Saturday, November 03, 2007

Saturday Videos

Devendra Banhart ("I Feel Just Like A Child," a song I'd like to dedicate to anyone in this country who continues to remain grossly ignorant of the swindle perpetrated by our government against us primarily by Bushco but with the help of too many lapdog Dems - by the way, nice to write a "bridge")...



...Happy Birthday to Adam Ant ("Friend Or Foe"; have to do my '80s thing after being out of action last night)...



...Happy Birthday also to '60s icon Lulu ("To Sir, With Love," with pics from the 1967 movie)...



...and we haven't had a birthday by a member of the '80s band a-ha for a little while, but sure enough, Mags Furuholmen hit the mark recently ("Dark Is The Night For All," not a bad song despite too much man titty and some bad improvisational geometric theater or whatever the hell that is - I was waiting for Leonard Pinth-Garnell to show up at any moment).

Fun With Hil And Bill

Back after some brief downtime that was resolved after a sojourn or two to Yardley Personal Computing's corporate headquarters (also disgusted over the issue Bill Maher addresses below to a panel including Markos of The Daily Kos, so a break was probably called for).

First, here is the great "Politics of Parsing" video from the Edwards campaign...



...and Maher asks a timely question about five minutes or so into this clip.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Chuck And Di Spit In Our Eye

What would the week be without yet another cave-in by Democratic politicians?

As noted here...

WASHINGTON - Sens. Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein say they will vote for Attorney General-nominee Michael Mukasey, which likely gives him enough support to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Their decision came shortly after the chairman of the committee, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced he would vote against Mukasey, a former federal judge.

"This is an extremely difficult decision," Schumer said in a statement, adding that Mukasey "is not my ideal choice."

In announcing her support for Mukasey, Feinstein, D-Calif., said "first and foremost, Michael Mukasey is not Alberto Gonzales," referring to the former attorney general who resigned in September after months of questions about his honesty.
“He’s not Alberto Gonzales,” huh Senator Feinstein? That’s your rationale?

You’re a disgrace.

Both of you read these letters…

To the Editor:

Re “Nominee’s Stand May Avoid Tangle of Torture Cases” (front page, Nov. 1):

What are we coming to when Judge Michael B. Mukasey, a thoroughly decent man whom I have known and admired for more than 30 years, is forced essentially to plead the Fifth Amendment as to whether the department he has been asked to lead authorizes illegal torture?

We are fast becoming an embarrassment in the world court of public opinion.

Frederick T. Davis
Paris, Nov. 1, 2007

The writer is a lawyer.



To the Editor:

Michael B. Mukasey, the nominee for attorney general, is doing an elaborate tap dance around the issue of waterboarding and torture to steer clear of potential legal problems for the C.I.A. and members of the Bush administration.

With this much choreography, there is one obvious conclusion: contrary to statements by President Bush, we do torture.

Sam Duncan
Wayne, Pa., Nov. 1, 2007



To the Editor:

So our nominee for attorney general refuses to declare waterboarding illegal — after being educated by a member of Congress on what it actually is. That explanation destroyed Judge Michael B. Mukasey’s ability to deny knowledge of the practice; one is reminded of the obfuscation of Alberto R. Gonzales, the former attorney general, in his bobbing and weaving before Congress’s questions.

Clearly, if confirmed, Judge Mukasey would act as a “team player” of the Bush administration, helping to cover up issues of torture, rather than as an independent enforcer of the nation’s laws.

Part of the legacy of such a confirmation would be, inevitably, condoning waterboarding and other methods of torture in the future — with continuing damage to our values, our international relations and the safety of our own soldiers if captured.

Can such a man ever be expected to rule fairly on issues involving torture?

Kathryn W. Kelber
Houston, Nov. 1, 2007

The writer is a lawyer.



To the Editor:

So, Judge Michael B. Mukasey has refused so far to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture because of his concern that such a statement by him might put the C.I.A. and other American interrogators in legal jeopardy. But doesn’t a former federal judge know that there is a remedy for such situations? It’s called the judicial system.

Someone accused of breaking the law is investigated, perhaps charged, arrested, arraigned, witnesses are called and so on — in short, a trial. The attorney general is not charged with protecting possible violators of the law but of prosecuting them. This is a nation of laws, not men.

Walter Friedenberg
Denver, Nov. 1, 2007



To the Editor:

I had the misfortune to come very close to drowning. I panicked while swimming in a river in England, and was pulled out of the water unconscious by a young woman, who saved my life.

Recalling that experience, which must have lasted a couple of minutes at the most, is still enough to make me tremble; it happened 30 years ago.

It turns my stomach to think that those who act on behalf of this civilized country may be using simulated drowning to question potentially innocent people. Is there no decency left in this ugly so-called war?

Peter Cleary
San Francisco, Nov. 1, 2007



To the Editor:

Re “Torture and the Attorneys General” (editorial, Nov. 1):
Torture is indubitably illegal under customary international law and the laws and treaties of the United States.

It is also inherently unreliable as a method of extracting information, because there’s always the risk that the one being tortured will say or do anything to stop the pain.

Furthermore, broadcasting to the world that the United States engages in torture when expedient inevitably undermines our reputation as an exemplar of democracy and human rights. Why, then, does Judge Michael B. Mukasey, the man who might become the nation’s top law enforcement official, seem to waffle when it comes to this seemingly straightforward issue?

What part of illegal does he not understand?

James P. Rudolph
Washington, Nov. 1, 2007

The writer is a lawyer.



To the Editor:

“Bearing Witness to Torture,” by Clyde Haberman (NYC column, Oct. 30), suggests there may be a connection between the upsurge in torture victims seeking help at the N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of Torture and the United States’ current policies on torture.

When the leaders of the United States government shirk their obligation under international law to prohibit torture against suspected terrorists held in American prisons, when presidential candidates make statements implying a defense of torture and when the president’s nominee for attorney general, Judge Michael B. Mukasey, refuses to say whether he believes that waterboarding is torture, we shouldn’t be surprised if governments around the world step up torture against their citizens.

As director of the N.Y.U. Center, Dr. Allen S. Keller deals with the awful consequences of torture and says N.Y.U. has been “swamped” by a record 581 patients from October 2006 to September 2007.

His experiences as director tell him correctly that waterboarding is torture. From his wise perspective, as he says, it may be a more brutal form of water torture.

Larry Cox
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA
New York, Oct. 30, 2007
Another week ending with the Dems leaving me with a heaping helping of “what the f*ck is wrong with you people??!!” – nice work.

Update 11/05/07: Go, "Cheesehead Russ" (and as always, screw you, Arlen).

Dubya The Bakery Boy Screws Workers Again

Here’s a bit of a history lesson.

Remember last July, when our preznit went to Nashville to visit the Bun Company run by a lady named Cordelia Harrington, serving as yet another photo-op where he could lambaste Democrats for supposed fiscal mismanagement, a typically delusional accusation (here, throwing in some of his patented stupid “humor” that would play well with the “Hee Haw” crowd but probably just about with no one else)?

Well, it turns out that Harrington’s Bun Company had signed outsourcing agreements with O’Charley’s the week before (O’Charley’s states here on its Form 10-Q quarterly report that it is “a leading casual dining restaurant company headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee”).

I’d like to comment on the typical gall of President Stupid Head to try and score political points at the expense of employees of the Bun Company who may lose their jobs unfortunately, but that’s not really my point here (though it could be).

The reason why I’m mentioning this now is because of this story that appeared in the New York Times yesterday concerning Dubya’s threatened veto (does he actually sign any legislation these days?) of a bill that would expand the Trade Adjustment Program, signed into law in 1962 and facing expiration if it isn’t renewed.

Let’s see now, if you guessed that the reason is that Bushco thinks it’s “too costly,” you’d be partly right (the price tag would be covered by delaying a tax break for multinationals…notice the plan isn’t to “eliminate” the tax cut, but to “delay it,” and the Repugs still oppose renewing the program).

But the excuse provided by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (yes, she’s still in this administration after all this time) is that the bill “builds a bigger bureaucracy that will make it harder for unemployed workers to access relevant training and reconnect with the job market…”

Uh huh, as if we can trust Elaine Chao on anything…

And even though U.S. House Rep Phil English of PA looks as if he’s visited one too many bakeries in his time, I have to give him credit for speaking out in favor of the Trade Adjustment Program, rightly saying that “If America is serious about having a stronger trade policy, then we need to strengthen the safety net for working families…” (yes, I know he’s probably in “running for re-election mode” here, but still…).

So remember, fellow workers, if our red state president comes to another bakery, a factory or other place of work and tells you how great everything is, rest assured that he’s probably preparing yet another “bait and switch” on you (and having to pose and smile with this clod and pretend to be his friend will be the yeast of your worries).

Sorry – guess it isn’t really all that funny…

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (11/02/07)

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.

House

Children's health insurance: In a 265-142 vote, the House passed a revised version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill that President Bush vetoed Oct. 3. The new measure would limit enrollment to children from families earning up to three times the poverty level, or nearly $62,000 for a family of four.

A yes vote was to send the bill (H.R. 3963) to the Senate.

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

Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.).
And once again, Pitts and Saxton, this young man has a message for you.



Native Hawaiian sovereignty: In a 261-153 vote, the House sent the Senate a bill that would empower native Hawaiians to form a sovereign government comparable to the American Indian and Native Alaskan nations in the United States. If certified by the secretary of the interior, the Hawaiian entity would have standing to negotiate for the control of land and other assets that once belonged to indigenous Hawaiians.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (H.R. 505).

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

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach and Pitts.
This was sponsored by Dem Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, coming fresh off his No vote opposing tougher railroad safety standards and mandating a 12-hour maximum work day for train and signal personnel (guess they don’t have many choo-choos in the Aloha state…the Senate version of this is referred to as the “Akaka Bill” ).

This bill is a result of the Supreme Court ruling here that disallowed the racial diversity preferences in the Seattle and Louisville, KY school systems; so-called “ethnic preferences” also came into play and were thus ruled unconstitutional also.

Well, with Hawaiians no longer able to use the defense of ethnic preferences to settle land disputes and manage other assets, they’re seeking the legal status of American Indian tribes for purposes of self-government (this bill, as noted from the link, is an extension of the so-called “apology resolution” signed into law in November 1993 which, in part, extended an apology on behalf of the United States to the native people of Hawaii for the United States' role in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

So, of course, you know that, for all these reasons, the Repugs simply had to say no to it (LoBiondo, Saxton and Smith notwithstanding…and add native Hawaiians to the looooong list of constituencies opposed by Joe Pitts).

The “party of states rights” strikes again.

Senate

Illegal immigrants' children: In a 52-44 vote, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a bill (S.B. 2205) that would put children of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship if they first serve in the U.S. military or complete two years of higher education.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
Not even if they serve in the military or pursue an advanced degree, Senator Funny Bones?

As always, screw you, Arlen.

Amtrak subsidy caps: In a 28-66 vote, the Senate refused to limit taxpayer subsidies of Amtrak to $200 per passenger in fiscal 2008, with the cap to be reduced by $25 per passenger in each succeeding year. The amendment was offered to an Amtrak funding bill (S.B. 294).

A yes vote backed the subsidy cap.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted no (good job).
This week, the House considered aid to U.S. workers displaced by trade (I've got a post on that coming up in a few minutes) and a rewrite of the Mining Act of 1872. The Senate was scheduled to vote on a revised State Children's Health Insurance bill.

Leavitt Tilts At Health Care Windmills

(The post title refers to the Netherlands, of course.)

As reported here in last Tuesday’s New York Times, Health And Human Services director Mike Leavitt will travel to Switzerland on Nov. 7 and then fly to The Hague in The Netherlands for two days to look at how those two countries provide health care for their citizens.

As noted in the story…

In Switzerland and the Netherlands, all people have to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. Employers are exempt from the mandates, and private insurers and hospitals provide care.

“We have been hearing a lot of people in the health policy community talk about how those two countries had been doing new things in health access, and the secretary wanted to get a closer look at what they’re doing,” a department official said.

The trip is not a sign, however, that the Bush administration is considering major health initiatives, officials said.

“We don’t have anything cooking that we haven’t announced,” the department official said. “We would not endorse a system like the Netherlands or Switzerland’s. But if there’s something we could learn about their system, we should learn about it.”
(As a side note here, I’m wondering why on earth no name would be attached to this “department official.” What this person is saying is hardly controversial, but then again, we’re talking about the delusional and paranoid Bushco regime where they no doubt see enemies everywhere, even in their nightmares.)

While I would normally be somewhat enthused over the fact that our ruling cabal is at least pretending to be interested in learning how to solve a problem, I should note the following from this link…

(America’s Health Insurance Plans) President Karen Ignagni said that "there is confusion between 'universal coverage' and 'government-run,'" adding that "we are fully committed to the concept of universal coverage" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 10/31). Willem van Duin -- executive board member of Eureko, a health insurer in the Netherlands -- said that the nation had the ability to implement health care reform because "politicians, providers, insurers" reached a consensus on the issue (Appleby, USA Today, 11/1).

Daniel Schmutz -- CFO of Helsana, the largest health insurer in Switzerland -- said that divisions in the U.S. might not allow for such a consensus. Van Duin added that residents in the Netherlands and Switzerland have more willingness than those in the U.S. to pay the taxes necessary to finance government subsidies for health insurance (CQ HealthBeat, 10/31). In addition, according to Schmutz, enforcement of a requirement that all residents obtain health insurance might prove difficult in the U.S. He said, "To Swiss people ... it's highly accepted that the state has a central role in private life."
And to get an idea of how these countries deal with health care issues (and other matters also), here is a link to an article written by world traveler Rick Steves that may prove to be illuminating…

We Americans have plenty to be proud about, but we need to remember the risk of finding too many truths to be "self-evident and God-given." Because when you travel, you learn that other people find their own solutions to challenges that confront us all. On my recent trip, my Swiss… and Dutch friends impressed me with some creative thinking.

The Swiss government deals with its social problems with pragmatism and innovation. Do you have too many cars clogging up downtown or too many hard-to-employ people struggling to get by on welfare? In Switzerland, big cities provide free loaner bikes to those who leave their cars at home. And people who would otherwise be collecting unemployment benefits run the bike system.

Like the United States, Switzerland is dealing with a persistent drug abuse problem. The Swiss believe the purpose of a nation's drug policy should be to reduce the harm that drugs cause their society. Like many Europeans, they treat substance abuse more as a health issue than as a crime. Rather than fill their jails, the Swiss employ more compassionate and pragmatic methods.

To help fight the spread of diseases like HIV and AIDS, street-side vending machines cheaply dispense government-subsidized syringes. The government even tries to control where junkies shoot up. To keep them out of public restrooms, the interiors are lit with blue light. Why? Because if junkies can't see their veins, they'll shoot up elsewhere. The government hopes they'll use heroin-maintenance clinics, which provide counseling, clean needles and a safe alternative to shooting up on the streets.

In Switzerland, the casual use of marijuana is tolerated. In Bern, locals pass joints with no worries in the shadow of the cathedral, ignored by passersby. It seems the Swiss simply enjoy life in a country that believes tolerating alternative lifestyles makes more sense than building more prisons.



In the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, prostitutes pay taxes, get regular medical checkups, and even have a union. When a prostitute pushes her help button, it's the police -- not an abusive pimp -- that come to her aid. The pragmatic Dutch know that prostitution will happen no matter what, so they might as well make it as crime- and disease-free as possible.
My point here is that we can’t just pick and choose elements of what the Swiss and Dutch have to offer in the way of private health care without modifying our society to resemble theirs so our health insurance “solution” will actually work.

Let’s consider this; does anyone think any politician in this country will tolerate the recreational use of marijuana, particularly a Repug? Or making syringes available from vending machines? Or advocate for prostitutes to form a union?

Neither do I. And can you imagine any right-wing media loudmouth remaining silent if we reach a point one day in this country where “it's highly accepted that the state has a central role in private life"?

I think you know the answer.

Am I saying Leavitt should stay home? No. All I’m saying is that, when he returns, he and his boss should either decide to get serious about forming partnerships among business, government, unions, and all of the players on this issue or just let Dubya do what he does best: leave the mess for someone else.

And by the way, though there’s an element of truth in the statement that the Edwards health care plan is modeled somewhat after the European plans, it’s more accurate to say that the Edwards plan encourages participation, cooperation and (ultimately) cost savings through the use of incentives, tax credits, and insurance “reform” (nice to see that industry targeted in this way, since they have no problem giving us that treatment; that’s why a John Edwards presidency is their worst nightmare).

Update: Oh, and by the way, while Rudy! trumpets the virtues of private insurance over oh-so-baaaad government coverage (oh, excuse me – I mean “socialized medicine”), please consider the following from this linked story written by Joe Conason (a nod here to Ezra Klein and a h/t to Paul Krugman; hope that takes care of all the kudos)…

…Giuliani was serving as mayor and participating in a city of New York health plan when his doctor informed him that his prostate biopsy had come up positive. The coverage he enjoyed -- which resembles the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan -- permits all city employees, from trash haulers and subway clerks up to the mayor himself, to select from a variety of insurance providers, and it is not much different from the reform proposals adopted by his nemesis Hillary Clinton.

In the spring of 2000, when Giuliani learned that he had cancer and abruptly dropped out of the Senate race against Sen. Clinton, he was enrolled as a member of GHI, one of the two gigantic HMO groups that provide care for most city workers (the other is known as HIP). He underwent surgery and radiation at Mount Sinai Hospital, a prestigious institution that participates in the GHI plan, which means that his costs were largely underwritten by city taxpayers.
But I guess this is par for the course for the “Ape Man” presidential candidate (and I think Cowen’s theory is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard, though partly true I guess, sadly enough).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday Videos

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down ("The Unthinking Majority")...



...and Happy Birthday to Dan Peek, formerly of America, though now he's apparently doing something apart from Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, the other members of the group (a terrific cover of "California Revisited"; I have no idea who this guy is).

Iraqi Conscript Training Film

Sometimes there are no words (via John Cole and The Daily Kos here)...

Hoping The "Snowflake King" Melts Away

This WaPo story tells us that more musings from Don (“The Defense Secretary We No Longer Have”) Rumsfeld have come to light from his time doing the work of going to war with barely a plan in Iraq that has a lot to do with our current catastrophe (a stretch to call that “work,” I’ll admit).

Rummy would inflict “snowflakes” upon his staff and others in the Bush Administration, which were often simple musings or demands of one type or another.…

…(they) shed light on Rumsfeld's brusque management style and on his efforts to address key challenges during his tenure as Pentagon chief. Spanning from 2002 to shortly after his resignation following the 2006 congressional elections, a sampling of his trademark missives obtained yesterday reveals a defense secretary disdainful of media criticism and driven to reshape public opinion of the Iraq war.



(In one he)…lamented that oil wealth has at times detached Muslims "from the reality of the work, effort and investment that leads to wealth for the rest of the world. Too often Muslims are against physical labor, so they bring in Koreans and Pakistanis while their young people remain unemployed," he wrote. "An unemployed population is easy to recruit to radicalism."
Ignoring for a moment the ugly generalization against Muslims in that excerpt, I would have to say that, yep, it sure is a drag when a nation recruits offshore to bring in workers to that country to perform physical labor, isn’t it?

And it’s also an issue for the incumbent regime when unemployed youth ends up turning out in large numbers to support the opposition party as well (with many in this country thinking the Dems are radicals anyway...too funny).

That Rummy – spot-on as always.

And in other news about literary Repugs (deceased), I saw the other day that Gerald Ford, in a new book, said that he agreed with the Iraq war, but thought Dubya fought it for the wrong reason.

Putting aside my disagreement with that opinion, I’d only add that it would have made a much bigger difference if Ford had said that before he exhaled his last breath.

A Fein Time For Consideration

This AP story tells us that Sen. Edward Kennedy has decided to vote against confirming Judge Michael Mukasey as the next Attorney General, prompting the latest hissy fit in front of a bunch of sympathetic conservatives from Incurious George (here).

If it turns out that Mukasey isn’t confirmed (and I don’t know why the hell any Democrat or politician of any party really who professes a love for this country would do so, given the fact that Mukasey thinks presidential power should supersede the Constitution in some cases, as well as his refusal to call water boarding torture), then I have an idea for another candidate.

And that would be Bruce Fein.

Yes, I know he’s a conservative (would we get anyone of any other stripe under this regime?), but as noted here by John Nichols…

Fein is qualified. A much-published Harvard Law School graduate who served as an associate deputy attorney general from 1981 to 1982 and as general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission, he has frequently been called on by Republicans and Democrats to help them sort through prickly Constitutional issues.

Fein is a true conservative, and he would serve as a very conservative Attorney General. But he would take his oath of office seriously, particularly the section requiring him to defend the Constitution rather than the political whims of the president and vice president.



Unfortunately for his own ambitions, Fein is a sincere conservative. As such, the man Ronald Reagan trusted to enforce the laws of the land has called, most recently in an appearance we did together on “Bill Moyers’ Journal,” for the opening of impeachment hearings targeting President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Additionally, he was working with a Democratic congressman on articles of impeachment against Gonzales at the time of the Attorney General’s resignation.

Fein’s willingness to put principle above politics undoubtedly disqualifies him from consideration by Bush as a successor for Gonzales. But (conservative guru Richard) Viguerie and other Constitutional conservatives owe their compatriot — and their country — better. Anyone who is serious about cleaning up the mess at the Department of Justice knows that the job will not be done by lawyers who have, by their actions, shown that they do not understand the basic intentions or values of the nation’s founding document.

Bruce Fein’s name belongs on the list of conservatives who would make appropriate replacements for Alberto Gonzales. Indeed, Fein’s name should be at its top.
Also, this letter to the editor from Fein appeared in the New York Times on Sunday…

To The Editor:

Re “Clinton Plans to Consider Giving Up Some Powers” (news article, Oct. 24): The American Freedom Agenda, an organization of conservatives founded last March 20 to restore checks and balances and protections against government abuses, requested all presidential aspirants, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to sign an American Freedom Pledge.

They were asked to renounce the following powers if elected: torture; presidential signing statements; indefinite detentions of American citizens as enemy combatants; military commissions that combine judge, jury and prosecutor; spying on American citizens in contravention of federal statutes on the president’s say-so alone; kidnapping, imprisoning and torturing suspected terrorists abroad; executive privilege to shield the executive branch from Congressional oversight; prosecuting journalists under the Espionage Act for exposing national security abuses; listing organizations as terrorist groups based on secret evidence; suspending the writ of habeas corpus during the conflict with international terrorism; and invoking the state secrets privilege to deny victims of constitutional wrongdoing any judicial remedy. Senator Clinton has balked at signing the pledge, as have all other candidates except Representative Ron Paul.

Bruce Fein
Chairman, American Freedom Agenda
If a letter like that doesn’t make big points in Fein’s favor, then I don’t know what does.

Update 11/01: Ted Kennedy states why he will vote against Mukasey's confirmation here.

Update 11/02: This is probably the first time I've disagreed with Kagro X on something.

Pay A Real Price For Spreading Phony News

It turns out that “Pat” Philbin, the one-time public affairs director of FEMA who was responsible for staging the recent phony “news conference” regarding that agency’s involvement in the fires of Southern California, was just let go.

Awwww….

As noted here, his boss communicated the following…

"I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government," Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, said.
And when it comes to “dumbest and most inappropriate things,” who would know better than Mike Chertoff?

Well, a lot of individuals immediately drew a parallel to the case of Jeff Gannon (pictured, acting in a decidedly non-news gathering capacity), the “reporter” for Talon News who was allowed to ask bogus questions at White House press conferences, and as thought of this, I remembered the following issue noted here by Salon’s Eric Boehlert…

The question about credentials remains key. The vast majority of reporters covering the White House have what's called a "hard," or permanent, pass. To obtain one they have to verify they work for a recognized news organization with job responsibilities covering the White House. They have to submit to a lengthy security background check conducted by the FBI, which can take months to complete and requires being photographed and fingerprinted. Journalists also must verify to the White House they already have credentials to cover Capitol Hill. Without them, the White House won't complete a hard pass request.

In late 2003 (James) Guckert (Gannon's real name) applied for a Capitol Hill pass and was denied because Talon, which enjoys close ties to GOPUSA.com, was not deemed to be a legitimate, independent news outlet. That in and of itself should have been a red flag for the White House press office. Yet for nearly two years, it allowed Guckert to circumvent the hard pass system by using a day pass whenever he needed White House access. The day pass requires just a minimal background check. It was designed to be used on a temporary basis, such as for reporters coming in from out of town to cover the White House for a brief period. Guckert, though, with the help of somebody inside the press office, turned the day pass system into his own revolving door. That was when he was at least working for Talon News.
So, while letting go of Philbin for his fake news conference is at least a minor nod towards treating the American news-consuming public with a measure of respect (prompted, no doubt, by this administration’s fervent desire to make the FEMA handling of the California fire tragedy as “anti-Katrina” as possible), determining exactly who it was who once credentialed Jeff Gannon for White House press access, publicly naming this person and dismissing him or her (assuming they’re not already gone) is the next logical step.

Settling Some Scores?

The Washington Post reports here that Harry K. Thomas, director of the State Department’s Foreign Service, recently told diplomats in that department that some of them will have to report to serve at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or risk losing their jobs.

As noted in the story…

At a town hall meeting in the department's main auditorium attended by hundreds of Foreign Service officers, some of them criticized fundamental aspects of State's personnel policies in Iraq. They took issue with the size of the embassy -- the biggest in U.S. history -- and the inadequate training they received before being sent to serve in a war zone. One woman said she returned from a tour in Basra with post-traumatic stress disorder only to find that the State Department would not authorize medical treatment.



Service in Iraq is "a potential death sentence," said one man who identified himself as a 46-year Foreign Service veteran. "Any other embassy in the world would be closed by now," he said to sustained applause.

Harry K. Thomas Jr., the director general of the Foreign Service, who called the meeting, responded curtly. "Okay, thanks for your comment," he said, declaring the town hall meeting over.

In notices e-mailed to Foreign Service officers around the world late Friday night, Thomas wrote that State had decided to begin "directed assignments" to fill an anticipated shortfall of 48 diplomats in Iraq next summer. Separate e-mail letters were sent to about 250 officers selected as qualified for the posts. If enough of them did not volunteer, the letters said, some would be ordered to serve there.

Foreign Service officers swear an oath to serve wherever the secretary of state sends them, but no directed assignments have been ordered since the late 1960s, during the Vietnam War. More than 1,200 of 11,500 eligible State Department personnel have already served in Iraq, but the growth of the embassy has led to an ever-increasing demand.

The notices, which most diplomats first learned about from the news media as the e-mails sat in their office computers over the weekend, appeared to have catalyzed unease that has been swirling through the Foreign Service over issues that include Iraq, underfunding and inadequate recruitment, perceived disrespect from the U.S. military and the job performance of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A poll conducted this month by the American Foreign Service Association found that only 12 percent of officers "believe that . . . Rice is fighting for them," union president John K. Naland said at yesterday's meeting, which was first reported by the Associated Press.

"That's their right. But they're wrong," said Thomas, who appeared to grow increasingly agitated as the questioning became more pointed.

"Sometimes, if it's 88 to 12, maybe the 88 percent are correct," Naland said.

"Eighty-eight percent of the country believed in slavery at one time. Was that correct?" Thomas responded, saying he was "insulted." Rice is fighting hard for them, he said. Amid scattered boos from the audience, Thomas added: "Let no one be a hypocrite. I really resent people telling me that I do not care about other Foreign Service officers."
Leave it to a typical Buscho loyalist to automatically play the “pity and sympathy” card when confronted with opposition to an unpopular policy.

But more than that, I’m wondering if the “my way or the highway” attitude of Thomas towards State Department diplomats told to go to Iraq reflects the attitude he showed here towards past alleged discrimination of African American diplomats in the Foreign Service.

As you can read from Thomas’s letter at the bottom of the page about African Americans and the State Department, he is pretty strident about enumerating alleged offenses against African Americans who once worked at State from just after World War II into the 1960s…

Charles Hanson, a brilliant linguist, was shipped off to Liberia without the benefit of being able to bid on other posts. Ollie Ellison, who retired after serving as a deputy chief of mission, was told during his initial background investigation that the Department did not approve of mixed marriages; he was a Protestant marrying a Catholic. Ulrich Haynes, an Amherst and Yale graduate who served at the National Security Council and as ambassador to Algiers during the Iran Hostage Crisis, recalls meeting spouses at this welcome party who were angry at what State "had sent them," a black ambassador.

Shirley Barnes, later ambassador to Madagascar, was discouraged from serving in NEA by superiors who told her that the locally employed staff would never work for a black woman. They were wrong. And John Withers Sr., who became AID Mission Director in India and Ethiopia, was told to bring a bag lunch on his first day at work because he would not be permitted to join his colleagues who were lunching at a drug store across from State.
Thomas also tells us that one-time African American diplomat Ralph Bunche one “chafed at how…talented black professionals were held back,” and he also tells us that Alger Hiss “was ordered to fail all takers with the caveat that he take test takers names and backgrounds to senior officers for selection. African- Americans were routinely rejected.”

And Thomas offers no proof whatsoever to support any of these claims; it is up to us to take him at his word if we choose to do so.

Now I’m not going to argue for one second that America during this period didn’t practice some pretty overt racial discrimination, but based on this, I’m starting to wonder if Thomas is a little more concerned about payback for the past travails suffered by African Americans at State than trying to administer a difficult and actually dangerous situation with his Foreign Service employees.

And I’ll leave aside for now the fact that he’s working for a regime that has sent some pretty clear messages to African Americans in this country as to the little regard they have for them, to say nothing of the Republican Party in general these days. Also, I know the point can be made that the diplomats realized this could happen when they signed up for service, but under a sane presidential administration run by adults, this “push back” should be more of a reason for President Brainless and his cohorts to reconsider their wrongheaded policy in Mesopotamia (yes, and I know – “and then I woke up”).

And the attitude of the Director of the Foreign Service, by the way, shows a similarity to me with that of another prominent figure in our government who shares the director’s last name and racial heritage (here; a relative maybe?).

Update 11/02/07: And of course, when all else fails, leave it to the Repugs to resort to name calling (re: Duncan Hunter's "nervous nellies" comment here).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wednesday Videos

An excerpt from the Democratic presidential candidates debate last night that I thought was good...



...Edwards spoke on Iraq in the debate of course, and with that in mind, I'd like to dedicate this short video to Ed Snider and Freedom's Watch.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Ted Leo (without The Pharmacists - "Colleen"; catchy little tune)...



...Happy Birthday to Grace Slick ("White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love" on "The Smothers Brothers," opening up that '60s time capsule once more; I think that was Jorma Kaukonen dealing those hot licks on the ax)...



...Bow Wow Wow ("I Want Candy," a song a lot of kids will be singing tomorrow, including the young one)...



...and since Clear Channel, in their infinite, dunderheaded stupidity, has decided not to air this song, here's "Radio Nowhere" by Bruce Springsteen (personally, I think he's done better work, but hey, it still rocks).

Dubya Can't Hyde From This Choice

(Pic TBD - Blogger's photo upload is hosed for now...also, probably no posting tomorrow.)

This tells us that Dubya announced this year’s recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and some of the names are truly illustrious indeed. They include Brian Lamb of C-SPAN, the novelist Harper Lee who wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird” (a fave), NAACAP former Executive Director Benjamin Hooks, economist and 1992 Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker, and Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

And Henry Hyde.

Yes, you read that correctly…Henry Hyde.

As in “the House-leader-of-the-Clinton-impeachment-circus Henry Hyde, the adulterer-who-involved-himself-in-a-four-year-affair-with-a-married-woman-from-1965-to-1969-and-ultimately-wrecked-her-marriage Henry Hyde” (dismissing it as a “youthful indiscretion”…see how casually he strolls away from the train wreck he created).

Yes, THAT Henry Hyde, ladies and gentlemen.

I know he served our country in World War II, but apart from that, he, along with the more odious Jesse Helms, has been one of the omnipresent figures of Repug sanctimony and entitlement throughout the latter part of the prior century. Hyde and his ilk polluted our political and social landscape throughout, from the days when conservatives were rightly relegated to minority status, to their tragic ascendancy, and now to their precipitous decline once more.

But see, Hyde is 82 and infirmed now, so Dubya feels that he must give him this undeserved honor to whitewash his intolerance and burnish his freeper cred for all time.

As I’ve contemplated this joke of a nomination for this prestigious award, I’ve found myself wondering exactly what it is about Hyde that turns my stomach so thoroughly, and I think the letter from this link ends up capturing it pretty well.

Hyde wrote it to Sen. Richard Durbin when his fellow member of the Illinois Congressional Delegation was pondering whether or not he should vote to confirm Hangin’ Judge J.R. for the Supreme Court (Durbin, in his wisdom, voted no), and in the letter, Hyde disingenuously tries to bring Durbin over by appealing to their shared Irish Catholic heritage (between Hyde, Durbin and Roberts).

As far as I’m concerned, this is a typically deceitful move by Hyde (totally ignoring the rabid anti-choice and pro-business orientation of Roberts, a fellow traveler if ever there was one), who helped write the template for this sort of behavior back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when it stood out for being so noticeably disingenuous, though it is sadly commonplace now (“oh, help me…I’m a poor, oppressed conservative being victimized by those bad liberals again – WAAAHHHH!!!!”).

And another thing, Henry; your humble narrator is Irish Catholic also, and as far as I’m concerned, you are one of the least deserving miscreants I have ever witnessed in public life, and you deserve this award as much as I do (not trying to heap kudos on myself, I assure you). If you tried a tactic on me like you did with Durbin, I would tell you what you could do with it in no uncertain terms, and I would leave it up to Him to forgive me for my actions.

So enjoy this unjustly provided moment in the limelight, Henry. The rest of us can read here to find out more about what a “powerful defender of life” you are.

Update 11/29/07: Whatever - see ya; bye.

Update 12/03/07: An appropriate valedictory...

Update 5/8/10: What Angry Mouse sez here...

Patrick On The Job, Again

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Courier Times yesterday...

Labor Day is a great time to spend with your family, have a barbecue and watch some football. But we should also remember that Labor Day is a time to honor and respect hardworking Americans.

Even with Labor Day well behind us, I still wanted to look back over the recent months at some of the refreshing changes we have seen on behalf of working families. Congressman Patrick Murphy and the new Democratic Congress are clearly and consistently on the side of America's hardest workers. While our previous Republican Congress seemed happy to send American jobs overseas, with such legislation as the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Rep. Murphy demonstrated his commitment to hard working families by helping pass legislation to raise the minimum wage in his very first week in Congress.

Thanks to the efforts of Murphy and others, American workers making minimum wage got a raise on July 24 that will continue until their salary goes from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour in 2009. And to make sure that employers in Bucks County can afford this pay raise, he has voted for more than $1 billion in tax cuts for small businesses. I was also happy to see him throw his support behind the Employee Free Choice Act, landmark legislation that will prevent unscrupulous employers from intimidating workers who want to organize.

Murphy deserves to be commended for his consistent efforts to make sure that good-paying jobs go to Americans. He co-sponsored the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act, which will prevent Americans from losing their jobs because their employers can't compete with cheaply made sweatshop goods. He's also voted for increased border security and to crack down on cities with illegal alien sanctuary policies, to make sure that the jobs he's keeping in America, go to American citizens, not illegal immigrants.

Most importantly, he's always been willing to come down to the union hall and chat with our members to make sure he truly understands all the struggles that the hard working men and women here in Lower Bucks face. For all these reasons, I am glad to say that this Labor Day I had a representative in Congress that working families can be proud of.

Michael Russo
Bristol Township
To help Patrick, click here.

And by the way, as long as I’m mentioning Bucks County Democrats, don’t forget to support Matt Maloney and Deb Wachspress for Lower Makefield Township Supervisors; to learn more, click here.

We're Reaching Deep All Right, Charley

The Bucks County Courier Times published a Guest Opinion today from incumbent Repug Bucks County Supervisors James Cawley and Charley (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin responding to a Guest Opinion by Steve Santarsiero and Diane Marseglia (here).

I glanced over what Cawley and Martin said, and it’s really about what you would expect from two patronage kings trying to keep their gravy train in operation. And trying to siphon particles of truth from their words in between the childish invective and outright misrepresentation of what Steve and Diane said is an exercise that is beyond me at the moment.

For example, I cannot locate a quote from Steve and Diane where they say that Bucks County is “broken, corrupt, and doesn’t care about its citizens”; it’s impossible to source this stuff when it is no doubt pulled out of Cawley and Martin’s imaginations, and of course they don’t source this “quote” either.

And I’m not going to quibble over percentage raises of tax increases here between Cawley and Martin vs. Steve and Diane; I thought this Courier Times editorial today made some good points on that subject.

But I’d like to point out a key word that is missing from Cawley and Martin’s Guest Opinion, at least as important as the key word (acronym, actually) missing from that great speech by John Edwards I noted earlier.

And that word is sprawl; as noted here, Cawley and Martin have preserved 10,000 acres of open space through bond issues over the last 10 years, but have approved 2834,000 over the last 6 years for commercial development.

And I’m also not surprised that, in their Guest Opinion today, Cawley and Martin didn’t mention their cozy relationship with the insurance company of Paist and Noe in Richboro, PA. As noted here, since 2000, George Komelasky of P&N made contributions to Republican political campaigns within 48 hours after receiving a contract from the commissioners. In return, Komelasky’s firm received contracts worth $9.2 million from Martin and Cawley; P&N received more than $1.2 million in insurance premiums from Bucks County government on the same day it made contributions to county officials (here).

And Cawley and Martin also failed to tell us today about their relationship with County Solicitor Guy Matthews, who gave $16,215 to the Bucks County GOP. In return, Cawley and Martin increased his salary from $74,954 to $105,000 per year on January 9, 2006 (this came from Bucks County commissioner meeting minutes and campaign finance reports provided by the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee).

Now I’ll grant you that Matthews is a lawyer and I’m just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but I’m also a taxpayer in these parts, and that kind of a raise on my dime doesn’t make me happy.

And on top of that, Matthews got another raise on July 9, 2006 to $108,150, preceding another Matthews donation to the Republican Party of $2,795 (sourcing the same as the other information on Matthews).

All of these shenanigans contribute to higher property taxes; the county budget has risen $109.7 million since 2002, more than $47 million in the last two years. And even though the Courier Times pointed out today that both sides are charging each other with high taxation as I mentioned, I’ll just state that the Doylestown Intelligencer dated 11/2/06 noted that Charley Martin voted to raise property taxes 46% since 2001 (I have no other info at the moment; if anyone can refute that, be my guest – I have bigger issues with Cawley and Martin, or I wouldn’t be taking the time to post about this).

Finally, I want to highlight this excerpt from the August 2, 2007 Courier Times story by Jenna Portnoy (from the story about Diane and Steve calling for county records to be published online)…

Marseglia and Santarsiero requested two years' worth of county minutes and will post them online at bucksvictory.com, along with the comprehensive annual financial report. The controller's office issues the approximately 150-page report every summer. The most recent one on the county's Web site is from 2003.

Marseglia said hurdles to easily obtaining the documents reflect on the commissioners' performance.

“Are they just bad managers? Do they not know how to do their jobs? Or is there something they're trying to hide?” she asked.

Martin said the absence of documents online has nothing to do with the county's desire to be open and honest.

“They're really reaching deep if they're looking at our Web site,” he said.
And we’re having a difficult time because of all the muck created by you and Cawley, Charley. But I have no doubt that Steve and Diane will get through all of it on our behalf.

And to help Diane and Steve accomplish that next Tuesday, click here.

And by the way, I forgot to note earlier the boondoggle created by Martin and Cawley when they decided to purchase the Danaher touch screen voting machines for Bucks County; Madeline Rawley of the Coalition for Voting Integrity has more here.

A Message (Mainly) For The Edwards Campaign

Aside from “reporting” on an anatomically correct model of Jesus appearing in someone’s bed and the new, improved design of miniature toy cars in time for holiday shopping (God, I don’t even want to deal with that yet), CNN bothered to inform us that the candidates from the Democratic Party seeking the nomination to run for president have arrived in these parts for another debate tonight.

And with that in mind, I want to point out that John Edwards gave another terrific speech yesterday in New Hampshire, hitting on all of the important issues of the campaign (you can read it here; it’s truly great, stirring stuff).

Every issue, that is, except one; I did a text search for FISA, and couldn’t find anything.

And that is sad.

Yes, I know the person who owns this issue now, and rightly so, is Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. And it is also a fair reward that his campaign has gotten a huge shot in the arm over it.

But even though Dodd has hit on what is for me personally, aside from the war, the most important issue facing us of many important issues (health care is third, but not by much), I’m sure that, if I were to ask Dodd about it directly, he would say that this issue is owned truly by all Americans (certainly all Democrats and supporters of Democratic candidates, as well as other U.S. citizens regardless of political affiliation – I would include Republican supporters and their candidates too because that statement covers them also, but unfortunately, they’re apparently too busy letting demagogues frighten them and actually taking people like Fred Thompson seriously to join the fight with us).

And John Edwards and the other Democratic candidates should stand up and say that, though they may not agree with Dodd on other issues, they sure as hell are with him on this fight (and to get an idea of Dodd’s newfound clout because of his brave stand, consider the fact that Little Timmeh Russert thought Dodd was suddenly important enough to invite him on his little Sunday morning gab fest so he could pretend to be nice and then try to bust Dodd’s kneecaps for speaking out against the preznit).

Also concerning the Edwards campaign, I should point out the fact that he has received numerous endorsements from the Latino and LGBT communities (here and here; in addition to standing with Dodd, he should play up this support also as part of an “Act 2” to this campaign that I haven’t seen yet, though I think “Act 1” has been great; partly my fault too I guess because I didn’t mention it earlier myself).

One more note; former Senator John, do me a favor and forget about taking pot shots at Hillary Clinton, OK? Even though some are deserved, particularly on her vote for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, overplaying that hand just ends up generating more focus on her, and that’s the last thing you need at this point. As I said, you need an “Act 2” that expands on the vision of “Act 1,” and nobody likes a whiner.

This is actually a pivotal moment for the Edwards campaign, and I’m sure he realizes that; not only is Dodd ascendant, but the Obama campaign is stuck over this weird stumble on Donnie McClurkin (so…replacing a black bigot with a white gay Southern preacher is supposed to be a counterbalance? This is a “duuh” moment worthy of Frederick of Hollywood, not a presidential candidate endorsed by Patrick Murphy, among others. And suddenly refocusing on removing the cap on earnings subject to Social Security withholding, while a good position, is the wrong way to deflect criticism and actually trivializes a good move on another important issue).

And with Dodd now leading the opposition to the nomination of Mike Mukasey for AG (and I had a feeling that someone would stand up against him since he seemed to indicate that Dubya could be above the law, as well as the fact that Mukasey had trouble with the fact that waterboarding is actually, truly and for real, torture), the Connecticut senator has now taken the lead on another critical issue reflecting the administration of justice in this country (to be fair, though, Obama has joined that fight also).

So there are a few challenges facing the Edwards campaign, though I believe they can be overcome (and another reason to forget about HRC is that our corporate media has already pronounced her the winner, though given their abominable track record – a big part of the reason why we face so many problems in this country – I wouldn’t concern myself with it; Edwards should be true to himself and his campaign first and foremost as he has been, showing courage and vision throughout, and hold his head high regardless of the outcome).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Videos

Eve 6 ("Tongue Tied"; yes, that's half of "TomKat" - the only video for this band where embedding was allowed)...



...and 40 years ago today, the musical "Hair" opened on Broadway (here's the title song by the Cowsills with another homemade video for accompaniment).

Today's News For White People

(I haven’t used this pic for a little while, and I’ve been looking for an opportunity, so…).

Dick Polman recently posted the following here at his site, “The American Debate”…

White guys, who compose roughly 36 percent of the electorate, are potentially a major impediment for the party seeking to recapture the White House in 2008 - as they have plagued Democrats in virtually every presidential election since 1968. Yet you may not have heard much about this, because, in our political discourse, "gender gap" is typically defined as the GOP's chronic inability to win the women's vote.

Considering the havoc white guys have wreaked on the Democrats' presidential prospects over the last 40 years, it's clear that the white-guy gap deserves equal time - and that Democrats would be foolish to assume they can win decisively in 2008, or win at all, simply by maximizing their appeal to female voters.

The stats speak for themselves: In 2004, John Kerry, who lost a tight race, attracted only 37 percent of the white guys; in 2000, Al Gore, who lost an even tighter race, won 35 percent; in 1988, Mike Dukakis won 35 percent; in 1980, President Carter won 32 percent; in 1984, Walter Mondale won 31 percent; in 1972, George McGovern won 31 percent; in 1968, Hubert Humphrey, who lost a tight race, won 33 percent. Not even the rare winners - Carter in 1976, Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 - managed to craft white-guy majorities. Clinton never even broke 40 percent.



I'm…persuaded by political commentator David Paul Kuhn, whose new book, The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma, argues that white-guy clout remains "the most durable reality of American politics."
Reading this post from Polman reminds me once again how glad I am that I no longer subscribe to the Inky. This is just more meta data and reframing that has nothing to do with the issues that matter (and again, I’m assuming all of these numbers are accurate; as far as I’m concerned, life is short and I’m not going to waste my time checking up on an avalanche of pointless statistics).

However, regarding Kuhn, I should note that he’s an old hand at spinning the “divided Democrats” yarn between the “moderate, anti-abortion wing” and the “liberal, ant-war wing” (as noted here; h/t Atrios). Yes, to a point, the Dems are divided (as are the Repugs), but not in this fashion.

More to the point, though, is this fine post from DemFromCT at The Daily Kos which notes the growing divide between the white vote and the evangelicals (funny in a way that the fine piece by David D. Kirkpatrick cited in the post appeared in the New York Times magazine the same day as Polman’s talking point rehash appeared in the Inky)…

Today the president’s support among evangelicals, still among his most loyal constituents, has crumbled. Once close to 90 percent, the president’s approval rating among white evangelicals has fallen to a recent low below 45 percent, according to polls by the Pew Research Center. White evangelicals under 30 — the future of the church — were once Bush’s biggest fans; now they are less supportive than their elders. And the dissatisfaction extends beyond Bush. For the first time in many years, white evangelical identification with the Republican Party has dipped below 50 percent, with the sharpest falloff again among the young, according to John C. Green, a senior fellow at Pew and an expert on religion and politics. (The defectors by and large say they’ve become independents, not Democrats, according to the polls.)
True, but independents are trending Democratic versus Republican (though I’m sure we can expect a column from Polman any day now about how this is still “good news for the GOP”).

Dubya Is All Wet, Again

As we know, President Photo Op made a bee line to California last week to get in the way of the fire prevention effort, and in his quest to somehow make himself and FEMA look competent on this occasion, as opposed to their horrific ineptitude that is, to date, the enduring legacy of Hurricane Katrina, he said the following (from this story on Saturday)…

Yet the president drew the contrast on Thursday in California when, appearing with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, he said, “It makes a significant difference when you have somebody in the Statehouse willing to take the lead.” The remark was widely viewed as a veiled swipe at Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Louisiana Democrat, who says she resents it.
Another typical cheap shot from President Brainless; yes, there were failures on all levels of government when Katrina hit, but a life form with a speck of humility would know that and thus realize the best thing to do is to shut his pie hole.

And so, if Dumbya has sounded off, then leave it to his minions to chime in also (including this excerpt featuring a former adviser named Pete Wehner, and why the Times feels that it’s necessary to quote Rich Lowry and thus give him a free plug is beyond my understanding)…

Bush administration officials have long believed that if Ms. Blanco had immediately allowed the federal government to assume control of the military response in Louisiana, the outcome would have been different. That debate is playing out again and getting caught up in state politics.

With the election last week of Representative Bobby Jindal, a Republican, to succeed Ms. Blanco, who did not seek re-election, Bush administration allies argue that the people of that state have rendered their own judgment.

There’s a reason she’s former Governor Blanco,” said Mr. Wehner, the former Bush adviser, who is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. “It’s not an effort to shift blame, because the federal government made mistakes, too. But I think with the distance of time and history, the truth will emerge, and the truth is that it was a massive failure at the state and local level.”
OK, now that we’ve dispensed with fantasy time, let’s revisit this post and consider the following…

  • In its first fiscal budget from April 2001, the Bush Administration cut $270 million in disaster relief programs.


  • It proposed a $71.2 million reduction in federal funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for fiscal year 2006 (the article providing this information was dated June 6, 2005).


  • Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour led a successful effort to squash new regulations on CO2 emissions in 2001, as noted by Robert Kennedy in the linked Rolling Stone article (in case you believe the climate crisis played a part in Katrina, which I do).


  • Another linked Baltimore Sun article describes the demoralization of FEMA under Bushco and Mike Brown due to favoritism, incompetence, and the fact that it was rolled under DHS and Chertoff.


  • Also, Harry Shearer of HuffPo notes here that the Army Corps of Engineers "hurricane protection project" has been wracked for years with design and construction flaws that proved catastrophic (and that means that this didn’t fall under Bushco in its entirety, but part of it did).
  • And as noted from this link, here is how the Preznit responded in a speech on Thursday September 1, 2005…

    "George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end."
    And lest we forget, Arianna Huffington reminds us here of Dubya’s “flyover” moment on Wednesday August 31st, two days after Katrina hit.

    Yep, he doesn’t have a damn thing to act cocky about – as usual – given the contrast between the California fires and Katrina (or, as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin put it questionably, “a paper cut versus an amputation”).

    And from the water to the air, we have the following from the Bucks County Courier Times on Saturday (in its “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” section - a "Thumbs Down" offered here)…

    To the federal government for withholding information about air travel safety because officials fear it would upset travelers.

    NASA recently conducted a survey of pilots that revealed that near-collisions, runway interference and other safety problems occur much more than previously thought, according to an individual close to the survey who spoke on the condition of anonymity. However, the results are being kept under wraps since they could “materially affect public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers…”

    Love that “and the commercial welfare of” line, don’t you? Sounds like code for “We don’t want you to know how much danger you could be in because it might hurt the airline industry.” At least this time federal officials are being transparent about their misguided motivations.
    It never ceases to amaze me how a media outlet of one type or another that is inherently Repug-friendly (with notable exceptions, such as the C-T’s endorsement of Patrick Murphy last year) professes surprise when it realizes that, my God, these people don’t govern well because they don’t like government!

    Also, I don’t know if anyone besides me noticed, but the new work rules implemented under Dubya’s FAA for the air traffic controllers has had the effect of making many more of them retire than expected as of September 30th, as noted here (OK, on cue, Bushco – “no one could have foreseen this…”).

    Hmmm, I seem to recall another Oval Office Repug who had trouble with air traffic controllers; guess this is where Dubya got the idea to mess around with these people, huh?

    Nothing like anxiety at 30,000-plus feet, is there?

    Another Reason To Detest Ed Snider

    (Snider is the chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, let’s not forget.)

    I guess it’s appropriate that I should post today about a matter involving an Internet service provider, since I continue to deal with the consequences of connectivity that can best be described as moving at a glacial speed (slightly better over the last hour or so, though).

    This post from Timothy Karr at HuffPo tells us that Comcast has been “throttling” their Internet subscribers in the following manner (from an embedded Save The Internet post)…

    Service providers often slow down some types of traffic to manage flow, but Comcast is actually blocking completed files that users upload and try to share with another user. (For a detailed explanation of how this happens, visit Susan Crawford's blog.)

    This practice underscores the need for clear laws ensuring an open and neutral Internet.

    Save the Internet partner
    Public Knowledge says there is a right and a wrong way to manage traffic: “The right way is to let consumers know how much bandwidth they can use, as companies in other parts of the world do. The wrong way is to take control of a consumer’s computer to throttle their use of the network that Comcast simply doesn’t like.”
    And speaking of Internet users in other parts of the world, Art Brodsky of HuffPo tells us the following from here…

    In August, my wife and I went to Jasper, Alberta, a little town in the northern part of Jasper National Park. One morning, we had breakfast with a couple we had met in an excursion around the area. They are from Derby (pronounced Darby), a city of about 233,000 located in the center of England, far from London.

    The discussion got around to the question, "What do you do?" For the next 45 minutes or so, my wife Liz, a systems architect for IBM, and the English husband, an engineer, and his wife, an Information Technology instructor, had a lively discussion of Service Oriented Architecture, data modeling, data warehousing and the like. I wanted to know what kind of Internet connection he had.

    It was a difficult choice, he and his wife said, because there were so many options. He had to make up a spreadsheet to figure out which service was best. Let us pause and consider this concept.

    This U.K. consumer did something not one U.S. consumer can do. This broadband consumer in the U.K. has so many options - 59 Internet Service Providers that he needed a spreadsheet to figure them out. Here in the U.S., a similar customer might have two - the telephone company and cable company.

    The contrast is staggering: a complex spreadsheet with 59 choices and several features for each vs. pre-kindergarten math of counting to two. The evidence is clear. From the consumer point of view, our Internet policies are a failure and a disgrace.
    Adherence to the principle of Net Neutrality (as noted here) would resolve most, if not all, of these difficulties. And here are the consequences if we ultimately lose Net Neutrality (from the link)…

    The consequences of a world without Net Neutrality would be devastating. Innovation would be stifled, competition limited, and access to information restricted. Consumer choice and the free market would be sacrificed to the interests of a few corporate executives.

    On the Internet, consumers are in ultimate control — deciding between content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who owns the network. There's no middleman. But without Net Neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu.

    The free and open Internet brings with it the revolutionary possibility that any Internet site could have the reach of a TV or radio station. The loss of Net Neutrality would end this unparalleled opportunity for freedom of expression.

    The Internet has always been driven by innovation. Web sites and services succeeded or failed on their own merit. Without Net Neutrality, decisions now made collectively by millions of users will be made in corporate boardrooms. The choice we face now is whether we can choose the content and services we want, or whether the broadband barons will choose for us.
    Brodsky’s fine post lays bare the notion that our service providers ultimately care about the free flow of information and preservation of open systems necessary to encourage Internet development at the expense of profit. Worse, “throttling” is (I would argue) one tool in their arsenal to intrude on our usage and acquire information in a manner that is typical of their complicity with the Bush regime on unwarranted spying (as noted here in this fine New York Times editorial today by the novelist Studs Terkel).

    Net Neutrality legislation is needed to be sure, but Brodksy outlines very well the battle plan of the telcos and the other ISPs to try and defeat it…

    Accomplishing consumer choice for the Internet will be the hard part. The telephone and cable companies will spend millions to keep competition from flourishing. They will employ their in-house lobbyists and their contract lobbyists. They will deploy their fake support groups. They will trot out the racial and ethnic interest groups, which take the company money while betraying their constituencies. They will gin up dozens of papers from bought-and-paid-for academics and economists. They will contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to Congressional supporters. If they lose in Congress, they will fight in the courts and through the underbrush of implementing the FCC rules implementing a law.
    And though I’m picking on Comcast here, Verizon is no better (the other ISP alternative in these parts). Any telco that would block text messages on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America (as noted in this link to a post about Senate Dem Byron Dorgan and Repug Olympia Snowe’s calls for hearings into the actions of AT&T and Verizon) is not to be trusted.

    Actually, though, if I were the Internet provider in question in the Karr post, I wouldn’t be concerned with whether or not inhibiting the choices of its Internet users is such a “Comcastic” idea. I’d be more concerned with the fact that the company lost 65,000 Internet subscribers last quarter.

    Gotta Get Those Internet Tubes Fixed

    Lots of connectivity issues which havent been resolved from Friday, believe it or not, but Im working on it not sure about posting activity, but Ill do what I can.