Saturday, March 03, 2007

How To Respond

The latest from the Edwards '08 campaign...

Did you hear about Anne Coulter's speech (yesterday) afternoon attacking John? A friend just forwarded me the video and it's one of the worst moments in American politics I've seen.

I can't bring myself to even repeat her comments. Her shameless display of bigotry is so outrageous you actually have to see for yourself to believe it.

This is just a taste of the filth that the right-wing machine is gearing up to throw at us. And now that it's begun, we have a choice: Do we sit back, or do we fight back?

I say we fight. Help us raise $100,000 in "Coulter Cash" this week to show every would-be Republican mouthpiece that their bigoted attacks will not intimidate this campaign. I just threw in 100 bucks. Will you join me? Just click here.

Coulter's attack was no accident. It happened on national television at one of the year's biggest conservative conferences. Dick Cheney and most of the Republican candidates were in the audience. She was even introduced by Mitt Romney.

John was singled out for a personal attack because the Republican establishment knows he poses the greatest threat to their power. Since they have nothing real to use against him, Coulter's resorting to the classic right-wing strategy of riling up hate to smear a progressive champion. And the Republican attack dogs will keep playing this despicable trick as long as they think it works.

But this time, you and I can change the game.

If we can raise $100,000 in "Coulter Cash" this week, we can show that bigotry will only backfire on those who use it. John is not the first progressive leader to face this kind of slime, but together, we can make sure he is one of the last.

Tonight, I've put in 100 bucks of "Coulter Cash" to get us started. Can you match me, or chip in whatever you can afford? Just click here:

Click here.


David Bonior
Campaign Manager
John Edwards for President
Let's make the latest Coulter garbage "the gift that keeps on giving."

(P.S. - Not sure what's going on with the link at the moment - hopefully there's so much traffic to the Edwards site that it's slow for that reason.)

Update 3/4: Progress of a fashion, though Digby via Atrios hits the nail on the head.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Videos

Cold War Kids ("Hang Me Up To Dry")...

Echo and the Bunnymen ("Lips Like Sugar" - damn, I have to lay off the tequila; looks like all the musicians have planet heads or something)...

...Happy Birthday to Lou Reed ("Sunday Morning" live on Letterman - make sure you applaud, or that guy doing tai chi will kick your ass)...

...and Happy Birthday also to George Benson ("Give Me The Night" - damn, George, the "bun and run" with champagne? Gotta be chateaubriand, baby!).

What Are You About, Then?

I just sent the following communication to these people...

Dear Sirs,

I am contacting you to ask you a question, but before I do, I need to provide a brief setup.

You and I are well aware of Ann Coulter as a member of the right-wing noise machine that, sadly, is the de facto voice of the Republican Party. You and I are well aware of the hateful remarks and policies from the Republican Party aimed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals.

Since part of the stated purpose of your group is to advocate for gay and lesbian civil rights, how can you possibly believe that you support such a worthy cause when you remain silent while Coulter
calls Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a "faggot"? If you do not speak out against Coulter's hate speech directed at gays, then how can you (or even why should you) exist?

Please contact me with a response. Thank you for your time.


I'll keep you posted.

Update 3/3/07 : Good for them.

An American "When"

I should let you know that I try really hard to find anything intelligent in Tom Friedman’s columns. After I read his latest today where he condemns Muslims for not decrying the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan (their own countries, as he pointed out), I thought, well, he has a point. There’s only so much our military and civilian personnel can do, to say nothing of individuals from other countries, when you have Arab tribes which have hated each other forever trying to kill themselves.

I did something else for a few minutes, and then the reaction hit me between the eyes.

In all likelihood, we wouldn’t have the misery we are currently dealing with in those countries if WE knew what the hell we were doing in the first place!

In Iraq, our people are sitting ducks stuck in the middle of a civil war between Sunnis and Shiities complicated by al Qaeda doing anything it possibly can to kill our people also. We diverted our forces from Afghanistan to fight in Iraq to the point where we could not finish the job in the former country (we may not have been able to finish it with our force in its entirety…and no, I’m not trying to impugn our service people by saying that).

And when we intervene and wreck what passes for sanity and stability in that region of the world, what else can we expect?

We all know this, of course, but when you read Friedman crying “give peace a chance” after he enshrined himself as one of the biggest of the Iraq war media pimps, I guess you just find yourself wanting this madness to end so much that it’s easy to forget the non-credibility of the person pretending to be “the voice of reason.”

Anyway, in Friedman’s column (link - Times Select of course), he quotes a poem called “When” from a Saudi named Wajeha al-Huwaider who prays not only for an end to war, but also for reforms in that area of the world of the type he mentions below. And as I read his poem, I realized that he is making comparisons to this country. I’m sure that’s why Friedman included it; al-Huwaider has written something plaintive and thoughtful, but including the poem here seems to be an attempt to generate a bit of a “oh, golly, aren’t we so great here in the U.S.” attitude.

Well, as I read the poem, I had some reactions that I’ll share below…

When you cannot find a single garden in your city, but there is a mosque on every corner – you know you are in an Arab country.
I can’t find a link to this, but I’ll try to recount it from memory.

In the movie “Boys N The Hood,” Laurence Fishburne, as Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s father, tells one of his son’s friends to look around and notice that there are liquor stores and gun shops all over the place in his neighborhood, which I guess you could describe as kind of middle class, but slipping into blight. Fishburne says, “Do you think it’s this way in Beverly Hills? No. That’s because white people want us to kill each other.”

Incendiary rhetoric? Sure, but I think Fishburne's character has a point. Look at funding for suburban vs. city schools, among the many inequalities between living in richer vs. poorer neighborhoods (and I will admit that there are fine schools in Philadelphia, for example – I’m generalizing a bit, I know).

I’ll be honest – I benefit from that a bit, as well as the other ways that the cities have been promoted over the suburbs in this country since the 1950s. But all I’m asking is that we not kid ourselves. There are too many places in this country where, while there may not be a mosque, there is decrepit housing and crumbling infrastructure that is basically ignored by our corporate media and too many of us generally, and all of this affects quality of life. And there sure as hell won’t be a garden.

When you see people living in the past with all the trappings of modernity – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.
I mulled this over a bit, and all I could think of was this.

When religion has control over science – you can be sure that you are in an Arab country.

When clerics are referred to as “scholars” – don’t be astonished, you are in an Arab country.
I ask again – really?

When you see the ruler transformed into a demigod who never dies or relinquishes his power, and nobody is permitted to criticize – do not be too upset, you are in an Arab country.
You may be in this country also, if this YouTube clip is any indication (re: the incredibly scary "Dubya worship").

When you find that the large majority of people oppose freedom and find joy in slavery – do not be too distressed, you are in an Arab country.
As noted from this link (and yes – I know this is snarky)…

Fox News currently leads the cable news market in the United States, earning higher points ratings than its chief competitors CNN and MSNBC combined by average viewership.[12][13][14] While more people are actively watching Fox News Channel at any given time, CNN still remains the leader in unique viewers." [15][16]

The BBC reported that Fox News saw its profits double during the Iraq conflict. By some reports, at the height of the conflict they enjoyed as much as a 300% increase in viewership, averaging 3.3 million viewers daily.[17].

In 2004, the gain in ratings became more apparent. In September, Fox News Channel's ratings for its broadcast of the Republican National Convention beat those of all three broadcast networks. During President Bush's address, Fox News notched 7.3 million viewers nationally, while NBC, CBS, and ABC scored ratings of 5.9, 5.0, and 5.1, respectively.
Back to the poem...

When you hear the clerics saying that democracy is heresy, but seizing every opportunity provided by democracy to grab higher positions – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.
Substitute “Republicans” for “clerics” and “government” for “democracy,” and I give you this example…

When you discover that a woman is worth less than half of what a man is worth, or less – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.
Well, not less than half in this country, but still (and by the way, this has kind of gotten relegated to the dustbin of history for now and possibly for all time, unfortunately).

When land is more important than human beings – you are in an Arab country.
One word: Katrina.

When fear constantly lives in the eyes of the people – you can be certain you are in an Arab country.
Somehow I think those living in the hell depicted here know fear pretty much all the time also.

As I said before, all I ask is that we not kid ourselves.

“Deeply Divided” Repugs Lick Their Wounds

(Nice to use that two-word preface for the opposition party to whom it applies more than the Dems at the moment.)

I get a lot of mail having to do with Democratic and political issues in general, to say nothing of other types of solicitations (some of which I’ve followed up on to generate content for this site) as well as the obligatory heaping of "pron"-related spam that is usually caught by my filter.

However, I’ve recently started receiving some correspondence (political "pron," if there is such a thing) from an organization called Conservatives Betrayed, a group run by Richard Viguerie. I would dismiss Viguerie as your typical garden variety wingnut if it weren’t for the fact, unfortunately, that he has been staggeringly successful at using direct mail campaigns to mobilize like-minded zealots into a political force (the people responsible first and foremost for our misery dating back to December of 2000).

I’d like to take a closer look at my most recent correspondence from Viguerie here, and I’m sure you’ll excuse me if I don’t link to his site, which is easy enough to find online; though there is a lot of typical winger nutsiness here, I think this letter shows that Viguerie is no fool – he can see that the ruling cabal has made such a hash of everything that he has to reconstitute and reenergize “the movement” somehow.

Here is the text of the mailing…

In his speech (below), Viguerie calls on conservatives to withhold support from all Republican fundraising committees "because they spend our money in primaries to defeat conservatives."

He adds: "I congratulate the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for not having the Chairman of the Republican National Committee at CPAC for the first time in memory."

And he urges conservatives, “for the time being, we should withhold (sic) our support from all of the top tier 2008 presidential wannabees," explaining: “Not a one of them deserves our support today. They all fail the Goldwater/Reagan test" (and he explains what that test consists of).

Here is the text of Viguerie's speech.

Richard A. Viguerie
“Strategies for a Bold Conservative Future”
Conservative Political Action Conference
Regency Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C.
Thursday, March 1, 2007

To have a successful future, it helps to understand the past.

First, let’s understand that conservatives and conservatism did not lose last November.

The election loss was a direct result of the Republican Party and its leadership in the White House and Congress moving left.
That’s astonishing to yours truly, but these people are in the business of perpetual denial. You will see also that there is no mention of the Iraq war, which I suppose does not exist in the bizarro universe populated by these folks.

The Republicans became that which they beheld.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, they beheld the corruption and abuse of power by the Democrats. But a few years after the voters threw the Democrats out of office, the Republicans became that which they beheld-the Republicans became corrupt and abused their power.
The “corruption and abuse of power” by the Democrats is a straw man, of course, but Viguerie is correct in his assessment that that is the second most important reason why the Repugs lost Congress, with Iraq as the first.

When most of the Congressional Republicans first ran for office, they ran against the sewer that Washington had become. But after a few years in Washington most of them act like they’ve discovered that Washington isn’t a sewer after all – it’s a hot tub.

In other words, the Republicans’ real message was: “We didn’t want the Democrats spending the money, but now that we are totally in charge, let’s blow the door off the bank vault, and let’s spend and spend and spend our children and grandchildren’s inheritance.”


And how appropriate that it turned into ashes in their mouth.

In January 2001, for all intents and purposes, the Republicans in the White House and Congress adopted a one-word strategy to govern.

And that one word was BRIBERY.

In essence they said to the voters ‘you’ve got votes-we’ve got money-let’s talk - let’s deal.’

The illegal corruption of Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Jack Abramoff, and Mark Foley is not a serious problem for us, our children, or grandchildren’s lives.

They’ve been caught and punished.

But far worse crimes have been committed by the politicians who are still sitting in their Capitol Hill offices. I’m talking about the legalized theft of trillions of dollars these politicians have stolen from the children of tomorrow – in order to buy votes to stay in office today.

Therefore conservatives, our #1 need going forward is for new leaders.
As I said, Viguerie isn’t stupid, and I really think he wants to “wipe the slate clean” here. I only care about that because it would present intriguing new challenges for the Democrats, with the Repugs trying to reclaim the “center” that the Dems have won and must hold onto.

Conservatives are like the Biblical Jews who had to wander through the desert for 40 years until that generation of immoral corrupt leaders had passed away.

As conservatives, we’re not going to get to the political Promised Land until we also get new, uncorrupt, principled leaders.

Dr. Phil, the TV psychiatrist, likes to say: “How’s that working for you?”

And I say: How’s that working for you conservatives – to be an appendage of the Republican Party?

The voters spoke in November, and what was the first thing the Republicans did? They kept in power all the leaders who had led them over the cliff!

Obviously the initials GOP now stands for Go On Partying. Or Give up (G) on (O) principles (P).
Viguerie can come up with catchy stuff, and he knows how to mobilize “the faithful.”

Well, the Republican party apparently has a death wish, but that doesn’t mean we conservatives have to go along with it.

My strong recommendation is for conservatives to stop being an arm of the Republican Party and become a 3rd Force, but not a 3rd Party.
That sounds like “pie in the sky” and I would dismiss it as such automatically if it weren’t for the fact that such claims by Viguerie were dismissed before many years ago, and Dems/liberals/progressives/whatever paid the price for it eventually.

The left has had enormous success by building strong 3rd force groups and coalitions.

The left has hundreds of environmental groups, consumer groups, civil rights groups, feminist groups, and homosexual groups, etc., etc.

And these groups have their own agenda, their own members, their own money, and most importantly they operate independent of the Democratic Party

Conservatives must do the same.
They already have, of course, but admitting that might lead to complacency, and Viguerie wants no parts of that of course.

No longer think of yourself as a Republican, but as a Reagan conservative.
By the way, Reagan raised taxes during his presidency and, though he was responsible for the fraud of “trickle down” economics, he was a visionary president on domestic matters when you compare him to Dubya.

Let’s re-launch the conservative movement.

Let’s act independently of the Republican Party and their failed big government leadership.

Let’s focus on the conservative movement, not the GOP.

We need to greatly increase the size and number of principled conservative organizations.

Let’s launch a thousand new organizations reaching out to:

1. Small business owners, especially women, Hispanics, and Asians.

2. America’s youth, who know the current Social Security system just won’t be there for them.
More propaganda (note at the bottom of the story that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have gone on record stating that Social Security will be solvent for nearly 50 years).

3. Independent voters, most of who support a balanced budget, family values, and fiscal restraint.
Yep, that’s the platform the Dems won on a few months ago all right.

4. Values voters, who agree with us on same sex marriage and the culture of life and promoting traditional moral values – not Hollywood values.
Yes, let’s rally ‘round such “voices of values voters” like William Bennett.

5. Young married couples, who care about child tax credits and better schools.

6. Senior citizens, who want to stop the politicians’ raid on the Social Security Trust Fund – and don’t trust them to manage their health care, either.

7. Doctors, who are already being hamstrung by red tape – and are scared to death of the prospect of socialized medicine.

8. And all the Americans in the “sensible center” who know deep-down that conservatives really are “right:” We’re right on illegal immigration, right on taxes, right on health care, right on the economy, right on terrorism – and right for America.
“Right on immigration” – heh, heh; check this out (including this excerpt) …

A few months ago, most House Republicans thought that border security would be, as Rep. Jeff Flake put it to me, their “magic carpet ride” to re-election. Moderate and pro-business elements within the party tried to convince them that a hard-line stance a) wouldn’t actually deliver that many votes, and b) would incinerate Karl Rove’s efforts to weld Latinos to a long-term Republican majority. And on both counts (as we anticipated in October) they were right.

Nearly every Republican who ran primarily on an enforcement-only platform lost. Of 15 congressional or gubernatorial races where immigration was a major issue, Democrats won 12.
Tee hee - back to Viguerie...

Let’s withhold support from all Republican National Committees because they spend our money in primaries to defeat conservatives.
Oh, that’s rich – I’d pay to see that one.

Let’s withhold support from most Republican elected officials, supporting only those few principled conservatives.
Go ahead. It will be fun to watch Pat Toomey lose another Repug senatorial primary here in PA.

Let’s challenge in primaries all establishment big government Republicans and Democrats at the National, state, and local levels.

Let’s run principled conservatives for local, state, and national party offices.

I congratulate CPAC for not having the Chairman of the Republican National Committee at CPAC for the first time in memory.

And conservatives—this is important – for the time being, we should withhold our support from all of the top tier 2008 Presidential wannabees.
No names, you see – Viguerie and his sheep don’t want to have to come begging back to McCain, Giuliani, Romney or some other Repug clown trying to get a favor knowing that he “called out” one or more of them here.

Not a one of them deserves our support today.

They all fail the Goldwater/Reagan test.

Goldwater became our hero when he and he alone in Washington stood up and criticized the Republicans for their big government policies.

On the floor of the Senate in 1960, he said President Eisenhower was running a dime store New Deal.

He spoke truth to power. Where is the Republican Presidential candidate that has stood up publicly to the big government Republican leaders in the last 6 years?

And if they haven’t stood up for conservative principles in the last 6 years, they won’t start if they become President.

And Reagan regularly criticized Presidents Nixon and Ford.

And the second test is, tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.

Reagan walked with conservatives- long before he ran for President in 1976; he was at our meetings, our receptions, and our rallies.

And surrounding Reagan were conservative stars
Lyn Nofziger, Marty Anderson (according to the link, Anderson was a "libertarian" - ??), Dick Allen, Ed Meese, Judge Clark, Joe Coors, and many others.
Concerning Richard Allen...

In November 1981, while serving as Reagan's national security adviser, (Allen) was accused of receiving a bribe from a Japanese journalist to set up an interview with Nancy Reagan. Although the claim was never proven, Allen was eventually pressured into resigning his position.
Back to Viguerie...

If conservatives have not been around a Republican Presidential candidate before he began asking for our votes, I guarantee you conservatives will not be around him if he moves into the White House.

And I promise you; you will not have conservative policies or conservative programs without conservative personnel.

I don’t know about you, but I’m angry and I feel betrayed, but fortunately there are things we conservatives can do to become a governing majority in America.

However, it’s not likely to happen quickly, certainly not by 2008.
Interesting – as I said, Viguerie is too smart to be your typical wingnut.

One of the strengths of the conservative movement is we’ve always approached politics as a marathon, not a sprint.

It may take 6-10 years for conservatives to be able to govern America.

But 1st conservatives have to follow the advice that Kevin Costner got in the baseball movie “Field of Dreams.”

If you build it, they will come.

We have to build a whole new conservative movement, independent of the two major parties.

And once we build a large, dynamic powerful conservative movement, the next Ronald Reagan will appear.

Remember the movie, “The Blues Brothers” with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi? The idea in the movie was, we’re putting the band back together, and we’re on a mission from God.

Well conservatives, we’re putting the conservative movement back together.

And hopefully we’re on a mission from God.
And of course, these guys are thinking literally when they say that.

And we must remain forever diligent and wise to their tricks. And leave to Viguerie to steal language both from the Quakers (“truth to power”) and one of my favorite movies to suit his foul purposes.

Jim Crow Lives

And it flourishes in The Land That Time Forgot (further proof here), which constitutes the vast majority of the state of Georgia and too much of the South in general.

I try to stay out of stories involving crime and punishment since this blog would get filled up pretty quickly if I did and I wouldn’t be able to post on anything else, but this is a particularly egregious case.

This tells you the story of Genarlow Wilson (pictured), a high school scholar-athlete who was on his way towards a college scholarship, and I say was because he has been convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison for a youthful indiscretion (the following information from the NAACP describes the case in detail, in addition to the ABC News story)…

Less than two years ago, Genarlow Wilson was an African American scholar-athlete. He maintained a 3.2 GPA and had multiple offers for college football scholarships.

Sign the petition to free Genarlow now!

Today. Genarlow Wilson is twenty-three months into a ten-year prison term mandated by a Georgia law for the “crime” of consensual oral sex with a fellow high school student. A Georgia court convicted Genarlow Wilson of aggravated child molestation.

Though Genarlow and the female student were only 2 years apart in age, the high school female student, who was 3 weeks from her 16th birthday, admitted to initiating the sexual act. Genarlow, however, was convicted and sentenced under a law meant to penalize adult child molesters. Unless justice is served, he will be forced to carry the label of “sexual predator” for an act engaged in by more than half of all American high school-aged boys.

There is a double standard at play in the sentencing of Genarlow Wilson. Around the same time that Genarlow was sentenced, a high school teacher was convicted of having sex with a student. The white female teacher was sentenced to just 90 days in the same Georgia courthouse that sentenced Genarlow to 10 years.

The NAACP has made a formal request to both Governor Sonny Perdue and Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Preston Smith, to pass and sign Senate Bill 37 into law. Senate Bill 37 will allow trial judges to review and modify the sentences of individuals, like Genarlow, who have been harshly sentenced under the antiquated Georgia law.

Let it be known that you are outraged at the decision to throw away the life of this promising young man for reasons that defy logic, and demand restitution (please note the talking points in this letter).

Sign the petition to free Genarlow now!

For more information about the campaign to Free Genarlow Wilson, please contact me at: 410-580-5762 or

Dr. John Jackson
NAACP Chief Policy Officer
So let's totally stigmatize this kid's life full of promise over some adolescent stupidity in the name of a legal interpretation that belongs to the legacy of Bull Connor, attack dogs and "white" vs. "colored" water fountains.

To digress briefly, I just read an excellent (and scary) article on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times about witness intimidation in Essex County, NJ, including the city of Newark, which has resulted in about 14 unprosecuted murder cases. I realize Newark is a completely different locale, but something is wrong in a major way when we prosecute honor students in this country for a consensual “crime,” but let drug dealers and gang members accused of capital murder offenses wander free (aided in no small part by gangsta rap “artists” who discourage witnesses from coming forward).

Update 11/01/07: This is wonderful news...

On Friday afternoon (10/26), just hours after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that his sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, Genarlow Wilson was released from prison.

In 2005, Genarlow Wilson, a 17-year-old star athlete and top student, was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old classmate. The NAACP has been involved in the Wilson case since 2003, when the youth was initially charged with rape, working with both the Georgia legislature and the judicial system to free Genarlow.

He had been incarcerated for almost three years of a ten-year sentence, even though only months after his conviction, a "Romeo and Juliet" law was passed that would have had a maximum allowable sentence of 12 months. Genarlow remained incarcerated until Friday in spite of June decision by a Monroe County Superior Court judge to void the original sentence on constitutional grounds and reduce it to one year.

Cases like Genarlow Wilson, Marcus Dixon, and the Jena 6 highlight the rampant discrimination against African-American youth that exists in our criminal justice system. The NAACP is committed to doing whatever is necessary to see justice served in these cases and the hundreds of others, as well as working to reform the judicial system so that our youth are afforded the dignity, respect and equal treatment they deserve under the law.

Dennis Hayes
Interim President & CEO, NAACP
Here's more.

Jackass: The Presidency

Congratulations to Dubya on descending into the ‘20s in his latest approval ratings as noted here.

As Kos notes, Broderius Ignoramus noted that Bush is poised for a rebound, so given that fit of lunacy, I think it’s appropriate to revisit Broder’s original column on this (as well as the recent ramblings of J.D. “Wide, But Not Deep” Mullane).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday Videos

The Decemberists ("O Valencia" - interesting love song)...

...Happy Birthday (No. 59, I think) to Winston Rodney, otherwise known as Burning Spear ("Walk")...

...Happy Birthday also to Roger Daltrey of The Who ("Without Your Love," a song which apparently did well as a single from Daltrey as a solo artist in the UK, but not here, from a movie that came and went also called "McVicar")...

...and in recognition of what would have been the 103rd birthday of Glenn Miller, here's "In The Mood" (still photos only - I read about a year or so ago that his plane may have been shot down as a result of friendly fire).

The Terror War’s “Harvest Of Shame”

Two quick notes here: 1) I should put “terror war” in quotes based on our mismanagement due to the Iraq horror, but I didn’t because the title would look too confusing, and 2) everyone who crows about illegal immigration in this country should watch the landmark “CBS Reports” documentary I referenced in the title produced by Edward R. Murrow in 1960 and narrated by a young reporter just starting out named Dan Rather – sadly, we are not likely to see that type of a program from that network or any other again.

This column by Bronwen Maddox of the Times of London online points out the resurgence of poppy growth in Afghanistan, which has led to a boom in heroin trafficking throughout Asia and the continent, particularly in Afghanistan itself where, as Maddox reports, “one million Afghans take heroin or opiates, including 60,000 children under 15.”

I’ll let those staggering numbers speak for themselves (and the Maddox report also notes that poppy growth is on the rise in Pakistan – why shouldn’t they get a “piece of the action” also, right?).

And while we’ve seen a lot of reporting about Iran and its emerging nuclear capability, I haven’t seen any report that points out the following (from this link)…

At present, there are three million drug abusers in Iran, most addicted to heroin. (in comparison, the US has an estimated 900 000 heroin addicts). The addiction rate is fueled by high unemployment, poverty, hopelessness, and boredom, the same reasons that fuel addiction in other countries. However, unlike the US or many parts of Europe, where heroin addiction is a small part of the overall addiction problem, it is the main drug of abuse in Iran.
As far as drug abuse in this country is concerned, it looks like “pharma is still king,” but heroin may be making an impact (as noted here)…

Rates of pharmaceutical drug abuse exceed that of all other drugs except marijuana, resulting in a high number of pharmaceutical overdose deaths annually. However, recent success within several states in reducing the illegal diversion of pharmaceutical drugs, particularly pharmaceutical narcotics such as OxyContin, through various antidiversion initiatives and monitoring programs has caused some individuals addicted to or dependent on such drugs to substitute other drugs, such as heroin, for prescription narcotics. In some areas, such substitutions among prescription drug abusers have been widespread, creating new challenges for local law enforcement and public health agencies compelled to address a widening local heroin user population.
The USDOJ report also notes international drug organizations competing in this country for “market share,” if you will, including Mexican “DTOs” (drug trafficking organizations) that present tougher challenges for law enforcement in communities in this country because they aren’t locally based.

And as the post by Dr. Nancy Reyes notes, a huge secondary problem as a result of the boom in drug trafficking is needle sharing that is leading to a spike in cases of HIV (I haven’t been able to determine if the U.N. is looking at any recommendations having to do with needle exchange, but if it isn’t, it should – first and foremost, we’re talking about a health issue here).

I’ll try to recap where I’m going here:

1) We didn’t manage the war in Afghanistan properly (diverting forces to Iraq), and partly as a result of that, poppy growth has increased (as Dr. Reyes says, when farmers don’t have another crop they can grow that will make as much money – and again, we’re talking about the third world here, let’s not forget – then growing poppies looks pretty good).
2) This has led to an explosion of heroin from Afghanistan to Iran and throughout Europe and Asia, competing with other worldwide suppliers.
3) It has also led to an increase in HIV due to sharing of dirty needles by drug addicts.
So the next time you hear about our government waging a “drug war” of one type or another, try not to hurt yourself by laughing too hard.

Another Bushco Flunky Departs (03/07)

Let us also not forget to note the recent sentencing of Lester Crawford, the former head of Bushco’s Food and Drug Administration who, as noted here, was ordered to pay $89,377 in fines and was sentenced to three years probation for owning stocks of companies regulated by his agency (a prior post on Crawford is here – I have other issues with this guy, particularly his refusal to sell Plan B “over the counter”…also, I predicted a year in jail, and I turned out to be wrong; oh well…).

Maybe he and Porter Goss, another of Bushco’s “disappeared,” can get together and share memories of their lousy government service. The good thing is that neither of them are in a position that they can screw up any more.

Change The Course

The latest from Democracy For America...

You are against the war in Iraq. You want to end the occupation and bring our brave men and women home. In fact, DFA members have been standing up and speaking out since before the war began. Our work led Democratic candidates to take Iraq head-on in the last election and your support created the new majority in Congress.

Now, you need to lead the way again.

Congress needs to know which exit plan you support. Should Congress limit funding to force redeployment? Should new troops only be sent if they meet the basic safety standards of training, rest and equipment? Tell Congress what you think:

Click here.

Maybe you feel Congress is already doing everything they can and trust them to choose the specifics. Maybe you think Congress should set benchmarks and a binding deadline to bring the troops home? Finally Congress has options on the table, now they need to hear from you.

Some milestones aren't worth reaching. We are only months away from reaching a horrible milestone: four thousand fallen soldiers and a financial cost of one trillion dollars. March 19 will mark the beginning of a fourth year in Iraq with no sign of when our troops will come home. In the last election, we told Congress to change the course. Now, we need to tell them how. Make your voice heard right now:

Click here.

Together, we will lead.

Thank you for everything you do.

Tom Hughes
Executive Director
And speaking of Iraq, it looks like Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad is going to use the more-realistic Congressional Budget Office estimates for war funding as opposed to the nonsensical ones from Bushco; the CBO estimates are higher, but again, they actually reflect reality.

Senator Man-On-Dog’s New Job?

Oh golly gee, it looks as if the Stinky Inky is going to get really stinky now!

So what’s next, Editorial Page Editor Chris Satullo? Trying to fleece us for “select” online content from former Senator Whack Job and Smerky too?

Yep, I think you can officially start the countdown until the end of my subscription.

Al Gored By Global Warming Wingnuttia

Hackmeister Jack Kelly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette attacked Al Gore today in the pages of the Bucks County Courier Times, citing fellow denialists at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and various other individuals refuting global warming science, which I would consider to be pretty sound at this point (I’ve posted about global warming many times, including here and here, and I also refuted Kelly’s fellow shill Suzanne Fields recently here).

Also, David Roberts of HuffPo explodes the supposed controversy over what is alleged to be Gore’s own inefficient energy use here (the quote from Churchill about a lie getting halfway around the world before the truth puts its pants on comes to mind).

Also, I’d like to point out some things which I’ve been wondering about for some time.

The point of the whole discussion (which should no longer be a debate at this point) about global warming is to encourage cleaner energy, development and funding of mass transit alternatives and reduced use of fossil fuels.

Given that, I’d like to ask the global warming denialists this question: even if global warming was not in fact taking place, why shouldn’t we be doing that anyway? Why do you continue to encourage dangerously inefficient use of our energy resources?

Not that I would expect intelligent answers from Kelly (who I posted about previously here), though what else can you say about someone who wrote these malicious and highly incorrect words (from the Gore column)…

“For liberals, sacrifices are something other people make.”
I’ll tell you what: read the headline from this story and note the date and ask me how it is that Kelly is granted column space for anything except supermarket tabloids.

Finally, here is a YouTube video for "An Inconvenient Truth."

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Patty Griffin ("Heavenly Day," a theme for a true treasure of a YouTube video by David L. Jaffe)...

...Happy Birthday to Joe South ("Games People Play")...

...and I promise, for real, that today really is the birthday of Michael McDonald (he and the rest of the Doobie Brothers perform "Takin' It To The Streets")...

...and Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones would have been 65 (here he is with the boys - and they really were boys back in '64 - performing "Around and Around"; doesn't Ed Sullivan look thrilled, by the way?)

A Time To Remember

I really didn't say anything about Black History Month, but as February is about to end in these parts, maybe I should pass this along from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

This past month, across America, we celebrated and commemorated Black History Month.

It is important that all Americans remember the outstanding contributions African Americans have made to this country, in the arts, in science, in the military, in politics, and in religion. We must never forget that African Americans have risked their lives and have struggled all in the name of making the world a better place.

While our country is still changing, I am encouraged by the progress we are making. Last year, we saw the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, a tribute to everyone who marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 and risked their lives in the name of democracy. And, this past November, we welcomed six more members of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds to Congress, to lead our nation and make positive changes.

America is made stronger by our differences and as we celebrate we must remember the path we have traveled and the struggles undertaken. We must honor those who stand up and fight so that one day we can reach a truly interracial democracy where we lay down the burden of race and class.


John Lewis
Member of Congress, Georgia's 5th District
Click here to learn more.

What, No Mitt? Roger Simon Will Cry!

(re: the “man-crush” of the year so far…)

I’d like to make some points about the poll mentioned here that has just been released showing that John McCain and Rudy Giuliani would defeat Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a head-to-head presidential matchup (I was going to blow it off, but it was noted by Kos, so…).

(I won't comment for now on the absurd perception that McCain is some kind of "moderate," by the way.)

First of all, the poll was commissioned by the Philadelphia Daily News with Keystone Politics of PA. Keystone are the geniuses who noted that Mike Fitzpatrick was leading Patrick Murphy by 9 points in the closing days of the campaign this year, and they arrived at this calculation by including a candidate who had dropped out of the race (the name escapes me at the moment, and I have not been able to determine who he is through a couple of Google searches).

Second, the poll was conducted by G. Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College, who I assume is qualified enough in these things, but it would be nice if we had another person and/or another service conducting these polls from time to time – I don’t think it’s a good situation for our news organizations to go to one person automatically in these matters since anybody can have a bias of one type or another, and that is what always happens. I’m not trying to malign Madonna; it’s just human nature.

Third, there is no mention given at all to John Edwards, though I know Edwards is generally polling low against Clinton and Obama at the moment.

But really, it’s way too early for this stuff anyway.

(And by the way, here's more "straight talk" from McCain...)

Don't Play With Our Food

So it looks like the source of the most recent E. coli outbreak has been traced to “wild pigs that may have spread the bacteria in the field” where spinach was grown on a farm on San Benito County, CA.

Well, it’s a comfort to know that our produce is safe once more for the time being. However, this paragraph from the Signs On San Diego story got me as hot as a jalapeno pepper…

In an effort to restore consumer confidence in the wake of the outbreak, California lettuce and spinach processors crafted a voluntary inspection program, overseen by the state, that will allow participants to put a food safety seal of approval on their products. Officials and industry leaders are working to outline the inspection guidelines.
I’m sick of reading about “voluntary industry compliance” of one type or another that is supposed to serve as a substitute for legitimate government enforcement, particularly when it comes to the safety of what we eat.

You may feel the same way I do after you consider the following information provided to us by Rep. Henry Waxman, who thankfully for us all is no longer the minority member but the actual chairman of the Committee on Government Reform (in particular this excerpt)…

(As of October 2006), this most recent outbreak (of E. coli) is not an isolated occurrence. This is the (21st) outbreak…in fresh produce since 1995, and the (now third) outbreak specifically linked to spinach.

Produce-related outbreaks have doubled from 44 outbreaks in 1998 to 86 in 2004. Overall, an estimated 76 million cases of food borne disease occur each year in the United States, causing about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually.
And the predictable response from Bushco?

Food safety funding has not kept pace with rising costs and new responsibilities. Nominal funds for FDA food programs have risen from $407 million in 2003 to $439 million in 2006.

This funding increase, however, has not been enough to keep up with rising personnel costs and new duties protecting the food supply from terrorism. According to an FDA budget official, the agency’s food division operated under a shortfall of $135 million in 2006 due to increased personnel costs and new terrorism responsibilities, which the official described as equivalent to a 24% budget cut.

The official stated: “as long as the resources available to FDA do not keep up with the realities of increasing costs, it is increasingly difficult for FDA to perform in a way that meets public expectations.”
And as the Waxman document notes further, the proposed 2007 budget from Bushco is more of the same.

Well, at least the veggies themselves may be protected from any slander or negative publicity in California if Assemblywoman Audra Strickland has her way (“libeling a legume” – heh, heh).

And I’m going to engage in a bit of a pre-emptive strike on this subject and announce to people like Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs who are riding the anti-immigrant bandwagon that, before they try to use food safety as an issue to punish illegal immigrants, they 1) reconsider doing this because it’s xenophobic and absurd on its face, and 2) read this post debunking the fact that immigrants are lazy and are more highly incarcerated than individuals born in this country (I’m a little hesitant about using the phrase “Native Americans,” and I’m not completely sold on the issue of immigrants driving up wages either, but the Kos post still makes some good points).

Repug Anti-Labor Baggage

So Dubya and the Repugs are going to kill an anti-terrorism bill if it includes language that allows airport screens to unionize, are they?

Can you guess what their official explanation is for this nonsense (and if your answer was “terra, terra, terra, terra and more terra,” then you get an autographed photo suitable for framing of every campaign contributor in Dubya’s “Pioneer” Club, one of whom, Sam Fox, was appropriately grilled by John Kerry for donating to the Swift Boat Liars – you could also hang it on your dartboard or use it in your bathroom if you run out of paper)….

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that allowing screeners to unionize would impede the department's quick response to possible threats. Fast redeployment of screeners, such as in response to Hurricane Rita and the failed London plot to blow up airliners, cannot wait for negotiations, he said.

Chertoff said screeners are as much on the front lines in the war against terror as military troops.

"Marines don't collectively bargain over whether they're going to wind up, you know, being deployed in Anbar province or in Baghdad," Chertoff told reporters after a briefing with senators. "We can't negotiate over terms and conditions of work that goes to the heart of our ability to move rapidly in order to deal with the threats that are emerging."
More breathtaking nonsense from Chertoff…

First of all, Mr. “City Of Louisiana” (and no, I will never let Chertoff off the hook for that moment of transcendent stupidity), our airport screeners are not military personnel, though I will assume that many have military service in their background. Airport screeners are not likely to be killed by sniper fire or blown up by an IED or an EFP in the terminal. Airport screeners are not required to wear armor or transport themselves in armored vehicles. They are not likely to receive fire or engage in hostilities with armed combatants during the normal course of their job duties.

More precisely…

Chertoff's reasoning, according to the American Federation of Government Employees, is "an insult to the hundreds of thousands of dedicated public safety officers with collective bargaining rights — from border patrol agents to firefighters to the Capitol Hill police," said John Gage, president of the federation.
Further, as this post from the AFL-CIO states, noting an ILO ruling last year in support of the airport screeners…

The Bush administration has used the same national security argument in its bid to deny collective bargaining rights through new personnel rules to more than 700,000 U.S. Defense Department workers and 160,000 employees in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Federal courts have ruled against new personnel rules in both cases. Congress also has weighed in against the Defense Department’s so-called National Security Personnel System. But the Bush administration is appealing the Defense Department ruling in the suit brought by United DoD Workers Coalition made up of more than 30 unions that represent department workers.

The ILO decision, say the union leaders…calls into question the administration’s policy of using national security to justify the denial of basic worker rights.
I had planned to post about this later, but this story is about as good a reason to mention the latest from Dr. Dean as I could ever expect, so…

American workers need help - and there's something you can do about it.

Regardless of where you live or what you do, labor unions are our first line of defense for worker's rights. What do they fight for? Raising the minimum wage. Improving labor standards. Expanding health care benefits. Protecting retirement security.

And these fights don't only make a difference in the workplace: They are critical to providing economic security for families, strengthening our communities and rebuilding America's middle class. Every day, millions of Americans work hard and play by the rules but are still struggling to get by. Democrats understand the important role that labor unions play to fix this crisis.

The House of Representatives is set to debate and pass a bill that will restore American workers' right to freely choose whether or not to form a union. Join the Democratic majority in the House and show your support for the Employee Free Choice Act:

Click here.

Research shows union members earn 30% more than nonunion workers. What's more, union workers are 63% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are four times more likely to have a guaranteed pension.

The benefits of union membership are clear. That's why nearly half of American workers who are not currently represented by unions -- 60 million people -- say that they'd join one if they had the chance. But every year since 1981, union membership has declined. And a major reason for that fall-off is the many obstacles workers face when they try to form a union or negotiate a union contract.

The Employee Free Choice Act is a simple, effective solution to restore the right of workers to form unions and bargain for better wages and benefits for themselves and their families. It has three key provisions:

- Require employers to recognize a union if a majority of workers sign authorization cards saying they want union representation.

- Provide mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.

- Strengthen penalties for companies that illegally intimidate employees to prevent them from forming a union.

No management coercion, no waiting period, no stacked deck -- just the freedom for workers to stand up for their rights.

Democratic leaders in the House overwhelmingly support the Employee Free Choice Act. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called it a "top priority." House Labor Committee Chairman George Miller called it "an important step towards strengthening America's middle class." Now you can join the leadership in calling on Congress to pass this critical legislation:

Click here.

Big business is scared of the Employee Free Choice Act -- and that's why they're doing everything in their power to stop it.

75% of companies hire consultants or union-busters to fight organizing campaigns. And their tactics work: every 23 minutes, a worker is fired or discriminated against for supporting a union. All in all, over 22,000 workers each year are illegally fired, demoted, laid off, suspended without pay, or denied work by their employers as a result of union activity.

Why have our leaders in Washington allowed this to happen? Follow the money trail.

The public opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act is funded in large part by GOP-allied corporate lobbyists and interest groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Conservative Union, and Americans for Tax Reform. The dozens of groups that make up the "Coalition for a Democratic Workplace" spend big bucks each election cycle buying Republicans' votes on bills like this one.

This is nothing new. Big Business always gets what it wants from the Republicans-- from an energy bill written by Cheney's oil industry pals to a prescription drug bill full of giveaways to Big Pharma.

This time, though, the Democrats in Congress can stop them. Show the House that you will stand with America's workers:

Click here.

Do you believe in the right to demand a raise? Health care coverage? A pension? Do you believe workers should have a voice in their workplaces?

The fate of the Employee Free Choice Act depends on your work. Help score an important victory for worker's rights and for rebuilding America's middle class.

In Solidarity,
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
To read a prior post on the Employee Free Choice Act, please click here.

Update 3/1/2007: Awesome! (and MissLaura at The Daily Kos has more).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Maybe They Remembered "Best Defense"

So, since Eddie Murphy stormed out of the Oscars after losing out to Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor, does this mean we have 27 more “Klump” movies to look forward to?

Maybe Arkin was overdue the recognition and it just happened to be his time, Eddie, or is that too difficult for you to accept?

Let’s see – “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter,” “Wait Until Dark,” “Catch-22,” “Freebie And The Bean,” “Edward Scissorhands” more recently, and those are only the few movies I can recall off the top of my head…Arkin has been doing good work playing a wide range of characters forever (and I know TV movies don’t really count here, but Arkin was fantastic in “The Defection of Simas Kudirka,” in the ‘70s, a movie which spoke volumes about the Nixon Administration, though it if had happened under Dubya, Kudirka would have been captured and tortured also.)

The photo in this post isn’t the only thing looking like an ass at this moment.

(Obligatory qualifier; this came from Fox, so be warned…I'll owe up if I have to).

No Happy Meal For Chucky

Kudos to Prince Charlie for encouraging kids to eat right and avoid fast food; he made the remarks cited in this Times of London story in Dubai in the UAE, which has the second highest prevalence of diabetes in the world (didn’t know that).

Yes, I know McDonald’s sponsors sporting events and runs ads promoting a healthy lifestyle, but the fries will always be cooked in gobs of shortening (though perhaps reduced in trans fats), the burgers will always be seared thoroughly in grease before they are consumed, the drinks will always be full of sugar and/or caffeine, and the milkshakes will always be full of this white, gelatinous goo colored to simulate different flavors, and the less you know of it, the better.

You can run TV promos with all of the skateboarding kids and cartoon characters jumping around and singing that you want, but there are some universal constants, and when it comes to Mickey D’s, I just named some of them.

Also, this review of “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser points out something else for which McDonald’s has made an everlasting and indelible imprint on our lives ("behind the wall" - sorry; aaarrrgghhh!!!)…

In the early 1970s, the farm activist Jim Hightower warned of the McDonaldization of America. He viewed the emerging fast food industry as a threat to independent businesses, as a step toward a food economy dominated by giant corporations, and as a homogenizing influence on American life. In Eat Your Heart Out (1975), he argued that bigger is not better. Much of what Hightower feared has come to pass. The centralized purchasing decisions of the large restaurant chains and their demand for standardized products have given a handful of corporations an unprecedented degree of power over the nation’s food supply. Moreover, the tremendous success of the fast food industry has encouraged other industries to adopt similar business methods. The basic thinking behind fast food has become the operating system of today’s retail economy, wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences, and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self-replicating code.

America’s main streets and malls now boast the same Pizza Huts and Taco Bells, Gaps and Banana Republics, Starbucks and Jiffy-Lubes, Foot Lockers, Snip N’ Clips, Sunglass Huts, and Hobbytown USAs. Almost every facet of American life has now been franchised or chained. From the maternity ward at a Columbia/HCA hospital to an embalming room owned by Service Corporation International - the world’s largest provider of death care services, based in Houston, Texas, which since 1968 has grown to include 3,823 funeral homes, 523 cemeteries, and 198 crematoriums, and which today handles the final remains of one out of every nine Americans - a person can now go from the cradle to the grave without spending a nickel at an independently owned business.
So be careful, Charlie. I know you have good lawyers, but McDonald’s has some barracudas of their own (another type of fish, if you will, besides the faux ones in their sandwiches).

More Lies That Never Die

A Letter to the Editor in the Bucks County Courier Times today contained this excerpt…

I’m glad we have a president who isn’t afraid to go after the terrorists. That’s better than the previous one, who failed to respond when the terrorists attacked us.

John P. Eperjesi
Morrisville, PA
Check this out, Mr. Eperjesi (the following in particular)…

• On 26 February 1993, a car loaded with 1,200 pounds of explosives blew up in a parking garage under the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring about a thousand others. The blast did not, as its planners intended, bring down the towers — that was finally accomplished by flying two hijacked airliners into the twin towers on the morning of 11 September 2001.

Four followers of the Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman were captured, convicted of the World Trade Center bombing in March 1994, and sentenced to 240 years in prison each. The purported mastermind of the plot, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, was captured in 1995, convicted of the bombing in November 1997, and also sentenced to 240 years in prison. One additional suspect fled the U.S. and is believed to be living in Baghdad.

• On 13 November 1995, a bomb was set off in a van parked in front of an American-run military training center in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, killing five Americans and two Indians. Saudi Arabian authorities arrested four Saudi nationals whom they claim confessed to the bombings, but U.S. officials were denied permission to see or question the suspects before they were convicted and beheaded in May 1996.

• On 25 June 1996, a booby-trapped truck loaded with 5,000 pounds of explosives was exploded outside the Khobar Towers apartment complex which housed United States military personnel in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing nineteen Americans and wounding about three hundred others. Once again, the U.S. investigation was hampered by the refusal of Saudi officials to allow the FBI to question suspects.

On 21 June 2001, just before the American statute of limitations would have expired, a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, indicted thirteen Saudis and an unidentified Lebanese chemist for the Khobar Towers bombing. The suspects remain in Saudi custody, beyond the reach of the American justice system. (Saudi Arabia has no extradition treaty with the U.S.)
Oh, but the Saudis are such good freinds of ours, right? Gosh, I'm just shocked!

• On 7 August 1998, powerful car bombs exploded minutes apart outside the United States embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people and wounding about 5,000 others. Four participants with ties to Osama bin Laden were captured, convicted in U.S. federal court, and sentenced to life in prison without parole in October 2001. Fourteen other suspects indicted in the case remain at large, and three more are fighting extradition in London.

• On 12 October 2000, two suicide bombers detonated an explosives-laden skiff next to the USS Cole while it was refueling in Aden, Yemen, blasting a hole in the ship that killed 17 sailors and injured 37 others. No suspects have yet been arrested or indicted. The investigation has been hampered by the refusal of Yemini officials to allow FBI agents access to Yemeni nationals and other suspects in custody in Yemen.

(The USS Cole bombing occurred one month before the 2000 presidential election, so even under the best of circumstances it was unlikely that the investigation could have been completed before the end of President Clinton's term of office three months later.)
And we know what happened when Clinton was asked about the Cole bombing by Chris Wallace (pictured above), even though Wallace had never asked anyone from Bushco about it despite their numerous appearances on his program.

Another AP Hit Job On Iraq

Here is the lede paragraph for this AP story (another one for which the authors didn’t have the courage to provide their names, apparently)…

Democratic leaders backed away from aggressive plans to limit President Bush's war authority, the latest sign of divisions within their ranks over how to proceed.
And once again, I give you Virginia Senator Jim Webb from Sunday…

"The true issue here is the federal system," Webb said, "the notion of accountability of the executive branch to Congress for not having conducted itself properly in the diplomatic arena."
Once again, it must be pointed out that, in the process of conducting oversight of Iraq at long last, Congress, in response to overwhelmingly favorable public opinion, is trying to find a way to perform a “check and balances” function on a president who has never shown any interest in upholding the Constitution as required by his oath of office or respecting the separation of powers that is a critical component of our government.

THAT is the story. Not the internal machinations of the Democrats in Congress as they try to find a way to rein in a president who thinks he’s king just because we are in a state of war (the Dems have to get it together, sure, but that pales in importance).

Oh, and how’s this for some genuine AP snark?

The developments on both sides of the Capitol reflected a new level of disarray in Democratic ranks on Iraq. Swept into power by voters clamoring for an end to the war, Democrats have seen their efforts falter under a reality more complicated than they found on the campaign trail.
That reads like it came directly from the RNC.

And speaking of the Repugs, just how are they, as the primary architects of this fiasco, treated in the story? Do you even have to ask?

Internal divisions, Republican opposition and a president who -- while weakened -- still appears to have the dominant voice on the war have all left Democrats flailing for a way to change the war's course.
That’s it, ladies and gentlemen.

Our corporate media will never, never, never, never hold Bushco and the Repugs responsible for this horror.

Never (and as Atrios pointed out yesterday, Republicans want the war to go on and the Democrats want to end it; it’s that simple.)

It will ALWAYS be the fault of the “divided Democrats” who were elected to make everything right and bring sweetness and light to this epochal horror but were unsuccessful for two main reasons: 1) It is impossible, and 2) They, as yet, do not have enough of a majority in the Senate (and, if they are going to be continually blocked, then why should we not take this opportunity to boot Lieberman out, since he’s a Repug anyway though not officially by name?).

And with all due respect to Zbigniew Brzesinski, I think his comments about Congress “micromanaging” the war are instructive, but he’s not really in the middle of this fray, acting pretty much as an interested observer instead.

And how’s this for “giving the knife a final turn” at the end?

"The party's not unified. Until you control the executive branch, you really don't have a party -- you have all these independent actors," Lawrence Korb, a Reagan administration Defense Department official, said of the Democrats' plight.
Now really, do you expect someone sympathetic to the Repugs to say anything different (though I will note that an exception like Paul Craig Roberts does come along from time to time).

No, we and the Democrats will continually encounter Repug obstructionism in the form of war-friendly politicos and right-wing hatemongers like Cal Thomas calling the Democrats every name in the book (if Thomas wants to use Sgt. Daniel Dobson as his quote vehicle here, fine; I’ll use Pfc. Drew Merrell and Spec. Josh Lake here, then – how long does Thomas wish to continue this stupid little game?).

But God forbid that we are in the same state on November 2008 as now for a lot of reasons, one of which is that the Democrats will get blamed for not figuring out how to solve a mess they were handed by a regime that, as Webb pointed out above, has no interest in diplomacy or real governance of any kind.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday Videos

Incubus ("Dig")...

...30 Seconds To Mars ("From Yesterday" - big production values, and LOUD!)...

...Happy Birthday to Fats Domino ("Blue Monday" - thank God he's OK after Katrina)...

...and Johnny Cash would have been 75 today ("I Walk The Line" - hopefully he's found peace).

Patrick And Iraq Madness

These two letters appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times today (I’ll try to get to one other letter and a great Guest Opinion from today possibly tomorrow)…

I must contest the arguments by Don Mihalek in his Feb. 6th Guest Opinion, arguments that were backed by weak analysis and even weaker evidence.

Congressman Patrick Murphy has served admirably during his first few weeks in office. Murphy is managing to both serve his constituents of Bucks County and effect change on a national level on some very important issues.

On Iraq, perhaps the defining issue of our time, Murphy has already introduced two crucial pieces of legislation aimed at changing the course of this mismanaged war. But Murphy’s intensive work on Iraq has been done while he simultaneously works to maintain close contact with his constituents and the issues closer to home.

As evidence, I would point out that Murphy can still be seen frequenting SEPTA train stations in the area, discussing local issues with constituents and listening to feedback from them on important issues. Just because Murphy is a leading voice on big issues such as Iraq doesn’t mean we should forget about how hard he is working for his constituents, even is small ways, like greeting commuters on their way to work.

Jo Ann Teague
Bristol Township, PA

Referring to
a recent letter by Gerald E. Jones Sr., I strongly urge him to begin digging his shelter now. Jones ignores the fact that Vietnam is a peaceful nation of nearly 85 million people today and it accomplished this feat without the assistance or interference of the United States.

Congressman Patrick Murphy aptly concluded the other day: “You know, a few blocks away from this great chamber, when you walk in the snow, is the Vietnam Memorial, where half of the soldiers listed on that wall died after America’s leaders knew our strategy would not work.”

It’s not about liberals. It’s about what is morally the right path to follow. We were lied to in Vietnam and we were lied to about Iraq. This is the true failure of United States intelligence.

Jones’ facts are skewed to the Bush side and I applaud his desire to not greet liberals at his door and to dig a hole in his backyard. I can only wish that he would suggest the same to his fellow delusional groupies who support this gross act of warfare.

Iraq was created by the British without regard for cultural, ethnic, religious or political concerns of the people. I don’t believe anyone can define what an Iraqi is or should be and therefore, like in Vietnam, the people of that great historical birthplace of civilization need to decide for themselves.

Dig your hole, Mr. Jones. Stay safe, because living above ground hasn’t made you any more aware of your surroundings. Let’s learn a lesson from Vietnam – meddling in other nations’ affairs is a dangerous game and sometimes when you stand on the sideline, like children they can grow up and fend for themselves.

Viva liberals!

Rich Papirio
Bristol Township, PA
And judging from this post from Joe at Americablog, it sounds like Iraq denial is contagious within the Bush family (the whole damn bunch is crackers).

Oscar Finally Knocks At Marty's Door

How cool is it that Martin Scorsese finally won an Academy Award for Best Director last night for The Departed?

There’s a whole bunch of Scorsese movies that I haven’t gotten around to yet, such as The Color of Money, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Cape Fear and No Direction Home about Bob Dylan (yes I know – what I am waiting for, right?).

But among the ones I have seen, I would have to put Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence and The Aviator at the top of the list, with Casino and The Last Waltz (annoying, fawning interviews and all, more than made up for by the great performances) as close seconds.

I’m sure anything I have to say has already been expressed by those who know more about this stuff than I do, but I’d never seen such stark use of violence and language in the movies until I saw Taxi Driver and the other Robert DeNiro-Joe Pesci movies, including Raging Bull and Goodfellas (I thought Taxi Driver was hurt by it’s happily-ever-after-sort-of ending; Casino was interesting also, but the formula was really getting old by then).

I think it’s interesting to watch the earlier Scorsese movies I just mentioned and then watch The Age of Innocence and The Aviator to see how Scorsese’s understanding of basic human motivations was incorporated into other settings and periods of time (for example, you can sense a similarity of the pining Daniel Day-Lewis felt for Michelle Pfeiffer in “Innocence” versus that felt by DeNiro for Cathy Moriarty in Raging Bull, but in the former movie, the societal conventions prohibited the male from acting on those urges, but not so in the latter one). And you truly understand the technical challenges Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio – really tough call between him and Jamie Foxx last year for Ray, I thought, though Foxx was certainly deserving) encountered while building the “Spruce Goose” as he fought his personal demons also – that’s a dimension of Scorsese’s filmmaking that developed over time.

And anyone who would make a film as crazed as After Hours certainly should earn a special place among directors as far as I’m concerned (and The King of Comedy was truly difficult, a film almost destroyed single handedly by Sandra Bernhard).

So congratulations to Scorsese for his visionary films, often so truthful in their complexity and eloquent in their brutality (and for the five-part PBS series The Blues also). And with his win last night, I may even give Kundun and Bringing Out The Dead another shot also.

Osama Who?

This column from Smerconish appeared both at HuffPo and in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday.

After my boys recently requested new targets for paintball in the backyard, I found myself online, ordering a 25-pack of Osama bin Laden likenesses for $19.97. They arrived last week, on the same day as reports of an al-Qaeda resurgence in Pakistani training camps. Seems bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are still alive, and apparently not the irrelevancy we had hoped, six years removed from 9/11.

As I stood opening the cylinder containing the terrorist's image, one of my sons asked what had become of the mastermind of the plot that killed 3,000. I found myself parroting the usual lines about the difficulty of finding one man amid rugged terrain. But the more my son prodded, the angrier I became.
By the way, in case anyone missed it yesterday, Prof Marcus had some words on Smerky and the whole paintball thing with his kids that I thought were interesting.

Because I no longer believe we are hunting bin Laden. Worse, no one seems to care. What happened to the days when a suburban soccer mom would have yearned to strangle bin Laden or Zawahiri with her bare hands?
That sentiment is still very much alive, Smerky. And even if it weren’t, whose fault is that? The soccer moms?

To what passes for our presidential “leadership,” bin Laden is the guy who shows up once every great while when Dubya needs some kind of a spike in the polls (assuming that still possible at this point, and it isn’t) with some video from his Undisclosed Location, if you will, making his cowardly threats. And absolutely nothing more than that.

We've been told bin Laden fled from the battle in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan into Pakistan. We know that last September, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf reached an accord with tribal leaders that gave them continued free rein. Since July, we've known that late in 2005 the CIA disbanded Alec Station, the secret FBI/CIA unit dedicated to finding bin Laden. Sounds discouraging? There's more.

In October, I was one of 45 civilians invited to the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, an incredible, one-week military-immersion program sponsored by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Our focus was the Cent-Com region, comprising 27 countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

We traveled 15,000 miles in one week and visited Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Djibouti. We drove a 10-kilometer obstacle course for humvees on the Kuwait/Iraq border, boarded (by helicopter) the USS Iwo Jima in the Persian Gulf, and took turns firing advanced weaponry in 120-degree sands. We received military briefings from leaders that included Rumsfeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the vice admiral of Cent-Com.

Extraordinary in their detail, the briefings were notable for what was missing - any mention of bin Laden. I later described him as the Lord Voldemort of the trip - He Who Shall Not Be Named.

When I asked repeatedly about what we were doing to find him, I was always assured that the hunt continues. But I don't buy it.

Deep inside a command center in Doha, Qatar, I found myself in a hangarlike building, watching war in real time. To my left, on an array of giant screens, I watched our military air activity over Iraq, as well as ground images from unmanned predators. Fox News was also on. On my right, it was Afghanistan, plus a live feed of CNN.

Both maps showed a beehive of activity. Lots of aircraft, plenty of movement. I noted that the activity in Afghanistan was heavily concentrated on its border with Pakistan. But there, all the action stopped. Pakistan, including the north Waziristan region where bin Laden is presumed to be hiding, was devoid of any military presence, at least on the map.

I'd like to think that, unseen, were the movements of some Pat Tillman-type heroes combing the rugged terrain of Pakistan, paying off the locals, cutting deals, using sophisticated spy gear, and doing whatever is necessary to find and kill bin Laden and Zawahiri.

But I doubt it.
Uh, Smerky, I’d watch it with the Pat Tillman references if I were you (this provides more, including this excerpt about Tillman’s death)…

Dozens of witness statements, e-mails, investigation findings, logbooks, maps and photographs obtained by The Washington Post show that Tillman died unnecessarily after botched communications, a mistaken decision to split his platoon over the objections of its leader, and negligent shooting by pumped-up young Rangers -- some in their first firefight -- who failed to identify their targets as they blasted their way out of a frightening ambush.

The records show Tillman fought bravely and honorably until his last breath. They also show that his superiors exaggerated his actions and invented details as they burnished his legend in public, at the same time suppressing details that might tarnish Tillman's commanders.

Army commanders hurriedly awarded Tillman a posthumous Silver Star for valor and released a nine-paragraph account of his heroism that made no mention of fratricide. A month later the head of the Army's Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., called a news conference to disclose in a brief statement that Tillman "probably" died by "friendly fire." Kensinger refused to answer questions.
Back to Smerky…

Instead, I suspect we are completely reliant on Musharraf, who is willing to do only as much as guarantees him the continued support of America, but not enough to undermine his tenuous hold over his nation's tribal leaders. During my trip, I questioned senior military leaders about my suspicion.

One was quick to use the word sovereignty in his reply before describing the search as "difficult and nuanced."
No disrespect to our military, but I thought Bushco “didn’t do nuance,” like that brie-eating, Botox-injecting (joke, I think) liberal John Kerry.

Another told me the hunt was the equivalent of finding one man in the Rockies. Several asked me what would happen if they did find him, insinuating that support for the war in Iraq would further dissipate if that were to occur.

I'm not blaming our military. But if I am correct that bin Laden is in Pakistan and not the subject of an aggressive hunt, our political leadership is at fault for not freeing the hands of our soldiers to find him.
Names, Smerky! WHO in political leadership?

Oh, right…the Repugs have been running the show in Washington for most of this wretched Iraq war, so you can’t name names. Gotcha.

And I fault the media for banging the Iraq drum, but leaving the bin Laden beat silent.
You have got to be kidding me! Again, WHO was it who kept leaking every piece of propaganda on Iraq as part of The Never Ending You Godless Commie Liburul Including That King Of Pork John Murtha Of The Democrat Party War On Terra to our bought-and-paid-for corporate media, who dutifully lapped it up virtually without question?

Besides, every time any news organization with initials made noise, we’d get a leak about how we supposedly captured the No. 2 or No. 3 man in al Qaeda, and that was reported and subsequently forgotten. And that suited Bushco just fine, and you’re as big an enabler of this despotic regime as anyone.

Six years removed from 9/11, and with reports of an al-Qaeda resurgence, it's time to wonder what we've really accomplished and what we do now. Maybe I'm mistaken, but one thing is clear: Whatever we are doing isn't working.
If you believe that, then you should be supporting Democratic efforts to redeploy our troops to an over-the-horizon force in Iraq and concentrate once more in Afghanistan to pick up the hunt some more (of course, our military has been wrecked by Iraq, so I don’t know how feasible redeployment is at this point).

I ran my concerns past Michael Scheuer, former head of Alec Station and author of the best-seller Imperial Hubris. He told me, "Ultimately, we have had neither the focus nor resources to find and capture or kill bin Laden et al., and so almost by default we have had to hope that our Pakistani proxies would come to our rescue. Common sense should have told us that this was never going to occur. Why? Bin laden and his men and the Taliban are heroes to the great majority of Pakistanis - they beat the Soviets and are now beating the Americans - and Pakistani political stability could not survive Musharraf killing the population's heroes."

Which only reinforces my concern that, at this rate, my kids have as much chance of bagging bin Laden in our backyard as Musharraf's men do in the mountains of Pakistan.
It’s actually funny to hear Smerky make some remark that bin Laden is He Who Shall Not Be Named, because that description really applies to Dubya here. There's some interesting stuff in this column (some), but all of what is noted here about the difficulties of finding him and the tenuous leadership situation in Pakistan, among other things, should have been determined and incorporated into policy before the first shot was fired in Iraq.

As I’ve pointed out before, I’m currently working through “State of Denial” By Bob Woodward, and I’m at the point where the war has just started (and unbelievably, the decision of who would be named “viceroy” had not yet been made – I’m curious to find out now exactly where the hell Paul Bremer came from, and I know I’ll find out).

I’m about a quarter of the way through the book, and bin Laden has been mentioned once or maybe twice. That’s it. And yes, ratcheting up the pressure on Musharraf to work harder to get bin Laden could get Musharraf killed (and then imagine al Qaeda officially running Pakistan).

That’s the nightmare scenario we should have been preparing for, not Iraq (and Rumsfeld actually told Woodward in a recent interview quoted in the book that they never really believed Saddam Hussein had nukes – the only thing I, for one, care about – but chemical weapons only).

Try “beating the drum” on that, Smerky, as long as you’re blaming “the media.” And if you still find yourself too frustrated when Bushco continues to ignore bin Laden because he’s protected, you and your family can just have another paintball marathon in your back yard since that seems to be your idea of fun (preceded by an episode of “24” to get you in the mood even more, I guess).