Friday, May 26, 2006

"Real Time" Update

The show began with Bill Maher’s face submerged in a tank as he held his breath and a timer ticked off underneath him, with a narrator intoning “Uh oh, he looks like he’s in trouble” just before Maher is pulled up, revealing that he was going for the record of “the world’s longest bong hit.” As we note the look of dazed contentment on Maher’s face, the narrator states that “Woody Harrelson’s record is still safe.”

In the monologue, Maher noted that Dubya’s approval rating had fallen into the 20s, and Maher confessed that “I’m rooting for him…it’s hard out there for a chimp.” Maher noted that Dubya said he doesn’t pay attention to polls because, if he wants to know what Americans are thinking, “he’ll just listen in on our calls…he just wants to find out if we’re happy with our long distance surveillance.” “Bush doesn’t get it,” Maher continued; “when we said we wanted more intelligence in the White House, this wasn’t what we were talking about.” Maher said that Dubya made this announcement; “we’re not mining or trolling through your personal lives…but in case you were wondering, Tom Cruise is gay.” Maher said that “Bush is collecting phone numbers but not doing anything with them…women hate that.” Maher also brought up the news item about the German writer who interviewed former presidents and asked them what their best moments were, and Dubya said that it was the time “he caught a 7 ½-pound perch; of course, Bush left out the part that he caught the fish in downtown New Orleans after Katrina hit…really, he caught it in his man-made lake at Crawford, but Bush didn’t mention the scuba diver who put the fish on the hook for him…Cheney joined him, and it was like shooting fish in a barrel.” Maher noted that “perch only go up to 4 pounds…so Bush lied, and a fish died”; Cheney said they pulled the fish out of the water, “and it greeted them as liberators.” Maher ended by noting that Mother’s Day was upcoming and mentioned that more calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other time of year, and that the NSA refers to it as “their busy season.”

Maher then interviewed former Secretary of State under Clinton Madeleine Albright about her new book, “The Mighty And The Almighty” (everybody was plugging a book this night), and Maher said, “So you were at the White House today – did you meet with a critic?,” and she said “I want you to know that they’re all still there and they’re all saying the same thing” (I’m sorry – I basically admire Albright though these people generally are far from perfect anyway, but let’s face it…the woman is a bit of a stick). Maher pointed out that former Secretaries of State had gathered to meet with Bush for a photo-op last time, and he asked if Bush actually listened this time, and Albright said, “there was lots of dialogue, and I told him he needed to move forward on Iraq” (what diplomacy, I thought to myself). “Did they need a testy meeting?” Maher asked, and Albright said, “They need opinions,” saying she was “tired of the paralysis.” Maher asked, “Does Bush think God made him president?,” and Albright said, “He thinks God is on his side, but he should follow the advice of Lincoln who said ‘we should be on God’s side,” and as someone in the Bible pointed out, “God is the unhappiest character in the story (because everyone is usually going against him).” Maher pointed out that, both here and in countries where radical Muslims exist, “They’re both too comfy with the thought of the world ending (oh, peachy…). Does it affect their decisions?” and Albright said no, but she was “worried about Bush’s certainty,” saying that, having worked for both Carter and Clinton, she understood the role that faith played to them, though it didn’t literally dictate their decisions (my paraphrasing). Maher then asked, “Was the plan to get the Sunnis and Shiites to fight each other (interesting thought), and could the Iraq civil war spread?” Albright said she hoped not, but it could turn into a regional war, and Iran would have the most to gain. Maher said, “If they’re fighting each other, does that help us” (presumably because terrorism would be concentrated in that region instead of spread out more). Albright said “maybe in a cynical way” and then went on to say that it’s impossible for us to believe that there’s no possibility that the war would spread...we’re playing with matches in the middle of oil fields.” Noting that, ironically, Albright’s father once taught Condoleezza Rice in college, Maher asked, “Would he be happy with her now?” and Albright only said she was “glad she appreciates that he was a good teacher.”

Maher then started the panel discussion with Dr. Cornel West (“Democracy Matters”), Richard Clarke (“The Scorpion’s Gate”), and Philly R&B singer John Legend. Maher played this parody phone commercial that must have aired on the show with Jason Alexander because I didn’t remember it – that was the show I sat out as a protest to some stuff with Maher and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen way back…the point of the parody is that the major telecoms had worked with the NSA to “upgrade service,” which was definitely prescient. Maher said, “The Republicans say that if you’re against wiretapping, then you’re for terrorism. Do the wiretaps make a difference?” and Clarke said “There’s no way to know…there’s not a hundred million terrorists” and said that you obtain information by taking a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” approach. Legend asked if the computers can decipher what’s going on, and Maher said that “not everyone needs the same type of surveillance…look at airports for example.” West said flat out that “this is a crime” (as I watched the show, I could see why West is so popular, especially on college campuses, since his words struck right to the very heart of every single topic and he spoke well with intellect and emotion, seemingly having the audience eating out of his hand) and Clarke added that “it’s against the FCC law and FISA also.” West pointed out that QWEST refused to participate when they were told by the NSA that it wants to keep track of citizens “going against the grain.” Pointing to the issue of how Bushco’s whole security scam has been worked for political reasons, Clarke said, “Have you noticed that the “Orange” and “Yellow” alerts went away after the election?” and Maher, who has been partly defending the whole NSA surveillance thing all along, pointed out that anyone who uses Email, for example, should not expect privacy. West said, “I know they’re checking my phones,” and Maher joked, “Are you worried about the NSA finding out about your ‘booty calls’?” Clarke said, “it’s illegal…where does it stop?” Maher then pulled out a U.S. flag showing the original 13 colonies and said, “I’m going to fly this on Memorial Day…I want to honor the country the way it was founded,” and West quickly chided Maher because the country at the time that flag was flown recognized slavery. Clarke said, “They asked AG Gonzales why he didn’t try to change the FISA law, and he said that he didn’t think Congress would let him,” so Gonzales and Bush went ahead and authorized the spying anyway.

Turning to the upcoming midterm elections, Maher noted that “they (Repugs) are bringing back their ‘greatest hits’…cloning, gay marriage, the Spanish Pledge of Allegiance, etc,” and Clarke pointed out that, in a recently taken poll, 68 percent of the voters in this country said they would choose Clinton over Bush if the election were held tomorrow. Maher pointed out that “Rove said ‘We’ll protect you’,” but that was another lie. Clarke also said (incorrectly, as it turned out) that “they can’t put up General Michael Hayden as a nominee to head the CIA because of the spying, but the point is that Rove wants a fight on this.” Maher also mentioned the Dusty Foggo raid and asked Clarke if he knew him, and Clarke said no but pointed out that “this is a quintessential Washington story…hookers, FBI, CIA, Watergate, congressmen on the take, and it’s all true.” Maher also mentioned the sudden resignation of Porter Goss as head of the CIA, and Clarke said “this isn’t over…they’re still investigating,” with Maher asking incredulously, “He’s the head of the CIA and he can’t keep hookers a secret?” Cornel West said that, “Democracy is about ordinary people controlling the arbitrary power of the elites because of a thin mechanism of accountability,” a wonderfully worded statement that I don’t think was particularly relevant at that moment. Maher also said, “People say to me ‘why don’t you talk about what really happened on 9/11’?” and West said he was open to a theory about coordinated activity in secret places, but not a conspiracy. Maher said, “If they couldn’t get a helicopter into the Superdome…” and Clarke added, “There are two problems with this theory: 1) the people involved are not competent, and 2) they can’t keep a secret,” and West added, “it’s not just moral inconsistency, but moral hypocrisy.” Clarke pointed out that, “on WMD, the Bush Administration said the CIA gave them bad information,” and that wasn’t true.

Maher mentioned the letter from Ahmadinejad to Bush (actually, Maher just referred to him as “Frank”…and by the way, I have no idea whether or not I’ll try to respond myself at this point – events on this story seem to be overtaking my ability to do that), with Maher pointing out that “this was the first letter from a leader of that country to us in 27 years, and it was sent to a president who can’t read…it was 18 pages, and Condoleezza Rice basically said ‘talk to the hand’.” West said, “If you say you love Jesus, why don’t your policies reflect that?,” and Maher quite correctly said “we should be trying to find common ground.” In response to this, Clarke told this story; “During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy got a letter from Khrushchev, and it wasn’t good, and instead decided to respond through back channels…as far as this quote (from Bushco) about ‘rewarding bad behavior’ goes, what we have is an opening here. We’re not running a third-grade class.” Maher said, “Is the failure of our foreign policy somehow a self-fulfilling prophecy to the PNAC (People for a New American Century) types…the neo-cons? Do they actually want to solve problems?” Clarke said that conflict “suits both sides – Bush thinks turning up the heat helps him, and Ahmadinejad thinks it helps him with his hard-liners also. The problem for Bush is that he typed the wrong fourth key on the typewriter three years ago. He should have hit the ‘N’ (for Iran) instead of the ‘Q’.” John Legend pointed out that an increase in oil prices helps both sides, but Cornel West quickly pointed out that lives are being lost on both sides also.

The next topic was the new Neil Young album with “Impeach The President,” and Maher listed groups that have come out with anti-Bush songs, adding that “even country artists have turned on him with songs like “Q.U.A.G.M.I.R.E.” and “Don’t Come ‘Round Drinkin’ With Social Security On Your Mind,” and Toby Keith’s new hit, “I’m Not Even Sure I Support The Troops Any More.”

Maher said, “All of this is probably making my next guest’s head explode, so I’d better bring him in here,” and John Gibson from Faux News appeared via satellite (he may have been plugging a book too, but if you think I’m going to do anything to promote those cretins, then I’ve got some autographed pictures of Joe Lieberman in a passionate embrace with Dubya to sell to you). The first topic Maher brought up was, of course, the NSA spying, with Maher immediately equivocating and saying, “My liberal friends are mad at me (because I go along with it)…Bush may be fighting the war the wrong way, but I live near the Port of Long Beach, so…,” and Gibson, typically dripping smugness and sanctimony, started by saying, ”Well, I’m a registered independent,” which is the first clue that something’s up because everyone who ever says that ends up parroting the Repug party line verse for verse as if by magic, and continued with, “I’ve overheard people talking on their cell phones when they get off planes, so I don’t mind if they’re listening in on al Qaeda” (what else can you expect, I thought to myself). Maher continued with, “Our government is saying, ‘We’re good people – trust us’…I’m worried that people on the right would lump in anyone who disagrees with them as ‘the enemy’” (and presumably listen in anyway…I was wondering, why is Maher using “would” here, by the way? As far as I’m concerned, there’s no question as to whether or not Bush is doing that), and Gibson said, “Newspapers reveal national security secrets and get Pulitzer Prizes…nobody’s criticizing reporters – the people may have a right to know, but does al Qaeda?” and I’m thinking that it’s actually funny in a way that Gibson is totally abandoning the notion at this point that he represents any kind of media that serves the vast majority of the people of this country; I’m not even sure he was aware of that, and I’m quite sure he didn’t care. Maher followed up with, “You wrote that if Karl Rove outed Valerie Plame, then he deserves a medal,” (really?) and Gibson said, “Some NSA leaks were from the intelligence community against the president,” and at this point, I could detect some groans from the audience and some animated activity that I couldn’t see from the panel (probably Clarke). “If the administration does something wrong and you go to Congress, you’re a whistleblower, and if you go to the press, you’re a leaker,” and I have NO IDEA what Gibson’s point was in mentioning that, but he went out of his way to point out that “Joe Wilson opposed regime change in Iraq in 1991 and 2003.” Maher said, “it’s not a fact that his wife sent him to Niger; she didn’t have the authority. Besides, if you want to respond to her, don’t you fire her behind closed doors instead of firing her in public? Why compromise other investigations?,” and Gibson decided not to respond and instead said, “I heard from (reporter and conservative waterboy Robert) Novak that Plame was contacted by Aldrich Ames,” which to me is the wildest speculation I’ve heard on this whole story yet (probably totally unfounded) “while Wilson said Cheney told him to go,” and I’m thinking to myself that this whole supposed question of who sent Wilson to Niger is one of the STOOPIDEST red herrings I’ve encountered in a long time! The fact of the matter is that the yellowcake story was false – given that, it doesn’t matter WHO sent Wilson. The fact of the matter is that WILSON WAS RIGHT!

I’m enduring this and thinking that MY head is going to explode, but then Maher said, “I have one more question,” and I thought, “Thank God this is it.” Maher asked, “On Fox News, we always hear about ‘the elites’ on the coasts who don’t get what’s going on in the middle of the country. Now that Bush’s approval rating is at 29 percent, do they ‘get it’ now?” and Gibson said, “They dislike Bush for different reasons. The red states are angry about the open borders, and the panel has already pointed out why he isn’t liked on the coasts,” and I thought, good for you, you shill. You go pick up your remuneration from Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman or whoever else is watching the kitty at this moment, seeing as how you’ve just spread this manure around nice and thick.

Maher returned to the panel, and a clearly-agitated Richard Clarke spoke up. “Two things,” Clarke said: “First, we’re not opposed to listening to al Qaeda; we’re opposed to doing it in violation of the law.” John Legend pointed out that, “they were spying on Martin Luther King without oversight.” Clarke continued: “Second, this notion that ‘ooh – the terrorists know we’re listening now’ is stupid. They’ve known for years.” West added, “if it weren’t for the press, the government could feel that they could get away with it,” which I thought was a bit naïve considering the sad state of what basically passes for national reporting these days.

The next topic was the recently-passed tax cuts, with Maher saying “If you make $20 grand a year, you get $3 in tax cuts…it’s all stacked to the rich,” and Clarke said, “this is the same Congress that passed the secret energy policy.” Maher said, “But isn’t the economy doing better?” and Clarke said, “The ‘cause and effect’ isn’t clear there.” John Legend said, “the people who are getting $3 in tax cuts are paying $3 for gas with no health insurance.” West said, “we’re hemorrhaging wealth at the top, but 21 percent of the children in this country live in poverty…it’s a moral disgrace” (absolutely). Maher added that, “about the real estate market, which is supposedly keeping this economy doing well, four out of ten home sales are for existing homes…it’s rich people selling homes” (I understood Maher’s point, though I think he was partly wrong).

Turning to Mary Cheney’s book (so many plugs this week, so little time), Maher thought the dustup over what John Kerry said in the presidential debate in ’04 was a big brouhaha over not much; Kerry was asked if he thought homosexuality was a choice and Kerry, in essence, said “ask Mary Cheney,” and “since Bush was pushing gay marriage, that doesn’t seem like an outrageous proposition” (on Kerry’s part). Legend said, “I think he said it to get back at Cheney a bit,” and Clarke said “Rove put the gay marriage issue on 16 ballots for one reason that year, and it was to get the religious right to vote, and twice the number of African Americans in Ohio voted for Bush for that reason,” with West saying, “it was a small enough slice to tip that issue, but blacks aren’t more homophobic than whites.” Clarke said, “You take that question off the ballot in Ohio, and John Kerry is president,” and the panel generally acknowledged that, though they despised Rove, they realized that he was the only one who could have come up with that strategy. Legend point out that “they also worked to suppress the black vote in Ohio” (in the person of Kenneth Blackwell). Clarke said, “the issue this year is gay adoption,” with Legend saying, “you’d think they’d feel like they might get betrayed again” (excellent point). West said, “it’s symbolic satisfaction for them – we need more Americans to stand up against homophobia now like Martin Luther King did against racism in 1955” (absolutely). Maher then mentioned the speech John McCain would give at Liberty University soon, and the group acknowledged that he’s definitely drifting to the right. Legend said, “He just seems calculating now,” and Clarke said, “McCain can tell Falwell this country still believes in separation of church and state” (though, as we now know, McCain did nothing of the kind – the Jean Rohe story hadn’t broken yet).

The discussion wrapped up on the topic of Barry Bonds, with Maher asking if the controversy over his steroids use is racist. Legend said it was “overblown” (I couldn’t disagree more) and Clarke said, “you can’t compare him to Babe Ruth (amen)…but I go to see home runs; if they want to take stuff that shrinks their balls and makes them lose their hair, that’s fine with me.” West pointed out that “Willie Mays turned 75 (I guess trying to point out Mays’ accomplishments versus Bonds, which I personally think were infinitely greater), and Maher said that “Mays was on the juice…speed,” which West didn’t buy. Legend said, “A lot of people have taken steroids, but no one (of that group) hits like Barry Bonds,” which I have to grudgingly admit is true.

At this point, Maher led into “New Rules,” with this commentary on Impeaching Bush that was pretty funny.

Now that that’s done, I should mention that this is my last Real Time Update. I’ll watch the show when it returns in August in search of posting content, of course, but I won’t be able to do these writeups any more. I’ve done them for two entire cycles of this show, and that’s enough. I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

Play Nice, Kiddies

OK, so R. David Paulison has just been approved by the Senate as the new head of FEMA; Paulison has agreed to refile three years of tax returns to amend “questionable travel deductions” (it just never stops with Bushco, does it?). I’m glad Paulison has now met the requirements of the two Republicans heading the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman:- ).

So now that Paulison has “jumped through that set of hoops,” it looks like Paulison is all set to head up FEMA, right?


Along comes our old buddy Jim Bunning with “some high-and-tight heat” aimed at Paulison’s noggin (guess he didn’t think much of Collins or Lieberman’s recommendation). Seems that Jimbo is upset because FEMA hasn’t yet developed “a suitable appeals process for property owners whose flood insurance claims are rejected.”

OK, that’s a fair concern. But isn’t that something that could be better resolved with FEMA completely intact?

Say, with someone actually running the agency?

Oh, sorry…I forgot that this is probably nothing more than a fit of pique by a little tin Repug god trying desperately to hang onto the trappings of his power as his mental health slowly abandons him.

Well, guess what Senator? Hurricane season is going to be upon us again shortly, and this is no time to be playing political games. So return to reality and do the job your constituents elected you to do, OK?

(Boy, I’d just be proud as punch if I’d voted for this fossil.)

Sacrifice Followed By Betrayal

It is a particularly cruel irony that the news of missing Social Security numbers for about 26 million veterans has broken so close to Memorial Day weekend.

In the past, Dubya has proclaimed himself “the CEO President.” Can you tell me what organization would permit such a catastrophic security breach and still allow those responsible to keep their jobs?

I already hammered on “Abu” Gonzales for waiting 19 days to report this (I’m typing these words and they’re still totally astonishing to me). However, the person who should bear the brunt of the blame for this is the head of the Veterans Administration, Jim Nicholson.

I’ll show a little more respect towards Nicholson than I would to other Bushco stooges such as Rummy, Margaret Spellings, Alphonso Jackson, Mike Leavitt, Mike Chertoff, John Snow, Gale Norton (yes, I know she’s gone, but her replacement Dirk Kempthorne is “cut from the same cloth”),etc. because Nicholson served for 22 years in the Army Reserves as a ranger and a paratrooper.

However, it should be pointed out that Nicholson ended up in the Bush Administration because he knew how to make money (naturally), becoming a lawyer and a successful home developer. He also led the Republican National Committee from 1997-2000 and left the committee with money in the bank and an expanded voter list of more than 160,000 names.

Nicholson also achieved a level of partisan infamy with me when, as RNC head, he attacked Al Gore during the 2000 election for Gore’s words on global warming (as others have pointed out, the Repugs successfully foisted the sickening narrative that Gore was pedantic, wishy washy and a bit deceitful, while Dubya was “a regular guy”). Joe Conason explains...

Indeed, Mr. Gore became a safe, easy target for every Republican politician and every right-wing commentator, who brandished Earth in the Balance as if it were The Communist Manifesto. “This is a book written by an extremist, and it’s filled with extremism …. He wants to do away with the automobile as we know it today,” complained Jim Nicholson, then the Republican national chairman (and now the Secretary of Veterans Affairs).
But what about Nicholson's record as an administrator (after all, do you even need to ask with this bunch)?

According to The New Republic:

In contrast to the four most recent VA heads--who had previously held leadership positions with Disabled American Veterans, the Department of Defense, a state-level VA department, and VA itself--Jim Nicholson brings a refreshing lack of experience to veterans' advocacy (note: this is a decidedly tongue-in-cheek remark...)

In Bush's first term, Nicholson was rewarded with the ambassadorship to the Holy See. But he traded vespers for vets last February, joining his brother John, who was already head of the National Cemetery Administration. In June (2005), he admitted that VA had underestimated the number of veterans who would be seeking medical treatment this year by nearly 80,000 because it had failed to take into account the surge in enrollment by veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts--13,700 of whom have suffered blown-off limbs, bullet wounds, and the like. The miscalculation was a surprise to Congress, since Nicholson had written on April 5: "I can assure you that VA does not need [additional money] to continue to provide timely, quality service." Republican House Appropriations Committee Chair Jerry Lewis said VA's failure to identify the problem and notify Congress earlier "borders on stupidity."
I think Nicholson is basically a good man, and it should be noted that the person who took the confidential data was an operative in the VA and not Nicholson himself (still, how that was allowed to happen is puzzling in the extreme). And I believe that Nicholson is genuinely aggrieved by this (he damn well should be at the very least).

However (and I apologize because I know this is a broken record with this bunch), this is what happens when you appoint people to jobs in government who don’t like government, don’t know how government works and, in all probability, have no interest in learning about it.

As awful as George W. Bush is as a president, the people beneath him are also bad at their jobs also to varying degrees. I can think of very few people in his cabinet who should be remaining at this point.

And how all of them sleep at night is something I will never understand.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shoot And Don't Ask Questions

Leave it to the leadership of the National Rifle Association to do all it possibly can to fight any possible common-sense gun control measure and also allege that the rights of law-abiding firearms owners are being infringed while the body count of innocent victims of gun violence continues to climb.

“Oh, there you go, libtard (still get a kick out of that one). What about enforcing the laws that are already on the books? And what about mandatory sentences for repeat gun offenders?”

Fine. Hire more cops for enforcement if the budget allows (a big “if” there), but don’t waste my time with mandatory sentencing. Our prisons are already overcrowded, and we can’t arrest and house everybody. Besides, the biggest byproduct of mandatory guidelines is the creation of a permanent underclass of criminals sent to prison for offenses that don’t warrant the sentences that were required by law.

You want to do something about gun crime? Attack “straw” purchases (someone buying guns legitimately from an owner and then selling them on the street for what is often a significant markup…and yes, there are already laws against this, but they’re difficult to enforce). You want to attack “straw” purchases? Pass the law at long last – one gun a month. Done.

But instead, we have this from the state of Oklahoma (which is about the same thing as saying that it’s from the NRA).

Also, I’m not sure why, but the rest of this AP story was omitted from the Denver Post story.

Democratic Gov. Brad Henry signed it and said: "This act will allow law-abiding Oklahomans to protect themselves, their loved ones and their property."

Besides Oklahoma, the nine other states to sign on are Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Dakota, according to the NRA.

Critics say the NRA is overstating its success. Only six of those states expanded self-defense into public places, said Zach Ragbourn, a spokesman at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. There already is a presumption in law that a person does not have to retreat in their home or car, he said.

And there have been a few high-profile defeats, too.

In New Hampshire, the measure passed the legislature only narrowly and then was vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who was joined by police and prosecutors.

Police Chief Nathaniel H. Sawyer Jr. of New Hampton, N.H., said the legislation addressed a problem that does not exist. In 26 years in law enforcement, he has never seen anyone wrongfully charged with a crime for self-defense, he said.

"I think it increases the chance for violence," said Sawyer, also the president of the New Hampshire Association of Police Chiefs. "It increases the chance of innocent people being around the violence and becoming involved in it or hurt."

The bill would have allowed a person "to use deadly force in response to non-deadly force, even in public places such as shopping malls, public streets, restaurants and churches," Lynch said when he vetoed the legislation. Existing law already gives citizens the right to protect themselves, he said.

The NRA argues that victims wind up with an unfair burden if the law, as it does in New Hampshire, requires a duty to retreat, if possible. "That does crime victims little good when they have to make a split-second decision to protect their life from violent attack by a criminal," said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive director.

"The only people that have anything to fear from this type of law is someone who plans on robbing, shooting or raping someone," LaPierre said.

That argument sounds good and it's winning supporters, said Florida state Rep. Dan Gelber, a critic of the law when it passed in his state last year and a former federal prosecutor.

But like Sawyer in New Hampshire, he does not see any instances now or in the past of a victim being prosecuted for failing to retreat. He sees the Florida law, and the national campaign, as an effort by the NRA to build support and keep its members riled up.

"The NRA is a victim of its own successes. No political party in Florida today is going to advance any serious gun-control agenda," said Gelber, a Democrat. "What's left is these little things which have no impact on every day life, but inspire and activate the base."

And, he argued, it gives defense attorneys a potential avenue to seek acquittal for crimes. In effect, criminals will benefit much more often than any innocent victim. "It's going to give the guy who's really looking for a fight, or does something totally irresponsible or venal, a defense he would not otherwise have."

Last week in Arizona, the state appellate court delayed the start of jury deliberations in the trial of a retired school teacher charged with second-degree murder for shooting a man on a hiking trail in May 2004. The court is deciding whether the new law applies to his claim of self-defense.
To show how easy it is to get a gun in PA, for example (where the state disallowed the city of Philadelphia from enacting its own gun laws, and again, substitite “NRA” for “state” in that sentence), Inquirer reporter Tom Ferrick, Jr. purchased a Taurus PT-140 semiautomatic pistol with a 13-bullet clip and writes about it here. Ferrick also wrote this column about Philadelphia police officer Gary Skerski who was recently slain (and the fact that if PA House Bill 871 had been enacted, maybe – just maybe – Skerski would be alive today).

A Viper Spews Again

I should point out that this post amounts to “water wet, sky blue” stuff, but I believe it’s necessary to answer these charges.

This appeared this morning in The Philadelphia Inquirer. I really try to avoid Linda Chavez as much as I can because her foul literary creations are so predictable. However, this to me is different from ganging up on “liberals\the left\progressives\this week’s Democratic bad guy.” Jean Rohe has been thrust into the spotlight for just trying to do the right thing, and you would think she would deserve something of a pass because she’s really just a college student trying to get on with her life and hasn’t even started a post-graduation career yet (not that that isn’t important in its own right).

You would think she’d get a pass. However, you would be wrong.

What a spoiled kid owes McCain
A commencement protester speaks of honor, but she doesn't understand the concept.

By Linda Chavez

It's amazing what passes for courage these days.

The newest hero in the left's pantheon is 21-year-old Jean Sara Rohe, who gave a self-indulgent little tirade against Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) on Friday when he spoke at graduation ceremonies for the New School in New York.
This, by the way, is an excerpt from Rohe’s “self-indulgent tirade,” as Chavez so disingenuously puts it.

Based on the speech he gave at the other institutions (including Jerry Falwell's inappropriately named Liberty University), Senator Mc Cain will tell us today that dissent and disagreement are our "civic and moral obligation" in times of crisis. I consider this a time of crisis and I feel obligated to speak. Senator Mc Cain will also tell us about his cocky self-assuredness in his youth, which prevented him from hearing the ideas of others. In so doing, he will imply that those of us who are young are too naïve to have valid opinions and open ears. I am young, and although I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know that preemptive war is dangerous and wrong, that George Bush's agenda in Iraq is not worth the many lives lost. And I know that despite all the havoc that my country has wrought overseas in my name, Osama bin Laden still has not been found, nor have those weapons of mass destruction.

That doesn’t sound “self-indulgent” to me. It sounds like a person of conscience is giving a voice to her gravest fears and concerns (though I admit that Chavez’s response is totally predictable).

Rohe no doubt thought she was speaking truth to power when she said, "The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded," but what she really demonstrated was appalling conceit.

You can agree or disagree with McCain's politics, but the man is one of the few genuine heroes in public life.
Cue the “tortured-POW-turned-heroic-politician” narrative (sorry, but the Repugs slimed Kerry for his military bravery, so “what’s good for the donkey is good for the elephant,” more or less – and besides, what the hell does that have to do with what McCain said anyway?).

Although the official biography on his Web site doesn't even mention it, John McCain spent five-and-a-half years in a North Vietnamese prison camp after his plane was shot down in 1967. He suffered terrible injuries, which were not properly treated, and was beaten and tortured repeatedly. He refused early release, choosing to stay with his fellow captives until all came home together in 1973. He has spent his entire life in public service ever since, first continuing his career as a Navy officer and then as an elected official.

Rohe could have chosen to give a substantive speech detailing why she believes "preemptive war is dangerous and wrong" - or as she so categorically put it, how she "knows" that it is. Instead, she took the easy way out by insulting the speaker and throwing out some leftist chestnuts about the still missing Osama bin Laden and weapons of mass destruction. But the former would have required her to grapple with ideas; she chose to take potshots.
I don’t understand why Rohe should have felt constrained to give “a substantive speech” about why she believes “preemptive was is dangerous and wrong.” Rohe was exercising her right to free speech – nothing more, nothing less. The subject matter was up to her, as it should be.

And assuming that Rohe was taking “potshots” (as far as I’m concerned, she wasn’t), is Chavez seriously trying to tell us she’s never done the same thing? I suppose that has nothing to do with why she called her book about how she views liberals “Useful Idiots,” does it?

And Chavez herself has always been so forthcoming and above-board in her own behavior, right?

Rohe has now decided to explain her decision to forgo a speech she'd written for the occasion, one that would have talked about music and her work with children in the New York City public schools. In a posting to Arianna Huffington's blog, Rohe writes, "A certain not-so-dynamic duo of 'centrist' politicians foiled my standard graduation speech and forced me to act. Until just the day before commencement I really hadn't understood the gravity of the situation," she writes.

Meeting up with some students who planned to protest the speech, she got this brilliant idea: "I checked the schedule for the ceremony and realized that I would be speaking just before the senator got his award. And that's when the idea for a preemptive strike began to brew in my little stressed-out brain. What if I tore McCain's speech apart before he even opened his mouth? After reading his speech a couple of times I picked out a few particularly loathsome sections - and believe it or not, none of these actually came from the extensive section where he defends his position on the war in Iraq - and I began planning an attack against him using his own words."

Just before the moment finally arrived, Rohe found herself in the green room with McCain. She introduced herself, "I almost wanted to warn the guy that I was about to make him look like an idiot so that he would at least have a fighting chance and an extra moment to change his speech to save himself. But he didn't even make eye contact when we shook hands, so I figured I didn't owe him anything."

She couldn't be more wrong. She and the others who jeered not just McCain but the president of their university, former senator and fellow decorated Vietnam veteran Bob Kerrey, owe them their very way of life. Men like McCain and Kerrey have endured more than Rohe and her fellow protesters can even imagine so that all of us might enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Tell you what, Ms. Chavez; try explaining your feelings about Bob Kerrey to your fellow propagandist John Leo at (see, as far as Leo is concerned – and I know nothing about him except this column – Kerrey’s psychological battle of dealing with the ramifications of the ill-fated Thanh Phong raid during the Vietnam War isn’t a “real issue”). It’s amazing how quickly boogeymen turn into heroes for you people when it suits your purposes, isn’t it?

Rohe said the commencement was "an occasion that is supposed to honor us above all." Maybe that's the problem. McCain was addressing a bunch of spoiled kids who think they deserve "honor" for having made it through college.
Oh, so the whole school now is “spoiled,” Chavez? And how convenient of you to overlook this quote from Rohe (explaining why she at first didn’t understand the depth of outrage by students at The New School over McCain’s speech and position on the war in Iraq):

Forgive me now if I seem out of touch with my student body, but as a double degree student who had spent the last month in hibernation working on her recital and her thesis, in addition to working with the preschoolers, I hadn't done anything else for weeks.

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Washington.
Ann Coulter is easily the most repugnant female conservative currently plying her awful trade, but Chavez is a close second (Malkin is in that mix too). With the appropriate level of fanfare and self-inflicted sense of martyrdom, she has proclaimed herself “the most hated woman in America.” With literary refuse like this, it’s easy to see why.

Update 6/2: This letter appeared in the Inquirer in response a few days ago...

Outrage off target

To paraphrase Linda Chavez, it's amazing what passes for outrage these days. Chavez ("What a spoiled kid owes McCain," May 25) ripped into commencement speaker Sara Jean Rohe for daring to criticize Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) when they both spoke at The New School's graduation. Chavez was especially incensed that a 21-year-old "spoiled kid" would attack anyone with a war record as heroic as McCain's.

Excuse me, but where was Chavez's indignation back in 2000, during the South Carolina primary race, when the same John McCain was blindsided by one of the nastiest smear campaigns in the history of American politics? Among the rumors circulated by Bush supporters against McCain was that his wife was a drug addict, that he had cheated on her, and that their adopted Bangladeshi daughter was actually black.

Rohe said nothing about McCain's war record, but the Bush forces certainly did. His five years as a POW, it was suggested, had made him mentally unstable and not to be trusted with nuclear weapons. He was even accused of collaboration with the enemy amounting to treason, and labeled "The Manchurian Candidate."

And what was Linda Chavez's response to this trashing of John McCain and his service to the country? She accepted a position in George W. Bush's cabinet. It's people like Linda Chavez who give hypocrisy a bad name.

Isaac Segal
Cherry Hill, NJ
Thank you, Mr. Segal!

Someone Needs A History Lesson

I haven’t checked in with our good friend J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times in awhile, but today, J.D. is doing his “Mikey Fitz Lapdog Act” again, dutifully recording such gems of reason and intellect from our incumbent 8th District U.S. House rep from PA as this one:

A few weeks ago, I asked Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick what his biggest obstacle to winning re-election would be.

It's not so much his opponent, Democrat Pat Murphy, he said, but President Bush's dismal polls.

If Bush had 50 percent or better job approval marks, Fitzpatrick estimated his victory spread in November would be as high as 10 points.

But with the president's popularity in the tank (an anemic 30 percent), it's going to be a long, tough fight, he told me.
I’m going to highlight that quote from Fitzpatrick again…

If Bush had 50 percent or better job approval marks, Fitzpatrick estimated his victory spread in November would be as high as 10 points.
I hope Patrick Murphy and his campaign plasters that quote all over their website and everywhere they can and does their best to hang Fitzpatrick with it.

Don't worry too much about Mullane, though. I said it's been awhile since I saw what he was up to, but trust me; he's still in "hacktacular" form, having pronounced Patrick Murphy's opposition to Mikey's silly attempt to shut off at schools and libraries as "a blunder" (we'll let the voters decide that, OK J.D.?).

And from the “What Else Can You Expect” department comes Mullane’s quote from Andy Warren stating that Murphy will not win by tarring Fitzpatrick, but by tarring the Republican Party in general (Andy is speaking based on the actual practice of his mercifully-ended candidacy, of course). Actually, I don’t think Patrick is planning to “tar” anyone in this campaign but will do his best to keep it issues-oriented and geared towards the actual concerns of Bucks County voters instead.

And what of J.D. anyway? Dubya is now “ballot box poison”? Why, this is such a departure from “The Great Man Narrative” that J.D. was peddling about Our Dear Leader right after the election, when Dubya was yelling “mandate” all over the place even though he had arguably won only about 51 percent of the vote in the presidential election (I obtained the link from Tom Matrullo at the blog Improprieties).

As Mullane gushed awhile back:

I realized what really divides us last week when President Bush visited Ruth Wright's farm in Lower Makefield.

Bush spoke of the stakes for the world in the global war on Islamo-fascist terror.

He spoke of Afghanistan and how, for the first rime in its 5,000-year history, it had held democratic elections to choose a president, and the first voter was a 19-year-old woman.

"Freedom is on the march," Bush said. "The world is changing because of our deep belief in freedom. We believe everybody wants to be free. Freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world."

The crowd went nuts - the loudest and longest ovation of the night. Bush's words weren't Lincolnesque, but his presence made up for it.

Afterward, as I trudged across a lumpy, muddy cornfield, I heard a father implore his young son, "Never forget you saw President Bush."
Why, I’m shocked that there was no commemorative print issued as a result when Dubya brought his traveling “fear and smear” show to Wright's Broadmeadows Farm in 2004 (for which he stiffed Lower Makefield township $25K, by the way). I can see it now…Dubya shaking hands with Abe Lincoln after both had chopped a cord of firewood or hammered spikes for train rails into the rough hewn sod of the old American West…Dubya cloaked with George Washington sitting behind him as they both crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day in 1776 during the Revolutionary War. The patriotic heart just stirs, doesn’t it?

And now J.D. writes that “standing with W is not smart politics”? As I live and breathe, I never thought I'd see such impertinence from one of this area's most consistent journalistic lap dogs. It looks like Mullane has introduced another scenario commonly associated with war to the whole dialogue about Dubya in this area, and it's called “cut and run.”

And by the way, a letter writer to the Courier Times this morning pointed out that the paper’s other metro columnist, the infinitely-more-readable Kate Fratti, is the one who is making more of a sacrifice than Mullane concerning the Iraq debacle. Her son is a Marine, and in case you were wondering, Fratti most certainly does not support the war.

Update: This is yet another banner day for Our Kid, as Brendan calls him (though I'm sure that, secretly, J.D. is so proud).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Will All The News Fit?

I’m adopting a “wait and see” attitude towards the recently-completed sale of Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. to Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., which is a group formed of heavy industrial hitters, so to speak, in this area (I thought Dick Polman had some good words on this, and I echo his sentiments).

I’ll try to back up a bit here; PNI was owned by Knight Ridder, which was recently bought by the McClatchy chain a couple of months ago. However, after doing so, McClatchy announced that it was putting the PNI papers (the Inquirer and the Daily News) up for sale (and I wrote a poem about this trying to imitate Dr. Seuss where I said there would be “no 'white knight' offer from McClatchy” and I turned out to be dead wrong).

It concerns me that the most visible player of the owners is Brian Tierney, who has big time connections with the Catholic Church and the Republican Party as documented here (even though Robert Toll of the Toll homebuilding empire has been identified as the largest individual investor). That is worrisome to be sure, but for now, I think it’s “benefit of the doubt” time all around.

So now that we’ve settled this whole sale business FINALLY AND FOR GOOD, can the Inquirer get back to publishing “Blog Cabin” again? It’s Wednesday and you forgot again, people!

Finding A Voice?

I support Bob Casey for the U.S. Senate by default because he’s the Democratic candidate and also because “Little Ricky” is not a serious option under any circumstances (and, as Atrios points out, Ricky is so considerate towards his PA “neighbors” also).

That being said, I should point out that I am still trying to figure out exactly what Casey stands for (I know he’s anti-choice and I also want to find out just how pro-gun he is; by the way, memo to the Casey campaign: I HATE it when streaming video and – especially – audio pops up automatically when accessing a web site. There are ALL KINDS OF REASONS why I want to be able to control that default selection myself when accessing a site. It looks and sounds really slick, but I’ll check out your site from a secure location next time.)

However, I did manage to catch Casey’s appearance that is mentioned in this release from his web site. I have to say he addressed the issues of health insurance for small businesses and, in particular, the eight million uninsured children in this country, with inspiration and resolve.

(That is such a staggering number that it’s easy to gloss over it, but to me, eight million children in this country without health insurance may be Bushco’s most pitiable and tragic legacy.)

Casey spoke well enough from his notes, sounding a bit like Warren Beatty actually though looking nothing like him, of course (neither do I, to be fair). But when he spoke “off the cuff” about how the Bush Administration and the Repug congress have taken a pass on these issues and how that to him (and me) is “a sin” and “a blot on our government,” his teeth were literally clenched and he looked like he wanted to take a poke at someone, basically saying that initiatives such as SCHIP and SEHBP (explained in the news release) were currently stuck in Congress. Casey said that all he would ask of Santorum is that the Republican "leadership" submit the legislation for an “up” or “down” vote, which of course I’m sure they will refuse to do, leaving it up to the Dems after the Repugs are removed from power in a few months (God willing).

I will grant you that it’s easy to say that Bushco’s obscene tax cuts could be repealed to pay for the initiatives Casey mentioned, but without doing the math, I would guess that that’s true (or at least the money saved would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal). However, as we know, it’s more than a question of money. It’s a question of priorities. And we’ve had to live these past six years especially with the consequences of Bushco’s neglect of anyone who isn’t…just…like…them (especially us). And who else is to blame for the hideous status quo besides Bushco and the Repugs (and chicken Dems also of course)?

The program I watched was on a PA public affairs cable station with Casey addressing a group of about 30-40 people. What a shame that some nothing sitcom, “CSI” or “Law and Order” something or other episode or “reality” show hadn’t been preempted to make room for it instead (though, as far as the networks are concerned, I guess “bread and circuses” are more important).

Keeping It Real

I mentioned yesterday that the Bucks County Courier Times asked Patrick Murphy and Mike Fitzpatrick, the Dem and Repug respectively running for the U.S. House’s 8th district seat in PA, to sign an honesty pledge before the campaign gets underway.

Fitzpatrick signed for himself yesterday, and in a letter he wrote accompanying the signed statement, he basically sounded like he was already getting ready to welch on it.

Well today, everyone from Patrick’s campaign organization signed the statement, including Patrick himself of course.

Three words come immediately to my mind; nothing but class.

An Illusion To Me Now

So Bob Dylan turns 65 today, huh? Well, all I can say is “it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a social security payment and the onset of mandatory PSA screening for your age group to cry.”

To say Happy Birthday to Mr. Zimmerman, I present this homage which he could have written himself if all of this were taking place, oh, say 30 years ago.

It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Spying)

General Hayden is a “pill”
Testifies on Capitol Hill
Eavesdrops going on still
Telecoms all act as shills
Gonna turn over records till
A court will tell them not to

26 million vets betray
Hacked their SSNs from the VA
Gonzales has only this to say
That it’s been going on for 19 days
For courage and resolve, just pray
And fight them ‘cos we got to

This whole game is Dubya’s shame
Data mining in his name
It’s alright day we’ll break him

Energy rigging games did play
On residents of Ca-li-for-ni-a
Prices jump through the roof in one day
Pocket some swag for Enron and Ken Lay
And wonder what the politicians say
‘Cos their coffers, too, are growing

Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds abhor
U.S. presence anymore
Only misery in store
From the disaster called the Iraq War
Make that huge, new embassy ensure
“Black gold” is ever flowing

Service people used as pawns
Trained to think Saddam’s the one
Our enemy since time did dawn
With 9/11 and WMD the con
Then, spread democracy’s the new mission
Tryin’ to do what’s never been done
Our butchered are now so slowly withdrawn
From fighting a war that can never be won
And way back when, Bush said “begone”
To what we now are knowing

Of morals, our rulers are bereft
And can only blame “the angry left”
Ignore them all, Ma...WE CAN MAKE IT!
And someone is surprised to find out that he has a sense of humor? This is the guy that wrote "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat," remember?

Update 5/25: This is about as mystical to me as anything Dylan could have written himself.

His Message Still Matters

Atrios and Digby are all over Lou Dobbs today because an ad appeared during Dobbs’ show for some bunch of knuckle draggers called the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is a white supremacist group. I agree that Dobbs should be held to account for that, but I think the people who should bear more of the blame are those at the network. I wonder how much input Dobbs actually has on what advertising is accepted for his program; I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about that, but I should point out that advertising for other conservative interests and individuals, most notably the odious Glenn Beck, have been popping up lately on CNN’s website, and that has nothing to do with Dobbs or his program as nearly as I can determine.

Besides, this commentary from Dobbs today should be “shouted from the mountaintops” as far as I’m concerned (and if it is somehow “racist,” which is the word Digby uses to describe Dobbs’ anti-immigration position, someone will have to explain that to me).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Supporting Our Troops

Someone’s entire life savings could be wiped out in about 19 seconds from identity theft owing to something like this, let alone 19 days.

Take another bow, “Abu” Gonzales (the beat goes on)

Saint Mikey’s Mistake

Dubya is going to be in our area tomorrow (bleaugh!) to support (?) fellow Repugs Mike Fitzpatrick and Jim Gerlach as they try to retain their seats in the U.S. House (maybe Curt Weldon isn't so crazy after all).

With that in mind, let’s read about something that will truly make a difference instead.


Dear Friends,

Exciting things are happening at Patrick Murphy For Congress headquarters!

President Bush is coming to town on Wednesday to do a fundraiser for Mike Fitzpatrick and Jim Gerlach (PA-6; he's being challenged by
Lois Murphy). In response, our terrific corps of volunteers will hold a Day of Action in which they will participate in community service projects throughout the 8th District. The 2006 budget, which Mike Fitzpatrick voted for, drastically cut funding to a number of programs affecting people and organizations throughout the 8th District.

Murphy Corps volunteers will work to reverse the damage, doing what they can at the local level. Don't have time to volunteer? Donate to our book, food, or toiletry drives, listed below.

Here's what we're up to. Give us a call at (215) 547-5211 and ask for Emily. We'll get you set up with a project.

Thanks for helping us change the world.


-Sorting donations at the Deja Vu thrift shop in Langhorne for the Family Service Association of Bucks County (10:00am)
-Clearing drains and picking up litter at Tyler State Parkin Newtown (11:00am to 3:00pm)
-Assisting senior citizens at Twining Village in Holland (10:00am-11:30am and 2:00pm-3:30pm)
-Helping kids with homework at the after school program at Foxwood Manor Apartments in Levittown (3:15pm)

We are also collecting donations of canned food for the Bucks County Housing Group in Penndel; books for the community library at Foxwood Manor Apartments in Levittown; and toilet articles(tooth brushes, soap, etc) for residents at the Delaware Valley Veterans Home in Northeast Philadelphia.

Please drop off donations at one of the following locations:

Patrick Murphy for Congress Headquarters
1631 Edgely Rd
Levittown, PA 19057
(215) 547-5211


Bucks County Democratic Committee Headquarters
17 W Court St
Doylestown, PA 18901
(215) 348-2140


Emily Savin
Volunteer Coordinator
Patrick Murphy for Congress
Speaking of the election between Fitzpatrick and Patrick Murphy, I should point out that the Bucks County Courier Times, in an effort to crawl its way back to something approaching respectability for the Andy Warren endorsement, ran an editorial last Thursday encouraging both Mikey and Patrick to take something like an “honesty pledge” and sign a form stating that they would conduct a clean campaign. Fitzpatrick signed first (too funny…) and wrote a letter that the paper published (of course, in the letter, Fitzpatrick kept up the best Repug tradition of snarling that Murphy looked at issues “through the prism of his liberal ideology”).

I guess the paper was trying to be cute with this lead paragraph to its editorial.

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is lean and appropriately fit. Still, the 42-year-old father of six is 10 years older than his opponent, Democrat Patrick Murphy, who not so long ago was pulling war duty in Iraq. Which makes it all the more impressive that Fitzpatrick won the race for accountability. Easily.
Before this election is over, anyone reading this newspaper is going to hear A THOUSAND TIMES that Fitzpatrick is “a 42-year-old father of six” and Patrick Murphy “was in Iraq” with very little mention of his service beyond that (I’ve already heard it a hundred times, or so it seems). Someone should tell the paper’s editorial board that we’re on to this “negating perceptions” game of theirs.

To be fair, though, I should point out later on in the editorial, the paper notes that Patrick definitely favors taking “the pledge” and would have done so sooner if he hadn’t been ill last Friday.

Of course, we should give Fitzpatrick the benefit of the doubt, even though I DEFINITELY think he’s going to regret this. I mean, he’s so trustworthy, isn’t he? Why, there are examples of his “trustworthiness” all over this site (the movie accessible from the “Support Stem Cell Research” link under Patrick’s photo, the links from the “Read About The Eighth District” box in the right column, and “The Tom and Mikey Show” box. And, as Chris Bowers pointed out, Fitzpatrick is particularly trustworthy on the environment (sure he is…).

Mikey will try to get off the hook by letting the Repug “527s” who are busy concocting their garbage as I write this (no doubt trying to “Swift Boat” Patrick on his military service, doing a more highly polished and despicable job as opposed to Andy Warren’s organization) do his dirty work for him, and when people start calling him on it, he’ll just say, “Hey, that may have come from the Repug national committee, but I’m not sure. All I know is that my campaign didn’t have anything to do with it" (let’s see now…Ginny Schrader and Hezbollah? Any of this ringing a bell, Mikey? I thought not – sure…).

Hell, Mikey was ALREADY trying to bail on his promise by adding this little caveat near the end of his letter saying he’d tell the truth (again, the paper called him on it, to its credit).

On the other hand, we’re not quite in agreement with the congressman, who in his letter today says that “in politics, truth is often a hotly debated matter of interpretation, even given the most sincere commitment to honesty…”

From our perspective, a commitment to honesty means that truth is not a matter of interpretation; that is in the hands of an honest candidate. Information is not clay to be molded and shaped to resemble something it is not.”
At times like this, I wish I knew how to use Adobe Photoshop(TM). If by any chance, someone who may be reading this knows how to use the application, PLEASE send me a photo of Fitzpatrick’s nose growing if you can when he gets caught in a lie from now until November, and I will display it PROMINENTLY on this page. I would be forever in your debt.

Actually, I don’t think there will be enough space on the page to make room, but we can try anyway.

Update: Yep, I'd say that Mikey's honesty pledge is in serious jeopardy (sorry for some redundancy).

California Dreamin'

Repug PA candidate for governor Lynn Swann FINALLY HAS AN IDEA (I mean, besides trying to link Ed Rendell to the pay raise scandal – and Ed does deserve some blame for that, I’ll admit – and Swann’s stating that “he won’t kiss butt”).

Swann, in effect wants to bring Proposition 13 to Pennsylvania (be very afraid…). As noted in this Inquirer article...

California's Proposition 13 has been criticized for, among other things, giving long-term residents tremendous tax breaks that are subsidized by newcomers who pay taxes based on the sale price of their housing.

It also has been blamed for reductions in school staffing, particularly among librarians and guidance counselors.

"Why anybody would point to California as a positive model for how to structure your tax-budget model surprises me," said Jean Reed, executive director of the California Budget Project, a public-policy research group.
In a state which is experiencing a drain of younger workers leaving to seek better wages elsewhere, why on earth would someone propose this plan which would ultimately place a greater burden on first-time home buyers, thus giving them more of a reason to leave?

And (from this link, concerning what California has experienced)...

Proposition 13 succeeded in its core aim of providing property tax relief to beleaguered property owners alarmed by swiftly rising assessment increases. But it has had many other consequences. It created new inequities in the burden of the property tax. Because properties are fully reassessed only when they are sold, owners of very similar properties can have very different property tax bills. Since commercial property turns over less often than residential property, residential property owners have gradually assumed a larger percentage of the property tax burden. Observers note that Proposition 13 considerably diminished local taxing authority and centralized it in the state, thus undermining home rule. Local jurisdictions are largely at the state's mercy in determining what their actual budgets will be, and local officials complain that the state has not been reliable in its allocation of funds. Observers also note that an unintended consequence of Proposition 13 was that, because of the continuing robustness of the sales tax as a revenue source, Proposition 13 encouraged cities and counties to promote retail development at the expense of housing and job-creating businesses.
Short on specifics and long on rhetoric and empty promises, and no clue regarding the consequences...typical for a Repug.

Blustery Arrogance vs. Quiet Courage

Apparently as a response to Russ Feingold’s resolution to censure Dubya, the freepers have been hard at work trying to build momentum for a congressional resolution to censure Jimmy Carter.

That’s right, Jimmy Carter.

There was actually some discussion about this between fellow wingnuts Neal Cavuto and Melanie Morgan back in March, but the TV ad has just recently aired (Crooks and Liars has it along with related links).

I suppose to the freeper mentality, the reasons for this pathetic action are too numerous to mention (see, Carter supposedly embraced Fidel Castro, supposedly supports Hugo Chavez and also said that the Hamas victory in the Palestinian election – monitored by Carter – was legitimate, all of which is completely unacceptable to them, of course).

Well, this takes you to a transcript of the broadcast of the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS that aired the day that Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace price in 2002. Among Carter’s accomplishments cited on the program:

- His pivotal role in the Camp David Accords
- His support of human rights throughout the world during his presidency
- His role in the Panama Canal Treaty
- His mediation in the 1989 elections in Panama, becoming one of the first to speak out about General Manuel Noriega
- His mentoring of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua to hasten democratic reforms
- His diplomatic intervention in Haiti and North Korea during the Clinton Administration
And by the way, Dr. Kaloogian, as Will Bunch pointed out, do you have any word on when we’ll eventually see those photos of busy, prosperous, downtown Baghdad?

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Waters Are Churning

As that noted philosopher Dave Edmunds stated one day (keeping to a musical vein again), “from small things mama, big things one day come” (though I have a feeling he was singing about something else…).

I ask that you keep that in mind as you read this letter that appeared in yesterday’s Inquirer.

Amid all of the newspapers' fine primary election coverage, I was surprised at the lack of prominence given to a sea change in suburban politics. Andy Dinniman's victory over Carole Aichele in the special election for the state Senate District 19 seat may have tidal-wave ramifications for the general election.

That Dinniman, a Democrat, can win a special election in what may be the most Republican county in the nation that is not part of Kansas, speaks volumes about the nation's ongoing mood swing.

If George W. Bush isn't already sweating, he should be. The voters of Chester County just sent him a loud message.

Charles Bauerlein
West Chester
This truly IS news. Dubya won Chester County by 11,000 votes in 2004 (that speaks volumes, unfortunately), and that area has also produced Jeff Gannon and some of the most odious Repugs and their sympathizers that you can imagine.

Yep, there’s no “movement,” is there? Not much there isn’t.

A Boomer Gone Bust

This is sort of a follow up to the Dixie Chicks post below.

Dan DeLuca, the music critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, had a good column yesterday about the rise of antiwar songs and the artists that are stepping up and doing good work, including Neil Young (“Let’s Impeach The President”). As I read through the column, though, I had to admit that I couldn’t understand what he has against the Indigo Girls, since he sneaks in a couple of digs at them. I kind of just go along with some of their songs, but I don’t think they’re “dull” or “overly earnest” (“Shame On You” and “Closer To Fine” come to mind immediately).

Here is the reason why I’m saying something about this; DeLuca quotes the legendary rock journalist and author Dave Marsh about the rise of songs protesting the Iraq War, and this is what Marsh said:

"With Vietnam, you had a movement," says Marsh. "Now you don't have a movement. You have a president with low approval ratings, and a bunch of songs."
Oh, dear. I think someone needs to stop living in a grainy, yellowed-celluloid world of 60s nostalgia full of pious-sounding news anchors, chaos on college campuses, never-ending street riots replete with burning cities, and rock stars and courageous liberal icons alike dropping dead like flies all over the place.

If Dave Marsh honestly believes that no “movement” exists against the Iraq War, then how does he explain the influence of Cindy Sheehan? How does he explain the fact that bloggers, for example, have arisen from out of nowhere all over the place with online presences both small and huge to protest the epochal arrogance and stupidity of the Bush Administration in its war for greed and empire expansion in the oldest place on earth? Coincidence?

How does he explain the courage of Jean Rohe, a BA/BFA graduate of the Jazz Program and Eugene Lang, who criticized John McCain in a speech the other day (and how does Marsh explain the cowardly attack of McCain aide Mark Salter in response)?

And here, here, and here are more examples of Marsh’s “non-movement.”

Mr. Marsh – may I call you Dave, as an admirer of your work? – rest assured that there IS a movement out there in protest of this war, and it is manifesting itself at the ballot box, among other places, across the country, and it will continue to do so for quite some time.

The "Chocolate City" Crush

So Ray Nagin was reelected as NoLA mayor a couple of days ago; I thought he was done for sure (showed me, I guess).

I’m sure your family is proud of you, and I have no doubt that they enjoyed reading about your narrow victory over challenger Mitch Landrieu while they resided in another state.

And now that you’ve been returned to your job, I’m sure you’ll also come up with a good explanation regarding why you chose not to let that Texas company haul the vehicles that were abandoned as a result of Hurricane Katrina out of the state for compacting at a fraction of the cost of that charged by the Denver company that was awarded the job (with the New Orleans taxpayers having to make up the difference of over 15 million dollars…and it’s not like the residents of your beleaguered city have cash to burn anyway).

As I watch political events unfold in "the big N.O.," I have to admit that they bear a bit of a resemblance to that of Philadelphia, making me only a little homesick.

Hayseed Hysteria

So let me get this straight, OK?

Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks meets with almost universal scorn from fans of country music after she says she’s ashamed of Bush in London in 2003 because of the Iraq war, to the point where her life is threatened just for speaking her mind (not something I would have done overseas during wartime to be honest, but she didn’t do anything wrong…I seem to recall Clinton getting trashed by wingers everywhere at any time for either actual or imagined mistakes), then writes a song about what her statement against Bush brought upon her and her family (a real kickass tune that you can access from the upper-right corner of this site, by the way)…but somebody named Ed Hill, a program director for a country station in Salt Lake City, Utah says the lyrics are “self-indulgent and selfish”?

Isn’t a death threat “self-indulgent and selfish” at the very least? And how is it that Maines and the Chicks are still pariahs to country music when icons (to them) such as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have hammered Dubya on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and (I’m sure) will not suffer reduced recording sales as a result?

And KNCI director Mark Evans decides not to play the song because of what Maines said about country music back in January (which might as well be four years ago as opposed to four months)? Gee, you don’t have an axe to grind, do you? How many artists have said or done self-indulgent things in advance of release of their creation, only to be vindicated by sales of their product?

It sounds to me like these great radio geniuses are just looking for an excuse to take “Not Ready To Make Nice” out of rotation (another PD used the excuse of “reopening an old wound” for not playing the song…I guess the Chicks should have issued something else like another cover of “Landslide” to make this person happy).

Well, I don’t know the exact CD sales to date, but I DO know that “Taking The Long Way” was the fourth highest-selling CD on a month in advance of its release, which is due tomorrow. It sounds to me like some of these people who disagree with the politics of the first single are trying to kill the momentum generated prior to the initial release (so, in addition to being ignorant from the standpoint of free speech, it’s not good business also).

Gosh, I remember all those sappy tunes from Lee Greenwood, Reba McIntire and others about how much they love America (a wonderful sentiment, though I think it immediately turns into garbage when you use it as a excuse to shout down or silence someone else). I listened to them and tried to see through a political opinion I didn’t agree with. But I guess that doesn’t work the other way for some people.

And speaking of jingoistic entertainers, do you know that Toby Keith never even served in the military?

Update: Yep, it's such a shame that the Chicks are so unpopular, isn't it?