Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Videos

Muse ("Super Massive Black Hole" - uh huh, so the guy is singing about an owl woman; I'm OK with that - actually, the title of the song pretty much describes what we're in because of Chimpy The Boy King...happy birthday shithead)...

...Happy 70th birthday to Gene Chandler ("Duke Of Earl," of course; there probably aren't too many other people so closely associated with a single song as he is with this one)...

...a belated Happy Birthday to Huey Lewis ("Heart And Soul"; a song about some medieval stuff in a clean-cut-looking and slightly tongue-in-cheek video)...

...and since I probably won't get to this tomorrow, happy 67th birthday in advance to Ringo Starr ("Photograph," from "The Concert For George" in 2002, which is a terrific production - the kid strumming on the guitar wearing the peasant shirt is Dhani Harrison; at one point in the concert, Paul McCartney looks at him and says "Olivia said we all on stage got older but George got younger"; you'll have to find "Honey Don't" elsewhere I'm afraid).

An Expanding Opportunity

This looks like a job for Mr. Condom.

(As I've said, posting about this stuff can be a dirty, thankless job, but somebody has to do it :-).

Yep, I’ll be booking my flight on Quantas any day now…

Repug Déjà vu All Over Again

As I read this about the latest hijinks with Norm Coleman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, I was reminded of that Groucho Marx joke about a woman making a man very happy…if she would just go away (we should be so lucky with these two).

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. Congress are accusing the U.N. Development Program of firing a whistle-blower connected with the agency's North Korea program, a target of the Bush administration.

Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who last week sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Artjon Shkurtaj, chief of operations in North Korea in 2005 to 2006, was dismissed for criticizing the UNDP.
Gee, I would have thought our ol’ buddy Norm would have learned to keep his mouth shut about stuff like this after he got clobbered by British MP George Galloway in May 2005 (though Galloway is hardly innocent himself, but he was wronged on this occasion…and by the way, Go Al!).

On Thursday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida also sent a letter to Ban, urging him to intervene to protect Shkurtaj, who she said had uncovered "significant irregularities."

The Bush administration accuses the agency of sloppy accounting, handing over cash to North Korean bodies without proper documentation and hiring government-picked staff.
Yep, if there’s one thing Bushco knows about, it’s sloppy accounting and handing over cash without documentation (as noted here)…

The 15-month proconsulship of the (Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority) disbursed nearly $20 billion, two-thirds of it in cash, most of which came from the Development Fund for Iraq that had replaced the UN Oil for Food Program and from frozen and seized Iraqi assets. Most of the money was flown into Iraq on C-130s in huge plastic shrink-wrapped pallets holding 40 “cashpaks,” each cashpak having $1.6 million in $100 bills. Twelve billion dollars moved that way between May 2003 and June 2004, drawn from accounts administered by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The $100 bills weighed an estimated 363 tons.

Once in Iraq, there was virtually no accountability over how the money was spent. There was also considerable money “off the books,” including as much as $4 billion from illegal oil exports. The CPA and the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Board, which it controlled, made a deliberate decision not to record or “meter” oil exports, an invitation to wholesale fraud and black marketeering.
Back to the story…

Shkurtaj, an Albanian, reportedly discovered in 2005 a stack of counterfeit dollars from North Korea that UNDP had put in a safe after they were handed to the agency 10 years earlier by an Egyptian consultant who had discovered they were fake.

The UNDP said it tried to return the notes to the North Koreans in 1995 but they refused to accept them and proper receipts were lacking from the Egyptian. The agency apparently put them in a safe and forgot about the notes until this year when they contacted U.S. officials.
How ridiculous to drag up all of this counterfeiting business again when it looks like we may actually have made progress with North Korea on dismantling its nuclear reactor (I know I said in a comment awhile back that this story will be with us forever, but I’d love to be wrong about that).

Ros-Lehtinen said Shkurtaj attempted to raise the issue with UNDP in 2005 but instead had been relieved of his duties. He applied to the U.N. for whistle-blower status.
And how even more ridiculous for Ros-Lehtinen to care about a U.N. whistle blower while not saying or doing anything in defense of whistle blowers in this country (here and here).

"This request is being reviewed by the Ethics Office, and that is where the status is, right now," U.N. Deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters.

According to UNDP officials, Shkurtaj left North Korea in August 2006 and left the program in March 2007, after fulfilling several short-term contracts.

Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was successful in getting the House last week to cut $20 million of funding to UNDP. The Senate still has to vote.

UNDP pulled out of North Korea in March after Pyongyang refused to accept changes ordered by its board of directors. A U.N. audit published on June 1 said rule breaches had occurred but did not find systematic major diversion of U.N. funding.
So, if UNDP has already pulled out of North Korea, what is the point in punishing the relief agency instead of the (allegedly) offending country?

David Morrison, UNDP spokesman, said the agency had taken the U.S. allegations very seriously and investigated them.

"The information supplied to UNDP by the U.S. mission meant to substantiate the allegations does not tally with UNDP's own financial records," he said.

But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters last week: "I'm advised by our people that they have a variety of sources pointing in the same direction with regard to potential abuses."
Sounds like the Repugs are closing ranks again.

U.S. officials insist their investigation is not political, The former UNDP administrator, Mark Malloch Brown, clashed with former U.S. United Nations ambassador John Bolton.

The current deputy UNDP administrator, Ad Melkert, headed the World Bank's ethics committee that contributed to the downfall of former bank president Paul Wolfowitz, a former Bush administration official.
I think we have the answer.

Khalilzad and other U.S. officials, however, have praised the current administrator, Kemal Dervis, for his handling of the controversy.
Of course – that gives them cover for sticking it to Melkert.

(Sigh – is the weekend here yet?).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (7/6/07)

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.

(Lots of non-Blogger network issues today, by the way - it's a wonder I can get anything published at all.)


Congressional pay raise. The House affirmed, 244-181, a pay increase for members of Congress set for January 2008. The vote, which occurred during debate on a federal budget bill (HR 2829), cleared the way for an approximately 2.7 percent raise that will hike rank-and-file salaries to nearly $170,000.

A yes vote was to raise congressional pay.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).
Patrick Murphy believes that Congress should be tightening its fiscal belt, especially to make a sacrifice during wartime, hence his vote. He’s absolutely right, and so is everyone who went along with him (and a big raspberry goes out to the bipartisan clowns on this who don’t recognize that).

Vice president's budget. Members refused, 217-209, to eliminate Vice President Cheney's budget, following his claim to be separate from the executive branch and therefore not covered by a presidential order on the archiving of secret papers.

A yes vote backed the amendment to HR 2829 (above).

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy and Schwartz.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, Pitts, Saxton, Sestak and Smith.
This is the first time I’ve been disappointed by Admiral Joe. This was close, and we could have used his help (it would serve that criminal right if Congress cut off his funding).

Global warming. Members rejected, 274-153, a proposal to strip an Interior Department appropriations bill (HR 2643) of a nonbinding call for regulations to limit the emissions that help cause global warming.

A yes vote was to remove the global-warming section.

Voting yes: Pitts.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Sestak and Smith.

Not voting: Schwartz.
Joe Pitts takes up his almost-permanent position out on the proverbial limb once again. And what’s really dumb about this vote in particular is that, as noted here, he didn’t even receive that much from oil and gas interests when running for re-election last year, and those are the people who would be impacted the most by something like this.

So he could have done the right thing, but he didn’t, though the proposal failed anyway. What a fool.

Offshore drilling. Members rejected, 233-196, a proposal to end the 26-year-old ban on Atlantic and Pacific offshore energy drilling. The vote occurred during debate on HR 2643 (above).

A yes vote was to repeal the ban.

Voting yes: Dent, Gerlach, Holden and Pitts.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
Kudos to Castle, LoBiondo, Saxton and Smith for doing the right thing (this should be a no-brainer for the Dems).

Clean air. The House voted, 252-178, to block a proposed EPA easing of the rule that all smokestack industries install the best available antipollution technology when upgrading units.

A yes vote backed the amendment to HR 2643 (above).

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

Voting no: Holden and Pitts.
As much as Pitts has a base anywhere, it would be in Lancaster County, parts of which are truly beautiful. It would be nice if the people living there who vote for him realized just how much this man is an enemy of the environment and thus the most prized asset that they have (and an interesting vote once more for “Democrat” Tim Holden).


Immigration overhaul. Senators failed, 46-53, to reach the 60 votes needed to advance a bill that would crack down on employers of illegal immigrants, tighten U.S. borders, start a new guest-worker program, and set a long path to legality for undocumented aliens.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to advance the bill (S 1639).
Way to go, Repugs (for killing this and making yourselves look stupid again, I mean).

Union elections. The Senate failed, 51-48, to reach the 60 votes needed to advance a bill enabling workers to vote for union shops by signing cards, in place of the existing secret-ballot process.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to begin full debate on the bill (HR 800).
The person more than any other responsible for the death of the Employee Free Choice Act is Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who was as good as his word when he pledged to kill it. And this is totally in accord with the wishes of his wife, Dragon Lady Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, who enjoys lecturing U.S. workers on their tempers and personal hygiene as opposed to doing her job on our behalf as opposed to that of her corporate benefactors.

At this time, Congress is in recess until Monday July 9.

Don't Let Liability Be A Victim Also

This is a bit uncomfortable to say, but I think it needs to be said anyway.

This story notes that Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer who administered the compensation program for the 9/11 victims, will do the same thing for the $7.1 million fund for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings earlier this year.

With this in mind, here is a link to a Findlaw column by Anthony J, Sebok that makes the following point about a condition of the distribution of the 9/11 funds…

The federal government did not prohibit suits against the airlines (although it did cap their liability at a sum equal to their insurance coverage). Instead, it has offered the families of the victims a deal: if they elect not to sue the airlines (for negligence – my note), the government—meaning the U.S. taxpayer—will pay for the tort damages that the families would have otherwise attempted to win through litigation.
Now I realize that there are some important differences between the circumstances surrounding 9/11 and the Virginia Tech shootings. With 9/11, a secondary consideration was helping to get the airline industry back on its feet, and that appears to have happened given the typical free market shakeout of some carriers prospering while some remain hand strung by difficulties which, in many cases, existed before the attacks anyway. Also, the compensation paid to the 9/11 victims came from taxpayers, while the fund for the Virginia Tech shooting victims is composed of charitable donations.

However, a condition of receiving a distribution from the VA Tech Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund should not be waiving any claims for future liability against the school (I have no evidence that Feinberg or the school would make any such stipulation, I should hasten to add).

After all, I will always wonder about the two-hour gap between the shootings at the dormitory and Norris Hall. If one day a court decides that there was liability on the part of the school or anyone else for that and other occurrences, then the victims should be compensated to some degree (it would seem that this would go without saying, but still…).

Run Yourself, You Traitor

I haven’t taken a nice, healthy swing at Joe Lieberman in a long time, so he’s due (especially based on this column).

There are so many reasons to despise this man, but one that comes readily to my mind is what he has done to the meaning of the word “independent” by virtue of his very political existence. I never knew it to mean “outcast,” “contagion” or “pariah” before until he began his “me, myself and I” act after getting turned out as the CT Democratic senate standard bearer by Ned Lamont last year.

And now, he’s acting like he may support a Repug for president as opposed to a Dem? What else can we expect from someone who helped raise money for fellow party senator Susan Collins of Maine (and how funny is it that, as a result, her Dem opponent Tom Allen ended up with a higher total from his own matching fundraiser competing with hers?).

I think the only way this man could actually make anyone besides our corporate media and we blogger types who give him his periodic smack pursuant to his status as a political piñata care about him would be if he actually ran for the “big chair” himself. And never mind that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is making plans to do that as a third-party candidate – Joe’s ego is just sooo big that he wouldn’t let a trivial detail like that stand in his way.

So run, Joe. It will give many more Americans the opportunity to examine your vile war cheerleading and conduct as a cushy Beltway insider and thus heap further scorn upon you far into the future (along with this guy, another “kindred spirit”).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thursday Videos

The Cribs ("Men's Needs" - interesting)...

...Happy Birthday to Marc Cohn ("Walking In Memphis" - I hope he's recovered from the injuries sustained in that hellacious carjacking attempt almost two years ago.)

I Almost Agreed With You, Mitt

And as long as I’m posting on that which is near and dear to us as Americans, let me pay tribute to something else that is vital to our lives (some would say), and that of course would be "pron" (have to watch it with those darn Google keywords - that is, I'd agree with him if "The Mittster" still believed now what he once believed when he worked for Marriott).

This story notes that Repug presidential candidate Willard Mitt Romney has run afoul of high-profile tightasses Tony Perkins, James Dobson and others because it turns out that Romney allowed smutty movies to be shown at Marriott Hotels when Romney served as chairman of the audit committee from 1992 to 2001.

(With all of the problems facing our country and the world, it’s almost funny that these clowns obsess about this stuff.)

And rest assured that I would only be laughing about it if it weren’t for these dunderheaded remarks by Romney appearing at the end of the story (with Romney in full backpedaling mode over the Marriott brouhaha)…

Romney linked the prevalence of pornography to the Virginia Tech shooting spree that left 33 dead.

"Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games," Romney said May 5 during a commencement address at Regent University, the evangelical Christian school run by Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson.

"The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool."
Gee, Willard Mitt, it’s a funny thing; I never heard of anyone dying from trying to jack off (and I’m not talking about autoerotic asphyxiation; nobody ever took one or more people with them anyway even if it went horrifically wrong). I’m not at all sure that the no-doubt-still-grieving family and friends of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooter would appreciate your trivializing their deaths by saying that they resulted from one sick person’s overexposure to our admittedly-at-times fouled culture.

And as far as we know, Cho Seung-Hui never tortured his dog either, so I think that gives you even less of a reason to dump on anyone else.

This Flag's Not For Sale

This story appeared not only here at the Times of London but all over yesterday, timed for July 4th of course. It has to do with the movement to fly only flags made in this country as opposed to China, with Minnesota getting ready to enact what appears to be the strictest law in the country; if you fly a non-American made flag in that state, you could be subject to a penalty of a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail (I think that’s a bit excessive, but you would hope that a judge would show leniency in a circumstance where someone made a well-intentioned mistake).

The story notes that there is legislation along these lines pending in Pennsylvania. That would be PA State House Bill 1317, which is noted here.

I definitely support the movement (can you call it that?) to fly only U.S.-made flags, but again, I hope we would be sensible about punishing people who don’t (and somehow I think law enforcement has more pressing matters to attend to, but the principle here is important).

And this story gives me an excuse to go on my jag about people not flying the flag on Memorial Day or July 4th; I know people are on vacation and can’t do so, but plenty more people aren’t who can, but don’t.

So, as a gesture of old-fashioned patriotism from this seemingly godless, unkempt, ingrate liberal blogger, I’d like to present the following from Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra, a song about everything the flag embodies to me whenever I see it waive, particularly on July 4th (and yes, that’s Walter Cronkite getting all choked up, which is totally understandable as far as I’m concerned).

Update: Sorry about that...I just found out the video is no longer available a minute ago.

Dubya The Weenie Roasts Our Military

Our red state president compared the Iraq debacle to the Revolutionary War yesterday in a speech before members of the Air National Guard, using our service people as props in the most shameless manner possible yet again.

I’m not going to analyze his idiotic comparison (though, if he were to have his way, I’m sure the Iraq debacle would run for at least as long as the war fought for our liberation from England), but I only want to draw attention to this pathetic attempt at humor noted here by New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg…

Mr. Bush spent 20 minutes in the hangar, which dwarfed the crowd, shaking hands and talking with a long line of Guard members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. He then lifted off for what his spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said would be a Fourth of July celebration at the White House that would double as a celebration of his 61st birthday this Friday.

Mr. Stanzel said Mr. Bush’s daughters and parents and his wife, Laura, would attend.

As Mr. Bush said of Mrs. Bush, “Laura sends her love — she would be with me, but I told her to fire up the grill.”
Heaven forbid that President Photo Op should be denied the opportunity to enjoy leisure time that cannot be afforded to the service people he has sent into the Iraq inferno.

Well, since this utterly empty vessel knows nothing of war (or the people fighting it), please allow me to communicate the following excerpt from this USA Today article, with an appropriate twist to the above scenario…

Sean Huze, a Marine corporal awaiting discharge at Camp Lejeune, N.C., doesn't have (post traumatic stress disorder) but says everyone who saw combat suffers from at least some combat stress. He says the unrelenting insurgent threat in Iraq gives no opportunity to relax, and combat numbs the senses and emotions.

"There is no 'front,' " Huze says. "You go back to the rear, at the Army base in Mosul, and you go in to get your chow, and the chow hall blows up."

Huze, 30, says the horror often isn't felt until later. "I saw a dead child, probably 3 or 4 years old, lying on the road in Nasiriyah," he says. "It moved me less than if I saw a dead dog at the time. I didn't care. Then you come back, if you are fortunate enough, and hold your own child, and you think of the dead child you didn't care about. ... You think about how little you cared at the time, and that hurts."

Smells bring back the horror. "A barbecue pit — throw a steak on the grill, and it smells a lot like searing flesh," he says. "You go to get your car worked on, and if anyone is welding, the smell of the burning metal is no different than burning caused by rounds fired at it. It takes you back there instantly."
And this cretin actually celebrates a birthday tomorrow – I’m still waiting for his response to this post, and I know I’d better keep waiting.

The Apologists Go Forth

I’m probably going to be either linking to or excerpting part of this great, if lengthy, post by Hunter at The Daily Kos concerning Dubya’s pardon of Scooter Libby for a long time to come. This is especially true since I expect a torrent of material in the vein of this dreck from Ron Fournier of Time far into the future.

We might as well get used to it now, since the muck will only get deeper. Here is how it began in the Time column…

"This commutation sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It was a brazen statement from a woman entangled in many Clinton White House scandals, including the final one: On his last day in office, President Clinton granted 140 pardons and 36 commutations, many of them controversial.

One of those pardoned was Marc Rich, who had fled the country after being indicted for tax evasion and whose wife had donated more than $1 million to Democratic causes.

Clinton's half brother, Roger, who was convicted of distributing cocaine and lobbied the White House on behalf of others, also received a pardon.

Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham, was paid tens of thousands of dollars in his successful bid to win pardons for a businessman under investigation for money laundering and a commutation for a convicted drug trafficker. Her other brother, Tony, lobbied successfully for clemency on behalf of a couple convicted of bank fraud.
Concerning the pardon of Marc Rich, Clinton provided eight reasons for the pardon here, and even though I think some of the reasons are specious, it shows a hell of a lot more gray area than the Libby pardon (with Rich’s pardon coming at the end of Clinton’s presidency, so the only influence Rich or his wife Denise could have exerted would be pertaining to Clinton’s presidential library).

And as noted here, Henry Waxman held a hearing on the Rich pardon and noted that Bush Sr. pardoned financier Armand Hammer not long after receiving a campaign contribution, though I know of no one who has pointed that out (and I also know of few people who pointed out Poppy’s pardon of the Iran-Contra crooks, which also took place at the end of Sr.’s term, like Rich’s pardon by Clinton - and by the way, I won't wait breathlessly for the Repugs to request a hearing on the Libby pardon or else I will surely suffocate).

And by the way (as noted here), Roger Clinton was pardoned after he served his entire sentence for drug charges the decade before (and “lobbying the White House on behalf of others” is definitely not a crime, and there were pardons proposed by Roger Clinton denied by the president, as noted here – some truly sleazy editing going on here by Time). And when someone can tell me that Hugh Rodham and HRC’s brother Tony were accused and/or convicted of a crime for lobbying on behalf of their clients, please let me know; I’ve searched extensively and I haven’t been able to find anything to support that.

As Hunter noted in his Kos post, Dubya, by commuting Libby’s sentence (the official pardon will come later) and thus condoning his obstruction of justice, basically derailed an investigation by Patrick Fitzgerald into what quite likely was a felony committed by the office of Dick Cheney in outing a covert spy. And this was an investigation into Dubya’s administration in the middle of his second term, not at the end of his presidency.

The contempt Dubya showed for the verdict of the jury and the sentence imposed by Judge Reggie Walton could not be more obvious. The only way Clinton could have measured up to this would have been if he’d sought the removal of special prosecutor and pornographer Kenneth Starr in the middle of the Monica Whatsername investigation (totally deserved, but it would have been a tacit admission of guilt on Clinton’s part).

Pretend Democrat Michael Kinsley weighed in with similar sentiments in today’s New York Times, which are equally uninformed and erroneous. Only the Libby pardon stands as a power grab by Dubya to bring the judiciary totally under heel in subservience to his criminal regime – mentioning anything else in a similar context is ridiculous. Aside from The Saturday Night Massacre, nothing else stands in comparison (pointed out by Keith Olbermann in his appropriately scathing Special Comment here – I believe he also pointed out that Libby has a legal defense fund of about $5 million, so he won’t have to pay any of the $250 K fine either).

"Losing The Signal" On Net Neutrality

This describes a highly discouraging development about which we were notified last night (h/t Thers at Eschaton).

There are still 10 days left to tell the FCC to support Net Neutrality, but with Deborah Platt Majoras and the FTC bailing out, it does not bode well (and when you read her position on Net Neutrality here, it sounds like she never really was “on board” with it anyway, and smooth move by the Bushies to leak this “oh, by the way” news release when we were all celebrating yesterday).

Another monument to failure from Bushco…

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Let's Make Our Own Fireworks

There's about an hour left here on the East Coast, so there's still time to sneak this in today from (I got this on Tuesday)...

Dear MoveOn member,

You've probably seen the news this morning: President Bush let Cheney aide Scooter Libby, the one man who was convicted for the lies around the Iraq war, go free. Paris Hilton served more jail time than he will.

Bush and Cheney think their administration is above the law. That's un-American, and this July 4th it's time for Congress to re-assert its constitutional authority and stop the administration's obstruction of justice.

Congress can start by demanding answers from the Bush administration about the Iraq war and their illegal spying program, and not backing down until they get them. Cheney won't testify? Subpoena him. He won't come? Hold him in contempt of Congress and send over the police. And if that doesn't work, impeach the guy. We just can't let President Bush and his administration dismantle our Constitution.

This July 4th, it's time to bring checks and balances back again. Click here to sign the petition and send a message to Congress to act now (click

Then please send this message to your friends, family, and others who would be interested. This issue has everyone outraged—only 32 percent of Republicans agree with the president's decision.1

This isn't just about the Bush administration, of course. Law is determined through precedent. If Congress doesn't rein the Bush administration in, it'll change the rules for every administration that comes after.

And letting Libby off the hook is only the most recent example of a consistent Bush administration pattern of obstruction of justice.

When their illegal program of warrantless wiretapping was revealed, the Bush administration refused to answer subpoenas from Congress to testify about what, precisely, they were doing. When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales—the nation's highest law-enforcement officer—testified in front of Congress under oath, he lied and said the program didn't exist.2

And in retrospect, it's clear what Bush meant when he said this about the Plame case back in 2003: "[I]f there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."3 Last night, Bush certainly took care of Scooter Libby.

On Sunday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy said he would hold Cheney and others in the administration in contempt of Congress if they refused to directly answer questions. Members of Congress are asserting their authority and standing up.

But they need to know the American people are behind them. Can you take a moment to click
this link and send that message right now?

As they say in civics class, America is a country of laws, not of men. It's time for Congress to stand up and use them.

Let's celebrate Independence Day by reaffirming the basic, founding idea of our government: No one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.

Thanks for all you do.

–Eli, Matt, Karin, Wes, and the Political Action Team
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007


1. "Survey USA: 60% Opposed to Commutation,", July 2, 2007

2. "Gonzales Is Challenged on Wiretaps," Washington Post, January 31, 2006

3. "President Discusses Job Creation With Business Leaders," Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 30, 2003

Support our member-driven organization: Political Action is entirely funded by our 3.2 million members. We have no corporate contributors, no foundation grants, no money from unions. Our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. If you'd like to support our work, you can give now

MOVEON.ORG POLITICAL ACTION, not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
And here's Hunter's great post once more.

Happy Fourth

I hope everyone has a good holiday. I just have two items: this from Plutonium Page at The Daily Kos about the dangers still faced by the American Bald Eagle, and the following new video from Eva at Peace Takes Courage (nausea warning - it begins with President Stupid Head and his awful quote).

"Billary," Huh?

I swear, the Inky is just too damn funny sometimes (unintentionally, of course - this appeared today).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Puddle Of Mudd ("Control" - I've always wanted to do that, with the keys I mean)...

...and pop diva Laura Brannigan would have been 50 today ("Self-Control," possibly the trippiest and one of the most suggestive music videos of the '80s...unwittingly following a theme here with these selections).

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment (7/3/07)

I would say that he captures what is going on with Dubya and Cheney here regarding Scooter Libby in about a hundred posts worth of language (h/t Atrios).

(And in a related story, I heard Corey Flintof of NPR tonight introduce this story and its fallout by comparing this to Poppy's pardon of the Iran-Contra crooks and Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich; please excuse me while my head now explodes.)

Update 7/4: This is the post by Hunter that Prof. Marcus referred to in his comment to the Happy Fourth post - I think it's more appropriate to link to it here.

This Scare Terra Headline Speaks Volumes

Boy, the supposed “paper of record” is having one really bad day.

Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher notes here that Michael Gordon of the Times is back again to do his “steno” thing for the military as he did back during the runup to the Iraq war (with help from Judy! Judy! Judy! also, of course).

This time, of course, you can just substitute the “q” in the country name for an “n.”

As Gordon “reports” today (along with writer John F. Burns)…

Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, the military spokesman here, said an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a force under the control of Iran’s most powerful religious leaders, had used veterans of the Lebanese Islamic militia group Hezbollah as a “proxy” to train, arm and plan attacks by an array of Shiite militant cells in Iraq.

One high-ranking Hezbollah commander from Lebanon was captured in Basra in March, and after weeks of pretending that he could not hear or speak, he gave American interrogators details of the Iranian role, the general said.
And who was this ever-so-helpful Hezbollah commander?

Much of the briefing centered on the captured Hezbollah agent, known to the American command as “Hamid the Mute” because Hamid was part of the false name he gave after his capture and because of the weeks he spent after his capture pretending that he could not speak or hear. The man, identified as Ali Musa Daqduq, was said by General Bergner to be a Lebanese citizen with a 24-year history in Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group based in southern Lebanon.
And how exactly did we find out about the Iranian role from “Hamid the Mute”?

The official said the shift had been achieved without harming Mr. Daqduq. “We don’t torture,” the official said. “We follow scrupulously the interrogation techniques in the Army’s new field manual, which forbids torture, and has the force of law.”
I sometimes wonder how stupid some in our military and political command, to say nothing of our corporate media, think we really are (I know I’m covering some of what Mitchell has already pointed out).

So we’re just supposed to assume that after a few weeks of perfectly legal detention, “Hamid the Mute” (wasn’t that the name of Terry Jones’ old man character hiding behind the bush in “Life of Brian”? ...smirk) just spontaneously started passing notes to us telling us that, yes, he really can talk and intends to be ever so cooperative in linking Iran to the catastrophe in Iraq?

This administration (and, apparently, The Times also, since it’s still shilling for Bushco) apparently wants war with Iraq in the worst way (and if you think Iraq is catastrophic, and it is, it would be exponentially worse against Iran, with a strong military and an ever-more-sophisticated nuclear capability, to say nothing of the stupidity of us even contemplating war with our depleted forces).

Is Iran capable of dirty work like this? Of course, and of course they would deny it. But given the record of this administration when it comes to lies and evasions prior to and during war, why should be believe them or anyone in the military “beating the war drum” for them?

(Looks like my "A" list "betters", including Atrios, were all over this already and I'm just echoing them...that's OK.)

How We Got Here (7/3/07)

I started this in March, and to follow up, here's more from Bob Woodward’s “State Of Denial,” the third book in his "Bush At War" series.

And to make it easier to go back and read prior posts related to Woodward's book, I set up an index page of sorts here.

I should note that I finished reading this book over my vacation, and it is a great work by Woodward, though I still think he should have written it two books ago. Unlike anything else in my experience, it is a profile of cronyism, incompetence, groupthink-run-amok and generally way too many people afraid to tell other people the truth, apparently because they would soil their comfortable Washington nests, as it were, with the genuine tragedy being that our fine service people, as well as other coalition force members and innocent Iraqis, have paid the price for it.

Since this is my last post based on this book, I think it is only appropriate that it be centered on the person more responsible than anyone else for our nightmare in Iraq, and that would be none other than Donald H. (“The Defense Secretary You Have”) Rumsfeld.

There is so much to despise about this man in his former job that it’s hard to summarize it; the typical Bushco hubris, intimidation, blind certainty, resistance to facts that challenge preconceived notions…it just goes on and on and on (and to think he’s shopping around for an advance on a possible book deal – it is truly almost too much to bear).

And there weren’t too many times when Rummy was shown up, not nearly as many times as there should have been, but this passage describes one of them (I didn’t know Ken Adelman was as knowledgeable on Iraq as he is portrayed here, by the way).

pp. 431-434

The defense policy board, the outside senior group of advisers for Rumsfeld that included Kissinger, Newt Gingrich and Ken Adelman, met at the Pentagon for two days of closed-door briefings on December 8 and 9 (2005). During the first day, Ryan Henry, a top Rumsfeld deputy, briefed on the Quadrennial Defense Review, the detailed strategy for the U.S. military over the next 20 years. Rumsfeld thought this was one of his greatest accomplishments – a blueprint for the future. Midway through a long PowerPoint briefing with slides and charts, Henry paused. “The good news is that not one defense program had to be cut,” he said.

“Well, why is that good news?” Adelman interrupted. It was unusual to break in. “A Strategic review for four years since the war on terrorism began, since 9/11 happened, since the world is different and there wasn’t one program you could eliminate?”

Henry said that everyone in the building – civilians and those in uniform – had decided nothing had to be cut.

“I’m sorry I interrupted,” Adelman said, “but I just find it incredible.”

The next day, the board met with Rumsfeld, who was proud of the in-depth review, which included plans to increase Special Operations Forces by some 15 percent and to add sophisticated programs to fight terrorism and to deal with weapons of mass destruction.

“I think Ken has a different view on that,” said Chris Williams, a defense contractor and lobbyist who was board chairman. Dissent was unusual.

“What’s that?” asked Rumsfeld tartly of the man he had wanted to run his presidential campaign 20 years earlier.
(Think about that for a minute – Rummy as President; truly the stuff of nightmares, even more than what we have already.)

Adelman, exasperated, said that after four years of work, after 9/11, and after all the efforts at transformation, with Rumsfeld spending maybe a quarter of his time with the QDR, and the deputy up to half his time, “I find it incredible that nothing is going to be cut.”

“Who told you that?”

Adelman at first didn’t want to single out Ryan Henry, so he said maybe he had misunderstood.

“Who said that?” Rumsfeld pressed.

“Ryan Henry sitting right there told us that,” Adelman said, pointing to Henry, who was sitting in the back, off to the side.

“The review isn’t over,” Rumsfeld said.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought it was going to the printer.”

“Well, the president hasn’t signed off.”

“If it’s going to the printer,” Adelman said, “whether the president’s signed off or not, it seems pretty far along.”

“All right,” Rumsfeld challenged. “Supposing it doesn’t have any cuts.”

“I think it’s astonishing,” Adelman said. “The whole world has changed. This was supposed to be the new Pentagon.”

Rumsfeld gazed at Adelman, clearly furious. He said that everyone in the building had agreed. “We all get along,” he added. “Sometimes you don’t need to cut and there was no reason to cut.”

An hour later the policy board was talking about the briefing they had received from (Generals John) Abizaid and (George) Casey. Both had said they were making progress in Iraq and things seemed to be going well.

“Again I think Ken has a different attitude,” Williams said.

“What’s that?” Rumsfeld inquired.

Adelman said that Casey had reported that military personnel – officers and enlisted – were being rotated out of Iraq about every nine months or less, on average. “When you look at history, I don’t know of any counterinsurgency that’s won by a country that rotates people out every six to nine months.”

“We’re not rotating all the people out,” Rumsfeld said. “We have Casey there.”

“I’m not talking about that,” Adelman said. “I’m talking about the people.”

“Let me tell you the reason for that,” Rumsfeld replied, describing Army and Marine recruiting and promotions.

“I’m not talking about what the Army wants to do and what the Marines want to do,” Adelman said. “What I’m talking about is winning the war. I don’t know any counterinsurgency that wins on a strategy like that.”

“Well, I think you’ve got it wrong because a lot of the soldiers go back in the theater for a second tour,” Rumsfeld said.

“What do you mean by theater?” Adelman asked.

“The CENTCOM theater.”

“Oh, so they go back to Afghanistan. That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Well, some of them go back to Iraq.”

“Okay, but do they go back to the neighborhood they were in? What are the chances of that?”

“Almost never,” the secretary answered honestly.

“Well, that’s my point.”

“What’s your point?”

“They have to know who to pay off,” Adelman said. “They have to know whom to deal with. They have to know whom to maneuver. And that’s tough sledding. That takes time. Six months, they know nothing. Nine months?”

Rumsfeld screwed up his face. He cited a recent study showing that most of the casualties came in the first months.

“That reinforces my point,” Adelman said.

“It does,” Rumsfeld conceded.

Gingrich said that even though a fortune in executive manpower had been spent on the QDR strategy review, “None of that matters.”

Rumsfeld looked at him uncomfortably.

“Only Iraq really matters,” the former speaker continued. He said that the measure of seriousness was the 132 days it took to go from Ambassador (John) Negroponte to Ambassador Khalilzad. Iraq was only “the most important country in the world that all of American foreign policy hinges on,” he added sarcastically.
(Yeah, Newt sure is a funny guy. What a shame he had a problem with defending our country when it was his turn.)

After the meeting, Adelman ran into Rumsfeld in the Pentagon hallway. Rumsfeld indicated he wanted to talk further.

“See you,” said Adelman.
It would almost qualify as a comedy routine if all of it weren’t so tragic (and how ridiculous is it that Woodward has to point out a moment when Rumsfeld answers a question honestly?).

Meanwhile, the beat goes on…

Update 7/4: Just because Adelman knows more than I thought, it doesn't mean he still isn't a liar and an idiot (TP needs another pic, though).

I'll Say It Again: Fire Elaine Chao

Before I say another word here, a hat tip goes out to commenter Software for bringing this to my attention.

I don’t know if anyone else out there reads Parade Magazine which appears in many Sunday newspapers, but there is a section called “Intelligence Report” in Parade that I used to check on, though I’d given up over the last few weeks since I thought the column was discontinued.

Well, I was wrong. And in the issue from last Sunday, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was quoted as follows…

You could lose your job to a foreign worker—not because he’s cheaper but because he has better workplace skills and discipline. That’s the message Labor Secretary Elaine Chao hears from U.S. executives who are worried about America’s competitive future. While losses are low thus far—one study estimates that only 280,000 jobs in the service industry out of 115 million are outsourced each year—that could change. Beyond the cheaper cost of labor, U.S. employers say that many workers abroad simply have a better attitude toward work. “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene,” says Chao. “They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.”
It’s hard for me to properly state how truly repugnant these words are.

Let’s see – Chao and her Labor Department sanction agreements that allow employers to fire whistle-blowing employees (as noted here), including Matthew Zipoli of Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, which develops nukes (nice), and the Wonkette link from this post appropriately describes her “dragon lady” behavior.

Also, here’s a link that shows Chao (the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in case anyone had forgotten, and I wonder who "wears the pants" in that relationship?) telling everyone how good Bushco’s record is on job creation (and amazingly, her nose doesn’t grow at all when she does so). And for more idiocy in a related vein, here’s a recent Steve Chapman column telling us how great the economy is (this nonsense appeared in the Inquirer – surprised? – and I love it when pundits write about the rest of us poor souls without even bothering to talk to us but instead are fed words from someone at places like AEI instead).

Update: Someone should tell these young men and women to just mind their business and read Chapman instead, because that way they wouldn't be making such a commotion over the fact that they don't have jobs (registration required, I think...and I'm being tongue-in-cheek here of course).

Not knowing how completely to respond to what Chao said aside from posting about it, I contacted Patrick Murphy to see if he would speak out in response to this vile behavior.

I suggest that you contact your elected representatives and ask them to do the same thing (this tells you how to reach your members of Congress).

Fire Elaine Chao right now!

Bobo Bloviates As Scooter Skates

As the stench from the commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence continues to emanate from Washington and waft in every direction, who else but David Brooks of the New York Times should come along to thoroughly fluff Dubya for saving one of this cabal’s crooked operatives?

There is so much garbage to refute in Brooks’ column today (Times Select of course - imagine having to pay to read this crap) that I don’t think I could do it properly with at least three separate posts. However, I will do the best I can devoting only one to this chore (freeper “water wet, sky blue” stuff I know from this clown here, but it can’t go unanswered).

Brooks begins by describing Plamegate as “a farce in five acts – the first four were scabrous, disgraceful and absurd. Justice only reared its head at the end.”


“Mr. Wilson claimed that his wife had nothing to do with his trip to investigate Iraqi purchases in Niger, though that seems not to have been the case. He claimed his trip proved that Iraq made no such attempts, though his own report said nothing of the kind.”
Here is a link to the Times column that Wilson wrote almost four years ago to the day that got Bushco so PO’ed (and as far as the issue of who sent Wilson is concerned, an utterly meaningless point that only the most die-hard of freepers care about, Wilson tells us this)…

After consulting with the State Department's African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.
And regarding alleged “Iraqi purchases in Niger,” as Brooks put it…

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium (yellowcake, a form of lightly processed ore) sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
Brooks also slanders Wilson by referring to him as “an inveterate huckster.” Here is a Source Watch link that provides the real story (including this)…

"Joseph C. Wilson, IV served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council from June 1997 until July 1998, responsible for the coordination of U.S. policy to the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. He was a principal architect of President Bill Clinton's historic trip to Africa in March 1998 and a leading proponent of the Africa Trade Bill.

"Wilson was the Political Advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of United States Armed Forces, Europe, 1995-1997. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe from 1992 to 1995. From 1988 to 1991, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. During 'Desert Shield' he was the acting Ambassador and was responsible for the freeing of several hundred American hostages. He was the last official American to meet with Saddam Hussein before 'Desert Storm'."
Brooks then goes on to castigate those, including yours truly by association, who appropriately voiced outrage over the baldly partisan political act of outing a covert spy to get revenge on that spy’s husband who had the temerity to challenge Bushco’s highly specious claim about Iraq’s uranium purchase; he also makes a veiled reference to Judith Miller’s imprisonment (and what exactly does that have to do with Libby’s obstruction of an investigation by federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald?).

As I said, I have neither the time (nor the desire, actually) to sift through all of Brooks’s misrepresentation and garbage here (including his character assault on Fitzgerald and the trial judge in the case, Reggie Walton), but I will leave you with Brooks’s final words…

The farce is over. It has no significance. Nobody but Libby’s family will remember it in a few weeks’ time. Everyone else will have moved onto other fiascos, other poses, fresher manias.
Here is a link to Patrick Fitzgerald’s reaction in which he notes that Judge Walton followed the sentencing guidelines reasonably in this case, and is actually supported in this by the ruling of the Hangin’ Judge J.R. Supreme Court in Rita v. United States.

And “nobody will remember it in a few weeks time”? Somehow, I think this will be remembered very well on Election Day next November.

And I know some are probably tired of watching this Bill Maher clip about Valerie Plame again, but I think it puts all of this into perspective beautifully.

Josh Marshall also weighs in here (h/t Atrios).

(Also, I was so busy dealing with Brooks that I missed this item in the Times caught by Devilstower at The Daily Kos.)

Update 7/6: This is why David Corn gets paid for this and I don't.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday Videos

In an effort to try and forget about the Scooter Libby mess, let's wish a Happy Birthday to Professor Roy Bittan of Bruce Springsteen's "E" Street Band ("41 Shots," about the Amadou Diallo murder; probably not the best example I could use since you can't hear Bittan on the piano, but embedding was disallowed for a couple of my other choices, and I don't know what's going on with the head shot at 5:59 either)...

(On second thought, this is probably a better choice.)

...and as a tribute to Beverly Sills, here is her famous duet with Alan Titus and Henry Price from "Il Barbiere Di Siviglia" (I'll admit that I don't get opera, but I know great singing and acting - R.I.P.).

Told Ya'

What else can we expect from “The Decider,” an individual who continually believes that he is above the law? Who continually believes that Congress and the courts exist only to execute his dictates?

(I realize I might as well be talking about Darth Cheney also, but for now, I’m referring to Dubya.)

Yep, I saw this coming (probably a lot of other people also, and as CNN notes, Libby may be pardoned outright anyway).

(Here's the statement roundup from Atrios - I think the phrase "clinically incapable" from Edwards is apropos.)

Where "Do No Harm" Is Impossible

Some of my “A” list betters have noted that this is the fourth anniversary of Dubya’s “Bring ‘em on” quote to the terrorists while the Iraq war had only been waged for a couple of months in 2003 (after “formal hostilities” had ended, of course – and we knew we’d won because of the scripted fall of Saddam Hussein’s statue, a shamelessly manufactured media moment intended for immediate consumption back home).

In my quest to find some story or some means of comment that I thought was appropriate, I came across this from The Boston Globe about the opening of a brand-new, 107,000-square-foot hospital at Balad Air Base to replace the Air Force Theater Hospital, a sprawling complex of tents that, to date, has housed Iraq’s premier trauma center (a place where our service people, as well as innocent Iraqis and insurgents alike, have received care primarily as a result of the latter group “bringing it on” in response to Dubya’s comment; it’s tough to choose the stupidest thing he has ever said during his presidency, but that may be it).

Though the construction of the hospital is bound to be positive, I found these comments to be worrisome…

At a time when no target date has been set for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, the new Balad hospital looks ready for an extended U.S. stay.

"It'll be good for 10 years, depending on how well you take care of it," said Col. Brian Masterson, the hospital commander.
Kind of brings to mind Hawkeye's comment of disgust to B.J. when they received all of those tongue depressors which Hawkeye eventually made into a tower before he blew it up for the "Stars N' Stripes" reporter, meaning they would have casualties far into the future (work with me on this, OK?).

The U.S. command had vetoed a proposal for a $43 million "brick-and-mortar" hospital to replace the tents, to avoid giving the U.S. military presence too permanent a look, Masterson said. The new facility also wasn't designed for eventual handover to Iraq's health care system, he said.
I have to admit that I found the preceding to be an interesting paragraph by Charles J. Hanley of the AP. On the one hand, he’s telling us that we didn’t want to make it appear as if we were going to be there permanently, but in the next sentence, he says that we’re not going to hand the new facility over to “Iraq’s health care system.”

How appropriate to hear that sort of lunatic logic concerning this much-needed facility (it sounds like something I’d expect Hawkeye or Trapper to say after drinking too many martinis from their still in The Swamp that, using my imagination, probably tasted more like lighter fluid than anything else – hey, if the writer is going to draw comparisons to “M.A.S.H.,” make them apropos, OK?).

Our "Chicken" Immigration Policy

I know I took a shot at Mike Chertoff already today, but this is over a different issue.

As noted here, he politely chided Senate Repugs who derailed the immigration bill last week, saying that “it would be difficult for the government to crack down on illegal workers.”

This of course is all a gift to the Dems as I previously noted because the Repugs totally let their knuckle-dragging, hammerhead “base” all gather around their radios tuned to talk (hate) radio and their TV sets that have their channels locked forever to FOX so they could listen to their preferred demagogues vent about how horrible it would be to provide a path to citizenship for these people, even though the vast majority of this country supports such a path.

Well, if Chertoff were serious about punishing illegal immigrants, to say nothing of the employers who hire them, he could follow up on other companies besides IFCO Systems North American. As noted here, he could actually investigate mega beef and poultry producer Tyson Foods, for example (hence the post title).

I believe post author Jim Kouri makes a good point when he wonders why Chertoff and DHS aren’t “swarming all over” Tyson plants that the company closes because the suspected illegals are participating in protests, boycotts, and demonstrations (not contesting the right of the illegals to participate, but they should know the risks if they do).

Or does Chertoff keep away from Tyson because the company has been a big campaign donor to both Dubya and the Clintons (hey, they’re allowed to donate to whomever and do whatever is legally allowed, but if they’re harboring illegals, they and any other company that does so should be prosecuted).

I thought this excerpt spoke volumes…

As part of its mission to ensure national security, DHS is charged with enforcing the laws requiring employers to employ only individuals authorized to work in the United States. The Form I-9 requirement stems from Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act and implementing regulations, which require all U.S. employers (including agricultural associations or employers who recruit or refer persons for employment for a fee) to verify on the Form I-9 the identity and employment eligibility of all employees -- including U.S. citizens -- hired to work in the United States after November 6, 1986.

Completed Forms I-9 are not filed with the federal government. Instead, they must be retained by the employer in its own files and made available for inspection by DHS, the Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, or the Department of Labor for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date the employee's employment is terminated, whichever is later.

Recruiters or referrers for a fee are required to retain the Form I-9 records for three years after the date of the hire. Failure to properly complete and retain the Form I-9 subjects the employer to civil penalties ranging from $110 to $1,100. Hardly a penalty for companies making millions of dollars in profits due to low wages paid to illegal aliens.
So, Mr. Secretary, I would suggest you do some more work on the enforcement end of this equation before you decide to lecture Congress on its role in this boondoggle, because, even though you have a point, this mess was created by the poor-to-nonexistent adherence to existing law regarding the illegals. And now that they’re here and likely to stay for awhile, all you, your party’s politicians and your Repug constituents can do is scream at each other over it.

Patrick And The War

This “Thumbs Up” editorial citation on behalf of Patrick Murphy appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times on Saturday…

To Congressman Patrick Murphy for demonstrating his continuing commitment to fiscal responsibility by voting against a congressional pay raise.

During his campaign, Murphy pledged not to vote for a raise until the minimum wage was increased. And although President Bush signed that increase into law last month, Murphy maintained that, “we are a nation at war and a nation in debt. We all need to do our part to tighten our belts.”

The vote was on a motion to call for an up or down vote on the pay raise since the increase is automatic. The motion failed and the raise was awarded anyway, but Murphy has pledged to donate his raise to charity.

Murphy has said all along that he is a fiscal conservative, further enhanced by his membership in the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, whose main focus is promoting fiscal responsibility and greater accountability for taxpayer money. As always, we’re glad to see some independence from Murphy and hope he continues to stand up for his convictions, even when they don’t jibe with the majority.
This letter also appeared in the same issue of the paper…

Since the death of our son, PFC Robert H. Dembowski Jr. of the 82nd Airborne on May 24th, we have been overcome with grief. However, our neighbors, community and friends have supported and consoled us with their words, tears, prayers and actions.

There are so many people, many of whom we don’t even know, from up the street and across the country and even around the world, whose kindness has comforted and amazed us. Our son would be touched by all of these gestures. He would appreciate all of these folks helping us in our time of sorrow.

We pray that God will give us all the strength to live the best life we can and to allow peace to thrive in a world that was meant to be peaceful.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Dembowski Sr. and Family
Ivyland, PA
Our sympathies and condolences go out to the Dembowski family, as well as the families of any casualties from this stupid war.

And speaking of the Iraq mess, I thought this Guest Opinion that appeared in the Courier Times the same day as the previous two items was quite eloquent; I hope you agree (and Pat Wandling, by the way, is a totally bald-faced Repug partisan).

Today's Terra Update

Aside from the fact that the terrorist threat level remains at “orange” from Mike (“City of Louisiana”) Chertoff and the DHS, where it has been for over a year (can we at least have a hint as to why?), I really don’t understand the point of this story (and I love the fact that it’s basically composed of quotes and paraphrasing from an interview Chertoff gave to Fox; is CNN now in the business of promoting News Corporation also?).

Here is a story from the Times of London about the two attempted car bombings in that city along with the crash at the Glasgow Airport terminal (and I thought this item at the very end of the story was interesting, but not surprising)…

Sources also denied a report from the US that America had warned British intelligence two weeks ago of a plot to attack Glasgow airport.
I suppose the Brits are referring to this; I don’t know if the issue is that the warnings came from previously-discredited sources but we didn’t realize that or that we didn’t think it was necessary to share the warnings with the UK “for operational reasons.”

(Here's more from Atrios/Josh Marshall.)

Grasping, Fixated and...Beyond Stupid

Based on today’s fluff piece on Dubya in the Washington Post (noted by BarbinMD of The Daily Kos here), I was inspired to recall this moment from about 10 years ago (manufactured by me, I’ll admit)…

At a difficult moment in his presidency, Bill Clinton is looking for answers.

“He’s a bit perplexed, I believe,” said Vice President Al Gore. “I mean, look, we’ve done all we can to make government more accountable by
launching the first official White House web site and making other federal agencies, the U.S. court system and the military develop sites of their own. We’ve also created 11 million new jobs, and we’re doing all we can to help pass McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. On top of that, we’re on target not only to balance the federal budget, but return a surplus to the treasury.”

“So what is going on? You have The Washington Post
running a front-page story of FBI agents and prosecutors working for ‘independent’ counsel Kenneth Starr talking to about 12-15 women he supposedly knew in Arkansas about an alleged extramarital affair, including someone named Paula Jones, and the president has said that he doesn’t recall ever meeting her.”

To an extent, Clinton walks off the criticism. “He does a very good job of keeping out the extreme things in his life,” according to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “He’s stubborn. He’s loyal to his philosophy.”
If our corporate media had any standards of decency or fairness, they would have actually published something along the lines of what I concocted above.

Every time I think the punditocracy can’t possibly sink any lower in its efforts to make President Nutball look quasi-legitimate, they manage to do so (really can’t add anything else to what Barbin MD or Lithium Cola said, but only emphasize how transparent the motives are of Dubya’s enablers as circumstances around him spin further and further out of control).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More Gun Cowardice

From last Tuesday's Bucks County Courier Times...

One major newspaper calls the Tiahrt Amendment the Senate's "most pernicious gift to the gun lobby."

The description is right on target for a measure that restricts the access of local law enforcement agencies to vital gun-crime data.

Scheduled to come up for a renewal vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee today, the amendment is the darling of the weapons industry and a favorite of the National Rifle Association.

Kansas Republican Todd Tiahrt introduced the rider to the annual Department of Justice appropriations bill in 2003, arguing that restrictions were necessary to protect the gun industry from nuisance lawsuits by cities such as Philadelphia and New York.

Among its other provisions, the amendment says police and other investigators cannot request information on whether a gun owner has bought other firearms that have been used in a crime.

Several Pennsylvania police chiefs or public safety directors have joined hundreds of their colleagues across the country in criticizing this misguided effort and seeking its repeal.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives maintains a database that could help law enforcement agencies develop effective strategies against gun trafficking and illegal guns.

In a letter, the crime fighters argue persuasively that limiting the bureau's ability to disclose this data ties their hands while protecting corrupt gun dealers.

In the post-9/11 era, when sharing information is an imperative and not a luxury, the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment takes on special urgency. We urge Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, a key player in this issue, to stand against the gun lobby and for law enforcement.
The Courier Times was spot-on, absolutely right here. Unfortunately, Specter chickened out, though he had a lot of company.

(And by the way, to point out what an idiot Tiahrt is, to say nothing of being an NRA shill, here is a link to a post describing his opposition to an HIV needle-exchange program, fighting it on the grounds that, in his opinion, it encourages drug use. I have a feeling, though, that if I dug a bit deeper, I'd probably find that Tiahrt votes in lockstep with the wingnuts regarding their agenda on everything.)

And on top of that, a great big raspberry goes out to Kansas TV station KWCH which refused to air an ad paid for by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg opposing Tiahrt's amendment that would run in Tiahrt's district, as noted in the Gun Guys post above (all peas in the same unholy pod, apparently).

The Senate Appropriations Committee, as noted here, passed the so-called Shelby Amendment by Dem-turncoat-turned-Repug Richard Shelby that ended up reinstating the Tiahrt Amendment into the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill after it was removed by Dem senator Barbara Mikulski (I guess that sort of slight of hand is how people wearing business attire manage to act like criminals while convincing some people that they're "solid citizens").

And in addition to the usual Repug suspects, the following Dems covered themselves with this muck by supporting Tiahrt-Shelby: Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV), Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE).

As the Courier Times so correctly stated, sharing gun-crime data is vital if we're going to defend ourselves against threats of terrorism, to say nothing of trying to save our cities (and to find out about the huge amount of opposition to the Tiahrt Amendment that they noted, click here; the Philadelphia Inquirer is noticeably absent on the list of newspapers running anti-Tiahrt editorials, by the way). Still, though, our politicians caved in fear of the NRA, worrying about attack gun ads from this bunch as well as a loss of campaign funds.

And as far as PA goes, I think the only thing we can say is, "Heckuva job, Arlen."

Update 7/2: Here's more from the New York Times.

Update 7/17: Fair is fair, and I should have pointed out earlier that the Inquirer did write an editorial opposing the Tiahrt Amendment here (registration may be required).