Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday Videos

Happy belated birthday to Lucinda Williams ("World Without Tears" including harrowing photos of post-Katrina New Orleans...our red-state president should give this a look; he's apparently forgotten the city, since it didn't even rate a mention in the State of the Union address the other night)...

...also, Elmore James would have been 89 today (here's his son performing an instrumental that sounds a lot like "Dust My Broom" on New Maxwell Street, presumably in Chicago...check out the moves of the guy in the striped shirt).

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Videos

To commemorate Cream once more as I did earlier, here's Jack Bruce and Rory Gallagher (didn't catch the drummer) with a kickass cover of "Politician"...

...and Eric Clapton's 1987 version of "After Midnight" used for those Michelob Beer ads (the video is a montage of Clapton's album covers and other Clapton photos).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (1/26/07)

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.


Student loans. The House passed, 356-71, and sent to the Senate a bill that would halve interest rates over five years in the Stafford student-loan program for undergraduates. The bill (HR 5) would lower rates for the need-based loans, from 6.8 percent today to 3.4 percent in 2011.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for the bill.
Even Pancake Joe Pitts? My God…

Alternative loan plan. The House rejected, 241-186, a GOP bid to add means testing to HR 5 (above). The motion sought to deny lower interest rates to former students in any year they earned over $65,000, thus freeing up funds for Pell Grants to help the poor pay tuition.

A yes vote backed the GOP motion.

Voting yes: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) and H. James Saxton (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
How about “means testing” to find out whether or not Paris Hilton needs any more tax cuts? Why should less-poor students be made to choose against more-poor students?


Oil company taxes. The House passed, 264-163, and sent to the Senate a bill that would repeal tax breaks designed to spur extraction of fossil fuels and use the savings of $14 billion over 10 years to open a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve for funding renewable fuels and energy efficiencies.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.
Pitts is an utter shill (but we knew that, didn’t we?).

Congressional pages. Members voted 416-0 to enlarge the House Page Board to include one member representing parents, one member speaking for former pages and equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans (two each). Now before the Senate, the bill (HR 475) is a direct response to the 2006 scandal in which then-Rep. Mark Foley (R., Fla.) was discovered to have made inappropriate contacts over several years with current and former pages.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Pitts, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Not voting: Fattah.


Ethics, lobbying. The Senate passed, 96-2, a bill to tighten congressional ethics rules and increase regulation of lobbyists. The bill (S 1), in part, bans lobbyists from providing gifts and meals to senators and requires disclosure of spending and tax earmarks before voting occurs. It also outlaws the practice of lobbyists and their employers throwing lavish parties for members of Congress at the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions. The bill now goes to conference with the House.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for the bill.
Once more (as I noted last week), Arlen Specter voted against an amendment to this bill preventing family members from participating in political action committees or campaign committees, but he voted for the overall bill.

Office of Public Integrity. Senators rejected, 71-27, an amendment to the ethics bill (S 1, above) that sought to set up an Office of Public Integrity, armed with subpoena power, to probe complaints of misconduct by senators and staff.

A yes vote backed
the amendment.

Voting yes: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey Jr. (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
As you can tell from the totals, the split against this was bipartisan, which is a shame. You had Dems like John Kerry, Bob Casey and even Completely-And-Utterly-Wrong-On-Iraq-And-Let-Someone-Else-Die-For-It Joe Lieberman along with Lying St. McCain supporting it, yet Arlen (a former prosecutor, after all) voted thumbs down along with Hillary Clinton and even Ted Kennedy (probably The Ghost Of Ken Starr came into play here somewhat).

So confusing…

This week, the House was scheduled to vote on denying congressional pensions to members convicted of crimes. The Senate debated a minimum-wage increase (and to kill the suspense…well, sort of…we know the Senate shot it down this week, which may be indicative of a pattern but I hope not; I’m afraid the House will do all kinds of great things, but the Repugs will strangle a lot of it in the Senate since they have enough of a minority to do it).

A Message For "The Decider"

Since Dubya is an adult (chronologically speaking, anyway), we can’t send him to his room as he continues to pout over the fact that both parties of Congress are telling him what he can do with his No Way Forward con in Iraq, which is basically nothing more than a different way to get our people killed (as nearly as I can figure out, instead of allowing our people to seek shelter while the Sunnis and Shi’ites blow each other to pieces, and al Qaeda kills whoever it feels like, our people are supposed to remain in the heart of all of this murderous insanity in an attempt to bring order, exponentially increasing their risk of slaughter).

(And by the way, I wonder if Dubya's latest idiocy is what got these soldiers killed? I mean, we can at least entertain that speculation since the Pentagon was caught in a lie, right?)

Well, all we can do is keep up the drum beat to get our people out, and in that spirit, a march is being planned for tomorrow in Washington, D.C.

And since the only thing President Stupid Head and Turd Blossom care about is their own political survival and that of the Repugs, maybe someone ought to remind them that, in addition to saving some of the lives of our young men and women in the military, starting to bring them home is a good idea because continuing to drag out this slam dance will hurt their party in the elections next year (I’d love to see them go down in the House and Senate races, and especially the Presidential contest, but I’d trade all of that for bringing our service people home safely).

Cream Still Rises To The Top

I hope some of you out there received holiday gift cards about a month or so ago to Barnes and Noble, Borders, Best Buys, or other places that sell DVDs. If you haven’t maxed them out yet, then I’ve got a great gift idea for you.

And I’ll bet you’ll NEVER guess what I’m referring to (I mean, the ad has only appeared on this site in the right column since Christmas, right?).

“Cream: Classic Artists” is a two-disc set that includes the following:

- (DVD) A two-hour documentary on the band, as well as extended interviews, concert performances, and videos of the band, as well as photographs and other memorabilia

- (CD) A set of five songs from a Stockholm concert in 1967: “NSU,” “Steppin’ Out,” “Traintime,” “Toad,” and “I’m So Glad”
Recorded at the time of the 2005 reunion concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden in New York, the documentary begins with drummer Ginger Baker’s answer to the question of whether or not Cream is still popular: “39 years (after the breakup), the show (at the Royal Albert Hall) sold out in two hours (after the tickets went on sale),” indicating that, while Baker is ostensibly right, he has to work on his math (he’s still a kickass drummer, though, as evidenced in an interview with him at his ranch).

The documentary, narrated by Russ Williams of the BBC, then proceeds with an interview of Eric Clapton, who recalls his early band The Roosters and fellow band mates Tom McGuinness (guitar) and Ben Palmer (piano, who would become Cream’s road manager later). McGuiness went onto the Manfred Mann band (which featured Jack Bruce for a time – as you watch this, you realize how truly incestuous the relationships were with personnel moving back and forth from one band to another) along with vocalist Paul Jones also (who recalled a funny story about the band escaping a Scotland gig in an interview).

While Clapton moved from the Yardbirds (earning his nickname “slow hand” for his extended solos) onto John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in the early ‘60s (Palmer, in an interview, recalled that Mayall captured blues music well from a technical point of view, but Clapton seemed to feel constricted), Bruce began a tempestuous relationship with drummer Ginger Baker when he joined Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962, a band that played primarily blues and jazz, with Bruce, Baker, and saxophonists Graham Bond and Dick Heckstall-Smith dedicated primarily to jazz. Bond left Alexis Korner and formed his own group, the Graham Bond Organization, taking Bruce, Baker and Heckstall-Smith with him.

Bruce sought to play the bass as a lead instrument with Graham Bond, which (as nearly as I can tell from the documentary) was one of the reasons why Baker (an accomplished drummer in his own right, and a visionary in exploring other types of music) grew infuriated with him. After a backstage assault by Baker (for which Baker profusely apologized later), Bruce eventually left Graham Bond and wondered if he was on the right track with his music, but as the documentary recalls, he encountered James Jamerson of Motown’s “Funk Brothers,” the session players whose wonderful contributions to the legendary hits of Motown can never be applauded enough, and Jamerson (along with Marvin Gaye, who was a session drummer at that time) convinced Bruce that he was on the right track.

Baker, meanwhile, left Graham Bond also and sought to form a new group, just as Clapton sought to leave John Mayall. The two found each other independently, though they had not decided on a bass player. Clapton knew of Bruce through McGuinness and also because Bruce had sat in with John Mayall for a time, and Clapton recommended Bruce, unaware of his conflict with Baker. Baker realized that Bruce was the right fit, and after making amends with Bruce, persuaded him to join the new band, which was given the name Cream by Clapton.

Have you got all that? I told you it was incestuous.

With all of the requisite hoopla helped in part by the British music press (notable Melody Maker), Cream, under the control of the Robert Stigwood management company and his Polydor recording label, went to work in 1966. The band’s first single, “Wrapping Paper,” was more or less a promotional recording for “Tops Of The Pops,” a popular British music variety show, at Stigwood’s urging; the song marked an inauspicious debut for the band, with Baker calling it “an absolute piece of shit.”

In an effort to create a unique sound reflective of the times, Ahmet Ertegun, the visionary founder of Atlantic Records who oversaw the studio recordings, recruited poet Pete Brown to write lyrics for the band, and Brown was originally supposed to team with Ginger Baker for that purpose. When that failed, Brown started working with Jack Bruce, and the two of them wrote some of Cream’s many memorable songs, beginning with “I Feel Free” on “Fresh Cream,” the group’s debut album consisting primarily of blues cover songs. Brown, whose sensibilities were influenced by the popular absurdist British T.V. series The Goon Show, was responsible for such lyrics as “Silver horses run down moonbeams in your dark eyes," and “Lie in the dark where the shadows run from themselves,” in “White Room,” and “I can drive down the road; my eyes don't see, though my mind wants to cry out loud,” from “I Feel Free.”

“Fresh Cream” did not produce the breakthrough sought by Stigwood and Ertegun, though, so when the band returned to the studio to begin work on the second album in 1967, Ertegun sought Felix Pappalardi, the co-founder of the group Mountain with Leslie West (and speaking of Mountain, today is drummer Corky Laing’s birthday). As Bruce recounted in an interview, the band wanted the input of another musician in the recording process, and Pappalardi certainly provided that, helping to meld the distinctive Cream sound for “Disraeli Gears.” The free-from, psychedelic influence of the time became noteworthy also (helped along after appearing at the Fillmore West in San Francisco), reflected in the album’s cover art and also in the extended solos that were becoming an important part of the band’s live performances (and in another example of the incestuousness I mentioned earlier, Mountain would record “Theme From An Imaginary Western,” written by Bruce). “Sunshine Of Your Love,” perhaps Cream’s signature song from that album, was released in the U.K. in 1967, but made it to the U.S. charts a year later.

However, the touring grind was starting to catch up with Baker, Bruce and Clapton, and the simmering animosity between Baker and Bruce heated up as well, with Clapton frequently playing peacemaker (it’s hard to get an understanding of what exactly precipitated that, but it probably was the egos of two prodigious musicians more than anything else – Clapton recalled in an interview that it was like breaking up the fights between his young daughters that he experienced many years after the band broke up). Also, Robert Stigwood shortchanged the band financially in a manner typical of what just about everyone else managing a musical act did for that time, leading to a showdown of sorts with Clapton (Clapton recalled later that he was only half serious about it and did it to keep Baker from physically harming Stigwood). All of this was manifested when, at certain times, Clapton or Baker would stop playing onstage while Bruce continued; eventually the band members stopped speaking with each other entirely. Still, they completed “Wheels Of Fire,” the third album, once more with Pappalardi producing.

Clapton recalled in an interview that he was hurt by a review in Rolling Stone when he was referred to as “master of the blues cliché,” though that reinforced his own perception of how the group was disintegrating (writer David Fricke of Philadelphia, also interviewed, recalled that the personalities of the three were so strong that they would not have been sabotaged by a single bad review unless it confirmed what they already suspected). The three eventually decided to break up in 1968, after recording “Goodbye” with Pappalardi once more, and they performed their farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall in November of that year (and again, in typical fashion for that time, the studio album hit the U.S. in 1969 after achieving success in the U.K. earlier).

When asked exactly why they decided to reform for the reunion concerts in 2005, Clapton felt that he wanted to give back some more to the people he knew and had worked with previously, and Jack Bruce said that Cream was one of the few bands “left alive,” so we’d better do this “before we snuff it.” Baker, however, soundly discouraged the idea that there may be more concerts yet from the band at the very end of the documentary.

The DVD-CD set also includes great interviews, some of which I mentioned earlier. Here are some highlights:

- Clapton recalled meeting Jimi Hendrix in London in 1967, and the two became friends, After Cream left to tour in the U.S., they returned to England to see that The Jimi Hendrix Experience, a trio of musicians also like Cream (though, with all due respect to Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell of Jimi Hendrix’s band, they will never be confused for Bruce and Baker in their musicianship) had more or less stolen their thunder, as it were, which actually was a bit appropriate since Clapton got the idea for a musical trio from blues musician Buddy Guy many years earlier.

- Bruce noted that he changed from a 12-string bass to a 6-string bass due to the influence of guitarist Ernest Ranglin.

- Baker (filmed on his ranch in South Africa I believe; the location isn’t identified, and throughout the interviews, it’s hard to hear the questions) played an extended riff from “Toad,” showing that he still has “the chops” after all these years. In the documentary, Baker briefly refers to his one-time heroin use, though he cleaned himself up many years ago (as well as the fact that he hates being called “a rock drummer” because of his other musical influences).

- Ben Palmer recalled a story of how the group, on a tour after “Fresh Cream,” sold its equipment to get out of Athens, Greece.

- Tony Palmer (no relation, I believe), who produced the ’68 Royal Albert Hall concert for British T.V., recalled the technical difficulties of recording the concert and remarked that the concert would be a good addition to a DVD set (I agreed and wondered why it wasn’t included here).

- Drummer Alan White paid tribute to Baker and noted that Cream’s drummer used cymbal stacks, which was unusual for the time; White was one of four (!) drummers in “Ginger Baker’s Air Force,” his 15-piece band formed subsequent to Cream. White also noted about Baker that “he’d never seen a drummer throw his sticks at the bass player before…he was a good shot.”
Also included on the DVD set are Cream concert videos including a filmed performance at London’s Revolution Club during the peak of the group’s fame, including the songs “Spoonful,” “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” and “Sunshine Of Your Love.” Other performances include “I Feel Free” and “Strange Brew,” as well as sort of a music-video-ish, Jack-Bruce-messing-around film with the song “NSU” in the background. The galleries include a few photos of the band members prior to Cream’s formation, as well as some after the group formed in various stages of mod/psychedelic attire, and some nice photos of the three at the reunion concerts (including the one pictured above).

The CD contains five songs from a set the group performed in Stockholm in 1967: “NSU,” “Steppin’ Out” (with a truly great Clapton solo), “Traintime,” “Toad,” and “I’m So Glad” (which, though performed well here, is not as good as the live version of the song on “Goodbye”).

Though the packaging is a little sloppy (there’s no documentary scene selection on the box, and the Revolution Club songs aren’t listed on the DVD menu), there is absolutely no denying that this is a fine set paying tribute to the band through the superb documentary and great musical performances and interviews (though, speaking of the interviews, I found myself wondering what B.B. King and Solomon Burke were talking about, since it apparently had nothing to do with the band).

All the same, though, I cannot recommend this set highly enough. If you have any appreciation for this music whatsoever, buy it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thursday Videos

Antonio Carlos Jobim would have been 80 today (here's "The Girl From Ipanema" with that Sinatra guy; looks like this is from about the mid '60s, not too long after the surgeon general's warning I guess - and I'm sure that tumbler glass with some "jack" in it was nearby also)...

...My Chemical Romance ("Famous Last Words" - they're coming to the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on February 25th).

Revisionist History 101

I was honestly planning not to inflict anyone with my posts today, but J.D. Mullane’s column in today’s Bucks County Courier Times is absolutely too stoo-pid to ignore.

And my word, has J.D. been busy lately, what with making jokes about tear-gassing hippies, longing once more for Cold War cartoon propaganda and calling for a reinstatement of the draft. I guess he’s bidding for a spot in the media wing of the Freeper Hall Of Fame.

His thesis of sorts today is that the baby boomers have dropped the ball on fighting the war against terrorism/Islamofascism/whatever the hell it is being called this week by Time and Newsweek, as well as the looming crisis with Social Security and Medicare.

(And by the way, I am not trying to trivialize the actual threat of terrorism by saying that; Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia captured my sentiments pretty well on that subject earlier this week in his response to Dubya’s State Of Disunion address.)

This is what Mullane has to say about Dubya’s illustrious predecessor (oh, for intelligent, adult leadership once more)…

They (posterity, presumably) will wonder: How did brainy Bill Clinton, the first boomer president, fail to understand the rising ideological struggle of his time? Even as the Islamists declared their plans and bombed Americans around the world?
Through one of the easier Google searches I’ve ever performed in my life, I came across this article in Time Magazine written by correspondent Michael Elliot about a briefing Richard Clarke, chair of Clinton’s Counterterrorism Security Group, held with Condoleezza Rice, then-National Security Adviser, over al Qaeda in January 2001 after Dubya became president (Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, claims that he attended the briefing, and I believe him). I think this excerpt is noteworthy…

“…senior officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, however, say that Clarke had a set of proposals to "roll back" al-Qaeda. In fact, the heading on Slide 14 of the Powerpoint presentation reads, "Response to al Qaeda: Roll back." Clarke's proposals called for the "breakup" of al-Qaeda cells and the arrest of their personnel. The financial support for its terrorist activities would be systematically attacked, its assets frozen, its funding from fake charities stopped. Nations where al-Qaeda was causing trouble—Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Yemen—would be given aid to fight the terrorists. Most important, Clarke wanted to see a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" where al-Qaeda had its terrorist training camps and bin Laden was being protected by the radical Islamic Taliban regime.”

The proposals Clarke developed in the winter of 2000-01 were not given another hearing by top decision makers until late April, and then spent another four months making their laborious way through the bureaucracy before they were readied for approval by President Bush. It is quite true that nobody predicted Sept. 11—that nobody guessed in advance how and when the attacks would come. But other things are true too. By (the summer of 2001), many of those in the know—the spooks, the buttoned-down bureaucrats, the law-enforcement professionals in a dozen countries—were almost frantic with worry that a major terrorist attack against American interests was imminent. It wasn't averted because 2001 saw a systematic collapse in the ability of Washington's national-security apparatus to handle the terrorist threat.
I should be fair and note that Mullane also chastised Dubya in his column, not for what I mentioned above, but for Iraq War II.

Also, if Mullane wants to learn more about how the Clinton Administration responded to al Qaeda, in particular the embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, I would refer him to pages 797-799 of Clinton’s autobiography “My Life.” I don’t have a link available, but Mullane can go do his own research; he gets paid to do that, and I don’t.

And if Mullane is going to complain that we are not trying to fix Social Security, then here is my response: let’s begin by eliminating the $90,000 cap on earnings subject to social security withholding. That will do more to insure the program’s solvency than any more of Dubya’s privatization schemes. And as far as Medicare is concerned, how can we trust this president and the Republicans in congress on this issue since they were the ones who foisted the scam of Medicare Part D and the “donut hole” (here is more information on Dubya's non-solutions to the problems with Social Security and Medicare...and by the way, remember what potty mouth George Carlin says about Social Security in the video link I have in the upper right column on the home page).

Instead of idiotic generalities in which Mullane blames “the baby boomers” for not resolving the issues he cited (I have my own issues with “my generation” on matters of significantly lesser import, I should add), why doesn’t he affix blame where it belongs (including the fact that his hero Ronnie Reagan was the one who got al Qaeda going when we supported the mujahedeen in its fight against the Russians in Afghanistan)?

I’ll tell you what; let’s not waste time asking Mullane a question like that, since he won’t take it seriously. Why don’t we ask Dale Larson, publisher of the Bucks County Courier Times, instead?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Truly A Dangerous Mix

Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff made the rounds last year among the happily-departed 109th Repug Congress and chemical businesses to improve the security of chemical plants in this country against the threat of a terrorist attack (or so he’s told us).

But before you get your hopes up, remember once again that we’re taking about Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff here, OK?

As noted in this Washington Post story, Chertoff said the federal government should be responsible for plant safety…

"...but that it should rely on the industry to devise its own way to meet targets and use private contractors to audit compliance."
Am I the only one who smells trouble brewing here?

That’s a rhetorical question, actually. I know the answer is no, based on another New York Times editorial from yesterday.

The new Democratic leadership in Congress has a chance to finally do what the Republican Congress and the Bush administration failed to do after Sept. 11: to protect the nation’s chemical plants from an attack. Lawmakers should stop the Homeland Security Department from adopting new regulations that would block state and local governments from doing more to protect their residents and should pass a federal law with teeth.

An attack on a single plant could release deadly chemicals that could put hundreds of thousands of people at risk of death or serious injury. But since Sept. 11, the chemical industry – a major campaign contributor – has managed to ward off any significant new federal rules that might require it to spend money to increase security.

Now it is going a step further by trying to get the federal government to “pre-empt,” or invalidate, state and local efforts to impose safety standards. Supporters of pre-emption always claim that they just want a uniform standard. But in situations like this one – where the federal law is absurdly weak – it is obvious that the real agenda is to block serious safety measures at every level of government.

Congress wisely refused to include a pre-emption provision in the legislation it adopted last year. Now, however, the Homeland Security Department has proposed regulations that would give itself the authority to pre-empt state and local laws. If the proposed regulations were adopted, they could wipe away the serious chemical plant security law that New Jersey just passed, and prevent other states and cities from requiring the chemical industry to do more to protect their residents.

It is up to Congress to act. It should block these deeply flawed regulations and move quickly to pass a comprehensive law that imposes tough requirements on chemical plants to harden their facilities.

Last year, Congress passed a bad rider, backed by the industry, that gives the chemical industry far too much leeway to decide on its own how its plants are vulnerable and how to protect them. The new law should contain specific requirements for plant safety. It should also require companies to switch to safer chemicals when the cost is not prohibitive, a key safety measure that the industry has resisted. And it should clearly state that federal chemical plant laws do not pre-empt state and local laws. Congress should finally put the public’s safety ahead of the chemical industry’s bottom line.
Apparently, the way Chertoff plans to allow the chemical industry to police itself is to make sure it has to abide by the most toothless regulations possible, regardless of where they originate (federal, state, or local government), eliminating those which interfere with their profitability.

Please contact Congress here and tell them to reject the proposed Homeland Security Department “regulations” on chemical plant safety. And while you’re at it, why not tell them to ask Chertoff why, since he apparently wants to do favors for the chemical industry at the expense of our health, he doesn’t get a job with one of these businesses and leave government altogether at long last.

One more thing - tomorrow may be another "little-to-no-posting" day...lots of other stuff going on, so we'll see.

With Friends Like These...

This editorial appeared in the New York Times yesterday; I hope Carlotta Gall is OK…

To learn why a resurgent Taliban is fighting American and NATO troops to a military draw in Afghanistan, you have to go to the frontier region on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Our colleague, Carlotta Gall, did just that last month and what she learned led to a physical assault on her by Pakistani intelligence officials and five hours in custody for her photographer, Akhtar Soomro. The Pakistani agents broke into her hotel room and copied her notes and computer files. They then tracked down and questioned everyone she had interviewed in Quetta, a border city.

We now know why. Ms. Gall’s reporting has determined that Quetta is an important rear base for the Taliban, and that Pakistani authorities are encouraging and perhaps sponsoring the cross-border insurgency. That is a role that Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf (pictured), denies. But residents of the border area, opposition figures and Western diplomats point to specific cases of Pakistani involvement. Americans need to know more about this collusion and to demand better answers from Gen. Musharraf.

There are many reasons that things are now going badly for the American-backed Afghan government. America shortchanged Afghanistan’s security in its rush to invade Iraq. European allies have inexcusably failed to provide NATO with enough soldiers to carry out the expanded Afghan security mission it took on last year and have imposed hobbling restrictions on the activities of those they did send. The government of the Afghan president, Harmid Karzai, is rife with corruption, and the regional warlord allies it depends on to control outlying areas are even more thieving as well as shockingly brutal.

These problems all need to be addressed. But the positive results will be limited as long as Afghanistan’s much more populous and powerful neighbor, Pakistan, provides rear support and sanctuary for the Taliban insurgency.

It is simply impossible to believe that this support takes place without the approval of the Pakistani military, the country’s dominant institution for a half-century.

Pakistan is now the third-largest recipient of American foreign aid. Yet more than five years after 9/11, the Bush administration has still not been able to secure Pakistan’s active and consistent support against the Taliban. The very least Washington should be demanding of President Musharraf is that he enforce an immediate halt on Pakistani military support for the Taliban insurgents who are crossing the border and killing American troops.
And I guess this, looking back, was Dubya’s “Mission Accomplished” moment for Afghanistan.

One more thing: don’t forget that, prior to his installation in that country, Karzai was a VP for Unocal, the company behind the Afghan oil pipeline deal that figured prominently in Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” (and I realize that that is the subject of a whole other post by itself).

Update 1/26: Shaun at Kiko's House has a great post on this, starting out as a remembrance of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, and including a link to Gall's feature story in the Times.

State Of The Union Mash-Up

I read the transcript of the State of the Union speech Dubya gave last night, and I actually had to laugh when I saw that he spoke out against the abuse of congressional earmarks. I then went back and looked for references to earmarks going back his 2003 State of the Union address and every SOTU address since, and I found none.

Gee, do you think it suddenly came up this year because the Democrats are running Congress at long last, or am I just being suspicious (and it would have been nice if Dubya had drawn attention to earmark abuse by former speaker Dennis Hastert which netted him about a $2 million profit – and I know others aren’t innocent either – but that’s the stuff of fairly tales, I realize).

And isn’t it a revelation of sorts that Dubya had nothing at all to say about New Orleans (as noted here, not surprisingly, by Harry Shearer at HuffPo)? Are we now supposed to pretend that it doesn’t exist?

And Jonathan Tasini quite rightly wondered why the opposition party applauded our charlatan president here, especially when they were referred to as members of the “Democrat” party (sanitized in the CNN transcript, of course).

And after reading the SOTU response by Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, I found myself wondering why any Democrat would support Dubya’s latest No Way Forward con in Iraq, especially when they will be blamed when it fails just as they were blamed for originally supporting Iraq War II.

Unsurprisingly, the response from John Edwards sums up how I feel pretty well, as well as many other people in this country I believe.

“President Bush’s address tonight was heavy on rhetoric, but light on everything else. The American people said they wanted change and what they got was more of the same - small ideas that won’t make a difference in the lives of working Americans.

They said they wanted straight talk and a vision for the future, what they got was a rationalization for the failed policies of the past.

The next President will have to do more than just undo this President’s mistakes – the next President must offer a vision for fundamental change that will transform America and ensure our greatness in the 21st century.

America needs leaders who will do more than propose half-measures and baby steps; President Bush has left us a legacy of challenges that can only be met with courage, conviction and bold change.

And that change must begin in Iraq. President Bush’s decision to adopt the McCain Doctrine and escalate the war in Iraq is terribly wrong. There is no military solution to this civil war. Instead of increasing the number of troops in Iraq, we should immediately withdraw 40-50,000 troops. In order for the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving. Since the President refuses to change course, Congress must use its power of the purse and block funding for an escalation of war. Over 80,000 people from across the country have joined me in calling on Congress to stop President Bush’s misguided plan to escalate the war. Congress has the power to stop this escalation - they should use it.

We also need real leadership to address the health care crisis in our country. Since President Bush took office in 2000, the number of uninsured Americans has increased by 8 million.

While it is nice that he is finally talking about America’s health care crisis, President Bush’s proposal will do little to help working Americans, and is it unlikely to reduce the number of uninsured because it encourages companies to drop coverage, but does nothing to help people buy their own insurance. President Bush’s proposal offers much more help to a family making $300,000 than one making $30,000. The time for patching up our health care system has ended. We need universal health care in this country and we need it now.

Finally, America will never break its dependence on foreign oil without bold leadership. After years of catering to the oil industry, President Bush says he is finally ready to take action and curb our dependence on foreign oil. But neither his actions nor his proposals match his rhetoric. The President has the authority now to raise fuel economy standards if he wants to, but the standard has been at 27.5 miles per gallon since 1985. Under his leadership, we are now importing 60 percent of our oil, up from 53 percent in 2000. In order to curb our dependence on foreign oil and address global warming, the United States needs a major investment in energy innovation, on a scale that this President isn’t talking about. We need to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war and involve everyone – government, industry, and individuals – in the solution.

Tonight, the president once again made it clear that we cannot count on him to be honest about our challenges or offer the bold solutions we need to meet them.

But we know that the great power of America lies in the hands of the people of America. If we take responsibility and take action together, we can build a nation lives up to the greatness of America's promise.”
If you agree, then please consider supporting the Edwards '08 campaign by clicking here.

Update: And Dubya didn't even get a "media fanny pat" from Faux News? Oy vay!

Play It Again, Bogie

I don't usually post on Sundays, and that's one of the reasons why I missed the fact that Humphrey Bogart died 50 years ago last week on January 14th (luckily, however, film critic Richard Schickel provided this remembrance, though I wish Schickel had given Bogart his due for opposing the House Un-American Activities Committee).

And if you were going to commemorate Bogart with a video clip, there are many you could choose from, but really, this one would be the all-timer (from "Casablanca," of course - sorry the audio is a little hard to hear).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Happy Birthday to Patrick Simmons of The Doobie Brothers (lead guitar and vocal on "Neal's Fandango," and by the way, these are the lyrics of the chorus)...

"Goin' back I'm too tired to roam
Loma Prieta my mountain home
On the hills above Santa Cruz
To the place where I spent my youth..."
A YouTube commenter noted how good it was to see Tom Johnston all cleaned up and playing again - good point.

...The Offspring ("Gone Away").

Does “Almost” Count In Sports?

It doesn’t, does it (and we’re not talking about horseshoes here).

As noted here, the NCAA currently has banned its regional basketball tournament from South Carolina because that state continues to display the confederate flag on the grounds of its statehouse.

And the “nobody cares” candidate for president Joe Biden has said that he would take the flag down if he served in the statehouse (and I’m sooo sure that good ol’ boys like Kenny Bob, Jimmy Wayne and Daddy Dale would actually give Biden the time of day). And the more-credible Chris Dodd has rightly said that the flag belongs in a museum.

And (as also noted in the story), the NCAA recently announced that it won’t expand its ban to other collegiate events such as baseball or football games (I mean, are you kidding? They can’t ban football, and lose all of that Saturday afternoon ad revenue in the fall?).

So basically, the NCAA has banned basketball, but not football (ka-ching!) or basketball.

So they’ve almost done the right thing, by almost protesting the shameful presence of a symbol of the confederacy, which, after all, led an armed secession against the United States that was almost successful and allowed racism to flourish in the South (though it has flourished throughout this country in varying degrees, varying forms, and in varying times).

Well, the NCAA should either ban all collegiate events as long as the flag is displayed to show that principle means more than revenue or someone’s sensibilities at a given moment (the right thing to do), or lift the ban on basketball entirely and show that the almighty dollar and the continued public display of a symbol of insurrection and revolt is more important than the cultural evolution of a region and our country as a whole.

And by the way, isn’t it particularly stupid that we are still arguing over this given the fact that Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy, the coaches of the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts who will compete in the Super Bowl, are both black?

Pray For Yourselves, Too

The following quote appeared on the front page of the Bucks County Courier Times today from this story...

“I firmly believe in the right to live. People don’t understand what they’re doing when they have abortions. Sometimes we get women to change their minds once they realize that they are already parents and that we care about them.” - Dolores Kunkel
(I really wanted to stay out of the Roe v. Wade anniversary yesterday, but I feel like I can’t.)

After reading that quote, I have only this to say:

I don’t ever, ever, EVER want to hear about some so-called “Christian” fundamentalist, “values voter” (or whatever the media-approved phrase will be for the lockstep right-wing zombies who will trot to the voting booth in the next election and vote Republican with almost no consideration of other issues) complaining that “liberal elitists” talk to them as if they’re stupid.

People don’t understand what they’re doing when they have abortions.”
By uttering those almost unbelievable words, Dolores Kunkel is telling anyone who is pro-choice that they’re so vacuous and dumb that they don’t know what is entailed by the medical procedure of aborting a fetus.

Now I’ve never met Dolores Kunkel. She may be a very nice lady who just happened to utter some horribly unfortunate words. However, she has a lot of company in that regard.

And that would include the Washington Post, reporter Shailagh Murray in particular, who began a story on abortion with this lede:

Eager to avoid a resumption of the culture wars, the new Democratic leaders are trying to tiptoe around the abortion issue by promoting legislation to encourage birth control and assist women who decide to proceed with unwanted pregnancies.
“Culture wars?” “Tiptoe around the abortion issue?”

Somewhere, Frank Luntz is smiling.

And of course, the WaPo story repeats the time-worn lie that former PA governor Bob Casey, Sr. wasn’t allowed to speak at the 1992 Democratic convention because he opposed abortion (no, it was because he didn’t support Clinton for president – maybe I’d better give up trying to debunk that one; it may be hopeless, especially when repeated by Casey Jr. during the election last year).

Well, since I find absolutely NO representation from the pro-choice side in our media, I thought I’d better go out and get some, such as Angela Bonavoglia at The Huffington Post here and The Blog Project For A Woman’s Right To Choose here.

One of the women I’ve read about who admitted to having undergone an abortion is actress Polly Bergen, who was rendered infertile by a botched procedure in someone’s kitchen (I have vague memories of her speaking tearfully about this on a talk show many years ago – it was probably Mike Douglas; he was pretty forthright about that stuff). However, a Wikipedia entry on Bergen notes that she did have a biological child, but no citation for that is available.

I just posted a few minutes ago about Dubya’s scheme to make health care more expensive and less available, and I linked to a story that noted that health care costs can lead to bankruptcy and divorce.

That includes the costs for a child with profound developmental issues requiring dependent care for the rest of his or her life, however shortened that life may be, to say nothing of the quality of that life. And we know couples who’ve had to deal with issues like that, which are painful beyond words. And they’ve had abortions performed despite haranguing from pro-life friends, to say nothing of what they hear from the pulpit and the stirrings of their own beliefs.

That’s life in the real world. That’s a choice that is made. I could never, ever imagine doing that instead of giving birth to our son and helping to raise him, but everyone’s story is different and no one has the right to pass judgment.

Abortion is safe and legal, and it is the law of the land. And for medical reasons above all others, it should stay that way.

And I won’t say anything else about that – I feel like enough of a hypocrite commenting at all, since I’ll never be “in the stirrups.”

I just wish there were more pro-lifers (and pro-choice men too, I suppose) who felt the same way.

The Debut of “Dubya-Care”

Which, of course, means no care at all…

Leave it to Dubya and the Repugs to create the excuse allowing more and more employers to opt out of employer-sponsored health coverage while providing nothing for those “left behind,” so to speak, to fall back on.

Oh, but Kate Baicker, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors (as noted in the ABC story, brought to us by Disney Incorporated), points out the following…

"There are always going to be some winners and some losers, but the people who might initially be losers have options…"
And after Baicker uttered those words, there was absolutely no follow up by the ABC correspondent (lovely – I guess her “options” would be strychnine or a jump from a tall building).

And so, what will those people do who will be left without coverage? Why, they’ll be forced to go out and compete for coverage privately, and those already covered by their employers will have to pay more when their health care premiums become taxable income if their coverage exceeds $15,000.

I wonder how he came up with that number?

I’ll tell you what; read this story about Rose Shaffer, a Chicago nurse who suffered a heart attack and endured much misery on top of that as a result, and tell me if you think Dubya’s latest scheme should be taken seriously.

Dubya is proposing to punish people whose health care coverage exceeds $15,000.

Ms. Shaffer was hospitalized for three days. Do you know what it cost her?


So basically, Dubya is saying that it’s fine for us to have health insurance unless we get sick, and then if we do, all he’ll offer is higher taxes (and of course, tax cuts for those who have nothing, for whom there will be no income worth trying to save anyway).

And for more depressing news, please note the following from the AlterNet story…

A study by the Center for Studying Health System Change shows that 20 million families struggled with medical debt in 2003. Federal projections suggest that out-of-pocket health expenses will rise at least until 2013. Elizabeth Warren and Steffie Woolhandler foresee medical bankruptcies continuing to climb as the uninsured population swells, overburdened hospitals aggressively collect to meet the bottom line, prescription drug prices increase and employers shift medical costs to employees.

The only real cure for the medical bankruptcy epidemic, according to Physicians for a National Health Program, is national health insurance – a system where coverage isn't linked to employment and medically necessary care is accessible to all without deductibles or copayments. If such sweeping reform seems a long way off, there are short-term fixes too. One would be to exempt medical debtors from any new laws restricting bankruptcies. "The bankruptcy courthouse doors must stay open for those who really need it," says Warren. Another worthwhile improvement, notes Henry Sommer, president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, would be to better protect the homes of medical debtors; many states allow people only a small amount of home equity after they've gone bankrupt.

Jay Westbrook, a University of Texas law professor who co-wrote the 1981 bankruptcy study (cited in the story which notes that medical-related debt is the second leading cause of personal bankruptcies, topped only by job loss), believes bankruptcy patterns are an indicator of other social problems – high unemployment, rising divorce rates (people often file for bankruptcy after a divorce) and, in this case, a crumbling healthcare system. "Bankruptcy occurs when there is a crisis. That's what it's there for," Westbrook says.
And we know what happened to the bankruptcy law in this country already under the Repugs, don’t we?

And if Bush and his cronies have their way, the same thing will happen to any attempt at health care reform (i.e., we will continue to get hosed as a supposed remedy for an inequity of one type or another, trumpeted as a solution by our bought-and-paid-for corporate media).

Oh, but Dubya was going to make this big announcement tonight at his State of the Union address and I “let the cat out of the bag,” didn’t I?

Mea maxima culpa!

Also, here are more lies from previous State of the Union addresses by Dubya (a proper response to the 2003 address could be the size of an entire book).

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday Videos

Incubus ("Anna Molly")...

...Sam Cooke would have been 76 today ("A Change Is Gonna Come" - a video would have been nice, but this song doesn't need one; who can say if the mystery behind his awful murder will ever be solved)...

Have Your Say

The latest from Democracy for America...

The President's days of wine and roses with Congress are over. Tomorrow, January 23, President Bush will deliver his second to last State of the Union Address. How will he handle it? Will he moderate his message? Or will he blindly continue to "stay the course" with an escalation of the Iraq war?

One thing is for sure, the next day everyone in the media will be talking about the President's speech and what they will be looking for is your response.

That's why DFA members are hosting Response Parties. We're getting together to have fun by watching the speech, playing Bush Bingo, and delivering the grassroots response in letters to your local newspaper. Will you join us?

Click here.

Wait!! It gets better. Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) will join us for a pre-speech nationwide conference call just minutes before going to the floor the House. DFA helped elect Rep. Welch to Congress last year and now he sits on the powerful Rules Committee. He'll update us personally on the first 100 hours and shed some light on what's next. The night is packed with activity and we want you to be there.

Find an event near you:

Click here.

If you can't find a party near you, then host one yourself! A watch party is easy and fun and we'll provide everything you need, as long as you provide the place and a TV.

Plan your Response Party (you may need to login first):

Click here.

Thank you for everything you do,

Charles Chamberlain
Field Director
As for me, I'll be busy disinfecting my sneakers, so sadly, I'll have to pass (should be fun, though - let somebody else drive and do a shot every time Dubya says "New Way Forward").

A Life Nipped In The Budd

Sorry if the pun is inappropriate.

Twenty years ago today, R. Budd Dwyer killed himself in front of television cameras at a press conference in Harrisburg, PA. At the time, Dwyer was the state treasurer of Pennsylvania.

And yes, I’ve laughed at the dumb cracks over the way the man left this earth, and that was really not a very bright thing for me to do (I never saw the actual footage, but only a series of photos – I was working at the time the event took place).

For the uninitiated, this Wikipedia article (containing information I’ve been able to corroborate from other sources) provides details on exactly what happened, noting the following…

In late 1986, Budd Dwyer was charged with receiving a kickback of $300,000. A plea bargain was made for (John) Torquato (a Harrisburg native who ran a California company implicated also) and Dauphin County Republican Party Chairman William Smith (who was also Torquato's attorney), as well as Smith's wife, which required them to testify against Dwyer. This, coupled with the government's refusal to name unindicted co-conspirators in the case, made it difficult for Dwyer to defend himself, though the unindicted co-conspirators are believed to have been staff members of the Dauphin County Republican Party. During this time, the district's United States Attorney offered Dwyer a plea bargain that carried a maximum of five-years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea on one count of accepting a bribe, resignation, and cooperation in the investigation.[1] Dwyer refused the offer, and was later convicted but continued to vehemently profess his innocence, as do others who were close to him. [2] Under state law, Dwyer could continue to serve as state treasurer until his sentencing. The maximum sentence Dwyer was facing was 55 years imprisonment and a $300,000 fine.
The Wikipedia article goes on to quote Dwyer’s words before he pulled the trigger, including his accusation that Judge Malcolm Muir was seeking to make an example of Dwyer by imposing the maximum sentence. I guess the prevailing opinion is that Dwyer was an egomaniac who wanted to impart the maximum shock value as he made some kind of a statement about how he was being persecuted, though, by doing what he did while still holding office, his widow was able to collect about $1.28 million in survivor benefits.

Obviously, no one could have expected this, and from what I can recall reading from people who witnessed the gruesome event firsthand, some tried to flee the room, some pleaded with Dwyer not to shoot, and some froze in horror (I believe it was local TV station WPVI that filmed the entire sequence of events which went out over the air live, but I could be wrong, and again from what I recall, the camera person’s shock was such that they couldn’t move in time to turn off the camera – they would never have willingly filmed it otherwise, though I admit that that could be an “urban legend”).

The news conference was held in the early afternoon, and due to a snow holiday, more kids from school were home than usual to watch it either accidentally or on purpose, unfortunately. The Wikipedia article notes that fact as well as some of the journalistic practices that were changed as a result of the shooting (for example, the AP practice of having color-ready film available at all times instead of black and white for local stories and color film for national stories…the black-and-white photos were cheaper and easier to transmit, but color became universal as technological changes made the film cheaper, and the expectation was that it should be used for everything in case local stories suddenly achieved national importance somehow).

Also, I remember that the Inquirer handled the situation pretty well, with a front-page photo of Dwyer waving the gun around right after he took it out of the envelope, and another photo of grief-stricken aides and others standing nearby the podium after the shooting with only Dwyer’s feet visible that appeared inside the front section.

The Wikipedia article also notes the numerous pop culture references associated with the Dwyer shooting, brought to us by characters as diverse as Opie and Anthony (funny at times, but not enough for me to take the plunge into satellite), Bill Bryson (a talented writer unworthy of the bad joke he spawned from this), and the band Filter (not enough information to form an opinion). And I’ve often wondered about that (and as I said, I’m not completely innocent when it comes to that also).

I guess people who laugh at Budd Dwyer are people who want to use his death to feel good about themselves somehow. And I will admit that suicide is the most consummately stupid act someone could perform, especially for a politician who could’ve taken his lumps, served out a sentence in some Club Fed somewhere, then come back and written a book or become some kind of a consultant or something, in which case he never would have had to worry about money again in his life (and let’s face it: when talking about PA state government as a whole, the charges of which Dwyer was accused are completely credible). And given the Abramoff-type sums of money that have been thrown around to politicians recently convicted of selling themselves in this regard (paging Bob Ney and Duke Cunningham), $300K is chump change.

I don’t know what it says that more people probably remember the Budd Dwyer shooting than the names of their elected representatives or the names of all 50 states or the countries where our troops are stationed, but I’m sure it isn’t anything good.

And I feel a bit sorry for the man, who of course was as imperfect as all of us, because the eternal image most people will have of him is a gun barrel sticking in his mouth (the reason why no photo is included with this post is because that is the only picture of Dwyer I could find online).

So tonight, I’m going to go home and say a prayer for the happy repose of the soul of R. Budd Dwyer, as well as insight and empathy on all of our parts so that we aren’t so quick to try and manufacture a laugh out of all of this any more.

By the way, I meant to link to David Eisenthal's post on this here.

Patrick Fights Fraud In Iraq

Though, as you’ll see below, the freepers (who are probably getting their “Fitzpatrick in ‘08” campaign material ready) will never be satisfied.

The Bucks County Courier Times reported on Friday that Patrick Murphy will introduce legislation to end the practice of “supplemental” budget appropriations for the Iraq war. This is largely because of the following (excerpted from the story):

Operations in Iraq cost about $9.7 billion a month and recent estimates have the total war costs at more than $1.2 trillion, about a trillion dollars more than the Bush administration claimed in 2002 that the war would cost.

On Thursday, Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, told the House Armed Services Committee that as much as 15 percent of the $21.8 billion in U.S. reconstruction aid to Iraq might have been wasted.

Murphy, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said U.S. taxpayer dollars are being wasted in Iraq at an alarming rate. He pointed to $75 million the government spent to build a police academy in Baghdad, a building that will be torn down. He said there have been 14,000 weapons the U.S. government have given to Iraqis that the Department of Defense cannot account for.
The legislation Patrick is proposing also calls for the creation of a modern-day “Truman Commission” such as the one advocated by Rep. Louise Slaughter.

But of course, the hammerheads will never be satisfied by any of this (this appeared Saturday also)…

First we have to see so many pictures of Capt. Murphy parading around the Capitol with his newborn, that one is confused whether he is attending an inauguration or a baby naming.

Then he writes a self-serving editorial about his accomplishments in his first week in office. This must be a new record for starting a re-election campaign so soon after becoming a congressman. It would behoove him to heed the advice of one of my high school teachers, “A pat on the back is only 17 inches away from a kick in the pants.”

Jeffrey Gross
Newtown Township, PA
No, Gross, the record for starting a re-election campaign was set by your boy Mikey a few weeks ago when he basically declared for ’08 immediately after he lost to Patrick. And by the way, I would invest in “The Elements of Style” or some book on grammar and punctuation so you’ll have it as a reference to check your work next time before you feel the need to inflict us with another literary attack (which I’m sure you will do).

And from today…

I can only come up with three reasons as to why Patrick Murphy is trying so hard to become best friends with Jack Murtha, the disgraced congressman from Johnstown.

He is either so inexperienced he knows nothing about Murtha’s history or he is too naïve and/or stupid to care. After all of the corruption probes, bribery scandals and wild pork barrel projects, I would think Murtha is the last person a freshman congressman from a politically moderate area of the country would want to associate with.
Proof? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

Does Murphy support Murtha’s plan to withhold war funds, effectively leaving our troops with nothing but the bullets in their guns and uniforms on their backs, stranding them in the desert?

As I heard ad nauseum during the campaign, Murphy did serve in Iraq, apparently on the front lines, so why is he cozying up to a man so fanatical in his opposition to the war he is willing to leave our men and women in uniform alone on the battlefield?

I cannot talk for the troops Murphy served with but I believe his actions are a huge slap in the face to them.

After voting for Murtha for House majority whip, a vote Murtha had no chance of winning, starring in photo shoots with him, sitting behind him in Congress and seemingly following in his every footstep, Murphy shows no qualms about his quest to become a mini-Murtha.

At the end of the day, however, I have no qualms about it, either. It just provides more ammunition come 2008.

Despite the picture Murphy and the media painted, Mike Fitzpatrick never surrounded himself with party extremists. He had the guts to stand on his own and Murphy knows it.

Mike Musial
Falls Township
I have to say thanks to Musial for giving me such a laugh over his hilariously fantastic letter. However, since Mikey hasn’t officially declared himself as a candidate for ’08 yet, I’m not going to try and parse his delusional ravings so I can respond. I will only point out yet again (as I did to fellow winger Rich Petrucco awhile back) that John Murtha was not running for House Majority Whip. He was running for House Majority Leader, but lost to Steny Hoyer.

I hope I never know what exactly is in the minds of these people.

Dubya’s “Gift” That Keeps On Giving

From yesterday’s Parade magazine (taking a pleasant stroll down memory lane from last November)…

GOP operatives blame (President Bush) for the party’s loss of control in the Senate. Polling data show that in Virginia, Montana and Missouri, Republican incumbents were tied or leading until Bush paid a campaign visit. After that, all three fell behind and lost. Senators up for re-election in 2008 and those with Presidential aspirations don’t want to face the same fate, so they’re actively distancing themselves from Bush and his 2007 agenda. Expect some to vote with the Democrats or sit on their hands.
Also, I’ve read from fairly reputable sources (sorry, no link at the moment) that, if only “The Decider” had canned Rummy before the election, that might have swung a race or two to the point where the Repugs would have held onto the Senate.

But of course, a move of such rank political opportunism would have told everyone that Dubya really did care about polls after all, and it would have been a tacit acknowledgment that Bush knew that these elections, more than anything else, were a referendum on him and his failed administration.

And he simply could not allow that to happen, could he?

Too Slow On The Draw

I’m referring to myself here, by the way.

I was all set to tee off on conservative hack Dinesh D’Souza for trying to make the case that “secularism” was responsible for 9/11 in the Inquirer yesterday (re: those guttural, gay-loving, union-belonging, evolution-believing liberals – D’Souza would say that, but he wants to sound highbrow and evasive in anticipation that we’ll just sit around and argue over what the $#@! it is that he’s trying to say, in a manner typical of most academics) as well as bin Laden’s hatred of us (and how can anyone presume to think for that lunatic anyway?), but Walter Uhler at The Huffington Post already did it (sometimes I don’t quite get this whole “blogging” thing, I’ll admit :- ).

Well, since I couldn’t find a link to the original Inquirer story in Uhler's piece, here it is (as well as more on Alan Wolfe’s response and the details of a communication between D’Souza and The General here – hat tips for both to Atrios). And by the way, am I the only one who is repulsed over the fact that D’Souza will hawk his infamous screed at the Constitution Center next week?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Videos

Happy Birthday to Billy Ocean (“(Get Out Of My Dreams and) Get Into My Car” or something like that – and no, that line never worked for me either; so, soo very ‘80s I know)…

Edwin Starr would have been 65 today (“War,” the song he may be remembered for above all others; nothing else for me to add to these words and pictures).