Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Petraeus P.R. Agency Strikes Again

In today's New York Times, writers Michael Luo and Jeff Zeleny profile the sometimes-stormy relationship between and the Democratic Party (and as I've said, the Beltway types like to give MoveOn the back of the hand when it suits them to do so, which is a pretty crappy attitude because, if it weren't for MoveOn and the netroots, the Dems would be a permanent minority party).

Well, anyway, the main topic is (of course) the "General Betray Us" ad that MoveOn ran in the New York Times last week, which the writers described thusly...

Democratic leaders in Congress and presidential campaigns said they winced when they saw the MoveOn advertisement. While they may have agreed with its overall point, that the troop buildup has not worked, several Democratic officials said privately that the advertisement had been counterproductive.
I'm not quite sure how Luo and Zeleny managed to screw that up, but they did (nice photo of Eli Pariser, though).

Yes, the fact that "the splurge" has failed is a big part of the ad. But the point was to call the credibility of Petraeus into question.

What kind of a general (or military person overall) writes an Op-Ed for the Washington Post in September 2004 stating that there is "tangible progress" and "Iraqi leaders are stepping forward," when the reality three years later speaks otherwise in as dramatic a fashion as you can imagine?

Who bases "progress" on statistics that don't include car bombings or whether you're shot in the front of the head (only counts if you're shot in the back of the head)? Who bases "progress" on statistics that show that there have been more American and Iraqi deaths during the last three summer months than in any other summer we've been in Iraq?

And all of this is pointed out in the ad (with considerably more verification here).

And this is saying a lot more than "the troop buildup has not worked." This is saying that we have been lied to and deceived not just by Petraeus, but the Pentagon.

I think "the old gray lady" needs a shot of Red Bull to keep from dozing off again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Videos

Ben Lee ("Love Me Like The World Is Ending"; please do - I hope he got combat pay to film this video)...

...Happy belated birthday to Fiona Apple ("Sleep To Dream," the first of two "relationship" songs by tough women here)...

...Another birthday by another member of a-ha today; this time it's Morten Harket, so that provides another excuse for Friday '80s music ("Hunting High And Low"; just remember now, if you're going to pursue a beautiful model through rugged but gorgeous natural landscapes, make sure you don't morph into an animal too many times or you may get killed - only in '80s videos...)...

...and Happy Birthday to Amy Winehouse ("Back To Black"; this is the second of the two songs, of course, and I love the '60, Phil-Spector-Wall-Of-Sound feel to this - and has he been convicted yet, by the way? Now, maybe Winehouse and her boyfriend husband (my bad) will stop beating the crap out of each other and get back to making good music).

For more videos, please check the WeShow link from the home page.

Friday Wrapup (9/14)

Just a few items that I’ve accumulated that I want to pass along…

  • The Daily Kos links to a post by Greg Sargent here that notes the media hysterics over the "botched joke" by this guy (and how much further along would our troop draw-down be had he been at the helm by now?) versus Boehner's (pronounced "bo-ner") "small price" remark about our troops?

    As the post authors note, it's just another day on the job for our corporate media, ladies and gentlemen.

  • The PA motorcycle helmet controversy stirred again recently (noted in this Inquirer story yesterday)…

    Despite a call from the National Transportation Safety Board urging states to require all motorcyclists to wear helmets, it will be "an uphill battle" to change the 2003 Pennsylvania law that allowed bareheaded riding, a helmet law advocate said yesterday.

    Across the country, the number of riders killed in motorcycle crashes has more than doubled in 10 years, according to the NTSB. In 1997, 2,116 motorcycle deaths were reported; in 2006, the death toll reached 4,810.

    Annual motorcycle fatalities in Pennsylvania averaged 126 a year from 1997 through 2003, but increased to 183 from 2004 through 2006, when it reached 187, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

    State Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny), who has introduced legislation to reinstate helmet laws, said: "There are only a handful of us who have a high level of interest in this," but added the increasing death toll may change some minds.

    Bill Patton, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis O'Brien (R., Phila.), said after years of debate many lawmakers have firm positions on the issue and may not want to revisit the debate.

    "It has not been at the forefront this year," he said.

    Nevertheless, he said, "the issue is still percolating."
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if motorcycle riders don’t have to wear helmets, then I, as a driver of an automotive vehicle in PA, should not have to wear a seat belt.

    Both policies make a comparable amount of sense.

  • As noted here, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers staged a demonstration in Lawrence Township, NJ in 2005 over low wages paid to electricians by an out-of-area contractor, and part of the demonstration included placing a 20-foot inflatable rat for a labor event that year. The police enforced a township law banning the rat, and fined a labor official $100 plus $33 in court costs.

    Well, the case was appealed to the New Jersey State Supreme Court, where a three-judge panel ruled yesterday that the township could ban the rat, and they reaffirmed the fines against the official.


    ..because the labor official's claim that the law violates free speech wasn't completely rejected, the plaintiffs can appeal automatically to the state Supreme Court.

    “That's the silver lining,” said Andrew Watson, a lawyer arguing for the right of a union local to display the rat during a job site protest.
    I know there’s a principle involved here, and I’m sympathetic to labor of course, but I just have a question; is it really worth it to spend these costs to fight an ordinance that the labor official violated to begin with, all for the sake of an inflatable rat?

    We’ll find out, apparently.

  • This is a link to a Huffington Post “candidate mashup” video where Democratic presidential contender John Edwards is asked by Bill Maher if he wants to combat global warming by asking people to consume less meat (interesting), and Charlie Rose asks Edwards about what he has learned or observed in his experience while campaigning for president (or something – I cannot access the video at the moment and I’m trying to recall it from this morning).

    The reason why I’m pointing this out is because I want to say something in defense of sport utility vehicles here.

    Sure, it’s easy for someone like Bill Maher who doesn’t have any kids (or perhaps none that he knows about - ??) to bring up the SUV “boogeyman” again (though, to be fair, I know all he’s doing is making Edwards recall what he said).

    But I just want to point out that, for your basic one or two-parent working family of modest-to-decent means in this country, SUVs are the way to go. They’re about as affordable as you’re going to get when talking about something to transport a family on the road; it’s just the three of us when we go anywhere for at least an overnight stay, and even when packing economically, we always manage to fill that sucker up with our stuff.

    What else are we supposed to buy that gives us the space and better fuel economy?

    And is it our fault that the automakers in this country have so stupidly refused to embraces alternative sources of energy and step up production of hybrid vehicles? And is it our fault that hybrid vehicles, already in limited supply, are more expensive than those running on fossil fuel mixed with ethanol? And is it also our fault that the automakers have fought implementation of serious fuel efficiency standards for SUVs?

    The days when we would all hop into the Ford Fairlaine station wagon with the wood slots on the side doors are dust in the wind. With all due respect to those complaining, direct your ire at the source and stop demonizing people who are just trying to move our stuff from point A to point B, OK?

  • This story from last week (sorry I’m just getting to this now) explains how U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero ruled that part of the “new and improved” Patriot Act was illegal…

    (Marrero) ruled that investigators eventually must obtain a court's approval when ordering Internet providers and phone companies to turn over records without telling customers.

    The ruling suggests that despite Congress' attempts to put the Patriot Act on firmer constitutional ground, it still faces significant legal challenges. If upheld on appeal, Marrero's decision could mean major new oversight of the FBI's use of a controversial investigative technique.

    The Justice Department is expected to vigorously challenge yesterday's decision.
    I’m sure they will.

    Judge Marrero has ruled against the Patriot Act before, as noted in the story (and how much do you want to bet that the freepers are howling about the fact that he was appointed to the bench by former President Clinton?).

    Well, in response, I have only this to say to someone who found the act flawed because it was “overly deferential” to the government and forestalled “meaningful judicial review,” as noted in the story:

    Thank you, your honor.
  • Where The Rubber Meets The Road (9/14/07)

    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.

    (Yes, they're baaack after about a month or so, in which I hope the Dems got an earful from their constituents about caving to Dubya on FISA and the war – not sure why the Inquirer flipped the Senate and House results, but they did.)


    Foreign affairs. Senators approved, 81-12, a $34.2 billion foreign affairs budget for 2008, up 8 percent from 2007. The bill, which now goes to conference with the House, would provide $17.3 billion in basic foreign aid, $5.1 billion for combatting HIV/AIDS, and $1.35 billion for U.N. peacekeeping missions.

    A yes vote was to pass HR 2764.

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

    Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.).
    Sounds like it’s “all good” here.

    Abortion. The Senate voted, 53-41, to repeal the government's "Mexico City Policy," which bars American aid to any group overseas that performs or promotes abortions, even with its own money. The vote amended HR 2764, above.

    A yes vote was to repeal the policy.

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

    Not voting: Biden.
    This is historic, and something the 109th Congress would never have allowed. The so-called “Mexico City Policy” is a Reagan-era gift to the anti-choice zealots in this country.

    The bad news here is that I guarantee that Incurious George will veto this if it reaches his desk, and this isn’t enough of a “yes” margin to override that.

    And this vote showed a measure of courage by Bob Casey, though he will “take a step back” shortly.

    U.N. Population Fund. Senators voted, 48-45, to continue a Bush administration policy of denying U.S. aid to the U.N. Population Fund because it tolerates China's use of coerced abortions and sterilizations to limit population growth. The vote occurred during debate on HR 2764, above.

    A yes vote backed the policy.

    Voting yes: Casey.

    Voting no: Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

    Not voting: Biden.
    Ugh…as noted here…

    Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the U.N. Population Fund is trying to give China alternatives to forced abortions and sterilizations. “If we agree to this amendment, then what we are saying is we will turn our backs on the most populous nation in the world,” he said.
    So that’s just what we did, and Casey went along with it.

    Budget director. Senators confirmed, 69-24, former Rep. Jim Nussle (R., Iowa) as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Nussle, 47, is a former chairman of the House Budget Committee.

    A yes vote was to confirm Nussle.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey and Specter.

    Voting no: Biden, Lautenberg and Menendez.
    This is another mistake; as noted from the prior link…

    Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., said: “President Bush needs a budget director who is willing to compromise with those of us in Congress who are fighting for the needs of working families and are not here to represent the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations. Unfortunately, there is nothing in former Congressman Jim Nussle’s background to suggest he is that person.”
    Indeed – I got into the issues with Nussle a little while ago here.

    Basically, though former OMB director Rob Portman was a loyal Bushie, he seemed to understand how to work with Congress. Unfortunately, Nussle is an ideological fellow traveler who doesn’t seem to even possess basic competence on budgetary matters…

    During the six years he served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, (Nussle) failed twice to reach agreement with the Senate on a joint resolution. A third agreement he forced on the Senate was so controversial that it barely cleared the House and was never called up for a vote in the Senate.

    Nussle’s latest train wreck began a year ago when he failed to find any way to reach compromise with his Senate counterpart, Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. As a result, the House and Senate proceeded through the appropriations process with two quite different sets of spending restraints—a fact that directly led to a near-total breakdown in the budget process, leaving the job of funding most of the federal government to the new Congress when it convened this past January.
    Kind of makes you wonder how he received confirmation by such a wide margin (and those Vermonters sure are smart, aren’t they?). And I understand Specter's GOP fealty here - though I don't agree with it - but why would Casey cave again along with "Lieberdem extraordinaire" Carper?


    Tribal housing. The House passed, 333-75, a bill to provide $2.2 billion between 2008 and 2012 for housing for American Indians living on tribal grounds.

    A yes vote was to pass HR 2786.

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

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

    Not voting: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.).
    So just remember this, any Native Americans who may be reading this and also reside in PA’s 16th U.S. congressional district on tribal grounds; Joe Pitts doesn’t like you either (consider yourselves added to a looooooooong list.)

    This week, the Senate debated fiscal 2008 budgets for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

    It's Giuliani (Pot, Meet Kettle) Time

    As noted previously, the Repugs are tripping over themselves attacking anyone who has dared to criticize the perceived infallibility of Gen. David Petraeus and his latest song-and-dance before Congress on the Iraq war earlier this week with Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

    And, not to be outdone, Rudy! has leapt to the front of the pack by purchasing a full-page ad in the New York Times today, ostensibly to support Petraeus, though it doesn’t hurt “America’s Mayor” to stick in the address for his web site at the bottom of the page (Ok, showing the site address is fair, I’ll give Rudy! that).

    Well, for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t seen the ad, it begins at the top of the page with the quote “the willing suspension of disbelief” from Sen. Hillary Clinton in headline type (what she correctly believed to be the requirement to accept what Petraeus was saying). From there, Rudy! then reminds us all that Moveon called Petraeus “General Betray Us” in typed text appearing next to the ad in question (I mean, it’s plainly obvious what the ad says, but I guess Rudy! felt he had to emphasize that), and then accuses the Democrats of conducting “orchestrated attacks” on Petraeus.

    After listing highlights from Petraeus’ record at the bottom of the page (also in headline type), the ad asks, “Who should America listen to…a decorated soldier’s commitment to defending America, or Hillary Clinton’s commitment to defending” (a sentence seriously in need of a copy edit).

    And as if that isn’t funny enough, here comes the topper…

    “These times call for statesmanship, not politicians spewing political venom.” – Mayor Rudy Giuliani
    My oh my, what a hoot (and I wonder what Michael Bloomberg thinks about the absence of "former" above, though with Rudy!, I'm sure he's used to this stuff by now).

    So Hillary Clinton saying that the Petraeus testimony requires “the willing suspension of disbelief” is “spewing political venom”? Wow, I didn’t know “America’s Mayor” had such fragile sensibilities.

    Do you want a real example of “spewing political venom,” Rudy!?

    Then try this…

    MANCHESTER, N.H. —- Rudy Giuliani said if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, America will be at risk for another terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.

    But if a Republican is elected, he said, especially if it is him, terrorist attacks can be anticipated and stopped.
    Vote for Democrats and die, huh Rudy?

    Oh, and I don’t know if it qualifies as “spewing political venom” to tell an Iowa couple that, at the last minute, you’ve decided not to appear with them because “they’re not worth a million dollars,” as you did here, but that certainly qualifies as far as I’m concerned.

    And be grateful that I’m going to end this post here and not list your myriad other failures again, you human cockroach.

    Signs Of Life By The Fourth Estate On Iraq

    While reviewing the commentary and legitimate analysis of Dubya’s latest lies on the Iraq war last night on TV, I came across this link which – surprise! – actually analyzes some of the preznit’s claims regarding this travesty…

    A Look at the Facts Behind Bush's Speech

    The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON - President Bush pointed to political realignment in Iraq's volatile Anbar province as evidence that Iraq is a fight that the United States is winning.

    A look at some of Bush's assertions in a national address on Iraq on Thursday.


    "Anbar province is a good example of how our strategy is working," Bush said, noting that just last year U.S. intelligence analysts had written off the Sunni area as "lost to al-Qaida."


    Early Thursday, the most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed by a bomb planted near his home.

    The killing of a chief Anbar ally hours before Bush spoke showed the tenuous and changeable nature of success in Anbar and Iraq at large.

    Although Sunni sheiks have defied al-Qaida and largely allied with U.S. forces in Anbar, the province remains violent and al-Qaida remains a threat.

    Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha died 10 days after he met with Bush during a surprise visit the U.S. leader made to highlight the turnaround in Anbar. The charismatic young sheik led the Anbar Salvation Council, also known as the Anbar Awakening, an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.

    The Sunni revolt against al-Qaida led to a dramatic improvement in security in Anbar cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi. Iraqis who had been sitting on the sidelines , or planting roadside bombs to kill Americans , have now joined with U.S. forces to hunt down al-Qaida in Iraq, whose links to Osama bin Laden's terror network are unclear.

    Anbar is not secure, accounting for 18 percent of the U.S. deaths in Iraq so far this year, making it the second deadliest province after Baghdad.

    Bush's top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, told Congress this week that Anbar's circumstances are unique and its model cannot be replicated everywhere in Iraq, but "it does demonstrate the dramatic change in security that is possible with the support and participation of local citizens."
    As the information from this link tells us, though, even the sainted General Petraeus admitted last January that developments in Anbar (where Sunni sheiks led the fight against al Qaeda) were taking place independent of “the splurge” anyway. And with the tragic death of the courageous Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, we shall have to wait and see whether the Sunnis maintain their resistance to al Qaeda in Anbar.


    Progress in Iraq, including improvement in the performance of the Iraqi army, led to Petraeus' recommendation that "we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces."

    Bush said there is still work to be done to improve the Iraqi national police.


    A new White House report on Iraq shows slim progress, moving just one more political and security goal into the satisfactory column. Efforts to let former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party rejoin the political process earned the upgrade, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.

    The report largely tracks a comparable poor assessment in July on 18 benchmarks. The earlier White House report said the Iraqi government had made satisfactory gains toward eight benchmarks, unsatisfactory marks on eight and mixed results on two.

    Although the benchmark list is the rubric that the White House and the Iraqi government proposed earlier this year, the Bush administration has recently said it offers a skewed or incomplete view of progress in Iraq.
    And regarding the news about the possible “draw down” of our forces, Patrick Murphy stated here that “only in Washington can you have the same number of troops from nine months ago [in Iraq] and call it a reduction.”


    Bush noted that the government has not met its own legislative benchmarks, but he pointed to limited political progress among Iraq's national leaders. He said Iraq has passed a budget and is sharing oil wealth.


    The Government Accountability Office reported last month that Iraq has only partially met a test involving reformation of its budget process, although the State Department, Pentagon and White House disputed the finding.

    Some proceeds from Iraq's vast oil and gas resources are being shared among regions, but the country lacks a national framework agreement for the distribution of oil revenues.

    A national oil law, which would also invite foreign investment, has been repeatedly promised by Iraq's leaders and frequently mentioned by U.S. officials as a crucial marker of the country's ability to reconcile its ethnic and religious groups.

    Iraq's main political parties are deadlocked over the law and the legislation has been sent back to party leaders to see if they can salvage it, an official involved in the talks said Thursday.
    Oh yes, that pesky oil law that the Iraqis just can’t seem to pass (and if they can’t agree to something that crucial to the survival of the country, I can’t see how they can agree on anything).

    And Paul Krugman (who else?) noted something interesting today about that (this is “behind the wall”; I’ll try to get a more accessible link later)…

    What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown (in negotiation on the oil law). Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.

    Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.

    Some commentators have expressed surprise at the fact that a businessman with very close ties to the White House is undermining U.S. policy. But that isn’t all that surprising, given this administration’s history. Remember, Halliburton was still signing business deals with Iran years after Mr. Bush declared Iran a member of the “axis of evil.”

    No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.

    The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.
    Back to the analysis...


    "We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy."


    There may well be 36 nations contributing to the cause, but the overwhelming majority of troops come from the United States. For example, Albania has 120 soldiers there and Bulgaria has 150 non-combat troops in Iraq. Bush visited both nations this summer as a thank you.

    The United States has 168,000 troops in Iraq.
    This link takes you to information on troop levels maintained by other countries in Iraq (and this list numbers 22 countries, so Dubya doesn’t even know how to lie properly on this). What’s more telling, though, are the countries that have withdrawn forces (and again, the fact that we are even giving Sarkozy in France the time of day since he has not committed anything is appropriate for this madness; why we like him and didn’t like Chirac who did the same thing is one of the many mysteries to me on this).

    Here are more contradictions in Bush’s speech versus reality as well as some amplification to points noted above by Glenn Kessler in today’s Washington Post.

    And finally, here is a link to the two-minute speech by John Edwards on the war broadcast on MSNBC last night (I’ll try to embed the video here later).

    No timeline, no funding, no excuses. That’s it.

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Is Our Pundits (And Newspapers) Learning?

    I happened to stumble across this review in The Philadelphia Inquirer of a new book by conservative bomb-thrower Laura Ingraham with the laughable title of Power To The People (see, the freepers aren't doing their jobs if they're not trying to turn language traditionally associated with the '60s and left-wing politics inside out). And I'm sure no one reading this is surprised that a conservative screed such as this received such favorable treatment in the Inquirer, right?

    There is so much about this wretched woman and her bilious garbage that could be answered in this review...the typical wingnut mantra of public schools and teachers unions that celebrate Hollywood decadence and do not show proper deference to corporate America, the fiction that 12 million illegal immigrants - assuming that's the correct number - can be forcibly removed from this country, or in lieu of that they can "deport" themselves, the evergreen Ted Kennedy drunk jokes (as if Ingraham's ideological kinsmen are vice free), etc.

    But what I want to focus on here is the following paragraph (I don't expect book reviewer Frank Wilson to examine Ingraham and what she says in the same way as a hard-news journalist, but maybe he should have had someone else check out Ingraham's claims a bit more thoroughly)...

    But there seems to be a softer tone to Power to the People (as opposed to "Shut Up And Sing," which was incendiary enough to motivate one nutjob to threaten the life of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines - my note). Liberals and conservatives alike, for instance, might want states to "get out of the textbook selection process and let the individual teachers pick the materials that fit best for them."
    (Ingraham is referring to No Child Left Behind here, of course).

    It seems that our conservative-commentator-turned-literary-propagandist would do well to read this article written last October by Michael Grunwald of the Washington Post about Reading First, a "billion-dollar-a-year effort" that began as part of No Child Left Behind ostensibly to sponsor "scientifically-backed research" to promote teaching methods (the fact that Bushco sounded like they care about science here is the first thing that smelled fishy). However, the group ended up piloting unproven programs for the sake of its Repug-simpatico benefactors.

    As noted in the article...

    Department officials and a small group of influential contractors have strong-armed states and local districts into adopting a small group of unproved textbooks and reading programs with almost no peer-reviewed research behind them. The commercial interests behind those textbooks and programs have paid royalties and consulting fees to the key Reading First contractors, who also served as consultants for states seeking grants and chaired the panels approving the grants. Both the architect of Reading First and former education secretary Roderick R. Paige have gone to work for the owner of one of those programs, who is also a top Bush fundraiser.

    On Sept. 22, the department's inspector general released a report exposing some of Reading First's favoritism and mismanagement. The highlights were internal e-mails from then-program director Chris Doherty, vowing to deny funding to programs that weren't part of the department's in-crowd: "They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags."


    Bush administration officials frequently say that Reading First does not play favorites or intrude on local control, that states and districts are free to choose their own textbooks and programs -- as long as they're backed by sound science. But aggressive muckraking by the newsletter Title 1 Monitor and reading advocates at the Success for All Foundation have eviscerated those claims, and the inspector general's report officially contradicted them, accusing the department of breaking the law by promoting its pet programs and squelching others. In his internal e-mails, Doherty frequently admitted using "extralegal" tactics to force states and local districts to do the department's bidding. A report by Success for All documented how state applications for Reading First grants that promoted the preferred programs were the only ones approved.

    In fact, the vast majority of the 4,800 Reading First schools have now adopted one of the five or six top-selling commercial textbooks, even though none of them has been evaluated in a peer-reviewed study against a control group. Most of the schools also use the same assessment program, the same instructional model, and one of three training programs developed by Reading First insiders -- with little research backing.

    "They kept denying it, but everybody knew the department had a list," said Jady Johnson, director of the Reading Recovery Council of North America. "They're forcing schools to spend millions on ineffective programs."
    And as blogger Jim Horn tells us here, quoting the following communication between Doherty (shades of "Baghdad Bob" here) and Reid Lyon, the buffer between Doherty and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings...

    Confidentially: …Well, I spoke to [a New Jersey official] with a roomful of others on their end and they are HALTING the funding of Rigby and, while we were at it, Wright Group. They STOPPED the districts who wanted to use those programs. We won in Maine, we won in New Jersey. Morale is sky high across the country. State plans have gone from–on average–crap, to each one being–at least on paper–strong and aligned with [scientifically based reading research], and we have lots of monitoring muscle to flex and [technical assistance] brains to provide. Strong law, great funding, solid, guiding science. We are winning.

    —Mr. Doherty to Mr. Lyon, in reference to the rejection of reading textbooks that they viewed as not meeting federal requirements, Sept. 5, 2003
    (And I'm sure the "wink-wink" implied in the bracketed, bolded section was picked up on by Lyon.)

    And this post showed how another Bush family member, Neil, ended up benefiting from getting a big, heaping slice from the NCLB pie for his consulting company.

    I realize Laura Ingraham isn't going to tell us the truth, but someone in the Inquirer should have refuted her on her accusation that the states could possibly be selecting bad textbooks for our kids.

    But then again, what would the Inquirer be if they weren't willfully propagandizing for conservatives (and gosh, we have Kevin Ferris to look forward to again tomorrow - o joy of joys!).

    Oh, and one more thing – here is the song with the title of Ingraham’s book reflecting the way the phrase was originally meant, just for the record.

    John Edwards On T.V. Tonight!

    The latest from the John Edwards campaign (publicizing the appearance more than anything else, and I try not to use exclamation points unless it matters, but I think it does here)...

    Tonight, after President Bush makes yet another argument for continuing the war in Iraq, John Edwards will speak directly to the American people in a nationwide address on MSNBC.

    Our campaign has bought airtime on MSNBC immediately following the President's address at 9 p.m., and John Edwards will challenge the President's remarks with a strong call to the nation to end the war now.

    Please watch in that timeframe—and forward this e-mail to your friends, asking them to watch as well. Each of us has a responsibility to make sure that President Bush and Congress understand that the time for excuses has run out. John Edwards will deliver a strong message tonight on our behalf. It's time to end this war and bring our troops home.

    Buying this kind of airtime is expensive. But we believe that President Bush's address must be countered with a strong voice in opposition to the failed policies that have kept our troops in harm's way for far too long. Tonight, John Edwards will continue to lead, and make the case to the nation that we cannot wait for an election to change course in Iraq—we as citizens must make Washington understand that the time to end this war is now.

    Don't miss John's address tonight on MSNBC, immediately following the President.

    President Bush will be on every network for free tonight. Our campaign will have to pay for the time on MSNBC so that John Edwards can challenge the President's failed policies. Please consider making a contribution to the campaign—to help us meet the costs of paying for tonight's address—and to help John's campaign continue to grow.

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    Thanks for all you do,

    Joe Trippi
    Senior Advisor, John Edwards
    for President
    September 13, 2007
    To learn more, click here.

    An Empty Legacy

    I really hadn't planned to say anything about Steve Fossett, but my ol' buddy J.D. Mullane in the Bucks County Courier Times forced my hand here.

    For the benefit of anyone who has been living under a rock for about the last week or so (and don't worry, I almost qualify myself for that one based on my limited exposure to stories like this), Fossett made his fortune in the financial services industry, and then apparently some time around the mid-'90s, he decided to become an adventurer, and subsequently set a whole bunch of records in skiing, mountain climbing, and flying.

    He set out for great conquests, and frequently achieved them. However, all I can ever remember about this guy is that, while trying to set some new distance record in a hot air balloon or something, he would inevitably need help from a rescue team because he ran out of fuel, blew off course, or, in the case of his Breitling Orbiter II flight in February 1998, was denied entry into Chinese airspace and thus risked an international incident.

    And I would think about all of the resources being exhausted to find this guy, and wonder how all of that time, energy and manpower could have been put to better use instead of bailing out somebody who apparently didn't know what else to do with all of the time on his hands.

    Well, no matter, Mullane said today...

    Men of less ambition have portrayed Fossett as a millionaire thrill-seeker who collected world records the way some collected baseball cards. My guess is that many of them do not have the ability to fly a radio-controlled toy airplane, let alone have the testicular fortitude to take the controls of even a Cessna 150.

    But I understand. Most of us play it safe. Side-impact air bags. Bike helmets for our kids. We live a belt-and-suspenders lifestyle. So when a guy like Fossett comes along, we're not sure what to think.
    For the benefit of the uninitiated, I should note that it's a legal requirement, apparently, for J.D. to slam someone or something in a column whenever he's writing about something more substantial than bike trails, zoning ordinances, or wistfully recalling childhood memories of almost drowning in frozen creek beds while building a snow fort or impaling himself on a chain link fence while climbing over it to retrieve a whiffle ball (and just for the record, J.D., I don't own a pair of suspenders).

    However, I will give J.D. a bit of a nod here and acknowledge that Fossett was a great adventurer. Good for him.

    But as I've scanned through a bunch of archived columns in the New York Times, read through information on him at Wikipedia as well as his web site and perused other news accounts and opinion columns, something else struck me about Fossett.

    Apparently, he gave absolutely nothing to charity (or, if he did, it somehow has never been publicized anywhere, which is remarkable).

    No "Steve Fossett Foundation" or whatever to provide college scholarships or endowments to civic groups or community organizations. Nothing to help with disease and poverty efforts in Africa and third-world countries elsewhere. Nothing to promote tolerance and understanding of other faiths, cultures, gender orientations...whatever. Nothing to promote any kind of political ideology and thus engage in a discourse that could enlighten and inform others.

    Oh sure, this guy received bushels of awards and citations. But I can't find any indication that he gave anything back (unless you consider some new expedition of his "giving back" somehow, and I don't).

    I mean, sure, Fossett was allowed to engage in all of the "play time" that he wanted. But to return nothing for the privilege?

    As far as I'm concerned, Steve Fossett's life was, first, last and in-between, a celebration of himself (and, as is usually the case with him, a whole bunch of rescue workers are trying to bail him out again from another mess, but I don't think they're going to be successful, though I don't wish for anything bad to happen to Fossett of course).

    And if that's the kind of person Mullane looks up to as a role model, then that is sad indeed.

    In the Wikipedia article on Fossett, his friend Richard Branson (a rich adventurer as well who at least gave back by helping, with Peter Gabriel, to finance a group called "The Elders" working to solve global conflicts; the group is chaired by Desmond Tutu) called Fossett "half-human."

    I think Branson was right, though perhaps not in the way he intended.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Wednesday Videos

    Posting is another question mark for tomorrow - I just dunno at this point, so in the meantime...

    Nada Surf ("Popular"; I love it when videos deal objectively and maturely with contemporary coming-of-age issues, and in a totally non-exploitative way)...

    ..and Happy Birthday to Ben Folds of The Ben Folds Five ("Brick," a neat little homemade vid from YouTuber Koolaid19).

    For more videos, please check the WeShow link from the home page.

    Bucks County's "Prodigal Son" Returns

    Why, look who showed up in Bucks County recently (to campaign for Repugs Jim Cawley and Charles Martin running for re-election as county commissioners, of course). It’s our own former U.S. House Rep Jim Greenwood!

    (I mean, it had to be so he could shill for Repugs, right? The only other reason for his appearance would be if he’d gotten lost wandering from “K” street.)

    The Courier Times story notes the following…

    At Penn-Vermont Farm on Rolling Hills Road, Greenwood announced that he is now the honorary chairman of the campaign to re-elect incumbents Charley Martin and Jim Cawley. He and his wife, Tina, will host a fundraiser for the pair at their home in Upper Makefield in October.
    And how’s this for a subtle dig at Dems, in this case Steve Santarsiero and Diane Marseglia, the two commissioner candidates running against Cawley and Martin…

    The choice of Penn-Vermont Farm to make the announcement was no accident. Martin and Cawley are running primarily on the issue of open space and farmland preservation, a feel-good topic that even the Democratic candidates Diane Marseglia and Steve Santarsiero support.
    Yes, and I’m sure Diane and Steve love their families and are kind to animals as well, and I’m sure they also look both ways when crossing the street (oh brother…).

    And the issue of open space is a heck of a lot more than “a feel-good topic” anyway (the article notes that a bit later, trying to overcome this gaffe).

    Much of this article is political posturing, I realize; for that reason, I don’t want to rehash it too much.

    The real point of this post, though, is to call attention to Greenwood and this supposed “kindly elder statesman” role that he seems to be assuming.

    Let’s not forget the circumstances under which he left Congress in 2004, OK? As noted here in a comment (far down I’ll admit, and I’ll try to source this a little better), Greenwood chaired the Education and Work Force committee in the House, and in this capacity, postponed hearings scheduled for July on the effect of antidepressants on kids. Subsequent to this, he took a job running the Biotechnology Industry Organization as a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry.

    Greenwood has protested forever that this was not a “quid pro quo” (duly noted by Fact-esque here). The problem is that it sure as hell smelled like one at the time and continues to now.

    Now I’ll grant that the Biotechnology Industry Organization under Greenwood has advocated for the safe use of biotechnology products, including their careful regulation and marketing (still trying to learn more about this, but holding off on passing the bill seems to be prudent for now). And working with other health organizations towards a disaster-response initiative to improve patient access to biotech medicines (as noted here) is wise.

    But I really wonder how much it would have helped if he had not postponed those hearings on the use of antidepressants by kids in July 2004. Maybe we would have been spared stories such as this.

    As for the two incumbent commissioners Greenwod showed up here to prop noted here, Diane and Steve favor an actual plan for the entire county to curb sprawl and use and preserve space wisely, as opposed to Cawley and Martin trying to buy up whatever open space they can, which is impossible anyway; this is funny when you consider that Repugs always accuse Dems of “throwing money at problems,” or whatever.

    Also (speaking of Repug demagoguery), didn’t they call Patrick Murphy the Bucks County U.S. House candidate “dropped in from Washington” by Nancy Pelosi, or some such nonsense last year? Well then, wasn’t Greenwood transported here from his cushy Beltway digs to stand in a field with two Repugs who have a lot to answer for in the face of some actual serious competition for their jobs?

    Jim, go back to D.C. for more face time with your pharma friends while attending various high-profile symposia (and perform functions such as this one), promoting all of your “new bio” projects while your corporate benefactors fork over too much money and nod with approval. Bucks County doesn’t need you anymore.

    Staining The Memory Of Our People

    This tells us that U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner said that the deaths of 3774 (to date, from here) of our service people in Iraq is “a small price.”

    And by the way, as Slate notes here, two of those casualties were contributors to the New York Times Op-Ed on Iraq that I posted about here.

    And this post from last July states how Boehner called U.S. senators who want to change course in Iraq “wimps.”

    Here’s a way to contact Boehner and tell him that you think he is utter scum. And that’s the kind version of what I think of him at this moment.

    Update 9/13: Good comeback by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and here are good also (and good for Van Hollen to emphasize "minority" leader).

    Update 9/14: The good John Kerry stands up against Boehner here, but the bad one dimed out for the Petraeus ad here (in a polite, gentlemanly way, but the net effect was the same as the hysterical Repug response).

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    Tuesday Videos

    For the occasion: "Lonesome Day," by Bruce Springsteen...

    ...and if you take nothing else away from this sixth anniversary, please take away this.

    For more videos, please check the WeShow link from the home page.

    Ever Watch A General Tap Dance?

    h/t The Daily Kos...

    And this can only mean that it's time to forward another petition (naturally).

    Does anyone think the Moveon ad was wrong now (in the reality-based community, I mean)?

    A New Recruit For James Dobson?

    I posted on the subject of declining birth rates in this country awhile back here based on a column in USA Today by Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation run (at the time) by Ted Halstead and James Fallows. Their argument seemed to be that, if you had kids, you were conservative, but if you didn’t, you were some kind of liberal scum not contributing to the betterment of society (or something).

    I recalled this because of this story from Der Spiegel about a talk show host named Eva Herman who uttered the following about Nazi Germany and the role of women during those dark days…

    "It was a gruesome time with a totally crazy and highly dangerous leader who led the Germans into ruin as we all know. But there was at the time also something good, and that is the values, that is the children, that is the families, that is a togetherness -- it was all abolished, there was nothing left," Herman said.
    Wow-wee, uncle Adolf, I think somebody just goose-stepped herself into a big puddle of Würfelspiel.

    The program director for ARD's northern division Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), Volker Herres, said Herman had been sacked with immediate effect. "Frau Herman is free to carry on her 'motherhood crusade', but this is no longer compatible with her role as an NDR TV presenter."

    He said guests had been cancelling their appearances on Herman's talk show in response to her public statements on motherhood.

    And as we know, the Kriegsmarine featured a version of “The Love Boat” specifically tailored for The Reich so that couples could conceive and thus qualify for “The Mother’s Cross” as part of the “Lebensborn,” right? And the Anschluss was nothing but a merry romp through the Austrian woods, wasn’t it? I mean, what else could the von Trapp family have been singing about, then (oh, wait…).

    Since Frau Herman has apparently fallen out of favor with her German employers at ARD, she should contact these life forms, since they would welcome someone like her with such primitive views of the role women are expected to play in an industrialized nation.

    Sieg heil, baby (and she even looks like Coulter a bit, doesn't she?)

    One Man’s Obsession

    If David Broder has a “thing” for Hillary Clinton, I really wish he would just be honest and admit it (and give everyone a good laugh in the process).

    As a birthday present of sorts to The Dean Of Beltway Journalism (yes, Broder was born on September 11th, which is oddly appropriate since this exercise of navel gazing masquerading as a column is an utter disaster), I thought I’d note Broder’s latest invasion of the marriage of the one-time first couple here.

    His latest is actually a review of the book about Hillary Clinton by Carl Bernstein, which I’m sure is very interesting. Border summarizes key points in his column, and ends with this observation…

    But one thing is absolutely clear. Her marriage is the central fact in her life, and this partnership of Bill and Hillary Clinton is indissoluble. She cannot function without him, and he would not have been president without her. If she becomes president, he will play as central a role in her presidency as she did in his. And that is something the country will have to ponder.
    What I’m about to say about Hillary Clinton is unfair, and though I don’t believe it, I apologize in advance.

    Through absolutely no fault of her own, she is going to have the devil’s own time trying to remove the perception from too many people in this country that she can’t be president without her husband. That’s not fair to her, since she’s a more able legislator and public servant than most of the men in Washington or anywhere else in this country. And all she can do is be herself, and that should be good enough (I should emphasize, though, that my support for John Edwards is unwavering among the field of Dem presidential hopefuls), but it would be sickening to see people sway towards Rudy! if somehow it ends up being those two simply because of his gender.

    And Broder is playing on that, though this piece of nonsense from him is less invasive than some of his other dreck about the Clintons, including the column Media Matters notes here where Broder (and his fellow corporate media drones) basically ignored the substance of a speech by Hillary Clinton and focused instead on her “lemon-yellow pants suit.”

    Broder, you’re not a terribly good book reviewer, and you’re not much of a critique of fashion. Stick to doing what you know (and what exactly is that at this point, anyway?).

    Getting Played (And Playing Ourselves)

    (By the way, no posting tomorrow, in case I forget to mention it.)

    I apologize to every living thing in the universe for plastering this woman’s face on a post on this most solemn of days, but alas, it is necessary.

    For the uninitiated, this is U.S. House Repug Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida’s 18th congressional district. She is one of the most odious Repugs in the House, and I know that is saying an awful lot. Though John Boehner’s name calling and relentless negativity aimed at anything whatsoever having to do with the Democratic Party is seemingly boundless, Ros-Lehtinen exceeds that through her childish braying and drop-of-the-hat pontificating about how she came to this country from Cuba (and has freely spoken out about murdering Fidel Castro, by the way), and how her family members have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and her husband was wounded in Vietnam.

    Anyone who serves has my thanks and my respect, but there’s a word called, “humility.” She should check it out.

    Also, did I note that she said it was OK to invade Iraq even though there was no link to al Qaeda because “the common link is that they hate America”?

    Well, anyway, the reason I’m mentioning her along with fellow House Repug Duncan Hunter of California is that, after reading what I could of Day 1 of the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker before Congress yesterday, it’s pretty clear that they routed Dem House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton and fellow Dem Tom Lantos in terms of “getting the message out” (which, as any self-respecting Repug will tell you, is more important than representing your office in an even-handed, impartial manner).

    And the message is this: is nothing but a bunch of godless, America-hating commie liberal, terrorist-loving traitors for even imagining that they could question the seemingly almighty Gen. David Petraeus.

    Now we can laugh at Ros-Lehtinen all we want when she, with typically obnoxious bluster, challenges anyone to refute the ad about General “Betray us,” but when I R-L and Hunter are not answered, they get the lion’s share of the media coverage, they get their message across at our expense, and their narrative is supported, not ours.

    But do you know what Skelton and/or Lantos should have said in response? This, or something like it…

    “ is entitled to air their ads, and Freedom’s Watch is entitled to air theirs, since it’s all free speech.”
    Or words to that effect.

    There. Now, was that so hard?

    And yes, that would have initiated an additional firestorm. So what? Let Hunter and Ros-Lehtinen rant while Skelton and Lantos go about their business.

    And from what I can gather, apparently the Repugs are doing the “bad cop” today in the person of Chuck Hagel as opposed to their “good cop” act yesterday in an effort to make it look like they will be the ones to hold our military accountable for Iraq and not the Democrats. And this is how they end up controlling the coverage and maintaining the desired narrative.

    And this is how the Dems lose the media battle without every knowing when to fire the first shot (largely because they don’t stand up for people and groups like Moveon who have done more to energize and organize Democratic voters than anyone else…the party is “back in the game” for that reason).

    And by the way, speaking of the netroots and other online Democratic supporters and ideologically like-minded web sites (I hope that covers everybody), I have to admit that I’m more than a little shocked by the almost-universal condemnation of Moveon for the Petraeus ad.

    Yes, the “Betray us” language was a bit over the top, but the ad is right on the facts, and it’s laughably tame compared to the bilious freeper garbage out there.

    You “dance with the one who brought you,” people. If we forget that, then there’s no point to any of this.

    Update 9/14 (1): Jane Hamsher does a better job of articulating what I'm trying to say here (and in addition to John Kerry - sigh - her words should be aimed at Democratic Underground also, among others).

    Update 9/14 (2): Kagro X explains here why the Repugs leapt to the defense of Petraeus, and that's because his name could be bankable for Repug fundraising, as opposed to Dubya's, which isn't anymore.

    The Obligatory 9/11 Post

    I’ve already weighed in on this anniversary here and here, and though I cannot imagine ever running out of words to say about it, I think I’ve exhausted a lot of points that I’ve already tried to make. And Ezra Klein today here (via Atrios) captured a lot of what I’d had in mind.

    The first linked post above was written in 2005, where I recounted a lot of my own remembrances from the day it all happened. The second post is a bunch of “macro” level observations about what I think about this day in general and what people choose to make of it (and I probably was colder than I should have been when I said that I didn’t care about people’s thoughts and emotions; sorry about that, but I was just particularly fed up with the usual pontificating from the usual suspects; I’m sure if Rudy Giuliani could trademark the numbers “9/11,” he would).

    And I would just like to reemphasize that I think it is utter crap when people who spend a good part of their time and energy trying to belittle others and ridicule their thoughts and attitudes without bothering to understand them suddenly tell us on this day that “9/11 changed everything, we should all hold hands and get along, fa la la” (and by the way, individuals of an extremely diverse mix of religions and ethnicities perished on this day, not just Christians).

    But to return to the positive in this (hard to find, I’ll admit), I also thought this was a good post on the subject from the Daily Kos blogger wiscmass, who captures what really matters the most, and that of course is the victims.

    And speaking of dwelling on what really matters, I should point out that I recently visited the 9-11 Garden of Reflection in Lower Makefield, Pa. As I approached eastbound on Woodside Rd. from Lindenhurst, a row of flags atop telephone poles appeared, marking the entrance approach. And as you enter, a garden actually appears off to the right, growing tomatoes, zucchini, and other produce.

    After a very slight rise, you approach the circular grass cutout that marks the entrance, with the last I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center mounted in the middle. From there, the circular walkway around the twin fountains appears, permitting a casual stroll past a gray stone marker on the left for the victims (collectively) and one on the right for those who donated their time and money to the project.

    The walk on the circular path can be finished in about 15 minutes or so, and at a few points, there are twin sets of metal benches if you want to rest and “turn on the quiet.” There are 17 maple trees dotted along the path, one for each of the victims who came from Bucks County, Pa.

    I spoke with a man named Skip who is the chief landscaper for the site, and he told me that plans to develop the garden are ongoing, and will be for some time. A grove of about 150 trees had been planted extending to a berm near the rest area about an eighth of a mile from Woodside Rd., and large patches of grass will be re-sodded shortly.

    Eventually, the garden will truly be a park, which it is in parts at this moment. I noted two volleyball courts with young kids getting ready for a game, as well as a man walking a Great Dane around the parking lot. So, in addition to a fine place to contemplate the victims of that day where we can gather our thoughts in respect, the garden is also a place that represents everyday life and normalcy, a sign that we will continue as before.

    In a bit of karma, I felt that I had captured in my mind all I could of this place just at the moment the black van with big white letters that spelled “FOX TV NEWS” showed up. At that point, I knew for certain that it was time to leave and “return to the world” once more.

    Oh, and by the way, perhaps in another lifetime, Stu Bykofsky will apologize for this.

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Monday Videos

    Papa Roach ("Time Is Running Out"; a home-made video by - presumably - fans of the band that I liked)...

    ...Happy Birthday to Miles Zuniga of Fastball ("The Way").

    A Job For Mitt “Whoop-De-Do” Romney

    Boy, that Willard Mitt Romney is one frackin’ hilarious guy, you know?

    This article in the New York Times yesterday featured a proposal from The Mittster to end taxes on investment earnings for families that make less than $200,000 a year. This apparently was a response to a proposal by John Edwards to exempt the first $250 of investment earnings from capital gains taxes.

    So how did Willard Mitt respond to the Edwards proposal?

    “Whoop-de-do,” Mr. Romney said Wednesday at the Republican debate in New Hampshire. “That’s not going to buy you retirement, it’s not going to buy you a house, and someone yelled out it’s not going to buy him a haircut, either.”
    What a card. Why, I’d better stop chortling, or else I may bust a gut.

    Let me clue you in on something, Willard Mitt; aside from IRA monies, you know what our projected interest earnings subject to capital gains taxes are likely to be this year?

    Oh….roughly….approximately….maybe….just a “wild-ass guess”…..ZERO! That’s what, you clown! Like everything else about you, your proposal means nothing to me (at least Edwards is proposing an amount that is a lot closer to my threshold than anything you have in mind).

    I’ve had The Mittster on my mind lately for another reason (kind of in the same vein as trying to remember to schedule that appointment with your proctologist). It’s because of this story that appeared in the New York Times recently about hundreds of teenage boys that have been expelled from the polygamous settlement that straddles Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah run by a guy named Warren Jeffs, who is about to stand trial on charges of sexual exploitation based on this story that appeared at, excerpted from another New York Times story (the “old gray lady” is hardly perfect, but the paper uncovers a lot of important stuff).

    And why were the boys expelled?

    Disobedience is usually the reason given for expulsion, but former sect members and state legal officials say the exodus of males - the expulsion of girls is rarer - also remedies a huge imbalance in the marriage market. Members of the sect believe that to reach eternal salvation, men are supposed to have at least three wives.
    And by the way, “Disobedience” is defined as watching movies (“Die Hard,” in this example…imagine a teenage boy not being allowed to watch an action movie), surfing the ‘net, wearing short-sleeve shirts, and “staring at girls, let alone dating them.”

    State officials say efforts to help them with shelter, foster care or other services have been frustrated by the boys' distrust of government and fear of getting their parents into trouble.

    But help for the teenagers is improving. In St. George, a nearby city where many of them wind up, two private groups, with state aid, have opened the first residence and center for banished boys. It will offer psychological counseling and advice on things they never learned, like how to write a check or ask a girl out politely, as well as a transitional home for eight who will attend school and work part time.
    Why should Mitt care about this? Because the sect run by Jeffs is largely controlled by (in addition to Jeffs’ allies) the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    That would be The Mormons, the religious group affiliated with one Willard Mitt Romney. Yet, to date, Romney has been silent on the matter, as Taylor Marsh notes here in a post from last November.

    The SFGate/Times story also notes the following…

    The problem of surplus males worsened in the 1990s when the late prophet Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' father, took on dozens of young wives - picking the prettiest, most talented girls, said DeLoy Bateman, a high school teacher who watched it happen.

    Warren Jeffs, taking the mantle after his father's death in 2002, adopted most of his father's wives and married others, and also began assigning more wives to his trusted church leaders, former members say. Forced departures increased.

    Shannon Price, director of the Diversity Foundation, an educational nonprofit group near Salt Lake City, estimates that 500 to 1,000 teenage boys and young men have left Jeffs' sect in the last six years, based on the hundreds who have contacted her group and another nonprofit, New Frontiers for Families.

    Established by Dan Fischer, a wealthy former sect member, the Diversity Foundation has been a rare source of aid for ejected boys - and girls who have left the sect to avoid polygamy - helping many go to high school and college and raising public awareness about their plight.

    The new venture, the eight-bedroom house in St. George, is being run jointly by the two nonprofits with private grants and $95,000 from the Utah Legislature.
    So it sounds like, despite the fact that Willard Mitt is trying to run away from this issue, the lot of these young men may be improving somewhat (his focus on this, particularly since he is the father of five boys himself, would help the victims of Jeffs’ madness and give Romney some “cred” in terms of compassion and understanding that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t exist).

    Yeah I know, talk about wishful thinking; Willard Mitt Romney, the guy who threw former “friend” Larry Craig under the bus at the first sign of trouble, the guy who preaches morals to everyone even though he tortures his dog and signed off on the availability of porn in Marriott Hotel rooms, the guy who makes the world safe for anyone acquiring more than $200,000 of capital gains income actually taking a controversial stand on behalf of those less fortunate and confronting abhorrent practices attributed to his own religion.

    Now that’s funny.

    Update 9/11/07: Oh, and by the way, Mitt, here's a movie recommendation for you about a bit of nastiness from your brethren that took place 150 years ago today (I hope it doesn't cause a "penumbra of angst").

    "Afghan Don" Is Talking To You And Me

    How dare Think Progress do such a great job of totally refuting Rummy on his latest blather about Afghanistan being a “success story” (I guess “the story,” then, was written by Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft - I also suppose this would be a Rummy "two-fer" after the "marginalization and ridicule" note in the earlier post).

    And scrolling down in the comments, I thought #12 asked an interesting question: any other president ever lose two wars simultaneously? Another commenter referred to this as a measure of success (?) for that country also.

    This Year's "Bring It On"?

    Either White House aide Fran Townsend is one of the stupidest people on the planet, or merely one of the most disingenuous.

    As noted here, she said yesterday that Osama bin Laden is “virtually impotent” and “can do little more than send videotaped messages.”

    Does she really want to see another attack on our soil? Or is she trying to inflame passions in a world already burning out of control with rage, directing more danger towards our military?

    This post by The Daily Kos notes that (as much as I hate to admit it) bin Laden is still formidable as a symbol if nothing else and is capable of communicating to people he knows better than we do in phrasing and symbols that they understand. And as noted here and elsewhere, we are losing the information war because of it as well as the fact that we have not been able to provide services to the people of Iraq that would make them turn away from terrorism; the only way they do that is if they’re attacked by al Qaeda themselves, which made the Sunnis in Diyala attack them in response (I know one of the links is a duplicate from an earlier post, but I think it bears repeating).

    And aside from the fact that the speaker is a moron, what does it tell you that the President of the United States chooses to cite bin Laden as he did here?

    And it certainly seemed to suit the purposes of the ubiquitous Gen. David Petraeus among others to inflate the importance of the so-called “al Qaeda in Iraq” in this interview last June, with bin Laden as the figurative head of the group mentoring al Zawahiri and his band of thugs. But now, apparently Townsend and others are noting the fact that we have greatly overestimated the so-called AQI group (I guess they can afford to do this since they’ve utilized the maximum propaganda value out of them).

    Let us all hope and pray that this nonsense does not lead to further calamity suffered by anyone.

    Besides, if bin Laden is so “impotent,” then there remains only one thing to do, doesn’t there?

    GO GET HIM!!!

    Give Cawley And Martin The Heave-Ho

    Local political stuff coming up; this letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday…

    I find it incredible that Republican Commissioner Jim Cawley is accusing his opponent, Diane Marseglia, of “hypocrisy” because Middletown Township, where Marseglia serves as a supervisor, has been slow in making the minutes of several supervisors’ meetings available online.

    As a former journalist in Bucks County for the Courier Times sister paper, the Intelligencer, and the Allentown Morning Call, I covered every administration of Bucks County commissioners from 1979 to 2006. I found no administration more secretive and unwilling to make public information available than the current board, which is composed of Cawley and Republican Charles Martin. Before the tenure of Martin and Cawley, Bucks County government was open and accessible to the press and public. With Martin and Cawley at the helm, access to public records has been consistently denied and department heads have been discouraged from speaking with reporters.

    Martin and Cawley even put locks on the doors to the commissioners’ suite of offices in the Bucks County Courthouse with the specific intent of kicking out the press.

    These two Republican commissioners have created an organization of secrecy and obfuscation that only Dick Cheney would find desirable.

    But don’t take my word for it. Ask the Bucks County Coalition for Voting Integrity, which was denied access to records on the purchase of the new voting machines, or your sister paper, the Intelligencer, which attempted to publish an investigatory report on the safety of Bucks County swimming pools a couple of years ago.

    The Bucks County Health Department refused to turn over records of its pool inspections, even though, as I recall, the agency’s counterpart in Montgomery County was very forthcoming with records.

    Who is the real hypocrite here, Mr. Cawley?

    Hal Marcovitz
    Chalfont, PA
    To help Diane and Steve, click here.

    The Inky Smears Patrick Again

    Atrios found some patented absurdity in this Inky column on Patrick Murphy today (here), but I’d like to share some other nonsense that I found with you.

    But his national profile as an antiwar leader has not come without costs. Though he did not see furious combat in Iraq, Murphy has taken substantial incoming at home, including friendly fire.
    From his web site…

    In 1993, Congressman Murphy put on his U.S. Army uniform for the first time. He went on to become a West Point professor, airborne and air assault qualified, a JAG Corps attorney, and serve two deployments after 9/11 - the first to Bosnia in 2002 and the second to Baghdad, Iraq in 2003-2004 as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. For his service, Captain Murphy earned the Bronze Star for service and his unit earned the Presidential Unit Citation.
    I’ll let you, dear reader, define how “furious” that was.


    At the same time, a lucrative memoir deal has raised questions about the timing of Murphy's advance payment.
    Oh brother. And by the way, Goldstein will decide to answer those questions waaay down in the column, after which point many readers, I’m afraid, will have bailed out. Also…

    Like the six-footer in middle school, Murphy stood out in the freshman class: handsome in a suit, shoes spit-shined, all dark pompadour and shining eyes, often accompanied by his wife, Jenny, and newborn daughter, Maggie. Among the eager-to-please, he practically panted.
    Like a dog, Goldstein? Who the hell edits this stuff? And finally…

    Maybe that phrase - "he says he was there" - was intentional, a remnant from Fitzpatrick's supporters. Any slight rankles Murphy, who wears his Army lapel pin on all his suit coats.
    A slight like that definitely would “rankle” me had I served also, since it implied that I was lying.

    With each passing day, I am more and more glad that we give not one dime to this newspaper any more.

    "No Credit" Cohen And Dubya's Disconnect

    This morning’s pundit convolutions come to us courtesy of Roger Cohen of the New York Times, in a column that initially starts off as a profile of Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli…

    The dread (that Chiarelli felt about his return to this country from Baghdad) related to the loss of 160 men and women from his division. A sign outside his headquarters read: “Complacency kills — don’t become a statistic.” Chiarelli knew he’d carry the cruel statistics back to Fort Hood, Tex., and face the bereaved.

    “The hardest thing is going home and facing those parents and wives and loved ones,” he said, looking me in the eye with tears in his. Chiarelli, now the senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is a thoughtful, decent officer who has absorbed his share of the military’s post-9/11 hurt.
    All well and good so far, but…

    “Much of our government and interagency seem to be in a state of denial about the requirements needed to adapt to modern warfare,” Chiarelli says, adding that even today some believe “that all we have to do to win our modern wars is kill and capture enough of the enemy.”

    Nonsense, Chiarelli argues in a piece written with Maj. Stephen Smith (for Military Review). Shadowy modern wars are less about overwhelming force than mastering instantaneous communication to win hearts and minds, adapting rapidly, flattening ponderous military hierarchies, understanding nation-building, and bringing to bear U.S. abilities in fields as diverse as engineering and agronomy.

    “If we are unable to do a better job than our enemies of influencing the world’s perception, then even the most brilliant campaign plan will be unlikely to succeed,” he writes. Unreadiness for the real-time reactions of an interconnected globe has often allowed a video-camera-wielding enemy “to run circles around us, especially in the information environment.”
    I mean no disrespect to Lt. Gen. Chiarelli and Maj. Smith when I say this, but I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to read columns like this and come away with the impression that our military somehow didn’t know or suspect what was involved in fighting terrorism until we got involved in this war (and whose fault is it that we “broke” Iraq and failed to provide even the basics in services for the people of that country, thus feeding into terrorism and setting us back in the “information war”?).

    Yes, it’s important to continually relearn the lessons Chiarelli and Smith mention because it is necessary due to the lack of civilian leadership in particular in this horrific mess (including their marginalizing and ridicule of individuals in our services who knew what would happen – Don “The Defense Secretary You Ha(d)” Rumsfeld, come on down!). But get a load of where Cohen goes with the following quote from Chiarelli…

    “The U.S. as a nation — and indeed most of the U.S. government — has not gone to war since 9/11,” he observes. While the military is fighting, “the American people and most of the other institutions of national power have largely gone about their business.”

    Rarely, if ever, has daily death in combat been accompanied on such a scale by the maxing out of credit cards at the mall. President Bush likes to call himself a “war president.” More accurately he has been the war-and-shop, conflict-and-home-equity-credit president.
    You know, the time has long since passed for Cohen or anyone else (including your humble narrator) to try and be cute about describing the colossal mis(non?)management in Iraq from the individual residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to the point where he expects Gen. David Petraeus to assume responsibility for his disaster, serving a similar role as Colin Powell did prior to the firing of the first shot on or about March 19, 2003 (the Times noted this very well yesterday).

    And if you want to give yourself a headache, try figuring out this construction in the very next paragraph…

    Now those two worlds, eerily remote from each other, have come together in simultaneous Iraq and credit crises. While Bush considers lowering troop levels, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke considers lowering interest rates. The overseas and home fronts, the dropping and the shopping, are not unrelated after all.
    For the purposes of this supposed argument, I can’t see the connection.

    However, that tells you that Dubya isn’t even the real target in this screed, Cohen’s scolding love tap of a remark notwithstanding.

    “Our current problems raise the legitimate question of whether the U.S., or any democracy, can successfully prosecute an extended war without a true national commitment,” (Chiarelli) writes.
    With all dues respect again to Chiarelli, I understand his concern about the entire country “being on the same page.” However, no war ever prosecuted by this country has been waged through tax cuts (remember Bradley Whitford here?). And a direct military sacrifice had been endured by a family member of someone in civilian leadership during wartime until now (Lyndon Johnson sent his two sons-in-law off to Vietnam along with everyone else).

    Unless you believe the United States can simply withdraw from the world, a popular but naïve view, that essential strategic question needs addressing beyond the Iraq tactics before Congress this week.
    Is that some kind of a slap at Democrats like Joe Biden and the rest of us who want to see, at long, loooong last, the beginning of a phased redeployment of our people out of Iraq? If it is, Cohen should say so, and thus merit further scorn (I have issues with Biden, and we’ll see if his bite matches his bark, but he was dead-on here).

    An answer is the minimum the now overstretched shopping nation owes the long overstretched fighting nation it seldom notices.
    Oh, you bad Americans you! How can you even imagine shopping for anything while our troops fight, suffer, struggle, and die?

    Boy, am I sick of reading that garbage! Again, it would be nice to see an acknowledgement of reality and the will of the vast majority of this country from our “pay no price, bear no burden” administration.

    And this leads to the inevitable question, “can the ‘d’ word be far behind?”

    If anyone thinks I, for one, will EVER choose to do nothing while a senator, congressperson or anyone else decides that they’re going to try and reinstitute the draft as a punishment to our young men and women because of Bushco’s bungling in Iraq, they are very much mistaken. This is partly because our cabal of crooks in the executive branch has made it abundantly clear that the only thing they know about the military is how to slowly destroy it.

    Update: I have a bad feeling about all of this (as Darcy Burner so correctly stated, we need more and better Democrats).