believe they were, in essence, troop withdrawal, redeployment, and diplomacy, adding that, “I hear a lot of criticism, but there’s a strong Democratic message out there.” Maher then asked Clark about impeachment, and Clark said that the facts and evidence should be laid out to the American people. Regarding whether or not he’ll run for president in 2008, Clark ducked that and instead talked about the Democrats addressing issues affecting the intelligence community, global warming, and energy policy, among others –“Democrats can ask those questions when we get back one house of Congress” (why not both, I thought to myself as I watched this).

The panel discussion began with former Virginia governor James Gilmore, former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell, and actor Bradley Whitford of the almost-departed series “The West Wing.”

Maher began the discussion by comparing that legendary quote from Britney Spears in “Fahrenheit 9/11” about trusting our leaders versus something Rummy said recently that echoed practically the same sentiment only with slightly different words, and Whitford pointed out that “the whole point of government is not to trust anyone. That’s why we have our system of checks and balances,” and Whitford then tuned to what Wesley Clark had said and added that, “There is no conventional military solution to terrorism, and this whole bungling approach to terrorism by this administration is like a Polish joke” (something about a missing ring?). Gilmore (who was chairman of something called the Council of Readiness and Preparedness, which Maher said was a bit of a redundant title) said that, “It’s a violent world out there (duuuhh), and this administration responded right after 9/11 by going into Iraq and Afghanistan.” Whitford asked, “But what did Iraq have to do with 9/11?” and Gilmore kept ducking him. Whitford added that “you can’t bat .500 if you’re the leader of the free world,” adding that Gilmore is the head of this council, “and I’m a schmuck on TV.”

Maher also pointed out this week that Congress (I believe, or some commission) recommended getting rid of FEMA because it’s so screwed up now, just like it was under Bush Sr. even though it worked well under Clinton, and Gilmore said that neither Democrats or Republicans were paying attention to terrorism or homeland security before 9/11 (I would seriously dispute that, especially since Clinton and Al Gore in particular – one of these days, I have to post on the great stuff “Prince Albert” has been doing lately, especially with his movie – created the Hart-Rudman Commission). Maher then made to me what was a great observation by pointing out that Hurricane Katrina showed what one of our cities would look like after an attack of biological or chemical weapons. Campbell said that, “the government hasn’t delivered after 9/11…people (like Ray McGovern) are taking on public figures because the press and the politicians won’t do it…I have to admit that I wondered if Campbell might pull her punches being a politician in a country that’s our close ally, but she didn’t in any way). Whitford added that it was “personally upsetting to me that we isolated the world the way we did after 9/11,” and Campbell added that, “it’s interesting that people are finally saying that the emperor has no clothes,” pointing out that, as Prime Minister, she had to address the Canadian Parliament four times a month, a la Great Britain and that country’s PM (and by the way, Tony Blair is fighting for his political life right now), and there’s no equivalent for that in the U.S., and Maher said, “yes there’s the White House Press Club Dinner.” Turning back to Homeland Security, Gilmore said that “our ports and airports are safer now,” a bit of propaganda which was actually met with hoots from the audience as well as a bit of a rebuke from Maher, and Gilmore then shifted a bit and said (in a Homeland Security vein also) “more needs to be done to get states and local areas in this county ready for a flu pandemic” (and I’m thinking, sure…stop talking about it and GO DO IT!). Whitford returned to Rumsfeld and asked “where has the press been? (Bush and his people) are incompetent. It’s their duty to speak up. That’s why our people are fighting and dying in Iraq” (what was interesting to me about that, I should point out, was that Gilmore, as a conservative, didn’t immediately go into a fit of apoplexy when he heard that and jump down Whitford’s throat, which to me points out that these people are doing a bit of a delicate dance to distance themselves from Bushco and save their political hides).

The discussion then turned to the upcoming World Cup Soccer tournament (news to me), and Maher asked Campbell if Canada played, and she said yes, noting that “a billion and a half people watch it.” Maher then said that 31 of the 32 countries playing in it have flags on their team buses, “but guess which country can’t put its flag on the bus because it will incite violence?” (un-freaking-believable!). Maher said the American tourists should wear Canadian flags (I hope she was joking – I think she also meant, in an attempt at humor, that the American team should put the Canadian flag on its bus). Whitford (who was very impassioned throughout the whole show, which was all the better because I happen to agree with him) said, “This was because we decided we were going to kick Arab butt after 9/11. For years, we’ve gone for ‘love’ in foreign policy, but since 9/11 we’ve gone for ‘hate’, and now we’ve lost both.” Campbell then asked, “Is the U.S. safer now?” and Maher said, “We put Moussaoui in jail…nobody believed he was in al Qaeda, but it’s good that he’s in jail of course, and we can’t try Sheik Khalid Mohammed because we tortured him” (??). Maher then asked what I thought was an excellent question: “Have we really made an effort to learn about these people?,” and Gilmore said, “trying him in court set an example to the world,” and I’m thinking, “oh, please…NOBODY ELSE in the ENTIRE WORLD has courts and some kind of criminal justice system EXCEPT US??!!” Maher said, “Moussaoui knew about a pending disaster but didn’t tell us. What about the people who knew global warming was a pending disaster but didn’t tell us?,” with Maher mentioning Lee Raymond of Exxon-Mobil (who Maher affectionately refers to as “Fat Bastard” from the “Austin Powers” movies) who sent out a memo to his executives in 1998 telling them to deny the scientific evidence surrounding global warming in an effort to create confusion (nice guy, and an interesting question). Maher then noted that there’s a movement underway towards corn ethanol as a substitute energy source, but we should be favoring the sugar ethanol used in South America because it supposedly is more energy efficient (all news to me also), but the reason we don’t is because the corn lobby seems to be taking control somewhat from the oil lobby, to which Gilmore said that we should have a comprehensive policy that includes everything (that earned applause from the audience).

Maher then brought up the fact that this was the third anniversary of Dubya’s “Mission Accomplished” moment on the aircraft carrier, and he noted the coincidence that that falls at the same time as the premiere of “Mission: Impossible 3” (which apparently isn’t doing as well as anticipated, and Anthony Lane wrote a scathing, hilarious review in The New Yorker this week), and that led into a comedy bit that was somewhat amusing.

The next guest to appear was Florida Senator Mel Martinez, and Maher immediately asked him about the immigration rallies that Maher lampooned somewhat in the “Day Without Jews” bit at the beginning, and Martinez said that “he didn’t think it helped any…waving foreign flags may have created bad feeling” (interesting that I detected a bit of an affirmative audience response), and I’m thinking, how typical for a Repug to see the glass as half empty and not to understand that these people are marching so they don’t end up getting deported and losing everything (of course, I haven’t seen eye to eye with Martinez on at least one other issue also). Maher said that it looks like there may be legislation to determine the status of undocumented workers based on how long they’ve been here (mentioning three “tiers” of eligibility/status), but how can we do that when we don’t have documentation on them? Martinez acknowledged that “verification will be a challenge” (once again…duuuhhh). Maher then asked, “Couldn’t we stop immigration by going after employers?,” and Martinez said, “everyone’s breaking the law, both the employers and the immigrants.” Maher followed up with, “Do politicians really want to solve this? The truth is that none of the bad guys have come in from Mexico, though some have from Canada,” which he said with a “no offense” kind of gesture to Campbell, which she took in stride. Martinez said, “We’d have to build a fence between us and Canada, though we’d need illegal labor,” which got a laugh out of everyone and confirmed my suspicion that Martinez really doesn’t want to try and solve this problem either. Maher then asked this excellent question: “Do Americans make the connection between cheap products and cheap labor?,” and Martinez said, “There’s a lot of abuse, and people need to come out of the shadows,” and to me, that meant that Martinez doesn’t want to see a change in that status quo either. To his credit I thought, Maher finished by pointing out to Martinez that the 40-year embargo on Fidel Castro and Cuba has basically failed, and since anti-Castro sentiment got Martinez elected, you KNEW where he would come down on that one, and he started rattling off all of the boilerplate about what a rotten guy Castro is, and then added that “we’re waiting for a biological solution,” a comment that was truly mysterious to me.

Returning to the panel, Maher then followed up with Kim Campbell about immigration in Canada, saying that former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau referred to it as a “gorgeous mosaic,” with Campbell saying “It kind of words for us in” in an understated way. Maher then mentioned the example of The Netherlands, where, if you enter the country, “you (supposedly) have to watch a movie of women frolicking in the ocean and men kissing each other,” and at that point, Whitford and Gilmore pretended to hold hands like they were a couple or something (for a conservative, Gilmore had a sense of humor to go along with Whitford on that – I hope and pray Gilmore never loses it). Whitford then asked, “By the way, isn’t Maher a Dutch name?,” and as everyone laughed, Maher then said, “No, it’s Irish, and by the way, let’s talk about Patrick Kennedy,” adding that, “Only in America could somebody use the excuse of prescription drugs as sort of a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card,” with the drug in this case being Ambien, with Maher adding, “Kennedy got up there and said, ‘I wasn’t drunk, I was high!,’ and that’s supposed to be good enough. If I got it at Joe’s Bar and Grille, it’s a problem, but if I got it at Savon, it’s OK.” Gilmore said that, “he’ll have to face the voters,” which was cutting right to the heart of the matter, with Maher adding in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek fashion that “they’re Kennedys. They don’t care.”

Maher then mentioned some new survey of sex in America, and stated categorically that “this country needs to get laid so bad…they’re considering outlawing sex toys in six states, seven states either have or are considering a ban on gay marriage (have to check), you can’t get the morning-after pill, there’s resistance to a drug against the papillomavirus infection because it’s thought that it will encourage promiscuity, everything involves abstinence training and all of these chastity pledges fail…what is up?,” and Whitford said, “As an actor, I’ve always been in plays with gay men and showered with them. You just say no,” which brought some sideways kinds of looks from Maher and chuckles from the audience. Campbell said, “It seems like some people approve of sex without accessories…you can have sex, but only if you’re totally irresponsible.” Whitford said, “On TV, you can show a semen-splattered corpse on ’CSI’, but you can’t show a baby nursing. It’s very weird.” Maher said, “I read a survey saying that 36 percent of the people surveyed had never said the “F” word,” to which Campbell immediately said, “they’re fucking high” before she started cracking up (it was a pleasure to watch the whole panel having fun with this stuff).

Maher said, “People who say this is all an abuse of moral values…I don’t think they know what moral values are,” and Whitford said, “Where is the Christian right on poverty? The Bible is a pamphlet on helping the poor. Where are they on uninsured children? It’s a complete inversion of Christian values. Is the death penalty administered fairly?” When asked by Whitford, Gilmore said “I support the death penalty…I’m pro-death and pro-life,” though I honestly don’t think the man realized the implication of what he’d just said. Whitford asked, “How do you reconcile that?,” though Gilmore didn’t answer (I’m not sure he or anyone else could have answered that question). Campbell pointed out that Governor Ryan in Illinois had overturned the death penalty and was reviewing his state’s death penalty cases (for a Canadian, I was impressed by how much she knew about this country). Gilmore, trying to make a bit of a comeback, said that, “the trial system upholds the rule of law,” and Maher recalled a quote from Clarence Darrow: “the failure of justice in a society is worse than crime itself.”

At this point, it was time for “New Rules” and a moment to give myself a pat on the back for getting all the way through the show after bailing in disgust on the previous two episodes.

And Dick Cheney Will Teach Her

(Someone will have to wake him up first, though...tell him Halliburton just issued its latest earnings report – that should do the trick).

I guess playing footsie with a male college student who was interviewing her wasn’t enough to generate a bump in the polls (still trailing), so instead, Katherine Harris is going to go looking for “street vengeance.”

There are a lot of words I can use in response to this, but one comes to mind immediately:


Update 5/16: Sounds like her aim is fine, but everything else needs work (courtesy of HuffPo)...

"He's Not One Of Us"

The Editorial Board endorsement of Andy Warren in the Democratic primary for the 8th district U.S. Congressional election against incumbent Repug Mike Fitzpatrick that appeared in this morning’s Bucks County Courier Times was one of the most disingenuous examples of literary tap dancing that I have ever read in my life (I would link to it, but it you can find it online at their horrendous site, you're a better person than I am).

But ultimately, it mainly boils down to one word:


The fact that Andy Warren has lived his entire life in Bucks County and Patrick hasn't would seem to trump everything else to the paper’s august editorial board. However, I think there’s more than that going on here, and I’ll try to explain.

What was immediately apparent to me was that the endorsement completely ignores any information posted online between the two candidates (from Above Average Jane, individuals who probably don’t want a plug at this time, myriad other sites tied to MyDD and The Daily Kos, and your humble narrator as well, among others). That by itself doesn’t make me want to take the paper’s endorsement and toss it into the ashcan, which I will do after I publish this post; after all, it’s possible they could have discovered some of this stuff – the many, many incidents of petulant behavior by Warren, as well as his use of Jane Faust to challenge the signatures on Patrick’s petition to run when, in fact, Faust had been convicted on a similar previous charge herself, but more importantly, moments during the campaign where Patrick has shone as someone who would truly fight for us in Washington – independently by doing a bare minimum of legwork.

No, what really gets me is that it is obvious that the paper wants to see a fall contest for Fitzpatrick’s seat between Warren and the incumbent probably because it would represent a choice between a Repug and a Repug-lite, which of course would be just peachy for the majority of the paper’s readership.

The editorial cites only three differences between Warren and Murphy: one, national health care, where Warren wants to see a government-backed system like Canada’s and Murphy wants to see a state/private partnership (the latter shows more creativity and ultimately makes more sense and the former would make it easy for the Repugs to labels Warren as “a tax-and-spend liberal who wants to hurt small business”); two, Warren wants to see immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq (though desirable, that’s less practical than Murphy’s phased withdrawal and redeployment position, and really, this issue isn’t a “show stopper” anyway since Bush is pulling the troops out as I write this); three, Warren wants to Impeach Bush Now and Murphy wants an investigation first (as much as I’d like to see Dubya clearing underbrush back at his Crawford ranch AT THIS MOMENT as a private citizen, I have to admit that Murphy’s position, again, makes more sense – what’s more, on the “Radio Times” program a few weeks ago where Patrick was interviewed, Warren said impeachment is “a hearing,” which means that Warren doesn’t even know that impeachment is a trialthat’s why the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over it!)

And let’s have a reality check here, OK? We’re talking about an endorsement from The Bucks County Courier Times, a newspaper so conservative that it actually publishes Dr. Earl Tilford, that fine Christian man who thinks we’re going to be attacked by Venezuela. Could a paper like that ACTUALLY BE SERIOUS about endorsing a candidate that wants to impeach Bush?

Also, I’m tired of this perception that has been getting manufactured lately in the Courier Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and probably elsewhere that Andy Warren has such wide-ranging, diverse government experience working with different individuals and both major parties that makes him eminently qualified to serve in the U.S. Congress.

I have a word for that, but since I’m trying to cut back on swearing and name-calling here, I’ll point out that the word starts with a “b,” ends with a “t,” and represents something that can be found in a barnyard.

When Andy Warren served with Mike Fitzpatrick as a Bucks County Commissioner, they both had the same voting record. And when Warren served in state government, it was in a role as a PR flak who gave statements to newspapers about road construction and traffic delays (and he couldn’t even do THAT job properly without putting his foot in his mouth over and over again).

To me, this does not constitute the background of someone who is fit to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, regardless of political affiliation.

I also thought it was both a creative and devious tactic in the editorial to mention that Warren’s stated refusal to take PAC money was a strength (I agree with Murphy in his assessment that that’s pandering; as much as I despise the influence of political action committees, I have to admit they’re a necessary evil – though Chuck Pennacchio’s refusal to take PAC money as well is noble, the fact of the matter is that if he HAD done so, his campaign would have been properly funded to the point where he would have left “Sideshow Bob” Casey, Jr. in the dust by now). I say “creative and devious” because the mention sets up an indirect linkage to the DeLay/Abramoff scandal, which isn’t deserved in a writeup about Democratic candidates since no money from Abramoff went to any Democratic candidates, incumbent politicians or party organizations (also, if you’re going to bring that up, you really should mention the fact that Fitzpatrick took money from DeLay also).

I stated above how the refusal to take PAC money has hand strung Chuck Pennacchio, though again, it is truly admirable that he is sticking to his principles on that. If by some cosmic horror Warren actually were to win the primary on Tuesday (trust me, though: all of the reliable numbers I see and hear about say that that will not happen), there would be NO WAY that Warren could stick to a commitment like that; Fitzpatrick already has a huge fundraising edge, and Warren (or any other Democratic candidate) quite simply would not be able to compete for votes.

The endorsement provides what, to me, are imaginary character attributes for Warren, saying that he is “direct and honest” (and Patrick isn’t?). Also, the endorsement points out that “Congress is a collaborative body.” How very true. That is all the more reason to believe that Warren, in his consummate egomania, would immediately self-destruct the moment he didn’t get his way and thus alienate fellow party members and Republican colleagues alike (though I’m sure he’s well on his way to doing that on the Democratic side by his campaign’s smears of Patrick’s military service).

And regarding Patrick’s service for our country, the endorsement mentions that Patrick is “an Iraq veteran” but gives him NO CREDIT AT ALL for serving our country other than that, as well as an acknowledgment of his courage and leadership skills. I had noticed that whenever a news article, column or editorial was published in the Courier Times that was either written by Patrick or related to him in any way, his face as shown in the photo wearing his military uniform appeared in such a way that you saw only the face but not the uniform. I know the paper edits for column and page space, but after reading this endorsement for Warren, I’m beginning to wonder if that was really an accident or not.

Finally, I should point out that the timing of this endorsement couldn’t be more favorable to the Warren campaign. Coming the weekend before the election, the paper assured that there will be no time for a response from anyone.

So congratulate yourselves, Courier Times editorial staff. You’ve done all that you can to ensure the most favorable matchup for your boy Mikey Fitzpatrick in November. However, since this district is trending Democratic and the Republicans are doing all they can to run away from “President 29 Percent Mandate” (yep...Dubya’s in the ‘20s now: par-tee!) with varying degrees of success, I have a feeling the joke will be on you when the votes are tallied after the election.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Take Action On Jackson

More from the Democratic National Committee...

Alphonso Jackson, the Republican Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, told a story recently during a talk he gave in Dallas. Here's what he said, according to the Dallas Business Journal:

Jackson closed with a cautionary tale, relaying a conversation he had with a prospective advertising contractor.

"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said of the prospective contractor. "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'

"I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'

"He didn't get the contract," Jackson continued. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."
You're probably not too surprised to hear that. Frankly, neither am I. And that's the problem.

The Republican culture of corruption has so infected our government that we aren't even surprised to hear a cabinet secretary talk about the "logic" of potentially illegally awarding federal contracts based on political affiliation. That's right -- if this story is true, it is probably illegal. Our taxpayer dollars are required by law to be spent based on merit.

Public pressure for Jackson to resign is already building, and Democrats in Congress are calling for an investigation. You can be a part of the groundswell of support for clean government by demanding Jackson's resignation.

We're shooting for 100,000 Americans sending a clear message to Secretary Jackson that he is not fit to serve. We will deliver your message to him when you sign this petition demanding his resignation:

Jackson summed up what's left of the Republican philosophy of government when he said, "That's the way I believe." The journalist Josh Marshall put it well when he wrote yesterday:

"Just as interesting was Jackson's follow-on statement in which shows his understanding of how government contracting works: political supporters get contracts so they can pump a percentage of the profits back into the political party. Standard machine politics, at best. Organized bribery, at worst. And whatever you want to call it, the guiding principle of all contracting and government spending in the second Bush administration."

That's exactly right. And Jackson isn't the only example of this entrenched Republican corruption. Bush's Republican procurement chief -- the man in charge of spending huge sums of taxpayer dollars -- was arrested and charged with conspiracy in the evolving scandals associated with Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

This kind of mentality must be rooted out. But you don't have to wait until November to send your message that you want change. Sign this petition now and demand the resignation of Secretary Jackson:

Just like many Americans, the media has come to expect this kind of corruption from the Republicans. But it's up to those of us who want change to build public pressure and ensure that our friends and neighbors know that corruption is a day-to-day reality in Republican Washington.

Sign this petition and send your message to Secretary Jackson -- and then pass this message along to your friends:

Enough is enough -- and we're not going to stop until we achieve real change.

Thank you,

Tom McMahon
Executive Director
Democratic National Committee

A Call For Do Something

If you think these three last posts today and their linked content all deal with the same thing, I should tell you that that's not your imagination.

This is from Democracy For America...

This morning, USA Today published a major cover story reporting that the "National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans." If you use AT&T, Verizon or BellSouth, your personal and business phone records may have been turned over to the NSA.

This isn't eavesdropping on suspected terrorists. This is a massive search and seizure of your personal information. Every phone call you make -- across town or across the country -- is being tracked by the NSA. And guess what? President Bush defends this with his usual double-speak. At a hastily arranged White House event this morning, Bush stated, "We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of Americans." However, that is exactly what the Bush administration is doing. As USA Today reports, "The [NSA] today is considered expert in the practice of 'data mining.'"

Congress needs to investigate this government intrusion...immediately. Call on the House and Senate today to issue subpoenas and expose the extent of this intrusion:

Senator Arlen Specter has already indicated that he's willing to call on the heads of the companies involved to appear before the Justice Committee. But that's not enough. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and former AG John Ashcroft need to be brought before Congress. And, unlike in past charades, they need to testify under oath.

We'll deliver the petition to the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and the Senate.

Tens of millions of innocent Americans are affected by this warrantless surveillance. Both you and I could be included. I urge you to join Democracy for America in the call for a full investigation into this latest Bush administration intrusion on our privacy.

Thank you,

Tom Hughes
Executive Director
Click here for the USA Today Article.

I'm Looking Through You

The Bush Administration can say whatever they want, but because of the stories emerging today about this enormous database that the NSA has compiled of everyone’s phone records (or so it seems...probably not much of an exaggeration at this point), I would say that they can do “data mining” at this point from now until very nearly the end of time, and all of it in violation of FISA law.

(And by the way, as Atrios and others have mentioned, kudos to QWEST for being the ONLY telecomm company to STAND UP to this gang that is breaking the law at every turn in an effort to ultimately remove all of our privacy rights and change EVERYTHING this country has stood for since its inception.)

How appropriate, then, that it turns out that John Lennon told Dick Cavett on his late-night talk show 34 years ago today that his phone was being wiretapped by the FBI.

This Democracy Now transcript of a program that aired last December (to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Lennon’s murder) provides extensive details on Lennon’s activity during the early 70s, including the company he kept and the activities in which he participated. Also, here, and here are links to FBI files on Lennon and the Beatles which are interesting as historical curiosities I suppose, but which give you a look into what our intelligence agencies were looking for at that time (all spurred by a $75,000 Lennon donation to a group that Nixon and his people were afraid would cause a disruption at the Republican National Convention that year).

(I should also point out that I would not receive one dime if you choose to buy the transcripts.)

As you read through the material (particularly the Democracy Now transcript), I would ask that you consider Lennon’s struggle to fight deportation and its context against our own. A Republican president trying to maintain his support resorted to tight surveillance on an individual who had not broken any law (excluding the minor pot bust in Britain, of course) though the person being watched was trying to hold the head of the country responsible for imprisoning others not thought to be guilty of a crime (felony anyway: in Lennon’s case, the “John Sinclair” episode...10 years for two joints?) and conducting an unpopular war that was going badly in the eyes of much of the United States and the rest of the world.

The more things change...

Spy The Beloved Country

Robert Scheer wrote a good column at The Huffington Post today on General Michael V. Hayden who, despite objections from so-called “moderate” Repugs as Arlen Specter, appears to be on his way to confirmation as the new head of the CIA.

I’m going to link here to a Wikipedia bio on a man named Bill Donavan who, many years ago, founded the agency which originated from the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Donavan fought J. Edgar Hoover for years since Hoover wanted the FBI to assume the intelligence functions of the CIA, setting the stage for the turf battles that have followed to this day.

I’m also going to link back to my own personal tribute to General Hayden and his glorious commander-in-chief (“A reasonable basis to believe,” huh? That one STILL cracks me up!)

Update: Glenn Greenwald explains how this is part of a much, much larger problem with Bushco.

Update 5/12: It just gets better and better with Bushco, doesn't it (dear God)...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Blood, Death, Horror…Yee Hah!

That fine, upright Christian man Dr. Earl Tilford of Grove City College graced the editorial page of The Bucks County Courier Times again yesterday with more pearls of wisdom.

War is nothing but a duel on a larger scale. Countless duels go to make up war, but a picture of it as a whole can be formed by imagining a pair of wrestlers. Each tries through physical force to compel the other to do his will; his immediate aim is to throw his opponent in order to make him incapable of further resistance.
– Carl von Clausewitz, On War, page 1.
As I read this, I imagined a steel cage match between one-time WWWF wrestling champion Bruno Sammartino and George “The Animal” Steele in which the latter started eating the turnbuckle again and the camera zoomed in for a closeup (yep…REALLY dating myself with that one).

Don’t you just love how Dr. Tilford finds a way to take all of the stuff that we have come to associate with about war - the carnage, bombed-out rubble, dismemberment and shattering of people’s lives and that of their families and friends - and turn it into something as clean, wholesome and antiseptic as what he describes above?

I’ve included a photo from Canadian photographer Robert Fisk with this post (apparently of a roadside IED exploding). I could have found photos from Fisk that were much more brutal and practically nauseating that I could have included here, but I chose not to do that. However, they would have been more representative of what Tilford imagines above.

World War IV, a duel between competing world views — a total war for cultural, religious, political and economic hegemony — has entered a new phase. For the moment, and perhaps for some time to come, al Qaeda and associated groups remain at the center of this war; but their roles have changed, and there are new antagonists.
As I read this, I also realized that Dr. Tilford missed his calling. He should have been the narrator for those ‘50s teen, cheesy 8-millimeter makeout flicks with tape across the eyes of the actors onscreen that they used to show in sex-ed classes so you’d know not to try to cop a feel from Betty Lynn Flynn in the rumble seat when parking in Dad’s Roadster down by the malt shop. He REALLY could have scared everyone into not touching each other, let me tell you!

Nearly five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden, as well as his deputy, Egyptian terrorist physician Ayman al Zawahiri, and al Qaeda’s head-thug in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, remain at large. They must be hunted down and eliminated.
Now I KNOW Armageddon is near. Tilford just recycled a DNC talking point (remaining at large because of the inept President you support and his regime, by the way).

The good news is that while figures released by the National Counterterrorism Center indicate that terror attacks worldwide increased nearly fourfold in 2005, to a total of 11,111, the nature of those attacks has changed. For one thing, 30 percent of terror attacks took place in Iraq.
Yep, thanks to our invasion and the vacuum that was subsequently created while Dubya posed for his “Mission Accomplished” moment, filled by al Qaeda and their minions.

While terror attacks have proliferated, al Qaeda itself seems less awesome, with its primary capabilities now manifested in occasional videos calling for jihad.
In all seriousness, we should all hope and pray, remain vigilant and do what we can as we live our lives to ensure that it stays that way.

Moreover, there have been no al-Qaeda strikes to rival those well-planned events that took place over the last 13 years, from the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993; through the attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es-Sala’am, Tanzania, in 1998; to that fateful September 2001 day of viciousness that will forever remain etched into our national consciousness.
Dr. Tilford, I don’t know about where you live, but in Bucks County, we lost 19 people on 9/11. I don’t need you or anyone else to remind me of what that day means.

In the last three years, attacks like those in Madrid, in the Egyptian Sinai, and in London were conducted by local groups inspired — but not directed — by al Qaeda. Globally, the worldwide response to these attacks must be ruthless. Suicide bombers determined to die are impossible to dissuade, but the terrorists who recruit, arm, and dispatch them on their deadly missions can be ferreted out. All terrorists must be faced with one simple reality: terrorism will get you killed.
The flaming-hot, almost messianic jingoism and attempts at whipping his audience into a lather of fear and eye-bulging paranoia is only part of the reason why I’m highlighting Tilford’s column, by the way.

World War IV, however, is intensifying. Iran’s determination to build a nuclear arsenal and its vow to wipe Israel off the map, along with similar threats it has made to the West, have escalated the war to new levels.
Threats don’t escalate war. Destruction escalates war (surprising indeed that I have to point that out to a member of the military).

While the United States and Iran have been at war for decades with Hezbollah and associated terrorist groups, which have attacked Americans and U.S. interests throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, a nuclear-armed Iran is strategically unacceptable. When all else fails (and “all else” likely will fail), the world will look to the United States to prevent an Iranian-fostered nightmare.
The Iranian situation is difficult partly because their “leader” AdMADinejad is so unpredictable (but is Dubya really that stable also?). The ridiculous rhetoric about the destruction of Israel coming from Iran hasn’t helped either, of course. However, the mere existence of Tilford’s visions of utter destruction apparently make it inevitable to him.

American air-strikes may well be answered with new waves of terrorism against the West. Nevertheless, on the bloody scales of total war, what nuclear detonations can do to major American and European cities far outweighs the destructive potential of even a legion of maniacal suicidal Jihadists.
Yes, that’s why we have to monitor Iran in concert with the U.N. and the world community (and by the way, an important player in this would be Russia; the problem is that Dick Cheney just got Putin so POed during Cheney’s recent visit over there that they now think we’re crazier than anyone in Iran. Good job, Dick! Why don’t you just run along now and accidentally shoot someone else in the face for good measure?).

Meanwhile, the Axis of Evil (Iran, Syria and North Korea) may soon grow to include Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia, emphasizing the global and total nature of what will be a very long war.
To me, this association of the latter three countries now puts Tilford in the Wingnut Hall Of Fame.

Why would Colombia attack us when we’ve partnered with them in the illegal sale of guns and drugs? Venezuela wouldn’t want to blow us up either because they’ve done well feeding our dependency on oil, which we crave like a junkie pleading for a nice, warm “spike.” And to think that Cuba could do anything to us is a total joke (such reactionary fears have been another dependency of sorts for the Repugs for years though, I’ll admit, especially in South Florida, giving rise to the careers of people like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen).

Since Tilford has made this particularly crazed observation, it would be nice if he could actually offer some proof, wouldn’t it?

No such luck (and in fact, except for some statistics early on, there’s no attribution anywhere for any of these claims).

However, one thing Dr. Tilford WILL do for us now is provide a history lesson for no apparent reason (set the “wayback,” Sherman).

In 147 BC, during the Third Punic War between the competing empires of Rome and Carthage, Rome dispatched its legions under Scipio Aemilianus to end definitively a century of conflict. Upon arrival in Africa, Scipio vigorously pressed a land and sea blockade of Carthage, enforcing starvation and disease on the city’s population. The next year, a determined Roman attack resulted in bloody house-to-house fighting in which 90 percent of the population of Carthage had perished by starvation, disease or had been killed in battle. By order of the Roman Senate, and despite Scipio’s objections, the city was then completely destroyed and the survivors sold into slavery.
Didn’t ABC make a miniseries out of this in the ‘70s (something Alex Haley plagiarized, as I recall :-)?

Over the next four centuries, Rome led the Mediterranean world. Although never loved, Rome was feared by its foes and respected by kingdoms submissive to Roman suzerainty. During the next few centuries of the Pax Romana, Western civilization based upon Judeo-Christian principles of human dignity and justice took root.
Notwithstanding the fact that Rome stole like crazy from the Greeks during that time (and were eventually overrun by the Mongol hordes anyway...sounds about right).

World War IV is a war for the future of humanity. The evil that emanates from Tehran, Damascus, Havana, Bogotá, Caracas and Pyongyang can prevail only if the United States fails to lead. The United States alone has the power to prevail over these threats. This deadly duel between competing world views — between good and evil — will define both America’s place in history and the future of humanity. And this is a duel to the death.
I don’t know what it means exactly (and at this moment, I’m not going to waste precious calories trying to find out) that a newspaper with a reasonably significant circulation like the Bucks County Courier Times would give someone like Dr. Earl Tilford a forum for his terminal delusions of epochal, civilization-ending horror without some consideration of another point of view…namely that of actual reality. However, the fact is that they have done so.

Yes, we are definitely in a conflict (I hesitate the use the world “war” in as sterile and theoretical a fashion as Dr. Tilford) with people who want to kill us, and probably will be for quite a long time. However, in the face of that fact, we should exercise courage, determination, and resolve, and also LIVE OUR LIVES. We must weigh the reality that we know and act accordingly, not give into delusions that we are to be attacked by Hugo Chavez, of all people, and also not imagining a pair of wrestlers throwing each other all over the ring in the name of the continuance of civilization as we know it.

The Angry Middle?

Bloody Herr! I think Lou Dobbs is channeling Jack Cafferty all of a sudden.

I have to admit that I’m not exactly sure why he’s mad at the Democrats, since the Repugs are in charge of everything (and yes...if the Democrats WERE actually in charge of one or both houses of Congress – and let’s all get out and make that happen, by the way – or the Oval Office, I’d keep my mouth shut).

As I’ve said before, I think Dobbs has done a great job of articulating the problem and providing part of the solution (I know appointing a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel or something to look into the whole immigration mess is a copout, but I don’t have any other bright ideas at this moment).

Well, so Dobbs is good and angry and using confrontational prose.

I’m glad. It’s long past time that somebody in our corporate media did the same thing about a legitimate issue.

Professor Of Misinformation

I would like to dedicate this post to Chris Borick, who teaches political science at Muhlenberg College.

The Inquirer ran an article today which purported to analyze the 8th district U.S. House Congressional primary race for the Democratic nomination between Patrick Murphy and Andy Warren, though the piece mainly served as a PR fluff interview with Mike Fitzpatrick, partly analyzing how much money he’s raised versus the Democrats.

You know, if for absolutely no other reason, I want to see campaign finance reform because THOSE DETAILS WOULD BECOME VIRTUALLY IRRELEVANT and I would NEVER HAVE TO READ THEM AGAIN IN A “NEWS” ARTICLE WHICH SUPPOSEDLY DEALS WITH REAL ISSUES!

(Can you tell I get a little peeved over that stuff?)

Anyway, this was Borick’s “analysis” of what Patrick Murphy brings to the table versus Andy (Only Positive Comments Allowed To My Blog Posts) Warren.

What Warren would bring to the race is campaign experience and ties to the GOP. Warren was a Republican until last year. He says he changed affiliation because his old party had moved too far to the right - a position that may appeal to other moderate Republican voters in Bucks County.
Yes, I’ve read that nonsense from the Warren Propaganda Team for far too long also.

"As someone who knows the ins and outs of an election, he would be a more polished professional... as opposed to Murphy, who is a political newcomer," Borick said.
I’m sure Dana Reddington is a fine reporter, and I’m trying not to malign him (her?) with this post. But the fact of the matter is that Chris Borick doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about and is recycling some opinion or bit of misinformation, and in the process, undercutting the good reporting that otherwise constitutes Reddington’s article.

At no time whatsoever has Andy Warren had any business in entering this race, if for no other reason than the fact that he somehow views this as his last shot at high-profile political office, apparently, and that to him excuses the fact that he has not bothered to conduct a serious candidacy. I would be saying this, by the way, regardless of who his primary opponent was.

By this time next week, though, it will be over. We have much to do until May 16th, though (for Patrick, Chuck Pennacchio, and Chris Serpico in this area who I added to the list today; he is running for the PA State Senate, the race Ginny Schrader should have stayed in if she expected to have a career in politics).

As much as you may be able to, please donate and contribute your time if possible to canvassing for these candidates. Thank you.

One more thing: speaking of the Inquirer, I guess those responsible for the Editorial page thought nothing of note was going on in the “blogosphere” (“dive, dive…”) over the prior week because they didn’t publish their “Blog Cabin” feature today (gee, do you think it was because of all the “angry left” hostility over the condescension of Chris Satullo, Dick Polman, and especially Richard Cohen during that time?).

Well, Inky editors, I have a news flash for you. There were some other news stories being blogged and discussed at the big hit lefty sites, and this is one of them (if I can add to that story later about Jackson, I definitely will - update 5/11: Judge Victor Marrero set things right for now).

"Tax Cuts Are Their Jesus"

(That quote from actor Bradley Whitford last year on “Real Time with Bill Maher” absolutely nailed it; he appeared again on the most recent show, and I’ll try to have a post soon on it.)

The debt is growing. What’s the answer? Tax cuts.

We have no national health insurance or even a dialogue on how millions of Americans who aren’t currently covered will be in the future. What’s the answer? Tax cuts.

The national minimum wage has been steadily declining in purchasing power since 1968 (according to Wikipedia). What’s the answer? Tax cuts.

Our reserves and National Guard forces, and their equipment, are depleted. What’s the answer? Tax cuts.

“First responders” in the event of another terrorist attack are still underfunded. What’s the answer? Tax cuts.

When the next Category 5 hurricane hits the Gulf Region, the area will not be secured, or at least whatever levees that will be constructed to replace those destroyed by Katrina won’t be ready in time for the next hurricane season. What’s the answer? Tax cuts.

This is a partial list; I could go on and on and on and on...

Happy Birthday, Sen. Scumwad

Yes, yes...I know I said I wouldn’t call people names and I’d watch the bad language, but Santorum deserves it (actually, he deserves worse).

So the least popular Senator in the country is celebrating number 48, huh?

Well, to celebrate (sort of), I now present some golden moments with our illustrious Senator from Pennsylvania (Virginia, really).

Blaming Katrina'a victims (here)

The abuse scandal in the Catholic Church (
here and here)

Affirmative Action delusions (

Non-existence of right to privacy (

Intolerance of gays (

Accu Weather nonsense (

Ricky's "Two Sides" by Tom Ferrick, Jr. of the Inquirer (
And of course (from yesterday…)

That "Justice Sunday III" farce earlier this year (here)

His reimbursement from the Penn Hills School District for his kids even though they spend the majority of their time in Leesburg, Va. (

His involvement in the “K” Street project (
One more thing: to help Chuck Pennacchio, click here.

Update 5/11: Thanks Will (via Atrios); you just made my day!...and yet again! (5/23)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

You Either Know War Or You Don’t

(I’ll admit that this may be a strange title for a post considering that I didn’t serve, but I at least know enough to keep my mouth shut regarding the service of other veterans, to say nothing of making a speech and misrepresenting history about it.)

This was a particularly good letter in the Courier Times that appeared yesterday in support of Patrick Murphy for the Democratic nomination to oppose Mike Fitzpatrick for the 8th district U.S. House seat.

Murphy has insight the others will never have

This is in response to Ginny Schrader’s recent Guest Opinion piece about why she supports Andy Warren over Patrick Murphy. She disparages Murphy's character and his military service, which is the same tactic Karl Rove has used successfully against other veterans, such as Max Cleland, John Kerry and John McCain. As a fellow veteran, I am sick of this type of attacks. Unfortunately, we will continue to see them until they cease to bring about the desired results, the defeat of their opponent. I'm sure the Fitzpatrick campaign will do the same.

As campaign chairman for Patrick Murphy, let me give you an example of his high moral character. When Ginny Schrader was being attacked by the Fitzpatrick campaign for supporting Hezbollah (in 2004), it was not Andy Warren condemning the attack. He was still in the Republican Party, supporting Fitzpatrick. No, it was Patrick Murphy going public and saying how deplorable that linkage was.

She goes on to say that Murphy has not learned, in her words, "the game" of politics. She's right. To Patrick Murphy, who lost 19 of his fellow soldiers in Iraq, it's a lot more serious than some game -- it's life and death.

Mimi Reimel, another Warren supporter, said in a letter to the editor that Murphy wasn't a paratrooper, another Karl Rove-type attack. I've read Patrick Murphy's military service record, which by the way, has been released to Brian Scheid, a reporter for this paper, and not only is he a paratrooper, having gone through the same training all 82nd Airborne soldiers go through, but he did it with distinction. One evaluation by a commanding officer of his, who, at the time, had served 32 years, said Patrick Murphy was the finest officer he had observed in his active military career. His evaluations go up from there.

Warren supporters would also have you believe that because Murphy was a JAG officer, he served his time in Iraq in an air-conditioned tent, far behind the lines. Again, his military service record indicates that he participated in over 70 convoys in various parts of Iraq. These were the same kind of convoys that, as of May 1, had claimed 2,406 lives of our military personnel and injured thousands of others.

Does having served in Iraq and Bosnia alone qualify Murphy to be our next congressman? No, it does not; but combined with all of his other experiences, it does. Having served in Iraq gives Murphy an insight that, at this point in time, is a perspective that we desperately need, and is something that Mike Fitzpatrick and Andy Warren will never have.

John Toth
Speaking of war and serving our country, I want to take a minute and point out that Our High Exalted Leader, President 31 Percent (last I checked) Mandate himself, gave a speech about a year ago today and disparaged the sacrifices of our country’s World War II-era leadership (to be perfectly honest, my disgust over it was one of the reasons why I started this blog).

I realize Dubya doesn’t care about even a somewhat even-handed view of history on this subject, but I’m going to give one to him anyway (aided significantly by background from this post).

Yes, at the time of Yalta in 1945, Roosevelt was a very sick man suffering from congestive heart disease. Yes, he made what amounted to a deal with the devil with Stalin to allow the Soviet dictator to annex Latvia and the Baltics. In return, however, Stalin would push eastward towards Berlin, while the Allies would push westward, trapping the Nazis. Besides, from what I read about that era, Roosevelt wanted to let the Russians catch Hitler first because they’d lost more people during the war, which Churchill objected to because he wanted Hitler himself because of the suffering of Great Britain. Did Roosevelt and the Allies suspect that this would lead to Soviet domination in the countries through which they were moving their troops? Yes, but guess what? We ALSO had to fight a war in the Pacific, which the Russians didn’t care about (at least, not to the same extent as the war in Europe), and “deal with the devil” or not, we needed all of the help we could get.

You could argue that we should have fought the Soviets immediately after defeating the Nazis to get them out of the countries they were trying to dominate, but this is all second guessing by a Monday-morning quarterback who never saw combat. The problem is that we have a bunch of right-wing chickenhawks running our government who have the same amount of military service as I do. Also, this gives Bushco a chance to take another shot at Roosevelt, something they will NEVER pass up.

For some strange reason, I tried to decipher Dubya’s ramblings at the time (don’t know what got into me), but it was filled with so much vague and contradictory invective that I gave up. He obviously could not have crafted those awful words himself, but they are definitely the product of tiny, spiteful minds and should not treated with any significance beyond that. I just thank God that we had the leadership in this country that we did around the time of World War II and not the clueless individuals we have now who have brought us the debacle in Iraq.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

I know I’ve been picking on The Philadelphia Inquirer a lot lately (and I have a feeling I will be again shortly; their editorial page is in full wingnut mode again today), but I have to give them credit for something. On Sunday, they published a list of the legislation passed in the U.S. House and Senate during the prior week and how local area representatives and senators voted (kind of buried in the Metro section, but at least it was there).

I try to watch for this most Sundays. I should probably make this a regular feature.

This, quite literally, is what it’s all about. Forget the speeches and the slogans and the T.V. and radio campaign attack ads, the glad handling at the supermarkets and strip malls, the rubber-chicken-dinner fundraisers with the assorted Chamber of Commerce types, kissing the babies, pretending to play sports, and all the other gimmicky nonsense that these pretenders try to come up with in an effort to look like actual human beings.

(Ok, I went a bit far with that one – I’ll give you that.)

OK, so without any further setup, this is what our local people did last week:


Ethics, lobbying. The House passed, 217-213, a bill (HR 4975) to tighten ethics and lobbying rules. The bill, which now goes to conference with the Senate, requires lobbyists to post Internet reports on campaign donations and gifts to members, and members to get pre-approval of privately financed travel.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.) and Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.).
This was the gutted and virtually meaningless ethics reform compromise which maintains the odious status quo. The Democratic no votes were in response to the original legislation that they sponsored and was subsequently watered down by the Repug leadership.

Ethics alternative. The House rejected, 216-213, a Democratic bid for stricter ethics and lobbying rules than offered by Republicans in HR 4975 (above). The substitute sought to make it a felony for lawmakers to influence hiring decisions within lobbyist firms, and to require House-Senate conference committees to vote openly on secretly added changes to bills. Democrats also sought to bar members and staff from accepting travel on corporate aircraft as well as gifts and meals from lobbyists.

A yes vote backed the Democrats' measure.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo and Schwartz.

Voting no: Dent, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.
I’d rather have to endure a month of facial fever blisters than see Mike Fitzpatrick re-elected in November, but I grudgingly have to admit that this was a good moment for him. However, to me, this is another one of those calculated moves by the House Repug leadership where Fitzpatrick was allowed to do the right thing knowing the vote would fail anyway.

Gasoline prices. The House passed, 389-34, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 5253) directing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and prosecute price-gouging by sellers of gasoline and other fuels.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Saxton, Schwartz, Smith and Weldon.

Voting no: Pitts.
What the hell was Joe Pitts thinking on this one? Even Crazy Curt Weldon voted for this bill!

You can ask him by clicking here and completing the form.

Port security. The House passed, 421-2, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 4954) to deter terrorist cargo, such as nuclear devices, from entering U.S. ports. The bill requires all U.S. ports to employ radiation-detection gear by 2007; authorizes grants to U.S. ports based on risk rather then politics; requires better screening overseas of high-risk containers bound for America, and directs states to provide Washington with data on port employees in sensitive positions for checking against terrorist watch lists.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Schwartz, Smith and Weldon.

Not voting: Andrews.
The two “no” votes, by the way, were from Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). God only knows where their minds were at the time.

Overseas screening. The House defeated, 222-202, a Democratic proposal to require electronic screening overseas of all U.S.-bound containers. The underlying bill (HR 4954, above) requires such screening only of containers thought to pose risk.

A yes vote backed 100 percent overseas screening.

Voting yes: Brady, Fattah, Holden and Schwartz.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.

Not voting: Andrews.
I don’t know how the proposal was worded or if any proposed enforcement provisions were realistic or not, but to me, this party line vote communicates to me that the House Repug leadership wanted to make sure that the Democrats receive credit for absolutely nothing.


War, hurricane spending. The Senate passed, 77-21, an emergency $109 billion spending bill that includes $71 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, $29 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery and $2.5 billion to counter an expected avian flu pandemic. The bill (HR 4939) now goes to conference with the House.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for the bill.

Contractor "earmark." Senators rejected, 51-48, a proposal to cut $200 million earmarked for Northrop Grumman Corp. from a $109 billion spending bill (HR 4939, above). The earmark would cover uninsured losses from Hurricane Katrina at the company's Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.

A yes vote opposed the earmark.

Voting yes: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.) and Rick Santorum (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
It’s kind of tough to call this one because Northrop Grumman has facilities all over the country, with four in New Jersey including Fort Monmouth (kind of automatic, then, that Lautenberg and Menendez would favor the earmark). The mystery to me, though, is why Specter wouldn’t oppose it (like Santorum did, siding with the Democrats in the process; stuff like this is part of the reason why Little Ricky has managed to climb back into the picture with too many people forgetting all of the other reasons to despise him, such as that hateful remark about “liberal decadence” causing the priest molestation scandal in Boston, that “Justice Sunday” III farce in Philadelphia awhile back, the reimbursement from the Penn Hills School District for his kids even though they spend the majority of their time in Leesburg, Va., the “K” Street project, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera).

I said a few days ago about “The Arlen Shuffle” that our senior Senator does a little move to the left for the cameras, but then does a little move to the right when people are looking the other way. Maybe that’s what he’s doing here.

This week. The House will debate the 2007 military budget, while the Senate will take up medical liability insurance.

By the way, as long as we’re checking out what our local area politicians actually did last week, I should point out that the Inquirer’s headline story yesterday was a profile on Curt Weldon and how all of his friends in defense-related companies are rallying to his side in Weldon’s campaign against Joe Sestak (primarily Boeing in Ridley Park, Pa. of course, and a company called Analytical Graphics in Exton, Pa.…Weldon’s pitch to these people is that, if he is re-elected, he has a chance to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in which event he’d send a lot of appropriation-related work in their direction).

This, of course, discounts Weldon’s myriad other problems, which I would have expected the Inquirer, being ostensibly an open-minded forum for these matters, to report on in their headline piece.

Of course, that’s not the problem in our current national discourse, is it? The fact that the fourth estate, for the most part, doesn’t seem to know how to do its job any more is not an issue whatsoever. IT’S THOSE NASTY, SWEARING LIBERAL BLOGGERS THAT KEEP SENDING UNKIND EMAILS TO RICHARD COHEN!!! THEY’RE THE PROBLEM!!

(And don't we know it - smirk.)

Monday, May 08, 2006

And Ringo Still Would've Gotten Less

I was visited by the muse a bit (albeit in a bit of a fractured way) after I read this story.

We sued
Apple's Steve Jobs
Alleging iTunes violates our trademark
He downloads more than one billion songs
We think that's wrong
Or so say our lawyers

We sued
In London court
'Cos he uses our company's logo
The difference? The judge did think it was slight
His is missing a bite
So down go the plaintiffs

So set the stage for an appeal
We sued...reveal
How this litigation affects their share price
We now will sell our songs online
Steve Jobs will find
Of his Apple "corp," we want a big slice

Na na na na na, na na na na

We sued
To digitize
All our songs for .mp3 players
The techie geeks everywhere will applaud
"Taxman" on an iPod(TM)
Will sound so awesome

So let the file swapping begin
We still will win
If they burn our new tunes without subscription
We got some help from Scotland Yard,
Interpol, Mossad
With our new security encryption

Na na na na na, na na na na

We sued
Apple's Steve Jobs
Alleging iTunes violates our trademark
He downloads more than one billion songs
We think that's wrong
Or so say our...
Lawyers Lawyers Lawyers Lawyers Lawyers Lawyers...YAAAAAHHH!!!
(And I'm sure representatives of the Yoko Ono Collection Agency will now be beating a path to my door shortly...)

Bitter Medicine

I can tell how enamored the Inquirer editorial board is with Bob Casey, Jr. based on this endorsement, not unlike the child being forced to take a liquid antibiotic (still catching up from yesterday on my end…typical for most Mondays).

I’ll be fair by noting that Casey has really gotten it together with his web site and has come out on the right side of a host of Democratic boilerplate issues, as the editorial states. And though I’m unhappy about his automatic opposition to gun control (which really is required if you expect to get any voters at all between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in this state), I’m more concerned about his anti-choice stance (and his stance on stem cell research, which I guess you could call “nuanced, but still hopeful”).

I’m also highly concerned about the fact that Scumbag Santorum has managed to close the gap between him and Casey to single digits by not doing a lot, which I and a lot of other people KNEW would happen (and the Repug slime machine really hasn’t even cranked up yet). This is what takes place when you run an invisible campaign.

I realize this is rehashing, but I’m bringing this up because of (again) the Inquirer’s dismissive attitude towards Casey’s primary challengers (specifically Chuck Pennacchio) with this:

He (Pennacchio) views the living wage as the solution to many of the world's problems.
Is that all the substance you guys can muster, or is it more important to maintain the “dingbat college professor forays into politics” narrative?

And how’s this for a final jab of a closing?

If Pennsylvania Democrats want to capture that elusive Senate seat, their choice in the primary should be BOB CASEY JR. If they want someone who'll preach to the choir, but make few converts outside the congregation, they can pick one of the other guys.
More of that “go along to get along” attitude that has won SO MANY elections for the Democrats…

Sure it has (thanks, Inky).

Even though I just posted this a couple of days ago, I’ll link back again because I thought Judith Gordon made a convincing argument for Chuck. I know a primary win would take a miracle (5/9 note: pls disregard "miracle" per commenter...somehow I think we can do better than a max of 10 percent turnout here, people; substitute "halfway decent amount of votes for Chuck" instead) at this point, but it would make the victory even sweeter if somehow we could pull it off.

Thank You, Sir! May I Have Another?!

So it was, a typical Sunday again for yours truly; catching up on laundry, stuff around the house, tending to the young one, and picking up the Inquirer and reading about how those nasty, swearing, unkempt little lefty bloggers are ruining our country (now I know why Atrios frequently refers to much of the Inquirer editorial board as “the stupids”).

I suppose that’s being a bit tough, but I get tired of reading from people getting paid in the news business about what awful cretins we supposedly are in the blogging community. Chris Satullo and Dick Polman of The Philadelphia Inquirer are accomplished news professionals; I have to acknowledge that even though I frequently disagree with them. That’s why it is actually beneath them to heap scorn upon us without even really bothering to look at the merits of what we’re trying to say.

Let’s start with Satullo (from yesterday’s Editorial section...oh, sorry – I keep forgetting that that section has been given the bland, vague moniker of “Currents”):

Now to the port side of the blogosphere, where folly also reigns. Lefty blogs were incensed that news accounts of the dinner focused not on Colbert, but on Bush's byplay with an impersonator. This, combined with the room's tepid response to Colbert, spawned endless tirades on media cowardice and bias.

Fact check. The folks at the event weren't all journalists, not by a long shot. Media outlets scramble to fill their tables with celebrities and power brokers. Awfully chummy, I agree. Point is, this wasn't simply a silence of the journalistic lambs.
I should note that this was preceded by Satullo’s quite proper castigation of conservatives in “the blogosphere” (still hate that term…).

Can I ask what difference it makes who attended the press club dinner regarding the question of whether or not Colbert’s performance was covered on CNN, MSNBC and the network news? Digby pointed out last week that was Don Imus said in 1996, with the Clintons sitting right next to him, was far worse than anything Colbert said, and I distinctly recall that that was mentioned all over the place. Despite what I acknowledge to be occasional whining on whether or not Colbert was covered by non-bloggers, the fact of the matter is that the whiners have a point. I saw NOTHING on Colbert’s appearance at the news sites, but I could find “stories” on the Bush impersonator everywhere.

Again, to me this is a case of killing the messenger (“how dare you little non-professionals try to hold us accountable!”). And Satullo's gratuituous dig at Noam Chomsky without citing any evidence was a stellar moment also.

Now, onto Dick Polman; this is an excerpt from his column yesterday describing the current fate of Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut:

Lieberman now faces real competition for the first time since 1988 - from Ned Lamont, an affluent cable-TV entrepreneur and staunch war critic who is poised to challenge Lieberman in an August Democratic primary, with financial backing from the liberal bloggers who routinely assail the senator in language unfit for a family newspaper.
Before I say anything else, I should point out that Polman updated his column at his blog today with some more background on Lieberman’s – how might you put it? – “contentious” relationship with the lefty bloggers (who have all pointed out by now what a shill Lieberman is for the Republicans).

There is about one paragraph in Polman’s original piece where he discusses Lieberman’s votes on domestic issues (against Arctic drilling, against Bush’s tax cuts, and the Social Security privatization scheme). However, Lieberman also supported federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo circus, the energy bill giveaway, the fraud bankruptcy bill, and the confirmation of “Strip Search Sammy” Alito.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if Polman has mentioned THOSE VOTES also in his original column? Instead of spending the vast majority of the column on Lieberman's out-of-reality support for the Iraq War, I would have liked to have read a more thorough analysis of why he has fallen from favor (silly me).

Oh, and by the way, somehow I missed this true gem of a hit piece, “drive by” journalism at its worst as far as I’m concerned, by Richard Cohen of The Washington Post that he assaulted us with last week (though my lefty “betters” were all over him, and rightly so). I was probably paying too much attention to the 8th district congressional race (by the way, there was more Guest Opinion nonsense in the Courier Times today from Warren's people - at this point, I won't even dignify it with a response).

See, Richard had a problem with Stephen Colbert’s performance that I referred to above (actually, to say Cohen had a problem with it is an understatement…in his prissy whining, Cohen reminded me of Bruno Kirby’s character of 2nd Lieutenant Steven Hauk in “Good Morning, Vietnam”).

Gee, it’s nice to see Richard have such a keen sense of perspective on this. I guess that’s part of his vast well of knowledge that he brings to bear when writing such insightful columns, such as the one where he had no idea of the accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt a month or so ago.

OK, now that I’ve dispensed with trying to deflate some of the journalistic high pomposity out there, I’m going to cast a reflection inward for a moment, if you will, and say this (and please pardon my impudence in daring to address the “big hit” lefty bloggers, seeing as how I’m just a tiny creature in this vast sea by comparison).

In the process of trying to learn about what is going on so I can add some meaningful (I hope) content to this site, I’ve read a lot of other blogs and have come to familiarize myself (a bit) with as many of the big issues out there that I can. I’m not looking for “props”; I’m supposed to do that. My point is that there are some TRULY AMAZING and TALENTED people out there with GREAT THINGS TO SAY who are great about saying them. But when these people indulge in gratuitous profanity, it demeans from their terrific content, turns off potential new readers, and makes us an easy target for our dear corporate media cousins who can demean us at will and pay not a whit of attention to what we’re saying, thus further validating this stupid narrative of “those filthy, swearing little liberal bloggers are at it again.” If we can somehow take that copout away from them, it will only make us stronger.

I know I have some work to do on that score myself. You may come across some swearing from time to time here, but I promise to do much better at that. And with acknowledging the appropriate level of respect, I should also mention that it does our cause no good when the best lefty blogger of them all has the “F” bomb in the title of a post, as was the case yesterday.

Make no mistake, though; our message is being heard to one degree or another. And if this keeps up, the mode of expression will take less of a priority with readers (though, as I said, we should work on crafting our words in anticipation of new readers at all times) as opposed to the importance and urgency of our content.

Update 5/9: georgia10 does it again... (and likewise Peter Daou).