Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Videos

The White Stripes ("You Don't Know What Love Is" - I do so! I hope they didn't "break the bank" filming this, by the way)...



...Happy Birthday to Joe Leeway of The Thompson Twins ("Lay Your Hands On Me")...



...Happy Birthday also on Sunday to the one and only Graham Parker ("Passion Is No Ordinary Word" from "Squeezing Out Sparks" in the '70s; this clip aired in '93 I believe - a ton of great songs of his to choose from)...



...and Happy Birthday tomorrow to Harry Rushakoff of Concrete Blonde ("Joey," featuring lead singer and bassist Johnette Napolitano).

A Milestone In Red State History

Oklahoma was established at the 46th state of the Union 100 years ago today, and as a tribute (?), here are the state's two senators in action.

First, that ecological scholar Jim Inhofe asks former Vice President Al Gore a question at the hearing on the climate crisis held earlier this year and then tries to cut Gore off from answering, earning an appropriate slap-down from chair Barbara Boxer (albeit a genteel one, since we're talking about the U.S. Senate and no Repug is trying to impeach a Dem president - and by the way, Babs, what's doing with that Senate Ethics Committee anyway?)



Next, we have Tom Coburn telling Tim Russert that, as a medical doctor, he can tell if someone is lying from their body language.



So congratulations, Oklahomans, and go out and paint the town red; just don't engage in any activity with minors or livestock that could be self-incriminating in a court of law. Just show your state pride for all to see.

(After watching those two yutzes, part of me wants us to contact Spain and ask it we could give it back.)

Kill And Kill Again, Smerky!

I’m extremely late with this post I know, but this CNN story about the Supreme Court halting the execution of a Florida child killer made me revisit the issue of the death penalty in this country (made even more timely by this Der Spiegel Online story today).

And Michael Smerconish provided this commercial for same that was published on HuffPo last Sunday, which believe it or not was set up in the Sunday Inquirer as kind of a rebuttal to fellow freeper Jonathan Last who actually opposes the death penalty.

Though I have had problems with Last, I have to admit that he made a principled argument in opposition here. He states, however, that “the only grounds on which an enduring argument can be made against capital punishment are moral grounds.”

On the contrary, however, this link to the Death Penalty Information Center page tells us that, for New Jersey alone, the death penalty “has cost taxpayers $253 million since 1983, a figure that is over and above the costs that would have been incurred had the state utilized a sentence of life without parole instead of death” (the article was written in 2005). I think that is a powerful argument in Last’s favor, with the cost being attributed primarily to prosecutor offices, public defender offices, courts, and correctional facilities, as noted in the article. So there is a financial argument to be made against it also.

As for Smerky, he tells us of a former University of Pennsylvania law professor named Stephen Schulhofer who taught a class Smerky once attended, with the prof opposing the death penalty (our intrepid columnist describes Schulhofer as someone “who looked as if he’d responded to Central Casting’s call for a liberal”; of course, if Schulhofer had been a conservative, he would have bullied anyone who disagreed with him and notified David Horowitz to scream about a disagreeing student's bias before handing over his/her transcript to Michelle Malkin so she could publish it on her web site, including as many personal details as possible).

And after belaboring the point that Smerky has “grown accustomed to the public ridicule that often accompanies my view” (I wonder if Harry Fawkes is done with that crying towel from a couple of days ago? I think Smerky needs it), the august Inky columnist tells us of a study conducted by Pepperdine University professors Roy Adler and Michael Summers that…

…(documents) a relationship between capital punishment and the future rate of homicide. When executions leveled off, the professors found, murders increased. And when executions increased, the number of people murdered dropped off. In a year-by-year analysis, Adler and Summers found that each execution was associated with 74 fewer murders the following year.
Sorry, but I’m not going to play this game. I’m not questioning the professors, but I think you can take statistics on this issue and twist them any way you want. Besides, I support the death penalty, wrong headed as that may be; I feel that I don’t have the right to tell a family that has suffered from violent crime that the perpetrator of that crime shouldn’t face that fate if that person is found guilty.

My problem isn’t with the existence of the death penalty, I should emphasize; it’s with the application.

Smerky also tells us that he shared the Pepperdine data with Mike Farrell, a leading advocate against the death penalty, who…

…dismissed it as "peddled" and part of an agenda: "It's a claim, it's a typical claim that comes up periodically, and it's been refuted generally. As is always the case, this hard data is analyzed by people that have a bias one way or the other."
Of course, this gives Smerky the chance to stick in a quote from the Pepperdine professors stating that they don’t have an agenda. Maybe so, but it would have been nice if Smerky had pointed out the following from Farrell (here)…

One of the slogans of the pro-death forces is finality, that we've got to have an end to the legal process. But they don't tell you that the reason capital punishment cases take so long is because of court-mandated appeals that were required by the Supreme Court in order to make the death penalty constitutional.

..

The International Commission of Jurists-an international body of judges and lawyers-examined the U.S. death penalty system and issued a very condemning report (in June 1997). One aspect was the politici¬zation of the system so that justices, judges, prosecutors who want to continue in office have to continue to service this pro-death mania. People who stand up and say this isn't right are voted out or chased out of office.
(See Cuomo, Mario on that last sentence, by the way.)

America is certainly a violent society by anybody's standard. There are twelve states that don't have the death penalty, and in those states the murder rate is lower than in the states that do have the death penalty.
Again, that information is from 1997 – if I can find anything more current, I’ll update this post.

Also worth noting is this regarding our friends up north (here)…

Contrary to predictions by death penalty supporters, the homicide rate in Canada did not increase after abolition in 1976. In fact, the Canadian murder rate declined slightly the following year (from 2.8 per 100,000 to 2.7). Over the next 20 years the homicide rate fluctuated (between 2.2 and 2.8 per 100,000), but the general trend was clearly downwards. It reached a 30-year low in 1995 (1.98) -- the fourth consecutive year-to-year decrease and a full one-third lower than in the year before abolition. In 1998, the homicide rate dipped below 1.9 per 100,000, the lowest rate since the 1960s.
And regarding the matter of the application of the death penalty in this country, tying back to the CNN story about murderer Mark Dean Schwab, it looks as if other states are having similar problems as Florida (here)…

In 2005, Michael Angelo Morales filed suit alleging California’s lethal injection protocol put him at risk of experiencing excruciating pain during his execution. In hearings held in February and September 2006, testimony and execution logs revealed that at least six prisoners’ chests were moving up and down long after the anesthetic drug was administered – suggesting they had not been properly anesthetized. If the prisoners were not sufficiently anesthetized – as the chest movements suggest – they may have felt themselves suffocating from the pancuronium bromide, or they may have felt their veins burning up as the potassium chloride coursed to their hearts. California regulations did not require a determination of the prisoner’s level of anesthesia and consciousness before the second and third drugs were administered.

Information on botched and problematic lethal injections in other states has also prompted other judges and public officials to question the three-drug lethal injection protocol. In July, a federal judge in Missouri suspended the state’s lethal injections after toxicology reports suggested some prisoners had been inadequately anesthetized before they were killed. In September, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds suspended lethal injections for all the state’s death row inmates because of discrepancies between the state’s lethal injection statute and its Department of Corrections lethal injection protocol. Earlier this year, a judge in North Carolina temporarily halted lethal injections after toxicology reports suggested prisoners may have been awake and suffering during their lethal injections. There are at least 41 lethal injection challenges currently in federal courts across the country.
And tying back to the Schwab story again...

Schwab's execution was to be the first in Florida since the botched execution of Angel Diaz on December 13. It took 34 minutes for Diaz to die -- twice as long as normal -- because the guards pushed the needles through his veins.
Why the hell are prison guards administering these lethal drugs as opposed to trained medical professionals?

In closing, allow me to quote from the Der Spiegel story I noted earlier…

Strange bedfellows were made as the United States sided with countries like Syria and Iran in the pro-death penalty camp.
Gee, I wonder if we’re using the death penalty injudiciously in a manner similar to that of regimes looked upon as pariahs by our government (and I personally include China in that category), to the point where we're so obsessed with payback that we don't realize it isn't the deterrent we think it is. Smerky?

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has instituted a de facto death-penalty moratorium. For all practical purposes, capital punishment is on life support.

Too bad.
Case closed.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (11/16/07)

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

Bush veto override. In a 361-54 vote, the House reached the two-thirds majority required to override President Bush's Nov. 2 veto of a bill authorizing $23.2 billion over 15 years for more than 900 Army Corps of Engineers water projects for purposes such as flood control, coastal protection, storm recovery and navigation. The Senate later followed suit and the bill became law.

A yes vote was to enact the bill (HR 1495).

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

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

Not voting: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.)
As important as this is, I can barely hide my disgust over the fact that this survived the veto from George W. Milhous Bush but SCHIP didn’t.

And Joe Pitts could have phone in this “No” vote – guess the Army Corps of Engineers will never need to work on projects in PA-16. How lucky can one Repug hammerhead U.S. congressional rep be?

Workplace discrimination. In a 235-184 vote, the House sent the Senate a bill to outlaw workplace discrimination based on an employee's sexual orientation. The bill protects the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals but not transsexuals. The bill exempts religious organizations, allowing them to continue to hire and fire based on one's religious beliefs, and also exempts the personnel practices of the military, businesses with 15 or fewer employees, and private membership clubs.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 3685).

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

Voting no: Pitts and Smith
This was the ENDA bill championed so passionately by Barney Frank of Massachusetts (don’t have to note the party, I’m sure). And apparently, there are no LGBT Americans in PA-16 either (and the otherwise moderate and intelligent Chris Smith does a somersault once more into wingnuttia on a “pro-life” issue).

Passage of the bill, weakened as it is, is still a watershed moment. Frank has promised to revisit some of the discrepancies noted here, and I for one believe him.

Peru trade agreement. The House approved, 285-132, a bill to implement a U.S.-Peru free-trade accord that requires Peru to meet certain labor and environmental standards. The agreement would lock in duty-free Peruvian access to U.S. markets while immediately lifting Peruvian duties on 80 percent of U.S. agricultural and consumer-product exports and 67 percent of U.S. farm exports.

A yes vote backed the measure (HR 3688).

Voting yes: Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Pitts, Saxton, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy and Smith.
Kudos to Patrick Murphy for doing the right thing (and Chris Smith returns to reality); I know this had been in the pipeline for a little while now and is probably the only trade bill that will get passed from this congress (Columbia, South Korea and Panama are the others, as noted here) but the people who will be affected most in this country know that “free” trade will never truly be free.

I’m surprised Allyson Schwartz didn’t realize that, and this may come back to haunt Admiral Joe, unfortunately.

2008 defense appropriations. The House approved, 400-15, the conference report on a partial military budget of $459.3 billion for fiscal 2008, up 10 percent from the comparable 2007 figure. Congress later will add Iraq and Afghanistan war funds to this appropriations bill.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted to approve the conference report (HR 3222).

Senate

Attorney General Mukasey. The Senate confirmed, in a 53-40 vote, Michael B. Mukasey as the 81st U.S. attorney general.

A yes vote was to confirm Mukasey.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).

Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.).
Good job by Casey to do the right thing here; also, please take note that the “60 votes needed for passage” rule doesn’t apply because there was no chance of the Repugs filibustering Casey (surprised no Dem did, to be honest with you, echoing Glenn Greenwald here), so the 60-vote requirement to break a Repug filibuster over legislation or an appointment that they don’t like doesn’t apply.

And as always, screw you, Arlen (and Carper should just make it official one day and become a Republican - kind of an important vote for Biden to miss here in pursuit of the Dem presidential nomination - must...resist...snark...).

This week, the House took up Iraq war funding and the Senate continued to debate a new five-year farm bill.

On A Holiday Wing And A Prayer

We all know that next week prior to Thanksgiving will mark the busiest travel period of the year. However, I should let you know that our government, and President George W. Milhous Bush in particular, is making every effort to ensure that our plane flights proceed smoothly and we all reach our loved ones in time to meet and greet one another on Turkey day, revive simmering hostilities, “table” them long enough to overeat, and then fall asleep in front of the TV while watching football.

Well, sorta.

This Inquirer story today (with the laughable headline of “President clearing way for air travel,” as if Dumbya is somehow reaching his mighty executive hand into the wild blue yonder to accomplish this stellar feat) tells us…

The most significant immediate change is that the Pentagon will open unused military airspace from Florida to Maine to create "a Thanksgiving express lane" for commercial airliners. It will be open next week Wednesday through Sunday, the busiest days of Thanksgiving travel.
I guess it was too much trouble to open this “express lane” prior to now so some airports could have tested it out by routing flights through it to “shake out the bugs.” But as it now, this will happen when the new airspace “goes live” next week. What fun.

Also…

Around Dec. 17, the FAA also plans to begin using some controversial new takeoff headings that will send planes departing Philadelphia over residential areas of Delaware County and South Jersey that do not hear much aircraft noise now, Peters said.

The plan to use those routings, part of a larger airspace redesign effort aimed at reducing delays in the New York and Philadelphia areas, has generated fierce opposition from residents of the affected areas. Delaware County and 10 other municipalities or groups have filed appeals to the FAA's decision to proceed with the plan.
What’s wrong with you complaining residents who will now be greatly impacted by increased noise pollution? Can’t you see that “President 24 Percent Mandate” is “clearing way for air travel” by ignoring your concerns even though you’ve used the proper channels to communicate them? U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

And get ready for this…

The president said other steps were under consideration to reduce crowded skies, such as charging airlines higher landing and takeoff fees at peak hours, and auctioning off landing and takeoff rights to the highest bidder.
I can just see Dubya at the podium now…”OK, what am I bid for international flights from Heathrow to O’Hare? Virgin? U.S. Airways? Southwest? Going once, going twice…”

And by the way, wait for it…

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters acknowledged that airlines would pass along to passengers some of the costs of the higher fees and penalties.
But of course they would. I mean, why should they have to bear the burden? It’s hard enough to cram everybody into coach elbow to elbow with the seat trays bouncing off our knees while showing us bad movies as it is, to say nothing of losing our luggage after we arrive at our destination.

Oy (and by the way, this tells you of some of the antics by Bushco against our air traffic controllers; between Dubya and The Sainted Ronnie R, why would they ever vote for a Repug presidential candidate?).

And before she departed, former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey raised the commercial pilot retirement age from 60 to 65, which earned the approval of Sen. Ted “Internet Inner Tubes” Stevens (and by the way, what’s going on with this investigation anyway?).

Update: Asked and answered by Atrios/Josh Marshall here...

Speaking of Blakey, she left her post in September, her five-year term as FAA Administrator having expired. The name I’ve heard to replace her is Bobby Sturgell, who apparently is acting administrator (makes me wonder why he isn’t in this story and Transportation Secretary Peters is quoted instead). Though I don’t trust anyone nominated by Bushco to head a department, I don’t know if this is an occasion to fight it out over someone who probably will leave once this regime happily departs as well.

Also, I don’t know what exactly is going on in the Senate over H.R. 2881, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007, but it really should have been allowed to proceed to a vote by now (and thus fall victim once more to Incurious George and his veto crayon).

Safe travels, everyone (seriously).

No More Curtain Calls For "BALCO Barry"

I really don’t want to devote much time to posting about Barry Bonds and the four-count perjury indictment handed down against him yesterday, but I’m only mentioning this to provide an opportunity to revisit this column about Bonds written by the late, great David Halberstam. As with many people of talent, the author spends a sizeable amount of effort here featuring himself (interesting though Halberstam’s life was), but what he writes about Bonds is typically dead-on accurate.

A Moment From The Debate Last Night

I'm not exactly sure why "the natives were restless" when John Edwards merely pointed out an inconsistency between what Senator Clinton said on two different occasions about the same issue, but I have a pretty good idea why Wolf "So Poor And So Black" (remember that one?) Blitzer was trying to hurry up Edwards and not let him finish what he was trying to say.

Anyway, I thought you'd like to take a look (and to help, click here).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday Videos

Happy Birthday to Chad Kroeger of Nickleback ("Someday"; so, uh, let me guess - this video is all some M. Night Shyamalan thing here, as in the person you think is dead really isn't but the other one is? Way too much to think about, but a good vid otherwise)...



...and Happy Birthday also to primo '60s pop diva Petula Clark ("Kiss Me Goodbye" accompanied by an album cover slide show - what a string of hits she had with one-time producer Tony Hatch).

For Your Viewing Pleasure

More "quality programming" from Fox, the electronic media equivalent of a peep show (or so I hear - ahem)...



...and this very cool video titled "We The People" was put together by Adam Klugman, actor Jack's son, and I found it at Brave New Films - many thanks (a little hard to hear, but every word is important).

No Faith In Politics

David D. Kirkpatrick of the New York Times wrote this today about Willard Mitt Romney’s 1968 ministry in Paris as a Mormon missionary, when he and other Americans faced often-irate French, angry with the U.S. over the Vietnam War (and I give Romney credit for making this sacrifice, more than that made by some of the other Repug candidates for president).

If you don’t mind, though, I’ll just skip ahead and answer the question of whether or not what Romney dealt with at this time somehow may have made him question our current quagmire in Iraq. I think it’s a reflection of Romney’s utter lack of curiosity or intellect that the answer is a resounding no; the only moment in Kirkpatrick’s story where you learn of any kind of emotional expression by The Mittster is as follows…

When (Romney) heard over a car radio in 1978 that the (Mormon) church would offer blacks full membership, he said, he pulled over and cried.
Gee gosh, Mitt, what a shame that everyone in your faith isn’t as lily white as you.

And also in today’s edition of the Times, we learn here that…

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops approved principles Wednesday intended to guide Catholics in choosing whom to vote for but leaving the door open for them to back candidates who support abortion rights.
Well, well, well now, isn’t that just sooo con-vee-nient for Rudy! This now provides cover for the Catholic Church to embrace “America’s Mayor” over some godless liberal Democrat. I guess this is a sign that Benny won’t try to interfere with the presidential election next year as he did in 2004, since there is still some question as to whether or not Rudy will get the nod.

Actually, though, were Ron Paul to run against a Dem for the White House (and once more people, I’m sorry, but that’s not going to happen), that would solve the Church’s abortion problem, since Paul is rabidly pro-life (indeed, that’s one of the few issues where he is of one mind with the neocons).

That being said, though, I don’t see any statement from a group of clerics of one denomination or another outweighing voter concerns over the towering issues in this election (the war and the economy neck-and-neck along with the intrusions of our government and assault on our freedoms, to say nothing of the environment).

I think it’s safe to say that, as a group, Catholics such as your humble narrator who are decidedly progressive and will never vote for a Republican in a national election again (probably any election at this point) are now ascendant to the point where we properly own issues defined as “moral” and control the dialogue throughout much of this country (E.J. Dionne has some thoughts on that here).

And with that clout, what we should tell everyone with ears to hear is that faith has very little to do with politics, and one should almost always be excluded from dialogue about the other (and I wonder if The Mittster would have a good cry over that?).

Don't Flip On SCHIP, Dems!

Writer Robert Pear of the New York Times tells us here about eight Democratic senators who have communicated to Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer in the House (the Dem leadership, of course) not to concoct any kind of a “compromise” on SCHIP that limits the rights of states to cover parents along with their kids.

My mind boggles as to why the hell the Democrats in the House would even imagine that such a “compromise” would be palatable to the vast majority of Americans who have firmly decided that fully funding SCHIP in the legislation they have already passed is the right thing to do, as opposed to Dubya and the Repugs who are completely and utterly wrong to oppose such legislation.

And if Pelosi and Hoyer want to hear from someone else in Congress on this (don’t know why they should have to, though), then read this…

“In my home State of Arizona, our SCHIP program, KidsCare, was developed to provide low income children with medical, dental, and vision coverage. KidsCare has successfully enrolled almost 50,000 uninsured children and is anticipating reaching 60,000 by FY 2004. When Arizona found that children are more likely to receive health care if their parents also have access, and the flexibility of SCHIP enabled Arizona to expand its program. Last October Arizona began covering not just children, but also their parents. Arizona now provides health coverage to almost 8,000 uninsured parents. Although a substantial number of eligible children and parents still need coverage, I believe this relatively young program is nothing short of a success.”
If John McCain were to remind everyone of these words he spoke in 2003, I can guarantee you that this would revive his presidential campaign to the point where he would once more challenge pretenders Rudy Giuliani and Willard Mitt Romney (maybe even Ron Paul also), and at the very least, it would offset clumsy moments like this one.

Update: And by the way, speaking of SCHIP, I apologize for inflicting this latest blather from Cokie and Steve Roberts on you, but I must here, particularly the following...

Democrats must also shoulder part of the blame (for the SCHIP veto). Many don’t want a bill that Republicans can support or that Bush can sign. They see health care for kids as a winning issue next year and are already running ads against vulnerable Republicans, slamming them for sticking with the president.

The last thing Democrats want is a Rose Garden ceremony where Bush gets to burnish his legacy and GOP lawmakers get to share credit for an issue that appeals strongly to a key voting group, married moms.
This is total propaganda. I know this may be hard for self-styled pundits like the Robertses to believe, but the congressional Democrats (along with many Republicans) are actually trying to do what’s best for our kids here.

There is no proof whatsoever here from the Robertses concerning these two prior paragraphs. None. Yes, the Dems would want to take a certain measure of credit…and why would they not be entitled to that?

Also, Robertses, regarding the line in your editorial about "hardliners on both sides who would much rather have a political issue than a practical accomplishment," I'll await word on who the Dem "hardliners" are.

Now for some reality; the SCHIP bill that was vetoed by President George W. Milhous Bush is a bipartisan bill, architected chiefly in the Senate by Repugs Charles Grassley and Orrin Hatch along with Dem Max Baucus. Even if the Dems were to try and take credit for the bill in the manner described by the Robertses, it would be disingenuous in the extreme and they would be called on it by everybody, including yours truly, and deservedly so.

Bad Portents On Obama-Rama

(Another odd posting day...)

I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously wondering where the Democratic presidential campaign of Barack Obama is going these days.

And I’m not just saying this because I support John Edwards; I respect Senator Obama very much for a variety of reasons, but this tells you that he recently pronounced the health care initiatives of the Clinton Administration (of which Hillary was a big part, of course) as “doomed by secrecy,” and that is why related legislation was never passed or signed into law.

Now I know that the source I linked to here is the tabloid New York Sun, which isn’t exactly going to give the Dems a fair shake. However, we’re talking about a quote here, not some subjective, negative freeper spin.

I would ask that Senator Obama read this Wikipedia article on the Clinton health care plan, specifically the following…

Starting on September 28, 1993, Hillary Clinton appeared for several days of testimony before five congressional committees on health care.[3] Opponents of the bill organized against it before it was presented to the Democratic-controlled Congress on November 20, 1993.[3] The bill was a complex proposal running more than 1,000 pages, the core element of which was an enforced mandate for employers to provide health insurance coverage to all of their employees through competitive but closely-regulated health maintenance organizations (HMOs). The full text of the November 20 bill (the "Health Security Act") is available online.[10]

Conservatives, libertarians, and the insurance industry staged a campaign against the "Health Security" plan and criticized it as being overly bureaucratic and restrictive of patient choice.[11] The effort included extensive advertising criticizing the plan, including the famous Harry and Louise ad paid for by the Health Insurance Association of America, which depicted a middle-class couple despairing over the plan's supposed complex, bureaucratic nature.[4][12] Time, CBS News, CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor ran stories questioning whether there really was a health-care crisis.[13]
The article goes on to state how the otherwise formidable Daniel Patrick Moynihan (whose one-time seat in the Senate HRC now occupies) savaged the proposal, with the party thus scattering after taking that lead, to the point where a compromise by Senator George Mitchell was defeated in 1994.

Am I going to tell you that Hillary managed the task force assigned to come up with this legislation as expertly as she could have? No. Am I going to argue instead that maybe all the groups that attacked her in response to her testimony could have exerted a bare minimum of effort to work with her and try to hash out the issues? Yes.

And for the Obama campaign to state that the Clinton health care initiative was “doomed by secrecy” plays into the same false narrative that helped derail the plan to begin with.

Also regarding Obama, we have none other than “Genghis” Cohen of the New York Times extolling his virtues today merely on the basis that “he is the candidate who most mirrors the 21st-century world.”

This would be a nice tribute if it were to come from anyone else besides “concern troll” Cohen; one tipoff is that he refers to the presidential candidate as “Barack Hussein Obama.” Another is the fact that Cohen cites such noted “progressives” as Andrew Sullivan and Michael Ignatieff as supporters of Obama; Sullivan’s lack of cred has been well documented by Atrios, among others, and Ignatieff is a one-time Iraq hawk who has now apparently recanted (the subject of which being a positively hilarious post by David Rees at HuffPo here, well worth your time if you can spare a few minutes).

And another tip that Cohen is “dealing from the bottom of the deck” comes from the following excerpt…

“Mexicans want evidence that things are shifting, which means the Democrats, and of course a woman like Hillary Clinton, or a black like Obama, would signal a huge cultural change,” said Jorge Castañeda, a former foreign minister.

“My sense is the symbolism in Mexico of a dark-skinned American president would be enormous. We’ve got female leaders now in Latin America — in Chile, in Argentina. But the idea of a U.S. leader who looks the way the world looks as seen from Mexico is revolutionary.”

Of course, Mexicans aren’t electing the president. Nor are Canadians, even if Michael Moore thinks they should.
Ha ha ha, Roger. Of course, if someone really wants a laugh, they can read about your previous attempts at “journalism” for the Times here, here and here.

Getting back to Senator Obama, part of me thinks it’s good that he’s going through these stumbles in his campaign, since it is bound to help John Edwards.

But it’s bad for the party when such a visionary presence muffs the Donnie McClurkin fiasco, then resuscitates the supposed Social Security crisis, and now takes a page from the RNC playbook in an attempt at one-upsmanship over a primary opponent, thus doing more damage to his campaign than episodes noted here ever could.

Update 11/16/07: What Krugman sez...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Moby ("That's When I Reached For My Revolver"- easy now)...



...and Happy Birthday to Brian Yale of Matchbox Twenty ("If You're Gone" - lip synch seems to be off, but still a good song).

Repug Presidential Lowlights

Dr. Frank Newport, Editor-In-Chief of The Gallup Poll, gives us the latest numbers on George W. Milhous Bush (from Brave New Films)...



...and Jackie and Dunlap have a question for all of the Repug presidential candidates out there (love the Thompson dig, by the way).

The Answer To Our Prayers?

Did you know that President George W. Milhous Bush “already has begun withdrawing some troops” from Iraq?

Happy, happy day!

I mean, it must be true, right? Anne Flaherty of the AP tells us so here.

Of course, there’s no corroboration at all. No specifics. No quote attribution. No approximate amount of troops withdrawn within a given timeframe, or what that timeframe might be. No divisions or regiments named as part of the withdrawal.

Nothing, only what I just pointed out.

And that piece of propaganda made its way into the story anyway.

I just thought you’d like to know.

And by the way, AP, good job proofreading too.

Wednesday Mashup (11/14/07)

I don’t really know what to do with this stuff, so here it is…

  • So Rudy! has offered to mediate the strike of the WGA in Hollywood, has he? Wow. I mean, it’s so beyond the realm of possibility that Giuliani is tossing out this moronic sound bite to the lap dog New York Sun to get out of the spotlight from Judith Regan’s claim in her lawsuit that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp wanted her to lie to protect him, isn’t it?

    Well, at least Rudy! won’t have to worry about David Broder investigating his personal life, as noted here; how magnanimous of The Dean Of Beltway Journalism to spare Rudy! the same fate he meted out to the Clintons.

    And by the way (and this is a minor point, but I have to note it), since Michael Bloomberg is the mayor of New York City now, isn’t it incredibly wrong to refer to Rudy as “Mayor Giuliani,” as Gerstein does in the Sun story (where he only refers to it as “the writer’s strike,” though I realize that’s what it is, and mentions the people who have been put out of work – I know it’s waaay too much to ask for a report as to why the WGA is actually on strike).


  • File this under “Paybacks Are Real-Lee A Bitch” (probably would have used that as a post title), but Lee Bollinger of Columbia University is getting some “push back” over his adolescent behavior towards Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when the Iranian president appeared at the school recently.

    As noted in this story…

    Mr. Bollinger came under intense attack in September when Columbia invited the Iranian president, who has aroused strong passions by confronting the West and denying the Holocaust. Mr. Bollinger defended the invitation, then introduced the Iranian leader with a 10-minute verbal assault.

    Unhappiness with that confrontation has simmered on campus ever since, and many professors said it provided the main impetus for the faculty petition.

    “I think for most people the Ahmadinejad incident was an occasion that brought out a lot of discomfort,” said Wayne Proudfoot, a religion professor. “It seemed clear to me that the language he used in introducing Ahmadinejad was intended to, and had the effect of, placating, appeasing and being a message to conservative critics.”
    Memo to Bollinger: Unless you’re one of them yourself, you will never make the freepers happy, so don’t even try. It will only lead to ruin.


  • And finally, Happy Birthday to Our Gal Condi Rice (a prior post in the appropriate spirit appears here).
  • Help Our Bridge Team "Scotch" The "Palooka"

    (The quoted terms both are part of the lexicon of the card game of bridge, as noted here.)

    It seems that the life form who once proclaimed that he wanted to be “a uniter, not a divider” has managed to create division in everything Americans do in this country as well as overseas, and that poisoned atmosphere is everywhere.

    Yes, I know this is “department of the obvious” stuff here, but it’s the only reaction I have in response to this story that appeared in (of all places) the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times today….

    …in a fight reminiscent of the brouhaha over an anti-Bush statement by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks in 2003, a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.

    At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Bush” (that was held up at the same time some team members were singing along to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and waving American flags).

    By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”
    “Treason” and “sedition” (what century is this, anyway?) for coming up with a little impromptu sign protesting the preznit, something as innocent as anyone can imagine with six little words on it, none of them profane?

    This is pathetic off the scale. I honestly can’t think of anything to say beyond that.

    “This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”

    Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.

    Ms. Martel said the action by the team, which had won the Venice Cup, the women’s title, at the Shanghai event, could cost the federation corporate sponsors.
    A-HA! (and not talking about the '80s group, of course)..See? The rights of corporations trump free speech always. We all know that from The Two Minutes Hate, don’t we? And Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go use my credits to buy some Victory Gin. Doubleplusgood, that!

    Dear God…

    So what exactly spurred this moment of rebellion, an acknowledgement to the world that there are still people in America who respect habeas corpus for all, who don’t believe in unilateral imperialism as a means of solving problems and who think that torture is wrong (I wish I could find the post, written by Kagro X I believe, that explained how ridiculous it is that we’re even having a discussion about someone’s position or policy on torture in this country – as if there could be a gray area somehow – other than to state categorically that torture is wrong!)

    How dare these women bridge players act as independent, free thinking human beings with a conscience! Exactly what on earth could have prompted this action (which surely emboldens the terrorists even as we speak)?

    “What we were trying to say, not to Americans but to our friends from other countries, was that we understand that they are questioning and critical of what our country is doing these days, and we want you to know that we, too, are critical,” (Gail) Greenberg (the team’s non-playing captain and winner of 11 world championships) said, stressing that she was speaking for herself and not her six teammates.

    The controversy has gone global, with the French team offering support for its American counterparts.

    “By trying to address these issues in a nonviolent, nonthreatening and lighthearted manner,” the French team wrote in by e-mail to the federation’s board and others, “you were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality.”

    The proposed sanctions would hurt the team’s playing members financially. “I earn my living from bridge, and a substantial part of that from being hired to compete in high-level competitions,” Debbie Rosenberg, a team member, said. “So being barred would directly affect much of my ability to earn a living.”



    “There was a lot of anti-Bush feeling, questioning of our Iraq policy and about torture,” Greenberg said. “I can’t tell you it was an overwhelming amount, but there were several specific comments, and there wasn’t the same warmth you usually feel at these events.”



    “Freedom to express dissent against our leaders has traditionally been a core American value,” Rosenberg wrote by e-mail. “Unfortunately, the Bush brand of patriotism, where criticizing Bush means you are a traitor, seems to have penetrated a significant minority of U.S. bridge players.”
    And wait until you get a load of what the United States Bridge Federation has in mind for the bridge players as a punishment (and kudos to the French players, by the way)…

    The federation has proposed a settlement to Ms. Greenberg and the three other players, Jill Levin, Irina Levitina and Ms. Rosenberg, who have not made any mollifying statements.

    It calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service “that furthers the interests of organized bridge”; and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer.

    It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”

    Alan Falk, a lawyer for the federation, wrote the four team members on Nov. 6, “I am instructed to press for greater sanction against anyone who rejects this compromise offer.”
    Nice - and on top of all of this…

    Many of those offended by the sign do not consider the expressions of regret sufficient. “I think an apology is kind of specious,” said Jim Kirkham, who has played in several bridge championships. “It’s not that I don’t forgive them, but I still think they should be punished.”
    I’m surprised Kirkham and the USBF aren’t going to burn the women at the stake or stick bamboo shoots under their fingernails (or better yet, why don’t you water board them; after all, our new AG doesn’t consider that to be torture, as alluded to previously).

    I had hoped that the “Chernoff defense” would be in play concerning our political dialogue as well as this sport, but instead, those seeking to punish the bridge players are collectively acting as a single dummy here (and by the way, I’m definitely not talking about cards).

    Update 11/20/07: How nice that sanity prevailed here.

    Say Bye Bye To Di?

    The latest from Democracy For America...

    My name is Chris Finnie and I've been a California DFA member since the Dean campaign. I need your help on an urgent Senate vote.

    In California, we have a law -- commonly called the three-strikes law. And, like all laws, I think it ought to apply to everybody -- including my Senator, Diane Feinstein.

    Too many times Senator Feinstein has failed to represent the people of California. Now she has announced that this Thursday she will support President Bush for the third time in two months. And it all comes down to Senator Feinstein's role on the Judiciary Committee.

    Strike One: A Bush nominee for the federal bench, Leslie Southwick has a long history of rulings in lower courts that violate equality laws. Feinstein cast a deciding vote to give him a lifetime seat.

    Strike Two: Michael Mukasey, nominated for Attorney General, refused to say he would oppose torture. But Feinstein voted to send his confirmation to the Senate floor anyway.

    Now she's poised for her third bad vote in a row, on a rework of the FISA Act -- the law that's supposed to protect us all against illegal wiretapping.

    When the Bush administration didn't want to follow this law, they asked major telephone companies like AT&T and Verizon to help. Several phone companies broke the law to help Dick Cheney read our emails and listen to our phone calls.

    They knew it was illegal. But they didn't expect to get caught.

    Now that they did, the Bush administration is trying to protect AT&T and others from lawsuits by granting retroactive immunity for breaking the law. The Senate Judiciary Committee can kill this bill if all ten Democrats vote against it.

    Strike Three: Senator Feinstein is the only Democrat who says she'll vote for it.

    Please call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid right now and demand he remove Senator Feinstein from the committee and replace her with a Democrat who will stand up to President Bush's abuse of power.

    Senator Harry Reid
    202-224-3542

    Please report your call and let us know how it went (
    here).

    Our elected officials are supposed to represent the will of their constituents when they vote. In a state the size of California, almost nobody could represent everybody all the time. But too often, Diane Feinstein votes against the people of California.

    One of our Senators is a true representitive. In 2004, there were questions about the fairness of the presidential vote in Ohio. A lot of DFA members asked our other Senator, Barbara Boxer, to oppose accepting the results in the Senate. She told her staff if enough Californians asked her to, she would. Well, enough of us did and Senator Boxer protested that vote on the floor of the Senate.

    But, before the Iraq invasion, many people contacted Senator Feinstein and asked her to vote against authorization. I did. And I got an email back saying, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Feinstein felt she had access to information I didn't. So, despite communications from "tens of thousands of Californians" asking her to vote against it, she was going to ignore us. It was more polite than that. But it was still a blatant refusal to represent Californians and we all know how it turned out.

    The first vote on retroactive immunity for phone companies is Thursday. Please take action today. Senator Feinstein won't vote with Democrats against the Bush administration's abuse of power. Ask Senator Reid to replace her with someone who will.

    Senator Harry Reid
    202-224-3542

    Please report your call and let us know how it went (
    here).

    Thank you,

    Chris

    Chris Finnie
    California DFA Member
    Amen brother (sister?)...to learn more, click here.

    You Almost Didn’t Make The Cut, Inky

    I noted earlier that the circulation of the weekly editions of the Philadelphia Inquirer had registered a 2.3 percent increase recently, though the Sunday edition had slipped 2.9 percent. Despite that, though, Brian Tierney and Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C. are prepared to launch the “Flying Pigs II” ad campaign to note the weekly circulation increase.

    In the wake of this news, we have this Editor and Publisher story of the top 30 most popular newspaper web sites for October.

    And, by measure of audience per site, Philly.com registered 28th of 30 sites.

    Now, to be fair, I believe there are a number of factors here, primarily population of the geographic area where the site is based (which to me explains why BaltimoreSun.com, a perfectly respectable site, came in dead last), as well as per capita income and (related to that) familiarity with and trends of online navigation, as well as location of computer-related industries (I believe the latter factor partly explains the fact that the sites for two Seattle newspapers placed in the Top 30 list). And depth and quality of content is critical also, of course, which explains why nytimes.com will always be at or near the top of the list.

    But to me, this is another crystal-clear argument for Philly.com to incorporate more progressive content into its online “brand.”

    As I posted about here awhile back, I approached Harold Jackson of the Inquirer (as well as Guy Petroziello of the Bucks County Courier Times) about picking up David Sirota in their newspapers (which would build up recognition to the point where he could be incorporated seamlessly to their sites). That didn’t go anywhere, but the navigation numbers from the E&P article indicate to me that it should have, especially given the fact that the Inky had no problem with picking up Little Ricky and middle-of-the-road pundit George Curry (here).

    And this is more evidence that the “A” listers are gradually making their way into our corporate media, which makes the exclusion of Sirota look even sillier than it already is.

    Update 11/15: Well, Markos sure got the "head explode" part right; sorry kos, but this is absolutely the end with Newsweek (Atrios is referring to Juan Williams of Fox, who was screaming on Hannity and Colmes about Newsweek's hiring of Markos).

    Gerri Ferraro Needs To Chill

    I know I said something about this earlier, but former Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro (who ran on the ticket with Walter Mondale in 1984) had complained of “sexism” in the treatment Senator Hillary Clinton received in the most recent Democratic presidential candidates debate in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago.

    Well, she wrote a letter on the subject that was published in the New York Times today as a follow up, in which she states as follows (and repeats the sexism charge)…

    It will help if, next time out, John Edwards and Senator Obama stick to substantive policy disagreements with Senator Clinton. If they can’t, they’ll only prove themselves unworthy of our party’s nomination.
    Since Ferraro provides no examples of alleged sexism by Edwards or any other presidential candidate, I reviewed the transcript of the debate here. And I found out some interesting information, paying particular attention to what John Edwards said:

  • Edwards made a lot of good points about the effects of trade on our communities, as well as the need to enroll more candidates in nursing education programs and establish better staff/patient ratios for those nurses in practice.


  • Regarding the issues of early education and nutrition, Sen. Chris Dodd was named Senator Of The Decade by the Head Start Association.


  • I also found out that John Edwards was opposed to decriminalizing marijuana (I don’t quite agree, but that is a bit of a slippery slope I’ll admit – I don’t think the cops or our criminal justice system should be forced to prosecute cases where somebody was caught with a dime bag fill of seeds, but I respect the other point of view also).


  • In a related vein, I found no question posed by either moderator (Brian Williams or Tim Russert) as to whether or not students convicted of minor drug offenses should be entitled to student aid for college (I believe they should – the ban was put into place under Reagan, and it needs to be repealed).


  • I also object to the concept of a “lightning round” in these debates; I think it further trivializes an exercise which, at this point, is becoming tedious and repetitive already, unfortunately.
  • However, I found absolutely no traces whatsoever of sexist behavior towards Clinton from Edwards or anyone else (boneheaded, leading questions by Russert, sure, but no sexism).

    So basically, I challenge Geraldine Ferraro to provide a shred of evidence to back up her charge. Otherwise, she should shut her yap.

    Update 11/20/07: And by the way, speaking of Edwards here, how does "I'm not willing to talk about that at this point" (with "it" being HRC winning the nomination) turn into "I won't support her"?

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Tuesday Videos

    The Electric Six ("Gay Bar," an ode to a now-jilted international alliance, as far as we know - smirk)...



    ...and Elvis performs "Little Sister" here, written by the legendary songwriting team of Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus; Shuman would have been 71 yesterday.

    Cut His "Card" In Half

    Even by Dubya's microscopically low standards, this performance today was pitiful (mettle at Take It Personally posts about it here).

    In response, here is a statement from Nancy Pelosi; the Dems have caved on the war and FISA and have generally acquiesced to President George W. Milhous Bush, but they have done their best to adhere to sound fiscal management - I reposted it here because the link is flaky...

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today in response to a speech in Indiana this afternoon by President Bush in which he compared Congress to "a teenager with a new credit card." Below the Speaker's statement is a fact sheet comparing the President and Congress' fiscal records.

    "If President Bush applied for a credit card, any bank in America would turn him down as a bad credit risk. He has put more foreign debt on the nation's credit card than all previous Presidents combined - saddling our children and grandchildren with $3.3 trillion in new debt.

    "At the same time, President Bush has compiled one of the worst records of job creation since the Great Depression while American families saw their incomes drop by $2,500.

    "Given his dismal record of maxing out America's credit card, the President is no position to lecture Congress about fiscal responsibility or economic policy.

    "The New Direction Congress' new investments in college affordability,energy independence, children's health care, and tax cuts for middle-class families are fully paid for - with no new deficit spending. The American people want President Bush to work with Congress to restore the American Dream."

    November 13, 2007

    SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:
    Democratic Congress Brings Fiscal Responsibility Back to Washington

    Today, President Bush continued to mislead the American people - misrepresenting the Democratic-led Congress' record on fiscal responsibility in an attempt to obscure the past six years of reckless spending. The American people aren't buying this revisionist history - they want to know just where will the President be when the bill comes due on our children and grandchildren?

    Bush and Republicans Rack Up Record Debt on Nation's Credit Card:

    From 2001 through 2006, President Bush and the Republican-led Congress presided over the most fiscally irresponsible period in American history. Under President Bush, record surpluses turned into record deficits and the national debt has increased 56 percent. The President has raised the debt limit FIVE times since January 2001 - most recently just this past September.

    Alan Greenspan, Former Federal Reserve Chairman

    "My biggest frustration remained the president's unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending...The Republicans in Congress lost their way...They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither."
    [Washington Post, 9/15/07
    here]

    Fiscal Responsibility Record under New Direction Congress

    Under the Democratic-controlled Congress, the House has passed all 12 appropriations bills with bipartisan votes as part of our five-year balanced budget. The President has threatened to veto nearly every one of these spending bills. Just this morning, he vetoed the bipartisan, fiscally responsible Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill that included crucial funding for veterans.

    Joint Statement: Concord Coalition, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Committee for Economic Development, and Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

    "In urging adherence to PAYGO, which requires that any increases in entitlement spending and any tax cuts be offset rather than deficit financed, we note that Congress has been very careful to comply with the rule so far this year... We therefore strongly urge Congress to continue its record of compliance with PAYGO as it finishes its important work this year." [Statement, 10/30/07
    here]

    The Economist

    "For instance, they [Democrats] have instituted "pay-go" rules, which mean that any new spending must be fully funded; and they have stuck to them. Belatedly (to put it mildly), the administration has realised that it has lost the mantle of sound economic management to the Democrats. [October 20, 2007]
    And as Kagro X of The Daily Kos reminds us in this prior post, this is part of Dubya's entire effort to apparently bankrupt government except to fund the war and provide relief for "the base" (and by the way, let's not forget "Deadeye Dick" and his role here).

    Benny Blows Off Beantown

    If I were a Catholic in the Boston archdiocese right about now, I’d be pretty damn furious over the fact that Pope Benedict XVI is going to visit Washington and New York, but isn’t going to stop over at the town which is the home of Red Sox Nation (and also, unfortunately, the epicenter of this country’s Catholic priest abuse scandal, as noted here).

    (And by the way, we all know that the scandal occurred because of Boston’s “culture of liberalism,” which must be true because one of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s new Op-Ed columnists said it was so here, from the confines of PA of course as opposed to acting like a man and going to that city to say it personally.)

    This Wikipedia article tells us about one of the many infuriating aspects of the scandal…

    In May 2001, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later elected Pope Benedict XVI on the death of his predecessor, sent a letter[10] to all Catholic Bishops declaring that the Church's investigations into claims of child sex abuse were subject to the pontifical secret and were not to be reported to law enforcement until investigations were completed, on pain of excommunication. This enforced secrecy was in direct violation of the laws of most countries, including the United States and most European countries. The coverup related only to church officials, and the letter did not address incidents of victims reporting abuse to the police.

    In response to the failure to report abuse to the police, lawmakers have changed the law to make reporting of abuse to police compulsory. An example of this can be found in Massachusetts, USA.
    A meeting? A speech? A dedication? Anything whatsoever at all, Your Holiness? The city rates nothing from you as far as you’re concerned?

    Try visiting this site to find out just how much of a snub you’re planning to inflict on people who have suffered at the hands of our church.

    Mitt’s “Grass Is Always Greener” On Illegals

    Coming fresh off his rousing endorsement from conservative nutball Paul Weyrich, Willard Mitt Romney appeared in the news here decrying both parties for “a sanctuary state of mind” regarding illegal aliens, including tuition breaks and driver’s licenses for them and their children.

    I already weighed in on the issue of licenses for the illegals (I’m for it; they should thus qualify for insurance, and the licenses would be the beginning of trying to track these people), but on the matter of the kids of the illegals (undocumented…whatever), I think Mike Huckabee actually fired off a synapse or two here…

    "Why would you penalize the children for the crime of the parents?" Huckabee asked.
    God, I wish more politicians thought like that from time to time (and by the way, on the matter of the Weyrich endorsement, how funny is it that Pat Robertson supports Rudy!, Weyrich supports Romney of course, and Frederick Of Hollywood just picked up the nod from the Right To Life Committee today? Egads, that bloc of “values voters” will sure wield their clout split at least three ways like that, won’t they?).

    Well anyway, as we ponder Romney’s conversion to the anti-illegal immigration side, let us revisit this Boston Globe story from last December, which tells us the following…

    As Governor Mitt Romney explores a presidential bid, he has grown outspoken in his criticism of illegal immigration. But, for a decade, the governor has used a landscaping company that relies heavily on workers like these, illegal Guatemalan immigrants, to maintain the grounds surrounding his pink Colonial house on Marsh Street in Belmont.

    The Globe recently interviewed four current and former employees of Community Lawn Service with a Heart, the tiny Chelsea-based company that provides upkeep of Romney's property. All but one said they were in the United States illegally.

    The employees told the Globe that company owner Ricardo Saenz never asked them to provide documents showing their immigration status and knew they were illegal immigrants.

    "He never asked for papers," said Rosales, who said he had paid smugglers about $5,000 to take him across the US-Mexican border and settled in Chelsea.

    The workers said they were paid in cash at $9 to $10 an hour and sometimes worked 11-hour days.

    Romney never inquired about their status, they said.
    Witness The Mittster’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on illegal immigration.

    (OK, for the purposes of full disclosure, here is Mark Finkelstein’s NewsBusters rant against the Globe; see, Finkelstein’s problem is that the lawn mowers were employed with a service and not hired directly by Romney, so he thinks The Mittster should get a pass.

    Were they illegal or weren’t they? Anything else to think about here? And will this make Romney any less of a moronic demagogue?

    I’ll just leave it at that – I don’t feel like wasting more calories on this.)

    The Point Of The Surge? Anybody?

    Wow, there are actually fewer roadside bombs killing our troops based on the August and September fatality totals according to this USA Today story!

    So, does that mean that “the splurge” is working?

    It must, right? I mean, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch tells us that…

    …he believed the decrease in rocket and mortar attacks would hold because of what he called a "groundswell" of support from regular Iraqis. "If we didn't have so many people coming forward to help, I'd think this is a flash in the pan. But that's just not the case," Lynch said.
    And as we know, Lynch is completely trustworthy (I don’t enjoy calling out someone in our military like this, but if it looks like garbage and smells like garbage…).

    But again, I thought the point of the surge was for the Iraqi “government” to get its act together, though David Corn tells us here that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is not about to do that…

    If the Maliki government is too corrupt to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq -- and political reconciliation is an illusion -- can we in good conscience continue to ask our troops to risk their lives and our taxpayers to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in this war?
    And as Corn tells us, Dubya and the rest of Bushco have no interest in trying to answer that question.

    And Brandon Friedman had a good post on this subject here.

    Update: All Hail The Surge - ka-chiing!

    Consolidating The Corporate Voice

    (More sporadic posting today, by the way…)

    FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin wrote this editorial that appeared in the New York Times today (with a truly curious headline that makes no sense to me, though I could have missed something) in which he advocated even more relaxed media ownership rules, specifically the following…

    A company that owns a newspaper in one of the 20 largest cities in the country should be permitted to purchase a broadcast TV or radio station in the same market. But a newspaper should be prohibited from buying one of the top four TV stations in its community.
    I should add that Martin comes up with this after he spends the first four paragraphs of his column describing the dire financial straits faced by newspapers; I don’t understand how allowing a media company to expand its sphere of influence to even more broadcast media if it already owns a newspaper specifically helps the latter entity.

    But to get an illustration of what Martin has in mind here, I would ask that you take a look at this map which notes the geographic location of television stations owned by The Sinclair Group. Then I would ask that you read about Sinclair from this link, where Source Watch described Sinclair as “the single largest operator of local television stations in the United States.”

    Now, consider that, as noted in the article, Sinclair refused to broadcast an episode of Nightline with Ted Koppel in 2004 that was devoted to reading the names of all the soldiers who had died in the Iraq war to date. However, the group had no problem with trying to air the anti-John Kerry film “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal” by Carlton Sherwood that same year (they backed down after a huge outcry, though the article tells you that Sinclair aired a report on Kerry with film footage in October).

    With all of this in mind, consider that, under the further relaxed rules Martin advocates, that blue Sinclair map would have a lot more stars in “blue” states and a lot more clout when trying to foist another piece of freeper agit prop on us again (and you KNOW they will next year just in time for the election).

    And to get an idea of just what kind of impact the media ownership rule changes from the 1990s have had to date, consider the tale noted here regarding the decision of ABC News not to investigate its parent company, Disney, for “hiring practices (that) actually allowed the employment of convicted pedophiles at its parks and resorts” in the latter part of that decade.

    This excerpt of Martin’s column caught my attention also…

    Since 2003, when the courts told the commission to change its media ownership rules, the news media industry has operated in a climate of uncertainty.
    That’s an interesting observation given the fact that, as noted in this link to information provided by “NOW With Bill Moyers,” a federal appeals court in Philadelphia blocked the implementation of proposed media ownership rule changes in September of that year. For most of 2003, what took place according to the timeline was a lot of jockeying back and forth between owners of media companies, the FCC, and U.S. senators, with a compromise on the TV ownership cap that favored Viacom and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation reached in November and passed in January 2004; Martin is being disingenuous – and that’s putting it politely – to place any industry difficulty on the back of “the courts.”

    Again, this is just an example of Martin trying to expand TV and radio ownership on behalf of already-Repug-friendly media companies in preparation for the election next year. Martin could care less about “the expression of independent thinking and a diversity of viewpoints” or the financial health of newspapers in general.

    Finally, this E&P story tells us…

    In an open letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin published in Sunday's Seattle Times, Editor at Large Michael R. Fancher argued that the elimination of rules against same-market common ownership of newspaper and broadcast would have "catastrophic consequences" for journalism and democracy itself.

    The letter follows the FCC's final public hearing on ownership rules that took place in Seattle on Friday. According to published reports, a large majority of the speakers and audience opposed lifting the 1975 cross-ownership ban.

    "What surprises me is how clearly the people get it," Fancher wrote. "On the left and on the right, they know that bigger media aren't in their best interest. That's what people from all walks of life told you Friday night."
    And the fact that that message was communicated to Martin and he still concocted this drivel for publication in the Times speaks volumes about his true agenda as far as I’m concerned.

    Update 1 11/14/07: I didn't get this completely right, and Marty Kaplan of HuffPo explains why here; Martin is proposing more ownership of newspapers by broadcast media outlets. However, the net effect of further entrenching the right-wing party line is as I described.

    Update 2 11/18/07: Hat tip to Prof. Marcus for this...

    Update 3 12/17/07: Martin is truly a motherf*cker for this...

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Monday Videos

    Maximo Park ("Apply Some Pressure," a tidy little bit of musical angst, but dude, the nose bleed thing is waay uncool - bleaugh)...



    ...and Happy Birthday to Neil Young ("Cinnamon Girl" from "Rust Never Sleeps"; have to admit that I never saw the movie, so I don't know what's going on with the "Star-Wars-sand-people" thing).

    Today's Iraq War Commentary

    Cause...

    ...Effect



    Update: 11/14/07: And by the way, here is the latest from the Freedom's Watch cretins.

    In The End, Just An Internet Curiosity

    I should warn in advance anyone who may be reading this that this post will probably aggravate at least one person, but I have to say this (spurred on in part by this Atrios post today).

    Let me get this out of the way, fully realizing that any flaming may begin soon afterwards:

    People, Ron Paul is not going to win the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

    I’m really sorry to point this out because I know a lot of people are working hard and have contributed a lot of time, money and effort, but if bubbles are going to be burst here, the sooner, the better. I should add, though, that it’s commendable that so many people feel so passionately about his candidacy that they have involved themselves in this effort.

    But no matter how much money he raises, the best he’s going to do within his party is neutralize one other candidate, probably John McCain. But despite his formidable online success, he’s not going to have more dough onhand than Willard Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani.

    Yes, I know the whole “follow the money and the polling results” mentality of our political campaigns stinks. I don’t like it either. But we have to pay attention to it, and that’s why I’m highly concerned over the fact that John Edwards has embraced public campaign financing; the right thing to do in theory, but if somehow he wins the nomination, his Repug opponent most certainly will not return the favor.

    Paul is still getting a pass from our media because he’s still a curiosity at this point, largely dismissed as the candidate of the lunatic fringe (which I largely disagree with, by the way; Paul’s emergence is a testimonial as to how much the Repug party has co-opted any notion of traditional conservatism on behalf of the “values voters” who will forever exist only to get played in that party along with the corporatist ideologue neocons, the true “base” when all is said and done).

    But you can be sure that if he places second or third in the early primaries, he is suddenly going to find himself under the most intense media scrutiny he has ever faced.

    So, let me link to this article in yesterday’s New York Times about Paul’s success and note some of Paul’s ideas…

    Those ideas were on display Saturday as Mr. Paul said young people should be able to opt out of Social Security, called for an audit into how much gold really is in Fort Knox, and, in urging an end to the war, declared, “The Versailles Treaty is one of our biggest problems we’re dealing with today, because it was under the Versailles Treaty that we created — the West created — this artificial country called Iraq.”
    If Paul wants to advocate – wrongly, I think – that younger workers should be allowed to opt out of Social Security, that’s his right. However, this would inevitably lead to more investment in our financial markets, which (you may have noticed) have experienced a bit of volatility lately, as well as a legitimate crisis with the program. I think it’s also important to note, by the way, that Social Security is meant to be insurance to supplement other investment income when preparing for retirement, not a means to get rich by itself.

    It’s the same old story; if you think government is useless, vote for Paul or another Republican. But speaking for myself, I’m tired of being spoon fed the Repug narrative that government is the problem, which is what we’ve heard above all else for – oh, I don’t know – I’d say roughly the last 30 years or so (columnist Mark Shields had some good words to say about government here, and I’m not going to say anything about the Fort Knox or Treaty of Versailles comments – interesting stuff for online chat rooms and message boards, but somehow I don’t think debating the policy positions and agendas of Georges Clemenceau or David Lloyd George is going to do a damn thing to address our trade deficit, for example).

    Also, Paul once advocated a return to the gold standard (though I believe he’s backed away from that recently) and the abolition of the Federal Reserve. Rightly or wrongly, I cannot imagine how our markets could exist in this country without the ability of the Fed to regulate the money supply and advocate for fiscal policy, and I’m not sure I would want to endure the upheaval that would ensue were we to try and eliminate it.

    Paul also called for abolishing the IRS; I’m sorry, people, but that’s just plain wacky. The problem isn’t the existence of the IRS. The problem is our taxation, which, though primarily progressive (equitable, on balance), has been neutralized to some degree by the horrendous tax policy of this nightmare of a presidency and its loyal foot soldiers in Congress (and I’m sorry about Ed and Elaine Brown, and no, I haven’t been keeping up with their story – sue me).

    If you’re saying that you don’t want the IRS to exist, then you’re saying that you don’t want our government to exist, either. Which would create 50 little kingdoms as opposed to a country and exacerbate our decline faster than anything else.

    Also, in the New York Times article, Paul discounts out of hand the possibility of running as a third-party candidate.

    Why? Hasn’t it occurred to him that that’s his only shot at actually winning the election? Or is he just more interested in screwing up the works for the rest of the Repug presidential candidates?

    If the latter, then I would applaud him except for one consideration and that would be the money. When he goes down, is that just going to get funneled back into the RNC? If so, then what good has he accomplished?

    I would definitely like to see Paul’s feet held to the fire over these topics and others. I admire his background and I give him credit, but again, if his party were represented by people who weren’t totally unconscionable liars or platitude-spouting dimwits who have good hair, then he’d still be in his rocking chair wrapped in a shawl, nipping on a hot toddie and listening to The Adventures Of Frank Merriwell on the crystal set.

    Update 12/13/07: This is a much better version of what I was trying to say here.