Saturday, December 09, 2006

Holiday Videos (12/9)

(I guess I should start getting into the spirit a bit more here - by the way, I have popup text stating this if you "hover" your mouse near the wreath, but click the graphic to go to a page that allows you to send a holiday message to our troops.)

In honor of outgoing Georgia U.S. House Rep. Cynthia McKinney who introduced a bill to impeach Bush today (a start), here's Nat "King" Cole ("The Christmas Song")...

...and Santa's brush with the law.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Videos

Echo and the Bunnymen ("The Killing Moon" - a shame you can't get a good look at Echo's '80s "do")...

...Happy Birthday to '60s and '70s R&B icon Jerry Butler ("He Will Break Your Heart" - the man knows just when to wrap it up, doesn't he?)...

...Happy Birthday also to Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band ("Ain't Wastin' Time No More," ably assisted by Mr. Richard Betts playin' that red guitar: "can't let one precious day slip by")...

...and here's a quote for your consideration:

"The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that. Unknown is what it is. Accept that it's unknown and it's plain sailing." tribute to the author of that quote who we remember today (Dr. Winston O. Boogie, that is), here is "Imagine."

The "Yellow Kid" Of Our Age

(This link takes you to more information on what I’m referring to in the title, though you could also take it to mean someone who wants other people to fight and die in battles he’s unwilling to fight himself.)

It looks like Rupert Murdoch has done it again.

As noted here at Editor and Publisher (the story also appeared at The Huffington Post yesterday but has now strangely disappeared, and I was unable to retrieve it from the site’s questionable search utility), Murdoch’s New York Post ran a cover yesterday showing two simians with the faces of James Baker and Lee Hamilton, chairs of the seemingly-everywhere-now-in-the-media Iraq Study Group, superimposed on their bodies, with the headline caption of “Surrender Monkeys.”

I’m not sure it’s possible to document all the ways that this is objectionable, but I’ll try.

Remember how Bushco and its media acolytes pilloried France because they wouldn’t join the “coalition of the willing” prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq (with Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol of Murdoch’s “Weekly Standard” calling them “cheese eating surrender monkeys”…God, seems like so long ago now)? I always wondered why they never attacked Russia or Germany the same way, since all three of those nations have defended their country through horrific combat over centuries from before our nation was founded. And of course, it really isn’t necessary to ask whether or not Goldberg or Kristol ever served, is it?

And as much as we’ve decried the Iraq Study Group (its conception, its membership, its purpose, its final product, the barely-concealed flimsiness of the pretext rooted in utter partisan politics that this is somehow acceptable in lieu of actual presidential leadership), the fact of the matter is that it was created, ostensibly, to come up with some plan or approach to achieving some kind of a resolution in Iraq that would get our people out of there and keep the carnage inside Iraq from spreading outside its borders.

Ridiculing all of the above is one thing. Calling the group’s chairs “surrender monkeys” as a result of their effort is just a pathetic attempt to resurrect the same tired, childish, simplistic jingoism which was a big reason why we got ourselves into this mess to begin with.

And I would go one step further. If I were a parent, friend or family member of a son or daughter caught in that debacle, to say nothing of being that for someone killed or wounded, I would be even more sickened to see that cover of the Post yesterday. As highly imperfect as everything about the Iraq Study Group is, it represents at least some kind of an attempt to see our way out of there (again, highly flawed, but something that, literally, is better than nothing). And I would see Murdoch as a deranged old man who considers no body count too high to achieve some long-since-rendered-unrealistic goal of something approximating democracy and capitalist market expansion in Iraq.

And I would want to do something about that.

I don’t know that it’s possible to hurt Murdoch financially; my guess is that it would take a team a lawyers the rest of their lives to try and untangle his web of holdings, media companies, and affiliate organizations of one type or another located in this country and throughout the world. I’ve never seen a figure attached to his net worth. And being a piddly, filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, I don’t see how I could summon my meager business resources to do anything except deprive him of revenue that would probably be microscopic against his total combined assets.

But as an alternative to doing nothing, I’d like to propose some non-violent economic protest.

In this country, Murdoch’s News Corporation controls DirecTV Group, T.V. Guide, the T.V. Guide Channel, a 50 percent ownership in the National Geographic Channel (ugh…), SportSouth, and something called the SPEED Channel. And, as noted above, Murdoch owns the New York Post.

Oh, yeah, and he also controls All Things Fox: Fox News Talk, Fox Interactive Media, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Reality, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Net, and the Fox Television Stations Group.

So here’s what you do; you probably know already what T.V. stations are part of Murdoch’s empire, so don’t watch them, and don’t buy the products of sponsors who advertise on those stations. And, of course, don’t buy the Post either.

If you’re going to be serious about this, by the way, this means no more NFL Football with NFC games, no more high-profile sporting events including the World Series, no more Nextel/Winston Cup racing, no more Super Bowl, etc. (it’s a loooong list). And no more prime-time T.V. on Fox also, including “24,” “American Idol,” “The Simpsons” (doh!) and “The Family Guy” (watch it on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim instead, if you must). And that also includes a long list of movies on DVD as well (there are probably other media considerations here too numerous to mention).

This presents an enormous task, I realize. And even if you can’t go “cold turkey,” just try to deny yourself of something that can ultimately be traced back to this cretin. As I always say, the best revenge against these characters is to find some way to legally take their money.

I don’t know that it’s possible to hurt Murdoch in this way, but his material wealth can’t buy him everything. If he’s going to use his powerful media influence to decry any effort whatsoever to stop the killing in Iraq as that country disintegrates, then he should be recognized as the soulless, contemptible bastard that he truly is and we should summon the will for some sort of a gesture of protest.

And here’s one more thing you can do – don’t even consider voting for Hillary Clinton.

Nixon 1, Dubya 0

Elizabeth Kolbert of The New Yorker reports here on a legal case involving The Clean Air Act, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon 36 years ago this month. As Kolbert notes, this is the first case involving global warming to reach the Supreme Court, filed pretty much out of desperation (Massachusetts v. EPA – arguments were heard last week). She also notes the following…

The plaintiffs—a group that includes, in addition to Massachusetts, eleven states, three cities, and thirteen environmental groups—hope to compel the Bush Administration to impose limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. If they are successful, the operation of every power plant and factory as well as the design of every new car in the country could potentially be affected.
So what is Bushco’s flimsy defense? This…

The E.P.A., it argues, lacks the authority to limit greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, because when the act was drafted global warming wasn’t yet recognized as a problem. The “relevant provisions of the law,” it states in its brief to the Supreme Court, are “best construed not to authorize regulation . . . for the purpose of addressing global climate change.” Furthermore, the Administration asserts, even if the Clean Air Act did grant the E.P.A. the power to treat CO2 as a pollutant, the agency shouldn’t—and wouldn’t—exercise it.

Just about anyone familiar with the Clean Air Act can see the White House’s narrow reading of the law for what it is: a deliberate misreading. The act was expressly constructed to allow the E.P.A. to regulate substances known to be dangerous and also substances that might in the future be revealed to be so.

In a friend-of-the-court brief for the plaintiffs, four former E.P.A. administrators—including Russell Train, who headed the agency under Nixon, and William Reilly, who led it under George Bush senior—point out that Congress clearly directed the E.P.A. to “regulate air pollution based on new and changing scientific information.” The four go on to note that the E.P.A. has, many times in the past, used its authority to control pollutants whose dangers could not have been foreseen in 1970; for example, in the early nineteen-nineties, faced with data on ozone depletion, the agency issued a timetable for phasing out chlorofluorocarbons.
And I simply must note this wonderful exchange between plaintiff lawyer James Milkey, the assistant attorney general for the state of Massachusetts, and Antonin Scalia:

SCALIA: I thought that standing requires imminent harm. If you haven’t been harmed already, you have to show the harm is imminent. Is this harm imminent?

MILKEY: It is, Your Honor. We have shown that [rises in] sea levels are already occurring from the current amounts of greenhouse gases in the air, and that means it is only going to get worse as the—

SCALIA: When? I mean, when is the predicted cataclysm?
Tell you what, Antonin; let’s see when the next “Cat 5” comes along and wipes out the Louisiana fishing camp of your friend Wallace Carline as you’re preparing to head down there to go duck hunting again, OK? Maybe then you’ll recognize “the predicted cataclysm.”

And I guess I should allow for the “full mooner” perspective here and note that, as one of his final acts as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (thank God), Jim Inhofe (R-Wingnuttia) took the best parting shot he could at the global warming “hoax.”

Take a bow, Jim; you’ve done well by your most valued corporate constituents (Mother Jones magazine noted here that Inhofe received $290,000 from oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil in his 2002 re-election campaign…look for the paragraph that starts “Frank O’Donnell, of Clean Air Watch…”).

No Help From A "Partner"

One of the findings of the report from the Iraq Study Group, as noted in this CNN story from the AP (which, again, appears curiously without a byline), is “that a concerted effort to resolve Israel's conflict with its neighbors will help stabilize the situation in Iraq.”

This was the response of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert…

Saying there is no connection between the two issues, Olmert rebuffed the group's recommendation that Israel open negotiations with Syria, but said Israelis want "with all our might" to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.
As far as restarting peace talks, Olmert has been as good as his word, at least as far as CNN is concerned here.

And I will acknowledge that, concerning Iraq, Olmert should not have to negotiate with Syria or Iran for help to clean up our mess. Our glorious red state president should be doing this; of course, since he's a total empty vessel bereft of anything approaching foresight, intelligence, leadership, that poses a problem (and how sad that Dubya actually thinks he has leverage in this to make Iran and Syria do our bidding, as noted here).

However, for Olmert to allege that there is no connection between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iraq war is patently ridiculous.

On the one hand, he says…

"The attempt to create a linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue -- we have a different view," Olmert said during the prime minister's annual meeting with Israeli journalists. "To the best of my knowledge, President Bush, throughout the recent years, also had a different view on this."
But on the other hand (suddenly, I feel like Tevye), he says…

"We always felt, like other nations in our region, that the removal of Saddam Hussein was a major, major contribution to stability in our part of the world."
“Stability in our part of the world”? I didn’t know “stability” was defined as the threat of imminent hostilities breaking out at any moment in between periodic and brutal spasms of violence.

So Olmert doesn’t want to imply any “cause and effect” concerning Iraq and Israel’s “hot and cold” (If you will) war with the Palestinians and their terrorist proxies, but he has no trouble with declaring a benefit for his country from a war that has taken such a toll on American lives as well as those of innocent Iraqis and other coalition forces, to say nothing of our country’s prestige?

And on top of that, Olmert has never been shy about declaring his man love for Dubya, as noted in this interview from April of this year (I could see Olmert feeling this way before the war, but by the time of this interview, it had become obvious what we were dealing with in Iraq, but Olmert still praised President Stupid Head anyway - I love the arbitrary way in which Olmert decides when and where we should fight Israel's battles, by the way, not that they aren't formidable by themselves)…

TIME: How often do you speak to President Bush?

Olmert: I've spoken to him maybe three times since I became Prime Minister. There is a very strong emotional bond between the two of us, every time we speak we both feel it deeply. I know how he feels and he [knows] how I feel. I think it grew out of his first trip to Israel, when I hosted him in Jerusalem. He knows that I like him. I very much depend on the understanding and cooperation of President Bush. The reason I think [disengagement] can be done is because of the trust and understanding we have for each other. In my opinion President Bush will emerge in history as the person who had more courage to change the Middle East than any person before him. I know the war in Iraq is controversial in the States, but for us in the Middle East it has made a great and significant impact. The decision of the President made an enormous impact on the lives of Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians — every country who was the potential target of the aggression of Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The sense of mission that Bush feels about war on terror is of enormous significance. When I think from the perspective of an Israeli and who is the partner, the natural partner who I speak with about fighting terror, it's President Bush.
Olmert and the Israelis, along with much of the Jewish community in this country, fell for the Iraq con by Bushco, actually cheerleading for war in 2002 and 2003. And as far as I’m concerned, they have a lot to answer for (I'm excluding Ariel Sharon from this because I expect him to shed his mortal coil at any moment).

But don’t feel like I’m singling them out. Believe me, they have a lot of company.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday Videos

Happy Birthday to Tom Waits ("Downtown Train" - tell Rod Stewart to stick his version where the sun don't shine)...

...also to Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs ("Love My Way"...time to return ever so briefly to the spacey '80s).

Deck The Malls

Geov Parrish at Working For Change inflicts us with some seasonal guilt over our consumption habits in this column, which I submit for your edification (and yes, I’m partly culpapble as well; we should own stock in Lego).

Also, as long as we’re talking about holiday shopping, I should note this column with sadness from Peter Osnos of The Century Foundation about the demise of Tower Records. I can recall many good times browsing and hanging out at the store on South Street in Philadelphia, particularly on Friday or Saturday nights after a movie at a Ritz or another theater. I think Osnos makes some good points about what the retail world has become with all of the advances in the Internet and downloadable (word?) music over the last few years.

And as long as I’m on this subject, I’d like to throw out some random observations (and feel free to shoot them full of holes if you want, of course):

- The holiday offerings of Manheim Steamroller DO NOT constitute legitimate Christmas music!

- A Christmas toy registry is an absolutely ridiculous concept unless at least one family member giving a gift lives in another state or country.

- I’ve heard some of the songs from “Love,” which is supposed to be a “mash-up” of Beatles’ songs for the Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas, and I have only two words for this: stop it! Actually, I have three words for it: stop it now!

We all know what The Beatles were, and many of us know how great their music is and will continue to be. You could argue that they were the best of them all, with the possible exception of Elvis.

But it’s over, OK? No more reissues of demos, remixes, or out takes of anyone’s drug crazed ramblings or arguments with their wives or girlfriends set to music. Let Apple digitize their music as per the deal currently in negotiation and then call it a day. Can we do that, please?

Update 12/8: And don't forget to add this little item to your holiday gift list also (emphasis on "little").


This AP story reprinted in today’s Bucks County Courier Times notes what may be the final gathering of survivors of the battle of Pearl Harbor, which took place 65 years ago today (though, as one of the veterans notes later on, this may not be the last gathering after all, but we'll see).

This links to a site providing educational information, including a multimedia presentation, and this links to the Pearl Harbor Survivors Project.

ISG: Mission Accomplished?

I guess the Iraq Study Group report is meant to be some kind of a political prism, filtering all kinds of opinions diffusively though existing as its own entity. Or maybe it’s supposed to be like an Ouija board or a bunch of tea leaves that can be interpreted or sorted for some desired effect. Others probably read qualities into it like that of a Rosetta stone, a vital part of decoding a solution to the Iraq war.

I don’t know about that, but as an exercise in political ass covering, you could argue that it has at least partially succeeded.

The proof of that to me is the fact that both outgoing U.S. House Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy praised the report yesterday. Fitzpatrick said the following:

“The report from the Iraq Study Group contains elements of the new strategy that I've been advocating,” Fitzpatrick said. “It would be fair to say that I agree with most of the report.”

The report also addressed what became a thorny issue in the Fitzpatrick-Murphy race: a “precipitous” U.S. pullout from Iraq, which the report said could escalate fighting in country.

“I've been saying that all along,” Fitzpatrick said.
You never said anything “all along,” Mikey. You never had a plan, or even an attempt at one. You never even had a thought about this that you could claim as your own. All you did was throw stones at what Patrick Murphy proposed, which is basically echoed in the report.

As the Courier Times story also notes:

Carrie James, a spokeswoman for Murphy, said Wednesday night that Murphy's plan calls for a withdrawal of U.S. troops within 12 months “which the Iraq Study Group has put forth to start bringing our soldiers home.”
As I noted above, though, this report is symbolic more than anything else. There is nothing whatsoever in it that is binding or enforceable.

Another point I’d like to make is that Sen. Russ Feingold appeared on “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann last night (as noted by Atrios here) and stated as follows:

This report does not do the job and it's because it was not composed of a real representative group of Americans who believe what the American people showed in the election, which is that it's time for us to have a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq.
I agree with Feingold, and he also notes that the people interviewed for the ISG report includes “virtually no one who opposed the war”; “virtually” is an important word in his statement because John Murtha does appear on the list of people interviewed for the report, as well as George Packer of The New Yorker, who I know would provide a reality-based perspective (as opposed to the amazing inclusion of George Will as an interviewee…no doubt the group thought they needed the chicken hawk-running-away-to-divinity-school perspective).

Also, I wonder why the subject of one of Packer’s great New Yorker stories, Col. H.R. McMaster, was not interviewed by the ISG, since McMaster could tell the group about what he and his regiment achieved in Tal Afar, as noted here:

And speaking of the military, I think the perspective on the ISG report that matters the most is the one mentioned here (leave it to “the grunts” to cut through the B.S.).

Finally, I wonder why “Poppy” Bush was not included on the list of people interviewed. I’m not his biggest fan by any means, but at least he was in charge the last time we prosecuted a successful war in that region (as opposed to his execrable son).

Update: Diarist BriVT at The Daily Kos nailed it here, in particular this passage (regarding another case of Borderius Ignoramus)...'s the point: the Iraq Study Group didn't solve a goddamn thing. They are so enamored of their process and consensus that they just don't see that the world changed. None of their recommendations are bold or interesting. If you gave me a couple days and told me, "Come up with a boring, pale distillation of what the Conventional Wisdom would come up with as a plan for Iraq," I would come up with something almost exactly like the Executive Summary I read.

But they try so hard, and in between the rage I feel toward the hideousness of their self-regard, I must confess to feeling just a little bit of melancholy. The myth of a bipartisan, wise consensus that can lead us out of the mess we find ourselves is a comforting one. It's like sitting in the backseat of the car lost on a family trip with your parents holding the map. You know you don't have to worry because they'll figure out where we're going. And for some, like David Broder I guess, that fantasy has lingered. And seeing it ... well, it's like watching the end of a Shakespeare tragedy. They deserve what the irrelevance that's theirs, but ... there's still a certain melancholy to the whole thing.

But, we're all grown-ups now, and I gave up the myth of the Infallible Bipartisan Consensus years ago. And The Wise Men of Washington have been utterly destroyed by the incredibly destructive force of nature known as the George W. Bush Administration. Bush and his folks gave the final blow to the world that came before, the world of Consensus Building and Calm Deliberation. They crumbled the foundations of all the assumptions that made that world tick, the unspoken rules of decorum, the shared morality of American politics, and the political niceties of seniority and reverance for the inner sanctum of the annointed. And the David Broders of the world who try to bring it back have about as much relevance as someone pining for the return of abstinence-until-marriage. Those days are gone.
So while this sorry ISG bunch including Vernon Jordan and Ed Meese - Ed Meese of Iran-Contra infamy ("let's-get-over-to-the-NSA-and-shred-everything-we-can-before-Ronnie-wakes-up-from-his-nap") - pats itself on the back over their faux bipartisanship, more people will die and America will continue to grow less safe against the very real and legitimate terrorist threat.

"Kumbaya, my lord, kumbayaa..."

Unhappy Bleat

I know most of bloggerdom has been consumed with dissecting the report from the Iraq Study Group every way over Sunday (I plan to have a little more to say soon, actually) and trying to size up the fact that, as one of its last acts (mercifully), the departing Repug congress completely rolled over on the Robert Gates confirmation.

I mean, I expected him to get in also, but 95-2? Gee, what happened to “advise and consent,” ladies and gentlemen?

Well, something has been bugging me for the last few days, and it is this comically idiotic review of the new kids’ movie “Happy Feet” by right-wing shill Michael Medved, and I have to say something about it. I will admit at the outset that I haven’t seen the movie. However, Joel Wendland did, and he posted about it here; as you can see, his review departs so drastically from Medved’s that it’s clear to me that this is a lot more than artistic disagreement.

Actually, I think this Media Matters link explains what’s going on here; Medved’s fit of pique was merely intended as the opening shot in a new battle joined by other right-wing media knuckle draggers. I guess the thinking is that Medved has a smidgeon of credibility on this because he’s railed about movies in the past that seem to come too close to exceeding his narrow parameters of freeper acceptability.

Medved is a particularly odious character as far as I’m concerned because he pretends to be looking out for the best interest of kids in the guise of propagating right-wing dogma (Michael Berube makes an interesting observation, I think, here about what Medved may have really had in mind when he thought Mumbles the penguin was being “tortured” – and yes, Berube saw the film).

And by the way, as long as I’m mentioning Medved, I want to point out his criticism of the movie “Million Dollar Baby,” which cleaned up at the Oscars in 2005; Medved and others of his ilk utterly damned the movie over the euthanasia sequence at the end.

I saw this movie on a plane about a year and a half ago, so I have a bit more of a frame of reference on this one.

It would have been nice if Medved had bothered to mention the fact that Eastwood’s character, boxing manager and “cut man” Frank Dunn, had agonized over his decision to do that to Maggie (the boxer played by Oscar-winner Hilary Swank) in accordance with her pleas to him, with Dunn even going to his parish priest for guidance; Dunn had had a strained relationship with the church for years. Also, there are many dark moments in the movie that lead up to this. However, first and foremost, this is a well-told story with very-well-defined characters and great performances. And it is highly representative of real life, despite some obvious Hollywood touches, so I can see why an ideologue like Medved would feel uncomfortable.

I don’t know why Eastwood and screenwriter Paul Haggis felt it was necessary to include the whole euthanasia thing at the end either, but it does make sense a bit when you consider the behavior and attitudes of the characters in the movie (it’s called “context,” Medved!).

So it sounds like Medved has issues with movies for both children AND adults. With that in mind, I think he should let the kids write the reviews for their movies next time and stick to fear-mongering and construction of emotionally satisfying straw men for some of the “grownups” instead.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday Videos

Happy 86th birthday to legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck (he and his quartet perform "Take Five," including a great drum solo from Joe Morello - the bassist is Gene Evans)...

...Happy Birthday also to Peter Buck of R.E.M ("Fall On Me")...

...also to drummer Rick Buckler of The Jam ("Town Called Malice")...

...and Harry Chapin would have been 64 tomorrow (a live demo of "Cat's In The Cradle").

Gambling With Care

Taylor Marsh at the Huffington Post updated a report today on the nurses’ strike in Las Vegas whereby the nurses at Valley and Desert Springs Hospitals had walked out over the highly important issue of nurse-patient staffing ratios.

Not salary, benefits, or working hours. Nurse-patient staffing ratios.

Marsh mentioned that the nurses, members of the Service Employees International Union, had been in negotiation with David Bussone, Valley Health director for Universal Health Services (based in nearby King of Prussia, Pa.). However, Bussone cut off negotiations to propose a cooling off period, and right after he did so, he locked out the nurses and hired temporary replacements.

Bastard (fortunately, as Marsh noted, Governor-elect Jim Gibbons and Democrats Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid stepped in to intervene, end the lockout and resume negotiations).

This article from Nursing Advocacy explains why the nurse patient staffing issue is so critical, in particular this excerpt:

There is also mounting evidence that improving nurse staffing will significantly improve patient health and actually reduce patient deaths. The recent Massachusetts survey found that nearly one in three nurses were aware of a patient death resulting from nurse short-staffing. And the Aiken study found that when a nurse's patient load is doubled from 4 patients to 8, his patients have a 31% greater chance of dying within a month; this suggests that even the California rules' 8-patient ceiling could result in far more patient deaths than lower ratios, depending on the setting.
So did Bushco actually do something about this?

Believe it or not, they did. As noted from this link (on page 2)...

In August 2002, Congress passed the Nurses Reinvestment Act – a bill that authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to create public service announcements promoting the nursing profession, award grants to nursing schools to help increase enrollment, and create a fast-track nursing faculty training program. The bill also provides scholarships for those who agree to work in nursing shortage areas after graduation, and increases the matching rate for Medicaid nurses’ aid training and competency evaluation programs.
I should emphasize for those unfamiliar with this that the critical issue affecting nurse-patient ratios is the shortage of nurses, and anything that will help with the enrollment of nurses in training is bound to help.

Well, that was 2002. I’ll bet you’re wondering how this is faring now; well, here’s the answer (and get ready for the same tired refrain, by the way)…

The future of nursing received a blow…from President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2006 budget, which calls for a reduction in the overall budget for nurse training and workforce development.

The president's budget provides $150 million for nursing workforce development programs, including the Nurse Reinvestment Act. This figure represents a cut of $1 million from the previous fiscal year's funding, mostly from loan repayment and scholarship programs.

In response to the news, nursing organizations are asking for Congress's help to secure funds for nursing workforce development programs-key initiatives to solving the problem of the workforce shortage.

"With a predicted nursing shortage of more than 275,000 RNs by the year 2010, this is the wrong time to be cutting back our investment in this country's future nurses," said Barbara Blakeney, RN, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA).
I have a particular interest in this issue because it affects two family members, for what it’s worth.

This is why we should contact our elected representatives and urge them to do what they can to appropriate more funding for the Nurse Reinvestment Act. The issue of patient-nurse ratios, as noted above, is quite literally a matter of life and death.

He's The Undecider

Like many of you, I’ve been trying to digest what I can from the oh-so-self-important recommendations from the Iraq Study Group, primarily that we start getting the hell out of Iraq (as noted in this Time article written by someone besides Mike Allen which is actually pretty good), and I’ve seen all manner of hand-wringing from the media crowd and other beltway insiders who will proclaim this work to be some courageous attempt at achieving a consensus, trying to find that mythical common ground, implying that there is some gray shading in a calamity that is hopelessly composed in extremes of black and white.

But I would ask that we step back and take another look at this in the context of history.

I mean, did it take a Vietnam Study Group to lay out the case to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon that that war was becoming “unwinnable” under any stretch of the imagination? Did it take a Korean War Study Group to explain to Harry Truman what his options were as it became clear that China was supporting North Korea and the 1952 presidential elections neared? Did it take a World War II Study Group to outline for Franklin D. Roosevelt what was needed to defeat the Axis powers first in Europe and then in the South Pacific?

What does it say about the inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that he requires a team of Beltway players to provide strategy for him in what quite possibly is the worst foreign policy misadventure this country has ever seen, one which he and his team initiated?

And on top of that, what else does it say that he will probably ignore those recommendations anyway?

Update: By the way, I meant to mention this earlier, but I came across a quote from an ISG member (unnamed) which, as far as I'm concerned, speaks volumes about the validity of their work (or lack thereof - appears at the bottom of this link)...

"What we have produced is a plan for December. We have no idea what things are going to look like in February."
I think we know more than those assclowns do.

Read It And Weep, Freeper

Though the Democrats had the winning hand, if you will, on November 7th, some of us don’t know when to fold ‘em, get up and walk away from the table, as witnessed by this Letter to the Editor in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning.

I was disturbed but not surprised that our Congressman-elect, Patrick Murphy, whom the Courier Times endorsed, voted for John Murtha for minority whip.

Isn’t this the same John Murtha who was an un-indicted co-conspirator in the ABSCAM bribery scandal?

Murtha didn’t go to jail because they couldn’t prove he took money. However, he sure as shooting knew people were being bribed; it’s on videotape.

If he were an honest politician, he would have reported the bribery scheme to law enforcement.

Closer to home, Murtha is the king of pork in the House. He directs hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks etc. to his district. Our new congressman, I think is obligated to ask why and demand that some of that pork be cut back or directed to Bucks County. After all, it’s our tax money.

I didn’t vote for Pat Murphy because he is totally inexperienced, but I did hope that there would be a change from the same old stuff if he were elected.

However, I can see from his initial actions we can expect more of the same old stuff.

Since you endorsed him as noted earlier, how about some editorials on his actions and let’s keep his feet to the fire. You owe us that much.

Rick Petrucco
Lower Makefield
I hate to break the news to Petrucco (a chronic offender in this newspaper) but Patrick was supporting Murtha for majority leader, not minority whip. The Democrats, God be praised, will be the majority party starting next January. Nice that Petrucco actually knows what he’s talking about, isn’t it?

And I love it that Petrucco believes Murtha was obligated to contact law enforcement because he supposedly knew people were being bribed. I didn’t know Petrucco could read people’s minds. Fascinating!

And I got a chuckle out of the line, “Murtha didn’t go to jail because they couldn’t prove he took money.” It’s called “presumption of innocence,” you meathead!

And I’m not going to comment on Petrucco’s allegation that Murtha is the “king of pork” because, as if often the case, he provides no specifics for his charges. It’s laughable, really, that he talks about abuse of congressional earmarks and doesn’t bother to mention outgoing House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who failed to disclose his participation in an Illinois trust in real estate near the proposed route of the Prairie Parkway, a highway project for which he’s secured $207 million in earmarked appropriations. If Hastert has managed to secure that kind of dough, then you can imagine what kind of a “taste” he expects to get for all of his nefarious efforts.

(Oh, but if this were a land deal involving Harry Reid, John Solomon would be "reporting" from here to tomorrow event though no earmarks are involved.)

Well, believe it or not, everything I’ve mentioned here so far is just an introduction into a fine column that the Courier Times printed yesterday from Elbert Ventura, a research fellow at Media Matters for America, people who (as I’ve stated a few times already) are going God’s work as far as I’m concerned. Ventura is writing about the decline of right-wing, Repug-friendly media (we can only continue to hope).

As the dust settles on last month’s historic elections, the Democratic Party can take stock of an impressive tally of triumphs. On top of Congress, the governorships, and the state legislatures is a list of marquee conquests: would-be President George Allen, far-right hero Rick Santorum, the Donald Rumsfeld era, and the myth of Karl Rove. Less celebrated but no less noteworthy is the blow taken by another stalwart of the conservative movement: the right-wing media.

When the Gingrich Congress first took power in 1994, observers gave a healthy dose of credit to the then-emerging conservative echo chamber. Looking back, it seems hardly coincidental that the rise of Republicanism in the 1990s coincided with the rise of Rush Limbaugh and the creation of the Fox News Network. In the years since, the Republican noise machine has only grown bigger and brasher. Joining Rush and Fox are an army of talk show hosts, bestselling polemicists, and shoot-first bloggers, all of whom have played an integral role in the contemporary Republican Party.

Well-funded and well-oiled, the noise machine is always at work for the GOP. The 2004 presidential election proved just how crucial it has become to Republican electoral success. From false rumors of John Kerry’s $150 haircuts to the fatally damaging fabrications of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the conservative media funneled Republican talking points into the mainstream, peddling spin as substance and insinuation as news. The result was a thumping from which Kerry has yet to recover.

Last month’s elections saw the same dynamic at work. The Drudge Report, one of the right’s most reliable conduits of innuendo, pushed a salacious item about sexually explicit passages in the novels of Jim Webb, the Democratic candidate for Virginia senator. Drudge’s strident coverage drove respectable media outlets like the Washington Post and CNN to give the non-story attention.

Another scandal touted by Drudge and the right-wing blogs concerned House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s alleged disappearance from the campaign trail, a claim that suggested Pelosi was in hiding because of her unpopularity with the public. The “Where’s Pelosi?” narrative was dutifully picked up by MSNBC and Fox News within hours. Perhaps they should’ve looked harder. Just a day earlier, Pelosi had appeared at a campaign rally in California with Bill Clinton and was also interviewed on CNN.

The most successful of the right-wing noise machine’s last-ditch efforts to commandeer the media was its elevation of Kerry’s botched joke about Iraq into a national scandal. For days, the press dropped issues of genuine consequence in favor of wall-to-wall coverage of Kerry’s gaffe. In right-wing circles, the “scandal” they so successfully pushed was seen as the final blow to the Democrats’ ebbing hopes of taking Congress.

But something happened on the way to the voting booth. The Democrats’ victory at the polls suggests that the right-wing noise machine that has proven so harmful to Democrats in particular, to honest public discourse in general, is starting to sputter. Despite the machine’s best efforts to steer the discussion away from the GOP’s myriad failures, the voters eschewed spin and cast a reality-based vote for change.

Indeed, there were even hints of outright disdain for the right-wing media. In the loudmouths of the right, Americans may have seen a reflection of an overreaching Republican government – an obnoxiousness best exemplified by Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Michael J. Fox’s commercials in support of stem-cell research funding in Missouri. The state was eventually decided by a razor-thin margin. Surely there is no small amount of poetic justice in the notion that the godfather of conservative media may well have contributed to his party’s defeat.

But those expecting a chastened and reflective conservatism should think again. The right-wing media emerged during an era when conservatives were shut out of power. As Democrats take control of Congress and the Bush Administration plays defense, the noise machine only figures to grow in volume and vitriol.

The bigger worry is that the mainstream media will not have learned their lesson from these elections. Despite the dark arts of the right-wing echo chamber and the pusillanimity of a clueless press, the voters turned a deaf ear to sound and fury signifying nothing. Will the mainstream media be as judicious and prudent as the voters in the next two years? If they seek to remain relevant, they may have no other choice.
Actually, I hope our corporate media friends continue on their current path, since, to be perfectly honest with you, I’m tired of trying to cajole them into doing the right thing. They should know to do it anyway. And I’ll admit that my reasons for feeling that way are partly selfish, since it could very well lead to an increase in readership of blogs to obtain a reality-based perspective (including this one, I dare hope).

And besides, our corporate media can always count on an audience of hammerheads like Rick Petrucco who want to be lied and propagandized to and generally lead around by the nose as opposed to actually using the brains God gave them to digest and process information on their own.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don't Take It For Granted

I’m glad to see that the Philadelphia Inquirer, in addition to crafting this Mencken-worthy piece of journalistic editorial erudition comparing The Beatles to The Wiggles, a group of Australian performers for little kids, was able to devote space for the letter appearing below.

(Concerning the Wiggles, one of the four is apparently leaving – the young one in his wisdom blew these guys off early on).

Re: "Let them serve first," Nov. 28:

A letter to the editor seems to have missed the key element of Charlie Rangel's continued call to reinstate the draft. Rangel knows full well that there will be no draft. His openly stated goal in repeatedly introducing this bill is that lawmakers might not be so quick to authorize force if their own children could end up on the front lines. He wants no exemptions for sons and daughters of lawmakers; rather, he specifically wants them included as a bulwark against foolish, politically motivated force resolutions.

It is debatable whether a draft would achieve Rangel's goals. It is probable that giving President Bush more soldiers would just mean he would launch another fiasco. But it is imperative to understand that Rangel suggests universal conscription, including closing loopholes that children of privilege used to avoid Vietnam, as a deterrent to ill-conceived wars, not as a way to get other people's children to fight.

Brandon Bittner
I respect Bittner very much; he’s written some fine letters to the paper. And I’m highlighting this because I’ve seen the sentiment echoed all over the place that there should be discussion of bringing back the draft to put the chicken hawks in a position where their blood could be spilled instead of so joyously advocating that fate for others. And yes, I would like to see them get their comeuppance also.

But let’s not assume that this discussion will always be nothing but talk. Let’s remember that there are generations coming after thus who could pay the price in our battle to settle old scores.

The military can be a fine, honorable way of life for a young man or woman with the right temperament. But it should never, ever be made compulsory again.

If We Only Knew

(My kingdom for a "thought bubble" graphic...).

How much do you want to bet Poppy is thinking, "Why couldn't YOU be president instead?"

Update 12/9: I really wasn't trying to be serious, but you never know (via Atrios).

Fool Us All Again

I’ve had a post on hold for a day or so concerning Robert Gates, but I should probably finish it now, especially since Prof. Marcus has noted that some of us (me included) aren’t noting the fact that, according to this Raw Story link via Marcus’ site, Gates has said that we’ll have troops in Iraq for “a long time.”

This is not surprising, coming from a Repug insider like Gates who, as Wikipedia noted, was in a position to know exactly what was going on in the Iran-Contra scandal and also advocated bombing the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the ‘80s, which is so completely in violation of U.S. law and simple standards of human decency that it almost does not need to be pointed out (almost).

I hope we’ve all come to realize by now why we can’t get a straight answer from Bushco about anything concerning the Iraq war (Gates's indefinite musing is typical), and that is because they don’t know how long it will take for them to take control of as much oil as they can.

That is all that this misbegotten, sickening tragedy will ever be about to them.

Not the wasted lives of our service people, killed or maimed from this horror, nor the same for other coalition forces, nor the same for innocent Iraqis. Not the almost surreal cronyism, arrogance and incompetence of the administration responsible for this epochal calamity. Not the potential for regional civil war throughout the Middle East that has been borne as a result of all this. Not our ruined prestige on the world stage as a beacon of freedom, liberty and human rights.

Not any of that, and more.

Bushco and the Repugs will never capitulate to anything. Their confrontational carping and nay saying reached a crescendo when they were out of congressional power, and it continued even after they seized control of all branches of our government. Now that one of those branches is thankfully out of power again, why should anyone think this time will be any different (especially when they will be so ably aided by our lapdog corporate media and a coterie of chicken Democrats then as now)?

That is why, as disturbing as Gates’ comments are to me, they are still totally unsurprising.

Dubya said it earlier this year; cleaning up Iraq will be the job of the next administration. And Gates will do everything in accordance with that expectation. And the 109th Repug-controlled Congress will do everything on orders from their White House handlers to ramrod Gates’ confirmation through, especially now out of spite because both Bolton and Rummy have been forced out.

And the congressional Repugs, as always, will comply in total subservience as usual.

Because (as the song goes), you know that the hypnotized never lie.

Update: Also, courtesy of Lukery at Wot Is It Good 4, this choice item from Democracy Now:

The number of private contractors in Iraq has now reached about 100,000 -- the most ever used in a U.S. military operation. Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root is one of the largest contractors in Iraq. It has more than 50,000 employees and subcontractors working between Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Blackwater USA has more than 1,000 employees in Iraq. Dyncorp has about 1500 employees there.
He's right - THIS should be a headline instead of the latest celebrity trash, but our corporate media will think we're too stupid to notice.

The Bogus Biden “Boogaloo”

So Kos reports today that Joe Biden has put his foot in it again (I’m going to spare Evan Bayh for now – he’s the subject of a whole other post that may be forthcoming one day).

Based on his remark that Delaware, in essence, is a red state as far as he’s concerned, I don’t think he wants to do the “boogaloo,” as noted by Atrios and others. I think he secretly wants to do the Tennessee Waltz.

And remember this statement that you can’t go to a 7/11 unless you’re Indian (as in “Asian Indian” as opposed to “U.S. Native American”)?

And remember this moment of pique by Biden during the confirmation hearings for “Strip Search Sammy” Alito in which he said, in essence, that we shouldn’t even bother to have hearings on Supreme Court nominees (I understand his frustration, but that was still the wrong thing to say)?

And, most infamously of all, remember how Biden and Tom Carper, forever establishing their statuses as The Senators From MBNA, voted for the fraud bankruptcy bill?

Or how Biden voted to confirm Michael Hayden as CIA director after Porter Goss (remember him? Talk about somebody who “disappeared”…) because Biden thought Hayden was “a nice guy” even though he marches in lockstep with Bushco?

Or how Biden voted to kill an amendment calling for Bushco to begin major troop withdrawals from Iraq?

Or how Biden voted against an amendment requiring withdrawal of troops from Iraq by July 2007?

To be fair, Biden has had some good moments; he was genuinely entertaining and interesting when he appeared on “Real Time With Bill Maher” earlier in the year (I may be back for the next set of shows, but I’m still thinking about it), and he did the right thing to vote against Dubya’s “enemy combatants” bill.

I have to admit that I think Biden fundamentally is a good man; he is also intelligent and articulate (I’m actually willing to forgive some of his media gaffes). And he’s cast some great votes along a few mediocre ones.

However, he’s cast a few others that were genuinely awful on critical issues (in particular, the Iraq war and the economy). And for that reason, I don’t believe he will ever be viable as a candidate for president.

Update 12/10: Atrios takes "one last shot" at absolutely burying Biden (as far as I'm concerned, this is what defines someone on the "A" list).

Free Speech Silenced Anonymously

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported here today that Philadelphia’s VA hospital hosted a lecture on September 28th by bioethics expert George Annas titled "Human Rights and Bioethics: Lessons From the Geneva Conventions, the Guantanamo Hunger Strikes, and the Nuremberg Code."

And in case you’re wondering, the answer is no; this, by itself, is not the reason why the paper wrote about it today.

They reported on this because someone complained about Annas’ presentation.

Someone, as in one person.

One person who didn’t sign the complaint letter, that is.

I’m sure you can guess why they complained, but I’ll note it anyway (excerpted from the letter)…

“I’m writing to you to please investigate how lectures like this are allowed to be presented in federal facilities during a time of war, in open disagreement with the current administration’s policies in Guantanamo. Does the VA medical Center fund this individual’s travel or pay speaking fees. I would think this would be prohibited by law.

I regret I cannot give my name because quite frankly freedom of speech amongst employees at this medical center does not exist. Repercussions for speaking out against the senior leaders at this site are severe. I choose to remain private.”
I don’t know about you, ladies and gentlemen, but I smell a great big, noxious freeper rat (I mean, I noted the title of Annas’ presentation above; did anyone think somehow it wouldn’t be controversial? It sounds like most of us here are acting like adults, but some of us are not).

So, as a result of this letter, here’s what happened.

Typically, (Evelyne) Shuster (director of the VA’s medical ethics program) said, she has sent bioethics event notices to about 5,000 people at the VA and the University of Pennsylvania. After the complaint, she said, the hospital's public-relations staff told her it would handle future announcements.

But the next invitation never went out. Hospital officials said the e-mail was misplaced.

So when Temple urban studies professor Allen M. Hornblum came to speak about medical experiments on prisoners last month, only five people attended. Most lectures are attended by 50 to 100 people, Shuster said.

"Was I disappointed? Sure," said Hornblum, who also attended Annas' lecture, which he described as "rather tame."

"It seems like they're trying to kill the program," Hornblum said.
And it gets even better when the facility’s PR flak Judi Cheary gets involved and says that the only person upset about the hospital’s reaction was Shuster (I presume that Shuster is employed by the national VA and not the Philadelphia facility; it’s hard for me to imagine the hospital’s vice president for external affairs, namely Cheary, “diming out” a senior person at her own place). On top of that, Cheary says:

"Why would the speakers (Annas and Hornblum) be upset? Why should they care if we have a bioethics program?"
After reading that quote, I need to digress briefly.

I don’t know how many of you have a familiarity with principles of corporate or non-profit public or media relations departments, but I had a bit of training in that area when I attended Temple University. One of our case studies was called “Peter Pepper’s Letter,” which, in essence, was a situation where someone had been passed over either for acceptance to a school or employment (not sure since it’s been awhile, and a Google search yielded nothing), and they basically decided to take out their frustrations in written form and sent the letter to the interviewer. The lesson is that someone should think carefully before they say or write something in a public forum, taking at least one and perhaps many deep breaths before they do so.

And that is what Cheary should have done here before she decided to blame Annas and Hornblum for the Philadelphia VA’s boneheaded decision (made particularly by chief of staff Martin Heyworth).

After digesting all of this a bit, I’d like to make a suggestion about this that really doesn’t have anything to do with politics.

Ostensibly, the purpose of the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Hospital (as well as that of all VA hospitals, I would hope) is to care for and treat our veterans as best as we can. Can someone out there legitimately argue that trying to kill a discussion forum on current day issues affecting veterans is part of that process?

I’m sorry that one anonymous person’s sensibilities were offended over a presentation containing disturbing photos pertaining to topical issues (photos which, as Annas noted, are burned into public consciousness already, and rightly so). But that is no justification whatsoever for silencing an important dialogue that, in addition to being part of our fundamental rights as Americans, is also part of care and treatment for those who serve and have served our country.

Further, author Geoffrey R. Stone notes here this country’s history of trying to stifle free speech in time of war (and by the way, I’m sick of people using the excuse that this is the Now And Forever You Godless Liberal And Dubya Is Upset That Both Bolton And Rummy Are Out Now But That’s Too Bleeping Bad War On Terror as an excuse for all manner of unconscionable acts); I’ll put this on my reading list since I’m sure he has plenty of current updates.

Also, this links to Annas’ presentation (click through each slide - don't see many words so far) and this links to the complaint letter; I don’t believe registration is required to view either one.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday Videos

Happy Birthday to Southside Johnny Lyon, performing "I Don't Want To Go Home" with a bunch of other Jersey guys (Steve Van Zandt, Jon Bon Jovi, and that Springsteen fella...looks like the "E" Street Band playing with some of the "Asbury Jukes")...

...and Staind ("Falling" - some interesting stuff going on in a kids' football game, and I thought that running to the wrong end zone was actually a nice touch; as one commenter noted, at least the kid is trying to do something that ends up wrong instead of being somebody who just goes along - showing the right stuff in a way like the Iggles, who WON TONIGHT!)

I Thought It Was Anyway

I’m not too excited by this – I’ve been bummed at Comedy Central since they axed the sublimely stupid “Viva Variety!”

It looks like I have a new YouTube assignment for tonight (and Falafel, huh? Looks like there’s a guest appearance by “Lil’ O’Reilly,” I suppose).

Update 12/5: Hmmm, this has potential (there are a few others at YouTube also)...

Specter's Judiciary "Swan Song"

Here’s more on another Repug mess for the incoming Democratic congress to try and clean up.

As noted in this Inquirer article, Arlen Specter, soon-to-be-former head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is basically washing his hands of the domestic spying mess that he and his fellow Repugs helped exacerbate by refusing to hold Bushco accountable to existing FISA law from 1978.

"I think it would be ideal to have congressional oversight on the program in detail, and I look forward to what will happen next year," he told an American Bar Association gathering. "I have grave reservations as to how successful we will be, given the administration's unwillingness to share those secrets."
Specter states in the article that he’s pessimistic that the Democrats will be able to be able to come up with a solution, and I think he’s right, since the only “solution” that Bushco will consider is one in which they obtain total power to basically bypass congressional oversight.

However, the quote that grabbed my attention from the Inquirer story is this one…

Specter said FBI Director Robert Mueller would testify before his panel Wednesday on whether law enforcement and intelligence agencies are sharing information.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks "could have been prevented if the CIA and the FBI had communicated," Specter asserted.
Well, well.

So THERE’s the answer, huh, Senator “Two-Step”? (step towards the left, then step towards the right…)

It wasn’t that Bushco ignored the warnings of Richard Clarke and treated the August 6, 2001 brief with the screaming title of “Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US” as “a historical document,” was it? Not much.

So, then, what does that say? We invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 now or ever because of administrative incompetence between our intelligence agencies?

Oh, but it didn’t involved alleged fellatio or a stain on a blue dress, so it wasn’t worth investigating, was it now (and when I say “investigating,” I mean something besides that stupid whitewash of a hearing held by Pat Roberts, in which the pre-9/11 portion of the investigation, the part that would have made Bush look REALLY bad, was held after the November 2004 election).

Well, to the great credit of many people in this country, they responded to that on November 7th.

Also concerning Specter, Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker wrote an interesting article last week about how our Senator from PA helped kill habeas corpus as part of the Military Commissions Act passed in September.

As Toobin noted, Bushco has always been on shaky legal ground concerning their denial of habeas corpus, being overruled by the Supreme Court in Rasul v. Bush and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. As the story notes…

“…the Court again rejected the White House’s position, ruling, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that Congress, and not just the President, must establish the rules for trying the prisoners. The decision in Hamdan was announced on June 29, 2006, and Specter had been waiting for it. ‘I pretty much knew what it was going to say, or thought I did. And we had legislation all ready to go,’ Specter told me. ‘It came down in the morning, and I introduced the legislation in the afternoon.’”
However, Specter’s amendment to the bill that would have ensured habeas corpus rights was defeated, and…

In the chaotic few days before the vote, the Administration’s allies in the Senate had toughened the habeas provision of the law. The bill had originally applied only to alleged enemy combatants who were held at Guantánamo. The final version stated that any alien (that is, non-American citizen) who had been seized anywhere and charged with being an enemy combatant would be denied the right to petition for habeas corpus. The definition of “enemy combatant” was also expanded, to include not just those who took up arms but financial supporters of the terrorist cause as well. Accordingly, the bill made clear that aliens arrested in the United States and charged with knowingly giving money to an alleged terrorist organization would be forbidden to sue for their freedom.

Nevertheless, on September 28th, Specter joined all his Republican colleagues (except Lincoln Chafee) in voting for the Military Commissions Act, which passed by a vote of sixty-five to thirty-four. President Bush signed the law on October 17th, and the next day the government began filing court papers asking for the dismissal of all the petitions for habeas corpus filed by detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

It is hard to believe that the Arlen Specter of the nineteen-eighties—the maverick who defied his party on an issue of the magnitude of the Bork nomination—would have considered yielding on a question as fundamental as habeas corpus. “I was madder than hell when the habeas-corpus amendment went down and was a little hot and spoke prematurely on the vote,” Specter told me. “If we had not passed the bill, we would be going on into next year without having a procedure to try these people.” Thus, he said, he felt obligated to vote for the bill.
(By the way, as Atrios noted again today, Jose Padilla is being held as an enemy combatant, and he just happens to be an American citizen...probably not a very honorable one, but a citizen all the same.)

Update 12/5: Glenn Greenwald, via Atrios, has a great post here on Padilla and lapdog media complicity in all things Bushco (maybe his best, as far as I'm concerned).

Why, in this case, is a bad bill better than no bill at all? Besides…

Of course, Specter’s vote on habeas, like his support of Roberts and Alito, forestalled another possible conservative revolt against his chairmanship (which, in the event, the election cost him). Specter is hoping the courts will restore the rights of the detainees to bring habeas cases. “The bill was severable. It has a severability clause. And I think the courts will invalidate it,” he told me. “They’re not going to give up authority to decide habeas-corpus cases, not a chance.” Others are less sure.

“It’s a pretty odd position for Specter to take,” (Akhil Reed ) Amar, of Yale Law School, said. “He trusts the courts to take care of a problem when he’s voting for something that strips them of their jurisdiction to do it. It’s like saying, ‘I shot at her, but I knew I was going to miss.’ Still, he may be right. The Court might strike it down.” According to Amar, the election that cost Specter so much of his clout makes it more likely that his legal position will ultimately be vindicated on habeas corpus.
Nice job, Arlen. Hope and pray that the courts settle this mess, huh? What bold, "moderate" leadership!

Of course, giving Bushco want it wants on habeas corpus is totally “in character” for the about-to-expire 109th Congress. As incoming judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy noted in the article…

“When Lyndon Johnson became Vice-President, he wasn’t welcome at Senate Democratic caucus meetings anymore, because it was for senators only,” Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told me. “But every Tuesday since Bush has been President it’s been like a Mafia funeral around here. There are, like, fifteen cars with lights and sirens, and Cheney and Karl Rove come to the Republican caucus meetings and tell those guys what to do. It’s all ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir.’ I bet there is not a lot of dissent that goes on in that room. In thirty-two years in the Senate, I have never seen a Congress roll over and play dead like this one.”
And, God willing (along with all of our best efforts), we never will again.

Update 12/12: OK, I give Specter (and Leahy) credit after all.

Trying To Earn "A" List Cred

I had an epiphany of sorts on Friday, and I must share it with you.

While waiting in our doctor’s office, I happened upon that day’s issue of The New York Times. I skimmed over the first section and soon arrived on the Op-Ed page. I read Paul Krugman’s column on why he envisions a stormy 2007 for the economy (though I respect Krugman, I should point out something he no doubt knows also; this economy has been awful as long as Bush has been president, so it’s all just a matter of “varying degrees of bad” as far as I’m concerned) and then read an interesting article by Robert N. Proctor, professor of the history of science at Stanford University, on Polonium, the substance that poisoned and killed former K.G.B. agent and Vladimir Putin critic Alexander V. Litvinenko; Proctor alleges that, even in very small traces, it poses a potential threat to cigarette smokers (just another reason to give up that stinking habit…one of these days I’ll post on the whole thing with Putin and the poisoning and how he seems to have journalists killed who write bad things about him).

And after I finished those fine columns, I happened upon the latest from Tom Friedman (I had a long wait, as it turned out).

I have to admit that I’d never really read an entire column from Tom Friedman before; I don’t read the Times as often as I’d like to because I refuse to pay for their online content, and when I do read their op-eds, I only do so with their columnists who are members of the reality-based community.

But I must admit that reading Tom Friedman is truly an experience. Now I know why my “A” list lefty “betters” pile on this guy so much (again, I’d link to the column, but their content is “behind the wall”). I was struck by the unmatched arrogance and pomposity as Friedman breathtakingly restated the obvious as if he’d been the first to realize it, and the depth of his error and self-delusion was something I do not expect to forget anytime soon.

The title of last Friday’s column is “The Energy Wall,” and as nearly as I can understand, he suggests that the U.S. should construct sort of a metaphorical “wall” between ourselves and our energy dependence in the way that Israel has constructed an actual wall between itself and the Palestinians.

These paragraphs appear early in the column:

I believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to the big “clash of civilizations” now under way between the Muslim world and the West what the Spanish Civil War was to World War II. It’s Off Broadway to Broadway.

The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, was the theater where Great European powers tested out many weapons and tactics that were later deployed on a larger scale in World War II. Similarly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the small theater in where many weapons and tactics get tested out first and then go global. So if you study the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Off Broadway, you can learn a lot about how the larger war now playing out on Broadway, in Iraq and Afghanistan, might proceed.
I must admit that it took me awhile to process this, mainly because I was so utterly shocked and repulsed that some human being would actually compare real-life war filled with death, carnage, ruin of people, families, armies, civilizations, etc. along with all manner of awful side effects of regional violence, creation of refugees and hardening of nationalist and ethnic sentiment, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence (and saying nothing of potential environmental catastrophe) to a Broadway production. I’m not going to try and analyze Friedman’s comparison with the Spanish Civil War, since I consider his argument to be so monstrous.

“Honey, I think the musical number after the Lebanese cluster bomb explosion comes at the end of Act Three. I’ll go to the lobby to get a program and find out.”

Ultimately, Friedman gets to the argument where we should build a “virtual wall” to “end our oil addiction,” and I believe this explains his primary motivation…

I do not want my girls to live a world (sic) where the difference between a good day and bad day is whether Moktada al-Sadr lets Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, meet with the U.S. President or whether certain Arab regimes alter what their textbooks say about non-Muslims. I wish them all well, but I don’t want them impacting my life and I don’t want to be roiling theirs, and the only reason we are so intertwined now is O-I-L.
This paragraph inspires a few observations. First, it is admirable that Friedman is advocating for his kids, but perhaps, if he’d really wanted to do that, he would have chosen to oppose the illegal Iraq war from the beginning instead of becoming its most visible pundit cheerleader. Second, his desire to “wish well” to someone like al-Sadr defies belief; one of the goals of this Shia cleric is to incite violence against the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority), and as long as he continues to be successful in this aim, it is harder for us to pull our troops out of Iraq. Third, Friedman’s overall attitude portrayed here is one who is apparently bored with the war and the fact that a nice, clean, quick resolution in our favor has not been achieved. Fourth, it amazes me, now that our escapade in Iraq has totally spiraled out of control (with our service people stuck in the middle of this mess) to see those in the media who cried for war more strenuously than anyone else so quickly and shamelessly “turning over a new leaf” to the point where they are actually recycling the talking points of those who correctly opposed the war from the very beginning (including your humble narrator, though I actually wish I’d been wrong if it meant saving more lives…hence Friedman’s whole “O-I-L” sentence).

There is much more that I could say about this column, but time doesn’t permit me that luxury at the moment.

When I finished reading Friedman’s column, I was angry, frustrated, and confused. And I actually pity those who attach some importance to the delusional meanderings of this idiot.

Update: By the way, I forgot to add a couple of items related to Friedman. The first is this link to a post by Glenn Greenwald, and the second is a response to Friedman from Lou Dobbs, since Friedman called him (as noted in this New Yorker story on Dobbs) a “blithering idiot,” which, as far as I’m concerned, earns point for Lou Dobbs.

"His name calling would bother me more if he were anything more than a tool of international corporatism and a card-carrying member of his own Flat Earth Society."
You go, Lou (he manages to piss off people on both sides, which to me indicates that he’s onto something).

Update: Uh, Lou, it sounds like you and your people have to work on that whole "journalism/reporting/analysis of data/interviewing/corroboration of stories/maintaining chain of custody" thing based on this, you know?

Dear John

All good (?) things must come to an end…

I hope this letter finds you well. It has been some time since I have last thought of you, but when I do, you are foremost in my thoughts.

After all, you are such an indomitable personality. Why, I can never forget the piercing stare of your cold eyes, the overgrown mustache, and the clenched mouth and jaw just prior to an outbreak of utter hysteria. These are the hallmarks that define you.

What I have to tell you does not come easily (no, seriously…it really doesn’t).

I feel that somehow we’ve grown apart, you and I. I have watched you continue in your confrontational, browbeating behavior (as noted
here, you once chased a foreign aid worker across a hotel in Russia…”throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and generally behaving like a madman,” as recorded by Ellen Goodman), which is in line with your poor judgment in allowing cooperate threat-reduction accords between the U.S. and Russia to be jeopardized by a petty dispute over liability provisions in the post you held before you were named as U.N. Ambassador in a recess appointment (your conduct is noted here, with Sen. Pete Domenici, a Republican from New Mexico, noting caustically to you that “nuclear proliferation is a deadly serious business and those who do not take it so are fools.” The brass hand grenade you keep in your desk is a symbol of what you’d like to do to the building housing the community of nations that you purport to represent, which again is in keeping with your temperament.

I, on the other hand, am choosing to pursue a path of sanity and mutual cooperation.

I can’t really tell you that I’ve agonized over what I have to say next, but I must be fair to you and your feelings and state it plainly.
I must pursue a relationship with someone else (actually, I don’t know who just yet, though I have some ideas, as long as it isn’t with you…I’m sorry; that was thoughtless of me).

It has become apparent that it isn’t fair to expect you to change and become a person truly compatible with my needs and interests, so I feel that I must say this to you and ask that we remain as friends from a distance. I know this is difficult, but I believe we will each grow and mature as a result of this experience. So I ask that you respect my wishes at this moment, in which case pointless and costly legal intervention will be rendered completely unnecessary.

John, I wish you peace, happiness and satisfaction in your life and future endeavors. Bless you, and don’t let the door hit you as you leave.

Yours (Until We Approve Your Replacement),

The 110th (Incoming Democratic) U.S. Congress
And here, here and here are links to more individuals gladdened by today's news (the TPM Cafe link under "Birthday Note" features a quote where Bolton says, in essence, that the U.N. is "irrelevant" if it doesn't unconditionally support Israel...that will sure make things easier for our people in Iraq, won't it?).

And Dubya, acting in a newfound spirit of "bipartisanship," blasted Congress for blocking Bolton's appointment (the beat goes on...).

Update: And by the way, regarding Domenici here, I hope he was wearing the "footie" kind (hat tip to Atrios).

Update 12/5: Stephen Schlesinger at HuffPo has more.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday Videos

I'm really going to throw a curve at you, so to speak, with this one...Happy Birthday to Andy Williams (performing "The Language Of Love" with Julie Andrews on a variety show in 1964 - what on earth is a variety show, I hear you ask)...

...and Happy Birthday to Ozzy Osbourne ("Snowblind" with Black Sabbath from 1975).

(And if any of these dates are wrong, please take the matter up with my legal department:-).

Have A Nice Armageddon, Smerky

This latest piece of right-wing bloviation from Michael Smerconish appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News on Thursday November 30th (I've been in an out of "sick bay" for the last few days and I'm trying to get "back into the saddle" - virus bouncing around our house hitting everybody, hot and cold running chicken soup, know the drill).

I would like to know of a book that someone has written that actually advocates an INTELLIGENT approach to the legitimate terrorist threat that we face advocating diplomacy, shared information among the few allies we have left who haven't been totally pissed off by John Bolton (as noted here by Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker; lots of important info about Dubya's "bipartisanship" here, by the way) and obeying the rule of law, but I don't know of one at the moment, and if it existed, I'm sure Smerky wouldn't promote it (actually, it probably does exist, and it has probably been written by Richard Clarke, but that's just my guess).

DO WE need a nuclear deterrent to terrorism?

Nelson DeMille makes the suggestion in his new book, "Wild Fire," whose sales are spreading like, well, its title. It debuted at No. 2 on the Times bestseller list, No. 1 at the Wall Street Journal and No. 1 at Publishers Weekly.

It's another work of fiction by the man who already has more than 30 million books in print. But this one has people talking about a very real subject: How to stop Islamic extremists from attacking American cities.

"It sounds radical, but what we're trying to do is keep Washington, D.C., and midtown Manhattan from being nuked. We're not trying to obliterate another part of world because we don't like them. But we have between 10-20,000 nuclear weapons, we're the most powerful nation on the planet, and, in the history of mankind, and we're being bogged down by guys with AK-47s and plastic explosives. We've got to rattle nuclear sabers. Not because we're bad guys, but because we're good guys," DeMille told me.

Remember MAD? Mutually assured destruction was the cold war policy that if either the United States or the Soviets launched a nuclear strike, the other would respond in kind. That secured the peace.

Wild Fire, the plan that the book is named for, is a version of MAD for the new millennium.

Like MAD, Wild Fire eliminates a president's need for moral choices. If there were to be a nuclear strike against an American city, it would prompt an automatic response. The weapons once trained on the USSR would thunder down on the Arab world.

"Wild Fire is a pro-active response. It is a gun to the heads of Islamic countries - a gun that will go off if they fail to keep their terrorist friends from going nuclear," DeMille writes.

"This is a great deterrent because nobody wants to end the world as we know it," he told me.

"In 'Wild Fire,' I pose that we have something very similar to MAD. Meaning, that if a nuclear bomb went off in America, the presumption of guilt against Islamic terrorists would be very strong; we wouldn't need the proof, we'd never have the proof.

"We would automatically launch against the nation of Islam, specifically against the cities of Mecca and Medina, and other places like Damascus where we don't care for the government, and this would be a deterrent against a nuclear bomb going off in America."

Under what circumstances?

"It would almost have to be nuclear. Chemical and biological attacks are scary and will kill a lot of people but don't rise to the level of nuclear. It's the 800,000-pound gorilla that would obliterate midtown Manhattan or Washington, D.C., even a small suitcase nuke.

"In the book, I mention that there are 67 Soviet suitcase nukes missing from Soviet arsenals... What happened to them, we don't know. Maybe it was just bad record-keeping by the Soviets."

In the book, DeMille explores the possibility that suitcase nukes end up in hands of Islamic terrorists, and if they do, why wouldn't they use them? Well, maybe because Wild Fire threatens to blow up their holy shrines.

"Even the most radical Islamic terrorist would not want to see the revered holy city of Medina go up. It would be like losing the Vatican in Rome," he told me.
As he says in his author's note, "As for the secret government plan called Wild Fire, this is based on some information I've come across, mostly online, and can be taken as rumor, fact, pure fiction, or some blend thereof. I personally believe that some variation of Wild Fire (by another code name) actually exists, and if it doesn't, it should."

I told him that sounds like the stuff of his alter ego, former NYPD detective John Corey.

"I was there on 9/11. Every New Yorker was there in a sense. My suburban town lost 11 people, and I was in Manhattan the first time, in February of 1993, when the towers were attacked.

"As a citizen of this country and the world, we are trying to keep it from happening, and the only way is to say, 'If it happens, we will retaliate in a nuclear way.' What else can we do, say we will launch an investigation and find out who blew up midtown Manhattan?

"That is a game we have played for too long. We never played that with the Russians, why play the same silly game with Islamic terrorists? Some say they don't have a country, but that is not true, they know where their homeland is and so do we."
I don't know if something like "Wild Fire" exists in our government or it doesn't (it wouldn't surprise me if it did under Bushco). But the notion that we could hold terrorists at bay somehow by threatening to blow up a holy Islamic shrine in their "homeland" is ridiculous. Would we give up if (God forbid) they took out St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City? Of course not - it would make us fight even harder, and the terrorist crazies who want to take out as many people as possible would do the same thing. Besides, al Qaeda and their brethren are spread out all over the world. Would DeMille advocate nuking the whole planet?

The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction applied when we were dealing with nation states, but despite the "good graces" of Iran and Syria in the unholy terrorist cause, that really isn't the case here.

No, what we're fighting here is a multi-pronged threat that requires a multi-pronged solution realized by people in our government of intelligence, compassion, resolve, and foresight. And sadly, we don't have many people like that at the moment, and we have no people like that at all in our executive branch.

Every time we're backed into a corner against a foe in a third-world country, we try to bomb our way out more often that not. And any success realized by that approach is temporary at best. Sometimes it's required, but more often than not, it isn't. And the people in these countries know enough to know that that's what we'll do first.

I usually leaver Smerky and his crowd alone when it comes to their saber-rattling and wingnut suppositions and conspiracy theories, but when they start talking about casually lobbing around nukes, that tends to evoke my concern, as it should for everyone. In response, I think that we should focus on more common-sense measures of deterrence such as those proposed by the 9/11 Commission that the Repugs failed to implement. Let's focus on that before we start talking about mass incineration, shall we?