Saturday, March 24, 2007


Like you I'm sure, I get all kinds of interesting and occasionally funny Email, and I think this is too important not to share (we probably know this already; this sounds like it's a couple of months old, but it bears repeating).

This is an interesting perspective on Dubya from Dr. Paul Minot, a psychiatrist in Waterville, Maine:

George Bush's "irrational" consideration of a "surge" in the wake of the Iraq Study Group report -- which apparently defies all credible counsel - has begun to generate speculation regarding his sanity.

References to Bush's "delusions" have appeared in the mainstream media and throughout the blogosphere.

As a psychiatrist, I understandably get concerned when I see clinical terminology bandied about in political discourse, and thought it might be of interest to share a professional perspective on this question. I have a distinct clinical impression that I think explains much of Mr. Bush's visible pathology.

First and foremost, George W. Bush has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What this means, is that he has rather desperate insecurities about himself, and compensates by constructing a grandiose self-image. Most of his relationships are either mirroring relationships -- people who flatter him and reinforce his grandiosity -- or idealized self-objects -- people that he himself thinks a lot of, and hence feels flattered by his association with them. Some likely perform both functions. Hence his weakness for sycophants like Harriet Miers, and powerful personalities like Dick Cheney.

Even as a narcissist, Bush knows he isn't a great intellect, and compensates by dismissing the value of intellect altogether. Hence his disses of Gore's bookishness, and any other intellectual that isn't flattering him. Bush knows that his greatest personal strength is projecting personal affability, and tries to utilize it even in the most inappropriate settings. That's why he gives impromptu backrubs to the German Chancellor in a diplomatic meeting -- he's insecure intellectually, and tries to make everyone into a "buddy" so he can feel more secure.

The most disturbing aspect about narcissists, however, is their pathological inability to empathize with others, with the exception of those who either mirror them, or whom they idealize. Hence Bush's horrifying insensitivity to the Katrina victims, his callous jokes when visiting grievously injured soldiers, and numerous other instances. He simply has no capacity to feel for others in that way.

When LBJ was losing Vietnam, he developed a haunted expression that anybody could recognize as indicative of underlying anguish. For all his faults, you knew he was losing sleep over it. By the same token, we know just as well that Bush isn't losing any sleep over dead American soldiers, to say nothing of dead Iraqis. He didn't exhibit any sign of significant concernuntil his own political popularity was sliding -- because THAT'S something he CAN feel.

Which brings us to his recent "delusion." To be blunt, I don't see any indication that Bush has any sort of psychotic disorder whatsoever. The lapses in reality-testing that he exhibits are the sort that can be readily explained by his characterological insensitivity to the feelings and perceptions of others, due to his persistently self-centered frame of reference.

Mr. Bush knows that things aren't going his way in Iraq, and he knows that it is damaging him politically. He also sees that it is likely to get worse no matter what he does, and in fact it may be a lost cause. However, he recognizes that if he follows the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, that Iraq will almost certainly evolve into a puppet state of Iran, and given his treatment of Iran he will completely lose control of the situation -- and he will be politically discredited for this outcome.

The ONLY chance that he has to avoid this political disaster, and save his political skin, is to hope against hope for "victory" in Iraq. Advancing the "surge" idea offers Bush two political advantages over following the ISG recommendations. One is that if it is implemented, maybe, just maybe, he can pull out some sort of nominal "victory" out of the situation. The chances are exceedingly slim, granted, but slim is better to him than the alternative (none).

Alternately, if the "surge" is politically rejected,he gains some political cover, so when things inevitably go bad, he can say "I told you so" and blame the "surrender monkeys" for the outcome. Most people probably won't buy it, but some (his core base) will.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking -- is George Bush willing to risk the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands more American soldiers, on an outside chance to save his political skin, in a half-baked plan that even he knows probably won't work at all? Yes, he is. Because George Bush is that narcissistic, that desperate, and yes, that sociopathic as well.

Especially interesting about Mr. Bush, but quite common, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is frequently associated with alcoholism. The insufferable "holier than thou" attitude associated with "Dry Drunk Syndrome" is indicative of underlying narcissism.

Also, the way that Bush embraces Christianity is characteristically narcissistic. Rather than incorporating the lessons of humility and empathy modeled by Jesus, Bush uses his Christian faith to reinforce his grandiosity. Jesus is his powerful ally, his idealized "buddy" who gives a rubber stamp to anything he thinks.

Finally -- and this will sound VERY familiar to many readers -- those persons with NPD are notoriously unable to say they're sorry. Admitting error is fundamentally incompatible with their precarious efforts to maintain their sense of order. Anyone having this particular character flaw almost certainly has NPD.
And as if by magic, Dubya provides the folllowing additional evidence here.

And by the way, speaking of President Brainless, Bill Maher lowered the boom on him and Darth Cheney last night over the Valerie Plame scandal (definitely should give the show another shot because of this, courtesy of the blogger Rising Hegemon - it leads into Maher's "Last Word")...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Videos

Matchbox Twenty ("3 AM")...

Happy belated birthdays to Roger Hodgson and also to Dougie Thomson of Supertramp ("It's Raining Again")...

...and as a tribute to filmmaker Saul Swimmer ("The Concert For Bangla Desh") who died earlier this month, here is the film's rockin' title track performed by George Harrison and the band, along with the end credits (and good luck with the trial, Phil, you nut case).

Make A Date Next Wednesday

The latest from John Edwards...

Dear fellow Edwards supporter,

First off, John, Elizabeth and all of us on the team have been deeply moved by the outpouring of good wishes following yesterday's announcement. It's good to know how many of you share John and Elizabeth's commitment to keep this campaign going strong.

And the campaign is going strong. Hundreds of our fellow Edwards enthusiasts have signed up to open their doors for the first ever National John Edwards House Party day. We have parties planned in all 50 states. Now, all we need is you—and your friends.

Next Wednesday, March 28th, join us at a John Edwards House Party near you. We'll be gathering in living rooms coast to coast to watch a powerful new video, talk with John live on the phone, and meet with fellow supporters to discuss the issues and plan what's next.

To find and R.S.V.P. for a party near you, just click

But here's the key thing: Bring people with you!

This early in the race, I'll bet you can name at least three people off the top of your head who share our values, but are still looking to learn more before they commit to a candidate. Well, there's no better way to show those folks what John Edwards and this campaign are all about—bring friends with you to a local house party. Don't miss this golden opportunity to introduce John Edwards.

Also, if you'd rather bring your friends over to your place, you can still sign up to host your own party by clicking here.

Here's one example of what local hosts are saying about Wednesday night's parties:

"We will be watching a video of John and also talking with him on a live conference call. Bring your questions and let's have some fun. You don't have to be a John Edwards supporter to attend. Just bring an open mind and be ready to gather info!"

- Beth M. from Tallahassee
These John Edwards House Parties promise to be a hugely important way to help our campaign. But they are also something more.

We're not only building a network of supporters strong enough to elect John Edwards president—though we are doing that. But we're also building grassroots support for the big goals that make this all so worth doing—things like stopping the war in Iraq, true universal health care, ending poverty and strengthening the middle class, and a bold plan to halt global warming.

By spreading the word about John's bold proposals, we're showing it's truly possible to achieve these great dreams. And once we've done that, voters will never accept anything less. In short, we're raising the bar for America, and we're changing the game.

It all begins by finding, attending, and bringing some friends to a house party Wednesday night. Just click below to find a party near you, sign up to attend, and invite your friends to come along:

Click here.

Thanks for all that you do,

Ben Brandzel
John Edwards for President

P.S. - A strong showing in our first quarter fundraising is critical to demonstrating our campaign's grassroots strength. The quarter ends next Saturday.

Please, contribute what you can today.
To learn more, click here.

Robot Tom Fluffs Waffling John

This appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer last Tuesday.

McCain, why now? He fits the times
By Tom Ridge

Since announcing my support of Sen. John McCain's candidacy for president recently, the most curious question I have received is "why now?"

The simplest answer is "why not now?"

Candidates are beginning to emerge. The '08 gates have opened, and now is the time to help a friend who I believe is the most able, proven leader in our midst to be the next president of the United States.

What compels me to speak out now about the many reasons I believe my friend of 25 years is the right person to lead this country? Because I believe that John McCain's leadership is needed now - more than ever.
By the way, could you imagine the Inquirer allowing, say, former President Bill Clinton to give such a glowing testimonial on behalf of Hillary because of the fact that he’s married to her (I mean, that a more substantive relationship than that between Ridge and McCain I’ll admit, but both are reasons for the type of unsubstantiated flattery shown here)?

No, I can’t either.

As we begin to ask hard questions of those who put forward their credentials for the presidency, it's critically important that those credentials are equal to the challenges and opportunities before us. We need a leader who fits the times, not merely a candidate who thinks it's his or her time to lead.
Hmm, “credentials” to be president; I have to think about this one a bit.

OK, how about this item? Sounds like ol’ red, white and blue When Johnny Comes Marching Home McCain is engaging in just a tad more than a little bit of revisionist history here on North Korea (and properly called on it by John Kerry…Bill Clinton admitted that his framework agreement for North Korea wasn’t perfect, but at least it kept Kim Jong Il from acquiring plutonium, without which he couldn’t build his nukes).

Sounds like, despite his PR, “straight talk” is a “credential” McCain has to work on some more.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, much has changed. We are safer than we have ever been. We are thriving despite those who tried to thwart us. Progress is measurable, but we must make the utmost effort to sustain those successes and build new means to protect and defend the nation and to prosper in a 21st-century world. We must face difficulty as the definition of difficulty continues to change.
By the way, this column is truly representative of Ridge in that it is shallow, uninstructive, and ultimately serves no useful purpose (and you KNOW he has to bring up 9/11, or else he isn't doing his job - so nostalgic for those idiotic color-coded alerts; remember them, boys and girls?).

The challenge of our time, however, is not simply to change, but also to leave nothing to chance. That is particularly true when electing the next president of the United States.

John McCain is well known as the soldier's soldier and the citizen's soldier, whose attention to duty to country is unequalled. We know the mettle of the man who has been tested and has passed the test – as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, as a member of the United States Congress, and as a statesman who engenders the respect of our friends and allies around the world.

I know John as a good friend, but also as an artful leader, a diplomat, a tenacious legislator, a stalwart conservative, an astute negotiator and a consensus-builder. I know that while partisans think in terms of red versus blue, John thinks in terms of red, white and blue. For him, patriotism is not an ideal. It's a verb. It's a way of life. It's John's way of life, one that has never wavered in steadfast determination to defend the security and freedom of the American people.
“Patriotism is a verb?” “Instead of red vs. blue, John thinks red, white and blue?” Geez oh man, let’s put a lid on all of the PR puffery, OK?

Actually, as I slowly ingest all of this helium from Ridge, I realize that he’s trying to portray his friend as his own man, first and foremost. That would be impressive if it were really true.

The problem, of course, is that it isn’t. Check out this list of McCain’s advisers and let me know how many decisions you think McCain is really going to make by himself.

And as you glean over the list of Reagan era hangers-on and various other Repug bottom feeders, pay particular attention to Terry Nelson and wonder why a man of such supposedly high virtue as McCain would allow such a slimy barnacle to run his campaign for him (as noted here).

In my view, the times are calling John McCain forward. They are calling for the man who understands the demands of war, the leader who has long advocated a new strategy in Iraq and repeatedly called for more troops to stabilize the region. They are calling for the senator with the long view, who understands what the consequences of failure in Iraq could mean to us all.
By the way, Gen. John Abizaid publicly disagreed with McCain last October in the plan to send more troops to Iraq, but I realize that you have to put an asterisk next to this, so to speak, because McCain’s plan was later repackaged as “the surge” and sold by Gen. David Petraeus (as Bill Maher has said, you can always count on the Repugs to take a bad idea and advocate for it with a catchy new name; not exactly what he said, but close enough).

And by the way, you can say that McCain was for the position of an easy victory in Iraq before he was against it (as noted here).

The times call for a leader who has fought in the relentless way that only John has fought, to ensure that America has the best equipped and supported military in the world, to ensure that the men and women of our armed forces have the resources and reinforcements they need.
I do not blame McCain personally for this since I don’t believe he would ever want to see our military shortchanged in battle, but the now-happily-departed Repug congress, in which he played a significant role, was responsible for the criminal neglect of our military in this regard.

Our next president must lead as John has led: with the knowledge that, on the home front, security is not a federal effort; it's a national mission, one that requires the active role of federal, state and local authorities.
If McCain loves homeland security so much, then how come the 38 votes against the Homeland Security bill this week (as noted previously) all came from his own party (and though McCain missed this vote, is it really such a stretch to imagine him voting the same way?).

With boundless energy, John has traveled the country to build relationships and communication at all levels. He was of great help to me in pushing forward improvements in commercial aviation, port security and cargo screening. He led the call for comprehensive immigration reform and increased border security. He's worked hard to build bridges to one another and barriers to terrorists.
After reading that paragraph, I would be concerned about this story.

And I’m actually not going to say anything snarky about McCain on immigration, because I think he’s acting relatively sane for a Repug on this issue (as noted here on pg. 2).

Some say timing is everything in life. I am of the view that the life of John McCain and his exemplary record of service have led to this moment. The nation has called him forward to serve before. We must do so again. The times demand it.

That is why there is no better time for me, than now, to ask my fellow citizens to call John McCain forward once again - to serve as president and commander-in-chief.
For the purposes of disclosure, Ridge really should have pointed out that he would have a lot to gain in the event that McCain received the Repug nomination for president, since Ridge has been discussed as a candidate for vice-president if McCain received the top spot on the ticket (as noted here).

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

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (3/23/07)

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.

(By the way, based on how this Congressional session has progressed thus far, I may rename these posts “The ‘Voting No: Joe Pitts’ Show”).


Presidential records. The House passed, 333-93, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 1255) nullifying a 2001 order by President Bush to deny or strictly limit access to presidential and vice presidential papers archived in libraries.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).

Not voting: H. James Saxton (R., N.J.).
So Joe Pitts supports Bushco’s efforts to hide the presidential archives, huh? I can’t think of a word to describe how pathetic this truly is (and it’s bad when I can’t think of a word for something, I’ll admit).

Freedom of information. The House passed, 308-117, and sent to the Senate a bill that would require agencies to be more responsive to requests filed under the 1967 Freedom of Information Act. The bill (HR 1309) gives agencies 20 days to respond to requests and starts a public database to track requests.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts.

Not voting: Saxton.
I have an idea for the residents of the 16th Congressional District in PA; why don’t you all take up a collection and buy a mannequin and have it mechanically rigged to automatically say “no” when the time comes for it to cast a vote? It would function at least as well as Joe Pitts.

Presidential library donors. The House passed, 390-34, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 1254) to require public disclosure of those who contribute more than $200 toward the funding of presidential libraries, which rely on private donations and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to establish.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Not voting: Saxton.
Well, spank me! I checked and this actually ISN’T a typo – Pitts actually voted YES for something! I guess he was just testing us.

Whistle-blowers. The House passed, 331-94, and sent to the Senate a bill to extend whistle-blower protections to civil servants at national security agencies, employees of government contractors, and federal workers who expose the distortion of scientific data for political purposes.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts.

Not voting: Saxton.

Contracts oversight. The House passed, 347-73, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 1362) to tighten federal contracting rules with a focus on the sole-source awards that have figured into allegedly fraudulent contracts for work in Iraq.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts.

Not voting: Saxton.
So…Joe Pitts is against access to presidential and vice-presidential records; he doesn’t support the Freedom of Information Act; he opposes whistle-blower protections to civil servants, national security workers, government employees and contractors; and he opposes tightening federal contractor rules to eliminate more “sole source” awards.

However, he DOES support disclosure of those who donate more than $200 for presidential libraries.

Is this man senile?

(And by the way, if it seems like I’m singling him out, it’s because I can do that since our other area House members are doing such a good job of representing us, as opposed to Pancake Joe, a one-trick pony who will never change.)

Campus military recruiting. The House voted, 309-114, to add language to HR 1362 (above) prohibiting the award of federal contracts to colleges or universities that ban or impede on-campus military recruiting.

A yes vote was to add the prohibition.

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

Voting no: Brady and Fattah.

Not voting: Saxton.
I have a bit of a problem with this, but the House in this congress has done a lot of good so far, so I’m going to look the other way for now; I don’t see why colleges should be punished for not allowing military recruiting on campus, but Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak, for example, are merely being consistent here given their exemplary service records, so this is good politics to not give the Repugs an opportunity to beat them up (and of course, Joe Pitts is ALL OVER something like this).


Iraq troop withdrawal. The Senate defeated, 50-48, a measure (SJ Res 9) to start U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq within four months of enactment. The resolution would have set a goal of completing the pullout of all but a residual American force by March 31, 2008.

A yes vote was to pass the resolution.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
This isn’t the end of it, Arlen, and you know it.

9/11 Commission. The Senate passed, 60-38, a bill to enact several recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and provide federal airport screeners with collective-bargaining rights, but not the right to strike. The bill (S 4) now goes to conference with the House.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for the bill.
By the way, one of the 38 dissenting votes came from Chuck Hagel (never have a doubt about how he will vote despite his public protestations), and I’ll have more to say about another prominent Repug who missed this vote shortly.

This week, the House considered Iraq war funding and troop withdrawals; the Senate debated procedures for appointing U.S. attorneys and possibly take up the 2008 budget resolution.

Welcome To The Dark Ages

After reading this story, I have to admit that I don’t think the South Carolina legislature is going as far as they should.

I mean, if they’re going to behave like a bunch of utterly sexist, intellectual troglodytes, then there is so much more that they can do.

Making a woman seeking an abortion view an ultrasound image of the fetus prior to undergoing the procedure isn’t traumatic enough, I say. If you want to really cause harm, then why don’t you make hear actually wear the ultrasound image after the procedure has been performed?

Better yet, why don’t you set up some sort of a community bulletin board and legally force her to sign her name and post the ultrasound image on the board? That way, those who may miss seeing her as she wears the ultrasound image on her clothing will have an extra opportunity to view the image next to her name.

And if you really want to be thorough about it, you could make her list her phone number on the board also so all of the whacko fundie zealots who actually think this is acceptable legislation for a state government could call her and ridicule her all hours of the day and night.

If the woman chooses to view the ultrasound image, it should be her right. But to compel her to do so is an act of utter sadism.

Pick Up A Gun And Fight, Ferris

The author of the dreck I will comment on shortly should do so, as long as he has seen fit to malign those opposing the war yet again (and I apologize in advance for using a bad word later).

I’ve read awful columns from Philadelphia Inquirer right-wing scold Kevin Ferris for a good while now, and I’ve found him to be disingenuous, propagandistic, and generally quite badly informed, particularly on the matter of the Iraq carnage, on each occasion.

However, I honestly did not find him patently offensive until today.

It bears repeating that there is no attempt at anything approximating journalistic objectivity in his work. None. Hearsay, innuendo, smears, second and third-hand rehashing of long-since-disproven lies are his stock in trade. And I can honestly tell you that, if it weren’t for the prospect of setting off another family argument on the subject, I would surely cancel my subscription to this wretched newspaper over this column.

And by the way, as you read this, please keep in mind that I have found absolutely nothing to indicate that Ferris has ever actually served in the military (this column starts off well, but degenerates quickly).

Making a stand at the Wall

Echoes of the past are heard as vets gather in D.C. to back the troops, oppose war protesters.

Chris Hill visits the Wall every Veterans Day. He follows the path to Panel 4W, Line 36, and stops at the name Curtis R. Smoot. It's the same name on the POW-MIA bracelet Hill has worn for 22 years.

Hill picked up the bracelet at an ROTC recruitment table in high school. He didn't know Smoot, but the bracelet was a poignant reminder of service and sacrifice during Hill's years with the Seventh Infantry Division in the late 1980s.

At Panel 4W, Hill places his hand on the Wall, bows his head, and honors the helicopter crewman who was shot down in 1971, and whose body was never recovered.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is hallowed ground for Hill, made more significant by his first visit right after he enlisted. He was with his dad and uncle, both Vietnam vets. The two older men stood before the Wall on a cold, rainy December afternoon, holding on to each other, weeping.

"That picture's never left my mind," says Hill, now 38.

So when Hill heard about the Wall's being a gathering place for an antiwar protest, he decided he'd be there too - in opposition.

Joining Hill's outrage at what looked like an "occupation" of the Wall were other veterans, military families and their supporters. They worried about vandalism because of the spray-painting of the Capitol steps during a January demonstration.
OK, this is the beginning of the problem here. Does Ferris have any pictures of such an act of vandalism? Any details? Was a report ever filed by Capitol police? Was anyone arrested and accused? Any hearing?

No, of course he doesn’t - Ferris doesn't know about any of that. And this may very well have happened, but there are no details to support the charge. I would like to know this, actually, so I could do what I could to condemn those responsible, since, if this in fact did happen and was perpetrated by anyone protesting the Iraq war, that gives everyone opposing it a bad name (though it really isn’t necessary to ask whether or not that’s what Ferris intended anyway, is it?).

Out of informal talk among local vets groups, and via e-mail and blogs, a national ad hoc group - a Gathering of Eagles ( - and a mission grew:

Show respect for vets of past wars, and the monuments that honor their sacrifices.

Show support for today's troops and their mission.
So basically, this group, according to Ferris, just wants us all to Shut Up And Clap Louder. I see.

No one's free-speech rights would be trampled, but the antiwar protests wouldn't go unanswered.
No, of course free speech rights wouldn’t be trampled. That’s because, with this group trying to silence dissent, free speech wouldn’t exist anyway.

Happy with the turnout and the chance to be heard, the vets and their supporters left last Saturday's gathering feeling the mission was accomplished - even if, at times, it seemed they'd become time travelers.

Jim Kirlin, 60, an investment banker from Medford, was standing with members of Rolling Thunder, the black-leather-jacketed motorcycle club of Vietnam vets. As the protesters marched by on their way to the Pentagon, Kirlin, who saw combat as a Marine rifleman in Vietnam, heard them yell, "Baby killer," "murderer."

"I thought I was back in the '60s," Kirlin said.
More smears. More innuendo. More unsubstantiated charges to go with the alleged graffiti spray painted on the Capitol steps.

This is lazy, disingenuous, utter non-reporting by Ferris, and this is acceptable now, apparently, for the Philadelphia Inquirer, conservative scandal sheet. It is apparently also acceptable to Chris Satullo, the editorial page editor. I suppose it is also acceptable now to Bill Marimow, the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning former staff writer and now managing editor who should resign out of principal over the fact that this kind of copy is apparently acceptable for print, approved of course by Bruce Toll and Brian Tierney of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C.

And by the way, don’t even try to give me that bullshit explanation about how editorial content and news reporting are subject to different standards. Garbage stinks just as badly no matter how you package it.

Another marcher, who looked close to Kirlin's age, came up to the orange snow fence separating the two sides and said: "You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I tell my students that."

That stung, but didn't diminish Kirlin's belief in standing up for fellow vets.
See above.

"We have to show the soldiers that there's enough support to go out and win it," he says, otherwise, "the enemy sees [protests] and it increases their resolve to fight, and weakens our efforts."
By the way, for anyone unfamiliar with the regions of Southeastern PA, South Jersey and northern Delaware, I should point out that Medford, NJ is perhaps the biggest gathering of Repug supporters in this area except for Chester County in PA (just sayin').

For Kathy Mizner, 58, Saturday was a "fantastic day." Mizner's father served in World War II. Her husband was in Vietnam. Her son in Iraq. Like Kirlin, she rode the bus for D.C. that Hill had organized. To get to 30th Street Station for the 6 a.m. departure, she left her home in West Deptford at 4. Mizner is usually "scared to death" to drive on ice- and snow-covered roads, but this was important to her. "We've always been true to the flag and our troops," she says. "That's how I was raised."

"To be with true heroes, the Vietnam vets and the kids in uniform still serving, to give them a kiss and to say, 'God bless' . . . money can't buy the feeling it gave me to do that for them," she says.

As a marshal helping to ensure order, Hill heard plenty of angry exchanges, with neither side holding back. He recalls one protester marching by and yelling, "You don't support the troops!"

The vets fired back: "We are the troops!"

But while the verbal back-and-forth provided the extent of the day's drama, the satisfaction came later. As Hill stood among a group of vets from four wars, one in his 80s, another with five Purple Hearts, he realized the common threads they shared: service, sacrifice, support for one another.

Hill recalls one Vietnam Marine telling the group what he said to his nervous wife on joining the gathering: "I'm getting old. This might be the single most important thing I do with my life. I have to go."

"That summed up my view and the view of everyone with whom I came in contact," Hill says.

Sunday, before heading home to Philadelphia, Hill was back at the Wall. No crowds. No chants. He stood with head bowed, hand on Panel 4W, honoring Curtis R. Smoot, and thousands more.
Here is a link to a story of soldiers opposing the Iraq war from CBS News dated about four weeks ago. Quoted in the story is Army specialist Kevin Torres, who served two tours of duty in Iraq but doesn’t believe the sacrifice is worth it anymore. Also quoted is Sgt. Ronn Cantu who feels the same way.

And by the way, Ferris should pay particular attention to this quote from Sgt. Cantu…

"By volunteering we've done more than about 99 percent of the population. And anybody who joined after 9/11 when the country was at a state of war, it's my opinion that nobody has the right to question that soldier's patriotism, nobody," Cantu replies.
Also noteworthy is this excerpt from the following article in The Nation…

Navy Lieut. Cmdr. Mark Dearden of San Diego, for example, enlisted in 1997 and is still pondering the possibility of a lifetime career. "So this was a very difficult decision for me to come to. I don't take this decision lightly," he says. But after two "tough" deployments in Iraq, Dearden says signing (the Appeal For Redress, a petition to withdraw troops from Iraq) was not only the right thing to do but also gave him personal "closure."

"I'm expressing a right of people in the military to contact their elected representatives, and I have done nothing illegal or disrespectful," Dearden adds.
Also, Ferris and his Repug acolytes had better read this column from Steven Thomma of McClatchy Newspapers to find out how badly Dubya’s Excellent Iraq Adventure is playing with their core constituency (the six-word lede of Thomma’s story says it all).

It is the right of The Philadelphia Inquirer to publish accounts of Americans honoring the military service of friends, family, and acquaintances, and indeed it is a good thing that they do so. However, that should not be used as an excuse to conjure up speculative faux journalistic adventures in pseudo-reality, as Ferris has done.

You can tell the Inquirer to stop printing Kevin Ferris’s garbage by clicking here, or you can email Chris Satullo directly here and ask him why Kevin Ferris still has a job.

In the meantime, I will prepare for another argument.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thursday Videos

Finger Eleven ("Paralyzer," which poses the musical question, "just how many dancers can you squeeze into a damn music video anyway?")...

...and I absolutely have to include this as a tribute to Calvert DeForest, otherwise known as Larry "Bud" Melman from "Late Night with David Letterman," handing out hot towels at the New York Port Authority bus station.

Would "Intern Blowjobs" Be OK?

By the way, I guess we can all be forgiven, given all of the stuff about Gonzales and the eight fired attorneys (and believe it or not, there is actually one more column on that I intend to respond to, maybe tomorrow), as well as the sad news about the Edwardses, for overlooking the fact that Ken Starr, that absolutely dear man who started out investigating a failed real estate transaction but somehow decided that poking his nose into carnal favors received by Bill Clinton from Monica Whatsername was within the parameters of his original inquiry, has poked his head out from under a fetid, stinky rock to afflict us all one more time.

(God, was that all one sentence? Maybe I need an editor after all!).

It seems that the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case has returned, and in case anyone has forgotten, this is the one in which one-time high-school senior (I hope he’s graduated now, anyway) Joseph Frederick fashioned a sign with this message and showed it while off of school property in 2002 in Juneau, AL.

So how did school principal Deborah Morse respond? By suspending Frederick.

Well, the problem is that 1) We’re talking about a public school here, as opposed to a private school, so it can’t claim any religious affiliation, and 2) As stated in the MSNBC story, there already is a Vietnam War-era legal precedent protecting Frederick’s action, dumb though it may be.

And Starr claimed in the USA Today piece that, instead of being merely a patently stupid high-school prank, Frederick’s little exercise was actually an endorsement for drug use.

Wow, Ken, good luck pulling that stick out one day. Must be jammed up there real tight, if you know what I mean.

And as you read what The Supremes have to say about this, you have Hangin’ Judge J.R. doin’ his typical law and order rap, while David Souter sounds like he can’t imagine how something as innocuous as this has made it all the way to The Show.

But the revelation to me is what sounds like logic from Strip Search Sammy Alito, who worries that finding in favor of Morse and the school would…

“…suppress all sorts of political speech and speech expressing fundamental values of the students, under the banner of getting rid of speech that’s inconsistent with educational missions."
And isn't that just what Bushco wants anyway?

What I’d really like to know, though, is who is paying for all of this legal action on behalf of the school and why they’re making such a big deal out of this absurdity, because if I were a resident of Juneau and found out that I was kicking in anything whatsoever for the court costs, I would be madder than hell.

But of course, this gives Starr more face time, which is paramount for him (as noted here also).

Free Kareem Amer!

I’m sorry I’m at least a month late on this, but though I don’t have much to add concerning the case of Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil, who operated under the alias in the title of this post, I just want to add to the voices calling for his release.

I understand that his imprisonment is somewhat of a cultural issue, and Amer had been arrested previously and was warned against speaking out (as stated in the Wikipedia article), but to me, that does not detract from the fact that this, first and foremost, is a human rights issue.

There have been all kinds of moments throughout history when silence was chosen at the expense of voiced dissent, and innocent people have suffered and even died as a result. This could be one of them (and as I read the Woodward book about Iraq, I’m discovering more moments when Dubya’s loyalists chose to tow the line instead of tell the truth, and the human cost of this folly is almost too horrific to even try to calculate).

Kareem Amer insulted Islam and criticized Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, according to the charges. I don’t know if these were wise courses of action or not, but I don’t think anyone should be forced to size up the ramifications of doing this in their heads before they decide to exercise free speech (and I don’t think they should be imprisoned for speaking out either). As a result, though, he is rotting in jail.

Amnesty International has launched a campaign in support of free speech on the Internet, and to learn more about it, you can read about it in the Guardian story (or you can find out how to help free Kareem Amer here).

I don’t know whether or not our voices can persuade the authorities in Egypt to free Kareem Amer or not, but the minute we decide to shut our mouths in the face of such repression is the day that we hasten the arrival of a similar fate for ourselves.

Boy, That Didn't Take Long! - Update

I guess Jay Carney of Time had this piece about three-quarters done already before John Edwards announced that he would stay in the campaign for the Democratic nomination for president today despite the sad news today that Elizabeth’s cancer has returned, having been diagnosed as malignant.

The personal considerations here are paramount of course and anything political pales in importance, but they must be addressed, especially since Carney has conjured up this piece of fluff in true “concern troll” fashion.

The first two background paragraphs of Carney’s piece are fine, but then comes this…

He (Edwards) clearly meant it to be inspiring, but there is also something discomfiting about that statement (that the campaign “goes on strongly”). Even more discomfiting was Edwards' claim that by soldiering on while his wife has incurable cancer, he would be proving that he could deal with the pressures of being president. I wonder how voters will react to that sentiment.
Gee, I guess we’ll find out about that, won’t we Jay? And then we have this…

Edwards' supporters, and surely many average Americans, have to be wondering at what point the candidate will decide that his duties as husband and father to three children, including a 6 and 8 year old, trump his duty to his country and the cause of winning the White House.
Is it too much to ask of these pundit types that they actually talk to an Edwards supporter and find out whether or not they will continue to support him as a candidate with the prospect of Elizabeth’s illness in the background? I can tell you that my support for Edwards is unequivocal, regardless of these personal circumstances.

Maybe Carney should reacquaint himself with the story of former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas, a Democrat who ran for president in the 1992 primary before losing to Bill Clinton. Tsongas had been diagnosed with cancer in the 1980s before the disease went into remission prior to his run for the presidency (again, not Tsongas’ spouse, but Tsongas himself), but that did not diminish his support among those in his campaign.

But all of this is prologue to Carney’s true caricature of Edwards, as follows…

Edwards is not a conservative or moderate in the mold of Bill Clinton. In the 2008 race, he had positioned himself as the most populist and liberal of the serious contenders for the nomination. In a time of war and terrorist threats abroad, Edwards chose a decidedly domestic, and almost anachronistic, theme around which to build his campaign—the fight to eradicate poverty in America. Will Clinton or Obama take up that banner? Not likely.
Edwards is “the most liberal,” huh? Well, do you want to know something? I think Edwards should take that as a compliment.

It’s true that Edwards returned to the spotlight through his efforts to fight poverty; I’ll grant that to Carney. But again, if Carney is wondering how Edwards would wage the legitimate war on terrorism, all Carney has to do is ask him!

But no, that gives Carney the excuse to paint Edwards as “too liberal” (horrors!).

Carney then goes on to speculate who would be ascendant among Democrats not named Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama should Edwards drop out, and he speculates that Joe Biden or Chris Dodd would benefit (interesting in Dodd’s case, funny in Biden’s). But to truly capture Edwards’ populism, Carney suggests that Al Gore should return to the fray (??).

I respect Gore as much as anyone, and that goes for Dodd as well, somebody else stabbed in the back by Joe Lieberman. But one of the media-concocted charges against Gore in 2000 was that he was somehow stiff and out of touch to the point of being evasive (as rumored by some), so I don’t know what Carney is talking about, unless he’s trying to sucker Gore into a draft campaign so he and his fellow pundit types can ridicule him all over again.

Update: And by the way, here is the latest from John Edwards...

Dear Friend,

Elizabeth and I are so grateful for your prayers and wishes. Your support means a great deal to us during this difficult time.

As you may have heard, yesterday we found out that Elizabeth's breast cancer is back, but confined mainly to her bones. Although this isn't the news we wanted to hear, we are very optimistic. Having been through many struggles together in the past, we know that the key is to keep your head up, keep moving and be strong. And that's exactly what we intend to do.

Elizabeth and I have been married for nearly 30 years and we will be in this every step of the way together. We will keep a positive attitude and always look for the silver lining—that's what we do.

Although the cancer is no longer curable, it is treatable, and many patients in similar circumstances have lived full, energetic lives. We expect nothing less for Elizabeth. She expects to do all the things next week that she did last week.

Our campaign goes on and it goes on strongly. We are so proud of the campaign we are running—a campaign based on ideas and reaching out to people. This campaign is not about me or Elizabeth—it's about all the people we have met these past few years and people like them all across America and the world—people worried about feeding and clothing their kids; people without health care; people facing hardships overseas.

Both of us are committed to this campaign. We're committed to this cause and we're committed to changing this country we love so much.

Thank you again for your support and for standing with us.

John Edwards
To send a note of support to the Edwards family, click here.

Forget The Lawyers - Kill The Pundits

(Note: This is a metaphorical reference and not an actual endorsement of violence, so chill…).

I have to admit that David Brooks provided a unique analysis of the eight U.S. attorney firings today in the New York Times (I may be on this topic most of the day the way things are going), and it is available through Times Select here.

Since I refuse to pay for online editorial content, I can’t grab the entire online version of this screed and refute it point by point. I’ll just note some remarks from Brooks that are particularly astonishing (and like Lou Dobbs did earlier, Brooks is just so shocked that, as an elite god of Pundit Land, he must sully himself with such a seedy partisan exercise).

Brooks starts off on the wrong foot by proclaiming that prosecutors should be “properly political when their choices are influenced by the policy priorities of elected officeholders. If the president thinks prosecutors should spend more time going after terrorists, prosecutors should follow his lead.”

After reading that sentence, I felt relieved that Brooks is merely a media know-it-all as opposed to someone employed in our criminal justice system.

I’ll tell you what; read this post from Josh Marshall on the firings and you’ll understand how nonsensical Brooks’ argument truly is (indeed, the entire “let’s cut out the B.S.” tone of what Marshall says is appropriate as far as I’m concerned.)

Being “properly political” is completely antithetical to enforcing the rule of law. And by saying that Iglesias wasn’t “properly political,” Brooks is parroting the claim of both New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson and especially Sen. Pete Domenici, both of New Mexico, that Iglesias didn’t prosecute alleged voter fraud in that state (and Iglesias provides a resounding defense of his actions here, to accompany Josh Marshall’s fine analysis which he provided above).

Brooks also reminds us of Harry Truman’s effort to block the reappointment of Maurice Milligan, a U.S. attorney investigating the Pendergast political machine in Missouri which greatly helped Truman’s rise to power. In addition to the fact that this is ancient history, it is an inaccurate comparison because Truman was trying to use political leverage to intervene on a congressional matter; the hidden Patriot Act provision allowed Dubya to circumvent Congress altogether in appointing U.S. attorneys. Also, Brooks disingenuously brings us this bit of conjecture:

People of good faith disagree about whether the Clinton administration behaved improperly in firing almost all of the 93 prosecutors it inherited, in the midst of some high-profile and politically troublesome cases.
This is a smear by Brooks, pure and simple. And I’m not going to devote the time or the effort to trying to analyze the circumstances under which all of the U.S. attorneys were removed when Clinton took office; I’ll let the hot-shot New York Times editorialist (who gets paid for this stuff, after all) back up his charge with details, if he can.

And of course, Brooks has to take a shot at the Democrats as Dobbs did earlier, criticizing their “cacophonous demagoguery,” and also at Bushco for its decision to “expend political capital so that his staffers can lie to Congress without legal consequences” (sometimes even Brooks can stumble awkwardly into the truth).

Finally, Brooks criticizes the Justice Department under Abu Gonzales because “they could not articulate the differences between a proper political firing and an improper one,” assuming that there is such a thing as a proper political firing to begin with.

Actually, I take back what I said earlier. I’m glad not only that Brooks is not employed in our criminal justice system (sorry for the double negative); I’m glad he holds no position in government as well.

Try Lemonade Instead Of Lemons, Lou

Putting a bit of a twist on an expression I heard growing up (re: making something good out of something bad)…

There are all kinds of media demagogues and uninformed blowhards out there, particularly from the right-wing echo chamber. There are lefties who I consider to be “out to lunch” also, and under that category I would file Ramsey Clark, who, though I applaud his opposition to the Iraq war, is generally too gonzo for me on a whole host of other issues, particularly on the continued existence of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

However, I think the honor of most disingenuous media personality goes to Lou Dobbs, hands down, since he pretends to be some kind of a centrist, but seems more interested in promoting his own “cult of personality.”

I guess it suits Dobbs to stick his head out of his metaphorical hole every now and then and rail about how terrible everything is, particularly today as he criticizes Abu Gonzales and Dubya for the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys and the Democrats for holding the two of them (as well as Bushco in general) accountable.

Dobbs thinks this is all a waste of time because Gonzales would have to enforce any of the subpoenas refused by Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, or anyone else, with Dobbs wondering why Gonzales would enforce something that would be bound to incriminate him.

That a good point, but it’s not the heart of the matter, and Dobbs knows it. The heart of the matter is trying to determine what investigations were halted by the firings of the attorneys, and even though Congress will probably not be able to resolve this matter (Bushco, as always, being “cagey as a fox” when it comes to the legality of moves like this; if they can’t work a law to suit their ends, they just managed to change the law under the now-happily-departed 109th Repug Congress), Dobbs should applaud Congress for FINALLY exercising its oversight function, not ridicule it. Though I’d like to see this matter remedied correctly, if nothing else, it will turn into fodder to be used by Democrats in the next election; this is as it should be, since the Repugs have spent plenty of time beating up Democrats over imaginary scandals, and they should be forced to face the music over a real one.

Beyond that, I asked a question some months ago about Dobbs, and given his latest rant, I think it’s time to ask it again:

If you profess to despise the Democrats and the Republicans as much as you do, Lou, then why don’t you just climb down off your high horse and form a third party? You have the clout to find people and develop some kind of a grass-roots organization; hell, you’d have people knocking at your door within minutes after you announced something like this.

Try being part of the solution instead of part of the problem for a change.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday Videos

David Gray ("The One I Love")...

...Happy Birthday to Solomon Burke ("Cry To Me" from the Atlantic golden years; video is a photo montage)...

...R.I.P. Luther Ingram ("If Lovin' You Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right")...

...and with all of the computer stuff and other things last weekend, I totally missed the birthday of Nat "King" Cole, who would have been 88 on Saturday (I see his birth year recorded as 1919 more places than not), and when you think of his signature song, what else can it be but his version of "Stardust" (wonderful slide show includes photos from the Hubbell telescope as well as pics of Hoagy Carmichael, the song's composer).

We're With You, In Or Out

What Kos says (let's just say a prayer and hope for the best).

Update 3/22: We'll just grit our teeth, carry on, and see this thing through as far as it goes.

How We Got Here (3/21/07)

I started this a couple of weeks ago, and to follow up, here's more from Bob Woodward’s “State Of Denial,” the third book in his "Bush At War" series (the first post in the series I started is here, the second is here, and the most recent third one is here).

I knew that if I read this book long enough, I would eventually read something that would make me so angry that I would be tempted to throw the damn thing right out the fracking window. And this excerpt was it.

What exactly is wrong? Where do I begin?

Starting out, you have Rumsfeld’s crony Steve Herbits knowing that something is seriously wrong with Their Excellent Iraq Adventure, but afraid to tell The Big Man lest he wither in Rummy’s lethal squinting glare. So what does he do? He runs to two neocon idols, Gingrich and Wolfowitz, for help (have to laugh to keep from crying over Bushco’s original thought to appoint Wolfowitz, a Jew, as viceroy of Iraq, an Arab country, instead of Paul Bremer).

(I should also add parenthetically that, as usual, when Democrats seek help, they often seek other Dems but also some crossover Repugs that you can find from time to time. However, when neocons sense danger, they only seek the company of other neocons, which is frequently the reason why they can’t solve anything, being that they’re all locked into the same mindset.)

And this excerpt will show Gingrich and Wolfowitz doing everything they can except the only thing they should do, and that is let any decisions be guided by input from the military people stuck in this mess and paying the price. And it also shows that politics trumps absolutely everything for these people, which is particularly revolting in this context.

Also, I’m attaching a link to Dubya’s latest absurdity on the attempt by Democrats to craft legislation on Iraq that both funds our military and sets a timetable for ending this mess chiefly for this excerpt…

He delivered a tough message to Democrats, who now control Congress, that he would veto any bill that did not provide "the funds and the flexibility that our troops need to accomplish their mission". Democratic proposals for deadlines for troop withdrawals, he claimed, could be "devastating" for US security and could help al-Qa'eda plan attacks against the US on a scale not seen since September 11.
Please keep in mind that quote from Dubya about deadlines as you read this excerpt.

(pp. 250-251)

September 2003

Steve Herbits, still Rumsfeld’s unofficial eyes and ears at the Pentagon, was regularly in and out of Washington. He was a hawk on the war, a firm believer that invading had been the right thing to do. But (
Paul Bremer), he believed, was not working out. Herbits didn’t think he could effectively go to Rumsfeld about the situation because he knew the secretary was set on a course. But he might listen if Herbits could build pressure from within the Pentagon and from conservative circles in Washington. Distressed at the situation, he reached out to two of the most influential conservatives he knew: Paul Wolfowitz and Newt Gingrich. He had been close to both men for years, but Wolfowitz and Gingrich didn’t know each other very well. The three of us have to get together and talk over dinner, Herbits said.

Herbits made a reservation for a private room at Les Halles, a pricey French restaurant four blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, for Tuesday, September 30, 2003. Wolfowitz and Gingrich were almost on time.

The three chit-chatted briefly, and then Herbits stepped in.

“This is the premise of the meeting. The president is losing the peace. He is not going to get re-elected unless we get this thing straightened out. There are two things which he has to do, and he has to do now, or it’s going to fail. This is the premise, and you guys discuss it,” Herbits said. “Item number one is we have to set a date that we are turning over the government to the Iraqis, and we have to set it now. And I pick June 30, 2004.”

It was an arbitrary date, Herbits acknowledged, but they needed a date before the presidential election. June 30, 2004, seemed about right, being nine months away, and four months before the November election.

“The reason we have to do that,” he said, “is because no one will work towards that date unless the date exists.” Herbits was a process person, and there was no process here. He knew how bureaucracies worked, and why they didn’t. People don’t move unless they have a deadline. A long, indefinite occupation would be a disaster. “The American people won’t tolerate it. Mostly the Iraqis will throw us out before then if we don’t have a date.”

“The second thing I’m arguing is that we have got to put Iraqis in uniform.” Bremer and the Pentagon had announced that month that they envisioned a 40,000-soldier Iraqi army by 2005 or later, with another 146,000 people in the police, the border guards and other security forces. So far, there were only 1,000 would-be soldiers training for the new Iraqi army.

“My idea is 300,000 by June of 2004,” Herbits said, pausing theatrically. “Gentlemen, discuss.”

“You’re completely wrong,” Gingrich said. The election was going to be about the American economy.

No, Herbits said. The economy would be fine. And even if it wasn’t there wasn’t much Bush could do about it. But Iraq was important and it was also something that could be influenced. “I’m looking at the process,” he said. “It’s failing.”

Wolfowitz agreed that the occupation was the wrong approach and started to make a point to Herbits.

“This isn’t about me,” Herbits insisted. “This is about you two discussing it.”

Wolfowitz, a longtime advocate for dissolving the Iraqi army as a critical element of ridding Iraq of the Saddam legacy, reminded them that the army had just disappeared and melted away.

The army dissolving was not our choice, Herbits agreed. But allowing it to stay dissolved was indeed the doing of the United States and Bremer. And that was the mistake that had to be rectified. Iraq had to have an Iraqi army.

Herbits’ final argument was political necessity. “Listen, this president is going to get creamed if you don’t change this.

For more than two hours, Wolfowitz and Gingrich went at it, quoting poetry, studies, historians, Greeks, the moderns. But in the end they agreed with Herbits’ two main points – deadlines had their virtue and something had to be done about an Iraqi army.

At the end of the dinner, both said they would act. Wolfowitz would talk to Rumsfeld and (National Security Adviser Stephen) Hadley. Gingrich was a member of the Defense Policy Board, an outside group that periodically advised Rumsfeld, but his real connection was to Cheney. The two men had first been elected to Congress together in 1978, and had been friends for nearly 25 years. Gingrich said he would go to Cheney and Scooter Libby.
I’m skipping around with the excerpts in non-chronological order I know; I wanted to get to the three big Bremer screwups in Iraq first, but again, I thought this passage revealed so much and undercut Dubya’s non-argument on continuing this war so thoroughly that I decided to mention it now.

The Legend In His Own Mind Speaks

The photo, by the way, represents an ivory tower collapsing, much like the arguments of Victor Davis Hanson in this column.

Recently, several conservative politicians, moralists and evangelicals have been embroiled in scandal. As congressmen, Tom Delay and Duke Cunningham had publicized brushes with ethics laws, while their former colleague Mark Foley and Ted Haggard, who was pastor of a large evangelical church, were implicated in embarrassing sexual affairs.

In the past, scandal has hit other prominent conservative commentators who preach public virtue while indulging their private appetites, whether for gambling, drug use or other vices.
Aw, c’mon Vic, be a guy and send a shout to ol’ Flush Limbore himself on this, willya?

But moralist Republicans don't have the market cornered on hypocrisy. If giving into excess embarrasses some of them, for a number of Democrats — supposedly the party of the people — hypocrisy arises from enjoying elite privileges while alleging that America bestows favors unduly on the few.
Hanson will attempt to back this up in a minute (the operative word being “attempt”).

In today's Roman circus, talking populist while enjoying the high life mixes no better for the left than mouthing old-fashioned virtue and living the low life do for the right.

Billionaire liberal George Soros has harangued the Bush administration for its supposed amorality in Iraq. But he's bought into it — literally. Capitalist profit seems always to trump his loud leftist ideology. That might explain why Soros' management company just purchased nearly 2 million stock shares of Halliburton, the contractor formerly run by hobgoblin to the left Dick Cheney and now demonized by liberals as a war profiteer.

Al Gore has preached to millions about the dangers of climate change caused by profligate carbon emissions. But his mansion and the private jets he has often used burn up far more fossil fuels than what the average citizens whom Gore browbeats to change their wasteful lifestyles consume.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi promised to end the privilege of Republican elites. Well and good. But as speaker of the House, she requested a gas-guzzling outsized jet for her personal trips back to San Francisco — at a cost that far surpassed that accorded to her predecessor.

Presidential candidate John Edwards serially laments the "two Americas," one wealthy, one poor. But this multimillionaire trial lawyer just finished building a new 28,000 square-foot mansion. His palace is beyond the means even of most people belonging to Edwards' rich nation who supposedly benefit at the expense of poorer Americans.
Okaaayyyy….so, I’ll try to summarize here.

Hanson first harangues Tom DeLay (who, by the way, has apparently turned on everyone in his new book – how hilarious that a publisher would actually pay him for the privilege), who was indicted by a Texas grand jury for violating that state’s campaign finance laws in 2005 and resigned from Congress because of his involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal a year later. Hanson then chastises Duke Cunningham, who pled guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion and received a sentence of eight years and four months in prison and an order to pay $1.8 million in restitution last March. Also on Hanson’s nanny-finger-wagging hit list are former House Rep Mark Foley, who sent sexually suggestive messages to congressional pages before he resigned, and evangelical preacher Ted Haggard, who apparently had his own same-gender-related issues along with a certain fondness for methamphetamines.

So who does Hanson offer in comparison?

Billionaire George Soros, who, in Hanson’s myopic eye, is guilty of a similar crime by way of purchasing stock in Halliburton; Al Gore, who responds to typical freeper attacks on his alleged energy misuse here; and Nancy Pelosi, implicated in yet another permutation of the ridiculous claim that she kicked and screamed and stomped her feet for a larger private jet.

Oh, and Hanson also takes this opportunity to slam John Edwards because – horrors, can it be??!! – he built an addition to his mansion!!

So…in response to Republican behavior that is outright or potentially illegal, to say nothing of shamelessly crude at the very least (and I know you have to put an asterisk next to Haggard here since he’s not an elected official), Hanson offers us a billionaire who bought stock in a hopelessly unethical company, a former Vice President falsely accused of inefficient energy use, a sitting House Speaker and her imaginary outburst over a plane, and a former Senator and presidential candidate who renovated his home (and since Hanson has made a big deal out of Edwards’ domestic improvement, I expect that he will provide detailed information on the lodgings of Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich at his earliest opportunity).

Actually, though, since some time has passed between the publication of this Hanson nonsense and my chance to post on it, I should note that a new freeper “scandal” concerning John Edwards has emerged, with Kathleen Parker of the Orlando Sentinel devoting an entire column to it (the sign of a true pro I suppose that she can breath life into such a fantasy).

Does Parker criticize Edwards over his health care plan? No.

Does she take him to task on his call to start bringing our troops out of Iraq? Of course not.

Any mention of the Edwards’ campaign’s decision to purchase carbon offsets for more efficient energy use? Don’t bother to ask.

No, Parker browbeats Edwards here for the unpardonable sin (in her eyes) of fussing with his hair!

And I suppose next week, we’ll be treated to Parker’s revelation that Edwards’ middle name is actually Hussein! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!

Dear God, I hope it doesn’t get any sillier than this, but somehow I suspect it will.

For both liberals and conservatives, the days of the simple-living Harry Truman and clean-living Dwight Eisenhower are apparently long gone — and for two reasons.

First, the country has changed. Globalization, high technology and billions in borrowed money have made Americans in general materially wealthy beyond our parents' wildest imagination.
Dude, try coming down to earth a bit and finding a clue about rising health care and energy costs and the threat to our jobs from offshoring, willya?

All that money and leisure have brought constant temptations for indulgence. For all the rhetoric of "family values" and "two nations," Americans from all walks of life gobble up everything from video games to luxury cars on nearly unlimited easy credit.

Debt, drink, drugs, gambling, lotteries and sex all happen without much restraint or rebuke — and our most prominent are often the most susceptible to these new appetites. In modern American life, "do you own thing" on a charge card is the new national gospel. Despite the nostalgic rhetoric of morality and populism, few Democrats or Republicans have constituents in bib overalls plowing alone till dusk out on the south 40 acres.
Yo, Clem, mosey on down to tha’ Piggly Wiggly and fetch me some more buckshot. Ah think ah see a revenuer on our propertee, or maybe jus’ sum knowitall communist (sorry – columnist).

Second, in our world of celebrity sound bites and media saturation, talk, not reality, is what counts. Multimillionaires lecture us about fairness, while sinners rail about sin. In politics, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each election year on campaigning. Image-makers, pollsters and media advisers shape every election. Fluffy candidates are removed enough from the electorate that the old idea that their own actions should match their rhetoric is seen as hopelessly old-fashioned.

The political leaders of this country are essentially too often homogenous. Republicans may represent constituents of traditional values; Democrats may champion the underprivileged. But their similar lifestyles reflect more a political class's shared privilege than the inherent differences of their respective constituents' beliefs. National figures may talk conservative or liberal, but they both are more likely to act like libertines.
This is all to laugh, ultimately, and instead of continuing to pillory the author for this, I’m just going to turn it over to James Wolcott, a far superior writer to yours truly who puts V.D. Hanson in his place here.

One Tin Soldier

The next time you hear Nebraska Repug Sen. Chuck Hagel speaking out against Bushco on Iraq or siding with the Democrats on a resolution of one type or another opposing the war, remember his vote on the Senate bill Tuesday to strip Dubya of the power to bypass Congress in appointing U.S. attorneys, which was embedded in the Patriot Act last March.

At that time, Hagel voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, which was used to fire the eight U.S. attorneys in question (Carol Lam, David Iglesias, H. E. Cummins III, Paul K. Charlton, John McKay, Kevin V. Ryan, Daniel Bogden, and Margaret Chiara). And yesterday, he was one of the two votes opposing the Senate bill to make Dubya submit his nominees for U.S. attorney to Congress for review (fellow Repug Kit Bond of Missouri was the other). Fortunately, 94 other Senators realized the folly of the Patriot Act provision and moved to correct it.

As a former service person, Hagel knows full well the importance of “talking the talk,” but apparently he needs more guidance when it comes to the “walking the walk” part of the equation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Franz Ferdinand ("Take Me Out")...

...Happy Birthday to drummer Carl Palmer of "Emerson, Lake and..." (here's "Knife-Edge," which is actually edited here - my wife is out of the room, so I can break into the "prog rock" clips; I think the only instrument Keith Emerson didn't play was the orgasmatron :-)...

...Happy Birthday also to SRV's little brother Jimmy Vaughan (this clip is truly amazing; the two of them are each playing a neck on a double-neck guitar performing a guitar improvisation ending with "Pipeline")...

...and in trubute to Stuart Rosenberg, the director of "Cool Hand Luke" who died today, here's the famous scene with Paul Newman and Strother Martin.

Little Ricky "Stops The Presses!"

Many moons ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer unjustly accused Philadelphia City Councilman Frank Rizzo (the son of the former mayor and police commissioner) of using his radio show which used to air on WWDB in these parts for purposes of promoting himself and his favorite issues. I objected in a letter to the Inquirer at the time because nothing could have been further from the truth (we're talking about a period from between 1998-2000 here, by the way). Even though Rizzo is a Republican, he was genuinely trying to provide constituent service.

However, if Rizzo had used the show as his personal squawk box (as his father had done on radio station WHAT some time in the '80s and early '90s - I believe that was the station), then I would have conceded the Inquirer's point.

I'm recalling this bit of history because Inquirer staff writer Amy Worden noted in her column today something I and others had pointed out earlier, namely, that the Inquirer is currently negotiating with Little Ricky Santorum for a twice-monthly column (I guess this makes a weird kind of sense, given the fact that local radio station WBCB grants a forum to Mike Fitzpatrick's former campaign spokesperson Pat Wandling, all the better for kicking off Mikey's '08 campaign, I guess, as I noted).

Well then, my question is this: isn't the Inquirer just recreating its supposed ethical dilemma as stated in the Rizzo case with Little Ricky this time around? Won't Santorum then be granted column space in large part to promote his own pet causes in the event that he runs for office again (and Little Ricky will have the option of going after the PA governor's office, and though Arlen Specter is making noises like he's going to run again in 2010, Santorum could go after that also if Specter decides to bow out).

And I love Editorial Page Editor Chris Satullo's response that he's looking for a "Democratic" columnist along with Santorum. I don't think it's legal to require someone to define their voting preference on condition of tendering employment.

Yes, I know that's snarky, but I'm tired of this stupid notion that you can present someone from the reality perspective and someone from the crazy perspective as mass media "communicators" and thus consider your media entity (newspaper, magazine, radio broadcast, T.V. show, web site, whatever...) as "balanced."

The Inquirer was close to getting it right many years ago in the Rizzo case (but again, though they were right in principle, they were wrong on the issue because, in my experience, councilman-at-large Rizzo is anything but a demagogue). However, they've obviously forgotten that history in the "new dawn" of the Bruce Toll - Brian Tierney era.

The only good thing I can think of about this, though, is that, between Smerky, Ferris, Jonathan Last and now Little Ricky, the Stinky Inky will give me lots of posting material (and on an unrelated note, I plan to be out of sick bay in just a bit and concocting more rambling, confrontational posts shortly).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday Videos

The latest from Ava at Peace Takes Courage (those three words at the end say it all)...

...The Decemberists ("Sixteen Military Wives")...

..."The Invasion Of Iraq"; pictures accompanying "Lives In The Balance" by Jackson Browne...

...and John Flynn ("Dover").

Also, Patrick Murphy offers a moment of silence on the four-year anniversary.

No Snow Job

I try to stay out of Philadelphia politics since there is so much elsewhere to tend to, but this is just too cool (no pun intended, really).

For residents of Philadelphia's 1st District, Democrat Vern Anastasio is here to clean up (well, he brought his shovel anyway, and believe me when I tell you that keeping the streets clear after a snowfall is a big deal for businesses).

Vote Vern for City Council! And thanks to Wookified Productions.

How We Got Here (3/19/07)

I started this a week or so ago, and to follow up, here's more from Bob Woodward’s “State Of Denial,” the third book in his "Bush At War" series (the first post in the series I started is here, and the second is here)...

(pp. 152-153)

The war began on March 19th with a target-of-opportunity strike on Dora Farm, a complex southeast of Baghdad on the bank of the Tigris River, where Saddam was incorrectly thought to be hiding.
Appropriate that this began with a miss as opposed to a hit.

As a pure military operation, the invasion seemed to go astonishingly well. On Day 3, the 3rd Infantry Division was 150 miles into Iraq, and Saddam’s army was either being defeated or dissolving. Still, some of the former Iraqi soldiers were coming back dressed in civilian clothes or in the black-and-white garb of the Saddam Fedayeen, the militia commanded by Saddam’s son Uday. Unprotected Iraqi civilian fighters were throwing themselves on armored formations. Mostly, they were being slaughtered. They tried insane, impossible, suicidal tactics, attacking tanks on foot, or trying to ambush Bradley Fighting Vehicles with small arms.

(Senior Military Intelligence Office Steve) Rotkoff wrote a haiku (as he was in the habit of doing throughout, frequently capturing what was going on better than anyone else, and in fewer words)…

Saddam Fedayeen
Where the hell did they come from?
Everyone missed it

(Maj. Gen James A.) “Spider” Marks concluded that Saddam loyalists were pointing guns at the civilians’ backs: You either attack the Americans or you die right here. The Iraqi people were simply and deeply fearful. A few days after the invasion, Marks, (General David) McKiernan and a couple of others were talking it over with (CIA Director George) Tenet in Kuwait.

“So, what do you think?” Marks asked the CIA director. “You know, these guys are fighting. They’re coming at us.”

“I can’t fucking figure it out,” Tenet said.
(Oh yeah - sorry about the bad word, but it's a direct quote.)

Tenet comes off as sympathetic prior to 9/11 in the book, but he ends up as lost in the Iraq mess as everyone else over time (and certainly not deserving of a medal), though I will give him points for some refreshing candor, so totally atypical for those sorry clowns who have brought us this mess.

Here and here are excellent related posts.