Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Saturday Prayer

Let us pray (from one of my "field reporters")...

The 23rd Qualm ~ Written by a retired Methodist minister

Bush is my shepherd; I dwell in want. He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests. He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness. He restoreth my fears. He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war, I will find no exit, for thou art in office. Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me. Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion. Thou anointest my head with foreign oil. My health insurance runneth out. Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy term, And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever. -- Annette P. Bingham

And from a mock prayer we turn to the words of a man for whom prayer is anything but insincere (Julia Gorin's latest freeper smear of him will begin momentarily).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday Night Video

And to wrap up this week's commemoration of MTV's 25th anniversary, I now present "She's A Beauty" by The Tubes (Fee Waybill, Re Styles, the late Vince Welnick and company weren't real subtle in the early '80s, as you can see).

Two More For Patrick

These letters appeared in this morning's Bucks County Courier Times.

On July 28th, I had a discussion with a loyal Republican friend. She complained about the scurrilous nature of a campaign mailing from Bucks County Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick.

She expressed anger that the Republican campaign machinery has again singled out Planned Parenthood Association of Bucks County for unfounded attacks.

Rather than addressing violations of her conservative principles of efficient and effective government, fiscal responsibility, and individual liberty in matters of conscience, they have chosen to continue to pander to their "base" with the well-worn alarms about "9/11" and "gay-ban" and their latest wonder product "Mex-out."

So it seems to me that Republicans of a kinder, gentler nature ought to ponder this question: "Had enough"?

Rather than cherishing the forlorn hope that they can "change the party from within" after 12 years of having their principles betrayed since the "Contract on America," maybe they will re-evaluate where their dollars and votes should go.

Robert Eckel
Upper Southampton, PA
OK, that wasn't quite the endorsement for Patrick Murphy that we were looking for. However, this was.

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is not a friend of veterans or of our current servicemen. He has consistently acted as a mere rubber stamp for President Bush's dishonorable policy towards our veterans, flatly rejecting an extension of the military healthcare program to Reserve and National Guard troops, and voting no on a bill to increase funding for veterans health care by $1.82 billion.

As the mother of a current Air Force serviceman, I believe Bucks and our country deserve better than a representative who received a poor, 17 percent rating from the organization of Disabled Veterans of America.

Patrick Murphy will represent our troops in the halls of Congress with both dignity and integrity, rare traits found in this Republican Congress rife with scandal and coercion.

Mary Jeffery
Bensalem, PA
And to read the Murphy campaign's statement defending Rep. Jack Murtha from the most recent round of scurrilous attacks, click here.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (8/4)

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


Indian nuclear deal. Voting 359-68, the House approved an administration plan Wednesday to sell U.S. nuclear technology and fuel to India for civilian purposes even though India has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The bill (HR 5682) requires India to separate civilian and military nuclear programs, open its civilian program to international inspection, and restrict nuclear exports. The bill is now before the Senate.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).
There are times when I wish Chris Smith wasn’t such an anti-choice zealot, because he actually casts some good votes at times, including this one. And I can’t imagine that Allyson Schwartz would have supported this because of her ties to the Jewish community, who apparently don’t trust India (though Israel doesn’t abide by the treaty either).

Most shocking of all to me, though, was Curt Weldon’s fleeting moment of sensibility. I attribute this to the fact that he has visited that area of the world extensively (including 30 visits to Russia), a country towards whom I believe he would harbor a greater allegiance than India. Somehow I think Curt’s buddy Vlad doesn’t want to see anyone else infringing on his nuclear turf, as it were.

As stated in this Counter Punch article, the biggest problem I have is that Dubya is rewarding India for thumbing its nose at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, though it’s not as if Dubya actually cares about treaties and conventions either, as we know all too well by now.

I thought this excerpt from the Counter Punch article was important.

The nuclear weapons states, starting with the United States, have failed to uphold their obligations in Article VI (which promises, as a matter of "inalienable right," full access to peaceful forms of nuclear technology for non-weapons states) to pursue in good faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and beyond even this, to seek general and complete disarmament. The World Court in The Hague back in 1996 unanimously called upon nuclear weapons states to regard Article VI as a solemn legal obligation. Most non-nuclear weapons states have been upset about this failure for years. It is long past time that they do something.
I couldn’t agree more (and everyone who voted “yes” for this apparently doesn’t care about treaty obligations either).

Iran nuclear containment. Voting 192-235, the House Wednesday defeated a bid to block a new U.S. nuclear deal with India (HR 5682, above) until India declares support for U.S. efforts in the United Nations to prevent Iran from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Schwartz and Smith.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Pitts, Saxton and Weldon.
Nice to see that Weldon returned to wingnut territory with this “No” vote – I can relax a bit now.

Guns in disaster zones. Voting 322-99, the House on Tuesday passed a bill (HR 5013) making it illegal for police, the National Guard, and other public-safety personnel to confiscate legal firearms in official disaster zones. The bill gives citizens standing to bring suits directly against first responders who take their guns.

A yes vote was to send the bill to House-Senate conference.

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

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah and Schwartz.
If you drill down from this link, you’ll find that this bill was introduced by Rep. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana (what, no middle name?) because, according to the bill’s text, some individuals who were caught in the Hurricane Katrina disaster had their firearms illegally taken from them in violation of their property rights and Jindal’s (and the NRA’s, of course) interpretation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

I would really be interested to find out if this really happened, or if this is more innuendo along the lines of helicopters being shot at by looters after Katrina hit that was reported by Faux News and other freeper outlets that could not be substantiated. I would accept a link to most major corporate news sources, including CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, or the New York Times.

Electronic medical records. Voting 270-148, the House on Thursday approved federal guidelines to help the U.S. health-care system convert its paper to electronic files that could be instantly shared over the Internet by doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. The Republican-drafted bill (HR 4157) gives the industry at least three years to set technical standards for sharing medical information. The bill contains no substantial federal funding on the rationale that the conversion will pay for itself through efficiencies.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

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

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah and Holden.

Medical-records privacy. Voting 198-222, the House Thursday defeated a Democratic alternative to HR 4157 (above) containing stricter privacy controls over medical records - giving patients the right of consent for the electronic release of their records and assuring that they will be notified if the information is lost, stolen or misused. The measure also required data encryption to protect networks against hackers.

A yes vote backed the Democratic alternative.

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

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.
Just remember, ladies and gentlemen; the next time you are denied coverage for a routine procedure because the charge is not considered “reasonable and customary” or it is “part of a pre-existing condition” that was covered before, or if you start receiving unwanted solicitations for medical services, or if you find that your electronic files are mysteriously missing the next time you seek care from a service provider, you can thank the Repugs for this boneheaded legislation.

So files can be shared “instantly” even though it could take three years to define standards? And this will pay for itself through “efficiencies”?



Minors' abortions. Voting 65-34, the Senate passed a bill Tuesday (S 403) making it a federal crime to transport a minor to another state for an abortion to evade a law in her home state requiring parental notification of planned abortions. The bill sets maximum penalties of $100,000 or one year in jail for those providing the transportation. The bill must be reconciled with a stricter House-passed version.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.) and Rick Santorum (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
This is a tough one. I’m a parent of a son, and it’s honestly hard for me not to support legislation that keeps a parent involved in a decision like this (from a health-care perspective alone).

The problem is that the laws banning abortion in other states that are emerging (most infamously in South Dakota) are SO AWFUL that there MUST be recourse for a young woman in need of an abortion. As far as I’m concerned, this is a result of the anticipated overruling of Roe v. Wade (which WILL come with this court, unfortunately – Justice Anthony Kennedy is the only person who could stand in the way of the Bushites).

I know there’s a lot more to be said on this, but this is where I come down. However, the fact that, as stated, this bill must be reconciled somehow with the House bill means that we still have a window of opportunity to do something.

Sex education. Voting 48-51, the Senate on Tuesday defeated an amendment to S 403 (above) that sought to authorize federal grants to promote sex education as a deterrent to teen pregnancies. In part, the instruction would cover the use of contraceptives and the pill.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

Voting no: Santorum.
Of course they did; that actually makes sense, so they COULDN'T pass it, could they?

And isn’t Little Ricky just too precious the way he keeps “hearting” the base (if you’ve long since grown completely sick of this character and utterly disgusted with him as I and many others have, click here).

Gulf of Mexico drilling. Voting 86-12, the Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill (S 3711) to open about 8.34 million acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

The acreage is projected to hold as many as 1.26 billion barrels of oil and 5.83 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The bill sets a 125-mile buffer zone between the Florida coast and the drilling area. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas would receive 37.5 percent of royalties paid by energy companies, with the Treasury and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund receiving the rest.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Carper, Santorum and Specter.

Voting no: Lautenberg and Menendez.

Not voting: Biden.
That reminds me; I wonder how Mikey’s meeting about alternative energy sources went today (nice to see that the Senate is taking that option so seriously also, isn’t it?).

This week. The Senate will continue to debate a bill opening areas of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. The House is in recess until Sept. 5.
For information on how to contact your member of Congress, go here.

Admiral Joe Leads The Way

If you’re looking for a refreshing change from the typical “politics as usual” sludge that has been ground out for far too long (mainly from the Repug side, but the Dems aren’t innocent either at times), then take a look at this article that appeared recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the campaign of Admiral Joe Sestak running against “Crazy Curt” Weldon in the 7th U.S. House Congressional district (I don’t know if registration is required or not).

It goes without saying that this will continue to be an uphill fight against Weldon, and I don’t care what anybody says; I predict that you will eventually see Dubya or Cheney showing up one of these days for a Weldon fundraiser.

I think this excerpt from the article on the Sestak campaign is worth highlighting:

"…Sestak says he is his own chief architect. Paraphrasing what he says was John F. Kennedy's conclusion after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Sestak said, "Never trust the experts. Listen to them, and then do what you think is right.""

Campaign consultants warned him about other damage-control problems lurking in what they considered dangerously specific position papers. Sestak wrote them himself.

Consultants pressed him, for example, to abandon his call to set a deadline to withdraw from Iraq within a year, saying that many voters wouldn't agree.

He declined. A candidate "should be a leader, shaping public opinion rather than following it,” Sestak said.
And as an example of Joe’s leadership, we have this recent statement on the continued sliming of Rep. John Murtha over his highly-informed comments on the Iraq War.

"Congressman Jack Murtha is currently facing ruthless attacks and the deliberate distortion of his record, simply for speaking out against the status quo on the Iraq War. We should all respect Congressman Murtha for bucking the trend in Washington and advancing new ideas. As a veteran myself, I take this very seriously. I am proud to stand with fmr. Sen. Max Cleland and others and say that I am saddened by those who would abandon civil public debate and discourse over our strategy in Iraq and turn to attacking the record of a distinguished veteran."
I realize that the Repug hate machine will continue to be granted exposure by our pliant corporate media, but still, how many times do these cowards attacking Murtha have to be shown up for what they truly are (as you can see, E.J. Dionne did so last January, pulling his punches somewhat at the end after he made his point, and James Boyce provides a good post here, though his question “Where Are The Democrats” continues to resonate, unfortunately).

Mad Mel

So what do I think of the whole Mel Gibson mess anyway?

I tend to stay out of celebrity-related stories unless it involves politics, but the level of vitriol aimed at Gibson is so high at this moment (and rightly so) that I suppose it’s incumbent on me to say something (I think part of the reason people are so POed is that this mess with Gibson is taking place at the same time as the Israel-Hezbollah War).

Yes, Gibson has spouted his opinion on the Holocaust using wording that comes right from web sites that deny that the Holocaust took place, which is reprehensible. And I probably will never see “The Passion Of The Christ” now with knowledge of the warped version of religiosity practiced by the person primarily responsible for it (and also because Christ’s life was a lot more complicated and meaningful than something that can be supposedly summed up by two hours of torture – to be honest, I wasn’t too keen on seeing the movie anyway for that reason).

However, I would like everyone to step back and consider something for a moment.

Around the time that Gibson was involved in the “Lethal Weapon” series of movies, he professed that he was a fan of The Three Stooges (even going into some Stooges schtick before he blew up a fish tank in the second movie, trying to scare the South African bad guys in the process). Some time after that (a couple of years after “Braveheart” as I recall), Gibson made what turned out to be a great telemovie about the Stooges, with Michael Chiklis of “The Shield” and other roles playing Curly Howard.

As you can read from this link, Moe (Harry Moses Horwitz), Larry (Louis Feinberg, born in Philadelphia), Shemp (Samuel Horwitz), and Curly (Jerome Horwitz) were Jewish. And while I admit that I don’t know if Gibson’s conversion to this bizarro belief system of his took place after he made the movie, I think it’s important to keep this in mind.

I don’t know if Gibson’s career will ever completely recover from this incident, since all of the scavenger columnists will start unearthing every little real or imagined grievance against Gibson now. And I’m not saying this to stick up for Gibson (I don’t know what he said when he was pulled over, and frankly, I don’t care at this moment). I’m just asking that we consider the fact that, if Gibson is truly an anti-Semite now, at least he hasn’t been that way for his whole life.

By the way, speaking of scavenger columnists, what a class move on the part of the Courier Times today to print a picture of Gibson with a Hitler mustache and haircut in the middle of a Cal Thomas “hit piece.” Nothing like trivializing one of the darkest chapters in human history by trying to link it to a screwed-up movie star (the propaganda machine working overtime on this one).

Stuff like this is part of the reason why, though Hezbollah is run by an evil bunch bent on Israel’s destruction, I’m not terribly sympathetic to the adversary in that war either.

Today's Reason To Vote For Ned Lamont

As I've said before, for anyone who may be reading this from Connecticut, take a good look at who's chortling along with the other numbskulls.

This will probably show up a time or two again before next Tuesday, by the way.

Update: Way to "scrape the bottom of the barrel," Joe (via Atrios).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cake For The Rich, Crumbs For The Poor

More on the minimum wage travesty from Dr. Dean...

Here's the question that the right-wing extremists who control the Republican Congress will put before the Senate:

"Over seven million Americans can have a raise of $2.15 an hour by raising the minimum wage, but only if we give a tax cut to 7,500 ultra-rich people at a cost of $753 billion dollars."

It's despicable, it's wrong, and we need to stop it.

Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist has said that this will be the only vote he will allow on a minimum wage increase this year.

Enough is enough. Contact your Senators and tell them to reject this shameful bill by signing this petition:

Click here

Democrats have been fighting for a minimum wage increase, but Republicans won't allow a straight up-or-down vote on it.

Now Frist and his right-wing allies say they will allow a vote on the minimum wage -- but only in the form of a bill that includes a huge giveaway to ultra-wealthy Republican donors.

We want folks to do well, but America shouldn't have to sacrifice billions of dollars to give only a small group of millionaires a tax break while millions of hard working Americans - some with two or more jobs - are barely able to make ends meet.

What's more, the Republicans' so-called minimum wage increase contains provisions that would actually strip wages from over a million people in seven states where they earn that state's minimum wage in addition to their tips.

This isn't responsible government -- and we're not going to take it.

Let your Senators know that they should reject it:

Click here

This is the kind of sad, twisted game that the Republican-controlled Congress has played for years.

We have troops at war without proper armor, a faltering reconstruction on the Gulf Coast, and a president openly defying the laws they pass -- and the Republican Congress gives us things like this.

Republicans have managed to find time to vote multiple times on raising their own salaries, though -- to the tune of over $35,000 during the 10 years since the last time they raised the minimum wage. Democrats, on the other hand, are opposed to Congressional pay increases until there's an increase in the minimum wage.

The Republican leadership's priorities are backwards and out of the mainstream. Even one moderate Republican Senator called the tactics around the minimum wage bill "unbecoming of the Senate".

It's up to the rest of us to stop this right now. Sign this petition opposing this sham bill:

Click here

I'm tired of a do-nothing Republican Congress that plays games with people's lives.

There's work to be done, and it's clear that the Republicans won't do it. But we're going to take these issues to the people and in less than 100 days Americans will have an opportunity to change course.

Thank you for being a part of making it happen.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

P.S. -- Here are some simple facts that can't be ignored:

Someone working full-time for the $5.15 federal minimum wage makes just $10,700 a year. A single mom with two kids who works full-time for the minimum wage is about $6,000 below the poverty line.

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at the same rate since 1997. Since then, Republican leaders have raised the salaries of Senators seven times. Salaries of lawmakers have gone up by $35,000 -- almost three times the entire yearly income of someone on minimum wage.

The real value of the minimum wage is more than $3.00 below what it was a generation ago, and right now has its lowest buying power in over 50 years.

The minimum wage is the lowest it has been in over 50 years relative to the average wage.

Raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour adds up to more than one year of groceries, over 9 months of rent, a year and a half of heat and electricity, or full tuition for a community college degree.

Please do what you can to help call attention to this vitally important issue.

The world's richest and most powerful country must do better.
Indeed, and here's more on this from diarist Nathan Newman at the Daily Kos.

General Nonsense

Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East, refuses to rule out the possibility of permanent bases in Iraq here (dated last April, around the same time that Dubya said it would be up “to future presidents and future governments of Iraq” to decide when our troops should come home).

The only part of Erik Leaver’s article that I object to, by the way is his mention of Ron Wyden’s plan for the next three years. I applaud Wyden for trying to get specifics from the crooked Bush cabal, but the notion of three more years of this illegal war is too sickening to contemplate (and we are LOSING…I know saying that isn’t “supporting our troops” according to some right-wing hammerheads, but actually it is, because I’m trying in my way to get them out of that slaughterhouse – despite all of their heroic efforts, they’ve been undercut by what passes for our “leadership”).

And today, Abizaid said that Iraq “could move towards civil war.”

I have news for General Abizaid; according to this statement from pg. 4 of this article by Ruy Teixeira of The Century Foundation (link), we’re already there:

“The public…overwhelmingly believes that the Iraq situation now qualifies as a civil war. In (a) June CBS poll, 82 percent agreed that ‘there is a civil war going on in Iraq among different groups of Iraqis right now.’ Only 12 percent disagreed. Not surprisingly, then, the American public also lacks confidence that a good outcome from the war is likely. In (an) early June Gallop poll, for example, only 19 percent thought the U.S. would ‘definitely’ win the war, alongside another 29 percent who thought the U.S. would ‘probably’ win the war in Iraq. In contrast, 21 percent of the respondents believe the U.S. can win the war but won’t; another 27 percent believe the U.S. simply can’t win.”
This quote from Gen. Peter (Rumsfeld’s Sock Puppet Flunkie) Pace also caught my attention:

"Shiite and Sunni are going to have to love their children more than they hate each other."
General, the Sunnis and the Shiities consider us and the Israelis to be pretty much the same at this point anyway. You don’t need to steal a quote from one of that country’s former leaders to amplify that.

From Our Paycheck To Their Pocket

The national minimum wage legislation passed by the House and now under consideration by the Senate is, as far as I’m concerned, another reason why only a fool would trust the Repugs with their money (unless we’re talking about the investor class, of course).

So, if I am to understand this scam of a bill currently being debated in the Senate, a service worker in Nevada, California or Washington state could earn their previously lower wage with tips on top of that wage, but now, they would receive a wage adjusted to include tips that would equal the higher wage.

I’ll try to decipher this as follows:

Old wage: $5.15 per hour
Tips: $3 per hour (approx.)
Total: $8.15 per hour

New wage: $4.25 (adjusted to accommodate new minimum wage total)
Tips: $3 per hour (approx.)
Total: $7.25
And this is a good thing? To quote a service industry spokesman (from the CNN article)...

“No provision results in the lowering of wages for any worker. The purpose of the provision is to allow employers with tipped employees to count their employees' tips as wages for purposes of meeting their minimum wage obligation," Brendan Flanagan, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement Tuesday after Democrats began raising concerns.
This excerpt from the story that I used for my little math exercise above explains why that first sentence from Flanagan is a lie.

Except for in the seven states at issue, employers of tipped employees now pay only a portion of the minimum wage -- starting at $2.13 an hour -- as long as the employees draw enough tips to make up the rest. A tipped employee is defined as one who regularly receives more than $30 per month in tips.
And try to imagine the standard of living, by the way, for someone who earns an hourly rate of $2.13 an hour and earns about $30 a month in tips.

Under the GOP-written legislation, according to Democrats, that same system would go into effect in the seven states where employers now pay the full wage. So instead of getting to keep tips on top of their minimum wage in California, Nevada and the other states, tipped workers would be paid a base wage of $2.13 an hour and employers could use their tips to make up the rest.
So basically, this is legislation aimed at actually discouraging other states below the federal standard from raising the wage because otherwise the workers would be penalized by having to now include tips as part of the $7.25 per hour.

And of course, the other piece of this bogus bill is – yep, you guessed it – a planned further cut in the estate tax (Bradley Whitford, by the way, was so right about the GOP and tax cuts) though Dr. Bill “Cat Killer” Frist has already excluded the possibility of a estate tax cut from pension overhaul legislation (to wit: if you had a defined benefit pension plan, kiss it goodbye – it will be up to you to select your own asset allocation, transfer your funds into a cash balance or defined contribution plan and lose any earnings you may have accumulated) so Frist would REALLY have to tap dance if he planned to keep the estate tax provision in minimum wage legislation, and the fact that Harry Reid, among others, has come out so strongly against this Repug sham legislation (why wouldn’t he?) is a good sign also.

Another part of this story that interested me was this quote from Zach Wamp, this conservative Repug senator from Tennessee (all redundant, I realize) that can be found from this link to a New York Times story (hope it doesn’t go “behind the wall” soon)...

Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee, said Democrats were upset with the legislation because Republicans had found a clever way to link the two. “You have seen us outfox you on this issue tonight,” Mr. Wamp told Democrats in the floor debate.
(Why did I know that those fine folks at ThinkProgress were all over this, by the way?)

Aw, gee gosh, Zach, ah got so plum een-spired bah youl lil’ taunt thar that ah got all interested-like in yol’ lil’ ol’ story an’ found this link.

And from the Wikipedia story...

During his 1994 election campaign, Wamp admitted that he had had a problem with cocaine but asserted that he had stopped using it years ago. After abusing alcohol and cocaine for several years in college and while holding a photography job based in Chattanooga, he checked himself into a drug rehabilitation clinic in 1984. In the clinic, he pledged to his family to turn his life around. As part of his experience at the clinic, he is now devoutly religious Southern Baptist. In the Congress, he has fought to make it easier for drug addicts enter drug rehabilitation as well as other measures to help addicts seek help.
I give Wamp credit for overcoming his dependencies and helping others, but it seems like all of the Repugs who manage to kick substance abuse to some degree end up using that as an excuse to try and shove their version of morality down everyone else’s throats. By such strict (some would say obnoxious) adherence to their own beliefs and attempts to marginalize those of others in the process, it can be argued that these people ended up trading in one addiction for another.

And this is the second time that Zach has uttered something recently that was straight out of the Foghorn Leghorn school of political elocution, by the way, and here was the first (from this prior post):

``We should not and cannot rewrite history to ignore our spiritual heritage," said Representative Zach Wamp, a Tennessee Republican. ``It surrounds us. It cries out for our country to honor God."
Let’s “honor God” by taunting the political opposition party, right Zach?

And by the way, Wamp is running for re-election, and to learn more about Wamp’s worthy opposition (in what would probably be a hell of an uphill fight, I realize, given Wamp’s constituents), you can read more from this Swing State Project link.

On another note, I know posting activity continues to be sporadic. I hope to be back on track by no later than early next week.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

In Honor Of Those Who Have Fallen

As a tribute of sorts to Marine Cpl. Philip E. Baucus (my condolences to you and all who have lost loved ones, Senator)...

Theater Of The Mindless (continued)

To me, when television touches something, it is irrevocably changed, and usually not for the better.

As an example, do you think half the nonsense that went on with the O.J. Simpson criminal trial would have taken place if Judge Lance Ito had allowed cameras in the courtroom? Does anyone not believe that allowing cameras into the U.S. Congress, a move that has been partly beneficial, has also spawned a whole generation of know-nothing blowhards who have no clue about formulating policy or legislation but know very well how to pose and smile for a camera?

As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of MTV today, these thoughts come to my mind.

The network came up with some truly fascinating, groundbreaking and highly unusual visuals for 80s-era contemporary hits (some of my favorites were the cows wandering around for no apparent reason in "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics, the guy jumping off a building ledge who then turned into a bird in flight in "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" by Yes, Peter Wolf getting pelted with the girlie mags in "Angel Is A Centerfold," and anything by Devo).

Some of the "three-and-a-half-minute-movie" types of videos of a conceptual nature were interesting also, and the two that stood out for me that I can recall immediately were "Time After Time," Cyndi Lauper's performance of a song by The Hooters, and Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues," which had dramatic scenes, and a highly dramatic resolution, right out of "Miami Vice."

But to me, someone else's interpretation of the visuals in the mind of the songwriter usually distracted from the song itself. As an example, could you imagine if someone had made a video of "My Girl" by The Temptations when the song was originally recorded? Part of the joy of the song is in the mental exercise you perform when conjuring up the images in the wonderful lyrics as sung by David Ruffin: "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day...when it's cold outside, I've got the month of May...I've got sooo much honey, the bees envy me...I've got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees."

If some pseudo-Hollywood hack had made the video, there might have been eruptions of plastic explosives and mist of dry ice everywhere leading into the fabulous bass line that begins the song.

Still, though, I come to praise MTV, not to bury it. It provided a diversion at times that was usually pleasing, despite the fact that it gave birth to a lot of acts that were marginal from a musical point of view but exceptional when it came to acting and dramatic production (can you say, "Men At Work"?). Also, I know the network was responsible for all kinds of pop/trash culture highlights/lowlights, but the CNN article seems to do a good job of recounting all of that.

And for the record, launching Beavis and Butt-head was truly inspired also.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Bushco's Theme Song

World Party performs "Ship of Fools" at The Secret Policeman's Ball.

George Tells (Is) A Joke

I haven't had much to say about the dumbass in chief lately, so I hope this makes up for it somewhat (and for anyone who may be reading this from Connecticut, take a good look at who's chortling along with the other numbskulls).

This gets a little intense at the end, by the way, but for good reason I think.

Stay In Bucks County, Congressman

Apparently, 8th District Bucks County U.S. House Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (I guess the whole “Pat” Murphy thing is because I and others have called him “Mike”? I have no idea.) believes that the issues facing the majority of residents in his district aren’t enough.

I suppose that holding hearings about flooding faced by residents of Yardley borough and Lower Makefield Township (which, of course, resulted in the STUNNING revelation that NOTHING IS TO BLAME) don’t consume enough of his time. And I guess passing his precious “Delete Online Predators Act” in the House and trying to do the same thing in the Senate isn’t enough to “fill his plate” either (though anything that draws resources from the attempt to pass that farcical legislation and get it written into law, thus heading off the likely legal challenges, is probably a good thing, I’ll admit). And sending out one of your minions to criticize "fat cat" Patrick Murphy is equally absurd.

No, Mikey has to do more, more, MORE I suppose to keep his name in the headlines (a canny political move, though it isn’t worth a lot when it comes to providing actual constituent service).

So he’s now speaking out on behalf of the Boy Scouts.

In Philadelphia.

(And I’ll give you a hint; if you guessed whether or not it has to do with “Hating The Gays,” then I’ll send a copy of “The Death of Outrage” by Bill Bennett to you as soon as I can.)

OK, I’ll be fair and note that Fitzpatrick’s congressional district includes two wards in Philadelphia, which is literally such a small area of coverage that it affords Fitzy just enough of an opportunity to stick his nose somewhere that it doesn’t belong (actually, Philadelphia lost wards to Bucks County in the last redistricting scam pulled off by the Repugs in the 90s, in an attempt to whittle away some of the city’s Democratic voters and submerge them into the heavily-Republican 8th district).

(I should also note that I’m AMAZED to actually find the content I need from the Courier Times web site, by the way.)

This link shows you where Fitzpatrick's Philadelphia wards are located (the 8th district is outlined in black).

And by the way, the office of the Philadelphia chapter of the Boy Scouts is located in the vicinity of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway downtown, which is NOWHERE NEAR the outline of Fitzpatrick’s district.

I found this excerpt from the story to be particularly amusing:

In a phone interview, Fitzpatrick said with gun violence and gang activity on the rise, the Boy Scouts' presence in Philadelphia was more needed than ever.

“This is a moment in time, in history, more than any other, when the city of Philadelphia needs the Boy Scouts,” Fitzpatrick said.
Uh, sure. With all due respect to the Scouts, I sincerely hope they never attempt to venture to “the badlands” of North Philadelphia near 3rd and Indiana (the site written about so hauntingly in Steve Lopez’s landmark book) in an attempt to convince drug dealers that their poison is ruining people’s lives. I’m not going to speculate regarding the unspeakable acts that could take place if that ever happened.

I realize that the Boy Scouts make valuable contributions in their communities, and for that they should be applauded and supported, but for Fitzpatrick to think that they could make a dent in the endemic poverty and violence running rampant throughout not just Philadelphia but everywhere in this country shows an uninformed naiveté worthy of Gomer Pyle.

And I get a kick sometimes when I read the inherent anti-Philadelphia attitude of many residents and public officials of Bucks County. They NEVER miss an opportunity to take a shot at the city where I grew up when it suits them.

Yes, Philadelphia has problems like most big cities, but if Fitzpatrick thinks issuing some sound bytes to be eagerly consumed by the lapdog Courier Times is actually going to solve real-world issues for the city’s residents, then he’s even more delusional than I imagined.

Monday Music Musings

Three notes for your consideration:

- Based on this story, I think I’ve come up with the next “Reality TV” series (oh OK, I’ll be fair...they were talking about this on WXPN radio this morning)…

“Celebrity Sanitation,” where a bunch of washed-up stars have to drag themselves out of bed at 4 AM every day to haul waste (“OK, Flavor Flav, turn on the backup alarm; Lou Ferrigno, crush the trash in the compactor; Pamela Anderson Lee Rock (or whatever her name is), shake those cans” :- )

- DownWithTyrrany via Atrios informs us that Crosby, Stills, and Nash will be touring with Neil Young and echoing the message of Neil’s “Living With War,” so be warned…it’s going to be a kickass rock show with a message in part, and if you’re expecting a festival of classic rock standards and a nice, mellow time, you’re likely to be disappointed (and I APPLAUD THEM FOR IT!!).

Also, Patrick Murphy is mentioned in the nine-minute documentary you can view from DownWithTyranny (I'll check it out later).

- When you think of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, The Drifters, Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, Brook Benton, Solomon Burke, The Spinners, and MANY OTHER great musical acts, one name links them all, and that is Ahmet Ertegun, who, with his brother, Nesuhi, co-founded Atlantic Records in the late 1940s, the label for which these great artists recorded. Today is Ahmet’s 83rd birthday, so let’s all wish him well.

(Don’t worry; I’ll try to get back to bashing Dubya and company as soon as I can.)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Theater Of The Mindless

In honor of MTV's 25th birthday this Tuesday, I present the very first video played on August 1, 1981, the prophetically-titled "Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles, with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, who joined Yes for a brief period some time later.

If you're so inclined, please leave a comment with your favorite and possibly-not-so-favorite MTV memories to share, and I'll try to post more extensively on this in a few days.

(I know I've been going overboard with the "YouTube" videos, so I'll try to "lighten up" a bit with that.)

My Other Musical Influence

Bruce Cockburn's video for "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" (lip-synching is slightly off, along with somewhat bizarro visuals...I don't think you're likely to see this many other places but here; enjoy).