Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nice Job, CNN

From about an hour ago (and to be fair to Dubya, that isn't a direct quote - he omitted the slur for a change)...

Hendrik Hertzberg has more.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Videos

Lowell George of Little Feat would have been 62 today (here's "Fat Man In The Bathtub," recorded live at the BBC in 1975)

...Weezer ("Say It Ain't So")...

...a belated Happy Birthday to Chris Difford of Squeeze ("Black Coffee In Bed")...

...and Happy Birthday also to the Rev. Al Green ("Let's Stay Together").

How We Got Here (4/13/07)

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.

Like you, I’ve read and heard the mea culpas from Paul Bremer, the former head of the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority, saying that we could have accomplished what we set out to do had more troops been deployed at the beginning of the war (though Bremer, as noted here, almost immediately backpedaled on that when he uttered those words in 2004).

Well, instead of providing the excerpt where Bremer faced off with Jay Garner, I thought I’d include the following, where Frank Miller, an intelligence official contacted by Condoleezza Rice to oversee security issues and find out what was going on, traveled to Iraq in March before Bremer left to give you an idea of the confusion that seemed to be everywhere.

(pp. 289-292)

Rice was hungry for data and intelligence. She wanted to know what was really happening Over There. She kept telling Frank Miller, “Get me more. Bring me more.”

In March 2004, she sent Miller to Iraq to find out what things were really like. He went as her representative, but he tried to downplay his NSC credentials. Not helpful, he thought. He wanted to avoid polished-up presentations calibrated to impress and perhaps mislead visitors from Washington. He never asked to meet with (Paul) Bremer (head of the Coalition Provisional Authority). He didn’t think it would be useful, but he also didn’t want to risk being turned down. Such was Bremer’s perceived independence from NSC oversight.

Miller was struck by how the CPA had become a hermit city, ensconced in the Green Zone. He explained to one CPA official how he planned to fly around the country to visit with the U.S. military division commanders who were in charge of the tens of thousands of U.S. troops.

“Wow,” the CPA official said. “I wish we could do that. I wish we could see the country.”

It was telling, Miller thought. There was a sense of lethargy, like a bunch of basketball players passing a ball back and forth, back and forth, all reluctant to take a shot. It’s March and the turnover (to Iraqi leadership) is set for June, he thought. Quit passing and launch one at the basket.

Miller and the two people he’d brought with him – retired Army colonel Jeff Jones from the NSC, and an active-duty Army colonel from the Joint Staff – linked up with the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad where the deputy commander, a one-star general named Mark Hertling, was an old friend of Miller’s from his Pentagon days. The group joined a Humvee patrol through an area just south of the notorious Shi’ite Baghdad slum, Sadr City. Screaming poverty, Miller thought – no fresh water, few working sewers. People were living in hovels and throwing trash and human waste in their front yards.

American soldiers in Sadr City and elsewhere now seemed to be acting as much as engineers as infantrymen, setting up water distribution points and improving some roads. But the only money to fund these ad hoc projects came from the military’s emergency funds, called the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). Miller made a note that they would need to expand and expedite these CERP funds - walking around money for the battalion and brigade commanders – as they were the only expenditures that seemed to have a visible impact on the population.
Woodward then describes how Miller came across Iraqi kids who gave him the thumbs-up sign and he was glad that they seemed grateful, not realizing that it is the Iraqi equivalent of our middle finger.

Everywhere, Miller found that the Iraqi units suffered from a desperate shortage of vehicles and communications equipment. And the Civil Defense Corps – whose first mission was to guard valuable infrastructure like banks and other buildings, thus freeing up better-trained forces for more difficult duties – was a creature of the individual U.S. military divisions that parented them. One division had a one-week training program, another a two-week program, and a third had extended it to three weeks. It was ridiculous. Earlier that year, Miller learned, a two-star general had sent a report to Defense practically begging for national standards for the new Iraqi corps, but it hadn’t happened.

Miller recorded in his notes the comment of one division commander: “What’s wrong with Baghdad?” the commander said, meaning Bremer’s CPA. “Why won’t they give us the money to do this, and to do the reconstruction projects that need to be done?” Building Iraqi units, both police and military, and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure were prerequisites to an exit strategy for the U.S. But there was too little coordination to do the job right.

Iraq looked and felt like a war zone. Attacks had climbed again, to about 1,000 a month. Every soldier Miller saw carried a weapon. A mess hall Miller was eating in was attacked with mortars. When he flew in helicopters, the door gunners flew with weapons pointed down at potential targets. Miller wore a flak jacket, and he and his two aides traveled under the watchful eye of an earnest young lieutenant of field artillery from Kansas who was assigned as his escort officer. When they moved on the ground, it was in convoys with Humvees and big sport utility vehicles, a machine gunner on top of the Humvees and the escort officer with his M-16 pointed out the window. It was good on the one hand – Miller felt pretty safe – but then he thought, “We ain’t winning any hearts and minds this way.”
The rest of the chapter describes how Miller traveled to multinational units and found situations such as the one in Basra, where the British forces were teaching the Iraqis how to patrol; the problem was that they had English maps, so they told the Iraqis to memorize patrol routes instead (walk 10 blocks to a marketplace and turn right, 5 blocks to a mosque and turn left, then turn left again to return to the station. etc.).

Also, I’m sure we remember how Faux News and other propaganda sources continually fed us the Bushco line about how the U.S. was part of a multinational force once called “the coalition of the willing.” Well, keep that in mind when you read this…

Miller moved on to meet with the Polish commander of the Multinational Force, made up of troops from 23 nations. This was the shakiest part of the coalition, but an important fig leaf to suggest that the war was a broad international effort.

The Polish division commander told Miller, “I’ve got 23 separate national units. They have 23 separate rules of engagement. I pick up the phone. I tell the colonel in charge of the Spanish brigade what to do. He picks up his phone, calls Madrid and says, “I’ve been told to do this. Is it OK?”

Miller understood that this meant the Multinational division had little or no fighting capability.
Woodward also notes the discussion between Miller and Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the ground commander at the time of Miller’s visit, about the non-communication between Sanchez and Bremer (this book is a case study of avoidance behavior by people in government). Bremer, for his part, warmed himself up to Dubya directly to the point where he barely dealt with Rumsfeld at all towards the end of his time in Iraq.

And as I read this, I can’t help but wonder why Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry didn’t exploit all of this confusion more thoroughly for political reasons during the year of the presidential election (not primarily important versus the safety of our people, I know, though). I can assure you that, has the shoe been on the other foot, Dubya and Karl Rove would have done no less.

Mrs. Parker's Vicious Cycle

(The title of this post pertains to this great movie, by the way, about a vastly superior writer to the one critiqued as follows.)

As I noted earlier, Kathleen Parker of the Orlando Sentinel has been one busy little freeper bee, as it were, buzzing all over the place and stinging with disinformation-laced invective.

Before she sounded off on Imus, though, she decided to have a literary fit of sorts over the capture of the 15 British sailors and marines by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Now there is no way I will defend Ahmadinejad; he’s a kook who has been granted influence on the world stage because President Brainless decided to marginalize Khatami and other Iranians who could be moderate and work in concert with us first by his stupid declaration of that country as part of the “axis of evil,” and second, by the illegal invasion of Iraq; anyone beyond the age of approximately five years old could see that the war would be a boon to the Shi’ites who dominate the Iranian theocracy in the long run.

However, Parker waxes apoplectic in her column because Ahmadinejad was placed in a position where he could be perceived to show “mercy” to his captives by releasing them, and again, our actions in that region have ended up propping up this guy (and of course, Parker doesn’t even bother to acknowledge the argument that diplomacy played a part in the release of the captives and is thus a more beneficial, adult strategy than declaring unilateral war).

And Parker saves her fiercest rants for “the West” which has, in her view, “diminished motherhood so that women can pretend to be men.” And as Parker extends this line of thinking to all women (and positing somehow that male rape is preferable in combat to female rape…I don’t even want to imagine what is in Parker’s mind here), she offers us this…

At the point when our men can stand by unfazed while American servicewomen are raped and tortured, then we will have no cause to fight any war. We will have already lost.

Positioning women to become pawns of propaganda, meanwhile, is called aiding and abetting the enemy.
I have a couple of points I’d like to make, and before I get to the first one, I’d like to quote Parker again here…

But let's assume for the sake of argument that women, despite all evidence to the contrary, are as capable as men in any battle. If our goal is to prevail, then shouldn't we also consider other ramifications of putting women in combat and/or in positions of risk?

Those ramifications include women's unequal vulnerability to rape and injury, as well as cultural attitudes toward women that may enhance their exposure to punishment or, alternatively, make them useful to our enemies.
So what are you saying then, Parker? That women in the military shouldn’t be allowed to fight in combat? Is it less important to allow them the opportunity to serve as they see fit, fully knowledgeable of the risks and in a manner commensurate with their skill and training, than it is to hold them back lest they be made “useful to our enemies” for propaganda reasons?

I’ll tell you what, then; read about the courageous women who have served this country in the name of George W. Bush’s War For LiesTM and paid the ultimate price as a result here. Maybe if you do, it will begin to occur to you how insulting your words are to our fine service people who share your gender.

And speaking of Dubya, I’d like to come back to your closing sentence…

Positioning women to become pawns of propaganda, meanwhile, is called aiding and abetting the enemy.
If so, then Bushco is guilty as charged, and most of our corporate media, collectively, are unindicted co-conspirators (and the unraveling of the story of Pfc. Jessica Lynch is Exhibit A in support of that argument, as noted here).

So Mrs. Parker can rail against Ahmadinejad’s propagandistic farce with the British crew (which some have argued is a payback for our treatment of Iranian diplomats in Iraq – yes, some of that umbrage may be equally contrived, but we should have been prepared for Ahmadinejad’s nutty response), but when it comes to “adults (who) are too dim, brainwashed, or ideologically driven to see what’s obvious,” she should try looking long and hard in the mirror before she decides to write her next column.

Jim Gerlach's Fuzzy Campaign Math

If you ever hear 6th U.S. PA Congressional District Repug Rep Jim Gerlach complaining about a budget or misappropriation of funds or any kind of financial matter at all, I’d appreciate it if you kept the following in mind.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday (as well as Keystone Politics and PA Progressive here) that Gerlach “has agreed to pay what appears to be the largest penalty ever imposed on a Pennsylvania member of Congress for violation of federal campaign-finance laws.”

And this is why…

Gerlach reported to the Federal Election Commission that he had raised almost $2.2 million in a period of less than two months after the election. In reality, he had raised $18,000 to $20,000.
And Gerlach calls the penalty of $120,000 “way out of line,” huh? Well, I would say the same thing about a discrepancy where two zeroes are accidentally inserted to the right of a decimal.

And as the Inquirer story notes, it’s not as if this hadn’t happened before, though not to this degree…

Gerlach admitted to two smaller mistakes that he also described as bookkeeping errors. One was misreporting $8,911 in refunded contributions in 2005. The other was failing to itemize $8,832 in contributions from another fund-raising committee in 2004.
And in true Repug fashion, he threw somebody else under the bus for it, so to speak, namely former campaign treasurer Alan Randzin. And I suppose Randzin should be the one to take the hit for it, but if Gerlach kept him on despite the ’04 and ’05 errors, then that’s his fault as far as I’m concerned, assuming Randzin was directly responsible all three times of course.

Well, I don’t think Gerlach should worry too much about this. After all, as noted in this Bloomberg story, he should have about $82,086 of loose change from the prior campaign kicking around that was handed over to him from Tom DeLay and powerful oil and gas interests, so he can cover at least two-thirds of the fine with that.

Today’s Obligatory Imus Post

I suppose I must weigh in on this subject partly because I mentioned it a minute ago in my comments about Gov. Corzine’s terrible road accident, but I long for this story to fade from public view, actually (along with Imus himself, I hope, but I’m not holding my breath).

Possibly the busiest freeper pundit out there as nearly as I can guess is Kathleen Parker of The Orlando Sentinel, who, after writing this hard-hitting, Murrow-esque account of a YouTube video showing John Edwards fussing with his hair (please), followed it up with another mea culpa on behalf of Imus, most notably this…

Black hip-hop artists have been denigrating the women of their families and neighborhoods for years with terminology that reduces all women to receptacles for men's pleasure. Sharpton and Jackson would do well to direct some of their outrage to that neck of the woods.

Meanwhile, the broader savaging of Imus seems disproportionate to the crime. There is in the air the unmistakable scent of schadenfreude -- pleasure in someone else's misery -- as some in the media have turned on the radio jock like pack wolves on a wounded puppy.

Otherwise, his takedown feels like hecklers gone wild. When the star is down, the heckler gets to be the star. Celebrity comes to the one with the loudest voice, the meanest jibe or, in this case, the pithiest piety.
And of course, not to be outdone, Cal Thomas inflicted readers of the Bucks County Courier Times with similar apologia today (my wife, bless her, made the mistake of actually reading this cretin, and that’s how I know; I gave up on him years ago myself...and it also never ceases to make me laugh when I read a columnist decry people’s preoccupation with stories like this or the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby when those same people dive into the muck over it just like anyone else.).

Yeah, I’m sure that, considering the Edwards column, Parker knows all about mean jibes, and saying that Imus’ words don’t constitute hate speech is hardly the point (and believe it or not, she wrote something else that deserves a response that I’ll try to get to today).

I’m sure most of us understand what I’m about to say, but it deserves emphasis (again, pointed out by my wife this morning).

Some of the quotes from Jesse Jackson (“Hymietown”) and Al Sharpton (“White interloper” – this is an insult? Hey, I grew up in Philadelphia; you’ll have to do better than that!) that have been used to somehow validate Imus’ horrible words fall laughingly short by comparison. While Jackson’s phrase was stupid, it was a broad denunciation of a group of people designated by their religion in a broad geographic area.

Imus, on the other hand, singled out a particular group of women playing a particular sport for a particular college university. In addition to being horribly racist and insensitive, Imus’ conduct is legally actionable – the women could file a lawsuit against him for slander, and I hope they do, actually.

And here is another important difference; people have lumped media personalities such as Howard Stern into this mess by decrying “the coarsening of our culture.” I don’t like that either, but as far as I’m concerned, it is up to us individually to decide what is proper by choosing not to view or listen to something when we find it objectionable. Besides, the people who appear on Stern’s show or most other programs are there to promote something and know that they’re setting themselves up to a degree; almost everything that is said under that pretext is fair comment. On the other hand, the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team sought absolutely nothing from Don Imus.

Some of the freeper apologia on behalf of Imus reminds me of the time Suzanne Fields blamed “patronizing white liberal guilt” for the outcry over the words of Trent “All These Problems” Lott, which was no less wrong then as it is now.

Finally, here is some thoughtful information on this from Media Matters, and I think Digby also puts everything into perspective very well here (hat tips to Atrios for both).

Buckle Up Next Time, Governor

Let us all wish New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine well as he recovers from critical injuries suffered in a hellacious automobile crash last night (story is here).

According to the Times story, Corzine was returning to Drumthwacket, his mansion in Princeton, where he was to meet with Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team after attending the New Jersey Conference of Mayors at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He was being driven to his mansion by state police escort riding in a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV via the Garden State Parkway, which is easily one of the most hellacious thoroughfares in the tri-state area at least primarily because of the insane manner in which people drive on it.

The Times story provides thorough coverage of all of this, of course, but I just want to highlight the item, buried in the story, noting that Corzine probably was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident; this is stated because Corzine did not wear his seat belt in the past (and it should be noted, by the way, that air bags will not deploy on many vehicles unless the driver and any passengers are buckled).

Please, Governor, do all you must to recover; we’ll extend our hopes, prayers and best wishes. But don’t risk your life again by ignoring a safety precaution that everyone else should observe also.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday Videos

Kaiser Chiefs ("Ruby")...

...Happy Birthday to John Kay of Steppenwolf ("Born To Be Wild" - an evergreen, I know, but it's the band's signature song; of course, if Peter Fonda and freeper Dennis Hopper were cycling like that in PA, they wouldn't need helmets)

I Don't Own A Bathrobe, Brian

And my name isn’t Vinny and I don’t live in the Bronx either (re: this item).

Still, here, here, and here are reasons why I know more than you do.

(In the first linked item, our hero reports that the Iraq Supplemental sponsored by the Dems "will leave our troops high and dry," he peddles more disinformation on global warming in the second one, and in the third, he allows Dubya to spout his B.S. with impunity.)

And I may not have a nice trophy; oh well. But at least I have a clear conscience.

Part Man, Part Monkey, Part Pope

So Benedict XVI recently stated “there is much suffering in the world,” and it was nice to see him acknowledge the reality of our life and times. And this made me wonder what he would address next on the world stage.

And I have to admit that I didn’t see the theory of evolution anywhere on that list, though I guess I should have; as this Times of London story notes, the Vatican sacked the chief astronomer last year after he said that “intelligent design” (re: some great big nice force created life as we know it, so why don’t we just all shut up and forget about the scientific method of reasoned hypothesis and analysis of data and learn to be just smart enough to get hired at Wal-Mart, OK?) “was not science and did not belong in classrooms” (the former astronomer sounds like a pretty bright guy to me).

As the Times Story further notes…

The Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who is close to Benedict, has also appeared to back intelligent design, dismissing a 1996 statement by Pope John Paul II that Darwin's theory of evolution was "more than just a hypothesis" as "rather vague and unimportant."
Nice to ‘dis John Paul, you guys (it's not like he can defend himself or anything)…

So, as you can see, the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church is truly emerging as a force of guidance in matters of faith and doctrinal belief (that is, if you live in Kansas, though “ID” doesn’t hold sway as it once did even there).

In this post from a few days ago, I provided background on Pope Benedict XVI from a New Yorker article by Jane Kramer in which he said he believed he would have “a short papacy.”

I’m sorry, Your Holiness, but I hope you’re right.

The Dog Ate Karl's Homework

Gosh, what an unfortunate accident for Bushco that it just happened to lose those pesky Emails pertaining to the investigation into the eight U.S. attorneys fired by Abu Gonzales. What a shame that this inopportune computer glitch just happened to take place at such a difficult time.

Funny, though – this tells us about how something pretty similar happened, oh, I’d say a little more than a year ago. See, Patrick Fitzgerald was trying to obtain Emails that were no doubt circulating within the White House concerning Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame, who of course was outed (along with her entire operation tracking loose nukes – way to “protect the homeland,” Dubya) as a payback for Wilson’s Op-Ed in the New York Times calling Bushco on its B.S. about Saddam Hussein supposedly trying to buy yellowcake from Niger (I know all of this stuff is ingrained in us at this point, but it still bears repeating).

And by the way, for a history lesson to see how the Repugs operated when roles were reversed and no investigation was taking place (the whole Monica Whatsername inquisition having ended by then), check out Repug House Rep Dan Burton’s reaction here to the news from the Clinton Administration that it will cost $3 million (in 2000) to upgrade the White House Email system (Calling for a special prosecutor to look into this “big deal”? It is to laugh.).

Desperate Propagandists

A couple of quick hits coming up, and this is one…

This takes you to information on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner coming up on April 21st, and the reason I’m pointing that out is because two stars of the show “Desperate Housewives” have apparently been invited to this mess in an effort to distract from the fact that host Rich Little hasn’t been in the public eye since the Reagan Administration, no doubt slaying the audience with “You dirty rat!” impressions of James Cagney the last time he appeared.

(Actually, the show’s ratings were desperate last week apparently, possibly losing out because of “The Sopranos.”)

Take a look at the people on this list and remember their names the next time you wonder about supporting them in any way, whether or not it means watching their movies or T.V. shows, buying a book, or whatever (I have to admit, though, that I honestly hoped Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. would know better).

Update 4/30/07: Kudos to Frank Rich of the New York Times for putting this farce in the proper perspective.

Sex-Ed 101 With J.D. Mullane

I’m not entirely sure why our ol’ buddy J.D. decided to become a moralistic scold today as opposed to the faithful freeper propagandist he usually is, but in a column chastising both teenagers for sneaking around for some activity of a personal nature and parents for turning a blind eye (in his view), he reveals this…

There are 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases each year, most among kids between 15 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This costs the economy about $14 billion a year.
Call me a pointy-headed liberal, but I would consider ruined lives that could result due to disease and/or unplanned pregnancies somewhat worse consequences than anything that could befall our economy, but what do I know?

So remember, kids – keep your hands to yourselves or else you’ll endanger our trade imbalance and government entitlements spending, right?

Once more, words fail me.

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

Imagine my horror when I discovered today that all of my Kurt Vonnegut books had apparently been donated to our local library (I mean, it’s a good cause of course, but all of them?).

I guess it’s easy to dismiss Vonnegut’s work as farcical absurdity without taking note of the comic (or sometimes tragic) behavior of his characters, reveling in their inexplicable humanity (transvestite car dealer Harry LeSabre in “Breakfast of Champions,” forever ridiculed by his demented boss Dwayne Hoover, in part because he shares his last name with a model of Buick while working for a Pontiac dealership; Malachi Constant in “Sirens of Titan,” which is also the title of a ‘70s prog rock pop song by Al Stewart from “Modern Times,” which features a harpsichord, by the way – nice touch; and of course Billy Pilgrim in “Slaughterhouse-Five,” a man seemingly oblivious to time and space as we perceive it).

However, to categorize Vonnegut as some sort of kooky burnout from the ‘60s is to do him a huge disservice (he was prone to the personal turbulence of many great artists, including a suicide attempt in 1984). I cannot imagine the intricate operations of an intellect that could concoct such fantastic tales, yet make his characters somehow universal and resonant to the reader at the same time.

I can come up with all kinds of interesting recommendations here, a few of which I’ve just mentioned as well as “Cat’s Cradle,” “Player Piano,” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” However, I want to point out that public television produced a movie of a Vonnegut short story in 1982 called “Who Am I This Time?” with Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon that was wonderful (I think it was featured on “American Playhouse”). There are no gonzo space aliens, planetary collisions, remembrances of the bombing of Dresden in World War II or felt-pen-tipped pictures of human body parts, just two people struggling to express themselves and doing so in a local stage production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” interestingly enough.

And for someone whose work broke all kinds of literary boundaries and took the reader into a sometimes dizzying array of real and imaginary locales, Vonnegut (as is typical for any accomplished artist, I think) was concise when speaking or answering questions in interviews about all manner of topics, including world events (and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what he thought of Dubya, The Boy King).

So let’s raise a glass to the passing of a true literary giant and tortured soul. Here’s hoping he has found the peace and resolution he sought through his writing, a great legacy he has bestowed upon us for all time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Ben Harper ("Excuse Me Mister" - I think the pictures pretty much say it all)...

...Happy Birthday to Joss Stone ("Right To Be Wrong")...

...The Killers ("Read My Mind")...

...and Carl Perkins would have been 75 on April 9th (here's a rockabilly jam on "Your True Love," with George Harrison and Dave Edmunds).

A Taste Of Their Own Medicine

At this point, I nominate the conservative bloggers taking umbrage at remarks made by Elizabeth Edwards about Monty Johnson of Orange County, North Carolina collectively as Crybabies Of The Year.

As noted here by USA Today, Edwards spoke her mind again (I know, how dare she actually do that and not utterly kow-tow to the Repugs at every turn) and said that Johnson was “a rabid, rabid Republican.”

Here is the rest of what she said…

She hasn't met him, but "I wouldn't be nice to him, anyway," Edwards said. "I don't want my kids anywhere near some guy who, when he doesn't like somebody, the first thing he does is pull a gun out. It scares the business out of me." She also doesn't like the "slummy" condition of the man's property, she said.
It’s really funny for me to read this indignation from the right-wing knuckle draggers when some of these cretins regularly assault those of my particular political ideology in the Bucks County Courier Times as “godless” people for whom the work “sacrifice” doesn’t exist (Jack Kelly), people who don’t “have the stomach to defend America” (J.D. Mullane), and other abusive words too numerous to catalogue in anyone’s lifetime (hell, you could retire on a task like this based on the literary assaults of Cal Thomas alone). And I’m not even mentioning the venom contained in the Letters to the Editor.

But oh, call someone “a rabid, rabid Republican,” and let the “river of tears” begin to flow, right (though if anything in her remarks was borderline, I think it would be the “slummy” characterization).

The people who took offense are those who would be offended by anything actual or perceived anyway. So good for them that the shoe is on the other foot for a change.

Three Wednesday Items (4/11/07)

I didn’t know exactly what to do with this information that some probably missed while preoccupied with Imus, so I’m just throwing it together here.

- USA Today ran a story today about the continual threat posed by sleep deprivation to air traffic controllers, particularly in the cases of four near-fatal accidents and the worst crash that occurred in five years.

And, as noted here by the AFL-CIO

Nearly two years before the fatal crash of Comair Flight 5191, a control tower supervisor at the Lexington airport reported staff shortages that “can cost lives.” According to a safety memo filed in September 2004 and obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press, the supervisor reported the airport’s radar system wasn’t working properly but that the air traffic manager refused to call in a mechanical specialist because it would mean paying two hours of overtime..
Words fail me...

Victor Santore, Southern region vice president for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said the memo proves that staffing complaints aren’t just coming from rank-and-file controllers seeking more overtime pay.

“The FAA just characterizes it as union rhetoric, but here you have a member of management trying to warn someone that the facility is short-staffed, and nobody’s doing anything about it,” Santore said.

The FAA employed 15,606 controllers in 2002, according to (The National Air Traffic Controllers Association), but now that number has shrunk to 14,305 while air traffic continues to grow.
And the AFL-CIO article is less than a year old, by the way.

Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He is actually aware of issues pertaining to airline safety, and I’m sure the plight of the air traffic controllers is something “on his radar,” so to speak. Let’s contact him here and tell him Congress needs to hold hearings on the issues pertaining to air traffic controllers in particular and airline operations in general (he’s looking into maintenance issues at the moment).

No one wants uncertainty at 30,000 feet, do they?

- Don’t look now, but our old buddy Vlad and his friends are forming an Opec-like operation for natural gas-exporting companies, as reported in the Times of London (another way for us to “get it in the neck” on energy costs…terrific – the four countries to be included in addition to Russia are Algeria, Iran, Nigeria, and Qatar).

This chart of our natural gas imports shows that we receive substantial quantities from Algeria and Nigeria and a comparatively modest amount from Qatar (and I still say that Halliburton’s move to Dubai was intended to cozy up even more to the countries on this list but not on our import chart, namely Russia and Iran, though I’m just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, so what do I know?).

- Oh, and speaking of Imus (and I guess I was a bit – sigh), Smerky says that the Rutgers women’s basketball players were “anxious to be offended” (as Will Bunch notes here, and what could I possibly add to a statement like that; somehow, I'm sure that J.D. Mullane of the Courier Times will weigh in with similar comments shortly).

Here is a great post on this from The General (via Atrios) for some reality-based perspective.

On an unrelated note, I'm not sure how much posting will take place tomorrow - we'll see.

A War Of Words

Is it just me, or do the very terms Bushco uses concerning its conduct of the Iraq war betray their true intentions without their knowledge?

Here’s what I mean; when the Coalition Provisional Authority was established after we originally took over in 2003, Jay Garner was tabbed as either the Viceroy (a term reminiscent of British colonialism) or the Pro Consul (conjuring up images of ancient Rome and Caesar), depending on who you were talking to at the moment in the administration (putting aside the fact that Garner sought as quick a handoff to the Iraqis as possible, while Paul Bremer, Garner’s replacement, was the one who ended up acting in a way implied by those dictatorial titles).

Now, we have “The Decider” deciding that he really doesn’t want to decide any more, I guess (sorry Dubya, but as Colin Powell famous told you, “you break it, you own it”), and he is in the process of looking for a “war Czar” (is it really a surprise that he’s not getting any interest?).

And the whole notion of “Homeland” security isn’t too far removed from Adolf and that goose-stepping gang anyway (the “fatherland” and all that).

Now I ask you, is someone truly interested in a “dialogue” or “triangulation” with an opposing party or point of view going to use these terms in their everyday language?

True To His Word, Sadly

Why is it so difficult for people to understand that discarded embryonic stem cells used for medical research will only be destroyed anyway if we fail to use them?

Does any logically thinking adult out there (automatically excluding you-know-who, of course) seriously believe that using embryonic stem cells for medical research actually encourages abortion?

I automatically ask these questions each time I hear a politician state his or her opposition to embryonic stem cell research on religious grounds. And I know many devout, intelligent people feel that way, but I just wonder what it will take to get through to them on this, assuming that is possible.

And that of course brings us to Sen. Bob Casey, who pledged again recently to oppose embryonic stem cell research when the Senate reintroduces legislation upon their return from the break (which is today, I believe), as noted here. This is completely consistent with what Casey promised in his campaign, by the way.

Still, though, I think he should have a talk with Shelbie and Jeff Oppenheimer about this, and he can learn more about them here.

Why Does Joe Pitts Hate America?

I’m a little late with this, but not Greg Sargent, as noted here – sorry about that – but I must ask the question that I’m sure has been on the lips of every American for far too long now.

As Sargent notes above, Pitts and three other Repugs met with President Bashar Assad of Syria before Nancy Pelosi led her delegation over there (which also included a Republican, by the way). And since Pelosi has been vilified all over the place for her visit, why shouldn’t Pitts get the same treatment for his?

As noted in this Lancaster Online article dated last Tuesday…

Gabe Neville, Pitts' chief of staff, said Monday the conference between Assad and the three Republicans was intended to be "low profile."

"It was done in cooperation with the administration," he said.

However, White House spokesman Alex Conant said Monday the Bush administration — as a blanket policy — "discourages all of (Congress') visits" to Syria, a country believed by the White House to sponsor terrorism.


Details about Pitts' trip to Syria, including when the White House learned of it and whether and how the Department of State was involved, were not available from Neville, who said, "I'll let (Pitts) answer that when he gets back."

Neville also declined to divulge Pitts' return date, citing security concerns.
I’m sure that, when it comes to al Qaeda and any other “splinter” insurgent groups that are trying to kill us, Pitts is sitting right at the very top of their “hit” list, right?

Please – I certainly don’t wish ill on the man, but if I ever had to defend life, limb, family and/or property for the sake of my very survival, I can tell you right now that it would not be because something untoward had happened to Joe Pitts.

Also, I searched Pitts’ web site to find out more information on the visit, but I guess he thought it was inappropriate to tell his constituents exactly what it was that he did (“security concerns” and all that, I guess).

But I suppose there is sort of a goofy logic to Pitts’ visit to Syria when you think about it. I’m sure he can vote “no” just as well over there as he can here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Fuel ("Hemorrhage In My Hands" - bleaugh!)...

...Velvet Revolver ("Slither," from Live 8; I guess Scott Weiland was channeling Joel Grey or something).

The Voice Of One Who Knows

The latest from Gen. Wesley Clark...

Right now Americans are coming together with one voice to demand George W. Bush follow the will of the people and not veto the Democratic plan for change in Iraq.

I've spent my entire professional career standing up for our men and women in uniform. I have carefully reviewed and considered the Democrats' plan for change in Iraq. More than any bill passed by the previous Republican Rubber Stamp Congress, it ensures our troops have the training and equipment they need - and our veterans get the services they deserve.

What it doesn't do, however, is give George W. Bush a blank check to continue his strategy for failure in Iraq.

We want a New Direction in Iraq and, together, we need to show that the American people support the Democratic plan for change in Iraq. That is why I am joining the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in telling the President not to veto the Democratic plan for change in Iraq and to treat our troops with the dignity and respect they deserve.

We have a goal of sending 50,000 signatures to President Bush before April 20th to show our support. Will you join us?

Tell President Bush Not to Veto the Democratic Plan for Change in Iraq.

On November 7, 2006, the American people voted for change. They want to see fewer troops in Iraq - not more. I can tell you it's not only civilians who want a New Direction. Generals on the ground and Pentagon officials know we cannot succeed if we stay the course. The President is increasingly becoming more isolated in his stay-the-course strategy.

The Bush Administration also continues to falsely claim that resources for American troops will begin to run out later this month - despite the fact that the Pentagon and the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service confirm resources will be available well into the summer. Congressional Democrats will never cut off funding to our troops in harm's way.

Our nation has seen the terrible consequences of President Bush's failed policy in Iraq. It has made us less secure while costing us close to a trillion dollars. This administration sent our troops into harm's way without adequate equipment to protect them, and abandoned them when they returned by failing to provide proper health care to treat the wounded.

If President Bush vetoes the Democratic plan, he will be sending yet another signal that his 'plan' is simply to continue these failed policies.

I am standing up for the troops and I hope you will too. Join me in telling President Bush you stand with Democrats and insist on a new direction in Iraq.

Tell President Bush Not to Veto the Democratic Plan for Change in Iraq.

Thank you,

Wes Clark

P.S. George W. Bush is threatening to veto this bill and ignore the will of the American people. All of us need to show him that we are behind the Democratic plan for change in Iraq. For four years he has failed - it's time for a new direction.

Tell President Bush Not to Veto the Democratic Plan for Change in Iraq.
I have a dream that one day we'll be governed by adults again, and it will not be necessary to sign petitions to tell these people to do the right thing...

Forget Imus

They probably don't need any help from me on this, but mcjoan and BarbinMD at The Daily Kos are all over Dubya's games with the Dems on the Iraq Supplemental today, as well as more Broderistic nonsense.

To check it out, click here.

"Naked" Narcissism

I know I’m really taking “the road less traveled” with some of these posts today, but I think this stuff is interesting, so here goes.

In the Doomsy household (and a few others, I would guess) we give the kids some little cheapie gifts for their Easter baskets, and we knew that this year, the young one would just go wild over the CD and DVD of The Naked Brothers Band, which (for the uninitiated) is a musical group of kids led by Nat and Alex Wolff (pictured…Nat is older and Alex is younger), the sons of musician Michael Wolff and actress/director Polly Draper. And it turned out that we were right.

This New York Times article provides more background on the family behind this project and how it came about. It looks like, after its debut on the Nickelodeon kids TV network, this will run at least for a few more episodes.

The two boys are undeniably talented, I will definitely give them that. And I’m sure their parents will keep them from falling into the typical traps for show business kids (do I really need to point out what happened to the cast of “Diff’rent Strokes”?).

But in the New York Times review, Draper makes it sound like, “oh, we just threw together this home movie, and we showed it to our friends and they liked it, and so we showed it to Nickelodeon and they liked it, so…”

Uh, no (at least, it doesn’t look that way).

Even though they had a budget of $1 million (which probably doesn’t go as far as you might think), the hour-long movie begins with a sweeping overhead shot from a chopper of the kids riding in a limo over a New York bridge (since there’s about 30 bridges in the metropolitan New York area, I’m going to guess Queensborough and admit that I’m probably wrong).

Maybe that came right from the Wolffs, maybe not. My point is that this is a lot slicker of a show then they’re letting on.

And of course, since this is a Nickelodeon production, it is required that the kids act jaded and world-weary beyond their years (which maybe they are, though that’s the fault of the parents as far as I’m concerned) and the adults act like total bumbling idiots. This is evident in the fact that the father and the parents of the other boys indulge these kids in every conceivable manner and put up with the requisite ridicule and offer only a zoned-out smile in response.

The article notes that the Wolff boys were heavily influenced by The Beatles (or, at least as much as they can be at this stage of their development – and by the way, you don’t know what joy truly is until you’ve heard “Crazy Car” for the hundred and fiftieth time in one day and can’t get the song out of your head to save your life). I suppose that explains why a good bit of this production is taken up with the disintegration of the former kids band, the Silver Boulders, in what I guess is supposed to be a kids’ version of the infamous “Let It Be” sessions (see, they reform later as the Naked Brothers and have a concert on the roof of the recording studio, of course). And the breakup of the old band is punctuated by food fights that automatically transpire whenever one band member disagrees with another over anything (and never chided by adults for this behavior, of course). And for good measure, the adults act like kids too, including a scene where two mothers wrestle with each other on the floor preceding a band promotional event.

Yes, again I know this is Nickelodeon, and yes, I know I’m not the target audience for this show. But is it asking too much for everyone to act like they’re supposed to, even a little bit?

And the New York Times article notes that the movie that was bought by Nickelodeon won an award at a Hamptons film festival, and I’m thinking to myself, gee, that sure is a slice of life of Americana, isn’t it? I guess, to show approval, no one applauded but rattled their jewelry instead (paraphrasing the John Lennon quote, I know). “Oh Polly, Michael, your children are simply daah-ling. I thought their little music home movie was adorable! Have you purchased your season tickets to the Met already? Please, try some of the Veuve Clicquot…”

Also, if you’re trying to place the small-screen program in which Polly Draper appeared prior to now, it would be “thirtysomething,” as noted in the Times article (lower case “T,” you see…ever so artsy, easily the most self-indulgent T.V. show ever concocted).

With a pedigree like this, it should be totally unsurprising that “The Naked Brothers” exhibits this sort of ultra-hip-and-too-cool-for-school mentality that makes adults groan with resignation. For example, Alex tricks the brainless teenaged babysitter into thinking that the U.S. is composed of 52 states (including Mexico and Canada), and when the two boys come across a talent agent who wants to sign them after another band disagreement, Nat exclaims “Jesus, what a jerk,” while Alex gets mad at Nat and days, “Stop that! He was one of our best presidents!”

(Again, it’s for kids, I know, but why must we celebrate American ignorance and selfishness in the process? And I’m sorry – I can’t help but object to Alex wearing the American flag as a “do” rag.)

Now before anyone thinks I’m going to get all Michael Medved here, don’t worry. This is not emblematic of liberal decadence in the entertainment industry and something that will hopelessly erode the moral fiber of our country to the point where we can never win The Global Forever And Ever You Nancy Pelosi Headscarf Wearing Assad Meeting Ted Kennedy Loving Liberal War On Terra. The young one has fun with it and I trust his judgment, and it’s up to us to make sure he learns how to act from other more suitable examples. I just wish the show didn’t reflect such selfish behavior (a girl complements Alex on his tattoo, and he looks off to one side diffidently and says, “I know”).

(And somewhere, my parents are nodding in approval and saying, “What goes around…”).

Demand Action on Global Warming

The latest from Democracy for America (I cannot tell you how happy I will be if the day ever comes when posts on this subject are no longer necessary; of course, that's assuming our planet isn't completely fouled or submerged by then)...

After years of research and aggressive attempts by several governments to water down the scientific evidence, the United Nations released a new global warming report that studies the facts and lays bare the dangers in no uncertain terms. If we don't take action right now to curb greenhouse gases, the Earth's future is bleak.

A planetary landscape ravaged by floods, millions of species sentenced to extinction, more than a billion people in need of water, and extreme food shortages in third world nations are some of the worst effects warned about in the report.

Climate change is a global crisis and our next President will have to take strong action to make change happen. Will you petition the presidential candidates to share their bold plan to lead America forward and reverse the effects of Global Warming?

Click here.

The last DFA Primary Petition received several great responses. Senator Edwards read comments from DFA members Peter Coburn, Karen Palmer, and Daniel Myerson while laying out his views on Iraq. Senator Obama delivered a personal message before diving into a timeline of his position. And Governor Richardson didn't just respond directly to comments from Will Edwards, Phylis Bogan, and Carl Veley or deliver his plan for Iraq; he also mentioned the work he did with a local DFA group on paper ballots. All three of these candidates understood how important you are and wanted to make sure you heard from them.

DFA's Green for America campaign is off to a great start. First, our organization became carbon neutral by investing in four excellent renewable energy projects. Local DFA groups have hosted over 200 Green Meetings featuring the documentary Kilowatt Ours and a discussion on how to conserve at home and in the community. Now it's time to get the Presidential candidates' plan to fight global warming on record. Please sign the petition right now:

Click here.

Global Warming is not going away without immediate action. We need leaders we can depend on.

Thank you for working to move America forward,

Tom Hughes
Executive Director
Here is a performer who definitely "gets it" on this issue (and by the way, Lord Monckton is a fracking idiot!).

Where There's A "Wilf," There's A Way

I thought this was interesting. It turns out that those zany Brits spend, on average, about two days a month “wilfing,” which is a term they’ve coined for more or less browsing indiscriminately on the Web (an abbreviation for “what was I looking for?”).

Gosh, was an unproductive abuse of resources (smirk…and, as you may expect, the study that determined this also figured out that men spend more time “wilfing” than women - naturally).

"The Internet was designed to make it easier for people to access the information they need quickly and conveniently," said Jason Lloyd, head of broadband at the ( website (the people who commissioned the study).

"However, our study shows that although people log on with a purpose, they are now being offered so much choice and online distraction that many forget what they are there for, and spend hours aimlessly wilfing instead."
Luckily for me there’s no blogging equivalent to this. I mean, when I set out to post, I NEVER get confused. I just know that Abu Gonzales is going to be discussing immigration with Adam “Pacman” Jones while Howard K. Stern tells Ahmadinejad to apologize to the Rutgers women’s basketball team for selling nukes to Don Imus…

Never mind; I’ll try again later.

Pope On The Ropes?

CNN noted here that Pope Benedict XVI gave his Easter homily recently and decried “how much suffering there is in the world.”

I suppose it’s a good thing that he bothered to acknowledge some of the world’s worst violence, primarily in Africa and the Middle East, but I really wonder who he thinks he’s preaching to or who actually considers his words to be a “news flash.”

There are worldwide protests against the Iraq war, and we hear nothing from the Vatican. The United Nations, along with this country, appears to be totally impotent regarding the Darfur crisis (of course, we’ve squandered our moral authority and much of the world’s goodwill that we could have brought to bear in that region because of the war), and the best Benedict can do is call it an “underestimated humanitarian situation.”

Agree with him or not, but a healthy John Paul II would have “kicked butt and taken names” on this stuff long ago.

This article by Jane Kramer that recently appeared in The New Yorker gives us some insight into Benedict, I think, written from the perspective of Christianity’s relationship with Islam (actually, radical Islam is prominent in the article, which is appropriate unfortunately). I’ve highlighted the following passages that I think are particularly important.

It is well known that Benedict wants to transform the Church of Rome, which is not to say that he wants to make it more responsive to the realities of modern life as it is lived by Catholic women in the West, or by Catholic homosexuals, or even by the millions of desperately poor Catholic families in the Third World who are still waiting for some merciful dispensation on the use of contraception. He wants to purify the Church, to make it more definitively Christian, more observant, obedient, and disciplined—you could say more like the way he sees Islam. And never mind that he doesn’t seem to like much about Islam, or that he has doubts about Islam’s direction. (His doubts are not unusual in today’s world; many Muslims have them.) The Pope is a theologian—the first prominent theologian to sit on Peter’s throne since the eighteenth century. He views the world through a strictly theological frame, and his judgments about Islam, however defiant or reductive they sometimes sound, have finally to do with the idea of Theos—God—as he understands it. Those judgments have not changed much, in character, since he left Germany for the Vatican, twenty-six years ago.
Kramer’s article describes the fallout from Benedict’s speech at the University of Regensburg in which (in a manner befitting a clueless academic, as far as I’m concerned), he quoted a Byzantine emperor who allegedly said the following to a Persian guest: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new…and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” And the hope apparently was that this would lead to an analysis of the rest of Benedict’s speech that would receive greater examination than the quote (and we know what happened as a result).


Ratzinger and (Karol) Wojtyla (the former Pope John Paul II) shared this: an exceptionally narrow view of what constitutes a morally acceptable Christian life. That view is reflected in the daily decisions of bishops who in the past few years have denied the sacraments to pro-choice politicians (St. Louis); refused to allow Muslims to pray at a church that was once a mosque (Córdoba); and denied Catholic burial to an incurably ailing man who, after years of suffering on a respirator, asked to die (Rome). But the resemblance ends there. Ratzinger did not really think that theological dialogue with non-Christians was useful, or meaningful, or even possible. John Paul II did. His papacy, he said, was going to be a peace papacy—a papacy of bridges. Unlike Ratzinger, he was not much concerned about whether a Trinitarian faith with an anthropomorphic God was “comprehensible” to a Muslim whose God is never manifest. He would talk to anyone about God. In twenty-six years as Pope, he made a hundred and two trips abroad, many of them to Muslim countries, and it didn’t matter whether the understanding of God was the same from one airport to the next.

God’s intentions tend to wobble from papacy to papacy, and the Church adjusts to the contradictions. Benedict, for all his doctrinal rigidity, remains extremely forthcoming as a scholar, and he is much more careful than his predecessor to distinguish between opinion and “truth.” John Paul II was untroubled by that sort of distinction, and, curiously, Benedict did very little to discourage his conflations of doctrine and what the Church calls “definitive teachings”—perhaps because, during the last years of the Pope’s long illness, those teachings were “guided” by Benedict himself. (“Ratzinger has been Pope much longer than you think,” Robert Mickens says.) Eventually, John Paul’s relations with other religions, especially with Islam, were also guided by Ratzinger, although this was obvious mainly to Rome’s vaticanisti, who could trace the change.
To illustrate a difference between John Paul and Benedict, Kramer notes the Assisi I prayer meeting that took place in 1986 in which John Paul prayed “together” with “a hodgepodge of interfaith holiness,” though, when Assisi II took place in 2002 (with John Paul in ill health and Ratzinger calling the shots at this point), the Pope prayed “not together, but beside” other faiths, and he was installed on a throne for the event to emphasize what Benedict believed was Catholic superiority.

Kramer also notes the following…

Benedict, who is nearly eighty, is said to have set himself two goals for what he knows will be a short papacy. Neither of them involves Islam theologically, but they do involve it in very practical, political ways. His first goal is ecumenical. It has to do with reinvigorating, and perhaps enforcing, what he sees as Christianity’s nonnegotiable moral precepts. In other words, he wants to temper and constrain Western secularism with his own brand of Christian morality; he wants the leaders of other Christian fellowships to join him; and he wants to put the world on notice that, with more than fifteen million Muslims living in Western Europe, the only analogous mission in the West today is an Islamist one.

Benedict’s second goal is reciprocity with Islam. He wants to use his papacy to restore to Christian minorities in Muslim countries the same freedom of religion that most Muslims enjoy in the West. The question of reciprocity is hardly new, but it was never a priority at the Vatican before Benedict’s reign. John Paul II avoided it, on his travels, by saying, in effect, “I go for the country, not the religion.” Benedict has pretty much made it a precondition for relations between the Vatican and the Muslim world. He clearly thinks that the Judeo Christian West has been self-destructively shortsighted in its concessions to the Islamic diaspora, when few, if any, concessions are made to Christians and Jews in most of the Middle East.
I will freely admit that I am an imperfect Catholic and hardly a theologian; I’m just trying to “find my own way” as are we all. And maybe the kind of “tough love” Benedict is calling for with Islam may somehow yield to a greater understanding of our mutual faiths.

But we’ve already seen an example of a leader on the world stage trying to force-feed an ideology and way of life down the throats of a Middle Eastern culture with disastrous results over these last four-plus years, and though faith is a wondrous thing, it must be tempered with reason, and I don’t see how Benedict can accomplish something theologically that George W. Bush and his gang couldn’t accomplish politically or militarily.

Inky Immigration Idiocy

I’d like to try and get us away for a few minutes from reading and talking about a racist idiot radio personality who should no longer have a job and instead look at something else, OK?

The Philadelphia Inquirer published this editorial yesterday in which they decried the lack of activity on immigration reform; in the process, they mentioned the ordinances passed in towns such as Hazleton, Pa. which, in effect, penalize all immigrants by tainting them as illegals (Smerky sounded off on this a few weeks ago, but life is short, so I decided not to comment on it).

I’m really going to try and not devote time to Dubya, Tancredo and the other flaming wingers on this issue since (oh, but Dubya is going to “triangulate” on this, according to Bill Schneider of CNN…so laughably preposterous the way our corporate media continues to prop up President Stupid Head), but instead, I want to focus on this passage from the Inquirer editorial…

The Dems also bear some of the blame. They haven't acted forcefully because they don't want to offend Big Labor, which fears a tide of immigrant workers will stunt wages.
See, there’s no way the Inky or any other journo house organ can criticize the Repugs these days even though they’ve ruined everything they’ve touched without overamplifying an actual Democratic shortcoming or manufacturing one for the sake of argument.

Yes, labor is a traditional Democratic constituency. But if the Inky would bother to do its homework (and they can start by reading this article from the AFL-CIO blog), they would begin to find a clue about the wealth transfer that has been taking place in this country already for years, to say nothing of offshoring, which has done more to stunt wages than anything “Big Labor” could ever do (and let’s not forget, of course, that “Big Labor” is repugnant code language anyway).

And speaking of wealth transfer, the definitive column on that written by Paul Krugman can be accessed here.

I have a couple of ideas on this that I’d like to share.

First, let’s establish a national registry of employers who have broken the law by hiring illegal workers. If we’re going to get serious about “reform,” then we should name all the culpable parties, right?

Second, I know of a way to affect the “demand” side of this equation, which I think we should focus on because there will always be plenty looking for jobs on the supply side; let’s invest in technological development and job training to the point where we start producing more white-collar jobs that illegal immigrants could never perform (you don’t hear of Mexicans risking life and limb to migrate to Silicon Valley, do you?). To paraphrase that baseball movie, if you build it, you know they won’t come.

I prefer constructive activity on this issue as opposed to victimizing “straw men” for no good reason, don’t you?

Update 1: Posts like this are the reason why David Sirota is The Man!

Update 2: Don't let him "sucker you" on this like he did with NCLB, Ted.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday Videos

Happy Birthday to drummer Gene Parsons of The Byrds ("Chestnut Mare" with some nice video and slides; song is from 1971)...

...and Happy Birthday to the funniest mathematics professor who ever lived, and that of course would be Mr. Tom Lehrer, who turned 79 today (some animation that I liked accompanying "New Math" from back in the '60s - Lehrer is author of this quote: “I wish people who had trouble communicating would just shut up!,” thereby eliminating about 3/4s of all of the TV talk shows).

DO It? He Can't Even SPELL It!

Just when I thought I'd reached a singular level of disgust over this story (why the hell did MSNBC even bother?), it turns out that Bill Schneider of CNN thinks Dubya can "triangulate" on the immigration issue, which Tom "Democrat Implied Party" Tancredo thinks President Brainless should do because, as far as Tancredo is concerned, he cost the Repugs Congress last year (largely true, though a Neanderthal like Tancredo has no room to throw stones).

Our corporate media at work, once again...

(And by the way, regarding that utter wretch Imus, if I had ever called any of my female African American co-workers "nappy headed hos," not only would I have been fired, but I would have been prosecuted also, and that's as it should be.)

Two Stories I Ignored Today

(And I’m glad I did, to make room for Digby’s great post here…)

- The “blogger biddie patrol” on page 1 of the New York Times (unbelievable; again, Digby via Atrios sums up the absurdity).
- One word: Imus. He borders somewhere between a has-been and a never-was who only gets the time of day as a corporate media stooge because he venomously attacked the Clintons at that White House press club dinner in 1996 (if those frauds can’t handle Stephen Colbert, then they should ban those things forever – they represent what’s wrong with that cesspool anyway).

Update 4/10/07: I’ve pondered what I said here a bit, prompted by this fine post by Alex Leo of HuffPo, and I agree with much of what she has to say. I’m not trying to demean the foul treatment suffered by some of the women bloggers (though I cannot understand why anyone would think posting pictures of family members on a blog, particularly kids, is a good idea), but ultimately, what I’m saying is “D.I.Y.” I’ve posted some loose comment guidelines here, and though I will freely admit that I don’t get the traffic some of these other sites get, I think we need to act individually on this (and also, as Digby points out, our corporate media rarely does any “self-policing” of this type, but it’s up to us filthy, unkempt liberal bloggers to tidy ourselves up and abide by some imaginary code that apparently exists in the mind of Mark Halperin, Joe Klein, and a few others).

Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Add Robert Cobb to the looong list of Bushco lickspittles and hangers-on who’ve been assigned to roles in government for which they are, apparently, sorely unprepared; Cobb is currently the inspector general for NASA, assigned to oversee a staff of inspectors and auditors monitoring safety and working conditions with the agency.

What makes Cobb a bad apple in this case, you ask?

Well, in addition to berating and attempting to intimidate his staff so that they would end up doing their jobs badly or not at all, he also became quite cozy with former administrator Sean O’Keefe to the point where (as noted in this Orlando Sentinel editorial) they “golfed, dined, and traveled together.”

And try taking a look at Cobb’s bio here to see if you can find any prior experience managing a government agency of any type in some compliance or monitoring function (oh, but he was an adviser on Dubya’s “Integrity and Efficiency” Council, wasn’t he…so much snark, so little time, I know).

And Cobb was confirmed for his job about five years ago in 2002, and the Columbia disaster took place in 2003 (I’m just stating facts here; draw your own conclusions if you will, I don’t want to “go there” without any proof of anything).

The Orlando Sentinel is a pretty conservative paper, by the way, and Bill Nelson has definitely acted as a Repug-lite from time to time, so if these individuals are telling you it’s time, then, like it is with Abu Gonzales at this point, it’s time.

Update: This is the post Prof. Marcus referred to in the comment on Carl Levin – easy to forget that Bushco has too many hacks like Cobb involved in supposedly non-partisan agencies for it to be merely coincidental incompetence; I know the Kagro X post applies to the Justice Department, but you've got people like Cobb whose job it is to pledge undying loyalty to the Repugs (and take down all Dems in the process, as noted by Atrios) everywhere in our government now, not just NASA and DOJ.

Our 8th District Rep At Work

This is a real grab-bag of a post, I know, but I'm trying to knock off all of the letters and Patrick Murphy's Guest Opinion today in the Courier Times in one shot.

First, here are the letters...

I am a registered Republican. I voted for Patrick Murphy in 2006.

Congressman Murphy’s recent calling to task fellow members of Congress for their recent pork-barrel spending on the floor of Congress was both admirable and gutsy. It appears that Murphy is keeping his eye on both local and national issues and handling both admirably.

If Murphy keeps up this level of performance, I, a registered voting Republican, will again vote for him in 2008. Why? Because he is looking out for us!

William Oxenford
Upper Southampton

An article by Brian Scheid says that critics are upset with Congressman Patrick Murphy, who supports a measure to include spending of $21 billion to be added to the war funding bill for domestic needs.

So where’s the pork? Billions of our tax dollars have gone to the war effort, and we know how well that has been spent. Remember Halliburton, no-bid contracts, insufficient protection for our military, and the missing millions of war dollars that no one is investigating or, for that matter, even reporting in our newspapers? It seems strange that they do not want to find that money. It makes me wonder: all of this is probably “the real pork.”

Where’s the pork when all of the funding has been cut for silly pork products such as health care, education, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, community development, job training, our own infrastructure, etc. This may be “pork.” Let us not forget the cuts to pork like home agriculture spending, which we should know about, even if it is buried somewhere in our newspapers.

Say nothing of the $2 billion pork budget we spend on renewable energy research.

More than 110 Pennsylvanians have died in a war of lies. How’s that for pork?

I think Congressman Murphy should create some spending so that Americans may have a prosperous life to return to. Attach it anywhere you can, please!

Joe Russo
That was a little strident even for me, I must admit.

Recently I arrived at the Yardley train station to make my daily commute into Center City, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see Congressman Patrick Murphy on the platform greeting commuters. It was a serendipitous meeting, and most fortunate because I was planning to call Congressman Murphy that day about a cause to which I am very dedicated – the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

I was a windy, cold morning, yet Murphy listened intently to my concerns about funding to support research for a cure, as well as funding for much-needed support for programs and service for people with dementia and their family care partners. When I said my piece and walked away, he followed me to the other end of the platform to continue the conversation. He set up an appointment to meet with me and other advocates personally at his Washington, D.C. office, as I had already planned to be at the capital to participate in the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Public Policy Forum/Day on the Hill. Following that meeting, the congressman and I planned to keep in touch, at the local level, about the important issues associated with dementia care.

I applaud Murphy. Lots of politicians “stump” for votes at the train stations around the area, but Murphy has returned to the station, post election, to say “thanks” to the voters and to connect with their needs, issues and concerns. I am so pleased to have a legislator who is accessible to his constituents – who listens, follows through, and cares about what is important to so many people in his district.

I hope that in sharing this experience other concerned citizens will be encouraged to reach out to Congressman Murphy too. I believe he is very determined to serve our community in the best possible way.

Danita J. Vetter
Lower Makefield

Thank you, Congressman Patrick Murphy, for your support of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that protects workers who want to unionize.

A study of the history of American labor and unions provides a fascinating history of the last 150 years. I remember when the great John L. Lewis, head of the Miners Union, came to our town to meet with my Uncle Jimmy. You’d have thought the pope was coming.

I don’t remember getting a glimpse of him, but his picture was often on the front page and adults spoke of him with reverence. Instead of fairy tales, my grandmother told us stories of injustice and death in the mines. She told me about the next-door neighbor who came from Poland and was killed in the mines.

“They came in the Black Maria, the ambulance that rarely went to the hospital, and they dumped him on the dining room floor, and that was that.”

I’ve never been a member of a union, but years ago a woman I worked with began talking about unionizing the company she worked for. She was warned she would be fired if she kept it up. Shortly after, she left the job and the administrator who warned her retired with stocks coming out of her ears. I hear she is a world traveler.

Many people today have little or no contact with unions. America has been privatized. IT began with Ronald Reagan. An example of privatization is the Walter Reed debacle. While mold grew on the walls and rodents and cockroaches flourished, private companies competed for three years for the Army contract.

Finally, in 2006, the contract was awarded to IAP Worldwide Services Inc., a company with powerful political connections. Meanwhile, the men and women home from Iraq lived in rooms that most of us wouldn’t stay in for 10 minutes. Yes, privatization works well – for the well-connected companies.

Oh, yes, there is a dark side to unions. There were thugs and corruption, and there was Jimmy Hoffa. Today, unions are closely scrutinized, sometimes overly so, and their members follow strict guidelines on hiring, organizing and striking.

Historically, religious groups have had a strong influence on the human rights of workers. Recently, Interfaith Worker Justice, a national organization of various religions, supported a strike in Phoenix with its “Thirst For Justice” protest. The strikers are nonunion ironworkers who face racial discrimination, safety concerns, and even lack of water on the job.

Hooray for those faith groups that spend time addressing basic human rights. Hooray for Father Bill. (?) Hooray for unions. Hooray for Congress. Hooray for Patrick Murphy.

Eleanor Guerriero
Bristol Township, PA
Next, here is Patrick's Guest Opinion concerning his budget vote before the congressional break...

I recently broke ranks with my own party leaders and voted against their budget plan. I did not come to this decision lightly. I voted this way because I believe that families in the 8th Congressional district deserve fiscal responsibility.

When my daughter, Maggie, was born last year at Lower Bucks Hospital, her share (and every American’s share) of our national debt was over $29,000.

The Bush administration has taken record budget surpluses and turned them into record debt – totaling nearly $9 trillion in only a few years. We’ve seen budgets seriously cripple our economy while the debt we owe to countries like China and Saudi Arabia continues to climb. President Bush and past Congresses have mortgaged our future with reckless spending. We need to act with a sense of urgency to rein in spending in Washington and protect middle-class tax cuts that are set to expire in 2010.

Those of use elected to serve – whether Democrats, Republicans or Independents – need to be committed to fiscal responsibility. This means being straight with you, the voters, about which tax cuts and spending programs we can and cannot afford. Any politician who promises tax cuts and spending increases to every interest group that comes along is doing the country a great disservice.

In this budget, non-defense discretionary spending increased at an unacceptable rate. Make no mistake, this Democratic budget was far better than the mythical budgets Tom DeLay and President Bush put forth the last few years. Despite the improvements, in my judgment, this budget didn’t do enough to control spending.

To balance the budget, to do right by our veterans and to protect middle-class tax cuts, we need to cut corporate subsidies and government waste, and aggressively pay down the national debt. We can all agree on this: If we pay down the government credit card, we cut the cost of government by nearly 10 percent without having to cut vital programs. Taking these tough steps is necessary – and long overdue.

I applaud the Democratic leaders in their call for the long-overdue increase in the Veterans Administration budget. Their priorities were also in place when they reinstated pay-as-you-go budgeting and drastically reduced the number of earmarks. But I opposed the Democratic budget because it allowed non-defense spending to increase at alarmingly high levels. It also did not articulate a clear enough way forward on the alternative minimum tax and the middle-class tax cuts that are set to expire in 2010.

There are things we can do. Instead of immediately paying hundreds of millions of dollars in interest payments to other countries to pay off our national credit card, we can continue to invest in alternative energy, education and health care. We can fully fix the alternative minimum tax that affects an increasing number of middle class families with an unfair burden. An estimated 837,000 families here in Pennsylvania will be subject to the AMT in 2007 – up from 114,000 in 2004. In order to achieve these goals, we must regain our fiscal discipline.

The budget proposed by President Bush and Vice President Cheney is far worse. There was no true effort made to decrease deficits. There were also painful cuts to Medicare that would have affected the most vulnerable in our community, including senior citizens and reimbursements to doctors and the 11 hospitals in Bucks County.

The president’s budget also fails to permanently fix the AMT and slashes money from small business programs and job training. Further, the president sought to balance the budget on the backs of future generations. This is a burden I will not place on our children.

The families of the 8th district elected me to side with them, not with any political party. There is a middle ground in this debate. I will fight for and vote for cuts in wasteful spending, debt retirement, a dramatic reduction in earmarks, and sensible tax cuts as we bring our budget into balance. This involves making tough decisions, but I believe that’s why you sent me to Washington.
To contact Patrick on the budget or other matters, click here.