Saturday, October 20, 2007

John Edwards On "Real Time" Last Night

No BS about haircuts, hedge funds or fancy homes (as if he and Elizabeth are the only ones who have one), just good stuff.

What's The Frequency, Rudy?

The latest from Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films (h/t HuffPo)...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Videos

The Foo Fighters ("Long Road To Ruin" - another neat fan video)...

...I missed the birthday of Lindsay Buckingham last week ("Trouble," from those "too cool for school" '80s; gosh, hope they didn't spend too much on this one with its original choreography - yawn)...

...Dizzy Gillespie would have been 90 on Sunday ("Ooh Shooby Dooby" from the sadly short-lived jazz show hosted by David Sanborn, sometime around 1988)...

...Happy Birthday to Russ Giguere of The Association ("Everything That Touches You" from what looks like "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," featuring Austin Powers on lead vocals and possibly the worst lip-synching of all time - yeeaah bay-bee! And after all, it was the '60s)...

...Happy Birthday also to Karl Wallinger of World Party ("Ship Of Fools")...

...and to commemorate the placement of the 1969 Woodstock concert at the top of the list of the "885 Greatest Music Moments" according to radio station WXPN in these parts (noted in this earlier post), here's Santana performing "Soul Sacrifice."

A White Knight (?) For The Repugs

Rested, ready, and all set to prematurely declare an election victory for a Republican...

Bye, Denny

As noted here, we can now bid adieu to former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (who has now taken the path of fellow House Repug Deborah Pryce, someone who actually admires this guy), and to commemorate the occasion I’d like to present the following “golden moments” (many from this Wikipedia link).

  • Here's Dennis showing his lack of familiarity with U.S. tax codes.

  • Hastert once said he’d donate the $70,000 he received from Jack (Still Waiting To Hear The Names Of The Dem Politicians In The Scandal) Abramoff to charity, but the name of the charity has not been disclosed.

  • Class move to tell Colombian officials in 1997 to “bypass the executive branch and communicate directly with Congress” (try that with Deadeye Dick, Denny, and he’ll “accidentally” shoot you in the face).

  • He typically accuses big-time Dem donator George Soros of “ancillary interests,” which is code for drug money in this case.

  • Even better to say that post-Katrina New Orleans should be “bulldozed,” and not understanding why federal money should be spent to rebuild the city.

  • And slick one here to make $1.8 million on a land deal where the value appreciated because of an earmark Hastert wrote into the bill before it was signed into law.

  • And of course, we have Hastert here along with a bunch of other Repugs including John Boehner deciding to sit on the allegations about Mark Foley concerning improper conduct with congressional pages for a year without notifying the Democrats.
  • So it looks like the fortunes of the G.O.P. (and I’ve never found these people to be “grand” in any way, I should add) are continuing to sink. Good show, that.

    As DemFromCT said, it couldn’t happen to a nicer party.

    Where The Rubber Meets The Road (10/19/07)

    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.

    Private tax collectors. The House passed, 232-173, and sent to the Senate a bill that would repeal the Internal Revenue Service's authority to hire private firms to collect overdue income taxes.

    A yes vote was to pass HR 3056.

    Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., 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.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.) and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
    From what I can gather, it looks like this bill, by taking private debt collection firms out of the picture, tightens up reporting by offshore entities, particularly for high net worth people.

    And as noted here, “since such authority (to use private firms) was granted to the IRS in 2004, the federal government has spent $71 million to collect $20 million in tax receipts. The National Taxpayer Advocate estimates the federal government could have collected $1.4 billion had the money been spent hiring IRS employees.”

    “Fiscal management,” Repug style once more (and somewhere, my dad smiles)…

    Estate tax repeal. The House rejected, 212-196, an amendment to HR 3056 (above) that would have repealed the estate tax on Jan. 1, 2011. Under current law, the tax is being reduced between 2001 and 2009 and repealed in 2010, and then will return in 2011 at pre-2001 levels.

    A yes vote was to repeal the estate tax in 2011.

    Voting yes: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz and Sestak.
    God knows I’m not happy with the Dems in Congress generally at the moment, but that goes mostly for the Senate (and a certain majority leader). But with a Repug House majority, I can assure you that this would have passed, ensuring more deficit misery and fiscal mismanagement for years.

    Housing. The House passed, 264-148, and sent to the Senate a bill that would establish a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help local and state agencies build or restore 1.5 million units over 10 years for families in need.

    A yes vote was to pass HR 2895.

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

    Voting no: Pitts.
    Add poor families in need of housing to the loooong list of those ignored by Joe Pitts.

    And speaking of Pancake Joe, I have to point out that, in this Inquirer story yesterday, reporter Maria Panaritis referred to Pitts as a “moderate.”


    Now I guess I should be kind here because Panaritis is based in Trenton, NJ and wouldn’t have the same familiarity with Pitts and his true odiousness as many of us do. Still, someone at the Inky should have clued here in (and to start, she can read this, this, and this).

    This week, the House debated domestic surveillance and conduct a vote on President Bush's veto of a children's health-insurance bill (and we know how that turned out, unfortunately). The Senate resumed work on the 2008 Department of Justice budget.

    Nukes In the News, 2007 Version

    The latest from Working Assets...

    Working Assets has joined with musicians Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Ben Harper and Bonnie Raitt on a petition to Congress to prevent a costly bailout of the nuclear power industry.

    Please act now to help us remove a clause from a pending Energy Bill that could force taxpayers to underwrite construction of an unknown number of new nuclear power plants. Instead, the bill should fund the renewable and efficiency technologies that can solve global warming, guarantee a secure economy, and create millions of jobs.

    Sign the petition to Congress and stop the pending nuclear power industry bailout.

    It's essential that you take action now. Our petition will be delivered by the artists to Congress on October 23. When you sign our petition, you can also include your mobile number. We'll send you a text message when a vote on nuclear energy subsidies is imminent that will connect you to talking points from Bonnie Raitt and then to your Congressional representatives.

    The artists have created video to help get the word out about the issue. Please take action, sign up for mobile text messages, and then share the campaign and the video with your friends.

    Click here to see the video and sign the petition.

    Thank you for working to build a better world.

    Will Easton, Manager Assets
    To learn more, click here.

    To find out who your elected representatives are, by the way, click here.

    Twenty Years To The Day

    Then and now - give Wall Street credit for an impeccable sense of history if nothing else.

    Still Liking "The Surge"...Anybody?

    The New York Times tells us today that the biggest problem with trying to determine if goals are being met in Iraq is that there is no system in place to determine whether or not goals are being met in Iraq.

    I swear that’s what the article says; as noted here…

    There are bright spots in the effort to put together a functioning nation, (Special Inspector General Stuart W.) Bowen (Jr.) found: economic growth in the Kurdish north; tribal reconciliation in the western desert province of Anbar; and patchy progress in the development of local governments. Beyond that, some of the provinces are showing increasing ability to create plans, write contracts and carry out construction projects to rebuild Iraq’s physical infrastructure, the report says.

    A central finding of the report, Mr. Bowen said in his testimony, was that even with 32 of the teams, called provincial reconstruction teams, or P.R.T.’s, now deployed around the country at a cost of $1.9 billion as of August, the program still has not developed concrete methods to measure the effects of the teams on progress in the country.
    The situation is so preposterous that I don’t even think Stanley Kubrick could turn it into a good, trenchant farce (and it’s not funny in any way when people are getting killed and maimed, of course).

    And Bowen actually deserves credit for telling the truth here; he has a penchant for that apparently, which is highly unusual for Bushco (actually resulting in a partisan witchhunt congressional investigation led by House Repug Tom Davis of Virginia, as noted here, with Davis viewing Bowen as a possible political rival).

    This all goes to the question, though, of whether or not the surge is working (and Ezra Klein has some pretty damning poll numbers on that one here).

    If the goal is to create a climate for Iraq to govern itself in some fashion, providing and managing services for its people, then it sounds like the surge has failed. But if the goal is to minimize our losses, then some progress is arguable. However, that’s no reason to fight a war, assuming the people allegedly managing it still understand what the hell we’re supposed to be achieving over there anyway.

    Update: And by the way, speaking of the pit of Mesopotamia, CARE worker Margaret Hassan was kidnapped three years ago today. She is noteworthy for, among other reasons, her warning that the Iraq war would cause a humanitarian crisis.

    As a reward, she was killed, presumed beheaded by insurgent terrorist sociopaths (hopefully that language is acceptable to Rudy! – too frackin’ bad if it isn’t). Her body has yet to be found.

    No "Peace And Love" For "Straight Talk" McCain

    So Repug Senators John McCain, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn are fighting Dems Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer about an earmark of $1 million for a museum in Woodstock, NY to commemorate “three days of fun and music” in 1969, huh?

    Somehow I’m sure that would generate tourism revenue more than offsetting the cost over time, but the Repugs can’t be bothered with that when there’s liberal-bashing to be done, as we know.

    And how funny is it that “Senator Honor And Virtue” is trying to make some kind of a principled stand here over $1 million when, as noted here, he and Kyl have tried to steer $10 million to their home state for an academic center honoring the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist? And as also noted from the link, he…

    “…pushed for, and got, $14.3 million for Arizona's Luke Air Force Base inserted into the just-completed fiscal 2004 military construction appropriations conference report. The only problem is the project to acquire more land near the base was not requested.”
    Also, though Kyl seems to be good on earmarks, he had a thing for secret holds until the procedure was recently disallowed (most notoriously on The Open Government Act – yep, I think the Repugs really don’t get the concept of irony), to say nothing of the fact that he co-authored the amendment that expanded the AUMF recently (voted for by Hillary Clinton).

    And Tom Coburn has no room to criticize anybody given his obstruction against passing a bill that would make it tougher for mentally ill individuals to purchase handguns, legislation authored in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre earlier this year (noted here; so many reasons why Coburn is a mess that it's almost impossible to list them all in a single post). Sure he stands up against earmarks (some of which are good, such as the ones Patrick Murphy delivered here), but I think saving lives threatened by gun violence is just a bit more important.

    Somehow I don’t think beating up on those aging, tie-dye-wearing, recreational-drug-using (well, maybe not so much anymore, I hope) hippies of an earlier era through this measure (costing $1 million, after all – that’s what, half a day in Iraq?) is going to vault Senator “Maverick” to the top of the polls shown here. He’ll have to look for a miracle somewhere else (and as noted here, isn’t he a class act?).

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Reid's Dirty Deed (update)

    I'm absolutely astonished, though maybe I shouldn't be (Prof. Marcus has more, as does FDL here).

    I expected the Repugs and their media acolytes to try and cut Dodd off at the knees, but HARRY REID??!!

    I'm linking to Bob Geiger here from his post in July about the awful approval ratings of Congress being part of a long-term trend that started before the 110th was installed, but the fact remains that Reid's action is utterly unconscionable, and this is not going to help the approval rating one bit.

    I've said before that I'd rather there were only 10 Democrats in Congress acting responsibly versus 90 Repugs, with the 10 constantly losing but standing by their principles, I'd feel more comfortable with that than I do with this nonsense.

    If you want to contact Senator Reid and give him a piece of your mind, as it were, click here (I just did so a few minutes ago).

    Update 1 10/19: Chris Dodd is THE MAN for this (h/t Atrios) - backgrounder here.

    Update 2 10/19: Welcome to the party, Joe (figuratively, and literally too in a way).

    Thursday Videos

    Alter Bridge ("Rise Today"; get ready to rock for a purpose - this should be our new theme song)...

    ...and Happy 81st Birthday to Chuck Berry ("Maybelline," recorded in France in 1965, at a point where his initial popularity was fading, though of course his music came back with a vengeance when oldies radio started taking off years later - truly timeless stuff from one of the founders of rock n' roll).

    Take My Senator, Please

    D-Mac at Philadelphia Will Do tells us here that Our Man Arlen Specter tried his hand at standup comedy last night at the Washington Improv comedy theater (and no, standup comedy at a location as farcical as the Beltway isn’t redundant, but it’s close).

    Wow, Dan Quayle jokes, yuks about Viagra, and of course Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama. What a veritable “laff riot”!

    Well, in honor of this on-stage appearance by the author of the infamous Magic Bullet theory (as D-Mac notes), I think it’s time to revisit these other moments of “hilarity”…

  • Here’s Arlen stating that Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff would be “a first-rate prospect” to replace Abu Gonzales as the new Attorney General.

  • Here’s the FBI investigating whether a member of Specter's staff broke the law by helping her husband, a lobbyist, secure almost $50 million in Pentagon spending for his clients.

  • Here’s Arlen complaining about the Senate Democratic minority in the 109th Congress using "Filibuster by speech, filibuster by amendment. Obstructionism," a particularly funny charge now given that the Repugs are on a pace to shatter the record for congressional filibusters since they’re the minority party now in the 110th Congress.

  • Here’s Arlen threatening to sue Dubya over his “signing statements” to Congressional legislation after he blames the American people for not showing more outrage over the warrantless spying that has been (and is) practiced and codified into law by our government (partly right though, I have to admit).

  • Also, here’s Arlen giving us the most under-to-non-reported quote about the Iraq war to date.

  • And finally, here’s Arlen giving advice to Larry Craig that will ensure the continued presence of the senator from Idaho (insert your snark here) until the end of his term.
  • Congratulations, Senator. I’m sure you’ll be able to get some bookings at a resort in the Catskills once your Senate days are over, which can’t come soon enough.

    Watch And Learn, Sideshow Bob

    Nothing to add here, but just to say kudos to Sen. Chris Dodd for putting a hold on the FISA bill.

    “More and better Democrats,” as Darcy Burner says…

    Update: What Atrios sez...

    Looking Out For Their Own At Our Expense (Again)

    It looks like the Bushco beat will go on with Mike Mukasey as the new AG, seeing as how he refused to consider water boarding as torture today (nice).

    And the way this regime does business of course is to basically screw over anyone who isn’t in the club (the vast majority of this country) and make life cushy for the favored few, as we know. And given the comparatively blind eye Dubya and his pals have cast towards white collar crime as part of that (h/t Think Progress), I think we can count on more of the same from Mukasey (ironic to say the least given his Giuliani connection).

    You want the gory details? OK…

    The prosecution of all kinds of white-collar criminals is down by 27% since FY 2000, before President Bush came to office.

    Also substantially down were federal prosecutions against individuals the government accused of various kinds of official corruption. They dropped in the same period by 14%.

    Charges against organized crime figures were slightly up in the last year, but their number currently is about half (48%) of what it was in FY 2000.

    While the decline in federal filings against drug violators was less precipitous, such prosecutions were still 20% below where they were a decade ago.

    The drop was even more pronounced for drug and weapons cases where the FBI was the lead investigative agency. For drugs, the number of such prosecutions credited to the bureau dropped from 5,014 in FY 2000 to 2,414 in FY 2006. Based on the first nine months of FY 2007, these prosecutions appear to be continuing to drop — down to an estimated 2,332 — less than half of the 2000 total. FBI weapons prosecutions are down around 30 percent over this same period.

    The only major enforcement area where federal prosecutions were sharply higher is immigration, where the number of individuals charged with criminal offenses has undergone a 127% jump.
    Given that, it tells you how stupid the wingers are for screaming about what they thought was the lax immigration bill, when in reality that was the one area of law enforcement where Bushco was actually doing its job.

    So what does the future hold? Do you even need to ask (here)…

    A larger budget battle is brewing between the White House and Congress, leading lawmakers to challenge the cuts to the FBI, which could take effect as soon as Monday, the start of the federal fiscal year.

    But the Democratic majority's spending plan -- under the ever-present threat of a presidential veto -- restores only a small fraction of the FBI agents needed to keep the criminal program at current levels.

    Through accounting sleight of hand, President Bush's plan concentrates the loss of thousands of unfilled staff positions across the FBI on its criminal program by transferring hundreds more agents to counterterrorism operations -- continuing a trend that started after 9/11.

    "This is gutting the criminal program. Incomprehensible. Just plain dumb," said one recently retired top FBI official who requested anonymity.

    Echoing the concerns of many within the bureau, as well as state and local law enforcement officials, the former official said the impact of the cuts will reverberate nationwide.

    "At a time when fraud is a huge undercurrent of the subprime mortgage crisis, this will completely wipe out the FBI's white-collar program," the source said. "The ability to investigate cases like Enron will be severely handicapped. And look at public corruption. Those are complex investigations that take about five agents to work one case."

    The White House and FBI Director Robert Mueller did not respond to requests for comment.

    Former FBI officials agree that cutting criminal agents will actually reduce America's ability to detect and deter terrorist attacks.

    "This shows a very short memory of 9/11," said the retired FBI official. "They've not been paying attention to what is disrupting terrorist activity. It's criminal investigations that are disrupting terrorist activity all over the world."
    Our Gal Condi Rice and her dunderheaded boss each once said something about “the smoking gun that could turn into a mushroom cloud” concerning Saddam Hussein’s alleged nuclear capability prior to the Iraq war.

    We now know that was hyperbole, but with these cuts in law enforcement, something akin to that could become yet another horrible reality before we know it.

    The Old Gray Lady Disses Edwards Again

    I’ve decried how the New York Times only seems to care about news concerning John Edwards if it involves something that could be spun as questionable behavior or something negative for his candidacy, but after reading reporter Mike McIntire’s story today on the involvement of the Edwards campaign with the law firm of Milberg Weiss, I’m wondering if it would be better if they just ignored Edwards altogether.

    As the story notes…

    Last year, the firm was indicted on federal charges of fraud and bribery. But the political partnership has not been entirely severed. Since the indictment, 26 Democrats around the country, including four presidential candidates, have accepted $150,000 in campaign contributions from people connected to Milberg Weiss, according to state and federal campaign finance records. And some Democrats have taken public actions that potentially helped the firm or its former partners.

    The recent contributors include current and former Milberg partners who had either been indicted or were widely reported to be facing potential criminal problems when they wrote their checks. One of them, William S. Lerach , was a fund-raiser for John Edwards ’s presidential campaign until his guilty plea last month. Melvyn I. Weiss , a founder of the firm, gave the maximum $4,600 to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in June. Other firm members contributed to the presidential campaigns of Senators Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr.
    OK, so the only person from the firm who donated to Edwards to plead guilty was William S. Lerach; I assume it was to charges related to the first paragraph I excerpted above (we find out about this in the fourth paragraph of the story).

    And what did Edwards do to earn Lerach’s good graces? As McIntire tells us…

    Mr. Edwards, a trial lawyer who became wealthy pursing personal injury cases, joined labor unions and consumer groups last May in pressing securities regulators to intervene in a lawsuit against banks brought by Mr. Lerach on behalf of Enron investors. His campaign said Mr. Edwards’s actions had nothing to do with Mr. Lerach, and were consistent with the candidate’s longstanding defense of working people.

    Still, Mr. Edwards’s willingness to be seen doing anything that could benefit Mr. Lerach and allowing him to raise money provided fodder for critics.
    Oh, brother; as you can read in the excerpt below from this link, Edwards wasn’t “doing anything he could to benefit Lerach,” but instead, he was working with Lerach and Andy Stern to represent defrauded Enron investors (as stated by McIntire)…

    WASHINGTON (Dow Jones) -- Presidential candidate John Edwards joined a growing movement to persuade Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox to take a stance in a Supreme Court case that is being closely watched by Enron Corp. investors who lost money in the accounting scandal.

    "I urge the SEC to fulfill its historic mission of protecting investors," Edwards said in a statement issued by his campaign. "Silence or, even worse, siding with fraud participants would be a betrayal of that mission."

    Edwards, who has been running a populist campaign that focuses on the gap between rich and poor, issued the statement at a time when some Enron investors have teamed up with trial lawyer Bill Lerach and union leader Andy Stern to make their voices heard.
    Yep, it sure sounds like Edwards is “doing anything he can to help Lerach” here, doesn’t it?

    And the Times also does a rather interesting job of explaining what happened to the money Lerach gave to Edwards.

    As I noted above, we first find out that Lerach raised money for Edwards in the 4th paragraph of the story. In about the 12th paragraph, we find out about Edwards’ association with Lerach through the suit representing the defrauded Enron shareholders. In the 15th paragraph, we get a quote from some conservative mouthpiece about how bad Edwards is for his association with Lerach. But in the 16th paragraph, lo and behold – we find out that Edwards donated the $4,600 that he personally received from Lerach to charity and will do the same thing with any other monies from firm contributors found guilty of wrongdoing.

    Burying the fact that Edwards donated the tainted money to charity is “shooting dirty pool” as far as I’m concerned.

    Also, the story mentions Norman Hsu, the Democratic donor who still hasn’t been found guilty of wrongdoing, as well as Geoffrey Fieger, a trial lawyer accused of using “straw” donors to make illegal contributions.

    I thought this article related to Fieger was interesting, specifically the following…

    Federal officials alleged that Fieger and an associate illegally raised $127,000 for the Edwards campaign through conduit contributions - contributions gathered by pressuring underlings and family members to “max out” to Edwards - make the maximum $2,000 contribution - and then promising that the law firm would reimburse them.

    Today, Fieger’s lawyers, led by Wyoming trial lawyer Gerry Spence, submitted a brief calling on a federal judge in Detroit to dismiss the case on the grounds that the prosecution is “selective” and “vindictive.”

    The lawyers argue that the Justice Department has been “hijacked” by Republican political operatives and “turned into a weapon to silence political dissidents like Mr. Fieger and others threatening the Republican stronghold in this country.”

    Fieger’s attorneys say they plan to prove that the Department has been converted into “a militia arm of the White House.”

    Fieger, a well-known Michigan Democrat, gained prominence in the 1990s as the lawyer for Dr. Jack Kevorkian and when he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Michigan in 1998.

    In the presidential primary of 2000, Fieger says he “encouraged the people of Michigan to vote for John McCain and against Bush which caused droves of Democrats to the polls and gave McCain a win in the Michigan primary.”

    “The day after the primary, George Bush gave a speech at Lawrence Technological University during which he denounced Mr. Fieger by name no less than four times - referring to him as ‘Kevorkian’s Attorney,’” according to the brief.
    Dubya remembers someone four times in one speech, calling them by name each time, huh?

    Nah, Fieger wasn’t targeted. Not much, he wasn’t.

    And by the way, it would be nice if our corporate media brethren decided to report on the antics of Repug fundraisers as well as those “rainmakers” for the Democrats.

    But I suppose if they did, that would affect the “hard work” of “reporting” on hedge funds, fancy homes, and $400 haircuts, to say nothing of ignoring huge union endorsements.

    So What Do We Do About Vlad, O’Reilly?

    I seem to recall that Bill O’Reilly, among others, had no trouble attacking France a few years ago when that nation decided not to send troops to Iraq (and by the way – as I’ve asked before – when is our vigorous new buddy Sarko, who we like as opposed to that old, stuffy Chirac…tongue in cheek here…going to ante up and decide to let the blood of his country’s soldiers spill in Mesopotamia as opposed to - almost without exception in terms of the military - ours?).

    Well, what will Falafel boy and his buddies say now that our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin, whose soul Dubya supposedly looked into a few months ago in Kennebunkport (please), has quite rightly declared the Iraq war to be “pointless”? Are we going to start dumping caviar and Stoli on The Mall in Washington, D.C.? Will there be a massive hue and cry to deny work visas to Russian software professionals (as if that would ever happen)? Will Putin acquire the nickname of “borscht boy” on “The Factor” or something?

    I mean, we changed the name of two of our staple menu items to “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast” as noted here, didn’t we (and Walter Jones has apparently come around on the war finally, while Bob Ney is currently residing at the Federal Correctional Institute in Morgantown, VA after his guilty plea in connection to the Jack Abramofff scandal). Well, shouldn’t we be consistent and subject Putin and the Russians to the same childish name calling?

    Come on, freepers, get with the demagoguery already. You’re slacking!

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    Wednesday Videos

    Architecture In Helsinki ("Heart It Races," and believe it or not, this is the single from the album - I guess they all flunked the tryout for The Wiggles and decided to become a band; blame 'PRB for this one, not me)...

    ...and if you're looking to get cheered up, then keep looking (sorry) commemorate his 72nd birthday on Monday, Barry McGuire excoriates (yes, that is a word) "Eve of Destruction" from September 1965 (I think this was on Ed Sullivan; no word on whose idea it was to have the go-go dancers perform in a faux I said in September 2006, as far as I'm concerned, you could substitute Iraq for Red China and New Orleans for Selma, Alabama and the song becomes completely topical once more, keeping the anniversary of the MCA in mind here also).

    Killed With The Stroke Of A Pen

    As Prof. Marcus noted earlier, a year ago today, Dubya signed the Military Commissions Act into law.

    And by the way, presumptive new AG Michael Mukasey will consider the Act to be completely enforceable.

    I'm afraid it will take courage in a Democratic congress to undo this horror that I definitely don't see in this one, but hopefully, another one some day.

    More With Diane And Steve

    The following two letters appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times today…

    The recent letter about increased professional fees in Lower Makefield in 2006 couldn’t have been further off the mark. Those increases in 2006 were a result of new ordinances addressing storm water management, noise restrictions, environment protection and a study of ways to prevent flooding along the Delaware River (Lower Makefield was the only town along the river to undertake such a study to help its residents).

    In the previous year – under the GOP majority – attorneys’ fees in Lower Makefield were also over budget. Curiously, (Andy) Raffle, a Republican committeeman who delights in attacking the board’s Democratic majority and whose frustration rises with each new success of that majority, neglected to mention that fact.

    But Raffle’s most glaring omission was his failure to acknowledge that the Democrats also held the line on property taxes after two straight years of Republican tax increases.

    As a Lower Makefield resident for the past 39 years, I have seen significant positive changes in the township since we have a Democratic majority on the board of supervisors – more citizen participation, more openness in appointments, televising board of supervisor meetings, and a real feeling of community as a result of events such as Community Pride Day and the Veterans Day Parade.

    Steve Santarsiero has been a large part of these changes and I am confident he will bring the same innovation and open government when he becomes a Bucks County commissioner.

    Doreene Kaplan
    Lower Makefield

    It seems many Republicans in Washington, D.C. believe they were elected to represent ONLY those who can afford contributions to the GOP election campaigns. Likewise, Republicans here in Bucks County don’t forget their contributors, as documented by the Democrats’ pay-to-play revelations.

    On another issue, plans have already been OK’d in Doylestown for a giant parking garage, even before its attendant new courthouse has been approved. Here in Lower Makefield, such haste smacks of the haughty arrogance of the Republican supervisors who rushed through the golf course, and tried to pull off a big-box development without first consulting with those concerned.

    If you would like to save the cost of a new courthouse, and also would like to know how all our tax money is being spent, then vote for Diane Marseglia and Steve Santarsiero for Bucks County Commissioner. They’ve promised, when elected, a full forensic audit of county finances and easy public access to county government.

    Andrew Martin
    Lower Makefield
    The only clarification I can add to Mr. Martin’s letter above, which I agree with wholeheartedly of course, is that there was a period of public comment on what was once known as the Octagon Center in Lower Makefield, but it came and went during the Christmas holidays, as I recall (great time to schedule something like that…duh) and the traffic impact study was conducted over the winter instead of the spring or summer, which would have yielded a more realistic assessment (again…duh).

    Also, I don’t know if the Lower Makefield golf course at this point is self-sustaining or if it is still operating at a loss, but Martin is right again; building it was a distinctly unpopular decision at the time for many people.

    Martin also notes the plans for a new county courthouse in Doylestown, and in this Doylestown Intelligencer article, reporter Jenna Portnoy notes that Diane Marseglia, the Democratic candidate for county commissioner running with Steve, has said she would “revisit the issue” of the courthouse.

    The article basically documents the “controversy” alleged by incumbent Repug commissioners Jim Cawley and Charles (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin over project labor agreements (PLAs) advocated by Diane and Steve that were the subject of a YouTube video featuring Bucks County AFL-CIO president Thomas Bates (apparently, Cawley and Martin are all exercised over the supposed “quid pro quo” of apprenticeship programs written into the agreements; I got all into that when refuting the Raffle letter above).

    Also, Portnoy’s article notes that the Associated Builders and Contractors have endorsed Cawley and Martin for re-election, which is not surprising, given that, as noted here, ABC is “a virulently anti-union organization of mostly small companies.”

    And by the way, Ms. Portnoy, it’s the “Democratic challengers.” Please make a note of that.

    And finally, to help Diane and Steve, click here.

    The "I-Man" In The Barnyard

    I really went back and forth about saying anything concerning the pending return to the airwaves of Don Imus, but I finally caved for a couple of reasons.

    First, it sounds like his new sponsor will be reaching rural communities primarily in this country; it’s really a win-win, because RFD-TV is looking for a big name to add to its roster (stands for “rural free delivery,” not the ‘60s sitcom with Andy Griffith, Goober, Aunt Bea, and Emmett the Fix-It guy forever trying to mend a toaster) and Imus gets an audience automatically receptive to his crude, racist rants.

    (On a related note, by the way, isn’t it funny how this turn has transpired for Imus, especially since he once lampooned people who will now be his chief audience?)

    Second (as noted here by Media Matters, the people doing God’s work), pretend liberal Alan Colmes said that the descriptions of the Rutgers women’s basketball team by Imus and producer Bernard McGuirk last April constituted “satire” as opposed to legally actionable behavior (sit up and beg for a tasty treat from Uncle Sean, Alan).

    So, assuming Imus inks a deal and starts broadcasting with RFD next January 1, he will have received what amounts to a 9-month vacation (and no word on how this would impact his pending lawsuit).

    If that transpires, how exactly will he have been punished?

    Antonin Scalia Is Right

    According to this Philadelphia Inquirer story…

    "The bottom line is that the Catholic faith seems to me to have little effect on my work as a judge," (Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) declared.
    I should note that Scalia spoke at Villanova University last night, hence the news story (though given Scalia’s propensity for secrecy on these occasions, I’m surprised reporter David O’Reilly was even allowed to do his job).

    And I should also add that I agree with Scalia; the Catholic faith that I was taught appears to be nowhere in sight when you look at his rulings.

    He obviously doesn’t want to be a steward of the earth, as noted in this prior post where he rendered a rather restrictive interpretation of the Clean Water Act that allowed for pollution in “channels through which water flows intermittently or channels that provide drainage for rainfall.”

    He didn’t care about simple decency, to say nothing of Christian compassion, in the case of James Stone, an 81-year-old retired engineer from Rockwell International who filed suit against the company over fraud related to an environmental cleanup (Stone died soon after he lost, with Scalia denying Stone’s claim based on a technicality).

    And to be perfectly honest with you, Scalia really doesn’t even care about something as simple and basic as telling the truth; as noted here, he once stated that Al Gore brought the challenge to the Supreme Court in the contested 2000 presidential election, as outrageous of a flat-out lie as you will ever hear.

    And by the way, he also once said that “we should look to people who agree with us” when “experiencing a ‘new’ Constitution,” among other choice items as noted here (I’ll let that sink in a bit since the implications are so staggering).

    Yep, I would say Antonin Scalia definitely does not act like someone who I would consider to be emblematic of Catholic behavior.

    Come to think of it, he really doesn’t act like someone emblematic of American behavior either.

    Lou Dobbs Is All Wet on UNCLOS

    I really have to wonder about the motives behind Lou Dobbs.

    His opinion column today gives the reader the implication that he’s going to chastise Dubya for his utter nightmare of a presidency, and Dobbs does this for the first few paragraphs.

    However, after blaming the Democrats for “seeking passage of the disastrous immigration reform legislation” (I know I have no hope whatsoever of trying to convince Dobbs and his like-minded brethren that there was a lot that was good in the measure, such as providing a path to citizenship for the illegals, thus acknowledging the reality that they’re here to stay), Dobbs then laments that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will once more hear arguments about the Law Of The Sea Treaty

    This is what Dobbs tells us about the treaty (which, of course, was rejected by The Sainted Ronnie R and encouraged by that baaad, Monica-Whatsername-cheating Bill Clinton)…

    The Law of the Sea Treaty would undermine our national sovereignty and act as a back door for global environmental activists to direct U.S. policy.

    It would hold the United States to yet another unaccountable international bureaucracy and constrain our national prerogatives. Aside from that, the treaty is wholly unnecessary. The U.S. Navy already enjoys international navigation rights by customary practice.

    The New York Times tells us in this editorial dated last August that…

    …unless the United States joins up, it could very well lose out in what is shaping up as a mad scramble to lay claim to what are believed to be immense deposits of oil, gas and other resources under the Arctic ice — deposits that are becoming more and more accessible as the earth warms and the ice melts.

    The Law of the Sea will provide the forum for determining who gets what. The law gives each nation control over its own coastal waters — an “exclusive economic zone” extending 200 miles offshore. The rest is regarded as international waters, subject to agreed-upon rules governing fishing, protection of the marine environment, navigation and mining on the ocean floor. A country can claim territory and mineral deposits beyond the 200-mile limit, but only if it can prove that the seabed is a physical extension of its continental shelf. Claims and disputes will be resolved by arbitration panels established by the treaty.

    The Russians, the Canadians and the Danes are all busily staking claims to thousands of square miles of the Arctic seabed beyond their 200-mile zones; the Russians have already planted a flag 15,000 feet under the North Pole. And two weeks ago, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Healy, embarked on the third in a series of polar mapping expeditions to help strengthen the United States’ territorial claims to the seabed off Alaska.

    But the United States will have a hard time pressing those claims unless it ratifies the treaty and gets a seat at the negotiating table. One of the main right-wing arguments over the years is that the treaty would threaten American sovereignty by impeding unfettered exploitation of the ocean’s resources — a “giant giveaway of American wealth,” in the words of one critic. The facts suggest just the reverse. By not signing, we could easily find ourselves out of the hunt altogether.
    And by the way Lou, since you’ve made a living out of throwing stones at both of our major political parties (deserved at times, I know), I’m still waiting for you to put your money where your mouth is and act on the recommendation I gave you here (bullet item #3).

    Update 11/01/07: Well, this is positive - we'll see what happens next.

    Patrick Takes Out The Trash

    Today’s Bucks County Courier Times tells us that Patrick Murphy, working with Bensalem, PA solicitor Joseph Pizzo, is trying to pass the Clean Railroads Act which would close a long-existing loophole in federal law that “(allows) rail companies to run roughshod over state and local laws and the will of a community,” as Patrick stated in the Courier Times article here.

    Patrick has actually been fighting the planned waste transfer station in Bensalem that would be allowed under the loophole for some time, as noted here where he stated his opposition in July along with State Rep. Joe DiGirolamo and Bensalem Mayor Gene DiGirolamo (both Repugs, by the way - sorry the link is flaky).

    The loophole in question was an oversight from the Interstate Commerce Commission Act of 1995, and in addition to Patrick, Dem House Rep. Joseph Pallone of New Jersey is trying to pass the Clean Railroads Act for much the same reasons as Patrick (noted here, with Pallone receiving help from Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez, both Dems of course, as also noted here).

    Best wishes to one and all in their efforts (and to help Patrick, click here).

    And by the way, in a related vein, here is a set of links to sites advocating environmental consciousness and responsibility; I know I neglected to mention that Monday was Blogger Environmental Action day - sorry - so I'm trying to make up for that here.

    Tell George Where To Go, Joe

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to get this post out in time before anything happens, and I should have said something before now, but New York Yankees manager Joe Torre should tell George Steinbrenner what he can do with his threats about Torre losing his job.

    Joe Torre is a legend in major league baseball, having played and managed in the game for over 40 years. As a player, he was a National League All Star from 1963 to 1967, playing both catcher and third base in his career. In 1971 (as noted here by Wikipedia), he led the NL in two triple crown categories - RBIs (137) and batting average (.363) - as well as in hits (230) and total bases (352). He was also 2nd in the NL in on base percentage (.421), 3rd in slugging percentage (.555), doubles (34), and intentional walks (20), and 5th in runs (97) and triples (8). Batting cleanup all season, he hit .413 in games that were late and close. He was named the NL's Most Valuable Player, as well as Major League Player of The Year by both The Sporting News and Baseball Digest.

    There was a period in the early ‘70s when I can recall that the Phillies had an opportunity to trade for him, and I hoped very much that they would do so. However, they never did; who’s to say that would have been the right move, though.

    As a manager, he won four World Series titles with the Yankees. And apart from baseball, he and his wife Ali founded the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which operates a dozen domestic violence resource centers (collectively called Margaret House, after Torre’s mother) across New York City and Westchester County, New York, with the first New Jersey location at Union City's Jose Marti Middle School having opened this month.

    So why a man who has accomplished so much in his career, particularly for the Yankees, should now have to wait out some kind of public job termination at the hands of another corporate egomaniac (another tyrant named George) is something so cruel to me as to defy understanding.

    Regardless of what happens, let me take this opportunity to thank Torre for representing the game with excellence as well as class and distinction, even though he spent way too much time for an organization that apparently doesn’t know the meaning of those words.

    And if it turns out that Torre is fired, no one should ever support the Yankees again.

    Update 10/18: Typically gutless move by Steinbrenner, knowing Torre wouldn't accept a pay cut, and in the nutty, inside-out world of sports salaries, why should he?

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Tuesday Videos

    The Hold Steady ("Hot Soft Light")...

    ...Happy Birthday to Michael Balzary (aka Flea) of The Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Dani California" - great song and a funny video).

    Watch It And Weep, Bancroft Family

    Over time, Rupert Murdoch is going to do something like this to your once-precious Wall Street Journal (sad for the truly well-done reporting, but hilarious given the corpo-fascist editorial page - from Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films)...

    The Old Gray Lady Nods Off Again

    Hey, New York Times, did you know that John Edwards won the endorsement of ten state councils of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) yesterday, numbering about a million people? I mean, you must have, right?

    After all, as Greg Sargent notes here, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Reuters, CNN and CNBC all reported stories about it.


    Well, did you?


    (Never mind, I think it's time for another nap. ..)

    And besides, our media doesn't like John Edwards, as we know; how silly of me to forget.

    Pryce Isn't Totally Right, BoBo

    Before I say another word, I should point out that, according to David Brooks of the New York Times in his column today, Ohio Repug Rep. Deborah Pryce lost her 9-year-old daughter to cancer in 1999. I am genuinely sorry for her loss, and I'll respect that, though I must provide some clarifications about Pryce's service that are missing in Brooks' column.

    The former editor for The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard spends a good bit of this column lamenting the sad state of political affairs in this country generally with its "me-ism" (probably a trite observation at this point), but aside from Pryce's laughable notion that somehow, people like Denny Hastert could actually be worth admiration, I'd like to point out the following about her legislative history in the House (from here)..

    Pryce has been criticized by environmental organizations for what they see as a pattern of anti-environment votes, such as her support for legislation to make the EPA a cabinet department, to expedite forest thinning projects, and to deauthorize critical habitat designated by the Endangered Species Act.[2] The League of Conservation Voters has named her to its “Dirty Dozen” list of environmentally irresponsible federal officeholders; the nonpartisan organization gave Pryce an environmental score of 13 out of 100 for 2006 and 16 out of 100 for her career record.[3] Price has also drawn attention for accepting more than $90,000 from oil and gas companies and for voting in accordance with Energy Lobby interests.[4]

    In 2005, Pryce, along with former Senator Rick Santorum, was one of two cosigners of the GOP plan to privatize Social Security.

    In November 2006, when asked about the war in Iraq, Pryce ended an interview with CNN by walking away. In a statement later issued to CNN, Pryce said: "What's happening in Iraq is not a direct reflection on me." The statement also said that "I voted to give the president the authority to use force in Iraq; that doesn't mean I'm always happy with what I see, but I can think of nothing worse for our troops or our prospects for success than having 435 members of Congress second-guessing our commanders."[1] Pryce has voted consistently to support the Bush administration's prosecution of the war.[3]

    On September 12, 2003, Pryce wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton about a Louisiana casino proposal. In the letter, Pryce, the number four Republican in the House, said that Interior Department approval of a casino proposed by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians would "set forth a dangerous precedent" and encourage "reservation shopping" by tribes. Republican Whip Roy Blunt sent a similar letter to Norton dated May 21, 2003. A third letter, dated June 10, 2003, was signed by Blunt, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Republican Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor. Identical wording appears in all three letters.

    Between 2001 and 2004, Pryce reported holding 10 fundraisers at Abramoff's Washington restaurant, the now-closed Signatures, out of a total of 55 reported by members of Congress.[7]
    Brooks doesn't bother to provide more information on how Pryce's opponent in the 2006 election, Mary Jo Kilroy, ran a campaign that was somehow "worse" than what Pryce ran, so I won't do Brooks' homework for him on that. And Brooks sticks in a remark at the end about the longer hours of the 110th Congress versus the 109th without providing the context that the former mandated these hours to clean up the work left by the latter, including 9 of 11 spending bills that the 109th simply ignored last November when the Repugs lost control of Congress (see "Trying To Gum Up The Agenda" halfway down here).

    The bottom line is that Pryce is one of a growing number of Repugs who are getting out now that their "gravy train" has pulled into the station for the last time (aided by Pryce's realization I'm sure that "the handwriting is on the wall," given the fact that she defeated Kilroy in the recounted election results by barely more than a thousand votes).

    Yes, I can respect the possibility that Pryce actually felt that her integrity had been compromised, and for that reason, the time was right for her to leave. But for her to use that as an attempt to sanitize her seamy Repug associations in Congress is a joke.

    The One That Got Away

    Gee, wasn’t it just a few months ago when the preznit and his family met with our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin in Kennebunkport discussing the missile defense shield while fishing for a 20-foot striped bass (here)?

    Well, it sounds like Putin is now telling us to back off about attacking Iran and trying to get “a piece of the action” from Caspian Sea oil projects (discussing these issues while meeting with figurehead leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Putin is right about attacking Iran, though).

    And as far as this so-called “missile defense shield” is concerned, that will never be anything but a pipe dream continually pursued by any Repug president (and God willing, we won’t see any more for a good while after this one – remember Ronnie Baby and SDI here?).

    Given this turn in our relationship with the soon-to-be Russian prime minister (and is it completely off the hypocrisy scale for Bushco and Our Gal Condi Rice to lecture Vlad on human rights, given that we’re responsible for this?), I wonder if Dubya “still has a sense of (Vlad’s) soul” as he stated last summer?

    The Inky Descends Into SCHIP Wingnuttia

    (With more than a little help from David Espo and the AP here, I should add…)

    So let’s start with the lede, shall we?

    WASHINGTON - Shrugging off a barrage of political attacks, House Republicans are on track to hand President Bush a victory this week by upholding his veto of legislation that would expand children's health coverage.
    This is right out of fantasyland. A universally unpopular president vetoed a universally popular program to provide health insurance for our kids, aided and abetted in no small part by ideologically sympathetic politicians and media loudmouths (and yes, I acknowledge that, at this point, the veto may hold in the House). That is a victory?

    Rep. Rob Bishop called the vetoed bill a "dumb idea" for relying on higher tobacco taxes to pay for insuring children, a provision he said would create a need for new smokers.

    And Rep. Chris Cannon said that while he agreed with (Utah Repug Sen. Orrin) Hatch on one point, they part company on another. "This is a profoundly moral issue," he said in an interview. "But that doesn't mean the government should do it. Government isn't very good at doing some things, mostly because of rigidity."
    Proof? Evidence? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

    And it figures that Bishop would take his talking point directly from The Heritage Foundation (here – typically ludicrous to suggest that people would start smoking if SCHIP were passed; somehow I have a feeling that someone as astute financially as Sen. Charles Grassley would know the calculations of what kind of revenue is available to fund SCHIP based on the purchase of tobacco products in this country.)

    While a handful of Democratic lawmakers who opposed the measure are expected to vote to override the veto, not a single Republican has announced plans to switch.

    "We will not see an erosion of our votes," Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, a member of the GOP leadership, predicted recently.
    I would say that I feel the same way about this issue now as I did about the “General Betray Us” ad (namely, fine, go ahead and fight us on this, because you’ll lose), but the problem is that this hurts the kids, people.

    This hurts the kids.

    How many goddamn times do I or anyone who supports the SCHIP bill need to keep pointing that out?

    Meanwhile, House Republicans distributed a survey by pollster David Winston, with suggested talking points.

    It said critics of the legislation can win the public debate if they say they favor "covering uninsured children without expanding government coverage to adults, illegal immigrants and those who already have insurance." The Associated Press obtained a copy of the poll.
    Typical garbage; as this Think Progress link notes (with Dubya leading the wrongheaded “cheerleading” here, as usual)…

    Center for American Progress health care analyst Jeanne Lambrew notes that the section 106 of the bill specifically ensures that there will not be any expansion of eligibility. “It overwhelming targets resources to low-income children and it discourages expansion to families with more moderate incomes by lowering the share the federal government will pay for such coverage.”
    The blogger DemFromCT sums up what I have to say on this pretty well here (and this was an excellent interview Keith Olbermann conducted with the Frosts last light on “Countdown,” echoing much of what we are all saying and more).

    This is a stinking dead dog of a loser issue, Repugs. If you want to make sure thousands of kids get sick and extend further financial hardship to their parents…well, unfortunately, there’s only so much I can do to stop you.

    But you will face a reckoning next November for this as well as the Iraq war and a whole host of other issues where you chose obstruction instead of cooperation. And if you want to tether yourself to President Numbskull and sink right along with him, then you deserve what you get.

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    37 GOP Scandals in 4.5 Minutes

    Just came across this at Brave New Films - enjoy (if that's the right word; don't blink, or you'll miss a couple).

    Another "Win" For Privatization

    I’m going to overlook the fact that this Philadelphia Daily News article was written by the utterly despicable Stu Bykofsky, because what matters is the story he uncovered.

    It turns out that Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia applied in January of this year to receive our critically wounded military personnel for treatment, and their application was accepted in April (they applied to Health Net Federal Services and not the Veterans Administration directly; Health Net is – you guessed it – a contractor).

    However, to date, Magee has yet to receive a patient for treatment (the hospital was rated 16th of all facilities of its type throughout the country by U.S. News and World Report).

    As Bykofsky tells us…

    I don't want to make this political, but Dr. Bruce M. Gans, chief medical officer of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, says the VA system "has been actively dismantled over the last dozen years due to cost-cutting moves," resulting in "serious limitations" to the wounded getting top care near their homes.
    Thanks, Repugs (even though Clinton was president for part of that period, the Dems did not run Congress).

    So “Byko” does a good deed here. Congratulations (that bad, good-for-nothing “government” would have done the job, assuming a competent VA administrator was running the agency).

    Of course, if the wish he articulated here were ever realized (God forbid), somehow I’m sure Magee, Kessler, and every hospital or treatment facility in the affected area (assuming it were here) would get more patients than they would ever want.

    Dubya's Toke(n) Draft

    As Jeralyn of Talk Left tells us here, Incurious George recently relaxed restrictions on eligibility for those convicted of drug offenses to serve in the military. However, no such restrictions have been loosened for students convicted of similar offenses so they could receive student aid for college.

    I’ll admit that I didn’t know exactly the position of John Edwards on drugs, but what follows is important information on this issue (from here):

    • Help convicts with drug counseling & job counseling. (Jun 2007)
    • Supports drug courts and alternatives to incarceration. (Mar 2004)
    • Disparity in penalty for crack vs. powder is not justified. (Jan 2004)
    • Admits having smoked marijuana. (Nov 2003)
    • Voted NO on increasing penalties for drug offenses. (Nov 1999)
    • Rated B- by VOTE-HEMP, indicating a pro-hemp voting record. (Dec 2003)
    I don’t know how Edwards feels about denial of student aid for relatively minor drug convictions based on the 1998 Act, so I sent him a message about it a few minutes ago.

    I’ll let you know what I find out.

    More On General Sanchez

    (Posting will be sporadic to non-existent tomorrow, by the way.)

    I expressed my appreciation to retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez a couple of days ago here for quite correctly calling the Iraq war “a nightmare with no end in sight,” and Prof. Marcus quite rightly pointed out that Sanchez perjured himself before the Senate Armed Services Committee in May 2004.

    And as I checked a bit more on Sanchez during the period when he led the ground forces in Iraq (referencing “State of Denial” by Bob Woodward again), I came across the following:

  • During a White House briefing in January 2004 with Rummy, the former “Secretary Of Defense We Had” noted an “incident” of prisoner abuse by Army military police at Abu Ghraib; on January 16th, Gen. Sanchez put out a press release announcing an investigation of “detainee abuse at a coalition forces facility,” noting that “(release of) specific details could hinder the investigation.”

  • Sanchez “did not communicate effectively enough” with division commanders in Iraq, as recalled by Woodward, and during that time, Sanchez wasn’t communicating at all with CPA “viceroy” Paul Bremer (hard to pick a bad guy between the two, though – Woodward made reference to Bremer’s “patronizing elitism” towards Sanchez).

  • Sanchez was a junior three-star general, the ground commander who had replaced General David D. McKiernan as commander of Allied ground forces in Iraq, given a huge responsibility for his rank (to be fair), and he communicated to intelligence official Frank Miller (here) that he had trouble getting the money for reconstruction Congress had authorized.

  • However, in addition to attacking the media, Sanchez also called the ACLU “a bunch of sensationalist liars” for drawing attention to the Abu Ghraib scandal, and called himself “a casualty of the Abu Ghraib scandal” at the time of his retirement.

  • So yes, Sanchez has much to answer for, and it’s likely that his recent statements are more “CYA” as Iraq continues to disintegrate, feeling pity for himself above all else. But as I said, though he is an imperfect messenger, I think he deserves some credit for telling the truth.

    Update: Even though Kagro X gives Sanchez another pass here, his other points are absolutely dead-on.

    Update 10/16: If I were Gen. Sanchez, I would worry if I found common cause, so to speak, with someone like O'Reilly (here).

    No More For Gore (Don’t Run, Al)

    I really didn’t plan on saying anything about this, but all manner of scribes in print and online are toasting Al Gore for co-winning the Nobel Prize along with the International Panel on Climate Change and also hinting that he should run for president next year (there are many columns out there in a related vein, but this one by Paul Krugman today may be the best, partly because he doesn’t even bring up the issue, but focuses instead on Gore and the reflexive freeper outcry).

    I probably said this about Gore awhile back, but I’ll repeat it again here.

    In the spring of 2000, I watched Al Gore speak to a group of students at Arcadia University (formerly Beaver College) in Pennsylvania about politics, environmental issues, and other matters (the program was broadcast on a local cable network). He interacted well with the class, and they had a lively exchange of ideas with him also. And as I watched the half-hour-or-so broadcast, I had a bit of a George Tenet moment and thought his win over Dubya in November would be a “slam dunk.”

    Well, it was, in terms of the popular vote anyway. But back then, many of us (including your humble narrator) weren’t wise to how our dear corporate media cousins were creating narratives of the individuals in the races that ended up having much more to do with the eventual outcomes than any serious reporting during the election, of which there was precious little. And this kept the election close enough (along with the mystifying decision by Gore not to campaign with Bill Clinton in the key swing states, particularly Florida of course) to the point where it could be stolen in the manner that has been recorded for all time.

    My point is that Gore is a man of big themes and visions who once existed in a political universe full of only-vaguely-consequential approval ratings and other polling data, sound bites, gossipy tidbits for the print and electronic media, including blogs (mea culpa), and public appearances intended to appease key constituencies. In such an environment where glad-handlers and “on-message” happy talkers usually triumph over anyone communicating ideas of substance, Gore would appear today to be every bit as “stiff” and “wooden” as he was accused of being about eight years ago when running against George W. Bush, that guy you wanted to “have a beer with” if you were a true “red state” American.

    If this country were composed entirely of college students, in other words, then Gore would be the perfect president now as he would have been in 2000 (I’m not saying he would have been perfect back then had the people’s wishes been truly honored, but he would have served with intelligence and integrity, and the wingers would have bitched regardless as they always will – he would certainly have been good enough to build upon the foundation of the prior administration of which he was an important part and then some).

    But even assuming that Gore could overcome the huge hurdle of somehow setting up some kind of an on-the-ground political presence in the early primary states to the point where he could generate some momentum, he would then become fodder for the media-industrial complex, resurrecting the same old themes, creating even more division for a party that needs it about as much as this country needs another tax cut.

    And somehow, along with his professed desire not to get in the way of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, I think he knows that.

    So congratulations once more, Al. Choose whichever new cause you feel is appropriate for your sizeable talents on the public stage, as long as they don’t involve another run for the presidency.

    And if anyone tries to encourage another attempt anyway, tell them to drop dead.

    Send Laura To Iraq

    The New York Times reports today that Laura Bush will leave soon for “a diplomatic mission” to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait.

    I would say that there’s one destination country missing from her itinerary that is more important than all of those locations (and she should visit for a few days, with time spent outside the Green Zone also).

    As far as I’m concerned, this should be a no-brainer for someone whose profile the Repugs want to raise primarily for two reasons; 1) the appalling, and totally deserved, approval ratings of her husband, and 2) the media’s proclamations of the ascendance of Hillary Clinton (with some Repugs having stated previously that the First Lady should be running for president herself now, further evidence of their total disconnect from reality).

    And as you might expect, this puff piece from Sheryl Gay Stolberg wants to have it both ways with Mrs. Bush, portraying her both as some demure housewife having recently taken some oh-so-gradual steps towards assertiveness (unlike that brassy bitch Hillary Clinton – tongue in cheek here, I hope), and also as a rising star who hopefully will elevate the moribund fortunes of her husband, providing a boost of sorts to their party.

    (And by the way, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California fits in just a little too well with the other Republicans in that photo.)

    The most important reason of all for sending Laura to Mesopotamia, though, is that there’s a precedent for first ladies to appear in combat zones. Eleanor Roosevelt did it all the time, and Dubya has compared Iraq to World War II in the past (here), so it’s a natural fit as far as I’m concerned (and I know Mrs. R. did this because her husband was infirmed and could not travel much, but still, the precedent exists).

    But of course, the Times piece tells us that Dubya “never speaks to her about Iraq” (not surprising I guess, since Dubya has waged the war so successfully that he doesn’t need any help…). I guess, though, that this is in keeping with the Bush family mentality of not letting information from “the reality-based community” cloud its thinking once it’s mind is made up (I can recall Laura’s famously snide response of “what do you think?” to a reporter who asked her if she’d seen “Fahrenheit 9/11”; even if you don’t like Michael Moore, there’s plenty of reality in that film to give someone pause who was gung-ho on the war).

    It’s nice that Mrs. Bush has spoken to her loathsome spouse about the plight of the opposition leader in Myanmar, and she apparently told Dubya biographer and family friend Robert Draper that “she’s made her opinions known on a few issues,” though she wouldn’t say which ones.

    But the war is first, last, and in-between in importance to this country. And if Laura Bush possessed an ounce of leadership, she would make it as clear as possible that she intends to go to Iraq and let our military over there know that they haven’t been completely forgotten.

    Besides, if it’s not safe enough over there for her, then it’s not safe enough for any of our people, which is all the more reason to start pulling them out.

    Update 10/16: By the way, read here to find out which person in the photo is leaving Congress.