Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday Video

Michael Scheuer/Jeanne Garofalo/Bill Maher talk about Israel last night on "Real Time"; interesting stuff...

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

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Videos

Papa Roach ("Scars" - I hope somebody remembered to call 911 after she tipped the candle over)...

...a belated Happy Birthday to Joanne Catherall of The Human League ("Mirror Man"; yep, now I remember why this video put me off riding in motorboats)...

...we lost Jim Croce on September 20th, 1973 ("Operator," accompanied by Maury Muehleisen of course)...

...and finally, I missed the birthday of Kerry Livgren of Kansas on Tuesday ("Can I Tell You?" recorded live in 1974, with the great Robby Steinhardt on violin - PROG ROCK LIVES! - by the way, it's scary how timely this song still is, especially now).

In Your Face, Cornyn

He sponsored that truly ignorant resolution (and here's the latest)...

Dear MoveOn member,

Yesterday, an amazing thing happened. After the Senate's shameful vote, and after President Bush called MoveOn "disgusting,"(1) our email started to fill up with messages like this one:

I'm currently in Iraq. I do not agree with this war, and if I did support this war, it would not matter. You have the RIGHT to speak the truth. We KNOW that you support us. Thank you for speaking out for being our voice. We do not have a voice. We are overshooted by those who say that we soldiers do not support organizations like MoveOn. WE DO.

YOU ARE OUR voice.
And then came the donations. By midnight, over 12,000 people had donated $500,000—more than we've raised any day this year—for our new ad calling out the Republicans who blocked adequate rest for troops headed back to Iraq.

The message from MoveOn members was loud and clear: Don't back down. Take the fight back to the issues that matter.

So today we're shooting for a very ambitious goal: Reach $1 million so we can dramatically expand the campaign we launched yesterday going after politicians who support this awful war. Can you chip in $25 toward our goal?

Click here.

All day, messages from vets and military family members kept pouring into our email, many of them aimed at the Senate:

I have given a son to this country. My brother, my father, my uncle have all served honorably and bravely. I am a loyal American. I am outraged and sick to death of the tactics this administration uses to try to silence dissent to a war that is unjust, built and maintained on lies, political power, and greed. I was content to let others fight more loudly, but no more.

–Sharyn W., NC

I am a prior soldier who served in Iraq for 13 months, and am now an expecting mom with a husband who is deployed in Baghdad. I don't think I can ever forgive the Bush administration for the lies that tricked America into this war and hurt my family so badly. I am ashamed of those American politicians who would condemn an organization for practicing the Freedom of Speech that so many soldiers have died for.

–Danielle B., OH

As a US Navy veteran and an Iraq war veteran of over a year I want to ask, What has happened to us? What has happened to our voice? Where is this country going with stopping free speech and free press? ... Every time I think of the long nights I had in Anbar remembering what I was fighting for, well here it is....

–Ahmad H., LA
These folks have made sacrifices many of us can't imagine. Their charge to us was clear: keep speaking the truth about how President Bush and the Republicans have betrayed our trust.

So we're going to expand our ad campaign—keep it on the air longer and run it against other politicians who helped block adequate rest time for our troops. Can you chip in $25 to do it?

Click here.

And still the messages kept coming ...

I've had three nephews serve since 2002, one of whom was killed in Anbar Province. I have a fourth nephew at Quantico training. I want this war over before he is deployed and before any more of our soldiers are sacrificed.

–Michele R., NE

Three members of my family are military. Two Marines have served in Iraq and an Army Lt. is deploying in November. If we had all spoken out when the administration used General Powell perhaps we would not be in this mess.

–Carol B., PA

As a Marine I served for many reasons but one of them was to allow people the freedom of speech, whether I agreed with it or not. Wearing a uniform does not mean someone isn't a shill, is spewing propaganda, and downright lies. MoveOn has every right to buy an ad and say what they want about a public figure. This administration has lied to us, deceived us, misled us and when posed with a challenge this is how they respond?

–Keith G., VA
The Senate won't pass a policy to end the war or even to make sure our troops in the field have enough rest time between deployments, but they hold votes to crack down on millions of Americans who are upset about the war?

Well—it isn't going to work. We put together a hard-hitting ad that highlights how Republicans failed our troops and if we can raise enough money today, we'll air it across the country. Please help if you can:

Click here.

For all of us on the MoveOn staff, this week was a bit of a rollercoaster—MoveOn was attacked by nearly the entire Republican party, while too many Democrats ran for the hills. But what kept us going were messages like these—and the incredible privilege we feel to serve all 3.2 million Americans in

When the story is written of how the Iraq war ended, you will be the heroes. Thank you.

–Eli, Adam G., Adam R., Anna, Carrie, Daniel, Erik, Ilyse, Jennifer, Joan, Justin, Karin, Laura, Marika, Matt, Natalie, Nita, Noah, Tanya, Tom & Wes Political Action
Friday, September 21st, 2007


1. "Bush: ad on Petraeus 'disgusting'," CNN, September 20, 2007 (here).

That truly is good news - for more information, click here.

And I wonder what "the twenty two," including Sideshow Bob Casey, are thinking right now?

Update 9/23: Where's the resolution censuring Flush Limbore for this?

Update 10/4: Oops, here it is...

The Iraq Moratorium And Incurious George

This is just a word about it from a Gold Star mom – whatever it takes, people.

And here is a column about you-know-who (we’re stuck with him for 486 more days as of now, barring impeachment – can’t expect much at all from this congress, but we can’t give up either)…

It took just eight decades but H.L. Mencken's astute prediction on the future course of American presidential politics and the electorate's taste in candidates came true:

On July 26, 1920, the acerbic and cranky scribe wrote in The Baltimore Sun: " . . . all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily (and) adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

My late good buddy Leon Daniel, a wire service legend for 40 years at United Press International, dredged up that Mencken quote several years ago and found that it was a perfect fit for George W. Bush, The Decider. MSNBC's Keith Olberman highlighted the same quote this week. A tip of the hat to both of them, and to Mencken.

The White House is now so adorned by Mencken's downright moron, and has been for more than six excruciatingly painful years. It wouldn't be so bad if the occupant had at least enough common sense to surround himself with smart, competent and honest advisers and listen to them. But he hasn't.

We inflicted George W. Bush on ourselves — with a little help from Republican spin-meisters, slippery lawyers, hanging chads and some judicial jiggery pokery — and he has stubbornly marched to the beat of his own broken drum year after year, piling up an unparalleled record of failures and disasters without equal in the nation's long history.

He inherited a balanced budget and a manageable national debt, and in just over six years has virtually bankrupted the United States of America and put us in hock to the tune of nine trillion dollars — a sum larger than that accumulated by all the 42 other presidents we had in two and a quarter centuries.

The man from Crawford, Texas, stood Robin Hood on his head almost from Day One, robbing the poor and the middle class so he could give to the rich and Republican. When the bills for those selective tax cuts, and his war of choice in Iraq, began coming due our president simply signed IOU's for a trillion dollars, with those markers now held by our traditional ally communist China.

Although he titillated the Republican conservative base with talk of his opposition to big government, Bush has presided over a far more grandiose expansion of government than even Franklin D. Roosevelt with his New Deal.

Faced with the tragedy of the 9-11 terror attacks — due in part to a dense and impenetrable federal bureaucracy which didn't know what it knew and wouldn't have shared it if it had known — the president created a far denser, far less efficient and far more expensive mega-bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security.

Having made one good move, attacking and toppling the Taliban and running al Qaida and Osama bin Laden out of Afghanistan in retaliation for 9-11, the president and his crowd then turned away, half-finished with Job One, and decided to "pre-emptively invade" Iraq, which had precisely nothing to do with the attacks on America.

In one stroke of George W. Bush's pen America went from being a nation that distrusted foreign entanglements and fought wars only when grossly provoked to a nation that attacked first and without credible reason.

That same stroke — and the ensuing five years of war in Iraq — wiped out whatever remained of our reservoir of good will with the rest of the world. The shining city on the hill donned camouflage paint and went to war in the wrong place at the wrong time against the wrong people.

Now George Bush could posture and strut as a wartime president; could style himself The Decider, and could decide which parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights bought so dearly by generations of Americans he would give or take away.

The mills of the military-industrial complex went into high gear, as the defense contractors jostled for their places at a trough filled each year with half a trillion dollars of taxpayer money. The Republican political operatives milked them all like so many Holstein cows and the Republican lobbyists romped over to Capitol Hill buying congressmen by the baker's dozen to keep the pumps primed.

When one raison du jour for the war in Iraq failed — and all have failed — President Bush and his general-of-the-month could always come up with another to appease the gods of war and keep the machinery turning.

Throughout this ongoing national catastrophe Bush has kept close around him a coterie of incompetents and ideologues always on guard to defend the indefensible and justify the unjustifiable. They brush the lapels of the emperor's suit of gold and whisper that he is right and God will make him shine in American history.

Perhaps the crowning blow came when it was revealed that The Decider is now getting his strategic advice and counsel from none other than Henry Kissinger, the author of genocide in Cambodia; wholesale slaughter in Chile; abandonment of American POWs in Laos; betrayal of South Vietnam, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

God help us.
And by the way, regarding this story, Dubya, try listening to Sen. Charles Grassley (assuming a pine cone like you has enough of a brain to process the information he’s trying to communicate).

And finally, here’s a reminder about why all of this matters.

Today's War News

Tell Hoover that this really sucks (see, Hoover makes a line of vacuum cleaners, though I realize we’re talking about two different entities – a long way to go for not much of a laugh, but after this week, I need it).

It turns out that Don (“The Defense Secretary We Used To Have, And Boy Are We Paying For It”) Rumsfeld has been appointed a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, as rapacious a nest of self-aggrandizing freepers as anyone has ever seen (I believe this story broke on the 8th, but for some reason it’s just getting out now among some media outlets).

I doubt seriously that they’ll care, but if you want to contact them and protest, you can access their information from here.

Also, it looks like Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch is at it again, blaming the media for the overall failing support in this country for Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Iraq Adventure.

This is the same member of the military who stated here that “about 50 members of an elite Iranian military unit (were) training Shiite militias south of Baghdad, the first time the U.S. military has alleged that Iranians are aiding insurgents from inside Iraq.”

I don’t know if Lynch was correct, but how con-vee-nient for him to let us know about this at approximately the same time as Dubya designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization to be covered under the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force, which was unusual partly because it was the first time a military unit of a nation had received that designation (providing somewhat of a flimsy legal cover for an attack).

That was included in the prior post from August 20th, along with the result of Lynch’s “investigation” into the killing of a Reuters journalist by our troops near Baghdad in September 2005 that sounded a little too much like a whitewash for my liking.

General, we don’t trust you. The time has long since passed to pursue a political solution in Iraq as opposed to a military one. The fact that you don’t seem to recognize that makes you (in my book) a sadist, an egomaniac, a zealot, or an idiot (or any combination of the above).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (9/21/07)

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.

(The Inquirer reports that there were no major roll call votes in the House.)


Housing, transportation. The Senate passed, 88-7, $104.6 billion in fiscal 2008 budgets for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation, up 5 percent from the comparable 2007 budget bill.

The bill includes $41 billion for highway construction and repairs, $3.8 billion for Community Development Block Grants, $3.5 billion for airport grants, $1.47 billion for Amtrak, $735 million for low-income seniors' housing, $200 million for pipeline and rail safety, $110 million to subsidize commercial air service to smaller cities, and $75 million in housing vouchers for homeless veterans.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for HR 3074, which now goes to conference with the House.

Bridge repairs. Senators approved, 60-33, $1 billion that states would be required to spend on bridge repairs. The funds were added to HR 3074, above.

A yes vote was to add $1 billion for bridges.

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.).

Mexican trucking. The Senate voted, 75-23, to continue a congressional ban on long-haul Mexican trucking in the United States. The amendment was added to HR 3074 (above), despite a Supreme Court ruling that the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement obligates the United States to permit long-haul Mexican trucking.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to continue the ban on Mexican trucking beyond the immediate border region.

This week, the House took up bills on Terrorism Risk Insurance and the sub-prime home-mortgage crisis. The Senate debated D.C. voting rights in Congress and the 2008 defense budget, with votes expected on Iraq policy.
(Oh yeah, and a whole bunch of people who apparently don't have enough to do got all in a snit over a certain newspaper ad.)

I really don’t have anything to add to this, but instead, I want to present this morning’s editorial on congressional Democrats from the New York Times. This pertains mainly to the Senate, which has been ineffectual due in part to Republican meddling (which should surprise no one) and their own cowardice (which, sadly, doesn’t surprise a whole lot of people either).

If you were one of the Americans waiting for Congress, under Democratic control, to show leadership on the war in Iraq, the message from the Senate is clear: “Nevermind.” The same goes for those waiting for lawmakers to fix the damage done to civil liberties by six years of President Bush and a rubber-stamp Republican Congress.

The Democrats don’t have, or can’t summon, the political strength to make sure Congress does what it is supposed to do: debate profound issues like these and take a stand. The Republicans are simply not interested in a serious discussion and certainly not a vote on anything beyond Mr. Bush’s increasingly narrow agenda.

On Wednesday, the Senate failed to vote on two major bills. One would have restored basic human rights and constitutional protections to hundreds of foreigners who are in perpetual detention, without charges or trial. The other was the one measure on the conduct of the Iraq war that survived the Democrats’ hasty retreat after last week’s smoke-and-mirrors display by Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush.

There were votes, of course, but not on the bills. They were cloture votes, which require 60 or more Senators to agree to cut off debate, eliminating the possibility of a filibuster, so Senators can vote on the actual law. In both cases, Democrats were four votes short, with six Republicans daring to defy the White House.

We support the filibuster as the only way to ensure a minority in the Senate can be heard. When the cloture votes failed this week, the Democrats should have let the Republicans filibuster. Democratic leaders think that’s too risky, since Congress could look like it’s not doing anything. But it’s not doing a lot now.

The country needs a lot more debate about what must be done to contain Iraq’s chaos and restore civil liberties sacrificed to Mr. Bush’s declared war on terrorism. Voters are capable of deciding whether Republicans are holding up the Senate out of principle or political tactics.

The current Republican leadership, now in the minority, has organized its entire agenda around the filibuster. In July, the McClatchy newspaper group reported that Republicans were using the threat of filibuster more than at any other time in the nation’s history.

Remember, this is the same batch of Republican senators who denounced Democrats as obstructionist and even un-American and threatened to change the Senate’s rules when Democrats threatened filibusters in 2005 over a few badly chosen judicial nominees. Now Republicans are using it to prevent consideration of an entire war.

If anything was clear from General Petraeus’s testimony and the president’s prime-time speech, it was that Mr. Bush has no idea how to end the war in a way that salvages as much as possible of America’s treasury, blood and global image while limiting the chaos that would follow any withdrawal, whether it comes quickly or slowly. Mr. Bush’s only idea is to keep the war going until he leaves office, and that means that other co-equal branch of government, the Congress, will have to lead the way out.

Democrats and Republicans who oppose the war have a duty to outline alternatives. Those who call for staying in Iraq have a duty to explain what victory means and how they plan to achieve it. Both sides are shirking an obligation to deal with issues that must be resolved right now, like the crisis involving asylum for Iraqis who helped the American occupation.

Congress is the first place for this kind of work. Right now, it seems like the last place it will happen.
And by the way, I want to take note of the following from CNN’s web site as of a few minutes ago – as Atrios says, more of this; a lot more…

Progress of a sort, I suppose.

Welcome To The Party, Joe

(I mean that figuratively, though I wouldn’t mind meaning it literally either).

Somehow, I can’t imagine that Bucks County Repug Party Chairman Harry Fawkes is happy about this development.

It seems that our former Repug PA State Senator Joe Conti, and now CEO of the PA Liquor Control Board (a PA Commonwealth “thing” – kind of a long story for the uninitiated), will attend a $1,000-per-person fundraiser/policy discussion at The Brick Hotel in Newtown, PA on Monday, which will be the first meeting of “The Congressional Policy Group,” individuals who will provide input to Patrick Murphy on a wide range of issues.

Now I know some people in these parts (probably quite a lot) are still PO’ed at the circumstances under which Conti became CEO of the board, bypassing highly qualified individuals such as Jonathan Newman, who stepped down as LCB chairman in January. And only Ed Rendell and Conti know if it truly was a reward on Rendell’s part for Conti’s support of casino gambling in PA.

But as I asked once before, how much could Conti have made outside of government instead? And was it worth it to lose his expertise in the process?

And of course, the Phillyburbs story features Mikey Fitzpatrick whining that Conti’s participation in the meeting on Monday is “disingenuous.”

Somehow I’m sure Conti doesn’t care.

The funny part about this is that, if Fawkes had gone along with the recommendation of former U.S. House rep Jim Greenwood and endorsed Conti for the PA-08 seat in 2004 instead of Mikey, Conti would probably still be serving, since he is a real moderate in a district that recognizes and values that and Mikey was a fake one and, in point of fact, a conservative who took his marching orders directly from Washington and the NRCC.

And one more thing, Mikey; be a man and hurry and declare again for the PA-08 seat next year. It will be so much fun to beat you all over again.

DHS "Bombs" On First Responder Communication

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer tells us that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff came to town to help publicize the need to identify improvised explosive devices (IEDs, an acronym our troops serving in Iraq know only too well) that could be used in terrorist attacks on our cities.

As the story by reporter Jennifer Lin tells us…

At his stop in Philadelphia, Chertoff was joined by (Philadelphia) Mayor (John) Street, Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson, and Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers. After Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina, Street has made improving the city's emergency preparedness a priority.

He told Chertoff he was "grateful" for money that the federal government had given Philadelphia to improve its readiness but later added that it wasn't enough.

The Philadelphia region, including the surrounding suburbs, is receiving $18 million in grants from the Department of Homeland Security this year.

"We've got a huge communication issue we're trying to resolve," Street said.

If a bomb went off inside the city's transit tunnels, first responders would not be able to communicate. To fix the problem would cost about $30 million, Street said.
I have to give Chertoff credit for trying to help identify bomb threats (and I hope he consulted with some of our military on this since they would be intimately familiar with this, but then again, we’re talking about Mike Chertoff here, so don’t assume anything).

However, Street hit on what I believe is the much bigger issue, and that is communication among first responders at the local, state, and federal levels in the event of an attack.

This article tells us that Chertoff has “mandated interoperable communications” among first responders for our 35 most “at-risk” cities by the end of this year, though this sounds more like a press release than an actual plan to accomplish anything (any word on how that is coming along, by the way?).

However, this article titled “Unpromising Prospects For Improved First-Responded Communications” updated last June tells us the following…

Today, the federal government lacks an aggressive plan to force significant change. A series of complicated hurdles -- financial, political and technological -- have blocked progress on first-responder communications systems to the extent that it could take years and tens of billions of dollars to overcome them.

For example, those communication systems operate on as many as 10 different radio bands and, in some cases, rely on 30-year-old equipment never meant to interact with radios produced by rival manufacturers.

Not least of the complications is the reluctance of Republicans in Washington to impose a federal solution on state and local officials. As a result, however, each side of the government divide is looking to the other for solutions, and neither is able to deliver.
I wonder if we’ll all still be standing around arguing about “states rights this, states rights that” one day after one or more of our cities are burning to the ground from another hit by al Qaeda? God willing, I’ll never have to find out.

Certainly, there are those who laud the federal government's deference to local and state government officials setting their own homeland security priorities; they point out that communications is only a cog in the vast machinery of preparedness policy and resources.

But no one disputes that sound communications are essential in coping with large-scale disasters. A U.S. Conference of Mayors survey last year of 192 cities offered some starkly bad news on the communications front.

Some 88 percent of the cities surveyed said they are unable to communicate with the Homeland Security Department, and 83 percent cannot link with the Department of Justice. About 60 percent are unable to communicate with state emergency centers.

There were some improvements, to be sure. About 77 percent of the cities reported that they had linked their police and fire communications systems. Two-thirds of the cities reported that they had coordinated police, fire and emergency medical services systems. But the fact that an overwhelming majority of the cities surveyed were unable to communicate with first-responders beyond their city limits is an indication of the scale of the problem before the entire nation.

Money remains the greatest barrier to linking and upgrading first-responder communication networks. Some estimate the cost of implementing a unified emergency response network nationwide at as much as $60 billion. Even conservative estimates dwarf the $1.6 billion in Homeland Department money that local and state governments have spent so far.

Congressional Republicans recently fended off attempts to increase communications spending. During debate in July on the fiscal 2006 Homeland Security appropriations bill, Senate Democrats offered multiple amendments to foster compatible radio systems, including one that would have increased funding by $5 billion.

Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, said first-responders have already received open-ended grant funds they can spend toward that goal if they choose. He said they should be allowed to make those decisions.
See, this is what happens when Repugs are put in charge; by and large, they refuse to govern and pass off the responsibility (and a few Dems are guilty of this too, of course). Just throw the block grant money at the problem and let someone else deal with it, right?

But for something like disaster preparedness, the consequences are something wholly other, of course, way beyond the normal functions of governance. And yes, it is a hugely complicated task, but it’s a hugely important one also.

And how’s this for a “can-do” attitude?

"Given the sheer number of state and local public safety agencies, regional communications implementation simply cannot be managed centrally from Washington," said David Boyd, director of the Office of Interoperability and Communications at the Homeland Department.
So from where you propose to manage them centrally, Mr. Boyd? Fond du Lac, Wisconsin?

Suppose an overland vehicle with a hazmat placard cannot be accounted for in Kansas City, Missouri, but a threat has been identified in the vicinity of St. Paul, Minnesota, and there is reason to believe that the vehicle is en route to that destination. How are the authorities in St. Paul supposed to be notified by those in Kansas City (I know this is a simplistic example, but you know what I’m saying here).

Thank God we didn’t have these people in charge when we were fighting World War II or dealing with other national emergencies.

So yes, trying to enable communication among all parties in the event of a disaster in this country is one of the biggest obstacles we face to ensure our preparedness.

But to get an idea of the consequences of our failure to do so, let’s take a look at these familiar images from two years ago one more time, shall we?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday Videos

Apparently, it is necessary to remind the 22 Democratic turncoats in the Senate that the recent manufactured controversy about the Gen. David Petraeus ad, in addition to being about his veracity and the absurd manner in which the Pentagon records statistics to support Dubya's pet war, is also about something ultimately much, much bigger.

So, here is Black Sabbath ("War Pigs")...

...Richard Thompson ("Dad's Gonna Kill Me")...

...Jackson Browne ("Lives In The Balance")...

...and John Flynn ("Dover").

Anybody remember now?

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

Two Million Versus Twenty Two (updated)

This is evidence that, if we are going to support Democrats (and really, at this moment, I can’t imagine why) we should no longer support national Democratic Party organizations and support candidates through Act Blue or other Netroots-based online sites (in pursuit of “more and better Democrats,” as Darcy Burner says…and even that isn’t a guarantee that this travesty won’t repeat itself, since Jim Webb – unbelievably – along with Tester and McCaskill voted in favor of the resolution).

Did those who supported the resolution even bother to read the entire ad (here)?

Well, it doesn’t matter at this point. But let’s try to look at this another way.

Let’s do some math then, shall we?

Twenty two Democrats supported this sham. And I would contrast that number with the two million members of

This resolution insults two million people, and I would guess that just about all of us are either Democrats or independent voters of one stripe or another.

And we, all two million of us, are going to be hit upon by every Democrat who supported this at some point for purposes of re-election fundraising.

And it is my sincerest hope that all two million of us tell all twenty two of you to drop dead (and at this point, I don’t really care if a Repug wins the election instead; your vote tells me that, on the issues that matter – and what is bigger than the war? – you’re about the same anyway).

And I’m sorry; I refuse to give Jim Webb a pass because he tried to do the right thing on the amendment to allow our troops to stay at home for at least as long as the length of their deployment. He insulted all two million of us as well.

Two million versus twenty two, you cowards. And the battle has already begun.

Think about it (and do you even have to ask how Sideshow Bob Casey voted?).

Update 1: Jane H., via Atrios, has more (including the note that Chuck Hagel, who said that Petraeus' testimony was "a dirty trick on the American people," voted to censure MoveOn also...and it's a good thing for Wes Clark that he's sitting out this election).

Update 2: Keith Olbermann gets it, of course (h/t Atrios).

Update 3: Eric Boehlert gives a good analysis here of all this nonsense (Three million? Even better).

Bye Already, Jim

Don’t let the door hit you (based on this)…

WASHINGTON (AP) — Outgoing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson acknowledged Tuesday that he's struggling to reduce backlogs in disability claims from Iraq war veterans, saying current efforts won't be enough to cut down waits that take months.

Addressing Congress for a final time before stepping down Oct. 1, Nicholson also pointed to persistent problems between the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs in coordinating care for veterans and urged Congress to embrace proposals by a presidential commission to fix gaps.

"They have some very good ideas in there," he said.
But of course they do, with Bushco being so “government-friendly” and all that…

Nicholson, who took office in early 2005, said the department has hired 1,100 new processors to reduce delays of up to 177 days in processing disability payments. But he predicted another rise in compensation and pension claims this year, citing the additional applications pouring in during "the midst of war."

The increase, he said, is coming from Iraq war veterans as well as veterans from previous conflicts who were prompted to file additional claims for new or additional benefits amid the current public focus on war-related injuries in Iraq.

Even with new staff, the VA can only hope to reduce delays to about 145-150 days — assuming that the current level of claims doesn't spike higher.

"The claims backlog is an issue that has bedeviled me and many that have come before me," Nicholson said. "In fact, VA can influence the output — claims decided — of its work product, but it cannot control the input — claims filed."
No, I don’t suppose that’s possible when our military is getting decimated in Iraq from casualties and extended tours in a war that has gone on much longer than World War II at this point.

And God, 145-150 days to process disability payments…

And how about this?

The report also concluded that Nicholson and VA Undersecretary for Health Michael Kussman earlier this year falsely reported to Congress that 95 percent of veterans' outpatient appointments — rather than 75 percent, as the (VA’s Inspector General’s Office) found — were timely. In response, the VA has challenged the IG's methodology and pledged to conduct its own study.
Of course – Nicholson is right and that darn IG and their “junk science” is wrong. Naturally.

So here’s to the departure of another Repug political operative, who, in typical fashion, falsely slammed Al Gore to favor his boss in the 2000 election, among other misdeeds (here). He has also been accused of denying wounded veterans disability pay and mental health treatment (here), as well as accidentally exposing millions of social security numbers to possible fraud and identity theft (here).

And The Raw Story has more here, by the way, with about as unflattering a comparison for Nicholson as I can imagine.

Maybe They Should Run An Ad

(I mean, that seems to be the best way to get the attention of our U.S. Senators these days - and make it a full page in the New York Times…).

This "old gray lady" editorial yesterday brought up an important point about people who have been impacted more directly than we could ever know by the Iraq war, and they the 2.35 million refugees of that accursed enterprise (according to our best estimates). In particular, the editorial focused on the importance of helping those who have assisted this country during the war.

As the Times notes (and as I posted about here a little while ago)…

Their admission to the United States…is being delayed by a tortuous application process and lumbering bureaucratic reviews.

This latest failure was detailed in a cable sent to the State Department earlier this month by America’s ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, and first published Monday in The Washington Post. (Mr. Crocker did not mention the problem in his happy-talk presentations on Capitol Hill last week.) And it is only part of a much larger refugee crisis that is already threatening to spread Iraq’s chaos throughout the region — and one the Bush administration refuses to accept as its responsibility.

Even for those Iraqis lucky enough to be tapped by the United Nations, the process of applying for refugee status is expensive, risky and has no guarantee of success. In an irony obvious to all but the Bush administration, it has decided that it is too dangerous for Department of Homeland Security officials to conduct refugee interviews inside Iraq.
The editorial notes that Ambassador Crocker (despite his reluctance to say anything during his testimony) has encouraged the State Department to speed up processing for those Iraqis who have helped us and want to come here, but you can just guess how Bushco has responded (if you think that they welcomed Crocker’s input – well, see, there’s this bridge in the New York City area that I’d like to sell to you…).

And I shouldn’t blame Crocker exclusively for not addressing this at his hearing last week with Gen. Petraeus (or at least, not much). It turns out that (based on a bit of Googling on my part) our elected representatives were so busy working themselves into a tizzy over a certain left-wing advocacy group that performs political fundraising and organizing that they neglected to say anything as well.

Welcoming Iraqis into the United States as refugees is not cost-free. It draws skilled people out of a country that desperately needs their talents and makes it increasingly likely that they will never return home. Washington, however, has a profound moral obligation, especially to those Iraqis who have risked their lives on America’s behalf. If America abandons them now, it will mean even more suffering and more shame for the United States from this shameful and disastrous war.
And speaking of Gen. Petraeus, this takes you to a good article on his performance in front of Congress (and I mean that literally) by Steve Coll in this week’s issue of The New Yorker (there’s a portion I want to excerpt, but I have a lot of trouble with their web site for some reason – I’ll try again later).

Update 9/23: I finally was able to include the Coll excerpt here...

Petraeus' recent strategy of playing for time through the application of spin politics is straining the health and vitality of the Army to which he has devoted his life. It is also deepening mistrust between civilian politicians and the military. Surely, for example, the General is conscious of the partisan Republican campaign to promote him as "Bush's Grant," and is aware of the cause: the Party expects to lose the next Presidential election because of the war, but Petraeus offers hope, however faint, that a Republican nominee might find something in Iraq to embrace. Petraeus' ambition is legendary; his pride and his professional devotion to counterinsurgency have now become entangled in an exploitative electoral machine.

Petraeus also apparently clings to the belief that Iraq’s sectarian leaders might reconcile if American forces stay the course. That opinion, shared by many in the Bush Administration, has encouraged yet another generation of unconvincing strategic plans that assume that a unified Iraq governed from Baghdad is attainable and that thousands of American troops might help patrol the capital's streets for years. A more plausible strategy, devoted to managing as successfully as possible the informal sectarian partition of Iraq which is already well under way, has again been postponed, along with substantial troop reductions.

American majorities repudiated the Vietnam War and have repudiated the invasion of Iraq. They did not lack guts then or now; they saw past the false promises and manipulations of their leaders, and called time. George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden appear to share the belief that the United States is chronically afflicted with a cut-and-run syndrome, but they are both wrong: the most striking aspect of America's democracy during the catastrophe in Iraq today is not the public's inconstancy but, rather, its capacity to absorb thousands of casualties on behalf of a war that is widely understood as a mistake and has no foreseeable end.
And once more, this is just a word about Iraq from a Gold Star mom – whatever it takes, people.

On Second Thought...

After I pondered some more about the post from Prof. Marcus about the Senate entertaining a resolution to censure for the ad that the whole world must surely know about by now, I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind.

At first, I thought we should immediately call our senators and tell them to cease and desist. I had planned to contact both Casey and Specter and said they should forget about this.

But you know what? Instead, I think we should let them go ahead and do it.

In fact, I think we should actually call them and encourage them.

Because MoveOn is at fault? Of course not.

I think we should encourage them because it would send a clearer signal to this country and the world than anything we could muster that they, as a collective body, have no desire whatsoever to stand by our men and women in the military and are such clueless, self-serving pretenders to public office that they would pass a censure resolution against a group with a membership of two million people that dared stand up for those who serve us as opposed to trying as hard as they could with every fiber of their being and breath in their bodies to put an end to this catastrophe by starting to bring our people home once and for all and for good right now!

This to me is starting to take on a similar dynamic as the Terri Schiavo madness in 2005. The Repugs see a chance here to get “the base” all in a froth and are milking this for all it’s worth. The only trouble is that the Schiavo mess backfired on them and marked the beginning of the end of their ascendancy; Katrina followed a few months later, and between that and this country finally focusing on the quagmire of Iraq, things have never been the same for them since.

And now, I think they’re trying to replicate what they think will be the Schiavo effect (looking for a positive outcome that won’t be there now or ever) with this stupid ad business. And as I said, the Schiavo gambit backfired because the country was repulsed by their antics. And I think it will be again if they proceed with this censure motion.

So tell them to go ahead (and just for good measure, give a citation to Freedom Crock while they’re at it for “service to our country”). It will serve them right when it blows up in their face (and if some chicken Dems get burned by it also, oh well…).

The “Straight Talk Express” Derails Again

So John McCain said that “the Constitution of the United States gives no authority for the Congress of the United States to set lengths of tour or lengths of duty in the military” in leading the opposition to the amendment sponsored by Jim Webb that would have required our military to have at least the same amount of time at home as the length of their prior tour overseas.

Not surprisingly, Webb called him on that nonsense here (kudos to Think Progress of course for this clarification; however, I heard a report on NPR this morning that did not provide that refutation of McCain, not surprisingly).

And this post by Richard Gizbert of HuffPo tells us that the otherwise hip and intelligent Jon Stewart of The Daily Show just loves his bonding time with “Senator Honor and Virtue,” even though there is no logical reason why Stewart should give McCain the time of day since the Arizona senator at this point embodies just about everything that Stewart so skillfully lampoons on his program.

And by the way, how’s that presidential campaign going, Senator? No money problems, I hope. And enjoying your travel accommodations? Flying in “coach” yet?

Update: I really can’t think of a way to properly communicate my utter revulsion at the Senate (particularly the Democrats, who are apparently more chicken and clueless on the procedural manner in which they allow themselves to be utter played by the Repugs based on this) for somehow failing to pass the Webb Amendment even though it received 56 votes – Kagro X explains, and it will probably give you a headache – yet entertaining a censure motion against for that ad (and the outcry is totally predictable given the cowering response by Democratic politicians and too many others who profess to support what we believe).

Update: Gail Collins of the New York Times has more today.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Yeah Yeah Yeahs ("Down Boy")...

...Happy Birthday to Lol Creme of 10 C.C. ("The Wall Street Shuffle," from a 1974 appearance with the BBC)...

...and here is an important video from the John Edwards for President campaign (it is, indeed, up to us, with the Repugs shooting down not just the restoration of habeas corpus but the Webb amendment for deploying our troops - historians will fill volumes one day recording the epic cowardice of our life and times)...

...and as long as I posted about Charlie Chaplin earlier, here is "Smile" sung wonderfully by Josh Groban, for which Chaplain wrote the music (I can't remember the occasion for this performance - and gosh, could we have had more gratuitous banners for Citigroup getting in the way of the camera shots...God, Katie Couric is such a twit).

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

"Tramp"-ling On Artistic Freedom

I don’t know if anyone is going to care about this but me, but I’m posting about it anyway.

As this BBC News link tells us, 55 years ago today, Charlie Chaplin was denied entry back into the United States by the immigration service (he was sailing on the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner with his family when he received the news – the fine film “Chaplin” with Robert Downey Jr. portrays this as taking place while he was still in New York Harbor.)

As the BBC story tells us…

Charlie Chaplin has been under severe pressure in the US over accusations from Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee that he is associated with left-wing causes.

Mr Chaplin has been on the FBI's Security Index since 1948, and he was one of over 300 people blacklisted by Hollywood film studios and unable to work after he refused to cooperate when he appeared before the Committee.

When questioned about his membership of the Communist Party, Mr Chaplin answered, "I do not want to create any revolution, all I want to do is create a few more films.

"I might amuse people. I hope so."
Chaplin had some legendary conflicts with J. Edgar Hoover over his left-wing and borderline-communist political sympathies, and though his films were not overtly political until the 1940s (as the Wikipedia article notes), they started to take on more and more of a “message” quality the more he departed from his “Little Tramp” character (including the impact of mechanization in our lives depicted in the scene from “Modern Times” above, but more notably, the stirring speech at the end of “The Great Dictator” – I don’t think WeShow still has that one). That was the beginning of the trouble that led to his banishment from this country (unfairly, in my humble opinion, though there was that particularly nasty business with Joan Berry also – catastrophic bad judgment as far as I can tell).

In addition to watching many of Chaplin’s movies and other productions related to his life and work, I also once read a biography of Chaplin written by Kenneth S. Lynn which, though it was well-researched and interesting, was unduly harsh in my opinion. Sure, Chaplin was an egomaniac of historic proportions, and his relationships with women would make even a serial adulterer blush. And I am not at all unsure that he didn’t think the immigration action that took place in 1952 would happen and prepared himself for it and his eventual permanent relocation to Vevey, Switzerland.

But though he made some true clunkers later in his life and career (“A Countess From Hong Kong” was utterly painful), I think he was also one of the finest movie makers who ever lived, and I think Lynn dwelled on the personal travails of Chaplin’s life at the expense of that legacy.

And though there was no Patriot Act or FISA (gutted to the point where it means nothing as of now) in existence in this country when he lived and worked here, there was still a pervasive fear among men and women in the arts concerning censorship and self-expression (echoed today of course).

Chaplin tried to fight that in his films, as nearly as I can recall, either through outwitting a cop in the ghetto or a boat officer trying to manage an unruly crowd awaiting immigrant processing at Ellis Island, since they represented symbols of authority (all situations that his audience could relate to).

So just remember – when we ridicule those who oppress us, we’re carrying on in the spirit of Charlie Chaplin and other men and women who rebelled against nonsensical rules and an oppressive bureaucracy.

And somewhere, I’m sure that makes The Tramp smile.

Another Murphy/Murphy Update

Via Atrios, I happened to come across this post from OpenLeft about more inanity from The Politico regarding the “conventional wisdom” of why Dems should roll over and play dead and that will heal all that is divisive about this country and the world, fa la la…

Somewhere down in Mike Lux’s good post about why this is utter nonsense, I came across this item…

The campaigns that tended to win last year were the aggressive, populist outsider campaigns. Sherrod Brown, Jon Tester, and Jim Webb each upset their opponents by running those kinds of campaigns, while Harold Ford played defense and lost. In Pennsylvania, establishment defender Lois Murphy lost while aggressor Patrick Murphy won. In Kentucky, establishment defender Ken Lucas lost while populist aggressor John Yarmuth won.
I don’t think you can pigeon hole the race in PA-06 last year in quite that manner. From what I’ve been able to determine, what you might call the “cultures” of the two districts swung slightly towards the Dems in PA-08 (favoring Patrick) and towards the Repugs in PA-06 (favoring Gerlach).

And though Lois lost by 2 percent to Gerlach in ’04, she managed to lose by 1.2 percent in ’06. I know that’s small comfort, especially when she had a fundraising edge over Gerlach and the climate for Repugs last year, then as now, is terrible (as it should be, since they brought it on themselves).

But I would argue that Patrick’s military service in ’08 made the difference with the war as the big issue, helped in no small part by the Repugs’ idiotic reapportionment of the district to include Philadelphia and Montco, which swung solidly for Patrick to more than offset Mikey’s minor edge in Bucks. And in PA-06, Gerlach identified himself more solidly with the Repugs on guns, “limited government” and all the “liberal us vs. them” garbage than Lois did on core Dem issues which are infinitely more important (though she did a good job and I’m not trying to demean that).

What I’m saying is that, in PA-06, Gerlach pressed more of the right buttons with “the faithful” than Mikey did in PA-08. I’m not sure Mikey could pull off an ad where he’s hunting quail in full gear and casually insulting Democrats in disgusting ways without making it look like play time – and I mustn’t forget the impact of Gerlach’s robo calls (and how con-vee-nient that the Forbes link on this has expired).

Again, I think Mike Lux makes a lot of good points, but I just thought I needed to clear that up a bit.

"Gunga Dan" Lawyers Up

Holy cow, as the late Phil Rizutto of the Yankees would say - a backgrounder on the whole "Dubya/Burkett/Texas National Guard" story appears here.

And here's Dan talking to Bill Maher about the news business again on "Real TIme" from earlier this year.

Update 1 9/21: Former CBS News producer Mary Mapes has more.

Update 2 9/21: Maybe "the camera never blinks," but CBS management sure did (h/t Atrios).

How Exactly Is Jim Moran Wrong, Steny?

Allow me to add my admittedly small voice to the chorus in support of Rep. Jim Moran (D) of Virginia for his criticism of AIPAC and its influence in our decision to wage our disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t know much else about Moran concerning his voting record or any public statements he’s made, but I give him credit for naming the “elephant in the room” here.

And after Moran received the obligatory public dressing-down from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, we are treated to this lie.

AIPAC tells CNN it has taken no position on the Iraq war.
That should just about set off convulsions of rage, especially after reading this story from April 2003 (particularly this excerpt)…

Officially, Israel is not one of the 49 countries the administration has identified as members of the "Coalition of the Willing." Officially, AIPAC had no position on the merits of a war against Iraq before it started. Officially, Iraq is not the subject of the pro-Israel lobby's three-day meeting (in Washington, D.C.).

Now, for the unofficial part:

As delegates to the AIPAC meeting were heading to town, the group put a headline on its Web site proclaiming: "Israeli Weapons Utilized By Coalition Forces Against Iraq." The item featured a photograph of a drone with the caption saying the "Israeli-made Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle" is being used "by U.S. soldiers in Iraq."

At an AIPAC session on Sunday night, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom proclaimed in a speech praising Secretary of State Colin L. Powell: "We have followed with great admiration your efforts to mobilize the international community to disarm Iraq and bring democracy and peace to the region, to the Middle East and to the rest of the world. Just imagine, Mr. Secretary, how much easier it would have been if Israel had been a member of the Security Council."

A parade of top Bush administration officials -- Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, political director Kenneth Mehlman, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns -- appeared before the AIPAC audience. The officials won sustained cheers for their jabs at European opponents of war in Iraq, and their tough remarks aimed at two perennial foes of Israel, Syria and Iran.
And here was something else of interest in Dana Milbank’s story…

When Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Leon S. Fuerth, the former foreign policy adviser to Al Gore, sat down with Burns for a session yesterday titled "the Future of the Middle East," the subject was almost exclusively Iraq.

Kirk said the war would be "longer and more expensive than we think," and noted efforts the U.S. military had made to defend Israel. When Fuerth wondered whether there is too much "happy optimism" about Arab democracy, Kirk won cheers and an ovation for rejecting the charge. "God willing, we're going to have a great victory in Iraq," said AIPAC's Steve Rosen, the moderator.
I would say, sadly, that Fuerth has been vindicated.

And Steve Rosen, Steve Rosen; hmmm…where have I heard that name before?

Oh yeah, he was accused here along with Keith Weissman of allegedly conspiring to receive and disclose classified US defense information over a five-year period dating back to 1999 in violation of the 1917 U.S. Espionage Act. And Condoleezza Rice was subpoenaed by their lawyers to testify at their trial.

And don’t you dare try to sell me on the lie that AIPAC didn’t have anything to do with the $15 million ad buy by Freedom Crock (here), or subtle little exercises in deceit like this one.

So I ask again, how exactly is Jim Moran wrong, Steny?

And as long as we’re speaking about Congress, by the way, I’ll pass along this sad but predictable news on the Specter/Leahy habeas corpus bill (kudos to Repugs Lugar, Smith, Snowe, Sununu and Specter of course – h/t Atrios for link). And it looks like another cave-in a la FISA and Iraq funding without withdrawal is coming here (how pathetic).

Also, it turns out that our media is not bothering to report on Repug filibusters of Dem legislation, as noted here (see “60 votes needed for passage”).

Journo Jibes And Blankley Blather

If anyone out there still has any doubts about how thoroughly our corporate media has been infiltrated and practically consumed by neocon simpatico propagandists, I have only to present this item.

Editor and Publisher is, for anyone unfamiliar with them, a publication about trends, developments and news overall about the news business itself (and that goes for its online presence also, of course). And the story I linked to above is something I expected to see at any freeper site you can think of, not a place that usually offers high quality reporting.

See, Tony Blankley, the editorial page editor of the Washington Times (a right-wing PR factory usually masquerading as s newspaper) is leaving his post to take up space elsewhere for what is quite probably too much money for his minimal ability (and if you guessed that he will now be paid by The Heritage Foundation, pat yourself on the back).

And as he departs, he offered some advice to editorial writers, telling them to not be so "fudgy" in their writing, and he also conjurs up the usual demagoguery that they are supposed elitists, noting that, “the danger of a strong academic background (in editorial writing) is that our writing becomes academic.”

In so many words, Tony Blankley has about as much of a right to offer advice about editorial commentary as I do about nuclear physics.

This links to a Media Matters post about how Blankley couldn’t make up his mind on whether Joe Biden’s clueless characterization about Barack Obama (“articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”; again, I think there was no malice at all in what Biden said, but his inadvertent implication was awful) received too little or not enough media coverage.

This tells us that Blankley reported that Newt Gingrich’s Contract On America during those supposedly awful Clinton years was considered under open rules, though at least five bills were considered under “modified closed” rules instead.

This tells us about Blankley’s preposterous charge of a Clinton vendetta in a Gingrich tax probe (Blankley was Gingrich’s former press secretary, by the way).

This tells us how Blankley defended former Virginia Repug Senator George Felix Allen during the “macaca” controversy last year, saying “in Italian, it means a clown,” even though Allen never used that defense.

And this tells us that Blankley has charged that Democrats believe in "water torture" for Dubya (actually, who’s to say that might not result in an improvement – snark).

I could provide a lot of other examples of Blankley's cluelessness, but this should suffice for now.

And in conclusion, I offer this from the Editor and Publisher article…

Blankley also said simply giving a straight opinion is sometimes missing from many opinion pages: “They have got to be honest and sharp in their language. Not rude, but reach a conclusion. So many editorials work their way around and do not get to the point.”
OK, Tony, how’s this then?

You’re an utterly misinformed, demagogic, loud-mouthed shill for your corporate betters. You have no editorial talent at all, and you deserve no place whatsoever in any reputable news organization.

Is that “honest and sharp” enough for you?

Today's "Patrick's Book Deal" Nonsense

I really don’t want to devote much time to this since I already said something about it awhile back, but in today’s Bucks County Courier Times, someone named Michael Brady of the Majority Accountability Project (some freeper Astroturf outfit that I guess will be dogging Patrick around as well as other Democrats into next year’s elections) sounds off on how horrible the book deal signed by Patrick supposedly is.

I think the site for these clowns can be accessed here; I am unable to test this link at the moment, but I will later (long story).

And it’s funny to me what Brady considers to be “questionable”; apparently, the book deal is, but it’s perfectly fine for Brady to publish the approximate amount of debt that Patrick and Jennifer have accrued to date? Talk about a low blow.

And though the Courier Times commendably printed a response by Patrick to run side by side with Brady’s garbage, the paper identified the MAP as “an Internet-based news service serving as an online clearing house of information (redundant?) on the Democrat House Majority. (Brady) formerly served as director of Strategic Communications for the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC).”

“Democrat” Party, huh? Scumbag…

I’m not sure why, when reading that information, someone at the Courier Times didn’t get suspicious and do a little more digging into Brady’s ties to the “Republic” Party. Why anyone would think Brady would be a reliable source for information on Democrats is something I cannot imagine.

And as long as we’re talking about Patrick here, let me add a brief update on the effort to bring the VA cemetery to Upper Makefield.

This story in the Courier Times tells us that Patrick notified the Upper Makefield Planning Commission last night about details of the property’s sale (UM has yet to review the sale of the Melsky tract upon which Toll Brothers would build homes adjacent to the cemetery, though hearings are scheduled for Sept. 26th and Oct. 2nd).

However, a group of residents has forced yet another delay that caused a Bucks court judge to postpone a hearing to finalize the real estate transfer among Council Rock School District, Toll Brothers and Newtown Township landowner Leo Holt until Nov. 1. The problem, though, is the builder and the VA require preliminary and final land development approvals in hand by Nov. 1, according to Toll attorney Ed Murphy.

And as much as I’d like to use this as an excuse to blame Mikey Fitzpatrick somehow, I can’t do that; actually, he’s representing a group called the Guardians of the National Veterans Cemetery Bucks County trying to get this deal done.

No, the fault lies with a bunch of other residents who, apparently, have just recently decided to screw up this deal even though it has been the highest-profile news event in this area (besides the election) over the past year or so, as noted here…

A handful of Upper Makefield and Newtown Township residents raised several “procedural” issues in court Tuesday, including whether county court Judge Jeffrey Finley should handle the case since he once worked for the law firm Eastburn and Gray. Attorneys for that firm have represented Toll Brothers and the Council Rock School District.

Finley recused himself and forwarded the matter to Judge Susan Devlin Scott. After meeting with the attorneys in chambers, Scott postponed the matter to Nov. 1 at 2 p.m.

Upper Makefield resident Jane Johnson, one of the individuals contesting the land transfer, chalked up the continuance to “procedural issues.”

“The filing and the posting for the court permission for the school board to sell the property to Toll Brothers was done in a sloppy fashion,” Johnson said.

But, Tony Albano, president of (the Guardians), said those who opposed the plan had “several months” to have their voices heard.

“We found it absolutely appalling that when we went to court today; there was no indication whatsoever that [protesters] would be there,” Albano said of what he called the “delaying tactics.” “This has been the most openly discussed issue in Bucks County.”
And if this deal gets blown and Gerlach ends up getting the Pennhurst site, the freepers will be crowing and blaming Patrick forever, even though he is as blameless on this issue as he is with the book deal.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday Videos

K.T. Tunstall ("If Only" acoustic, from the new CD "Drastic Fantastic")...

...a bit of a bonus; folkies The Kennedys perform "Wall Of Death" by R.T....

...and we lost Jimi Hendrix 37 years ago today ("Purple Haze," from Monterrey Pop I believe)...

...and just to remind everyone on the importance of habeas corpus and calling on our senators to support its restoration ("wide stance" is on the list), here is Keith Olbermann's Special Comment from last October when it was first removed by the signing of the Military Commissions Act.

And we should also support the Webb Amendment for our troops (more info here - lots of homework, I know).

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

Too Much Even For A Repug

A long one is coming up here.

I was remiss in not getting to this earlier, but in the Sunday New York Times magazine on September 9th (the one with the face of Rudy! plastered in the cover like he’s a Hollywood tough guy in a profile by Matt Bai, who I guess took a break from bashing Democrats and lefty bloggers in particular with Nick Gillespie's help to fluff the presumptive Repug nominee for preznit), writer Jeffrey Rosen profiled Jack Goldsmith, who started as a legal counsel within Bushco’s Defense Department but soon found himself hired to head the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department in October 2003.

And he quit nine months later.

As Rosen tells us…

During his first weeks on the job, Goldsmith had discovered that the Office of Legal Counsel had written two legal opinions -- both drafted by Goldsmith's friend (and fellow law professor John) Yoo, who served as a deputy in the office -- about the authority of the executive branch to conduct coercive interrogations. Goldsmith considered these opinions, now known as the ''torture memos,'' to be tendentious, overly broad and legally flawed, and he fought to change them.
He also challenged Bushco on other legal issues, and he left the job “fed up and exhausted” when it became too much. And his silence was interpreted as consent (particularly when it came to the torture memos) by people such as Elizabeth Bartholet of the Harvard Law School, a colleague of Goldsmith’s (he accepted a tenured professorship there after leaving government). As Goldsmith tells Rosen, that has a lot to do with why he wrote the book.

In “The Terror Presidency,” Goldsmith recounted the following…

…how, from his first weeks on the job, he fought vigorously against an expansive view of executive power championed by officials in the White House, including Alberto Gonzales, who was then the White House counsel and who recently resigned as attorney general, and David Addington, who was then Vice President Cheney's legal adviser and is now his chief of staff.

In Goldsmith's view, the Bush administration went about answering (the questions of limits of executive power and legal liability) in the wrong way. Instead of reaching out to Congress and the courts for support, which would have strengthened its legal hand, the administration asserted what Goldsmith considers an unnecessarily broad, ''go-it-alone'' view of executive power. As Goldsmith sees it, this strategy has backfired. ''They embraced this vision,'' he says, ''because they wanted to leave the presidency stronger than when they assumed office, but the approach they took achieved exactly the opposite effect. The central irony is that people whose explicit goal was to expand presidential power have diminished it.''
And concerning his friend Yoo (though Goldsmith tells us in the book that they no longer communicate, which earns points for Goldsmith as far as I’m concerned)…

Yoo was a ''godsend'' to a White House nervous about war-crimes prosecutions, Goldsmith writes in his book, because his opinions reassured the White House that no official who relied on them could be prosecuted after the fact. But Yoo's direct access to Gonzales angered his boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, according to Goldsmith. (Neither Ashcroft nor Gonzales responded to requests for interviews for this article.) Ashcroft, Goldsmith says, felt that Gonzales and the war council (Gonzales, Addington, Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes II and Yoo) were usurping legal-policy decisions that were properly entrusted to the attorney general, such as the creation of military commissions, which Gonzales supported and Ashcroft never liked.
The more I hear of Ashcroft as of late, by the way (including the infamous hospital room confrontation where he was asked to sign off on the domestic spying program while still very sick, and Goldsmith witnessed that also), the more I think he at least had a conscience among these cretins.

Several hours after Goldsmith was sworn in, on Oct. 6, 2003, he recalls that he received a phone call from Gonzales: the White House needed to know as soon as possible whether the Fourth Geneva Convention, which describes protections that explicitly cover civilians in war zones like Iraq, also covered insurgents and terrorists. After several days of study, Goldsmith agreed with lawyers in several other federal agencies, who had concluded that the convention applied to all Iraqi civilians, including terrorists and insurgents. In a meeting with Ashcroft, Goldsmith explained his analysis, which Ashcroft accepted. Later, Goldsmith drove from the Justice Department to the White House for a meeting with Gonzales and Addington. Goldsmith remembers his deputy Patrick Philbin turning to him in the car and saying: ''They're going to be really mad. They're not going to understand our decision. They've never been told no.'' (Philbin declined to discuss the conversation.)

In his book, Goldsmith describes Addington as the ''biggest presence in the room -- a large man with large glasses and an imposing salt-and-pepper beard'' who was ''known throughout the bureaucracy as the best-informed, savviest and most conservative lawyer in the administration, someone who spoke for and acted with the full backing of the powerful vice president, and someone who crushed bureaucratic opponents.'' When Goldsmith presented his analysis of the Geneva Conventions at the White House, Addington, according to Goldsmith, became livid. ''The president has already decided that terrorists do not receive Geneva Convention protections,'' Addington replied angrily, according to Goldsmith. ''You cannot question his decision.'' (Addington declined to comment on this and other details concerning him in this article.)

Goldsmith then explained that he agreed with the president's determination that detainees from Al Qaeda and the Taliban weren't protected under the Third Geneva Convention, which concerns the treatment of prisoners of war, but that different protections were at issue with the Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns civilians. Addington, Goldsmith says, was not persuaded. (Goldsmith told me that he has checked his recollections of this and other meetings with at least one other participant or with someone to whom he described the meetings soon after.)

Months later, when Goldsmith tried to question another presidential decision, Addington expressed his views even more pointedly. ''If you rule that way,'' Addington exclaimed in disgust, Goldsmith recalls, ''the blood of the hundred thousand people who die in the next attack will be on your hands.''
Anyone who still believes David Addington is a sane individual at this point needs to question their own sanity as far as I’m concerned (and another choice item involving this guy is coming up later).

And concerning the two opinions from Yoo that Goldsmith considered to be “tendentious, overly broad and legally flawed,” Goldsmith withdrew the second opinion of March 2003 (which dealt with the military interrogation of aliens, though the contents are classified) in December of that year. Concerning the first opinion from Yoo written in August 2002 (and leaked in June 2004, which tried to keep Congress from "(tying) the hands of the president in regulating the interrogation of battlefield combatants")…

A week after the leak of Yoo's August 2002 memo, Goldsmith withdrew the opinion. Goldsmith made the decision himself, in consultation with Philbin and Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, both of whom, Goldsmith says, agreed it was the right thing to do. He then told Ashcroft, who was, Goldsmith writes, ''unbelievably magnanimous: it had happened on his watch, and he could have overruled me, and he didn't.'' Goldsmith was concerned, however, that the White House might overrule him. So he made a strategic decision: on the same day that he withdrew the opinion, he submitted his resignation, effectively forcing the administration to choose between accepting his decision and letting him leave quietly, or rejecting it and turning his resignation into a big news story. ''If the story had come out that the U.S. government decided to stick by the controversial opinions that led the head of the Office of Legal Counsel to resign, that would have looked bad,'' Goldsmith told me. ''The timing was designed to ensure that the decision stuck.''

Again, according to Goldsmith, Addington was furious. During his brief time in office, Goldsmith had withdrawn not only the two torture opinions but also others. (He refused to discuss the other opinions with me.) In the end, he says, he had withdrawn more opinions than any of his predecessors. Shortly before he resigned, Goldsmith says, Addington confronted him in Gonzales's office, pulling out of his jacket pocket a 3-by-5 card that listed the withdrawn opinions. ''Since you've withdrawn so many legal opinions that the president and others have been relying on,'' Addington said, according to Goldsmith, ''we need you to ... let us know which [of the remaining] ones you still stand by.'' Goldsmith recalls that Gonzales, in his own farewell chat with him, said, ''I guess those opinions really were as bad as you said.''

Looking back, Goldsmith says, he criticizes but does not vilify Yoo, whom he believes wrote and defended the opinions in good faith. Praising Yoo's ''knowledge, intelligence and energy,'' he writes in his book that ''the poor quality of a handful of very important opinions is probably attributable to some combination of the fear that pervaded the executive branch, pressure from the White House and Yoo's unusually expansive and self-confident conception of presidential power.''

During his tenure at the Office of Legal Counsel, Goldsmith also clashed with Addington over the detention and trial of suspected terrorists. In January 2004, the Supreme Court agreed to review a lower-court decision approving the detention of Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen then being held as an enemy combatant. A group of administration lawyers including Goldsmith met with Gonzales and Addington in Gonzales's office to discuss the implications of the case. ''Why don't we just go to Congress and get it to sign off on the whole detention program?'' Goldsmith recalls asking, reasoning that the Supreme Court would be less likely to strike down a detention program in wartime if Congress had explicitly supported it. According to Goldsmith, Addington shot down the idea.

In his book, Goldsmith claims that Addington and other top officials treated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the same way they handled other laws they objected to: ''They blew through them in secret based on flimsy legal opinions that they guarded closely so no one could question the legal basis for the operations,'' he writes. Goldsmith's first experienced this extraordinary concealment, or ''strict compartmentalization,'' in late 2003 when, he recalls, Addington angrily denied a request by the N.S.A.'s inspector general to see a copy of the Office of Legal Counsel's legal analysis supporting the secret surveillance program. ''Before I arrived in O.L.C., not even N.S.A. lawyers were allowed to see the Justice Department's legal analysis of what N.S.A. was doing,'' Goldsmith writes.

(Goldsmith) shared the White House's concern that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act might prevent wiretaps on international calls involving terrorists. But (he) deplored the way the White House tried to fix the problem, which was highly contemptuous of Congress and the courts. ''We're one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court,'' Goldsmith recalls Addington telling him in February 2004.
Nice guy, that David Addington. Doesn’t matter who you kill or how many to get what you want for the preznit, does it, you psycho?

And coming back once more to what Goldsmith pointed out earlier…

The Bush administration's legalistic ''go-it-alone approach,'' Goldsmith suggests, is the antithesis of Lincoln and Roosevelt's willingness to collaborate with Congress (Lincoln and FDR, strangely enough, are heroes to Goldsmith). Bush, he argues, ignored the truism that presidential power is the power to persuade. ''The Bush administration has operated on an entirely different concept of power that relies on minimal deliberation, unilateral action and legalistic defense,'' Goldsmith concludes in his book. ''This approach largely eschews politics: the need to explain, to justify, to convince, to get people on board, to compromise.''

Goldsmith says he remains convinced of the seriousness of the terrorist threat and the need to take aggressive action to combat it, but he believes, quoting his conservative Harvard Law colleague Charles Fried, that the Bush administration ''badly overplayed a winning hand.'' In retrospect, Goldsmith told me, Bush ''could have achieved all that he wanted to achieve, and put it on a firmer foundation, if he had been willing to reach out to other institutions of government.'' Instead, Goldsmith said, he weakened the presidency he was so determined to strengthen. ''I don't think any president in the near future can have the same attitude toward executive power, because the other institutions of government won't allow it,'' he said softly. ''The Bush administration has borrowed its power against future presidents.''
Sounds like “history’s actors” have created a template for future presidencies sadly deficient from the grandiose one they once envisioned. How utterly appropriate for these clowns.