Friday, July 21, 2006

The Assasin Of Democracy

For the longest time, I had not been able to understand how Bushco could manage to accomplish some of its epochal acts of stupidity (the Iraq War, ignoring threats to the environment, abrogating treaties, watching good-paying jobs leave this country, etc., etc.) but still have enough smarts to come up with legal acts and pronouncements which, though highly controversial in and of themselves, showed enough guile to betray a bit of familiarity with the ins and outs of longstanding legal procedure recognized both in the US and the world.

In smaller words, here’s what I’m saying; Bush, Cheney, and Rummy aren’t lawyers, God knows (whereas the only person in the Clinton White House who wasn’t a lawyer was Al Gore). Yet, Bush’s post-9/11 military tribunals, “extraordinary rendition,” “signing statements,” and the warrantless spying show that someone in this bunch has enough sheer, utter, unmitigated contempt for our government mixed with legal knowledge (and a totally pliant Repug congress and corporate media to help, of course) to enact all of this (as well as the force of will, I have to grudgingly admit).

That person (the only one in Bushco who IS a lawyer, by the way) is David Addington.

I’ve been meaning to get to this for a couple of weeks, and I’ll do so now. Reporter Jane Mayer wrote a highly illuminating (and frightening, truth be told) article on Addington in The New Yorker’s July 3rd issue.

As Mayer reported, Addington has made his sorry name by being Dick Cheney’s right hand man, and their relationship in Washington D.C. goes back about 20 years.

Conventional wisdom holds that September 11th changed everything, including the thinking of Cheney and Addington. Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser, has said of Cheney that he barely recognizes the reasonable politician he knew in the past. But a close look at the twenty-year collaboration between Cheney and Addington suggests that in fact their ideology has not changed much. It seems clear that Addington was able to promote vast executive powers after 9/11 in part because he and Cheney had been laying the political groundwork for years. “This preceded 9/11,” says Bruce Fein, a Republican legal activist with ties to both the current administration and that of Ronald Reagan. “I’m not saying that warrantless surveillance did. But the idea of reducing Congress to a cipher was already in play. It was Cheney and Addington’s political agenda.”

Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who has spent considerable time working with Cheney and Addington in recent years, believes that they are still fighting Watergate. “They’re focused on restoring the Nixon Presidency,” she said. “They’ve persuaded themselves that, following Nixon, things went all wrong.” She said that in meetings Addington is always courtly and pleasant. But when it comes to accommodating Congress “his answer is always no.”
Are you reading this, you glorious red staters? Did you have any clue as to the horrors you have unleashed by installing this ruling cabal (notwithstanding election fraud)?

And this gives you a hint as to the degree of Addington’s megalomania.

When the Iran-Contra scandal broke, in 1986, it exposed White House arms deals and foreign fund-raising designed to help the anti-Sandinista forces in Nicaragua. Members of Congress were furious. Summoned to Capitol Hill, (former CIA director William) Casey lied, denying that funds for the Contras had been solicited from any foreign governments, although he knew that the Saudis, among others, had agreed to give millions of dollars to the Contras, at the request of the White House. Even within the Reagan Administration, the foreign funding was controversial. Secretary of State George Shultz had warned Reagan that he might be committing an impeachable offense. But, under Casey’s guidance, the White House went ahead with the plan; Shultz, having expressed misgivings, was not told. It was a bureaucratic tactic that Addington reprised after September 11th, when (former Secretary of State Colin) Powell was left out of key deliberations about the treatment of detainees (at Guantanamo). Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s aide, said that he was aware of Addington’s general strategy: “We had heard that, behind our backs, he was saying that Powell was ‘soft, but easy to get around’.”
(The excellent book “Veil” by Bob Woodward gets into all of the Iran-Contra stuff, by the way.)

OK, let’s think about this for a second. Here we have Addington, who attended Annapolis after Vietnam but apparently walked away from it because he felt he wasn’t challenged enough (as noted by Mayer), calling Colin Powell – Colin Powell, a GENERAL with A LIST OF MILITARY CITATIONS THAT IS ABOUT AS LONG AS MY ARM – “soft.”

I honestly can’t come up with a word for that type of cowardly arrogance.

Addington’s high school friend Leonard Napolitano (brother of Arizona governor Janet) said Addington told him that he and Cheney were merging the Vice-President’s office with the President’s into a single “Executive Office,” instead of having “two different camps.” Napolitano added, “David said that Cheney saw the Vice-President as the executive and implementer of the President.”
Considering that Dubya is still taking up space in the Oval Office, that actually has a hint of lunatic logic to it.

And here is an example of Addington “in action.”

Richard Shiffrin, the former Pentagon lawyer, said that during a tense White House meeting held in the Situation Room just a few days after September 11th “all of us felt a great deal of pressure to be willing to consider even the most extraordinary proposals. The CIA, the NSC, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the Justice Department all had people there. Addington was particularly strident. He’d sit, listen, and then say, ‘No, that’s not right.’ He was particularly doctrinaire and ideological. He didn’t recognize the wisdom of the other lawyers. He was always right. He didn’t listen. He knew the answers.” The details of the discussion are classified, Shiffrin said, but he left with the impression that Addington “doesn’t believe there should be co-equal branches.” Another participant recalled, “If you favored international law, you were in danger of being called ‘soft on terrorism’ by Addington.” He added that Addington’s manner in meetings was “very insistent and very loud.” Yet another participant said that, whenever he cautioned against executive-branch overreaching, Addington would respond brusquely, “There you go again, giving away the President’s power.”
This debunks the two historical precedents that Bushco frequently cites for its serial abuses of its high office.

“…this White House has assumed powers for itself that no previous administration has done,” according to liberal Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. Bush’s defenders frequently cite the example of Lincoln as a justification for placing national security above the rule of law. But (historian Arthur) Schlessinger, in his book “War and the American Presidency” (2004), points out that Lincoln “never claimed an inherent and routine right to do what (he) did.” The Bush White House, he told me, has seized on these historical aberrations and turned them into a doctrine of Presidential prerogative.

The precedent (for Bush’s military commissions after 9/11) was an arcane 1942 case, ex parte Quirin, in which Franklin Roosevelt created a military commission to try eight Nazi saboteurs who had infiltrated the United States via submarines. The Supreme Court upheld the case 8-0, but even the conservative justice Antonin Scalia has called it “not this court’s finest hour.”
And what does the military think of all of this? I’m glad you asked.

Marine Major Dan Mori, the uniformed lawyer who has been assigned to defend David Hicks, one of the ten terrorist suspects in Guantanamo who have been charged, said of the commissions, “It was a political stunt. The Administration clearly didn’t know anything about military law or the laws of war. I think they were clueless that there even was a (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and a Manual for Courts Martial! The fundamental problem is that the rules were constructed by people with a vested interest in conviction.”

Rear Admiral Donald Guter, who was the Navy’s chief
JAG until June 2002, said that the Pentagon had originally planned to screen (terrorist) suspects individually on the battlefields of Afghanistan; such “Article 5” hearings are a provision of the Geneva Conventions. But the White House cancelled the hearings, which had been standard protocol during the previous fifty years, including in the first Gulf War. In a January 25, 2002 legal memorandum, Administration lawyers dismissed the Geneva Conventions as “obsolete,” “quaint,” and irrelevant to the war on terror. The memo was signed by (Attorney General Alberto) Gonzales, but the Administration lawyer believed that “Addington and (Gonzales deputy Timothy) Flanigan were behind it.” The memo argued that all Taliban and al Qaeda detainees were illegal enemy combatants, which eliminated “any argument regarding the need for case-by-case determination of POW status.” Critics claim that the lack of a careful screening process led some innocent detainees to be imprisoned. “Article 5 hearings would have cost them nothing,” the Administration lawyer, who was involved in the process, said. “They just wanted to make a point on executive power – that the President can designate all enemy combatants if he wants to.”
And what of historical precedent?

(Republican legal activist) Bruce Fein argues that Addington’s signing statements are “unconstitutional as a strategy,” because the Founding Fathers wanted presidents to veto legislation openly if they thought the bills were unconstitutional (as opposed to what Dubya does, which is to sign the bill but note through the signing statement that he didn’t feel obligated to act in accordance with it).

Fein continues: “The Founders really understood the history of that people did with power, going back to the Greek and Roman and Biblical times. Our political heritage is to be skeptical of executive power, because, in particular, there was skepticism of King George III. But Cheney and Addington are not students of history. If they were, they’d know the Founding Fathers would be shocked by what they’ve done.”
I’m sure you’re having as hard a time as I am finding any possible good news in something like this. But looking really, REALLY hard into it, it bears mentioning that the people who primarily helped install Bushco – overwhelmingly white, male voters, many of whom are, alas, Catholic, as well as other faiths, in an age group of somewhere between 28 and about 50 or so – will NOT be the ones who will be tasked with having to put things right in this country (and I’m talking about aggregate numbers here, since the group I just mentioned is in decline).

No, the people upon whom this burden will fall (wrongly, unfortunately) are individuals in their late teens and early-to-mid 20s who MUST organize and become politically active lest they have nothing left to inherit from the regime that is tying to erase everything this country has ever stood for.

And these individuals primarily are watching Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher, and they’re listening to people like Randi Rhodes and Air America, and they’re reading Atrios, The Daily Kos, firedoglake, The Huffington Post, Crooks and Liars, ThinkProgress, Talk Left, Americablog, Media Matters For America, The Smirking Chimp, Brandoland, Down With Tyranny, Political Skullduggery, The Existentialist Cowboy, James Wolcott, Steve Gillard, David Sirota, Working For Change, Liberal Oasis, and many other fine individuals (including the "Impeach Bush" coalition, of course...and if I’m really lucky, they’re actually reading this site also).

And actually, those in the older demographic are shifting in that direction also – Chris Bowers notes this and more in this comprehensive post on the demographics of blog activists.

Aside from pointing out why the issue of Net Neutrality is so important, I’m also trying to explain why it’s crucial that we obtain the best information we can and remain engaged in the process at all times (and do what we can to organize and communicate what we know with others, which is dicey at times I know, in the hope of promoting informed dialogue now and always).

Addington and Bushco could not have done their damage to date – as well as the damage they may YET do, unfortunately – without the help of a lot of ignorance and neglect on the part of WAY too many people.

And doing all we can to fight that must be the reason why we communicate what we can to the world, and fight our activist fight, each and every day.

Update 7/24: Nope, I'm not crazy, at least not on this issue anyway (according to this group, and they would know).

Out In The Sun Too Long, I Guess

I feel better now. Why, I hadn’t heard from Jim (“Outraged Over The Outrage Over Abu Ghraib”) Inhofe in such a long time, that, golly, I was wondering if he was all right (which is a relative condition for him versus what most people would consider to be normal behavior).

Well, I need not worry. He said something else that was drop-dead stupid again recently so I know he still has a pulse and is consuming oxygen the way humans are supposed to (of course, I won’t bother to speculate on any alleged brainwave activity on his part).

For a sampling of information from the reality-based community on global warming, by the way, click here.

Update 7/24: "Springtime For Inhofe and Gerrr-Maaa-Neee!"

Crazy Curt The Web Wonder

I apologize for the fact that it's difficult to view this photo, but this is what the web site for Curt Weldon's campaign used to look like. I mention “used to” because of this story.

I didn’t know that it was a violation of rules within the U.S. House to display your photo and biography on your fundraising web site.

The problem is that, apparently, Curt Weldon didn’t know that either.

As you can note from the screen shot of his site before the PA Democratic Party filed its complaint, Weldon’s mug is plainly visible. Also, if you go to his site now, his picture is gone, the “Issues” link has no information, and the “Biography” link now goes to a site page called “Events.”

(I checked Weldon’s campaign site on this at about 1 PM EST…I wonder what kind of mad scramble is currently going on at Weldon’s campaign HQ to code and publish the site revisions.)

From complaining about a $350 donation to Joe Sestak from Mary McCarthy, a terminated CIA operative who has vociferously proclaimed her innocence, to misappropriation of campaign funds for use at the Borgata as well as resealing the driveway of his shore home, to “Able Danger” and those pesky WMDs – and now this – I seriously have to wonder how much longer the voters of the 7th congressional district will be willing to tolerate this Republican mistake.

Friday Freeper Follies

As many people know, Patrick Murphy has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood in the election for the 8th district U.S. House seat between him and incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick. Also, as many people know (those who live in Bucks County, PA, anyway), the two targets that are assaulted most viciously by the right-wing hammerheads in this area are Planned Parenthood and any teachers union in existence (though I will say that the Pennsbury teachers, to some degree, did not exactly “cover themselves in glory” during last year’s strike; I hasten to add that I don’t automatically side 100 percent with the school board either).

The result of the endorsement Patrick received from Planned Parenthood was as predictable as a bout of flatulence after an attack of indigestion; namely, the letters started POURING in to the Bucks County Courier Times decrying “the unholy alliance,” or words to that effect, between Patrick Murphy and Planned Parenthood.

I have stated many, MANY times that Planned Parenthood performs a WIDE ARRAY of services for families and children aside from abortions. I’m not going to both to restate that again, and somehow I don’t think it would matter to the crowd that has already made up its mind that “St. Mikey” is their guy. Besides, there is a link to Planned Parenthood on this site under “Give or Get Help”; you can click there if you want to learn more.

Anyway, a letter was printed in the Courier Times from an individual named Bob Haffner that must have been particularly nasty in this regard. I didn’t see it because, to be perfectly honest with you, I stopped paying attention to the endless intellectual flotsam that oozes out of these people on this issue.

Let me just say that the letters attacking Patrick’s endorsement from Planned Parenthood were pouring into the paper before we went on vacation, they no doubt continued to do so while we were gone, and they have continued unabated. And if this were a case of people taking the time to formulate well thought out arguments that showed even a hint of sensitivity towards other people’s attitudes and beliefs, I would be somewhat inclined to take them seriously.

However, that is not the case, and this letter below that appeared today is typical.

Thank goodness for Bob Haffner’s letter nailing the “want it both ways” Patrick Murphy and his unholy alliance with Planned Parenthood. For years, our district was saddled with a pretend Republican in Jim Greenwood who voted with the pro-choice crowd.

Two years ago we finally got a pro-life candidate who proudly stands to protect the lives of the innocent. The best his detractors can do is equate voting for the Iraq War with murdering of (sic) millions of innocent infants. What a joke!

I will proudly support Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick in November, and urge my fellow Catholics to do the same.

Ed Monigan
Lower Makefield
I’m not going to say much for Jim Greenwood except that, for a Repug, he actually wasn’t too bad, and I believe he “cashed out” at just the right time, no doubt reading the writing on the wall because he wasn’t sufficiently doctrinaire for so-called “moral values” crowd.

What was actually gratifying today, though, was to read Patrick’s response that also appeared this morning.

Of all the values my parents taught me as a child, the most important was my faith. They taught me to have faith in God and our church.

The Catholic Church has given me the moral bedrock on which I stand and live my life. To have my faith attacked in a letter by Bob Haffner – a man I have never met – is both malicious and wrong.

I’ve always thought that commitment to the Church was driven by more than any single issue. From my earliest days at St. Anselm’s grade school, being a Catholic meant living a life of faith, hope, and love. My wife and I, like many Catholics, go to Mass on Sundays, yet we sometimes disagree with aspects of our Church. I believe, for example, in the federal funding of stem cell research because I believe that it holds the promise to heal the sick, ease suffering, and preserve life.

I have never thought that it was my role – or Bob’s – to question the faith of fellow parishioners who hold a similar view.

Throughout my life, as an altar boy and later as a lector, I have been an active member of my parish community and its organizations. When I was in the Army, serving in places like Bosnia and Iraq, I prayed even more fervently for the safety of those for whom I was responsible. I was even honored that one of my paratroopers in Iraq stated that he became a Catholic because of my example. Does this mean that I have been a perfect Catholic? Of course not. But that doesn’t meant that the editorial pages should become the place to evaluate my or anyone else’s personal religious beliefs.

Bob Haffner’s criticism of my faith is unwarranted, unfounded, and malicious. He dishonors not only my faith, but the faith of many of my fellow parishioners.

Patrick Murphy
Bristol Township
As a Catholic also, I should point out how much Our Lord’s teachings mean to me as stated in the New Testament of the Bible. These include bettering oneself through love of neighbor and apostolic good works, living a life of temperance and moderation, and speaking truth to power, primarily on behalf of those in need.

Mike Fitzpatrick doesn’t reflect any of those values as far as I’m concerned. By shilling for the benefit of Tom DeLay and the “K” street crowd in Washington, as well as his own shameless demagoguery (announcing that Patrick Murphy, by virtue of his opposition to Fitzpatrick’s sham “Delete Online Predators Act,” automatically supports child predators himself), he more closely resembles the Pharisees who Jesus chastised as “whited sepulchers.”

When I read, hear, and reflect upon the wonderful stories and lessons of The New Testament, I find that the person who more closely resembles the values espoused in this great work is Patrick Murphy, not Mike Fitzpatrick.

And one more thing: though it is a vitally serious issue, the New Testament doesn’t say a damn thing about abortion.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (7/20)

As recorded in the Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week:


Voting Rights Act. Voting 390-33, the House on Thursday sent the Senate a bill (HR 9) to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years beyond its scheduled expiration next year. The 1965 law outlawed discriminatory policies such as poll taxes and literacy tests, and was expanded later to require voting materials in certain jurisdictions to be printed in languages in addition to English. The bill would continue to require certain states and localities with a history of systematic voting discrimination to clear changes in their voting laws in advance with the Justice Department.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

All Philadelphia-area lawmakers voted yes.
It's about freaking it's the Senate's turn to act like grownups.

Foreign-language ballots. Voting 185-238, the House on Thursday refused to strip the Voting Rights Act renewal (HR 9, above) of its requirement that certain jurisdictions provide ballots, notices and other voting materials in languages in addition to English.

A yes vote backed the amendment that proposed the change.

Voting yes: Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
I would call this vote “your basic slam dunk,” meaning that none of the “no” voters will be eating at Geno’s Steaks anytime soon, I’m sure (and Crazy Curt helps out Admiral Joe once more on this one, though, as noted last time, Weldon signed that letter from anti-immigrant nut John Tanton that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago).

And this makes me wonder what kind of a “Democrat” Tim Holden is anyway.

Pre-clearance of voting changes. Voting 96-318, the House on Thursday defeated an amendment to HR 9 (above) making it easier for certain states and localities, mostly in the South, to be freed of the pre-clearance requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Pitts.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Saxton, Schwartz, Smith and Weldon.
Another no-brainer, and once more, I must ask – nay, PLEAD – with anyone who may know who is running against Joe Pitts so I can do all I can to help this particular Democrat.

Internet gambling limits. Voting 317-93, the House on Tuesday sent the Senate a bill (HR 4411) to limit Internet gambling. The bill would bar credit cards, banks and other companies from processing most types of online wagers, and make it a felony for most gambling operations to do business using the Internet or wireless communications. But it drew criticism for exempting state-run online lotteries as well as Internet wagers on horse and dog racing.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Andrews, Holden and LoBiondo.

Not voting: Smith.
As nearly as I can determine on this, the state exemption that was contained in the legislation would nullify the impact of the legislation on curbing internet gambling (similar to what happened when this type of legislation came up about three years ago, only this time with exemptions for horse and dog racing also…don’t want to do anything to financially hurt those existing types of gambling, I suppose).

It sounds like the point of this bill is to make it look like fraud is being kept out of the whole process of gambling online (and absolving large financial services concerns from any liability by keeping them out of it, officially), though I wonder just what kind of loopholes are contained in it that are ripe for exploitation (the phrase “most gambling operations” is a telling one as far as I’m concerned).

I tried to learn more about why Andrews, Holden, and Lo Biondo voted against it, but I was unsuccessful, unless it is merely because they oppose gambling in principle.


Commuter rail security. On a 50-50 vote, the Senate on Wednesday defeated an amendment to increase, from a committee-approved $150 million figure to $1.15 billion, spending for fiscal 2007 to protect mass-transit and inter-city rail systems against terrorists. The amendment was proposed to the Homeland Security Department's fiscal 2007 budget (HR 5441).

A yes vote backed the amendment.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted yes.
As Joe Biden, among others, has pointed out, Bushco and the Repugs have invested $25 billion in airline security since 9/11, but only $600 million for rail and transit systems that carry a lot more passengers.

I haven’t been able to track down a record of the vote on this one. My guess is that it was scuttled by the usual Repug wackos, and probably with Ben Nelson helping out too for good measure.

Gun confiscation. Voting 84-16, the Senate on Thursday passed an amendment to HR 5441 (above) to bar law enforcement officials and other first responders from seizing citizens' legally possessed firearms in official disaster zones such as post-Katrina New Orleans.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

Voting no: Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).
Somehow I think that, in the middle of another disaster such as Katrina (and God help us if we have another one, but we have to prepare for that likelihood), police and especially first responders are going to be more preoccupied with rescuing people, providing medical assistance and getting them to safety than trying to take their legally purchased firearms, but our politicians have to throw a bone to the growling mongrel otherwise known as the NRA leadership from time to time, or else they’ll be snubbed when they need a campaign contribution (and again, it’s a mystery to me why the MBNA twins don’t get that).

Mexican border fence. Voting 29-71, the Senate on Thursday rejected an amendment to HR 5441 (above) authorizing Homeland Security to build 370 miles of fencing and hundreds of miles of vehicle barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border. The $1.8 billion cost was to have been funded by an across-the-board cut in other Homeland Security programs.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Carper and Santorum.

Voting no: Biden, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.
What planet is Tom Carper on, given the fact that he actually voted for this in light of the fact that most illegal/undocumented workers are flown in anyway?

And as far as Little Ricky is concerned, click here.

Prescription drug imports. The Senate on Tuesday voted, 68-32, to let U.S. citizens import Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription drugs from countries such as Canada without interference from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. The amendment was attached to HR 5441 (above).

A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

Voting no: Santorum.
And as far as Little Ricky is concerned, click here (yes, this is a recording...and he actually is wondering why he’s trailing Casey by double digits?).

This week. The House will take up a Pledge of Allegiance measure and a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage. The Senate will debate stem-cell research.
The House, as you can see, is plainly stuck in its election-year agenda, though at least the Senate ended up doing the right thing before Dubya’s latest embarrassment.

He Embodies The Meaning Of The Word

If Dubya wants to talk about “tragedy” in relations between Repugs and African Americans in this country, he can consider some recent history.

First, here is an example of the handiwork of Ohio Secretary of State (and now gubernatorial candidate) Kenneth Blackwell from the 2004 presidential election as noted in this fine Rolling Stone article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.:

A five-month analysis of the Ohio vote conducted by the Democratic National Committee concluded in June 2005 that three percent of all Ohio voters who showed up to vote on Election Day were forced to leave without casting a ballot. That's more than 174,000 voters. ''The vast majority of this lost vote,'' concluded the Conyers report, ''was concentrated in urban, minority and Democratic-leaning areas.'' Statewide, African-Americans waited an average of fifty-two minutes to vote, compared to only eighteen minutes for whites.


In another move certain to add to the traffic jam at the polls, the GOP deployed 3,600 operatives on Election Day to challenge voters in thirty-one counties -- most of them in predominantly black and urban areas. Although it was billed as a means to ''ensure that voters are not disenfranchised by fraud,'' Republicans knew that the challengers would inevitably create delays for eligible voters. Even Mark Weaver, the GOP's attorney in Ohio, predicted in late October that the move would ''create chaos, longer lines and frustration.''


In Columbus, which had registered 125,000 new voters -- more than half of them black -- the board of elections estimated that it would need 5,000 machines to handle the huge surge. ''On Election Day, the county experienced an unprecedented turnout that could only be compared to a 500-year flood,'' says Matt Damschroder, chairman of the Franklin County Board of Elections and the former head of the Republican Party in Columbus. But instead of buying more equipment, the Conyers investigation found, Damschroder decided to ''make do'' with 2,741 machines. And to make matters worse, he favored his own party in distributing the equipment. According to The Columbus Dispatch, precincts that had gone seventy percent or more for Al Gore in 2000 were allocated seventeen fewer machines in 2004, while strong GOP precincts received eight additional machines. An analysis by voter advocates found that all but three of the thirty wards with the best voter-to-machine ratios were in Bush strongholds; all but one of the seven with the worst ratios were in Kerry country.

The result was utterly predictable. According to an investigation by the Columbus Free Press, white Republican suburbanites, blessed with a surplus of machines, averaged waits of only twenty-two minutes; black urban Democrats averaged three hours and fifteen minutes. ''The allocation of voting machines in Franklin County was clearly biased against voters in precincts with high proportions of African-Americans,'' concluded Walter Mebane Jr., a government professor at Cornell University who conducted a statistical analysis of the vote in and around Columbus.
And as Greg Palast notes at the end of this article (about the exploits of Cruela DeVil in Florida in the 2000 presidential election)...

It wasn’t reported in mainstream press, but the NAACP sued Katherine Harris and the gang for the black purge (re: the illegal removal of African Americans from the Florida voting rolls by ChoicePoint), and won. The state threw up its hands immediately and said, “You got us! Well put these people back as soon as we can.” We’re still waiting.
One more thing: it would have been nice if CNN had bothered to actually get a response from someone who heard what Bush had to say to give us some perspective on how the words of Dubya’s speechwriters had actually been received (and despite the fact that that clown resides in Texas, it should be pointed out that that is all he shares with Lyndon Johnson, who started out in public life as an educator, whereas Dubya is now what he has always been; a glad-handling shill and a total boob who doesn't know enough to avoid profanity into an open microphone or keep his hands off a female head of a foreign nation).

Update: Kos makes a great point here.

This News Flash: Water Is Still Wet

This editorial appeared this morning in the Bucks County Courier Times.

Experts agree: Nobody to blame for the flood

Good news and bad news came out of Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick's flood hearing this week. The good news is there's nobody to blame. Not the developers, not the up-river reservoir operators, not the folks who stood in the way of the dam, not even global warming.

No, the flood was caused by, get this, lots of rain.

The bad news is - there's nobody to blame.
This excerpt appeared in this news article by Courier Times reporter Pamela Batzel.

...Mary Shafer, the local author of “Devastation on the Delaware,” a book about the 1955 flood published in October, maintained that global warming and development are significant factors in the recent spate of high water that has overtaken riverside communities.

Development is having a “huge impact,” she said. The amount of surface covered by buildings, parking lots and other structures has “grown exponentially” since the 1950s, she said. Logically, it means more water is running into tributaries and then into the river, she said.

At the same time, some believe global warming is causing more intense hurricanes and changing weather patterns generally. The most recent flood was due to tropical moisture that came up on a jet stream “taking a strange pattern” for this time of year, Shafer said. It “has to do with the oceans being so warm,” which is a result of the Earth heating up.

Shafer acknowledged she is not a meteorologist but said that she’s well-studied and that, “privately, [experts] will admit a lot of the anecdotal evidence points to global warming.”

And that leaves anybody who has an interest in preventing future floods scratching their heads.

We don't mean to treat a serious situation un-seriously (sure you don't). The recent flood - the third one in less than two years - is causing a lot of expense and heartache for a lot of people. So, naturally, people want to point a finger. Beyond the therapeutic value of laying blame, it gives us something to fix or stop or change.

So, how do you stop rain?

The obvious answer is you don't. You either find ways to protect areas given to flooding, or you help people living or working in a flood area to move out. And despite the impression that Delaware River floods are a newly recurring phenomenon, fact is the river has a history of flood clusters.

As we reported Monday, the river overflowed its banks twice between March 1902 and October 1903, twice between 1913 and 1914, twice between 1940 and 1942, and twice between 1984 and 1986.
Here is more from Batzel’s article on the overflows the editorial just mentioned.

Take the two floods that hit the region in March 1902 and October 1903. The river crested in Trenton at 3.6 feet above flood stage on March 2. In the fall of the following year, it crested at 28.5 feet, or 8.5 feet above flood stage.

The region also suffered floods in doubles between 1913 and 1914, 1940 and 1942, and 1984 and 1986, although those floods were less severe. The worst of the six floods only exceeded flood stage by 1.2 feet in Trenton.

So let’s step back and take a look at this, OK? It sounds like the recent flooding (three times in 18 months) is comparable to the flooding in 1902 and 1903, but not to the flooding from 1913 to 1986 in terms of the number of feet that exceeded the flood stage. For the Courier Times to make it sound like all of the previous flooding is comparable to what we have recently experienced is highly disingenuous to say the least.

So let the finger-pointing come to an end. And let's focus attention on getting people out of their homes and businesses if they're inclined, or elevated if that's what they prefer.
Of course, the editorial could also address this great post from Above Average Jane which has gone unanswered by Mikey and his minions (and it will probably remain that way); namely, why was it necessary for Fitzpatrick to hold his hearings when, as a member of the Delaware River Basin Commission (along with Jim Gerlach), he should have been aware of the issues related to the flooding anyway?

(I mean, the editorial COULD ask that question, but they won’t of course because the paper doesn’t wish to be impertinent. After all, the Courier Times recently published a Guest Opinion by a writer who noted that Fitzpatrick voted against HR 810 in favor of stem cell research after saying he supported it when campaigning for his current House seat, but the paper went out of its way in the Guest Opinion to note that Fitzpatrick is apparently reconsidering stem cell development, but only not from a blastocyst, which, at this stage of development in this promising science, is little more than a theoretical concept concerning humans.)

So, as far as the Courier Times is concerned, we’re just supposed to trust Mother Nature and Saint Mikey, and the residents of Yardley borough are supposed to do little more than hope our Repug house representative actually decides to follow up on his proposed federally subsidized elevation plan (noted in Batzel’s article) and pray that they don’t get clobbered again.

Oh, and by the way, I guess this was just “an accident of nature” also that had no relation to global warming or climate change, huh (especially coming upon the heels of the recent flooding).

One more thing: to help Bucks County flooding victims, click here.

Still Beyond Our Reach

Dr. Dean gets it (from Dubya's latest debacle yesterday)...

Today George Bush chose political posturing over human life, denying hope to millions of Americans, their families and loved ones who are affected by debilitating diseases.

He used his first-ever veto to stop the discovery of new cures for diseases like juvenile diabetes, leukemia, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and many others. More than 70% of Americans from every walk of life -- whether in the faith community, the science lab, the hospital or at the bedside of a sick relative -- and majorities in both chambers of Congress disagree, but that didn't stop him.

The bill he vetoed wasn't a sweeping change -- it was a small, practical measure that would have made a big difference for medical research based on sound science. But the consequences are sweeping: the proposed law would have allowed research on excess embryos generated during processes like fertility treatments -- embryos that would otherwise simply be discarded.

Now is the time to speak out. Send a message to your representatives letting them know that you support cure discovery now:

If George Bush truly believed his rhetoric about stem cells, he would do something about the processes that create the excess embryos in the first place. But he won't. They will continue to go unused (his spokesman limply calls it a "tragedy"), and cures will continue to be beyond our reach.

Bush may not be willing to choose cure discovery over his right-wing base, but the vast majority of Americans support cure research.

Even after his veto, Democrats in Congress will continue to keep the pressure on to get more votes. If Republicans refuse to join the cause and override Bush's veto, it will have to be decided at the ballot box in November. Democrats will continue to fight to keep this hope for the discovery of new cures alive.

The Congress and the rest of the country are paying attention right now, and we have to seize this moment to build the coalition of support for cure discovery. Please add your name to the list of supporters and we'll send your message to your representatives:

As a medical doctor, I'm offended at the political meddling in potentially life-saving research. All of our families could be touched by hope found through stem cell research: from juvenile diabetes to Alzheimer's, it offers the opportunity for new cures. Yet this important research has been dwindling because of restrictions put in place by Bush five years ago.

That's half a decade we have lost. How much longer will those suffering and their families have to wait?

People can disagree in good faith on this issue, but Bush's extraordinary action doesn't meet that threshold -- it smacks of political calculation. The opportunity to save lives of people with debilitating diseases, and to reduce suffering for them and their families, requires that a president respect the will of the people and the Congress.

Join the cause supporting cure discovery:

History will judge this veto as a sad political calculation.

Just a few votes stand in the way. With your support we'll get them -- either now, or in the new Democratic Congress you elect in November.

When we do, we will restore hope through life-saving research and cure discovery.

Thank you.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
I wish there was more I could do about this, but in PA, Arlen Specter has gone on record as supporting the research, but as far as Mikey and Santorum are concerned...well, let's just say they're "two peas in a pod" and leave it at that.

And by the way, here is another aspect of this tragedy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Standing Up

This came from one of my "field correpondents" (thanks), and it has to do with five designers who recently declined an invitation to attend the White House for a breakfast that honored them as winners of the National Design Award in communications design.

The text of their letter declining the invitation appears below.

Dear Mrs. Bush:

As American designers, we strongly believe our government should support the design profession and applaud the White House sponsorship of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. And as finalists and recipients of the National Design Award in Communication Design we are deeply honored to be selected for this recognition. However, we find ourselves compelled to respectfully decline your invitation to visit the White House on July 10th.

Graphic designers are intimately engaged in the construction of language, both visual and verbal. And while our work often dissects, rearranges, rethinks, questions and plays with language, it is our fundamental belief, and a central tenet of "good" design, that words and images must be used responsibly, especially when the matters articulated are of vital importance to the life of our nation.

We understand that politics often involves high rhetoric and the shading of language for political ends. However it is our belief that the current administration of George W. Bush has used the mass communication of words and images in ways that have seriously harmed the political discourse in America. We therefore feel it would be inconsistent with those values previously stated to accept an award celebrating language and communication, from a representative of an administration that has engaged in a prolonged assault on meaning.

While we have diverse political beliefs, we are united in our rejection of these policies. Through the wide-scale distortion of words (from "Healthy Forests" to "Mission Accomplished") and both the manipulation of media (the photo op) and its suppression (the hidden war casualties), the Bush administration has demonstrated disdain for the responsible use of mass media, language and the intelligence of the American people.

While it may be an insignificant gesture, we stand against these distortions and for the restoration of a civil political dialogue.

The letter was signed by Michael Rock, Susan Sellers, Georgie Stout, Paula Scher and Stefan Sagmeister.
Kudos to all five, and you have my respect, even more so because of some of the bilious comments that followed in the story I linked to above.

Fiscal Mismanagement, Weldon Style

From this PA7Watch story…

After attacking Joe Sestak for taking campaign contributions from Sandy Berger and Mary McCarthy, the Weldon camp accepted a $1,000 contribution from former state Senate Majority Leader F. Joseph Loeper, a "tax felon turned lobbyist who did jail time for obstructing an IRS probe."
The response of the Sestak campaign (as noted here)...

"'Curt can keep the $1,000 to cover his recent tab at the Borgata,' said Sestak spokesman Ryan Rudominer, referring to campaign expenditures flagged in January by former Democratic congressional candidate Bryan Lentz.

Weldon aides have said those expenditures - including $502 at the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.; $810 at an asphalt sealcoating company; $241 at Dick's Sporting Goods and several meals in Wildwood, N.J., the location of Weldon's old summer home - are legitimate uses of campaign funds."
And I love the part from Michael Puppio, Weldon’s campaign manager, saying that Sestak should return any money received from the “flag-draped coffins” ad; 1) Those ads are appropriate and should not have been pulled, and 2) Assuming that the amount of ad money that could have gone to Sestak could be calculated anyway, it would be a comparatively miniscule amount to anything raised by Weldon.

And to think that “Crazy Curt” once criticized Sestak for the $350 contribution from Mary McCarthy, the former CIA analyst who was dismissed but has denied leaking classified information (removing any possible hint of impropriety as far as I’m concerned, even though the Repugs are unusually desperate to tar any Dem in light of their involvement with Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay up to their eyeballs).

Keep looking for those pesky WMDs, Curt. They’re bound to be out there somewhere.

View Before You Spew

Inspired by this item from CNN...

“This is your captain announcing that we will begin our instantaneous, 5,000-foot descent shortly on this direct US Airways flight from Las Vegas to Jamaica, NY that is scheduled to land in approximately two hours. First, I wish to call your attention to the overhead compartment containing your air sickness bags. Please note the advertisement on the front of the bags for “E-Z Intestine” antacid tablets that are guaranteed to calm your digestive tract when any nasty turbulence suddenly occurs. This new product from our good friends at Shyster International Pharmaceuticals guarantees fast relief, and it comes in four tasty flavors: burnt spinach, coffee grounds, stale lavatory cake, and egg crème. It is not intended for use by nursing mothers, Methodists, left-handed albinos, anyone who has lived in Cameroon for a period of longer than five months, or people with delicate constitutions. You can always trust Shyster to know when it’s time to involuntarily release bodily fluids. Now please close your overhead compartments. Our free fall will commence momentarily.”
And what does it say about flying on US Airways, by the way, that they would think this is an appropriate news story?

Orrin Says "Yo!"

Was I the only one who was a bit surprised to see Sen. Orrin Hatch coming to the rescue of songwriter Dallas Austin last week?

Austin was sentenced to four years in a Dubai jail for carrying a gram of cocaine, at which point the following individuals got together and started working on his behalf to get him out.

A conservative Republican senator/songwriter (Hatch), an '80s R&B singer who is inexplicably massive in the Middle East (Lionel Richie), a real-estate mogul, several ambassadors from around the globe and a Grammy-winning producer who is best known for moving musical mountains — not political ones (Quincy Jones).
Wow, that's some "posse."

And how con-VEE-nient was this, by the way?

In a lucky coincidence, one of Austin's lawyers, Joel Katz, also happens to represent Hatch, a singer/songwriter who has recorded a number of religious and patriotic albums with titles such as My God Is Love, Put Your Arms Around the World, America United and How His Glory Shines.
Well, it's nice to see that Hatch is trying to free drug users in other countries instead of trying to blow up people's computers for a change.

To be fair, though, I should mention that Hatch is absolutely right on the issue of stem cell research, and President Stupid Head is poised to exercise the first veto of his fraudulent presidency today - unbelievable - not on bloated budgets full of tax cuts for the rich, not in opposition to warrantless spying or torture, but to kill funding for this important scientific cause (and Jonathan Turley of USA Today absolutely nailed it in his great column on this yesterday).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Supporting Our Troops, For A Change

The Patrick Murphy campaign unveiled its New GI Bill of Rights recently (reported today in the Bucks County Courier Times, but as usual, I was unable to find a link to the story from their "web site") in an effort to demonstrate committed leadership to the men and women in uniform who defend our country. The comprehensive lists includes proposals for fair pay, sufficient equipment including armor, expansion of TRICARE benefits for National Guard and Reserve personnel (are you reading this, Mikey?), granting citizenship to veterans who serve who aren’t citizens already, and allowing veterans on disability to collect their retirement pay.

Some of these proposals strike me as merely common sense (which can never be taken for granted on the part of those running our government, I realize), but others will require some budgetary maneuvers that I would like to see, most notably the permanent reinstitution of the estate tax and removal of the $90,000 ceiling on contributions to Social Security. Still, though, this to me shows typically committed leadership from a candidate in touch with the issues facing us every day.

This link takes you to information on the G.I. Bill passed by FDR that is the precedent for some of the reforms that Patrick has proposed.

As I read this writeup, I encountered more sneaky disinformation from Bushco in their version of the story of the Bonus Marchers, World War I veterans who came to Washington during the Great Depression seeking adjusted compensation for their military service. This is what the Department of Veterans Affairs has to say about it.

During the Great Depression, some veterans found it difficult to make a living. Congress tried to intervene by passing the World War Adjusted Act of 1924, commonly known as the Bonus Act. The law provided a bonus based on the number of days served. But there was a catch: most veterans wouldn't see a dime for 20 years.

A group of veterans marched on Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1932 to demand full payment of their bonuses. When they didn't get it, most went home. But some decided to stick around until they got paid. They were later kicked out of town following a bitter standoff with U.S. troops. The incident marked one of the greatest periods of unrest our nation's capital had ever known.
It’s true that it was a bitter standoff, but it was actually more than that, as noted here. Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur fired into the crowd, and one veteran was killed and 50 veterans and Washington D.C. police injured as marchers were attacked with rifles and tear gas. It actually is a pretty despicable episode of our history (and by the way, Republican presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover both opposed the compensation to the Bonus Marchers, and though Roosevelt did also, he at least tried to put them to work instead in the Citizens Conservation Corps).

When In Doubt, Hate The Gays

So it sounds like the Delaware County Sikh community is solidly behind “Crazy Curt” Weldon because both Weldon and Sikh representatives are opposed to gay unions of any kind.

Well, it looks like the Repugs will have to try again next year to ban same sex marriage (and you KNOW that will happen), since their amendment failed again today.

However, I don’t suppose that would matter to the Sikhs who might actually want to weigh the positions of Weldon and Joe Sestak on other issues (and Joe raised more money than Weldon in the second quarter of this year, by the way...he brought in $700,000, and by contrast, the long-time incumbent and career 7th district Repug politician of “Able Danger” infamy took in $400,000 – kind of a shame that that matters, but it does, and it says something about Sestak’s momentum).

How To Cut And Run

Over the weekend, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pulled an ad that showed flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq at the request of Reps Chet Edwards of Texas and John Spratt of South Carolina, who contacted Rahm Emanuel and asked him to remove the ad. In its place, the DCCC replaced the Internet ad with a radio ad that targeted Rep. John Hostetler, R-Ind., for opposing an increase in the minimum wage.

This is why Democrats lose elections (and of course Spratt’s Repug opponent Ralph Norman praised the move; of course he would, since the Democrats are putting the Howitzer back into storage, so to speak, and deciding to fight the Repugs with pop guns instead).

Yes, addressing the issue of an increase in the minimum wage is important, but that issue doesn’t have the visceral impact of the Iraq War (I don’t know what it’s going to take to get the Democrats to understand that Iraq is “the alpha and the omega” when it comes to political hot button issues in the upcoming election).

Also, The American Prospect (via Kos) had a good post yesterday concerning an unguarded moment on this issue from House Majority Leader John Boehner.

Apparently it is necessary for Edwards and Spratt to receive a history lesson on how a Democrat once waged a successful re-election by creating a haunting TV ad image during a time when this person, Lyndon Johnson by name, obviously gave not a damn about offending anyone for the purpose of winning the campaign.

The Repugs have learned this lesson all too well. Maybe one day the Dems will relearn it also.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Romney To The Rescue?

While we were on Martha's Vineyard last week, the other big story was the Boston tunnel collapse as part of the "Big Dig" federal highway construction project.

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly (a Democrat who happens to have his eye on the governor's job, by the way) has quite rightly made it clear that he intends to go after everyone involved in the project who may have been negligent in a manner that could have contributed to the collapse that killed Milena Delvalle and injured her newlywed husband Angel Delvalle, both of Costa Rica.

Since partisan blame is inevitable unfortunately, it should be pointed out that John Kerry objected to the appointment of Richard Capka as head of the Federal Highway Administration overseeing the project prior to Matthew Amorello's ownership of the project (Amorello is currently the head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority). And as noted from here, Jim Kerasiotes was appointed as head of the project prior to that time (more on him appears below).

I thought this paragraph from the Blue Mass Group link was interesting:

...Maybe it's unseemly to get partisan about this right now, but here goes. Since 1991 - which is when most of the Big Dig construction has occurred - Republicans have been running the show. Yes, there has been an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in all that time. But the Governor appoints the Turnpike Authority board members and the Highway Commissioner, as well as the head of every other state agency. Legislators don't make appointments. Every decision made by the Turnpike Authority, the Public Works Commissioner, or whoever was running the Big Dig over the last 16 years, every state inspector who failed to do his or her job, every failure to supervise outside contractors, all of that stuff can be traced directly back to one of four people: Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift, or Mitt Romney. The Republicans have been managing this project for 16 years, and they must be held accountable for that. If you needed a reminder, here's a Globe story about Jim Kerasiotes, brought in by Bill Weld to manage the Big Dig, who was eventually forced to resign in disgrace following revelations of cost overruns and management failures, after years of assuring everyone that the project was "on time and on budget," and intimidating anyone who dared question him into silence.
More appears on this story from Blue Mass Group here.

I'm not saying that the Democrats should be entirely let off the hook on this. After all, they have an oversight function in this too (to me, saying that they should be is like saying any Democrat who supported the Iraq War is innocent because the Democrats weren't the majority party of all branches of government at the time).

However, I think it's ridiculous for Romney to act like he's going to save the day (dutifully reported in that manner by the tabloid Boston Herald last week, which was perversely funny actually) when he has been as big a malefactor in this mess as anyone.

This should all be turned over to the NTSB, as one Blue Mass Group commenter noted, especially since the first thing Romney apparently did after he tried to wrest control of the project from Amorello was go on vacation in New Hampshire and make assistant Kerry Healey acting governor.

I can now see why Romney thinks he's qualified to make a run for president; a move like that is right out of Dubya's playbook.

Update 7/27: Yeah, Amorello is partly to blame, but so are others, including Romney, who's using him as a scapegoat.

Update 7/31: At least when W.C. Fields wanted to make a racist remark, he had the good sense to say “an Ethiopian in the fuel supply” instead, Mitt (can you just feel the air whizzing out of Romney’s presidential “trial balloon,” which is what this had turned into for him?).

Calling Out "Mikey Moneybags"

This great letter from Chris Bowers appeared last Saturday in the Bucks County Courier Times (still trying to clean out my "in" box)...

Regarding the July 9th (letter to the editor) that claimed I was a "fat cat" who Patrick Murphy needs to "renounce." This writer clearly knows very little about me. In 2005, I made about $38K, which was the first time that I exceeded $30K. I have personally contributed a grand total of $50 to Patrick Murphy's campaign for Congress.

Through my web site,, along with three friends of mine (including Markos Moulistas, whom the letter writer also indicated Murphy needs to "renounce"), I have helped raise money for Patrick Murphy, a progressive, fighting Democrat for whom I hold the highest respect. Patrick's campaign has captured the imagination of many local grassroots activists. As one of those activists who has been inspired by Patrick, I have decided to raise money for his campaign of my own accord.

Overall, we have raised $9,500 for Patrick, from 480 donors. With our average donation coming in at just under $20, I fail to see how we qualify as "fat cats." This is about as grassroots as fundraising can get.

By contrast, Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick has raised more than $800,000 from PACs alone. A quick look at reveals that most of these PACs are from large corporations and far-right ideological organizations, including money from indicted former Republican House leader Tom DeLay. Many of these PACs, including Tom DeLay's, have given $10,000 or more to Fitzpatrick's campaign: more money than we raised combined. While Patrick Murphy raises money from small donors, Michael Fitzpatrick is the candidate who is bought and paid for by fat cats, extremist ideologues, and corrupt politicians in Washington, D.C.

As a final note, it needs to be said that Fitzpatrick's attempt to protect children from online predators is terrible public policy. His bill will not protect a single child from danger, but it will restrict grassroots organizing online (the netroots). As with Ginny Schrader in 2004, grass roots activists online have been inspired by the candidate challenging Fitzpatrick, and now we are working as hard as we can to elect Patrick Murphy.

Since one of the biggest dangers to Michael Fitzpatrick's re-election chances come from the netroots, he is trying to pass a law to restrict the grassroots activity of his political opponents. That is politics at its worst, and quite frankly un-American.
To help Patrick Murphy, click here.

The Spawn Of The Iraq War

I absolutely hate posting about the Middle East, mainly because there are many other people more knowledgeable on this topic than I am and also because it is nothing anymore but a total slam dance, so to speak, with Syria and Iran pulling the strings in Lebanon as Hezbollah and Israel blast each other to pieces.

To come up to speed a bit on this, I read this fine column from Trudy Rubin in the Inquirer yesterday, who as far as I'm concerned is one of the few journalists out there who knows what's going on with all of this, primarily because she's actually traveled to these countries and reported from the locations that are currently engulfed in violence.

Since the leaders of the industrialized nations must step forward and find some way to mediate this mess, this means of course that Tony Blair had to spring into action right away and try to get Putin and Hu of China to help also while Dubya is basking in the imaginary glow of attention he received for making a joke about a pig (and profanity into an open microphone is such a sign of mature, adult leadership, isn't it?).

(Yes, I know a lot of this was last week's news. Please bear with me - I'm trying to catch up.)

So I guess that means we can toss the "roadmap to Middle East peace" huh?

And while warnings went out to President Stupid Head and the ruling cabal about the Iraq War generating regional violence (warning which were dutifully ignored by the Repugs, of course), I think we know have seen those warnings come to hideous fruition.

Yes, the G-8 leaders have to do what heads of state do best at times like this, and that is generate photo ops while issuing declarations that will in all likelihood be ignored by the combatants until they decide to stop blowing the crap out of each other and sit down and talk for a little while. And I think Rubin made an excellent point by stating that this is Iran's way of showing that they ultimately are the new power in that area of the world that must be reckoned with, though they are of course overplaying their hand (and if you read Rubin's column, maybe you'll have the same reaction I did about her matter-of-fact statement that the Iraq War helped consolidate Iran's power - it would have been nice if the architects of this horrible fiasco had cared about the result or had some clue before the first shot was fired, wouldn't it?).

One more thing: I have a question for American Jews and Israelis who supported Dubya and the Iraq War.

Why didn't you know this would happen?

Why didn't you know an American incursion into Iraq would enflame U.S.-Israel-Arab tensions more than before, to the benefit of borderline cases like AhMADinejad and other terrorists?

Did you honestly believe that trying to shove anything approximating Democracy down the throats of the Sunnis and Shiites would yield any other result but this?

Why didn't you realize that Saddam Hussein - mean, rotten, nasty guy that he was - was A BUFFER against OUR REAL ENEMY? Are you going to realize that Clinton played this right when he was president by sending over some F-16s for an air strike every now and then to keep Hussein in line, and that that was all that was needed?

So you got played by the evangelicals and the "moral values" crowd on all of this also, huh? You thought Dubya was going to build "a shining city on a hill" in Baghdad and democracy would flourish from there to Tel Aviv?

God, how pathetic.

And I wouldn't care if it weren't for the fact that our people in Iraq (and why the hell are they STILL THERE ANYWAY??!!) will endure more hardship and brutality as a result of the Israeli attacks on Shiites, who we need to help maintain anything that might one day approximate stability in Iraq (all of this has been pointed out by Rubin, I know).

If Dubya really wanted to do us a favor, he'd exchange places with the pig the next time that meal is served. A dead, cooked barnyard animal may possibly bring us approximately the same degree of "leadership" that we currently have on this and other urgent matters.

Update 7/19: Robert Scheer nails it again.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Islander No More

Please allow me a minute or two to recover from my utter "blogger withdrawal" and begin once more by pointing out that I would trade the heat and humidity of Dukes County, Massachusetts for that of the Philadelphia, PA area, primarily Bucks County and Trenton, NJ, in a heartbeat.

After long hours on the road from Woods Hole, MA up Route 28 north (for a rematch with the dreaded Bourne Rotary, which I managed to navigate successfully) and over the Bourne Bridge, across to 195 West over the Falls River into Providence, over the forever-and-a-day passage down 95 South to 278 East over the Tappan Zee Bridge, down the Garden State Parkway and over to the New Jersey Turnpike and back into PA, I am here to announce that I HAVE RETURNED!

I've tried to keep aware of what has been going on a bit, which hasn't been easy since we had such a great time in Katama on Martha's Vineyard over the last week. I tried to scrounge the odd copy of The New York Times and The Boston Globe every now and then, and I've lined up some posting topics that I'll try to get to as soon as possible.

First, though, I should point out how truly special a place Martha's Vineyard is and why it should be treated with care. The island is approximately 20 miles wide, and it boasts a population of about 14,000 or so in off-season which expands to over 100,000 in the summer.

There are no traffic lights on the island anywhere, and there is a hellacious five-way intersection at Vineyard Haven near the upper tip of the island that residents navigate at their utter peril. During the course of two trips (last year and 1998), we managed to get through it without getting tagged by another vehicle (and the added complication of increased moped usage, with the cycles/bikes/whatever the hell they are exactly taking up space on the highway and causing massive backups, didn't help either; a rider was killed on one in Oak Bluffs not far from Vineyard Haven earlier this summer, and there is currently a movement on the island to ban them altogether).

The plant life that springs forward from the island is spectacular. I can remember hyacinths in full bloom eight years ago, and this time around, it looked like the hydrangeas had gone absolutely insane, along with wild roses and impatiens on every corner with any vegetation at all, especially in Edgartown (the "old money" part of the island with wonderful old homes and bed and breakfast lodgings). We spent about a day and a half there when the weather wasn't cooperating (it was mainly dry but overcast for three days - Monday and Friday provided the best sunny weather for the beach).

The highlight of the whole week was probably the catamaran trip from Menemsha (the old fishing part of the island where much of "Jaws" was filmed) to Cuttyhunk Island across Buzzard's Bay above Rhode Island aboard the "Arabella," owned by Hugh Taylor of The Outermost Inn and piloted ably by our captain Croft with fine assistance from first mate Meredith. Croft let the young one take the wheel, and he followed his directions in fine fashion. Hugh met us at the dock when we returned; I was going to BS with him about how much he looked like his brother James, but I could tell how busy a man he was, running the Inn with his wife in high season.

We stayed at the Winnetu, a great inn in Katama with a fine kids program, and they threw a clambake on Wednesday evening, providing a canopy for everyone since the rain that would stay with us for a day or so had settled in. The 1 1/2-pound lobster was delicious along with the other cookout goodies, and the staff made s'mores for the kids afterwards when the magic show was over.

Those are some quick highlights of the trip, and now that we've had this great break, I'll plan to get back to business shortly between restarting the mail and the newspapers and sorting through the heaping pile of laundry. I needed to seriously take myself out of the loop from all of the Bush insanity and refocus a bit (and the first phone message we discovered when we got back was an automated plea from Mikey Fitzpatrick to vote for him...geez, it's summer, dude; isn't it JUST A BIT EARLY to start groveling for votes, especially since you said you'd win anyway and it was just a question of by how much?), and luckily I was able to do that.

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends..."