Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday Videos

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (?) with "Face Down" (odd name, but they rock)...

...and Happy Birthday to Donald "Duck" Dunn of Booker T. and the M.G.'s ("Hang 'Em High," from the '80s I believe, with Steve Cropper and Booker T. Jones of course, and a YouTube commenter said that the drummer is Danny Gottlieb)...

...and color me embarrassed for this belated happy birthday to Tina Weymouth of The Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club ("Life During Wartime" from "Stop Making Sense," truly one of the most awesome rock concert films of all time).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (11/24)

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


Vietnam trade. On a 228-161 vote, the House failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass a bill to begin permanent, normal U.S. trade with Vietnam. The bill (HR 5602) needed a supermajority for passage because it was debated under shortcut procedures; Republican leaders said they might seek another vote in December under normal rules.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), 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.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Here is some background on this.

As noted in the CNN article, there are few reasons why this could have happened. One could be the fact that this vote was “fast tracked” and those voting no wanted more time to study it. Also, labor pushed for a “no” vote, and my guess is because of concerns about possible (likely?) offshoring of jobs and erosion of compensation. Another possible reason could be Vietnam continues to show religious intolerance.

This isn’t a big deal, though, because they’ll take another shot at this in a week or so. Dubya just wanted something to crow about on his recent trip over there (he really can’t do too much of that any more, can he?).

Also, Weldon was always partial to voting yes on issues affecting Southeast Asia and Russia also. It's a shame to be losing his contacts in those regions on behalf of the 7th district, but it's a price definitely worth paying given his myriad other problems.

Underage drinking. The House passed, 373-23, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 864) authorizing $72 million over four years for additional federal programs to curb underage drinking.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for the bill.


Indian nuclear deal. The Senate approved, 85-12, a plan by the Bush administration to sell U.S. civilian nuclear supplies to India despite its refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The bill (S 3709) requires India to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs, open the civilian program to international inspection, and restrict nuclear exports. It now goes to conference with the House.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for the bill.
And all Philadelphia-area senators are as guilty as Bushco for ignoring the NPT also.

Indian nuclear provision. Senators rejected, 71-25, an amendment to S 3709 (above) requiring U.S. presidents to certify that U.S. nuclear materials transferred to India would not be diverted to military use.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
They couldn’t even support a symbolic amendment – the MBNA Twins “distinguish” themselves yet again.

Ahead. Congress is in recess until Dec. 4.
Don't look for too much more from this session, especially they've already said that they're going to leave budget decisions for the new Congress in January.

"High Noon" For Bushco In Iraq

This is one of those “trying to bring order to chaos” posts of mine (seems to be a full time job anymore).

David Swanson of the group After Downing Street reported today on another “Downing Street” type memo which states that it was a foregone conclusion for Bushco that they were going to invade Iraq as of February 2002, and this one originated from the Australian Wheat Board.

As Swanson asked, “Why are we hearing about this now”? Here’s the answer:

“…the minutes have been released by a government investigation into AWB's bribing of Saddam Hussein's government in order to win contracts to export Australian wheat to Iraq. That investigation may now be expanded in Australia. It's also one that the incoming Democratic chairs of the House and Senate agriculture committees in the U.S. committed last week to investigating. What will they do now, with the wheat bribe scandal having taken this interesting twist?”
And as the link to the article in “The Age” notes…

“(The Democrats) claim the Republican Party went soft on the prior investigation as ‘pay-off’ in exchange for Prime Minister John Howard sending Australian troops to Iraq, The Australian reports.”
This is an important development, but I don’t think it’s too earth shattering of a revelation that Bushco wanted to invade Iraq at this point (I’ve read that they wanted to go in much earlier, before 9/11 in fact, though I don’t have a link to support that at the moment).

This link to an article on the World Socialist Web Site may have seemed like alarmist agit-prop around February 2002, about the same time frame that AWB chairman Trevor Flugge informed John Dauth, who was Australia’s UN ambassador at that time, of Bushco’s intentions in Iraq, but now I would say that the WSWS article was highly prescient, especially since I think the only way to describe Iraq now is to call it a bloodbath.

Why any sane person would still be debating about whether or not a civil war is currently going on is something I cannot possibly understand. I also believe it is an act of utter madness for our government to not address the U.N. Security Council at this point and say that international intervention is required to try and stabilize the region and prevent the war from escalating.

After the most recent events in Iraq, this may truly be the “point of no return” on the question of a wider regional conflict.

And as far as I’m concerned, this brings us back to the question of impeachment.

I should have saved this link since I can’t find it now (I have trouble with this stuff on The Daily Kos), but I read Markos Moulitsas making disparaging remarks the other day about the “impeach Bush” crowd, arguing that Cheney would be worse (assuming he’s not the de facto president anyway) and that we should concentrate on helping Democrats through the electoral process instead. I think focusing on elections versus hearings is wise also, but it’s wrong to automatically disqualify impeachment as an option for purposes of political pragmatism.

What to do, then?

I think this other post from The Daily Kos makes a lot of sense (and by the way, even though it seems to be arguing against impeachment, I agree with its methodology – it states that Congress should build the case gradually and let the facts dictate where the investigations should go, and we should be there to report on what happens; you would think Congress would do this anyway, but it’s easy for investigations to get poisoned through partisanship, and that's why we need to be the gatekeepers).

And buried further down in the comments is a link to another post by Billmon which gives some direction for John Conyers, John Dingell, Henry Waxman, and other Democrats running committees that could be part of ongoing investigations.

When it comes to the subject of impeachment with Bushco, I think of The Old West, and I consider it the loaded .45 sitting on the table in a bar when playing poker with a bunch of card cheats. If they dealt from the bottom of the deck or slipped in an extra ace somewhere, they knew they could get a bullet in the belly. At the very least, it should be an omnipresent threat. And the chamber should NEVER be emptied.

Iraq is but one of many messes (though the biggest one) created by this bunch for which they must be must be held accountable.

A Trip He Should Have Taken

Repug Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona was busy traveling this year, even though he is due to retire from Congress at the end of this session, with some speculating that the reason is because of his alleged ties to the Mark Foley scandal (Kolbe has been described in some reports as “an openly gay Republican,” which I’m sure puts him distinctly in a minority).

According to this AP report…

As chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, export financing and related programs, Kolbe weighs in on numerous international issues.

But Kolbe took the trips after his committee approved the foreign-operations bill on May 25, which is one of his key responsibilities. His first privately paid trip of the year was to Istanbul, Turkey, between May 29 and June 4.
As long as Kolbe is doing his “globe trotting,” I think he should make a stop in Iraq, which I believe would be a first for him. I think that’s the least he could do given his idiotic quote that I referred to in this previous post from nearly a year ago (long before the Foley scandal).

And speaking of trips, it looks there’s some confusion over whether or not “Deadeye Dick” actually spent part of Thanksgiving with our troops in Iraq. I would say that a visit on his part is long overdue, especially for a holiday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Road More Traveled

To anyone reading this, I hope you have a happy and restful turkey day with family and/or friends. And if you have to embark anywhere for that purpose, I hope you have safe travels en route to your Thanksgiving celebration.

If you live anywhere near where I’m typing this at the moment, it’s possible that you may have to get from point A to point B via the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is the very first superhighway constructed in this country.

As of yesterday, there has been some discussion of exploring issues related to a public/private partnership of the turnpike as a means to raise funds for highway and infrastructure repair throughout the state. I think exploring this is a good idea.

Aside from doing this to try and make a dent in a $1.7 billion gap in funding for the repair I mentioned above, there are several other reasons why I believe that we need an infusion of new problem solving ideas here, to say nothing of generating revenue.

- We need to find some way to establish oversight of the PA Turnpike Commission, if for no other reason then the fact that I’d like to know how the money collected in toll revenue is being spent. I know that Governor Ed Rendell, who strongly supports this move, is on the commission, and I trust him to do the right thing, but it would be nicer if we had more to go on here than his good faith.

- Perhaps such a partnership could be used to speed up the glacial pace of Penndot turnpike construction. I don’t believe that there is a repair or expansion project between the Norristown and Valley Forge, Pa. exits at the moment, but this is a rare occurrence.

- It’s difficult to comprehend how disgusting the rest stops are on this road unless you’ve driven extensively in other states. Maryland seems to do a good job of maintaining clean and well-presented rest stops with lots of amenities, but the stops on the New York State Thruway are easily the best that I’ve ever seen. Anything that could improve this for the Pa. Turnpike would be welcome as far as I’m concerned.
I know that anything involving privatization involves, ultimately, more money out of my pocket, and that doesn’t make me happy. However, if this is what it takes to bring the turnpike up to speed in a number of ways (sorry for the pun), then I would say that at least partial privatization is an idea whose time has come.

A Tale Of Two Cities

Yesterday, the scene of a murder of a prominent, popular politician was Beirut.

Forty three years ago today, it was Dallas.

(One of my links in last years's post to quotes from JFK is now broken, so here's an updated link.)

Another Unlearned Lesson From Vietnam

And this is particularly mind-blowing considering the sacrifice of the person in question from that war.

John McCain uttered these words about Iraq in a recent AP interview, courtesy of Atrios and The American Prospect…

"I believe victory is still attainable," the Arizona Republican says. "But without additional combat forces we will not win this war."

In carefully scripted language, McCain then adds: If the country does not have the will to do what it takes to win in Iraq -- send in more forces -- then U.S. troops should not be made to serve more tours of duty.
“If the country does not have the will to do what it takes,” huh, John? Is that so, Mr. Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee for 2008?

There is nothing wrong with the “will” of this country. This country has always had plenty of will, especially after 9/11 when we were unified to go after Osama bin Laden (remember him?), overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan, and try to install a government that was friendly to us. But we know all too well what happened after we achieved a temporary victory over there; Dubya and the Repugs created a feeble pretext to attack Iraq, which had no connection to anything except a lot of oil.

This country has the will to do the right thing, and except for the efforts of our service people, other coalition forces, some contracting personnel and innocent Iraqis struggling to survive, there is nothing honorable going on in that country. We have the will to fight for a just cause, and the Iraq war does not qualify as such any longer, assuming it ever did at all.

That is the main reason, Senator, why your Republican Party lost Congress on November 7th. That vote was the will of the people. We want our military pulled back out of this chaos to the point where we can redeploy some forces and start sending others home. We don’t want more troops sent into this carnage.

If you are this ignoring our will and preferring your own, then you not only should not be elected president, but you shouldn’t be serving in government, period.

Wednesday Videos

Happy belated birthday to Brian Ritchie of The Violent Femmes ("Blister In The Sun" - not quite sure what's going on with this video, though I know it involves John Cusack and Alan Arkin in the movie "Grosse Point Blank" and, apparently, an assassination attempt of Socks The Cat, a former Clinton White House pet - ??)...

...and I read recently that Iggy Pop and the Stooges are currently recording an album of new material, which I guess is what washed-up '80s bands do any more (maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, but I'm not holding my breath - anyway, here's "Lust For Life," mixed in with another movie, and this one is "Trainspotting" with Ewan McGregor before he became young Obiwan Kenobi)...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hail The “Lock N’ Load” GOP

(This program note – posting will be sporadic as we get closer to Thanksgiving and “Black Friday.”)

You can probably imagine how I felt when I read this Letter To The Editor published in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning…

There is one good thing that came from this election. It shows that the Republicans are better losers than the Democrats. George Allen, being the gentleman that he is, conceded. If the shoe had been on the other foot, with Democrats as the losers, this would not have so easily happened.

George Bush is reaching out as he did in 2000. I just hope that the Democrats do not stab him in the back this time. He worked with and praised Ted Kennedy; then Kennedy turned on him. Last year, he appointed Bill Clinton to a prestigious job, and then Clinton trashed Bush during a trip to Europe.

The wayward Republicans were sent home or to jail. The wayward Democrats were sent back to Washington.

Charles M. Jones
Oh, that’s funny Charles. May I call you Chuck? I’m not trying to demean the legendary Warner Brothers cartoonist and producer, but it’s just that it helps me to think of Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff and hitting the ground far away with a tiny puff of smoke. I wish that would happen to your letter.

If Ted Kennedy “turned on him,” it’s because Dubya promised to sign onto Kennedy’s education reforms as part of “No Child Left Behind,” and then refused to fund them, making Kennedy look like a chump for trusting Dubya (a familiar reaction with this guy). And I don’t recall what he’s talking about with Clinton, though I’m sure that’s lacking the proper context also.

And in terms of recent freeper newspaper correspondence, it has only gotten worse from there.

As for the Bucks County Courier Times, they published Guest Opinions this weekend from Scott Bartie, who belittled Democrats and liberals for doing what we could to fight global warming, and Don Mihalek, who said that anyone who didn’t vote for Mikey Fitzpatrick in the recent PA-08 U.S. House election won by Patrick Murphy was guilty of inflicting “collateral damage” (just so precious, and I have it on good information that a response is on the way to both of them).

I was going to let all of this rest until I read the following rant that the Courier Times published this morning (“words of wisdom” from Charles Lauble of Langhorne Manor, a life-long resident (of course) and historian - ?).

If Lauble hadn’t said that liberals were cowards or if he hadn’t attacked Ed Rendell, I would have left him alone with his misty Mayberry-esque memories.

Reading the local newspapers and watching television over the past few weeks has been very depressing considering the hundreds of murders in Philadelphia and the devastating tragedy in Lancaster County which resulted in the deaths of several young Amish girls.

The most depressing part is that few of the liberal politicians or the mainstream media have the courage to address root causes of our society’s escalating problems. They only want to deal with symptoms, taking the cowardly approach to our rapidly deteriorating culture. These “leaders” and we ourselves are enabling and promoting the perversion and evil that is breaking down our civil order.

Being a 66-year-old, life-long resident of Bucks County, I can relate to how our area has declined. Years ago there were actually rifle clubs in the local schools and students brought their rifles to school and put them in their lockers. Did anyone even think about committing an act of violence? No!

The vast majority of households had loaded firearms back then. As teenagers, we carried rifles through Langhorne, stopped at the hardware store, got ammunition and headed north along the Neshaminy Creek for target practice. Did anyone in town call the police because they felt threatened? No!

In elementary school, some of the most popular Christmas presents were pen knives and cap pistols; we took them to school to play with at recess. With our knives we would play Mumbly Peg or carve whistles. Did our teachers fear us? No!

From the 1930s to the late 1950s, the Niebauer Bus Lines ran from the Harriman section of Bristol, Pa. to Newtown. Hunters would ride the bus to their hunting location in the country carrying their firearms and then get back on the bus to go home carrying their catch of the day. Was anyone scared or in fear of his or her life back then? No!

What has happened to today’s society? How come the terrible atrocities that occur with regularity in our country today were so foreign 40 years ago?

It began in the late 1960s, when morals, ethics and virtues began to be challenged. This initiated the decline of our culture.

Back then, our teachers and parents were role models who taught us to know control and to sacrifice thyself (sic). They also taught – and enforced – that freedom and rights come with duties and responsibilities. The schools at that time were not infested with drugs, violence, suicide, and the rationalizing of socially maladjusted students’ behavior and lack of self-discipline. Is there some correlation here?

Our teachers and parents from long ago stressed that the undisciplined exercise of our rights and freedoms leads to violence, anarchy and destruction. It now appears that our mentors were in actuality predicting our future.

The breakdown of the family has been socially accepted and even celebrated. Children no longer grow up in the stable environment of a father and mother and one home to live in. They grow up with the perverted morality of the streets. These perverted lifestyles and traits are rationalized and defended by liberalism and “mainstream” media today.

Today these liberals (the majority being Democrat – of course, Lauble forgets the “ic” – but there are many Republicans too) come up with pabulum for solutions that don’t deal with the real problem of our decline. There’s one in Harrisburg who was mayor of Philadelphia for eight years. Another is the current mayor. Murders are an everyday occurrence and children are in the line of fire constantly. Has the drug traffic and murder rate in the city been controlled? No, it’s gotten worse.

We need moral, ethical leaders with courage, virtue, wisdom, character, and common sense who challenge the masses to embrace a moral culture, and forcefully encourage those people and institutions that contribute and perpetuate our social decline for us to be a good and great nation.

If you care about your children and grandchildren’s future and safety, wake up, and do your part to reverse our cultural decline!
Since Lauble provides no specifics (typical), I will focus on only one aspect of his argument, and that is the cheap and easy availability of guns in Pennsylvania.

I guess Lauble believes that we should allow gun clubs to flourish once more. This is not only a laughable sentiment, but a truly dangerous one, given the fact that, according to Bucks County law enforcement authorities, gangs based in Trenton are making their way into this area (with “shock troops” leaving calling cards with graffiti full of coded messages in visible areas).

And though it’s disingenuous at least to see Lauble pretend to care about Philadelphia, does he know that the homicide rate is influenced heavily by the “straw” purchases of guns that could be regulated if Harrisburg weren’t completely beholden to the National Rifle Association (with “liberal” governor Ed Rendell among other politicians, most notably Dwight Evans, trying to pass legislation to end this madness)?

And by the way, I have a message for Lauble and anyone else out there who believes that gun deaths in Philadelphia are attributable to liberal social engineering gone wrong, perpetuation of a culture of laziness and a lack of personal accountability, and any of the other freeper boilerplate when it comes to gun violence.

I absolutely dare you to stand up in the middle of a viewing or a funeral for another victim of gun violence and spout this blather.

I absolutely dare you. Leave the security and confines of your workstation or Internet café somewhere and try spouting this nonsense in front of a grieving family member, relative, friend, or parent.

Far from being “better losers than the Democrats,” as Chuck Jones said above, in the aftermath of the recently passed election, I see the Repugs and their sympathizers showing themselves to be the callow, uninformed whiners that they are now and always.

We Used To Do Stuff Like This

Development of a fusion process for clean energy (or at least working towards that long-term goal) is a positive step towards freeing the world from oil dependency, though I was dismayed in the least to read this note in the story…

The United States never offered to host the project largely because to do so would have required assumption of a much larger share of its cost.
Oh, but we don’t have a problem with tax breaks for Paris Hilton, do we? But invest in technology and create jobs, especially with the French?

You must be crazy!

Let The Liberal Orgy Begin!

This story appeared on CNN last week, and though I can’t determine if it is inaccurate, I believe it is highly disingenuous because it implies that, with the congressional takeover by the Democrats, we will now witness all manner of hedonistic excesses in the name of advancing gays and lesbians, including every possible ethnic or sexual minority in hate crimes legislation, and providing birth control and abortion on demand from now into remote posterity.

To say that anyone who believes that also believes in Santa and his elves and the Easter bunny is being kind.

I have no issue whatsoever with Nancy Keenan of NARAL and Cecile Johnson of Planned Parenthood making their respective cases (actually, the issue I have with Keenan is her support for Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut senate race, but that’s another story), but I’m wondering why CNN didn’t bother to point out that the reason why the Democrats won, in addition to the mind-numbing cronyism, corruption and incompetence of the Repugs and their congressional leadership, was because they did a better job of winning over centrist, conservative-leaning-on-some-issues Democratic voters focused on the Iraq war and other “kitchen table” issues such as the economy who really aren’t going to support the groups mentioned in this CNN story (which, curiously, doesn’t have a byline).

Further down in the story, I believe these passages do a better job of reflecting the reality:

(Joe) Solmonese (of the Human Rights Campaign) indicated that leading gay-rights groups will be patient with the new Democratic leadership, not pushing to have their issues be at the very top of the 2007 agenda.

"What we've got is a new and respectful Congress that's open to our community, to learning the specifics of our issues," he said. "To stress right now -- 'This is what we want and this is when we want it' -- would be premature."

"Everyone remembers the fight President Clinton had when he made (gays in the military) his first major political issue in 1993," said Aaron Belkin, director of a University of California, Santa Barbara think tank that studies (this issue).

"While opinion on letting gays serve has moved leaps and bounds since then, the new Democratic Congress is not likely to come out strongly on this one from the get-go," Belkin said.
And of course, these stories would not be complete without representation from Wingnuttia…

Some conservatives have expressed hope that -- on abortion issues, at least -- Democratic stances in Congress might be moderated by the election of several anti-abortion candidates. But other leaders on the right, such as Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, doubt these Democratic newcomers will sway policy.

"Instead, anticipate the fiercest assault of our time against abstinence, marriage, life, good judges, and religious freedom," Perkins wrote this week in the National Review. "Pro-life Democrats are likely to be marginalized in positions where they have little influence."
If Perkins had just said that he doesn’t believe these Democrats would sway policy and leave it at that, I might actually agree with him. But of course, he has to throw out some red meat to “the base” or else he isn’t doing his job.

And it continually amazes me that our “liberal media” reports on Perkins without acknowledging his racist past, as noted here by Bill Berkowitz, including this excerpt:

One of the most disturbing features not listed on Perkins' resume was his involvement in securing the mailing list of Ku Klux Klansman David Duke for a Louisiana Senate campaign he managed in 1996. Four years ago, reporter Max Blumenthal revealed in an April 26, 2005 article for The Nation,

"Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) … the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South."

Blumenthal wrote that in 1996, while Perkins was running the campaign of longtime conservative Woodie Jenkins, the right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana, he "paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list."
As Blumenthal also explained, Perkins’ purchase of Duke’s mailing list ended up derailing Perkins’ own Senate race six years later in 2002.

So with the advent of a new Democratic congress, according to Perkins and CNN, we can look forward to universal tolerance and justice and all manner of sexual indulgence for one and all.

I should be so lucky.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday Videos

Hoobastank ("Born To Lead")...

...The Jim Carroll Band ("People Who Died," and the clips with a very young Leonardo Di Caprio are from "The Basketball Diaries," a movie based on Carroll's 1978 novel)...

...and Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers would have been 60 today; here he is performing an amazing solo in "Dreams" from 1969 - this is another primitive video, and Gregg Allman's vocals don't come in almost until the song is over.

Just Like Their Boss

Well, Dubya is going to let his eventual successor figure out what to do about Iraq, so why shouldn’t his fellow Repugs leave a great big mess for the incoming Democratic congressional majority?

I seriously hope these clowns no longer have any doubts about why they lost power two weeks ago.

A Newt Or A Hyena?

So CNN and Fortune Magazine published a fawning bit of PR today on behalf of Newt Gingrich, the former Repug speaker of the U.S. House who ushered in “the politics of personal destruction,” or at least practiced it more ruthlessly than anyone in my memory. The occasion was the anniversaries of Gingrich’s swearings-in in as speaker in 1994 and 1996.

As you can read from the story, Gingrich has decided that he’s going to run for President in 2008 in a highly unusual manner (though typical for him in his consummate, sickening egotism). He’s going to let the election come to him instead of the other way around.

Now seriously, if a Democratic candidate out there decided to run a campaign like that, do you HONESTLY think I for one would support this person? I carped at Bob Casey for awhile because that’s what he seemed to be doing in his Senate contest against Santorum, but I guess he showed me (I know I’ll end up butting heads with Casey over time, but that will be a completely different circumstance from anything I would have had to deal with versus Santorum, and thankfully we have all been saved from that).

I suppose the article is meant to kick-start any momentum Gingrich hopes to generate, but I really should point out a thing or two here.

To begin, this is how Fortune writer Nina Easton characterizes Gingrich:

“The radical realist who defied conventional wisdom 12 years ago by stealing the House out from under the noses of entrenched Democrats now plans a surprise attack for the presidency.”
The “radical realist”? Is THAT what Gingrich is supposed to be?

I would say that the following excerpt from this story paints a somewhat different picture…

For veterans of congressional ethics scandals, Gingrich makes an unlikely champion of clean politics. It is Gingrich, after all, who still holds the distinction of being the only sitting House speaker to be disciplined by his colleagues for ethical wrongdoing. "Gingrich has a tremendous pot-calling-the-kettle-black problem," says Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project, a watchdog group that hounded Gingrich during the 1990s. "This hardball fundraising strategy was started by Gingrich."

Before the 1994 election, several reports noted that Gingrich had been warning the heads of corporate political action committees to give generously to Republican candidates or face political retribution. It was a threat that soon became conventional wisdom, as Republican leaders built increasingly close ties to the lobbying community and more and more corporate funds found their way into Republican coffers. By 1996, Gingrich found himself saddled with a number of ethical problems similar in type, though not in scale, to the Abramoff scandal. He was accused of misusing nonprofit organizations for political purposes, personally benefiting from political contributions and giving false statements to ethics investigators. The House eventually voted to reprimand Gingrich and require him to pay a $300,000 penalty.
Gingrich is most closely associated with the Contract on America, implemented after the 1994 election in which the Repugs seized power in the House by Gingrich, Dick Armey, and the rest of the conservative gang. This prescient Mother Jones article written in 1995 was a harbinger for what would soon be realized in the most hideous way imaginable.

In the name of fiscal responsibility, Republicans will press for deep cuts in programs many Americans have come to rely upon for their health and overall well-being. Everything from poultry inspections and federal park maintenance to health research and public broadcasting is likely to suffer.


Obviously, cutting federal benefits to the poor, blind, and disabled is not what most Americans had in mind when they turned over control of Congress to the GOP. But that is what the Republicans have in store. All of the above programs would have to be radically reduced just to give the Republicans a chance of living up to their promises to cut taxes, increase defense spending, and balance the budget.
And what effect did “the Contract” have on the environment anyway? This Sierra Club article explains (also written from the time when the Contract was passed into law), noting here that…

At first glance, the package has little to say about the environment. But buried within the bills -- which sport advertising-slogan names such as the "American Dream Restoration Act" -- lie a number of provisions that would indirectly undermine the foundation of environmental, health and safety protections.
And what is truly funny about Easton’s article is the description of Gingrich as “a health care visionary praised by business and medical groups,” given the fact that the Contract had the happy coincidence (for the Repugs) of derailing any efforts at serious health care reform by then-first-lady Hillary Clinton.

So it looks like Gingrich will try to run for the White House by appearing in media-friendly venues and before fellow academics that will fawn on cue for him and admire the alleged hugeness of his intellect and his imaginary conciliating presence amidst a sea of partisanship that he, more than anyone else, created in the politics of this country.

What a laugh.

Pimp My Draft, Charlie!

So Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York is calling again to reinstate the draft, is he?

Let’s see, he introduced this three years ago as an attempt at social engineering because “our fighting forces should more closely reflect the economic makeup of the nation,” and prior to that, he stated that the draft would be more of an incentive for our leaders to work with the international community of nations, since the sons and daughters of members of Congress would be subject to military service.

And he’s now calling for it again as a sort of de facto punishment to Bushco for its illegal Iraq war?

I’ll give Rangel credit for his own service during the Korean War, and he has my thanks for that. However, in his attempt to exact some sort of retribution over the disproportionate representation of African Americans and minorities in the military (as well as settling old scores), he’s also playing games with the future of my son and the children of many, many other Americans.

Given that, does Rangel have the slightest clue as to how hard I’m going to fight to make sure that his proposal never sees the light of day, even if it means doing all I can to take him down politically (even to the point of actually supporting a Republican)?

The military can be a fine, honorable way of life for a person with the right temperament and maturity (and I’m not trying to demean those for whom it would be a bad fit, including yours truly – you don’t want to know what I was like in my teen and early 20s). But military service should not be crammed down anyone’s throat in this country, especially because our force strength was depleted by the criminal actions of a bunch of chickenhawks. If Rangel or anyone else thinks that I’m going to sit still knowing the young one could be forced to pay the price for what Bushco has wrought, they’re living in a dream world.

Short of that, if legislation were to be passed allowing for a choice of military or community service, I could be amenable to that, though that’s the subject of another post.

As noted here, though, it sounds like Rangel’s plan isn’t going to go anywhere (though we should continue to watch this closely).

Update 11/30: David Sirota notes other problems with Rangel here (as one commenter noted, this stuff is a reason why people don't care about politics when they should).

One Vote For Trent

By the way, while our corporate media cousins were beating up on House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi for her “bitter, divisive struggle” showing all manner of bad leadership by supporting John Murtha for the Majority Leader post which was won by Steny Hoyer (and rest assured that I’m being tongue-in-cheek here), how many people out there knew that Trent Lott was elected Minority Whip by a single vote over Lamar Alexander (as Colorado Media Matters notes here – I already got into Lott’s Jim Crow beliefs and allegiances last week, so I won’t comment again on that).

And do you know who that single vote was?

John McCain, that’s who (way down in the story).

John McCain (with his buddy here), who once said that he supported Roe v. Wade, but now states that he wouldn’t mind a bit if it were overturned.

John McCain, who once said that Bush couldn’t send more troops to Iraq (or that Bush couldn’t “sell it” to this country anyway), but now states that he should.

And speaking of Iraq, can it be more of a pathetic statement against Bushco that Ahmadinejad of Iran is trying to hold a summit with Iraqi and Syrian leaders?

Sounds like they’re going to set up what passes for a “government” in that county on their own and we’re not going to have an official say in anything (assuming we ever really did to begin with).

I realize McCain, Lieberman, and the rest of the war apologists aren’t going to answer this question, but I’m keen to ask it again anyway.

What is it again that we’re fighting for over there?

Update 11/21: Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich offers some interesting thoughts on McCain here (via Atrios).

Pre-Holiday Economic Smoke And Mirrors

In case anyone out there hasn’t noticed by now, there are very few jobs that cannot be outsourced or offshored, and that is why this story about supposed wage growth is nonsense (though perhaps not for the VERY FEW jobs unaffected by these sickening trends; I’m not opposed to offshore individuals doing the same work as I do in principle, but I am when there is nothing else comparable for me to fall back on in the event that it causes me to be put out of work).

And a 4 percent raise qualifies as “brisk,” if you’re lucky enough to get that? Please.

And by the way, you don’t get any attribution for this information until past the halfway point in the story, and at that point, you’re led to believe that this comes from Bushco’s Labor Department, which doesn’t even bother to keep track of jobs lost to offshoring, let alone keep track of wages in this country versus wages offshore for comparable work and professions.

Stories like this are published this time of year to get people to go out and spend, spend, spend for the holidays so Bushco can show some good year-end numbers. And all of this is contingent on energy costs, which typically fall at year end anyway.

And only a corporate media publication would consider it to be good economic news that fewer people are being laid off – it is, I realize, but it doesn’t signal anything else about this economy except continued sluggishness and slow-to-no growth.

This is the only economic news Bushco and its house organs care about – just publish it and spare us the rest of the brainless pabulum, OK?