Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday Videos

I missed Robin Trower's birthday yesterday ("Too Rolling Stoned" from not too long ago, with some new personnel from his old band, notably Davey Pattison on vocals replacing James Dewar, as per the YouTube comments - they really do celebrate Trower's birthday here; he's aged as have we all, but he still has his chops)...

And today is the birthday of Tom Scholz, the founder of Boston, but I don't see how they could be celebrating upon hearing about the death of Brad Delp, the band's vocalist ("Hitch A Ride" live; sound is good, video is passable, but I always liked this song).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Videos

Seether ("Fine Again" - irony, I suppose)...

...Happy belated birthday to Gary Numan ("Cars," a biggie of the '80s dance hits, in all its weirdness)...

...Happy Birthday also to Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders ("Kicks" - they had one great little '60s pop hit after another despite those silly looking uniforms and some dreadful lip synching; wonder whose idea it was to have the go-go dancers doing what I guess is a tasteful, G-rated bump and grind)...

...Happy Birthday also to John Cale, formerly of The Velvet Underground, performing what may be the most interesting version of "Heartbreak Hotel" that you're likely to hear anywhere (I see Shawn Colvin, Richard Thompson of course and David Sanborn, but I'm not sure who the other musicians are)...

...and I'm feeling generous, so here's Snow Patrol ("You're All I Have").

Three Friday Idiots

Here they are...

- Judge Laurence Silberman, one of the judges who ruled to overturn Washington, D.C.’s 30-year-old handgun ban (writing for the majority, interpreting the second amendment exactly the way the NRA wants - kudos to Frank Lautenberg; hopefully his words will save lives somehow)…

- H. Dale Hall for telling scientists that they can’t talk about polar bears when discussing global warming abroad for this utterly brainless reason…

“That's not a climate change discussion," Hall said at a telephone briefing. "That's a management, on-the-ground type discussion."

- The person at the AP who wrote this photo caption (if everything I’ve underlined is considered a “pet cause” by the AP, then just call me Fido and toss me a milk bone, OK?)

He Not Busy Being Born Is Busy Dying

Courtesy of blogger Sharon Cobb, I came across this item in which Pope Benny tells us that he considers Bob Dylan to be “a false prophet.”

I would like to hear the Pope elaborate on that. Upon which item of church teaching does his think Dylan poses a threat of some kind? How exactly is Dylan heretical?

Maybe the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger doesn’t get Dylan’s cultural significance. Could it be somehow that His Holiness doesn’t know what Dylan understands, which is that Dylan is, to a certain extent, what we make of him, which is either everything or nothing (or, to put it in Dylan-ese, if you will, “the first one now will later be last”?).

Kind of reminds me of His words, namely “the first shall be last and the last shall be first" (Mark 9:35; 10:31, Matthew 19:30; 20:16), don’t you think?

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (3/9/07)

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.


Union organizing. The House passed, 241-185, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 800) that would enable workers to vote for union representation by signing cards, with the union authorized as soon as a majority declares support. This method would replace the existing lengthy, secret-ballot election process.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
This is the Employee Free Choice Act, the subject of this editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (passage is another shining moment for the new U.S. House, with Repugs Pitts and Gerlach being obstructionist as usual).

Illegal workers. The House defeated, 225-202, a Republican proposal to require unions to prove that workers signing union cards under HR 800 (above) are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Castle, Dent, Gerlach and Pitts.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
Nice try, wingnuts (I gave Castle more credit than to support nonsense like this – enforce similar regulations for employers first).

Union 'salting.' The House defeated, 264-164, a Republican amendment to HR 800 (above) outlawing 'salting,' the practice of pro-union workers joining a company payroll mainly to organize a union or, failing that, to generate unfair-labor charges.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Castle, Dent and Pitts.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
Yep, this was a pretty brainless amendment also (and kudos to Chris Smith on all three votes, as well as LoBiondo and Saxton - God, I wish Smith weren't such a rabid anti-choicer, because he does other good things).

This link provides more, particularly this excerpt…

The employers will argue that by salting, unions are being "deceitful". Nothing could be further from the truth. Employers are always spying on their workers (even to the point of hiring specialists to pose as difficult "customers" in order to "test" a worker's "loyalty" to the company, or encouraging favoritism by having one worker spy on another). Because the employing class has a well documented history of using deceitful tactics (including lies and intimidation) to undermine (legally protected) union organizing efforts by workers, salting is how workers can fight back against repressive and often illegal union busting tactics.
Besides, even if this amendment had passed somehow, how do you “outlaw” the practice of “salting”? If someone were to be hired but had no prior union affiliation, but then somehow acquired it after hire for the purposes of organizing a union where none existed before, could the employer then terminate this person, charging they were a “salt” without providing proof?


Cargo scanning. Senators killed, 58-38, a bid to set a five-year deadline for the Department of Homeland Security to achieve 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound maritime cargo for weapons. The amendment was offered to a pending bill (S 4) implementing several recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

A yes vote was to kill the amendment.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Bob Casey Jr. (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
For someone who has rightly advocated so much for cargo screening via rail (near the bottom of this linked article), I am baffled as to why Carper would vote against the same thing for cargo shipped over water. I can’t determine a reason for this at the moment.

This week, the House took up committee budgets and bills on safe drinking water; the Senate continued to debate the bill implementing 9/11 Commission recommendations.

What Other Answer Is There?

Of course Newt Gingrich was diddling around with the woman who would become his third wife while he was still married to his second wife who was recovering from cancer.

Of course Gingrich was pontificating about how terrible it was that Clinton was receiving extra-marital favors from a White House intern while he was stepping out in his sick second wife, and deciding to end his marriage to her (Marianne) by notifying her in a phone call to her mother’s house (he wasn’t even man enough to say something like that face to face).

Why should we all be so silly as to assume that the Repugs would follow rules of behavior themselves that they will gladly shout out that others should adhere to?

Maybe I’m being unduly personal here (even though this is all documented elsewhere), but Gingrich is a singularly detestable individual, party because he did nothing but yap at Clinton as long as he took up space in Congress (and he actually pretends now to be some sage about the state of our country). And despite everything Clinton accomplished, we will never know what more he could have done had not Gingrich, Bob Dole and others made it their business to drag him down every way possible (to say nothing of supporting Ken Starr and his witch hunts).

Thanks to these Repug cretins, all many people will know of Clinton is that he did wrong by receiving a blow job from Monica Whatsername.

And now, nine years after the affair with the woman who would become his third wife took place, Gingrich admits that the “honest answer” to the question about his infidelity would be “yes.”

So, between this latest Newt revelation and the divorces of McCain and Giuliani, which party is the one that espouses “family values” again?

(And speaking of Rudy, I'm sure "America's Mayor" will need a heck of a slick new PR campaign to offset this one.)

More On “The Department Of Injustice”

Paul Krugman today in the New York Times…

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 373 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.
Krugman’s article notes that the eternal Molly Ivins reported on a phenomenon in Texas during the Rove days whereby candidates he supported seemed to benefit from conveniently timed federal investigations, involving allegations that often disappeared after election day.

It’s all politics, politics, politics with these people at the expense of everything else (though Abu Gonzales is apparently taking heat over the fired prosecutors, based on this story).

Novakula Spins The Libby Verdict

In today’s Bucks County Courier Times, Robert Novak blames the jury in the “Scooter” Libby case (and by the way, I’m sure Libby just loves the fact that he has been tarred with this dippy nickname by the head of an administration that may end up sending him to jail for a spell, barring a successful appeal or a pardon of course, which Novak also argues for here)…

While my column on Wilson’s mission triggered Libby’s misery, I played but a minor role in his trial. Subpoenaed by his defense team, I testified that I had phoned him in reporting the Wilson column and that he had said nothing about Wilson’s wife. Other journalists said the same thing under oath, but we apparently made no impression on the jury.
(Novak states in the column that he learned about Valerie Plame from Richard Armitage, with Novak alleging that Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the trial, already knew that. And as I've said before, I think the fact that Armitage, formerly of the State Department, knew this - assuming that's true, of course - doesn't say much about how Bushco treats the identity of its spies...I mean, it bungles everything else, so why should this be different?)

The issue of what Libby told the journalists isn’t the most important one here, actually. The issue of what Libby was told for the journalists (and more importantly, by whom) is the most important. And this is where Libby slipped up the most, as noted here.

(Denis) Collins, a journalist who has written for The Washington Post and other newspapers -- and is author of the 2004 book, "Spying: The Secret History of History" -- described the jury's painstaking deliberations. He said there were several "managerial types" on the jury and they spent many days just assembling post-it notes in some kind or "buildings blocks" fashion. They did not take an immediately straw vote.

"What we came up with from that," he said, "was that Libby was told about Mrs. Wilson [Valerie Plame] nine times" in that time period. "We believed he DID have a bad memory," he said, "but it seemed very unlikely he would not remember about being told about Mrs. Wilson" so many times. ... Hard to believe he would remember on Tuesday and forget on Thursday," and so on.

He said they failed to convict Libby on the Matt Cooper charge, feeling it was pretty much one man's word against the others, especially since Cooper had no notes.

He said that politics played no role in the verdict, and claimed most jurors didn't know how others felt politically.

"The primary thing which convinced us on most of the accounts was the conversation ... the alleged conversation ... with Tim Russert," he said.
And as this Source Watch link notes, Libby testified that he was told about Valerie Plame by Tim Russert, with Russert testifying under oath that he didn’t tell Libby.

That is a big reason why Libby was convicted, Novak. The jury on this trial was pretty smart; don’t try to imply that they were stupid.

And speaking of right-wing hacks (which Novak is first and foremost even though he does a bit of homework on his stories from time to time), concerning the Libby case, the only thing here that is “smelly” is the notion that Fox has any disposition towards legitimate journalism at all, and that goes for John (“Barack Obama Attended A Terrorist Madrassa”) Gibson in a big way (Gibson also alleges that Denis Collins was some sort of a “plant” on Libby’s jury…too funny).

Dubya Should Mayan His Own Business

I think our friends in Central America may be onto something with this one…

Mayan priests (in Guatemala) will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

"That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture," Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, said Thursday.
I’ve heard of locals performing purification rituals at sites before presidents visit, but never after.

Maybe Congress can appropriate money for a special Presidential Purification Squad to follow Dubya and cast out any bad karma created by our red-state leader, equipped with incense to be burned at the site of his most recent photo-op, floral petals to be tossed onto the path upon which Dubya once trod, and a chorus of singers chanting odes invoking a harmonic convergence of deities to bless those who have been inflicted by this pestilence of an administration (which would include the entire world, I suppose).

Geez, between this and the controversy over his proposed library at SMU, how much can one leader with the lowest approval rating since Harry Truman actually take (and I wonder whether "a speck" exceeds the statistical margin for error in the poll)?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thursday Videos

I should have pointed out earlier that today (yesterday?) was "International Women's Day," so the least I can do is present appropriate videos:

Dusty Springfield ("Son Of A Preacher Man," from 1968 - God rest her)...

...Sheryl Crow ("If It Makes You Happy" - interesting concept, catching Sheryl on the rebound, apparently)...

...Sam Phillips ("I Need Love" - they don't have to keep displaying the legend for this one over and over; we get it, OK?)...

...and Bonnie Raitt with Aretha Franklin ("Since You've Been Gone").

My God Can Beat Up Your God

This story in USA Today notes that Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, has written a book called Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn't, with Prothero arguing that “everyone needs to grasp Bible basics, as well as the core beliefs, stories, symbols and heroes of other faiths” (maintaining that, as a nation, we don’t).

I absolutely agree.

The problem, though, is that you can’t talk about religion without being categorized as either a born-again fundamentalist who wants to cram the story of Jesus down someone’s throat, or a godless hedonist (read “liberal” to many places in this country) who is automatically going to go to hell for flipping off a motorist on the highway, agreeing with the decision to remove a plaque of The Ten Commandments from the West Chester, PA county courthouse, or purchasing every single episode of “The Sopranos” on DVD (and is that show ever going to come back for what are supposed to be the last eight episodes?).

Update 3/9: OK, April it (and by the way, the people in the New Jersey town who supported turning the show away because it doesn't show Italian Americans in the best light are idiots.)

And that mentality has been enforced throughout our political dialogue on a wide range of issues, from the Repug school voucher scheme, the net effect of which would be to hurt public school funding (choosing between one group of deserving kids in public schools versus another group in parochial schools, which I think is reprehensible), to the role of religion in the political life of this nation in general, helped along in no small part by No Child Left Behind.

And do you really need to know who I blame for that? If you can’t guess, then this story (with the following excerpt) will spell it out…

In both 1995 and 1999 the Ed Department under President Bill Clinton joined with a broad array of public groups and drew up a set of guidelines designed to curb excesses on both sides of the church-school equation. They sought to address both schools so frightened of lawsuits that they squashed legitimate religious expression, and schools that tended to promote religion.

The Clinton guidelines were far from hostile to the place of religion - including student-initiated prayer - in schools. On the contrary, they opened with a quote from Mr. Clinton that affirmed, "I believe that one of the best ways we can help ... schools ... is by supporting students' rights to voluntarily practice their religious beliefs, including prayer in school."

The Bush administration guidelines cover much of the same ground - but with a few significant differences.

One is the way they treat the question of "religious expression" at assemblies. While the Clinton guidelines stressed that "the right of religious expression in school does not include the right to have a 'captive audience' listen," the Bush guidelines draw a different conclusion.

They acknowledge that prayer or religious speech initiated by school officials would be illegal but then assert that "the speech of students who choose to express themselves through religious means such as prayer is not attributable to the state, and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious content."

But that advice is not consistent with some recent court rulings, say legal experts, and could be dangerous for school systems if they assume that by relying on the guidelines they'll be in accord with the law.

"The [Bush] guidelines gloss over some real splits in court readings, and that can really mislead administrators," says Tom Hutton, attorney for the National School Board Association in Alexandria, Va. "Court decisions really vary on these things - notably prayer at graduations."

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, he points out, recently reaffirmed that a school must prevent a captive audience from being exposed to prayer.

"The Bush administration has given a selective slant and then said, 'Now if you don't follow this you won't get funding,' " says Perry Zirkel, professor of law and education at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. "Legally, politically, and morally, they've pushed school administrators out onto a dangerous limb."
All of these shenanigans create hostility to religion and one’s sense of spirituality in general. And when you consider the following excerpt from the USA Today article (which nails all this, as far as I'm concerned), you could wonder how this country, or at least any student of any NCLB-funded educational institution, has any notion of religion at all…

“Religion, like the arts, has become an afterthought in an education climate driven by "the fixation on literacy and numeracy — math and reading," says Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a group critical of the standards-based education movement. "If the ways schools, teachers, principals and superintendents are judged all depend on math and reading scores, that's what you're going to teach," he says.
Do I need to point out the irony of Bushco’s supposed adherence to “moral values” (sold to way too many “sheep” who voted for this in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections) while underfunding religion in its own education initiative?

This isn’t about teaching of a particular religion, by the way. It’s about learning mythological concepts of other religions as well as your own.

See, that way, we can do better as a country of understanding other cultures and civilizations so we don’t – oh, I don’t know – shall we say, accidentally go into a country to start a war looking for weapons that didn’t exist, maybe?

And finally, on the subject of religion, I noted this story of Jimmy Carter defending his most recent book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’ve kept out of this because, as nearly as I can tell, Carter is guilty of errors by omission and commission in the book, and I’m very sorry to point that out because Carter is truly a great humanitarian, a president who has accomplished what is easily the most remarkable period of post-presidential accomplishment of any other.

That is why I was so thoroughly repulsed by this excerpt from the story…

"We were trying to tell Carter his lies are not helpful," a local rabbi, Shmuel Herzfeld, said afterward. "It is very clear the lies are malicious, and it raises issues what his motives are," Herzfeld said.

"I believe Jimmy Carter is an anti-Semite and his intention is to hurt Jewish people," Herzfeld, the rabbi at Ohev Sholom, said in an interview.
As I tried to point out above, Bushco’s own brand of religious intolerance and polarization has done more to stifle true religious understanding in this country now than at any prior time that I can recall.

And Rabbi Herzfeld’s remarks demonstrate religious intolerance also. That is why he should apologize for these shameful words immediately, and for the entire world to see.

Dubya Would Get The Last Laugh

And knowing The Decider, that may be a literal way to put it as opposed to merely a figurative one.

For reasons that are probably too numerous to list here, I support California Rep. Maxine Waters and the Out of Iraq Caucus’s call for supplemental troop funding on condition of an exit by our troops on December 31st of this year, and I categorically reject the legislation on Iraq proposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats (one reason is the “waiver” provision, and at this point, Dubya deserves a “waiver” for absolutely nothing).

Another reason I do want to point out, though, is that, if the Pelosi/Obey/Murtha legislation is passed (and Repugs in the House will have to join in, and though I wish that would happen, I don’t think it will because most of the Repugs still – unbelievably, at this point – consider themselves tethered to Dubya on Iraq), and makes it through the Senate (where all Dem-sponsored legislation thus far has died anyway), and somehow isn’t vetoed by President Brainless, then it will have given Dubya an “escape hatch” all the same.

It will ensure our military presence in Iraq quite likely (for all intents and purposes) though the end of Dubya’s nightmare of a presidency. The "fall of 2008" deadline means he would be able to start washing his hands of the matter, so to speak, immediately after the November 2008 election results.

One of the reasons why this is bad is that George W. Bush must be forced, at long last, to start acting like a president for a change (I’d settle for acting like a grownup at this point) and face the consequences of his actions without the benefit of our military, which he can continue to sacrifice with impunity, and the “fall of 2008” resolution would not do that; the supplemental troop funding request by Waters and the Out Of Iraq caucus, though, would force Dubya, at long last, to exercise the “surge in diplomacy” that has been called for for so long by Patrick Murphy, among others, from December 31st through January 20, 2009, the day this pretender finally is gone (barring impeachment, of course).

Putting aside the primary consideration of the safety and preparedness of our troops, calling for a December 31st exit would force Dubya to exercise something like diplomacy instead of his cowardly saber-rattling, requiring that other people fight, suffer, struggle and die for his own incompetence. He would be forced to “work without a net” in an attempt to end the Iraq carnage and face the hideous reality for which he bears primary responsibility.

But of course, people have covered for this man for his entire life, and I sadly expect this case to be no different.

Update: The "three percent non-solution," if you will...

Military Death, Political Exploitation

After reading this story, I regret that I did not spend more time going after Jim Gerlach in the 6th U.S. House Congressional District campaign in which he successfully defended his seat against Lois Murphy.

Gerlach and fellow Repug Arlen Specter are now lobbying VA Secretary Jim Nicholson to change the site of the proposed veterans’ cemetery from Dolington Farms in Bucks County to the Pennhurst State School and Hospital Site in Gerlach’s district.

Gerlach and Specter profess to be disappointed by the slow pace of the legal activity involving Toll Brothers Inc., which own the land at the Bucks County site (and the Inquirer, of course, which the paper notes), and other parties, with Gerlach adding that the Pennhurst site in East Vincent Township is an option “that (isn’t) going to be available forever.”

However (as noted in the story)…

The revised Pennhurst proposal eliminates an area that contains many old buildings that the VA would have had to pay to demolish and then clean up the underlying contamination, said Joanne Phillips, director of real estate for DGS.

The buildings and their demolition are included in an agreement of sale for 108 acres that the department signed with a developer, Pennhurst Associates. Phillips said the agreement called for the developer to secure subdivision approval from the township by this fall or the agreement would be canceled.

She said the higher asking price also was necessitated by increased construction costs for a new armory and a personal-care addition to a veterans' home on the site.
But, dear reader, you and I know what’s really going on here; base politics, pure and simple.

If Mikey Fitzpatrick had been re-elected last year, I guarantee you that there is no way that this discussion would even be taking place. No way whatsoever.

However, since Patrick Murphy, a Democrat, is now our U.S. House representative, this gives Gerlach an opportunity for one-upsmanship and the possibility of delivering the cemetery (along with the more costly cleanup and site additions). And with Repug Monkey Boy Arlen along for the ride in the Senate, that gives Gerlach even more clout on the issue.

Though this is a cheap political trick, I grudgingly admit that this reveals some canny political instincts on Gerlach’s part (who, as I noted earlier, I blew off more or less in the election because I was preoccupied with Joe Pitts, who has a much worse voting record than Gerlach, hard as that is to fathom).

Even though Mikey’s campaign against Patrick last year had its share of lowlights, I’m glad Mikey didn’t try any of the stuff that Gerlach did in his race, most infamously, the dead-of-night robo-calls pretending to represent the Lois Murphy campaign (as far as I know, anyway). And Gerlach can somehow get through to the “God and guns” crowd in his district in a way that Mikey just couldn’t in the 8th (and I actually say that with grudging respect for Fitzpatrick, believe it or not). I seem to recall a T.V. ad with Gerlach in full hunting gear firing a rifle and then turning to the T.V. camera and uttering some typically-RNC-approved put down of Lois that quite probably would not have stood up under a reasonable amount of investigation, though it surely generated an “ooh” and “aah” out of some of Gerlach’s single-brain-celled supporters.

And finally, I send out a great big raspberry to the Inquirer for not even bothering to contact Patrick Murphy on this for a quote. At least the Bucks County Courier Times extended that courtesy, with Adam Abrams, Patrick’s communications director, expressing hope that the impasse with the Bucks County site can be resolved; since it’s a legal matter at this point, that’s about all he can do (no Courier Times link available yet).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Too Much Reality Again

I’ve been out of the Marvel Comics universe for a little while now, so that’s why I had to brush up a bit on the latest storyline involving Captain America to understand what’s going on and why he has apparently been killed.

The series featuring Captain America and other Marvel Comics superheroes is titled “Civil Wars,” with a split among them all ensuing as a result of required registration with some agency over a catastrophe; one of the legion apparently does something bad by accident and they’re all getting rounded up. From what I can gather, Steve Rogers (the up-until-now-one-and-only Captain America) led the resistance to the superhero registration, but changed his mind before his death (this kind of reminds me of the “cure” in the X Men series).

Is it me, or is a simple contract killing an awfully mundane way to do away with an iconic superhero (of course, knowing these things as I do, I’m sure someone else will carry on in Rogers’ place). Maybe have him go out by rescuing people in a plane or a skyscraper or something.

Or maybe he could go to Iraq and meet his end over there (or is that really too much reality?).

But even though I’m still not sure this was the right thing to do with the character, I give Marvel credit for daring to bring some “shades of gray” to Captain America, which is a good because, if nothing else, it managed to get right-wing pseudo moralist Michael Medved annoyed enough to concoct this piece of drivel (a “deep cultural malaise afflicting the nation on the eve of war,” huh? – perhaps a deeper “malaise” would have saved a few more lives, maybe?).

Walking The Walk

The latest from John Edwards...

The growing scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center has shocked the conscience of this nation. But the national crisis in military and veterans' health care only begins at Walter Reed.

All across this country, far too many of our national heroes are faced with similar nightmarish treatment: filthy living quarters, impenetrable bureaucracy and substandard care. And Veterans Affairs has a backlog of 400,000 unprocessed benefit claims.

Despite all this, President Bush's most recent budget proposal calls for serious cuts to veterans' health care in the years ahead – just as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are causing skyrocketing demand.

We cannot wait until the next election to address this national disgrace. So today, I've launched an urgent petition to Congress, calling on them to do whatever it takes to guarantee the quality care that every single veteran and service member deserves.

Congress is holding hearings on this issue this week and they're carefully gauging the public reaction. It's absolutely critical that we show Congress massive grassroots support for real, system-wide change – right now. Will you add your name today?

Click here.

In the normal game of headline-driven politics, the specific scandal at Walter Reed Medical Center would cause a few high-profile resignations, some very public hand-wringing, and then would fade away – leaving the larger problem untouched.

But it doesn't have to be that way. This week, as Congress holds hearings, we can show them that thousands of their constituents—military and civilian alike—demand nothing less than quality care for every single soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and veteran in this country. They must understand that this scandal will not be over—this crisis will not be resolved—until we have achieved exactly that.

We ask so much of the men and women we send into harm's way. Every single one has volunteered to leave behind family and friends, put their lives at risk, and do whatever it takes to get the job done – all because their country said, "we need you."

It's time to tell our injured soldiers and our veterans that America still needs them. We need them to be healthy enough to care for their families. We need them to be active enough to share their courage and wisdom with future generations. And most of all, we need them to know that we honor their sacrifice – and we will not let them down.

add your name today.


John Edwards
And by the way, kudos to the Edwards campaign for deciding not to participate in the candidates debate sponsored by the Nevada Democratic Party, the one that will supposedly be moderated by Fox “News.”

(Make sure you tune in for "fair and balanced" coverage of the Libby verdict, by the way – I think the screen shot of Brit Hume is pretty funny.)

All Hail Middlebury!

I’m referring to the town in Vermont that voted to impeach both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Middlebury, by the way, is truly a place out of a Norman Rockwell painting, a quaint and scenic little college town nestled amidst both farmland and mountain terrain composed of craft shops, bookstores, small retail businesses and Middlebury College, where program coordinator Ellen McKay proposed the impeachment resolution.

And as you can read here, Middlebury has a lot of company (all places we have traveled to which still would be wonderful even if somehow they were “red” instead of “blue”).

This is just another reason to love the Green Mountain state, though there are many, many more.

NOW Friedman Thinks Dubya Is Crazy?

Talk about taking the scenic route before you find yourself right next door…

We are provided this bit of insight today from the august New York Times columnist concerning Bushco and Iraq (Times Select, of course)…

Mr. Bush summoned the country to D-Day and prepared the Army, the military health system, military industries and the American people for the invasion of Grenada.
This is not new insight for Friedman and should not be surprising at all, especially since he wrote the following in February 2003…

They are gearing up for the rebuilding of Iraq, along the lines of the rebuilding of Germany and Japan after World War II, and the nation is geared up, at best, for the quick and dirty invasion of Grenada.
Still, though, Friedman wrote these now-infamous words in the very same column a little over four years ago…

I think I get this war, and, on balance, I think it is a risk worth taking -- provided we have a country willing to see it through.
"You think you get" this war? Somehow I don't recall, say, Roosevelt describing December 7, 1941 as "a date which will live in infamy," then saying, "I think I get World War II."

Please, Friedman, stop trying to blame others in an attempt to deflect blame for your own callous ignorance on our Iraq nightmare.

Please stop now, and for all time.

And one more thing: if the graphic that follows doesn’t provide enough of a reason not to subscribe to Times Select (despite Kristof and Krugman), then I don’t know what does.

An Oily Repug Cuban Adventure

So now U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and House Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) are each planning to reintroduce bills to allow for U.S. oil exploration in Cuba, given that the country could yield an estimated 4.6 million barrels, as noted in this story.

Putting aside the contortions that will likely result from fellow Repugs Mel Martinez and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as well as Dem Robert Menendez of New Jersey (and also putting aside for a moment the rank hypocrisy of sacrificing the embargo, ostensibly a protest against human rights abuses in Cuba, in the name of potential energy industry profit…”it’s money that matters” first and foremost to the Repugs, never forget), I have some questions:

Is this going to effectively end the Cuban embargo, signed into law in 1962? If the answer is no, then how are the sanctions going to be lifted? Will they be lifted only to allow oil industry development (by the way, the Wikipedia article on the sanctions notes that the embargo was relaxed by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which was passed by Congress in October 2000 in response to pressure from farmers and agribusinesses and signed by President Bill Clinton, with the relaxation allowing for the sale of agricultural goods and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian reasons).

And what about the Helms-Burton Act? Will that automatically be repealed?

To refresh your memory, I should point out that the law was sponsored by Repugs Dan Burton in the House (Indiana) and Senator Jesse Helms (Crazyland, otherwise known as North Carolina). The bill had been introduced twice in 1995 and survived two Democratic filibusters, and it probably would not have passed at all had Cuban fighter jets not shot down two private planes operated by a Miami based anti-Castro Cuban refugee support group called Brothers to the Rescue.

Part of the bill provides for compensation to U.S. nationals whose property and assets were seized when Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959 (I think Clinton’s signing of the 2000 bill was a bit of a “do-over” for the mistake of signing Helms-Burton into law).

As Wikipedia also notes (in the article on the embargo overall)…

The Helms-Burton Act has been the target of criticism from Canadian and European governments in particular, who resent the extraterritorial pretensions of a piece of legislation aimed at punishing non-U.S. corporations and non-U.S. investors who have economic interests in Cuba. In the Canadian House of Commons, Helms-Burton was mocked by the introduction of the Godfrey-Milliken Bill, which called for the return of property of United Empire Loyalists seized by the American government as a result of the American Revolution (the bill never became law). Furthermore, the European Parliament in 1996 passed a law making it illegal for EU citizens to obey the Helms-Burton act. This EU law was clearly more symbolic than anything else, but virtually eliminated any weight the act had over EU citizens.
This takes you to information on a bill that was introduced in the 107th Congress that would “sunset” the Helms-Burton Act (no further activity has occurred on the bill since it was introduced).

My concern is this, though: suppose we lift sanctions to drill for oil and are able to negotiate an agreement with Cuba, then do so and find oil on property upon which a Hilton Hotel once sat in the “party on” Batista days of the early to mid-1950s. Under the terms of Helms-Burton, will Exxon Mobil then have to pay Paris Hilton for drilling rights?

(I’ll let you insert your own snark on that one.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Evanescense ("Call Me When You're Sober" - sorry, that might take awhile; I'll be out celebrating the Scooter Libby verdict)...

...Happy Birthday to David Gilmour ("Arnold Layne," with David Bowie)...

...Happy Birthday also to Kiki Dee, singing "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Elton John (a "boomer" thing, I guess - Elton's a good dude, so I'll hold off on any snark here)...

...and Philly local artist John Flynn ("Dover" - as Atrios says, more like this).

Sometimes The Truth Is Costly

Even if Scooter Libby had been acquitted today, I think it still would have been a big deal that firedoglake and not established news organizations (with the possible exception of MSNBC) led the way with their trial coverage. It bears repeating that this was no small accomplishment on the part of these citizen bloggers, and to their credit, they have helped establish a standard for fairness and accuracy that we must all strive to meet as much as we can.

It also says something about how much those in our corporate media had wished this story had gone away since it made them squirm just a little too much, but fortunately for us all, that didn’t happen (witness here and here).

So we can state that reporting on stories of national importance in this country can result in ruffling a few feathers from time to time, or in the case of Judith Miller, a jail sentence (and I know that categorizing Miller’s work as legitimate reporting as opposed to war cheerleading is definitely a stretch).

However, in Russia under Vladimir Putin, reporting on these types of stories can get you killed (as I noted yesterday, there’s a lot to say about this guy, and I’d better get started).

This takes you to a story about Ivan Safronov, a reporter for the Russian daily Kommersant who was investigating a possible arms sale to Syria and Iran via Belarus before he fell to his death from a fifth-story window.

As noted in the story…

Safronov did not say where the warning came from (about a criminal investigation for revealing state secrets), according to Kommersant, but he had repeatedly been questioned in the past by the Federal Security Service or FSB, which suspected him of divulging state secrets in his reports. The FSB is the main successor agency to the KGB.
And Putin is ex-KGB, of course.

The AP story also notes…

Russia has been plagued by attacks on reporters who seek to expose official corruption and other abuses. The problem was highlighted by the October killing of Anna Politkovskaya (pictured), an investigative reporter and a harsh critic of human rights abuses in Chechnya.

A report Tuesday from the Brussels-based International News Safety Institute listed Iraq, Russia and Colombia as the deadliest countries for journalists and their support staff. There were 138 deaths in Iraq over the past decade, 88 in Russia and 72 in Colombia, the report said.
It’s kind of mind boggling to realize that a war zone is the only place where more journalists have been killed than Russia.

And concerning Anna Politkovskaya, she was discussed in an article in The New Yorker in January by Michael Specter called “Why Are Vladimir Putin’s Opponents Dying” which also mentioned Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB colonel and a fierce Putin critic who was murdered via a poisoning last November.

Politkovskaya was a legendary reporter, and Specter’s article notes the following…

In the West, Politkovskaya’s honesty brought her a measure of fame and a string of awards, bestowed at ceremonies in hotel ballrooms from New York to Stockholm. At home, she had none of that. Her excoriations of Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, insured isolation, harassment, and, many predicted, death. “I am a pariah,’’ she wrote in an essay last year. “That is the result of my journalism through the years of the Second Chechen War, and of publishing books abroad about life in Russia.’’

Despite the fact that Politkovskaya was articulate, attractive, and accomplished, she was barred from appearing on television, which is the only way the vast majority of Russians get news. To the degree that a living woman could be airbrushed out of post-Soviet history, she had been. “People call the newspaper and send letters with one and the same question: ‘Why are you writing about this? Why are you scaring us?’ ” she wrote. “ ‘Why do we need to know this?’ ” She provided an answer as much for herself as for any reader: “I’m sure this has to be done, for one simple reason: as contemporaries of this war (in Chechnya), we will be held responsible for it. The classic Soviet excuse of not being there and not taking part in anything personally won’t work. So I want you to know the truth. Then you’ll be free of cynicism.’’

That afternoon (October 7th last year), Politkovskaya drove to a supermarket near her mother’s apartment, on the Frunzenskaya Embankment. Her daughter had planned to meet her there but was delayed. Nonetheless, as a surveillance camera at the store later showed, Politkovskaya was not alone. A young woman and a tall, slender man whose face was obscured by a baseball cap lurked in the aisles as she shopped. When Politkovskaya finished, she drove home in her silver Vaz 2110 and parked a few feet from the entrance to her building. She carried two bags of groceries up to her apartment, on the seventh floor, in the building’s tiny elevator and dropped them at the door. Then she went down to fetch the rest of her parcels. When the elevator opened on the ground floor, her killer was waiting. He shot her four times—the first two bullets piercing her heart and lungs, the third shattering her shoulder, with a force that drove Politkovskaya back into the elevator. He then administered what is referred to in Moscow, where contract killings have become routine, as the kontrolnyi vystrel—the control shot. He fired a bullet into her head from inches away. Then he dropped his weapon, a plastic 9-mm. Makarov pistol whose serial number had been filed away, and slipped into the darkening afternoon.
Specter’s fine article goes on to describe an assortment of threats endured by Politkovskaya via phone calls in the middle of the night, letter and Email threats “all promising the worst,” an attempted poisoning in Beslan, and a murder in 2001 of a woman near her apartment building (with authorities believing the killer had thought she was Politkovskaya, who had fled to Vienna after receiving more threats from accusing a special-services police officer of committing atrocities against civilians).

Here is more of what Politkovskaya endured…

“First they ordered me to stand right in the middle of a torn-up field for more than an hour,’’ she wrote in “A Small Corner of Hell,” describing how she was tortured in 2001 by the Army while reporting in Chechnya. “Hour after hour of interrogation followed. A succession of young officers completely took away my freedom.” The officers constantly reminded her that they answered to Putin alone. She went on:

I was not allowed to make a phone call or walk around, and I was forced to put all my personal belongings on the desk. I choose to omit the nastiest details, since they are completely indecent. . . . From time to time, the zealous young officers were joined by their senior officer, a lieutenant colonel with a swarthy face and dull dark bulging eyes. He would send the youngsters out of the tent, turn on music that he considered romantic and hint at a “favorable outcome” of the affair if I were to comply in certain ways. Between the lieutenant colonel’s visits, the young officers tortured me, skillfully hitting my sore spots. They looked through my children’s pictures, making a point of saying what they would like to do to the kids. This went on for about three hours. Finally the worldly-wise lieutenant colonel, who would boast now and then that he was giving his life for the Motherland, glanced at his watch and said in a businesslike tone, “Let’s go. I’m going to shoot you.”

Politkovskaya was eventually released. Afterward, she came to see Chechnya as a metaphor. “This vicious cycle of widespread lies has been maintained by people who call themselves officers,’’ she wrote. “After this lawlessness, they leave for their homes, all over the country. Chechnya as a mode of thinking, feeling, and acting spreads everywhere like gangrenous cells and turns into a nationwide tragedy, infecting all strata of society.’’

Anna Politkovskaya seemed to draw energy from the public’s indifference. Her pieces could be shrill and polemical, and even those who agreed with her often failed to read them. She didn’t care. “She was on a mission for justice,” Aleksei Simonov, the longtime leader of the Glasnost Defense Fund, told me when we met for a drink at Moscow’s House of Journalists. “Anna was a very peculiar figure in journalism. She was not loved, because she was never part of a team. She was a loner. She could address her best friends in a most rude and dismissive manner if she thought they were wrong about something.’’
The careers of Politkovskaya and other noted Russian journalists developed when they were allowed greater freedom in the late 1980s at the urging of Mikhail Gorbachev, and as a result…

The dull, formulaic journals of Soviet life—Izvestia, Literaturnaya Gazeta, Ogonyok, and Moscow News—suddenly became engrossing. Each morning, huge crowds would gather in Pushkin Square to read the papers, discuss the events of the day, and argue about what might come next. New papers were starting to appear as well; the first, and best, was Nezavisimaya Gazeta. By the end of the decade, the distinctly capitalist business journal Kommersant had also appeared, first weekly, then every day. Although truth, rather than profits, was the priority in that brief, emotional, and highly romantic period, circulations remained large, because people were still hungry for genuine information about their own lives and history.
All of that slowly came to an end, however, as the breakup of the former Soviet Union continued under Gorbachev’s non-Communist successor Boris Yeltsin and prices soared as a result of Yeltsin’s so-called “economic reforms,” with newspapers eventually becoming too expensive. The young journalistic peers of Politkovskaya who had championed Yelstin’s rise overlooked enough of Yeltsin’s flaws to help him get re-elected in 1996 over his Communist rival Gennady Zyuganov. Putin, learning how Russian T.V. could be used to achieve political power from that election, won in 2000, and under his watch, Russian television networks came under the ownership by the state or companies like Gazprom, the hugely powerful Russian oil interest, which ensured that the crusading reporting of the post-Gorbachev days would come crashing to a halt, with only Politkovskaya and a few other truly brave souls carrying on as before.

I realize that there really is no parallel to the pressure faced by journalists and news outlets involved in the Libby trial versus the type faced by Ivan Safronov, Anna Politkovskaya and other reporters in harm’s way in places such as Iraq. But I think anyone who confronts entrenched power, either in the way of a political organization, corporation or another type interest or advocacy group, can look to these brave individuals and commemorate their sacrifice by doing the best work that they can.

Finally, I think this column by Peter Osnos about the Libby trial makes some good points (though I most certainly do not think that "everyone lost"), and I would add that an unintended consequence may be greater scrutiny of bloggers as a result of the great work by firedoglake in this case.

But if that means ensuring the free flow of any type of information at all in an attempt to preserve our government and way of life (avoiding the de-evolution of Vladimir Putin’s Russia in that regard), then I think it will be a small price to pay.

Update 03/06/07: And it's not like we have bragging rights in this country when it comes to press freedom either, as you can see here and here.

I Apologize To Prof. Marcus

I promised that I would have nothing further to say on the controversy concerning the latest attack from Ann Coulter upon John Edwards, but this column from John Cloud in Time screams for a response, partly because I support Edwards (apparently, Cloud has a mixed history with this creature, and I’ll get to that later).

Are straight people allowed to say "faggot"? Are white people allowed to say "nigger"? Generally no. Our unwritten speech codes require that those words be used only by gays and blacks, respectively (black gays can say both).
“Unwritten speech codes”? I would say that simple standards of human decency require that we not hurl insults at each other. And yes, I know that African Americans throw that epithet at each other as a term of familiarity, and that’s their business as far as I’m concerned (and the same with gays). However, if I were to use that language as part of my everyday speech, I would lose my friends and quite probably my job also, to say nothing of maybe estranging family members. I might also get my ass kicked, which isn’t a good thing either.

Which is just as it should be: minorities can reappropriate slurs if it empowers them or even if it just humors them — I think it's funny when fellow gays sarcastically say "Hey faggot" to me. But it wouldn't be so funny if, say, my heterosexual boss said it. Sorry, straight people: you don't get to say "faggot." (I can still be fired for being gay in most U.S. states, so you still have the better end of the bargain.) Speech codes are one of the many social devices that keep us from all murdering each other with our bare hands in the grocery aisle.
So…you just wasted two paragraphs restating the obvious, then? And if someone is “empowered” or “humored” by a slur, than I would call that person a truly pathetic individual.

But speech codes deeply offend conservatives, which is the point Ann Coulter was making when she said this last week: "I was going to have a few comments about the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards. But it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot.'"
Aha, so THAT’s why Cloud mentioned this “speech code” business! I see now. So, then, “speech codes” are just something that other people (re: liberals) are supposed to observe, but not conservatives?

Actually, that makes sense when you consider the death threats and otherwise hateful language employed by conservatives as they ridicule anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

Pretty much everyone in mainstream politics, right and left, then condemned her. Coulter is very good at sparking these controversies. She does it once or twice a year, to the great benefit of her fame and book sales (you can read my fuller take on the last Coulter explosion, regarding 9/11 widows here.
(Sorry, but if Cloud wants a link to his other columns, he'll have to go someplace else).

I wouldn’t look upon anyone that is “very good at sparking these controversies” with any thing other than derision or disgust, and I most certainly do in this case.

Coulter is heterosexual, so I suppose I should condemn her as well.
Her sexuality has nothing whatsoever to do with it (still, please allow me to quote myself here - "eeeaaawwwww!!!"). As I said, we’re talking about merely acting like an adult, which apparently is a concept Coulter is unwilling to grasp.

But note that she was using the word "faggot" with virtual quote marks around it. Surely all of us are allowed to do that — just the way I used the N word in quote marks above.
Coulter's remarks weren't "virtual". Her words were uttered in real time in front of a crowd.

She didn't say "John Edwards is a faggot." She would never say that — not because she respects the rights of gays to full equality before the law (she doesn't) — but because it wouldn't be funny.
There is nothing “funny” about any of this! And she wouldn’t say those words point blank because, in her typically sick, twisted fashion, she had already implied them.

Coulter wants to make people laugh more than anything; she is, as I have argued here, a right-wing ironist and comedienne as much as she is a political commentator.
“Right-wing ironist”? “Comedienne”?

At first I thought Coulter was the only twisted and delusional person here, but I think Cloud officially qualifies also with that observation.

This is obvious if you watch her speak with the sound off — she is smiling or even giggling most of the time; she theatrically rolls her eyes; you can see her pause and toss her hair into a jaunty cant before delivering a punchline.
I am not a psychologist or a life sciences professional, but I’m sure someone familiar with mental illness would observe similar behavior among people with that type of an affliction.

We don't read her body language the way we normally do because the words she is uttering are so peremptory and shocking. If we did, we would put her in the same league as Bill Maher or Jackie Mason, not the dry policy analysts who are sometimes pitted against her on cable-news shows.
That statement is so preposterous that I won’t even respond to it, except to note that I haven’t had an opportunity to watch the new season of “Real Time” yet – I promise to try and find a way to work that in.

I have interviewed both Coulter and Edwards in the past, and I'm pretty sure the attention her comments have drawn pleases both of them, at least a little. (Well, it pleases Ann a great deal; I wonder if she can now charge an extra $5,000 for her next speaking engagement...). Edwards got some free media, his first since the Obama-Clinton standoff began in earnest; he is also using the incident to raise money, something Coulter has noted with glee on her website.
Cloud can click this link to find out how much John Edwards is “pleased” by Coulter’s sick conduct. However, I grudgingly have to admit that Cloud is right about Edwards using this as an excuse to raise money, and to me, that begs the following question: why the hell not? If Coulter is going to be dumb enough to hand this kind of ammunition to Edwards, then I’d be disappointed if he didn’t try to find a way to shoot her with it, so to speak. And though I’m sure Edwards is happy to raise additional funds for the campaign, I’m quite sure he would have been even happier to do it under better circumstances.

I do have one complaint with Coulter's joke: It wasn't that funny. Edwards is many things — a little dull, wrong on Iraq, hopelessly reductive on the economy (there are many more than two Americas). But he doesn't seem the least bit gay to me.
Cloud is entitled to his opinion on the issues versus Edwards, though I realize a substantive debate is too much for him.

Coulter has at least one close gay friend, and when I was reporting my profile of her, she always remembered to ask about my partner at the time. She is always trying to get me to go with her to the Halloween parade in Manhattan's West Village, which is the second gayest event in New York City after the Pride parade. So I'm not sure why she thought it would be funny to target a gay joke at Edwards. But then again she doesn't need her semiannual cadenzas of outrage to be funny: she just needs us to condemn them, louder and louder every time.
I guess, then, that given the fact that Cloud thinks we should condemn Coulter “louder and louder each time,” then she really isn’t funny after all as far as he’s concerned? Or is our justifiable condemnation and outrage irrelevant to Cloud since Coulter is a “right-wing ironist” rebelling against “speech codes,” and all of this is supposed to be just part of her little game?

We know this, and I’m sorry to be taking up more bandwidth again, but it needs to be pointed out as long as we have to do it:

Ann Coulter is a delusional, argumentative psychotic, which places her perfectly amidst the other right-wing shouters all ensconced in The Public Opinion Abattoir Of Low Discourse. And at long last, she is starting to pay something of a price (as noted here, here, and here...Cloud should pay particular attention to this third link).

And previously, Cloud has defended Coulter (here), but apparently turned on her once the heat got to be too much for him (here).

Unfortunately, though, nonsensical columns like this by Cloud are part of Coulter’s “reassimilation” and “reintegration” for appearances’ sake into our corporate media (because, as we know, there is NOTHING these people can say that will truly get them tossed from the party). I heard that Coulter also appeared on “Good Morning, America” today with more mea culpas, no doubt for the same purpose.

Again, I’ll really try to avoid posting about this hateful harpy. For now, though, I’ll just leave you with the sage words of Henry Rollins, who cuts to the chase as usual (careful for the "F" bombs).

Update 3/7/07: Tee, hee, hee...

Say Hello To The Gray Bar Hotel

Yes, I know Scooter Libby’s lawyers are going to appeal this verdict, assuming he isn't granted a new trial (guilty on 4 of 5 counts – the only one he beat was lying to Matt Cooper), but still, kudos to Patrick Fitzgerald and the gang at firedoglake above all others for their coverage.

And when Scooter is eventually handed over to the feds, I’m sure he’ll have time to brush up on his fiction writing also.

Whatever Lula Wants, Lula Gets?

A reference to “Damn Yankees” for the young folk…

Concerning corn versus sugar-based ethanol as an additive to gasoline and an alternative energy source, Dubya needs to protect our corn-producing farmers in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and South Dakota on the one hand.

However, on the other hand, he has to make sure he can keep Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva happy without reducing the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on sugar-based ethanol from that country, keeping our producers happy also.

Still, I think the following from this link is particularly important…

Though corn has broad political support as a feedstock in the United States, it is one of the least efficient sources of ethanol. For example, ethanol yields per acre for French sugar beets and Brazilian sugarcane are roughly double those for American corn.
What do I think?

I think President Brainless will just smile for the cameras, do and say nothing of importance as usual (unless he screws up somehow, which is highly possible) and just punt the whole thing over for Cheney to handle when he gets out of the hospital; “Big Time” will just end up subcontracting everything to Halliburton so they can set up a black market sugar ethanol operation that no one will know about, and cut everyone else out of the picture (except Halliburton’s shareholders, of course).

Remember, you heard it here first!

Update 3/9/07: Dubya's "biofuels buddy"??

And Coulter Poll Results Next Xmas?

Just for fun (don't worry, they fixed it).

Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday Videos

The Arcade Fire ("Wake Up")...

...Happy Birthday to John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Higher Ground" - not sure what's up with the few brief video stoppages)...

...Happy Birthday also to Alan Clark of Dire Straits ("Brothers In Arms")...

...and John Belushi died 25 years ago today, and with that in mind, I now present what may be his signature cinematic moment, from what is, in my mind, quite simply one of the greatest films ever made (and you can read into that whatever you want).

Any Of His Kind Left?

I should say something to note the passing of Thomas Eagleton, the Democratic nominee for vice president on the ticket headed by George McGovern in 1972. He was also elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri in 1968 and served three terms. While serving in the Senate (as noted in this Wikipedia article)…

…Eagleton was active in matters dealing with foreign relations, intelligence, defense, education, health care, and the environment. He was instrumental to the Senate's passage of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and sponsored the amendment that halted the bombing in Cambodia and effectively ended American involvement in the Vietnam War.
The article also notes that Eagleton joined other Missouri Democrats in January 2001 to oppose the confirmation of John “Lost The Senate Seat To A Dead Guy” Ashcroft for U.S. Attorney General. As Eagleton said at the time, “John Danforth would have been my first choice. John Ashcroft would have been my last.”

Eagleton also led a group called “Catholics for Amendment 2” that challenged the opposition of the Catholic Church to stem cell research. The amendment criticized the Church, in part, for using “misinformation, scare tactics and distortions” to oppose the amendment.

But of course, Eagleton will be remembered most because he gave up his spot (or was asked to by McGovern, depending on who you believe) on the Democratic ticket in 1972 because it was revealed that he had been treated for depression, and had received electro-shock therapy as part of the treatment (Jack Anderson’s malicious accusation that Eagleton had a drinking problem, for which Anderson issued a retraction, didn’t help either).

And the Wikipedia article also notes that Eagleton was the victim of a 1980 blackmail attempt by a lawyer and Eagleton’s niece (!), with the money to be turned over to the Church of Scientology.

But as I read about Eagleton, I couldn’t help but think of how, if he were on a presidential ticket today, he may have been able to do the whole talk-show-circuit thing, shed a tear or two in front of Barbara Walters, and ended up using the whole depression controversy to his advantage. And I suppose it’s pretty crass of me to think of a man as honorable as Eagleton apparently was doing something like that (tells you more than a little bit about how politics have degenerated also, I suppose).

Happily for us all, and in particular for Missouri, I believe Eagleton’s legacy of good government will live on in Claire McCaskill, whom Eagleton campaigned for in her win over Jim No-Talent last year.

Good - Send Him To Walter Reed

And make sure he doesn't get any aspirin either.

One War Head Chooses Another

Let me try to get this straight, OK?

So we condemn North Korea’s missile launches and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology (even though Bushco is nuts as far as I’m concerned, AhMADinejad is pretty far gone too…sure the commenter will respond to that with a link to a site with Ahmadinejad’s writings or something), and we condemn Russia’s new militarism spent with that country’s burgeoning oil revenues (have to get around to a post on Putin one of these days – lots of stuff to tie together with this guy), but we tell India that it’s OK to pursue nukes even though they never signed the nonproliferation treaty, and of course we launched a war on a country reputed to have WMD that didn’t (in “State of Denial,” Woodward mentions that a team under “Spider” Marks tasked to find 946 sites, and none were found – and even Rumsfeld eventually admitted to Woodward that no one seriously believed that Iraq had a nuclear capability).

So on top of all of this chaos, what do we do?

Why, we select a design for the first new nuclear missile in over two decades, of course.

(and I’m sure the brand-new “Duck and Cover 2007” training films hidden in legislation funding No Child Left Behind will make their way to our schools shortly…).

And I almost forgot - we mustn't forget our "dear friends" the Chinese either (with a photo of Our Hero also)...

Maybe Chavez Is Right

Before we blow off the leader of Venezuela as some kind of neo-Marxist nut job for claiming that Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is a “professional killer,” let’s take a closer look, OK (and yes, I know Chavez cries about this from time to time to mobilize anti-U.S. sentiment a la Castro).

This takes you to a CounterPunch article describing Negroponte’s role as U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, a time in which (as stated in the article) U.S. aid to Honduras grew from $5 million to $100 million, primarily so the country could be used as a staging ground for the “Contra” forces in the ‘80s which waged war against the Nicaraguan-backed Sandinistas under Daniel Ortega.

As noted in the article…

At the time Mr. Negroponte was in Honduras, Honduras was a military dictatorship. Kidnapping, rape, torture and executions of dissidents was rampant. The military top and middle ranks were U.S-trained at the School of the Americas (SOA), the Harvard version of the CIA, based in Fort Benning, Georgia. According to Human Rights Watch, graduates of the SOA are responsible for the worst human rights abuses and torture of dissidents in Latin America. Some of its 60,000 graduates are notorious Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia and Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, Honduras security police chief and later Honduran top military commander.

In Honduras the army intelligence unit, Battalion 3-16, which was involved in kidnappings, rape, torture and killing of suspected dissidents. In 1995 Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson of The Baltimore Sun unearthed massive and substantiated evidence from various sources pointing the finger at Mr. Negroponte knowledge of the crimes. The reporters also found that hundreds of Hondurans "were kidnapped, tortured and killed in the 1980s by a secret army unit trained and supported by the CIA"(2). Reliable evidence from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Honduras alleged that Negroponte oversaw the expansion of U.S training camp and military base on Honduran territory, where US-trained Contras terrorists, and where the military secretly detained, tortured and executed Honduran suspected dissidents.
And lest anyone think that this was an isolated occurrence, Steven D. at The Booman Tribune wrote this post documenting the relationship between Negroponte and Colonel James Steele, who served as advisor on Iraqi security forces while Negroponte was then U.S. ambassador to that war-ravaged country. The article notes Steele’s association with The Wolf Brigade, a group composed of Shia and Kurdish fighters along with some of Saddam Hussein’s Baathists put together to quell the Sunni insurgency in early 2005.

And a CBS News report in the Booman post dated from October of last year notes a morgue on Kerbala overflowing with dead bodies coming from Baghdad executed by Shiite death squads, with the relatives from the Sunni minority too terrified to claim their dead lest they be targeted also.

I would say that this raises enough questions about Negroponte (and Steele also) for a congressional investigation at the very least. But of course the time for all of this was prior to Negroponte’s confirmation as Deputy Secretary of State.

It is unlikely that this is merely a monstrous set of coincidences, with no evidence linking Negroponte directly to anything while horrendous human rights violations seem to occur in any location where he is appointed to represent this country.

And we are truly foolish if we think this goes unnoticed by the rest of the world, particularly Chavez, who is ascendant among Latin American leaders, like it or not.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday Videos

Dead or Alive ("You Spin Me 'Round Like A Record" - I've had this in my head since we saw the latest funny George Lopez comedy special; tacky clothing, androgynous posing...the lead singer looks like a cross between Boy George and Ricky Ricardo...and head-scratching, "WTF" imagery including the flags)...

...Happy Birthday to Jason Newsted of Metallica ("Nothing Else Matters")...

...Happy Birthday also to Bobby Womack, here performing "The Want Of A Nail" with Todd Rundgren on "Letterman"...

...and Paul Mauriat would have been 82 ("Love Is Blue").