Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Videos

Nickleback ("How You Remind Me")...

...three belated Happy Birthdays: one to Everett Morton of The English Beat ("Save It For Later")...

...also to Anna Ulvaeus of a-ha ("The Sun Always Shines On T.V." - how true, and tres artsy here; I always wondered if lip-synching like that in front of a bunch of mannequins was something of a comment on what the group thought of their audiences, though that would be kind of snotty on their part if it were true)...

...and to Allan Clarke of The Hollies (singing the lead here on "Carrie Anne" from those swinging, Austin-Powers-groovy-baybay sixites - the psychedelia here is a bit annoying, and check out Graham Nash in those funky yellow duds; always had a bit of a soft spot for this tune because I can't remember too many pop songs with a steel drum solo).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thursday Videos

The Tragically Hip ("In View," a fable for our times)...

...and I missed the birthday of Dire Straits' Pick Withers yesterday ("Romeo and Juliet" live).

Paging Bill Donahue

(I should point out, by the way, that posting will be highly sporadic into early next week from this point on.)

Hey, Bill, where are you?

Remember me, by any chance? I’m a Roman Catholic who you pretended to speak for when you screamed bloody murder about Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan working for the John Edwards campaign, you being all upset about some of their language in past blogging that I will admit was a bit inflammatory, though it didn’t condone your self-righteous outrage (to say nothing of the lack of acknowledgement of your own past bad behavior).

Well, now it turns out that Repug presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani supports publicly-funded abortions. And he at least is honest enough to admit it.

So I’ll ask again – where the hell are you anyway? Where is your indignation now, you goddamn hypocrite?

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (4/5/07)

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.


Federal budget. The House approved, 216-210, a five-year Democratic budget (HCR 99) that for 2008 projects $2.9 trillion in spending, a $213 billion deficit, increased domestic spending, and full funding of President Bush's defense budget.
A yes vote was to pass the budget.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Patrick Murphy’s No vote, of course, was the big news last week in these parts. He believed that this budget was still too much of a giveway and that the House had to do more to get its fiscal act together, so to speak. I give him credit for this (I believe there’s a Courier Times link out there somewhere quoting him on this, but I can’t track it down at the moment).

And by the way, as you can see from the vote total, this wasn’t a situation like the ones we encountered during the infamous 109th Congress where Mikey Fitzpatrick would cast a vote against the Repugs to look “independent” while the vote total came out substantially in favor of the legislation anyway. This bill could have easily failed to pass.

I don’t see eye to eye with the “Blue Dog” democrats on some issues (Patrick being a member of that coalition, let’s not forget), but on the budget, I am absolutely on their side in this case.

Also, for more information, Thomas Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste wrote a column that appeared in the New York Times earlier this week, and though I disagree with a few of his designations of “pork” expenditures (Low Income Home Energy Assistance and TSA funding for an explosives detection system are OK by me), I think this is still interesting reading.

U.S. attorneys. The House passed, 329-78, and sent to President Bush a measure that repeals a USA Patriot Act provision used by the administration to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation. The bill (HR 580) closes a loophole central to the ongoing dispute over the administration's firing of U.S. attorneys.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Not voting: Brady.
The news to me here is that Joe Pitts actually voted yes.

Soldiers' treatment. The House passed, 426-0, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 1538) to require the military to improve its care of the wounded by steps such as upgrading outpatient treatment, cutting red tape, and easing patients' transition from Pentagon control to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for the bill except Fattah, who did not vote.
Probably still too busy trying to weasel out of making his financial statements public because his wife is a T.V. anchor and he's running for mayor of Philadelphia (try making sense of that one – I can’t).

Transportation security. The House passed, 299-124, a bill authorizing $7.3 billion over four years mainly for grants to protect mass-transit and inter-city rail and bus systems from terrorist attacks. The bill (HR 1401) now goes to conference with the Senate.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts.

Not voting: Andrews.
I guess, in a perverse way, it’s good to see Pitts return to form. I was getting scared for a minute.


War funding, withdrawal. The Senate passed, 51-47, a bill to appropriate $96 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over six months, $4.3 billion for veterans' care, and $19 billion for domestic programs. The bill (HR 1591) requires the administration to begin U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq within four months of enactment and sets a nonbinding target of March 31, 2008, for redeploying all but a residual force. It now goes to conference with the House.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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.).
Screw you, Arlen.

Farm aid. Senators refused, 74-23, to strip HR 1591 (above) of nonemergency farm spending while keeping $3.7 billion in the bill for emergency crop and livestock aid.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Carper.

Voting no: Biden, Casey, Lautenberg, Menendez and Santorum.
(Uh, Inky, don’t you mean Specter? Little Ricky isn’t in the Senate anymore…smirk).

I’ll try to track down Willie Nelson and ask him to call Carper. Does Delaware’s Lieberman wannabe hate our farmers or something? Why the hell would Carper vote for an amendment to a bill sponsored by Repug Tom Coburn of Oklahoma anyway?

The Senate is now in recess until April 11, and the House until April 16.

Is The Inky Syria-ous?

Apparently, they are, unbelievably (this column appeared today – I didn’t pay much attention to the absurdity of the Prius vs. Hummer column because I was too preoccupied with the following)…

Pelosi was nuts to visit with Assad
By Claudia Rosett

In visiting Syria this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi no doubt meant well. She wants dialogue. As a woman, mother, and now the third-highest-ranking elected official in American politics, she has achieved a great deal in life by talking with people. On this trip she made a point of showing how easy it is to interact with Syrians, with an itinerary that included a visit to a souk in Damascus - where she was photographed holding out her hand while a cheerful vendor gave her some nuts.
Is it my imagination, or is this an incredibly patronizing way to begin a column about what is in essence a diplomatic visit overseas by this country’s first female U.S. House speaker necessitated by the fact that our delusional, narcissistic president refuses to even discuss the Middle East with a “bad guy”?

Well, at least Rosett doesn’t attack Pelosi over the whole “headdress” thing (as noted here, via Atrios).

Rosett’s only goal here is to portray the manner in which she thinks Pelosi is going to get “played” by Assad, which is a tactic typical of freeper propaganda (hence the “nuts” imagery and construction). And the Inquirer dutifully played along of course, with the speaker photographed on the top fold of the front page under the headline, “Pelosi’s Controversial Visit To Syria.”

Unfortunately, that photo-op sums up the best that can be said about Pelosi's trip: Nuts.
How does Rosett know this? Did Pelosi brief her personally? Does Rosett know that Pelosi told President Assad of Syria that she and Congress are committed to working with Dubya against terrorism and that Syria should stay out of Iraq (or at least that is what was reported here)?

Also, the three leading Repug presidential candidates should stop yapping at Pelosi unless they have any better ideas, aside from the typical Repug “stay the course” boilerplate that has accomplished absolutely nothing except to make things worse (Michael Bloomberg of New York criticized Pelosi as well, but at least he was fair enough to criticize the other Repugs who went to Syria also, part of what is noted by Kagro X of The Daily Kos here).

Having done her shopping, Pelosi went on, against the express wishes of the White House, to talk with President Bashar Assad. Perched on pillowed armchairs, chatting away, they provided yet another photo-op - a tableau implying that Assad is no monster, but in many ways a reasonable fellow, just like the rest of us. Pelosi emerged to announce that she had expressed her concerns on various fronts and that Assad is now willing to hold peace talks with Israel.
“Concerns on various fronts,” huh? What journalism school did Rosett graduate from again? That was about as clear as mud (and if there’s something Dubya and his supporters know about, it’s photo ops, of course).

This is not just nutty politics; it is dangerous. For Pelosi, this may count as interaction. But for Assad's regime in Syria, this amounts to chumps on pilgrimage. Damascus is infested by a dynastic tyranny in which "dialogue" serves chiefly as cover for duplicity and terror. These traits are not simply regrettable habits that Assad might be charmed out of. They are big business and prime instruments of power.

The long litany of Syrian depredations includes the long and brutal occupation of Lebanon, Syrian involvement in the brazen car-bombing assassination two years ago of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al- Hariri, and likely Syrian involvement in the continuing series of murders of Lebanese reformers. Syria has been a highway for Hezbollah terrorists trucking weapons from Iran into Lebanon, leading to the war launched by Hezbollah last summer against Israel. Syria provides safety and support for the terrorists of Hamas. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Syria has become a conduit of terrorists inflicting mayhem and murder in Iraq.
Oh, and as we know, Syria is the only country that has ever involved itself in Lebanon, right?

And though Rosett is quite probably correct about Syria’s involvement in the Hariri murder, I don’t recall that Hezbollah started the war with Israel last year, but it was Israel by retaliating for the capture of its soldiers (further, as The Existentialist Cowboy points out here, Israel’s soldiers were captured inside Lebanon, which doesn’t make it a kidnapping at all of course). Try considering all of this the next time someone declares that Hezbollah started the war.

I’m not saying that any one country in that region is perfect. I’m just saying that they all share guilt, though perhaps disproportionately, and should acknowledge it, that’s all.

The real trademarks of Assad's regime are neither the mosques nor the souks (where vendors, when not posing for photo-ops, will on occasion fearfully confide their unhappiness over Assad's repressive policies).
Wow, what great attribution! Yes, I know those people live under the threat of imminent peril, but Rosett could have ID’d these people just a bit better, don’t you think?

The more telling places - which dignitaries such as Pelosi do not get to visit - are institutions such as Syria's Tadmur Prison, a place that Amnesty International has described as "synonymous with brutality, despair and dehumanization." Among the inmates who land there are political dissidents who have defied a regime that for Assad is effectively a lifetime family business.

As with any severely repressive regime, details are hard to come by.
Yep, that’s the case with Guantanamo also, I would say.

The best window we have had came via the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, which brought to light a trove of secret documents showing the extent to which Syria's regime was involved in dirty arms deals and illicit finance. The CIA's chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, in some much-overlooked sections of his famous 2004 report described "high-ranking Syrian government officials" - including members of the Assad clan - heading some of the main Syrian trading companies that helped Saddam clandestinely order military equipment from places such as Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, and negotiate for missiles from North Korea. These, not that smiling nut vendor in the souk, are the Syrians who call the shots.

At this point, after reading these fantastic charges that I’m not going to bother to research, I’m going to take a minute and point out that the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (the group Rosett represents) is a noted freeper think tank that formed after 9/11 (and, as George Carlin might observe, why is it that people from “think tanks” sound like they don’t think at all?). It is run by Clifford May, who regularly inflicts his self-righteous winger blather on readers of the Bucks County Courier Times.

(However, I will point out that the Duelfer 2004 report stated that we were so emphatically wrong about Iraq and its alleged WMD capability that I don’t see where it could be used to support a claim regarding any other charge we could make about alleged rogue states in that area of the world.)

Given all this, I don’t see also why we should take Rosett seriously in the end. Yes, Assad is a truly bad actor who we need to watch, but Rosett and the FDD would just love to scare us all with visions of some worldwide WMD-sounding conspiracy to give us an old-fashioned case of the willies to the point where we all wet the bed at night and pledge our undying loyalty to Great White Father Dubya.

But of course, those days are over, and not a minute too soon. And it would have been nice if the Inquirer had mentioned that the FDD is a group of reactionary freepers, but as I’ve said before, they always identify liberal groups but never conservative ones.

Dignifying Assad with visits, chats and photo-ops is bad policy, whether it comes from America's top Democrat, from Republican congressmen, or from the White House itself. Assad runs the kind of government for which the phrase "regime change" was invented - and however unfashionable that phrase has now become, it is still the only true path to peace in Damascus.
Oh…that’s TOO FUNNY! Rosett sneaks in at the end the mention of “Republican congressmen,” who visited Syria also, but Pelosi is the only one guilty of “nutty politics.”

It is to laugh (and as always, Repug-simpatico chickenhawks cry out for others to fight and die in wars that they, and only they, want to see fought in the first place).

And by the way, on the subject of non-identification of special interest groups in the Inquirer, the paper ran a full-page ad in the “Nation and World” section yesterday from a group identified as “” telling senior citizens not the change the horrendous Medicare Part D drug “benefit.”

The group is, in actuality, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a very powerful drug industry trade group run by former Repug House Rep Billy Tauzin that would like very much to keep Medicare Part D in place as is, if for no other reason than it would prevent the possibility of seniors negotiating for lower drug prices and thus cutting into Big Pharma’s already egregiously obscene profits.

So, it looks like both the Inky and Claudia Rosett have disclosure issues they should identify and resolve if they truly want to be taken seriously.

Update 4/5/07: What Atrios sez (and that goes for Matt "A Lot Of People" Lauer also).

Mikey ’08 Trolls Are Already At Work!

This letter managed to seep its way into the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday (no link available).

I am a resident of Bucks County and a combat veteran. I disagree with the last paragraph of reporter Johanna Neuman's March 25 article, "Bush slams House vote on Iraq exit," in which she describes U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D., Pa.) as an Iraq combat veteran. Congressman Murphy did serve in Iraq, but in no way was he a combat veteran. He served as a lawyer assigned to the 82nd Airborne.

Real combat veterans are truly getting annoyed with our political leaders misleading the public about their military records. I think the time has come for all our leaders to make public their military records once and for all.

Robert E. York
Looks like it’s time to refute more “zombie lies that never die, Bucks County edition” including the one that Patrick Murphy was playing ping pong in a Green Zone PX while he was stationed in Baghdad.

Well, Kevin Treiber did that a couple of months ago much better than I could here, in his response to former Mike Fitzpatrick campaign operative Don Mihalek, and as others have noted, when you’re in the 82nd Airborne, it’s your job to jump out of a helicopter at land in the middle of a firefight to try and clear the way for the next wave of troops (here is a post in a similar vein).

And Robert E. York is being disingenuous in the least to ignore all of this.

A Window On Iraq

The latest from John Edwards...

Today, right now, you and I have the best chance in years to help end the war in Iraq but we must take immediate action.

Here's the situation: Both houses of Congress have voted across party lines to bring our troops home with a plan to fully fund their redeployment and safe return. President Bush has vowed to veto this funding because it hampers his ability to wage endless war—he'd rather block funding for the troops than listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who want the war to end.

Yesterday, Bush called a special press conference and made his strategy crystal clear: veto funding for the troops and then blame Congress for the results. He's betting that Congress will buckle under the pressure and just drop their plan to end the war. We cannot let that happen.

So today, I'm launching an emergency petition to Congress, urging them to stand firm on Iraq. We have to show every senator and representative that their constituents will not be fooled by Bush's ploy—Congress must not abandon the plan to end the war. We're aiming to gather at least 100,000 signatures before the showdown begins after Congress returns to Washington next week. Please add your name today:

Click here.

President Bush's calculation is simple. He knows the people are against him and his occupation is a failure, but because he controls the bully pulpit he thinks he can control the debate. So he'll continue to use the full might of his legendary spin machine to tell the American people that Congress is de-funding the troops, even as he vetos that very funding with his own pen.

As the President of the United States, Bush has a responsibility to the troops, and he has failed this responsibility over and over again. Congress also has a responsibility: To decide how to spend the people's money—and to say when enough is enough.

It's true that Cheney, Rove, and the rest of the president's team are master political calculators—and they do have a head start in shaping the headlines and controlling the spin.

But this is not the time for political calculation. This is the time for political courage.

If Bush vetoes the funding bill, Congress should send it back to him just as before—with a plan to bring the troops home. And if he vetoes it again, they should pass it again. And they should do this as many times as it takes for Bush to understand that the American people will not be bullied into writing another blank check for his war without end.

For years, Bush has abused the rhetoric of patriotism to frighten his opponents and divide our country—we can't let Bush get away with it anymore. When Congress funds the troops with a plan to bring them home, they are supporting the troops. When Bush vetoes that funding, he is responsible for blocking the money the troops depend on—nobody else.

But where will our representatives in Washington find that political courage, in the face of such powerful opposition? They will find it where courage has always been strongest in our nation's most critical moments. They will find it in the voice of the people—they will find it in you.

Will you add your name—your voice—to our call for courage? We're aiming to gather a hundred thousand signatures before Congress returns to Washington, and we can't do it without you. Please sign today:

Click here.

Thank you for standing up,

John Edwards
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

P.S. - Gathering 100,000 voices in the time we have will require all of us taking that extra step. Will you forward this email to friends and family members who also want to end this war, and ask them to join you by signing this petition?

P.P.S. - You can find links to detailed summaries of both the House and Senate funding packages and troop drawdown plan
And by the way, regarding Iraq and other Bushco matters, keep in mind that Marty Seifert, the author of this great quote, is a Republican.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Meet The New Belgian Ambassador

This is another "echo chamber" post, but I believe that there is a time and a place for this sort of thing.

I was going to go off on Dubya's recess appointment of Swift Boat Liar Sam Fox, but as Prof. Marcus notes here, Dubya also gave the same treatment to two other cronies: Susan Dudley and Andrew Biggs, sneaking both in behind Congress's back.

And as Marcus (and Kos) both note, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut isn't going down on this without a fight (good to see that he outraised Biden in the last quarter).

And speaking of Fox (and how could we miss that he would be a friend of Dubya with a last name of "Fox"?), Media Matters has the lowdown on the kid gloves treatment our new ambassador's old organization of liars received from our corporate media recently here.

And thanks also to Prof. Marcus for the bit of animation that truly says it all.

Update 4/5/07: Stuff like this is pretty clear evidence (regarding Fox) that all but one of these guys aren't lawyers, isn't it?

A Gopper On A Chopper?

I posted about this awhile back, but considering this story, it looks like it’s time to do so again.

Maybe in my tawdry, unkempt liberal blogger elitism, there are some things I am just not going to be able to understand, and one of those things is why anyone would ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet.

I mean, I have to buckle my seat belt when I drive along with everyone else, right? Couldn’t I just say to the police officer who pulls me over and writes a ticket that I thought the seat belt impinged on my personal freedom, so I decided not to wear it?

Why do I have to obey the law but motorcycle riders don’t (in PA anyway, and helmet laws have been weakened in 26 other states since 1975, as noted in the USA Today story)?

This gives us more than a hint, I think…

"They're very well organized," (Barbara) Harsha (of the Governors Highway Safety Association) said of the main rider groups — the American Motorcyclist Association, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE), which has state chapters (they advocate to repeal the motorcycle helmet laws). "There isn't a pro-helmet lobby."
That’s right. And I think it’s because the majority of people in this country don’t think a pro-common sense lobby should be necessary (at least we don’t until stories like this come along).

And if a motorcycle rider not wearing a helmet suffers something terrible on the road, then I must tell you that my sympathy only goes so far. I’m sorry for Tim Hardy and his terrible loss (and if he feels he has been wronged in the investigation, then he should talk to a lawyer), but his son chose not to wear the helmet. Nobody commanded him to do that, and I have to dodge the same vehicles motorcycles do.

Also, why did I know that Jim Inhofe was involved in this somehow? As noted below…

When lawmakers in Congress proposed in 2005 that the Department of Transportation conduct and fund the study (regarding motorcycle safety), the American Motorcyclist Association objected.

"We don't want DOT to do the study," association lobbyist Edward Moreland said in a recent interview. "They want to focus on protective equipment" such as helmets. The association wanted "an independent third party" to run the study, Moreland said.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., rewrote the bill to force the DOT to hire the Oklahoma Transportation Center. Inhofe "felt it was the right institution for the project," his spokesman Ryan Thompson said.

Inhofe's change forced the transportation center to find about $2 million on its own to help pay for the study. Without that money, the DOT will not give the center $2 million in federal funds, DOT spokesman Doug Hecox said.

Samir Ahmed, who would lead the study at the Oklahoma center, said he never asked to do the research and didn't know his organization was chosen until the study was approved in August 2005. The chances of the study being done are "at best 50%" because the center cannot find money to pay for the research, Ahmed said.

Ahmed blamed the motorcycle industry, which pledged to pay the matching funds last year but has given no money. "I have been in contact with the industry for almost 10 months to try to get them to pay their share but all that we hear are good words," Ahmed said. "They are just wasting time."

Ahmed said the money for the study is "trivial" compared to motorcycle company profits. Harley-Davidson, which makes half the motorcycles sold in the USA, recently reported a record $1 billion profit on $5.8 billion sales in 2006.
So Inhofe steered the motorcycle safety study to an Oklahoma agency that Inhofe knew would not be able to conduct it because it didn’t have enough money to qualify for matching federal DOT funds?

The man is truly pond scum.

So before I start getting flamed here, let me point out that, just because some person or group shouts louder than anyone, it doesn’t make them right.

And if you involve me in a road accident and you’re not wearing a helmet, expect me to cut you no slack whatsoever.

One more thing (in a strange coincidence, I’ll admit) – today would have been the 59th birthday of a rock n’ roller who met his end in a motorcycle accident.

How We Got Here (4/4/07)

I started this in March, and to follow up, here's more from Bob Woodward’s “State Of Denial,” the third book in his "Bush At War" series.

And to make it easier to go back and read prior posts related to Woodward's book, I set up an index page of sorts here.

As noted in Woodward’s book and elsewhere, Paul Bremer made three horrendous mistakes as soon as he took over as Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq: implementing the broad de-baathification policy, rejecting Jay Garner’s Iraqi council, including members Ayad Allawi and Ibrahim al-Jafari (who eventually ended up on the council anyway despite Bremer), and disbanding the military. This excerpt deals with the last of those screwups.

(pp. 206-207)

In the days after the order disbanding the military, vehicles traveling the road between Baghdad and the airport started coming under attack more regularly. Crowds began to gather to protest the order, although reports differed greatly as to how many people turned out each time. On May 19 (2003), about 500 people demonstrated outside the Coalition Provisional Authority’s gates. A Week later, on May 26, a larger crowd gathered to demonstrate. Some Arab media reports that were later translated and given to Bremer’s team said there were as many as 5,000 protesters.

“We demand the formulation of a government as soon as possible, the restoration of security, rehabilitation of public institutions, and disbursement of the salaries of all military personnel,” said one of the leaders of the protest, an Iraqi major general named Sahib al-Musawi. His speech was carried over the Arabic-language television network Al Jazeera, and later translated for the CPA. “If our demands are not met, next Monday will mark the start of estrangement between the Iraqi army and people on one hand and the occupiers on the other.”

Paul Hughes now had to deal with the former Iraqi officers who wanted their soldiers to be given the $20 emergency payments, but who were now shut out under the Bremer order. Hughes stalled for awhile but finally went to see the officers.

“Colonel Paul, what happened?” asked Mirjan Dhiya, their English-speaking spokesman.

“I don’t know,” Hughes said. “I can’t tell you what happened. I’m as shocked as you are.”

“Colonel Paul, we have men who have families. They have no food. They are running out. We need to do something.”

Hughes finally got
Slocombe’s chief of staff to meet with the former Iraqi military representative. There was still a possibility that they might get the $20 each, but things were moving very slowly.

Garner was out at Baghdad International Airport to meet with a visiting congressional delegation on May 26. He drove back on the BIAP highway in his unarmored Chevy Suburban to the so-called palace where his team had been working, for a little going-away party in his honor. It was a bit of a joke among some of the staffers whether Bremer would show up, but he was there, and was gracious.
(Note: Next time, I’ll have to get into an exchange between Garner and Bremer that was typical of their difficult relationship, for which Bremer was primarily to blame as far as I'm concerned.)

That same day, three American cavalry scouts whose job was to escort or go ahead of convoys of supply trucks were also on the BIAP highway, riding in the first of a team of two armored Humvees. They drove over what looked like a backpack in the middle of the road.

The backpack exploded, tearing into their Humvee and throwing one of the soldiers from the vehicle. Ammunition started to cook off, causing more explosions.

The soldiers in the second Humvee slammed on the brakes and manned their machine gun, looking frantically for the enemy. One soldier got out and ran quickly to the fallen man, Jeremiah D. Smith, a 25-year-old Army private from Missouri, one of the first American soldiers confirmed to have been killed by hostile fire in Iraq for weeks.

Paul Hughes was at the palace at Garner’s farewell party. He heard a report: “We just lost two Humvees on the BIAP highway.”

“I was pissed,” Hughes later recalled. He presumed Iraqi soldiers were behind the attack, and was equally sure that the U.S. had missed its best opportunity to keep the Iraqi army under control by working with the Iraqi generals and colonels. “I had them by their balls. They would have stood on their head in the Tigris River for me as long as we were dealing fairly with each other. It was just so tragic, so needless.”

The next day, one of the U.S. intelligence agents at the palace had a stark, matter-of-fact assessment. “These guys all have munitions in their garages,” He said. “They’re pissed off. This is the beginning.
And of course, when Bremer discusses this now, he shifts the blame in typical Bushco fashion, noting that the de-Baathification order came either directly from the White House or could even have originated from Douglas Feith (please).

One day, college classes in political science and military history will study all the ways that we “fracked” up the Iraq war, and Paul Bremer will figure prominently in those studies for the three unbelievable mistakes he committed as soon as he took over in Iraq.

Mike Chertoff Channels Virgil Goode

(Goode being the Repug U.S. House Rep from Virginia who attacked Dem Rep Keith Ellison of Minnesota because he is a Muslim.)

So, our Homeland Security Secretary tells us that European Muslims could be the next group to attack this country because they’re treated like “second-class citizens” in Europe?

Apparently, Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff didn’t get the memo; the whole “fear and smear” thing is sooo pre-November 2006, if you know what I mean.

Having not lived in Europe, I can’t address the issue of how Muslims are treated in those countries, but wouldn’t it stand to reason then that if they felt oppressed to the point where they would carry out more and more acts of violence, they would do so in Europe since they’re getting oppressed not here, but there?

Nothing like singling out a particular group of people for some “off the cuff” xenophobia, is there? And I have a feeling African Americans would take particular offense to Chertoff’s assumption that all people that “came in as a colonial legacy” would automatically be predisposed to acts of violence.

Also, I found this quote from Chertoff to be somewhat amusing…

"Our Muslim population is better educated and economically better off than the average American," Chertoff told the paper.
Sometimes Chertoff’s remarks are so absurd as to defy any intelligent analysis, and I think this is one of those times.

Leon Panetta, Iraq Hack

This is how the former Clinton Administration chief of staff began his opinion column in the New York Times today…

WHAT has been particularly frustrating about the debate in Washington over Iraq is that everyone seems to be fighting one another and forgetting the fundamental mission of the war.

Whether one is for or against the war, the key to stability is to have an Iraq that, in the words of the president himself, can “govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.” Achieving that goal is largely dependent on the political reforms that Iraqi leaders have promised but failed to put in place in their country.
This is wrong. The “fundamental mission of the war” was to find WMD, which as it turns out, were destroyed sometime after the first Gulf war (and by the way, I’ve reached the point in “State of Denial” where David Kay said that in so many words in early 2004).

Short of that, the “fundamental mission of the war” was to bring something that approximated democracy and self-rule to Iraq (and oh yeah, to free Iraq from a brutal dictator, assuming earlier in the war that our military could just hop around the globe and take out any dictator we didn’t like). So I agree with Panetta somewhat, but what he lists as a fundamental mission has really morphed from a secondary one.

Anyway, in Panetta’s column, he states how important it is that we all work together to bring peace and stability to Iraq, then he cites a list of missed milestones that make it completely clear that peace and stability is nowhere in sight for that country, unfortunately.

And as far as Panetta is concerned, who has the most to lose if we all don’t Just Shut Up And Clap Louder?

Why, the Democrats of course (do you even need to ask?), as witnessed by this quote brought to us by Matt Stoller here…

"Look, the American people expect you to fight for what you believe in," says Leon Panetta, Mr. Clinton's chief of staff in 1995. "But they don't expect you to be stupid about it. If in the end, this is going to hurt our troops, [Democrats] have got to be very careful. There's a point at which they are going to have to compromise."
Typical centrist, accomodationist, triangulationist, Third Way, DLC-approved insider bullshit (sorry for the bad word, but that’s exactly what it is – and by the way, at what point did anyone start taking Harold Ford seriously on foreign policy or anything else for that matter?).

Leon Panetta is not a stupid man, but apparently it is necessary to remind him once again that the vast majority of this country has communicated as clearly as it can that they want our people to start coming home from Iraq sooner than later. And as far as I’m concerned, the fact that that could happen no earlier than next year, depending on the latest moves in this stupid little faceoff Dubya insists on having between himself and Congress, is nothing to celebrate.

What will come to pass in that region of the world will come to pass independent of anything we do. Bushco had its opportunity to make its case for invading Iraq legitimately to the world, and they totally blew it with half-truths and utter lies exacerbated by poor to nonexistent post-invasion planning and the most naïve thinking imaginable.

This country decided long ago that it’s wrong for our fine service people to pay the price for that, making its voice heard loud and clear last November. And it’s a shame that Leon Panetta and his ilk apparently decided not to listen.

And by the way, regarding Dubya’s claim that this delay in funding he has manufactured by refusing to sign off on the Iraq supplemental is jeopardizing training for our active duty forces, I’d like to refresh our memories with this Q&A with Tony Snow (hat tip for the link to BarbinMD at The Daily Kos)…

Q There was also a report this morning that two Army combat brigades are being sent to Iraq without desert training -- the Associated Press has a story out today -- and that it's because they're being rushed to Iraq to help get the surge in place.

MR. SNOW: Again, let me stress, what happens is, a lot of times you will also do training in theaters, as well as equipping in theater. The generals have made it very clear, and military commanders have made it clear, nobody is going to go into combat activity without proper equipment and training. Period. So if things --

Q But the story flatly says that two brigades are going in without desert training in California. So that doesn't sound like --

MR. SNOW: All right, I understand.

Q -- they're getting the training.

MR. SNOW: Well, but they can get desert training elsewhere, like in Iraq.
So it sounds like our people weren’t getting prepared for training anyway, current budget issues notwithstanding.

Yep, just throw them into the muck with no preparation and see if they can manage not to get killed just so a bunch of chickenhawks and military opportunists can pat themselves on the back over “the surge,” right?

Mission Accomplished!

Update: I looked at Panetta's column from one angle, but Prof. Marcus looks at it from the one spelled O-I-L here (easy to forget that that's the one that really matters to these people, unfortunately).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Idlewild ("No Emotion")...

...Happy Birthday to Mel Schacher of Grand Funk Railroad ("Are You Ready" - sort of a home movie-quality video of an outdoor performance back in the days of peace and love, more or less)...

...Happy Birthday also to Melissa Etheridge ("Come To My Window," and I don't know if the other woman is Juliette Lewis, Sandra Bernhard or someone else; please be well, Missy)...

...and finally, a great big, Brit Happy Birthday goes out to none other than R.T. ("Shoot Out The Lights," another great YouTube Thompson video from patzu - this looks like early '80s to me).

"Backlash," Huh?

I meant to put this up before now, but this latest idiocy as documented by the good folks at Media Matters for America actually made me remember, so (from the John Edwards campaign)…

Congratulations—we did it!

Or, more accurately, you did it.

As the clock ticked towards midnight on Saturday, we all watched with amazement as our online fundraising total surged towards our goal. $2.9 million... $2.95 million... $3 million! We had already hit a goal that just a week earlier had seemed unthinkable, but it just kept climbing. By the time the dust settled at midnight our online community had chipped in over $3.3 million dollars. Absolutely incredible.

Elizabeth and I are humbled and deeply inspired by this outpouring of grassroots energy. We are more committed than ever to run a bold, visionary campaign worthy of your support.

Overall, here's the story of our first quarter fundraising success by the numbers:

• Total raised: Over $14 million (nearly twice what we raised this quarter last time around)
• Total contributors: 40,000, representing every state of the union
• Grassroots victory: 80 percent of all contributions were $100 or less

So that's what happened; you pulled through and we exceeded all our expectations, ensuring that this campaign will stay competitive in the crucial months to come.

But here's what it means.

It means that a campaign can dare to combine a vision for transformational change with the detailed plans necessary to achieve it.

It means that you and I have the resources we need to keep building grassroots support for the big changes this country needs, like universal health care, an exit from Iraq, a stop to global warming, and a future where no American lives in poverty and the middle class is finally secure.

And it means our campaign has the strength we need to go all the way, and the strength we need to win.

Thank you, so much, for coming through when it matters most. Now let's roll up our sleeves and keep working for the country we love.


John Edwards
Monday, April 2, 2007

P.S. - I wrote to you last week about how strong fundraising would help get our message out in a wave of post-deadline media. Below are links to just a couple of the hundreds of articles that are already telling the nation the good news about your success:

"Edwards campaign raises $14 million" CNN, April 1, 2007
"Edwards' campaign nears online fundraising mark of $3 million" Associated Press, March 31, 2007

P.P.S. - For those celebrating, Elizabeth and I want to wish you happy Passover (last night).
And don't worry, Smerky - I’m sure the children of John and Elizabeth Edwards are happy about this also.

Pence For His Thoughts? Not Worth It.

(re: pence being plural of penny…)

Remind me never to go shopping in an outdoor market in Indiana, OK?

I mean, it definitely would be distracting to deal with the sound of Apache gunships and Blackhawk helicopters flying overhead while shopping for produce and trying to get out of the way as cruise missiles are fired indiscriminately at would-be terrorists while I toss some loose change into the pot to support the local 4H club.

And I have a suspicion that wearing that cumbersome bulletproof vest in the midst of the blistering, Midwestern summer heat would be waaay uncomfortable!

Oh, but I’m imagining all of this, you say?

Well, if we are to believe U.S. House Rep Mike Pence, Repug from the Hoosier state, then what I’ve just described is not fantasy, but fact.

(Yes, I know we’ve done the whole “McCain-Iraq-Photo-Op” thing to death, but this was in today’s account in the New York Times, so here goes.)

See, Pence (who traveled to Iraq with McCain) said that the market in Baghdad, where McCain, Pence and the rest of this silly entourage journeyed, “was like a normal market in Indiana.”

“What are they talking about?” Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market, said Monday. “The security procedures were abnormal!”

The delegation arrived at the market, which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees — the equivalent of an entire company — and attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior American military official in Baghdad said. The soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans, witnesses said, and sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests throughout their hourlong visit.

“They paralyzed the market when they came,” Mr. Faiyad said during an interview in his shop on Monday. “This was only for the media.”

He added, “This will not change anything.”
Oh, I have to disagree with Mr. Faiyad on that one. It will change something, truth be told.

It will make the Repugs still supporting this war look stupider than they already are.

Update 4/7/07: Nice to see the The Daily Kos has caught up with me on this (smirk).

Nuclear Indian Givers

The New York Times brings us this story of another Bushco foreign policy triumph.

It seems that the Indian government has been using what you might call “extralegal” means to obtain information on nuclear technology from us for the last few years.

See what happens when you “turn over the store” to a country that has never ratified the NPT?

As the Times story reports…

The indictment suggests that India (through a private Indian electronics firm called Cirrus, Inc., working as an agent of the government) broke a pledge to the Bush administration more than two years ago not to flout American export laws and secretly seek weapons technology from the United States.

Although Congress has signed off on the nuclear deal, India must still reach a separate agreement on nuclear inspections with several international organizations before the deal is complete.

In a letter to the State Department in September 2004, Shyam Saran, then the Indian foreign secretary, wrote, “The Government of India shall not obtain or use U.S. origin licensable items in contravention of U.S. export control laws and regulations.”

The weapons sales detailed in the indictment occurred between 2003 and 2006 and were shipped to government agencies that were part of the Indian Ministry of Defense and Department of Space.
And it’s not as if they didn’t know what they were doing either…

The indictment charges that Cirrus officials sometimes forged certificates to show the vendors in the United States that the sales had Commerce Department approval.
The response by the Dems?

“This is not only an indictment of individuals for breaking export control law, it is also a blistering indictment of the Bush administration’s judgment,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who was one of the leading Congressional opponents of the nuclear deal.
And the dumb rejoinder by Bushco?

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said, “This is a law enforcement matter that began before our efforts to conclude a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement.

He added, “The arrests of these individuals are not connected to our efforts to conclude an agreement.”
If you were working with another party on an agreement knowing that you were being cheated by that party somehow, exactly how dumb are you for continuing to negotiate with them anyway?

Never mind – I’d better not ask (sigh).

A Voice Of Common Sense Departs

I know Meghan O’Sullivan has been depicted in some corners as a typical Bushco cheerleader for the Iraq carnage, but that is not the case.

O’Sullivan, who eventually became Dubya’s top adviser on Iraq, was once castigated by Bushco for calling out Ahmed Chalabi as the con man and crook that he is, earning the particular enmity of Dick Cheney and getting her excluded (for a time) from Jay Garner’s transition team in Iraq which landed in that country in early 2003.

As with Gen. David Petraeus, I think O’Sullivan is a member of the reality-based community to whom Dubya gave short shrift through his idiotic stubbornness for years, but then turned to people like her and Petraeus when it became painfully evident to him that the people he had relied on had not a clue about what they were doing (of course, the same thing had long since occurred already to everyone else).

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not trying to pretend that Petraeus and O’Sullivan aren’t scheming political operatives in their own right. It’s just that they happen to be adults in an administration of what at best could be termed “bad example” adolescents.

The $23 Million "Man Crush"

I’m not completely sure what to make of the fact that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney outraised other Repug candidates for president at the end of the previous quarter.

I mean, I know absolutely zero about where this man stands on anything, though I will readily admit that I don’t pay as much attention to the Repugs as I do to the Dems.

Even this fine column by Amy Sullivan in Washington Monthly is about the stupid “perception games” that utterly dominate our politics (pertaining to Romney’s Mormonism in this case), stuff that I think John Edwards, for one, is trying to escape, along with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to a lesser degree.

But I guess many of the big Repug donors are swooning for Romney a la Roger Simon from a recent column in “The Politico,” the Drudge-lite blog brought to us by our corporate media under the guise of partiality.

I suppose it bears repeating that it’s infinitely more important to find out where these people come down on the issues that matter than whether or not they look good in a suit or appear to be genuine when handling sandbags to help reinforce a flooded riverbank or tossing out the first pitch in a little league baseball game (and speaking of ceremonial rites of spring, it’s good to see that the Phillies upheld tradition by losing again on opening day).

Regarding Romney, I recall how he claimed that he was going to get to the bottom of the Big Dig tunnel collapse last year that killed Milena Del Valle and injured her fiancée Angel, though Romney ended up using some unfortunate language in the process. And he compounded that by stating describing Del Valle's death, as noted here by Media Nation, as “something” that “happened” that would give Romney grounds to remove Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew Amorello, which Romney did (God, Mitt, you’re just such a compassionate guy, aren’t you?).

And I’m still waiting for Romney to have his supposed “JFK moment” where, in true statesman-like fashion, he proclaims that it’s more important to represent this entire country than a sect of it encompassed by his religion (and even if he did, he still would have no shot at winning over the fundie zealots who have been engrained in the belief that Mormonism is paganism, though I had to laugh at Sullivan’s remark that they might vote for Romney by default in the general election if he won the nomination against HRC, since that Southern 30 percent Repug “base” considers Clinton to be “the bride of the devil”).

So, with John McCain running all over Iraq with 100 soldiers, 3 Blackhawks and 2 Apaches to cover his ass, Rudy G. whining to the media to leave his personal life alone (heh, heh, heh), and Dubya today kicking and screaming like the intellectual dwarf that he truly is, it looks like Mitt Romney is the Repug “man of the moment” (and, as is so often the case with the Repugs, I see no military experience as a representative of the party that wants to wage the war in Iraq indefinitely).

Next year could actually be fun.

Update: In fairness to the commenter, I should point out that the Pew site is very good, and if this person wants to support Romney, fine. However, Mitt tows the Repug line through and through as you might expect, particularly on the Iraq war, and that tells me all I need to know.

Update 4/4/07: And Mitt keeps such good company, doesn't he?

We Have Biden, They Have Him

How funny is it that former Department of Health and Human Services Repug hanger-on Tommy Thompson officially announced yesterday that he’s seeking that party’s nomination as a presidential candidate?

I wonder what he’ll run on, by the way? His famous moment when he wondered why al Qaeda “hadn’t poisoned our food supply” yet? His complete and utter failure to help track down the source of anthrax-laced letters that circulated primarily around Capitol Hill after 9/11 (this fell under his purview somewhat, but this was more of a John Ashcroft/Abu Gonzales-DOJ failure than anything else)? His chronic mismanagement of this nation’s supply of flu vaccine?

(All of these golden moments are recounted here, by the way; I know at least one of the links to an old CNN story has expired, and I’ll try to update that.)

And besides, wasn’t this story reported on already last November?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday Videos

Killswitch Engage ("My Curse")...

...and three for the Rock N' Roll Heaven were born on this day, starting with Kurt Winter of The Guess Who ("Tin Soldier," a really rough cover of the Small Faces tune; came right out of the garage and got mocked up in typical late '60s garb for this one)...

...Leon Wilkerson of Lynyrd Skynyrd ("The Ballad of Curtis Loew," accompanied by a somewhat repetitive slide show of the band)...

...and Marvin Gaye ("Trouble Man" - didn't come to as violent a demise as Sam Cooke, with Gaye groomed as Motown's answer to Cooke in the beginning, but still met an untimely end)

Smerky Smears His Way To Page One

This faux journalistic assault on John Edwards is one of Smerky’s more egregious pieces of tripe, though it did manage to please Bruce Toll and Brian Tierney enough, apparently, to land a spot on the front page of the “Currents” section (this appeared in yesterday’s Inquirer, of course).

Head Strong - Edwardses owe more to their children

They are pursuing the presidency at the expense of two youngsters who soon may be missing a mother.
(With a headline like that, how bald faced can you get?)

By Michael Smerconish

On CBS's 60 Minutes, John Edwards told Katie Couric that judgments and questions about his decision to stay in the presidential race are "entirely legitimate."

"I mean, you offer yourself up for service to the country as the president of the United States, you deserve to be evaluated," he said.

He won't like this evaluation. My judgment is not another in the chorus of those celebrating this choice as an embodiment of the human spirit.

Call me crass, but I see a selfish determination by a political power couple more anxious to prolong a presidential run than to go home and spend time with two young kids who may soon be missing a mommy.
Well, at least Smerky is honest in his demagoguery.

As the Edwardses have stated, the decision for John to run was made by he and Elizabeth in consultation with their kids. That’s what I know, and it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on how it was received within their family.

And I have the very, very strong suspicion that if there had been any possibility that the children in the Edwards family had felt vulnerable while their father campaigned and their mother did so as best as she was able, then the Edwards campaign would be over by now. And either way, it would remain their decision and no one else’s.

And yeah, Smerky, given the fact that there are PLENTY of “political power couples” in this country, I think it’s inappropriate in the very least for you to pin a label like that partly on Elizabeth Edwards in her illness, though you’ve taken lower blows than that, I’ll admit.

Don't misunderstand. I'm praying for Elizabeth Edwards and wish her a long life.
Oh, of course not – why would you think we would misunderstand, Smerky? I mean, it’s not like you shout down people you don’t agree with, right?

But never did I imagine she'd have incurable (but treatable) Stage IV metastatic cancer that has spread to her hip, among other places - and he'd still run (Smerky's italics). Or that the decision would be made before they even left the hospital.
Why not?

Why do you feel like you should be involved in the decision-making process of whether or not John Edwards runs for president? Why do you feel that it’s inappropriate that they’d made the decision at any particular time and place?

Why do you feel like such a decision is any of your business anyway?

The way the two have been feted by pundits and the public as doing something courageous despite having young children likewise took me by surprise.

Eugene Robinson was typical of the support they have garnered when he wrote in the Washington Post: "Run, John and Elizabeth, run. Enjoy the campaign, every thrilling minute. Enjoy it together."

Even the Wall Street Journal, friend to no trial lawyer, much less one running for president, editorialized in support of Elizabeth Edwards, praising her "demonstration of fortitude that is itself a lesson for the rest of us."

Those views must speak for many. A USA Today/Gallup Poll said Americans supported the decision by a 2-1 margin. And the Post revealed that John Edwards had received more than 5,000 online donations totaling more than $500,000 in the days after the March 22 news conference. It used to take three months to raise a million online - now the Edwardses are halfway there in a little more than a week.
I would say that the amount of money raised by the Edwards campaign, as well as those by other Dem candidates and Repugs (particularly Mitt “Three Percent” Romney), speaks more to the popularity of those particular individuals and (hopefully) their positions on the issues that matter (assuming they have any in most cases – and as noted here, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama outraised John Edwards at this point, though it bears repeating that we have a looong way to go). I would be naïve to not acknowledge, though, that the sad news of Elizabeth’s illness did help the fundraising a bit, though no one in their right mind would wish for something like that.

And I’ll allow for the fact that reasonable people can think the Edwardses should have halted the campaign – I respect that. But Smerky’s clear innuendo here is that the Edwardses are carrying on at the expense of their kids, which is a truly foul smear as far as I’m concerned.

But I see something else in the data. The USA Today survey has John Edwards ranking fourth in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes, behind Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Al Gore. He's a dark horse at best - a one-term senator who, despite being his party's VP candidate in 2004, and despite running for president ever since, has been unable to break out of the pack.
Sooo funny that Smerky is so busy trying to dump on the Edwardses that he doesn’t even point out that Al Gore isn’t even officially in the race!

On Monday, John Edwards was asked how he thought Americans would respond to his decision.

"I think it's unknowable. We believe that the way to conduct your life, private and personal, is openly and honestly, and that's the reason we disclosed the facts. We felt people needed to know," Edwards said. ". . . How it will affect the campaign, that probably depends on how America responds. I think this is uncharted territory."

Not exactly. In 1971, Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh had established an exploratory committee and opened a national campaign headquarters in anticipation of seeking the Democratic nomination in the following year's presidential election. When his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, he stopped mulling that run, saying he'd rather be with her as she recovered.

"At a time when our nation so desperately needs to reorder its priorities," Bayh said at the time, "it is time for me to reorder my own priorities."
And that’s fine – it’s a personal decision to be made by those involved and no one else (this is a recording).

There are two reasons - two priorities - why the Edwardses' decision is appalling. Their names are Emma Clare and Jack. They are only 8 and 6, respectively.
Don’t you love Smerky’s insufferable sanctimony? As if this has never occurred to the Edwardses! Too funny…

Another daughter, Cate, is off at Harvard Law. Instead of going home to be with their children, John and Elizabeth Edwards are going to continue with a career path that is 24/7. Monday found him in California, and her in Ohio.

Elizabeth Edwards told Katie Couric that "the most important thing you can give your children [is] wings. Because you're not gonna always be able to bring food to the nest. You're . . . sometimes . . . they're gonna have to be able to fly by themselves."

Baby birds, as Couric pointed out, is more like it. The kids are in elementary school, for goodness' sake.
And as others have noted, Katie Couric so dutifully stopped working when her own husband became ill with cancer, right?

If this sounds like too harsh an assessment, consider the public reaction if the affected family were out of the public limelight, and the parents no longer needed to work. What would be the reaction of friends and neighbors if the couple immediately pursued a path that would keep them on the road and away from their kids? I think it would be revulsion. So why should our judgment of the Edwardses be any different just because he is running for office?
This logic is about as straight as a pretzel.

One more time…if the Edwardses had had any inclination that this campaign would have jeopardized their kids in any way, they would have given up by now!

And besides, by virtue of John Edwards’ legal practice and time in the Senate, somehow I’m sure he’s been able to amass a good bit of financial security. And that’s fine – I don’t begrudge that of a politician. It’s just a matter of what they do with their position as far as I’m concerned, and I believe Edwards is doing the best he can on that score. And I’m sure that security has been able to buy a lot of dependable help and support for their kids while John and Elizabeth Edwards engage in the campaign.

And Smerky says, “What if the Edwardses were out of the public limelight?” The whole issue here of Elizabeth’s health and their family life is being discussed and commented on because THEY ARE IN THE PUBLIC LIMELIGHT!!

Again, I hope Elizabeth Edwards has many more years with her family. I wish her a long life. I simply doubt that whenever her days end, she will look back at this time and be thankful for day trips to Iowa and New Hampshire.
If we see the great day of the Edwards campaign pulling this thing off when all is said and done (and Elizabeth still with us, God willing also), then I’m sure she’ll have a different reaction.

Also, I should point out that Smerky broadcasts to anyone masochistic enough to listen to him on radio station 1210 WPHT in these parts. Along with a truly unholy collection of right-wing blowhards, the radio station also broadcasts local legend Sid Mark, who plays the music of Frank Sinatra on the weekends.

Well, on Sunday morning, Mark defended Smerky because our hero appeared on “Real Time With Bill Maher” this week, and Sid thought Smerconish was treated badly, but showed class anyway (I’m paraphrasing here – I’ll try to watch it, but I know that, since D.L. Hughley was on the panel also, Smerky got at least as good as he gave…I honestly don’t know if I could tolerate Smerky for an entire hour).

Sid, I have a request. I know that your foul employer likes to see you engage in that sort of thing, but if you stay out of politics, then I won’t mention that you’ve been playing the same Sinatra songs (great though they are) and the same promos from the same sponsors for the last 30 years at least, OK?

Update 4/8/07: I know I didn't address commenter Nancy earlier, but I thought excerpting this from this link I just came across was the best way to do it.

For example, she (E.E.) said she recently was riled by a blogger on The Huffington Post who questioned the Edwardses' decision to continue the campaign with an 8-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son at home.

Elizabeth Edwards responded in the comments section, accusing the author of jumping to wrong conclusions. The Edwardses have decided to take their children on the campaign trail and use a combination of home schooling from their mother and tutoring from a professional. They were considering such an arrangement even before her diagnosis.

"First, our children will in fact be with us as we campaign — as they were last time, with some adjustments because they are a little older," she wrote.

"And second, our determination not to crumble at this news but to continue working for all we believe is an affirmation of life and a life lesson to them as well — a tough lesson but a vital one. And finally, as the comments to this post inform you, no one knows how long I will live; should we all sit home together until I do? What if it is twenty years? Why do I have to behave as it is twenty weeks?" she wrote.

She said that was a toned-down version of what she originally wrote.

"I have to admit that I typed something probably a little spicier, you know, nothing profane or anything," she said. "But I took that out and thought, `I need to convince this guy, not to alienate him.'"
Hat tip to The Daily Kos for that item.

Something Like This, Jack?

(re: the pic to right…)

Why am I not surprised in any way that I’ve detected no military service whatsoever in the record of Georgia Repug U.S. House Rep. Jack Kingston?

Before I start hammering this guy, though, I should note that I’ve avoided saying much about Iraq until now because of my singular level of disgust with certain prominent politicians over the war. And the first would be that “straight-talking maverick” himself, John McCain, who decided that the media wasn’t reporting “the good news” on Iraq and decided to visit Baghdad himself with a rather sizeable posse (what, no doctored photos a la Melanie Morgan and Dr. Kaloogian? And of course, the question you always have to ask is how much of our force over there was compromised for this opportunistic clown so he could have his little “me, me me!” party).

Next, we have Barack Obama, of all people, telling the AP in so many words that he’s prepared to fold his cards, so to speak, if Dubya calls him and the Democrats on the troop withdrawal timeline in the Iraq supplemental bill (and, as SusanG of The Daily Kos notes here, Dubya acted typically like a whining little baby over the bill during his radio address last weekend).

Obama has done so well to get as far as he has, and I give him credit. But even though you knew a misstep was bound to occur, I wish to God it had been something less dramatic than this (and, as Robert Naiman of HuffPo notes here, there are other things the Dems can do besides cave in to an extremely unpopular president and a weak opposition party on the war).

And finally, in this fine Mahablog post, we have a discussion about the Dems strategy after Dubya’s inevitable veto takes place, including Russ Feingold’s proposal to cut off all Iraq funding in a year (Feingold consistently gets the mood of the people of this country, and precious few politicians can say that these days).

Also in the Mahablog post, along with “chicken littles” like Leon Panetta who apparently are willing to cave to Dubya also, is Kingston, who apparently has a problem working five days a week in Washington (the following is excerpted from the Wikipedia article)…

Kingston spends half of his time meeting with constituents in his District. According to an interview on MSNBC[7], Kingston "typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays." His schedule has been criticized by opponents because it results in Kingston working in the Capitol only three days per week. He has spoken against the increased Congressional work schedule proposed by Democrats for the upcoming 110th Congress, saying that a full work week "damages families" and that "Democrats could care less about families." [8]
Typically disgusting Repug boilerplate; also…

On December 11, 2006, Kingston gave another interview with Stephen Colbert to decry incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's plan to have the House of Representatives debate and vote five days a week instead of the current three. Kingston argued that Congressmen already work 50-60 hours per week (mostly in their districts) and increasing this would force them to take time away from their families.
And in the Mahablog post, we have this choice item also…

“(The budget standoff between Bush and Congress is) ..going to be like the government shutdowns” of 1995 and 1996, predicted (Kingston). “The Democrats’ honeymoon is fixing to end. It’s going to explode like an IED.
After reading that quote, I must tell you that I no longer want to read or hear any communication from anyone complaining about the fact that our troops are shouldering the absolute worst of this horrible war while the vast majority of this country feels almost no impact at all, aside from gas prices that are utter thievery.

The fact that someone like Kingston (who apparently has been welcomed by Bill Maher, among others – and yes, I know Maher is trying to do the right thing more often than not, but this comment by Kingston was truly repugnant) can say these things and not face any kind of penalty or censure fills me alternately with rage, shame, and utter disgust.

The war truly means nothing to people like him. He can say all he wants, but a remark like this betrays the fact that our military are truly invisible as far as he’s concerned.

Best Buys Is Better Anyway

The blogger Echidne posted here about Circuit City’s recent decision to fire some of its more experienced staff and offer them their jobs back for less money, while CEO Philip J. Schoonover received about $10 million last year.

And while I applaud people who are calling attention to this travesty, including David Carr in today’s New York Times here, I have to admit that I’m surprised by Carr and professor Harley Shaiken of the University of California at Berkeley (interviewed in the story) who seem puzzled about the fact that the cream of a company’s work force is being targeted, as opposed to other employees who are deemed to be “lesser performers,” or whatever the acceptable corporate phrasing is this week.

Mass terminations such as this has been happening for a good while now at privately-owned companies. Usually, it only gets media attention when the companies are public.

Unless you work for senior management in a company or have a clearly defined path to achieving that seemingly exalted status, there really is no reason for you to achieve success beyond any documented performance goals for any given year. “Adding value,” whether that is defined by increased customer satisfaction or exceeding your sales quota, only results in putting a bigger target on your back when all is said and done when working for a corporation, usually because you end up making more money by outperforming your peers (unless you are a contractor, whereby a different set of rules are involved more often than not).

To me, that is the lesson of the Circuit City firings, in that it establishes a benchmark of sorts in the de-evolution of our domestic capitalist economy.

Loyalty (in terms of length of service with a given employer) has not been valued for years. Now (in the mass layoff equation), you can say the same thing about doing a good job.

Seuss Gets Goosed

The Philadelphia Inquirer absolutely insists on printing editorials that try to be cute but are totally tedious (witness unfunny conservative comedian Andy Borowitz here speculating last week about the Iraqis wondering why we didn’t do more to recognize the four-year anniversary of the war; hey, we wrecked your country and created a vacuum to be filled by insurgents and sectarian hatred, thus engulfing it in a civil war…isn’t that enough?).

The paper did so again today, with writer Peter Mandel criticizing “The Cat In The Hat” by Dr. Seuss, the occasion being that 2007 marks the book’s 50th anniversary.

The editorial notes two children’s books Mandel has written, “Planes At The Airport” as well as a book about Willie Mays, so I guess it’s safe to assume that he’s a subject matter expert.

I realize the column is meant to be tongue in cheek, and though Mandel has a point about how everything depicted in the book is sooo 1950s and thus sooo thoroughly unhip now, I just want to point out that “The Cat In The Hat” is a great book for a beginning reader (and I think kids get past the fact more often than not that the book is stuck in a time warp). The repetition of the monosyllabic words with relatively uncomplicated vowel and consonant pairings was extremely helpful to the young one, helping him to gradually work his way up to more complicated material.

So don’t trash on Seuss, I say you should not; I think Mandel’s time as a child, he forgot…

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)