Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Videos

The Darkness ("Growing On Me" - takes about a minute to get going, but then it rocks; I'm sorry, but the guitar flying out of the lake like that is right out of "Spinal Tap," and I don't think I've ever been mooned in a video before)...

...Happy belated birthday to David Ball of Soft Cell ("Tainted Love," the group's 1981 cover of the 1964 R&B hit by Gloria Jones - I hope this guy isn't supposed to be Caligula; yep, 2:38 is about as much of this as I can stand)...

...and Jerry Weiss and George Wadenius of Blood, Sweat and Tears celebrated birthdays this week ("God Bless The Child," a great cover of the Billie Holliday standard, with David Clayton-Thomas on vocals)...

...and oh yeah, here's a song by The Ramones about that movie that opened today (will there be a fourth one?).

Shut Up And Let Her Sing

This appeared in the New York Times today.

To The Editor:

I think that the answer to why
Joan Baez was barred from the concert at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is easy – she’s a known demonstrator (“Unwanted Folk” editorial, May 3). And in this country, civil rights notwithstanding, that makes you a troublemaker.

We all talk a good game about how important our First Amendment protections are, but I wonder how many of us simply feel annoyed when demonstrators get in our way, particularly the ones we disagree with.

We ought to admire those who have the courage to exercise their right to protest, especially when so many of their fellow citizens brand them as unpatriotic for doing so. How ironic for this to happen in the land of the free.

Karin J. Lauria
Marlborough, MA
And here are more kindred spirits of Baez who have more than honored her legacy with a song originating from a sense of suffering all their own.

And as far as Baez herself is concerned, here is a sample of what they missed.

Friday Gun Wrapup

Kudos to Philadelphia City Councilman Darrell Clarke and City Council woman Donna Reed Miller for sticking a finger in the eye, metaphorically speaking, of the NRA in Pennsylvania by sponsoring legislation that would limit gun purchases to one a month and require gun owners to promptly report lost or stolen firearms in Philadelphia (they have promised to file a lawsuit against the state general assembly to obtain authority for Philadelphia to pass its own gun laws).

Also, U.S. House Rep. and mayoral candidate Chaka Fattah sponsored a “groceries for guns” program, working in conjunction with City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, The Northwest Fund, and Fresh Grocer and Acme Supermarkets, to get guns off the streets of Philadelphia.

And while all of this takes place, PA Repug House Speaker Dennis O’Brien sits on his hands and laments that “there aren’t enough votes” to get the legislation allowing Philadelphia to bypass PA’s gun laws “out of committee.”

Of course, it would be nice if O’Brien would actually bother to take the initiative on this himself, wouldn’t it?

And why should I not be surprised that the NRA wants terrorists to get guns so they can kill us also?

And in response to this story (speaking of gun offenders), I have only this to say; duck, Your Majesty! (this has sound)

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

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.


Iraq funds, withdrawal. Members approved, 218-208, the conference report on a bill (HR 1591) that requires a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq to start by Oct. 1, but sets no date for completing the pullout of all but a residual force. The bill (HR 1591) appropriates about $90 billion through September for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; $5.1 billion for military health care, including veterans' care; $3.1 billion for base closures; and $1.7 billion for military construction. The bill also provides nearly $25 billion for domestic programs.

A yes vote was to approve the conference report.

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

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Not much to say beyond what we already know on this…

Horse slaughter. The House passed, 277-137, and sent to the Senate a bill to ban the Interior Department from selling wild horses or burros that roam public lands in the West. The bill (HR 249) is designed to stop the slaughter of those animals for human consumption abroad.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Not voting: Fattah.


Iraq funds, withdrawal. The Senate approved, 51-46, and sent to President Bush the conference report on a bill (HR 1591, above) to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to require that U.S. troops begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1. The president has said he will veto the bill.

A yes vote was to approve the conference report.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
How does it feel to be outnumbered, Arlen?

Math, science skills. Senators passed, 88-8, and sent to the House a bill focusing federal departments on the objective of keeping America a global leader in technology and innovation. The bill (S 761) would use new funds and programs to elevate U.S. math and science skills at work and in all school levels.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

Not voting: Biden.
Here’s more on this bill, in particular this excerpt (5)…

In early March, the Senate introduced the COMPETES Act (S761), which is very similar to legislation introduced late last year during the previous Congress. The bill has two main functions: increase the budget authorizations for the Department of Energy Office of Science, The National Science Foundation, and other science agencies; and establish or expand Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs - both teacher training programs and support for students. A major difference between this bill and last year’s effort is the timing. Early in the year and with the political support of both the Majority and Minority Leaders, this bill stands a better chance of moving forward.

The House Science and Technology Committee has already reported favorably on both of its competitiveness bills in markups held in late February and late March. The first bill reported, H.R. 363, addresses support for young researchers (its budget authorization provisions were removed and will be dealt with in other legislation), while the second, H.R. 362, reauthorizes and expands teacher training and scholarships for students in STEM disciplines. This bill was amended with additional emphasis on minority serving institutions and institutions and students from low-income areas, as well as support for increasing laboratory experience in high schools. Chairman Gordon expects the legislation to see floor action following the recess.
This week, both chambers were likely to vote on President Bush's expected veto of the Iraq funding and troop-withdrawal bill (House could not override – no point in scheduling a Senate vote at this time if an override cannot be achieved there either). The House passed hate crime legislation and took up Head Start and National Science Foundation funding. The Senate debated the Food and Drug Administration budget.

With Dems Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Ari Melber of The Nation posted today on HuffPo about a new political action committee created by labor strategist Steve Rosenthal, working with and the ever-present Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of The Daily Kos targeting what Melber refers to as “disloyal (Democratic) incumbents,” though Rosenthal describes it as “a marriage of the grassroots and the netroots” intended to “change the tenor of politics.”

Yes, I’ll acknowledge that some of this stuff is a matter of semantics and spin, but I definitely think Melber misses what is going on here, and I’ll explain.

As Melber notes…

While the group says it is too early to finalize its targets, Moulitsas told me he wants to unseat Al Wynn, a Maryland Democrat who has backed Republican legislation on bankruptcy, oil drilling, flag burning, Terri Schiavo and the estate tax, along with Representatives (Ellen) Tauscher and (Henry) Cuellar. Rosenthal argues that they do not have to win any races to be effective. "The primary is not the victory; the victory is getting Democrats to act like Democrats," he says.
In case anyone thinks this is just some kind of a litmus test by the PAC to determine the ideological purity of its candidates, I should note that a lot more than that is involved here.

Regarding Henry Cuellar of Texas (pictured above receiving an overtly friendly greeting from Dubya before a State of the Union address), this post from Daily Kos blogger Septic Tank (love some of these “handles”) documents in nauseating detail the seamy financial relationships Cuellar has established with Repug-friendly interests in order to hold onto his office, Koch Industries in particular. As the post notes via Source Watch, Koch is…

...the second largest privately-held company in the United States (behind Cargill), with annual sales of more than $40 billion. Its owners, brothers Charles and David H. Koch, are leading contributors to the Koch Family Foundations, which supports a network of conservative organizations and think tanks, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, the libertarian Cato Institute, Reason Magazine, the Manhattan Institute, the Heartland Institute, and the Democratic Leadership Council. Koch was started in 1927 by Fred Koch, a charter member of the John Birch Society, with an oil delivery business in Texas. It quickly diversified into a number of other areas, but it amassed most of its fortune in the oil trading and refining.
Next we have Ellen Tauscher of California, and, as Howie Klein of FDL notes here, she...

…supported legislation to scale back the estate tax, tighten bankruptcy rules and promote free-trade agreements. She served as vice chair of the pro-business Democratic Leadership Council, which many liberal activists dismiss as a quasi-Republican K Street front group. And she voted to authorize the Iraq war.
And in particular, concerning Iraq…

Between October 10, 2002 and May 25, 2005, the House voted on 44 Iraq War bills. Tauscher's Iraq voting record is one of the worst of any Democrat's, and far from being in "lockstep" with Nancy Pelosi's, as Eilperin and Grunwald deceitfully attempt to convey. Starting on October 10, 2002 with Roll Call 454 on H.J. Res. 114, the final resolution authorizing Bush to use force against Iraq, Tauscher didn't vote with Nancy Pelosi and other progressive Democrats– and the majority of Democrats in the House; she voted with Tom DeLay and Roy Blunt and the worst reactionary, warmongering scum in the Congress to give Bush the authority to do what he's done in Iraq.
Howie is great – totally a master of understatement.

And this brings us to Al Wynn who, as noted here by Kos blogger MTinMD, is a Democrat who votes with Republicans on key issues such as Iraq, energy, bankruptcy, the environment, personal privacy (though, strangely, he has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America…go figure).

Wynn survived a valiant primary challenge from progressive Democrat Donna Edwards last year, a campaign in which workers for Wynn beat up an Edwards worker, and Wynn stated that the Edwards worker “got the worst of it” in response in a manner befitting a street thug much more than a member of the U.S. Congress.

This post isn’t meant to be a commercial for this new PAC, by the way, or Kos in particular, who needs no assistance from me also. I am merely trying to point out that when Democrats decide to take on one of their own, utilizing precious valuable campaign resources in the process, it is usually for a good reason (and as far as I’m concerned, Cuellar, Tauscher and Wynn are good reasons).

Finally, I have a question for Melber. In his post, he states that “None of the incumbents targeted by the blogosphere in the last cycle hail from vulnerable districts or red states.”

Cuellar is from Texas, is he not?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Thursday Videos

Grace Potter And The Nocturnals ("Treat Me Right")...

...Little Walter would have been 77 on May 1st ("Dead Presidents," spacey animation and all, and I'd like to dedicate this to the Repug nominees for the White House in '08 who, apparently, were tripping all over themselves trying to verbally fellate The Sainted Ronnie R. tonight in the debate - beyond that, I'm not saying another word)...

...Happy 70th birthday to Frankie Valli of The Four Seasons ("Let's Hang On" eviscerated for '60s T.V. - I'm sure the roar of polyester and the drama of bouffant hairdos are on full display tonight at 9th and Christian in South Philadelphia)...

...and a great big Happy 88th Birthday wish goes out tonight to the one and only Pete Seeger ("Bring Them Home," from about the same time as the Four Seasons clip, with an intro by David Steinberg - I don't need to say a word about the parallels to now, do I?).

Speak For Yourself, Friedman

I cannot let yesterday’s New York Times column by Tom Friedman go unanswered; in it, he imagined a speech that Dubya should give to all Arab leaders in which he communicates (with imaginary humility that I don’t think this man has ever possessed in his life or is likely to) the true terrorist threat faced not only by us, but by the world.

(I know that, between Friedman and David Brooks, I’m really going for high-profile targets, but that is partly because I’m spending more effort on the Times instead of the Philadelphia Inquirer, which, more and more, is sinking to the point where it is almost no longer worthy of outrage – I don’t think they featured enough ads for Citizens Bank on the first page of the Business section yesterday, for example; I don’t think three is enough to get anyone’s attention…snark.)

Friedman’s argument is actually quite convincing, but there are at least two problems with it right from the top: 1) Nowhere in this speech does Dubya tell his audience that we’re leaving, which is the most important thing he could possibly say, and 2) It assumes leadership, courage and diplomatic skill that we are not going to see from the person residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue until 1/20/09 at the very earliest (again, barring impeachment, as always).

But as I read what Friedman had to say, it occurred to me that he should be taking a taste of his own medicine before he prescribes this “cure” for anyone else, so I thought of this…

I want to take this opportunity to speak to my fellow U.S. citizens and to the world at large. I begin with a simple message: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I, perhaps foremost among the elite media punditocracy with the possible exceptions of William Kristol and Christopher Hitchens, served as the most visible cheerleader for our disastrous war in Iraq, which is responsible for the deaths of over 3,300 of our services people, injuries to nearly 25,000 others, and the deaths of very possibly 100,000 or more innocent Iraqis.

I’m sorry for
ridiculing and deriding in the most condescending manner possible anyone who possibly disagreed with me or called me into question regarding my wrongheaded commitment to this tragic episode. I’m also sorry that I did all I could to stretch out our involvement in this contact in the most interminable manner possible, and in the process, trying to alter the basic laws of mathematics.

I’m sorry that any consideration for other human beings in this war and consequences visited upon them only occurred to me
when I thought of my daughters.

I’m sorry for blaming everyone
except myself for the deteriorating state of security (if you could call it that) in Iraq.

I’m sorry for allowing this Saudi poet to bemoan his sad state of affairs without
acknowledging our own shortcomings.

I’m sorry for realizing way, way too late that the leader of my country is
an unstable moron suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

And I’m sorry for completely ignoring the role that the war I’ve advocated has played in
igniting wider conflict throughout the Middle East.
Friedman’s past words, though they’ve never killed anyone, have been used as a motivation to kill others instead. So such a speech from him, though unlikely, would serve as both a purgative exercise and a means to start bringing this cycle of madness to an end.


Update 8/23/07: And isn't little Tommy just sooo brave from the comfort of the studio of Charlie Rose? (h/t Atrios)

Be A Better Suckup Next Time, Wolfie

That, amazingly, seems to be the thesis of today’s New York Times column by David Brooks about the whole fiasco at the World Bank concerning Paul Wolfowitz and his squeeze, Shaha Riza, who of course was awarded an extremely generous promotion and compensation package when Wolfie got her a job at the State Department working for the contractor SAIC.

Here is how BoBo describes it…

Let’s say you’re a Republican appointed to an important job in Washington. You’ll probably find that 90 percent of the people who work in your agency are Democrats, as are 90 percent of the media types who cover you and 90 percent of the academics who comment on your work.
See, as far as Brooks is concerned, it’s more important to define people in terms of their degree of conservative ideological purity than their actual job competence (and do ya’ think that that mentality has contributed to the misery inflicted on us by Bushco at every opportunity?).

Here’s more…

But here’s the thing to remember: There are Democrats, and then there are Democrats. A quarter of the Democrats you’ll work with are partisans. They believe the rantings of the agit-prop pundits, and they’ll never be open-minded towards you. But the other three-quarters are honorable, intelligent people. If you treat these people with respect, and find places where you can work together, they will teach you things and make you more effective. If you treat them the way you treat the partisans, they’ll turn into partisans and destroy you.
Of course, BoBo doesn’t condescend to inform us of how he arrived at these magical calculations. Such is life in Unaccountable Conservative Pundit Land where, I suppose, we are merely supposed to chant hosannas to the virtues of intelligent design, the free hand of corporate enterprise and war without end while staring blankly at a visage of The Sainted Ronnie Reagan.

Here’s the deal: as David E. Sanger of the Times actually reported in the story I linked to from this post (and noted in bold, just to make sure on the admittedly off-chance that Brooks somehow reads it), Wolfie secured the gig at State for Riza so she could work as an intermediary with the World Bank with Iraq’s reconstruction and try to get the U.N. into the picture also, in sort of a “back door” manner that Bushco knows pretty well. For that kind of a devious move all by itself, Wolfie deserves to get canned.

I’m not going to bother to dissect the rest of BoBo’s froth here, but I will note that he actually makes a good point…

Most scandals are pretexts for members of an establishment to destroy people they don’t like.
I absolutely agree.

This Third Time Would Be No Charm

A president who vetoed only one bill throughout all of his first term is now poised to veto his second (making three total) in less than seven months of his second term while sharing government with a Democratic congress.

We know about the veto of the Iraq Supplemental, of course, but Dubya will likely do the same thing to the hate crimes bill expanded by the House and subsequently passed to include gender and sexual orientation (update: assuming the Senate passes it also).

As noted from this link…

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are disproportionately affected by hate violence. According to the FBI, 14 percent of hate crime victims in 2005 were victims of crimes motivated by hatred of lesbian, gay or bisexual people. Moreover, reports produced by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (1984–1993) and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (1994–present) have documented more than 35,000 anti-LGBT crimes over the last 22 years. It is important to note that these statistics are based on reports from only a handful of local LGBT crime victim assistance agencies.

The version of the hate crimes bill introduced today includes crimes based on a victim’s actual or perceived gender identity. This is the first time a transgender-inclusive bill has been introduced in the United States Senate. This clear inclusion of transgender people in hate crimes laws is especially important because violence against transgender people is widespread, largely underreported, and disproportionately greater than the number of transgender people in society. In 2005, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported that 11 percent of the 2,306 victims of hate crimes identified as transgender.
Also notable from this Wikipedia link is the following (illustrating the need for federal legislation to protect those persecuted for other reasons also, including religion and ethnicity)…

Seven states have no hate crime laws, 20 states have hate crime laws that do not protect sexual orientation, and 24 states have hate crime laws that include sexual orientation.
So what is the supposed rationale for Dubya’s veto? As noted in the Yahoo/AP story...

Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, warned that the true intent of the bill was "to muzzle people of faith who dare to express their moral and biblical concerns about homosexuality." If you read the Bible in a certain way, he told his broadcast listeners, "you may be guilty of committing a 'thought crime.'"
I am a person of faith, and as far as I’m concerned, Matt Foreman is right when he states that “it’s a disgrace that bigotry and ignorance have prevented Congress from taking real action to address hate crimes for nearly 20 years.”

And I won’t comment on the absurdity of Dobson’s remark, because as far as I’m concerned, it is self evident.

Update: Here's more from People For the American Way.

Joe Didn't Know, Again

I want to give Joe Biden credit for saying the Dems in Congress were going to “shove (the Iraq Supplemental) down (Dubya’s) throat” prior to the inevitable veto, but I really can’t, because once again, it shows utter tone-deafness from a man who has no shot whatsoever at the presidency (and if there is one thing we absolutely do not need, it’s another tone-deaf Democrat).

It’s nice to see a spine from him on this, but what good is language like that if you can’t back it up (with Washington Post reporters Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray reporting today that the Dems remain “deeply divided” on what to do to respond to the veto, though the Repugs sound like they’re hardly on the same page either).

Update: Hey now, isn’t THIS interesting? Ready to print a retraction for today’s headline, Inky?

Here’s a news flash for our esteemed corporate media: the real story here is that George Dumbya Bush continues to disregard the will of the vast majority of the people of this country who hate him and hate this war (and gee, how nice that our “friends” have secret agendas of their own).

Blaming the Democrats for not fixing Bushco’s mess is, to me, like someone who had too much to drink getting sick and heaving into the toilet, but blaming the castor oil instead of the quantity of booze because the medicine upsets his stomach.

And also, I’m down with what Jonathan Singer says here (h/t Atrios). And I don’t know what the answer is, because I admit that I don’t have much experience dealing with crazy people (in politics, anyway); maybe a shorter-term funding bill to make The Boy King keep returning to this issue, forcing him to keep rejecting withdrawal dates over and over and over to help ensure an override of his veto one day; also, to ensure his infamous place in the history books (to say nothing of impeachment) if for no other reason.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Link Wray would have been 78 today (here he is playing his signature song "Rumble" in 1978)...

...and Happy Birthday to Lou Gramm of Foreigner also ("Say You Will").

The Real John Edwards Story

This is a long post, so be warned.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with the stories about John Edwards and the $400 haircuts (and based on this Media Matters column – hat tip to Atrios – I believe Eric Boehlert has also). The sole function of these columns is to feed into the corporate media narrative that Democrats are nothing but self-obsessed elitists who continually do the opposite of what they tell other people to do instead (and in the case of Edwards, it is to add somewhat of an effeminate touch in an effort to demean him in a particularly childish way).

What I just described was what you may call Phase 1 of The John Edwards Haircut Narrative, in which it was good sport to make fun of the obsessive care he took with his appearance. The reason I am writing about this now, though, is that Leonard Pitts, Jr. wrote this column that appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer recently in which he initiates what you could call Phase 2 of The John Edwards Haircut Narrative.

See, in Phase 1, we were supposed to merely laugh at Edwards and the whole YouTube video thing. Now, in Phase 2, we are supposed to assume that, because he paid a Beverly Hills hair stylist $400 for a service that could be performed at a barber shop for probably not much more than $20-$50, he is not only a vain prima donna, but he is actually guilty of “fake authenticity” because, in his days as a trial lawyer, Edwards stood up for the common man (no quotes around any of that as far as I’m concerned).

And before I say another word, I want to point out that I am truly repulsed that a writer as accomplished as Leonard Pitts, Jr. has decided to shill himself as part of this nonsensical smear campaign (and make no mistake – that is what this is, as surely as the Barack Obama madrassa nonsense and the fact that his middle name is Hussein qualifies also, with the same objective as any guttural utterances that could seep out of the oozing, festering human sore that is Rush Limbaugh). The stirring, award-winning post-9/11 commentaries from this man are merely a hollow echo at this point, I suppose.

So Edwards is guilty of “fake authenticity”? Edwards is “hoity toity”? Somehow Pitts believes it’s appropriate to try and manufacture some delusional equivalency between John Edwards’ appearance and the communication between Mike Brown and Kathleen Blanco and their staffers over fashionable attire their bosses should be wearing while the Ninth Ward was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina?


I think it’s time that I try to establish a narrative of my own here about John Edwards, and I will try to do so beginning with the information from this link, which takes you to a page that summarizes the highest-profile legal cases of his career. The page also includes articles about Edwards that appeared in 2004 when he ran as a candidate for president in the Democratic primary, as well as when he was named as a vice-presidential candidate on the ticket with John Kerry later that year (and by the way, a big hat tip goes out to The American Observer for this link).

The narrative I will attempt to create here is one of a Southern populist lawyer advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves and are denied help available to those with better means than they possess. To do so, I will provide some passages from the book “Four Trials,” written by Edwards with John Auchard. The book describes, quite literally, four trials that established Edwards as the individual I just described. Also included in the book are loving remembrances of the Edwardses son Wade, who was killed in a vehicle accident (and one more thing; this is a narrative you will never hear from Kate O’Beirne, Mike Malin, or their ilk).

I recommend the book, by the way, if you truly want to learn about John Edwards, his experiences as a trial lawyer, and his depth of understanding and support for his family, his clients, and his neighbors (and yes, his faith also). What I’ve included here is merely a small sampling of the richness of the true narrative of his life.

The first trial (noted extensively in this excerpt from USA Today) had to do with a man named E.G. Sawyer, who was a salesman doing his job well and living a good life until he hit some rough patches and turned into an alcoholic.

As Edwards recalls in the book…

Five days after (Sawyer’s boss) Charles Tate checked E.G. into St. Joseph's (Hospital), the doctor recommended aversion therapy — which would mean that E.G. would be given disulfiram, a drug better known by its brand name, Antabuse. If E.G. drank any alcohol, the Antabuse would make him nauseated and perhaps even profoundly ill, and ultimately, it would keep E.G. from drinking and allow the eventual repair of his liver function. E.G. acknowledged that the approach sounded like a good idea, and his boss and several other friends pledged that they would be there to keep up his spirits. So, on September 14, 1978, the doctor initiated the aversion therapy by prescribing the maximum daily dosage, 500 milligrams of Antabuse.

The next day, the fifteenth, the doctor prescribed double the maximum daily dosage of Antabuse for E.G., and on the sixteenth he tripled the dosage to 1500 milligrams. The doctor had attended a seminar in Atlanta in which this kind of aggressive therapy was discussed. The hospital's pharmacists dutifully filled the prescriptions, and the nurses dutifully administered them to E.G. Each day for the next two weeks he received three times the maximum daily dosage. Although at first he seemed cheerful and resolute about defeating his alcoholism, soon there were alarming signs that something had gone wrong. He complained of headaches and became increasingly drowsy and confused, and his blood pressure went up. On the evening of October 1, a nurse found him unconscious and lying crosswise on his bed. When Libby Tate, Charles Tate's wife, phoned the hospital the next day to see how the salesman was coming along, she was informed that E.G. Sawyer had been transferred to the intensive care unit. He was in a coma.

In December, E.G. emerged from his coma with extensive brain damage, unable to walk or talk without great difficulty. His friends transferred him to Duke University Hospital for continued treatment and therapy, then took him back to a rehabilitation center in Asheville (N.C.). By that time, his transformation from robust and attractive man to a severely handicapped shadow of his former self was complete. On E.G.'s behalf, Charles Tate consulted four or five local attorneys, but none of them would take the case. Medical malpractice lawsuits had rarely been filed in conservative Buncombe County, and when they were filed, the results were usually the same: verdicts for doctors. Furthermore, no local jury was going to side against the beloved local hospital in favor of an alcoholic. When E.G. Sawyer was wheeled into the law office of state senator Robert Swain in the summer of 1981, the three-year statute of limitations — the period in which a lawsuit for negligence could be filed — had almost run out.
As the FindLaw link notes, Sawyer had suffered permanent brain and nerve damage due to the over-prescription of Antabuse, and the jury awarded a sum of $3.7 million dollars as a result.

The second trial involved a couple named Peggy and Jeff Campbell; Peggy was pregnant with the couple’s child, a daughter named Valerie. Before delivery, the girl moved to a breech position necessitating a caesarian delivery, though the doctor, an established old-time obstetrician, ordered Jeff to stay out of the delivery room while attempting to deliver the baby through a vaginal birth (the doctor was heard to say, “I believe I feel a scrotum” though the couple had expected a girl). In the process of trying to deliver Valerie vaginally, the doctor fractured her shoulder, though far worse was yet to come.

After the child was finally delivered, the hospital gave the Campbells a cruel runaround, first telling them their baby was fine, then getting them to sign consent forms for procedures that had already been performed, then telling them their baby “will probably be a vegetable and she may die,” and then they were asked if they wanted to keep her (the couple, shocked and heartbroken, of course said yes).

(And by the way, as the Campbell case was brought to trial, Edwards recalled hearing snickers that he won the Sawyer case “because of his hair.” As you can see, what has been taking place recently is sort of a more corporate-media-and-internet-friendly version of an old tactic that has been tried many times before).

After Edwards won the original trial and the judge set aside the jury’s verdict, Edwards turned down the judge’s remittitur of damages, and a new trial was ordered on the damages question. For the next 2 ½ years, the case wrangled its way through the appellate courts.

On February 17, 1988, Pitt County Memorial Hospital finally agreed to settle the case with the Campbells for $4.25 million, meaning that Jennifer Love Campbell, a child suffering from cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, would be taken care of for the rest of her life.

The third trial noted in the book is Howard vs. Collins & Aikman, a trucking company. A driver from the company sped recklessly down a street in Yadkinville, North Carolina, trying to make as many deliveries as possible within the maximum of 12 hours in which the driver was allowed to work; the driver was paid by the mile instead of the hour. In the process, a minister named Greg Howard was killed when he was hit by the reckless truck driver.

(Actually, the driver killed both the mother and father of young Josh Howard – it’s truly heartbreaking in the book to read about the child’s sad wonderment about his parents not picking him up from day care on the day of the accident – but because the parents of the mother settled with the company against the judge’s advice, her death could not be mentioned in any civil action.)

As you can see from the FindLaw link, Edwards won a $6.5 million verdict, but as he recalls in the book…

Unfortunately the insurance company…did what many powerful businesses do (as a result of the judgment against their client), and when the Republican Party took control of the state legislature in 1995, its lobbyists seized the moment. Soon a bill was passed disallowing punitive damage awards against a company as a result of an employee’s actions, unless that particular action was specifically ratified by corporate officers. Meaning, among other things, that today Golda Howard (Greg’s mother) would not be able to seek punitive damages from Collins & Aikman. Yes, our lawsuit had sent a message, and the message ultimately was: if you don’t like the law, change it. Which, regrettably, they did.
And during the course of the trial, someone from Collins & Aikman was heard to say “lost lives are an inevitability in the trucking business.” Nice guy.

The fourth trial involved David and Sandy Lakey and their young daughter Valerie who was caught in a swimming pool filter, and it took three adults to pull her off of the filter, which disemboweled her in the process (the mother of the little boy playing with Valerie who helped pull her from the pool told Valerie’s mother in a quaking voice that, “I’m holding her intestines in my hands”).

Four parties were named in the suit: Medfield Area Recreational Club (because they did not maintain a safe wading pool), Wake County (whose health department was responsible for supervising the safety of the area’s pools), Hayward Pool Products (the pump manufacturer), and these three settled before cases were brought to trial. The fourth party was Sta-Rite Industries, which manufactured the pool drain cover over the pump and maintained that it did nothing wrong throughout the trial.

As Edwards recalled (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here and adding somewhat), it took considerable skill to represent Valerie Lakey at the trial given the anemic product liability statute of the state of North Carolina, where the Lakeys lived and the accident took place.

Other evidence of Sta-Rite’s negligence started to emerge during the trial. As the book states…

In the depositions, we had received a dark hints that more Valerie Lakeys were out there…A New Mexico boy whose arm was trapped in a pool drain and had drowned. A South Dakota boy eviscerated. An eight-year-old Texas boy who had miraculously survived for ten minutes while several adults fought to wrench his arm free from the suction. A Fresno girl who had died when her hair was entrapped in a whirlpool drain. Other head and leg injuries. Allegations of brain damage. Seizures. Deaths.

At some level, Sta-Rite knew all of this. Now we did too. And soon the jury would know it.
And (not surprisingly) it also turned out that the company had a history of settling out of court with plaintiffs for comparatively meager sums to avoid publicity.

And what happened as a result…

On the morning of January 13, 1997, the jury began deliberation. When they returned to the courtroom later that day, they had awarded David, Sandy, and Valerie Lakey $25 million for compensatory damages for Sta-Rite’s negligence. Sta-Rite said that if the Lakeys would agree not to pursue punitive damages, it would agree not to appeal. They would settle the case for the amount of the verdict.
As you can see from these excerpts from documented case histories, John Edwards has been advocating for and representing wronged individuals, primarily children and families, and those who could not obtain representation anywhere else for years. He has fought diligently for these people so they could live their lives to some degree despite the negligence that has victimized them. And in doing so, he has won some big awards and managed to take a bite or two out of the collective hide of corporate America.

And that is why he is hated. That is why the stories, the rumors, the innuendo have persisted and will persist for as long he walks this earth. That is why Smerky and his fellow travelers accused him and Elizabeth of being bad parents when he decided to continue his campaign despite the recurrence of her cancer. That is why Maureen Dowd and others resurrect this utterly juvenile “Breck Girl” name calling. That is why he is commonly referred to as a used car salesman by people who don’t know any better.

I hope this post gives you a better understanding of what John Edwards is all about, and I hope it helps you to understand why he has my unequivocal support as he runs for the Democratic nomination to be President of the United States.

And I also hope it helps you to understand why Leonard Pitts, Jr. owes John Edwards the apology that he will never receive.

The Moment Of Truth On Iraq

The latest from John Edwards...

This is the moment of truth on Iraq. The veto we knew would come has arrived. Congress must now make a decision: cave in to Bush and extend the war, or send back a binding plan to end it.

I asked my staff to create an emergency television ad that would bring the people's voice directly to Congress, calling on them to make the right choice. They worked late into the night and we now have a powerful message ready to go on the air in D.C. as soon as tomorrow morning.

But I need your help: We need to raise $100,000 in 24 hours to air this ad. If you want to make sure every member of Congress, their staff, and the national press corps see this message at this critical time, I need you to chip in whatever you can afford right now, at:

Click here.

Is it normal for a presidential campaign to drop everything and focus on pushing Congress to end a war? Maybe not.

Is it normal for you to contribute money online towards running emergency ads in Washington, D.C.? Maybe not.

But we don't have time for normal. We've got a few days—maybe less—to do absolutely everything we can to ensure this Congress responds to Bush's veto by sending another binding plan to end the war.

This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. I need you to pitch in $5, $50, $500 or whatever you can manage to rush this ad on the D.C. airwaves in the next 24 hours. You can see the ad and make your contribution here:

Click here.

And there's another twist. I wanted this ad to be about the voice of the people. And that means I don't just need your help putting it on the air, I need your voice.

We've designed the ad so you can actually add yourself in online. We hope that dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people will send in video clips of themselves echoing the message of the ad — "We the people" are asking Congress to stand up to Bush.

If you have a video camera, or you can borrow one, please take a minute to send a clip of yourself saying "We the People" that we can put into the online version of the ad—and get your friends to do the same.

You can see the ad, make your contribution, and send in your video clips online at:

Click here.

Seizing this moment and ending this war is going to take every single one of us chipping in and adding our voice. But I believe we're up to the challenge. And with your help, I believe we'll succeed.

Thank you,

John Edwards
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
To learn more, click here.

Julie Ends Her “Fishy” Performance

The New York Times reported today that Julie MacDonald of the Fish and Wildlife Service resigned on Monday. And at this point, is it really a surprise to point out that a member of Bushco appointed to a regulatory position was accused of handing over “internal agency documents to industry lobbyists” and “riding roughshod over scientists”?

As the Times story notes…

Among other actions that drew the ire of wildlife biologists and lawyers, Ms. MacDonald had heavily edited biologists’ reports on sage grouse, a species that in the end was not placed on the threatened or endangered lists. Their habitat overlaps with vast parts of the Rocky Mountain West, where oil and gas drilling and cattle ranching are prevalent; listing the grouse as endangered or threatened could have curbed those industries’ access to federal lands.

In another case in the inspector general’s report, Ms. MacDonald demanded that scientists reduce the nesting range for the Southwest willow flycatcher to a radius of 1.8 miles, from a 2.1-miles, so it would not cross into California, where her husband has a ranch.
And according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, as noted here…

A February 2005 UCS survey of scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service found pervasive political interference in science at the agency. Two thirds of those who responded to the survey - 303 scientists - were aware of cases in which Interior Department political appointees interfered with scientific findings. Eighty-four scientists reported that they were directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from agency scientific documents.
By the way, the mission statement of the Fish and Wildlife Service states as follows (from here)…

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission is, working with others, to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
Please try not to laugh too hard.

What Might Have Been

I have to wonder what the Bancroft family, the controlling shareholders of the Dow Jones empire, is thinking in their decision not to allow themselves to be consumed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

I mean, just think of what would happen to the Wall Street Journal alone (and if that isn’t an ideological match made in heaven, I don’t know what is).

Not even considering the content of the paper (their news pieces are expertly written and researched, but the editorial pages are something I’d rather not discuss on a full stomach), the “look and feel” would get a major overhaul. No more of this wussy “Please turn to page so-and-so” business for continuing articles; why observe the niceties when “Go to B4” will suffice?

And think of the spectrum of colors for rules and banners that we would see within each section, and especially on the front page. Think “USA Today” on steroids. And do you want to talk typefaces? Say adios to that boring, snoozerama Times Roman that you actually have to sit and read without processing the words instantaneously from a glance while flipping around for fashion model ads in skimpy lingerie (and lots more of that would be in store also, of course). Arial, Coronet, Verdana, maybe Franklin Gothic Demi Bold…the mind boggles.

And that paper is just too damn crowded with…well, newspaper stuff, like information. God, white space, white space, and more white space, OK? And just imagine the “What We Think Insta-Polls” about shareholder return from capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, and the latest digital technology to make CEOs and other corporate wannabe types look extra-important at meetings. And don’t forget those kitschy “Up Arrow, Down Arrow” graphics referencing trends observed in the world of high finance.

And what would some obsequious vessel of the News Corporation be unless it was cross-marketing or promoting something else (and that fate would be in store for the WSJ, make no mistake, probably what it deserves when all is said and done)? More quarter and half-page ads on the front page of the paper and the Marketplace, Money & Investing and Personal Journal sections for “American Idol,” “Hannity and Colmes,” and “24.”

(Don’t worry if it looks like there’s no passably intelligent means to pull this off, by the way – we’re talking about Rupert Murdoch, after all. How about this: “Hello, I’m Jack Bauer. Before I bind the hands of a suspected al Qaeda terrorist with piano wire and jab the key from my Hummer into his forehead so I can get a confession about the next attempt to kill Dick Cheney, I make sure my Roth IRA contribution is deposited into a retirement account administered by Charles Schwab.”)

And finally, say hasta la vista to those 1800s-era pencil drawings of newsmakers sprinkled all over the place. Hey, you can just steal pics online without having to pay for licensing or a royalty to anyone. Why employ an artist for that stuff? Salary and bennies for that? Please! Tell him to go sketch out a portrait of President Coolidge or something.

So, Dow Jones, just think about the opportunity you apparently are going to pass up here. Trust me, Murdoch would make the Journal a much bigger selling rag than it already is in nothing flat among a whole new audience. It would fly off the shelves at convenience stores as people buy carbonated sodas, candies and starchy potato-and-cheese-flavored snacks along with it.

And I don’t think an opportunity like this will come around again anytime soon.

Update 8/1: Yep, I know I was presumptuous - Murdoch usually finds a way to get what he wants (and this is a fitting epitaph).

True To His Word

Tony Blair recently announced that he would step down as Prime Minister (as noted here), and it looks like this will take place in early July. A contributing factor in this announcement is the timing of the British elections tomorrow; Blair wants to do what he can to help his Labour party by firming up plans and not end up serving as a distraction.

And make no mistake, his departure has been hastened by the Iraq war, as we know (here is a prior post from last September in which Blair announced his plans).

I know he is hardly innocent himself in the Iraq mess, but as far as I’m concerned, just chalk him up as another “mark” for Bushco (sad indeed given the legacy he could have left instead), though he gets points for candor here.

"Horse's Mouth To Horse's Ass" Indeed

The latest from Nancy Pelosi...

I had hoped that President Bush would accept my offer to work together on a New Direction in Iraq and sign crucial legislation holding the Iraqi government accountable. Instead, the President chose to continue to isolate himself from Congress, the international community, and the American people by vetoing the Democratic plan for change in Iraq.

The President isn't listening to the American people's call to end this disastrous war. What further proof do they need than the timing of his veto? The President vetoed our bill that would end this war and bring our troops home the week of the fourth anniversary of his infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech that declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. Four years after that misguided speech, the President keeps making the same mistakes in Iraq.

Our bill achieved exactly what the American people elected us to do in November 2006. It would have fully funded troops on the ground, started to bring them home responsibly, held President Bush accountable, and ensured our veterans get the treatment they deserve back home.

Congress has responded to the will of the American people. President Bush has not. The President is clinging to his failed stay-the-course strategy in Iraq, while brave servicemen and women risk their lives for his mistakes.

House and Senate Democrats offered a plan for change in Iraq that gave the President every penny he requested for soldiers on the ground and more. But it also gave him something he's tried to avoid: accountability.

President Bush may have the bully pulpit - but we have you. Close to 60,000 of you signed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)'s petition to the President telling him not to veto our plan. The American people are with us and the fight for a New Direction in Iraq is not over - we hope you will continue to stand with us.

We are counting on you -- and millions of Democrats across the country who are united and energized as never before -- to help build an unstoppable Democratic Majority and put a Democrat in the White House in 2008.

Thank you for your continued dedication.


Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives

P.S. In just our first 100 days, Democrats have already taken America in a New Direction. Our Democratic Majority has passed legislation to raise the minimum wage and expand federal stem cell research, and has held over 100 oversight hearings on Iraq. Together, I know we can do even more.
Click here to visit our Iraq Resource Center to voice your outrage at the President's insistence on ignoring the will of the American people.
Kagro X of The Daily Kos has more, in particular a correspondence from Major General Paul D. Eaton, USA, Retired to "The Decider."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why I Am A Blogger

If there's one thing I am absolutely damn sick of out of my bloody mind, it is yet another of these tedious, mendacious, quasi-intelligent extrusions of literary claptrap espoused by The New Republic-Liebercrat-Pretend-Democratic wing of the party I support whenever they feel that they must write the be-all and end-all column about The Infamous Netroots.

Yet another example of this was analyzed over at Eschaton earlier today; it seems that Jonathan Chait of TNR was the latest of these clueless dweebs to speculate as to why lefty bloggers exist, no doubt believing that we are all clones manufactured by The Daily Kos Factory in Berkeley, California.

I'm not going to dignify Chait's article by refuting it point by point; you can go here if you want to read more about it. I will only highlight one utterly laughable sentence.

The netroots consider the notion of pursuing truth for its own sake nonsensical.
OK, Chait, you asked for it. Since you apparently are trying to tell the world what netroots bloggers are all about without, apparently, affording us the respect of actually ASKING A FEW OF US, I will tell you why I do this.

(God, this is going to be a bit boring, and I apologize in advance. I teed off on Smerky when he wrote a "What I Believe" column in his Inky debut, but if I have any hope of shutting up people like Chait by writing one of these things myself, I guess I'd better do it - sigh).

Here goes...

I read about Dumbya doing something else stupid, dangerous, illegal, or otherwise clueless, so I blog. I read about Repugs selling the working, middle class, heart and soul of this country down the river yet again, so I blog. I read about Dems sitting on their hands while the Repugs do what I just said, so I blog. I read totally tilted misinformation tinged with more than a little sarcasm from columnists such as Tom Friedman, David Brooks, Victor Davis Hanson, Suzanne Fields, Kathleen Parker, Jack Kelly, this Ruben Navarrette person now over at CNN, and of course Smerky, Kevin Ferris, Jonathan Last, and J.D. Mullane (though not lately, which is surprising), so I blog. I read about the exact opposite from people such as Paul Krugman, Paul Craig Roberts, Paul Campos, Gene Lyons, Joe Conason and a precious few others that I think I can use as part of posts, so I blog. I read about legitimate news stories that are twisted by misinformation, so I blog. I read about corporate media shills cozying up to Bushco and not doing their jobs, so I blog. I read about courageous Democrats trying to do great work such as Russ Feingold, Max Cleland, John Edwards and Patrick Murphy and I try to help them however I can, so I blog. I see information from the Democrats, Working for Change, the AFL-CIO, The Century Foundation or People for the American Way in my "in" box and I think, "Gee, it might be neat to tie this stuff into a post if I can," so I blog. And I see news items that, through no one's fault, are missing background information that I try to provide, so I blog.

I also blog because I am inspired by other bloggers. In addition to the "A" listers we all know about, Prof. Marcus always has pithy, interesting observations about how we are looked upon by the rest of the world (wish I could say it was positive). Len Hart at The Existentialist Cowboy is a factory of scholarly posts utterly laying waste to any credibility that Bushco could ever hope to possess. Lukery at Wot Is It Good 4 along with Miguel and the rest of that bunch is connecting the dots and telling the story of Sibel Edmonds, and if you are totally unfamiliar with what they're doing, you don't know what you're missing. Shaun at Kiko's House writes interesting, reflective posts providing a refreshing context to current events. I also try to touch base with Richard at Itsez and Andrew at Pixel Monkey for other unique perspectives; I know I'm leaving out a bunch of other talented, terrific bloggers (never forget D-Mac at Philadelphia Will Do), and I apologize.

I also try to toss in some posts that I hope and pray are interesting to other people besides myself (I guess that goes for everything, really, when you think about it), and I throw in the videos as a change of pace so this blog never turns into a "one-trick pony."

I can't think of any other reasons why I engage in this exercise. I will add, though, that it takes time away from other writing projects and a bit of time from my family, but I'm sure this is the balancing act that is performed by anyone who chooses to do this. I think, in our way, we're all trying to tell the story of our life and times as accurately and thoroughly as we perceive it because that isn't being addressed anywhere else.

So there, Chait. Yes, many of us have a lot of ideological commonalities, but I would guess that our differences would quickly become apparent if we all gathered in one location. Despite that, though, I have no doubt that we would find a way to work together to tell our stories in the hope of bringing light to darkness and order to chaos in our own special way.

There is no agenda, there is no template (really), and there is no shared list of talking points. We're a discordant, rebellious bunch, and maybe, somehow, someday, all of this will matter. And I'm proud to be a part of this freak show.

And one more thing - I wouldn't read The New Republic if you paid me.

Doug Gets "Schoen" Up

The Philadelphia Inquirer published this column in its editorial section today from Doug Schoen, who is described as “an author and political adviser” (I can assure you that there's more going on with this guy, though, and I'll get to it later).

There is probably more that I could say in response to this, but this is what I have for now.

Diplomacy is back.

During its first six years, the Bush administration disparaged diplomacy. It refused to negotiate a nuclear weapons deal with North Korea, declined to allow U.N. inspectors to continue to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and ignored the Iraq Study Group's recommendation to open a dialogue with Iran and Syria.

Over the last few months, however, this attitude has begun to change. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has embraced shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East and brokered a nuclear weapons deal with North Korea. Across the aisle, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi braved White House objections to visit Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Rep. Tom Lantos (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has reiterated his long-standing desire to visit Iran.

This return to diplomacy is welcome. However, to someone who has spent a significant portion of his career as a political consultant working internationally - often in turbulent countries attempting to make the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy - this conception of diplomacy seems strangely pinched.
“The conception of diplomacy seems strangely pinched” – I don’t know what the hell that means.

Diplomacy in today's interconnected world should suggest more than sitting face-to-face with foreign leaders in formal anterooms. Instead, it should mean focused, data-driven attempts to understand and mobilize public opinion in countries whose conduct is vital to the interests of the United States.

We've done it before. In Mexico and Serbia in 2000 - and again in the Dominican Republic and Ukraine in 2004 - nongovernmental organizations and Western governments mounted subtle and successful efforts to secure free, democratic elections and, in the process, thwart anti-Western leaders. Those techniques are particularly effective in pseudo-democratic regimes, such as the ones that currently govern Venezuela and Iran. Here's how such an approach would work.

Pay attention to public opinion. Some of the most pressing problems facing the United States today can be attributed, at least in part, to its failure to take public opinion seriously.

In Iraq, even a rudimentary understanding of Islamic insurgents and the various sectarian factions continues to elude the United States. As journalists such as George Packer have pointed out, surveys and public opinion research should have featured prominently from the beginning.

The same hindsight can be applied to Iran. In 1997, a Western-oriented reformer, Mohammad Khatami, became president. His success would have transformed Iran and benefited the entire world. Yet the West allowed Khatami to fail and was then caught off guard when he was replaced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a fundamentalist demagogue intent on securing nuclear weapons. As the United States considers how to respond to Iran's nuclear program, we would do well to spend as much time monitoring Ahmadinejad's domestic favorability ratings and cultivating pro-Western sentiment.
No. “The West” didn’t allow Khatami to fail. George W. Bush allowed Khatami to fail when he included Iran as part of his “axis of evil” in the State of the Union speech and undercut Khatami by stirring up nationalist, anti-U.S. sentiment.

Ensure that the winner wins. Democracy does not always produce results favorable to the United States: The terrorist organization Hamas' recent electoral triumph in the Palestinian territories attests to that. Yet on the whole, the United States has been well served by ensuring that the people who win elections take office - and hurt when it has ignored election fraud in sensitive parts of the world.

In 1992, the West stayed quiet and allowed Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic to steal the election. It was a decision that would cost the Balkans tens of thousands of lives.
Though such a statement could definitely be true given Milosevic’s history, I think it is naïve to imply that this is what led to the bloody conflict in that region where we still keep a peacekeeping force. The breakup of the Soviet Union and communist rule unleashed nationalist forces in Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia, with the latter two countries seceding from the federation of Yugoslavia in 1991. Short of directly involving ourselves in Serbia’s affairs with the required military force, I’m not sure what else we could have done at the time (as we found out to our detriment later, the world is full of lousy leaders, but we can’t take out all of them).

Similarly, during the 2004 election in Venezuela, the West turned away from compelling evidence that incumbent President Hugo Chavez had committed election fraud, an oversight that ensured an avowedly anti-American leader continued control of the largest oil supply in the Western hemisphere.
I guess Schoen is referring to the recall vote against Chavez, though the vote was monitored by The Carter Center and the Organization of American States, which certified the vote as “fair and open.” Also, five other opposition polls declared a Chavez victory (all noted here).

Gee, maybe if we weren’t busy trying to help organize coups against this guy (in 1992 under Poppy and 2002 under Dubya), we would not have indirectly helped to consolidate his support. Didn’t learn anything from dealing with Fidel, I guess.

Embrace exit polling. The best way to establish or protect democracy in difficult circumstances is to promote credible, outside polling, particularly exit polls on Election Day. Multiple, well-funded exit polls can help remove the temptation for incumbent governments to commit fraud, as in Mexico's successful transition from one-party rule in 2000.

Applying the strategies of public opinion research abroad is not a panacea. Indeed, the experience of countries such Venezuela under Chavez demonstrates how cleverly authoritarian regimes can misuse polling and political communications. All the more reason for the United States and other like-minded allies, be they governments or NGOs, to mount winning campaigns.
I think Schoen is on the right track with his notions to promote diplomacy and free elections, though this is kind of vanilla, boilerplate stuff here (taking on the powerful “anti diplomacy-and-free-election lobby”?).

And I wonder if the Inquirer was second on Schoen’s list anyway in terms of trying to obtain a forum? I ask that because it sounds like he approached The Daily Kos already, and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga handed him his head (gee, dude, tell us what you really think, OK?).

Oh, to be The Great Orange Satan…

Remember May Day

This link takes you to an article on the history of May Day which, despite what I consider its unfortunate association with communism, is rooted in our history instead. This would be cautionary history for us on any other date also, given the fact that this country is on a course to return to the conditions referred to in this article, sad to say.

In a similar vein, Paul Krugman wrote this Times Select column yesterday about what our esteemed captains of industry in this country are doing with their wealth generated at our expense and aided by our horrific tax policy under the current administration. You would hope that they would reinvest it into their businesses for expansion and greater employment opportunities (of course, you would hope that, but you would be wrong).

Jane M. Von Bergen wrote this column on Saturday in the Inquirer about workers who have died on the job, remembered in a ceremony at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall in Philadelphia (registration required). And the Daily Kos blogger Devilstower has a great post here about the truth behind the alleged shortage of tech workers in this country.

Finally, here is a Guest Opinion that appeared in Saturday’s Bucks County Courier Times from Bruce Paone who, according to his bio, is a lifelong resident of Bucks County and a married father of two adult children. After pursuing undergraduate studies in the 1970s, he has acted in various capacities within the corporate setting, including owning and operating his own business (I'm troubled by his characterization of manufacturing as "a lost economic sector," but I think he makes good points otherwise).

Because so many notable business pundits appear bemused by America’s most recent economic vexation, specifically the collapse of the mortgage markets, I thought I’d take a crack at edifying readers, to the extent that I’m capable, as to its true nature and causes.

What’s actually occurring in this economy is the globalization of assets and wealth. That is to say, because the value of American labor is falling so precipitously (due to the use of cheap foreign labor around the world), the value of the assets held by workers is falling in direct correlation with their declining wages. It must, and here’s why:

A worker formerly employed in a lost economic sector (manufacturing, for example) earned between $50,000 and $60,000 annually. That job gets outsourced. Now that worker takes a job paying $20,000 to $25,000 annually. All the tax cuts, cheap foreign goods, and low-paying jobs created by President Bush and globalization aren’t going to restore that worker’s former standard of living.

Presently, someone trying to pay off a debt service based on his former “un-globalized” salary and prior level of affluence just can’t do it. Now that America has been globalized, that worker – along with all others of the same economic rank – can’t afford the assets he has purchased and is trying to hold on to.

Just as wages within workers’ economic sector are being deflated, so must the value of their assets deflate. This has to occur so that new members of their socioeconomic group, those just entering America’s global work force, can afford to participate, including those living and working here illegally.

What we’re seeing now is just the beginning of a global revaluation, a downward harmonization of American workers’ livelihoods with the livelihoods of the world’s other working people. Furthermore, this state of affairs isn’t going to end any time soon, not until the descending worth (wages and assets) of America’s working classes meets the ascending worth (wages and assets) of the labor they compete with globally.

Therein lies the rub. Most of the rest of the world’s labor works for nothing, or almost nothing, and holds no assets. Truth be told, the only country whose entire economy has prospered due to globalization is communist China, where free-market capitalism doesn’t exist and where every societal need is provided by the government.

As Ross Perot so aptly phrased it during his debate with Vice President Gore in 1993, we’re in “a race to the bottom.”

Exacerbating this crisis is the fact that, while the wages and assets of those forced to compete globally are deflating, the costs of goods and services they must provide to subsist are inflating. The primary sources of this inflation, it seems evident to me based on my own reading, are deregulation and President Bush’s lust for printing money, principally to pay for the globalization of Iraq.

As for the true health of America’s overall economy, international spending is out of control; Iraq alone is costing American taxpayers more than $412 billion! Yet the Washington oligarchs have no compunction.

Across the board, Americans have experienced the steepest decline in their standard of living since The Great Depression as the United States has become a debtor nation. Bankruptcies, home foreclosures and personal debt are at an all-time high, as is our trade deficit, while concurrently real wages and property values plummet.

Still, globalist fanatics boldly proclaim their manifesto: “Free trade will promote a global ecumenism and provide us economic prosperity.” All the while America’s two greatest exports remain her jobs and wealth.

With the mendacious predictions that brought about globalism in the first place (being implemented without the true consent of the governed), and with America’s economic power declining, here’s the real question: What type of country is America destined to become in the 21st century?

Perhaps the answer can be found only in the past. Perhaps in Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale Of Two Cities.”
Sorry, I know this isn’t very cheery stuff, but this is the reality (click here for more information).

Happy Mission Accomplished Day!

(Not really that happy of an occasion, I’ll admit…).

I should note that Atrios has all of this covered from wall to wall, you might say, so if you haven’t gone to Eschaton yet, please do so (after you read this post, of course :-).

To me, this infamous anniversary is yet another reminder of the egregiousness of Bushco’s lies. I mean, if you’re going to be evasive and mendacious, don’t do so in a way that insults our intelligence.

Here’s what I mean (regarding the actual “Mission Accomplished” banner that appeared on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln); the post from this link by Lisa Rein informs us that, on October 30, 2003, Dubya said that the banner wasn’t his idea. Instead, it came from the actual crew of the ship, which had finished its 10-month tour just in time for the infamous photo-op.

The banner didn’t mean that the mission in Iraq was accomplished, according to President Brainless (who, apparently, had a major private hissy fit recently – continues to astonish me how people can still think this guy is “playing with a full deck”). The banner meant that a mission of the vessel was accomplished.


Name for me any naval crew throughout the history of recorded time that would create and unfurl a banner for completion of its mission, let alone doing so on the exact same day that the President of the United States lands for a major oh-I’m-so-great-I’ll-just-pat-myself-on-the-back speech.

And let’s not forget the phony bit of staging noted in this story, as follows…

Despite initial claims that the ship was too far out to sea for a helicopter landing, forcing the president to use a jet, the Lincoln was actually within helicopter range when Mr. Bush arrived.

The jet flight was much more dramatic than a helicopter arrival would have been, as the president took the control stick for part of the flight and emerged on deck wearing a flight suit and helmet.

In addition, Pentagon officials told the Washington Post that after the president's speech, the Lincoln waited offshore for hours while he slept rather than heading into port after its 10-month voyage.
So the crew, after its 10-month voyage, still had to wait while Dubya nodded off before they could pull into port.

I know future generations will study this period in our history and render their judgments. The problem is that I think many will find it so farcical and absurd that they’ll never believe that it really took place.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Videos

Barenaked Ladies ("Wind It Up," one of the great "hey-this-relationship-is-toast-so-let's-go-down-in-flames" breakup songs; I always wondered what happened to Robert Palmer's background singers, and don't they work hard too - I think I saw this kid in the young one's day care class one day, and doing the very same things)...

...and a great big Happy 74th Birthday wish goes out to Willie Nelson ("Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain" - he's such a larger-than-life character that it's easy to forget how good a singer-songwriter and musician he is; the best friend our family farmers ever had).

The Inky Calls Defeat A Victory

Brian Tierney and Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C. can “whistle in the dark” all they want over the fact that the daily paid circulation of the Inquirer rose 0.6 percent based on the latest report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (here), but the Sunday paper circulation declined by 2.5 percent, and the Sunday editions are where newspapers make their money.

I wonder if the Sunday circulation slid because of the installation of Smerky into the “Currents” sections (it would be cumulative, I realize, maybe one too many straws on the camel’s back, when added to Jonathan Last and others…Mark Bowden’s contributions have been interesting, but then again, he’s a legitimate journalist). And by the way, they snuck in Little Ricky Santorum a week ago in some column supposedly pertaining to “family values” or something – you can tell how much attention I paid to it, and I honestly can’t find a link.

The paper’s almost microscopic rise in weekday circulation went slightly against the national trend of declining daily newspaper circulation, as noted here.

And I honestly don’t mention this to delight in the Inky’s misfortune. I’m only pointing out that this is what happens when the paper fails to understand this market and instead delivers recycled noise and prose that merely frames right-wing talking points instead of the groundbreaking journalism this newspaper once produced regularly in an era when it mattered to them.

He's Your Daddy

I’ll give Bushco National Security Advisor Steve Hadley points for persistence if nothing else based on this story that appeared in today’s New York Times by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and David E. Sanger. It seems that Hadley is still looking for someone to serve as “War Czar,” despite the fact that Hadley has been shot down by three generals who he approached about the job earlier in the month.

Boy, if there was ever an assignment that you would want to stay away from with the proverbial ten foot pole, this would be it.

And assuming that Dubya wanted this to be anything more than a ceremonial position (definitely atypical for these guys, I’ll admit), it would have to be entrusted to someone who could make this pitiable charlatan finally, at long last, pay attention to what is going on in the hell hole that he, more than anyone else (with the possible exception of Dick Cheney), has created.

So, George W. Bush, allow me to introduce you to the perfect candidate for “War Czar.”

Meet George H.W. Bush.

I have issues with Poppy too, but they’re drops of water compared to the ocean of difficulty I have with his son. Out of a sense of a father’s desire to let his son try and manage things (as nearly as I can tell), he has stood aside while his ungodly prodigy has run the ship of state straight into a reef upon which it has very nearly sunk.

If there was ever a time for a father to step in and corral his misbegotten son, it is definitely now (so many analogies, but one which comes to mind immediately is Anthony Quinn as pere to Earl Holliman in “Last Train From Gun Hill”…a failing of mine I guess that I reference this stuff in terms of movies and T.V. shows – almost Kubrick-esque (word?) in its absurdity to the point where it’s hard to tell the difference at times).

Also, I think the article from this link communicates that Bush 41, along with his former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, understood and continues to understand what is going on better than anyone else among the current cabal that has made such as hash of things, particularly this excerpt (noting why we didn’t go all the way to Baghdad after Gulf War I, and it looks to me now like the authors possess the wisdom of the ages for that)…

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.
Yep, Poppy sounds like the guy for this job, all right.