Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saturday Videos

Skid Row ("18 And Life" from '89, I believe)...

...Gene Pitney would have been 67 today ("A Town Without Pity" - a bit of karma between this and the Skid Row song, actually, minus the big hair among other things; I once wore a banlon shirt also with a jacket, and luckily, no pictures survived to the best of my knowledge; also, Pitney was straight, in case you were wondering).

Lizard Brain Overload

Even by the toxic standards of some of the freeper garbage that typically finds its way onto the pages of the Bucks County Courier Times (and the Philadelphia Inquirer with ever-greater frequency), this letter published today is truly a hoot (under the joyful heading, "If We Lose In Iraq, Thank The War Protesters And Liberals").

This country is lost to the terrorists. Yes, all of those bleeding heart liberals have won, or soon will win.

They will not back our president or our troops trying to kill these maniacs who are determined to kill us. Iraq has turned into a war against Islamic terrorists and Iran. Will liberals fight Iran? Not a chance!

Everyone forgets what started this war and why Bush did what he did. Sixteen worthless U.N. resolutions on Iraq, and they were still shooting at our planes in the no-fly zone. Saddam ran torture chambers, he gassed thousands of people. He invaded Kuwait, murdering people and looting the country. I didn't see any liberals protesting outside the U.N. about the slaughter of the Kurds or the Shiites in the south. I guess that's OK with liberals. We should have talked more with Saddam. After all, let's be reasonable.

This was the most brutal regime since Hitler and the Nazis, but that was OK. Let's go watch "American Idol." While these terrorists take over Iraq and have nuclear weapons and all the oil money they need, I am sure the liberals and pacifists will want to talk to them. I will start digging a hole in my back yard. Liberals have given us another Vietnam. Their protests and hand wringing caused the death (sic) of millions of people in Southeast Asia. The same thing is about to happen in the Middle East.

So, don't fight - and pay a terrible price. When the attack comes, and our economy collapses and millions of Americans die, you can thank the war protestors and liberals. If you come to my door for help, you better have a voter card in your pocket that says you're a Republican.

The Democrats want us to lose in Iraq so they can beat the GOP over the head for the next 30 years and retain control of Congress; that's what it's all about - power. By the way, the Democrats caused the debacle in Vietnam. Yes, let's keep attacking the president; it's so hip even the terrorists are glad the Democrats won.

This is no longer the country of John Wayne or George Patton.

Gerald E. Jones, Sr.
Middletown Township, PA
Apparently Jones has forgotten what started this war also, and that was Bushco's propaganda that Iraq had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11 (references to which, along with bin Laden, are strangely absent from Jones puerile, childish rant).

I don't have time to refute all of Jones's lies and name calling (the "digging a hole" remark is singularly stupid), but I will only point out that John Wayne did not serve in the military (though he did apply to the Naval Academy during peacetime and was turned down).

Update 2/18: This is a consequence of Jones's wonderful Iraq war, by the way, supposedly making us safe from dark-skinned people everywhere who want to kill us (hat tip to Atrios - positively heartbreaking; thank God for journalists like Dana Priest and Anne Hull).

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Videos

Chaka Khan ("Ain't Nobody")...

...Metallica ("Turn The Page," covering Bob Seger - intense stuff at the end).

Chaka Fattah's Wheely Bad Idea

I’ve been beating up the Philadelphia Inquirer all week, and deservedly so, but I have to give them credit for a headline they wrote about the arrival of Phillies pitcher Jon Lieber at spring training camp yesterday that I’m lifting (sort of ) for here. Also, I try to stay out of the politics of the city of Philadelphia, but this affects me, so here goes...

Mayoral candidate Chaka Fattah yesterday proposed examining a "congestion charge" that would require drivers to pay to bring their cars into traffic-clogged parts of central Philadelphia at peak hours.

Fattah offered few specifics about what his plan would cost or just how it would be implemented. He said he hoped only to "study" the idea.

"We cannot have a city in which everyone expects to be able to drive their car everywhere they want to go," Fattah said.

Fattah's idea is modeled on a program that has slashed vehicular traffic and commute times in London since its introduction in 2003. Drivers of private cars pay the equivalent of $16 every day that they enter the central areas of the British capital between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

The roughly $176 million annual take is plowed into improving public transportation, which is how an estimated 90 percent of workers in the "charging zone" get to the office.

In the English model, a series of 230 cameras posted around the area capture the license-plate numbers of cars entering the zone. Drivers must pay that same day via the Internet, mobile phone, or at post offices and selected stores. Fines are levied on those who don't pay on time.
Try to imagine the enforcement nightmare Philadelphia would face over something like this, by the way.

And I finally found a voice of reason at this newspaper on civic issues, and that would be Inga Saffron, who is the paper’s architecture critic (she should be the common sense critic also).

Also, the model Fattah uses is London, which is silly. London is hugely congested during the day but largely empties out at nighttime, to say nothing of the fact that that city’s commuters during the day are primarily working people, skewed heavily that way versus other types of commuters – London also has a much more efficient mass transit alternative. With Philadelphia, you have heavy commuter traffic but lots of tourist and other pedestrian traffic, mainly during the day but heavily at all hours also, to say nothing of the fact that our country as a whole, right or wrong, is more car-centric anyway.

The last time we visited the city was on the Martin Luther King day; the young one and I went to The Franklin Institute and The Academy of Natural Sciences. These places and many others in Philadelphia had a lot of extra volume because kids and many of their parents were off. We had to look hard for parking though we found it, but when we left, it turns out we had exceeded the normal two-hour rate of $18 by about five minutes, and the daily rate of $24 kicked in, and that’s what we had to pay (all the rates were posted, so I really couldn’t argue).

If Fattah’s plan or something like it were implemented right now with nothing else to improve transit in this city (and I would have had to pay more on top of $24), I can tell you that the young one and I might not ever visit Philadelphia again, which would be truly awful. But Saffron states that Pennsylvania has to get serious about funding SEPTA, and the next mayor should make that a priority also (absolutely right, but that’s been the refrain for as long as I can remember) before even considering measures as harsh as what Fattah proposes. I wonder about some of Saffron’s other ideas about parking, but she sees that the status quo is unacceptable, and I give her credit for that.

My NCLB Wish

After reading this New York Times editorial about the recommendations to improve the No Child Left Behind law, as well as other related informative material, it pains me greatly to realize that we may never be able to get rid of this misbegotten mandate and its hugely detrimental effect on our kids.

I’m sick of hearing about how this country, according to whatever bunch of statistics some “expert” can provide at the drop of a hat, doesn’t produce enough college graduates in math and science, and that’s why the United States is becoming a two-bit superpower of a nation. And as a result, we must test and test and test and test and test and test and then test some more, and that will magically close the gap in math and science between this country and nations based in southeast Asia, and then we will reclaim our post-World War II place of dominance in the world.

I don’t have enough time, patience or calories to refute all of this garbage (and please don’t remind me that Ted Kennedy once supported NCLB – somehow I’m quite sure his concept of this law and its hideous reality could not be more different).

There are many reasons why I can attack No Child Left Behind, such as the rigged test scores in the Houston school district run by Rod Paige, the former head of that school district who helped install the NCLB perversion as the first Bushco Education Secretary; Paige used those scores as an attempt to justify NCLB’s “success.”

However, since we’re apparently stuck with this mess, all I can do is plead for an emphasis once more on language and social studies at the expense of math and science studies (all I’m asking for is equal proportions for all).

The reason this country rose to dominance isn’t exclusively because of our investment in scientific research and higher education. It has a lot to do with the fact that school kids were taught about our government and our responsibility as citizens, to say nothing of the need to communicate effectively using the English language (I know that isn’t enough now, and education in another language would be advantageous also). This helped cultivate an educated middle class that could think creatively and perform the basic, elemental problem solving needed in all kinds of occupations, including home construction, architectural engineering and serving multiple customers at a diner, calculating the bill for one, calling for an aisle cleanup elsewhere and managing to deliver dinner entrees to still others at the same time.

This is not a trivial point. I’m talking about thinking and organizational skills, to say nothing of participating in our government which is part of our responsibility as citizens.

I’m going to try and be careful with what I have to say next, since I know this is touchy, but I have the privilege of working with people who have an advanced aptitude in math and can write object-oriented code that enables the operation of highly sophisticated financial computer applications. Most of these people either come directly from southeast Asia or have family in that location, but many other are naturalized Americans and some come from still other countries.

I’m grateful every day that we have these people, and they do truly amazing work. And I hope they’re compensated well for what they do.

But when it comes to problem solving outside of their discipline or knowledge of the world and/or current events, they are sheep.

And somehow, I cannot help but think that that is a consequence that will be made worse by volume over time because of No Child Left Behind.

So, while we worry about how much self-instruction and evaluation is required on the part of the caretakers for our kids (with the requisite freeper teacher union-bashing), and while we worry if little Johnny or Jane only scores 16 out of 20 on a math quiz instead of 17 out of 20, let’s also give some thought as to how many of our kids are going to grow up knowing how to write a Letter to the Editor of a newspaper, engage in a discussion about a budget appropriation or a zoning variance with a city councilperson or township supervisor, or join a campaign to elect a candidate for local or national office or serve as a candidate for such an effort, OK?

(And if I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring - sigh…)

Besides, as far as I'm concerned, if Bushco really cared about our kids, it would pay more attention to this story.

Some Un-"Real" Censorship

As many of us know, “Real Time with Bill Maher” returns tonight on HBO, and it will be a last-minute decision for me concerning whether or not I’ll watch. Maher is just about always entertaining, but 1) I have virtually no patience for the garbage spewing from the designated freeper wingnut stuck on the program to provide “balance,” and 2) I have even less patience for Dubya jokes, because Dubya himself is a joke, and we are the ones paying the price for his mistakes, which are legion of course, while he stumbles befuddledly (word?) through this whole “Forrest Gump Gone To Hell” nightmare of a presidency.

Concerning the show, I was provided this link from a marketing firm handling promotions from HBO that I could link to from this site, and I appreciate it. The problem, however, occurs when you play the clip, and I’ll explain as best I can.

Maher is rightly criticizing Dubya, saying that all of his father’s advisors as well as members of Congress and the Iraq Study Group have told Dubya what he should do about Iraq, but Maher says that President Brainless has found another place where he can find information to bail us out of Iraq, and that is “his ass” (not an exact transcript, but close).

The problem is that, when you play the clip, “ass” is bleeped out (presumably by MSNBC, which is, after all, the network of Tweety and Tucker Carlson – I cannot believe that HBO, the network of “The Sopranos” and “Sex In The City” would do that, especially when the show is on their network).

Well, I’m about to use a legitimate bad word myself here; that’s nonsensical corporatist bullshit!

So…we’re not even supposed to criticize President Stupid Head by saying that he pulls information out of his ass, as far as MSNBC is concerned? What’s the matter, MSNBC, do you need more proof regarding the reality of that statement?

Well, fortunately, Rolling Stone Magazine published this article by historian Sean Wilentz that provides ample evidence as to the utter atrocity that George W. Bush has become as president, and Al Neuharth of USA Today quite rightly “piles on” here.

And as long as we’re reflecting on our presidents in general this weekend, here is a post about the ones who were supposedly the worst (though, as Neuharth points out, Dubya has crashed through that ceiling, so to speak, and plummets to new depths every day).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (2/16/07)

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.

(Light-to-moderate activity again, though Iraq looms large in the background, as it should...)


Alternative fuels. The House passed, 400-3, and sent to the Senate a bill to promote technologies for transporting alternative fuels through a U.S. pipeline system designed for petroleum. The bill (H.R. 547) also would explore ways to help service stations convert tanks and pumps to handle alternative fuels.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for the bill.

Liquefied coal. The House defeated, 207-200, a bid by Republicans to define liquefied coal as an alternative fuel that would benefit from research and development funding in H.R. 547 (above).

A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).
As nearly as I can figure out on this issue, funding liquefied coal for development as an alternative energy source would require a price in excess of about $35 a barrel for it to be feasible for the manufacturers (we’re at about $60 now, I believe). Something tells me, though, that were we to pursue this, the per-barrel cost would stay as high as it is now, and quite probably higher, for years upon years, so you could probably throw that $35 figure out the window (and I’m sure people more knowledgeable on this than me will jump in with “swords drawn” if I’m wrong).


Iraq war debate. In a 49-47 vote, the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes needed to open debate on a bill (S.B. 470) opposing the deployment of 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq.

A yes vote was to begin debating the bill.

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.).
Since Arlen Specter voted against debating the Iraq war (though that is a futile vote, Senator “Two-Step” - shake it to the left, then shake it to the right - you and your fellow Repugs along with some chicken Dems will be held accountable), I wish to present the following editorial that appeared in the New York Times yesterday to give you some idea of how little regard the supporters of the Iraq carnage like Specter actually have for our men and women in uniform (under the heading, “Not Supporting Our Troops”)…

How do you explain to the thousands of American troops now being poured into Baghdad that they will have to wait until the summer for the protective armor that could easily mean the difference between life and death?

It’s bad enough that these soldiers are being asked to risk their lives without President Bush demanding that Iraq’s leaders take any political risks that might give the military mission at least an outside chance of success. But according to an article in the Washington Post this week, at least some of the troops will be sent out in Humvees not yet equipped with FRAG Kit 5 armor. That’s an advanced version designed to reduce deaths from roadside bombs, which now account for about 70 percent of United States casualties in Iraq.

The more flexible materials used in the FRAG Kit 5 make it particularly helpful in containing the damage done by the especially deadly weapon the Bush administration is now most concerned about: those explosively formed penetrators that Washington accuses Iran of supplying to Shiite militias for use against American troops.
And, as noted here, there’s evidence that some of them are being manufactured in Iraq (swell).

Older versions of Humvee armor are shattered by these penetrators, showering additional shrapnel in the direction of a Humvee’s occupants. The FRAG Kit 5 helps slow the incoming projectile and contains some of the shrapnel, giving the soldiers a better chance of survival.

Armor upgrades like this have become a feature of the Iraq war, as the Pentagon struggles to keep up with the constantly more powerful weapons and sophisticated tactics of the various militia and insurgent forces attacking American troops. But the Army, the National Guard and the Marine Corps have been caught constantly behind the curve.

Unglamorous and relatively inexpensive staples of ground combat, like armor, have never really captured the imagination and attention of military contractors and Pentagon budget-makers the way that “Top Gun” fighter jets, stealthy warships and “Star Wars” missile interceptors generally do.

The Army says it is now accelerating its production of FRAG Kit 5 armor and handing it out to Baghdad-bound units on a priority basis. But it acknowledges that the armor upgrading project will not be completed until summer. Right now, it’s February, and the new American drive in Baghdad has already begun.

That’s a shame, if not an outright scandal, because up-to-date armor is essential for saving American lives.
Specter’s vote against a debate on the war, along with every other “no” vote, is a vote against bringing attention to this scandal (rightly labeled as such by the Times) perpetrated against our service people (and Flavia Colgan at Citizen Hunter has more here on how to “Support Our Troops” for real, and no cheesy yellow ribbon car stickers are involved).

This week, the House spent three days debating troop buildups in Iraq prior to voting on the policy. The Senate debated a House-passed bill providing $463.5 billion in fiscal 2007 appropriations.

Bad Guy Friday

I found this in Parade magazine last weekend and I wanted to mention it. It seems that every year, the magazine compiles a list of the world’s worst dictators, defining the term before they present the list.

I had some brief observations: 1) I give the magazine credit for naming Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan Number One because of his role in the Darfur crisis – instead of Iraq, this should be our first priority after Afghanistan and hunting down and killing bin Laden; 2) For anyone who chooses to get exercised over Ahmadinejad of Iran and what a head case he is, I should point out that the magazine intelligently passes over him and blames Sayyid Ali Khamenei for Iran’s social degeneration into a primitive culture; 3) Hu Jintao of China is Number Four, which to me is an uncomfortably high position for a country upon which we rely for financing so much of our obscene debt, and 4) Somehow, the guy in the photo gets a pass on the entire list, which is highly surprising to me (further evidence, though, that we have inflated his minor importance by our idiotic embargo of his country...and by the way, he overthrew Batista 48 years ago today).

(And speaking of milestones, let's wish Kim Jong Il a happy birthday by lobbing a nuke in his general direction, OK? Just kidding...).

And in an unrelated story also in the magazine, the so-called “developed” nations don’t have any reason to be proud of themselves when you discover how little they have contributed to the tsunami relief effort in southeast Asia.

I just mentioned China above, and the article on tsunami relief notes that, of $301 million promised by that country, they have delivered only $1 million. France pledged $79 million but delivered just over $1 million; Spain offered $60 million but has sent less than $1 million; and oil-rich Kuwait promised $10 million to the Maldive Islands but has delivered zero.

The United States has fallen short also, but not by quite the same margin. The article notes that we pledged $405.7 million and have delivered $102.6 million, and as the article also notes, “(it seems) regular people were more generous than many leaders.”

No surprise there, as far as I’m concerned.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday Videos

The Foo Fighters ("No Way Back" - Happy Birthday Taylor Hawkins)...

...Nat "King" Cole sings "It's Only A Paper Moon," a standard written by composer Harold Arlen, who would have been 102 today...

...and Happy Birthday to Mick Avory of The Kinks ("A Well-Respected Man").

More "Clown Time" With Third Way

There goes Philadelphia Inquirer business writer Andrew Cassel propagandizing on behalf of “the wealth perspective” again (as noted here - more corporatist hosannas)…

Can you remember when you first heard about America's endangered middle class?

I can. It was in the 1970s. Double-digit inflation was eroding the average U.S. family's income, and double-digit mortgage rates were making it tough to afford a home.

Just as we baby boomers were entering the workforce and starting families, gloomy pundits were telling us to forget about ever living as well as our parents.

An awful lot has changed since then - but America's middle class is still endangered.

Incomes are flat, benefits are shrinking, families are mired in debt, more and more struggle just to get by.

You've undoubtedly heard this many times; if not, just ask any blogger, talk-show host, or presidential candidate.

Only one problem: It might not be true.
It’s true, Cassel, and in lieu of repeating myself ad nauseum, I’m just going to link to my response to that idiot Jay Ambrose last week where I have already refuted much of your fiction (and isn’t it funny how Cassel doesn’t even bother to talk with individuals dealing with what he describes above but instead takes the lazy way out and relies on press release fodder from a D.C. think tank?).

Oh, and as further proof which I didn’t mention in the Ambrose post, check out how much debt this country has accrued and how much is owed by each citizen here.

According to a new analysis by a group called Third Way, the American middle class is in better shape than many believe.
As far as I’m concerned, Third Way represented an interesting concept when everything was great during the phat Clinton years of the ‘90s. However, as far as I’m concerned given all that has ensued since then, they are now trite and irrelevant at best (and they and their DLC clone sympathizers certainly aren’t responsible for Dems winning elections last November either).

Take incomes. Official statistics say that median household income in 2005 was $46,326.

That doesn't seem like much, particularly for a family with kids. If you imagine half of all such families trying to get by on less than that (median means half earn less, half more), it sounds fairly grim.
It is grim, when you factor in the cost of living and fuel prices, as well as wage stagnation from offshoring and the fact that more and more families have to shell out more dough for health insurance.

But as the Third Way paper points out, that median doesn't just include stereotypical nuclear families. It includes everyone - including single people in their early 20s and retirees living off pensions and Social Security, who together make up a third of U.S. households.
So…that paltry $46K figure shouldn’t be a concern for families since it applies to singles and seniors too? What kind of an argument is that? A large part of single workers are people just entering the workforce, where $46K is a pretty good wage as far as I’m concerned, and it also sounds good for seniors, though they often have to pay more in health care costs than anyone else.

Narrow the sample to households headed by people between ages 25 and 60 and the median income is much higher. In 2005, it was $61,269.

For married couples the median is higher still - $72,216. And among couples who both work outside the home, the 2005 median income was $81,365.
I guess Cassel’s rosy scenario projects that none of these couples have any kids.

Third Way, which is affiliated with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, also takes issue with the notion that today's middle class is less economically secure.

Some analysts say incomes today are increasingly volatile, with more families seeing big swings in their earnings from year to year.

But the reason isn't layoffs or outsourcing, according to the Third Way paper. It's motherhood.
If Third Way really believes this, then they truly are pinheads. And besides, if countries such as Scandinavia can subsidize parents (mainly mothers) who work at home and oversee the first year of their child’s development, why can’t we (see "Family Leave" here)?

(When looking into this, by the way, I’ve found some references of an increase in mothers raising children without fathers in these countries, but I can’t substantiate that at the moment. And if this is valid, I don’t believe you could automatically assume that would happen in this country for economic and cultural reasons; it’s silly to assume we are identical to Scandinavian countries in that regard.)

When women leave the workforce to have babies, their families' incomes drop. When moms go back to work, incomes rise. This didn't happen as much when fewer women worked, so it shows up in the statistics as increased income volatility.

In the real world, economic growth has brought benefits to nearly everyone. After adjusting for inflation, families in the middle class earn about 22 percent more than they did in the mid-1970s, the paper says.
There was a hell of a lot of inflation between then and now, to say nothing of the rising energy costs that triggered it (and contrary to what Cassel implies, inflation didn't magically end with the '70s).

True, that growth has been uneven. The distance between the very rich and the average U.S. family is much greater today than it was two or three decades ago. And that's a legitimate issue to bring up and debate.

But it doesn't mean those in the middle are losing ground.

If the Third Way paper is correct, it's a mistake to link Americans' economic anxieties to the outsized gains of those at the top. And it would be a bigger mistake to think that blocking trade or undoing globalization will help the middle class.
See how Cassel is morphing this column from a discussion of the “middle class” into an ode in the name of preservation and consolidation of capital (I’m sure this brings a smile to Bruce Toll and Brian Tierney’s faces).

The Third Way group takes aim at those it calls "neopopulists" - advocates and politicians, mainly from the left, who think global capitalism must be tamed and regulated to protect working Americans from running a "race to the bottom."

But the paper also criticizes conservatives who deny government has a role in making economic growth fair and sustainable.
Does that even count as “a slap on the wrist” against the Repugs? I don’t think so.

Government has a major part to play, they argue - protecting rights, maintaining fair markets, investing in health, education and research and assuring opportunity to everyone.
But of course as I noted earlier, when the Democrats did nothing but lose elections while listening to these out-of-touch DLC panderers, it's hard to do anything BUT argue with the Repug party in power and do nothing but reinforce the "recalcitrant Democrat" corporate media narrative.

"Middle-class anxiety does not stem from broad dissatisfaction with capitalism," the authors write, "but from the shifting terrain beneath their feet and the increasing irrelevance of an outdated government."
This to me absolutely cements the reality that Third Way are traitors to the causes of populism and people-powered politics. Anyone who claims affiliation with the Democratic party and utters words stating that our government is irrelevant should become Republicans at the earliest possible moment. And that holds true to any Democratic politician who claims an affinity for this wretched organization.

Nice job to tow the corporate line once more in true lapdog form, Cassel. Now trot over to the owners of your right-wing rag so you can sit up and beg while they toss you a tasty treat.

Update 2/22: And courtesy of The Daily Kos and the AFL-CIO blog, here is more economic "good news."

Hating The Gay In Evesham, NJ

This takes you to more information on the video presentation called “That’s A Family!,” which, as stated on the site promoting the production, “is an entertaining documentary that breaks new ground in helping children in grades K-8 understand the different shapes families take today.”

The documentary teaches kids that we should show tolerance for all types of family structures, whether it involves parents of different races and religions, grandparents, or parents of different ethnicities.

And oh yes, it also portrays same-sex parents, which of course means gays and lesbians.

And that is why the Evesham Township school board is going nuts.

The Inquirer presented a column from Debra Chasnoff of Women’s Educational Media which produced the short film, and it also presented a column from Rebecca Nugent, a parent of children in the school district.

I am not completely unsympathetic to the concerns of Ms. Nugent – after all, she has to help her kids to understand this important issue, but we parents sometimes forget that kids have innate common sense on matters that are apparently complex beyond their years – but the problem is that Nugent trots out the same tired freeper nonsensical arguments that the wingers always retreat to when they find that they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Nugent says the filmmakers have their own “bias,” the filmmakers “endorse one particular moral viewpoint over competing views,” and finally, the filmmakers are engaging in “blatant indoctrination.”


If you wish to read Nugent’s entire rant, then you can register with and do so from the above link. Here, however, is the text of Chasnoff’s column:

The school board in Evesham Township has decided to suspend temporarily the use of our film That's a Family! in its third-grade curriculum on different kinds of families. A special review committee will assess the appropriateness of the film over the coming months.

When I heard that news, my heart went out to all the children in the district whose parents are lesbian or gay, not to mention all of those who are adopted, being raised by guardians, or have parents who are single or divorced, or who come from mixed racial or religious backgrounds. Those are some of the kinds of family configurations of the children featured in That's a Family!

What kind of message is the school board and community sending to children whose family structure is perceived as "different" in some way? "You don't belong here"? "Your family is not normal"? Or - in the words of one parent who spoke out recently - your family is "disgusting"?

We made That's a Family! in response to requests from parents, teachers and school administrators who were convinced that having conversations in their elementary school classrooms about different kinds of families would help ensure that every student knows for sure that he or she belongs and is welcome in every school community - and to help lay the foundation for young people to respect differences of all kinds, which is crucial to reducing bullying.

We invited elementary school-age children from 50 diverse families to introduce us to their loved ones on camera. "What do you wish other kids would understand about your particular kind of family?" we asked.

"If your parents are divorced," third-grader Montana said, "it's not your fault. They just don't like each other any more. But it's not your fault."

Josh, a fourth grader, explained why he has two mothers: "Joan and Stacey are the main thing in each other's hearts, except for me and my sister. And I hope it stays that way... . The only hard thing about having two moms," he added, is that "sometimes people use mean words for gays and lesbians, and that hurts my feelings."

I have seen the reactions in second- and third- and fourth-grade classrooms when Montana and Josh show up on the screen. Students with divorced parents breathe a huge sigh of relief that their family situation is finally being discussed at school. Hands shoot up from students who finally have a way to talk about the rampant antigay name-calling that goes on at their school, just as Josh describes.

That's a Family! has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of elementary school students all over the country. Hundreds of schools - like those in Evesham Township - have found that it works well in second or third grade, when students are already studying about families. Others choose to show it in fourth or fifth grade in conjunction with lessons on community and stereotypes. The most rewarding discussions happen when schools invite parents and guardians to see the film, too, and be part of the discussions in the classroom.

Some talk-show hosts and Evesham Township parents have argued that these issues should be addressed at home. Of course they should. But the reality is that teachers in elementary schools across the country report bullying and teasing based on individual and family differences - especially using homophobic slurs - as early as kindergarten.

Concrete dialogue in the classroom using accurate and age-appropriate vocabulary about differences of all kinds is a crucial strategy in turning that phenomenon around. That's why the New Jersey Department of Education encourages schools in the state to use That's a Family! as part of the third-grade curriculum.

In the coming months, let's hope that the Evesham Township school board and local community find the courage to help children have those conversations at school, as well as at home, so that all children in the district know for sure that their families, and those of their classmates, are safe and respected.
I have some personal observations I’d like to add here.

My wife and I know parents in condominium developments where we live, and I should point out that, as a two-parent household with a child, we are the exception to the rule. Make whatever you want of that, but it’s the truth (and it's part of the reason why I got so pissed off at Smerconish the other day when he said that single-parent families are more dangerous than guns, or some such nonsense).

Overwhelmingly, we know single parents with one or two kids, and we know of a gay man raising an adopted daughter. Trying to arrange play dates for the young one in a situation like this can be absolutely insane, partly because all the kids have their own activities in the area; that’s primarily a good thing, but schedules conflict all over the place.

Maybe Rebecca Nugent lives in a nice community where both parents are frequently if not always nearby and everyone’s work schedules are somewhat compatible (another issue). Maybe all of the couples she and her husband know are somewhat similar to them in their beliefs, orientation, and ethnicity.

The reality that we know, as well as many other people in this country, is very different from that, however. And I cannot possibly understand how trying to explain that to kids (as well as reaffirming to kids who are products of such an arrangement that it’s OK) is a bad thing.

Update 8/31/07: The backward march continues (registration required).

David Brooks Channels Kreskin

In his “No Apology Needed” column in today’s New York Times, David Brooks recalls some of Hillary Clinton’s prior public statements and votes concerning the Iraq war and states that the senator from New York doesn’t owe anyone an explanation about anything. And on top of that, he also states as follows:

“…But now, having investigated her public comments, I think diplomatic leverage was really on her mind.”
Did you bother to ask Sen. Clinton about that? Oh, but of course not, since the typical rules of pundit discourse assume omniscience and transcendence of the typical rules of time and space associated with mere mortals (especially when Brooks or someone of his ilk is busy trying to malign “the radical left,” which, sadly for Brooks on this issue, is actually the majority of this country).

To be fair, though, I should point out that Brooks mounts an interesting defense of Clinton’s words and actions prior to the invasion. However, I suppose I should point out something that is completely ignored by the author and other pseudo-god pundits.

The voters of this country want to see humanity on this issue out of Sen. Clinton, something like what she communicated upon her return from visiting Iraq a few weeks ago. They don’t want to hear about strategy and calculation, though that can often be commendable on her part and representative of her formidable intellect.

And for the Senator or her campaign to assume that somehow this issue will go away (as noted by Arianna Huffington here) is not merely politics without foresight; it’s politics without any kind of intelligence at all.

And by the way, here's one more thing about Hillary Clinton: Broderius Ignoramus took her to task a few weeks ago because he accused Clinton of making a speech (Politicians do that? I’m shocked again!) when Gen. David Petraeus appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, as opposed to “that straight-talking maverick” John McCain, who asked Petraeus 14 (count ‘em, Hil!) questions.

Broder notes the statement from Clinton staffers that she was responding to remarks of other committee members. However, I think this article from Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker gives a much more accurate portrait of what went on.

See, Clinton was responding to more cowardly weasel words from Joe Lieberman. And I think Clinton deserves credit for showing statesmanship and professionalism, since the more appropriate response to Lieberman (at long last, as far as I’m concerned) is a punch in the mouth.

The Stinky Inky Is "Yakin' Iraq"

(Trying to get back to a routine after all the weather-related stuff...)

Awww, the Inquirer Editorial Board is maad because the U.S. House Dem leadership won’t allow Repug amendments to the admittedly toothless resolution sponsored by the Dems opposing the Iraq war.

The resolution is more important symbolically and represents the commencement of debate about funding, which should be the main congressional duty regarding the war, but because the war has been a flawed, failed enterprise from start to finish, with the voters of this country tossing out the Repug leadership last November that refused to conduct oversight (notwithstanding the pigheaded intransigence of President Numbskull), it is incumbent on Congress and the Democrats to offer an alternative.

I don’t really care about supposedly “silencing” debate on the resolution (and it’s not as if we didn’t see John Boehner speaking out against it; indeed, David Espo of the AP notes here that “Democrats and Republicans took their five-minute speaking turns across the hours”…nice to see Espo taking a break from his ridiculous editorializing about Democrats supposedly undermining support for the war). Silencing debate on funding, though, would be another matter; I’d like to see the Dems totally get their way, but even though the Repugs stomped all over the Dems every way they could when they held the reins, they should get their say on the funding issue also.

Besides, as Marty Kaplan of HuffPo notes here, the Senate Repugs led by Mitch McConnell are filibustering against a resolution to bring a debate on Iraq to the Senate floor (but gosh, I thought, according to Borderius Ignoramus, that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell had formed a warm relationship of personal trust, or some such nonsense – I’m shocked…just shocked!).

Update: You go, Harry!

Finally, in its coverage of the debate yesterday, the Inquirer included a one-paragraph excerpt of Patrick Murphy’s fine opening remarks on the debate, affording him about the same space as that given to Georgia troglodyte Lynn Westmoreland, who said that if we pull out of Iraq, “the Iraqi people are going to go back to tending sheep and herding goats.”

I seriously wonder if the Inquirer would have given a Repug congressman who had served in Iraq the same treatment as they gave Patrick, but why should I expect anything better than this from Philadelphia’s conservative shouting box “of record”?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

And who else could capture the spirit of this Hallmark holiday like Sam Kinison (God rest him, and Johnny too) - have to turn the volume up slightly.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Happy Birthday to Todd Harrell of Three Doors Down ("Here Without You" - awaiting icy weather precipitation in these parts)...

...and Henry Rollins, who pours out his innermost longings to Ann Coulter (tosses out the "f" word a few times - funny stuff).

An Act Of Contrition

As a Roman Catholic, I feel that I owe Amanda Marcotte an apology.

I should emphasize that I always supported her in her all-too-brief role in the Edwards ’08 campaign and, though I personally disapprove of some of her language prior to signing on as an Edwards blogger, I definitely believe that she is a credible and highly talented professional.

However, some individuals who claim to share the same faith that I try to practice felt that it was necessary to communicate some truly vile messages to her regarding her political beliefs, personal habits, and anatomy in general, and it’s truly unfortunate that Marcotte felt it was necessary to leave the campaign because these life forms were spending too much time attacking her to the point where it was detracting from what Edwards is trying to accomplish.

I will not devote further attention or comment to the pathetic partisans who felt the need to discredit her before she had written a single word on behalf of John Edwards as a member of his campaign, but I will only say in closing that I wish Marcotte well.

And, as my “A” list blogging “betters” have noted, other Democratic candidates are deluding themselves if they think their campaigns will be spared similar treatment.

Welcome To The Global Economy

As noted in this USA Today editorial, it looks like some foreign-owned companies are seeking to be listed first on overseas exchanges and bypassing Wall Street, and that could create employment uncertainty for investment brokers and other financial specialists if this turns into a trend, with those minted occupations slowly migrating offshore.

And in response, these newly challenged U.S. employees are seeking what are, in essence, such protectionist measures as trying to rewrite New York state banking regulations and tossing post-Enron accounting reforms out the window in an effort to save their jobs.

What a bunch of whining babies!

Where the hell were you clowns when our manufacturing base started disintegrating and our computer services and support industry started heading primarily to India and China? Too busy getting fat, dumb and happy from fees and commissions to notice, I would assume (oh, but The Wall Street Journal said globalization means that our U.S. economy is “robust,” so everything is just fine…why can’t everybody just shut up and vote Republican anyway?).

All of this serves you right. I guess this means no more brunches at the Four Seasons for awhile, or you may even have to pass on those tickets to “Spamalot.” Say hello to the ESPN Bull Riding finals and Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast.


A Sign Of The Times, Sadly

I don’t know who the blogger Harun is, but I want to thank him for jogging my memory a bit on this issue.

As I drive southbound on Route 1 in Middletown Township, PA approaching the PA Turnpike (which I do frequently), I always notice the billboard on the right side of the road that appears in the photo. As you can see, it is a photo of a young Jewish boy wearing a yarmulke with the words “Israel is fighting for us” appearing next to him.

To say that I have a problem with this is an understatement. First, it is exploitative to use a child to sell a particular ideology or political point of view. Second, it is inaccurate because I know of no American interest aside from this country’s Jewish constituency that is served in any way by the simmering hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, and by association the nations that support Hezbollah (discounting our country’s own stake in arming Israel in the conflict, and I’ll say more about that later).

Yes, we share a similar form of government, and the right of Israel to exist should be inviolable; it is long past the point of discussing whether or not it made sense to place a nation of Jewish émigrés and refugees in the middle of Arab territory.

However, that should never make Israel immune from criticism. When they use cluster bombs in a war that are banned by the Geneva Convention, they should stand up and face international criticism for it. And speaking from experience, I can say that I’ve seen writers like Susan Abulhawa vilified enough in the Bucks County Courier Times to make me wonder why these bilious attacks can’t be replaced by what should be reasonable debate on the issues between Israel and the Palestinians (I know it’s easy for me to say that, but that alternative is preferable to bulldozing and blowing up each other).

With this in mind, I think this column by Peter Osnos of The Century Foundation makes some good points; though I definitely have a problem with Richard Cohen on other issues, it is beyond absurd to believe, as Osnos notes, that Cohen could somehow be “anti-Jewish.” And, as Osnos also points out, “Being critical of Israel is no more an expression of anti-Semitism than being critical of the tragedy of George Bush’s misbegotten war in Iraq is unpatriotic.”

I mentioned earlier how this country arms Israel, and this link provides more information. As you can see from the tales, our foreign military and direct commercial sales of weapons to Israel has been climbing steadily since 2001, while the economic support fund to offset military assistance has been steadily dropping off over the same period.

I would propose that our politicians cap the military compensation to Israel and start leveling off the amounts of offset military spending instead, particularly now at a moment when it looks like the Palestinians show some signs of getting their act together politically, possibly allowing for negotiations that would distance the Palestinians further from Iran, where Ahmadinejad continues to lose popular support. I would propose that, as I said, but I know it would be political suicide.

(Again, I’m no expert on the Middle East, but I do know that talking is preferable to trying to kill each other.)

One more thing: as Harun notes, the billboard was put up by The Jewish Group of Greater Philadelphia, and I want to address this group myself.

As Peter Osnos notes in his column (kind of dancing around the subject), Israel had a definite desire to involve this country in the current Iraq war, and at this time, I’m not sure that I’ll ever forgive them for that. While all of the intelligence was dummied up and Bushco spent over a year trying to frighten us in the run up to the war, we heard no note of caution whatsoever from your group or others that claim to support American Jews.

“Israel Fights For Us”? No, you fight for yourselves. And fortunately for you, we in this country installed a presidential administration in 2000 that has managed to give you whatever you want anytime you want. And as far as I’m concerned, you have shamefully abused that.

And aside from tearing down those billboards, I don’t know how you can make amends for it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

It's The Planet, Stupid!

Bushco never ceases to amaze me in its pitiable greed and arrogance.

So, according to this story, Dubya and his buddies don’t recommend carpooling to ease traffic congestion, but recommend instead building more roads, presumably to charge fees so contracting firms that are friendly to this administration will make more money.

I’ll tell you what; in the Yahoo News story, select Find from the menu bar on the upper left corner of your browser (wow, writing user instructions in a post – a first, for what it’s worth), and when the dialog box appears, enter Global Warming in the text box, click Find Next, and then tell me what happens, OK?

Actually, I’ll tell you what happens; you get the message “search item not found.”

And that is what the Yahoo story is supposed to be all about. Yes, easing traffic congestion is important, but trying to control greenhouse gases is just a bit more of a priority as far as I’m concerned.

This gives you more information on what we can do about trying to control CO2 and greenhouse gases. Of course, if this administration really cared about the environment (and have they ever?), they would provide this information themselves.

And by the way, is it asking too much for the news story to identify an actual human being who is trying to foist this scam instead of just saying “The ‘White House’ said” every other paragraph while hiding behind a report?

An Unnecessary Budget Battle

Author Kristin Henderson (pictured) wrote an Op-Ed piece that appeared in the New York Times last Friday calling for a war tax “dedicated to financing the support services needed by military families and combat veterans.” She added, “perhaps we should call it a long-term costs-of-war tax…the tax I’m proposing, like the needs it’s intended to meet, will not end when the war does.”

This links to some of the letters appearing in the paper on Saturday in response, expressing well-reasoned opposition, not to helping our past and present military members, but in the manner of how we should do it.

There are a couple of points I’d like to make on this issue also. The first is that we should take a look at how support services for our veterans have been funded recently by the happily-now-department Repug congress and ask if we should do more (here’s a hint; you already know the answer, I’m sure).

Update 2/13: Atrios does too.

The second is that I presented an idea some time ago for something called “the July 6th fund” which would provide scholarships for the sons and daughters of our troops killed in action (the July 6th date stood out for me because that’s Dubya’s birthday, but any date would suffice).

We always hear the Repugs telling us how important it is to act on one’s own behalf and not to rely on government for anything; they’ve spent 30 years or more telling us how bad government supposedly is, when in fact, “the government” is us. Well then, couldn’t those who have profited from this war give something back to such a fund? We could establish it and then expand it to include college scholarships and support for our veterans on top of what they’re supposed to be getting from the VA anyway.

If the fund was established with the right about of marketing and publicity (something Bushco is supposed to be good at), then there would be no need for a war tax of the type proposed by Ms. Henderson.

I share the opinion of the letter writers to the New York Times. I don’t feel that I should have to contribute anything extra since those who have ridden the gravy train at the expense of our service people show no sign of contributing anything close to their fair share, in addition to the fact that I never supported this war for so much as a nanosecond anyway.

A Forgettable Debut

I don’t think The Philadelphia Inquirer could have found a way to try and drum up more excitement for the paper’s two new Sunday opinion columnists short of having them parade naked down Broad Street.

Everywhere in this newspaper over the last week or so, ads appeared touting that Mark Bowden was returning to the Inquirer with his column “The Point,” and Michael Smerconish was going to join the paper with his column “Head Wrong” (oh, sorry – that’s “Head Strong”…see, Smerconish is either bald, shaves his head, or both, and the Inquirer thinks that’s a big enough deal to use it as part of the promotion, though Smerky does try to justify this name for the column in his first submission to this newspaper).

Bowden’s return piece was excellent, interviewing former U.S. Ambassador Bruce Laingen, now retired, who, as Bowden notes, was top diplomat in Tehran when he and the entire American mission - nearly 70 U.S. Embassy staffers - were kidnapped by Iranian “students” (my quotes) in November 1979. Bowden asked Laingen and John Limbert, another retired American diplomat, for their reactions to the hypocritical outrage expressed by Iran when one of its diplomats was recently kidnapped in Iraq. Even though everyone agreed that it was more or less a case of “the chickens coming home to roost” with Iran, all agreed that we can never turn our back on international diplomacy even if we are dealing with pariah nation.

This column is all the more timely given the fact that Bushco, particularly new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, is trying to concoct a case once more for military action, this time against Iran, which should automatically initiate impeachment proceedings in the House as far as I’m concerned – enough is enough with this bunch; actually, we passed the “enough is enough” point with these thugs long ago.

Update: And when it comes to Iranian weapons inside Iraq, o the tangled web they weave...

Would that the Inquirer had left well enough alone at this point, but of course, they didn’t.

No, to continue their ideological rightward lurch, they published this piece of refuse from Smerconish (I’m linking to Smerky’s HuffPo post instead of the Inky since no registration is required; it’s the same column).

Also, before I tear into what Smerky said, I have a question for the person responsible for the layout of the first page of the Currents section. Was it your intention to try and frighten young children yesterday by presenting Smerky’s skin-headed dome and glazed-over look in his eyes behind thick glasses across the entire top fold of the front page?

I suppose I’ll never get an answer to that question. Oh well, here is what Smerky wrote:

'You're headstrong," began a recent e-mail to me. I hoped it meant that I comment with conviction. Or that I'm intelligent.
Actually, I hope that it meant that you’re an intolerant, propagandistic shill for the hopelessly failed neocon agenda. But I could be wrong of course.

Perhaps it was a statement about my shaved head. More likely, I suspect it had something to do with my ego. Soon, you can decide for yourself.

I'm one of the new guys around here. A frequent critic of the very page I have now been asked to join. "Too predictably liberal too often" has been my chief complaint.
As you can see, Smerky is so specific when he’s “painting with a broad brush” like this.

This is not to say The Inquirer has brought aboard a Kool-Aid drinker. I may get the daily GOP talking points, but I rarely parrot them.
Smerky will totally debunk that laughable statement later, and I’m sure it was quite inadvertent on his part.

In 26 years of uninterrupted voting, I've never pulled a straight party lever, and I'm not about to start.
There goes Smerky being “specific” again (I guess voting exclusively for Repugs for every office except county clerk or dog catcher counts for him here, since that technically isn’t pulling a straight party lever either).

Let me spare you some Googling. I'm about to offer you a primer on the world according to me. I call it my Suburban Manifesto. You'll quickly see that my words require no interpretation.
Even the words of a deity require interpretation, Smerky, and you are hardly that (and that statement of yours isn’t genuine or accurate either, as you’ll soon see – but of course, Smerky wants us to lap up everything he says without question, though to be fair, he actually does say some things here that make sense).

I've never had the gift of entertaining and educating while leaving readers in suspense. With me it's down and dirty. So let's get started.

I believe so strongly in the need to profile Islamic terrorists that I wrote a book on the subject and donated the proceeds to charity.
Well, donating the proceeds to charity was good, but Smerky should read Tim Wise’s fine rebuttal to the profiling argument here. Among Wise’s good points:

- The 9/11 hijackers were clean shaven and dressed in Western garb, effectively blending in (and accused shoe-bomber Richard Reid is black and al Qaeda sympathizer John Walker Lindh is white, so they wouldn’t fit the profile either).

- Concentrating on profiling detracts us from investigating other likely terrorist suspects as thoroughly as we should.

- Concentrating on profiling discourages law-abiding Muslims or Arabs from helping us.

I hate political correctness and think that it saps the rugged individualism that has been the hallmark of our nation. P.C. represents a cancer that has now metastasized into the war on terror, where it threatens our very survival. I have written a book about that, too.
Oh, please (and how big a shill is Smerky anyway to plug two books as soon as he could in his column?).

“Political correctness…threatens our survival?” I would say that an illegal war in Iraq and the imminent prospect of military action against Iran based on doctored intelligence, along with global warming and our vanishing middle class, threatens our survival more than political correctness (in all of its occasional stupidity) ever could.

And how again does political correctness “sap rugged individualism”? Oh, sorry, I forgot – I’m supposed to buy Smerky’s book so I can read it and find out, I guess.

I recently traveled to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and elsewhere within the embrace of Cent-Com - and I came home concerned that our military has given up the intense manhunt for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri for fear of ruffling feathers in Pakistan.
If I were a man or woman serving in our military in that area or friends and/or family of same, I would be outraged by that observation. If that is true, it is yet another failure of our political leadership, not our military (and, as you’ll note, Dubya gets a total pass from Smerky here since our red-state president’s failures have nothing whatsoever to do with receiving a blow job from a White House intern).

And by the way, on that topic, Clinton was acquitted of impeachment charges eight years ago today.

I'm for torturing terrorists who possess information. To those who say, "Torture doesn't work," I ask: Then why do our best interrogators continually seek to use it as a technique?
How clever Smerky is to avoid the manner of extraordinary rendition here, which is really the issue (Smerky uses his legal skills in this column to avoid other issues also, putting together two disparate facts or circumstances to create sort of a phony equivalency).

Actually, I have a question for Smerky on this (or, more precisely, Maher Arar does – this New Yorker article by Jane Mayer explains who he is): "Why, if (the U.S. government has) suspicions, don’t they question people within the boundary of the law?”

Or here’s another question; after you’ve “water boarded” Khalid Sheik Mohammed for the one hundred and fiftieth time, what exactly is it that you DON’T think he’ll say to make it stop?

For two years, I've called for a timetable for exiting Iraq so as to light a fire under the asses of those (i.e., the Iraqis) who need to determine their own fates. I'm offended by the expression cut and run and think that if anything is unpatriotic, it's not affording our soldiers an explanation of how their mission will end.
I’ll give Smerky the benefit of the doubt on this one – I don’t have time to go back and research what he’s said about this to determine whether or not this is correct.

I think our borders are porous and need to be closed. Only when they are sealed should we make decisions as to what to do with the millions who are already here illegally.
Smerky “rarely parrots” GOP talking points, huh? If “closing the borders” isn’t an idiotic notion originating directly from the RNC, then I don’t know what is (I was just joking about building an electronic force field around Canada a few days ago, but I guess Smerky is serious).

How about enforcement to make sure employers in this country do their due diligence when bringing foreign labor into this country and increasing fines and penalties for noncompliance? Oh, but your Repug handlers wouldn’t like to hear that, would they Smerky?

I have a wife and four children, but do not believe that homosexuals threaten my union. Heterosexual marriages have their own troubles, having nothing to do with whether we let same-sex couples formalize their relationships.
So happy to hear that you’ve joined us here in the 21st century, Smerky.

I wish there were a political party with room in its tent for pro-life and pro-choice views. I think the contraceptive drug Plan B should be sold over the counter to individuals 18 and older. And I surely don't want politicians determining my end-of-life plan.
That last sentence is totally bizarre to me; I have no evidence of what Smerky’s talking about concerning politicians “determining my end-of-life plan.” Is he worried about a scenario such as the one depicted in Monty Python’s “The Meaning Of Life” where they come for a liver donation from a man who’s still using it at the time?

And actually, there is a political party such as the one Smerky refers to. It’s called the Democratic Party (see Casey, Robert Jr.). And over-the-counter sale of Plan B to women 18 or older (with prescription required for 18 or younger) was approved last August (duuuhh!).

I'm for embryonic stem-cell research. I don't equate a group of cells in a Petri dish with a viable fetus, and I wonder why, if folks are so concerned about the destruction of such "life," they don't seek to ban the discarding of excess embryos at fertility clinics.
What exactly would you propose to do with the excess embryos then, Smerky? However, I should point out that this is one of the few issues where I agree with him.

Speaking of life, I am willing to pull the switch personally on Mumia.
No argument here (this is another one).

I question whether many of our professional politicians could earn a living on the outside - and I'd like to find out. Two terms in the Senate and six in the House should be the max.
I can live with this, though we’ve seen pols on both sides bail on this promise (such as Jim Greenwood and Pancake Joe Pitts, though at least Greenwood did eventually leave – I can’t recall a Democrat guilty of not honoring a past pledge on this, though I’m sure it’s happened.)

Campaign-finance reform is a contradiction in terms. I say we let anyone spend whatever they can raise to affect the outcome of a race, as long as there is full and immediate disclosure, and voters can react accordingly.
Nice in a way to see Smerky returning to his old self here, channeling the now-happily-departed Rick Santorum on this issue.

Define “immediate disclosure,” Smerky. How is a voter supposed to know where a candidate may have received a gazillion dollars for a last-mute ad buy claiming that that person’s opponent (a decorated war veteran who left limbs on the battlefield, for example) is really an al Qaeda sympathizer (and I wish that were a hypothetical, but it isn’t).

I fear that entitlements will economically cripple my kids. Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements make up more than half of our federal spending, and the number of people receiving them is growing. Time to confront AARP: The retirement age in this country needs to be raised to 70.
In the best freeper tradition, Smerky looks for an enemy first before he presents a reasoned analysis of the issue at hand.

So the AARP is the bad guy, huh Smerky? Well, guess who proposed means testing for Social Security in the U.S. House race in New York between Repug Tom Reynolds and Dem Jack Davis (noted here, near the bottom of the page)? It was Davis (and AARP sides with the Democrats often).

And I’ll say yet again; get rid of the $90,000 cap on earnings subject to Social Security withholding! That will go a long way towards ensuring the program’s solvency (and establish a Baker/Hamilton commission or something like it to look at both Social Security and Medicare, though that should happen after 1/20/09 because I don’t trust Dubya and the Repugs on this or any other issue).

And one more thing: assuming I can remain employable and not disqualify myself somehow from working by virtue of acquiring “too much experience” or staying too long at a given employer, I plan to be in the workforce for the rest of my life for a variety of financial reasons, and I know quite a few people in the same boat. The whole “raise the retirement age to 70” argument is ridiculous since workforce conditions in this day and age have made that an utterly irrelevant argument.

Balanced budget should not be two dirty words.
Sooo funny that Smerky ignores the Clinton surplus as well as the woeful fiscal mismanagement of Dubya and the Repugs.

Death taxes are un-American. Why, when we check out, should Uncle Sam be standing there with his hand out to tax our earnings for the second time? The estate tax must end.
There goes Smerky “rarely parrot(ing)” GOP talking points…

The so-called “death tax” is one of the biggest ones they have (and by the way, I want to see the Frank Luntz-inspired phrase “death tax” removed from our lexicon forever.” It’s called the “estate tax” and ONLY that!).

I think the planet is getting warmer. I don't know how much of that is due to humans, or what we can do about it, but given the stakes, I think we should err on the side of taking precautions.

I believe guns are a symptom, not a cause of our problems. Single-parent households pose more of a threat to safety than firearms.
As of this moment, that is officially the Stupidest Quote Of The Year as far as I’m concerned.

So this is how you dodge the issue of common-sense gun laws, Smerky? This is how you feel you can let yourself off the hook by not supporting House Bill 871, as described here?

So what, am I now supposed to go off on some long segue about the reasons for single-parent families to try and counter your laughable propaganda (this is what I meant earlier about putting together disparate facts or circumstances to create a phony equivalency).

More to come. Label me at your peril. For now, I'll stick with headstrong.
Oh, and by the way, I have a message for the person who approved this nonsense (who I guess would be Chris Satullo, who I believe is the editor of the Currents section; Satullo made a big deal of welcoming Bowden and Smerconish).

“What I believe” columns are BOOR-RING, to say nothing of serving as a reflection of the author’s vanity and/or egotism. And yes, I know my own opinions come through big time on this site, but at least I try to frame them in the context of an issue or a story out of respect to the audience.

The column written by Mark Bowden was interesting and informative because it was about something. Bowden used his formidable skills as a legitimate journalist to inform and educate for a greater good. I won’t agree with Bowden every week either, but at least he knows what he’s talking about.

As for Smerconish, the Inquirer can call his Sunday feature “Head Strong,” “Bullet-Headed Opinions,” “The Chrome Dome Chronicles” or anything else they want in a childish attempt to try and publicize Smerconish’s appearance.

I’ll just call it a joke.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Videos

The late, great Graham Chapman of Monty Python portrays how both Dubya and John Howard would act in combat these days in the "Ypres" sketch (second season, I think: believe me that it took no small amount of guts for the Pythons to try and derive any kind of humor from any of the three battles of Ypres - the casualty counts from many World War I battles are unfathomable)...

...Black Sabbath ("War Pigs," from back in the day; or as YouTube commenter dyonker pointed out, "those amps go to 11" - love and kisses to Dubya and Howard on this one also).

A Voice Of Reason?

Coulter's latest...

When are the American people going to wake up to our so-called commander in chief's continuous blunders and say enough is enough?

President Clinton was impeached for lying to a grand jury. President Bush has been lying to us for four years about his war, and now we're to sacrifice 20,000 or more lives to his arrogance and stupidity?

When do we call for the impeachment of not only Bush but also Dick Cheney - the vilest, most dishonest duo in the history of our country?

We better wake up or our next step will be a war with Iran.
This letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday (and, just about as always, the author is Ann Coulter from Bensalem, Pa. and not you-know-who....perish the thought).

Shut Yer Gobhole, Mate!

(I should ask Lukery if he would be so kind as to proofread this to make sure my Aussie slang is correct...)

You'd better be careful, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, because if you keep trying to interfere in our elections by attacking Democratic candidates...well then, I guess we won't have any choice but to take a good, hard look at the possibility that the Australian Wheat Board bribed Saddam Hussein to obtain favorable terms to export Australian wheat to Iraq before the current Iraq war. And gosh, that sure would create some nasty negative publicity if it turned out to be true, wouldn't it?

And, as Atrios notes, kudos to the Obama campaign for sticking Howard's stupid remarks right back in his face.