Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Videos

Happy belated birthday to Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music ("Slave To Love," one of his solo hits, with lots of Michael Mann-ish touches to this '80s vid)...



...Miles Davis left us 16 years ago today (his solo from "Footprints" recorded in 1967 - I don't have the entire recording, but his music typically seemed to start and end as if by accident, though that of course was by design - as Wynton Marsalis said, you could find yourself captivated by his playing in a subtle way, or words to that effect)...



...guilty pleasure time; happy belated birthday (lots, I know) to Olivia Newton-John ("Have You Never Been Mellow" from "The Midnight Special" in 1975 - I'm wearing my bell bottoms at this very moment, I swear)...



...happy ontime birthday (number 79) to Koko Taylor ("Wang Dang Doodle," with Little Walter)...



...yet another happy belated birthday to Marvin Lee Aday, otherwise known as Meat Loaf ("Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad," from back in '77 or so)...



...and finally, happy belated birthday to Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos ("Don't Worry Baby"; as a YouTube commenter said, if you can't move to this, you're either comatose or way too hammered).

The Vatican's "Vapors" Over Tube Time

According to this story from today’s New York Times…

Over the past week, the Vatican and an Italian doctor have sparred over the doctor’s accusation that (Pope John Paul II) should have been fitted earlier with a feeding tube. The doctor, Lina Pavanelli, an anesthesiologist, argued in a magazine article, then again this week in public, that the failure to do so before March 30, 2005, when the Vatican announced that John Paul had been fitted with a nasal feeding tube, deprived him of necessary care and thus violated church teachings on euthanasia. He died, at 84, on April 2 that year.

In an article in the magazine, Micromega, Dr. Pavanelli argued, “When the patient knowingly refuses a life-saving therapy, his action together with the remissive or omissive behavior of doctors, must be considered euthanasia, or more precisely, assisted suicide.”



The accusation came as the Vatican restated its position on feeding tubes. Last week, a Vatican office described them as “an ordinary means of preserving life” that should be used even in cases of long-term deep coma where there is little hope for recovery. The Vatican does not approve of means it considers “disproportionate,” those involving a heavy burden and unlikely to save the patient.

That often means artificial respiration, but even that case is complicated. At a news conference on Wednesday, Dr. Pavanelli appeared by the side of the widow of Piergiorgio Welby, a writer who died last year after deciding to be removed from a ventilator that had kept him alive for nine years.

At the time, several church officials said that act amounted to euthanasia, and Mr. Welby was denied a church burial.
In the article, the Vatican said that the Pope had received the feeding tube several days prior to the March 30th announcement.

I’d really like to believe that, but as many of us remember, John Paul had been gravely ill for a very long time, and I just don’t understand the medical reason why he would have received the tube when he was so close to death and not sooner (basically, though I don’t know anything for certain of course, I’m inclined to side with Dr. Pavanelli).

I just would like to see a little more humanity from “the good shepherd” in Rome on this issue. I think we all have our own stories about family members passing from our midst, and mine involves my dad. Fortunately, he had a living will (and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have one – full disclosure: I need to practice what I preach on that). His wishes, and ours, were honored by our family doctor and the institution where he passed away, fortunately for us all.

And I think refusing a Catholic burial to a man who had been kept alive on a ventilator for nine years but decided that he’d had enough is cruel, especially when these legitimate questions persist about John Paul’s death.

I believe in a kind and forgiving God that sees us for what we truly are and knows that most of us are doing our best so we can be with him in the end one day. And part of that is not seeking to do harm to others or ourselves.

And I’m pretty sure the Vatican believes that also, though sometimes I wonder.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (9/28/07)

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 Inky is back to the correct order of House and then Senate – that makes someone like me with a touch of OCD happy.)

House

Terrorism insurance. The House passed, 312-110, and sent to the Senate a 15-year renewal of the program that provides taxpayer backing to help the insurance industry meet the catastrophic costs of any future terrorist attacks. The bill expands the program to cover nuclear and chemical attacks.

A yes vote was to pass HR 2761.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), 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: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.) and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
Oh, and speaking of that waste of space in U.S. PA-16 (Pitts, of course), I should note that President Brainless is coming to Lancaster County next Wednesday, which is appropriate because that beautiful area has lots of farmland, and if there’s anyone who’s good at creating manure, it’s Dubya. And I’m sure he’ll thank Pancake Joe for toeing the Bushco line so slavishly.

And by the way (as noted here), our friends in the insurance industry oppose providing “terrorism insurance,” unless we pick up the tab, of course.

Food and drug safety. The House passed, 405-7, and sent to the Senate a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration new authority to protect consumers against unsafe food, drugs and devices. The bill empowers the FDA for the first time to continually review drugs after they go on the market and order quick corrective action when harmful side effects come to light.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 3580).

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

Not voting: Andrews.
Only slightly in advance of the problems noted in this story – once more, a great big raspberry goes out to the 109th Congress for letting this matter go unresolved.

Home mortgages. The House passed, 348-72, and sent to the Senate a bill giving the Federal Housing Administration more power to stimulate residential housing, including measures to help holders of subprime mortgages keep their homes.

A yes vote was to pass HR 1852.

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

Not voting: Andrews.
Better not tell Dubya about this, since it involves that baad government coming to the aid of the private sector in a crisis (his whole supposed rationale against SCHIP). When the time comes to get him to sign off on this, just bury the bill in a bunch of fine print, OK?

Aviation budget. The House passed, 267-151, and sent to the Senate a $68 billion four-year budget for the Federal Aviation Administration that includes $16 billion for improving airports and $13 billion for revamping traffic-control technology. The bill codifies a passengers' bill of rights, increases levies including fuel taxes on corporate aircraft, and requires the FAA to renegotiate its labor contract with air-traffic controllers.

A yes vote was to pass HR 2881.

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

Voting no: Castle and Pitts.
There goes that bad “activist government” again, actually looking out for airline passengers and trying to avert a crisis between the agency and the air traffic controllers (as noted here).

Kind of makes the Repugs long for the glory days of The Sainted Ronnie R I suppose, who would have merely fired the air traffic controllers and then retired to his private screening room at the White House to watch old Hollywood movies for the rest of the day.

Senate

Combat deployments. In a 56-44 vote, the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes needed to advance an amendment setting longer periods between soldiers' tours in combat and time at home. The amendment to the defense budget (HR 1585) would have required at least as much time back home as in the war theater.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
Once more, here is the story on the matter of the 60 votes, used in this case to kill the amendment sponsored by Jim Webb of Virginia (and I would have had more sympathy for Webb had he not signed off on that stupid resolution condemning that ad).

And by the way…as Atrios noted (I believe), I’ll await the Senate resolution in response that surely will come in the wake of Flush Limbore’s remark about “phony soldiers,” which was particularly stupid even for him. Hey, they set the precedent, and fair is fair, right?

Update: Holy mother of God (Mark Udall has "brass ones")...

Oh, and one more thing – as always, screw you Arlen.

Iraq funds cutoff. Senators rejected, 70-28, a proposal to cut off funds for combat in Iraq on June 30, 2008, except for spending to pursue terrorists, protect U.S. personnel and infrastructure, and train Iraqi forces. The vote occurred during debate on the defense budget (HR 1585).

A yes vote was to cut off funds for combat in Iraq.

Voting yes: Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Carper, Casey and Specter.

Not voting: Biden.
This was the amendment sponsored by Russ Feingold, which was brought up again after a vote earlier this year in which 29 senators voted yes (so, as you can see, it actually lost a vote between then and now).

And in response, I have only this to say.

Given a choice of a Senate hopelessly outnumbered by Repugs to the tune of, say, 90-10 versus our current state, I actually would take the former if I knew for an absolute certainty that those 10 would represent me consistently on every issue and stand tall in the face of all the Repug demagoguery through which they would be assaulted. I would accept this because I knew that, over time, enough people would recognize that the Democratic Party understood who and what it stood for and would eventually come over to our side, to the point where a majority would be ensured. Such a process would likely take years, but the foundation that would be built would endure and last far into the future.

But as for now and at this minute, I cannot possibly imagine why I am continuing to support an organization that tolerates the continued presence of people such as Tom Carper and Bob Casey.

Habeas corpus. Senators failed, 56-43, to reach the 60 votes to advance a bid to establish habeas-corpus rights for terrorism suspects held in U.S. military prisons. Written into Article I of the Constitution, habeas corpus gives prisoners the right to be brought into open court to be formally charged.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted in favor of habeas-corpus rights for military detainees.
This again is pathetic, but I can’t blame any of the six senators here for that.

D.C. congressional seat. Senators failed, 57-42, to reach the 60 votes needed to advance a House-passed bill declaring the District of Columbia a congressional district and granting Utah one more House seat.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to advance S 1257.
See above.

This week, both chambers took up the conference report on expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The Senate continued to debate the 2008 military budget and Iraq policy.

Coming Clean Too Late

This CNN story tells us that the private military contractor Blackwater “delayed and impeded” a congress- ional probe into the deaths of Jerry Zovko, Scott Helvenston, Mike Teague and Wesley Batalona, four of its employees in Iraq, on March 31, 2004 (more on Blackwater is available from here).

This also ties into today’s New York Times column by Paul Krugman on the abominations caused by Bushco’s privatization to outfits like Blackwater and the perverse thinking that people from “industry” can always come into government jobs and ancillary functions and work efficiently.

Though I’ll state that I wish well for Americans working in Iraq for profit and a measure of sympathy for their loss (only going so far since they chose to be there in the first place), my deepest concerns lie with our military who face ever-escalating danger, entrapped in a sectarian civil war with no end in sight.

And whose fault is that?

Krugman and others quite rightly blame Bushco for their gross mismanagement of a war that never needed to be fought, and I share that of course, but the danger faced by our men and women in the armed forces has been heightened by the antics of Blackwater and other for-profit contractors.

With all this in mind, I checked up a bit and found out that the role currently held by Henry Waxman as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the 110th Congress was held by ranking Republican Tom Davis in the 109th and 108th.

And I can find no record of any inquiry by Davis into the deaths of the four Blackwater employees from that time (typical I suppose...and I realize that it’s possible that the committee may not have known they were employed by Blackwater back then; if so, the company definitely shares responsibility for making this mess even worse).

What I’m saying is that if Davis had decided to hold a hearing on the deaths of the contractors around the time when they took place, with or without Blackwater’s admission of involvement, who knows what effect this would have had in trying to win over Iraqis who could have helped us instead of joining the insurgency instead and thus posing a greater threat to our forces?

(Oh, but Davis has no problem with working himself into a froth over that ad, as you can see here).

And as long as I’m noting the Iraq war here, I just want to add this link to a Courier Times story noting that former Navy Secretary John Lehman (who served under Ronnie Baby) spoke in the area recently about terrorism and added that he’s “no fan of Dubya” (though Patrick Murphy quite rightly voiced disagreement with Lehman’s characterization of Iraq as “a tiny, little war” - and Bob Guzzardi is, so far, my Idiot Of The Month).

And since I mentioned Patrick, here is his response to the latest idiocy from Flush Limbore, characterizing any military personnel who oppose the Iraq war as “phony soldiers” (from here)…

When someone like Rush Limbaugh says that soldiers who disagree with the failed strategies of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are "phony soldiers," you have to consider the source.

Rush Limbaugh, who, in January, called Vietnam veteran Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) "Senator Betrayus" for disagreeing with President Bush, has made no secret of his disdain for those who serve and speak out. Where was Rush Limbaugh when it came time to serve his country?

What's more, where was Limbaugh's outrage when Max Cleland, a Senator who left three of his limbs in Vietnam was smeared on television? Where was Limbaugh when Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) service was called into question in the form of millions of dollars in campaign ads?

My service was questioned last year during my campaign for Congress. Fortunately, the swift-boat attack on me didn't stick because people in my district in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and across America know that if someone wears the uniform and serves their country they've earned our respect regardless of political party.

Sadly, the political debate in this country has devolved into who can be more outraged at the latest smear attempt on those who should be thanked and praised for devoted service. Rush Limbaugh's phony outrage and derisive words call into contrast that which we all must honor: our Armed Forces currently fighting for their lives and our freedom all across the world. We need to be vigilant and speak out against those who question the value of that service -- and that goes for people on the right and the left.
Not all of us are lucky enough to get pilonidal cysts and escape the draft, you pompous fool.

"Illegal" In '08 = Gay In '04

(Though I suppose, if you’re a Repug, demonizing either group is always “in play” – the first word is in quotes because I’m trying to cover myself in case anyone wants to “flame” me over not saying “undocumented,” though they probably will anyway.)

This news release from his office tells us the following about Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher (pictured above with former Repug U.S. House Rep. Anne Northup – h/t McClatchy)…

In a continuing effort to protect the public, (Fletcher) has notified federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials that Kentucky wants authority to verify the immigration status of foreign-born felons in Kentucky prisons.

Governor Fletcher made the request in a letter dated September 14 to ICE Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers. The letter proposes that Kentucky be allowed to participate in a detention and removal program under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Well, the problem is that states and localities really don’t have the capability to act like pseudo-INS agents, as noted here (including this excerpt)…

At the federal level, there are conflicting signals as to whether state and local police have the authority to arrest persons for violations of immigration law. A published 1996 Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memo states that local police have the authority to arrest persons only for criminal immigration violations. A 2002 unreleased memo from the same office states that police have the authority to make arrests for criminal and civil violations.

Still more complication is added with the overlay of state and local ordinances. Some states and localities authorize the enforcement of immigration laws, others do not authorize it, and some prohibit their police agencies from enforcing immigration laws. Enforcement of such complex and ever-changing laws requires not only weeks of training and continuing education, but knowledge of case histories and files that only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has. Attempts to enforce immigration laws have made local police vulnerable to civil rights lawsuits, particularly when they arrest someone who is not undocumented or use racial profiling to determine who to scrutinize.

In fact, scores of cities, counties, and even states have policies in place that explicitly limit their police departments’ ability to coordinate with federal immigration authorities outside of criminal investigations. They have these policies in order to enhance public safety. Why is that? Because when immigrant community residents begin to see state and local police as deportation agents, they stop reporting crimes and assisting in investigations. The fear of deportation for them or their family members often silences them from reporting abuses, making it more difficult for police to effectively do their jobs. It is the need to protect the whole community effectively that has led scores of police departments to reject policies that would expand their role in federal immigration law enforcement, policies which have been promoted increasingly since the September 11th terrorist attacks.
I guess this is the sort of move that you pull when you know you’re going to get wiped out in the general election shortly by Dem challenger Steve Beshear (as noted by any one of the stories available from this link – and that pesky indictment against Fletcher for conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination isn’t helping a bit, I’m sure).

Still, it’s nice to see how Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao is tied to this guy like the proverbial anvil to a drowning man (and what else can we expect from a state that actually returned Jim Bunning to the Senate three years ago?).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Willard Mitt Is Full Of...

I'd say he's got another "penumbra of angst" on his hands with this one (h/t Eschaton).

Edwards, Health Care And The "Sensible Center"

I’ve been pondering this column from Cokie and Steve Roberts that was reprinted in the Bucks County Courier Times Tuesday partly because I don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish here.

Are they trying to seriously inform anyone as to the different positions on the issue of health insurance presented by each candidate for president from either party (as the New York Times did here last Sunday with this excellent editorial)? No.

Are they trying to tell us about real-life stories of people who’ve experienced some of the horror of our profit-driven private care, where fewer and fewer people are covered? No (after all, the Robertses live in the accountability-free zone of pundit land, which is located primarily in the Beltway but also other regions, particularly in the South – they do throw in a lot of polling data that is supposed to impress us, though).

Well then, let me share some of what they have to say here and maybe I’ll come up with an answer. Here is an excerpt…

Take the reaction to Hillary Clinton’s latest plan, a thoughtful proposal to extend health coverage to the 47 million people who now lack insurance. Mitt Romney immediately reached back for the oldest bromide in the Republican playbook, branding her approach “European-style socialized medicine.”

That’s plain silly, there’s nothing European or socialized about her proposal. But Democrats could be silly as well, with John Edwards blasting Clinton for consulting with “lobbyists” from drug and insurance companies. Those industries are major players in the healthcare debate, and any serious attempt at making progress – as opposed to making speeches – compels any good leader to understand their interests.
And why is it “silly” for John Edwards to state the obvious? Will Big Pharma and their insurance pals ever care about leveling the playing field in the face of competition such as the type Edwards has advocated by expanding Medicare and SCHIP unless they’re forced to do so?

And by the way, what Sen. Clinton has proposed sounds highly similar to what Romney supported when he was governor of Massachusetts (as noted here).

Also, the Robertses here state in almost a celebratory manner that there is “no interest in a single-payer, government-run system modeled after Canada and Great Britain,” partly because going to the trouble of trying to explain the benefits of such a system might make them sound too much like that dangerous pinko liberal Michael Moore or something (and if John Edwards isn’t even talking about “single payer” any more, then yeah, you can pretty much write it off).

But behind all this political posturing, a national consensus is starting to emerge on two key points. The current system is broken. But it has to be fixed, not replaced. Americans want a middle ground between a free market that leaves too many citizens vulnerable, and a government-run bureaucracy that leaves too many without individual choice.
What a silly supposition. This is typical of the fear-baiting tactics of the Robertses and their ilk (with the phrase “government-run bureaucracy” designed to elicit almost on-cue salivation from those who think the Repug presidential candidates actually know what they’re talking about on this issue – and yes, I’m speaking literally here).

The issue of “single-payer” or government coverage is the fear of coverage choices being limited to control costs, not eliminated outright (and could we be more vague here, anyway) which to me doesn’t sound that much different from what some HMOs practice right now. And it never ceases to crack me up when Repugs talk about how much they supposedly love free-market competition unless it involves a corporate constituency that makes hefty campaign contributions.

The bottom line is that, though I’m not automatically in love with the idea of government-run care, I say let’s help it along a bit and see how it fares against private carriers. It sounds like a variation on the commercial jingle “when banks compete, you win” to me.

And after the Robertses quite correctly chide Dubya for his boneheaded opposition to increasing SCHIP funding, we are treated to this summary.

That’s what voters want: practical solutions that allow them and their children to “live healthier lives.” Candidates in both parties who don’t understand that, who play to their ideological base instead of the sensible center, will pay a heavy price. And they should.
But of course; how silly of me not to recognize what’s really going on here. The Robertses don’t want to actually inform or enlighten anyone on this issue.

Why, they want to sing more hosannas to “the sensible center.” Glory be!

That kind of thinking has taken us absolutely nowhere in this country when it comes to addressing the most vital issues we face. And as usual, regurgitating this stuff is a self-fulfilling prophecy (unfortunately) for the people who pen this dreck and those who believe it without question at their own risk.

And I wonder which candidate the Robertses are accusing here of playing to their “ideological base” besides Willard Mitt Romney (again, what exactly does that even mean when the Robertses don’t even bother to discuss what John Edwards has proposed)?

I’ll tell you what then; here are some actual statistics on health insurance in this country from Michael Moore courtesy of Sicko that you can consume, verify, question…whatever.

Trying to discern something intelligent from the Robertses on this issue for me, as it does for other issues on which they expound (here and here) results in a sensation similar to the one I feel whenever a doctor tells me that “I may experience some discomfort.”

"Newt-Mania" Beckons!

Can you feel it?

Are you awaiting the bluster and bombast, the overflowing pretense that will soon engulf our discourse in a similar manner as the contents of a ruptured sewer line engulfing your basement?

Are you truly ready for cosmic-scale, accountability-free egomania?

Then I have glorious news for you...

It is only a matter of time until NEWT! declares!

I know this to be true because of the full-page ad that appeared in today’s New York Times (and what a pleasure it is actually to discuss a full-page Times ad besides that one) announcing the formation of “America’s Solutions For Winning The Future,” commencing with “Solutions Day,” which I guess is supposed to be today – conveniently coinciding with the 13th anniversary of the Contract On America; 13 being such a lucky number of course – though the ad notes that it will extend until this Saturday the 29th - ???

Oh, hang that. Never mind! The point is that NEWT! will soon be back, which means that the normal rules of time, space and physics don’t apply – surely, a presence as huge as NEWT! transcends all of these trivialities.

And what catchphrase does NEWT! provide in an effort to motivate us lemming-like into total, immediate compliance? Why, none other than that which has no doubt been focus-group approved particularly for this moment in history…

“Real Change Requires Real Change.”
God, the patriotic heart just stirs (either that’s the sensation I’m experiencing, or a coming bout of indigestion – and yes, I know I said that before, but I think it works, dammit!). And NEWT! places these profound words among quotes by Eisenhower and Einstein. Brilliant!

I will link to this page of the American Solutions site that NEWT! references so we can all partake of this group’s manifesto, which notes the following (and you can also call 1-866-580-NEWT – here endeth all plugs)…

I will serve as Chairman reflecting my strong conviction in this approach to addressing our nation's problems. Let me explain in more depth why we have formed American Solutions.

It is clear America is faced with enormous challenges both at home and abroad. It is equally clear that the current political-governmental system is stuck in pathology of negative ads, short attention spans, gridlocked partisanship and lack of effective solutions that work and can be implemented. This is a big not a small problem. Solving it will require a big not a small solution.

We believe that it is possible to create solutions for America by using the principles that have historically worked in America.

We also believe the great increase in productivity and quality we have seen in the private sector over the last 50 years could be applied to create dramatically more effective services in the public sector.

Finally, we believe that the coming explosion in scientific knowledge (four to seven times as much new knowledge in the next 25 years as in the last) will make possible many solutions for learning, for economic productivity, for a better environment, and for a more effective homeland and national security.
As I noted above, accountability-free egomania (and NEWT! refers constantly to “we,” at this site, but as I slog through all of this tripe, I only see “him”). And what effective punctuation also!

Well, in anticipation of a development that surely will alter the 2008 political landscape in the presidential race, I’d like to present this prior post on NEWT! that shows his appreciation for scientific research and development, “appreciating” said funding so much that he slashed it every way possible. Also, this shows that the phrase “politics of personal destruction” perfectly describes what he practiced throughout his public life. And finally, this tells us how he discussed poetry, history and ancient Greece over dinner at Les Halles, a posh D.C. eatery one evening with Paul Wolfowitz and one-time Rummy aide Steve Herbits on the issue of what the #@!! we were supposed to be doing in Iraq instead of getting our troops killed.

But despite that, I think an occasion as momentous at this should be commemorated somehow. How about it, Newt, if you manufacture special ceremonial gavels to recall the fact that you were once House speaker? To personalize them, you could inscribe the number 28; that represents the job approval rating you held when you resigned in 1998, which was the lowest ever recorded for a House speaker.

All of that is in the past, however. With the coming of a NEWT! presidential campaign, filthy, unkempt liberal bloggers such as yours truly will receive posting material far into the future.

And given the intellectual pygmies currently comprising the Republican field, he would be the leader by default (and I’m not sure that that’s a joke).

Update 9/29: Damn Newt, you're such a tease...

Rudy The Sunshine Patriot

I’d like to institute a rule among the media punditocracy and our political establishment that, when a member of this self-important group does something manifestly ignorant and stupid (as Rudy Giuliani did here), then that person should disappear completely from sight for at least a week (a month would be better, but there’s no sense being greedy).

And yes, I know there’s no chance whatsoever that that will happen, but all I can do is take a shot.

And since that is the case, Rudy! has appeared once more to inform us here that “the military option is definitely on the table” concerning Iran.

So I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at “Mr. 9/11” and his own military history. Let’s see what this guy who invented the “perp walk” did in the service of his country.

Joe Conason tells us the following (from here)…

Born in 1944, young Rudy was highly eligible for military service when he reached his 20s during the Vietnam War. He did not volunteer for combat -- as (John) Kerry did -- and instead found a highly creative way to dodge the draft.

During his years as an undergraduate at Manhattan College and then at New York University Law School, Giuliani qualified for a student deferment. Upon graduation from law school in 1968, he lost that temporary deferment and his draft status reverted to 1-A, the designation awarded to those most qualified for induction into the Army.

At the same time, Giuliani won a clerkship with federal Judge Lloyd McMahon in the fabled Southern District of New York, where he would become the United States attorney. He naturally had no desire to trade his ticket on the legal profession's fast track for latrine duty in the jungle. So he quickly applied for another deferment based on his judicial clerkship. This time the Selective Service System denied his claim.

That was when the desperate Giuliani prevailed upon his boss to write to the draft board, asking them to grant him a fresh deferment and reclassification as an "essential" civilian employee. As the great tabloid columnist Jimmy Breslin noted 20 years later, during the former prosecutor's first campaign for mayor: "Giuliani did not attend the war in Vietnam because federal Judge Lloyd MacMahon [sic] wrote a letter to the draft board in 1969 and got him out. Giuliani was a law clerk for MacMahon, who at the time was hearing Selective Service cases. MacMahon's letter to Giuliani's draft board stated that Giuliani was so necessary as a law clerk that he could not be allowed to get shot at in Vietnam."

His clerkship ended the following year but his luck held firm. By then President Nixon had transformed the Selective Service into a lottery system, and despite Rudy's renewed 1-A status, he drew a high lottery number and was never drafted.
“So necessary as a law clerk,” huh? And this guy who bailed out of Vietnam has no problem with sentencing untold numbers of our men and women in the military to fight, suffer, struggle and die in Mesopotamia and perhaps other locations in that area ad infinitum.

And another darkly humorous aspect of this is that he expressed his wish for “regime change” in Iran (those should be the two scariest words in the English language) in response to a question from Dennis Miller who, as noted here, polled as the lowest-rated commentator in the history of Monday Night Football according to this survey in the Philadelphia Inquirer (even behind career defendant O.J. Simpson).

Too funny, babe…

Don't Let SCHIP Fall Where It May

I know this is more “echo chamber” time, but we need to keep beating the drum in support of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, especially in light of this propaganda from Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt that appeared in USA Today (particularly this excerpt)…

Ideology is really behind the Democrats' plan. They trust government more than the free choices of American consumers. Some in Congress want the federal government to pay for everyone's health care, and expanding SCHIP is a step in that direction.
First of all, you nitwit, the SCHIP legislation is not “the Democrats’ plan.” It was arrived at through a bipartisan consensus (I realize, though, that those two words aren’t in Bushco’s vocabulary, so I guess your confusion on this is understandable).

Two Senators who have taken the lead in authoring this commendable legislation are Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Orrin Hatch of Utah. And they are Republicans (and here is their response to Dubya’s boneheaded SCHIP antics, from Hatch’s web site)…

“It’s disappointing, even a little unbelievable, to hear talk about Administration officials wanting a veto of a legislative proposal they haven't even seen yet - because it isn't even finalized yet. The President ought to give Congress a chance to offer a proposal first. As Republican leaders on the committee of jurisdiction, we’ve been working day and night to reach an agreement on children’s health insurance legislation because it is imperative that this important program, which has helped so many children, be continued.
And Grassley expressed his frustration and disappointment recently in this story.

Also, I don’t understand how Leavitt can imagine that he can speak with any authority on children’s health issues (his phony baloney job in the Bushco regime notwithstanding, when you read the writeup for Item #10 available from this CAP link, as follows (Leavitt was the former governor of Utah, and as such oversaw that state’s Division of Child and Family Services)…

There is only one way to describe the condition of Utah's Division of Child and Family Services during Leavitt's tenure as governor: reprehensible. From 1993-1996, ten children who were under DCFS care died. Ultimately, the case came to head when the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, Calif., filed a class-action lawsuit "on behalf of 17 children who had been horribly abused and neglected in Utah's foster care system." The court eventually ruled that "the state had violated the constitutional rights of every child in custody." Though Leavitt's supporters defend him by saying that he had simply been unfortunate enough to inherit the quagmire, the near decade-long period that it took for the state to fall in line with the court settlement – which demanded an overhaul of foster care and an increase in training and case oversight – fell squarely during Leavitt's time as governor. The state's child protection service continues to be monitored to this day.
A prior post from yours truly on this subject, among others related to the ruling cabal, appears here.

Please click here to send a message telling President Stupid Head to fund SCHIP (contact information can be accessed from here). There is no sane, rational reason not to do so (as restated here by Paul Krugman).

And I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this topic again soon, just to warn you.

Calling Out One Of Our Own

It pains me a bit to admit that it’s getting harder and harder to find interesting commentary on The Huffington Post any more.

To begin, we were treated to this angry screed (and I’ll admit that I know a thing or two about angry screeds) by John Ridley aimed at the New York Times over the MoveOn “ad that will never die.”

As I stated in a prior update, if Ridley wants to accuse the Times of some kind of a double-standard in running the ad…well, I may not agree with him, but I’ll cut him some slack. However, when he starts citing percentage numbers showing a decrease in readership and revenue as a signal that the paper is ready for the bone yard, he starts to sound ridiculous; all newspapers are taking those hits. And to say that the paper stinks now because “Pinch” Sulzberger has supposedly never had to work for anything is childish.

Next, we have HuffPo blogger Sam Stein trying to manufacture a “story” out of the fact that “webisodes” (I hate it when people invent words like this pertaining to the Internet, to be honest with you, and the items in question are video portrayals of John Edwards and the campaign) are apparently no longer available either from the Edwards people or the company that produced the videos (though at least one commenter was able to find the information that Stein claimed no longer existed).

And on top of that, we now have Jeffrey Feldman in a snit at Edwards over his supposed claim that he wants to keep combat troops in Iraq until 2013, which apparently was a date that Tim Russert pulled out of a bodily orifice when questioning the Democratic candidates (with Russert taking a break from serving as self-appointed spokesman on behalf of “fathers and sons” in this country to moderate the debate).

(And by the way, I should point out that I did not watch the debate. However, HuffPo commenter JoAnnCr did and stated as follows in response to Feldman)…

Replay the tape and John Edwards's statement. All combat troops out at the fastest pace the military recommends. The only troops will be the ones associated with the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. interests which is standard in every country in which we have the same type of presence. Where do you get that he would have combat troops in Iraq in 2013?

Those of us in Iowa like John Edwards because we've met him, we study his plans, we like what we see and hear. He doesn't pander. He gives us concrete hope because he has done incredible research, crafted plans that are thorough, comprehensive and workable. He tells us how he's going to pay for them and how he's going to work with everyone else to get them done. He also tells us the Washington establishment will no longer decide everything to the exclusion of the American people and stands by it by meeting with us in small groups with lots of question and answers. His plans are also what we want.

What more can you want?
What indeed?

And by the way, HuffPo, you also do a crappy job of policing your trolls. Tell them to at least keep their rants to the posted topic or ban them (like you guys did with me, apparently, and I’m still unsure as to why).

Sorry to engage in this “blogger hissy fit” stuff. I try to avoid this sort of thing, but sometimes things need to be said.

Update: What kos says, unfortunately - I respect the principle advocated by Edwards, but the Repugs will never play fair here, and the scenario envisioned by kos is dead-on.

And it figures that the only Republican who has a shred of decency on this issue (McCain - sorry, but despite his political antics, I can never completely disassociate his military service) doesn't have a snowball's chance at the nomination.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Three Days Grace ("Never Too Late")...



...Happy belated birthday to Jerry Donahue of Fairport Convention ("Now Be Thankful" from waay back here - God, does R.T. look young)...



...and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of "West Side Story" and its debut on Broadway, here is "America" from the film...



...and here is Mat Munro singing "Somewhere" (yes, it wasn't necessary for the words to appear, and I would have rather had the clip of Richard Beymer singing to Natalie Wood from the film, but the sound quality here is much better).



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

As Low As Our Enemies

I thought that Byron Williams at HuffPo here captured how I feel also about the recent visit of Iranian president Mahmoud AhMADinejad to Columbia University.

I really don’t understand the point of university president Lee Bollinger’s insult-peppered introduction. It should be clear to anyone with an IQ greater than that of a flea who has read the words and witnessed the actions of this lunatic that AhMADinejad is a demonstrably repellent individual (evidenced by this prior post). There was no need for Bollinger to try and put an exclamation point on that (a point Williams made in his remark about trying to win “a urinating contest with a skunk”).

And I honestly can’t see why we even extended the invitation to him. It just gave AhMADinejad an excuse to hide his monstrous ideological perversions behind some toilet-paper-thin cover of intellectual curiosity. And Bollinger’s boneheaded antics just fed into the Iranian figurehead’s never-ending well of anti-western agit-prop (and anti-American in particular, of course).

AhMADinejad is particularly offensive because I believe his country has in some fashion contributed to the carnage in Iraq; personally, I think they trained the insurgents and provided material and financial support years ago when Bushco was still high-fiving itself for overthrowing Hussein, but I honestly believe they no longer need to provide such support now.

However, the fact that we did allow him to come here and spew his nonsense does say something about this country’s still-remaining respect for free speech (or, as that intellectual titan George W. Bush put it here)…

Bush said Ahmadinejad’s appearance at Columbia “speaks volumes about really the greatness of America.”
Despite the typically fractured syntax, I think he stated the case well.

(How does the saying go – even a blind squirrel finds the nut sometimes?)

The Pinup Doll Speaks

Though she would have done better to keep her mouth shut…

Well now, it seems that Katie Couric somehow believes that she has the right to critique Dan Rather and the “Bush National Guard” story over which Rather has sued the network

“There were things in there that were quite egregious in terms of how it was reported,” she said. “And sloppy work is sloppy work…They did not dot their I’s and cross their T’s when it came to that story…And our job is to get right.”
I’ll admit that there was a time when I bought into the freeper fiction that the story utterly crashed and burned because, though I always believed the charges were true, CBS screwed up by not providing originals of the documents. Well, as former CBS News producer Mary Mapes points out here…

… we had done a straightforward, well-substantiated story. We presented former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes in his first ever interview saying that he had pulled strings to get the future president into the National Guard after a Bush family friend requested help in keeping the kid out of Vietnam.

And we showed for the first time a cache of documents allegedly written by Bush's former commander. The documents supported a mountain of other evidence that young Bush had dodged his duty and not been punished. They did not in any way diverge from the information in the sketchy pieces of the president's official record made available by the White House or the National Guard. In fact, to the few people who had gone to the trouble of examining the Bush record, these papers filled in some of the blanks.

We reported that since these documents were copies, not originals, they could not be fully authenticated, at least not in the legal sense. They could not be subjected to tests to determine the age of the paper or the ink. We did get corroboration on the content and support from a couple of longtime document analysts saying they saw nothing indicating that the memos were not real.
And for Couric to criticize Rather is funny, when you consider this item from Kagro X of The Daily Kos today, as well as other precious moments in reporting from “our little news sweetheart” (from here, where she took a shot at Rather previously, believe it or not).

Just keep pleasing your corporate handlers as your ratings for the prime time news cast continue to sink, dearest. A bright future awaits on QVC selling Princess Diana commemoratives and cubic zirconia costume jewelry.

Playing Taps For The Cemetery

God, this is depressing. And infuriating.

In this post, I noted that a group of Upper Makefield, PA residents had forced another delay to postpone the hearing finalizing the land transfer that would have cleared the way to build the VA cemetery in that township (Above Average Jane has a good backgrounder here that I probably should have linked to prior to now). I noted on the 19th that the whole deal looked shaky since the hearing had been rescheduled to Nov. 1, the same day the builder and the VA require preliminary and final land development approvals.

Well, those same 16 idiots in Upper Makefield who forced the delay filed suit yesterday, suing Upper Makefield, adjoining Newtown Township and Newtown Township’s Zoning Hearing Board. Apparently, they have such a grudge against Toll Brothers (who would have built 170 homes on the property adjoining the cemetery, which was part of the deal all along) that they decided to scuttle the veterans’ cemetery in the process with their action (and the cemetery would have been the best possible use for the property adjoining the homes...the Toll Brothers theory is speculation on my part, though, I hasten to add).

I can’t possibly see how the cemetery deal will get done now. I really can’t. Who knows how long this will be in litigation.

As the Courier Times story notes…

The plaintiffs had been parties to a challenge that (Leo Holt, the Newtown Township land owner who would preserve the 40 acres that weren’t developed by Toll or used for the cemetery as part of the deal) had filed in 2006 with Newtown Township’s zoning board. Holt dropped the challenge in June, and attorneys at that time said the parties had no legal standing to continue.

Attorney William Wall, who chairs the zoning hearing board, echoed that sentiment Tuesday, as did Newtown Township solicitor Paul Beckert.

“They simply joined as additional parties, therefore their standing would be what’s called derivative,” Beckert said. “Your rights are only as good as the party you’re joined with.”

But (Attorney Darrell Zaslow, representing the 16 knuckleheads) argued that the hearing should continue and a decision rendered.

“Their claim of termination was improper,” Zaslow said Tuesday of the zoning board. “If the court directs that the stay is to be honored, then they can take no further action and all action taken up until now is void.”
The gripe from these 16 appears to be that development was scheduled to proceed despite the “procedural issue” of Holt dropping his challenge while these clowns have not a leg to stand on with him. As I read through these stories, I honestly can’t find any other substantive issue these people may have.

But somehow, I have a feeling that this will give the VA all it needs to decide to develop the Pennhurst site instead for the cemetery in Repug Jim Gerlach’s district (U.S. PA-06).

I realize that, ultimately, the issue here is the best final resting place for those who have served this country. And the Dolington tract in Upper Makefield is a better site, and it would also be cheaper to develop than Pennhurst, which has buildings that must be demolished and related cleanup work to be performed before the project is completed (as noted here).

But it is positively beyond belief how 16 individuals could be so crass and arrogant as to engage in this legal nonsense and derail a project that has been planned, worked on and fought for by so many enduring so much for so long.

As the story notes, three of the 16 plaintiffs are Jane and John Johnson and Carol Stuckey. If any Bucks Countians who may be reading this happen to interact with these people, please give them my appropriate regards.

And right about now, I have a feeling Gerlach is starting to chill the champagne.

Update 10/18: This clears another hurdle, but to me, the lawsuit from the Upper Makefield numbskulls still casts everything in doubt.

A "Wide Stance" On The Law?

Sometime today, we should find out if a judge will let Repug Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho withdraw his guilty plea in connection to that untidy little business in the men’s room of the Minneapolis, MN airport earlier this year.

And I also heard somewhere the concern expressed that, if Craig were allowed to withdraw his plea (an idea given to Craig by Our Man Arlen Specter, let’s not forget), it would encourage others who have entered guilty pleas as a result of an arrest to do the same thing.

I haven’t found any information by any legal professionals to substantiate that, however. Besides, there have been precedents for Craig’s actions for some time (noted here and here, as well as a recent example here that may have been inspired by Craig’s attempt to weasel out of this).

And though I suppose Frank Rich has a bit of a point here about gays not rallying to Craig’s defense (though I don’t understand why they should, since, as Rich points out, Craig is a card-carrying member of the party that has tried its best to send them straight back “to the closet”), I definitely agree with a good bit of this (though I think it’s up to the judge to decide whether or not Craig did anything wrong)…

Not only did the senator do nothing wrong, but in scandal he has proved the national treasure that he never was in his salad days as a pork-seeking party hack. In the past month he has served as an invaluable human Geiger counter for hypocrisy on the left and right alike. He has been an unexpected boon not just to the nation's double-entendre comedy industry but to the imploding Republican Party. Gays, not all of them closeted, may be among the last minority groups with some representation in the increasingly monochromatic G.O.P. If it is to muster even a rainbow-lite coalition for 2008, it could use Larry Craig in the trenches.
(I’m not completely sure that Rich wants to see Craig stay in the Senate – these remarks may be “tongue in cheek” only, but I think he does.)

And after all, concerning Craig, let’s not forget about this bit of history, shall we (methinks thou doth protest too much)...

Update: My apologies - the plug for Larry LaRocca, though a good thing, was not the correct video. The one I had in mind from 1982 appears below.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Monday Videos

Rilo Kiley ("The Moneymaker"; hey, don't sic the morality police on me - I honestly like the song, OK?)...



...Happy belated birthday to Gerry Marsden of Gerry And The Pacemakers ("Ferry Cross The Mersey" from 1964, kind of a softer Brit anthem as opposed to all that Fab Four ruckus going on at the time; good job on the updated music track)...



...piano virtuoso and oddball Glenn Gould would have been 75 (here he plays J.S. Bach's Partita #2 with his own noise accompaniment, from a documentary titled "The Art Of Piano")...



...and comedy great Phil Hartman would have been 59 yesterday; here he is as former president Bill Clinton (the "whole bunch of things we don't tell Mrs. Clinton" remark ended up being dead-on...hey, I still support the guy, don't worry...and smooth move by Rob Schneider to see Hartman in a bit of trouble and help him out with the drink and the napkin; God, what a talent he was).



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

The Choice

Get rid of all the spin and the innuendo and half-to-some-to-no reporting on John Edwards by our corporate media (to say nothing of the outright lies) - this is why he's running for president.



To help, click here.

Two Presidents

This tells us that, 50 years ago today, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower stood up to Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus and resolved the case of the “Little Rock Nine” (much of this post will come from this Wikipedia article).

Schools in that state had to desegregate as a result of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954. However, segregationists refused to allow nine black students into Central High, with the support of Faubus, who ordered the Arkansas national guard to support the segregationists by blocking the black students from entering the school.

Eisenhower warned Faubus to allow the nine students to enter, but when he didn’t, the U.S. Justice Department requested an injunction against the governor's deployment of the National Guard from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock. Judge Ronald Davies granted the injunction and ordered the governor to withdraw the National Guard on September 20.

The governor backed down and withdrew the National Guard, and the Little Rock Police Department took their place. Hundreds of protesters, mostly parents of the white students attending Central High, remained entrenched in front of the school. On Monday, September 23, the police quietly slipped the nine students into the school.

When the protesters learned that the nine black students were inside, they began confronting the outnumbered line of policemen. Under threat of a near riot, the nine students were escorted out of the school.

The next day, Woodrow Mann, the Mayor of Little Rock, asked President Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce integration and protect the nine students. On September 24, the President ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000 member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of the hands of Governor Faubus. The 101st took positions immediately, and the nine students successfully entered the school on the next day, Wednesday, September 25, 1957. After some time, each African-American student was given an individual escort inside Central High, to prevent harassment by other students.

Eisenhower took bold action to do the right thing by the students in compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown, and somehow I really don’t think he cared about the subtleties of “the states rights question” as he did so.

Now, we have the story of the Jena 6 (a full Wikipedia chronology is noted here), and after a recent demonstration in which a huge number came out in support of Mychal Bell, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw, Robert Bailey, and Jesse Ray Beard (Bell is the only one currently incarcerated while the District Attorney considers whether to appeal the verdict overturning Bell’s conviction or try Bell as a juvenile), it now appears that a large number of white supremacists are going to rally in support of the actions of Murphy McMillin, the mayor of Jena, and Justin Barker, the white student beaten at Jena High School allegedly by the six, as well as others decrying what they perceive as injustice against whites.

This story tells us the following…

First a neo-Nazi Web site posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six black teenagers and their families at the center of the Jena 6 case and urged followers to find them and "drag them out of the house," prompting an investigation by the FBI.

Then the leader of a white supremacist group in Mississippi published interviews that he conducted with the mayor of Jena and the white teenager who was attacked and beaten, allegedly by the six black youths. In those interviews, (Mayor McMillin) praised efforts by pro-white groups to organize counterdemonstrations; the teenager (Barker) urged white readers to "realize what is going on, speak up and speak their mind."

Over the weekend, white extremist Web sites and blogs across the Internet filled with invective about the Jena 6 case, which has drawn scrutiny from civil rights leaders, three leading Democratic presidential candidates and hundreds of African-American Internet bloggers. They are concerned about allegations that blacks have been treated more harshly than whites in the criminal justice system of the town of 3,000, which is 85 percent white.
And today, the following column by the Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared in the Chicago Sun Times, notably this excerpt about the threat from the white supremacists (say what you want about him, but at times like this, he speaks from experience).

Threats by neo-Nazi white-supremacy groups need to be taken seriously. These groups are heavily armed and dangerous.

The governor and attorney general of Louisiana are silent. The local prosecutor remains belligerent. This is a time for federal intervention. The federal government intervened in Little Rock and Selma. Local authorities refuse to discharge their duty. The government must act now. I urge President Bush to intervene.

The presidential candidates in both parties should also exercise leadership here, speaking clearly about the need for reconciliation and justice. Republican candidates particularly should demonstrate that they can rise above racial divides to demand fairness and justice in America. Thus far, Republicans have been campaigning as if all America were a white suburb. They cited "scheduling conflicts" to avoid a debate sponsored by a historically black college. Other than John McCain, they ducked the Univision Latino debate. This disdain for reaching out caused former Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp to complain, "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day?"

But the Democratic nominees should not assume that they can inherit minority votes. They have to earn them. Standing up for justice and against this kind of hatred is an essential measure of leadership.

These threats are serious. The FBI should be investigating; the Justice Department intervening. The civil rights laws were passed to empower the federal government to act.

It is time for George W. Bush to stand up.
Indeed it is.

President Eisenhower understood that when opposing Orval Faubus. But as for what George W. Bush does or doesn’t understand…well, God only knows.

We had presidential leadership in a crisis in 1957. I don’t know if we’ll have it in 2007, but we will have it again one day. Let us hope and pray, though, that it doesn’t take an inferno of racial hatred to provide it.

More AP Steno Time On Dubya vs. The Budget

It is to laugh (from here)…

WASHINGTON – President Bush is spoiling for a veto battle with Democrats over spending bills, but Congress has done such a poor job completing its budget work that the showdown could be weeks away.
(And as you can see, the headline reads that Congress “dawdles” on the budget, hence the holdup…sure.)

Memo to Andrew Taylor of the AP – try reading this from last month (particularly this excerpt). Maybe you’ll find a clue…

This battle centers around the rather conciliatory budget the new Democratic majority put together. They would nearly meet the president's request for enormous increases in defense and homeland security spending and propose small increases in social spending.

But the president has chosen confrontation. He says he will veto all spending bills that exceed his requests and an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), while opposing improvements in the federal student loan program—all in the name of restraining government. Bush has adopted the abstraction that government should have a reduced role in public affairs—warning that the all-too-modest spending plans will unleash tax increases and the federal leviathan.

But the president's position is misleading and out of touch with the American public. First, there is no substance to his attacks on the size of the congressional spending proposals. Congress's fiscal 2008 spending plan exceeds the president's budget slightly regarding social spending—a mere $23 billion—or less than one percent of the entire budget. This difference between their budget and the president's will not open the spending floodgates.

Indeed, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found the congressional plan would actually reduce the size of social spending as a share of the economy. It is more appropriate to think of the Bush budget as proposing cuts, and the congressional budget as ensuring that program services are not cut. As for the new health and education spending—currently between about $50 and $70 billion—it will be spread out over five years, and some of it will be offset by spending cuts. The rest of the new spending will be paid for with additional taxes, but since the increase is moderate, it will have little impact on most taxpayers' bottom line.
And though I know I got into this yesterday also, what possible benefit does Dubya think could be reaped here?

In the through-the-looking-glass approach of Repug “governance,” enter wingnut extraordinaire Pat Toomey with the answer…

“Republicans squandered the brand as the party of limited government and fiscal discipline and that contributed significantly to their losses in 2006,” said former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who heads the anti-spending group Club for Growth. “A showdown like this is exactly what the Republicans need to recapture the brand.”
The hell with those pesky elderly, infirmed, unemployed, college students in debt up to their eyeballs, and kids needing health insurance (and to say nothing of our crumbling infrastructure; I’m sure Toomey will be one of the first people to hide if another bridge collapses)…we have to recapture our brand, right Pat??!!

And in response…

“The President is rightly defensive about his fiscal record, and clearly he is itching to veto appropriations bills ... in a vain attempt to re-establish his bona fides with conservative groups,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
You go, Steny! And by the way, I’m still waiting for you to explain to me how Jim Moran was wrong.

Actually, though, I have to give Dem House Rep David Obey credit for this for real…

“After having asked us to borrow another $150 billion for the war in Iraq, he's trying to claim somehow that he's 'Mr. Fiscal Rectitude' by squawking about our efforts to restore $16 billion of his cuts,” Obey said.
And finally…

Democrats say their differences with Bush are small compared with the overall size of the budget. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., last month termed the $22 billion gap a “very small difference.”

“Only in Washington can $22 billion be called a very small difference,” Bush said recently.
I’ll tell you what, Dubya; try halving your $50 billion request here for Iraq and Afghanistan (here), state publicly that you’ll abide by a troop withdrawal timeline as a reason to start scaling back on the money, and the deal will be done, OK?

Hey, since this is in many ways a make-believe story, I thought I’d provide something President Stupid Head would consider to be a make-believe answer.

Update 10/1: Wow, could Taylor be more of a partisan with a lede like this one?

Bucks Repug Patronage At Work

Jenna Portnoy of the Bucks County Courier Times reports here some rather interesting revelations about the awarding of contracts under commissioners Jim Cawley and Charles Martin dating back to 2000 that came to light in their debate with Dem challengers Steve Santarsiero and Diane Marseglia last night. Portnoy also communicates some rather illuminating quotes from GOP campaign manager Mike Walsh that I’ll get to a bit later.

First, though, I want to go back to this story from Portnoy last week and point out the following…

In 2006, when Santarsiero and two other Democrats took control of the Lower Makefield supervisors for the first time ever, they replaced one engineering firm with three new ones. By a 3-2 vote, which fell along party lines, the township hired general engineer Schoor DePalma to replace Pickering, Corts and Summerson of Newtown.

PCS had worked for the township for nearly 20 years and charged $87 per hour. Schoor DePalma, which is based in Manalapan, N.J., but has an office in Falls, charges $90 per hour.

Firm Chairman Stephen DePalma donated $15,500 to the county Democratic committee from May 2003 to May 2005, according to an analysis by county GOP campaign manager Mike Walsh. He also donated $11,800 to the county Republicans from 1998 to 2005, Walsh said.

Santarsiero said the township chose Schoor DePalma because the firm was better qualified than PCS. Since the hire, the company's hydrologist and grant-writing department have benefited the township, he said.

“I don't mean to disparage anyone at [PCS],” he said, “but there's no question that Schoor DePalma is a firm with much greater resources and a much wider breadth of experience.”
So we find out here that Schoor DePalma has contributed to both the Democratic and Republican parties. OK.

Now, I would ask that you compare that to the following from the story about last night’s debate…

The Langhorne firm of Begley, Carlin & Mandio, which gave $142,000 to county Republicans and commissioner campaigns in the past seven years, represents several county agencies, including the community college, the housing authority, the water and sewer authority, the conference and visitor's bureau and the county treasurer's office. The firm also acts as special counsel to the county.

On Dec. 20, 2006, Martin and Cawley decided to pay the firm $200 an hour for legal services. That same day, six of the firm's attorneys contributed $9,000 to the county GOP, according to an analysis by the Democrats.
That’s a $54K contribution to the party in a single day, for those of you keeping score at home. Update 10/3: I think it was $9K total...And was there any donation to the Bucks Democratic Party in the bipartisan manner of Schoor DePalma’s donations? Do you even need to ask?

GOP campaign manager Mike Walsh said the contract renewal raised one Begley attorney's fee from $125 to $200 an hour and represented the first raise in two years.
Wow.

And I would ask that you note the difference of $3 in the rate charged by Schoor DePalma vs. PCS agreed to by Steve and the LMT board of supervisors versus $75 as noted above. And how many billable hours were generated at that suddenly greatly inflated rate, I wonder?

And it gets better…

Democrats went on to say that on May 21, 2003, the firm was hired to prepare loan documents and the next day firm attorney Jeffrey P. Garton gave the party $500. Garton represents the water and sewer authority, the community college and is chairman of the Bucks County Conservation District.

Walsh chalked up the same-day awarding of contracts and acceptance of contributions to pure coincidence.

“It does seem like an odd coincidence,” he said. “So odd that I can't imagine anyone would take it seriously.”
The only quote I can think of that is stupider than that one from Walsh is this one.

And finally…

…Walsh pointed to a January 2003 comment by Marseglia as proof that the Democrat considers party affiliation. In reference to Middletown's retention of a Begley, Carlin and Mandio attorney, she said:

“I'm just uncomfortable with the political underpinnings in that firm. I'd be more comfortable with a firm that was more politically neutral, or maybe contributed equally to both the Republican and Democratic parties.”

Walsh said she's in no position to criticize Republicans.

“This is very tenuous soap box on which she stands,” he said.
I don’t know, Mike. It sounds like this “soap” is solid enough to be impervious to everything (except perhaps your “crocodile tears”).

I think the quote from Diane illustrates perfectly that she and Steve place bipartisan cooperation and representation higher than the gross patronage of the Repugs under Cawley and Martin, and thus need to be elected in November.

And to imply that Cawley and Martin would advocate for us and suddenly empty this pay-to-play trough from which their benefactors have been feeding for all these years is a truly odd notion.

So odd, in fact, that I can’t imagine anyone would take it seriously.

HRC And "Return On Failure"

This links to a whole bunch of polls conducted up until last month that show Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York as the leader of the field of Democratic nominees for the party nomination to run for president next year.

However, this shows that Survey USA has found that John Edwards is the strongest Democratic nominee among the field for the contests in Iowa and Missouri and tells us that he competes favorably in southern and Midwestern states.

And I know it’s no surprise to see our media beating the drum for Hillary and just about handing her the nomination, which thus allows them once more to dig into all of the dirt from the prior Clinton presidency (and also affording David Broder the opportunity to engage in more of his voyeuristic “state of the Clintons’ marriage” columns).

I don’t pretend to be any kind of a political guru, but all I know is that this won’t mean a whole lot if John Edwards wins Iowa, an eminently attainable goal, and shows strongly in subsequent primaries. Though Clinton and Barack Obama are formidable candidates for good reasons, no one really knows anything at this point, and we’re going to be in this “season of pontification with no results” for awhile until voters start deciding one way or the other (at least until the Iowa Democratic Caucus next January 14th).

Still, though, most polling seems to show Clinton as the leader for now. Unfortunately, however, after somewhat of a flirtation with the netroots on the issue of a timeline for withdrawal on Iraq, she has apparently been consulted by Dubya regarding her public statements on the war.

What’s next, I wonder? Parenting tips from Britney Spears? A symposium on civil liberties hosted by Larry Craig? Tips on the proper use of cutlery by O.J. Simpson?

Clinton should make public exactly what it was that Dubya may have communicated to her and repudiate it for the record. And while it’s commendable that she wants “a withdrawal bill with teeth,” it would have been nice if she had merely acknowledged that the MoveOn/Petraeus ad (sorry, but that still has some life left in it) was free speech and left it at that (hell, she didn’t even have to agree with it as far as I’m concerned).

And this ties in just a bit too uncomfortably for me to the wishes of the Beltway know-nothing pundits who want to see the DLC-centrist fictions preserved at all costs. If Clinton continues to follow down the road these people advocate, she may end up winning the battle (the presidency), but ultimately, she’ll lose the war, if you will (reforming the Democratic party into a sustainable, people-powered movement that would endure for generations).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Video

Back Talk #4; someday soon I'll put all of them together in one post - enjoy.



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