Saturday, June 23, 2007

Patrick Helps Our Vets Again

From this morning's Bucks County Courier Times (the story of the homeless veterans bill must have been published when this site was shut down)...

The Courier Times showed poor judgment when it buried on the second page of the Bucks section an article announcing that Bucks County Congressman Patrick Murphy introduced a much-needed bill that would help homeless veterans. This bill shows everyone how he supports and honors our men and women in the military.

Murphy's action was ironically trumped by the story, "Python captured in Bristol Township" on the front page of the Bucks section. Now that's cutting-edge news!

I hope to see a "Thumbs Up" to Congressman Murphy in the paper soon giving him his much-deserved credit.

Joe Kraher
Bensalem, PA

I am a retired, World War II disabled veteran; I served my country for 40 years.

About six months ago, my retirement direct deposit stopped. I wondered how that could be. I was still receiving my disability check every month. At this point, I was missing six monthly pension payments. It seemed to me like the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing

The commander from DAV Chapter 117 on Emilie Road made arrangements to see one of Congressman Patrick Murphy's staff members. It took about 15 minutes for (us) to straighten the whole thing out and only seven days to receive my back pay.

Walter T. Almond
Falls Township, PA
This gives me an excuse to link to Patrick's brand new web site for the upcoming 2008 campaign (here).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Videos

Bright Eyes ("Four Winds" - I saw this ages ago on Eschaton, but I never knew the band or the song until tonight; nice twist on the typical fawning kind of music video for once)...

...A belated Happy Birthday to Ray Davies of The Kinks ("Mr. Pleasant" from "Beat Club" back in the day; how many pop rock hits have ever featured a trombone, by the way?)...

...Happy Birthday as well to the pride of Upper Darby, PA, Todd Rundgren ("Bread" featuring The Hello People from 1978...the little pantomime ends at about 1:26, at which point the song kicks in)...

...Happy Birthday also to Cyndi Lauper ("Time After Time," written by Eric and Rob of The Hooters, another Philly local connection)...

...and Happy Birthday, finally, to Don Henley ("Taking You Home" - really nice stuff).

Trying To Avoid Another "Big Bang"

OK, so Dubya decides to abrogate the 1994 “Agreed Framework” that the Clinton Administration negotiated with North Korea stipulating that they would halt activity developing plutonium-based weapons in exchange for promises of a pair of light-water reactors and US diplomatic and economic relations.

Now, though, according to this AP story, you would think that North Korea wants to shut down its nuclear reactor, based on what Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill tells us (more on that in a minute).

So what was the big holdup under Bushco? Well, it was the $25 million of North Korean funds that the U.S. “froze” at a Macau bank over money laundering allegations (as noted here).

So, as the diplomatic tit-for-tat nonsense, name calling and posturing played out, North Korea managed to conduct at least seven prior missile tests since Clinton left office, working out the kinks in pursuit of God knows what.

And as noted above in the AP story, Hill's counterpart Kim Kye Gwan and Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun are making overtures that could mean that North Korea wants to shut down its nuclear reactor, though Hill notes way, way down in the story that “it would take ‘a great deal of time, a great deal of effort, a lot of work’ in ridding North Korea of its nuclear programs, including weapons.”

So what exactly is there to feel good about here?

Republicans Behaving Badly

Pretty much “echo chamber time” for me on these two, both from The Daily Kos…

  • Kagro X tells us that Rudy Giuliani employs his childhood friend Monsignor Alan Placa as a consultant at Giuliani Partners. The problem is that a 2003 Suffolk County, N.Y., grand jury report accused Placa of sexually abusing children, as well as helping cover up the sexual abuse of children by other priests. Wonder when Bill Donahue is going to speak out against this, as opposed to having a hissy fit over those bad pro-choice bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen who once worked for the John Edwards campaign?

  • Kos notifies us that President Brainless thinks it’s humorous to tell African Americans to pick up the trash.

    The man is an embarrassment for the ages – anyone who voted for this dunce in 2004 should be made to wear ashes and sack cloth.
  • Where The Rubber Meets The Road (6/22/07)

    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.


    Homeland Security budget. The House approved, 268-150, a $36.3 billion Department of Homeland Security budget for fiscal 2008, up 17 percent from 2007 levels. In part, the bill restores civil-service job protections and tightens security at U.S. chemical plants.

    A yes vote was to pass HR 2638.

    Voting yes: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).

    Not voting: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.).
    Not much to say here except to point out that Joe Pitts continues to demonstrate his utter incompetence; is there a congressional district in this entire state with worse federal representation? In the country, even?

    Immigration enforcement. The House voted, 286-127, to increase by $9.1 million fiscal 2008 spending for a voluntary program in which local police departments enforce federal immigration laws. The vote amended HR 2638 (above).

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

    Voting no: Fattah and Sestak.
    I have to admit that I’m stumped on this one. I checked to determine Fatttah and Admiral Joe’s stands on immigration, and I really haven’t been able to find anything, and there’s nothing available from their web sites. This isn’t totally surprising because, though this is first and foremost a homeland security issue, it has been thoroughly abused by the Repugs with their nativist, jingoistic rhetoric.

    The further south you go, the more the language of “round ’em up, ship ‘em out” gets spoken louder and louder. Up here in the northeast, though, the immigration issue just doesn’t have the same impact. Maybe that explains it.

    Still, though, it’s curious to see the Dems legitimately split on this (and a bit disturbing, actually).


    Attorney general. The Senate failed, 53-38, to get the 60 votes needed to end a GOP filibuster and advance a "no-confidence" resolution against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, faulting him for his role in the U.S. attorney firing scandal.

    A yes vote was to advance SJ Res 14.

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

    Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.).
    An interesting vote for Biden to miss, and the WaPo article from this link tells us that the loathsome, odious, and completely repugnant Joe Lieberman voted no, and Ted Stevens voted “present” (guess he was confused by the choices – maybe he was disoriented because his tubes were clogged and he couldn’t access his Internet again).

    This isn’t over, by the way.

    Coastal drilling. The Senate rejected, 44-43, an amendment to a pending energy bill (HR 6) that would have authorized exploration for natural gas off the Virginia coast if the state gave its approval. The proposal sought to breach the federal moratorium on drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

    A yes vote backed the amendment to allow drilling.

    Voting yes: Carper and Specter.

    Voting no: Biden, Casey, Lautenberg and Menendez.
    Wow, good vote here by “Democrat” Tom Carper (though I expect something like this from Our Man Arlen). Carper almost crippled Virginia tourism on this one, to say nothing of helping to create a potential ecological nightmare. Guess it was too far south of Delaware for him to care about it.

    Nuclear power. The Senate voted, 56-39, to kill an amendment that sought to allow utilities to count nuclear-generated electricity in meeting proposed federal mandates that they produce at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

    All Philadelphia-area senators voted against the amendment.
    Just three letters matter on this one – TMI, baby.

    This week, the House considered the 2008 energy and water budget and other appropriations bills, while the Senate continued to debate an energy bill and may return to immigration reform.

    Tanks For Nothing

    What does it tell you about the state of the Iraq carnage that our troops don’t even feel safe in their armored vehicles any more (as noted here)?

    As noted in the story…

    In the last three days, 15 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, nine of them in two powerful roadside bomb blasts. The military does not release the kind of weapon used in improvised explosive attacks, but the deadly nature of the two attacks suggests EFPs possibly were used in both.

    The deaths brought the total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq to 3,545, according to military reports. Hundreds of those soldiers have been killed by EFPs and other kinds of improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs. The Pentagon's most recent Iraq status report said EFP attacks were at an all-time high.

    Foot patrols, of course, are not a fail-safe method. On city streets, snipers remain a real threat. And bombs can still kill dismounted soldiers. But when they go off in the middle of a foot patrol, causalities are generally lower because the soldiers are more spread out.

    Before a foot patrol last week through a neighborhood next to Baghdad's Sadr City district, a private with the Alpha Company of the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 8th Calvary began complaining about having to walk. But EFPs have claimed the lives of several soldiers in the unit and Sgt. Leland Kidd, 28, of Gonzales, Texas, said the private should be thankful they were on foot.

    "When I walk on my feet I don't have to worry about being blown up," Kidd told the private. "In the vehicle I have to."
    But at least in the vehicles, the threat from snipers is reduced (and that includes someone in Baghdad known only as Juba The Sniper, according to this Stars and Stripes story, who may or may not exist or may be in fact more than one person).

    As noted by Stars and Stripes, “Juba” is dismissed by Time correspondent Michael Ware as an Internet “urban legend,” and Capt. Brendan Hobbs, 31, of Tampa, Fla., commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, said that the legend of Juba is “a product of the U.S. military” (scratching my head over that one, I’ll admit). However, given the number of fatalities we have suffered from marksmen hiding in the Iraq rubble, it wouldn’t be beyond credibility if “Juba” or some such individual or group of people actually existed.

    I tried to find out how many of our service people are killed from bombs versus sniper fire, and the best I could find was this post which noted that 75 percent of our casualties come from explosive devices; that makes sense, but I didn’t see any corroboration for that statistic.

    Here’s a thought; as long as Dubya, Petraeus and company are bound and determined to stick more of our fine service people into the Iraqi meat grinder, maybe we should send over the next back for “the surge” as part of an equine fighting force. As long as they can’t use the armor any more, at least it will be easier for them to beat it on horseback when they come under attack. And if nothing else, the manure from the animal could be used as a weapon if and when all else fails (aptly symbolic of this entire tragedy, I know).

    And by the way, speaking of the "surge" and Petraeus, Dick Polman of the Inquirer wrote this nice post based on The Occupation of Iraq by Ali Allawi and the role Petraeus played in the billions squandered by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

    Where The Rubber Meets The Road (6/15/07)

    As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes for the week ending on Friday June 8th.

    (I'm just trying to catch up from vacation here; this is pretty much predictable party-line stuff, and I really don't have much to say, but I'm just posting this "for the record" - I'll plan to get to last week later today.)


    Stem-cell research. The House approved, 247-176, and sent to President Bush a bill that would extend federal financing of embryonic stem-cell research far beyond the narrow limits set by Bush in a 2001 executive order. The president said he would veto the legislation.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill (S 5).

    Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.)

    Voting no: Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Ethics. The House voted, 387-10, to change its rules to require automatic ethics investigations of indicted members. The new rule was sparked by the indictment of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D., La.) on bribery and other charges.

    A yes vote was to adopt the rule.

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

    Not voting: Holden.


    Immigration. In a 45-50 vote, the Senate fell 15 votes short of the 60 needed to advance a bill that would have provided U.S. employers with temporary foreign workers, tightened U.S. borders, and set a long path to legality for America's 12 million illegal aliens. The bill was later shelved.

    All Philadelphia-area senators voted to advance the bill (S 1348).
    And I think that our "buddy" Trent Lott made sure the bill will stay "shelved" (a nod to this post).

    For the week ending June 15th, the House considered 2008 budgets for the Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior Departments, and the Senate debated energy legislation.

    Thursday, June 21, 2007

    Thursday Videos

    The Polyphonic Spree ("Light And Day" - looks like hippie retro is back in fashion; have to dig through the cedar chest and see if I still have my Nehru jacket somewhere :-)...

    ...and happy birthday to Nils Lofgren ("Blue Skies," recorded in Glasgow, Scotland a little while back - kind of a primitive video, but a nice performance).

    Trent's Pet Goat(s)

    This excellent New York Times editorial by Timothy Egan (Times Select) tells the story of former U.S. House Repug J.D. Hayworth from Arizona who ranted and demagogued all over the place on the illegal immigration issue, so much so that he ended up getting voted out of office despite the power of 12 years of House incumbency.

    The column went on to describe how the Repugs have been losing ground all over the place on this issue in the southwest in particular because of some of the truly looney-tune rhetoric about rounding up the illegals and kicking them out (as if that were even possible; commerce would grind to a halt in this country without them, and they've shown that they can organize and make noise on their own behalf - would that other groups that shared our interests did the same).

    Anyway, the column also quotes Trent Lott, who "blamed talk radio for the possibly fatal collapse of the immigration reform bill."

    And just for good measure (and to totally validate Egan's sound argument), Lott compared the illegals to farm livestock here (can't blame talk radio for this one, however).

    Aahhh, all of this is making me feel better and better about next year's elections. Thanks, Trent, ol' buddy.

    Strom Thurmond would be so proud.

    See The Funny Little Clown

    And as we continue to slog through the flotsam that the Bushco empire has made of our system of government for the vast majority of the people of this country, let us not forget an individual who holds a measure of blame for bringing us the fouling of our environment, attack on science, destruction of civil liberties, accelerated exporting of our jobs (including life sciences work on embryonic stem cell research), erosion of worker safeguards, establishment of a “fourth branch” (way to go, Darth – h/t Atrios), raiding of our pensions and, of course, war without end in Iraq.

    By virtue of his fatal candidacy in the 2000 presidential election, that person is Ralph Nader.

    See, according to this story (h/t The Daily Kos), Nader is actually making noise as if he wants to run for president again next year. And this, of course, was dutifully recorded by all of the freeper sites (Politico, Newsmax, Free Republic, and the rest of their seamy lot).

    And how does Nader kick start this little bandwagon of his? By calling Hillary Clinton a “coward,” of course.

    I have a news flash for you, Ralph. I have some issues with the senator from New York, but that being said, she has more guts, intelligence and character in her cuticle than you could ever hope to have in your entire body.

    You’re nothing but a sideshow, Ralph. Go put on your big baggy pants, spread the greasepaint across your face and stick on a red rubber nose.

    At least that way, when you squirt the seltzer at yourself and dance to get out of the way of the lit-up firecrackers, you’ll provide a good laugh for the crowd before you make your exit.

    And please let if be for good this time.

    And Rudy Will Bail Out Again

    Repug Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut (pictured) is a shameless, self-promoting, pitiable coward for making this proposal (h/t Atrios).

    Wasn’t it almost a year ago when he spoke out against the Iraq war (here)?

    But oh no – it turns out he really favored the war (here).

    It’s just about too horrific of an obscenity to contemplate reforming the Iraq Study Group while our service people continue to fight, suffer, struggle and die in ever greater numbers (as noted here).

    If you haven’t read this post by Prof. Marcus quoting Robert Parry, please do so. I have to make sure I contain my online rage in such a fashion that it cannot result in any kind of legal activity against your humble narrator, so I won’t say anything else at this moment.

    And by the way, the Giuliani reference has to do with this story.

    A (Very) Belated Father’s Day Wish

    Since I spent last Sunday in an airport without any kind of electronic device access, I really wasn’t able to extend a wish for a Happy Father’s Day to anyone (though the security check person at Orlando International did that for me, and I appreciated it), so please allow me do to so now with this humorous item (at least I thought it was funny) and this thoughtful one, both courtesy of T-Nation (and here is my own remembrance once more).

    I hope any of you fathers out there who may be reading this had a good day, and I extend my best to you.

    Thursday News Stuff

  • I don’t have a problem with journalists donating to political candidates, discussed in this article; I generally adopt the philosophy of David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, which he states here…

    "Our writers are citizens, and they're free to do what they want to do," said (Remnick), who has 10 political donors at his magazine. "If what they write is fair, and they respond to editing and counter-arguments with an open mind, that to me is the way we work."
    The linked story notes that, of the reporters surveyed, 125 journalists donated to Democratic and so-called liberal causes, with 17 donating to Republicans and two donating to both parties.

    I have to wonder, though, how much Liz Peek of the New York Sun is worth if she was able to fork over $90K to the Repugs. And I also wonder what the Philadelphia Inquirer’s policy is concerning donations to candidates (not being a smart aleck, just curious).

  • I read this story about Illinois governor Rod “Flyboy” Blagojevich and his frequent travels between the state capital of Springfield and his home in Chicago and wondered two things: 1) why he didn’t decide to set up a place near the state house, or short of that, 2) why he didn’t pursue a mass transit alternative.

    Now I don’t know anything about Illinois politics (though it is surprising that, apparently, state government meets for only three days a week, something that would have me steamed if I was a taxpayer), but I reluctantly have to agree with Repug State Sen. Chris Lauzen when he says that Blagojevich’s travels, amounting to $76,000 thus far out off the “public dime,” are “an enormous waste.”

    On the other hand, Patrick Murphy, for example, rented an apartment in the D.C. area because he knew it wouldn’t be feasible to commute everyday via Amtrak or some other means from his workplace to his home in PA. Why Blagojevich thinks he should be an exception is something I cannot comprehend.

  • Oh, and remember this photo of Dubya and Vlad Putin acting like pals during the recent G8 summit? Well, Russian General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of his country’s general staff, says that Bushco has already made up its mind to turn down a Russian offer to share a radar station in Azerbaijan, according to this story.

    I should point out, though, that Dubya and Putin are supposed to meet for a vacation in Kennebunkport at the beginning of next month, as noted here, so we can look forward to more smiling faces and “no-news news” before more crises arise between our two countries.

  • And by the way, here are more good ideas from John Edwards (and more predictable lowlife garbage from Repug bottom-feeder Dan Ronayne, who, apparently, is just as big a weaasel now as he was here in support of Little Ricky).

  • Finally, the document that Dubya mocks each day with his very existence in the Oval Office (namely, the United States Constitution) was ratified 219 years ago today.
  • Try Again, Bob

    As noted here, the campaign to respond to the veto by President Stupid Head of a bill that would have permitted federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is due to begin today. As noted in this story…

    The Senate Appropriations Committee was to vote on a must-pass bill for the Labor and Health and Human Services departments that includes permission to use federal funding for embryonic stem cell lines derived after Bush in 2001 banned taxpayer dollars from being used on new studies of that kind.
    PA Senator Bob Casey doesn’t sit on this committee, according to this Source Watch link, but he will have an opportunity in the future to vote on legislation permitting the type of federal funding that Dubya has blocked throughout his nightmare of a presidency.

    I would ask Sen. Casey to reconsider his opposition to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Approving such funding does not encourage abortions – only an empty vessel like the preznit believes such delusions (if it did, I’d be screaming about it as loudly as anyone else).

    We will need every vote we can possibly get on this to try and override what would be yet another veto by The Boy King, and if Casey were to join us at last, I would defend him to the last breath against the inevitable “flip-flop” accusations.

    Please, Senator, give this some more thought (and watch this as you reflect further on this critically important issue).

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Wednesday Videos

    Silverchair ("Straight Lines")...

    ...and guitar legend Chet Atkins would have been 83 today (a wonderful adaptation of "Vincent" by Don McLean).

    Cruising With Benny

    I'm a little late in saying anything about this story where His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI announced "The Ten Commandments For Drivers" because I was shocked at its preposterousness. What, did Charlton Heston drive a Hummer down the side of Mount Rushmore and step out with stone tablets in hand containing Benny's sacred words, ready to cast them down at the feet of cowering drivers of economy sedans?

    Is it a bad thing to encourage civility, compassion and basic common sense when driving? Of course not. However, no one is going to take Benny seriously on this (though I'm sure AAA's is just tickled pink that The Vatican has chosen to spotlight road woes at the expense of something of significantly greater import, such as doing everything possible in its admittedly limited power to end the Iraq war).

    I would applaud the Vatican if, instead of laying the onus totally on drivers, they decided to get at the root cause of why so damn many people are on the road anymore (including your humble narrator of course; mea maxima culpa) and encourage countries to spend more on mass transit as well as pointing out to employers the commuting advantages of flex scheduling and (dare I say it?!) working from home. But of course Roman Catholicism, as well as organized religion in general, is often more preoccupied with manufacturing guilt directed at "the flock" than mediating to solve complicated problems in non-Third World countries.

    All the same, though, I should follow the lead from Rome on this I guess, so, as a primer in How Not To Drive, I now present all 10:38 of the car chase scene from "The Seven Ups" starring Roy Scheider and featuring stunt driver extraordinaire Bill Hickman (just think of all of the sins displayed in this clip - don't try this at home, as they say).

    Define "Secure"

    That was the word Gen. Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. officer in Iraq behind Gen. David Petraeus, used to define 40 percent of the city of Baghdad recently.

    That was noted in (among other places) Trudy Rubin’s column today in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which we learned “in contrast to U.S. politicians, no one here talks of ‘victory’” (maybe, then, Kathleen Parker should go over to Iraq and tell the Army to “shape up” per my earlier post).

    Oh, and by the way, we also learned that the “surge” will probably last until next March, as well as this…

    Many Iraqis are skeptical; four years of shifting U.S. policies have left their country a shambles. Shiite and Kurdish officials argue the real threat to Iraq's future is not al-Qaeda, but Saddamists who use equally vicious tactics to pursue a Baathist restoration. These officials fear naïve Americans may arm Sunni militias that claim to have turned against al-Qaeda but will use the weapons against the Iraqi government.

    Indeed, Americans may arm some of the wrong forces. U.S. commanders grasp that, but feel they must take the risk. If al-Qaeda is checked, they believe, Saddamists will also be weakened, leaving a less-violent insurgency that can be contained.

    It is a strategy based on grim realism. The widespread assumption among senior U.S. military commanders is that a U.S. military drawdown will begin by early 2008 - both because American politics will demand it and because the military is overstretched.
    Gosh, you don’t think the “drawdown” has anything whatsoever to do with the presidential election in November, do you (you know, the contest where, as of now, all the Dem candidates lead all the Repug candidates, as noted here...h/t The Daily Kos)?

    Well, with all due respect to Rubin, this column is full of hopeful, rose-colored speculation.

    Here, however, is the hideous reality (h/t Atrios).

    Wednesday Medical News

    Partly in honor of the premiere of “Sicko” last night at the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan, I now bring you two stories courtesy of Signs On San Diego:

    - Republican governor of Connecticut M. Jodi Rell, a cancer survivor herself as noted here, vetoed a bill allowing some patients suffering with serious illness to use marijuana for medical purposes because she thought it would send “a mixed message” to kids.

    I think this is another case where adults underestimate the intelligence of children in matters like this. If they witness a parent or loved one suffering and see them taking a drug that would otherwise be illegal, I think many of them would know (with the proper warning) not to take it themselves. That to me isn’t a “mixed message”; it’s called good parenting.

    Also, as noted here, it’s not as if drug companies themselves haven’t used addictive ingredients in their medicines already. Bayer (as noted in the story) came up with a wonder drug they used in concern with aspirin, another drug used as a painkiller to help with respiratory diseases and other ailments prevalent in 1899. It was called heroin.

    - And just look who ended up back in “blue state” territory after a run as Senate Majority Leader, where he feathered his nest through Hospital Corporation of America (as noted here).

    That would be the one and only Bill Frist, who, as noted here, is returning to Princeton University to teach a course in government health policy. No further information was provided concerning whether or not he would be dissecting cats in the school laboratory or rendering T.V. diagnoses of terminally ill cancer patients.

    The Peter Pace-Parker Principle

    I don’t know if Gen. Peter Pace was forced to step down as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to avoid what surely would have been a difficult confirmation hearing with the Senate over his role in the nightmare of Iraq (I’m sorry, but I can’t place a lot of faith in an individual who did not believe the Iraq was in the middle of a civil war in March 2006 and who expressed confidence publicly in Don “The Defense Secretary You Have” Rumsfeld in October of that year, as noted here).

    I also don’t know if he was forced to step down because he publicly opposed a nuclear attack on Iran (as Prof. Marcus noted here - that earns him props as far as I'm concerned). I also don't know if, based on this Wikipedia article about Admiral Michael Mullen (Pace’s successor due to take over in September), Bushco wanted Mullen because of his stated goal that the Navy should be “first and foremost a fighting, sea-going service,” as opposed to some of Pace’s comparatively less bellicose language.

    However, I am certain that Pace was not asked to step down because he confronted “the liberal agenda and gay lobby” as numbskull corporate media freeper columnist Kathleen Parker alleged here recently (yes, I know I shouldn’t waste my time, but some nonsense is too idiotic to ignore).

    See, Parker alleges that the confirmation hearing for Pace would be contentious not because of the tragic state of the Iraq carnage, but because of Pace’s quote in March of this year that he felt that “homosexuality is immoral”; Parker envisions all kinds of moments where Pace would be chastened over that as opposed to the escalating toll of our dead and wounded service people, to say nothing of innocent Iraqis. Here’s more of her tripe…

    Whether that single remark would cause Pace's removal seems doubtful. Others surmise that his replacement by a Navy admiral is sending a message to the Army to shape up. Mullen has said that one of his first priorities is to upgrade the Army. Still others say the move is a way for the Democratic Congress to further undermine President Bush.
    Of course, none of this is substantiated anywhere, since we’re in Corporate Media Pundit Fantasy Land here, boys and girls.

    And you know Parker will find a way to create some imaginary linkage to Hillary Clinton on this, since Sen. Clinton site on the House Armed Services Committee, with Parker’s laughably inane comment that “no one benefits more from Pace's removal than Clinton, who would have had to vote for or against the man and be stuck with a position that could hurt her.”

    And for good measure, rely on Parker to resurrect the utterly failed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of HRC’s husband, with Parker’s vile interpretation that “(the policy is) not about the rights of gays to serve, but about the rights of non-gays to be protected from forced intimacy with people who may be sexually attracted to them,” as if all gays are degenerates who see same-sex professionals as nothing more than instruments of their own pleasure.

    Getting back to Gen. Pace, I should be fair and note that he has a lengthy list of service awards and has worked himself up the chain of command steadily since the late 1960s, a commendable feat. However, as far as I’m concerned, all of that has been tarnished by his tacit complicity with a lawless regime that has led us to war without end in Iraq. That, more than anything else, is why he should not have been renominated, delusional freeper propaganda notwithstanding.

    Of Course

    Of course Dubya is going to veto the bill Congress will send to him providing federal funding for stem-cell research.

    (By the way, concerning this story from earlier this month about stem cells cloned from mice, let’s consider the following paragraph before anyone suspects that we’ve found a way around the issue of using embryos for stem cell research which would exist anyway and only be discarded if not used for scientific study)…

    “It is difficult to predict whether the results from mice can be translated to humans, given all the differences between mouse and human embryos”, said Renee Reijo Pera, director of human embryonic stem cell research at Stanford University.
    (And this advance was made possible only because research had been carried out on discarded embryos to begin with.)

    And of course Dubya isn’t going to fire Abu Gonzales for the U.S. Attorney’s scandal (how typical to dump all the blame on "Hazel The Cleaning Lady," and of course President Brainless isn’t going to hold Karl Rove accountable for what appears to be at least 140,000 back-channel Emails sent through the Republican National Committee related to this mess also).

    And of course Dubya isn’t going to lift a finger to restore habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees (and speaking of Guantanamo, I thought this was a good idea).

    Update: And by the way, when it comes to making a statement against torture, I think the Senate Dems can do that by refusing to confirm this guy (though no one should hold their breath waiting for that to happen, I hate to admit).

    And of course Dubya is going to nominate Leslie Southwick for the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit, someone whose antagonism towards traditional Democratic constituencies couldn’t be more obvious, to say nothing of racial insensitivity.

    This is all we’ve ever received from this guy since his presidential installation in 2000-2001, and it is all we ever will receive (just keep playing this clip over and over and over and over and over). And the only way to fix it – barring impeachment, of course – is to elect a Democrat next year (preferably John Edwards, of course).

    And speaking of the election, I thought Devilstower at The Daily Kos hit the nail right on the proverbial head today here concerning New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s exit from the Republican Party (not really blaming Bloomberg, but I’m only saying that we should have no illusions about the goal of such a move, which is only to siphon off Democratic votes).

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Tuesday Videos

    Happy belated 65th birthday to Sir Paul, who observed the milestone on Monday the 18th ("Letting Go," with Wings, recorded in Melbourne, Australia in November 1975...guess we'll have to keep looking to find out what the next song was, presumably written by Jimmy McCulloch)...

    ...and "Too Much Rain" from "Chaos and Creation In The Backyard" (synching is a bit off I know, and here's a link for more on the new release, Memory Almost Full).

    "Altering" The Dems

    This column by Jonathan Alter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times today, partly because Patrick Murphy was featured prominently in it; though I think Steve Benen made good points in his response here, I think he was a bit too kind to Alter.

    (I’m not going to offer a point-by-point response, but I’ll only say that Alter is doing some serious navel-gazing as opposed to screaming to get our people out of Iraq and calling for the executive branch of our government to start acting like adults and engage in ‘round-the-clock negotiations with all “involved parties,” something which everyone in this country should have been calling for by now - merely saying "Iraq is President Bush's war" is the typical "corporate-media-slap-with-the-wet-noodle" approach that is partly responsible for the miserable status quo).

    Alter also uses the term “surrender monkeys” when describing the Dems, which is nothing more than Repug code, pure and simple; when used it in this fashion, it merely propagates their talking points (I’ll admit I used that describing Mitt Romney, who, based on this Atrios link, must be running for the president of Revlon instead of the President of the United States, but I felt I was being completely unambiguous about what I was trying to say, and for a good reason).

    Besides, I’m sick of corporate media types like Alter dropping the Iraq war squarely into the laps of the Dems without even a hint of recognition that a Republican president was responsible for lying this country into war above everyone else (oh, as if it is supposed to be impolite for me to point that out for some reason – God, Doomsy, that’s soooo 2003 of you).

    And it’s not as if Alter hasn’t gone out of his way to slam someone based on a misunderstanding before, as noted here.

    Bushco "Toys" With Kids' Safety

    In search of something for which I can bust on Dubya (have to get back “in the groove” on that a bit), I came across this item in today’s New York Times about the increase in the recall of toys manufactured by our dear friends in China, in particular, toys from the Thomas The Tank Engine series that were coated with lead paint.

    As the Times story notes…

    Over all, the number of products made in China that are being recalled in the United States by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has doubled in the last five years, driving the total number of recalls in the country to 467 last year, an annual record.

    It also means that China today is responsible for about 60 percent of all product recalls, compared with 36 percent in 2000.

    Much of the rise in China’s ranking on the recall list has to do with its corresponding surge as the world’s toy chest: toys made in China make up 70 to 80 percent of the toys sold in the country, according to the Toy Industry Association.
    And in case anyone thinks I’m using this story as an excuse to beat up solely on China for the terrible quality of its toys exported to this country, I should note this Chicago Tribune story about the efforts of Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Bobby Rush, both Illinois Dems, to introduce legislation giving the Consumer Product Safety Commission more power to recall deadly toys. This was spurred by a tragic accident that killed a Seattle toddler when he swallowed some loose magnets in a Magnetix playset (Magnetix is a product from MegaBrands based in The Netherlands).

    I am something of an authority on both of these toys, I may add. The young one spent many, many hours enjoying himself with them, and they are good toys for the right age. However, it is unconscionable for anyone to still be using lead-based paint for children’s products, and though the Magnetix toys are good also, it is easy for tiny magnets to fall loose from them and present themselves as a hazard for a child who doesn’t know better than to put one of them in his or her mouth.

    So where exactly is the head of Bushco’s Consumer Products Safety Commission while all of this is transpiring? That was the question asked by Rush as noted in this story about a House Consumer Products subcommittee hearing where the presence of Nancy Nord, the acting chair of the CPSC, was requested.

    However, as the story notes…

    The day before the hearing, the two panels, one consisting of Nord and the other consisting of consumer advocates, were collapsed into one because of scheduling conflicts with floor votes, subcommittee chairman Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said.

    Congressional witness panels rarely mix government administrators with private sector witnesses – a ceremonial tradition intended to show respect to governmental authority.

    “Although unusual, we have had to have one panel in the past and mix government witnesses with other witnesses,” Rush said.

    When Nord discovered that she would be sharing her panel with two consumer advocates from the Consumers Union and U.S. Public Interest Research Group, she decided not to attend or to send another Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) representative.
    The story also notes the reactions of House Repug apologists Michael Burgess of Texas and Cliff Stearns of Florida who supported Nord’s decision not to attend the hearing because she would have been forced to soil herself, apparently, in the presence of those dreaded consumer activists that the Repugs so utterly despise.

    However, I’m with Dem Rep. Jan Schakowsky on this (no surprise, but she “cuts right to the chase” here)…

    …Democrats who made the paneling decision, and consumer advocates said regardless of tradition, Nord, a Bush appointee, should have attended.

    “I hope we can get past standing on ceremony and deal directly with saving children’s lives,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said.
    And by the way, as noted in the Tribune story, the CPSC doesn’t decide to test products until an incident is reported, and they negotiate every word of a recall alert with the manufacturer of a defective product. Both of those policies are seriously, seriously messed up! (trying to use polite language…)

    And the last person nominated to head the CPSC, of course, was Michael Baroody, the executive VP of the National Association of Manufacturers (as noted here, and I was only kidding about the Irwin Mainway thing, but who knows who this bunch will nominate next for the post if Nord goes down for blowing off the subcommittee, as she should).

    Fighting For "The Cause"

    The latest from David Bonior of the John Edwards for President Campaign (sorry to "put the bite" on everyone like this)...

    Dear Friend,

    We can win this election, but it won't be because the media makes us their darling or because the big donors line up to win favors. When we win, it will be because of people like you and me—people who truly believe in big progressive change and are willing to go out there and fight for it. And your time is now.

    There are just 12 days until the end of the quarter. We've got to hit our fundraising goal so we can keep fighting in every Iowa County, every New Hampshire town, and every other key battleground state in this election.

    So take this moment to remember why this campaign is worth fighting for, and throw in a contribution of whatever you can afford.


    Yes, the bright lights of the media will shine on other campaigns for their money or their celebrities. But the big changes you and I are working for are what Americans are looking for—and that's what will really matter come Election Day.

    Take a moment to consider what we're fighting for, and check out some recent poll numbers that show how much support these issues really have:

  • Global warming: John's plan to cap carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 is exactly the kind of bold step to halt global warming America wants. 70% of all Americans think the federal government should do more than it's doing now to try to deal with global warming.

  • Iraq: John has pushed to start bringing our home our troops immediately and be out of Iraq within a year. Congress won't do it, but Americans are right there with him. 68% of all Americans think that American troops should leave Iraq within a year, or sooner.

  • Health care: John is the only presidential candidate with a detailed plan to guarantee quality health care to every man, woman and child in America. 76% of all Americans support guaranteed health coverage for every American.

  • Poverty: John Edwards is the only candidate to set a clear goal of ending poverty in America and he has an ambitious plan for combating poverty and disease around the globe. 61% of voters would be more likely to support a presidential candidate if they made fighting hunger and poverty in America and around the world a major priority.

  • This is more than a campaign, it's a cause. And as we work together for this cause over the next many months, it's important to remember how much support we really have.

    So we don't need to smash records, and we don't need the most hype. But we can't lose one day in the race to show voters what John Edwards and this campaign is all about. America is with us. Our time is now.

    Please contribute what you can right now to keep this campaign going.


    Thank you,

    --David Bonior
    Campaign Manager, John Edwards for President
    Tuesday, June 19, 2007
    To learn more, click here.

    Beware The Center For Union Hacks

    (Yes, I’m back, and I’m trying to get back into action once more – I’ll tell you more about where we’ve been for the last week or so a little later.)

    In today’s New York Times, a full-page ad appeared that emphasized a quote from Bruce Raynor, president of UNITE HERE, in which he says, “There’s no reason to subject the workers to an election” (for union representation within their company, of course). The quote is presented in a way that is highly unflattering to Raynor, linking him to Idi Amin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (nice – Raynor describes the ad further in this linked story).

    Of course, the full-page ad in the Times cannot provide the context for Raynor’s remark, so I will attempt to summarize here based on his column (and by the way, the quote is accurate and Raynor totally stands by it).

    What Raynor is speaking out against is the fact that workers at Goya Foods in Florida near Miami voted overwhelmingly for union representation in 1998 by a margin of 83 to 31, which was particularly courageous on their parts because of Goya’s anti-union worker harassment.

    After electing the union, the workers organized a variety of events within the Miami community to publicize their efforts for fight poor treatment, low wages, supervisor favoritism, and expensive health insurance. Because the union fought back against these issues and misconduct on the part of Goya against the union, the NLRB ended up filing 23 separate violations of U.S. labor law against the company.

    Raynor continues…

    The union, the workers, and the General Counsel took the case to a trial under federal labor law before an Administrative Law Judge in June 2000. In February 2001, the judge ruled in favor of the union and workers on every single issue in a well written and thoughtfully reasoned decision. He ruled that the four Goya workers were fired illegally for supporting the union and recommended that the NLRB order their reinstatement and back wages (no penalties are provided by the National Labor Relations Act). He found the company guilty of threats against workers who supported the union, interrogation of union supporters, and failure to bargain in good faith as required by federal law.

    Of course the Company appealed -- creating another delay of justice. But by July of 2001, the record was complete: the briefs were in, the Board had the transcripts and the exhibits, and the case was, as they say, “ripe for decision.”
    However, as Raynor notes, it took five years for the board to do anything, until…

    Finally, the Board did rule -- on the last day of August, 2006. We won on every important issue. The company was found to have unlawfully withdrawn union recognition, and the Board ordered it to resume bargaining with us. But the Board hasn’t ordered that Goya agree to a contract for the workers -- it can't under our legal system.

    The company was found to have engaged in unlawful threats, interrogation, and the like -- and for that, they have to post a notice in their plant saying they won't do it again and pay backpay to workers who lost work because of the company’s misconduct. That’s it. No fines, no penalties, no assessments, no order to pay the union’s (or the government’s) legal fees -- none of those remedies are available under our legal system.

    So after seven years, winning doesn't look all that different from losing for these workers. They have lost seven years of wage increases, health care benefits, pension contributions, and other essentials that families need -- things they could have bargained for if they had a contract. Some lost their jobs, most lost respect for their employers, and immigrants lost faith in the system of their new home.
    So, when Raynor says, “there’s no reason to subject the workers to an election,” what he means is that there’s no point in doing that unless legal remedies with teeth are provided for workers who are wronged by their employers so that they may obtain what is due to them and punish those responsible for the negligence that caused the problem.

    But of course, we won’t find that out from The Center for Union Hacks, another front group founded by labor management attorney and restaurant industry executive Rick Berman, who collects approximately $10 million a year so he can attack organized labor and consumer activists, with Source Watch noting that only Berman and his bookkeeper wife know how much of that ends up in their own pockets (according to a July 2006 article in USA Today).

    And of course, all of this is intended to derail passage of the Employee Free Choice Act; contact your senator from here and tell them to support it (and kudos to Bob Casey for signing on as a cosponsor).

    Trapper John at The Daily Kos has more here.