Saturday, November 24, 2007

Good Luck On The Peace Talks, Condi

I read this in the Washington Post yesterday, and I thought that it was one of the most damning commentaries on Dubya I'd read in awhile concerning the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Annapolis, MD next week (sometimes the inadvertent remarks are the ones that say the most)...

Dennis Ross, a senior U.S. negotiator through most of this peacemaking period, is skeptical that much will emerge from the Annapolis talks.

Speaking at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Ross doubted Bush would follow Carter and Clinton's precedent for direct involvement in the talks. "This president will never be like Clinton. He will never know the issues. He will not throw himself into it."
And by the way, I'm trying to avoid discussing the whole Israeli-Palestinian thing because that's the subject of a long post all by itself; as I've said before, you'll have to work really hard for me to feel sympathetic to the Palestinians, but on the other hand, this is the most Israel-sympathetic presidential administration I've ever seen, and they have a lot to answer for as far as I'm concerned.

Also, it looks like another Bush ally has taken a tumble here (I don't understand how DemFromCT can say that this isn't at least partly a referendum on Iraq, though - sorry you lost, John, even though "the surge" has "been more successful than many of its critics wanted it to be or believe it would be," as you said here).

At least, Condi, if the peace talks don't go well, you can always buy a new pair of shoes.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Videos

Before we begin the festivities, I have a message in song for that moron Fred Thompson who said that New York doesn't represent America, or some such nonsense, and the messengers are Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munchen from "On The Town" (sure, NYC is good enough for the Repugs to have their 2004 National Hatefest and pose for photo ops over at the WTC site - which in itself is repugnant beyond words - but not much else as far as they're concerned)...

...Kula Shaker ("Shower Your Love")...

...a belated Happy Birthday to George Grantham of Poco ("You Better Think Twice," from "Something Else" in 1972 starring John Byner - John Byner? And what klutzy comedy to boot)...

...Happy Birthday to Chris Hayes of Huey Lewis and The News ("I Want A New Drug" - pass it along over here, willya? Kind of a funny song in a way for such a clear-cut-looking bunch; ends in a hurry too, but that's OK)...

...and Happy Birthday to Bev Bevan of the Electric Light Orchestra ("Fire On High," a trippy homemade video from YouTuber AllaBest).

Treating "The Signature Wound"

I may revisit this story later, but for now, Editor and Publisher tells us here (based on a USA Today story) that there could be as many as 20,000 uncounted brain injuries suffered by veterans of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What caught my attention in the story, bad punctuation and all, was the following…

"Soldiers and Marines whose wounds were discovered after they left Iraq are not added to the official casualty list, says Army Col. Robert Labutta, a neurologist and brain injury consultant for the Pentagon."
Why not? If the effects are delayed somehow or questionable until it is determined that the individual treated has a head injury, why aren’t they added to the casualty list?

This also gives me an opportunity to link to Operation Helmet (here), which notes that the House has approved a defense appropriations bill that “mandates the testing of combat helmet pad systems for comfort as a follow on to the impact test that was done earlier.” However, the bill is facing opposition in the Senate based on the most recent available update, and the link provides a means to contact your Senator and tell him or her to do the right thing.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (11/23/07)

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.


War funds, Iraq pullout. The House passed, 218-203, and sent to the Senate a bill that paired $50 billion in war spending with a nonbinding call to pull most U.S. troops from Iraq by Dec. 15, 2008.

A yes vote was to pass HR 4156.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Hey Repugs, this CNN story tells us that 68 percent of those polled opposed the war, a record high. And support for the war has dropped from 34 percent to 31 percent (probably those who think “the surge” is working solely because our troops' casualties are down recently, though 2007 will still mark the highest number of any troop fatalities in the war).

Clueless idiots all.

Surveillance. The House passed, 227-189, and sent to the Senate a bill that would give the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court the power to approve electronic spying on terrorism suspects. The bill requires probable-cause warrants for surveillance, except in dire emergencies.

A yes vote was to pass HR 3773.

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

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton and Smith.
And in a related story, as they say, it looks like new AG Michael Mukasey may be surprising us a bit here by investigating Dubya’s warrantless spying program (though you should still “color my cynical” here; I’m preparing to expect the usual “eyewash” stuff from this bunch, but you never know).

Mortgage oversight. The House passed, 291-127, and sent to the Senate a bill to increase federal regulation of the lending practices now devastating the U.S. housing market. The bill, in part, curbs subprime lending and requires states to license all types of mortgage providers.

A yes vote was to pass HR 3915.

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

Voting no: Pitts and Saxton.
Pitts should follow Saxton out the door for this loathsome vote on top of his many, many others (more here from Paul Krugman today).

Update 11/26/07: By the way, in Krugman's column, he notes that John Edwards has a plan to make corporations manage themselves more responsibily; more information on that can be found here.

Domestic spending veto. In a 277-141 vote, the House failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to override President Bush's veto of a bill appropriating $606 billion in 2008 for the Departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services.

A yes vote was to override Bush's veto of HR 3043.

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

Voting no: Pitts and Saxton
See above minus the Krugman reference – sometimes it just gets tiresome to point out how wretched those two are.


War funds, Iraq pullout. The Senate failed, 53-45, to reach the 60 votes needed to advance a House-passed bill (HR 4156, above) appropriating an additional $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while setting a goal of pulling most troops out of Iraq by Dec. 15, 2008.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
And as a reminder, I should note that the 60 votes were required to prevent the Repug filibuster.

And I have a question; can someone please review the vote total from this link and tell me why the hell Chris Dodd voted no?

And as always, screw you, Arlen.

Farming. The Senate failed, 55-42, to reach the 60 votes needed to advance a new farm bill projected to cost $286 billion over five years. The bill would extend the current system of payments and subsidies for growers of major crops, such as cotton, corn, rice, wheat and soybeans; renew nutrition programs, such as Food Stamps; promote land conservation and rural development; and provide special funding for fruit and vegetable growers.

A yes vote was to advance HR 2419.

Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Casey, Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Specter.
Depending on who you talk to, the hangup here is either over a renewable fuels standard or excessive Repug amendments added to the bill (Repug pretty boy John Thune of South Dakota is blaming Harry Reid, which, despite my misgivings over his “leadership,” makes me sympathetic to Reid).

And, once more for Black Friday, screw you, Arlen.

Congress is now in recess until Dec. 3.

Anti-Immigration Hysteria Friday

So it looks like Homeland Security Secretary Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff is going to antagonize our Mexican friends some more as he seeks to extend the “fence” further along our border with that country (with the Mexican government having issued a report stating the environmental risk to shared habitat).

As this Washington Post story tells us…

Last month, (Chertoff) said Congress had granted him authority to waive environmental laws in the interest of national security and build seven miles of border fence in Arizona. A federal judge had previously halted construction, saying the agency had not studied environmental impacts.

The Mexican report, which includes chapters by U.S. environmentalists and Mexican researchers, says the United States is ignoring environmental laws in the border region while forcing the Mexican government to comply. It raises the question of whether "the United States is a country of laws or not."
Our reputation under Bushco precedes us here, people.

The report endorses the use of observation towers and sensors, rather than fences, or building "living fences" that allow animals, water and pollens critical to endangered plants to cross the border. It also suggests reducing the use of night lighting that scares animals.

The report, which grew out of a binational environmental conference, cites as a possible model the border projects near Sasabe, Ariz., which employ unmanned towers, radars and infrared cameras.
And as noted in this story, this issue has come up at least once before. And this linked story tells us, this matter has generated the usual ignorance from this administration regarding any environmental matter whatsoever…

"We care about the border environment as much as anyone," (Chertoff’s press aide Russ) Knocke said. "But when weighing a lizard in the balance with human lives, this border infrastructure project is the obvious choice."
Oh, cute. As the MSNBC story tells us…

Ecologists say among the species affected would be Mexican jaguars and black bears, and the endangered, antelope-like Sonora Pronghorn (pictured, of which only about 100 still exist).
And I don’t know if Chertoff is aware of this or not, but the pronghorn is covered under the Endanged Species Act, and as stated here, the act…

...forbids Federal Agencies from authorizing, funding or carrying out actions which may "jeopardize the continued existence of" endangered or threatened species (Section 7(a) (2)). It forbids any government agency, corporation, or citizen from taking (i.e. harming, harassing, or killing) endangered animals without a permit. Once a species is listed as threatened or endangered, the ESA also requires that "critical habitat" be designated for that species, including areas necessary to recover the species (Section 3(5) (A)). Federal agencies are forbidden from authorizing, funding, or carrying out any action which "destroys or adversely modifies" critical habitat (Section 7(a) (2)).
Apparently, Chertoff believes he can supersede the act and other environmental laws in pursuit of his precious “fence.” But given Bushco’s generally bad record when their nonsensical dicta is held up to court scrutiny, whether or not we’re talking about “enemy combatants,” illegal eavesdropping or their quest to stop illegal immigration, I think we can expect a story one of these days telling us that Chertoff has lost this challenge also.

And by the way, the Truthout story states that…

…Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club also contend the (Bureau of Land Management), which controls the area, did not seek public input on the project in performing an environmental assessment that took just three weeks. They contend the BLM should have prepared a more formal environmental impact statement.
Also in the Truthout story is a quote from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who reluctantly supports Chertoff here, no doubt recognizing the way the political wind is blowing in that state (though that doesn’t let her off the hook for agreeing with bad policy as far as I’m concerned).

But as stated in this link to a prior post involving construction of the border fence, the most efficient way to deter illegal immigration is to hire more border patrol agents, to say nothing of making sure employers do their due diligence when offering these people employment.

So, to summarize, Chertoff appears to be getting ready to supersede a federal court order to resume construction of a fence along our border with Mexico that could be improved upon by building it with respect for the environment, and doing so would accomplish this task for less money and actually wouldn’t antagonize that neighboring country (and it would also comply with an order from our federal court, and again, by affecting the pronghorn, this would put Chertoff and DHS in violation of the Endangered Species Act).

I don’t think Chertoff could have screwed this up any worse if he tried.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Thanksgiving Videos (Plus One)

The latest from Luke Powers to commemorate the 44th anniversary of "that day in Dallas" tomorrow (you can still check out Kakistocracy, by the way - here's more on the song)...

...some stuff in the spirit of the holiday now, starting with John Hiatt ("Thank You Girl")...

...a message from John Edwards (yep, I zinged him earlier, but don't think that my support is in question in any way)...

...and "The First Thanksgiving, with Celebrity Bric-A-Brac Theater" (I thought it was kind of cute)...

A Pointless 2004 Rehash

Memo to Clark Hoyt based on this – keep working on your John Edwards coverage; you still don’t have it right.

I’m not sure why it is of any importance whatsoever to Kate Zernike of the New York Times that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry told audiences at campaign stops in 2004 that “help is on the way,” when John Edwards, campaigning as the vice-presidential nominee said “hope is on the way” because Edwards wasn’t comfortable with “help.”

Thus begins yet another thinly sourced piece of hit “journalism” aimed at Edwards in the Times today (and on the front page, no less), portraying him as a cagey opportunist who used his chance on the ticket with Kerry to promote his own eventual presidential bid, questioning his allegiance to Kerry in the process.

I would save my disgust only for the Times and Zernike (admitting that covering the ’04 campaign is fair game without the innuendo from a newspaper that, at this point, would probably be doing Edwards a service if it ignored him altogether) if it weren’t for remarks from Kerry campaign people such as former communications director Stephanie Cutter, quoted in the article as saying “A lot of what I’m seeing now (from Edwards), I wish I’d seen in 2004,” showing displeasure because Edwards wasn’t some sort of an attack dog on the campaign trail.

I have a great deal of respect for John Kerry, but the reality is that he ran an inept campaign that only occasionally stayed on track to the point where he could seriously challenge Dubya. His people, for the most part, didn’t understand what the election was all about, which was security first and foremost, with many people in this country still in lizard-brain-letting-fear-decide-everything mode that was gleefully exploited by President George W. Milhous Bush and Karl Rove.

Kerry’s people were woefully slow in responding to the Swift Boat Liars, he never came up with a clear message on how he would keep this country safe, and, when Dubya played his little “gotcha” number and asked Kerry if he’d still invade Iraq without WMD, Kerry inexplicably said yes (and Kerry also never was able to come up with a rejoinder to the relentless “he voted for the war before he voted against it” charge – come to think of it, I really can’t remember a point in which Kerry made the case that the presidency was anything other than something for the top of his resume, though I believe he would have done a good job).

Actually, given the reasons I just noted as well as the fact that the Kerry campaign showed so little imagination, it tells you something that he came as close to winning as he did; it kind of shot up the “values voters” myth as far as I’m concerned (people whose only real fealty to Dubya came from his antagonism towards gays). And I would also argue that Benny’s edict against pro-choice politicians receiving communion as well as widespread voter disenfranchisement and likely fraud by Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio had a good bit to do with the outcome also.

As far as I’m concerned, more people have disliked Dubya for longer than our corporate media is willing to admit (talking pre-Katrina here), but they went along with him to satisfy their own prejudices against Democrats, as usual. And Kerry almost pulled it off because, first and foremost, he campaigned and carried himself like an adult despite the flaws I just mentioned.

And I know I’m partial on this, but I don’t understand how Edwards is to blame here. He provided the ability to reach the voters that Kerry did not and never will have (on a national scale outside Massachusetts, that is). He supported Kerry on the campaign generally and he drew the much-tougher assignment of debating Dick Cheney as opposed to the Kerry-Dubya matchups, which clearly favored the former, though I’ll admit that debates are prisms of a sort anyway in which people see primarily what they want to see.

So yeah, New York Times, keep at it if you want to keep reporting on Edwards. You have your own work cut out for you as far as I’m concerned.

That being said, though, I should bring the following to the attention of the Edwards campaign: if I’m going to “carry your water” at this site, he shouldn’t say this...

…and then turn around and say this.

A Simple Man Who Spoke Up

The New York Times reports here that Milo Radulovich, 81, an Air Force Reserve officer who was fired during the anti-Communist fervor of the 1950s, passed away due to complications from a stroke.

For anyone who has seen the movie, “Good Night, and Good Luck” with David Strathairn as the pioneering T.V. journalist Edward R. Murrow and George Clooney (who directed) as his producer Fred Friendly, it isn’t really necessary to explain Radulovich’s importance.

As the Times article tells us…

Mr. Radulovich’s tribulations began in August 1953, when he was a student at the University of Michigan, as he baby-sat and studied a physics book in his home in Dexter, Mich. Two Air Force officers came to his door and handed him an envelope. He opened it to read that he had been removed as an officer in the Air Force Reserve because he was a security risk.

His own loyalty was not questioned. His father and sister were accused of being Communist sympathizers, and he was summarily judged to be risky by association.

The case raised questions about balancing national security concerns and citizens’ rights after Mr. Murrow broadcast a report on Oct. 20, 1953. It appeared on the television newsmagazine program “See It Now.”

Viewers responded by sending 8,000 letters and telegrams to CBS and Alcoa, the program’s sponsor; the letters were 100 to 1 in support of Mr. Radulovich. Newspaper editorials rallied to his cause.

(Friendly) called it “the first time any of us appreciated the power of television.”
And had it not been for the Radulovich episode, Murrow, Friendly, and the rest of the CBS News team would not have decided to take on Sen. Joe McCarthy subsequent to standing up for Radulovich, who was reinstated to the Reserve after the broadcast.

The story of Milo Radulovich is a reminder that anyone in this country can still stand up to challenge authority and make an impact. Doing so may cause only little ripples, as they say, but every tidal wave has to start somehow.

Enemies Pretending To Be Friends

This takes you to a report by writer Jon Lee Anderson in the November 19th issue of The New Yorker on the effort to “secure” Ghazaliya, a western Baghdad suburb singled out by Gen. David Petraeus as “an area where the military has made pro- gress” (Anderson’s report also covers Amiriya, another Sunni neighborhood, but it notes that much of the rest of Diyala province remains a collection of “horrific battlegrounds”).

(By the way, I know the New Yorker link is a bit screwed up – I wish they’d fix that.)

One of the most important points of Anderson’s report is that we are basically arming Sunnis who used to fight us and hoping that they now will support us in “the surge” (at least one Shiite official said we were arming them without adequately looking into their backgrounds, though the Shiites are hardly blameless either of course).

As Anderson tells us…

A few days before Gen. Petraeus testified before Congress, I met with Sheikh Zaidan al-Awad, a prominent Sunni tribal leader from Anbar province. The last time I had seen him, in 2004, he was full of hostile bluster about the U.S., and made no secret of his identification with the “resistance,” as he described the hard-line Sunni insurgents. Sheikh Zaidan was a fugitive, suspected by the Americans of being a sponsor of the insurgency, and he was living in voluntary exile in Jordan. But when we spoke last fall, in an apartment in Amman, Zaidan told me that he had recently met for informal talks with American military and intelligence officials, because he approved of what they were now doing – allowing Sunni tribesmen to police themselves.

I asked Zaidan what sort of deal had led to the Sunni Awakening (the decision by some Anbar tribesmen to ally themselves with the Americans and fight al Qaeda in Mesopotamia – a shift unforeseen by Petraeus). “It’s not a deal,” he said, bristling. “People have come to realize that our fate is tied to the Americans, and theirs to ours. If they are successful in Iraq, it will depend on Anbar. We always said this. Time was lost. America was lost, but now it’s woken up; it now holds a thread in its hand. For the first time, they’re doing something right.”
Now before anyone gets an inkling that I’m actually trying to promote “the surge” here (which I will never do), allow me to point this out…

Zaidan said that Anbar’s Sunni tribes no longer had any need to exact blood vengeance on U.S. forces. “We’ve already taken our revenge,” he said. “We’re the ones who made them crawl on their stomachs, and now we’re the ones to pick them up.”
Gosh, isn’t that exactly the sort of talk you want to hear from an “ally”? “Well, we’re pretty much bored with shooting at you and blowing you up, so we’ll decide to help you out because you may actually be of use to us.”

(Zaidan) added, “Once Anbar is settled, we must take control of Baghdad, and we will.” There would have to be a lot more fighting before the capital was taken back from the Shiites, he said. “The Anbaris will take charge of the purge. What the whole world failed to do in Anbar, we have done overnight. Baghdad will be a lot easier.”

Sheikh Zaidan offered a vision of how the conflict in Iraq could escalate to the advantage of the Sunnis: “I think America will be able to start a Shia-Shia civil war in the south – with the Arab Shia, the tribes, being supported by the U.S. and the Persian Shiites supported by Iran.” He said that this would be an opportunity for the Americans to “cut off the head of Iran’s government and its militias in Iraq.” The Sunnis could help in the fight, he suggested.
Swell (and believe me, if you read Anderson’s great report, you really get a feel for the intense, murderous hatred between the Shiites and the Sunnis, especially the latter towards the former).

I also learned that, in tribal families, it is often the matriarch that encourages the vendetta, often because when a male victim is targeted, other male relatives are targeted also even though they haven’t committed what is perceived as an offense towards anyone, and subsequently, many more of the males are dead. Such was the case with a woman named Um Jafaar who encouraged one of her sons to seek revenge against those she believed responsible for the killing of one of her other sons.

Anderson’s report also tells us about the Joint Security Stations in Baghdad, 34 in all and 3 in Ghazaliya: J.S.S. Casino, J.S.S. Thrasher (named after a sergeant killed by a sniper), and J.S.S. Maverick. This is important to note for the following excerpt…

On the way back to Maverick, the convoy drove past a group of sullen-looking Iraqi police at a barricade, then pulled up in front of a well-tended middle-class home. A young boy opened the door, smiling when he saw Lieutenant (Matthew) Holtzendorff. We went inside, and were greeted warmly by a man in his thirties whom I will call Sabah, and who worked as a civil engineer inside the Green Zone. A few months earlier, Holtzendorff had saved Sabah from being kidnapped by (an) Iraqi police detachment…they had beaten him badly, and, most likely, had planned to kill him. Holtzendorff made a point of visiting Sabah regularly, to make it clear that he was under American protection.

Later, I discussed Sabah’s case with one of the unit’s officers. Developing a nonsectarian national police force is an essential part of the U.S. military’s plan to disengage its own troops, but, as the officer saw it, the police were still part of the problem. “Please don’t print my name, or Petraeus will kill me,” he said. “The national police are supposed to be our salvation; all our hopes are pinned on them!” He added, “Balancing the Shia and the Sunni – the politics of it – that’s the hardest part of my job. ‘Hunt bad guy – kill bad guy’ – OK, that’s what I’m trained to do. But they don’t train you for this.”
I don’t know whether or not it still bears repeating that we remain stuck in an unholy mess with a supposed government in Iraq that apparently has neither the will nor (probably) the desire to get its act together, using the time our military has spent for them in pain and blood, as well as their bodies and (in some cases) their lives to accomplish this task. But Anderson’s report truly tells us that whatever is accomplished in Iraq will not take place on terms we have imagined or may ever likely support.

And as we know, “no one could have foreseen this.”

Bang Bang, They Shot Him Down

Even before PA Governor Ed Rendell was given the opportunity to testify yesterday to get the state legislature to pull its thumb out and move on pending gun legislation (here), his efforts were politically dead. However, this is an issue where you need to “fight the good fight” anyway, and I thought Rendell did so valiantly.

And I know, “in other news, the sky is blue,” but I’m harping on this again anyway (having posted on it already here).

So let’s hear from the wingnuts then and get their nonsense out of the way, shall we?

"I respect everything he's trying to do, but we do not believe these will help reduce crime," said Melody Zullinger of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Club. "The one gun a month, it's not been seen to work. Three states have that, and it doesn't work."
Oh brother (here)…

On December 31, 1998, the New York Daily News reported that gun deaths have dropped in New York City from more than 1,500 in 1992 to their lowest level since 1963. New York has some of the strictest gun licensing laws in the nation, and Mayor Rudolf (sic) Giuliani has attributed his city’s drop in crime directly to that city’s gun control laws. New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir agrees and supports even stricter laws including one limiting handgun purchases to one a month.

On December 29, 1998, the Washington Post reported that gun deaths in the District of Columbia have also dropped dramatically. According to the report, "police officials attribute the latest decline in homicides to, among other things, the increasing difficulty of purchasing guns in Maryland and Virginia." Both states have passed anti-gun trafficking laws which limit handgun sales to one per person per month. Such laws greatly reduce "straw purchases," in which an individual who may legally purchase a firearm is hired to purchase firearms for an individual who is either prohibited by law from making the purchase (i.e., felons and minors) or does not want to be traced

One-Gun-A-Month laws work. Virginia passed a law limiting handgun purchases to one per person per month in 1993. A 1995 study showed that in the first year alone, Virginia's law has greatly reduced the number of crime guns recovered in other states that were purchased in Virginia. Maryland passed its one-gun-a-month law in 1996. One year after enactment, the number of Maryland multiple-sale guns turning up at crime scenes in Washington, D.C. dropped from 23 to zero, and from 26 to four in Baltimore.
And this Courier Times report provides the following, which may qualify as the most delusional quote from a politician this entire year…

"Public safety has not been a priority for this governor," said Rep. Ronald S. Marsico of Dauphin County, the (PA House Judiciary) committee's ranking Republican.
Rep. Marsico, we know you’re in the NRA’s hip pocket, but do us all a favor and bother to complete the National Voter Awareness Test from Project Vote Smart here the next time you grovel to your masters for donations when you run for office again, OK? It would help with the whole “full disclosure on the part of our elected officials” thing, though I suppose you’re not familiar with that.

Update 11/28/07: Kudos to PA State Rep. Daylin Leach for this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pre-Thanksgiving Videos

This is a video that Staff Sergeant Glenn Read filmed from Camp Anaconda in Allad last November to commemorate a Thanksgiving away from his family and friends in Albany; no word on whether or not he's stateside at this moment, but our best wishes and prayers go with him and all of our military overseas of course, and I would like to thank him for his simple eloquence...

...also, T.J. Rooney, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, forwarded this to us which puts a lot in perspective as far as I'm concerned, and I hope you feel that way also.

Two More Great CAP Ads

I featured two American Progress ads last night, and here are two more; please go to MoveOn to pick a favorite and help get the contest winner on TV (here).

One More Time On The 109th

There was a whole bunch of nutty stuff in last Sunday’s New York Times, and as to be expected, it has already been covered by my “betters,” including Matthew Yglesias on the latest warmongering from Fred Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon envisioning “our feasible military options” in Pakistan (we have any?), and Shakesville’s “Space Cowboy” on Tom Friedman’s utterly deranged idea of putting Dick Cheney on the ticket with Barack Obama should he win the Democratic nomination for president.

But since I tend to focus on the obscure stuff at least as much as anyone else, allow me to take note of the quote from Repug Sen. Jon Kyl that appeared in this Times story of Congress departing for a two-week holiday recess…

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said (Speaker Harry) Reid’s decision to ban amendments (related to immigration and taxation in the thus-stalled farm bill) was typical of the dismissive treatment toward Republicans that has soured the atmosphere, though he acknowledged that Republicans were maneuvering, too.

“This town is full of politics,” Mr. Kyl said. “But these kinds of things are unique to this Democratic leadership and have contributed to the sorry state of affairs right now.”
Senator, if I were you, I wouldn’t say anything that could imply a comparison to the dreaded 109th Congress of which you were a prominent part (talk about “dismissive treatment” and “sour(ing) the atmosphere,” to say nothing of "a sorry state of affairs").

But to refresh our memories anyway, I present the following from Wikipedia…

Prominent events included the filibuster "nuclear option" scare, the alleged failure of the federal government to help in Hurricane Katrina disaster relief, the Tom DeLay corruption investigation, the CIA leak scandal, the rising unpopularity of the Iraq War, the 2006 immigration reform protests and government involvement in the Terri Schiavo case.

In addition to the DeLay indictment, this Congress also had a number of scandals: Bob Ney, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, William J. Jefferson, Mark Foley scandal, and the Jack Abramoff scandals.

As the session neared its conclusion, some commentators labeled this the "Do Nothing Congress," [1][2][3] a pejorative originally given to the 80th United States Congress by President Harry Truman. Noting the comparison, congressional scholar Norman J. Ornstein said, "What would Harry Truman say about the 109th Congress? Harry Truman would probably apologize to the 80th Congress."[4][5]

This Congress met for 242 days, the fewest since World War II and 12 days fewer than the 80th Congress.[4][6][7]
Now, you were saying, Senator…?

"Flooded" With Hypocrisy

It is absolutely, categorically ridiculous that New Orleans has lost out in the competition to host one of the three presidential candidate debates scheduled for next year (one vice-presidential candidates debate has been scheduled).

As noted by Harry Shearer of HuffPo here (regarding the official explanation that NoLA is “not ready”)…

The city has just hosted two back-to-back major conventions, it will host two major college football games within a week, including the BCS championship and, oh, by the way, apropos of controlled chaos, the city has easily and safely hosted two Mardi Gras events since Katrina. David Stern, president of the NBA, long since knew the importance of supporting the city's recovery, engineering the league's decision to hold next February's NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. What is it the Presidential Debate Commission, and its associated pols, don't get about expressing solidarity with a city critically wounded by the malfeasance of the federal government? If the Army Corps of Engineers were headed by Bin Laden, would that make New Orleans "ready"?
This Times-Picayune story, though, noted the following…

One of the cities selected, Oxford, Miss., which will host the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, won even though it lacked the hotel rooms required by the debate commission, (Anne) Milling (a New Orleans debate sponsor) said. The University of Mississippi is the host of the Oxford debate.
The T-P story also tells us that the other winners announced Monday were Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., for a presidential debate on Oct. 7 and Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. for the last debate on Oct. 15. The vice presidential debate will be held Oct. 2 at Washington University in St. Louis, which has hosted a presidential debate in three of the past four elections.

The official explanation of NoLA’s exclusion, by the way, was provided by Paul Kirk, co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which he runs with Frank Fahrenkopf (the latter is a big pharma lobbyist, and Kirk, the former, is a gambling lobbyist, as noted here).

Hmmm…a gambling lobbyist, huh? Do you think Kirk nixed NoLA to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest because of this? Or maybe the CPD got a better deal from Ole Miss somehow, since gambling is springing up there also?

Something about this genuinely stinks, and it’s not the residue of the 17th Street Canal.

Eddie’s Doing A Bang-Up Job Again

The Philadelphia Inquirer tells us here that PA Governor Ed Rendell this morning…

…urged a legislative committee to grow a "backbone" and finally pass a package bills aimed at curbing gun violence.

"Those who argue that violence is a Philadelphia problem caused by judges, police and prosecutors who do not enforce the laws on the books are dead wrong," Rendell told the House Judiciary Committee shortly after 10.

"It's time for us to stand up and say enough," the governor added, pounding his first.

At the outset of his half-hour before the panel, Rendell stressed that he was not attempting to attack law-abiding gun owners.

"I don't come here to demonize anybody. I believe we have a strong and proud gun heritage in Pennsylvania. I believe hunting is a way of life for so many of our citizens," Rendell said. "If we seek to demonize anybody is to demonize criminals who use our police for target practice, it's to demonize criminals who sell guns to felons and juveniles."

Even before Rendell spoke, Committee Chairman Tom Caltagirone (D., Berks) said "I think everyone knows how they are going to vote on these bills."

If the panel endorses the bills, they still would require approval from the entire House and then an even higher hurdle, the GOP-controlled Senate, before they could go to Rendell's desk for his signature.
And as Inquirer columnist Monica Yant Kinney tells us here, PA House Speaker Dennis O’Brien appeared at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia last Thursday night to discuss crime and violence, but somehow managed to avoid the subject of guns (actually, given O’Brien’s dismal track record on the matter, that’s not entirely surprising).

However, given the fact that six Philadelphia police officers have been shot in the last two months during a year of 350 homicides and counting, as Kinney notes, I would state rather emphatically that we need an approach to this trend that constitutes something other than business-as-usual politics.

And as you can read from this account of the death of Richard Johnson, who had just graduated from St. Joseph’s Prep, as well as this unctuous holiday moment, it is long past time for O’Brien to actually take a risk on the horrific issue of gun violence in this state and expend some political capital in the name of saving lives.

(On the topic of guns, I forgot to note that the Courier Times ran its full-page display ad for "Surplus City" in Featerville today, just in time for holiday shopping I suppose. Now I know where to go to get my Polish Tokarev pistols, Remington/Winchester .30/03 Caliber WWII-Issue rifles and Model A Uzis. The paper's logic is impeccable, however; I should note that the ad appeared right next to the obituaries.)

Time To Clean Up The Pen

I apologize for maligning livestock with this post, but I have this compulsion to be a moralistic scold from time to time, and it serves my purpose.

This story in the New York Times today tells us…

At halftime of the Jets’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, several hundred men lined one of Giants Stadium’s two pedestrian ramps at Gate D. Three deep in some areas, they whistled and jumped up and down. Then they began an obscenity-laced chant, demanding that the few women in the gathering expose their breasts.

When one woman appeared to be on the verge of obliging, the hooting and hollering intensified. But then she walked away, and plastic beer bottles and spit went flying. Boos swept through the crowd of unsatisfied men.
This behavior is obviously reprehensible, but I just want to point something out based on this story (actually, it’s a headline only at this point since the AP story is archived). What the headline states is that the suicide rate of young girls in this country is at its highest level in 15 years.

Gee, do you think it’s because they’re consistently encouraged to engage in demeaning behavior, or that their “role models” are Britney Spears parading around without her underwear on or Lindsay Lohan crawling out of rehab for the 50th time? This stuff is catalogued en masse in any one of the seemingly endless supply of supermarket rags we encounter every day (also online in abundance, of course).

And stories like this don’t have anything to do with the self-esteem issues of these girls either – not much they don’t.

And I’m not talking about the “Girls Gone Wild” in the videos here, by the way (who chose to take the money for that, after all), and though I’ve featured videos here myself that have been a bit suggestive (such as "The Moneymaker" by Rilo Kiley) along with some pics of that type from time to time, they have featured adult women who choose to act in a particular manner.

I’m not the parent of a daughter, but I don’t believe that is a requirement to look out for them, since in the end, we’re still talking about kids. And even though I don’t have any statistical data in front of me at the moment or eyewitness testimony, I’m quite sure little girls witnessed the behavior of the men at Gate D and came away with one of two pretty clear messages: 1) Either “tart it up” or you’ll be nothing in life, or b) All men are despicable life forms concerned only with their own gratification and absolutely nothing else.

And let’s not forget that the Gate D behavior is permitted by The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which is responsible for “security” at the New York Giants and Jets home football games. To contact these people and ask them why they permit this, click here.

And the Times story also communicates the following…

Marco Hoffner, an 18-year-old from Lacey Township, N.J., was expecting to see more. Not from the Jets — they pulled off a big upset over the Steelers. He wanted more from the alternative halftime show that, according to many fans, has been a staple at Jets home games for years.

“Very disappointed, because we’re used to seeing a lot,” Hoffner said.
Marco, take a Playboy magazine into the bathroom with a rag or a wash cloth next time. I’m sure you’ll know what to do next.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday Videos

Minus The Bear ("The Game Needs Me" - I tell myself that every day; some days I can believe it better than others)...

...and Happy Birthday to Warren "Pete" Moore of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles ("Going To A Go-Go" on the 1966 dance program "Hullabaloo," and as always, I'm not referring to that great blog with Digby and Tristero; would it surprise you to find out that every single dancer in this clip ended up working for the Republican National Committee?)

And as long as I'm on the subject of music, I should note the passing last weekend of Philadelphia radio legend Hy Lit, who definitely was a formative influence for yours truly when it came to developing a taste in popular music (particularly songs in the era of the prior video). He had been sick and left WOGL last year I believe, and he will be missed.

Two CAP Ads

So simple, but so accurate...

Still Snoozing On Edwards At The NYT

Clark Hoyt, the public editor for the New York Times, owed up to the paper’s terrible record of covering John Edwards (sort of), though he did so in a backhanded way.

I think it’s odd at the very least for Hoyt to tell us that "the old gray lady" is "doing a better job than it gets credit for" when it slights Edwards versus Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (which Hoyt admits, though he does so at the end of the column).

But to try and take back the high ground, so to speak, we have this from political editor in chief Richard Stevenson in Hoyt’s column...

“I don’t track our coverage by quantity; in a qualitative sense, we’ve covered him pretty thoroughly, and there is more to come.”
Oh, so you'll admit that there's "more to come" on Edwards? How magnanimous of you. Care to explain why the 10-state SEIU endorsement was ignored in your print edition, though noted here at The Caucus? I guess it got bumped by another "Edwards unelectability" polling story (and here’s another shining example of the Times’ otherwise fine journalism that went just a tad askew).

Perhaps Hoyt and Stevenson could take a look at this Greg Sargent post over at TPM Election Central to find out how Times staffer Leslie Wayne “reported” the following…

Mr. Edwards has made poverty his signature issue, a topic that stands in sharp contrast to his own $30 million net worth and which set him up for ridicule when it became public that he had paid $400 for a haircut.
As Sargent so correctly notes, this is not actual reporting. But as always, I have to keep reminding myself that the media, in general, doesn’t like John Edwards.

Well guys, maybe it’s time for you to start liking him, because, according to this poll, he’s running a close second behind Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses.

And of course, to learn more, click here.

Update 11/27/07: When even Bob Herbert misses the boat on Edwards here, something is seriously wrong (though Jesse Jackson is seriously right).

Bye, Fran

This item from the CNN Political Ticker tells us that Bushco’s revolving turnstile continues with the departure of Fran Townsend, the “leading White House-based terrorism adviser” who (if the story is to be believed) will seek part-time private sector employment (and let’s not get too distraught here, shall we?).

I think I was a little hard on Townsend in this post by questioning her intelligence, though her characterization of Osama bin Forgotten as “virtually impotent” remains one of the most grotesquely stupid remarks of the year.

However, something I always wondered about was why Townsend got a pass when she stated here that the U.S. would attack Pakistan if it meant getting al Qaeda, but when Barack Obama said he would go after "high value" targets in that country a couple of weeks after Townsend here, he was pummeled but stood his ground (a moment of strength that his candidacy definitely needs to revisit as far as I’m concerned).

And this New York Times story tells us that our Special Operations forces are contemplating a more visible presence in Pakistan; I just hope somebody decides to notify Congress before we end up with more people getting killed in that country as opposed to Iraq and Afghanistan also.

Update: Yep, I was too easy on her all right (here)...

Update 2 11/20/07: So, then, if this is true, why the hell are you leaving?

More Taxing AMT Idiocy

(Posting may be OK today or tomorrow, by the way, but it will slow up as the week goes on, particularly on Thursday of course.)

Yesterday, President George W. Milhous Bush barked at the Democratic congress as follows (from here, regarding the Alternative Minimum Tax)…

"Members of Congress must put political theater behind them, fix the AMT, and protect America's middle class from an unfair tax hike."
And I should note, of course, that the link above is to an AP story that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, so of course Dubya will be cast in the most favorable possible light. Also, this Courier Times story tells us that Patrick Murphy and the Democratic Congress has already proposed a fix for the AMT, but…

The bill, however, was opposed by every House Republican and faces a White House veto threat due to a proposal in the Democrat's tax plan to offset lost revenue by more than doubling taxes on hedge-fund and private-equity fund managers. The new tax hike would require those managers to pay as much as 35 percent in income taxes on their earnings as opposed to the 15 percent capital gains tax they must pay now.

“The administration does not believe the appropriate way to protect 21 million additional taxpayers from [AMT] liability is to impose a tax increase on other taxpayers,'' the White House budget office said in a statement.
Leave it to Dubya and the Repugs (and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, to his infamy) to stand up to those poor, oppressed hedge fund managers. I guess, under that bad “Democrat” plan, they may actually have to scale back on their vacation homes, overseas junkets and ritzy perks that the rest of us peasants will likely never see in our lifetimes. O, the human tragedy!

This story tells us…

Not only do these rich individuals have no need of tax breaks, the hedge fund and private equity industries have demonstrated time and again that they are not exemplary economic citizens who deserve privileged tax treatment. While most fund managers are probably law-abiding investment advisors, there are innumerable examples of wrong doing. The major types of failures and illegal activities include insider trading, (initial public offering) IPO manipulation, embezzlement, and defrauding mutual fund investors.2

Defending this tax break are highly paid lobbyists such as Douglas Lowenstein and Grover Norquist who loudly and repeatedly make the claim that taxing hedge fund managers like everyone else will harm the average working family. They claim that taxing hedge funds like normal income will harm pension fund returns. This is wrong on two levels. First, the tax change would apply to hedge fund managers and not investors (many pension funds invest in hedge funds). Second, pension funds do not pay taxes. These lobbyists also claim that it would increase the cost of consumer goods and services because so many stores and chain restaurants are owned by private equity firms and hedge funds. This, too, is preposterous because, again, the tax does not apply to the investors or owners of those businesses but only the investment advisors who manage the funds of those investors. Moreover, the businesses owned by private pools of capital will have to compete with other similar businesses providing consumer goods and services—only now on a level playing field—and they will not be able to arbitrarily raise their prices.
Also, if Dubya and the Repugs really cared about trying to fix the AMT, they could have done so long ago. This story from February 2004 (during the 108th Congress) tells us that Dubya would have had to cancel his precious tax cuts elsewhere to accomplish this, however. When the government loses revenue by abolishing the AMT, it has to make up for it by rolling back the other cuts. Even I know that.

I’m sorry a topic like this isn’t as “sexy” as the WGA strike (don’t get me started), but I care a hell of a lot more regarding money coming out of my pocket than I ever will about whether or not a TV show or movie ever airs again.

Update 11/20/07: And because Dubya has threatened to veto any legislation from the Dems to fix the AMT if the "poor" fund managers are somehow oppressed in his jaundiced eye, this from Patrick Murphy would likely fall victim to his veto crayon also.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Quick Callout on SCHIP BS

The following letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times last Thursday; I'd answer it in print myself, but I'm already working on something else...

The most recent display of dishonesty around healthcare reform is just too much to take! Congressman Patrick Murphy and Sens. Bob Casey and even Arlen Specter have all sunk to a new low as they sell us out and then hide behind "the children."

Forcing this grotesque expansion of out-of-control government spending down our throats is unconscionable. Bush was absolutely right to veto the SCHIP expansion bill. It is more of the same from Congress: higher taxes and spending, and a blatant move toward socialized health care.

SCHIP was meant for poor children, but our representatives are trying to expand the program to include adults, and kids whose parents make as much as $80,000 a year! Congress should not be redistributing money from poor smokers to families that can afford private health insurance.

Ruining the entire healthcare system in response to those that simply need assistance obtaining insurance is just throwing the baby out with the bath water.

What we need is real health care reform that establishes a responsible system of promoting private insurance and providing premium assistance for those families that need it most.

Scott Porter
Northampton, PA
This Think Progress link tells you that the magical number of $80,000 ($83K to be exact)...

...comes from a request from New York to cover children in some slightly higher-income households because of the state’s high cost of living, but the final Congressional agreement put the poorest children “first in line” for benefits.

Center for American Progress health care analyst Jeanne Lambrew notes that the section 106 of the bill specifically ensures that there will not be any expansion of eligibility. “It overwhelming(ly) targets resources to low-income children and it discourages expansion to families with more moderate incomes by lowering the share the federal government will pay for such coverage.”
File this under yet another "zombie lie that will never die," I'm sure.