Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Videos

Happy 64th birthday to The Fantastic Johnny C ("Boogaloo Down Broadway" featured in this unintentionally hilarious '60s film clip: I think they filmed "Night Of The Living Dead" at around the same time as this program, and probably the same area (same extras??), and I hadn't seen saddle shoes since the Johnson Administration; at least the judges bothered to put out their cigarettes first, and who can forget Jonathan King anyway - predates me, but not by much)..., let us go from the ridiculous to the sublime; as an appreciation for Mstislav Rostropovich, here is his performance of the prelude from Bach's Cello Suite Number One.

The Inky's Funny Math On Patrick

So one of the headlines in yesterday's front page story on the impasse between Congressional Democrats and President Brainless on the Iraq Supplemental states, "Mixed on Murphy: His Stand Leaves Voters Divided."

Uh huh.

Well, here is more from writer Larry King's article (prefaced by noting Patrick's slim margin of victory over Mikey Fitzpatrick last November, hence the "again" reference)...

"Back home, reaction again revealed a county divided. Most voters interviewed yesterday supported the notion of getting out, but legislating a deadline left some at odds. Many were oblivious to Murphy's stance, or his unique credentials to be a spokesman for the Democratic opposition to the war."
Well, at least he didn't say the "Democrat" opposition. And I don't know how on earth anyone in Bucks could know who Patrick Murphy is but be "oblivious to (his) stance," but I'll take King at his word on that.

The part that gets me, though, is how most voters wanting to get out of Iraq while some opposed a deadline constitutes a 50-50 split (implied when stating that Bucks County is "divided" on the Iraq war).

Also, how can Bucks be "divided" when the ubiquitous G. Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College, the person The Philadelphia Inquirer always contacts regarding public opinion polling in stories about politics, says that "pre-election polls (last November) found greater dissatisfaction with President Bush and the war among Bucks voters than in most of the state"?

It doesn't sound to me like Bucks is very "divided" on the Iraq war, and I'm not reading anything in this story to tell me that Bucks is "divided" on Congress installing a timetable for withdrawal as part of war funding.

But speaking of math, Patrick noted the following...

"Ninety-five percent of my time is spent on local issues," he said, "yet 95 percent of our press has been on Iraq."
And that is the only reliable math that appeared anywhere in this story. And if you guessed that it appeared at the very end, then give yourself a gold star pat on the back.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Videos

Happy Birthday to Kate Pierson of The B-52s, she of the bigass beehive hairdo playing keyboards in this clip ("Dance This Mess Around") from 1979 (I dare not mention the name of the show lest there be legal trouble, but I'll give you a hint; the guest host in the parka is Teri Garr - close enough for the '80s...

...also, here is a link once more to the John Edwards petition telling our Democratic congress not to go "all boneless" and cave to Dubya on Iraq, and though I don't think we need any motivation to sign on, I'm going to provide it anyway ("Dover," by John Flynn).

Time To Bleat The Press Again

The Overseas Press Club dinner was held in Manhattan last night, as noted here (no word on whether or not Rich Little was on hand to render bad impersonations of ex-presidents), and various press luminaries gathered to tell war stories (figuratively and literally) and dine on asparagus napoleon, black bass and a dessert sampler, according to the story.

I’m not being snarky by pointing that out, by the way. I think some of these men and women are entitled to kick back in style on occasions like this, given that they usually have to live out of their suitcases in some truly God-forsaken locations to do their work on a regular basis.

As I read about the reminiscences of Andy Rooney (who is a thoroughly accomplished writer and a lot more than the end-of-60-Minutes chronic complainer, by the way) and the praise heaped upon the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers (God, I wish they’d held onto The Inquirer – the bureau was singled out in Bill Moyers’ fine program the other night which I will see eventually), I unexpectedly came across this testimonial regarding media coverage in Iraq…

Then there was Rita Cosby, recently departed from MSNBC, saying she wants to see more coverage of the soldiers in combat. A veteran of Afghanistan and other hot spot reporting, she says "It should get more coverage on American news. We can't lose sight of Americans involved."
Uh, what exactly has Rita Cosby done to merit a place in some imaginary journalistic pantheon that would consider her as a legitimate member? Is it merely her outstanding resume with her thoroughly verifiable credentials? Is it her fervent desire to “break through the glass,” if you will, to tell the story?

I mean, this woman was let go from both Fox and MSNBC; I guess, as noted here, Extra or The Insider is next.

Fortunately, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times (who is doing some truly courageous overseas reporting for the New York Times on a catalogue of human rights abuses) took the occasion to state the following…

Kristof, a former foreign correspondent, went on to push journalists to go beyond just reporting. "I don't think we should be embarrassed if we have a little bit of advocacy, that we can do good. We have to serve the public good, not just the bottom line," he declared. "The reality is that we do have an incredibly valuable spotlight."

In addition, the columnist urged his colleagues to do more stories off the radar, and more in-depth. "We do a pretty good job of covering news that happens on any one day, particularly if it happens at a press conference," he said. "We do need to try harder to cover stories that aren't sexy and are the reasons we went into this profession. We in the news business have to think about our larger responsibility to society."
I know there are lefty bloggers out there who dump on Kristof from time to time, and I swear to God, I will never understand why.

Update: Speaking of courage in the press, Digby via Atrios has a great post on someone who came and went amidst the media "flotsam and jetsam" (I hesitate to say this is a must-read, but I'll say it anyway - this is a must-read).

And finally (speaking of media), I just wanted to point out the passing of Jack Valenti as noted here. Yes, he was a player among political and corporate types for years, but I would ask you to consider something.

Valenti established the ratings for motion pictures in 1968, and though they have always been arbitrary to an extent, I would argue that this helped free filmmakers from studio conventions, labeling content in an age-appropriate fashion. This resulted in all kinds of stories written, directed and acted in new ways that led to some of the greatest films ever made in the 1970s.

Thanks for that, Jack.

End This War

The latest from John Edwards...

Are you ready to end this war? Then it's time to act.

In the last 48 hours both houses of Congress passed a bill to end the war by funding the troops with a clear timeline to bring them home. Bush's inevitable veto will probably happen in less than 4 days.

Everything depends on what Congress does next. Many in Washington think it's time to give in. We made our point, they argue, and now we should just give Bush another blank check to extend his war.

No. This Congress was not elected to make points—it was elected to end the war. When Bush vetoes, Congress must pass another spending bill just like this one, that funds the troops and brings them home. And they should do it again. And again. Until we end this war.

We've got about 96 hours to flood Washington with the names and comments of constituents calling on Congress to stand firm. We're aiming to deliver 100,000 names and comments from all over the country before Congress decides its next move.

We are not spectators in all of this. Our voice has real power. Please use yours today:

Click here.

What are we up against here? You've seen it already.

How many times have you already heard things like "Democrats are the party of surrender" or "Democrats want to wave the white flag" from right-wing talking heads?

This is the classic Rove/Bush strategy: Pump the airwaves so full of frightening spin that the Democrats second guess themselves into paralysis and give up.

Not this time.

We will not be intimidated because we see what's behind every empty, chest-thumping right-wing talking point. We see another soldier who will never again leave his wheelchair. We see another American family stricken with grief. And we see hundreds of thousands of our men and women in uniform waking up every morning wondering if their family will be the next to lose someone they love.

That's why we have no choice: we've got to be louder than Rove, louder than Bush, and louder than any fear that might throw Congress off course. That might sound impossible. But if that's what it takes, then we've got to do the impossible—and together I firmly believe that we can.

Please add your name and comments today, and we'll make sure you are heard in Washington at this critical time.

Click here.

Thank you for taking action when your country needs you most.


John Edwards
Friday, April 27, 2007
To learn more, click here.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (4/27/07)

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.


D.C. congressional seat. The House passed, 241-177, and sent to the Senate a bill to expand the House from 435 to 437 seats by declaring the District of Columbia a congressional district and awarding Utah another House seat.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 1905).

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.) and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).

Not voting: Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.)
I had planned to ask Tim Holden why on earth he would oppose a U.S. House Seat with full privileges to the District of Columbia (as opposed to the one now in which Eleanor Holmes-Norton doesn’t have the authority to vote on anything), but his web site will not accept correspondence from outside of his district. Nice.

Small business aid. The House passed, 267-158, and sent to the Senate a bill that would spend $562 million over six years to make the Small Business Administration more responsive to companies harmed by natural disasters.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 1361).

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

Voting no: Castle and Pitts.

Not voting: Brady.
I guess Castle and Pitts aren’t expecting any flooding in Delaware and Lancaster County for the foreseeable future. I hope they’re right.

Iraq troop withdrawal. House members affirmed, 215-199, a previous vote that requires a March 1, 2008, start for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. This vote occurred in advance of House-Senate negotiations on a $100 billion war-funding bill (HR 1591) containing the deadline.

A yes vote was to affirm the troop-withdrawal deadline.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Murphy, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton and Smith.

Not voting: Fattah.
Your basic slam-dunk here, with the predictable partisan opposition…

Executive pay. The House passed, 269-134, and sent to the Senate a bill empowering shareholders of publicly traded companies to conduct nonbinding votes approving or disapproving of top executives' compensation.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 1257).

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

Voting no: Castle and Pitts.

Not voting: Brady, Fattah and Gerlach.
I guess the securities in the portfolios for Castle and Pitts contains companies managed efficiently to achieve maximum profitability to the point where earnings accurately reflect the worth of their management (in other words, no Circuit City). How astute of them.

Of course, it would be nice if they gave a fig about the rest of us, though I know that’s WAY too much to expect for Pancake Joe (I hope Castle’s health is OK – that might be a reason for these awful votes).

Water projects. The House passed, 394-25, a bill authorizing $14 billion over several years for nearly 700 Army Corps of Engineers projects, such as navigation, flood control and shoreline protection.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 1495).

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

Not voting: Fattah.


Medicare drug prices. Voting 55-42, the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes needed to advance a bill requiring the U.S. government to use its purchasing power to achieve lower prices in the Medicare prescription-drug plan.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to advance the bill (S 3).

Intelligence budget. The Senate failed, 50-45, to reach the 60 votes needed to end a GOP filibuster blocking action on the fiscal 2007 intelligence budget. The bill (S 372) would require the CIA to tell Congress the locations of its secret prisons abroad and identify interrogation techniques.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: 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.).

Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.).
I admire what this bill is trying to achieve, but I don’t think this will ever be passed; the part about the interrogation techniques is really a reach. Good try by the Dems, though, to try and bring an element of sanity to what should be our intelligent prosecution of the legitimate war or terror.

And by the way, screw you, Arlen.

This week, both chambers passed the conference report of the bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.

Don't Give In, Ed

As noted in this Philadelphia Inquirer story, this banner was displayed at a gun rights rally in the state Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, PA protesting legislation sponsored by Angel Cruz of Philadelphia requiring gun registration and a $10-a-gun annual fee.

Here is how Governor Ed Rendell responded…

At a news conference yesterday, Gov. Rendell decried the violent sentiment and racist overtones in the banner's language, but said he did not support a state police investigation into the incident.

"I prefer to use the state police to protect people," Rendell said. "Rep. Cruz should take it for its worth and understand that there are people out there who say inappropriate things. He should let it go."
Wrong answer, Ed.

I support Gov. Rendell perhaps to a fault, some would say, though I think they’re incorrect. However, I’m tired of watching politicians cave in the face of noisy idiots.

Yes, it’s wearying to deal with people who refuse to listen or engage in anything that approximates an informed discussion, but that comes with the territory, unfortunately, especially if you hold a position in government. Besides, that kind of mentality is responsible for the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law in this state.

(As an aside, I should point out that I set up comment moderation again in response to a recent post. And since I’ll manage to piss off both the pro-gun and anti-helmet people at once here, I’m sure I’ll have to maintain it for at least a little while.)

And I love this excerpt also…

One of the protesters who held the banner, Alan Kiser of Warren, said yesterday that an investigation would be "totally frivolous."

"I didn't even know the color of the guy's skin," Kiser said.
(As if that has anything to do with it when all is said and done…).

Oh, I don’t know, Mr. Kiser. If the case were to be made that your sign constituted a terrorist threat and you were tried and convicted of such a charge, it would constitute a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison, as you can read here. That doesn’t sound very frivolous to me.

I’m not going to say that you would deserve that for your stupidity; I’d say giving you the scare of your life over it instead would suffice.

Update 4/28/07: The same is true for the person who threatened House Rep. Jewell Williams here (registration required).

Mitt Romney, Surrender Monkey

Even on a good day, it’s hard to take Michelle Malkin seriously, but on a day such as this in which Mitt Romney, presumptive Repug presidential nominee on behalf of all of the fundie hypocrites, says that “it’s not worth heaven and earth” to try and capture bin Laden, it is impossible.

See, the woman who defended the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II alleges, with the help of a couple of her acolytes here (h/t Atrios), that the Democrats should be considered “the white feather party” in light of the recent passage of the Iraq Supplemental with timelines for troop withdrawal.

Now I ask that you consider this while reflecting on mcjoan’s great post on Romney that I linked to above. You know, the one where Romney thinks it’s too much trouble to utilize any and all resources from the country that is supposed to be the most powerful on earth to capture and, if at all possible, kill outright the individual responsible for the worst terrorist attack on our soil.

Here is a link to information on the 9/11 Memorial Garden in Lower Makefield, Pa. From there, you can read the stories of the 17 fellow Americans from Bucks County, Pa. who died on that most horrific of days. And, inasmuch as my own words on this subject matter for anything, here is a prior post.

As I noted here, Romney had planned a little while back to give a speech something along the lines of John F. Kennedy’s speech stating that his religion was secondary to the political office that he sought. I’m still waiting to hear about Romney’s supposed visionary words on that subject. Or did he bail out on that also because of the same tone deafness and cowardice he portrayed in his remarks on terrorism?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday Videos

Alice In Chains ("Would")...

...and we lost William "Count" Basie 23 years ago today ("In A Mellow Tone," sitting in on piano of course with his wonderful big band, from about 1979 I believe).

Pre-Summer Gas Pains

This story appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday (I was going to point out that one spring tradition is the rise of gas prices prior to the summer travel season, but prices have been so high for so long that I can’t recall when gas was actually cheap…and why do I feel that, somehow, that’s exactly what Bushco wants?).

Gasoline at $4 Coming to a Pump Near You, Unfazed by Rising Tab

By Joe Carroll

April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Whether it's $50 to fill up your Prius or $130 for the Ford Expedition, $4-a-gallon gasoline is coming to a pump near you.

Fuel prices are rising at a pace not seen since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita knocked out a third of the U.S. oil refining industry in 2005. Gasoline consumption is climbing twice as fast as last year and will accelerate when summer travel begins late next month.

``What we're surprised by is the increased demand,'' said James Mulva, chief executive officer at ConocoPhillips, whose refineries from California to New Jersey produce 56 million gallons of gas a day, enough to meet 14 percent of the country's needs. ``Even though the price of gasoline is up, the demand is up,'' he said in an April 12 interview in Houston.

Population gains and U.S. economic growth are causing an increase in fuel purchases, according to Orlando, Florida-based AAA, the nation's largest organization for motorists. The U.S. economy will expand at a 2.4 percent annual pace in the second quarter, up from 1.8 percent in the first three months, according to the median estimate of 74 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Gasoline use is rising almost 5 percent above the five-year average.
The economy will expand at 2.4 percent, huh? Wow.

Under the Clinton Administration (as noted here), the economy expanded at 4.0 percent a year.

Americans are resigned to higher prices, says David Pursell, a principal with Pickering Energy Partners, a consulting firm in Houston.
Really? If that’s true, then why, for example, is mass transit ridership up in Philadelphia while vehicular traffic dropped for the first time in 50 years?

``Last year, we had pump prices well over $3 for the summer and gasoline demand was up,'' Pursell said in an interview. ``Would $4 gasoline cause demand contraction? I think it will, but I also thought $3 gasoline would.''

Pump Prices

Gasoline inventories, measured by the days of demand they will cover, are at the lowest level in two decades for this time of year because of refinery fires, power failures and maintenance work oil companies failed to complete in 2006. No new U.S. refinery has been built in three decades, increasing the strain on existing plants.
Do you think another factor here is that oil companies may have deliberately produced below capacity to maintain profitability (see the quote from Jamie Court in “Shot Across The Bow” here).

Pump prices in the U.S. may increase to $4 a gallon from a nationwide average of $2.87 today, especially if hurricanes threaten Gulf of Mexico refineries, says Peter Beutel, an analyst at Cameron Hanover Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, who helps industrial consumers manage energy costs.

``Hurricanes are always the huge wild card,'' said Beutel. ``We're all praying for a year like 2006 rather than 2005.''
Here’s another factor involving gas prices: world instability, particularly in Iraq, Iran, and Venezuela. An increase in tensions in that area of the world automatically jacks up the price of petroleum (and though I know Dubya isn’t solely to blame here, his total inability to approach those issues diplomatically have resulted in increased costs at the pump).

The June-to-November Atlantic Ocean hurricane season may produce 17 tropical storms, with nine reaching hurricane force and four becoming major hurricanes whose winds exceed 111 miles per hour (179 kilometers per hour), London-based forecasters at Tropical Storm Risk said. Some of the storms will strike the Gulf Coast this year after a benign 2006, predicted.

Inflation Risk

Higher pump prices will make winners of refinery owners such as ConocoPhillips, San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc of The Hague. Shares of Valero and Sunoco Inc., whose only business is refining, are rebounding after a decline at the end of last summer.

The increase in fuel costs threatens to quicken inflation and restrain consumer spending in the U.S. An appreciation to $4 a gallon would add more than $10 for a driver who fills the 12- gallon tank of a Toyota Motor Corp. Prius. The owner of an Expedition, a Ford Motor Co. sport-utility vehicle with a 34- gallon capacity, faces an increase of almost $40.

Many Americans have no choice but to drive more, says Christopher Knittel, an economist who studies fuel consumption at the University of California in Davis.

More Commuters

``We live farther from our jobs than we did in the 1970s, and with the rise of dual-income households, we now have two people who drive those distances every day,'' Knittel said.
On April 26th, 2007, this should not be “news” to anybody.

Consumers also do more driving for things such as taking children to soccer practice, which they are unlikely to quit, he said. The U.S. population has increased 1 percent a year in the past decade to 301 million in 2007, adding to demand for gasoline, economists said.

Rising fuel prices make it less likely that Federal Reserve policy makers, who have cited inflation risks for the past year, will cut interest rates to spur economic growth. Before the hurricane-induced peak in 2005, U.S. gasoline topped out at $1.42 a gallon in March 1981, or $3.21 when adjusted for inflation, according to the Energy Department.

Economies in Europe and Asia are less likely to be hurt by gasoline prices because fuel already is subject to high taxes designed to encourage conservation. A gallon of unleaded costs about 3.25 pounds a gallon ($6.49) in the U.K., and in Japan it's 130.3 yen per liter ($4.16 a gallon).

$4 Barrier

U.S. consumers will get little relief on gasoline prices from Europe this year, unlike 2005, when oil companies shipped more across the Atlantic after the hurricanes. Europe's gasoline inventories in February were 114.2 million barrels, down 11 percent from two years earlier, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris. The drop in Europe was almost twice the 5.7 percent decline in U.S. supplies in that time.

``Just as we used to think $3 a gallon was an impenetrable barrier, now it's $4,'' said Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business in College Park and former chief economist for the U.S. International Trade Commission. Gasoline at $3.50 is likely, Morici said, and a conflict with Iran or any event that disrupts crude supplies may push it to $4.

Pump prices rose 33 percent in the past 11 weeks, the fastest rate of gain since a six-week, 34 percent rally to the record $3.069 in September 2005, Energy Department data show.

Bodman's `Worry'

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in an interview last week said the national average pump price could break the record this summer. While his agency's official forecast is for gasoline to peak next month at about where it is today, hurricanes, refinery closures or crude oil supply cuts may send prices higher, he said.

Higher prices are ``a legitimate worry,'' Bodman said. ``We have trouble spots all over the world'' that could boost crude oil prices. ``We're in a very tight situation.''

Spending on fuel in the U.S. consumes half as much household income as in the early 1980s, which means gasoline would need to reach almost $6 a gallon to have the same effect on the economy as in 1981, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
I don’t know what the hell that sentence means in terms of my overall spending and income, but I tell you this: if we ever see gas at $6 a gallon, I will either a) telecommute for the rest of my life, or b) try and buy a horse.

Storage tanks at U.S. refineries, terminals and ports hold enough gasoline to cover almost 22 days of domestic demand, 8.2 percent less than the five-year average and the lowest for this time of year since the 1980s, Energy Department figures show.


Valero-owned filling stations in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado, ran dry after a Feb. 16 explosion and fire shut the company's McKee refinery in Sunray, Texas. A day earlier, a blaze at an Exxon Mobil Corp. plant in Nanticoke, Ontario, slashed output, resulting in shortages and higher prices across eastern Canada.
The McKee shutdown strained supplies so much that ConocoPhillips postponed maintenance at its Borger, Texas, refinery north of Amarillo to prevent shortages in the region.

``Refineries are becoming more complex,'' Mulva said in the Houston interview.

``What we're finding is it's more difficult keeping reliability up with more sophisticated pieces of equipment that are highly integrated.''

Tesoro Corp. of San Antonio, the second-largest refiner in the western U.S., said first-quarter refinery use dropped because oil companies delayed until this year maintenance that could have been done in 2006. The portion of U.S. refining capacity that was in operation in the first quarter declined to 87.3 percent from 88.9 percent a year earlier, according to Energy Department data.

`Refineries Blow Up'

``Prices will depend entirely on whether we have a couple of refineries blow up,'' said Philip K. Verleger, an economist who runs a consulting firm in Newport Beach, California. ``It's almost impossible we'll get to $4 a gallon if all the refineries run well this summer. But if something happens and there are problems, then anything's possible.''

The average share gain for Valero, Tesoro and six other oil-refining companies is 26 percent this year, outperforming the 4.1 percent gain for Exxon Mobil and a 4.7 percent increase for the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

The shares will continue to rally, said Paul Carlson, who helps manage $3 billion at HGK Asset Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

``Refiners are doing very well these days,'' said Carlson, whose holdings include ConocoPhillips, the second-biggest U.S. refiner. ``There will be lots of demand for any new refining stocks.''

`Back in Favor'

As recently as August, investors were selling oil refiners on concern an economic slowdown would slash fuel demand in the U.S., the world's largest energy market. During seven weeks last August and September, Valero shares fell 29 percent, wiping out $12 billion in market value.

``Refining is very much back in favor,'' said Douglas Ober, who helps oversee $2.3 billion at Baltimore-based Adams Express Co. ``Even with higher prices, we haven't seen any substantial cutback in demand. They're cranking out as much of this stuff as they can, and we're throwing it in our tanks as fast as we can.''

The margin earned from processing crude oil into fuels rose to $24.68 a barrel on April 11, the highest since right after the hurricanes in September 2005. The margin has since retreated to $22.12 a barrel, still about double the five-year average.

``It'll be a fairly tight gasoline market all through the summer,'' said Robert Hinckley, an analyst at Rochdale Securities in New York.
As I read this article, I couldn’t understand why the oil companies, altruistic corporate citizens all, somehow managed to be struggling with the cost of upgrading their refineries and even trying to build new ones (partly for ethanol conversion), especially given their obscene profits (as noted here, for example).

All I know is that I'm paying just about $3 a gallon now for regular at the Shell down the street, and instead of "reporting" on this like it's the cost of doing business, I'd like to see a reporter try and earn his or her keep by looking at this issue in its totality for a change.

"Termination For Klaus" At Siemens

Now that I’ve posted about terrorists trying to kill us, it may be time to try and lighten the mood a bit.

As noted here, Siemens CEO Klaus Kleinfeld is leaving the company after the expiration of his contract in September of this year (I try to keep my wary eye towards the goings-on in corporate America and the world, often because the behavior of people in it who are regarded as such geniuses is often so totally ridiculous).

Well, one of my intrepid field agents was able to secure the intra-company communication from Our Boy Klaus to the rest of his overworked and underpaid staff. It appears below with appropriate commentary…

Siemens is in a unique and difficult situation.
i.e., Interpol is knocking down our doors and the news media is camping out at our homes 24/7 and skewering through our unshredded trash – and though we don’t know the German translation for the phrase “lawyered up,” I can assure you that we’re covered in that area also.

While the performance of the company's businesses is outstanding, we are in the midst of intensive compliance investigations.
We’re getting sued every way over Sunday, and it’s only a matter of time before Der Spiegel provides all of the gory details.

In times of such challenges, our customers, the capital markets and, above all, you, the employees of Siemens, expect clear leadership more than ever.
First and foremost, that’s why I’m outta here.

Clear signs of stability are required - and rightly so. Confidence in Siemens' management and its ability to keep the company on course over the long term is essential.
Not for you, but for the safe return of my shares of company stock.

The current public discussion regarding the company's future management is creating uncertainty both internally and externally. Our customers, employees and shareholders rightly expect a clear decision regarding Siemens' future leadership. However, the Chairman's Committee of the Supervisory Board has communicated the intention to postpone this decision once again.
No sense committing to anything until you’ve seen all the indictments, I guess.

I consider this lack of clarity regarding the company's management and my own mandate to be burdensome and unacceptable for the company and for you, its employees. For this reason, I have decided to no longer be available for the extension of my contract.
He’s leaving for “lack of clarity”? In what, the length of his sentence?

Together, we have achieved much, and I would particularly like to thank you, the employees of Siemens, for your outstanding performance in difficult times and for your daily commitment to the company and its success. Only through your efforts has it been possible to achieve the excellent position we hold today.
So excellent, in fact, that I’m going to “beat it out of Dodge” by the time this Email arrives in your inbox (again, I don’t know if there’s a literal German translation out there).

Regarding our compliance challenges, I am convinced that we are on the right course. We have put in place an independent process that will uncover any problems that may have occurred in the past and that will make Siemens a model of transparency.
One of my long-time corporate rules is that, when companies start talking about “transparency,” rest assured that you won’t be able to see a damn thing.

At the start of the investigations by the independent lawyers, I requested to be the first to be scrutinized.
Good for you, Schicklegruber.

Mr. Cromme, the Chairman of the Audit Committee and the new Chairman of the Supervisory Board, has relayed to me the expected news that the comprehensive independent investigations to date have yielded absolutely no suspicions of misconduct on my part.
But he’s leaving anyway after 20 years because of “a lack of clarity”…riiiiight.

It has been a great honor for me to have served as President and CEO of this magnificent company for the last two years. Together, we have succeeded in achieving extraordinary business success. Through our joint efforts, we have positioned the company optimally for the future. For this, I am very grateful to each and every one of you who worked so hard to achieve that great result.

While I sincerely regret having to leave the company that has been such an important part of my life for the past 20 years, I make this decision for the welfare of Siemens and its employees. The company must have a clear mandate for leadership. I hope that my decision will help make this possible.

With best regards,
Klaus Kleinfeld
Whoever authored this piece of corporate gobbledygook should stand up and take a bow.

And by the way, here’s more past fun with our boy Klaus (regarding the disappearing Rolex).

The Enemy Is Us (4/26)

The New York Times also reported today that Peter Clarke, Great Britain’s antiterrorism chief, was reported as saying that “Al Qaeda had survived ‘a prolonged multinational assault’ and that its supporters had established ‘an inexorable trend towards more ambitious and more destructive attack planning (in their nation),” as quoted in the article.

By the way, when it comes to evaluating the threat of terrorism facing us and the world, I take the British more seriously than I do our own elected officials.

One of my concerns is that, when we look at the threat facing our country, we have an implicit understanding that homegrown terrorism from paramilitary groups, lethal a threat as it is, does not possess the same danger as thoroughly indoctrinated radical Islamists. The perception may exist that, since paramilitary groups such as those emboldened by the standoffs at Waco and Ruby Ridge have not engaged in suicide bombings, then that is not part of their repertoire of violence.

Or, as noted here by author Kaja Perina…

Attempts to understand suicide terrorism are understandably culture-bound. Western media emphasize a Palestinian society awash in calls to self-destruct: Iraq and Saudi Arabia pay thousands of dollars to the families of suicide terrorists, and schools teach reverence for martyrs alongside arithmetic. Palestinian mental health professionals counter that Westerners ignore the despair inherent in this logic. Mahmud Sehwail, M.D., a psychiatrist in Ramallah, says that post-traumatic stress disorder abounds among the potential – and eventual – suicide bombers he treats and cites surveys indicating that more than a quarter of all Palestinians are clinically depressed.
To me, there isn’t much of a difference between a bigot spouting anti-discriminatory garbage against gays, Jews or African Americans, for example, and someone recruited for an al Qaeda cell in this country currently waiting for some coded command to launch an attack. Both demonstrate a potential for violence, and we are foolish to think that there could never be an overlap between these types of individuals (and by the way, that includes anyone prone to act against immigrants, illegal or otherwise – that’s one of the reasons why people like Lou Dobbs should know what they’re talking about on this issue before they decide to start pontificating about it, so they don’t unwittingly provide motivation for these people).

I think the most dramatic example of this is Timothy McVeigh, obviously because of the horror of his offense (aided by severe depression along with drug abuse, methamphetamines in particular), but also because the book he and other terrorists consider their “bible,” if you will, is The Turner Diaries by William Pierce, leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. As noted in the linked information, McVeigh’s destruction of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City was patterned after an attack on the FBI headquarters in Pierce’s book, and the book’s last entry concludes in the successful suicide bombing of the Pentagon in 1999; afterwards, Aryan forces triumph and “the New Era” begins.

I don’t know if white supremacists could ever make common cause with Islamist terrorists against our country; I don’t see how that could be possible because of cultural differences, but as I said, we should anticipate that possibility anyway. I think these people have more in common than not, namely insanity stemming from depression quite possibly fueled by drug addiction and indoctrination into a methodology of murder.

In addition to voicing my own personal concerns, one of the points of this post is to link to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group in the vanguard of the fight against intolerance (which, when all is said and done, terrorism is all about anyway).

All The More Reason To Leave

(In response to the New York Times headline noting the quote from Gen. David Petraeus about how long he wants us in Iraq…).

Now that both the Senate and the House have passed the Iraq Supplemental, the next step is the inevitable veto from President Brainless, followed by the congressional battle to try and override it.

One of the questions I’d had throughout was the status of permanent bases in Iraq, but thanks to Sen. Joe Biden (as noted here), the measure barring permanent bases was included in the bill sent to the White House (Biden has been a goof on a lot of issues, but he has been occasionally dead-on concerning the war).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Screw You, Rudy

Well, it looks like "America's Mayor" has started sliming opposition party candidates for president already, and we're still in the "beauty contest" phase of the primaries (no other way to interpret his "white flag" remark, and kudos to Barack Obama for picking up the gauntlet and tossing it right back in Giuliani's face).

And here is more recent fun with the nominee who has no shot whatsoever of competing against the "bible belt" life forms who have no tolerance for much of anything, especially a divorced, pro-choice mayor from a blue state (as noted here). And how arrogant anyway to attack the opposition when he hasn't even secured his party's nomination yet.

And what appears below will follow Giuliani forever.

On another note, posting will be very light today - this may be it.

Update: Click here to tell Rudy to stop peddling this crap, and Keith Olbermann (who else?) had a great Special Comment that you can play from here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Green Day ("Warning")...

...and happy birthday to Barbra Streisand (yes, I know this isn't a place you will usually find show tunes, but here's her live version of "You'll Never Walk Alone," performed shortly after 9/11 from the looks of it - sometimes I think she's the only Democrat who has any guts).

Time For More Employment Propaganda

More “water wet, sky blue” time…

I know we’ll be trying to debunk this stuff forever, but Yahoo News presented this glowing report about how our economy is supposedly rebounding so well because a bunch of trade industry association types and government apologists threw around some percentages to make it look like everything is fine.

Also, I love the sentence in the story stating that “only 2 percent of unemployed software engineers were sitting home reading the classifieds,” or something like that, as if it is beyond the realm of possibility that these individuals could now be forced to work one or two crappy-paying jobs at one time as they continue to look for one mediocre-paying one.

There is probably tons of more information in the Yahoo story I could hammer on, relinking to Paul Roberts and Paul Krugman and others yet again who actually know what they’re talking about, but instead, I’ll just present this information from the AFL-CIO which pretty much shreds all of the B.S. our media likes to peddle on this subject.

I’ll just point out one difference between the two stories: in the Yahoo story, William Archey, president of the American Electronics Association, trumpets the supposed creation of 147,000 new jobs (Over how long a period of time? What kind of salary/bennies? Temp or perm?) .

In the AFL-CIO information, however, the following is noted…

Goldman Sachs estimates 400,000–600,000 professional services and information sector jobs moved overseas in the past few years—accounting for about half of the total net job loss in the sector since January 2001.
It’s actually insulting to read fluff like the Yahoo News “story” when considering the human cost behind those staggering numbers.

Uh, CNN?

Do your headline writers need to enroll in a remedial English class?

Atrios has some thoughts...

(they just fixed it - tee hee...)

Oh, and by the way:

As noted here (January 19, further down on the list), Cheney’s most recent approval rating was 37 percent.

As noted here (April), the approval rating of the Democratic congress is 40 percent.

Say goodnight, Dick.

Update: Hey, at least I snagged the screen shot with the typo instead of this one (and what Atrios sez here also).

Philly's Crackpot History

I think it’s important to keep up with local trends in this area from time to time, so I want to note an editorial that appeared in yesterday’s Philadelphia inquirer by writer and local historian Ron Avery.

And in another triumph of technological innovation for Philadelphia’s “newspaper of record,” I am unable to find a link to Avery’s column. However, Inky staff writer Julie Stoiber wrote in a similar vein here.

(I mean, I have to look extra hard for good posting material from the Inky, especially since it seems that they’ve ended the “Carnal Knowledge” column by writer Faye Flam. As I said, at least she was trying to do something interesting, but I think the most recent one about hermaphroditic worms may have been the last straw for Bruce Toll and Brian Tierney of Philadelphia Media Holdings, L.L.C.).

Avery recounted a recent carriage ride he took around the historic Olde City section closer to the Delaware River in which the tour guide spouted some truly amazing nonsense, such as the location where George Washington and Abraham Lincoln once ate dinner together, and the “fact” that our first president is buried in Washington Square. And this was uttered by the guide with the approval of this person’s supervisor, who appeared to be as misinformed as her pupil.

Well, as a public service announcement, I’d like to clear up the following misconceptions about the city so tour guides don’t communicate further incorrect information to tourists:

- Ben Franklin never met Betsy Ross at “the clothespin” at 15th and Market streets for a late-night session of French kissing.
- Thomas Holme, a surveyor hired by William Penn to design the city’s well-known grid pattern, never saw Beru Revue in concert at The Ripley on South Street in the 1980s.
- Upon the death of former Philadelphia mob boss Angelo Bruno from a shotgun blast to the head, he was not succeeded by Bobby Rydell.
- Former mayor Bill Green, Inquirer columnist Steve Lopez and Flyers legend Bobby Clarke were never seen panhandling in front of Zipperhead on South Street (at least, not as far as we know).
- King Kong never hung from the top of One Liberty Place while swatting at Wright Model B airplanes and averting Fay Wray from machine gun fire.
- Dulary (pictured), the elephant at The Philadelphia Zoo who was destined for transfer to Maryland before he had to be returned here at the last minute (but now it looks like he’ll end up in Tennessee – and it sounds like Smerky is wrong here also), never ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
I hope this information helps in some small way.

No Surrender On Guns

I have to admit that, as I read the coverage and analysis from our corporate media concerning the Blacksburg massacre last week, I was particularly disappointed, though not surprised. This was because of the almost apologetic nature in which our news geniuses referred to the fact that Americans in this country, as noted here, seem to be split on the gun issue, with white men generally opposing gun laws and women and minorities generally supporting them.

Worse to me, though, is the reaction of the Democratic Party because, like it or not people, you are still the party of gun control.

Marie Cocco of the Washington Post writer’s group wrote a column last week about how the Dems basically are running away from the gun control issue because they’ve managed to achieve electoral victory by avoiding it. And of course, making inroads into Virginia in the election of both Jim Webb to the Senate and Tim Kaine to the governor’s house came at the expense of denial on gun control (and, if anything, it may have helped Webb’s rep on this issue when an aide was busted while trying to bring a loaded piece into the Capitol – Webb is truly a great populist Dem who has stood tall, but even though many of his constituents would disagree, I think he has some work to do on the gun issue).

As I look a little further into this, though, I realize (not surprisingly, I’ll admit) that what is really driving this controversy, in addition to the misinterpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, is the revenue gun dealers generate from arms sales at gun shows and gun-related promotions.

This takes you to an article describing the reaction when President Clinton tried to prohibit any firearm sale at a gun show without a background check (and of course, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was one of the first people to jump down Clinton’s throat on this).

This takes you to an advertisement for a company advertising concealed-carry training in anticipation of purchasing a CC license for Florida or Utah, enabling the purchaser to carry in 31 states as noted in the ad (and how shameless can these people get when using Hurricane Katrina as a rationale for owning a gun).

On the legislative front, one of the tactics used by the NRA to override state and local laws and enable anyone to carry anywhere in this country is to push for legislation exempting current and former law enforcement officers from these laws in favor of a federal exemption. This was tried in the U.S. House by Duke Cunningham in 1998 (as noted here, with an analysis from Handgun Control on an amendment to the bill and related issues here), and also in the Senate in 2002 by Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy (here – though Leahy is solid on a host of other issues, Vermont is definitely a pro-gun state).

I can’t think of anyone who would oppose assisting law enforcement in a matter like this. However, if you read Ted Kennedy’s dissent to the 2002 legislation, you will realize just how many holes there are in a bill like this that allow for exploitation in favor of the gun interests who won’t be happy until every citizen in this country is armed.

This situation is one that may require some kind of an independent commission, though I will admit that I’m not a big fan of that sort of thing. However, the degree of bipartisanship that will be required to work this out is something that I don’t believe we can currently obtain without it (and I am completely aware, by the way, of what a sad commentary that is on our current state of affairs).

Until we resolve the “concealed carry” issue on a state-by-state basis (only for law enforcement or officials in the criminal justice system as far as I’m concerned), here are other things we can implement in a more immediate timeframe:

- One gun a month (enough arguing about this)
- A nationwide ban on straw purchases
- If gun dealers aren’t going to allow background checks at gun shows, then they should be banned from selling guns at all
- A mandatory three-day waiting period for buying a gun
- A mandatory check in all states against both a federal and state database of gun records before approving a purchase
Because, in addition to reading about Blacksburg, I’m sick and tired of reading stories like the one in today’s Philadelphia Daily News stating that there have been 128 homicides already in the city this year, a 17 percent increase over last year.

Also, did you hear about the three killings/suicides in Houston over the last four days (as noted here)?

Democrats, you are the party of gun control. Start acting like it, or you will no longer be worthy of my support.

Update: Here are the latest polling stats from Rasmussen, and it looks like Tim Kaine is going to try and close off a way to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't get anywhere near them.

Another Scribe Departs

I'm sorry that it took David Halberstam's death for me to take another look at him as a writer. I would watch him at times on ESPN when I still watched that network with some frequency, and it always occurred to me that he spoke, acted and wrote with grand flourishes that betrayed a sense of self-importance that put me off.

However, as you read this column he wrote about Barry Bonds when the San Francisco Giants played the Anaheim/California/They're Not In LA So Why Is That In Their Name Marketing I Guess Angels, I kind of got the feeling that Halberstam acted that way because he was a towering literary figure and he could afford to do that. The Bonds column has a lot to do with Bonds, but it also has a lot to do with Halberstam and his views about basic honor and respect that Halberstam felt Bonds generally ignores (and I definitely agree with Halberstam on that).

And by the way, the Angels won the Series that year.

Boy, great literary figures have been dropping like flies this year, and we’re not even halfway through (Art Buchwald, Arthur Schlesinger, Kurt Vonnegut, and of course Molly Ivins).

And in a related vein, here is an appreciation from mcjoan at The Daily Kos about another notable who has recently left us (even though it seemed like Clinton was flying over every few months to help sober him up, he was right on the issues that mattered).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Videos

Audioslave ("Original Fire")

Here are the lyrics to the song, by the way; it rocks, but I don't know what they are...

The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.
The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.
The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.
The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.

With a pen in one hand taking a stand drugged on kerosene.
Eighty-four and five would find us something to believe.
Right or wrong, with dirty hands on wires,
singing songs in dischord choirs.
Screaming in braile, no temptress prize,
could ever yield anything so real.

The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.
The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.

Golden soldiers born much older than they'll ever live to be.
Diving into a sea of hands in a long forgotten city.
Here the rain falls ever after,
the strangled vines hang dead in rafters.
The blood rushed to your head induces a laughter, endlessly.

The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.
The original fire has died and long gone, but the riot inside moves on.

Can't explain it, it was something to see.
Can't contain something ever real.

Can't explain it, it was something to see.
Can't contain something so, ever real.
Ever real.
Ever real.

The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.
The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.
The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.
The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.

...and Roy Orbison would have been 71 ("In Dreams" - some clips from the totally whacked David Lynch movie "Blue Velvet" are included; it triggered Orbsion's '80s comeback which, sadly, ended too soon).

Patrick and Rupert Murdoch

Just for the record, let me link back to this post in which I asked U.S. House 8th District Representative Patrick Murphy to do what he could to revoke the citizenship of Rupert Murdoch.

I’m mentioning this because Patrick provided the courtesy of a response a few weeks ago…

In reference to Rupert Murdoch, I share your concerns about Mr. Murdoch’s conduct and agenda. However, I do not feel that revoking Mr. Murdoch’s citizenship is part of the job that the citizens of the Eighth Congressional District elected me to do. While I disagree with many of the policies and positions Mr. Murdoch has advocated, I feel that the most effective way for me to counter this is to oppose those policies here in Congress.
I appreciate Patrick’s acknowledgement; all I can do is take a shot, as they say (and the courtesy of a response would have been nice from Silent Bob Casey also, but I’m not holding my breath on that).

Another Clueless Pundit

James Pinkerton (from here)…

…it's already apparent, early in 2007, that the Democrats not only inadvertently have helped Bush but, in addition, have given the Republicans good arguments for their holding on to the White House in 2008.
Uh, I don’t know what James Pinkerton is smoking, but please allow me to present the following.

This takes you to a poll showing that Dubya’s job approval rating has “bounced” is true Broderesque fashion from 32 percent to a whopping 33 percent (more context on that here).

This takes you to polling data on both Democratic and Republican candidates for president that basically splits along party lines as expected (hat tip to Jonathan Singer at MyDD). It also notes the following about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (number 4 in .pdf file):

Favorable rating (slightly or strongly) - 36 percent
Unfavorable rating (slightly or strongly) - 29 percent
Haven’t heard of/don’t know – 35 percent
And yes, in number 12, the survey asks voters if they approve of the job Congress is doing, and 52 percent polled said no. However, the “swing vote” here, if you will, is from the independents (you KNOW the Repugs will say no in big numbers), and when you look at the polling questions surrounding Dubya, he continually gets much worse ratings from that group.

To me, this doesn’t show a “trend” about anything concerning Pelosi (though leave it to the Repugs and their media acolytes like Pinkerton to try and manufacture it into a negative).

As Atrios says, this country hates Bush and this country hates the war. And how someone can try and manufacture that along with ratings of Congress which basically show that the jury is still out to mean something favorable for Republican White House prospects next year shows delusional thinking that practically screams for a mental health intervention.

You're Not Funny Anyway, Dubya

Gosh, three posts about President Brainless in one day – I can’t remember the last time that happened.

So I know we all just can’t wait to find out how that White House Correspondents Association dinner went last Saturday, can we? I mean, that Rich Little is just so damn hilarious these days, right?

Well, I’ll let Greg Mitchell and Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher provide the exceedingly painful details here, and included is a link to a story about Laurie David asking Karl Rove to reconsider his position on global warming, which to me is one of the most well-intentioned but nonetheless stupid things one person can do (and Sheryl Crow, being a stand-up broad, stood up for her bud).

What was Laurie David thinking? Is she so surprised that Rove took the opportunity to bait her in the most confrontational way possible? When has any member of Bushco shown any interest in a dialogue about anything?

Also (and more importantly), congratulations to all award winners including Joan Ryan of the San Francisco Chronicle (and by the way, the quote from her on this site’s banner page came from a great column she wrote at the height of the Terri Schiavo fiasco). I’ll keep checking to find out if and when her column will return – I don’t have an answer yet, and until I do, I’ll keep her link active in the right column on the home page.

Oh, and one more thing...just to refresh our memories, here is Stephen Colbert’s performance from last year (and let’s not forget that Don Imus ascended to the conservative media pantheon based on his performance at this farce in 1996, insulting the Clintons in the most guttural way possible).

Don't Let Dubya Play With Our Food

I’m not sure I should ask what it says about Bushco’s murderous incompetence that many of us shrug our shoulders when we hear that both the FDA and EPA are dangerously under funded when it comes to enforcing laws to protect our food, drugs and the environment (as noted here). And, as noted here, the problem has the potential to grow much worse.

This story pertains to the known contamination at a Georgia peanut butter plant and a California spinach farm that led to the deaths of three people and the sickening of hundreds of others, all due to the cause cited previously.

And what did the Repugs do in response when they ran the now-mercifully-over 109th Congress?

Why, they passed some monstrosity called H.R. 4167, "The National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005" (and of course, Dubya signed it into law – more information available here). This bill effectively removed state and local governmental authority to regulate the food supply, no doubt getting that pesky “big government” off the backs of caring, concerned corporate citizens like ConAgra who, as noted here, donate overwhelmingly to the Republican Party over the Democrats.

Update 4/24/07: Please ignore my comment in response to the anonymous commenter, who is absolutely right - I misread the summary of actions on the govtrack link. Totally my bad on that one...

(By the way, I dare a Republican to tell me again that their party advocates states rights. I absolutely dare them.)I still do, just not pertaining to this issue.

Oh, and while a Repug sympathizer is trying to do what I just asked,Also, I’d like to ask also whether (any Repug sympathizer) or not you/he/she/them/it intends to hold Tommy Thompson’s feet to the fire, so to speak, as he is running for your party’s presidential nomination; it seems, according to this story, that though he is now part of a coalition trying to encourage spending more money on food inspection, he had a chance to advocate for that when he was health and human services secretary, but failed to do so, particularly concerning ephedra, a drug masquerading as a food supplement.

Dubya's Gift To The Ballot Box

As Bill Maher noted a few weeks ago, it’s getting just about impossible to keep track of all of the scandals, abuse of government power and overall incompetence and stupidity originating from Bushco on a day-to-day basis (he said he downloads the latest ones every day to his i-Pod, and it’s hard to tell if he was joking or not).

In addition to Abu Gonzales hanging onto his job like he’s the last passenger onboard the Titanic and his fingertips are slipping off the life preserver, we also have the latest FEMA report stating that their disaster plan won’t be ready for the 2007 hurricane season (I mean, gosh, it’s only been about a year and a half since Katrina, and I guess these things take time; sure they do), and Paul Wolfowitz using his influence to get his squeeze hired from the World Bank to the State Department where she pulled in more money than Condoleezza Rice (who runs State, after all – here is an update to this post), we have something of lesser importance at the moment that was pointed out here by Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker.

Update: Speaking of FEMA, I wonder if this has anything to do with their lack of preparedness?

Before I get to it, though, I should remind us of the fact that, more and more, every state wants to move up its primary in the election cycle so its votes will carry more weight in naming the candidate of the major political parties (with the “Super Tuesday” primary in the south as the first shot fired in this battle). That’s an admirable instinct, and it’s also an attempt to encourage voter participation beyond the typically anemic numbers of the past (the subject of a whole other rant, so I’ll hold off on that for now).

However, if we keep going as we are, we could be faced with a situation where the state primaries are grouped and “front-loaded” to the point where they’re ending in the spring of the election year while the two major party candidates slug it out with attack ads into November (and only someone who is truly a masochist would prefer a spectacle like that). Another more important negative of this, as noted by Hertzberg, is that the accelerated election cycle means accelerate pitches for money from the candidates, at earlier time intervals and asking for greater quantities (and I don’t even think a masochist wants to see that).

Now that we have this context, I’m going to “set the wayback” here for 2000, during the Bush/Gore presidential election. As it turns out, former Republican Party chairman Bill Brock had an idea that could have prevented all of this, as follows…

The closest anyone has come to cutting the Gordian knot of the primaries was a little-known effort in 2000. A group of Republican grandees led by Bill Brock, a former senator from Tennessee and national party chairman, spent months hammering out what was dubbed the Delaware Plan, which, beginning in 2004, would have mandated four sets of primaries, a month apart, beginning with the small states (twelve of them, including New Hampshire) and ending with the largest (which would pick a majority of the total delegates). Brock said recently that he had developed the plan in consultation with friends in the other party (“Such things were possible, once upon a time,” he said), and was fairly sure that the Democrats would have followed suit. But, because the Republicans couldn’t have proceeded without a floor fight at their Convention, the Bush camp, determined to avoid any hint of discord, shot the whole thing down at the last minute. Various other ideas—revolving regional primaries, for example, or randomly chosen primaries at two-week intervals—continue to float around. Eventually, though, Congress will probably have to take the lead in sorting out the mess.
And how much do you want to bet that someone will file suit in response to whatever Congress tries to do in response to this?

So just remember that, when you get frustrated out of your mind with the length of the presidential campaign next year and amount of times that you’re hit on by someone for some dough (to say nothing of the level of stupidity and mendacity in the dialogue between the candidates and the brainless media punditry), remember that we had an opportunity to change things before Dubya and Turd Blossom utterly poisoned the well of bipartisanship, making a hash of this as they have with everything else.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Videos

Bloc Party ("The Prayer" - so glad those days are over)...

...Happy Birthday to now-white-haired Peter Frampton (covering Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun")...

...Happy Birthday also to Glen Campbell (the theme from "True Grit," the movie where he got whacked in the head with a shovel by veteran movie bad guy Jeff Corey - Glen had some trouble, and I hope he's gotten himself straightened out)...

...and Happy Birthday to the one and only Jack Nicholson (this is the climactic courtroom scene from "A Few Good Men" - sound is loud and video is OK, but it captures the drama well enough, though since this movie, I've had no rooting interest for Tom Cruise at all).

Ferris And "St. McCain" Hosannas

Kevin Ferris was at it again last Friday, and I’m only getting to this now because the whole blogging thing has a bit of “a spanner in the works” for yours truly at the moment, at it may not get resolved for about a week.

(Update: I'm linking to Ferris' page instead of the McCain column because the Inky may have pulled it for some reason - some reflex of journalistic integrity may have kicked in somehow.)Never mind - I found the original link.

(Also, on a somewhat related note, I didn’t go over the Area Votes in Congress last week because only the Senate was in session, and the only two bills passed were on stem cell research and something else having to do with fetal cell tissue that was supposed to be some kind of a compromise; I’ll plan to get to the latest on that this week.)

Back Channels It's a matter of honor
John McCain raises the bar for discussion of Iraq.
By Kevin Ferris
Inquirer Commentary Page Editor

John McCain's speech last week about the war on terror may not win him the White House. And it's too soon to tell whether the strategy he's endorsed can turn things around in Iraq.
No speech can “turn things around” in Iraq. The idiocy underlying a statement like that is almost too insulting to merit a response.My bad here...

But the speech, at the Virginia Military Institute, raises the bar for discussion of the war by presidential candidates. Not because of his assessment of progress being made, or his outline of the consequences of failure, or even his attack on the war's critics. Those were all on point and eloquent.
Says you, of course (and I wonder if his words were as "on point and elouquent" as those spoken during that ridiculous Iraq photo-op of his on April Fools' Day, appropriately enough?).

What sets McCain apart is simply how he frames the debate: as a matter of honor. Coming from a war hero with 50 years of service to his country, that makes a huge difference.
Oh, here we go. Cue the fight song, Hollywood war movie footage and the rockets red glare, OK?

No, I’m not trying to cheapen patriotic heroism by that last sentence; anyway, McCain, by his relentless, shameless pandering to the right (whether it’s Jerry Falwell and Liberty University noted in the video at the end, Alabama Governor Bob Riley on Martin Luther King Day of all occasions – Riley being a member of an organization that excluded African Americans – or McCain’s unflinching support for Dubya’s denial of due process to “enemy combatants”…and yes, Ferris, this is actually a bad thing) has already done that better than I ever could.

At VMI, he spoke of Gen. David Petraeus' honor to lead troops who show such "courage and resolve." The duty of finding a way forward that "best honors their sacrifices." Most important, he explained why he was obligated to give the current strategy a chance to succeed: "To do otherwise would be contrary to the interests of my country and dishonorable."
And of course, Ferris here is referring to “the surge”; you know, that thing in Iraq that Petraeus discussed at a Republican caucus, in which the Repugs expressed lukewarm support at best and Petraeus promised results by August, and some of the “moderate Repugs” said in response that if it didn’t succeed, they would “pull the plug.”

By the way, smooth move to discuss this without the benefit of input from the Dems, General (because, as we know, the Dems are the only ones who play politics with the lives of our soldiers, right – snark).

Honor is a recurring theme in McCain's writings and speeches.

When he accepted a Profile in Courage Award in 1999 for backing campaign-finance reform, which hadn't yet passed, he spoke of the importance of honor in his life.
I wonder how much “honor” McCain felt when he broke the law he helped originate with the great Russ Feingold of Wisconsin by helping to raise some “soft money” for Adjutant General Stan Spears of South Carolina?

"When I was a young man," McCain said, "and all glory was self-glory, I responded aggressively and often irresponsibly to anyone who questioned my honor. I still remember how zealously a boy would attend the needs of his self-respect.

"But as I grew older, and the challenges to my self-respect became more varied and difficult, I was surprised to discover that while my sense of honor had matured, its defense mattered even more to me than it did when I believed that honor was such a frail thing that any empty challenge could threaten it."

Over time, he said, he had learned "to dread dishonor above all other injuries."
Concerning McCain’s own sense of honor, I would ask that you consider this Common Dreams article by James Carroll (written before there even was an Iraq war or 9/11), particularly the following…

McCain as the beloved icon of personal honor has reinforced a general American reluctance to face the national dishonor of American war-making, and he himself shows little or no ability to think deeply on this most crucial subject. That is why McCain's responses to contemporary questions of military policy, from Kosovo to the Missile Defense Shield, are so shockingly hawkish, far more appropriate to a young fighter jock than to a would-be statesman. He is an icon of escalation.
Back to Ferris...

He supported campaign-finance reform because it was a way to restore honor to a process that the public viewed as tainted by the relentless pursuit of money.

"I believe public service is an honorable profession," McCain said. "I believed that when I entered the Naval Academy at 17, and I believe it still. . . . But the people whom I serve believe that the means by which I came to office corrupt me. That shames me. Their contempt is a stain upon my honor, and I cannot live with it."
I think another stain on McCain’s honor would be his involvement with rogue financier Charles Keating in the ‘80s (noted here), who almost single-handedly destroyed the savings and loan institutions in this country (remember the S&Ls?). To be fair to McCain, though, he was a minor player in that mess relative to Alan Cranston and Dennis DiConcini of the Senate, for example, and I honestly believe there was a time when he sought to redeem himself over that mess, though he’s gone horribly off course on a whole range of other issues since then, most notably Iraq of course.

In his books, McCain writes about trying to measure up to what he learned from his father and grandfather, both admirals, and from the men with whom he served in Vietnam, especially his fellow POWs.

In Character Is Destiny, he tells how Americans were tortured for military information, for details about one another, for statements against their country or their mission. If they would just speak, they were told, the pain would stop - and no one would know they had talked.

McCain writes, "But the men I had the honor of serving with always had the same response. I will know. I will know.

"That, dear reader, is good character. And I hope it is your destiny, your choice, your achievement, to hear the voice in your own heart, when you face hard decisions in your life, to hear it say to you, again and again, until it drowns out every other thought: I will know. I will know. I will know."

Perhaps McCain heard that voice as he prepared his VMI speech. He could have bowed to the polls, backed away from this administration and its war. He didn't.
He will find that he should have done so, because the majority of the American people, quite rightly, have had enough (57 percent is pretty decisive to me).

And by the way, as long as Ferris and his ilk are building up Dubya’s Majorly Fracked Up Iraq War as some sort of noble cause, it would be nice if these apologists could communicate exactly what it is that our fine service people are supposed to be doing over there.

Working so the Iraqi’s can “stand up and then we’ll stand down” or something like that? Not going to happen. Trying to wall off Baghdad by religious/ethnic groups? Zero on that also.

Our people are trying to keep from getting killed from an ever-more-emboldened insurgency while the Sunnis and the Shi’ites beat the hell out of each other. And it would be nice if Iran and Syria would actually try to help stop it – regardless of the rationale for this failed war, it is their area of the world, after all – but I guess they’re more concerned with making us look bad than trying to police themselves.

That figures perfectly, and that mindset is something that certainly was understood by the previous administration, and (but for some highly inglorious moments) Colin Powell early in this one.

Instead, he countered the withdrawal wave engulfing Congress. He warned of the results of failure for Iraq, the region, and the United States. He pointed out the "first glimmers of progress" from the troop increase and counterinsurgency strategy - though "the hour is late and . . . we should have no illusion that success is certain." He blasted Democrats for their cynicism, their cheers while voting to endorse defeat, and their refusal "to offer an alternative strategy that has some relationship to reality."
Speaking of “some relationship to reality,” I don’t know what Ferris means by the Democrats’ “cheers while voting to endorse defeat.” Is he being literal, metaphorical, or typically delusional? Is this something like the graffiti supposedly painted on the Capitol steps by antiwar protesters?

Ferris’ trademark is to spout partisan generalizations and cast unsubstantiated aspersions at every opportunity, so all of this is typical.

"Responsible political leaders - statesmen - do not add to the burdens our troops carry," he said.
Speaking of “the burden our troops carry,” here’s more…

Granted, McCain is a politician, and his goal for 2009 is clear. But on this topic, neither polls nor ambition have led him to embrace dishonor.

He may not become president, but, along the way, he'll set the standard for an honorable debate.
“And thaaa hoooooome oooofff thaaa braaaaa-aavvve!”

I hope McCain at least extends to Ferris the courtesy of a “reach-around” for this one.

And by the way, here’s more honorable “straight talk” from St. McCain.

Update 4/23: Gosh, where is my head at these days? I failed to include Senator Honor and Virtue's musical number yesterday...