Friday, June 23, 2006

Point Blank

This link takes you to a post and video where Bruce Springsteen took on CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and her leading questions about the Boss’s politics and support of John Kerry in 2004 (nice work by the pride of Long Branch, N.J.).

This made me wonder how we got to where we are in terms of the total “dumbing down” of what passes for political dialogue in this country and the impulse primarily by the right to tell those who disagree with them to sit down and shut up while they decide to completely own the conversation. Really, why should anyone be asking Bruce or anyone else whether they should be speaking their mind? Isn’t that the duty of everyone in this country if they have an opinion? And as a commenter to the ThinkProgress post noted, why is it somehow controversial if a Democrat/progressive/liberal voices his or her opinion, but people like Toby Keith, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw can express their opinion and that’s OK?

Is all of this because our media companies have utterly failed to allow for an alternative point of view other than that which they consider the prevailing wisdom? You and I both know the answer to that question, but I’m asking it anyway to lead into something.

The founder of the network where O’Brien now takes up space, Ted Turner, wrote this column for Washington Monthly nearly two years ago about his experiences founding the network and the reasons why it would be absolutely impossible to do that now. Among his many insights, I thought this was a well-written statement of where we are now, unfortunately.

The loss of independent operators hurts both the media business and its citizen-customers. When the ownership of these firms passes to people under pressure to show quick financial results in order to justify the purchase, the corporate emphasis instantly shifts from taking risks to taking profits. When that happens, quality suffers, localism suffers, and democracy itself suffers.
I would also like to point something out that’s been sticking with me for some time, and I’m going to use this post to vent about it (a byproduct of what Turner’s talking about, I believe). I’m prompted to address this because of the idiot in the photo I’ve attached to this post; this person is apparently proud of herself for mocking John Kerry’s military service with her cutesy little “purple heart” band aid appearing on her chin during the Republican National Hatefest in New York City in 2004.

The typical argument that gets thrown back at democrats/liberals/progressives primarily by red staters is that we act as if we’re smarter than most supporters of the Bush regime and the Repug leadership in Congress (and on all levels of government in this country). This is at the heart of the supposedly rampant “effete, holier-than-thou” liberalism that, to the minds of the red staters, is the biggest threat facing this country.

Well, guess what? If I make a point of reading The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Bucks County Courier Times (even with all of its provincial right-wing nonsense), USA Today from time to time, the New Yorker magazine, excerpts from The New York Times and other newspapers when I can (including the Washington Post and the L.A. Times), and if I also make a point of reading a wide range of blogs and occasional overseas news sites, as well as listening to NPR when I can and trying to watch The Newshour With Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose on occasion, C-SPAN, or other public affairs programs, while you listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Medved, Coulter, or Scarborough (or some new fraud I’m unaware of), read or listen to anything from FOX News and virtually nothing else (and possibly Instapundit, Power Line, Michelle Malkin or Little Green Footballs), then guess what? I AM smarter than you! And I’m not going to apologize for that ONE BIT!

However (and I want to emphasize this as much as I can), it DOES NOT MAKE ME BETTER THAN YOU. It only means that I happen to me MUCH BETTER INFORMED THAN YOU ARE.

I’ve read so many variations of this stupid argument that liberals are supposed to turn into idiots to reach these so-called “value voter” fundamentalist nut jobs that I want to gag. I will never say that I know everything, because I certainly don’t. But chances are if I’m involved with some kind of a dialogue with someone who disagrees with me, inevitably my political orientation and possibly my education (pretty middle-of-the-road in that department, having attended Temple) is going to be brought up as if that’s what we’re really discussing.

Uh, no. If I’m involved in a dialogue, chances are that it’s about a news event or a timely quote from someone to which I agree or disagree. If the discussion isn’t about the facts at hand, then why should I allow it to continue? At that moment, It shouldn’t matter who I am, what I believe, or what I’m doing at the time (and that includes singing a song or being interviewed on cable TV).

Slime Time For Crazy Curt

This came my way from a member of the Sestak for Congress organization.

"A supporter called in and said that he was just surveyed about the election, and was asked VERY negative slanted questions about Joe.

If you get polled, please take notes, and ask who sponsored to poll. Get back to us with the info (, or 610-891-8956). They must be nervous!

If enough people document such a poll in action, we can make these kind of tactics backfire."
The supporter in question, in all likelihood, was being “push polled” by the Weldon organization, and to read more about it (and the “crown prince” of push polling, who I posted about a few minutes ago), click here.

And to help Joe against this stuff, click here.

Also, Walter C. Uhler wrote this piece on Weldon for The Huffington Post, chronicling all of his nefarious history with a heaping dose of snark to go with it.

(By the way, in a totally unrelated note, a commenter to Uhler’s great post attacked the 9/11 Commission and Jamie Gorelick in particular in typically childish freeper terms, echoing some misinformation earlier this week from Raoul Deming who wrote a letter to the editor published in the Philadelphia Inquirer that basically defended Ann Coulter. Given that, I thought it best to link to this comprehensive list of all of the ways the Repugs and their acolytes have attacked the 9/11 Commission; it is pointed out that, though John Ashcroft tried to attack Gorelick – who, contrary to what Deming wrote, actually was a commissioner – our former embarrassment as attorney general was soundly refuted.)

This Day In "Turd Blossom" History

Gosh, the reasons to utterly despise Karl Rove are just too numerous for words, but it should be noted that a year ago today, he uttered this infamous sound byte:

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," while conservatives “saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."
Arianna Huffington responded to Rove’s typically gut-churning, repulsive words and conduct with this post (referencing an earlier apology from Dick Durbin, which, given the fact that he was quoting an FBI agent on his findings at Guantanamo, I didn’t believe was necessary anyway).

And as long as we’re talking about obnoxious conduct from Bushco, Josh Marshall has a rebuttal on some idiotic comment from Tony Snow earlier this week comparing the Iraq disaster to the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Weaving Their Tangled Web

Our illustrious red state president touted freedom and democracy in Hungary today, giving that country credit for providing troops in the (Debacle? Quagmire? Utter, unmitigated disaster?) in Iraq. This was reported as part of the story:

Bush noted that Hungarian soldiers are helping to train Iraqi security forces, and are assisting in Afghanistan as well.
I don’t know about Afghanistan, but concerning Iraq, I found this from Newshounds (under “War Dead and Injured”). And I found this from Wikipedia (under “Nations No Longer Participating”). And I found this from BBC News.

Are all of these sources wrong?

If not, then it looks like Dubya has stepped in it again (“helping to train” Iraqi security forces is what he said, not “helped”).

And Dick Cheney managed not to accidentally shoot anyone in the face today and uttered these words (after categorically rejecting a call for troop withdrawal from Iraq):

"If we pull out, they'll follow us," he said of terrorists.
And it you want to read something humorous in a truly dark vein, try getting a load of this about Cheney from the White House web site:

Throughout his service, Mr. Cheney served with duty, honor, and unwavering leadership, gaining him the respect of the American people during trying military times.
Well, Mr. Duty, Honor, and Unwavering Leadership (for Halliburton, though the bio writer was polite enough not to mention that), if this is supposed to be a “global” war on terror, aren’t the terrorists here anyway? As long as things are going so swimmingly, according to Mr. Five Deferments Of Service From Vietnam, why don’t we try fighting them over here so we won’t have to fight them there?

Waging The Wage "War"

(I should point out, by the way, that the “war” phrasing came from a column online in Forbes Magazine, which of course represents the Repug “wealth” perspective exclusively. I would link to what I read, but the problem with that site, aside from the obvious bias, is that I recently read something there and lo and behold, Steve Forbes walked onto my screen in animated form and started talking, which caused some difficulty for your humble narrator. I don’t want to subject anyone else to that.)

John Edwards has correctly stated recently and in the past that raising the minimum wage is one means to help people escape poverty as a reward for their hard work. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the Repugs killed the latest attempts to do just that yesterday.

Also, the Bucks County Courier Times is in full freeper mode today, but yesterday, they ran an editorial accusing David Brightbill, the departing PA Senate Majority Leader voted out as a result of last year’s pay raise scandal, of dragging his feet on approving the Senate bill that would raise the minimum wage statewide (the PA house law already passed). Brightbill’s answer is that he’s waiting for a recommendation from the PA Labor and Industry Committee, and said committee is saying that they’re waiting to hear from Brightbill.

Would I be overly suspicious if I wondered if Brightbill’s failure to act on this is a great big “middle digit raised on high” because he was voted out? I mean, it’s not like bills to raise the PA minimum wage have ever “died in committee” before, right?

Flavia Colgan has a link in her column that allows you to contact Brightbill and tell him to quit messing around with this.

Update 6/23: The bill passed in the Senate, but I have to figure out what strings are attached (it never ends...registration required for this from

Guns Don't Kill, Idiots Do

So Wayne (“Bang! Bang!”) LaPierre of the National Rifle Association is mad at the U.N. because it is trying to do something about the worldwide trade in illegal small arms.

I’ll try to explain something to him carefully. I’ll do the best I can using the smallest words and sentences that I can so I don’t overtax his apparently minimal amount of brain power.

- This is a quote in the story from Prasad Kariyawasam, the conference chairman and U.N. ambassador from Sri Lanka: “The U.N. program of action covers only illegal trade, illegal trafficking and illegal brokering."
Smaller, right – yeah, I know…

- The flow of illegal guns is bad.
- Illegal guns can be used in wars or acts of terrorism apart from war.
- Sportsmen using guns legally have nothing to worry about from this.
- Lots of countries trade in guns illegally.
- The U.N. effort is not focused only on the U.S.
Despite that last statement, read this from The Guardian and wonder if any Kalashnikov machine guns were used by al Qaeda or other terrorists in Iraq against our military.

So, Wayne, instead of getting exercised at the U.N., why don’t you go get steamed at our government for profiting in the international illegal gun trade? Why don’t you try to drum up “thousands and thousands of letters from concerned members” about that instead?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

SCOTUS Loves That Dirty Water

And you thought we just had to worry about Dubya and the Repug Congress trying to contaminate our air and water, huh?

Well, guess who we have to worry about now on that front (the following text from this article is instructive):

Writing for the plurality, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Clean Water Act does not extend jurisdiction to channels through which water flows intermittently or channels that provide drainage for rainfall. "The [US Army Corps of Engineers'] expansive interpretation of "the waters of the United States" is ... not based on a permissible construction of the statute," Justice Scalia writes.
I think there are two things we can do in response to this.

The first is to join the Clean Water Network.

The second, based again on this article, is to pray that Justice Anthony Kennedy has a long, happy life full of well-reasoned opinions in the field of jurisprudence (which hopefully will be in the majority most of the time).

Let’s Not Forget The Reason

Why does it not surprise me in the least that the U.S. House Repug “leadership” is dragging its feet on renewing the Voting Rights Act of 1965? And is anyone seriously surprised by the nine states that are fighting the renewal?

There are many points to be made in favor of renewing the act; I would ask that you take some time to read or at least skim through these attachments from the ACLU as proof (the one .pdf is about 500 pages or so detailing cases where violation of the act was cited as grounds for legal action).

Or, you can also read this column from Greg Palast describing where African Americans were removed from the voter rolls in Florida during the 2000 presidential election in violation of the act by that darling Katherine Harris.

A Principle Greater Than The Flag

Given Mikey Fitz’s recent Guest Opinion in the Bucks County Courier Times a few days ago about introducing an amendment against flag burning, I think it’s appropriate to note that today is the 17th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Texas vs. Johnson that acknowledged flag burning as free speech (as I said previously, it’s stupid and insulting free speech, but free speech all the same).

As noted from this link:

The court found that, "Under the circumstances, Johnson's burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the First Amendment... Occurring as it did at the end of a demonstration coinciding with the Republican National Convention, the expressive, overtly political nature of the conduct was both intentional and overwhelmingly apparent." The court concluded that, while "the government generally has a freer hand in restricting expressive conduct than it has in restricting the written or spoken word," it may not "proscribe particular conduct because it has expressive elements."

The most contentious issue before the Court, then, was whether states possessed an interest in preserving the flag as a unique symbol of national identity and principles. Texas argued that desecration of the flag impugned its value as such a unique national symbol, and that the state possessed the power to prevent this result.

The court rejected this argument, finding that the state's interest depended on the specific meaning it had attached to the flag through the flag desecration statute. "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment", the decision of the court read, "it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." The Court consequently affirmed the ruling of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (i.e., the Court upheld the reversal of Johnson's conviction).
I read a story in USA Today yesterday about another Supreme Court ruling, and I’ll try to say more about that shortly.

Update 6/28: Sounds like Pat Leahy actually read this post (sure...I should live so long). And does anyone realize that, if Joe Lieberman had voted true to form, this would have passed? God, he must REALLY be desperate (but again, 14 Dems supported it...can this party be unified on ANYTHING??!!).

A Time Of Death

Nineteen Senators, voted into their office under the pretext of representing their constituents, voted yesterday to favor amnesty for Iraqis who murder our troops.

I’m not going to call them cowards, because I know at least two of these men have served this country with honor in the past.

Actually, though, they are worse than cowards. They are total frauds.

They serve ostensibly to represent us, but flagrantly, proudly and tragically refuse to do so. Because after all, if the first duty of government isn’t to protect its citizens, than what is?

I thought this quote from Gary Hart yesterday at The Daily Kos was appropriate for these Senators (I know Hart’s quote was aimed at the Democrats in that body also, aside from the six...still cannot believe that number...who supported the amendment to bring our people home from Iraq):

There is something in life a lot more important than holding on, at all cost, to a Congressional seat. There is integrity, there is conviction, and there is courage. History's jury will sit in judgment today on those Democrats and will find wanting those without the conviction and courage to say "enough".
Indeed. Here are the 19:

Allard (R-CO)
Bond (R-MO)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Cornyn (R-TX)
DeMint (R-SC)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Hagel (R-NE)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lott (R-MS)
McCain (R-AZ)
Sessions (R-AL)
Stevens (R-AK)
Thomas (R-WY)
Warner (R-VA)
(By the way, I was told that I couldn't find the server when I tried to access Trent Lott's online form. Why is that oddly appropriate?)

Given all of this, I’ve been thinking about something that is particularly unsettling, but I think it needs to be said.

As long as we’re sending our people in Iraq (and what I'm about to say may apply to Afghanistan also, which is, after all, where we should have concentrated our efforts exclusively all along anyway) on a suicide mission, I think we should let them call the shots.

What I’m saying is that, if they’re captured on patrol like Thomas Tucker or Kristian Menchaca were, we should give them a means to take their own lives.

I know this violates every religious or spirituality-related sensibility we can imagine, but one can only imagine the horrific acts of brutality al Qaeda performed on these men before they finally died (according to a report I read, a visual identification was impossible…will it take DNA testing to confirm their identities?).

At least if our soldiers know that they have a means to take some fast-acting pill in the event that they’re captured, it could lessen their suffering before they leave this earth so they won’t be aware of anything when the enemy performs some unspeakable acts upon them.

I’m typing these words and I’m reading them, and I can’t believe it has come to this, but if our government is going to utterly fail these men and women (much in the way the 19 senators above have failed them), then at least we should acknowledge it and leave the most important final decision that can be made in their hands.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


As I’ve said before, when Katie Couric travels overseas and performs risky assignments covering wars, gets the crap beat out of her at a political convention and has to go toe-to-toe with a confrontational president at a news conference, then she can talk to me (and don’t even get me started on Bob Schieffer, OK?).

But since this truly is it, I just want to say thanks, and tell all the freepers what they can do with themselves.

Dubya, Congress Fiddle - Iraq Burns

As I read this story keeping in mind also the news of our two fine service people slaughtered horribly by al Qaeda cowards in Iraq, I realized that what our esteemed U.S. Senators were truly exercised about were two things: 1) continued open-ended funding of our military occupation of that country, and 2) whether or not the Iraqi government would grant amnesty to anyone who murdered our troops (and seriously, why would they even be CONSIDERING that if, at the heart of it all, everyone knew that the majority of this country was going to turn into a satellite of Iran anyway?).

But what really stuck with me was this quote from Dubya (and I realize that this is probably a day old):

"There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run the Congress and occupy the White House."
I’m sure Joe Klein is getting all “frothy” again over this show of Dubya’s resolve when lives are on the line other than his own.

I have news for all of the chicken Dems out there who voted against the resolutions in the House and the Senate last week (especially the Senate) telling Bush to get our people out.

Apparently, it is necessary for me to remind you that the ever-growing majority of the people of this country WANT THIS BLOODY, STINKING MESS TO BE OVER! With that in mind, I suggest that you take Dubya’s quote above and basically beat the voters over the head with it in campaign ads in the summer and especially the fall about maybe, oh, I’d say a million times or so.

So let’s hammer a few insurgent strongholds for now (“shock and awe” redux maybe?) to give Faux News and Free Republic something to crow about, come up with some kind of a variation of Nixon’s “peace with honor” rap and then bring everybody home, OK? Because (aside from my snarkiness), it is, finally and at long, LONG last, THE RIGHT THING TO DO!

Oh, and one more thing: regarding the sarcastic remark Mitch McConnell made towards Carl Levin as noted in the New York Times story, I would ask that you keep this paragraph in mind from this link:

The National Guard Association of the United States presented Senator Levin with its 2004 Harry S. Truman Award for distinguished service in support of national defense. The award cited Levin's “long-standing, diligent and impassioned commitment on the readiness, morale and welfare of our military forces, their families and the modernization of our armed forces” that has had an “unparalleled and direct positive impact to the defense capabilities of the National Guard.”

In January 2003, the Secretary of the Navy cited Levin's "exceptional service to the Navy and Marine Corps" in presenting him its Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest award given to a civilian.
And in case you were wondering, McConnell never served either, but at least Levin has the grace and decency to know to relent in any partisan attacks when discussing the safety of our troops.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (6/20)

As published in last Sunday's Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.


Iraq war. The House passed, 256-153, a measure (H Res 861) ruling out any deadline for removing U.S. troops from Iraq and promising U.S. staying power to help Iraq stabilize itself.

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution.

Voting yes: 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.).

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) and Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.).


Blind, stupid loyalty to a shameless, corrupt regime (and I’m talking about Bushco, not necessarily the coalition in Iraq) and a failed occupation.

And by the way, I visited to find out whether or not any of these jokers have a service record (including Fitzy and Crazy Curt, of course), and at least 8 out of 10 of these guys never served. Among the two exceptions, Tim Holden (who should immediately change his party affiliation to Repug based on this vote, by the way) shows, under Education, “Fork Union Military Academy, 1976,” but there’s no service activity shown subsequent to that. And the only Repug who DOES show service is Joe Pitts with the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command from 1963-1969.

So the bottom line is that NONE of these guys has any understanding of what our combat forces on the ground are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

We know why this is important, but just as a refresher, please go to the upper right column of this site and click the “Honor The Fallen” link to view a feature from Ava.

If any of these characters had any honor at all, they would wear ashes and sackcloth as a sign of penance before they all resigned. But of course, we know they won’t.

War, Katrina spending. The House approved, 351-67, the conference report on an emergency spending bill (HR 4939) that appropriates $65.8 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $19.8 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted to approve the conference report.
Bushco will probably be back for more as supplemental appropriations, and they’ll probably get it, continuing the most ruinous fiscal mismanagement on the part of a president and a congress that this country has ever seen (though, in the Senate, there actually is a “ray of hope” about this, as you’ll read in the very last item).

Congressional pay raise. The House voted, 249-167, to affirm a pay increase for senators and House members scheduled for January 2007. This vote, during debate on a fiscal 2007 appropriations bill for the Treasury Department and other agencies (HR 5576), set the stage for a 2 percent raise that will hike rank-and-file lawmakers' pay to $168,500.

A yes vote backed a congressional pay raise.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Saxton and Smith.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts and Schwartz.

Not voting: Weldon.
The importance of this is more symbolic than anything else, especially since the percentage is competitive with what one might receive in private industry. Still, though, you have to wonder what the five “yes” voters were thinking. They must feel pretty secure in their re-election bids. And if Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Saxton and Smith think voters are ignoring the hardships they themselves face when they read about this stuff, they’d better think again.

Airline ownership. Members voted, 291-137, to block a Department of Transportation rule that would enable European airlines to buy into and help manage U.S. airlines. The vote amended HR 5576 (above).

A yes vote was to block the Transportation Department proposal.

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

Voting no: Pitts.
I don’t know for certain that this would have been a bad thing, but coming on the heels of the Dubai Port World dustup, the perception of allowing anyone overseas to help manage our airlines would not sit well with the voters (which makes Joe Pitts’ vote even more mysterious as far as I’m concerned).

Amtrak. Members voted, 266-158, to increase Amtrak's fiscal 2007 budget in HR 5576 (above) from $900 million to $1.14 billion.

A yes vote was to raise Amtrak funding.

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

Voting no: Pitts.
I guess no one commutes to their jobs in Joe Pitts’ district via Amtrak. Must be nice.

Fuel efficiency. Members approved, 234-190, an increase from $1.3 million to $8 million in funds in HR 5576 (above) for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration office in charge of vehicle fuel efficiency.

A yes vote was to raise funding for fuel efficiency.

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

Voting no: Pitts.
I guess they don’t get to their jobs by driving their vehicles either (Pony Express, maybe?).

Joe Pitts sure “covered himself in glory” last week, didn’t he?


Iraq withdrawal. Senators killed, 93-6, a proposal calling for the administration to begin major troop withdrawals from Iraq. The vote was on an amendment to the 2007 defense budget (S 2766).

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to kill the amendment.
Here's more information on on the amendment.

93 to 6?

Not “54 to 45” or “62 to 37”?

93 to 6?

This vote, unfortunately, shows why many people refuse to take seriously the notion that the Democrats can govern this country despite the unimaginably horrific job that the Republicans have done. How can Biden explain this vote and then, in the next breath, seriously mention himself as a presidential candidate for 2008? Or, of course, HRC herself? To say nothing of Carper, Lautenberg, or Menendez, who have no such aspirations and, therefore, less to lose?

Most of the Democratic Party, sadly, is completely and utterly out of touch with the netroots, and this vote proves it. And you have no idea how much it pains me to say that.

And to the six courageous Democrats who voted yes to the amendment (Barbara Boxer, Robert Byrd, Tom Harkin, Russ Feingold, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry) you have my undying thanks and admiration.

War, Katrina spending. Senators voted, 98-1, to send President Bush the final version of a spending bill that includes $65.8 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $19.8 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery (HR 4939, above).

A yes vote was to approve the spending.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
Kudos to Arlen for not being a rubber stamp (and as far as the Democrats are concerned, see above).

War budgets. Senators voted, 98-0, to require the administration to begin funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through normal budget rules rather than emergency rules that lack discipline. This vote amended the fiscal 2007 defense authorization bill (S 2766).

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for the amendment.
This was the best thing they did all week.

As noted in the Inquirer, this week the House will consider the fiscal 2007 defense budget, voting rights and a line-item veto, while the Senate will continue to debate the 2007 defense budget.

Holding Our Safety At Gunpoint

Tom Ferrick, Jr. of the Inquirer has been all over the gun issue in this state lately, and I have to admit that I’ve been waiting a LONG TIME for someone in the local media to go after this as ferociously as he has lately.

As noted from this link (registration required as always…sigh), he used the shooting of a four-year-old little girl named Nashay Little in South Philadelphia as a springboard to find out what our elected representatives in the PA congress are doing – or, more precisely, NOT doing – about HB871 and SB1002, two bills in the House and Senate respectively, that would limit handgun sales in this state.

(By the way, I know I link to a lot of stuff in the Inquirer for which registration is required. I’m not doing that to get people POed. I’m doing it because I can’t find it any place else, and if you are reading this and have not registered with by now – it’s free – I would ask you to do that to read Ferrick’s article.)

Ferrick contacted each state politician in the Bucks/Chester/Montgomery/Delaware County and Philadelphia areas to find out where they stand on this, and this is what he found:

The results were surprising on a couple of levels.

One. There was more support than I thought. In the House, of the 62 members from the five-county area, 34 said they would vote "yes." Only eight said they would vote "no" - a list that includes two Philly legislators: O'Brien and House Speaker John Perzel.

In the region's 15 senators, eight were "yes" votes. One said he was undecided: Sen. Vincent Fumo, which surprised me because I thought he'd be a "no."

Two. A lot of legislators simply refused to say where they stood: 19 House members and six senators failed to reply.

As an aide to Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) told me: "The senator does not complete surveys...."

Well, excuse me.

Most of those who failed to reply are from the 'burbs. Most of them are Republicans. Some of them simply may have missed my e-mails and calls, but allow me to speculate on why most refused to respond.

They are afraid.

They are aware that many of their constituents would support this legislation as a common-sense approach to curbing gun violence, but they don't want to anger the gun lobby or the pro-gun voters in their districts.

So they are silent.
So that means that it’s time for us to kick them in the ass.

I should also note that Ferrick’s column on Sunday included a list of how each state representative and senator voted, and I haven’t been able to find that online yet. That’s really a shame, because it’s really valuable to have. I may have to manually reproduce this list if I have to and update this post.

Update 6/21: Here's the list.

In my area, my state representative Dave Steil said he would support the bill to limit handgun sales. Dave Steil also refused the illegal pay raise last year. That makes Dave Steil a standup guy in my book.

However, my state senator, the lame-duck Joe Conti, did not respond. I will contact him shortly and ask him about this.

And by the way, the last I heard, four-year-old Nashay Little remained in critical condition.

Way To Go, Brindy!

(Note: This post is about ice hockey. I’ll get back to politics shortly.)

Congratulations to the Carolina Hurricanes for defeating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 last night in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and winning the Cup. It was ice hockey at its best as far as I was concerned, an exciting mix of skill, strategy, and utter brutality.

In particular, I want to send out a hearty high five to ‘Canes captain and former Flyer Rod Brind’Amour (pictured). This is a well-deserved reward for the fact that his team was the best in the NHL this year from wire to wire, as well as his years of grit and hard work while wearing the orange-and-black of the Flyers.

I don’t know any Flyers fan who wasn’t greatly disappointed when Brind’Amour was traded from here a few years ago for Keith Primeau, who at that time was nothing more than some great big stiff with a lot of potential but a reputation of holding out for a new contract everywhere he went. However, Primeau has really turned his game around over the last couple of seasons, and fortunately, he is no longer suffering from the side effects of a concussion received last year.

(And by the way, any Flyers fans who may be reading this should note that last night in Raleigh, N.C. when the Edmonton Oilers were saluted by Gary Bettman after the game before Bettman gave the Cup to Brind’Amour, the fans cheered the opposition and nary a boo was heard. It was a refreshing change.)

I no longer have a bone to pick with Flyers GM Bob Clarke on the Brind’Amour trade, and I understand that Mark Recchi ended up leaving here to play for the ‘Canes because of salary cap reasons. However, it was galling to see Justin Williams having matured into a fine young player knowing that Clarke basically gave him up for nothing, since defenseman Danny Markov acquired in the Williams trade has now departed.

It was also a pleasure to listen to broadcaster Mike Emrick and analyst and former New York Rangers goalie John Davidson, with Davidson coming up with some interesting little details as he usually does. For example, he pointed out that the goalie coach of Edmonton, Pete Peeters (another former Flyer) has a son who also played goalie in junior hockey and backed up Cam Ward, the goalie for Carolina and MVP of the finals. Davidson also mentioned that Edmonton forward Rem Murray had a very difficult time getting insurance coverage because of a debilitating nerve injury in his back or neck (not sure exactly where), and of course he couldn’t play unless he was insured, but the premiums were so high that it actually cost him money to play this year, but he wanted to so he could get a shot at winning the Stanley Cup (I can’t think of a word for that kind of dedication, and though I’m glad Carolina won, I’m sorry he fell short in his quest).

As I watched what I could of the Stanley Cup Finals, I was reminded once more how good it is to see a deserving team earn its due. Would that real life had such justifiable outcomes on a more regular basis.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Don't Get Too Cozy, Dubya

More “connecting the dots” time…

So President Stupid Head is trying to keep Venezuela from getting a seat on the U.N. Security Council because Hugo Chavez could block any effort to step up pressure on Iran.

Dubya’s also talking up trade expansion with President Lula Da Silva (Lula?) of Brazil partly because that country is poised to be a player in the emerging market of sugar-based ethanol, which is more efficient than corn-based ethanol (see what you learn when you watch “Real Time with Bill Maher”?).

Aha, but this article documents the ties that already exist between Chavez of Venezuela and Da Silva of Brazil (Dubya’s a day late and a dollar short as usual), and given the fact that Chavez has made himself a player through alliances with sympathetic countries (aided by enmity towards us), and also given the fact that we’re playing catch-up in terms of a goal of energy self-sufficiency, only our lapdog media would report this as if Dubya were really in a position of advantage.

It doesn’t take much to see Chavez squeezing Da Silva to get back at us, also because, based on what I read, Brazilian politics is fragmented to the point where you needs LOTS of help from opposition parties to form any kind of a fragile coalition. It would be easy for Chavez to find some way to mess that up.

(Hey, I’d love to say everything is peaches and cream, but that’s why I’m called the “Doomsayer,” remember?).

Tattoo You

I probably don’t say as much about state government as I should, but fortunately, whenever I forget, Repug John Perzel does something dumb to make me pay attention.

John Grogan of the Inquirer wrote some time ago that he believed P.A. House Speaker Perzel had been abducted by aliens and replaced by some robotic individual even more disconnected from reality than Perzel himself (hard to imagine, I know).

After reading this story, I think the robot is still calling the shots.

Awww, some of our legislators are trying to dig out from massive debt and, well, gosh darn it…they wouldn’t have to if those pesky voters had just let them get away with that illegal, unvouchered-expense pay raise last year, huh?

Earth to John: Welcome to Life In These United States Under Your Party And George Dubya Bush! This is the consequence of all of those tax breaks for your corporate buddies. If they don’t foot the bill, guess who ends up getting stuck with it?

Assuming that it’s possible for a tattoo artist to pull in the kind of dough Perzel is talking about (under an absolute best-case scenario, no doubt) does Perzel seriously believe that a Philadelphia tattoo artist enjoys anything that approximates the bennies that come with a job in state government?

Another thing: Perzel is charging taxpayers of this state 5 large a month on public relations as a result of the well-deserved negative press from the pay raise fiasco. Somehow I don’t think this latest episode of his was dreamed up by the agency on the receiving end trying to give him his makeover. If so, they should be cut loose sooner than later (actually, that should happen and the taxpayers should be reimbursed for the money the agency received).

Can someone please explain why on earth the voters of Perzel’s district would actually return this clown to his job?

Santorum's Next Target

Yes, I know this pic is shocking, but I would be in violation of my own standards of ethics, journalistic integrity and craven instinct towards gratuitous sensationalism if I avoided it. So there.

In search of the provocative issues everyone is discussing at the moment, Faye Flam, the sex writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, discussed today the job that hands play in interaction among heterosexuals, gays, and lesbians alike (the “hand job,” if you will: ba-dump). As she probed, caressed and explored ever deeper into this subject, she ended up reporting on a genre of literature that made me want to leap from my consol inside my imaginary bridge and shout, “Engage Maximum Warp! Get Us Outta Here!”

Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you “Kirk and Spock’s Forbidden Lust” (as Flam explains)...

It's a given that many heterosexual men enjoy pornography depicting woman-on-woman sex. It's less common for women to want to think about sex between two men, but some women do enjoy stories featuring male homosexual encounters.

Such guy-on-guy erotica often goes under the name slash fiction, not because there's any violence, but to indicate a slash between the names of the lovers. It's part of a larger genre of "fanzine" literature in which fans of a movie or television show write their own stories about the characters.

Slash started in the 1970s with that sexy Star Trek duo Kirk/Spock. A quick Web search reveals dozens of stories with passages like this shower scene: "Jim ran his free hand through Spock's wet, matted chest hair, rubbing the bronze-green nipples with his fingertips... . Spock moaned...." The action gets much more pornographic at that point, and the pair eventually end up in a mind meld.
I request that a delegation immediately convene from the United Federation of Planets!

What’s next, I wonder? The “True Story” of what happened to James T. Kirk when he exchanged bodies with Dr. Janice Lester? A novella of a series of battles between the crew from “The Next Generation” and a renegade gang of hermaphrodite Klingons? “Bones” McCoy returns from the dead to help solve the mystery of the shape-shifting nipple tweakers of Ameniar Seven?

And if Kirk and Spock together were ever “sexy,” then William Shatner’s acting is a tour de force in subtlety and understatement.

I would expect to see stuff like this inside a men’s room stall in a brown paper bag, not in the pages of what passes for the Philadelphia “newspaper of record.”

Update: In the afterlife somewhere, I predict that Gene Roddenberry is laughing his ass off.

Update 6/20: I think Digby is channeling Faye Flam a bit with this post on lapdog Joe Klein and his "man crush" on Dubya (eeeuuuwwww).

Eating Raoul

Please do me a favor and let me know if you can determine if there is even a shred of logic in this freeper rant that was published in the Letters section of the Inquirer yesterday (some of their screeching is just too ridiculous to ignore):

Coulter is right
Re: "Consider the source," June 11:

This editorial is an introduction to the "Bizarro World" of left-wing thought. Like the fictional setting of some Superman adventures, The Inquirer Editorial Board gets everything backward and considers it normal. Claiming Coulter's real objection is that the "Jersey Girls" didn't support Bush, the editorial leaves out the names of the women campaigning for John Kerry. Yet it highlights Debra Burlingame's appearing at the GOP convention.

The editorial praises the "Jersey Girls" for supporting the 9/11 commission, a commission that could not understand that Jamie Gorelick [deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration] needed to be a witness, not a commissioner. A commission that played politics, demanding that the president appear before it, hoping a refusal would tarnish the White House. Bush appeared and two of the most vocal Democrats clamoring for exactly that - Bob Kerrey and Lee Hamilton - took off early.

Because Coulter has identified the real issue, the left is whining about it. It is not that the left respects the "Jersey Girls." The left hoped to use conservatives' sense of decency to shield the cold and calculated decision to initiate the use of families of those murdered on 9/11 for political advantage. Read criticisms of Coulter's book carefully. Any editorial board or columnists insinuating that Coulter insulted all 9/11 families are themselves playing the same game Coulter exposed.

Raoul Deming
Chester Springs
Uh, what does campaigning for John Kerry have to do with Coulter’s sickening, cowardly attack on the 9/11 widows as part of publicizing her latest hateful screed? What significance does Jamie Gorelick have to do with the fact that Dubya fought the creation of this commission and only agreed to it when the families of the 9/11 victims pressured Congress into doing so? And how exactly did Bob Kerrey and Lee Hamilton “take off early” (of course, Thomas Kean, Sr., a Republican, was the other committee co-chair besides Hamilton, a Democrat, a fact Deming conveniently ignores).

And how nice for Deming to have “the left” as a convenient bogeyman for every single real or imagined offense.

I actually Emailed this guy and let him know what thought, so I’m sure I’ll receive back some overwrought, hostile missive with all kinds of trivia and a lengthy critique of Ward Churchill and his “little Eichmanns” remark. I’ll keep you posted.

Monday Lightning Round

Gimme a big pot o’ joe, and keep it coming – need to wake up and get inspired...

- Cause, meet effect (and what exactly was it again that qualified this guy to handle sensitive foreign policy matters?)

- Mike Fitzpatrick wrote a Guest Opinion that was published in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday where he wrapped himself around the flag in the typical Repug fashion and discussed how he’s trying to get a constitutional amendment passed that would prohibit flag burning (and in a fit of pique typical for Mikey, he immediately took on Patrick Murphy over this and the powerful “pro-flag burning” lobby...please - and by the way, congrats to Patrick and Jenni for tying the knot this weekend).

I’ll probably end up repeating this a million more times, but flag burning is an act of free speech. Granted, it’s an incredibly stupid, idiotic, offensive, and insulting (particularly to our service people) act of free speech, but it’s free speech all the same. Besides, name for me ONE EPISODE where the American flag has been burned in this country in the last ten years – just one. The only times I’ve seen American flags burned is in countries overseas, and despite our best efforts, we can’t penalize them for doing it.


Update 6/20: This editorial in USA Today answers my question above and makes other good points.

I’ll give Fitzpatrick credit for getting the flags replaced at the VFW post in Bensalem, Pa. Now, maybe he can explain why he opposed expanding access to the military's TRICARE health insurance program to thousands of Reservist and National Guard members, even though 20 percent of all Reservists do not have health insurance, and 40 percent of Reservists aged 19 to 35 lack health coverage.

- Actress Angelina Jolie said that the recent birth of her baby daughter was “terrifying.” She should read this to get an understanding of what “terrifying” really is.