Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Videos

Happy 62nd Birthday (oy) to Van Morrison ("Caravan" with The Band from "The Last Waltz" in 1977)...

...Happy Birthday also to Greg Richling of The Wallflowers ("Sleepwalker")...

...Happy 68th Birthday to Jerry Allison, one of Buddy Holly's "Crickets" (so named because they thought they heard them when recording in the studio - "Oh Boy," from 1958, introduced by Ed Sullivan)...

...Happy Birthday also to Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze ("Another Nail In My Heart" from 1980)...

...and virtuoso jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton left us five years ago today (here's "Vibe Boogie," performed with his band - nice hat; what time does the yacht set sail? Seriously - sort of - let's all swing it just a bit as the summer draws to a close...waaaaahhhh!)...

...oh, and a Happy Birthday to Dan Rather also (speaking candidly with Bill Maher last March about journalists; yeah, the Burkett thing was a mess, but apparently the pinup Katie doll flew over to Iraq for a touchy-feely "news" segment that hopefully won't get her interview subjects killed, and that's supposed to be "stop the presses" time? Rather did stuff like that - and much more dangerous - throughout his that, and an important last word from Maher about what we've sacrificed under Bushco).

A Corporate Media Request

Yes, I know that this marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of one of the most obscene media orgies I, for one, have ever witnessed (and I don’t mean to trivialize the related human tragedy that touched the whole world by saying so).

I have not forgotten that Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997.

Given that, and the attention that it has generated today, I would ask in my humility and naïveté that every time an event, circumstance, or political/social/economic development of one type or another is reported affecting this country and the world, it is covered as thoroughly as Diana’s death.

I’d like to see a pro and con analysis of the policies on health coverage in this country, the economy, the environment, refugee crises throughout the world (and attendant to that, the Iraq war, of course), provided with the same depth and clarity which illuminated the fact that Henri Paul had consumed the equivalent of a medicine cabinet full of drugs before he totaled the Mercedes-Benz carrying Prince Charles’ ex, along with Dodi Fayed and Trevor Rees-Jones, inside the Pont d’Alma road tunnel.

I’d like to see the politicians of both of our political parties given the same analysis and scrutiny as was devoted to the conspiracy theories about the deaths of the three victims in the car that night (Rees-Jones survived, though not without extensive facial surgeries).

And I’d like to see the same heartfelt sentiment among all of us through our participation as citizens in our government (and never forget that it is our government), including a lively, informed, intelligent debate about the issues that affect our lives and those of our families, as was witnessed by the outpouring of flowers, songs, tears and reminiscences after the demise of the former Lady Diana Spencer.

If we’re really interested in paying tribute to her memory, I think that would be a good way to start.

Friday End-Of-Summer Mashup

I’m going to clean out my “in” bin a bit here; I had some stories that I’d planned to post about, but I don’t think I’m going to get to them all individually, so here they are…

  • This Inquirer story tells us about John Dunkle, a life form who has threatened doctors performing abortions in Philadelphia, Allentown and Reading, PA on an internet site.

    As the story notes…

    U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan alleged that Dunkle, 72, "encouraged his readers to kill a specific clinic physician by shooting her in the head."

    When reached by phone yesterday, Dunkle said he was not aware of the lawsuit and he would stop posting the offensive material if asked.

    "Oh yeah, if someone tells me to stop," he said. "You are not talking to a hero."
    I would say that that’s the understatement of the year.

  • Call me a “slime-snake-monkey-person” since I believe in evolution as science, I guess; this post from People For The American Way tells us that someone named Robert Bowie Johnson Jr. (the “Bowie” should have been a tipoff) who holds a general science degree from West Point, tells so-called Christians that people such as your humble narrator should be referred to as “mutants” for our beliefs.

    As kos would say “pot, meet kettle” (PFAW also tells us that just because we haven’t heard from crazy fundie ringleader James Dobson lately, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t doing anything; he and his zealots seem to be engaged in strong-arming state legislatures in an effort to enact their agenda, since they realize they are hopelessly in descent on the national stage).

    Also, I guess the only other science taught at West Point aside from military is the “junk” kind based on Johnson’s book.

  • Leave it to Tom Coburn to block final passage of a bill intended to curb the rate of military suicides in fear that the government’s record-keeping on troubled vets might somehow crimp their ability to purchase handguns, as this New York Times editorial from yesterday tells us.

    The Times adds the following…

    The senator’s office points to another bill near passage — prompted by the Virginia Tech gun massacre — that would encourage states to do a better job of listing mentally troubled individuals on the federal roll of risky gun purchasers. But tying these two measures together is itself evidence of defective reasoning, or at least scurrilous politicking. The Virginia Tech measure has nothing to do with veterans and affects only those Americans formally judged by a court to be mentally disturbed.

    It is an eminently good thing that the anti-suicide measure would require medical specialists to keep track of veterans found to be high risks for suicide. But that’s to care for them as human beings, under that other constitutional right — to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Respect for the grave sacrifices by veterans requires the Senate to strike down the Coburn ploy and hurry this vital measure to President Bush.
    I can’t anticipate anything happening to the bill except a veto given President Nutball’s fealty to the NRA, but miracles can occur every now and then.

  • God, I hope we never have a replay in this country of the Elian Gonzales mess, but if we do, it could be this case.

    Coral Gables, FL baseball agent Joe Cubas is the foster father of a 4-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy who were born in Cuba and taken from that country by their biological mother, Elena Perez, but she has been hospitalized with a mental illness. Now, the biological father in Cuba, Rafael Izquierdo, has apparently petitioned a Florida court for custody of the little girl.

    I’m not exactly sure why Izquierdo would want the daughter and not the son, which could be the case based on the story. The Department of Children and Families seems to want to keep the girl with the Cubas family.

    This is a tougher call than the Gonzales case because there are two kids involved this time. The biological father should come first when determining who should be the best provider; the fact that that was apparently forgotten in the Gonzales case infuriated me, if you want to know the truth. However, keeping both kids together in an environment they know where they can support each other (and the adoptive father has the means to provide for them) might ended up trumping Izquierdo’s request.

    The fact that I don’t have to deal with difficult stuff like this makes me glad I do what I do instead.
  • Where's Condi?

    Has it occurred to anyone else besides me that, with all of the departures from Bushco, many hightailing it ahead of a real or anticipated Congressional subpoena, one person has been missing from the headlines lately?

    Can anyone imagine the reason for the apparent news blackout regarding Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice?

    I wonder if this story has anything to do with it?

    It seems that Our Gal Condi was subpoenaed by two defendants indicted based on the 1917 Espionage Act; Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman are accused of allegedly conspiring to receive and disclose classified US defense information over a five-year period dating back to 1999. The two state that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC, to which they belonged) helped write US foreign policy in the Middle East dated as far back as 1999 with the tacit endorsement of Rice and other US officials.

    Naaaw – get out!

    As you might expect, lawyers for our government (using the phrase loosely, I know) are arguing that Condi should not have to appear.

    In a way, I hope she does, since that would confirm that she is still part of this cabal of crooks. I do so wish to see her glowering stare and hear her accusatory denunciations of alleged wrongdoing once more, in such a manner that it derides someone as thoroughly as possible (embodying the true Bushco ethos).

    It will make her ignominious departure one day all the more rewarding.

    Update 9/1/08: How magnanimous of her to acknowledge the obvious (h/t Atrios - don't think there's a treatment for what she needs); she should go buy a pair of shoes if she needs to feel better.

    Update 5/1/09: Too bad...

    The Toll Of Ferris Stupidity

    I’m not surprised that Kevin Ferris of the Philadelphia Inquirer is as clueless regarding the issue of funding for regional mass transit and road repair as he is regarding the Iraq war.

    This column purports to be an intelligent argument against the installation of tolls only on route I-80 in PA, as mentioned in this prior post. I say “purports to be” because, immediately after Ferris tells us that the tolls are advocated by Gov. Ed Rendell and State Sen. Vince Fumo, Ferris, under the flimsiest of pretexts, immediately launches into a recitation of the charges against Fumo for mail fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and other charges, as if that has anything whatsoever to do with the issue.

    The importance of a serious discussion about raising funds for infrastructure repair, including highways and methods of mass transit, must be clear even to Ferris in light of the Minnesota bridge disaster that I noted in the August 3rd post. The bill for the “free lunch” promised by the “government-is-the-enemy-and-we-have-to-drown-it-in-the-bathtub” Repugs is coming due at long last.

    In today’s Ferris screed, he portrays Repug state congressmen Phil English and John Peterson sympathetically for their obstructionism regarding the toll booths on I-80, but fails to note the following (from 8/3)…

    Sen. Joe Scarnati, the state Senate’s president pro tempore from Jefferson County, said in a statement that the (toll) money was badly needed to fix nearly 6,000 bridges that are structurally deficient and 9,000 miles of road in poor condition.

    And he blamed U.S. Reps. Phil English and John Peterson for failing to secure enough federal transportation dollars for Pennsylvania.
    Also, as noted in an Inquirer story from June 17th, the state legislature doesn’t permit SEPTA to obtain funding any other way than to seek it from Harrisburg, which makes it sadly unique among other mass transit agencies in this country (though typical for PA, however)…

    In Pennsylvania, the state prevents regional transit agencies and local governments from raising money in many of the ways used by their counterparts elsewhere.

    Colorado and Georgia provide none of the money to operate Denver's and Atlanta's mass transit. Instead, they authorize local sales taxes, approved by local voters.

    New York, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio are among the states where local property taxes are earmarked for mass transit. Los Angeles County uses a 1 percent sales tax, approved by county voters.

    Thirty-three states have authorized local or regional sales taxes specifically for transportation.

    Not Pennsylvania.
    So what is the brilliant idea Ferris has for funding mass transit and our roads?

    Well, assuming you can take Ferris seriously here (a big assumption), he’s proposing a flat fee of $5 per carload for commuters using I-95, the Schuylkill Expressway (76), and Route 476 (for “the cost of a mocha-latte-something-something,” as he puts it – he also has some other snarky suggestions which should have been removed by his editor, assuming he even has one, before this nonsense saw its way into online type).

    And how’s this for more than a little bit of demagoguery (as to his rationale for bringing the toll booths down here even though the stretches of road aren’t as long as upstate, probably about 100 that could be tolled here as opposed to 300 on I-80 and related interstates, which Ferris actually acknowledges)?

    (Southeastern PA) is loaded with folks who for years have bemoaned the Bush tax cuts but never found a way to send their family's share back to the government. They'll welcome these state fund-raising efforts.
    Oy vay…

    Well, for the reality-based perspective, this was noted in a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial from about a week ago…

    For too long, state and federal governments have neglected bridge repairs. Pennsylvania has nearly 6,000 deficient bridges (as noted earlier); New Jersey has about 750. Nationwide, there are more than 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. Repairing them will cost more than $9 billion per year for the next 20 years.

    (U.S.) House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D., Minn.) has called for a new trust fund, paid by a temporary gas-tax increase, to fix bridges in the national highway system. The panel's top Republican quickly dismissed the idea as a "Band-Aid."
    The usual non-constructive Repug BS as a response to a problem that requires government to do something, of course. If we’re going to need $9 billion to fix our bridges, we’d better start figuring out a way to obtain funding ASAP (aside from slamming a lid on the black hole of funding for Dubya’s excellent Iraq adventure, which would redirect money big time to the need Oberstar has identified, among others…are you reading this, Harry Reid, for whom my respect is falling by the minute?).

    But I guess that represents too many “mocha-latte-something-somethings” for Ferris.

    Well, he should be able to buy at least one for a lady named Melissa Hughes; he could learn more about her here. But when she finds out that Ferris is highly sympathetic to Repugs whose obstructionism and inaction had a lot to do with the disaster that almost killed her, he had better be prepared if she tosses it back into his face.

    Update 9/10: Go, Vince! (registration required).

    Update 10/5: This tells us that Joseph G. Brimmeier, CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, has decided not to use any toll revenue in support of mass transit in PA.

    That’s isn’t going to mitigate the fury of those who oppose the tolls, and it certainly isn’t going to make Brimmeier any friends among those who want to fund SEPTA to the point where it can provide a reliable mass transit alternative to commuting on our crumbling roads and bridges.

    So Brimmeier had two targets to aim at, and he missed both of them.

    Nice going, assclown.

    Another Reason For Larry Craig To Go

    With all of the furor over Larry (I’m Not Gay) Craig and the surfacing of the arrest tape where he tries to justify his finger-tapping behavior by saying he’s a “fairly wide” guy and he needs room to sit down on the head (or something – I’ll let you write your own snark for that one…I won’t go there), I think this is an opportune time to look at his performance in Congress as opposed to public men’s restrooms.

    We knew he didn’t support hate crime legislation on behalf of LBGT individuals or anything that ensured or protected their rights (as noted here), but it also turns out that Craig is an enemy of the environment. And while I know that isn’t headline news for a Repug, it’s a more noteworthy issue in Idaho, a state that depends on intelligent use of resources to balance the twin needs of making it livable for its residents and generating commerce to make people want to live there and sustain communities.

    This takes you to information on how Craig has been rated by interest groups according to Project Vote Smart (dating back to 2000), and when it comes to the environment, he received 0 percent ratings from the American Wilderness Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, League of Conservation Voters, and the American Land Alliance, and he received pitiably low ratings from other nature advocacy groups.

    However, Craig scored ratings of 100 percent over the same period from something called the American Land Rights Association, and all you have to do is check the upper left corner of their site and see the “Proud member of” label to know what this group is all about.

    For example, these people have gone ballistic over a bill, H.R. 3287, sponsored by U.S. House Dem Raul Grijalva of Arizona which proposes the expansion of the Pajarita Wilderness and designation of the Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness in Coronado National Forest, Arizona (presumably as off limits for development) and for other purposes. Their supposed argument is that it would create a refuge and source of traffic for illegal immigrants (the last action taken was on Aug 6th: the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands).

    I’ll admit that I’m not as knowledgeable on this issue as others may be, but the charge that Rep. Grijalva would knowingly do something to encourage the traffic of illegal aliens is so insulting that it almost invalidates any need to investigate this matter further.

    So anyway, this is the group that shares common cause (if you’ll pardon the expression) with Larry Craig. And I think the fact that he owes his allegiance to these crazies speaks volumes regarding his judgment, which, as noted above, is equally unsound on other matters also.

    And actually, this is meant as a preface to tie into this post by Devilstower at The Daily Kos about more “imperial hubris” by Bushco in that they’re using the Utah mining disaster as an excuse to try and gut the so-called Stream Buffer Zone Rule enacted in 1983 that prohibits coal mining activities from disturbing areas within 100 feet of streams (the post also notes what we can do about that).

    Also, here’s another related news item that snuck under the radar a couple of weeks ago, and that is the Wolfie-instigated removal of references to the climate crisis in a World Bank report on investment on industry and infrastructure.

    As important as the other issues are swirling around Larry Craig at this moment, I think the condition of our planet and Craig’s related negligence trumps all of them.

    (Also, I have a comment to make about Craig that really doesn't fall into any of these catergories and is really geeky, but here goes; his U.S. Senate page uses inline frames as opposed to floating template pages - God, Larry, that's so nineties! But I'm sure that, among many, MANY other things, will be changed when the "good Larry" takes over, and you can watch more about him below.)

    Thursday, August 30, 2007

    Thursday Videos

    ...Happy Birthday to Ryan Ross of Panic! At The Disco ("I Write Sins, Not Tragedies"; actually, I write both - kind of a nod to little Alex and his droogs here)...

    ...Happy Birthday to bassist Charles Colbert of the band American Breed ("Bend Me, Shape Me"; crappy audio, ridiculous camera work, bad lip synching and more "air" instrument playing than actual musicianship, but dig those tacky '60s threads and hair styles, bay-bee - the song of course was a serviceable anthem of pop blue-eyed soul for its time)...

    ...Happy Birthday also to comedy madman Lewis Black (here is a bit about gays from a year or so ago in his most recent HBO comedy special that has all kinds of bad words in it, just so you're warned, but God is it funny - by the way, how many times today has Larry Craig told us that he's "straight"?)...

    ...and today would have been the 63rd birthday of Molly Ivins (in this tribute on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer" from last February 1st, a 1986 report from Molly is replayed on "art" in the state of Texas - sorry that the picture quality isn't better, but it's good enough).

    A Shining Milestone

    Yesterday I noted the 50th anniversary of Strom Thurmond’s filibuster of the 1957 Civil Rights bill, which was the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history.

    Today, I’d like to recall a much finer moment in our history, and that is the 40th anniversary of the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall as this country’s first African American Supreme Court justice by the Senate (in the 1954 photo, he appears in the center with George E.C. Hayes on the left and James M. Nabrit on the right; the three comprised the legal team that won the Brown v. Board of Education decision).

    As noted here…

    Marshall graduated first in his class from Howard University Law School in 1933, and he was drafted by Charles Hamilton Houston (under whom he studied at Howard) to help with the civil rights battles then being waged by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He first served as special counsel for the NAACP and then as the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. He was the mastermind behind the litigation strategy that challenged racial oppression in education, housing, transportation, electoral politics, and criminal justice.
    As the Wikipedia article notes, Marshall served on the Supreme Court until he stepped down due to illness in 1991, at which time he said that his successor should not be the “wrong Negro” (though Poppy Bush obliged and named someone anyway who fit the description perfectly – that was not an association made by Marshall, though, since Clarence Thomas had not yet been officially considered, but I think my description of his successor fits in the context of Marshall’s words).

    Fortunately, though, he saw the election of a president more widely regarded by African Americans than George H.W. Bush before his death on January 24, 1993.

    And I can assure you that, someday when history looks at the careers of these two men, Thomas won’t be held in anything close to the same regard as his predecessor.

    Good Words From An Old Pro

    (I need a hit of caffeine to write this next paragraph first…OK, I’m ready now).

    I should point out from the start that I think former president Jimmy Carter did a poor job of handling the flap over his latest book about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If you’re going to label it, “Peace, Not Apartheid,” you’d better be prepared to defend your position. And even though I think he has a point when he states that we definitely favor Israel too much in these matters (obligatory disclaimer on this: there is abundant blame on both sides, OK?), I don’t think he should have blown off Alan Dershowitz and his objections; there must have been some means for Carter to reply instead of trying to discount Dershowitz out of hand (granted, Dershowitz is not someone I would want to verbally cross swords with, but again, there must have been a way to work something out).

    Sorry to be ultra-verbose here; what I’m saying is that the just-short-of-an endorsement of John Edwards by Carter here is a good thing. Period.

    I would like someone to nominate any other individual in this country who has a higher international profile than Carter for his work to combat worldwide hunger and disease and promote peace and the cause of democratic reform throughout the world. And Carter’s praise on Edwards’ behalf is a signal that we have a candidate who truly intends to return this country to a position of moral integrity through respect of international treaties and conventions, participation in democratic reform and adherence to the rule of law.

    I know I sound like a press release, but I don’t know any other way to put this.

    You can’t imagine how much it aggravates me (and you also, I’m sure) to hear Democrats talk and act like we don’t know where we came from or what we should be about. And that is about supporting working men, women and families (and children, of course) and the institutions and organizations that help them to be justly compensated (talking about financially and regarding health care also) and protected in the event of grievous harm of one type or another.

    Jimmy Carter came from that, and he is still one of us in that regard. And you’d better believe that that describes John Edwards also.

    I would only ask that you keep that in mind when the inevitable freeper outcry arises against a president considered to be a failure (sadly humorous to think of that in light of Dubya’s ongoing nightmare of an administration, though I’ll admit that Carter was hardly perfect), to say nothing of Repug lies about Edwards receiving funds from companies that foreclosed on Katrina victims, as noted in the story (and refuted here).

    And by the way, speaking of returning this country to a position of moral integrity through respect of international treaties and conventions, I give you this New York Times editorial today decrying this administration's attempt to distance itself from the Abu Ghraib controversy.

    Sounds to me, then, like it's time for a little "Back Talk" (#2 below)...

    "The Hood" Is Everywhere

    The Bucks County Courier Times reports today that Patrick Murphy is currently trying to secure $250,000 in federal funding for local police to combat gang violence in Bucks County. As the story by reporter Ben Finley tells us…

    The funds would bolster efforts by departments and schools to help officers, teachers and parents better identify gang activity. The money also would go toward surveillance, undercover work and other operations that involve gangs.
    For example, police are buying more cameras to catalog known gang tattoos and gang signs to better educate officers and teachers.

    So far, the proposed spending has made it through a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Commerce, Justice and Science Spending Bill, officials said. After being tinkered with in committee, the bill faces one more House vote, a Senate vote and a presidential approval, officials said.

    “It’s only a matter of time before [gang activity] affects every community in Bucks County if we don’t stop it now,” Lower Makefield police Chief Ken Coluzzi said.
    Patrick held the news conference outside the Lower Makefield Police Department with many of the county’s police chiefs, as Finley tells us. In addition, according to the story…

    Just last month, two Bucks teenagers were arrested in New Jersey for their alleged involvement in gang warfare between Mercer County’s Bloods and Crips street gangs, police said.

    New Jersey police arrested a 17-year-old Morrisville boy who allegedly took part in a drive-by shooting at a rival gang’s house in Ewing. And Tyre Johnson-King, 19, of Falls was arrested the same night and charged with weapons offenses.

    Since last year, police have identified more than 150 gang members involved in crimes in Bucks County, including members of the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings and other street gangs, white power groups and motorcycle gangs.
    One of the signs of gang encroachment into areas where there was no visible presence before is graffiti appearing on highway signs or elsewhere (such as the type in the photo), which are often coded messages from one gang aimed at another as a whole or among particular individuals, or simply a means of marking turf (I saw that explode in Philadelphia, and it is occurring with more and more frequency in Bucks).

    This links to a story from World Vision about a Youth Empowerment Summit conducted in Washington, D.C. from June 27th through the 30th against gang violence discussing, among other things, prevention strategies. The story also mentions S. 456, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and co-sponsored by, among others, Orrin Hatch (R-UT, as we know...every now and then, he stands up in a big way).

    The bill seeks to amend the federal criminal code to punish more gang-related activity, including recruiting of individuals to join gangs, and it also increases penalties for gang-related crimes.

    Among a whole host of other objectives, the bill also includes funding for conducting media campaigns in high intensity interstate gang activity areas to educate the public about efforts to combat criminal gang activities, and also establishes in the U.S. Marshals Service a Short-Term Witness Protection Section to provide protection for witnesses in state and local trials involving homicide or other violent crimes (expanding the federal witness relocation and protection program to include protection against criminal street gangs).

    (There is a companion bill in the House, H.R. 1582, sponsored by Dem Adam Schiff of California, and Patrick is a cosponsor).

    It’s good to see attention paid to prevention in the two bills, as well as the importance of protecting witnesses, as illustrated in this Boston Globe story that mentions what happened to someone who reported a rape to the police (and don’t get me started on this “no snitching” business, by the way – I don’t have the right to tell someone living in a high crime area what to do, but I DO have the right to tell people in the supposed “entertainment” industry to shut the hell up when I hear them yap about this, and kudos to Chuck D here for doing the right thing).

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007

    Wednesday Videos

    VHS or Beta ("You Got Me"; sorry, but I think this guy has issues)...

    ...Happy Birthday to Me'Shell NdegeOcello ("Cloud Nine," with Motown's Funk Brothers and some other great singers - not the whole song, but close enough)...

    ...Dinah Washington would have been 83 today (a nice slide show accompanies "You've Got What It Takes" with Brook Benton, courtesy of YouTuber JEBauder1948 - this lady had seven husbands and lived only as far as 39)...

    ...and Charlie Parker would have been 87 today ("Hot House" with Dizzy Gillespie, from 1951-52 during the bebop heyday; Parker especially was a reference point and influence for so many artists - I can't believe the emcee asked if "you boys" had anything else to say...Strom Thurmond would have been pleased).

    A Moment In Portsmouth, N.H.

    Please take a few minutes to watch this YouTube video of John and Elizabeth Edwards speaking about health care. Thanks.

    (I mentioned earlier that the Repug approach to providing health coverage, Mitt Romney's in particular, is rightly described by Edwards as "worse than the cure." With that in mind, I'd like to see any of the Repugs field the remarks from this brave lady from Lincoln, Nebraska.)

    An Anniversary Of Intolerance

    (Posting is iffy for tomorrow, by the way…)

    Fifty years ago today, former Repug senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina conducted the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history (24 hours and 18 minutes, believe it or not) in an unsuccessful attempt to derail the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

    As Joshua Zeitz tells us here…

    Staunchly opposed to racial integration, he gave a campaign speech in 1948 in which he promised that “there’s not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.” He warned his followers, “Think about the situation which would exist when the annual office party is held or the union sponsors a dance.” His focus on constitutional questions like “states’ rights” and “federalism” was a matter of political expediency rather than noble conviction. After World War II, in which America had defeated a state built on racist ideology, it was simply no longer fashionable or acceptable to shout racial epithets from the rostrum.

    The 1948 Dixiecrat revolt was the segregationist South’s last show of real strength. A decade later, the great postwar migration of African-Americans from the rural South to urban centers in the North, the Midwest, and California had created a new political equation, as Northern politicians from both parties were forced to consider the concerns of their new black constituents. In 1957 a coalition of Northern Democrats and Republicans worked to pass President Dwight Eisenhower’s relatively strong civil rights legislation, which imposed federal penalties on anyone who interfered with the right of citizens to register and vote. Though Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson ultimately had to water down the bill to get it passed—he did so by, among other things, stripping it of a provision that allowed federal judges to jail violators for contempt of court without a jury trial—it was anathema to the solid South.

    Thurmond’s filibuster made for good political theater, but it never stood a chance of derailing the bill. Most of his Southern colleagues were reluctantly willing to swallow the watered-down and ultimately ineffective bill rather than risk outraging Northern legislators who might very well respond by eliminating the right to filibuster altogether. Such a move would make it impossible for Southerners to stave off even stronger civil rights measures in the future. Sen. Herman Talmadge of Georgia (the son of Eugene) denounced the bill but also rebuked Thurmond for his “grandstand” performance. “If I had undertaken a filibuster for personal aggrandizement,” added Sen. Richard Russell, of Georgia, “I would have forever reproached myself for being guilty of a form of treason against the people of the South.”

    But outside the nation’s capital, many Southerners loved Thurmond’s performance. Georgia’s governor, Marvin Griffin, defiantly promised, “We’re not going to let a Federal judge tell us who can vote,” while South Carolina’s governor, George Bell Timmerman, Jr., proudly announced, “I don’t have any intention of cooperating.” Thurmond’s grandstand may have been legislatively ineffectual, but it almost certainly encouraged white Southerners in resisting federal law, as they had begun doing three years earlier after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
    And as noted here (and alluded to in the cartoon), Thurmond misrepresented himself with his theatrics and, over time, severely damaged the lives of both his white niece and black daughter (revelation of the latter emerged shortly after his death four years ago).

    This Wikipedia article notes that the Air Force named a C-17 Globemaster “The Spirit of Strom Thurmond.” The aircraft served with a distinction far beyond anything ever achieved by its wretched namesake, but production of the line was shut down last year.

    Just a bit of trivia there…

    A Census Calamity

    Between the war, Katrina, and the prospect of Mikey Fitzpatrick returning to the spotlight once more, I know I’m just full of bad news today (sorry, but I’m not done yet).

    The New York Times had twin doses of disillusionment concerning the latest census report, including the following excerpt from this editorial…

    Sputtering under the weight of the credit crisis and the associated drop in the housing market, the economic expansion that started in 2001 looks like it might enter history books with the dubious distinction of being the only sustained expansion on record in which the incomes of typical American households never reached the peak of the previous cycle. It seems that ordinary working families are going to have to wait — at the very minimum — until the next cycle to make up the losses they suffered in this one. There’s no guarantee they will.

    The gains against poverty last year were remarkably narrow. The poverty rate declined among the elderly, but it remained unchanged for people under 65. Analyzed by race, only Hispanics saw poverty decline on average while other groups experienced no gains.

    The fortunes of middle-class, working Americans also appear less upbeat on closer consideration of the data. Indeed, earnings of men and women working full time actually fell more than 1 percent last year.

    This suggests that when household incomes rose, it was because more members of the household went to work, not because anybody got a bigger paycheck. The median income of working-age households, those headed by somebody younger than 65, remained more than 2 percent lower than in 2001, the year of the recession.
    And if you were looking for good news when it came to health coverage – well, I’m afraid you’ll have to keep looking…

    The number of uninsured Americans has been rising inexorably over the past six years as soaring health care costs have driven up premiums, employers have scaled back or eliminated health benefits and hard-pressed families have found themselves unable to purchase insurance at a reasonable price. Last year, the number of uninsured Americans increased by a daunting 2.2 million, from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47.0 million in 2006. That scotched any hope that the faltering economic recovery would help alleviate the problem.

    The main reason for the upsurge in uninsured Americans is that employment-based coverage continued to deteriorate. Indeed, the number of full-time workers without health insurance rose from 20.8 million in 2005 to 22.0 million in 2006, presumably because either the employers or the workers or both found it too costly.
    The editorial also went on to decry the losses in children’s health coverage…

    The number of uninsured children under 18 dropped steadily and significantly from 1999 to 2004, thanks largely to an expansion in coverage of low-income children under two programs operated jointly by the states and the federal government, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Then last year the number of uninsured children jumped more than 600,000 to reach 8.6 million. The main reason, advocacy groups say, is that access and funding for the low-income programs became tighter while employer coverage for dependents eroded.
    At this point, I must digress briefly for a short rant.

    As I read the second editorial, I have to admit that I had a question that arose in my mind, and as a Roman Catholic I must ask it; what is the position of my church on this issue?

    I know all about the good work performed by Catholic Social Services and other agencies for those in dire need, but what is it going to take for someone in authority in this country to (in all likelihood) go against the Holy See and try to effect policy change in this country? We’re talking about kids here, for God’s sake.

    Do me a favor and stop haranguing me about the evils of abortion and the so-called “homosexual agenda” (whatever the hell that is) and our culture of permissiveness for a minute and realize that children are sick and dying because the head of the political party you support isn’t lifting his little finger to help them because of a “philosophical difference”! Tell Bill Donahue to get worked up over that for a change instead of women bloggers using objectionable language! (embedded in the Rudy! post)

    There…I’m done.

    In addition to the column by Paul Krugman that I linked to above about Dubya and CHIP, here is his column from Monday where he argues that health care should be available to children in the same manner as a public school education.

    Now, can someone read this and give me a good reason as to why he may be wrong?

    The column notes that Rudy! of course favors our wonderful profit-driven free-market system of delivering health care that has produced the current mess that needs to be fixed (I actually stumbled across an appearance by “America’s Mayor”…tongue in cheek here, I assure you…on C-SPAN last weekend where he was spouting the usual blather about encouraging participation in private coverage, more participants, lower payment percentages, cost efficiencies, etc., with Steve Forbes sitting in the background smiling like the Cheshire Cat; it also looks like Giuliani is using the same cheesy Bushco graphics, with a blue backdrop that says, "Your Money, Your Choice" all over the place – how original).

    And as long as we’re discussing health care here, it might be a good idea to take a look at what former Massachusetts governor Willard Mitt (Throw Larry “I’m Not Gay” Craig Under The Bus) Romney has proposed.

    Simply put, he’s decided to leave it up to the states, though he would not sanction employers who do not provide it for their employees and would not do the same for individuals who do not purchase it for themselves as he does in MA (sorry for the quadruple negative here).

    That’s just great, isn’t it? Leave it up to the states and our wonderful profit-driven system, a la Rudy! (see, costs can be reduced by deregulating the insurance market, capping malpractice damages, and guaranteeing care for all – hey, the Inky published it here, so it must be true, right?). Can you envision the same crazy patchwork quilt of “reasonable and customary” deductibles and coverages across this country that I can in the event of this horrid development?

    And Mitt concocted this wonderful rationale for his Simply Excellent Plan…

    "A one-size-fits-all national health-care system is bound to fail," Romney said. "It ignores the sharp difference between states, and it relies on Washington bureaucracy to manage. I don't want the people who ran the Katrina cleanup to manage our health-care system."
    And in response to that idiotic remark, I give you DarkSyde once more…

    The tragic lesson of Katrina is what will happen when men and women who openly despise our government -- who brag they plan to weaken it until they can drown it in a bathtub -- are allowed to govern. After telling the nation that they and only they could keep us safe from any and all threats, the neo-clowns were caught off guard by a Weapon of Mass Destruction called 'water,' arising from a storm that could be seen lumbering toward the Gulf Coast from the surface of the moon for a week. Choose your leaders wisely; these neo-GOP idiots couldn't run a rib-joint let alone the United States of America. And sooner or later, given the chance, it will be your town they drown in the bathtub.
    Either that, or they’ll toss you out of the emergency room while awaiting critical care because you don’t have enough money for the co-payment.

    Just remember – independent of any politician (though with the help of John Edwards, preferably - scroll down a bit), it’s never too late to start a revolution.

    Forget Godot; We're Waiting For Mikey

    Will he run in ’08 or won’t he?

    That seems to be the question among Bucks County Repugs in the PA-08 congressional district (and I don’t mean to exclude the slivers of Philadelphia and Montco included also) based on this headline story that appeared in the Courier Times yesterday…

    “We're hoping Mike is going to run, but right now we're not really sure,” said Harry Fawkes, chairman of the Bucks County Republican Committee.

    In a phone interview Monday, Fitzpatrick said he won't decide whether to run until “later this year” and not before the conclusion of the ongoing county commissioners race.

    Fawkes said the 2008 congressional race is barely a blip on the party's radar right now and said the committee's focus is on the 2007 election.

    “To be honest, I'm not even thinking about [the congressional race],” Fawkes said.
    Not even thinking about it? Well, I guess I wouldn’t either, given news like this.

    I should grudgingly point out, though, that the Repugs always seem to at least catch up in fundraising if they don’t pass the Dems outright simply because they have more money than we do; this has something to do with why the RNC has substantially outraised the DNC right now, and probably will for the duration (yes, I know it’s pathetic to focus on the money instead of the issues, but this is the game and I didn’t make up the rules).

    As for the presumed Repug “savior,” he had this to say…

    In a phone interview Monday, Fitzpatrick said he won't decide whether to run until “later this year” and not before the conclusion of the ongoing county commissioners race.

    Fitzpatrick pointed out that a majority of Murphy's campaign contributions came from people who live outside of the 8th District, which he believed showed that Murphy had little support in his own district.
    In a strange way, it’s nice to see that Mikey remains the same petulant brat spewing misinformation now as he was during the prior election. It makes it so easy to do everything in our power to keep him in private life.

    That being said, though, I’ll reluctantly point out that Mikey has a point when it comes to the source of his donations versus Patrick Murphy’s, though his conclusion is bogus of course.

    This links to a prior post concerning another article by Brian Scheid of the Courier Times that breaks down the source of Patrick’s campaign funds to date. Scheid noted that about 54 percent of the individual donations came from out of state (with the largest contributions outside of this area coming from New York; I wonder if that will continue given Murphy’s recent endorsement of Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination?), and about $420,000 of Patrick’s $1.2 million so far coming from political action committees.

    This takes you to 2006 campaign funding information for Mikey, and while this shows that Fitzpatrick had a decidedly higher percentage of in-state contributions than Patrick, it also shows that Mikey received $1,219, 517 in PAC contributions versus $1,030,291 from individuals. Given that (as well as the fact that he lost), it’s laughable for Mikey to try and claim the mantle that he’s a “man of the people” for PA-08 versus Patrick.

    However, all of this raises the inevitable question (to me, anyway) of “So what?” In a largely Republican district, Fitzpatrick outraised Murphy among individual Republican donors. The news would have been that he had not been able to do that (it also would have been news if Mikey had received a penny from organized labor, though fortunately he didn’t; I would have truly been “on the warpath” in that case).

    And besides, when it comes to Repug fundraising, Dubya (the leading GOP “rainmaker,” believe it or not) doesn’t have the magic he once had (as illustrated here in the “Burn Bush For Burner” campaign in Washington state), though how any life form could consider Dubya as having magic concerning anything expect screwups is something I cannot fathom.

    Here’s the deal; I think Mikey actually wants to see how the election for Bucks County Commissioners turns out. If Cawley and Martin return, then he can hop back into campaign mode and claim momentum. However, if Steve Santarsiero and Diane Marseglia win what should be a well-deserved victory, that might keep Mikey on the sidelines for good (either way, the longer Mikey sits out, the more it helps Patrick).

    But if he’s going to keep lobbing pot shots at the individual who defeated him last November, Mikey should at least be man enough to pull his thumb out and declare. Or is that asking too much?

    Update: By the way, I don't see Patrick's name on this list of 70 U.S. House Reps opposing funding for the Iraq war unless it is tied to safe redeployment of our forces out of there before Dubya leaves office. Any particular reason why not?

    Two Years To Forget

    Here and here are Daily Kos posts on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which we somberly observe today (I’m going to highlight this paragraph from DarkSyde’s post, since I think that’s an appropriate remembrance)…

    The tragic lesson of Katrina is what will happen when men and women who openly despise our government -- who brag they plan to weaken it until they can drown it in a bathtub -- are allowed to govern. After telling the nation that they and only they could keep us safe from any and all threats, the neo-clowns were caught off guard by a Weapon of Mass Destruction called 'water,' arising from a storm that could be seen lumbering toward the Gulf Coast from the surface of the moon for a week. Choose your leaders wisely; these neo-GOP idiots couldn't run a rib-joint let alone the United States of America. And sooner or later, given the chance, it will be your town they drown in the bathtub.

    I thought this column from Roland S. Martin at CNN was interesting, though it presumes actual leadership on Dubya’s part, which we will never see in a million years of course (also, there is supposed to be someone from Australia overseeing the cleanup and rescue of that area, but I can’t remember his name and I can’t find anything online about him at the moment – just an FYI on that).

    Update 1: Digby recalls President Alfred E. Newman in action here.

    Update 2: As a remembrance once more, here are Katrina scenes accompanied by "World Without Tears" by Lucinda Williams.

    Update 8/31: Paul Krugman nails it again.

    It's "Take A Stand Day"

    Prof. Marcus notes the latest Dubya insanity here, and I thought it was interesting that, even given all of the Larry Craig stuff, the preznit’s latest attempt to scare us yesterday in front of an American Legion audience (and why exactly did they grant him a forum anyway, and the same with the VFW?) rated no mention at all yesterday at CNN online.

    It’s over, Dubya. When even our corporate media doesn’t want to give you a lap dance anymore, you know it’s time to just go crawl into a hidey hole somewhere and wait it out for the duration (for as long as it last, impeachment notwithstanding - and here's actually some constructive information on the Iraq catastrophe).

    Also, here’s an important message from mcjoan, and related thoughts set to music and pictures appear below from Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath.

    Tuesday, August 28, 2007

    Tuesday Videos

    Happy Birthday to Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers ("Walk On By," their take on the Burt Bacharach/Hal David standard; ultra-trippy graphics for an ultra-primitive video)...

    ...and today marks what would have been the 90th birthday of comic book master Jack Kirby, featured in this short video (this is a great editorial if you have Times Select).

    Staying “On Message,” Bushco Style

    This recent USA Today editorial chided Dubya and his entourage for “confront(ing) and eject(ing)” a couple wearing anti-Bush T-Shirts at an appearance in Charleston, West Virginia where Dubya gave a speech on Independence Day in 2004.

    As the editorial notes…

    (Jeffrey and Nicole Rank) refused demands to take the shirts off, turn them inside out or leave. Though they were on public property and not being disruptive, they were handcuffed, arrested and charged with trespass. The charges were later dropped, and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ranks sued the White House advance personnel for violating their First Amendment rights.

    Last week, the government settled the case, admitting no wrongdoing but agreeing to pay the Ranks $80,000. That avoidable expenditure of taxpayer dollars speaks volumes about who was wrong here.
    A recent New York Times editorial noted that Bushco has written a crowd control manual to make sure nothing contrary to the party line emerges in corporate media reports (though that façade is cracking of course due to all of the recent defections of its key players). The editorial notes the following…

    “Do not fall into their trap!” warns the presidential manual in hypothesizing that protesters really want to be physically restrained and attract media notice, not merely exercise their right to complain. Instead, the roaming squads’ task is to use their own “signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform.”

    Noisy protest? The rally squads’ response must be immediate choruses of “USA! USA!” to muffle the moment with patriotic chaff. These vigilante squads are out of place in a democracy.

    The manual magnanimously advises local police to tolerate dissenters — providing they are barred from the event through an ultra-loyalist ticketing process and then cordoned well off from earshot and sight of the president and his passing motorcade.

    Every White House stage-manages presidential events, but this level of obsession with silencing the vox pop is a symptom of this administration’s broader problem honoring Americans’ constitutional freedoms.
    This gives me an opportunity to plug an anti-Dubya T-shirt site here (though it truly does support our troops). Have fun.

    "Monkeying Around" WIth The WLF

    While reading the editorial page of the New York Times yesterday, I came across this ad which I scanned for the purposes of this post.

    As you can read, the headline states, “Lawyers seek ‘victims’ for class action lawsuits,” with two unidentified well-dressed men and a whole bunch of other individuals dressed as men and women with the heads of chimps superimposed on their bodies (sorry the size of the ad is so big), implying you-know-what about the plaintiffs in these suits.

    This insulting garbage is brought to us courtesy of the Washington Legal Foundation, which, as noted here by SourceWatch, was established in 1977 by Chairman and General Counsel Daniel J. Popeo to "fight activist lawyers, regulators, and intrusive government agencies at the federal and state levels, in the courts and regulatory agencies across the country."

    This 1998 interview with Popeo noted that the WLF, at that time, had received about $3 million in contributions from about 500 companies, though the SourceWatch article notes that, between 1985 and 2003, the group has received about $7 million in funding on top of that.

    Though Popeo, in the 1998 story, apparently did not like being associated with any coalition or funding source, SourceWatch states that the WLF “sought and obtained funding from Philip Morris and the now defunct Tobacco Institute.” As a result, the WLF has also repeatedly sued government agencies that oversee public health functions, like the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, who they sued over workplace smoking policies (decrying what it calls the “junk science” of “anti-tobacco zealots”).

    The WLF went after the FDA because of what the group thought was delays in allowing drugs and medical devices to market, and to show the revolving door that exists between the WLF and Bushco, this post notes that Daniel E. Troy effectively landed on the WLF board after leaving Bushco’s FDA, doing his very best to hurt the agency from doing its job to ensure the safety of products under its purview (such as, in particular, Vioxx…as John Mack says, the WLF is to the First Amendment what the NRA is to the Second Amendment, with Troy as the Mike-Brown-FEMA equivalent).

    Perhaps the WLF’s biggest infamy, though, is due to its attacks on Interest On Trial Lawyers Only (IOLTA) funding. As this link explains…

    (For New Jersey) The IOLTA Fund was created by Supreme Court Rule 1:28A, and operates under the auspices of the Court, with an independent Board of Trustees. A small administrative staff handles the day-to-day management of the IOLTA program.

    Very often, the amount of money that a lawyer handles for a single client is nominal in amount, to be held for a short period of time, or is the result of multiple parties or clients deciding to pool advance payments against the costs of litigation in a single fund. It would not be feasible for attorneys to establish separate interest-bearing accounts for such clients, as the cost of administering the accounts, including the lawyer's time and the bank's charges, would be greater than the amount of interest that would be generated. The Supreme Court of New Jersey permits these client deposits to be pooled in common trust accounts which are interest-bearing to IOLTA. The income is forwarded to the Fund directly by the financial institution once the IOLTA Trust Account has been established.

    The money collected by IOLTA is dedicated to providing legal representation and assistance to the poor, improvements in the administration of justice, and legal education to the public. The funds can be used for no other purposes.
    As SourceWatch continues…

    The WLF began filing suits in a number of states to prevent IOLTA from receiving the interest on lawyer trust accounts. Among the suits was one pursued all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States with a potential recovery of $20. The reasoning behind this was outlined in a fundraising letter by the (Popeo):

    "We are finally in a position we've fought more than a decade to reach...a position where we can deal a death blow to the single most important source of income for radical legal groups all across the country."

    Among the foundation's adversaries in the litigation, Popeo continues, are radical left-wing groups purporting to represent the interests of the homeless, minorities, and gay and lesbian activism. In that particular instance, the WFL spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate a $20 case to the Supreme Court of the United States because doing so provided it an opportunity to "deal a death blow" to a program that was inconsistent with its principles.
    I guess one of the WLF’s principles is that people who aren’t well-moneyed or well-connected should starve, be incapacitated somehow or wronged in some other fashion and receive absolutely nothing – typical Repug garbage, of course.

    This link contains the most recent information I can find on the case heard before the Supremes, with the supposition being that they would reaffirm a lower court ruling that the IOLTA’s use of interest on client deposits (with the interest being donated to charity) did not constitute a “taking” in violation of the Fifth Amendment (Atrios has more here from 2003 on this, referencing some other posts linked above).

    So, as far as Popeo is concerned, the WLF is ready to fight for any business against what it views as excessive governmental regulation, but it would deny that privilege in a heartbeat to anyone seeking a class-action remedy for a grievous wrong of one type or another?

    This of course is typical for the WLF, which is but a tiny cog in the huge wheel of right-wing policy organizations that have operated to the detriment of the majority of this country for years and years by campaigns of misinformation and lawsuits.

    At least they seemed to have failed in the IOLTA nonsense, though, since the Jersey link from which I took the earlier background information was dated in 2006. However, as Spencer Tracy so correctly stated in “Inherit The Wind,” “fanaticism and ignorance are forever busy, and need feeding” (proven by their ad yesterday).

    The WLF should put that on the masthead of all of their correspondence.

    Lap Dog Arlen Barks Again

    The Philadelphia Inquirer informs us today that PA Sen. Arlen Specter is just so magnan- imous at this moment now that Abu Gonzales has departed (and what a GOP “two-fer” yesterday, by the way, with ‘Berto taking a hike and the revelation of Larry Craig’s little escapade in the men’s room).

    As the Inky notes…

    "This is a very tough day for Alberto Gonzales," said Specter, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the person who presided over his confirmation. "I'm only going to say positive things about him. He has had considerable criticism. Today, we're ready to start a new chapter in the Department of Justice."
    Awww, boo-hoo for Abu. What I’d like to know, though, is why he caved at this particular moment in time (we may find out exactly why later; all this stuff “comes out in the wash” eventually).

    And regarding the prospective replacement as Attorney General, who would be Mike (“City of Louisiana”) Chertoff…

    "I think he is a first-rate prospect," Specter said by phone from Poland during the continuation of a trip to Russia and Eastern Europe. "I think he has done an excellent job on homeland security. I'd give him an A rating."
    I’ll just take note of the latest Chertoff DHS incompetence here to criticize Specter’s hilarious assessment, and that is the decision by his agency to fight a delay sought by Congress in implementing a rule that U.S. citizens show a passport to re-enter the country by land or sea from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean. DHS says delaying implementation puts the nation's borders at risk, but Congress said it was unrealistic to expect our passport offices to be able to process so many new passport claims by next year and it would hurt tourism (a position agreed upon by both Dem Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Repug Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who must have fixed his Internet tubes in time to issue a statement to the press – and when was the last, or even first, time those two agreed on anything?).

    No, let’s leave DHS matters behind and recall once more here that Chertoff took a flyer on the case of Chiquita Brands and his (former?) friend Roderick M. Hills, a Chiquita board member who told the probably-next-AG that he was paying off a paramilitary group to secure its Columbia banana plantations, with that group having recently been designated a terrorist organization. Hills sought legal advice, Chertoff said he’d get back to him, Chertoff never did and then subsequently became a judge, and Chiquita Brands subsequently became the target of a criminal probe.

    My issue then as now is this; either Chertoff should have told Hills to cease and desist in paying the group and risk hurting its Columbian business, or it should have turned a blind eye completely and chose not to waste money investigation the company, thus squandering our tax dollars in the process.

    Before our pliant Congress rushes to confirm Chertoff (another Bushco loyalist, of course – that’s all we’ll ever see from these clowns), it would be nice if they would bother to ask him about this. I want to get rid of the stain of Abu Gonzales as much as anyone (notwithstanding his possible appearance in legal actions where he would stand as a defendant instead now instead of a member of our government), but let’s try to learn from our mistakes, shall we?

    Update: Looks like Chertoff may be out and one of Dubya's Daddy's guys could come and try to bail Junior out of another mess (h/t Atrios).

    Monday, August 27, 2007

    Memories, With Larry Craig

    In light of this and this, here is a denial on the part of Larry Craig from 1982 that he engaged in any kind of inappropriate conduct with congressional pages (predating Mark Foley, of course), even though he had not been named by anyone (protesting just a bit too much, I'm sure - his argument that he was persecuted because he was a single man is startling in its stupidity...I mean, I saw a few "last call" moments in my time also, but picking up undercover cops in the rest room would have been the furthest thing from my mind).

    Update 8/28: Based on this detailed post, I think we can expect to hear from former Democratic Sen. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado saying, in effect, that Larry Craig is a liar (though I think that's pretty apparent at this point anyway).

    Monday Videos

    ALO ("Lady Loop," a little Monday funk)...

    ...Happy Birthday to Tony Kanal of No Doubt ("Don't Speak")...

    ...The Living Elvis celebrated a birthday on Saturday ("Radio, Radio" with the Attractions from waaay back on SNL, including the false start)...

    ...and we lost SRV 17 years ago today ("Riviera Paradise" on "Austin City Limits," featuring a wonderful solo by keyboardist Reese Wynans).

    King For One And All

    Am I the only one who thinks the outcry against the selection of Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin to carve a three-story monument to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is utterly ridiculous?

    This story in the Independent tells us…

    The rumpus is over the ethnicity of the sculptor who will carve the monument (which) will be placed between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. But a loose-knit and growing group of critics is demanding that a black sculptor, or at least American, should have been chosen. The protestors have been joined by human rights advocates who say King would have abhorred the Chinese government’s record on religious and civil liberties.
    So how is China’s atrocious record on human rights somehow the fault of Lei Yixin?

    The story also tells that 10 of the 12 people on the committee who chose Yixin are black. Yixin is also working closely with two black sculptors, and the overall project is being directed by a black-owned architectural firm.

    But still, this all isn’t “black” enough apparently for Atlanta painter Gilbert Young, and Ann Lao, a native of China now living in the U.S., who are leading the protest against the selection of Lei Yixin.

    Apparently, then, it is important to remind the movement against Yixin that Dr. King was, in addition to a leader among African Americans, a leader among everyone. To imply that his nonviolent protests against segregation and racism were not internationally influenced is nonsense (King notes a debt to India’s struggle for independence in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 here).

    To claim that Lei Yixin could never honor Dr. King is childish, especially when, as the story notes, he has carved other figures including Mao Tse-tung, so he is defiitely qualified for the work. To me, this sounds like a case of sincere ignorance and/or conscientious stupidity, and nothing in the world is more dangerous than that.

    I seem to recall that a great man once said that (he said this also).

    Update 8/28/07: Today was a momentous day for Dr. King, as noted here.

    Speaking Truth To Power, At A Cost

    This article by Fred Kaplan appeared in the Sunday New York Times magazine, and it has to do with the push-back our generals are starting to receive from some junior officers on the Iraq war. Kaplan notes the courage it takes for people like Lt. Col. Paul Yingling to write an article published in last May’s Armed Forces Journal titled, “A Failure In Generalship” in a culture that is at best only occasionally receptive to bottom-up feedback.

    As Kaplan tells us…

    Yingling’s article…noted that a key role of generals is to advise policy makers and the public on the means necessary to win wars. “If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means,” he wrote, “he shares culpability for the results.” Today’s generals “failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly,” and they failed to advise policy makers on how much force would be necessary to win and stabilize Iraq. These failures, he insisted, stemmed not just from the civilian leaders but also from a military culture that “does little to reward creativity and moral courage.” He concluded, “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

    In response…General (Richard) Cody (the U.S. Army’s vice chief of staff) acknowledged, as senior officers often do now, that the Iraq war was “mismanaged” in its first phases. The original plan, he said, did not anticipate the disbanding of the Iraqi Army, the disruption of oil production or the rise of an insurgency. Still, he rejected the broader critique. “I think we’ve got great general officers that are meeting tough demands,” he insisted. He railed instead at politicians for cutting back the military in the 1990s. “Those are the people who ought to be held accountable,” he said.
    I think that’s a bit of a copout, but still in response, I’d like to offer the following information concerning the Secretary of Defense in the administration of President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993), one Richard B. Cheney by name…

    "In his budget proposal for FY 1993, his last one, Cheney asked for termination of the B-2 program at 20 aircraft, cancellation of the Midgetman, and limitations on advanced cruise missile purchases to those already authorized. When introducing this budget, Cheney complained that Congress had directed Defense to buy weapons it did not want, including the V-22, M-1 tanks, and F-14 and F-16 aircraft, and required it to maintain some unneeded reserve forces. His plan outlined about $50 billion less in budget authority over the next 5 years than the Bush administration had proposed in 1991."

    "Over Cheney's four years as secretary of defense, encompassing budgets for fiscal years 1990-93, DoD's total obligational authority in current dollars declined from $291.3 billion to $269.9 billion. Except for FY 1991, when the TOA budget increased by 1.7 percent, theCheney budgets showed negative real growth: -2.9 percent in 1990, -9.8 percent in 1992, and -8.1 percent in 1993. During this same period total military personnel declined by 19.4 percent, from 2.202 million in FY 1989 to 1.776 million in FY 1993. The Army took the largest cut, from 770,000 to 572,000-25.8 percent of its strength. The Air Force declined by 22.3 percent, the Navy by 14 percent, and the Marines by 9.7 percent."
    Kaplan’s article discusses the apparent ebb and flow of military promotions and purges dating back to before World War II under one-time chief of staff George Marshall, and it also discusses what is seen as a “trust gap” between junior and senior officers, according to Col. Don Snider, a longtime professor at West Point…

    …There has always been a gap, to some degree. What’s different now is that many of the juniors have more combat experience than the seniors. They have come to trust their own instincts more than they trust orders. They look at the hand they’ve been dealt by their superiors’ decisions, and they feel let down.

    The gap is widening further, Snider told me, because of this war’s operating tempo, the “unrelenting pace” at which soldiers are rotated into Iraq for longer tours — and a greater number of tours — than they signed up for. Many soldiers, even those who support the war, are wearying of the endless cycle. The cycle is a result of two decisions. The first occurred at the start of the war, when the senior officers assented to the decision by Donald Rumsfeld, then the secretary of defense, to send in far fewer troops than they had recommended. The second took place two years later, well into the insurgency phase of the war, when top officers declared they didn’t need more troops, though most of them knew that in fact they did. “Many junior officers,” Snider said, “see this op tempo as stemming from the failure of senior officers to speak out.”
    And as a result...

    On the lower end of the scale (versus the high command), things have changed — but for the worse. West Point cadets are obligated to stay in the Army for five years after graduating. In a typical year, about a quarter to a third of them decide not to sign on for another term. In 2003, when the class of 1998 faced that decision, only 18 percent quit the force: memories of 9/11 were still vivid; the war in Afghanistan seemed a success; and war in Iraq was under way. Duty called, and it seemed a good time to be an Army officer. But last year, when the 905 officers from the class of 2001 had to make their choice to stay or leave, 44 percent quit the Army. It was the service’s highest loss rate in three decades.
    Kaplan goes on to note individuals such as Col. H.R. McMaster, who succeeded for a time in Tal Afar because he “flooded the area with soldiers” and maintained stability, to a point. McMaster has authored new counterinsurgency strategy, and Lt. Col John Nagl, another innovative officer, wrote an article for Armed Forces Journal called “New Rules for New Enemies,” with Lt. Col. Yingling that states: “The best way to change the organizational culture of the Army is to change the pathways for professional advancement within the officer corps. The Army will become more adaptive only when being adaptive offers the surest path to promotion.”

    “Guys like Yingling, Nagl and McMaster are the canaries in the coal mine of Army reform,” (a) retired two-star general I spoke with told (Kaplan). “Will they get promoted to general? If they do, that’s a sign that real change is happening. If they don’t, that’s a sign that the traditional culture still rules.”
    And how important is it that our military changes its traditional culture to the point where it rewards innovative officers and encourages generals to speak out when a plan for war is bound to fail?

    This Editor and Publisher Online article notes the truly dire state of the morale of our troops, in particular…

    "As military and political leaders prepare to deliver a progress report on the conflict to Congress next month, many soldiers are increasingly disdainful of the happy talk that they say commanders on the ground and White House officials are using in their discussions about the war," she writes.

    "And they're becoming vocal about their frustration over longer deployments and a taxing mission that keeps many living in dangerous and uncomfortably austere conditions. Some say two wars are being fought here: the one the enlisted men see, and the one that senior officers and politicians want the world to see. 'I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed,' said Spc. Yvenson Tertulien, one of those in the dining hall in Yousifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, as Bush's speech aired last month. 'I don't want to be here anymore.'"

    An excerpt follows. The entire story can be found at


    The signs of frustration and of flagging morale are unmistakable, including blunt comments, online rants and the findings of surveys on military morale and suicides.

    Sometimes the signs are to be found even in latrines. In the stalls at Baghdad's Camp Liberty, someone had posted Army help cards listing "nine signs of suicide." On one card, seven of the boxes had been checked.

    "This occupation, this money pit, this smorgasbord of superfluous aggression is getting more hopeless and dismal by the second," a soldier in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, wrote in an Aug. 7 post on his blog,

    "The only person I know who believed Iraq was improving was killed by a sniper in May," the blogger, identified only as Alex from Frisco, Texas, said in a separate e-mail.
    (As RT sings in “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me,” “at least we’re winning on the Fox Evening News.”)

    And as you read this heartbreaking story (on overload with this stuff today I know, but it’s necessary), you may find yourself wondering how Willard Mitt Romney’s five sons sleep at night.