Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Videos

Happy Birthday to Cindy Birdsong of The Supremes, who doesn't sing on this great standard from the group ("My World Is Empty Without You," with Diana Ross of course, along with Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson; Birdsong replaced Ballard in April 1967 - love the documentary-style footage blended in, and I didn't realize how Berry Gordy buried the background vocals until I heard this)...

...Happy Birthday also to Carmen Appice of Vanilla Fudge, keeping the beat at 60 ("You Keep Me Hangin' On," covering The Supremes)...

...some seasonal fare with The Killers ("A Great Big Sled" - thanks to Jim McGuinn at Y-Rock on WXPN for this one tonight)...

...and Steve Martin and Paul Simon perform "Silver Bells" in a manner which I'm sure you've never heard before, and hopefully will never hear again.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (12/15)

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.


Taxes, Medicare, oil and gas drilling
. The House passed, 367-45, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 6111) to renew an array of business and personal tax breaks, cancel a planned cut in Medicare payments to doctors, and open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. Among the bill's tax breaks are a research and development credit for businesses; income tax deductions for college tuition; a provision allowing teachers to deduct up to $250 for the purchase of classroom supplies; and employer credits for the hiring of persons leaving welfare. A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

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

Not voting: Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.).
I was unable to find out why Andrews and Brady voted against this bill, unless it was because they objected to tax cuts being passed at a time when government agencies are underfunded and we’re in the middle of fighting a pointless war that is draining this country of our life blood of an entire generation of potential leaders of this country, to say nothing of funds that could be used to try and fix the environment, fund critical research and development for job growth (remember how we used to do that?), repair our infrastructure, promote educational advancement, and follow up on the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Maybe that was the reason.

If so, I applaud them.

Nuclear deal with India. Members approved, 330-59, the conference report on an administration plan to sell U.S. civilian nuclear supplies to India despite its rejection of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Senate later passed the bill (HR 5682) on a voice vote. A yes vote was to approve the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts, Schwartz and Smith.

Not voting: Fattah.
What an interesting collection of “no” votes here! I went to the sites of all three representatives and could not find any information, and a record of the proceedings on this vote provided no information either.

My guess is that Pitts and Smith opposed this even though the outgoing House “leadership” wanted it, and they knew their votes wouldn’t have any effect on the final outcome, and Schwartz would vote no regardless. At any rate, these three did the right thing, as opposed to our area senators, who caved entirely on this a few weeks ago (God, I actually gave Joe Pitts credit for something – forgive me).

Stopgap budget. The House passed, 370-20, a measure to fund most federal agencies on a stopgap basis until Feb. 15 and delay until then a 2 percent congressional pay raise set for Jan. 1. The Senate later passed the bill (HJR 102) by voice vote. A yes vote approved the measure.

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

Voting no: Castle.

Not voting: Fattah.
(By the way, I guess Chaka Fattah wasn't available becaue he was busy defending Mumia last week...a bright guy, but God was he dumb on that one).

Can’t find any information on why Castle voted no (Google-searching my brains out here and coming up with snake eyes, so to speak), unless it was because he objected to the partisan trick of stopgap funding for just long enough until it became the headache of the Democratic Party when it takes over.

Vietnam trade. The House approved, 212-184, and sent to the Senate the conference report on a bill (HR 6406) to begin normal U.S. trade with Vietnam. The bill also granted more access to American markets to Haiti, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and several nations in sub-Saharan Africa. A yes vote was to approve the bill.

Voting yes: Castle, Dent and Schwartz.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.

Not voting: Fattah.
Here is a link to more information on this, including a nested link to an L. A. Times story on the entire session.

The issue I have with any trade bill coming from our government is whether or not enforceable worker safeguards are included (and I know the answer to the question of whether or not they’re included here before I even ask the question).

Does this mean more textile jobs lost to Central America and elsewhere and I.T. jobs lost to Vietnam (and I know trade relations with that country is a particularly dicey issue)?

I think Allyson Schwartz should take a shot at trying to answer those questions (I basically support her, though her vote here mystifies me).


Taxes, trade. The Senate passed, 79-9, and sent to President Bush a bill (HR 6111, above) to renew an array of tax breaks, avert a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, and expand oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The vote also approved a bill that expands U.S. trade with many nations (HR 6406, above). A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
I don’t like anything that encourages further oil and gas drilling offshore, but I’m not going to win that battle, so…

Defense confirmation. Senators confirmed, 95-2, Robert M. Gates, a former director of the CIA, to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. Gates, 63, is to take charge of the Pentagon on Dec. 18. A yes vote was to confirm Gates.

Voting yes: Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

Voting no: Santorum.

Not voting: Biden.
By the way, the other “No” vote here was cast by none other than Repug Jim Bunning of Kentucky (he was probably told by Fox “News” to vote no, since that is apparently the only source he consults, having admitted that he doesn’t read books or newspapers, no doubt adding to his reputation that earned him a note in Time Magazine’s April edition this year as “one of our five worst senators.”)

I have issues with Gates to be sure, but I just don't see how we were going to get anyone else from the ruling cabal who would've been any better.

FDA confirmation. Senators confirmed, 80-11, Andrew C. von Eschenbach, as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Von Eschenbach, 65, a former head of the National Cancer Institute, has been acting commissioner. A yes vote was to confirm von Eschenbach.

Voting yes: Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

Voting no: Santorum.

Not voting: Biden.
This confirmation was held up in August by Sens. Clinton and Cantwell because of Bushco’s opposition of the Part B morning-after pill, but it has since been approved for sale (not a panacea of course, but a step in the right direction).

Farm aid. The Senate failed, 57-37, to reach the 60 votes needed to add $4.5 billion in emergency aid to the fiscal 2007 agriculture budget (H.R. 5384), on top of $4 billion already in the bill for that purpose. The supermajority was needed because the additional spending violated statutory spending caps. A yes vote was to provide more emergency farm aid.

Voting yes: Carper, Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Santorum and Specter.

Not voting: Biden.
(God, where the hell was Biden all week? Out giving his presidential candidacy "one last shot" - smirk).

And in their final infamous act, the 109th Congress tells our family farmers to drop dead (funny how they adhere to statutory spending caps when it suits them – how about statutory caps on how many tax cut bills you can pass for your corporate benefactors?).

Thus marks the end of the 109th Congress (don’t let the door hit you on the way out, ladies and gentlemen).

The Dems take over the hill on January 4th next year (and with Sen. Tim Johnson appearing to recover fortunately as of now, though he’s probably looking at a long rehab, things may work out after all).

The Pattison Avenue Potentate

This doesn’t have anything to do with politics, but it’s been bugging me for a little while now (and yes, I’ll admit that technically the address of the Wachovia Center is on Broad Street, but Pattison Avenue is in the vicinity). So, for that reason, I’m going to take a brief break from sifting through the flotsam of analysis of what Bushco is going to do about Iraq and the ISG – what is required is crystal clear to most of the world, but we know who “sits in the big chair” – and turn to Philadelphia sports, which I sometimes do.

For the sake of the uninitiated, I should provide some background of what it’s like to be a media consumer in this area, particularly when it comes to sports. As in other places, there is a “chicken or the egg” relationship to how much the media influences public opinion versus the other way around. And if the net effect of this were positive, I would have nothing to say.

I think that the proof of how detrimental this is concerns the recent episode with Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the two teams that play in the Wachovia Center owned by Comcast-Spectacor. I’m not a basketball expert, but I do recognize great players when I see them, and that describes Iverson. He is small in size, but he has more guts than I can imagine, competing against huge men with whom he has to make frequent physical contact in order to stick a basketball into a hoop. And he has done this in Philadelphia for the past 11 years, either leading the NBA in scoring or coming in a very close second or third in the process during that time.

However, he missed a practice a few weeks ago because of back spasms, and then was held out of a practice by Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks. Apparently in a fit of pique, Iverson then demanded a trade.

Enter Ed Snider (pictured), who I believe is the majority owner of the Sixers (I cannot determine the percentage of ownership from the Sixers’ web site – I’ll keep looking), who confirmed on national television that Iverson will be traded, stating that “it’s not working…he wants out, and we’re ready to accommodate him.”

Uh, Ed, can I ask you a question?

Exactly how do you think this is going to help your floundering basketball team? And why is a “cooling off” period apparently not an option here?

Yes, I know Iverson has a long history of lateness, brushes with the law, questionable stuff like urinating into a trash can at Bally’s at Atlantic City, arguing with coaches, fines – you could probably write a book about it (maybe someone has already).

But does it bear repeating to you, Ed, that Iverson is your best player? Do you honestly think coaches are going to come up with special defensive schemes because they’re worried about Kyle Korver?

Besides, most athletes are prima donnas any more – we all know that. They have been led to believe that the world revolves around them all their lives because of their ability and – sometimes – their hard work to achieve their accomplishments, so why should they change as adults (actually, Iverson has mellowed to a point, believe it or not, donating his time to serve food for the homeless at Thanksgiving, and I thought he represented this country well at the last Olympics for the men’s basketball team).

This reminds me a bit of the Terrell Owens fiasco in that one of our teams expected an elite athlete to suddenly learn how to act like a choirboy after ample proof had been provided, based on past performance and reputation, that this would not happen. And in the case of Iverson, how did Snider seriously think that Iverson would change in the way the team owner wanted?

What exactly is “not working” here, Ed? The Sixers? That’s not Iverson’s responsibility by himself.

Why don’t you take a long, hard look at Billy King instead, then?

You know, the guy who former coach Larry Brown anointed as the person to run your team (and though Brown deserves his due as a coach, he deserves scorn for his personnel decisions as head of basketball operations, and installing King definitely qualifies). How has this team fared under Brown’s protégé?

And isn’t this in keeping with your method of ownership, Ed? You know – letting your favorites run everything while you head off to vacation in California and travel as your means allow (not begrudging you that, but if you do, don’t act like you really know the sports landscape around here any more, because you don’t).

And as proof of that, I offer Exhibit A – Bob Clarke, the former G.M. of Ed’s pride and joy, the Flyers (the other team Ed owns, though it is a minority percentage after the Comcast-Spectacor deal for the Wachovia Center in 1996).

Clarke resigned a few weeks ago as general manager after some questionable personnel moves over the last year or so (long-term contracts to aging, injury-prone defensemen Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje, trading for forward Kyle Calder who FINALLY scored his first goal of the season Wednesday in a loss to Pittsburgh), as well as ignoring the way the NHL has changed over the last few years – I can recall a discussion with a former co-worker in 2001 about the Flyers’ need to upgrade their team speed, especially on defense.

Well, guess what? Snider has allowed Clarke to return to the team as a Senior Vice President in charge of player development, with nary a question from the media about whether or not this is actually smart given his past performance.

And speaking of the sports media (yes, I’m talking to you, Phil Sheridan and Bob Ford of the Inquirer, etc.), given everything I’ve just pointed out, when are you going to hold Snider’s feet to the fire on this for a change instead of blaming the team players and the fans exclusively?

Are you cowed because Snider once sued talk radio station WIP over made-up allegations concerning former Flyer Eric Lindros and reputed area mob leader Joey Merlino (a totally justified action on Snider’s part)? Do you think he’ll come after Philadelphia Media Holdings if you report or comment on what I’ve just said?

The Iverson situation brought this to a head, as far as I’m concerned. To watch the media gang on him and give Snider a pass in the process is ridiculous as far as I’m concerned (and hiring back Clarke is an un-reported joke of a move also).

Though I am but a casual observer of Philadelphia sports as things are now for a lot of other reasons, I fail to understand why our media continue to defer to Ed Snider, who has accomplished great things in his career but seems to be squandering that legacy now (and the best barometer of all of this, by the way, is fan attendance, and the Wachovia Center now has more empty seats than ever for Flyers and Sixers’ games).

Oh, and here’s a crazy thought, Ed – you could actually LOWER ticket prices next year instead of raising them as you continually do for these now-inferior teams that are allegedly competing in your Broad Street playpen.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday Videos

In tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records who died today, here are videos of four of his label's most famous performers:

Aretha Franklin ("Rock Steady" on "The Flip Wilson Show")..

Wilson Pickett ("Mustang Sally," recorded live in Germany in 1968)...

Otis Redding (covering the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" at the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967)...

Ray Charles ("What'd I Say?" on "The Ed Sullivan Show" from 12/3/67)...

He'll Drink To That

My oh my, do we have to hose down the editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning!

This is what they have to say about Gov. Ed Rendell's appointment of former PA State Senator Joe Conti to head the Liquor Control Board:

"...Rendell should know that creating a taxpayer-funded soft landing for a retiring elected official is exactly the type of garbage that has sickened Pennsylvanians. Perhaps the governor's landslide reelection has gone to his head. To conjure up such a cushy patronage job in a year in which voters booted out 24 incumbents takes a brazenness the size of Lincoln Financial Field."
I don't know if the author of this diatribe is in need of a round of shots, or if this person had already indulged before going to work on his or her keyboard.

That being said, though, I have to admit that they have a bit of a point. LCB chairman Jonathan Newman didn't know about Conti's hiring as CEO until Tuesday. But Kate Phillips, Rendell's spokeswoman, said that there had been discussion with Newman and other board members for years (to be honest, I think Newman is PO'ed primarily because he didn't get the job himself).

I should also point out that your humble narrator was once one of the biggest critics of the PA State Store system, regarding it as an idiotic relic of the "blue law" mentality particular to this commonwealth. The stores were dirty, the hours of operation were highly inconvenient, the selection was lousy, and the prices were outrageous. However, I have to give the system its due and acknowledged that it has cleaned up its act to a large degree (private ownership would be best, but if the system were dismantled now, all of that lost state revenue would have to be replaced somehow, and that makes me a bit uneasy to say the least).

The Liquor Control Board takes in about $1.7 billion annually, according to an article by Inquirer staff reporter Mario F. Cattabiani yesterday, and as Rendell said, "Do you hear of any $1.7 billion company that doesn't have a CEO?" Besides, Conti ran the committee in the PA Senate that was responsible for LCB oversight, and he ran two family restaurants, according to Alison Hawkes of the Bucks County Courier Times: the Cross Keys Inn in Buckingham and Pipersville Inn before selling them in 1999.

Would "a nationwide search," as advocated by some, have found a better candidate? For how long would such a process have dragged out? And for anyone decrying Conti's new six-figure salary, let me point out as others have that Conti (pictured) could make vastly more in the private sector if he'd chosen that route (and are insanely exorbitant CEO salaries somehow the fault of Ed Rendell?).

Yes, it would have been preferable if Rendell had done this "by the book," but as someone who is making his farewell tour in government, I guess he decided to cut through all of the BS and get the guy he wanted (a Republican whose term in office had ended, let's not forget, so there's definitely no "quid pro quo" here from which Rendell would benefit).

So let's all just relax and "belly up to the bar" on this one, OK?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wednesday Videos

R.I.P. Peter Boyle (here's his duet of "Puttin' On The Ritz" with Gene Wilder in "Young Frankenstein" - couldn't find "Dueling Brandos" with him and Belushi on "Saturday Night Live" anywhere)...

...and here's tonight's holiday video: the unaired "South Park" debut called "The Spirit of Christmas" - please be forewarned that this contains all kinds of bad words.

No Good For What Ails You

This appeared in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer (a follow-up to this)…

Seniors, hurry, Part D deadline nears
By John Breaux

Amid a lot of political noise, the Medicare prescription drug program is entering its second year, and it already can boast astonishing success. Seniors are looking beyond the political rhetoric and finding that the benefits of the program are substantial.

People in the program are saving an average of $1,200 annually in prescription costs, according to the Medicare agency. Competition has driven down costs. When the law was passed in 2003, government officials at first projected that the average monthly premium would be $37. Instead, when dozens of companies began competing with each other to attract seniors to their plans, the average premium went down to $24. That's nearly a 35 percent savings from original predictions.
What I find to be particularly infuriating about that paragraph is the implication that companies “competed” for seniors by offering lower drug costs, when in reality Medicare is forbidden from negotiating lower drug costs as a result of the Repugs’ 2003 scam legislation, as noted here. Since it’s impossible to cut prices, I wonder how they attracted seniors to their plans (and as far as I’m concerned, the notion of “competition” as described by Breaux is a myth.)

And to think, the author of this column was once a Democrat.

Amazingly enough, the savings will be just as good for 2007. Defying inflation, the average premium nationwide for 2007 will remain at the same low $24 per month. Meanwhile, the 10-year estimate for the cost to the government has dropped a whopping 20 percent, or $180 billion.
I don’t care about “the 10-year estimate,” since that will have to be revised, hopefully, after the Democrats fix this mess. Besides, the premium amount is irrelevant if a plan participant falls into the aforementioned “donut hole,” as most did last September, because you’re paying for the cost of your drugs on top of your premium anyway, as noted here (from the link above):

Under Part D, Jose M. Flores, a 66-year-old school bus mechanic from La Joya, Texas paid $40 for each month’s supply of Bvetta, an injectable medicine for diabetes, and $20 for Plavix, a blood thinner used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. But when he went to get his next month’s supply in May, he was dismayed to find he owed $167.56 for the Bvetta, and $1,129.62 for the Plavix. “It’s almost useless,” said Mr. Flores, “I’m paying the premium, but not getting protection.”
Back to Breaux...

Furthermore, Part D is providing beneficiaries access to a wide range of necessary medicines. In 2007, plans will cover an average of 4,300 prescription medicines, a 13 percent increase over the average number of medicines covered in 2006.
So what? It’s supposed to do that anyway. Besides, with all of the tax breaks that the pharma industry gets, they should at least be providing newer and better medicines instead of spending more money on marketing and lobbyists.

It is for all of these reasons that Part D is so popular. In fact, at least four respected, independent national polls have found that about 80 percent of beneficiaries are happy with Medicare Part D. What better measure of success than the endorsement of those who use it?
I don’t know what Breaux is talking about here; I tried to find any reference to the polls he mentions, but I couldn’t locate anything (and of course, it would have been nice if he’d named which polling services had been involved, but people who have something to hide aren’t usually very clear about stuff like this).

For decades, government had designed, for the sake of simplicity, most of its benefits to be one-size-fits-all.
True, if by that you mean that the federal government was able to represent itself as one entity against the pharma industry and make THEM provide the lowest price for drugs, as opposed to creating a boondoggle that left that up to each plan participant, who of course doesn’t have anything like that kind of leverage acting alone against the drugmakers.

But when we in Congress were working to create the Medicare prescription drug program, we were sensitive to the reality that individuals have unique health-care needs.
Spare me.

So we came up with a program that offers flexibility. Seniors have a wide variety of plans from which to choose. They can select another plan if they don't like the one they're in. And they can choose whether to sign up for the prescription drug benefit in the first place. That very ability to choose is the strength and even the genius of Part D.
You can say that about the Medicare program when it was originally signed into law in 1965 by President Johnson. Of course, you bastards have done just about everything you can to ruin it – no “genius” in that.

Seniors have until Dec. 31 to sign up for the first time or to change plans. Medicare recommends acting as soon as possible to avoid any inconvenience at the pharmacy counter next month. Those who want to stay in the plan they're in now don't have to do anything, and their coverage will continue as before.
Sounds to me, based on that statement and even the headline of this column, like our pharma friends are trying to create a scare and get as many people as possible to enroll by the end of the year to pad their numbers.

Seniors can take advantage of the open enrollment now under way with confidence that the one-year-old Medicare prescription drug program has an excellent track record and that it has been endorsed by the people who have used it. The benefit's success proves that seniors know how to relegate political rhetoric to background noise.
Oh, and speaking of “political background noise,” former Senator Breaux, can you please explain to me why your former colleague Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has told Harry Reid, the leader of the presumptive incoming Democratic Senate majority (“presumptive” is a key word here – more in a minute), that he’s opposed to allowing Medicare participants the right to negotiate their drug prices? If this is supposed to be such a wonderful plan, why can’t Part D participants have the same right to negotiate prices as the VA?

(OK, regarding the “presumptive” thing – as noted here, South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson suffered a stroke today; first and foremost, our prayers and best wishes go out to Sen. Johnson and his family, but a very important secondary concern is that, if Johnson has to step down, that state’s Repug governor Mike Rounds, the guy chiefly responsible for that horrible abortion law, will name a Repug to serve in the Senate in Johnson’s place, making the Dem-Repug count 50-50 again and – you guessed it – return control of the Senate to the Republicans with "Billion Dollar Cheney" as the tiebreaker…ugh.)

Update 12/14: CNN is reporting that Johnson did not suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Bushco Is Out Of This World

I was going to come up with a response to this news item, but Morse over at Media Needle beat me to it (kudos).

The Latest From WorldNutDaily

Many thanks to one of my “field correspondents” for this little tidbit.

Gosh, I never really knew why I liked soy; little did I know that it was just part of a vegan plot to rid me of my heterosexuality.

Well then, that means nothing but whole slabs of beef for yours truly from now on (look out, colon), as well as continual TV viewing of stock car races and football games.

And I suddenly now realize why we must stay in Iraq, since “pulling out” isn’t the manly thing to do, right?

(OK, already – snark mode off…)

Update: I didn't know Dan Rubin of Blinq already posted on this; registration may be required - he's not part of my "regular blogging rotation," so it escaped me for a little while.

By the way, as long as I'm thinking about it, I should note that there will probably be no posting tomorrow - we'll see.

Merry Impeachment!

These letters appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning (as Andy Williams sings, "It's the most wonderful time of the year...").

In Pennsylvania, State Sen. Jim Ferlo has launched an impeachment petition campaign drive against President Bush. Next door in New Jersey, the North Jersey Impeach Group is working on state legislation for the same purpose.

Go on your computer to and you’ll see the proposal for impeachment. The real articles will be written by the House Judiciary Committee. President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Donald Rumsfeld is now gone; that’s progress in the right direction. Now we need to go after Bush and Cheney; they are the worst role models this country has ever seen. It is time and, yes, past time for every American citizen no matter what your political affiliation – all people that care about our Constitution, our American democracy and all our freedoms that we have had for more than two centuries – to demand that these two criminal usurpers in Washington, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, be called to account for their actions.

This is no time for Americans to analyze the pros and cons of impeachment. No member of Congress should be in office who does not support the articles of impeachment.

Phil Denny
Falls Township, PA

No administration in my lifetime has done more to undermine the people of the United States and our nation’s standing in the world community than Bush/Cheney.

It has hurt our volunteer military system and our National Guard and Reserves. It has sewn hatred and divisiveness within our nation; allowed torture as a legitimate tool for obtaining information from the innocent; it is responsible for the deaths of more than a half-million innocent Iraqis and for bankrupting America’s treasury!

You bet an impeachment investigation is warranted!

Dianne Shatin
Falls Township, PA
I admire Phil and Dianne’s sentiments, though I hasten to point out, in response to Dianne, that an impeachment is not an investigation; it is an actual trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The case for impeachment is without question as far as I’m concerned, but preparing the article(s) would require skillful legal reasoning, especially since “Judge J.R.” would look for every possible way to shoot any argument full of holes.

Still, though, in the spirit of the season, I’ve prepared the following carol…

Hark! Impeachment now we sing
No more Bush, he’s not a king
Once more he ignores our plea
And rejects the ISG
Our demand, we underscore
Send our troops home from this war
Redeploy as best we can
Emphasize Afghanistan
Hark! Impeachment now we sing
No more Bush, he’s not a king

One more fraud of yours, alas
Is war on the middle class
No more jobs this century
From your cuts in R&D
Millions without health care plead
Care for children, most in need
“Part D” seniors all cajole
Free us from the “donut hole”
Hark! Impeachment now we sing
No more Bush, he’s not a king

Still you spy through NSA
Congress told you it’s OK
Dems fault Repugs “oversight”
What a shame that they are right
Fraud and pilfering are back
In “reconstruction” of Iraq
Pack your bags ‘cos when you’re through
We will come for Cheney too
Hark! Impeachment now we sing
No more Bush, he’s not a king
And by the way, state Sen. Jim Ferlo is my new hero.

Update: Joseph A. Palermo at HuffPo provides a history lesson (and nice comment spelling on "sentamentality," RadicalRepublican).

Is Smerky Flickering Out?

I had attempted to post this as a comment to this post by Michael Smerconish at HuffPo, but there are some kind of server configuration issues going on that aren’t allowing me to do it, so here it is…

Uh, how do I say this exactly, Smerky?

In your attempts to divert attention from the issues that truly matter, such as the fact that
the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. has just departed with the boilerplate excuse of “wanting to spend more time with his family” while the Saudi king is telling our government that he may support the Sunnis in the Iraq civil war (and as Josh Marshall noted, the neocon crazies seem to want to take sides with the Shi'ites), you conjure up this silly non-story?

I know you did this last week to promote your book about Mumia Abu-Jamal and the murder of Officer Faulkner, but at least there was the timing coincidence of the 25th anniversary of Faulkner’s murder to support your self promotion. This, however, is a stretch even for you.

Despite that, I’ll briefly play your little game and point out that I know very well of a homeowner’s association where I live that requires display of white lights instead of colored ones outside of everyone’s homes (a silly rule, I know, but you have to agree to it when you sign on the dotted line).

Why don’t you go find out where Roger Waters is giving another concert so
you can harass him again for exercising his right of free speech?
Talk about a dim bulb…

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holiday Videos (12/12)

Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" to Margaret O'Brien in the musical "Meet Me In St. Louis" from 1944, interspersed with some footage of our service people overseas during Christmas from World War II I believe - this is dedicated to the men and women in our armed forces, particularly those in Iraq and Afghanistan (ends a bit abruptly)...

...and on a whole other note, here's "Raging Rudolph" and "The Reinfather."

More On Murdoch

As I noted in response to a great comment about this post, I am going to follow up on the issue of trying to revoke the U.S. citizenship of Rupert Murdoch; I know this qualifies as perhaps the most quixotic thing I may ever do, but I'm giving it a shot anyway.

What follows is a draft of the letter I plan to send to Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy and Senator-elect Bob Casey. I'm trying to construct some legal or procedural pretext that would give them the opportunity to investigate, and again, I know it's the longest of long shots.

I would like to begin this correspondence by congratulating you on your electoral victory on November 7th. I have no doubt that you will faithfully execute the duties of your office on behalf of the people of this state (for Patrick Murphy, specify the 8th district).

I am writing to you ultimately because of the war in Iraq and the turning of the tide of public opinion against it, to say nothing of the most important issue of all which is the well being of the men and women in our armed forces.

With all of this in mind, I would like to bring up the report of the Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton. As you know, the report advocated redeployment of our forces and its findings have been welcomed by more Democrats than Republicans. This recognizes the fact that this country has turned decidedly against the war because of the lack of a coherent strategy for victory and complete and total absence of post-invasion planning.

Despite that fact, many people still support this carnage. That is their right, but I believe it is another matter entirely when those in our media misrepresent the war and ridicule those who are trying to make sense of this disaster; individuals who run media companies have, I believe, a special obligation to properly inform the citizens of this country with reliable information obtained through adherence to sound journalistic standards and responsible adult conduct.

This leads us to Rupert Murdoch.

As you may know, Murdoch’s New York Post recently published an edition with a cover page showing two simians with faces superimposed over each one; one showed the face of Baker and one showed the face of Hamilton, and the caption appearing beneath the picture said “Surrender Monkeys,” recalling some of the trite, childish name calling that stirred up initial support for the Iraq war and (I would argue) has contributed in no small way to our current nightmare.

This kind of irresponsibility by a figure of Murdoch’s notoriety calls into question his basic judgment as someone whose corporate empire is responsible for communicating news throughout the world, and in this country in particular. Because of this, I thought it would be prudent to conduct a rudimentary investigation into his background and business dealings.

As noted by the online reference service Wikipedia, Murdoch became a naturalized American citizen in September of 1985, which allows him to own American television stations. However, Wikipedia also notes that Murdoch “may have bought out the Turkish TV channel, TGRT, which was previously confiscated by the Turkish Board of Banking Regulations, TMSF. Newspapers report that Murdoch has bought TGRT in a partnership with Turkish recording mogul, Ahmet Ertegün and there are alleged reports that Murdoch has acquired Turkish citizenship to overcome the current obligations against capital sales to foreigners.”

So what exactly is Murdoch’s citizenship at this point? In the event that he is trying to acquire interests in Turkey and has pursued Turkish citizenship, why should he be allowed to have dual American and Turkish citizenship?

Besides, Section 349 of the of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, states that U.S. citizens are subject to loss of citizenship if they acquire the nationality of a foreign state in which they’re accepting employment (surely ownership of Turkish media interests would meet that requirement).

These are some of the questions I have surrounding Rupert Murdoch, and I believe some investigation is required at the very least, especially in light of his childishly propagandistic attempts to influence public opinion on the urgent question of what this country should do about the Iraq war (there must be some legal ground for pursuing this against someone who has made public his desire to act against the best interests of this country). I would appreciate it if you would make all necessary inquiries with the State Department on this issue.

I would be grateful for your response in this matter. Thank you for your time and attention.
If anyone has any suggested edits, please leave a comment and let me know. Otherwise, I'll plan to forward the letters to Patrick Murphy and Bob Casey by the end of the week.

Questionable Moments In History

Inspired (?) by this news story…

Christmas Eve, 1776, Bucks County, Pennsylvania…

Private in Continental Army: Gen. Washington, sir, we’ve received word that a Hessian force has gathered across the Delaware River in Trenton, NJ, but they’re all celebrating the holiday. We could surprise them and seize a victory that would greatly help our cause.

Washington: Oh, what? Uh – sorry, I wasn’t listening. Besides, I’m consulting with Cadwalader and Eqing; we’re trying to come up with a New Way Forward. They had the idea of creating a Revolutionary War Study Group, and they recommend staying put until after the holiday. Makes sense to me.
London, December 24, 1943…

Private in Allied Forces: Gen. Eisenhower, sir, President Roosevelt has just named you Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Congratulations, General!

Eisenhower: Not now, private – can’t you see I’m busy meeting with Gen. Bradley and Gen. Montgomery? We’ve created an interim task force called the World War II Study Group, and we’re going to plan a New Way Forward in Europe for Roosevelt. We’ll issue our findings and then await word in the new year.

Private: But sir…does this mean you won’t accept the promotion? What about our entry into Europe?

Eisenhower: I don’t have time to discuss this now! If Brad, Monty and I can work this thing out, we’ll be greeted as liberators after we launch the invasion and hit the beach in France.
Christmas Eve, 1967, Saigon

Private in U.S. Army: Gen. Westmoreland, sir, we’ve received word that the VC are planning a major offensive timed for what they call Tet, the day the lunar new year begins. They might even try to hit our embassy.

Westmoreland: Ah, more bogus intelligence. They and the PAVN could never hit us like that. That sounds as crazy as launching an assault at our air base at Khe Sanh. But never mind. I’m working on a New Way Forward in this war, and I’m going to submit my findings to Lyndon Johnson after the holiday. He may get it sometime next February, I guess. Nope – no shot of them hitting us like that anytime soon.
I guess that last one isn’t as implausible as I would have liked. Still, my point remains.

If Dubya is going to aspire to act like a legitimate wartime president (I mean, he could never seriously BE one), he should somehow recognize the inconvenient fact that our people are still being slaughtered while he continues to dawdle over the carnage he more than anyone else has created! It’s obvious the phrase “window of opportunity” isn’t one he will ever understand.

And since he refuses to comprehend this, all he remains is a parody of a chief executive.

And as always, thank you red staters for inflicting us with this utterly ineffectual pretender.

A Year After Tookie

To observe the one-year anniversary of the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, I want to link back to this prior post and also link to this site providing news related to the death penalty in the U.S., including the fact that PA Sen. Arlen Specter and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (the incoming Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee) have introduced the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act.

I am not opposed in principle to the death penalty, but I have a lot of concerns about its application.

We Happy Few

This doesn’t have anything to do with national politics or the Bush administration, but I just wanted to point it out anyway.

I had the opportunity to attend a gathering of local area Democrats last night at the fire hall in Lower Makefield, PA, and I appreciated the fact that I was so warmly welcomed by individuals such as Jeanne Bray, Assembly District Chair for District 31, as well as Jason Simon of Lower Makefield; I should point out that District 31 represents Lower Makefield, Yardley Borough and Newtown Township, among other areas. For anyone who reads the Bucks County Courier Times on a somewhat regular basis, particularly the Letters to the Editor, I should note that there were a lot of familiar names in attendance.

The occasion was a party for everyone who had worked so hard on the recent campaign that had helped Patrick Murphy and Bob Casey achieve victory in their congressional campaigns, though Chris Serpico came up short by a few thousand votes against Chuck McIlhinney in the race for PA State Senate, and Mike Diamond (who also appeared) came up short by about the same margin I believe against Dave Steil for PA State Representative (I’m sorry I didn’t do more for Mike during the campaign; the oversight definitely wasn’t intentional).

(And by the way, for anyone who thinks the Bucks County PA Democratic Party has a wad of dough to spend on these types of affairs, I should point out that the fare consisted of finger food such as veggies and dip and various sweets along with beer and soda. This isn’t a complaint; I’m just mentioning this to note that we’d rather spend our money on trying to win elections.)

In addition to Jeanne and Jason, there were a whole bunch of other people who spoke with me about what the local area Democratic Party is trying to achieve next year, notably Lower Makefield supervisor Greg Caiola and supervisors' chairman Steve Santarsiero.

I’m mentioning this to say thanks and also to point out the fact that the party is always in need of more people who want to help promote open government and make a difference in our community. If you live in Bucks County, PA and would like more information, click here to view a list of party contacts who can help you.

Exporting Our Mistakes

Every time I think Bushco can’t possibly outdo itself in its stupidity, it manages to prove me wrong.

I’m hoping that this latest pronouncement – mentioning the possibility of “economic sanctions” against the country to whom we owe more than any other – is just a case of “throwing a bone” to our lapdog media with the full expectation that it will be briefly digested and subsequently forgotten the minute we refocus our attention to some breaking “news” about truly urgent matters, such as the status of Britney Spears’ underwear.

Because if Bushco is actually serious, then we could all pay the price (as usual).

I know this was prompted by the fact that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is on his way over to China (may be there by now) to pressure them to open their markets and loosen their currency policies.

I don’t know if the yuan is pegged to the dollar yet or not, but we could be hosed if China decides to do that and then cut its holdings of our debt, as discussed last April.

Because by doing so, the following scenario envisioned by Paul Craig Roberts could be realized pretty quickly (indeed, what he states about real estate assets is already happening)…

The dollar's sharp decline and projections of continuing trade and budgetary red ink are undermining the dollar's role as reserve currency. A number of central banks have announced that they will be diversifying their currency holdings and will not be buying dollars at the same rate as in the past.

This will put more pressure on the dollar. At some point the flight will begin. Instead of buying fewer dollars, central banks will sell dollars hoping to get out before the dollar hits bottom.

Suddenly, the advantage of being the reserve currency becomes a nightmare as the world's accumulations of dollars are brought to market. An enormous supply and weak demand mean a very low exchange rate for the once almighty US dollar.

Overnight those cheap goods in Wal-Mart, which are the no-think economist's facile justification for Wal-Mart's decimation of communities, small businesses and employment, shoot up in price.

Interest rates will escalate as the government struggles to finance its endless red ink. Heavily indebted Americans with adjustable rate mortgages will attempt to sell homes just as rising mortgage rates reduce buyers. Real estate assets, the rising value of which have been keeping the economy going, will give back gains.
I’m definitely not in love with China on this, but my ire is directed primarily at our government and this mindset of giving corporations whatever they want, even if it means sacrificing our jobs. As a result, they’ve adopted the penny wise and pound foolish attitude of encouraging development in both China and India to obtain products and services for less while refusing to safeguard employment in this country that allows us to maintain our standard of living (I’m not opposed to development in those countries, but something is seriously wrong when they profit and we suffer).

Leveling economic sanctions against the country holding the lion’s share of our debt is the equivalent of firing a popgun at them. China, as a result, could diversify its currency holdings with the dollar in descent, and given what that would do to our economy, that is the equivalent of responding with fire from an AK-47.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday Videos

Happy 66th Birthday to David Gates of Bread with that great '70s poofy hair (cool makeout song, not that that helped me at that age - not yet, anyway - but I digress)...

...Breaking Benjamin ("Sooner Or Later")...

...and tomorrow marks what would have been the 91st birthday of Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra ("I've Got You Under My Skin," and that has to be the Count Basie band with him).

What Kind Of Democrat Are You?

Maybe Tammy Bruce is a friend of Dr. Chuck; this column appeared in this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer, truly one of the strangest I can recall from someone who purports to be a “lefty”:

Do the bums know why they were booted?
By Tammy Bruce

It has now been more than a month since the November election that threw a lot of bums out of office. On that day, voters ushered in the Death of Republicanism and demanded a return to Ronald Reagan's Authentic Conservatism - small government, low taxes, an empowered free market, unashamed patriotism, individual responsibility and freedom, and a commitment to liberty at home and abroad.
I can see that I’ll have a lot to do here.

She’s right about the small government part (and does that mean we can now and forever rid ourselves of the phrase “big government liberal” brought to us by the party that has plunged us into this abyss?), but I would say that the people of this country voted for new leadership on November 7th because they were tired of getting hopelessly screwed over every way possible. In addition to the Iraq war, what drove the Democratic victory was the fact that the party was entrusted to do a better job on the issues of health care, the economy, making us safe at home, and acting fiscally and environmentally responsible. The Democrats had better candidates this time around, and the party as a whole did a better job of moving to the center than the Republicans (and I think Dr. Dean deserves no small amount of credit for that).

We have yet to learn whether politicians understand that the election was a statement that Americans want an ethical, efficient, and small, pro-America government. That we want fresh ideas and fresh faces. That, despite the insistence of the left, we will not return to their good ol' days of defeat in Vietnam. We are now better than that.
The “insistence of the left” that we will return to “their good ol’ days of defeat in Vietnam”? Does she think now that, as if by magic, we’ll return to “the good ol’ days of victory in Iraq”? And will she hold the Democrats personally responsible if somehow that doesn’t happen”?

We want to actually win the war, in Iraq and elsewhere, and not be idle or retreat. We want the enemy put on the business end of our troops. We reject waging war via politically correct multiculturalism. How can you confront an enemy you haven't even named? Try this: Radical Islamists. Al-Qaeda. Iran and all of its proxies. There.
She just showed her true freeper colors. It doesn’t matter what you call the enemy if the people fighting the war were never given a strategy to win. And “we want the enemy put on the business end of our troops”? Unfortunately, it’s been the other way around too many times in this mess.

And “politically correct multiculturalism”? Where the hell did the Inquirer find this person?

The election was a rejection of a Republican Party Elite that mocked our concern about border security.
And how exactly did they do that?

Actually (as usual, with this and other issues pertaining to immigration) the people of this country are, for the most part, way ahead of the curve versus the politicians and media types, as Atrios notes here.

It was disgust at Congress and the president spending like drunken sailors (at least sailors spend their own money). We Just Said No to a party that claimed to represent the Reagan Revolution, but trashed it with earmarks, pork, e-mails to interns, and dinners with Jack Abramoff.
She’s right about a good bit of this stuff, but if there’s one thing I can’t bloody stand, it’s people who claim to support the Democrats singing hosannas to Ronnie Baby.

We grew tired of the repeated insult by the president, John McCain and so many others who insisted, for the sake of a Guest Peasant Program, that there are "jobs Americans aren't willing to do." To that we sent three words, "How dare you." The president called it a "thumpin.' "
Again, she’s right about that, even though I don’t care for her “peasant” remark; it would be even better if she’d voiced some outrage against companies that bring the illegals into this country without doing the due diligence for these people so they don’t end up getting used as pawns by jingoistic politicians.

I'm a Democrat who feels this nation is worth defending. That's why I have supported the president and voted for him twice.
If you’re a “Democrat” who voted for Bush twice, then you should change your party registration at your earliest opportunity.

At the same time, I'm happy to see so many Usual Suspects get the boot. I'm thrilled Rick Santorum is out. Pennsylvanians rejected the oxymoronic Big Government Conservative - and Theocrats. The election of Bob Casey, and other Blue Dog Democrats, reflects our national mood - a clamoring for Authentic Conservatism, regardless of the letter after your name.
Give me a break – as I said, the people of this country voted for moderation and common sense. I honestly think “isms” had very little to do with it (if you think the voters of this country suddenly were overcome by a massive conservative outbreak on November 7th, then you should contact George Will so you can tell fairy tales to each other).

It's obvious that neither party understands the voters' rejection of the status quo. That's why Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi tried to foist John Murtha (D., Pa.) and Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.) on us as congressional leaders.
I’m sick of trying to clear up the endless lies and misinformation about John Murtha, who has more guts and integrity in one of his toenails than any single one of his accusers have in their entire bodies. But I will say that this woman is flat wrong when it comes to Alcee Hastings, as the Washington Post notes here.

It's why she rejected Jane Harman, a moderate Democrat and supporter of Israel, to chair the House Intelligence Committee.
I’ll tell you what, Tammy: here’s a link to a Washington Post profile on Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the man Pelosi ended up choosing instead of Harman. Why don’t you read about him to decide if he’s “pro Israel”-enough for your liking? Then I would ask that you shut your yap and give the man a chance to do the job, OK?

As for the president, I, too, believe it was time for Donald Rumsfeld to go. In fact, it should have happened with honor a year ago, not on the day after the election. That act by the president was rude and disloyal. It was, in short, a disgusting display worthy of Salome.
I’m sure Dubya really cares about anything you or I have to say on that (and Rumsfeld doesn’t deserve anything “with honor” – I tried to read some of Bob Woodward’s “State of Denial” recently, and I had to give it up after reading the parts where Rumsfeld did his very best to intimidate everyone under his command, in particular one, two, and three-star generals…I was becoming absolutely enraged).

You could argue also that Dubya’s decision to keep Rumsfeld on as long as he did was, among other things, stupid politics; who can say if the Democrats would have taken Congress without him? I’d like to think they would have anyway, but you never know.

On the other hand, the resignation of John Bolton as United Nations ambassador is tragic.

Some Republicans are trying to blame that loss on the Democrats. Not so fast. It is a failure of the Republican-controlled Senate, which refused for 18 months to give that man a vote on the floor. Giving up on Bolton shows that Republicans don't understand why they were so unceremoniously booted.
Giving up on Bolton was, for a rare, fleeting moment, an acknowledgement of reality by the Repugs, since even they could see Bolton as the true whack job that he is.

Some Democrats seem to understand that the American people didn't vote for them for their cut-and-run, hate-America-first agenda.
At this point, it is to laugh.

They've even announced they'll avoid the "controversial issues," such as abortion, gun rights and gay rights. They have essentially decided to lie by omission about their ultimate goals, believing the end (socialism) justifies the means (faking moderation). I've dubbed this the "Madame Mao pretending to be Nancy Reagan" plan, a.k.a. the Hillary Clinton White House Strategy.
Maybe the reason the Democrats have decided to move forward on the issues that the majority of the people in this country think are important is because those issues are important to the Democrats also. Oh, but I guess I’m giving the party too much credit for Tammy, who no doubt sees MoveOn-sponsored “conspiracies” everywhere; she knows the party so well also…sure she does.

Politicians who understand the message of Nov. 7 will survive. Those too disconnected to comprehend will continue to underestimate us, and we will fire them, too.

In the meantime, to celebrate the new Independent American voter, I'll be busy printing my "Lieberman/Bolton '08" bumper stickers.
Don’t print too many, Tammy. Somehow I wouldn’t expect a rebate from the manufacturer for excess surplus.

Tammy Bruce's ( is an author, nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, and blogger ( Her most recent book, "The New American Revolution," has just been released in paperback.
And by the way, I went to her web site (sorry to give her a link, but I have to call this out) and happened to come across this interesting tidbit:

Here is the Newt Gingrich/1994 Republican Revolution video I played on the show today. It truly is a reminder of what the differences are between the Republican reaction to winning, and today's Democrat reaction of accusation, revenge and punishment. This is about what's possible, and what we must strive for again, regardless of the letter after your name.
If Tammy Bruce is a “Democrat,” then I’m a supporter of Lyndon LaRouche.

And thanks again, Inquirer, for more cutting-edge, “reality based" commentary!

Update 12/18:This letter appeared in the Inquirer today...

This is surprising news: Those of us who have been working hard to bring the Democratic message to voters in Chester County have actually been advancing the conservative agenda? And those voters want to return to Ronald Reagan? I don't think so!

Let's check off Tammy Bruce's agenda (Dec. 11, "Do the bums know why they were booted?") and see what today's Dems (and we hope, the new Congress) can agree with:

Small government: Yes, as long as it meets the needs of the people. That's what government is for, not building up bureaucracies and budgets (as Reagan did, and as Bush II has done).

Low taxes: Low for those who have less resources, fine; higher, though, for the more wealthy - and no more giveaways to corporations!

Empowered free market: Not really. Voters last month were impacted by corporate scandals, outsourcing of jobs, the declining buying power of the minimum wage.

Unashamed patriotism: Of course, in the sense that we want to be proud of a country that treats its citizens and the rest of the world honorably.

Win the war in Iraq: That's not what voters said. That was and is Bush's agenda. That the whole adventure in Iraq was a mistake is the chief meaning of the November election.

Bruce's Web site ( tells us she lives in Los Angeles. Maybe Democrats (she claims to be one) are different on that far shore, but her Reagan-forever column must come as a big surprise to voters I'm familiar with around here.

Nathaniel Smith
West Chester
Thank you, Mr. Smith!

The Freeper Sob Fest Continues

My goodness, are some people in Bucks County distraught over the recent PA-08 congressional election! These literary gems appeared in the Courier Times this morning.

Patrick Murphy has not yet been sworn into office, but he lined up with the left or so-called progressive wing of the Democrat party in supporting Congressman John Murtha over Congressman Steny Hoyer for majority leader. (Hoyer won.)

Murphy told the Courier Times on Nov. 16 that he intended to cast a vote for Murtha, who also was backed by the new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. This was criticized in the national media as Pelosi’s first blunder.

Congressman-elect Pat Murphy said he would vote for Murtha for majority leader because he is a Vietnam veteran and because Murtha was for troop withdrawal from Iraq. Finally, he called Murtha his political mentor: Blunder No. 2.

I recall the new congressman-elect repeated the Democrats’ battle cry about cleaning up the corruption in Washington, during his campaign. So his first vote for majority leader is the ethically challenged Congressman John Murtha?

While Murtha may have been on the fringe of the ABSCAM investigation 20 years ago and was never indicted, it is widely known that Murtha never met an earmark he didn’t love, especially ones that benefited his friends and supporters. And not too long ago, it was John Murtha who called the Democrats’ reform measures in the 109th Congress “crap” and voted against it (sic).

Our new congressman-elect bears watching. His inexperience is showing, as well as his allegiance. We all know Murphy was elected with the help of more than a few left-wing groups and yet he must have surprised them when he joined the moderate Blue Dog Democrats, who, incidentally, backed their guy for majority leader, Congressman Hoyer.

Nonetheless, Murphy stuck by Murtha and in so doing is showing that he is off on the wrong foot. If the congressman-elect wants to clean up Washington, he blundered, just like Pelosi.

Joseph W. Turner
Bristol Township

This letter comes with great sadness and disappointment as we, the citizens of Bucks County, have lost a strong ally and patriot in Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.

As a former Marine and Iraq War Veteran, I was embarrassed that we did not re-send a man that has done more for the veterans, let alone the citizens, than any other congressman in my lifetime.

To those of you who voted “straight D” on Nov. 7, in an attempt to send a message to our president and the Republican Party, I am ashamed to be affiliated with a district of 80,000 strong veterans who would cast aside a man of integrity, a man of virtue and a man who truly has our best interests at heart because he is of the party that is not presently popular.

I guess the seven out of 10 (sic) bills posed by Fitzpatrick (?) that became laws were not enough. I guess the fact that he is one of, if not the most powerful freshman congressman in Washington, was not enough. I guess the three quarters of a million dollars he got to build the magnificent 9/11 memorial to honor Bucks County citizens who died in the attacks was not enough.

I guess the $25 million he secured for Bucks County was not enough. And, I guess all that he did for Richard Gresko to get him the Medal of Honor he so deserved for his actions one night in a place called Vietnam was not enough.

You have shown your true colors and your disregard for battles won in your favor. You have not only thrown the baby out with the bath water but the tub as well. Hopefully, the new congressman can live up to your unattainable standards of perfection because obviously a congressman who has worked tirelessly to better our county has not.

Mike Tierney
Upper Makefield
It amazes me sometimes to realize that these letters are written by people who allegedly are adults (I mean, it’s not as if I heard anything like this two years ago when Mikey defeated Ginny Schrader).

First, Turner lambasted “Pat” Murphy of the “Democrat” party for supporting John Murtha for majority leader (I swear, I cannot recall a time when Republicans cared more about the internal vote of the opposition party in Congress). Also, I don’t know if that quote attributed to Murtha is legitimate, and since the election is over, I’m not going to waste my time trying to source it; I’ll only add that if it is, it’s because the Democratic “compromise” on ethics reform ended up as a hopelessly watered down measure at the behest of the Repugs (and I wonder if Turner realizes that he’s contradicting himself in his own letter, pointing out how Murphy is beholden to those godless commie liberals even though he joined the Blue Dog Democrats – as I noted earlier, the jury is still out on that as far as I’m concerned, though I trust Patrick to do the right thing).

Second, Tierney’s letter (any relation to Brian, I wonder?) is right up there among the most sanctimonious pieces of garbage I’ve ever read in this newspaper (including his snotty reference to “a place called Vietnam”). If he feels so ashamed, then he should move and do us all a favor.

And I'm sure those transition meetings between Mikey and Patrick are taking place right on time with no issues whatsoever, right?

Taking Horowitz To School

This column appeared in the Inquirer last Friday.

Academic freedom for students

Temple and Penn State have instituted policies that curb instructors. Other schools should.

David Horowitz
is president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center in California

Now that the dust has settled on the academic-freedom hearings that were held in Pennsylvania from September 2005 to June 2006, it is time to look at what was actually accomplished.

According to the teachers unions and their allies in the press, the effort was a "waste of time." Others found the results modest, if worthy. The Associated Press noted that the legislative Committee on Academic Freedom had urged Pennsylvania universities "to review, and make students aware of, academic-freedom policies." But this was only the tip of the iceberg of what the hearings accomplished.

The hearings, which our center supported, were held over nine months in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Millersville and Philadelphia. What they revealed was startling: All of Pennsylvania's academic-freedom provisions were written to protect professors. Not a single public university had academic-freedom provisions that applied to students.

Administrators from five Pennsylvania universities appeared before the committee, and claimed that students were protected by the academic-freedom regulations on their books. But when the regulations were examined, it was evident that they applied only to professors. In other words, students not only did not know their rights, they didn't have any. The committee has recommended that this deficiency be corrected, and universities have already stepped forward to do so.

As soon as the hearings were concluded in June, the trustees of Temple - one of the three large public universities in the state - wrote a policy, "Faculty and Student Rights and Responsibilities," that went into effect Aug. 1. For the first time in state history, students were provided with academic-freedom rights. These rights are accompanied by a new grievance machinery specific to academic-freedom matters, along with a system that reports abuses directly to the board of trustees.

Shortly before the Temple policy was announced, the faculty senate at Pennsylvania State University passed its own new policy, which states: "Students having concerns about situations that arise within the classroom, or concerns with instructor behavior in a course that violates university standards of classroom conduct as defined in Policy HR64, 'Academic Freedom,' may seek resolution according to the recommended procedures."

HR64 is one of the most powerful university statements on academic freedom. It states:

"The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject. The faculty member is, however, responsible for the maintenance of appropriate standards of scholarship and teaching ability. It is not the function of a faculty member in a democracy to indoctrinate his/her students with ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects.

"The faculty member is expected to train students to think for themselves, and to provide them access to those materials which they need if they are to think intelligently. Hence, in giving instruction upon controversial matters, the faculty member is expected to be of a fair and judicial mind, and to set forth justly... the divergent opinions of other investigators."

This would be powerful enough, but the Penn State policy adds:

"No faculty member may claim as a right the privilege of discussing in the classroom controversial topics outside his/her own field of study. The faculty member is normally bound not to take advantage of his/her position by introducing into the classroom provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his/her study."

In other words no speeches on the Iraq war in engineering classes where the course matter is not about Iraq or American foreign policy. No in-class attempts to promote a political candidate during elections. No personal agendas that have nothing to do with the academic subject for which the students have signed up.

The adoption of these policies is a watershed event in the history of education not only in the commonwealth, but nationally as well. Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Gib Armstrong (R., Lancaster) and others, Pennsylvania is the first state where universities have instituted academic-freedom policies that protect students as well as professors. May the rest of Pennsylvania's universities follow the examples of Temple and Penn State, and may the nation's universities do so as well.
I find it curious that Horowitz discusses the “academic freedom” hearings and omits the fact that they were initiated at Temple as a result of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a disgruntled graduate student (as follows)…

The conservative Alliance Defense Fund charged Temple with liberal bias in a lawsuit filed in February on behalf of graduate student Christian DeJohn. Mr. DeJohn, who served with the Pennsylvania National Guard, charged that his differences with a military history professor over the Iraq war led the professor to retaliate against him by delaying approval of his master's thesis plan.

U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell has not yet ruled on Temple's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Across the country, conservatives including writer-activist David Horowitz have charged that liberal professors infringe on the free speech rights of conservative students and have demanded an "academic bill of rights."
So, at Temple, this policy was written because of one student?

Well then, is “academic freedom” such a widespread problem at Temple? As stated in the article…

During the hearing, now-retired Temple President David Adamany said he had not received a single complaint on the subject in his five-year term, although students did not hesitate to e-mail him about campus food or the unavailability of certain classes.

"He felt pretty comfortable that it was not a major issue on campus," (Adamany’s spokesman Raymond) Betzner said yesterday.
The fact that no such problem of academic bias exists is drummed home also in this fine Smirking Chimp column by Dave Lindorff (I part with him on Mumia Abu-Jamal, but I’m “on the same page” with him about everything else – one commenter notes astutely that Horowitz’s job is to prevent anti-war activity on college campuses, which he can accomplish more easily now with an all-volunteer army…and by the way, as Lindorff notes, Gib Armstrong was voted out of PA state government as a result of the pay raise scandal).

Also, Penn State professor Karen Halnon wrote this post to a school listserv about the effect of Horowitz’s accusations (please disregard the idiotic preface from “the editors”), and this link takes you to an article about Horowitz’s accusations against three outspoken University of Pennsylvania professors who, as it turns out, all happen to be African American (I would say its pretty obvious that Horowitz supports “academic freedom” for the conservative voice but affords no such courtesy for any possible dissenting opinion – I’m not familiar with one of the professors, but I have seen Dyson and Berry on “Real Time,” and they're very bright and charismatic people).

Update: The link to the story on the three professors is flaky - here are the first four paragraphs:

Three Penn professors are out to ruin America, according to a new book by a conservative political commentator.

Pundit David Horowitz's latest book accuses three Penn professors of being among the most radical figures in higher education.

The book -- entitled The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America -- describes what Horowitz considers to be a growing national trend of left-wing professors attempting to indoctrinate students with their own political agendas.

Of the Penn faculty, Law professor Regina Austin, History professor Mary Frances Berry and Religious Studies professor Michael Eric Dyson made Horowitz's list.
My take on all of this, for what it’s worth? Temple and Penn State caved to an incredibly small and noisy (but well funded) minority on this issue by coming up with some unenforceable, totally “vanilla” policy in lieu of having Horowitz continuing to make a pest out of himself in front of our state legislators who might accidentally do something stupid and pass a law requiring that professors at state-funded universities be approved by the legislature, which may or may not be Republican after all…I think the recount on that critical race in Chester County is still in progress.

As for Philadelphia's "newspaper of record," I think the fact that the Inquirer would choose to print a highly misinformative screed like this from Horowitz without a reality-based point of view in opposition to it speaks volumes to the editorial influence exerted upon this paper by Bruce Toll and Brian Tierney of Philadelphia Media Holdings, pro-business conservative “accessories after the fact” guilty of peddling propaganda as actual news.