Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Divide Between Rich And Poor

The latest from John Edwards...

I just spoke to Senator Ted Kennedy. He needs our help again.

Next week - possibly as early as Monday - the Senate will vote on his bill to increase the minimum wage. This will be the only time the Senate takes up the minimum wage this year - and we have to make a strong showing of support.

Earlier this year, I was honored and excited when Senator Kennedy asked our online community for help in getting citizen co-sponsors for his bill. You delivered - big time. All across the country, hundreds of thousands of citizens stood up for workers on the low rung of the ladder -- the folks who have labored for ten years without an increase in the minimum wage.

Now we need one final push before next week's vote. I know you have friends and family who are as concerned about the divide between rich and poor as you are. Please forward the petition to them and ask them to sign.

Tell a friend.

Over the past few years, CEO and top executive pay has gone through the roof - often regardless of whether they are doing their jobs well. In just ten years, the average compensation of a CEO at an S&P 500 company jumped from $3.7 million to $9.1 million -- an increase of almost 150%.

Meanwhile, the minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 per hour for ten years -- which means you can work full-time and still raise your kids in abject poverty. Everything but pay has gone up for minimum wage workers - the costs of health care, housing, child care and transportation.

A single mom with two kids who works full-time for the minimum wage is about $2,000 below the poverty line. It is time - past time - to reward work with an increase in the minimum wage.

Senator Kennedy has put his faith in us. We need to deliver signatures to him.

Tell a friend.

You've heard me talk about the two Americas. One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life.

Senator Kennedy's bill would increase the minimum wage in three increments to $7.25 an hour. Raising the minimum wage won't solve the problem, but it is a huge step in the right direction -- toward creating One America. One America where you have something to show for it if you work full-time - a savings account, your own home, the chance to live in a good neighborhood with good schools, and the ability to afford college.

Believe me, the lobbyists for the business interests that oppose increasing the minimum wage have tremendous influence over Congress. It's up to us to help level the playing field. We need to show our strength in numbers -- please encourage your friends and colleagues to become co-sponsors of Senator Kennedy's bill.

Tell a friend.

Thank you for taking action and for all that you do.

Your Friend,

To contact your senator on this, click here.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Pompous Papa Pumpkinhead

If there are any fathers out there reading this, I want to wish you a good day this Sunday.

I also want to ask you something; are you as disgusted as I am about the fact that the character whose picture appears here has somehow assumed the mantle of speaking for “fatherhood”? I’d like to ask him if “Big Russ” taught him to be a devious weasel of a journalist who is more concerned with promoting and misrepresenting himself and his guests than doing his job. At least Bill Cosby, like him or not, has the guts to stand up and say words that he knows may not be well received by his audience though he is often right.

Anyway, I found two individuals here who I believe are much better examples of fathers trying to do the right thing for their families each in his way; one is Jim Lamb and the other is his son, writer Paul Lamb. I think they represent both the aspirations and conflicts fathers and sons perpetually face, and in my own small way, I’d like to pay tribute to them.

Too Much Reality

Could Wonder Woman somehow be transgendered? (God, I hope not). Does The Atom now need a support group for vertically challenged individuals?

These are the questions I now have after reading about this.

I mean, I know I should bother to read the latest issue of Spider Man in Marvel Comics to find out exactly why he would want to reveal his true identity, but it doesn’t appear to make any sense. Why would he risk his family, especially since he and Mary Jane will eventually father Spider Girl, I believe? And didn’t he bag it anyway at the conclusion of that animated 90s series with Neil Patrick Harris?

So confused, I know (I feel like the fragile pillars of my world are starting to crumble :- ).

I mean, hey, it’s hard work to avoid all of those celebrity stories on CNN, you know?

Patrick's Response To Fitzy

As far as I’m concerned, Patrick Murphy showed true leadership in this Guest Opinion that appeared in today’s Bucks County Courier Times.

Our children need Congress’s help. As Internet use grows, so does the vulnerability of kids to predators and pedophiles. This isn’t an issue for Republicans or Democrats – this is a bipartisan issue in need of a bipartisan solution. Our children need real leadership and real action – not rhetoric and election-year gimmicks. That’s why I’m proposing the Murphy Plan for Online Protection, a real plan with real solutions to a serious problem.

As a former prosecutor, I understand what law enforcement needs to get the job done. As the Internet grows, we need to provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to catch and prosecute these horrible criminals. If I were elected to Congress, I would dramatically increase funding and resources for local law enforcement to work with groups that catch online predators and put them behind bars. We don’t just need warnings anymore – we need action.

Second, I would require that site-blocking software be prominently displayed and freely downloadable on all sites where predators might attempt to lure our children. This would help all parents protect their kids at home, where most children access the Internet. We need to make sure every child is protected – not just the ones using computers at school and in the library.

Finally, I would make it illegal for any person convicted of using a computer to commit a sex crime to access the Internet, so we could send them straight back to jail – much the way we currently do with convicted hackers. If we get tough with predators on both ends of the Internet, our children will be better protected.

Now as many of you know, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick has introduced a bill called “The Deleting Online Predators Act.” Here is what you probably don’t know: “The problem with DOPA is that it may do little to actually ensure safety,” and that it may actually “make our children less safe.” Those are the words of Ann Collier, co-founder of and Ann Davis, an instruction technology specialist at Georgia State University.

It seems our congressman is involved in the typical Washington game of putting out nice sounding legislation that could make the problem worse, not better, and leaves the dangerous impression that he’s actually doing something to protect children. But it’s time to change the way we do business in Washington, D.C.

Let me be clear. The most important job of any government is to protect its citizens, and especially our children.

Fitzpatrick’s bill makes two suggestions: create another web site advising parents of danger and partially block children’s access in schools and libraries. This won’t get the job done.

First, web sites like Fitzpatrick proposes currently exist. For example, you can check out the Federal Telecommunications Commission’s web site at and read either “Social Networking Sites: A Parent’s Guide” or “Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens.”

Second, Fitzpatrick’s bill requires that schools and libraries install filters to block certain web sites. Under laws signed by President Clinton, libraries are already required to block sites deemed harmful to minors; these social networking sites are no exception. In fact, all schools and libraries in Bucks County already block these networking sites. Also, this doesn’t do nearly enough to stop kids from accessing these sites at home or at their friend’s homes, where most children use the Internet in the first place. This time, facts get in the way of Fitzpatrick’s sound byte.

Parents already have some of the resources they need to fight child predators on the Internet – but they need our help. The problem is one of hunting and prosecuting sexual predators. We need to offer law enforcement new programs and new funding so that they too can adapt to the technology. That way, we can guarantee the police will always be one step ahead of these sexual predators.

As a former prosecutor and son of a cop, I understand the need to catch and prosecute anyone who would dare compromise our children’s safety. By following the Murphy Plan for Online Protection, we can give law enforcement the tools they need to catch these predators, and give parents the tools they need to keep their kids safe. We need to change the way Washington does business, by pursuing real action, and we need to do it today, because it’s time we put our children’s safety first.
I’ll temporarily overlook that awful pun (and I know something about awful puns), and the idea about mandating downloadable site blocking software, though a good one, may run into problems. However, what Patrick proposes is easily better than anything I’ve heard or am likely to hear from Fitzpatrick.

Actually, if I were Mikey, I’d take care of this and this and then decide to can the MySpace thing (but of course, we know that plays with a lot of the knuckleheads who have been writing into the Courier Times singing his praises, so I guess we can forget that unfortunately, which is all the more reason to click here).

Update 6/19: Give it up, Mikey...

I Guess Miranda Is Next

Am I sympathetic to Booker Hudson? Of course not. The guy sounds like a thug.

However, there is a right way to do your job and a wrong way. The Detroit police, in this case, did it the wrong way, but apparently, that doesn’t matter to The Supremes.

Also, I am suddenly realizing that Justice Anthony Kennedy is the most powerful individual in this country right now, since apparently he is going to be the only buffer against the other four wingnuts on the bench.

And before anyone thinks that, oh, look how the Supreme Court is supposedly whittling away at the death penalty with these two rulings, allow me to point out that the Tennessee case is one of truly exceptional circumstances, with both the blood and semen used to convict the defendant called into question (though Hanging Judge JR emphatically noted the following):

"It is not our role to make credibility findings and construct theories of the possible ways in which (victim) Mrs. Muncey's blood could have been spattered and wiped on (defendant Paul Gregory) House's jeans," he wrote in an opinion joined by Scalia and Thomas.
Apparently, deliberations started before “Strip Search Sammy” was confirmed.

And as far as the challenge to Florida’s lethal injection brought by Clarence Edward Hill (why do all of these guys have three names, I wonder?), consider that he’s going to die anyway; the question only concerns the chemical mix of the lethal injection and “other aspects of Florida’s injection protocol.”

No, this court is going in one direction only, make no mistake. And let’s all hope and pray that Justice John Paul Stevens remains in good enough health to stay on the bench, or else things will go “off a cliff” really fast.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Cut And Run" This, Mikey!

This great Guest Opinion from Fred Viskovich of Lower Makefield appeared in this morning’s Courier Times.

In a bizarre way, it is comforting to know that right-wing rhetoric is alive and well. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s intemperate and vitriolic remarks about the outcome of the Democratic congressional primary are the Karl Rove-style swift boating of Patrick Murphy.

Fitzpatrick’s calling Murphy a “cut and run liberal” is the equivalent of what happened to returning Vietnam War veterans: getting spit on. Cutting and running?

Who would know more about that than a freshman who cut the planned and appropriate increase in funding for the needy and then runs from campaign finance accountability? The situation in Iraq has no military solution. Iraq is in a civil war. The insurgency isn’t in its last throes, but the domestic axis of waste, incompetence, and corruption, the Bush/Cheney/Rove administration, is.

That’s the culture that Bush supporter Fitzpatrick votes with over 60 percent of the time and that’s the culture that mainstream Democrat Patrick Murphy wants to change. In a May 11-15th Washington Post/ABC News poll, 59 percent of Americans said the war in Iraq was a mistake, while 50 percent believe Democrats are better trusted to resolve it. Only 36 percent think Republicans can do the job.

Only an ideologically driven and politically naïve freshman would make the mistake of thinking that success in Iraq lies through an “independent commission.” Who would sit on such a commission? Who would appoint its members? Would their findings be binding on our military leaders and our commander in chief? The idea is political vaporware. We already had the bipartisan 9/11 commission and (the) radical right ignored its findings: no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al Qaeda, no participation in 9/11.

Fitzpatrick learned about Iraq by taking a tour there; Patrick Murphy learned about Iraq by taking a tour of duty there. Like draft dodgers Cheney and Rove, Fitzpatrick stays the course while coffins are secretly flown back to heartbroken families and the halls of Walter Reed Army Hospital fill with thousands of amputees.

How long should we spend $10 billion a month to provide Iraqis with constitutionally guaranteed free health care, housing, education and the right to the nation’s natural resources? How many more Americans must die to ensconce a pro-Iranian theocracy that subordinates all law to Islam? Leave Iraq and the indigenous political elements will make quick work of outside terrorists who, neutered by the lack of an occupier, will suffer the rough justice they deserve for killing innocent citizens.

Murphy has no residency issue. But Fitzpatrick talks about Murphy like he is some kind of illegal alien who should have to apply for guest worker status at the county courthouse. As pointed out in a recent Courier Times editorial, the federal requirement is that the candidate be a resident of the state, not the district, at the time of election.

Fitzpatrick confuses these requirements with those of county commissioner. All politics is local, but not all governments are local. Bucks County is cosmopolitan. Residents have moved here from Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, or India. Fitzpatrick and Murphy both have positions on immigration. But Fitzpatrick has a position on immigration to Bucks County.

Fitzpatrick’s post-election outburst belies his nice guy persona. His statement is a missive climbing out of the rotting carcass of a dead, issue-free campaign. It is a desperate attempt to disguise a lackluster first-term record and a pledge of allegiance to the most extreme elements in the Republican Party. Even former fellow county commissioner and lifelong Republican Andy Warren said the party no longer had any place for moderation and independence and abandoned the GOP.

Fitzpatrick’s statement on the nomination of Patrick J. Murphy proves it.
To help Patrick, click here (and by the way, don't forget this also).

To You, Maybe

We now know that 2,500 brave men and women in our armed forces have died in Dubya’s illegal Iraq War, though, to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, that is “only a number”.

And on the same day, we read this jaw-dropping note also from The Huffington Post about granting amnesty to terrorists who have killed our soldiers, reporting the words of Repug senators Ted Stevens, Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, John Cornyn, and Saxby Chambliss.

Please allow me to point out that the only person in this bunch who has the right to say words that are this stupid is Ted Stevens since he at least served in the Air Force in World War II, though how he as a veteran could feel this way is something I’ll never understand.

McConnell, Alexander, Cornyn, and Chambliss, however, did not, and should immediately apologize.

I forgot to point out yesterday that it was Flag Day, and I’m sorry for that. However, given my disgust with these individuals who supposedly represent our government, maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t (and I know that sentiment contradicts an earlier post).

The Maple Leaf Stands Tall

(Water wet, sky blue, Blogger photo upload hosed again – this is a recording…)

I swear, I don’t know why anyone pays a lick of attention to what National Review Online “columnist” Jonah Goldberg says, but apparently, some people do. He once wrote that Rachel Carson, in her landmark book “Silent Spring,” was incorrect in stating that DDT was a known cause of cancer, but it was so easy to go to the Center for Disease Control’s web site and prove him wrong that I had to laugh.

Now, apparently, he recently insulted Canada, even though the country has recently broken up an al Qaeda cell that was planning an assortment of typically heinous activities. The only reason I know of this, aside from the fact that the Philadelphia Inquirer published one of his columns that I immediately ignored, is because of this great rebuttal that appeared this morning:

Jonah Goldberg's June 12 commentary, "Canada out of touch on terror," is out of touch with Canada as well as "off" on terror. Delusion is in the mind of Goldberg, not Canadians, who on 9/11 accepted planes en route to the United States from Asia and Europe, hosted the passengers debarked for the nine days it took the United States to respond, and who suffered the largest number of foreign fatalities at ground zero.

Canada has been, and is, America's first ally. Goldberg's charge that Canada is "sucking up to the United Nations" and ranks 50th in the number of United Nations peacekeeping troops is careless and insensitive. Canada contributes troops disproportionately higher to its population than the 49 other nations do. Canada was the first to volunteer in Afghanistan under the U.N. mandate. Canada did not refuse to serve in Iraq but, rather, did not because it was not a U.N.-sanctioned action. These decisions were made as a sovereign country and had nothing to do with assuaging jihadists.

Worse, Goldberg proffers the propaganda that in Canada there's "a profoundly evil, homegrown Islamist terrorist cell" that has "provoked a lot of soul-searching." This is disinformation. The 17 people rounded up did buy three times the fertilizer of Timothy McVeigh and his cohorts, but it was part of a sting operation! It was the mistake of the media to make so much of a politicized event, when the reality was that those arrested were a gang who couldn't shoot straight.

Canada is an independent country despite being in the shadow of the United States. Its role internationally is as an alter-ego to the United States, daily ameliorating the crude indispositions of the present administration.

We just buried the first female Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan. Canadians, like Americans, are conflicted over the collective presence in the Middle East. We reject, however, that we are "nice" and "appeasing." Canada should be applauded for its diligence in tracking and prosecuting terrorists. It is as vigilant as the United States in immigration and border protection. Remember, it was the United States that failed to recognize the 9/11 terrorists. No one came from Canada, and, with the continued good work of our collective security forces, no one ever will.

Vincent Mallardi
Canadian-American Chamber of Commerce
In spite of this, I’m still rooting for Carolina to wrap up the Finals and win the Cup in Edmonton Saturday night (go ‘Canes!).

Big Brother Joins The Fourth Estate

I asked this question a couple of days ago, but based on this story about the CIA's denial of requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), I must ask it again; what country am I living in?

I'm concerned by this in particular:

In its lawsuit, the archive said the CIA had rejected immediate waivers for 42 FOIA requests over the last year, demanding in many cases to know how its requests were related to current events. The delayed FOIA requests dealt with issues such as U.S. assistance to Afghan rebels after the 1976 Soviet invasion.

The CIA told the archive that it would not waive search and duplication fees because many of the requests would not interest the general public.

Thomas Blanton, the archive's executive director, said the response was illegal and potentially dangerous for the entire FOIA process.

"This means they get to decide what's news," Blanton said.

Let’s see...illegal NSA spying, altering of records at the National Archives, and now the CIA gets to play Woodward and Bernstein.

Of course, we can ALWAYS find out which celebrity is getting married, divorced, pregnant, or posing on behalf of one worthy cause or another. Meanwhile, it gets harder and harder to find out information like this (from this link):

"According to the U.S. Treasury Department, America's first 42 Presidents, from George Washington (1789) to Bill Clinton (2000), borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. From 2000 to 2006, the Bush White House has borrowed $1.05 trillion alone. Yes, that means we have borrowed in the last 5 years what we had previously borrowed in the first 211 years of our country."
A legacy of unmatched secrecy AND debt to go with it; whatever comes after us one day will think us mad for allowing this to go on.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Proletariat "Hangs Ten"

(And in this case, you have to worry about being too literal with that expression.)

Wow, can those Russkies swing or what? Check out these whompin’ new tunes!

I think they’re onto something with this. I can picture follow up recordings such as “Techno Dance Melodies Based On KGB Interrogations” and “Gulag Love Songs” (complete with woo-ooo-oooh Beach Boys-style harmonies).

This is truly the stuff of genius (by the way, I don’t know how long this link will stay active – the Moscow Times is actually pretty tough about this sort of thing).

And speaking of “their American mentors”...

Just Add It To The Pile

Maybe Dubya had a case of jet lag on this one, though it’s hard to tell with him of course (I mean, he had to work so hard to pose for his Baghdad photo-op and not screw it up, right?).

And when you talk about Dubya, you simply MUST talk about Karl Rove, who after all is responsible for installing Bush in both of his jobs in government. And of course, the freepers out there are crowing because Rove beat the rap again on the outing of Valerie Plame.

This actually may be a blessing, though I know it’s hard to see that at the moment. It means that Rove will be around certainly into the November elections at least, reminding everyone who really pulls the strings in the Repug party. And if that doesn’t give voters a clear motivation to vote for Democrats (assuming they can get their act together in Iraq...ugh), then nothing will.

Update: OK, OK, I'll admit that he apologized to the guy. There - happy now?

Treating What Ails Her

I’m not a health care professional, so I really don’t know anything about disease pathology. But if someone has some kind of a communicable illness, doesn’t it make more sense to isolate the patient than to grant this person a public forum, thus potentially allowing the disease to spread?

That’s my reaction to the news that Ann Coulter will appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” along with George Carlin and singer/musicians K.T. Tunstall.

Granted, Carlin won’t back down, thus making it interesting television (which is all NBC cares about, of course). He’ll be hampered, though, because the show will have to make sure he doesn’t let any bad language slip (it will be edited out, never fear, especially since the broadcaster fines were just raised to the stratosphere; I’m sure Leno’s show is still pre-recorded – I haven’t watched that stuff in ages, so I don’t know).

However, the fact remains that Coulter is a cancer. She is a disease. You don’t allow the disease to spread and mutate. You isolate it and allow it to expire (and don’t worry…I’m being metaphorical only with that one). The fact that NBC is exposing the disease means that the network doesn’t care about the mental health of this country.

However, as long as NBC is going to grant Coulter a forum for her sick, twisted views, I think Leno could at least check out this Media Matters link and get an idea of what he should ask her later today.

And if you want to tell The Peacock Network what you think of this moronic decision, click here.

Feckless FEMA Fraud

I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but whenever I hear about another FEMA screwup, I just shake my head and say, “So what else is new?”

The latest hit to the reputation of this once-proud agency, coming on the heels of Mike (“City of Louisiana”) Chertoff’s ridiculous funding decisions, is the news that possibly a billion dollars was improperly charged on debit cards issued by the agency (but of course, these card charges are valid if you consider adult erotica products or funding for prison inmates already housed to be legitimate disaster relief expenses).

Somehow deep down, though, I think FEMA’s problems go beyond mere incompetence and reflect the worst sort of typical Bushco cronyism, using the agency to funnel funds to the favored few who support this sickening regime.

Where to begin? Let’s go back, shall we, to last November.

In this USA Today article, writer Kevin McCoy notes the following:

Since late September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded Titan a $450,000 contract for a mobile emergency response vehicle and a $107,058 contract for emergency housing work, according to government records and interviews.

Titan is a defendant in two federal lawsuits that allege the company acted negligently in its hiring and supervision of a translator suspected of abusing Abu Ghraib prisoners.
In the text available from this link, it is noted that two employees with ties to Titan, someone named “John Israel” and an unnamed cab driver, have faced or are facing legal trouble (look under the MITRE logo for more information…the information on this page is interesting enough to merit a whole other post). The cab driver was apparently arrested on espionage charges, and Israel is “suspected of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.”

But according to the USA Today story…

Titan, a 24-year-old firm based in San Diego, has roughly $2 billion in annual sales generated largely by federal defense and homeland security contracts. Titan received the new disaster awards as job orders under a 1998 umbrella contract awarded by the General Services Administration (GSA) through competitive bidding, the agency said.

Umbrella contracts, officially known as schedules, enable multiple federal agencies to obtain services more quickly by drawing on a pre-approved award.

Titan has received more than $492 million under the umbrella contract so far, said Edward Rossillo, a GSA spokesman.
So for a contract award to provide mobile emergency response vehicles to FEMA (at a cost of about $450K per vehicle, with the excuse for the cost being that they are mobile command and control vehicles ordered before Katrina hit), the agency used Titan, which is essentially a communications company.

If Titan’s business is communications, then what are their “employees” doing at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib?

Also, we know about Dubya’s illegal NSA spying, of course. Did you know, though, that Titan was awarded a contract from the NSA for its “Enterprise Architecture and Decision Support (EADS) Program” the same year that Dubya authorized the illegal spying?

So we have FEMA linked to Titan, a company with involvement in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo scandals, which may very well have a hand in the NSA spying also.


Something else I wanted to point out from the original USA Today story was the amount of contracts awarded by state to assist in Hurricane Katrina-related recovery efforts. And guess which state received the largest amount of money?

If you said Texas, you’d be wrong, but not by much. Nope, the honor for that one goes to the Hoosier State itself, Indiana.

As noted in this Indianapolis Star article...

Hurricane Katrina did more than just leave a trail of destruction on the Gulf Coast.

It paved the road, albeit tragically, for Hoosier businesses to land $586 million -- or roughly a fourth -- of the $2.3 billion in federal contracts to rebuild the region.

Indiana's burgeoning recreational vehicle industry landed the bulk of the business to provide temporary housing for Katrina victims.
Call me crazy to ask this, but isn’t putting people up in hotels or other types of mass shelter more cost efficient (to say nothing of making more sense overall) after a natural disaster than to put them up in a bunch of recreational vehicles?

If you think something doesn’t smell right about this like I do, then I should point this out from the story also:

...Some Democrats in Congress and the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense have questioned whether political connections had something to do with the awarding of some of the largest FEMA contracts, according to The Associated Press.

Critics note that Gulf Stream (Gulf Stream Coach, the company that won the largest amount of money) founder James F. Shea and his family have contributed more than $20,000 to GOP candidates, including President Bush and Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Gulf Stream officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
No, I don’t expect that they would, would they?

After reading about all of this, I felt like I was in the mood for some Clinton-era nostalgia back in the days when FEMA was actually managed properly, and I came across this speech by James Lee Witt about his vision of FEMA and how he ran that organization as recently as six years ago. For a time, it enabled me to forget the squalid mess that this agency has become as part of Bushco’s game of using it to funnel money to its friends and cover up its other illegal activities that are too numerous to mention (it will take years to untangle all of this regime’s nefarious schemes).

And with the hurricane season upon us again and the same cast of characters in place (absent a Democratic majority in either house of Congress), all we have to look forward to is more of the same.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Genius Maybe, But Still A Coward

Do me a favor, OK? (and be warned that I AM going to call him names…)

Look at this big, fat, self-satisfied face every single day (and I know it’s difficult to do that without gagging).

Look at this sanctimonious jackoff who, more than anyone else, is the reason for all of the domestic horror currently facing this country (I’ll lay our overseas misery in Iraq and Afghanistan squarely at the feet of Cheney and Rumsfeld for now).

Look at this loathsome toad languishing in his own self satisfaction (as documented by my lefty “betters,” including Kos here) and know that HE is perhaps the main reason why we must continue to fight every day.

And look at him and know that one day (not soon enough), he will be relegated to the scrap heap of history, and his disgusting era will begin to come to a close, either through an indictment that may yet come or an act of God that we have yet to witness.

And know that his house of cards will begin to collapse for good starting in November.

Update 6/19: Chris Satullo of the Philadelphia Inquirer had a good column on this creep yesterday.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (6/13)

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


Marriage amendment. Senators failed, 49-48, to reach the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster against a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.

A yes vote was to end debate and move to a vote on the amendment.

Voting yes: Rick Santorum (R., Pa.).

Voting no: 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.).
Not much to think about here (little Ricky hearts “the base” again).

Estate tax. Senators failed, 57-41, to reach the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster and advance a bill (HR 8) to permanently repeal the estate tax in 2011.

A yes vote backed the estate-tax repeal.

Voting yes: Santorum and Specter.

Voting no: Biden, Carper, Lautenberg and Menendez.
Arlen Specter should read this to find a clue about why he should have voted no on this (I guess he figured people wouldn’t pay attention while he pretended to hold Cheney’s feet to the fire over the NSA domestic spying). But I guess that’s what “moderates” do.


Homeland Security. The House defeated, 207-191, a bid by Democrats to add $750 million for Department of Homeland Security grants to cities at high risk of being attacked. The vote occurred during debate on the department's 2007 budget (HR 5441); the money would have been raised by scaling back tax cuts for the wealthy.

A yes vote was to block the amendment.

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

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.) and Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.).
Has it occurred to our illustrious 8th district rep Mikey Fitz that many of the residents whom he represents work in New York City?

Once more, here is food for thought on this one.

Sanctuary policies. Members voted, 218-179, to deny Department of Homeland Security funds to states or cities with a "sanctuary policy" under which illegal immigrants can report crimes without fear of being turned in to the U.S. government. The vote occurred during debate on HR 5441 (above).

A yes vote backed the denial of funds. (HR 5441)

Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton and Smith.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah and Schwartz.

Not voting: Weldon.
What fine “Christian” individuals people like Mikey Fitz and Chris Smith are for this vote! I hope I don’t sound too trite, but I would argue that this goes against the teachings of the church whose faith they purport to represent.

Also, I don’t ever want to hear anyone tell me that the Repug party is supposedly the party of “states rights” again because of votes like this (basically telling the states to change their policy on this by withholding funds). With BILLIONS going down the drain in tax giveaways to the wealthy and corporations, our august Repug congress is going to “pinch pennies” with measures such as this?

So basically, this will encourage crimes to be committed against illegals with impunity because they won’t be able to report them for fear of deportation.

What country am I living in again?

Refinery construction. The House passed, 238-179, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 5254) expanding federal power to speed approval of federal and nonfederal permits for building oil refineries and pipelines.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Fitzpatrick and Schwartz.

Refinery alternative. The House defeated, 223-195, a Democratic alternative to HR 5254 (above) that sought to establish an Oil Refinery Reserve. The plan was to build government-run refineries that would be brought to full capacity during emergencies to stabilize commercial markets.

A yes vote was to establish an Oil Refinery Reserve.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden and Schwartz.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.
It sounds like this was a case of “dueling legislation” that broke along party lines. All I can determine about HR5254 was that there was some procedural modification to it last month, and that put it on a “fast track” for an up-and-down vote. Apparently, it involves some kind of modifications to the approval process that would allow the energy companies to build refineries faster in the hope of increasing supply to lower the price. The Democratic alternative sounded like it would have had a better shot at ensuring lower prices for gas for the vast majority of people in this country, which meant of course that the Repugs had to defeat it.

Broadcast indecency. The House passed, 379-35, and sent to President Bush a bill providing for a substantial increase in maximum Federal Communications Commission fines on broadcasters who air indecent material. The bill (S 193) does not define indecency; maximum fines will go from $32,500 to $325,000 per incident.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for the bill.
I’ve already commented on what a joke this legislation is.

Mine safety. The House passed, 381-37, and sent to President Bush a bill (S 2803) that sets new rules to give trapped coal miners a better chance of survival and increases financial penalties on operators who violate safety rules.

In part, the bill raises from one to two hours the required oxygen supply along escape routes; sets higher reliability standards for emergency oxygen packs; and gives companies three years to establish wireless underground-to-surface communications.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Andrews.
I cannot possibly imagine why Rob Andrews voted no on this. I’ve done some checking and I haven’t been able to find anything on it yet. I also cannot imagine why it is necessary for the government to pass a law telling coal operators to do whatever they can to protect their people, which they should be doing anyway under the strictest possible penalties.

Internet services. The House passed, 321-101, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 5252) enabling the Federal Communications Commission to supersede local authority in the award of franchises for delivering video, voice, broadband and other Internet services to the public.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Brady, Fattah and Holden.
Here’s the deal on this: the Repugs want to allow the FCC to do all it can in an effort to totally kill any kind of local netroots political activity that primarily favors the Democrats, with Mikey Fitz and his fraud legislation to shut off MySpace to kids at schools and libraries leading the charge; this is but a part of that process. The argument we’re going to be hearing about this (and indeed, a commenter tried this last week) is that this will support faster downloads of online content. Don’t believe for a second that THAT is their goal. I only wish that Allyson Schwartz had realized that (and again, another mysterious vote by Rob Andrews).

As reported in the Inquirer, this week the House will take up 2007 spending bills, and the Senate will debate the 2007 defense budget. Both chambers plan final votes on a bill providing $94.5 billion for war and hurricane recovery.

Don't Give Up

The good people at Media Matters for America and elsewhere have, to my mind anyway, thoroughly made the case that our corporate media has been skewed to favor the Republicans and business interests and lambaste Democrats /progressives /liberals in the process (I’m not going to bother to rehash this aside from stating it because it’s patently obvious; the work of Jamison Foser at Media Matters, among other people, have nailed this).

I had this in the back of my mind as I read this Bloomberg News article about comments by pollster John Zogby of Zogby International, who at one time was providing compelling data showing a growing number of Americans supporting the impeachment of Bush. Now, however, Zobgy apparently doesn’t want to touch that topic with the proverbial ten foot pole.

The headline, of course, is a jab at the Democrats even though they are not the party in power at the moment (giving the Repugs yet another pass for their gross mismanagement of our government to favor their corporate friends, part of which is the worst fiscal “stewardship” this country has ever seen). In the article, though, is this information (a variation of which I’ve heard many, many times before).

Forty-nine percent of respondents gave their own representative in Congress a positive job rating. In districts represented by Republicans, 53 percent gave them a positive rating and 42 percent a negative rating. In districts Democrats represent, 51 percent gave their incumbents a positive rating and 48 percent gave a negative rating.

Just 21 percent gave Congress in general a positive job approval rating.
The good news?

Forty-three percent said the nation would be better off if Democrats win control of Congress, 25 percent said it would be worse off and 25 percent said it would make no difference.
Assuming these numbers are reliable, I’d like to point out that it makes no sense that only 21 percent of those polled approve of Congress, but over half of registered Republicans (53 percent) and Democrats (51 percent) approve of the performance of their elected officials.

I’m inclined to beat up on Zogby for numbers that apparently are nonsense, but I won’t. And here’s why.

How many times have you spoken with someone about politics on either the local or national level and the general consensus is, “Oh, they’re lousy,” or “they stink,” but then you ask this person about their elected official, and that person says, “Well, I guess he or she is OK”?

I don’t know about you, but I talk to A LOT of people who feel that way, and that would explain the Zogby numbers (especially that ridiculous "25 percent don't care" number). The problem, though, is that these people frequently don’t know what they’re talking about. Their “arguments” are tissue paper that can’t stand up in the face of a stiff wind. And I used to call them on this, but I got tired of their sarcasm and derision in response, so I decided to save my energy for the higher-stakes battles that could really change things.

THIS is the biggest political problem facing our country. It’s not the Repugs and their ongoing attempt to turn this country into a corporate playpen (bad as that is). It’s not chicken Dems like Joe Lieberman or people like Ben Nelson who should just make it official and become Republicans.

It’s the fact that the vast majority of the people in this country don’t think this stuff is important (Bill Maher, among other people, understands this when he rightly keeps telling Democrats not to court these so-called “values voters” who will never vote Democratic anyway and “fish in another pond” instead, though I believe Dr. Dean grasps this very well).

What to do? Persevere. Persuade. Cajole. All that stuff. You never know.

But when you come across someone making a totally brainless statement in support of the Republican Party, someone who has NO INTEREST in a discussion or dialogue, just walk away and save your energy for another day.

It may take longer for things to turn our way than we’d like, but the nature of events, beliefs and attitudes are moving inexorably in a favorable direction. And helping that along is more beneficial than engaging in a shouting match with people whose numbers, whether they know it or not, are shrinking anyway.

Ringing Big Ben's Bell

It sounds like the quarterback for the Super Bowl champion Steelers was very, very, very lucky with this mishap (take a look at the photo of the bike if you have any doubt about that).

Also, a man named Stewart Cohen wrote what I thought was a particularly good column to the Philadelphia Inquirer about this subject last year (a commenter basically thought I was some kind of a do-gooder type for opposing the repeal of the helmet law, but all I can say is that Roethlisberger’s accident should be a wake-up call to this person; the cyclist, by all appearances, did nothing wrong but almost got killed anyway, and I wonder if he would still echo the sentiments expressed in Cohen's column now?).

Update 6/16: For the record, the fine Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky believes that Roethlisberger should be allowed to go without a helmet, assuming he ever rides a motorcycle again (and I have a feeling he will somehow). This is an excerpt from her column on this subject:

This viewpoint has gotten me into shouting matches this week with pro-helmet people, who argue that head injuries sustained by helmet-less motorcyclists can drain millions from Medicaid, which we all pay into.

Since when do we deny Medicaid to people who need treatment as a result of exercising bad choices?

We don't withhold chemo from smokers who get lung cancer, nor cardiac care from cheese-steak addicts whose diets have closed their arteries tighter than the Blue Route during Friday-night rush hour.

Nor, for that matter, do we refuse treatment to uninsured motorists who drive without medical protection to help them recover from a smash-up.

So if we're going to refuse care to people whose choices are ill-advised, why restrict our penny-pinching to the bare-headed?
I would argue that trying to overcome a cigarette addiction is a lot harder than changing some dietary habits (I hesitate to use the phrase "cheese steak addicts"). Overcoming smoking is partly a matter of a lifestyle choice, but I believe it is more of a medical circumstance than anything else, and I know of this from experience in my family.

This all started with the repeal of the helmet law three years ago (a monumentally stupid moment for all in state government as far as I'm concerned, though, according to this link, wearing a helmet is required in PA for the first two years of licensure only).

Monday, June 12, 2006

More Bushco Far East Follies

I guess I’m kind of in a foreign-policy-bad-guy vein today.

With the concern about Iran and the general chaos in that area of the world, the creeping influence of our former KGB buddy Vlad Putin in Russia over that country, the ascendancy of China along with our ballooning trade deficit, the new economic power of India, more war, famine and disease in sub Saharan Africa, and the previously mentioned economic ties being forged in South America and the Caribbean in response to the prevailing politics of insanity in this country, has it occurred to anyone else besides me that one trouble spot of a country has been strangely quiet recently? And does anyone care to take a guess at which one I’m talking about?

If you managed to avoid looking at the photo with this post and realized I was talking about North Korea, then let me know who you are and I’ll send you a free commemorative dartboard that contains all our favorite Repug villains (Fitzy, Weldon, and Gerlach are 20 points, Santorum, Trent Lott, Jim Inhofe and Jim Bunning are 40 apiece, Rummy and Cheney are 50, and Dubya is sitting right in the bullseye for 100 :-).

And the reason WHY things are quiet at the moment with that country is because they’re particularly POed at us and refuse to negotiate over their nuclear weapons.

This story appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer a few weeks ago concerning Bushco’s efforts to break up a ring counterfeiting U.S. currency that is reputed to operate out of North Korea, with Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick issuing this tough-guy quote:

"You've got an illegal regime that is living off of counterfeiting and narcotics and others," Zoellick told a House panel this month. "We have to protect our country. We can't allow people to counterfeit."
(By the way, you can read about more foreign policy fun with Bob Zoellick here.)


(Fighting the counterfeiting ring) has been a scattershot approach, not a pinpoint attack, and the collateral victims include a group of British bankers who set up a small private bank in North Korea 11 years ago to cater to merchants and importers.

"All of our customers are foreign or foreign-related in some way," said Nigel Cowie, general director of the Daedong Credit Bank. "Most of them are importing goods... food-related stuff like cooking oil and sugar."

North Korea's economy operates on cash. Sanctions mean Cowie's bank has difficulty moving capital abroad. Banks in places such as Singapore won't touch it.

"The only way we can top up the account is to physically take the cash from here," Cowie said in a telephone interview from Pyongyang.

That was what couriers were doing Feb. 21 for the Daedong Credit Bank. They were taking $1 million and 20 million Japanese yen (about $182,000) from Pyongyang to the Golomt Bank, an established bank in the Mongolian capital still willing to deal with a North Korean bank.

At the Ulan Bator airport, Mongolian agents seized the cash and detained the couriers, Cowie said. The next day, Mongolia alleged that $61,700 of the cash was believed to be counterfeit. It took 14 days before Mongolia said further examinations showed all the cash to be legitimate and let it go.

Cowie and fellow British bankers in Daedong boil at the U.S. sanctions, saying their bank employs a strict code of ethics and money-laundering rules.

"They are tarring everybody with the same brush, whether they're legal or illegal," Cowie said, adding that humanitarian and U.N. agencies also are finding it hard to move money in and out of Pyongyang.
Of course (as the article also goes on to mention), Bushco is just thrilled with the results.

"The Bush administration has been pleasantly surprised by the effect of the financial sanctions...they will be in place as long as the Bush administration is in office," predicted Peter M. Beck, the Seoul-based Northeast Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, which advocates for peaceful resolutions.

But Beck said that South Korea's government, a party to the nuclear talks, thinks the United States is showing it has "no appetite for further negotiations" on the nuclear issue by pressing ahead with the sanctions.
So, for the price of breaking up a counterfeiting ring, we put talks that could avert nuclear war in jeopardy and aggravate our allies who have a significant stake in the global financial services industry? And trust me when I tell you that there are some very sophisticated linkages there.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but the whole “risk-reward” part of this doesn’t make any sense, though it is in keeping with this administration’s past actions involving this country (and somewhere, I think “the little pygmy” is smiling over all of this).

Fuel From Fidel, Only At "CastroCo"

It’s so much fun to watch the slow disintegration of support propping up the Bush regime, part of which is noted here:

So, in this country’s ongoing quest to feed its oil dependency, it looks like we may have to go with our “hat in hand,” as it were, to Fidel Castro who, as noted here, has recently formed an alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to sell oil throughout South America and the Caribbean.

I mean, it would merely be fun to watch all of this play out if it weren’t for the prospect of ever-higher gas prices because we’ve frozen ourselves out of this market for so long due to this country’s ridiculous embargo of Cuba (and I sincerely hope that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mel Martinez are watching all of this slowly play out as well, and I’m sure they are).

I’m not trying to trivialize the fact that Castro is a mean, rotten guy, and one day he REALLY WILL be dead, though he may end up outliving still another president or two in the process. However, the way to ensure that a leader more sympathetic to our interests will follow him is to set up some kind of economic self interest once again as we had before Castro seized power, not continue in this ridiculous isolation that our “friends” such as China readily exploit by competing in Cuba’s market while we spitefully sit on the sidelines.

Update: And as long as we're discussing that area of the world, here's more from Take It Personally (good job to fix the headlines box).

It Bears Repeating Over And Over...

This letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning from Phil Denny of Levittown, Pa., a Vietnam veteran and member of the following organizations: The Sierra Club, The National Wildlife Federation, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Bucks County Audobon Society.

The impeachment of a president is a serious thing; it has not happened often. However, the current occupant of the White House is more deserving of being impeached than any president in all of history!

I believe that Bush lied to America regarding the threat from Iraq. If Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat to the United States, as the White House claimed, then Bush may have had reason to invade Iraq.

It appears that Bush misled the American people as well as Congress by overstating the threat from Iraq. If Bush did lie to Congress, Bush violated laws that are related to fraud and false statements, Title 18, Chapter 47, Section 1001, and the conspiracy to defraud the United States, Title 18, Chapter 19, Section 371.

In my opinion, Bush is a liar and should be impeached! My research shows that:

He conducted illegal wiretaps of American citizens, and is in violation of international law by invading a sovereign country for illegal purposes;

Bush violated the Geneva Convention by torturing prisoners of war and holding prisoners with no formal charges and no legal representation;

Bush was also negligent in his slow response to help victims of Hurricane Katrina;

Bush shows contempt towards our Constitution and our Democratic ideals;

Bush lied about Saddam’s attempt to buy uranium from Niger;

Bush stated that Congress had the same information as the White House. He was briefed many times about the falsehood of various stories and this information never reached Congress;

Bush would often associate Iraq and Saddam Hussein with 9/11 in his speeches. He has since admitted that there is no evidence of any association;

Bush insisted there was a “relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda. But the 9/11 Commission released a report saying that there was no “collaborative relationship” between the two;

Bush insisted there were weapons of mass destruction. After extensive searches, Bush was finally forced to admit that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.

Space does not permit me to mention the many articles printed by citizens and the press regarding Bush and his failures and broken promises. He is a disgrace and worthy of impeachment!

Contact our congressman and senators and urge them to strongly support the Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush.
To read more, click here.

We're Rooting For Saddam Too

(Blogger's photo upload continues to be hosed and the IBC continues not to fix the spacing problem in the "Impeach Bush" headlines...I'm going to remove the headlines code if this isn't fixed soon, people. I'd like to have my right nav bar back!)

Maybe it’s just as well that I can’t upload the photo of John Gibson of Faux News. He’s got that mug that you’d just love to punch and possibly knock out some of his pearly white teeth in the process (but again, as I state in my disclaimer text, I don’t advocate violence against anyone except bin Laden, though it is a tempting consideration in Gibson’s case).

So we’re “demoralized” by the murder of Zarqawi, huh (and is it my imagination, or could you go ABSOLTELY NOWHERE over the last few days without seeing his dead, pockmarked face somewhere)? This isn’t a surprising comment, I supposed, from the Republican shill (oh, excuse me, you’re a “libertarian”…riiiiight) who said that Caucasians should go out and make more babies because the Hispanics are taking over this country, or that Harry Reid’s acceptance of boxing tickets recently without paying for them (which was perfectly appropriate, because if Reid had given money for the tickets, the Nevada Boxing Commission would not have been able to accept the money anyway) is somehow part of the Republican “culture of corruption,” or that this country would be acting properly by bombing Lebanon, a war-torn area of the world struggling with something approximating Democratic reforms, “into the stone age” if they were unable to expel Syria (with this country encouraging Syria’s original incursion in 1976).

Oh, and Gibson also alleged on the last "Real Time With Bill Maher" show this year that Valerie Plame had contacted disgraced spy Aldrich Ames during the controversy surrounding the Niger letter and Joe Wilson’s Op-ed in the New York Times.

So basically, when you talk about John Gibson, you’re talking about a deranged serial liar (I just thought I’d let you know for future reference).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have lunch with Dr. Ward Churchill and discuss the ramifications of his “little Eichmanns” remark (I just thought I’d pass that along to get any freepers who may be out there all worked up into a hostile froth).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunday Stupid Time

This appeared in the editorial section of the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday (in their "Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down" segment):

"Thumbs Down - To syndicated columnist and author Ann Coulter for her outrageous comments about 9/11 widows.

In her new book, Coulter says about the widows, "These broads are millionaires...reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies (huh?). I have never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

These women did not choose to be thrust into the spotlight and, regardless of their political objectives, remain private citizens. And while Coulter's essential point - that the left uses these types of folks to criticize the administration because they are perceived as untouchable - might very well have merit, it gets lost in her unnecessarily inflammatory and offensive words."
I have a message, editors of the Bucks County Courier Times: You have NO ROOM to talk about "inflammatory and offensive words" since you have just uttered some yourself in implying that Coulter should be taken seriously on any level whatsoever!

And I love the way you resurrect the boogeyman of "the left" without identifying who you're talking about. Does that include Richard Cohen? Ellen Goodman? John Kerry? Bruce Springsteen? Dennis Kucinich? Alec Baldwin? Carrot Top? And when it comes to criticizing people and "hiding behind" others in the process (a charge I don't take seriously in this editorial), doesn't your paper spread propaganda and make unsubstantiated charges against the people you now purport to demonize? Don't your conservative "betters" have a voice in contributors from The National Review, The Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, the Ayn Rand Foundation and countless other organizations that represent right-wing interests behind this "libertarian" facade?

There is NO VALIDITY WHATSOEVER to anything Coulter has to say. None. She is a lunatic demagogue whose only interest is in selling her latest book of lies and insults. Her hateful words have no "merit" and this time and place or any other.

I should point out that the other "Thumbs Down" nominee for the paper in their editorial yesterday was Bristol, PA Township Animal Control Officer Bill Kurko, who left a dead dog that had been hit by a car to rot in a field, becoming infested with maggots and picked apart by scavengers in the process. The remains of this poor, unfortunate animal approximates what passes for Coulter's work.