Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Videos

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ("Weapon Of Choice")...

...Happy Birthday to Mick Hucknall of Simply Red ("Holding Back The Years")...

...happy birthday also to Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night ("Out In The Country" - glad he's still with us)...

...and happy birthday finally to Boz Scaggs ("You Can Have Me Anytime" from 1980 - though Carlos Santana performed the solo on the version added to his "Greatest Hits" album, the YouTube notes state that it is performed here by Steve Lukather).

And with that, I'm going to shut things down here for a little while - I'd hoped to post something today, though that proved to be impossible (possibly a "tribute" to Gen. Peter Pace later).

I'm going to plan to rev this baby up again around June 18th or 19th, so until then, please visit some of the many fine sites I've linked to from the right column of the home page (including some of the great Impeach Bush Coalition bloggers).


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thursday Videos

Silversun Pickups ("Well Thought Out Twinkies" - you got it)...

...The Arcade Fire ("No Cars Go")...

...Happy Birthday to Dave Navarro ("Hungry")...

...and Happy Birthday also to Sir Thomas Jones Woodward ("She's A Lady" from 1974; just call me a sucker for a good waa-waa guitar).

No Way On The WSJ, Tierney

It’s truly funny to me that Brian Tierney thinks he, along with some alleged consortium of unnamed “players,” has any chance whatsoever of competing to purchase Dow Jones & Co., the parent company of the Wall Street Journal, especially with Rupert Murdoch in the picture (blogging is slowly wheezing to a halt for a little while, but I have to contribute my two cents here as they say).

Tierney seems to be playing his supposed turnaround in the Inquirer’s abysmal circulation woes (trumpeted in his juvenile “When Pigs Fly” ad campaign) for all it’s worth, even though the up tick was a blip by comparison to a relentless downward slide. I’ll wait for another month or two of circulation numbers, maybe even into the fall, before I pass judgment on whether or not Tierney’s relentless effort to dumb down the Inky and fill it with conservative talking points ends up increasing its readership.

So, aside from self-promotion (which Tierney is good at) and reasons of vanity, why would he consider a venture like this? As noted in the Forbes story...

'I don't believe News Corp (Murdoch) is overpaying. Dow Jones is one of the world's great journalistic enterprises,' Tierney, CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings, said in an interview.

'It contains some of the most powerful brands in business -- Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, Barrons -- in any industry these are the most powerful brands. And if there was an explicit process we would be inclined to participate in conjunction with others,' he said.
“If there was an explicit process”? Is Tierney waiting for a handwritten RFP from the Bancroft family on this?

And I think the quote above from Tierney is revelatory; news is a “brand” to him, as if we were talking about deodorant, breakfast cereal or automotive repair tools (and I realize that thinking is commonplace, but it can be repugnant in its triviality).

So why exactly is Dow Jones a target for takeover now? I thought this column by business writer Bill Sloan of the Washington Post was pretty good, particularly this excerpt…

…although journalistic coups and strict attention to journalistic ethics are what have attracted the Journal's audience and built its brand value, the paper itself isn't all that good a business anymore. The Journal was fat, happy and nicely profitable in the latter days of the 1990s stock-market bubble, as evanescent companies flush with money raised in the stock market bought ads right and left. As did the Wall Street houses that floated those bubblicious issues. When the bubble vaporized, so did the ads. Even though the broad stock market has recovered from the bust, the Journal's ads still languish well below their highs. They're unlikely ever to be what they were, given the fragmenting world of national advertising that has affected many mainstream national print publications, including my employer, Newsweek.

One reason Dow Jones is so vulnerable to being taken over is that its cash cow -- the electronic data distribution business -- is threatened by the pending merger of Reuters and Thomson. Combine that prospect with the Journal's profitability problems, and you see why Dow Jones is toast -- at least financially.
Here’s something else to consider; I can’t imagine that even a man as wealthy as Tierney couldn’t make this kind of a play without assistance from Bruce Toll, and the latter’s company has taken a big hit this year as the housing sector of our economy has hit a downturn as well.

And as for the Journal’s content, I have no doubt that Tierney would continue to enthusiastically tow the conservative line in both editorial policy and advertising, as well as trying to bury stories that make the regime currently in power look like the incompetent bunglers that they are (and likely continue to grant a forum for politicians sharing his particular view of the world).

Despite this move by Tierney which seems quixotic at best to me, it will be interesting to see him get weeded out of competition by Murdoch, who (I grudgingly have to admit) often finds a way to get what he wants in these matters.

But is it too much to dream that, as a consolidation prize to Tierney for spunk and nothing more in taking his shot, Murdoch would take pity on him and award a new writing gig at the Journal to one of the Inky’s opinion columnists, thus slightly shrinking the amount of literary drivel from that sorry group by one? Ferris, Last, Smerky…I’m not fussy (and if you want me to throw in an apology for trying to get you thrown out of the country, I’ll consider it in the negotiation).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

“Surge” This, Rudy!

I have to confess that I didn’t watch the Democratic debate the other night, so I’m really not qualified to critique it (I linked to other posts that did, since those authors actually viewed it). I obtain my information on the candidates elsewhere; besides, I will support the Democratic nominee regardless of who this person is, though naturally I hope it is John Edwards, and I’m doing what I can in my own small way to make that happen.

Given that, I’m sure you’ve guessed that I saw not a millisecond of the Repug media-fest last night. Likewise, I’m reading about it from other sources – for comic relief, if for no other reason – and this is how I came across this post on what Rudy Giuliani said (h/t Atrios), particularly this excerpt…

It’s unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror. And the problem is that we see Iraq in a vacuum. Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.
The third and fourth sentences of that paragraph are the reality we now face due to our pre-emptive invasion in 2003. However, though the second sentence is somewhat plausible, the first sentence is utterly ludicrous.

In a recent column, Paul Krugman of the New York Times said that when a politician utters statements like that, he or she should be laughed at. Instead of doing that, though, I’m going to use all of this as an introduction to the story of New Hampshire National Guard specialist Lisa Hayes (as reported in the Boston Globe here; I will admit, though, that Giuliani richly deserves ridicule, but I’ll save that for later).

You see, Spec. Hayes and thousands of our other brave service people have paid and continue to pay for this delusional thinking. While they sacrifice for our country, the people who put them in harm’s way continue to occupy a fantasy land controlled by the Kagans and their imaginary “surge” success, including a general drinking the Bushco Kool Aid who is now saying that the “surge” hasn’t even started yet (ah, but just wait until September; will we “find the pony” then?), and Bushco itself which continues to conflate the Iraq tragedy with past wars that apply not at all, though Vietnam is a possible exception at this point).

Spec. Lisa Hayes is a special case, though; as reported in the Globe…

…(Hayes) surrendered yesterday to Army authorities after being charged as a deserter for refusing to fight in Iraq until a custody case involving her 7-year-old daughter was resolved.

The dispute, among the first of its kind in New England, underscores the tremendous strain the Iraq war has placed on the Guard and the nation's all-volunteer military, whose members often leave behind needy families and tumultuous personal lives as their combat tours are repeatedly extended.

In February, Hayes received emergency leave from her second deployment to Iraq after an alleged domestic violence incident at her former husband's house, where her daughter, Brystal Knight, was staying. As the resulting custody case moved slowly through the courts, the military ordered her back to Iraq.

Hayes didn't go.

"I'm really sad that the military is doing this to me -- and not only me, but my daughter," she said in a telephone interview from Fort Dix, N.J., where she turned herself in yesterday, daughter in tow. "I do deserve to be treated humanely, and that has not happened."

Hayes joined the Guard in 2003 to get medical training so she could become a registered nurse. She served her first tour from January 2004 to February 2005 with the 3643d Security Forces, protecting dignitaries from attacks. Last August, she began a second tour as a guard at a prisoner-of-war compound. Her unit, which includes her current husband, Jonathan, is scheduled to return home in September.
The story notes that Hayes tried to have a friend watch over her daughter while she served, but the friend could not do this because of severe back trouble. In all probability, Hayes will receive an honorable discharge after her case is processed, but this is not assured at this point (and this is taking a toll on her daughter, which is also noted in the story).

So while the candidates of either major political stripe generate all kinds of media moments that are consumed as ferociously as possible by scribes in the employ of communications companies with acronyms denoting who they are, let’s not forget people like Lisa Hayes and the thousands like her who balance real-world demands with service to our country (like Iraq, they shouldn’t be seen “in a vacuum” either, Rudy).

Update 6/19/07: As Atrios sez (h/t), Rudy had other priorities (a Repug thing, as we know).

Clean Up One Mess Before Making Another

At a certain point, I just have to blame “41” and “The Beautiful Mind” for the way Dubya ended up (an observation prompted by this story).

Wasn’t this utterly loathsome adult taught as a child the simple rule in the title of this post? Or did he just randomly scatter his toys and wait for the precursor of Condoleezza Rice to come along and pick up after him, excusing his behavior at every opportunity (and I’m not saying that to denote anyone of a particular race)?

Before I finish that thought, I want to point out that, as noted in the New York Times story, the White House occupant gave a speech in Prague, Czechoslovakia yesterday lambasting Vladimir Putin of Russia in particular (and as also noted in the Times story)…

After a lengthy discourse on freedom as a “moral imperative,” in which he chronicled human rights abuses around the globe, from Myanmar to North Korea to Sudan, Mr. Bush turned his attention to Russia and China, linking them as countries whose relationships with the United States, he said, were strong, but also complex.
Why make things worse by trying to link Russia with China? Are they part of the “Axis of Evil 2007,” Dubya?

And as far as one of the preznit’s “messes” go (so many from which to choose), I cannot imagine how he believes he can scold other nations about human rights while saying not a word about the refugee crisis created by his war of choice in Iraq.

This WaPo article from February 2005 explains how the surge, if you will, of Iraqi refugees into Syria had put a strain on housing costs and jobs for educated professionals, which were at a premium anyway, with Syrian officials estimating that 700,000 refugees had crossed over into that country...

U.S. criticism has shifted to the Iraqis already here, especially the wealthy early arrivals whom the diplomatic community labeled "Mercedes refugees." U.N. officials and Western diplomats say the group, less than 10 percent of the overall Iraqi population here, consists mainly of senior Baath Party officials and other Hussein supporters. With passports and political connections, they come and go with relative ease.

But Western diplomats say the Syrian government has an interest in making sure Iraqis are not aiding the insurgency. Peter Ford, the British ambassador to Syria, said the issue is "if anything, a more pressing problem than the threat posed by jihadis," the foot soldiers of the insurgency. Their money and organizational skills, he said, create more violence in Iraq, which drives more Iraqis to Syria.
Hmmm, “Mercedes refugees,” huh? I wonder if that is as demeaning and misinformative a term as “limousine liberals”?

Well, I don’t think our clueless diplomats need to focus on this group of people coming and going in and out of Iraq anymore unless they possess weapons. No one in their right mind would enter that country unless they were required to do so.

The issue now with Iraqi refugees in Syria (as noted here by The Raw Story) is that many of them have been forced to turn to prostitution since they have no other option for survival.

So what exactly are we doing about Iraqi refugees in this country? This article notes that we will be admitting more shortly, though we have been shamed in this regard by Scandinavian countries, Sweden in particular.

And DHS Secretary Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff somehow still possessed the arrogance, in announcing the increased number of refugees we will accept, to state that "America's tradition of welcoming international refugees and responding to humanitarian emergencies is unrivaled" (and I know there are legitimate homeland security/border issues involved here, but when it comes to Iraq, as Colin Powell famously told President 29 Percent Mandate…ugh…”you break it, you own it”).

I can hardly wait to see the smackdown Putin administers to Dubya over this one…hope someone puts up a YouTube video (Vlad is hardly one of my favorite people, but at least he’s more honest about what he is than GWB).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Benny And The Bombshell

Though it seems like I'm putting up this cheesecake photo for gratuitous purposes only, I should note that it does pertain to an actual story.

It seems that Supermodel (are there any other kind, I wonder?) Gisele Bundchen criticized Pope Benedict over his recent trip to Brazil (the world's largest Catholic country, as noted in this story, a place where Bundchen is very popular also) and what he said while visiting. To no one's surprise, the Pope restated the church's line against contraception, abortion, and unmarried sex.

The reason why I'm noting this is because I wish I'd heard Benny say, "OK, listen, we're not deviating from the program here, really, but I'll only say that we know there are a lot of Catholic men and women out there way beyond the legal age, some of whom may be established in their careers, and we know there may be a pretty good chance that there's some 'nookie' going on out there, and if an accident happened, then you should get married for the sake of the kid, putting the child first of course. All well and good. To people like that, I'm sayin' protect yourselves so you don't catch any diseases that, at worst, could kill you, to say nothing of spreading those diseases to anyone else. I'll cut you some slack on that."

And I also wish I'd heard Bundchen say, "Yes, I'm definitely pro-choice, but abortion should always be a last resort instead of a first one. And to all of you young women who are my fans, I thank you, but I have to ask you something. If you and your partner don't possess the physical, emotional, and/or financial ability to be good parents, why the hell are you even imagining that you should be having sex?"

(If I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring...).

Wheat Gets Separated By The Chaff

The Repugs will miss no opportunity whatsoever to demonize and propagandize over the Iraq war.

If anyone doubts that, then read this New York Times story about Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr., nominated to be the first poet laureate of Nassau County, NY.

As stated in the story…

Mr. Wheat, a Freeport resident who declined to give his age, had seemed to be a shoo-in. The County Legislature had appointed a six-member advisory panel of experts, which unanimously nominated him after reviewing 14 candidates.

The panel enthusiastically cited Mr. Wheat’s accolades after decades of writing, teaching and promoting poetry, including the Long Island School of Poetry Award from the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, and an award from the New York State Outdoor Education Association. He is also a naturalist who leads local tours, and many of his poems are about the flora and fauna of Long Island.
So what caused the problem? Well..

…there was his volume, titled “Iraq and Other Killing Fields: Poetry for Peace” (Sheraton Enterprises, 2004), which lamented the horrors of the current and past wars. His poem “Torture” features the subtitles “Saddam Hussein Regime” and “George W. Bush Administration.” Several poems were prefaced by President Bush’s pre-invasion claim that Iraq had “some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

From “Torture”:

Balance black-hooded prisoner,
draped in make-shift poncho, on narrow box
wire his out-stretched hands
warn him he will be electrocuted if he falls

Members of the Republican minority quickly voiced outrage at the selection of Mr. Wheat, accusing him of attacking American soldiers, a charge he denied.

“He does not represent me, he does not represent veterans,” said Legislator Dennis Dunne, a former marine. “I won’t put up with it. My son left just yesterday for Iraq.”

Paula Camacho, chairwoman of the panel that nominated Mr. Wheat, noted that he was also a former marine, but that did not mollify the critics. She was one of more than a dozen poetry fans at the hearing, who all spoke on Mr. Wheat’s behalf.
Gee, Mr. Dunne, I suppose that when you were serving this country, you considered it a nation where all must conform to one voice of government and dissenting points of view must be silenced? And does your son feel the same way?

The Times article notes that Wheat won the Long Island School of Poetry Award from the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association. Are you familiar with the work of Walt Whitman, Mr. Dunne?

Are you familiar with his poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” about The Battle of Bull Run during The Civil War? It goes as follows…

BEAT! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or gathering his grain;
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers must sleep in those beds;
No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—Would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties;
Make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.
So, then, would you decide that Whitman would not be a candidate for poet laureate either because of his images of the dead during wartime (assuming Whitman would give you the time of day, as they say)? Does that offend your apparently fragile sensibilities?

This isn’t much of a poem on my part in response, but here it is …

Intolerant Republican
Denying praise and recognition
To man of art, lover of nature
Because of written wartime truth
“What happened to freedom of speech” indeed?
Somehow I have a feeling that Mr. Wheat’s accomplishments will be remembered far into the future, while anything Mr. Dunne has contributed will fade into memory. And though that is small solace I suppose, it is some consolation anyway.

Mainly, Because Cheney Will Tell Him To

I predict here and now that Dubya will pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted today to 30 months in prison (here is a related article).

It may be before Libby is scheduled to begin serving his time, it may be sometime after his appeals are exhausted, or it may be when Dubya is mercifully out of the White House.

But it will happen.

And what will be the consequence? Will Dubya’s approval rating sink to as-yet-untold levels of dissatisfaction? Will that further hinder the prospects of his party to retake Congress and hold the presidency after 2008?

Will he actually care?

Of course not. And it will be, without a doubt, the wrong course of action. But it will give him even more of an opportunity to thumb his nose at everyone who doesn’t support him as the “unitary executive” during wartime.

That’s why you can “take it to the bank.”

(And oh yes; call it fool’s optimism, but I’ll hold out for the miniscule possibility that Big Time harbors some regret over this, as noted here. That may end up as another reason.)

Update 6/6/07: What Marty Kaplan sez...

Bushco’s Trash Talk Foils The FCC

Isn’t the irony of this story just too much?

As a result of potty mouth behavior by both Dubya and Cheney, the “family values” bunch took another hit yesterday when a federal appeals panel struck down a policy of the Federal Communications Commission stating that broadcasters must be fined for “fleeting expletives.” As the Times story notes…

…both network executives and top officials at the Federal Communications Commission said the opinion could gut the ability of the commission to regulate any speech on television or radio.
We all know what a “fleeting expletive” is, right? It’s when, say, Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team goes up to grab a rebound, but is fouled and falls courtside onto some television camera and sound equipment people at courtside and utters words of exasperation (I believe a certain term which is actually an acronym starting with the letter “F” is heard almost immediately when this happens, and as we all know, this leads to the complete moral corruption for all time of anyone in the audience who happens to hear it since Bushco thinks that we’re too stupid to filter it out as accidental behavior).

And with that in mind, here is the utterly predictable response of FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin…

“I completely disagree with the court’s ruling and am disappointed for American families,” he said. “The court says the commission is ‘divorced from reality.’ It is the New York court, not the commission, that is divorced from reality.”
As the Times story notes, the action was brought against the FCC by the television networks who thought it was just a tad inconsistent that they were being fined for bad language while President Nutball and Deadeye Dick were swearing like sailors (and after all of this time, how dumb do the Bushco 28 percent or so “dead enders” have to be not to know that they’re being conned in the name of “American families”?).

“We are very pleased with the court’s decision and continue to believe that the government regulation of content serves no purpose other than to chill artistic expression in violation of the First Amendment,” said Scott Grogin, a senior vice president at Fox. “Viewers should be allowed to determine for themselves and their families, through the many parental control technologies available, what is appropriate viewing for their home.”
And when Fox doesn’t support the Repug regime for a change, you KNOW something is truly odious here (that’s because big money is at stake here, of course, and that always trumps some professed notion of conservatism).

I realize that this story isn’t finished, of course, since the inevitable appeal to the Supreme Court of Hangin’ Judge J.R. awaits (and anything can happen when that occurs). But for now, let’s savor the fact that Bushco’s typical overreach on this has hurt the agency it uses as its propaganda tool to the point where it must rewrite its indecency policy if it ever hopes to try and censure what it doesn’t like again.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Terra, Terra and "Mickey" Mauskopf

Call me just another filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but whenever I hear anything any more involving U.S. attorneys, I automatically get suspicious; such is what Abu Gonzales and Monica Goodling with her pretend law degree from Pat Robertson U have done to that vital government function.

I say that after reading this story in the New York Times about the plot to detonate fuel storage tanks and pipelines and set fire to Kennedy International Airport. And while I applaud those involved who sniffed this out, so to speak, I still cannot help but wonder about Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the United States Attorney in Brooklyn, NY, particularly after this quote…

“Had the plot been carried out, it could have resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths and destruction…The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded are just unthinkable.”
Leading with “the horror” in the best (worst?) Bushco tradition, I see, though the following tidbit seems to have been lost in the fine print somewhere…

(Ms. Mauskopf noted in her news release that the “public was never at risk” and told reporters that law enforcement “had stopped this plot long before it ever had a chance to be carried out.”)
So let’s hear from another law enforcement perspective here, OK?

Neal R. Sonnett, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor who was chief of the criminal division in the United States attorney’s office in Miami, congratulated the F.B.I. for fine police work in what was clearly “a prosecutable case.”

But he said: “There unfortunately has been a tendency to shout too loudly about such cases.”

“It has a bit of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight to it,” Mr. Sonnett said. “It would have served the federal government well to say that.”

“To the extent that you over-hype a case, you create fear and paranoia,” he said. “It’s very difficult for prosecutors and investigative agencies to remain calm.”
As also noted in the Times story…

At its heart was a 63-year-old retired airport cargo worker, Russell M. Defreitas (three other defendants were named in the criminal complaint, as the story notes), who the complaint says talked of his dreams of inflicting massive harm, but who appeared to possess little money, uncertain training and no known background in planning a terror attack.

“Capability low, intent very high,” a law enforcement official said of the suspects.
All of this made me wonder a bit about Ms. Mauskopf, so I did some checking.

As noted here, she ended up being named for the job of U.S. Attorney at the request of former Gov. George Pataki back in March of 2001. And the story notes the following precedent…

For 18 years, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, and Alfonse M. D'Amato, a Republican, had a power-sharing agreement. Three out of every four appointments belonged to the senator of the same party as the president, and the fourth went to the senator of the opposing party.
In the case of Mauskopf, however, Dubya (who had been in office for all of two months at that point) bypassed the two Democratic senators from New York when seeking a recommendation (Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer) and went with Pataki’s choice, who was Mauskopf.

And as this Village Voice story from that time notes…

The candidate, State Inspector General Roslynn Mauskopf, is the best friend of the legendary Zenia Mucha, who now lives in Los Angeles and is the six-figure communications director for Disney. Until recently, Mucha held the same title for Pataki. Before that, she was D’Amato’s eyes, ears, and mouth. Several sources knowledgeable about the appointment process say that Mucha has been pushing hard for the 44-year-old, Albany-based Mauskopf, who for years has stayed in Mucha’s Manhattan apartment whenever she’s in the city. Mucha declined to talk to the Voice when informed of the specific nature of this story, as did Mauskopf.

In the nearly six years that Mauskopf has been charged with investigating improper conduct by state officials, she has not pressed a single case against a top Pataki appointee, though her predecessors did force the resignations of high-level (aides to former Governor Mario Cuomo). Charles Gargano, the longtime D’Amato fundraiser and state economic czar under Pataki, was the target of Mauskopf’s most widely publicized case. But that investigation—which she conducted jointly with Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau—was recently closed without any charges being brought.
The Times story on Pataki’s influence in Mauskopf’s nomination notes that she “helped break up organized crime control of trucking in the garment industry, and rose to the post of chief of the Frauds Bureau,” so that should be noted also.

I have no basis on which to question Mauskopf’s skills as an attorney; she may be quite good and suited for the job. However, based on all of this, I think it’s plain that she knows how to “blow her own horn” for the purposes of serving her Repug benefactors.

Maybe this isn’t earthshaking stuff, but it still makes me question the motives of U.S. attorneys in general anymore.

Heckuva job, Abu and Monica.

Last One To Ignore Stormy Weather

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I’ve tried to stay away from critiquing idiot columnists lately because I thought there were more substantive things that needed to be said on a whole range of other issues. Still, though, it is impossible to escape some of the truly odious drivel generated by our corporate media.

Yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer provided more of the same in this regard; Mark Bowden wrote about a cutting-edge issue impacting the lives of many rich white people, and that would be the faulty construction of leaky gas cans that makes it difficult form him to mow the grass on his Chester County, PA farm house property (here - would at least an illustration of the faulty can as opposed to an off-subject cartoon be too much to ask for here, Inky?).

And of course we were also treated to Smerky lambasting Dubya (mildly, to be sure) and the presidential candidates for not talking about Osama bin Forgotten (there goes Smerky, taking on the powerful “pro-bin Laden” lobby again – seriously, what else are the candidates going to say?).

The topper of this sad, mediocre bunch, though, was undoubtedly Jonathan Last (here), who criticized the Democrats and Al Gore on global warming. I’ll let Last take it from here…

You'd think Democrats could nominate anyone - Lindsay Lohan, Rosie O'Donnell, even John Edwards - and win the White House in 2008.
Oh, how clever you are, Last! I’m sure you and your fellow travelers at The National Review and The Weekly Standard had a good chortle at your absurd association of John Edwards in this regard.

Well then, let me present the following graphic showing the results of an online poll at The Daily Kos as to who “won” the Democratic debate last night…

I know that Edwards is a natural favorite among bloggers in general because he came out first with proposals and positions on Iraq, health care, and other vital issues, but this is still something to be proud of. I also know that this won’t make a bit of difference to Last and his fellow freepers, who will continue to perpetuate the “haircut/fancy house/hedge fund” narrative regardless (and add to that this post from Dick Polman, who criticized Edwards for supposedly not giving a straight answer on whether or not he read the National Intelligence Estimate prior to the war; as if that is an issue considering all he has done to try and end the Iraq nightmare).

Because no matter who their nominee is, the pitch is the same: During George W. Bush's watch, New York City was pummeled; New Orleans was destroyed; America became entangled in two wars, neither of which is going great; gas went over $3 a gallon; and the value of your home is now plummeting. Vote Democrat: How could things be worse?
Still amazing to me how partisans as bald faced as Last can rattle all of this off just like we can and pretend that Dubya somehow isn’t to blame to one degree or another – if this happened during Clinton’s administration (or another Democrat politician; nice one, Last, you creep) with a Repug congress, we would need a score card to keep track of all of the investigating committees.

Well, as a partial answer, there's House Resolution 2082, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008.

One of the few things on which everyone agrees is the suboptimal state of America's intelligence apparatus. It misjudged Russia's strength during the Cold War, failed to detect the 9/11 threat of al-Qaeda, and told us that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Our spooks are 0 for 3 on the big intelligence questions of the last 25 years.
We could argue about the preceding paragraph forever and I would never be able to persuade Last or people like him (you see, Last, not everyone agrees with you – I don’t know what journalism training you allegedly have, but if you had been instructed by the individuals who once instructed me at Temple, you would never have been able to get away with this nonsense, to say nothing of wondering why Chris Satullo, the editorial page editor, thought this was acceptable copy). I will only instead provide this link to a “60 Minutes” interview with Richard Clarke in March 2004; I realize he was hawking his book, but he served four presidents, including three Republicans – I’ll take his word on these matters over Last in a heartbeat.

Finally back in power, Democrats had a chance to try to improve our intelligence capabilities with the new budgeting act. Their big idea: that U.S. intelligence agencies spend critical resources gathering information on . . . global warming.

H.R. 2082, which passed the House by a vote of 225 to 197, requires that American intelligence agencies come up with a 30-year National Intelligence Estimate on the security effects of climate change. (Because this is an intelligence bill, the ultimate cost of this little sideshow will be, naturally, classified.)

Nothing wrong with studying climatology. To the contrary, we should be doing so in a diligent and serious manner. But to graft that task onto our intelligence services - during a time of war, no less - is ludicrously irresponsible.
Really, Last?

This takes you to an ABC News story explaining how our former military officials, including Gen. Charles F. Wald, the former deputy commander for the U.S. European Command, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that global warming is a “threat multiplier.”

And this takes you to a story in the Guardian from February 2004 documenting how the Pentagon tried to explain to Dubya (good luck) that climate change over the next 20 years “could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters...the threat to the world is greater than terrorism.”

Someone is being “ludicrously irresponsible” all right, Last. Go polish off your mirror and take a look.

Not that we should be surprised. Democrats have been trying to make environmentalism a national security issue for a long time.
That’s because, as I’ve just noted, environmentalism (re: the climate crisis) is a national security issue!!

In his 1996 State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton declared: "The threats we face today as Americans respect no nation's borders. Think of them: terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, drug trafficking, ethnic and religious hatred, aggression by rogue states, environmental degradation." Which one of those things is not like the other?

That speech was the culmination of a movement first nudged along in the Clinton administration by Vice President Al Gore. Senior members of the administration - including Secretary of State Warren Christopher and CIA Director John Deutch - had been pushing the notion of environmentalism-as-national-security from the beginning, organizing an interagency conference on "Environmental Security and National Security" and creating an office in the CIA dubbed the "Central Intelligence Environmental Center." While resources were being cut elsewhere in the CIA, Deutch was diverting spy satellites to monitor "ecologically sensitive" sites.
I can’t find anything online to support Last’s charge that former Clinton administration CIA director John Deutch cut funds to monitor “ecologically sensitive” sites. If anyone has a link to a reputable news source on this, I’d appreciate it if you could send it along. Until that happens, though, I’ll assume this is another baseless conservative smear.

The '90s may have seemed like a period of relative calm, but as Rep. Pete Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, reminds us, the first attempt to bomb the World Trade Center was made in 1993, and Osama bin Laden issued his declaration of war against America in 1996. While these important events were taking place, Hoekstra writes, the CIA "ordered intelligence analysts and collectors to write about volcano eruptions, fish schools and air pollutions."
Oh, please. Let’s consider the following, shall we (even Last should be able to comprehend this)…

- In response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, al Qaeda associate Ramzi Yousef, the person chiefly accused in the attack, was later captured in Pakistan.

- Cruise missile attacks were ordered by Clinton at terrorist bases in the Sudan and Afghanistan in response to the U.S. Embassy bombings in 1998. Of the 21 terrorists accused in the bombings, two were killed, four were convicted and are serving life without parole, and two are being held at Guantanamo; the rest are being held in the U.K. or are still at large.

- Also, Clinton provided this explanation for the missile attacks in his interview in which he clashed with Fox’s Chris Wallace: “The entire military was against sending special forces into Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter and no one thought we could do it otherwise…We could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that Al Qaeda was responsible (for the embassy bombings) while I was President.”

- Also, the investigation into the October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole could not be completed before the end of Clinton’s term in office.
Back to Last...

To be fair, the move to embed environmentalism in our national security policy predated Clinton. During a 1996 lecture on the history of the movement, Undersecretary of Defense Sherri Wasserman Goodman explained: As long ago as 1991, Gore "urged the intelligence community to create a task force to determine ways that intelligence assets could be tapped to support environmental research. The Environmental Task Force Gore helped create found that data collected by the intelligence community from satellites and other means can fill important information gaps for the environmental science community."

And before Gore, there was Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, who, in a 1990 speech, urged the government to "harness some of the resources of the defense establishment . . . to confront the massive environmental problems facing our nation and the world today."

Again, this is not a question about whether we should study the environment. The issue is the wisdom of diverting finite intelligence resources from confrontation with a clear and present danger. The challenge for Republicans in 2008 is to persuade voters that, after Bush, they can rediscover the competence needed to protect America. For Democrats, the challenge is figuring out whether they think America needs more protection from foreign enemies or environmental degradation.
I already provided links above describing how our military has defined the national security threat posed by the climate crisis and how our politicians continue to obstruct on this, primarily the Repugs. I realize that it is too much for them to consider the global impact of our dereliction in addressing this urgent issue, but fortunately, at least one candidate for president has taken this into account.

And I realize the Inquirer could nominate anyone to write a column smearing a Democrat, but Last was as good (or bad) of a choice as any, I suppose. And based on this poll, it seems that he’s really doing nothing more than pandering to his Repug brethren at this point (among other things, this poll shows to me the power of propaganda such as that foisted by Last in that the number of Republicans who believe in man-made global warming has actually dropped according to the most recent poll results).

I’m not going to waste any more of my life wondering what planet these people are living on. We live on Earth, and to learn about what is going on in the real world, let me sneak in another plug here for “An Inconvenient Truth” out on DVD everywhere.

The Cemetery Plot Thickens

This appeared from Patrick Murphy in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday...

In the May 29th edition of the Bucks County Courier Times, a statement I made was taken out of context on an issue that is extremely important to me personally and to many families in our community. I want to set the record straight: I am fighting for the national veterans’ cemetery to be here in Bucks County.

The Courier Times suggested that I am open to other sites. That is false. I said that I don’t want to “force so many brave patriots to wait any longer for the resting place they deserve.” That statement was about getting the Dolington site built quickly – as this honor is long overdue.

I am working very hard to make this cemetery in Bucks County a reality. The quiet, peaceful fields of Dolington – close to where George Washington led the first American veterans across the Delaware River – is the perfect place. We can give the veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a final honor they – and their families – can be proud of. This is something that we have been working on in a bipartisan manner since I was sworn in.

In a recent letter, Veterans Administration Secretary Jim Nicholson restated that the Bucks County site in Dolington was the VA’s first choice but also said that they would look at other options. The other option he was referring to in that letter is the site in Chester County in Pennhurst.

The Pennhurst site has been fraught with delays, rising costs, shrinking land and a much less favorable location. Secretary Nicholson said that he remains committed to opening a new national cemetery in Southeastern Pennsylvania and continues “to believe that the VA will succeed in securing the Dolington tract.” He also described Pennhurst, and the terms that would allow for a cemetery in Chester County, as “decidedly less favorable” especially when compared to the Dolington site in Bucks County.

Building a cemetery here is good for veterans and our community but it is also good for the Council Rock School District – a major decision maker in these ongoing negotiations.

Presently, the Council Rock school board has approved in principle an option to sell a piece of land called the Melsky tract. If that sale is made and the zoning amendments agreed to by Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield townships go into effect, the cemetery that all of us want could become a reality in the not-too-distant future.

The school board will vote Thursday, June 7. They have a lot to consider, but this sale is good for the school district and the residents.

Former Council Rock School Board member and current Upper Makefield Supervisor Dan Worden said (when he was on the board nine years ago) that the Melsky tract was a thorn in the side of the school district. It still is today. The difference now is that Council Rock has a great opportunity to sell the land for a fair price. Council Rock could use funds from the sale to provide more opportunities for Council Rock students. Also, Wrightstown has agreed, in writing, to set aside land if Council Rock needs to build an additional school in the future.

This plan makes economic sense in the present and keeps an eye out for the future. Making this deal and building the cemetery also helps us fulfill a great moral obligation to our veterans to whom we owe so much.

For months, I have been meeting with each of the parties and organizations and have pledged federal dollars to make the cemetery here in Bucks County a reality.

I am cognizant of my role as an advocate and remain respectful of the role of local governments in settling this matter. I remain determined to build this cemetery because the site in Bucks County is preferred by veterans in our community and also by the VA. We must act quickly for these brave patriots, as the VA’s patience is not unlimited.

Heroes from World War II to present day conflicts have done much to ensure our freedom. By securing a final resting place here in Bucks County that is both picturesque and meaningful, we can ensure some measure of peace for those brave veterans and their surviving relatives.
This prior post describes how U.S. House Repug Jim Gerlach of the 6th District (along with Senate PA Repug lapdog Arlen Specter) are trying to secure the cemetery for the Pennhurst site, which of course would be a big-time coup for Gerlach and a major black eye for Patrick. More importantly, though, if Pennhurst were to be selected, it would be a vastly inferior selection as opposed to Dolington, partly because of the site cleanup that would be required, along with construction of an armory.

But more importantly, as I noted last March, Pennhurst wouldn’t even be raised as a potential site versus Dolington if Mikey Fitzpatrick were still representing the 8th district. Fortunately, that is no longer the case (though Fitzpatrick did work on trying to secure the Dolington site also – I have to be fair and point that out).

It sounds like the Council Rock School District is "in the driver's seat" on this issue, however. Let's hope they do the right thing and don't end up driving the whole thing right off a cliff, as they say, instead.

Update 6/23/07: This happened just as we were getting out of town, but the Melsky tract was sold in accordance with everyone's wishes, so, though this isn't a done deal yet, it looks like the biggest obstacle has been overcome (Above Average Jane has more here).

Dubya And Ronnie's Crackpot History

Near the end of “State of Denial” by Bob Woodward (around page 420 or so), former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft is told that Dubya aspired as president to be more like The Sainted Ronnie Reagan than his father, referred to by Scowcroft as “41.”

Putting aside the shameful disrespect that this shows to a man (Sr.) with whom I frequently disagreed (though, as a combat veteran and someone who served for years in our government, he is nonetheless worthy of more than a small measure of gratitude), I think this helps to explain the pathological behavior of the current occupant of the White House.

I’m thinking of this because of this administration’s utterly delusional comparison of a mythological aftermath in Iraq that could somehow resemble our current commitment to South Korea (noted here, and I know I said something about this earlier). This, as we know, is typical propaganda for a failed regime that is doing all it can to hold onto power.

And besides, didn’t Dubya try comparing Iraq to World War II previously here, along with some other inanity about the Iraqi congress and this country's first constitutional convention? How many more prior wars is he going to summon in an effort to justify this tragic enterprise?

This is in keeping, though, with the tactic of his admired predecessor, who once called the Contras who fought the Sandinistas in Nicaragua “the moral equivalent of our founding fathers.”

Well, according to Human Rights Watch (and noted here), the Contras were guilty of the following…

• Targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination.
• Kidnapping civilians.
• Torturing civilians.
• Executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat.
• Raping women.
• Indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian houses.
• Seizing civilian property.
• Setting alight civilian houses in captured towns.
And now, some twenty years after the fact, we have a president pretending to be something like “Reagan Jr.” once more making absurd historical claims about his war of choice.

I guess the apple doesn’t fall that far from the ideological tree, does it?

Update 6/7/07: Speaking of military history, God Bless The Onion (h/t Daily Kos).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday Videos

This note from our sponsor - posting will be highly sporadic this week and it will shut down altogether next week for a little while. In the meantime...

...Breaking Benjamin ("Rain," acoustic version; definitely describes the weather in these parts, and the audio/video sync gets messed up a bit near the end - I guess I have Steve Gilliard on my mind a bit with this one, though I only knew him through his work, and my sympathies go out to his family and friends)...

...Guided By Voices Featuring Bob Pollard ("I Am A Scientist" - whatever, man)...

...Happy Birthday also to Chuck Barris, and this means that I'll never have a better opportunity than right now to present the Popsicle Twins, so...

...and Curtis Mayfield would have been 65 ("It's All Right").