Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Videos

Happy birthday to Nick Heyward of Haircut 100 ("Love Plus One" - I could use something brainless after this week, so this is perfect; I may actually be a day or two early)...

...a belated happy birthday to Terence Trent D'Arby ("Wishing Well")...

...happy birthday on Sunday to Kit Clarke of Meet Danny Wilson ("Mary's Prayer," their hit)...

...and happy birthday this weekend also to the one and only Pete Townshend, performing kind of a sloppy, garage-band-style version of "Won't Get Fooled Again" on "Letterman" (glad he didn't die before he got old).

...(and Comments are back - YAAYY!)

Anyone Notice Patrick Yesterday?

That question is aimed at the Philadelphia Inquirer primarily, because, in another interesting vote, Patrick broke with the Democratic Party leadership on the budget bill that passed the House by 214-209. Patrick voted against it, but the Inky didn't take note of it or follow up with him aside from mentioning Patrick's vote in the summary.

As the Inquirer noted, the bill allows Dubya's insidious tax cuts to expire and pays more attention to working Americans, kids and families.

I'm sure Patrick will say that, once more (as he did to explain his prior No vote), the bill did not do enough to curb spending. I'll await his answer - I cannot possibly imagine that it would be for any other reason; I haven't been able to determine the exact reason yet, and nothing is posted on Patrick's House site.

As much as I've hammered the Inky, though, and rightly so, I have to give them credit for a genuinely ballsy editorial today about James Comey's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, particularly the line about "the supine (109th) Republican congress" (yes, it's obvious I know, but we're talking baby steps here, people, OK?). But then again, they made up for it by publishing Kevin Ferris, but still...

(Oh where, oh where has my comment link gone, oh where, oh where, could it be..??).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (5/18/07)

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.

(I SERIOUSLY hope to be through dealing with all of the nonsense that has held me back and no doubt caused my "hit" count to plummet by early next week - I guess I should consider myself lucky that something like this had not happened up to now; I may decide to tell you, dear reader, the whole sordid story one day.)

And now, without futher ado, let's find out what Joe Pitts voted "No" to last week.


War funding. The House passed, 302-120, a bill to release $96 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan war funding in two steps. About $43 billion would be provided immediately and $53 billion in July if President Bush certifies Iraq has met certain benchmarks.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 2207).

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Not voting: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.) and Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.).
Brady and Fattah were, of course, busy running for mayor before they lost to Michael Nutter (congrats, by the way – may not be “business as usual” anymore).

I hate to say this, though (speaking of business as usual), but I think all of this is a fruitless exercise (as noted here). President Nutball wants His Glorious At First But Now Sadly Totally Fracked Up Iraq MisadventureTM to go on and on and on and on…

And by the way, Smerky (speaking of Iraq), it looks like the war “came home again” (related to this – my condolences to Sgt. Dunckley’s family and friends)…

Iraq withdrawal. The House rejected, 255-171, a bill that would have required President Bush to start withdrawing U.S. troops and contractors from Iraq within 90 days of enactment and complete the pullout of all but a residual force within the following 180 days.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 2237).

Voting yes: Andrews, Murphy and Sestak.

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

Not voting: Brady and Fattah.
The fact that Allyson Schwartz voted “no” is shocking to me, further proof to me that too many Jews in this country want this war to go on as long as Dubya wants it to also.

Now, before you decide to “flame” me for just saying that, please allow me to point out here and now that I know there are men and women of conscience of all kinds of faiths, ethnicities, and sexual preferences who want this tragic misery to end, and the roaring silence from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church on this is quite depressing as well. But to deny all of this is criminal in itself at this point.

And by the way, Tim Holden needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror also.

Student loans. The House passed, 414-3, and sent to the Senate a bill to remedy illegal or unethical practices in the federal student loan program. The bill (HR 890) would bars lenders' gifts to college and university loan officials and better protect the privacy of students' personal data.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Not voting: Brady and Fattah.
Oh mah gawd – Joe Pitts actually did something good. Congratulations!

And with all due respect to Casey Lee Cobb, I should point out that Ron Paul was one of the three “No” votes here (the other two were fellow Repugs Jeff Flake and Lynn Westmorland - Update: As Prof. Marcus and others have noted, though, Paul was "spot-on" here).

Homeland security. The House passed, 296-126, and sent to the Senate a $39.8 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security in fiscal 2008, up $6 billion over 2007. The bill also grants civil-service job safeguards to the 170,000 DHS employees.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 1684).

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

Voting no: Pitts.

Not voting: Brady and Fattah.
Comforting in a strange way to see Pitts return to form here (we just can’t have those “big government” civil service protections for those trained to assist first responders in the event of a terrorist attack, can we now?).

Border-control system. Members approved, 264-160, an amendment to HR 1684 (above) permitting full use of the Automated Targeting System at border crossings. The ATS is a database of individuals' personal travel data for assessing whether travelers, including Americans, pose a terrorist threat.

A yes vote backed the ATS.

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

Not voting: Brady and Fattah.
Not much to think about here as far as I’m concerned.


Drug safety. The Senate passed, 93-1, and sent to the House a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration new authority to conduct long-term monitoring of drugs after they go on the market and to require prompt corrective action when harmful complications come to light.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for the bill (S 1082).
I noted this last weekthe one “no” vote was Bernie Sanders of VT since the bill failed to legalize the importing of drugs from Canada and elsewhere.

Prescription-drug imports. Senators voted, 49-40, to negate a measure permitting individuals to import federally approved prescription drugs from countries such as Canada. The vote, during debate on S 1082 (above), set unattainable certification standards for buying lower-cost pharmaceuticals from abroad.

A yes vote was to negate a pending drug-import measure.

Voting yes: Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

Voting no: Casey.

Not voting: Biden.
I guess this was part of the price for passing S 1082 – yes, it stinks, but it was the only way to get a veto-proof majority. Casey did the right thing last week; it’s a shame he didn’t carry it over to this week.

Conflicts of interest. On a 47-47 tie vote, the Senate rejected a bid to reduce conflicts of interest on the Food and Drug Administration advisory panels that judge the safety of new drugs. The proposed amendment to S 1082 (above) would have limited participation by experts with financial ties to firms whose drugs are under review.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

Voting no: Specter.
If you want to read the gory details concerning this atrocity, click here.

Here are the Dems who helped sink this amendment:

Robert Byrd
Chris Dodd
Ted Kennedy (God, was THIS part of the deal for 1082 also? What’s the damn point?!)
John Kerry
Ben Nelson
Jay Rockefeller
Vioxx? Fosamax? Lipitor? Any of these names ringing a bell with you guys?

The next time someone files a class action lawsuit for a wrongful death due to medication rushed to market from an FDA advisory panel, I’ll think of you guys and shake my head in disgust.

This week, the House debated the fiscal 2008 defense budget, while the Senate took up a bill to curb illegal immigration (sounds like it passed, but now goes to the Senate).

(By the way, on a wholly unrelated note, I see that Blogger's commenting feature is acting up - it looks like this post and the one with last night's videos do not permit comments, which is truly odd since the others do. I'll check on this some more - I assure you I didn't change any settings.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday Videos

Lots of work BS preventing me from posting as I'd like - I'll get through it as soon as I can.

In the meantime, here's Papa Roach ("Forever")...

...Happy birthday to Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails ("Burn," as an answer to the question "Did you have a nice day at the office, dear?" - images from "Natural Born Killers," a movie for which he produced the soundtrack...charming)...

...Happy birthday also to Taj Mahal ("Fishin' Blues")...

...and in honor of what would have been the 94th birthday of jazz bandleader Woody Herman yesterday, here's "Hallelujah Time," with amazing sax solos by Sal Nistico and Joe Romano.

Four Failures

I noted yesterday that Silent Bob Casey and Jim Webb in the Senate both voted against the Harry Reid-Russ Feingold amendment yesterday to begin redeploying our troops and ending funding of the Iraq war (with some exceptions) next March.

The positive note on this from mcjoan of The Daily Kos is that the amendment received 29 yea votes as opposed to the 11 votes from the sponsors of the bill, and that constitutes a majority of Democrats.

However, I think 29 Democrats is still a pretty sad number in support of Reid-Feingold.

And when I go back and look at the tally of Dems who voted Nay (in the above screen shot), it’s particularly disheartening to note that all four of the new Democratic senators elected last November are part of that group (in addition to Casey and Webb, that also means Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill – I’m not going to say anything about the other Repug-lites on that list for now).

I wonder if these people have any understanding at all of how hard I and other bloggers work to try and overcome the “divided Democrats” narrative foisted on us by our corporate media (believe me, if anyone thinks Repugs aren’t divided right now, then they obviously haven’t read any of the Email I’ve received from conservative icon Richard Viguerie kicking and screaming about “conservatives betrayed”…I don’t know how I ended up on his Email distribution, but reading this stuff is a treat from time to time).

The country hates the war. We want our troops to start coming home. How many more polls am I supposed to cite to confirm that?

And by ignoring that fact with their “No” votes, our four freshman Dems are confirming another narrative here, the one that the Senate is an out-of-touch country club of pols who have no intention of messing with the status quo of their jobs, perks and dint of celebrity inherent in their offices. At any rate, they are definitely not honoring the fine work of the Dems in the House, who are a lot more in touch with this country on the war and a whole host of other issues.

But, as mcjoan notes, this vote will come around again. So our four new Dem Senators will have another chance to do the right thing.

We’ll be watching.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Latest "Mikey '08 For Congress" Blather

Boy, that Mike Fitzpatrick sure refuses to go away, doesn’t he?

You remember Mikey, don’t you? Used to be the U.S. House 8th District congressional representative from PA? Came up with the brilliant idea of trying to get New York City to lower its reservoir capacity by one inch in response to the flooding in Bucks County, including Yardley borough? Totally copped out on embryonic stem cell research (including here)? Supported Bushco’s Social Security “privatization”? Voted for a conference report to drill in the ANWR?

And don’t get me started on Iraq.

Well, he wrote a Guest Opinion that was published in the Bucks County Courier Times last Monday, and I’ll let him make his case (and keep your crying towel handy, by the way). And if you guessed that he was going to find a way to take a shot at Patrick Murphy somehow, then I’ll give you a commemorative clump of dirt from Shady Brook Farm in Lower Makefield, PA, the location of some of the biggest campaign billboards supporting Mikey (or any other politician) that I’d ever seen.

As a public servant for 12 years, I lived by two cardinal rules: always respond to constituents in a direct manner, and never let partisanship get in the way of the right decision.
Though I will give Mikey a little credit for responding to me in a reasonably prompt way when I contacted him about legislation (never mind the fact that he almost always voted in opposition to what I asked), that to me is negated by the deception of his campaign mailers, including this particularly odious one from the last election.

And how someone who voted to loosen ethics rules under the guise of supporting Homeland Security legislation (as bald faced an act of partisanship as anything ever seen, which “newbie” Mikey performed in fealty to then-House speaker Tom DeLay…sooo nice to refer to these people in the past tense) can lecture anyone about partisanship is something I cannot imagine.

In January, I took a step away from the public eye out of respect for the citizens and the system.
See, other politicians lose elections, but not Mikey. No, he ever so gracefully chose to deny us of his glorious presence “out of respect for the citizens and the system.”

Sometimes I wonder what universe this man lives in, but then, upon further consideration, I find myself not wanting to know after all.

However, I am speaking out because I believe the aforementioned cardinal rules were broken by officials representing Joe Shellenberger on the local level and in Washington.
This link to The Pennsylvania Progressive gives you some background on the situation with Joe Shellenberger and the Tullytown council, which is a legitimate issue (I don’t want to get too far ahead at this point, though; I’ll let Mikey drone on about it).

Most readers of the Courier Times are familiar with Joe’s story. He is a hard-working guy from Lower Bucks County who honored the call to serve our nation in the Air Force Reserves in Afghanistan. When not at a job earning a living for his family or fulfilling his reserve requirements, Joe spends a considerable amount of time as a Tullytown Borough councilman. Since he wanted to continue his participation in local government while overseas, he sought the council’s approval.

Unfortunately, the majority members of the Tullytown council voted to prevent Joe from voting on issues while on duty in Afghanistan. I believe they violated two cardinal rules: not responding in a direct manner, and letting politics get in the way of a good decision.
I can’t really comment on that because, despite some Google searches, I couldn’t find anything online except for the Pennsylvania Progressive post about this. However, based on that, it seems as if the decision to disallow Shellenberger’s voting from Afghanistan was made by lame-duck Tullytown Town Council president Beth Pirolli (I say lame duck because she was voted off the board by four votes yesterday – apparently, there were issues with the development of the Levittown Shopping Center property and running up a big tab at Hooters one night and billing the borough for it; never a good thing to do).

Joe will be the first to tell you he is not on the front lines, but serves a critical support role that enables him to be in predictable communication with his family, friends and others at home. Joe has made it clear to the council members that he has the green light from his military superiors to participate in borough matters from his Afghanistan base – via phone and Email.
I don’t know how someone in government can cast a secure vote via Email; maybe if there was some kind of a secure domain set up somewhere for Shellenberger to vote, that could be worked out. However, that would entail a lot of billable hours for a web developer and/or LAN IT person, and I’m wondering if the borough would really want to pay for that for the sake of one person.

Also, I don’t know how anyone can have “predictable communication” from Afghanistan, at least in such a manner so it could be timed for the town council meetings. But I guess Mikey believes that a Sherpa Yak herd is always available for Shellenberger to be transported to a secure site where he can use the PC of a tribal elder in the event that our military decides to block more online forms of communication.

The council members denying Joe the right to vote claim that allowing elected officials to cast their votes remotely is a slippery slope. One suggested that (if this is allowed) elected officials would never have to attend council meetings! I have found that such excessive claims usually occur in politics when someone knows his or her facts are wrong.
I don’t think such a claim is excessive at all. I can just picture a town council person now, calling up the council president and saying, “uuhh, I’ve (cough, cough) got some kind of (cough, cough, hack) bug that I think I got from a (cough) long distance plane flight or something (cough, cough, cough, hack), so can I just phone in my vote tonight on the zoning variance for the tool and die plant?”

Why not? I’ve done stuff like that :- ).

The Pennsylvania State Boroughs Association manual clearly states that voting by phone is acceptable for council members.
Hey, wait a minute, Mikey; you just mentioned something about trying to vote by Email. Why bring that up if it isn’t in the manual? Trying to pull another fast one?

With that in mind, there are few compelling arguments to support the decision made by the majority members of the Tullytown council, who collectively violated another of the cardinal rules of public service: never let partisanship get in the way of making the right decision.
I assume Shellenberger is a Republican; I can’t find any information on him online, though it does appear that all of the Tullytown Town Council members are Democrats. If I receive any information contrary to that, I will publish it.

It also appears that Joe Shellenberger is not getting the best possible representation from his congressman, Patrick Murphy. I understand that members of the Tullytown community, including Iraq war veterans, beseeched Congressman Murphy to introduce legislation to help Joe. At this stage, it seems their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

As far back as February, Murphy was made aware of this issue by several people in the community, including Joe, whom he met while touring Afghanistan as part of a U.S, House delegation. And although his office has received countless letters asking him to intercede, Murphy has yet to introduce a piece of legislation to ensure that circumstances like Joe’s are not repeated.

What is most troubling to those working on Joe’s behalf is that Murphy has a seat on the Armed Service Committee, making the introduction and passage of a bill to help Joe that much easier. Apparently, Murphy has broken one of the cardinal rules of public service by not responding to constituents in a direct manner.
I would say that not smearing former Iraq war veterans would constitute a “cardinal rule” also.

And gosh, Mikey, it sure would have been nice if you’d bothered to note the results of Shellenberger’s meeting with Patrick while they were both in Afghanistan. What did Patrick tell him?

And how many “countless” letters has Patrick received in this matter? How do you know how many were sent?

Also, I think Mikey betrays more here than he realizes. Though I know Democrats aren’t innocent by any means, how many times during this nightmare of a presidency with Dubya and the Repug congress did they decide to intervene in state or local matters when the outcome wasn’t to their liking (let’s see…Terri Schiavo, Oregon’s assisted suicide law, the medical use of marijuana, which Dubya said was up to the states in 1999)?

I guess Mikey thinks that Patrick should introduce a bill telling the Tullytown Town Council to let Joe Shellenberger vote from Afghanistan, and that’s it. Am I the only one who realizes how utterly absurd and provincial that is? How on earth is Patrick Murphy supposed to do this right and craft something like “one size fits all” legislation telling municipalities all over the country that they should allow council members serving in the military to vote? How on earth could that be enforced or stand up to a court challenge?

Murphy certainly was not forthcoming. His response – one way or another – would have eliminated any false hope held by the friends, neighbors, and countless veterans working on Joe’s behalf.
Apparently, he gave Shellenberger a response of some type in their meeting, but you’re not telling us what it was.

Let’s assume the Tullytown council has legitimate concerns about Joe voting from Afghanistan. Rather than outright denial, the members could have allowed him to vote as a councilman while a decision was being made by an independent body, such as a court or ethics board. Joe Shellenberger has given us his best effort, and our public officials should not do less.

Joe is expected to return in less than a month, but I remain disappointed that those in a position to help him meet his elective responsibilities have not done so. Until he returns safely, he will be in my prayers.
And this is as it should be, and I just want to make clear that nothing I’ve said here is intended to reflect negatively on Joe Shellenberger. I admire him and thank him for what he’s done and continues to do. It’s just that I think Mike Fitzpatrick is using this dustup to worm his way back into politics and find a way to slam Patrick Murphy for something that is a local matter only and, ultimately, not something that Patrick can address through introducing legislation.

I guess it’s a reflex with Mikey, though. He has to pop his head out of his hole and whine about something, or else he thinks we’ll forget about him (we should be so lucky).

Update 6/1/07: The Courier Times noted in a May 31st story that Patrick Murphy said he would work on legislation allowing service members to vote from overseas in the manner that Joe Shellenberger requested (link here, noted in third column).

Thanks For Nothing, Bob

As noted here, the Feingold-Reid bill failed in the Senate this morning by a vote of 29-67. And I don’t know whether or not the son of Jim Webb, a U.S. Marine, is still serving in Iraq or how this bill would have affected his return home, but I cannot understand why it was opposed by the freshman senator from Virginia, among other Dems.

And one of those others is our own Bob Casey of PA, who, despite the benefit of the doubt I have tried to extend to him, is unfortunately becoming Lieberman-esque in his own special way (add this vote to this one).

James Comey’s Testimony Yesterday

I don’t have much to add to Glenn Greenwald’s fine post as highlighted by Atrios today concerning the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Comey testified that former chief of staff Andrew Card and former general counsel (and Attorney General – still) Alberto Gonzales went to the hospital room of former Attorney General John Ashcroft to get approval for renewing the warrantless spying program (Ashcroft had just undergone gall bladder surgery). Comey and Director Robert Mueller of the FBI had persuaded Ashcroft not to renew the program, and Card and Abu G. were there to strong-arm a sick man into doing just that.

Aside from the utter repugnance of the actions of Card and Gonzales, what is shocking to me about this is that John Ashcroft is portrayed here as doing the right thing (although in a state of utter stupor at the time).

Of course, as this story by David Johnston notes in the New York Times today, Comey ended up meeting with Dubya the next day over it and the program was renewed after the two of them had a “full exchange.”

After reading this, I honestly understand less than ever before why anyone would think that this administration cares about legislative authority, separation of powers, or the rule of law. I cannot fathom why anyone would believe this gang that runs our executive branch when they give even the most laughably transparent hint of a compromise on any issue whatsoever.

They will never provide any details on the warrantless spying program to anyone (how many supposed terrorist communications intercepted, over how long, to and from what areas of the world, etc.). And of course, this is assuming that the point of the surveillance is for the stated purpose and not to monitor those unfriendly to this regime (I’ll put my money on the latter reason, thank you very much).

And as for further evidence, what else can you say when the person designated as the head of law enforcement in this country ignores a congressional subpoena?

Send federal marshals. That will get Abu G.’s attention all right.

(Not back to full posting yet – hopefully soon; the backlog is starting to build up.)

Update: Here and here are great posts on this by (who else?) Kagro X of The Daily Kos.

Update 5/17/07: Typical...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday Videos

The Pipettes ("Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me" - interesting in an annoying kind of way)...

...and happy birthday to Sly Stone (with the "family" performing "Stand," back in the day).

Two Pop Icons Collide

I now interrupt our period of mourning over the death of Jerry Falwell (and how clever CNN is to update the photo of the blotchy looking, older, overweight Falwell with a smoother, younger looking one, and holding a Bible of course) for this breaking story (and this fit from the muse immediately came bursting out, based on this)..

Da niiight we met I knew I needed yuuuu so
And if I hawd da chance I’d nevuuh let yuu go
So wown’t you sahy you wuuuve me?
I’wwl make yuuu sooo phwowd uuhv me
Weel make demm tuuurn thewl heads evwy pwace we go
So wonnt you pweese…

Be my ba-by
Be my widdle ba-by
Be my widdle ba-by
Be my ba-by naaooowww
Whoh, whoh, whoh, whoh, whoh

Huuuuuuhhhhh – I hope I catch dat wascally wabbit!!
You can now resume your wailing and wearing of ashes and sack cloth (any commemorative human sacrifice is strictly up to you, however).

One Less Voice Of Intolerance

Before President Brainless and the other obligatory right-wing sycophants start with their wailing and cries of despair over this, let’s remind ourselves that this recently departed individual uttered these foul words, among many others.

Now he has to make an accounting for himself, as will we all one day.

This is about as much as I can post for now, but I’ll be back.

Update: Even now, our corporate media is just too clueless for words.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Videos

Posting is going to be highly sporadic all week - as you may have guessed by now, this blog doesn't do diddly when it comes to paying the bills, and I'm currently big into "giving Caesar what is Caesar's" for now, if you know what I mean.

I only ask that you check in from time to time; there are some things I definitely want to get to, and I'll do my best. Thanks for visiting when you can - I appreciate it.

In the meantime, here is Muse ("Starlight")...

...and in honor of what would have been the 71st birthday of Bobby Darin, here is "Simple Song of Freedom" (such a diverse, underrated artist, and I have an incredibly scratched up version of this song by Tim Hardin - this was alluded to in the Wikipedia article; I'll get back there one day, stand on his star and snap my fingers in tribute).