Friday, June 02, 2006

Katy Lied

(in this instance anyway, which to me bodes ill for the hard-earned reputation of CBS News that is slowly disintegrating…)

Gee, I wonder who Ms. Couric was trying to slam with these remarks (I’ll give you a hint; I included his photo)...

"The audience is more sophisticated than we give them credit for -- they don't want a mechanical Ted Baxter," said Couric, whose last day as co-anchor of NBC's "Today" was Wednesday. "I'm a serious, caring, compassionate person. I hope that comes out. ... People want a multidimensional (news anchor) and not someone they can put in a box."
Oh yes, yes, enough already for crying out loud! The only story that has gotten more play at CNN and elsewhere is the news of the most famous celebrity baby birth that I can remember in a long time, and I hope to never hear of anything like it again for the sake of both the kid and my sanity (another hint: the name of the parents has been morphed into some weird single-name construction that starts with the letter “B”).

I know I took a shot at Couric already, but to be fair, she actually did say some good things in the CNN story about reporters “held captive by spin” and having to explain stories “in a plain-spoken way.” This story to me, though, still reeks of “cult of personality” BS in network news as opposed to spending the money to help the news teams craft the best possible stories. However, I should wait and see and give Couric a chance.

But just to prepare ourselves, let’s take a look at this list of items from which I took the above Media Matters entry so we know what to expect.

Update 6/7: Former CBS News producer Mary Mapes wrote a good post on her former employer recently.

Paging Jim Nicholson

While the head of the VA is trying to figure out how millions of Social Security numbers were exposed to possible fraud and identity theft, he might want to consider telling his boss to forget about so-called “ethics training” for the military in light of the Haditha murders and other possible killings committed by our service people who surely must be stressed out at this point beyond any limit of endurance.

Instead, this administration should put more money into counseling for our returning veterans who often are sent back for additional tours of duty in Iraq. As this report explains:

(Larry) Scott (post-Vietnam veteran and founder of said between 20 and 35 percent of soldiers returning from the recent wars are receiving mental health care from the VA, and about half of these veterans are in the beginning stages of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Scott said, due to under-funding, the VA in Washington isn’t hiring more staff to care for veterans with psychological issues.

“In terms of the VA [in Houston], I finished a large study about a year ago, using my depression intervention program for veterans who met both PTSD and major depression criteria,” said Lynn Rehm, a psychologist based at the University of Houston who does research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “We were not terribly successful. We produced some mild effects on depression, but it wasn’t very long-lasting.”

Rehm developed the Self-Management Therapy Program to help people deal with depression through positive activities and group sessions. He says, at times the weekly VA group sessions would have to wait for enough veterans to show up in order to have a meeting. Despite the need, Rehm says the meeting rooms had plenty of space for more patients to join.

According to Rehm the quality of healthcare within the VA is top-notch.

However, Scott says the problem is the difficulty of getting placed into the system and the wait times to see specialists is the problem. The problem, he says is under-funding.
I know I’ve linked to a few columns by Marie Cocco lately, but that’s because I think she’s been generating Pulitzer-worthy commentary, and she does so again here.

Credit Where It's Due

As noted by Atrios yesterday, David Broder of The Washington Post is sticking by his belief that, somehow, details of the marriage between Bill and Hillary Clinton are fair game given the fact that the senator from New York may actually decide to run for president (personally, I don’t think that will happen based on everything she has said and done to date, but I’m not a well-compensated Beltway pundit, so what the hell do I know?). Broder is sticking to his belief on this despite the fact that he is quoted as saying (as noted by Media Matters for America) that he quite rightly is “getting killed” with Email over this.

I would expect such voyeurism from the likes of Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, or The New York Post (or Bob Guccione and Penthouse Magazine). However, I always gave Broder more credit than that in the past. I believed he was more typical of a vanishing breed of reporter who would actually go out, sit down and talk with REAL PEOPLE who lived REAL LIVES and dealt with REAL ISSUES. When I’d read his columns where he’d interviewed people from red states or “the heartland,” sometimes I’d think, “God, those are stupid opinions,” but I realized that, however much I disagreed with the story, Broder was reporting on their lives and not generating tripe as part of some privileged class of scribes who were looked up to for essentially imaginary reasons.

More fool me, I guess.

That being said, I’d like to point out that I feel a sense of obligation to the Clintons for providing a period of prosperity in this country the likes of which I had never seen before and will probably never see again which benefited me personally. As noted in this WIkipedia article:

During his tenure as president, his domestic priorities included efforts to create a universal healthcare system, improve education, increase local police forces, restrict handgun sales, balance the federal budget, strengthen environmental regulations, improve race relations, and protect the jobs of workers during pregnancy or medical emergency. He raised income taxes in 1993. His most dramatic domestic move was the radical reform of the welfare system in 1996 in cooperation with Republicans who had taken control of Congress.
The article also goes on to mention the Family Leave Act of 1993, the Brady Bill, and various other pieces of legislation signed into law under Clinton’s term.

Considering everything accomplished by the Clinton Presidency (and of course it will always be debated just how substantial a role Hillary played in all of this), it aggravates me more than a little bit to see this preoccupation with personal details in their lives that, aside from being intrusive, doesn’t matter considering the weight of the accomplishments in his two terms of office (and if anyone out there seriously tries to compare the Clinton Administration with the current misery we are enduring under two terms of Bushco, I’m going to laugh in that person’s face).

And consider this: all of this was achieved under the full, burning glare of a partisan media whose only goal was to utterly ruin them.

Well, then, you know what? Given all of this, I would say that there’s nothing for Broder, Matthews or their ilk to worry about anyway (again, assuming the Clinton’s marriage is their business, and it isn’t). I would say that their marriage is rock solid and actually something to be admired.

Personally, if it were me instead of “Slick Willie” (as opposed to “Dumbya” – yes I know, I can dream…), I would have given up at some point and not seen through my entire tenure in office. I would have said, the hell with this; this is WAY TOO MUCH AGGRAVATION and stress on my family. This relentless hounding just isn’t worth it, and I know the Repugs would have ended up winning their dirty game, but I just would not have been able to see it through. And while I can’t speak for my wife, I cannot imagine that she could have withstood it either (though I’m not trying to demean her many strengths). And yes, I know Clinton brought some of his misery upon himself, but he has OWED UP TO THAT MANY TIMES. I’ve often wondered WHAT IS THE QUOTA OF APOLOGIES THAT HE IS SUPPOSED TO EXPRESS BEFORE SOME PEOPLE GET THAT?

No, the Clintons saw it through, all the way until January 2001 and the beginning of “the dark time”. It wasn’t their fault that Dubya and the Repugs had put all of their pieces in place to make off with what would be an election decided by about 537 votes or so (the “official” tally), and it also wasn’t their fault that Al Gore listened to too many advisors and didn’t tell these people to leave him alone and let him stand and fall by himself (and it also wasn’t Clinton’s fault that Gore didn’t ask him to campaign with him in the “swing states,” a clear signal that Gore had turned on him despite his support of Clinton during the impeachment farce).

So, to the Clintons, here’s to you for your success (including raising Chelsea, a lovely young woman who is primed for accomplishment in her chosen profession). Let the Beltway media prattle on as per usual about you, because their disgusting behavior is manifest of envy compared to their own efforts, which are laughable.

Dumb Okies

Witness this spasm of something approaching brainwave activity from The Neocon Youth (and from where else but the state that elected both Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe to the U.S. Senate).

I suppose it is easier for these NCRC Stepford Repugs to eat their slushies than expend the little cognitive ability they actually have to learn about THE REALITY OF GLOBAL WARMING (now, actually, they could just sit, watch, and try to comprehend Al Gore’s great new movie in an effort to find a clue).

“Values voters” everywhere, take a bow. Your utter contempt towards science and any kind of discovery and analysis about any topic whatsoever has yielded a watershed moment in our current life and times. Your spawn, the inheritors of your flawed notion of prosperity, have displayed their craven selfishness and ignorance for the whole world to see.

(Actually, I just realized something. All of these young men and women are members of The Republican Party, right? And that would be the party that brought us The Iraq War To Shove Democracy Down The Throats Of People In An Area Of The World That Has Never Ruled Itself Before As Part Of The Never Ending Forever And Ever You'd Better Goddamn Believe It Buddy Global War On Terror, right? So why aren't they over in Iraq fighting and dying instead of having a silly little stupid fest like this?)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Netroots One, "Dr. Chuck" Zero

Earlier I mentioned Chris Bowers of as an example of a blogger who definitely goes against the ridiculous image portrayed by "Dr. Chuck" Williams in the laughable garbage that passed somehow for an opinion column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Well, I am happy to pass along the news that Patrick Murphy has been endorsed by Chris and ActBlue as "the next netroots candidate." That will provide a lot of fuel, so to speak, to the "Murphy train" that will need to chug full steam out of the station to beat Mikey Fitz in November and slog through all of the Repug garbage that they are probably getting ready to heave at Patrick as soon as it's ready.

In Chris's great article, I think that it's important to highlight this paragraph.

It is also important to note that Michael Fitzpatrick, the incumbent in the race, is perhaps the most vehemently anti-netroots member of Congress. The first bill he has authored in Congress seeks to restrict public access to social networking sites, including sites such as Dailykos, Blogger, MySpace, and even MyDD. Ostensibly the bill is to protect children of child predators, but considering that it is written by an endangered incumbent who, as much as any other Republican in Congress, understands the potential power of the progressive netroots, one can only conclude that Michael Fitzpatrick is trying to curb the progressive netroots in order to save his own seat.
I realize that local papers such as The Bucks County Courier Times are going to completely miss this point, but I think its importance cannot be overstated. Some of the bilious right-wing knuckle draggers up here are piling on against Patrick in their letters to the paper (Repug sympathizers, no doubt, who wouldn't vote against Fitzpatrick anyway), but THIS is the true goal of Fitzpatrick's fraud MySpace bill (the phrase "social networking sites" is dangerously vague). After all, it's so unlike a Repug to advocate legislation that, as if my magic, ends up having a goal that accomplishes nothing like what was originally intended except to hurt a Democrat (e.g., the whole "net neutrality" argument), isn't it?

The important thing, though, is that the netroots has made it official that we are SOLIDLY behind Patrick Murphy. Getting the word out is good (by the way, Patrick plans to meet with Joe Wilson of "Niger Letter" renown, on June 6th), and financial support is even better (I plan to chip in soon also).

Update 9/22: To supplement my comment response to Williams, I present this from kos (and the decision to run again on the economy - oh maw gawd!!! - is more DLC, Third Way nonsense that has nothing to do with the rank-and-file liberals Williams despises). Arianna hits the nail on the head; the Dem leadership is out to lunch, and THAT is why we lose, not because of Williams' ridiculous caricatures.

What Must We Do?

As I mentioned yesterday, Above Average Jane asked this great question recently:

“In the bargain between elected officials and voters, what are the responsibilities of each?”
As Former PA Representative Joe Hoeffel said so well in response (I really wish he’d waited to run against Santorum instead of Specter, but maybe Mr. Casey Jr. can pull it off against Sen.Scumwad), voters must stay informed and officials must stay honest. However, I think also that voters must participate in our democracy to one degree or another, whether that means teaching civics classes, helping to educate recently naturalized citizens in English or other studies, writing to newspapers about issues that matter to them, contacting their elected officials for the same reason (or possibly even working in campaigns for these people), or even discussing political issues among family and friends (and I know that can be potentially explosive at times).

Officials, on the other hand, aside from staying honest, must stay in touch with their constituencies and understand that they were elected to serve the people in that ward, parish, district, or whatever, not the individuals who made the biggest campaing donations (or at least serving the people with money equally relative to everyone else). Officials are also duly obligated to go against the prevailing wisdom of their party if they believe that is required to accomplish the goal I just mentioned. They are also obligated to do whatever is necessary to correct any activity among their peers in any kind of governmental body that is either highly unethical or outright illegal (I would say that the 2AM PA legislative pay raise taken as an unvouchered expense last year would qualify in at least one of those categories).

That’s all I have on that. If I can think of anything else, I’ll add to this post later.

An Ass Speaks Of A "High Horse"

If this is the quality of editorial content that we can expect from The Philadelphia Inquirer under the new ownership of Brian Tierney and Philadelphia Media Holdings, then I genuinely grieve for the future of this newspaper.

Liberals must come down off our high horses
By Chuck Williams

It took me nearly one-third of my life to come to a simple conclusion: Liberals are elitists.
I’ll breathlessly await any possible “proof” you can provide of that bone-headed accusation.

Now, maybe that's not such a big deal to some, but to me it has become quite bothersome. It's pretty clear to me now that average hard-working Americans, be they red-staters or blue-staters, can smell the stench of elitist, intellectual posturing by so-called liberals and progressives.
Proof? Substance? Care to explain? Hello??

One of the reasons why this bothers me is because I fear that it will cause us to continue to lose presidential elections.
No, what will continue to lose presidential elections is taking the advice of DLC accommodationist, triangulationist, Repug-simpatico cowards like Bob Shrum, Donna Brazile, Paul Begala, Rahm Emanuel and their ilk, as well as allowing ANYONE to believe that some ax-grinding, imaginary pundit such as yourself speaks for anything but your own pitiable self interest. What will continue to lose elections for Democrats is failing to differentiate themselves from Republicans, and you can lay the blame for that squarely at the feet of these “Third Way” numbskulls that are still living in the ‘90s.

The second thing that bothers me is that I may be one of those elitists. After all, I couldn't wait to tell the world that I had earned a Ph.D. I smile a bit on the inside every time my students and/or coworkers refer to me as "Dr. Williams."
So what’s wrong with that? You mean to tell me that you don’t feel a sense of accomplishment for what you’ve achieved? In what field, then, did you earn this degree? Basket weaving?

I'm not so sure when it became important for people to know that I knew more than they did. What I do know is that it does not serve me well with average folk; this is at the core of the problem for liberals, and, given that we make up the base of the Democratic Party, it's also at the core of why we keep losing presidential elections.
I want to make sure I understand this. You think the way for the Democrats to win elections is to allow people the comfort of thinking their sometimes prejudicial point of view is perfectly fine even when the evidence at hand suggests that they may be completely and totally wrong? You think the Democrats should just not bother in any way to communicate a position or point of view on an issue and ignore the difficult-and-sometimes-impossible task of trying to bring people around to their way of thinking?

You haven’t described how the Democrats should win elections. You’ve just described the way the Republicans DO win elections (certainly in red states, anyway).

To me, politics is about one thing: winning elections. Sure, policy and activism are wrapped up in there, too, but at the end of the day, you want to win - period!
Even when losing at times, you can set the ground work for winning eventually – kind of sad that Williams doesn’t understand that.

My opinions about all this have been influenced by working for the Democratic National Committee, regionally, and volunteering for various local elections. What I've realized is that you have two camps within the Democratic Party.

You have folks who think too much, and folks who work very hard to ensure that our candidates are elected. Don't look now, but the nerds are attempting to take over the frat house. The problem with that is, they can't help us win elections. They simply stand around sipping green tea and talking about how great it would be if everyone read Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. It's no wonder folks have begun to call us effete. We sit around, legs crossed, sporting Birkenstocks, and looking down on people who don't read as much as we do.
Wow, what a trite, demagogic cliché festival we have here, boys and girls. I don’t know what political candidate Williams allegedly worked for, but with people like the author involved, it’s no wonder the candidate lost.

So “thinking too much” doesn’t equal “working hard,” assuming of course that “thinking too much” is an actual description as opposed to an RNC-approved caricature? I’d heard the expression “concern troll” before, meaning someone who purports to do good but in reality is trying to be destructive, and I think that fits Williams to a “T”.

I’m not even sure how I can address such brainless remarks, but I’ll try by assuming that Williams, in his insulting description, is referring to lefty bloggers (and I’m definitely not trying to demean them and myself, but only trying to understand this clown of an author). If he is, then Williams should familiarize himself with people like Chris Bowers and Albert Yee, Philadelphia-area bloggers who certainly aren’t cut from Williams’ disgusting mold, but are actively involved in Philadelphia-area politics and making a difference. I would say that what they’ve managed to do would explode Williams’ childish stereotypes in short order.

And, when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, you realize that somehow we feel that all that carrying on makes us better human beings than everyone else. That our values and morals are better than others. This is what really annoys folks about us.
I’ve worked in different political campaigns myself, Chuck. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve manned phone banks, handed out flyers at supermarkets, attended township meetings, canvassed locally, and put up road placards in support of Democrats in the past, and I haven’t encountered anyone that fits Williams’ description. I’ve worked with wives, husbands, divorced mothers, single fathers, college students, high school kids…you name it. Sure, I’ve encountered different people with different, sometimes strong-willed personalities, but we were all united for a common cause. We may have been a bit pushy at times with our opinions (and seriously, Republican operatives aren’t?), but the reason why is because WE WANTED OUR CANDIDATES TO WIN, and we knew to back off ultimately and let the voter decide when all was said and done. And the period of time I’m talking about is within the last 15 years or so.

What I've also realized is that this is a character flaw, and, that this does more to divide America than any of Patrick Buchanan's hate-filled rhetoric.
As far as I’m concerned, this just revealed Williams as a Repug acolyte. So-called liberal elitism is worse than Pat Buchanan’s “Fortress America” rhetoric? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Folks who don't read six national newspapers a day hold as much value and worth to our society as those who do. These folks raise families, work very hard for a living, and spend time thinking about ways to better their quality of life. They know what will serve their best interests, and they know what will not.
These are the first words in this entire column that I actually agree with. And I have news for Williams – the vast majority of people who support Democratic candidates fit this description.

If the liberal elite would stop writing and chatting so much about how this country should be, they would learn more about how it is. We need to come out of the library from time to time and actually put our ears to the ground. We will find that the blue-staters are looking for leaders who will represent them, even if they don't have college degrees or sip imported beers.
Assuming Williams actually has a serious point to make – which is highly unlikely – it would be nice if he could provide ONE SINGLE ANECDOTE OR EXAMPLE to support these preposterous, ridiculous statements.

At one point, that was the Democratic Party; today it is not. People were right to leave us.
Really? So the Democrats have blown it on the issues all of this time? Once again…any proof? Any substantive critique concerning an issue where a Democratic candidate took a stand and completely blew it? No, of course not. See, that would require the hard work of actual research and analysis as opposed to childish name calling and caricature.

We gave them nothing to hold on to. We are no longer the party of inclusion; it only looks that way on billboards and campaign advertisements.
So then, Williams believes that the Democrats are the party of division? Tell me then, when was the last time you heard about the Democrats declaring a “culture war,” or a “war on values,” or a “war on Christianity” or some such other nonsense? The only time I ever heard about the Democrats declaring a war – and I’m talking domestic policy here – is when LBJ declared a “war on poverty,” which, though it didn’t completely achieve its goal, was still pretty damn noble all the same.

If we do not address this issue soon, we will need more than a Florida recount to make this party relevant again.
The moral of the story, then, is to never educate yourself, utterly pander to the voters, and reduce everything to simple slogans. I guess that’s how Williams believe politics and government is supposed to work.

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or throw up.

By the way, to tell Williams what you think of this column, click here.

It's Not Too Early

This letter appeared in yesterday’s Inquirer (a very timely reminder, especially given this item from HuffPo and The Brad Blog).

For more than 40 years, the Voting Rights Act has protected and upheld the most fundamental building block of our great democracy: the right to vote and have one's vote counted. Yet key provisions of the Voting Rights Act will expire next year unless the U.S. Senate and the House renew them now. So take a moment and encourage your senators and representative to support the bill and oppose any weakening amendments.

As a nation, we have made significant progress toward eliminating voting discrimination, but work remains. For that reason, these provisions are essential to ensure meaningful and fair representation, as well as equal voting rights for all. Now, as much as ever, we must safeguard the right that all American citizens have to equal voting rights.

Richard J. Bioteau
I second, third, and fourth Mr. Bioteau’s thoughts on this, and to contact our politicians in Washington to let them know also, click here.

Protecting The Homeland

Based on this story, this must be what our government defines as hotspots for terrorist activity:

Grass flatlands that extend for miles
Mountain ranges
Amusement parks
Shopping malls
Hotels and other resorts
This must be what they DON’T define as hotspots for terrorist activity:

Major population centers
Defense Department offices and facilities
Chemical manufacturing plants
Water works and other utilities
Communications installations
Train stations, airports, bridges, and tunnels for vehicular traffic
Locations of “first responders” in the event of attack
And I love the quote from Clay Shaw, Jr. of Fort Lauderdale, FL about how he “wanted a divorce” from DHS. Hey, genius, there’s A REASON why Miami would get more money than you, OK? Maybe it’s because THERE’S A BIGGER POPULATION (and probably more of a mix to contribute to a possible threat).

(Hmm, Clay Shaw…didn’t Tommy Lee Jones play him in “JFK”?)

And I know we’ve been down this road before, as they say.

Update 6/1: I guess this decision was reached because Fifth Avenue doesn't have a Wal-Mart.

Update 6/2: Bill in Portland, Maine (from The Daily Kos) has more...

"Watch" His Credibility Disappear

As you may know, I try to report on international stuff at this site to keep things interesting, such as the election in Italy with “Uh Oh, Silvio” Berlusconi, our recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Libya (which will NEVER sit well with me, by the way, but I understand why it happened), and yesterday’s story about the Russian bride in New York City who is trying to get her parents flown over for her wedding.

(I mean, there are only so many ways that I can explain how lousy the Bush Administration is…I have to do something to break up the monotony.)

Well, I received this item this morning from a confidential source.

As I read the story about Klaus Kleinfeld, chief executive of Siemens, I couldn’t decide what was funnier; the explanation that the watch was removed because it was “too prominent” in the photo, or the comment that the watch should have been left on because it might encourage other Germans to go out and spend more money. And the non-corporate-sounding sarcasm in the news report (which, of course, you can find in this country now in The New Yorker and practically nowhere else in our corporate media) was welcome also.

So now, “the fatherland” is going to experience the wonders of our global economy as we have in this country (and I just love the term “redundancies” as opposed to “losing your jobs and quite possibly your livelihoods also and inflicting suffering on your family because of your lost paycheck,” or something like that – nothing like the mechanized conformity of German behavior, is there…and I know a thing or two about that).

And this German egomaniac also sends an Email to Siemens staff explaining why he didn’t run his Marathon race in his usual time, huh? As if people care…

Next time, Kleinfeld’s PR flak should retouch the photo and remove his suit also, with Kleinfeld wearing only a barrel strapped across his scrawny shoulders. I hope the trade unions put him “over” it, so to speak, though it’s strangely reassuring to find a corporate dunce residing elsewhere besides this country.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (5/31)

Here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week (from Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer).


Nuclear power. The House refused, 295-128, to cut $40 million in a 2007 energy appropriations bill (HR 5427) from a program to expand nuclear power and resume U.S. nuclear fuel reprocessing after a 30-year hiatus. The vote left $130 million in the bill for the Global Nuclear Partnership Program.

A yes vote was to cut the nuclear-power program.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), and Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., 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.).
I searched the web sites of Rob Andrews, Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz to try and find out why they would oppose this bill, and I couldn’t find any reasons at those locations. My guess is that, if you live in a city or densely populated area (and all three of these representatives have areas like that in their districts), then anything involving nuclear power conjures up images of Three Mile Island, and the first concern of everyone is how they would escape from the result of a meltdown of a core reactor. This is a very valid concern. However, I still think that nukes should be “on the table,” but remain an option of last resort. Maybe that was the concern of the representatives, or maybe they just didn’t want to spend any money on this while people in their districts are hurting, and I can’t blame them for that either. And of course, the Republicans aren’t going to deprive any of their industry buddies when they have “the pursuit of energy self sufficiency” as a built in excuse to reward their greed head behavior (and residents in their districts have better escape options also).

Arctic drilling. The House passed, 225-201, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 5429) to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. The bill would set aside 1.5 million of the refuge's 19 million acres for energy extraction, with 2,000 acres directly affected by drilling activity.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Brady, Dent, Pitts and Weldon.

Voting no: Andrews, Castle, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Saxton, Schwartz and Smith
What did I tell you? These bastards are going to come back to this again and again and again and again until they FINALLY get the opportunity to rip this pristine wilderness to shreds. I just hope you can all book your Alaska cruises now while that area is still free of drilling rigs.

Brady’s “yes” vote on this is a total mystery to me, unless he’s bought into this fiction that drilling in the ANWR will help make this country energy self-sufficient. And as much as I want to wring Mikey Fitz’s neck for saying that his biggest adversary in the campaign isn’t Patrick Murphy but Bush’s declining popularity, I have to admit that he did the right thing again on this issue.


Immigration. The Senate passed, 62-36, a bill to tighten U.S. borders, establish English as the national language, begin a guest-worker program, and provide 90 percent of the 12 million undocumented U.S. residents with legal status and a chance at citizenship. The bill (S 2611) now goes to conference with the House.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Rick Santorum (R., Pa.).
I think passing a law establishing English as the national language is ridiculous, but this bill was some kind of a compromise from the much-harsher House bill, which would have thrown out many more of the “undocumented” workers (good luck finding people who’ll risk losing limbs at our meat packing plants and doing other highly dangerous jobs…and no, I’m NOT saying Americans wouldn’t do that kind of work).

And oh, isn’t that No vote of “Little Ricky” (which he said showed his support for the House bill) proof positive that, with him, it’s always about “the base, the base, the base…”

Asylum seekers. Senators voted, 52-45, to set a lower standard of evidence for the early stages of asylum cases. The amendment to S 2611 (above) established a standard of "substantial evidence" that the immigrant would face persecution if returned home, in place of a "clear and convincing evidence" test.

A yes vote backed a lower evidence standard for asylum.

Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

Voting no: Santorum.
Concerning Ricky, see above...

Border control. Senators voted, 83-10, to codify President Bush's executive decision to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border in the next year. The measure, an amendment to S 2611 (above) bars direct police actions and limits the Guard's stay.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Carper, Lautenberg, Santorum and Specter.

Not voting: Biden, Menendez.
Would that they had passed a measure like that before we started shipping members of the Guard to Iraq (at least they learned something, though I seriously doubt that “undocumented” workers will start planting IEDs along our border).

I’m surprised that both Biden and Menendez missed those votes, though I’m sure they would have voted yes also.

CIA director. Senators voted 78-15 to confirm Gen. Michael V. Hayden, 61, as director of central intelligence.

A yes vote was to confirm Hayden.

Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Lautenberg and Santorum.

Voting no: Menendez and Specter.
I’ve been seething about this one all week.

How UTTERLY PATHETIC is it that THREE DEMOCRATS voted to confirm this guy? No wonder the Democrats are PERENNIAL MAJOR ELECTION LOSERS!! And Arlen performs the first move of his “two-step,” doing the right thing to vote no (watch for the “step to the right” any day now).

So the MBNA Twins think domestic spying in violation of FISA law is OK, huh? And I cannot possibly imagine why Lautenberg went along with this also (votes like this make me wonder whether or not he plans to step down after all; after he stepped in to run for Torricelli’s Senate seat, he said he’d be “one term and out”…maybe he’s trying to curry favor with somebody in the hope of another campaign).

Joe Biden went on “Real Time with Bill Maher” a few weeks ago and said that Bush is pulling troops out of Iraq, which I believe, though the latest developments in the civil war gave Dubya the excuse to ship 1,500 back to combat. All the same, when Biden spoke on the show, he did so with the presence of someone who (I thought) could make a serious presidential run.

However, this vote, as well as his total non-support of Russ Feingold and his call for censure, leaves me with the sick feeling that Biden is nothing more than a poster boy for the unacceptable status quo.

Ahead. Congress is in recess until June 5.
Given the fact that we’ve just seen our politicians in action (for both better and worse), I think this is probably a good time to link to a post by Above Average Jane where she asks a really good question, and I’ll try to post on this myself over the next day or so.

The “Imposing Nonsense” Service

(As opposed to “Immigration and Naturalization”…)

This story has something to do with politics, but it has more to do with “human interest” stuff. I came across it at The Moscow Times and thought that it was definitely worth publicizing somehow.

As you can read, writer Paul Keegan and his Russian bride, Tatyana Rybushkin, plan to be married in New York City on June 17th. You would think that it would not be a big deal for her elderly Russian parents to obtain a visa so they could come over and attend the ceremony.

You would think that, but...

I didn’t check with the U.S. Embassy, but the site states that a B-2 tourist visa could be obtained for about $68 USD (presumably with any needed approvals already obtained, of course). I have to admit, though, that I don’t know a lot about this subject, and apparently the bride’s parents are having a problem meeting whatever eligibility requirement it is that must be met to visit our country.

And isn’t this a case of “the shoe being on the other foot”? Wasn’t it typical for other nationals to have a difficult time entering Russia in years past but a much easier time visiting or obtaining temporary residence in this country (oh, sorry…that darn “pre-9/11” mindset again).

I’m sure we all wish Paul and Tatyana the best and hope her parents are there to “give her away” in a few weeks.

By the way; in case you’d forgotten, I should point out that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration service (technically, that is the correct department name) is now listed as “a bureau in the Department of Homeland Security,” meaning that it ultimately falls under the direction of Mike (“City of Louisiana”) Chertoff (ugh…not a good sign, unfortunately).

A True Business Genius

Dubya tells a reporter yesterday that, no, John Snow isn’t leaving as Treasury Secretary.

But then later, Tony Snow (no relation) announces that John Snow is leaving and Dubya had already agreed to give the job to this Hank Paulson individual on May 20th, and when Dubya’s press secretary was asked about it, T. Snow said that he lied so he “wouldn’t upset the markets.”

Here is what happened to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and NASDAQ yesterday in spite of anything that this administration did or didn’t do; they tanked anyway!

Nice going, Dubya!

And as long as I’m on this subject, I should point out that Inquirer business writer Andrew Cassel wrote a front-page column on Henry Paulson today (as noted, the new treasury secretary). As you may expect, the paper covered this story entirely from the “wealth” perspective and totally ignored what this means to the vast majority of the people in this country (who, to this administration, continue to be invisible).

I’m sure the extensive coverage of this momentous development was the reason why “Blog Cabin” disappeared again today (it being Wednesday and all).

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Let It Fly

As a follow up to "Remember" below, I would like to make a request (please permit me my once-per-year rant on this subject).

As I did what I did over the Memorial Day weekend, I saw precious few flags on display around people's homes. I know the argument that you can't take off for the shore, mountains, or wherever for the weekend, leave the flag out, and observe good flag etiquette (that is, taking it in at sundown, to say nothing of the fact that leaving the flag out all night can be a signal that you're not home). I understand; really, I do.

But if you aren't going to do any of those things and are going to reside at your homes for the long weekend, then the flag should really be displayed. I'm not going to get all preachy and remind you that our people are fighting and dying around the world so we can live our lives the way we do, even though that's true. I'm just saying that flying the flag on Memorial Day, July 4th, 9/11, or Veterans Day is just a reminder that we know what our country is all about, we respect and honor it, and we respect and honor those who sacrifice for it (which a whole bunch of us do in one way or another).

Let's keep this in mind a few weeks from now when the next holiday comes along, OK?

A Think Tank Commando Speaks

Here’s a quote from the Editor and Publisher story accessible from this link:

With the deaths of two CBS media workers on Monday, more journalists have died in covering the Iraq war, 71, than in all of World War II.
I think that speaks volumes about the sacrifice of individuals who are, according to new Bush aide Karl Zinsmeister, “whiny and appallingly soft.” And I share the sentiments of the commenter “backatcha” from HuffPo:

Did he say as much to the families and friends of the 8- plus media types who have been blown up?

I wonder where this tough guy served.....probably Denny's gotta be hard as hell to deal with the midnight drunks looking for coffee and eggs.
Yep, you guessed it. I also surveyed this loser’s resume and found not a trace of actual military experience.

I’ll tell you what, Karl. You can click here to learn what journalistic heroism is all about (in addition to familiarizing yourself with the stories of Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt of ABC News, pictured above).

Unintended Consequences

Except for his crazed, bigoted, hateful minions, I can’t think of a single individual who would support Fred (“God Hates Fags”) Phelps, the founded of the Westboro Baptist “Church” of Topeka, Kansas. I can’t think of any reason to show a shred of sympathy to a life form who would stage protests of our military at cemeteries with his demented followers, holding up signs reading, “Thank God for I.E.D.’s”.

See, to hear Phelps and his other nuts tell it, God is punishing us because the majority of the people in this country want to leave gays and lesbians alone and let them live their lives.

I don’t know how Phelps is being bankrolled (though I’d be interested in finding out), but he does manage to get across the country and stage his sick act from state to state. Indiana and Minnesota are two states that have passed laws banning picketing at cemeteries to keep Phelps and his creepy vermin away (and how pathetic is it that a law like that even needs to be passed?).

And I’m not going to give Dubya credit for signing his recent ban on demonstrations, which is the federal version of the state laws that protects sites overseen by the U.S. Congress (such as Arlington). Maybe I should, but Dubya has risen to infamy on the backs of fellow “Christians,” some of whom wouldn’t mind seeing an abortion clinic get bombed every now and then, which is another type of craziness to me. If Dubya had been a REAL leader, then he would have been able to “sink or swim” politically by reaching out and “building bridges” instead of pandering to fear; the only difference between his mentality and that of Phelps is that the latter is more visible and doesn’t show the subtlety and deceit of the former.

However, now that we have these laws, I’m concerned about enforcement. I’m glad they’re on the books (and though I know the ACLU has to object in principle, I just think a funeral is one place where you draw the line when it comes to improper behavior).

I think that the federal and state laws would be applied in a common-sense manner, but I get concerned about the exceptions (and I think the ACLU, through its legal action, can be helpful in defining exactly what type of behavior would be banned).

Suppose I attend a funeral for someone who has died in Iraq, and I have a bumper sticker on my vehicle protesting the war. Would someone consider that a “protest,” leading me to be fined after the fact or even asked to leave the grounds of the cemetery? And before you say, “oh, that’s a dumb scenario,” just remember there are employers in this country (down south, as I recall…no surprise there) who fired employees who place bumper stickers on their vehicles supporting John Kerry for president in ’04. I’m just saying that these laws against demonstrations at cemeteries can be abused by people for partisan reasons (though I definitely respect the fact that they’ve been passed, as I said).

Any law or court decision has the potential to evolve over time based on other rulings, and that could be the case here. I just hope they have the intended effect of squashing Phelps and his unconscionable sycophants forever but don’t end up hurting anyone else in the process.

One more thing: I haven't overlooked the fact that Dubya's track record on attending the funerals of our people in Iraq is pretty terrible, so his latest gesture is more than a tad hypocritical.

I'm Jeff Gannon, And You're Not

Good day and hello. Here are today’s top stories from the Bringing U Shared Harmony In Television (BUSHIT) Network.

Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is captured through a combined joint venture of Caribbean-based Special Ops forces and recent graduates of the School for the Americas.

President George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are this year’s co-nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Exxon-Mobil executive Lee Raymond will chair a seminar debunking the global warming hoax at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School.

An Iraqi American in Kansas City praises President Bush in 2003 for the fall of Saddam Hussein (oops…sorry, we already ran that one).

The baby daughter of actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt passes first-ever in utero screen test and appears onstage shortly after delivery.

And in this BUSHIT exclusive, the NSA calls 911 for Mr. Orville J. Pludthumper of East Moonbat, Kansas when they listen in on a conversation with his jailed brother-in-law and overhear him trying to pass a kidney stone.
All this and more is coming your way tonight on the BUSHIT Network. Remember, if it’s wildly improbable and pays tribute to our government without a dissenting point of view, you know it’s BUSHIT!

Raging Bore

Boxing tickets?

THAT’s supposedly the subject of some big, brewing, Democratic scandal?

You’ve got to be kidding me (but alas, it’s true).

In the ever-more-desperate attempts by our corporate media brethren acting at the behest of the Repugs, Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is being questioned over tickets given to him to watch fights in Las Vegas from 2003 to 2005, with someone named Bernadette Sargeant saying, "From what you (the CNN reporter, presumably) are describing, it is such a huge risk that a reasonable person with all the relevant facts would say this creates the appearance of impropriety."

I see very little impropriety, certainly nothing that I actually care about. Besides, the net effect of Reid’s activity was more governmental oversight of boxing, which could not possibly be beneficial to that industry.

Ms. Sargeant was “a former House ethics lawyer.” Seeing as how the U.S. House of Representatives is currently one of the most ethically-compromised organizations I have ever seen in my life, I think it’s safe to say that she was either terrible at her job or she was hopelessly overmatched by the enormity of the task of cleaning up that cesspool.

And of course, the CNN story describing what Reid did brings up this time-worn chestnut:

In an interview Thursday in his Capitol office, Reid broadly defended his decisions to accept the tickets and to take several actions benefiting disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clients and partners as they donated to him.
Anything to get Abramoff’s name in the same sentence with a Democrat...

One more time, people: Abramoff’s CLIENTS are not facing time in Federal prison if convicted. That fate awaits ABRAMOFF ONLY! Abramoff’s CLIENTS are INNOCENT!!

This comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding Louisiana Democratic Representative William Jefferson and the FBI seizure of records from his office. I withheld comment on that for a time because I wanted to learn a bit more before I said anything. And though it’s hard for me to defend Jefferson because it doesn’t look good at the moment, is there anyone out there who seriously believes that this would have happened (the seizure and Dubya’s sealing of the records) if he had been a Repug?

That being said, though, this column from Marie Cocco provides some cautionary words that the Democrats should heed (and especially Jefferson and the Congressional Black Caucus).

Oh, and just to refresh our memories, this describes what Abramoff did, which is infinitely worse than taking some gratuities to watch two pugs beat the snot out of each other.

Update 6/1: So, in addition to being ultimately a story of almost no consequence, it was badly reported also?

Update (again) 6/1: I have a feeling AP reporter John Solomon's next job, based on his sorry performance on the Reid boxing non-story, will be producing video news releases for Bushco.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


This column from John Grant of the Philadelphia chapter of Veterans For Peace appeared on May 12th in the Inquirer. He received letters that were both critical and praise worthy in response, though I cannot imagine how someone could think they had the right to criticize him based on his thoughtful and moving words. I had an Email communication with John subsequent to this in an effort to publicize his organization, and he's a good guy.

The lessons of war that few have learned
By John Grant

As I exited the Staten Island Ferry recently for an antiwar demonstration of 300,000 people down Broadway, a young man next to me noticed my VETERANS FOR PEACE T-shirt.

"What war?" he asked.


"Thanks for your service," he said.

"The war never should have happened," I told him. "It's not something to thank me for."

"Thanks, anyway," he said as we parted.

As a veteran, you get "Thanks for your service" a lot. It always irritates me. I never quite know how to respond because I'm not proud of my service in Vietnam, and don't feel I should be thanked for it.

I was 18 when I joined. I spent the most influential year of my life in Vietnam. Then I came home and educated myself. If people want to thank me, let them do it for what I learned from the experience, not for going there.

The main thing I learned? U.S. military interventions since World War II have generally been dishonest and in support of quite vicious governments. There's Iran in 1953 and Guatemala the next year. And, of course, Vietnam.

My service was hardly the stuff of national warrior myth. I was a kid, a radio direction finder in the mountains west of Pleiku locating enemy units so they could be destroyed. My job was to spin a silver antenna around and say here's a map coordinate, bomb it silly, and maybe, if I'm right, you'll hurt the enemy. Then again, if I'm wrong, you may level an innocent village.

You know ... the fog of war.

I'm not a pacifist, though I have friends who are. I will defend myself with violence to the best of my ability. I feel that way, as well, about the military. But like a pistol, the problem is in whose hands the pistol is held and what he or she does with it. The military we have now is more and more the instrument of imperial assumptions beyond even the electoral process.

I know there are people who will distort what I'm saying, and I understand how they might feel. By implication, I'm commenting on the service of others, suggesting that they might transcend all the patriotic and macho mind-wash and consider what their service in places like Vietnam actually accomplished.

Instead of the superficial "Thank you for your service" approach, what if we honestly examined experiences like Vietnam and used them to learn something? Susan Sontag was crucified for saying this after 9/11: "By all means, let's mourn together, but let's not be stupid together." She was right.

If the men and women of the White House had valued the painful lessons of Vietnam over blind service, we would not be bogged down in another quagmire and we would not be having 300,000 people marching down Broadway led by a growing organization called Iraq Veterans Against the War.

These young men and women also choose to transcend the superficiality of "Thank you for your service." While these veterans honor the courage, and mourn the suffering and loss, of their friends in Iraq, they are acting on what they've learned from their experience, which is that the U.S. occupation is wrong and needs to be ended.

Anyone who feels this is unpatriotic should consider the words of a famous World War II combat bomber pilot: "The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher standard." That bomber pilot was George McGovern.

So next time you consider muttering to a vet, "Thanks for your service," take a moment to consider what that service meant to the people on the wrong end of it and whether it was worth all the pain and misery.

In my case, I'd rather be thanked for my service opposing the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the winter of 2002, because of what I learned in Vietnam, I joined many others who were aware that the blind runaway train full of frightened and duped Americans racing toward Iraq was headed for disaster. Of course, the train went right over us.

If you need to thank me, thank me for that.
This excellent column in a similar vein from Marie Cocco appeared a few days ago also.

Finally, I was able to catch "Baghdad ER" on HBO a few nights ago. If you have access to HBO, I strongly urge you to watch it - it was very well done. Of course, since I've been "around the block" a couple of times, I can recall when "CBS Reports" would produce documentary programs of high quality also, but with the advent of "reality" T.V. and at least two crime shows on prime time TV per night (as well as the concentrated corporate media ownership in this country), I think it's safe to say that the days of anything that approximates legitimate public interest programming appearing from 8-11PM on the major networks are "dust in the wind."

On "Baghdad ER," the thing that got me, first of all, was how young all of the casualties were (usually the case in war anyway), and aside from the dedication and humanity of the doctors, their attempts at breaking the tension and keeping sane, such as the "cigar night" and one of the staffers playing the saxophone on the roof near the helipad as a chopper began its descent to the hospital (along with a joke that reflected a particular type of "gallows humor" that I won't communicate here). As I watched, it was impossible not to be touched by the bravery of our people; I could almost forget my utter contempt and loathing for the individuals who made it necessary for the doctors to provide their care to our troops (and by the way, at the beginning of the program, it was noted that the survival rate of patients - both our people and wounded Iraqi nationals - upon admission to the facility is 90 percent, which is an almost miraculous number).