Saturday, January 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Iris

Even though YouTube is down for now, I want to take a minute and wish a happy birthday to singer Iris Dement, who once wrote a truly great song called "Wasteland Of The Free" that you can link to from here to read the lyrics and hear the .mp3 file.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Videos

The Cure ("Friday I'm In Love," though technically it's Saturday EST at this point - always have to be picky, I know)...

...also, happy birthday to Michael Stipe of R.E.M. ("Finest Worksong").

Losing The Information War

In my response to Victor Davis Hanson yesterday, I referred to a great article I’d read in The New Yorker written by George Packer (in the December 18th issue) concerning how the terrorists are defeating us in “the battle of hearts and minds” that we’re trying to wage in Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else where terrorism is flourishing, which would be just about the entire “third world” of this planet.

I’m just going to list some excerpts here as sort of a follow-up to what I was saying yesterday…

The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required.


By speaking of Saddam Hussein, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Taliban, the Iranian government, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda in terms of one big war, Administration officials and ideologues have made Osama bin Laden’s job much easier. “You don’t play to the enemy’s global information strategy of making it all one fight,” (David) Kilcullen (an expert in counterinsurgency) said. He pointedly avoided describing this as the Administration’s approach. “You say, ‘Actually, there are sixty different groups in sixty different countries who all have different objectives. Let’s not talk about bin Laden’s objectives—let’s talk about your objectives. How do we solve that problem?’ ” In other words, the global ambitions of the enemy don’t automatically demand a monolithic response.


An information strategy seems to be driving the agenda of every radical Islamist movement. Kilcullen noted that when insurgents ambush an American convoy in Iraq, “they’re not doing that because they want to reduce the number of Humvees we have in Iraq by one. They’re doing it because they want spectacular media footage of a burning Humvee.”
I would say that this echoes the tactics of the NVA in the Vietnam War.

Here's more...

Last year, a letter surfaced that is believed to have been sent from Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy, to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, nine months before Zarqawi’s death; the letter urged Zarqawi to make his videotaped beheadings and mass slaughter of Shiite civilians less gruesome. Kilcullen interpreted the letter as “basically saying to Zarqawi, ‘Justify your attacks on the basis of how they support our information strategy.’ ” As soon as the recent fighting in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israeli troops ended, Hezbollah marked, with its party flags, houses that had been damaged. Kilcullen said, “That’s not a reconstruction operation—it’s an information operation. It’s influence. They’re going out there to send a couple of messages. To the Lebanese people they’re saying, ‘We’re going to take care of you.’ To all the aid agencies it’s like a dog pissing on trees: they’re saying, ‘We own this house—don’t you touch it.’ ” He went on, “When the aid agencies arrive a few days later, they have to negotiate with Hezbollah because there’s a Hezbollah flag on the house. Hezbollah says, ‘Yeah, you can sell a contract to us to fix up that house.’ It’s an information operation. They’re trying to generate influence.”

The result is an intimidated or motivated population, and a spike in fund-raising and recruiting. “When you go on YouTube and look at one of these attacks in Iraq, all you see is the video,” Kilcullen said. “If you go to some jihadist Web sites, you see the same video and then a button next to it that says, ‘Click here and donate.’ ” The Afghan or Iraqi or Lebanese insurgent, unlike his Vietnamese or Salvadoran predecessor, can plug into a global media network that will instantly amplify his message.
And how are we responding?

In late September, Kilcullen was one of the featured speakers at a conference in Washington, organized by the State and Defense Departments, on bringing the civilian branches of the government into the global counterinsurgency effort…

At the counterinsurgency conference in Washington, the tone among the uniformed officers, civilian officials, and various experts was urgent, almost desperate. James Kunder, a former marine and the acting deputy of the U.S. Agency for International Development, pointed out that in Iraq and Afghanistan “the civilian agencies have received 1.4 per cent of the total money,” whereas classical counterinsurgency doctrine says that eighty per cent of the effort should be nonmilitary.
So what happens when we focus on spending exclusively for the military at the expense of non-military operations? According to Frederick Barton, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank…

…since 2002 America has spent more than six billion dollars on buttressing the Pakistani military, and probably a similar amount on intelligence (the number is kept secret). Yet it has spent less than a billion dollars on aid for education and economic development, in a country where Islamist madrassas and joblessness contribute to the radicalization of young people.
As I said yesterday, Hanson was trying to cast the struggle against Islamist extremism in the same light as the cold war against Communism from years ago. I don’t think the comparison works, though there are lessons to be learned from that time that would help us here (and it sounds like both Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar were mindful of that, as follows).

In early 2004, as Iraq was beginning to unravel, Senator Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat, introduced legislation for a nation-building office, under the aegis of the State Department. The office would be able to tap into contingency funds and would allow cabinet-department officials, along with congressional staff people and civilian experts, to carry out overseas operations to help stabilize and rebuild failed states and societies shattered by war—to do it deliberately and well rather than in the ad-hoc fashion that has characterized interventions from Somalia and Kosovo to Iraq. Lugar envisioned both an active-duty contingent and a reserve corps….But Colin Powell, then the Secretary of State, and other Administration officials refused to give it strong backing.

Then, in the summer of 2004, the Administration reversed course by announcing the creation, in the State Department, of the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization; the office was given the imprimatur of National Security Presidential Directive 44…But the new office was virtually orphaned at birth. Congress provided only seven million of the hundred million dollars requested by the Administration, which never made the office a top Presidential priority.
And Hanson should pay particular attention to this paragraph…

Terms like “totalitarianism” and “Islamofascism,” she said, which stir the American historical memory, mislead policymakers into greatly increasing the number of our enemies and coming up with wrongheaded strategies against them.


Kilcullen is attempting to revive a strain of Cold War thought that saw the confrontation with Communism not primarily as a blunt military struggle but as a subtle propaganda war that required deep knowledge of diverse enemies and civilian populations. By this standard, America’s performance against radical Islamists thus far is dismal.

“Instead of turning the prisons into insurgent universities (Hoffman said), you could have a systematic process that would be based on scientific surveys designed to elicit certain information on how people joined, who their leaders were, how leadership was exercised, how group cohesion was maintained.” In other words, America would get to know its enemy. Hoffman added, “Even though we say it’s going to be the long war, we still have this enormous sense of impatience. Are we committed to doing the fundamental spadework that’s necessary?”

Traditional diplomacy, with its emphasis on treaties and geopolitical debates, is less relevant than the ability to understand and influence foreign populations—not in their councils of state but in their villages and slums.
So what is a forward-thinking individual like Kilcullen doing now regarding this issue?

Kilcullen is now in charge of writing a new counterinsurgency manual for the civilian government, and early this month he briefed Condoleezza Rice on his findings in Afghanistan. But his ideas have yet to penetrate the fortress that is the Bush White House.


According to (an expert in public diplomacy with close ties to the State department), an American diplomat with years of experience identified another obstacle to American outreach. “Let’s face it,” he told her. “All public diplomacy is on hold till George Bush is out of office.”
And how many more will die until that blessed day finally arrives?

The Proof Is In The Paper

Neil Samuels, the deputy chairman of the Bucks County Democratic Committee, chairman of the Doylestown Democrats, and a creative director at a Bucks County marketing firm, wrote the following Guest Opinion that appeared today in the Bucks County Courier Times.

David Sanko, Bucks County’s chief operating officer, was at his political worst when he recently referred to pending legislation in Congress that would mandate voting machines that produce voter-verified paper ballots.

In reference to Patrick Murphy’s support for the legislation, which would ensure that recounts of actual paper ballots are available in future political races, Sanko stated, “I’m certain that Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy would not be pushing an unfunded mandate, and, therefore, a tax increase, on the people of Bucks County in his first year in office.”

Strange that Sanko, who has been a longtime political operative for the Republican Party in Bucks County, never saw fit to make such a statement when former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick signed on as one of 221 co-sponsors for the very same bill: House Resolution 550, a bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require a voter-verified permanent paper record or hard copy. Sanko should apologize to Murphy and learn to start working with our next congressman instead of so obviously trying to undermine him before he’s even sworn in.

Sanko, of course, is simply trying to cover himself when the bills come due. With the support of the county commissioners, who ignored the pleas of hundreds of concerned and educated citizens (and a resolution demanding machines with voter verified paper ballots passed by the Bucks County Democratic Committee over a year ago), Sanko advocated purchasing expensive touch screen voting equipment with no paper ballot component.

One of the great ironies is that his preferred candidate, Fitzpatrick, had no opportunity to even conduct a recount following his recent electoral loss since no paper ballots exist for such a challenge in Bucks County.

Not only did Sanko and the commissioners choose a machine they will be forced to upgrade or replace entirely, but their collective ineptitude resulted in Bucks County’s ignominious distinction as the only county in the entire state that failed to make a decision within the legally required timeframe, a failure that might cost taxpayers nearly $1 million in federal grants. The retrofit or repurchase of new equipment will cost further millions.

This was a mistake that many who care deeply about fair elections, including numerous former Republican and Democratic county commissioners, repeatedly warned Sanko and the current commissioners about in numerous public meetings and in writing.

The final point that must be made is to recognize that most people have no complaints about the tactile experience of voting on any of the new machines. That has never been the problem or the issue. What is more important, and what is constantly ignored by Sanko and the commissioners, is the complete absence of any method for rectifying errors in the machines.

Voters must have faith that the votes are counted as they were cast. The current machines can’t perform this simple function. As a result, we cannot have meaningful recounts in Bucks County. In close elections, how will we ever know who really won?

As an example, Chester County recently hand-counted paper ballots to determine which party would control the state House. The two candidates were separated by a mere 23 votes at one point but at least they had physical ballots to review. We have nothing but a machine’s memory chip, which can only regurgitate the same output over and over again with no way to cross check the original input and ascertain whether it was recorded correctly in the first place.

Optical scanner systems can solve all these problems. They cost less to purchase, they cost less to program, to maintain, and to store. They last longer, and more people can vote on them in less time. They were the right choice a year ago and they are still the right choice for Bucks County. Sadly, just like President Bush, our county leaders are incapable of admitting they have made a grievous error and we, the people, will pay the price for years to come.

We taxpayers should be outraged by the incompetence of the commissioners who first missed the deadline to comply with the law, and then allowed this expensive and flawed election equipment to be purchased with our hard-earned money even though they were repeatedly warned not to make such a short-sighted, expensive, and easily preventable mistake.
Samuels is right; we should be outraged. And if you want to contact the Bucks County Commissioners and tell these knuckleheads to stop messing around and purchase 21st-century technology (and they had better not dare imagine that they can blame Patrick Murphy for their own stupidity), click here.

Land On This, Hubbard

In today’s news for the investor class, Allan Hubbard, director of the White House Economic Council, said that the economy is poised for a “soft landing.”

Gee, I hope he knows more about this subject than he does about the size of the national debt.


Another Nice, Cushy Bailout

I thought it would be appropriate to take another shot here at Home Depot in light of the parachute for CEO Bob Nardelli that was announced recently (and it doesn’t surprise me that Nardelli came from G.E., since that company is a breeding ground for obnoxious, egotistical executives, though there are a lot of places like that).

(And you go, Barney Frank!)

Update 1/9/07: Here's more from Barbara Ehrenreich of HuffPo.

Right Choice, Wrong Time

According to this CNN story, it looks like Gen. George Casey is out because he actually told Dubya some stuff he didn’t want to hear. I have to admit, though, that I’m surprised by his successor.

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin, among others, has communicated good things about Gen. David Petraeus (pictured), who is the new chief commander in Iraq. As Rubin noted here in the second article…

From his experience in Bosnia and elsewhere, Petraeus developed a strategy for postwar planning. In Mosul, Petraeus trained new Iraqi security forces and established stability in those first 30 days, and he used Iraqis (not big U.S. contractors) to rehab factories and infrastructure. The Petraeus model brought relative calm to Mosul while he was there.
Concerning the other personnel change, I’m not familiar with Admiral Fallon, but even CNN, which usually tows the Bushco line without question, had to point this out…

Fallon is an unusual choice to head the Central Command, which has responsibility for a land-dominated region that includes the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Until now, the post has always gone to an Army or Marine general, just as the ocean-dominated Pacific Command usually goes to a Navy admiral. But because of his current service in the war Fallon does have the advantage of representing a clean slate in regard to the current Iraq policy.
“Representing a clean slate,” huh? So he was named for the sake of political expediency?


(And by the way, I don’t care about Negroponte, since he’s just picking up where he left off under Reagan as far as I’m concerned; in a perverse way, it’s kind of funny how death squads show up in Iraq once he enters the picture much like they did in Honduras in the ‘80s.)

So it looks like “The Decider” will have two new scapegoats to blame when his “new way forward” leads to nowhere.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I Will Fight Some More Forever

(apologies to Chief Joseph…)

The blogger Attaturk, substituting for Atrios, took Victor Davis Hanson to task this morning: Hanson got all in a snit because someone had the audacity to actually criticize him in his learned genius concerning all things military in general and the Iraq war in particular.

Between Hanson and Tom Friedman, it’s hard to determine who is the more soulless, deceitful shill of a columnist.

Well, I had planned to say something about a Hanson column from a couple of days ago, so this gives me the opportunity to follow up on Attaturk’s post with these observations (based on this).

Read any newspaper or turn on any news broadcast and you're bound to encounter stories of Islamic radicals fighting, killing and threatening each other — and just about everyone else.
And you’ll also likely read stories of how, by launching our Iraq war, we created a vacuum in that country that was filled by the Islamic fundamentalists supported by Iran and Syria who are doing exactly that.

In Somalia, jihadists, with the support of al Qaeda, have clashed with troops loyal to the country's internationally recognized interim government and now threaten neighboring Ethiopia with all-out war.

Nearby in Darfur, Muslim militiamen called janjaweed are waging genocide against black Christian and animist villagers — apparently with the consent of the Sudanese government.
And also with the consent of our government, which refuses to exert influence over the government of Sudan and the janjaweed under the bogus pretext that that government is assisting us in the Never Ending You Godless Commie Liburul Even Though The Heathen Democrat Party Now Runs Congress War On Terror.

Shiite and Sunni militias, each claiming to represent true Islam, keep slaughtering each other in Iraq.

Hezbollah ("Party of God") seeks to destroy democracy in Lebanon by provoking Israel, which it is sworn to eliminate.

On the West Bank, Hamas and Fatah have taken a timeout from their attacks on Israel to murder each other and innocent bystanders.

The Iranian Shiite theocracy — when not hosting Holocaust deniers or sending terrorists into Iraq — issues serial pledges to finish off Israel.

The shaky Pakistani leadership pleads that it can neither target Osama bin Laden nor stop Taliban jihadists hiding out in the remote regions of Pakistan from streaming back into Afghanistan.
It’s perversely funny to read a sentence like that from Hanson and realize that he’s given Dubya a complete pass on the fact the he above all else intentionally botched the search for bin Laden because he's protected by the Saudis.

In Europe, opera producers, novelists, cartoonists and filmmakers are increasingly circumspect out of fear of death threats from Islamists.
OK, enough already.

Like a typical propagandist long on theory but short on actual fact, Hanson tries to paint a picture of a highly sophisticated and coordinated worldwide terrorist insurgency that is quickly adaptable to any given location, much like the army of an actual nation-state (hence the frequent use of phrases like “islamofascism” to imply an association with the Axis powers in World War II or global communism, which truly WAS global for its time, funded and supported primarily by China and the Soviet Union).

The problem is that, though there definitely is a global component to the legitimate war on terrorism, what really is driving the fighting is regional, ethnic and religious strife particular to that area more than not. In other words, does anyone think Somali jihadists give a damn whether or not Hezbollah attacks Israel? Given a choice, which side would an Islamist opposed by the janjaweed fight for if forced to join the civil war in Iraq between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites?

Instead of conjuring fears of terrorists tightening a metaphorical noose around our necks more and more with each passing day, he might actually try to look at each of these scenarios he’s mentioned and treat them as unique unto themselves requiring different approaches and different solutions (though he does issue some feeble mea culpa to that effect in the next sentence after he spends much of his column trying to create his imaginary worldwide linkage).

While each conflict is unique and rooted in its own history, the common thread — radical Islam — is obvious. It's thus worth asking why this violent, intolerant strain of Islam has taken hold in so many unstable places — and at this particular time.
And what is not obvious is how much our support of unpopular dictators, such as our installation of the Shah of Iran in the ‘50s and the decision to let the CIA help Saddam Hussein murder Shi’ites in an effort to take over Iraq at about that same time, has hastened the development of radical Islam, to say nothing of our relationship with the Saudis.

The ascent of radical Islam is, perhaps, the natural culmination of a century's worth of failed political systems in Muslim countries that were driven by morally bankrupt ideologies, led by cruel dictators, or both.
Again, aided in no small part by us (and I defer to Chomsky on this here).

“…these groups (the Taliban and bin Laden’s network) were organized by the CIA, Pakistani and Egyptian intelligence and other U.S. allies. They were organized recruited, trained, and armed to fight a holy war against the Russians, which they did. But they also started right away carrying out terrorist acts. 20 years ago they assassinated the president of Egypt and they’ve been carrying out terror ever since. The groups that the CIA organized were drawn from extremist radical Islamic groups and they have been pursuing their own agenda. They did what the CIA wanted them to, but they have been pursuing their own agenda. There is no doubt that from the start they were murderous terrorist organizations. I don’t know if the word fascist is exactly correct, they don’t have that kind of ideology. But they’re extremely dangerous and have been for 20 years.

They know, even if we choose not to, that the United States has been devastating the civilian society of Iraq while strengthening Sadam Hussein (in the ‘80s and as a result of the note), and it’s been supporting a very harsh military occupation that is now in its 35th year in Israel, over the Palestinians. The U.S. has been pretty much alone in the world in imposing that very cruel domination with economic and military and diplomatic assistance. That’s quite well known there and even the most pro-American wealthy Muslim businessmen bankers have the same feelings others do. When Bin Laden talks about these things there is a resonance. They may hate him. Most of them do hate him because they overwhelmingly oppose his terrorist violence and his Islamic fanaticism, but a good part of the message does reflect what people believe and with justification.”
Back to Hanson...

In the 1930s, German-style fascism appealed to Arabs in Palestine and Egypt. Soviet-style communism had sympathetic governments in Afghanistan, Algeria and Yemen. Baathism took hold in Syria and Iraq. The secular Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser promised a new pan-Arabism that would do away with colonial borders that divided the "the Arab nation." Then there is the more pragmatic authoritarianism that survives in Muammar el-Qaddafi's Libya or in the petrol-monarchies in the Gulf.
“More pragmatic authoritarianism” in Libya? Is Hanson serious?

As I’ve said before, at least Saddam Hussein never blew up any of our planes or sentenced medical personnel to death on the bogus charge of infecting children with HIV.

Radical Islam may be as totalitarian and as morally bankrupt as any of these past or mostly defunct "isms," but its current appeal isn't hard to figure out. Unlike fascism or communism, radical Islam is locally grown, and not plagued by charges of foreign contamination. Indeed, Islamists claim to wage jihad against the modernism and globalization of the outside, mostly Westernized world. Such a message resonates in stagnant, impoverished Muslim countries.
But again, Hanson is lumping all “Islamists” together to imply some worldwide conspiracy. Though the threat is real of course, it is too fragmented to be categorized so easily.

Of course, while the people of the region may be poor, the Islamist movement isn't. Huge oil profits filter throughout the Muslim world, allowing Islamists to act on their rhetoric.
Not considering our support of regimes that allow that to happen for a minute, I should say that that’s a pretty good argument for us to work towards energy self-sufficiency (Hanson does mention that later, to be fair, but not now, perhaps so we don’t realize who above all else allowed the radical Islamist movement to get rich in the first place).

In today's world, militias can easily acquire everything from shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to rocket-propelled grenades. With such weapons, and on their own turf, Islamists can nullify billion-dollar Western jets and tanks.
And should we ask where these militias would get these weapons?

There is still another reason for the rise of Islamists: They sense a new hesitation in the West.
Oh, here we go now...

We appear to them paralyzed over oil prices and supplies and fears of terrorism. And so they have also waged a brilliant propaganda war, adopting the role of victims of Western colonialism, imperialism and racism. In turn, much of the world seems to tolerate their ruthlessness in stifling freedom, oppressing women and killing nonbelievers.
Welcome to the Victor Davis Hanson Generalities Festival, ladies and gentlemen! And I grudgingly have to acknowledge that the terrorists have been winning “the information war” (there was a great New Yorker article on that a few weeks ago that I’m trying to post on – I’ll keep trying), partly because of the stupefying idiocy behind why we waged the Iraq war to begin with and continue to do so.

So how, aside from killing jihadist terrorists, can we defend ourselves against the insidious spread of radical Islam? Here are a few starting suggestions:

Bluntly identify radical Islam as fascistic — without worrying whether some Muslims take offense when we will talk honestly about the extremists in their midst.
No. Fascism is a political doctrine held by nation-states. Islam is a religion. We should do the opposite and destroy that linkage so we truly understand what we’re talking about and, thus, who we’re fighting (and why).

At the same time, keep encouraging consensual governments in the Middle East and beyond that could offer people security and prosperity, while distancing ourselves from illegitimate dictators, especially in Syria and Iran, that promote terrorists.
We should have been doing that anyway. There should not be a need to point that out.

Establish that no more autocracies in the Middle East and Asia will be allowed to get the bomb.
And just how can we legitimately enforce that when we don’t abide by treaties ourselves, or ignore countries that do the same thing?

Seek energy independence that would collapse the world price of oil, curbing petrodollar subsidies for terrorists and our own appeasement of their benefactors.
“Our own appeasement of their benefactors” is the real issue here, but somehow I don’t think Hanson wants to touch that with the proverbial ten foot pole.

Appreciate the history and traditions of a unique Western civilization to remind the world that we have nothing to apologize for but rather much good to offer to others.
I agree, including such traditions as respecting habeas corpus and not illegally spying on phone conversations of its citizens or selectively spying on our mail (a new one).

Update: Andrew at Pixel Monkey just left me this great comment to an earlier post; somehow, I don't think Hanson will be discussing any of these "traditions" anytime soon...

The thing is, I don't think we ever can redeem ourselves. America hasn't been a saint throughout its military and political history, but as many leftist columnists are now pointing out, we have dropped our bar so far below the one we set at Nuremberg that it's hard to see how the world can forgive us, never mind we, the people, forgiving the US Government. Saddam, a dictator we helped create and helped carry out his war crimes, was executed in an (instant), in the most inhumane way. A member of the military I recently interviewed told me that "every military officer knew full well that Saddam would be executed the (instant) he was turned over to the 'Iraqi Government'," and those quotes are his, not mine. In his mind, and he has been in West Baghdad for the last year fighting on the front lines, the "Iraqi Government" is nothing more than a a few corrupt politicians and a few importantly-placed American agents. "We've turned over detainees who weren't even proven guilty of their crimes in Iraq, and the 'Iraqi Government' murdered them with a shot in the head before we were even out the door. We've all come to understand that 'handing someone over to the Iraqis' is doublespeak for 'send that person to die'. Who physically pulls the trigger is really an irrelevant detail." So I don't want US Government officials telling us this is "their [the Iraqi's] system, their method of justice." It's ours, the blood is all over our hands. The fact that we torture should come as no surprise. And the case of Donald Vance (note: an American contractor who blew the whistle on his employer in Baghdad and was held and tortured by our military) just shows that no one is safe, that we don't reserve our techniques for those we consider "evil", but that it has just become a routine process for our military operations.
Ugh - back to Hanson...

Finally, keep confident in a war in which our will and morale are every bit as important as our overwhelming military strength. The jihadists claim that we are weak spiritually, but our past global ideological enemies — Nazism, fascism, militarism and communism — all failed. And so will they.
I also believe we can be strong when our press reports on critical matters in an intelligent and unbiased manner with actual reporting to let us make up our own minds, instead of trying to shackle us with half-baked theories from academics eager for someone else to fight and die in wars they encourage so they don’t have to.

Harriet, We Hardly Knew Ye

(Bill Maher once referred to her as “Hazel The Cleaning Lady”…hence the photo).

Given the departure of Dubya’s legal counsel, I thought it best to dig up this golden oldie from David Sirota that recalls some skeletons in Miers’ closet that I’m sure she would have liked to hide.

And am I the only one who thinks that the reason she’s leaving is because Dubya and Turd Blossom expect a lot of trouble from the new Democratic congress, and they want someone who is a barracuda to do their legal dirty work (I don’t have the ability to properly critique Miers’ legal skills, but she plainly does not communicate the loathing and contempt for humanity in general that this administration wants to project every way that it can).

We All Noticed Him, Parker

To me, this column embodies what it is that’s wrong with reporting from so-called “mainstream” corporate news organizations.

Apparently, it is more important for writer Kathleen Parker to do everything in her power to sound insufferably clever in lieu of performing actual research and conducting interviews concerning the subject of her column. The smug condescension and attempt to question the legitimacy of John Edwards and his motives is what the reader remembers the most from this nonsense, not any factual content whatsoever, as well as Parker propagating the narrative that Edwards is a rich man who is pretending to care about the poor (I mean, he made his fortune as a trial lawyer, so how can he be honest, right?).

And somehow I think the fact that other people died at approximately the same time as Edwards’s announcement of his candidacy makes a difference to Parker and maybe a few other people, but somehow I don’t think it’s a factor worth noting to the vast majority of individuals who will support Edwards for substantial, legitimate reasons, including me.

And as you can see, I found this tripe of a column by Parker at the Washington Post Writers Group site, home of legitimate professionals such as Marie Cocco. And believe it or not, you could actually buy this nonsense if you wanted to, which to me is an utterly inconceivable waste of money.

I’ll tell you what; I’ll let you read this recent correspondence from Edwards so you can decide about him for yourself.

Dear Friend,

I'm on a plane from Iowa to New Hampshire.

We've had a great day, starting in New Orleans early this morning. People are responding to our call to action - more than 120 new One Corps chapters were started today alone, and more than 41,000 people watched our online town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa tonight.

The momentum and energy are extraordinary. But what's most important about the momentum is that it's directed at changing and transforming America - not in the future, but now.

Now we need to keep this momentum going, and the only way to do that is with your help. Anything you can contribute will make a huge difference.

Click here.

So much is at stake .... ending the shame of 37 million Americans in poverty and strengthening the middle class, guaranteeing universal health care, ending America's addiction to oil, and restoring America's moral leadership in the world. Our ability to change America depends on you.

Keep checking our website and blog for updates from our tour today and tomorrow -- including our live town hall from New Hampshire at 12:30 PM ET -- and if you haven't already done so,
please join One Corps today.

And from both Elizabeth and me, have a safe and Happy New Year.

Your friend,

And once more, here is a link to the video announcing his candidacy.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Happy Birthday to Stephen Stills ("4+20," from "Big Sur" in 1971, I believe - synch with the video is slightly off)...

...also, happy birthday to Sir George Martin, discussing "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles...

...and here's the song with a black-and-white video as opposed to color, though the audio is better (God, were they stoned, or what?).

Today's Idiotic Tom Friedman Quote

Here's our hero doing the whole "compare and contrast" thing between President Ford's funeral services and the hanging of Saddam Hussein last Saturday in his New York Times column that was published today:

How fortunate we live in a country where this (unity) is the political norm, built up over generations.

"Because of our basic unity, we can afford to be divided on specific issues," said Michael Mandelbaum, author of "The Case For Goliath." "Democracy is about differences and contesting them in the public sphere, and it only works when there is basic agreement about the fundamentals. We should feel fortunate that we have a democratic history and set of beliefs. Those beliefs can be imported by those who want them and don't have them, but they can't be exported. We can only create a context where others would want to import them."
I don't really have a gripe here with Mandelbaum, though it would have been nice if he'd stated these truisms back in, oh, I don't know, say...maybe 2002, before we blew the crap out of Iraq, instead of last month in this new book of his, which Friedman is helping him promote here.

No, what I really want to get to is this...

The raw tribal theatrics of Saddam's hanging highlight just how few of these values Iraq has imported. We are to blame for not creating the security needed to for those values to take hold. But not enough of our Iraqi allies have risen to the occasion either. It was our closest Iraqi partners who oversaw Saddam's tribal hanging. We have to look that in the eye.
(By the way, for some interesting reality-based commentary on the hanging, I recommend Gwynne Dyer's column that appeared in the Inquirer today.)

Who's this "we," Friedman? Our troops? Our totally cowed politicians who fell for Bushco's sick and twisted con, or media whores like you who embraced it perhaps more exuberantly than anyone else?

You're a shameless, propagandistic bastard, you know that? What you thought would be a happy little excursion to overthrow someone you didn't like, show force to Syria and Iran on behalf of Israel and cop a whole bunch of oil in the bargain blew up in all of our faces, despite the pleadings and entreaties of many people including your humble narrator who stated categorically that none of this would happen. And now you just can't wait to spread the blame to everyone except yourself where it squarely belongs.

May you one day find forgiveness from godlike souls with the faith and courage to look beyond your unspeakable words and actions, because I can tell you categorically that you won't find it here.

And by the way, here's a column that truly puts Friedman in his place.

Don’t Let Martin Be The Speed Bump

As noted here, AT&T and BellSouth recently agreed to an $86 million dollar merger; based on what I read about this, it sounds to me like AT&T wanted in the worst way to get back into wireless broadband and increase its share of other delivery systems, primarily landlines (they had divested itself of wireless in 2005, as noted here), and as the price of doing business, they agreed to sell “naked” DSL for two years, meaning that it didn’t have to be bundled with other services.

More important for me personally, though, is the fact that they agreed to abide by a concession on net neutrality for at least two years also to approve the deal (along with “naked” DSL).

I think this is about as good a deal as we can expect for now, though if he’d had his way, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin would have approved the deal without the net neutrality concession (I mean, we are talking about Bushco here, let’s not forget).

As noted in the USA Today story…

Martin had initially hoped to break the FCC's 2-2 deadlock (on the deal without the two concessions) by securing the vote of Robert McDowell, the FCC's third Republican. McDowell had essentially recused himself from voting because a trade group he used to work for had opposed the merger. But that plan ran aground last month when McDowell, freed up to vote by the FCC's general counsel, refused to vote, citing the same ethics conflict.
A cautionary note was sounded on this, though, in a New York Times editorial today (who knows whether or not AT&T will try to scuttle the net neutrality provision two years from now):

The commission was right to extract the (net neutrality) concession, but it should not be necessary to negotiate separate deals like this one. On the information superhighway, net neutrality should be a basic rule of the road.
The two commissioners who looked out for us on this to get the two concessions including net neutrality (both Dems – do I really need to mention that?) were Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps. Kudos to both.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

I’m sorry to hear about today’s layoffs at the Philadelphia Inquirer, particularly so soon into the new year. I thought the quality of the paper has been slipping overall particularly for the past few weeks, but I don’t blame the reporters and paper’s production staff for that.

As a subscriber to the newspaper and a commentator of sorts, I seriously have to wonder about the decision making behind the paper’s content beyond hard news, mainly concerning features and editorial writing. For whatever my opinion is worth in these matters, I should say that that’s where the paper is shooting itself in the foot, and I think that trickles down all over the place and translates into loss of circulation and advertising revenue.

The subscriber base for the paper will probably always be composed of high-school-to-college-educated (associates, bachelors or advanced degreed) professionals who may drift somewhat towards the right ideologically (maybe 30 percent or so) but basically range from moderate/independent to liberal (60-plus percent or so). I don’t believe the audience for the Inquirer associates itself with Philadelphia in quite the same way as a reader of the Philadelphia Daily News, which is appropriate since they are two publications with distinct differences in tone and content that are more important than their few similarities.

It’s important to mention this because the Inquirer has been trying for the last couple of years to redefine itself as some kind of conservative voice in the hope of increasing its market share at the expense of the writers (and Tony Auth) who produce the reality-based content; that is the only possible explanation I can come up with for highlighting people such as Kevin Ferris and Jonathan Last who, beyond being mediocre writers, plainly exist to please this elusive demographic (which, as far as I’m concerned, has plenty of other media outlets to go to in search of content that is desirable to them, further compounding what I believe is a bad business practice). Trudy Rubin and Chris Satullo are the paper’s only prominent writers who craft their content in a manner that, I believe, is read and appreciated by the paper’s true target audience.

Of course, I don’t have the acumen to decipher all the numbers: circulation, revenue, cost of business operation, impact of the new contract, etc. But I have been reading this paper for a long time, and frankly, I could see this coming, especially given the cutthroat ownership of Bruce Toll, Brian Tierney, and the rest of the bunch at Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC.

And as long as I’m discussing the Inquirer, I want to comment on two recent editorial developments.

1) Longtime readers may not have noticed that a new Secretary General of the U.N. was named, because when the Inquirer ran the story several weeks ago, it appeared almost at the end of the U.S. and World News section behind a legion of ads for the Macy’s department store and male enhancement products.

2) The Editorial Board recently named former mayor Wilson Goode “Citizen Of The Year” because of his work with a Philadelphia-based organization called Amachi, which mentors the children of incarcerated parents.

I would never begrudge recognizing Goode for his accomplishments, but when discussing his public service, it must be pointed out that he was a terrible mayor; the incompetence shown in the bombing of the MOVE compound on Osage Avenue resulting in the destruction of an entire city block of row homes was, unfortunately, emblematic of his civic stewardship. His legendary fiscal mismanagement of this city created a mess that, somehow, Ed Rendell (who followed Goode as mayor) was able to rectify with the considerable help of one time-City Council President John Street and David Cohen, Rendell’s chief of staff (as opposed to the late former Philadelphia City Councilman David Cohen). Call me harsh, but I simply cannot understand how you would ignore that when writing about this man.

When reading the Inquirer, I get a sense that, for the most part, the newspaper really doesn’t understand what is important to its readership any more, assuming it even knows who its core readership really is. I don’t know what kind of turnover exists among the news staff, though I’m sure it has greatly accelerated in the months prior to now. Whatever the reason, I just see bad editorial decision making concerning the paper’s feature content all over the place.

I haven’t said anything until now about the paper’s entertainment features because, as far as I’m concerned, Tanya Barrientos, Annette John-Hall, Alfred Lubrano and especially Karen Heller are practically unreadable anyway (I’ve poked fun at Faye Flam I know, but at least she’s writing about something interesting). Aside from themselves, I’ve given up trying to figure out who they define as their audience.

I know this is a really rambling post, and I apologize for that. I just feel like I need to point out the fact that the Inquirer is really going in the wrong direction editorially, and its content has suffered. And if they straighten themselves out to the point where circulation and ad revenue go back up and they never have to endure anything like this again, that will be one of the best stories of the year.

Update 1/4: Though "A Prayer For The City" is a wonderful book, and I sadly agree with his "gooey syrup" remark about John Grogan, I'm not sure Buzz Bissinger has room to criticize other Inky staffers for "hanging on" even though they may not need the dough (and as far as I'm concerned, Stephen A. Smith is a first-class sportswriter and not a "black apologist"...he's "hit the right note" much more often than either Bob Ford or Phil Sheridan, and that's probably why he was signed by ESPN ahead of the other two).

Sacrifice This, Dubya!

There’s nothing I really need to add to Keith Olbermann’s latest great Special Comment about Bushco’s brand new spin on the Iraq debacle, so I’ll just link to it here.

Also, I believe this letter printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer recently recalls our country’s sacrifice from an earlier time in the name of a truly honorable cause.

If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is ignoring reality in his country ("Vote fails to change Iranian president," Dec. 22), who can deny that our own president is following the same path? I believe I speak for a majority of Americans when I say:

Dear President Bush:

Once again, you have raised the question of sacrifice for the American people. But, beyond the men and women who serve in our military in Iraq, and beyond the families who have seen their loved ones killed or maimed, where is the sacrifice of which you speak?

During World War II, the word sacrifice held some meaning. Just about every American family had someone serving in the war. Americans at home were showing their support by growing vegetables in neighborhood Victory Gardens on land usually donated by those with ground to spare, by submitting to a higher tax to pay the exorbitant cost of the war, and by doing their bit to save on the use of gas, the latter item so severely needed by our troops.

Mr. President, there is meaning to the fact that during World War II, our best and brightest citizens rushed to join the military, while now no similar action is being taken by our citizens to rush to the aid of those heroic American soldiers now fighting and dying in Iraq.

Mr. President, you have failed us over the past 31/2 years, and it is time for you to behave as a true leader by accepting this fact and reversing your course.

Mr. President, our nation is indeed making a sad sacrifice for this war. With each passing day, we lose a bit of our nation's great name and ideals. It is time for you to awaken to today's reality and to reset our nation's course toward a better place.

Ian Wachstein
And in a similar vein, this Guest Opinion appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times on New Years’ Eve, written by Theodore Cohen of Middletown Township, Pa.

Recently, while browsing the channels on satellite XM Radio, I chanced upon a World War II-era rebroadcast of the Fibber McGee and Molly comedy show. What caught my attention as I listened was not so much the corny humor, but rather, the commercial for S.C. Johnson’s Self-Polishing Glo-Coat Wax, which was integrated into the script of the show.

Voice by announcer Harlow Wilcox, the commercial asserted that using Glo-Coat made life easier for the tired war worker because he could come home from the factory to a beautiful house. The show triggered memories of hearing other shows to which my parents listened that featured the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and others…all of whom took time during their weekly radio shows to refer to the war, thank our troops, and buoy the spirits of citizens everywhere.

Then, the war permeated every aspect of our lives. This was no war that found visibility only on the evening news or the lower half of our newspaper’s front page. The war was in front of us, every hour of every day.

It would have been strange not to find a youngster who wasn’t building a ball made of tin foil for eventual sale to the local rag merchant, who in turn recycled it through the defense industry, or not to see our parents struggling with books of ration stamps for gasoline, sugar, and other commodities. The war effort came first.
By the way, if you "mouse over" the photo of actress Rita Hayworth, you'll see that I included it to show her own sacrifice of car parts on behalf of the war effort.

Everyone (everyone!) knew and accepted, some begrudgingly, that they had a personal stake in the outcome of the conflicts in Europe and the Pacific. In shared sacrifice the American people found a common bond that galvanized their determination to defeat two enemies and gave rise to what many think of as the greatest generation in the history of our country.

Contrast this with what passes for the “home front” today. Compared to the population at large, only a relatively few – our military personnel, their families, closest friends, and employers – live with a real day-to-day awareness of the War on Terror. For them, all have given some and, tragically, some have given all.

Those who have returned maimed or disfigured will carry the memories of this war with them the rest of their lives. But what about the rest of us? What do we perceive that we have at risk on a daily basis? Where’s the shared sacrifice and bond that develops among peoples in joining the fight at home as opposed to the battlefields half a world away?

How can we, the average citizens of this country, contribute to strengthening our nation at a time when it is beset by challenges both foreign and domestic that present a diversity of threats to our lives and those of future generations?

Know, first, that this is not about drumming up support for what clearly is an unpopular war in Iraq. It is about calling on our leaders to, well, exhibit some leadership! It’s a call for the legislative and executive branches of our government to prioritize the critical issues that we now or will face over the next 20 years and propose, debate, compromise on and adopt realistic solutions that will help us avoid the catastrophic consequences that might otherwise befall our nation as a result of a potentially failed war on terror; an insatiable appetite for oil; large and growing budget deficits that mortgage our future to foreign powers; large and growing unfunded social security, Medicare, and Medicaid liabilities; and a potential flu pandemic (among others).

As we have shown in the past, be it in winning the peace in Europe and the Far East during WWII or coming together following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when the American people are properly motivated to achieve solutions to problems of immense proportions in ways that contribute to the common good, there is nothing that we can’t achieve together.

But it takes leadership from those we have elected to the highest positions in the land. Will the president and the next Congress meet the challenge? Will we be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve the goals set before us? Time will tell.
As Mr. Cohen said, there is nothing we can’t do when our leaders truly lead.

I’m glad I happened to come across the writings of Mr. Wachstein and Mr. Cohen on this, because, as I try to comprehend the full measure of my loathing and disgust with this president and his cabal of crooks, I sometimes cannot find the words to communicate how I truly feel, particularly to their "pay no price, bear no burden" attitude about Iraq and the legitimate war on terror.

And when I am unable to find words for something, believe me that that’s saying a lot right there.

More Lighthearted Fun With Pat

And what would the New Year be without some dire prediction of imminent destruction from Pat Robertson anyway?

And I mean, it’s not like he’s ever made bogus prognostications before, right? (by the way, in the Wikipedia story, read about his supposed service commendations and the true story behind them...what a hoot).

And I got kind of a perverse kick out of this paragraph…

In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America's coastline in 2006. Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring's heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.
For the purposes of disclosure, I should add that we were playing Trivial Pursuit in our house a few days ago (the “Boomer” edition, I believe), and the answer to one of the trivia questions was Gerald Ford. Knowing the former president was not in good health, I said sympathetically that I didn’t think he was long for this world. The next day, I found out that he’d died (true).

Does that mean I should start making predictions since I have a better record now than Robertson (I mean, I “partly fulfilled it,” didn’t I)?

Well then, I believe I’m qualified to prognosticate on my own, so here goes.

On Wednesday morning July 25th of this year at 9:36 AM EST, Godzilla, having traversed the underwater distance from Tokyo Bay all the way to the east coast of the United States, will rise from the Atlantic Ocean and completely destroy the headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network at Virginia Beach, Virginia. He will trample indiscriminately everywhere and leave a trail of carnage unlike anything seen in that area of our country since the last college spring break.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Happy Birthday to drummer Scott Underwood of Train ("Meet Virginia" - I think the actress in the video is Rebecca Gayheart)...

...and Doug Robb of Hoobastank ("The Reason").

Doin’ The “J.R. Hustle”

So U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts thinks that the low level (in his mind) of compensation for Supreme Court and federal court judges is “a constitutional crisis” (as noted here)?

Uh, no. I would consider one-party rule of our government to be a constitutional crisis (which, fortunately, was broken by a third last November 7th).

A commenter to this post noted that “big firms in NY pay 145k for students straight out of law school, before bonuses....165k for a federal judge seems very low.”

I respect what this person is saying, but I’m tired of hearing people compare the salaries of government employees (which is what The Supremes and federal court judges are in the final analysis) with employees in what was once commonly referred to as private industry. And you’d better believe that I’m tired of hearing the bellyaching about this from politicians in general, particularly the Repugs.

My father worked in government for years back when that was actually an attractive employment option. He knew he wasn’t going to get rich, but he also knew we’d have good medical benefits, a fairly comfortable standard of living, and he could retire with his pension when he reached the mandatory age (which he did). He didn’t worry about investing his retirement funds to get rich, and he also didn’t have to worry about whether or not the money would be there when he needed it (probably taking a detour into another topic here, but you get my point).

I just happen to think something’s wrong when somebody complains about a salary that is more than that earned by 90 percent of the workers in this country, as another Angry Bear commenter noted.

But of course this is typical of the “let them eat cake” mentality of Bushco and its acolytes, including Roberts.

I wonder how happy the Dems are who once voted to confirm this carpetbagger?

Take Good Notes, Mikey

I wish Mike Fitzpatrick (oops – I should call him “Michael” in this post) would just end the suspense right now and announce his candidacy for the U.S. House in 2008 so he can get ready to run against “Pat” Murphy again.

It is truly getting ridiculous at this point.

The Bucks County Courier Times ran a story on its front page today announcing Mikey’s return to private life, including Mikey’s pledge to be “watching” Patrick since “he made a lot of promises during the campaign.” The story also noted that Fitzpatrick does not plan to run again for county commissioner when a seat becomes available this year.

It’s pretty obvious that this is all pointing in one direction, so with this in mind, I’d like to link once more to this great post that recalls how Mikey’s very first vote in Congress favored weakening existing ethics rules to protect Tom DeLay, who was House Majority Leader at that time.

Compare this to the pledges for lobbying and ethics reform from the incoming Democratic congress noted here, and you find out one important difference between what the Dems plan to do and how the Repugs ignored their oversight function when they ran the show.

And this letter to the editor appeared in the Courier Times over the weekend to drive the point home even further.

Commendations to Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy for standing up for citizens of Pennsylvania and the rest of our nation by renewing his commitment to fight political corruption.

Murphy signed the “Voters First” pledge during the 2006 campaign, promising to put voters ahead of big donors and lobbyists.

Common Cause/PA, PennPIRG and other public interest groups developed the pledge drive to put candidates on record as supporting an end to pay-to-play politics in Washington.

The dominance of wealthy interests in Congress has gotten way out of hand to the point that citizens are losing faith in the integrity of our government.

Fortunately, more elected officials now realize that it will take strong measures to restore the transparency, ethics and responsiveness that citizens expect and that this country needs.

This requires more than strong words, it requires strong actions specifically enacting new laws and guidelines to curb the influence of well-heeled lobbyists in Congress.

The November election provided a clear mandate to end the corruption in Washington. We urge Congressman-elect Murphy to continue on the right track.

Barry Kauffman
Common Cause/Pennsylvania

Beth McConnell
Ethics reform – just one issue where Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick failed us.

And at the moment, time does not permit me to list all the other issues where he did the exact same thing.

Update 1/3/07: And by the way, the Courier Times printed a Guest Opinion from Mikey this morning as part of his seemingly never-ending farewell tour stating how humbled he was to serve as our House Rep and reminding us once more of all of the legislation he produced. I’ll just let him have his last shot and not bother to respond to stuff that I’ve already answered (and with typical humility, he quotes Winston Churchill, someone also “turned out of office”).

You really have a lot of trouble taking the hint, don’t you Mikey?

Did He Sing Before We Made Him Swing?

I think this article asks some good questions concerning the issue of what information we managed to get out of Saddam Hussein before he was executed, and why we could not obtain more, in particular this excerpt…

Joost Hilterman, Middle East director for the International Crisis Group, said he wanted to know the extent of collusion by Western governments and companies with Saddam's regime. As one example of Western collusion, Hilterman referred to Frans van Anraat, a Dutchman convicted last year of supplying Saddam with chemicals used to make mustard gas and nerve agents. The Iraqi army later used the chemicals against Kurds and Iranians.

But less widely known, Hilterman said, is that the U.S. government kept a close eye on Iraq's chemical weapons as far back as 1983, even as the Reagan administration was assisting Saddam in Iraq's war with Iran.

Recently declassified documents reveal that although U.S. officials criticized Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iran, the Reagan administration sent several high-level delegations to Baghdad to reassure Saddam of continued American support in the war.

"The U.S. will continue its efforts to help prevent an Iranian victory, and earnestly wishes to continue the progress in its relations with Iraq," former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said.
Also noted in the news story is Hilterman’s claim that, in 1993, the Clinton Administration conducted a review of our country’s association with Hussein to “make sure that there was nothing that would create credibility problems for the U.S. in any future tribunals for Saddam Hussein.” That actually makes we wonder a bit too.

I know the incoming 110th Democratic U.S. Congress is going to have a lot of work to do, but I think Rep. Silvestre Reyes, incoming head of the House Intelligence Committee, and the incoming head of the Senate Intelligence Committee (who I believe is Carl Levin) should ask Bushco for some kind of an explanation appropriate for intelligent adults as to why Hussein was executed before the questions discussed in the Seattle Times story (as well as others) could be answered (and if any investigation results that implicates prior administrations, so be it).

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Years' Day Videos

Tomorrow is the birthday of bassist Chick Churchill of Ten Years After, and I know I missed Alvin Lee's also recently ("Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," sort of, from the German show "Beat Club" in 1969...oooohhhh, trippy B&W effects - I kept waiting for Mike Myers as Dieter to leap out from out of nowhere in his black leotards and yell, "Now Is The Time On 'Sprockets' When We Danse!")...

...and happy belated birthday to Pete Quaife of The Kinks ("Low Budget," from 1979).

My Bang-Up New Year's Wish

As I drove up Academy Road in front of Archbishop Ryan High School in Northeast Philadelphia over the holidays, I saw road placards from PA Representative Dennis O'Brien wishing everyone Seasons Greetings.

How nice.

Representative O'Brien, if you really care about the happiness and good health of your constituents, read the information from this link (this excerpt in particular):

Community Demands Chairman O'Brien Stop Blocking One-Handgun-Per-Month

Report from PATH Coalition member Hal Rosenthal: On March 11, 2006 we administered the collection of 2,024 signatures to our petition demanding action on stalled state legislation which would aid in restricting the illegal wholesaling of handguns.

Constituents of State Representative Dennis O'Brien, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who refuses to permit consideration of three bills which would limit handgun distribution eagerly signed the petitions. In a period of about two hours 38 petition carriers supported by 10 other volunteers gathered signatures to the petitions to be presented to Representative O'Brien.

The proposed bills deal only with handguns. It would limit their legal purchase to one every 30 days. The legislation would also require, as with automobiles, the owner of a hand gun to report it being lost or stolen. Eighty percent of murders and 90 percent of robberies are committed with hand guns. Hand guns are seldom used for hunting and rifles are seldom used to murder.

We are forming plans to ask constituents in other legislative districts to petition their state legislators to join in moving these bills to passage.
The acronym PATH stands for Pennsylvanians Against Trafficking Handguns, by the way.

Also, if any of Representative O'Brien's constituents are reading this post, please click here to access a secure site where you can personally tell him to hurry up and do something before more people die as a result of his inaction.

Update 1/3/07: So are you going to follow up or aren't you, Mr. Speaker?