Saturday, December 01, 2007

Taking It To The Next Level

I know that, for the longest time, anyone who has visited this site (and as always, thank you for doing so) would immediately see the big orange graphic in the header with this guy’s face on it telling everyone reading it to boycott the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers sports teams, as well as any Comcast-Spectacor events, with the stated reason being that Ed Snider supports Freedom’s Watch, which wants war without end in Iraq and also, according to this article by Bill Berkowitz, is now targeting Iran.

I got rid of it for now partly to feature the Out of Iraq Caucus blogroll to the right (of which I am honored to be a member), and also because I thought most people reading it generally got the point, and though I never got feedback on it, it probably was a nuisance at times for people to scroll down from it every time they wanted to read my brilliant content (snark).

But just because the graphic is gone for now, don’t think I’ve abandoned this cause (starting with this post). Far from it, actually.

With the help of my senior field correspondent (again, a bushel of thanks there), we’ve managed to track down some of the companies who choose to advertise at Comcast-Spectacor events. I believe the folks I’ll mention in a minute ran their ads on the “dashers,” or white side boards, of Flyers games, as well as the overhead scoreboard.

I wonder how they’ll feel knowing that, by paying Ed Snider to advertise themselves, they’re lining a warmonger’s pocket and contributing to the needless waste of American and Iraqi lives and the destruction of our hard-earned reputation for justice and fairness throughout the world.

I don’t know, but if you want to contact them and ask them, you can do so by clicking on the links below:

Comcast (of course)

Verizon

Geico

Modell’s Sporting Goods

This is their corporate address:

Modell's Sporting Goods
498 Seventh Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10018


Exelon Energy (PECO)

PepsiCo (Mountain Dew)

State Farm Insurance (link is flaky - sorry...)

Toyota

Dodge

Anheuser-Busch (Bud Light)

Independence Blue Cross

Sharp Consumer Electronics

Novacare

Lukoil

(Gosh, I remember a time when Ed absolutely refused to entertain the notion of Soviet players on the Flyers, but I guess their money is at least as good as ours now.)

McDonald’s

Southwest Airlines
After this, what I really should do is compose a form letter and contact these people directly about this, and I will do that in the coming days.

And in the spirit of all of this, here’s a video that presents something that Snider and his pals at Freedom’s Watch apparently want to see duplicated for generation upon generation (“Dad’s Gonna Kill Me” - "Dad" being military slang for Baghdad - by Richard Thompson).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Videos

Avenged Sevenfold ("Almost Easy")...



...Happy Birthday to Des'ree ("You Gotta Be"; always liked this song)...



...Happy Birthday also to Billy Idol (here's his interview by David Letterman on the old NBC show in 1984; Dave's reaction to Idol's answer about the drug dealers just slayed me)...



...and to commemorate what would have been the 92nd birthday of jazz legend Billy Strayhorn yesterday, here's Slide Piano Seth (??) performing "Take The 'A' Train," which Strayhorn co-wrote with Duke Ellington, of course (and don't worry, Seth, it definitely didn't suck).

Friday Political Videos

Something to keep in mind as we all "fill 'er up" this weekend...



...and what a pal Rudy is here, people; I mean, gosh, just so happy and all that (before Judy, I believe)...



...so happy that he had to "share the love" on the dime of NYC taxpayers, of course (pucker up, Repugs).

Amazingly, Joe Only Makes A Little Dough

By comparison, I should hasten to add…and I haven’t ventured into the world of sports for a little while now, but I’ll do so here (and I may do so again a little later – we’ll see).

After I read here that legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno makes $512,000 a year, I thought I would hurl all over the pigskin, as it were. That is until I read this USA Today article from about a year ago that listed salaries for coaches at top-tier schools (the story mentions the at-that-time pending lawsuit over Paterno having to divulge his salary, which he should have had to do anyway as far as I’m concerned, given the fact that Penn State takes public money).

The USA Today article tells us that the actual salary of these coaches comprises about 25 percent of their compensation, with endorsements and other income sources making up the remaining amount. And subsequent to that story, this post tells us that…

Gary R. Roberts, deputy dean of Tulane University’s law school and director of its sports law program, said that only at some medical schools would you find the kind of seven-figure salaries that Brand mentions in the letter (i.e., NCAA president Myles Brand wrote a letter to Congress to defend the salaries and tax-exempt status of college sports at about the time this story broke). But even that, he said, is misleading, because the surgeons on the clinical faculty aren’t “real classroom faculty,” he said.

“It is not accurate ... to say that the overall compensation earned by major football and men’s basketball coaches today are within the order of magnitude of the highest paid classroom teaching faculty,” Roberts said in an e-mail.
And to further point this out, I’d like to find out how much money came out of the budgets of other departments of Oklahoma University to help pay for the $3.45 million yearly salary of football coach Bob Stoops (noted here). Sure, he’s a winner, but couldn’t that dough have been used to graduate more students majoring in molecular biology, for example (just a hypothetical...yes, I know - "what the market will bear").

So given all of this, it seems that Joe Pa actually deserves a pat on the back for taking what is comparatively meager compensation for what he does, given his low-endorsement profile and the high graduation rate of his student football players.

All the same, this can’t help but bum me out; it further illustrates the point that I’m in the wrong job.

Score One For Hil

CNN tells us here that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton…

…announced a global strategy to combat AIDS and said as president she will strike one of the most controversial provisions of George W. Bush's global AIDS program — a requirement that one-third of disease prevention funds go to abstinence-before-marriage programs.
This story is timely because World AIDS Day will be recognized tomorrow.

And the centerpiece of Bushco’s AIDS effort is PEPFAR, standing for “The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief” (gotta love it the way this administration draws on its marketing background in the most annoying way possible).

However (and you knew there was a catch, as noted here)..

PEPFAR has been criticized by public health advocates outside the administration for its stipulation, mandated by Congress, that at least one-third of the money spent by the United States on disease prevention abroad should go to abstinence education programs.

Bush administration officials have defended abstinence education as part of a multi-faceted approach to fighting AIDS, a strategy that also includes "being faithful" and using condoms.
But as we know…

By touting abstinence-until-marriage programs, the U.S. government is misrepresenting an overwhelming body of available scientific evidence. Evidence from the United States and elsewhere shows that such programs have not worked to prevent either sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. In fact, several studies show that while teens who participate in virginity pledges, a common component of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, may delay sexual debut, they are far less likely to use condoms or contraceptives when they do have intercourse, exposing them to increased risk of unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV.

These programs also mistakenly assume that marriage is a protective factor against HIV.8 In the focus countries, married monogamous women are, in fact, among the most vulnerable for HIV infection. Evidence increasingly demonstrates that because women often have few rights within marriage, marriage itself may be a key risk factor for HIV.
I think we can pretty much assume that any one of the Democratic candidates who emerges as the nominee would follow Clinton’s lead here, but give her credit for being the first to "blaze the trail" (and let’s also offer thanks that, according to this CNN report, the campaign workers held hostage at Clinton’s headquarters in New Hampshire are apparently all right; hopefully, this will all be resolved without anyone else getting hurt).

Not A Happy Anniversary For Some

I failed to note that yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the decision by the United Nations to partition Palestine into both Arab and Jewish homelands (here), something I would consider to be a mistake with repercussions extending into infinity.

Anyway, this timely and highly controversial opinion column was published in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday written by Susan Abulhawa who, according to her bio, is a freelance writer, a member of Al-Adwa (Palestinian right of return), a writer for Palestine Media Watch and Dissident Voice, and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine (no online link is available for this column).

(By the way, I think the timing of the publication was accidental, knowing what I know about how the paper operates with its opinion columns. Also, I’m sure I’m wading into a mess with this post, but I thought much of what Abulhawa said was too important to ignore.)

In 1988, we gave up 78 percent of our homeland to try and pick up the pieces of our lives on the remaining 22 percent of Palestine. This was, and remains, the only true (brave or otherwise) concession ever made in the so-called “Middle East Conflict.”

Next came Camp David, then Madrid, then Oslo, then another Camp David, Taba, Wye, (deep breath) Sharm el Sheikh, The Disengagement, The Road Map. Through it all, Israel continued to divide, carve out, confiscate and settle that 22 percent. They scattered us into a diaspora, shut down our schools, bombed damn near every inch of the West Bank and Gaza, herded us into ghettos, set up check points all around us and employee every tool of imperialism, times 10, to get rid of our subjugate us as a cheap labor force.

Now we arrive at yet another surreal meeting in the clouds; Annapolis. Everyone is invited except the PLO – the sole and only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people – and the democratically elected members of the Palestinian Authority (that would be Hamas).

At this meeting, Israel will throw us a few bones, like releasing some prisoners (who will most likely get rounded up again when the hype dies down) while it is intentionally starving 1.4 million human beings in Gaza. Annapolis will serve only to move Israel a little closer to stamping out the “refugee problem,” those Palestinians and their descendants whose homes, farms, property and history Israel stole.

Palestinians are the natives of the land that was called Palestine for the last several thousand years until 1948 when Jewish foreigners changed its name to Israel. We are the natives in every sense of the word: historically, legally, culturally, ethnically, and even genetically!

True, there were Jewish tribes in that land some 3,000 years ago. There were also Canaanites, Babylonians, Sumerians, Philistines, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, and Brits. Palestinians are the natural descendants of all of these peoples who passed through that land, intermarried and converted between religions. When you understand this, it becomes clear why Palestine has always been a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society. In other words, the idea of “tolerance” and co-existence that the West fought to attain and claims to cherish and hold dear was already a reality in Palestine.

Israel has taken that ideal, turned it on its head, and beat it to a pulp so every Jew in the world can have a place where he or she can go and see none but fellow Jews. Remarkably, the world sees nothing wrong or out of the ordinary with this and would like us to simply live with it, negotiate with a juggernaut military power that has made no secret of its desire and intent to take all of Palestine and get rid of as many of us Gentiles as it possibly can.

Never in history has the world so cruelly called on an oppressed, robbed, and battered native people to sit down with their oppressors to “negotiate” for their freedom. Even worse, what we are expected to negotiate away are our basic human rights, in order to have a few check points removed so we can call those ghettos – surrounded by a 20-foot concrete wall with guard towers – a “state.”

We are being asked to give up our natural right to return to the homes from which we were forcibly removed because, and only because, we are not Jewish. We are asked, as native Muslims and Christians, to give up our natural right to live and thrive in Jerusalem as we have for all of time. We are told that we should not expect to have the right to control our own water, economy, airspace, or borders.

Why?

Why should we accept such an inferior status and inferior fate? We are not children of a lesser god that we should be expected to relinquish God-given, self-evident rights accorded and upheld for the rest of humanity. We are not animals to be disposed of so that every Jew in the world can have dual citizenship, a sort of summer country in the Hamptons.

Would anyone have thought to support the desire of white South Africans to live as separate and superior humans and expect black South Africans to “negotiate” with the apartheid government for their basic human rights? Of course not! Anyone with a mind and conscience took for granted that blacks have equal rights as whites. That is self-evident and non-negotiable. So is our right as non-Jews in Palestine to be accorded the same rights and privileges as Jews in our ancestral homeland. Human dignity and equality simply should not be topics of negotiation in the 21st century.

Even more vulgar is Israel’s insistence that we recognize its right to be a state of the Jewish people. This country that stole everything from us – our homes, our holy places, our trees and farms, our institutions, our history and heritage, the cemeteries where our grandparents and forefathers are buried – because we are not the right kind of human in their eyes. They want us not only to attest that such an affront to humanity is legitimate and appropriate, but that it is somehow a right!

Let me, as one disposed and disinherited Palestinian, say with all the force of my love and anguish for my country, my family, and my countrymen, that I do NOT recognize such right. A right is something inherently and unquestionably just. Jewish exclusivity and entitlement at the expense of non-Jews is not a right, for God’s sake, it is racism!
Right off the bat, I should say that I think Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is “self-evident and non-negotiable,” to quote Abulhawa. I can only imagine the suffering she has endured as a result of the partioning of her homeland, and I’m sorry about that, but it’s not fair to carry out reprisals against innocent Israelis because of this dunderheaded act that took place a little over 60 years ago, and such reprisals would surely ensue if the Jews were somehow made to relocate from Israel.

And by the way, speaking of what is euphemistically called “the fence,” I’ve noticed that the incidents of bombings of innocent Israelis has greatly decreased since it was constructed. Yes, it is a blight and an affront, but so is blowing up school buses and shopping plazas and thus killing innocent people (as well as bulldozing homes).

Also, the total non-apologia for Israeli blood on Palestinian hands was unsettling to read, as far as I’m concerned. And I should note that Abulhawa has written to the Courier Times before and generated some venomously hostile letters in response (which takes a measure of courage, you must admit), and I’m sure that will be the case again over this.

Despite my reservations, what Abulhawa wrote is important and should be added to the dialogue that should take place between responsible leaders of nations (including, God willing, a Democratic president after 1/20/09).

And finally, Abulhawa notes the unresolved issue of the “right of return” for Palestinians. How ridiculous is it, then, for us to criticize the Iraqi "government" over not having resolved that issue when we haven’t found a way to address it with the Palestinians either (and as always with Bushco, anything passes from it right to our Middle East “ally” as far as I’m concerned).

Update 12/18/07: Fair is fair.

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

The New York Times reports that John Edwards gave a speech at the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council last night, in which he stated the following…

Then, from the crowd, a question about Russia. “What Putin has done,” Mr. Edwards began, then interrupted himself.

“And I know Bush has
looked into his eyes and saw his soul,” he said sarcastically. “That gave me great comfort. I wonder if he saw in his soul that he was going to completely take over the government.”
And by the way, I thought the first comment to this Times post was interesting; regardless of how everyone not belonging to the investor class is “taking it in the neck,” the weapons industry will never have a thing to worry about with the guy taking up space in the Oval Office.

Well, as it turns out, our fears about Putin have been well-founded, since our ol’ buddy Vlad has now decided not to abide by the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, as noted here…

The 1990 arms control treaty set limits on the deployment of heavy conventional weapons by NATO and Warsaw Pact countries, to ease tensions along the border between the old Eastern bloc and Western Europe. The treaty was revised in 1999 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia ratified the updated treaty in 2004, but the United States and other NATO members have refused to follow suit, saying Moscow first must fulfill obligations to withdraw forces from Georgia and from Moldova's separatist region of Trans-Dniester.
Hmmm, 1990 was when the original treaty was signed? That fell during the administration of Dubya’s dad, as I recall (revised under Clinton in ’99, of course). And is it naïve of me to wonder why we tried to use the Conventional Forces treaty as leverage in pursuing the issue of Russian troop withdrawal, which appears to be an entirely other matter?

Even though “no one could have foreseen this,” Putin’s actions should come as no surprise given our ridiculous pursuit of a missile defense shield in Europe over his objections, as well as Vlad’s own disposition to act as a potentate anyway.

And just for good measure, we also have a disagreement with Russia now involving the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, since Vlad and his pals believe that we’ve managed to hurt the election-monitoring mission of the OSCE and thus interfere with monitoring State Duma elections Sunday (I have to admit that I’m not inclined to believe Bushco on much of anything, but Vlad’s protestations sound weak here - I'll update this if I learn anything further).

Oh, and did I mention that China is also mad at us because we honored the Dalai Lama and recently sold arms to Taiwan (here)?

Actually, is there a country out there that likes us at this point?

And gee, ya’ think the Iraq war has something to do with it also (and the fine folks at Think Progress have more on that here).

And by the way (on another matter), though I support Edwards of course, he did not distinguish himself on bankruptcy legislation while serving in the Senate (Chris Dodd, though, is substantially better, as noted here). However, I believe Edwards has come around on this because there is no way he could do otherwise given his campaign rhetoric; call me what you want and believe what you will, but that’s where I stand (and by the way, as important as legitimate bankruptcy "reform" is, made necesssary by that horrible law, health coverage is more important, and Edwards has another good idea here).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday Videos

Sick Puppies ("My World")...



...Happy Birthday to Ringo Garza of Los Lonely Boys ("Heaven")...



...I came across this item yesterday from Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher noting that the man who quite probably was the influence behind "Ballad Of A Thin Man" by Bob Dylan recently passed away (here), so this is Dylan performing the song in the mid-'60s (while everyone still fawned over him and his lyrics, of course)...



...and Happy Belated Birthday to Randy Newman ("Just A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country"; usually I can tell when he's being tongue in cheek, but not here - probably dead serious).

More News/Political Stuff

An instructive video on immigration that should be viewed by all of us, particularly the Repugs...



...and since they're already showing "A Charlie Brown Christmas," I guess it's safe to start getting into the holiday spirit once more (God, here we go again) with "12 Days Of The War On Christmas, Fox Style" (from Brave New Films).

Another "Penumbra Of Angst," I See

God, Willard Mitt, you truly are clueless (here - audio is a bit shaky, but loud enough, and the post title refers to this).

More On Patrick And The AMT

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning...

As a professional tax preparer and an IRS enrolled agent, I was pleased to see Congressman Patrick Murphy's vote to relieve a large number of taxpayers from the Alternative Minimum Tax.

This tax was imposed in 1969 and revised in 1986 in order to prevent high-income taxpayers from sheltering huge parts of their passive investment income from tax. But the calculations were never indexed for the increase in the cost of living.

In 1986, $125,000 to $150,000 was a very big income; in 2006, it was the yearly income for many two-wage-earner households. These folks are ordinary working people. The calculations for the tax are affected by high mortgage interest, real estate taxes, employee business expenses and number of dependents, as well as the high passive income it was designed to tax.

In my practice, for many years no one paid the AMT. Then about eight years ago it started popping up in a few families with two working parents. Many of the men were in the building trades, working outside in freezing weather to support their families. Each year the number of people paying this tax doubled. Now, about 20 percent of my clients pay this tax.

Very few of these taxpayers have the investment and other passive income that this tax was designed to catch; they are just working hard and living from paycheck to paycheck. It has gotten so bad that we have posters in the preparer offices explaining the AMT and asking our clients to contact their congressman and senators and ask for relief.

Murphy's vote to prevent over 96,000 taxpayers in the 8th Congressional District and over 25 million taxpayers in the country from paying this unfair tax, as well as to extend the child tax credit and property tax deductions shows his commitment to fair and reasonable taxation on the neglected middle class.

In the interest of fair disclosure, I have served as Congressman Murphy's campaign treasurer since the beginning, and I am very proud to be associated with such a fine man and exceptional congressman.

Vanya Tyrrell
Bristol Township, PA

As always, to help Patrick, click here (also, here is some more nonsense from Dubya on this issue).

And by the way, we’re still wondering what this guy is up to (tick tock, Mikey - a related post appears here).

Mike Chertoff’s European “Welcome”

Gosh, I’m all red faced at the moment because I forgot to acknowledge DHS Secretary Mike Chertoff’s birthday yesterday.

Fortunately for me, though, he’s in the news again today, this time in Dublin, Ireland to pitch his plan to develop “a global system of anti-terrorist screening” at U.S. and European airports.

This is a good thing in theory, actually, but true to the Bushco “go-it-alone” ethos, he’s pitching this unilaterally throughout Europe instead of addressing his concerns at the United Nations, where agreements can be negotiated and brokered (you know, the whole “give and take” thing that Bushco does so well – snark).

As this story tells us…

When asked whether the United States considered a homegrown attack likely – the prevailing pattern in Britain, where British-born or legal residents have plotted or committed a string of attacks since 2005 – Chertoff said America needs to make the screening of international travelers a priority.

“We have less of a problem with homegrown terrorism than in Europe. That's not to say we don't have a problem,” he said, noting the May arrests of six foreign-born U.S. residents on suspicion of plotting to attack the Fort Dix army base.

“So I don't mean to suggest that the exclusive remedy is preventing bad people from getting into the United States ... but that is the point of their greatest vulnerability,” he said.
I’m not sure how Chertoff can quantify what we face in this country versus the homegrown terrorism faced abroad; just because nothing has happened lately (crossing my fingers here) doesn’t mean it’s any less of a threat than what we face from outside our borders, as described in this extensive USA Today article.

And to elaborate further, here is Chertoff interviewed by Der Spiegel in which he describes what he has in mind in detail also, conjuring up fearful scenarios every way possible as well as this astonishing quote…

I think in this country, people who have been admitted as immigrants tend to assimilate better than Muslim communities in general. They seem to be more prosperous and better educated than even the average American.
With all due respect to some of our immigrants, I don’t think Chertoff knows anything about “average American(s).”

And this story from August tells us of the resistance Chertoff encountered over “Secure Flight,” the Transportation Security Agency’s new screening program…

As part of Secure Flight, foreign nationals also would be subject to a security program called the Automated Targeting System. Intended to identify potential security threats, the ATS database uses information from credit card companies and other commercial data, and compares it to airline records. It was rejected for domestic travel due to privacy concerns, but will be used for international travelers, Chertoff said. The information will be retained for 15 years in a federal database.

Jerome Drevon-Barreaux, global travel manager for Paris-based systems integration and consulting provider Capgemini, said the new security regulations have raised concerns in Europe.

"This new measure, on top of all the other ones already in place, is really disturbing. Asking business travelers to plan their trip at least 72 hours in advance is unrealistic," said Drevon-Barreaux, who also serves as European regional chair for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. "A lot of travelers would actually--and unfortunately--book their air tickets at the last minute."

Beyond the inconvenience of planning trips further in advance, the new rules seem unnecessary and unwelcome, said Drevon-Barreaux. He suggested that they may be more about politics than preventing terrorism on international flights. "This could be perceived as a protectionist measure, making non-U.S. based firms less competitive and unable to react quickly to clients' demands in a short timeframe," he said. "Asking for extra time would not help in protecting from terrorism but just penalize [international trade] and the whole economy between the U.S. and the rest of the world."
I’ll admit Chertoff has a tough job here, but he signed up for this deal on his own. And again, this is what happens when you act like you can dictate to the whole world, a lesson this administration apparently will never learn.

Two Important Updates

First, we now know the person who dictated Joke Line’s horrifically bad column to him on the Dems’ RESTORE Act co-written by Rush Holt, and that would be Repug (of course) Rep Pete Hoekstra (pictured). And Christy Hardin Smith thoroughly dissects Hoekstra and his mendacity here.

Update (to an update? I guess): On this and other matters, Hunter at The Daily Kos has some thoughts (gosh, I wish he'd tell us how he really feels).

Second, it turns out that another reason why Mark Everson resigned as the head of the Red Cross was because the “female subordinate” he was carrying on with was a married woman who is now also pregnant (buried in the story – wonder what would have happened if we were talking about someone appointed by a Dem?).

Stephanie Strom’s story in today’s New York Times also makes an important point about how the Red Cross board took 18 months to hire Everson and then chose to fire him for this; you could argue that a sanction would have been severe enough given all the time and money spent on this guy along with some reports that he was doing a good job. As much as I’d like to see Everson pilloried, I wouldn’t encourage that if it compromised the organization’s effectiveness.

So now the board is trying to find someone familiar with non-profit and humanitarian efforts, to the point where the name of former General and Bushco sycophant Colin Powell has been floated (sorry, but he looked the other way on Iraq, and even though he’s a different species from Dubya’s “inner circle,” he’ll be tarred the same way from now on – and does he have that kind of experience anyway?).

Why not ask this guy just above on the right instead?

I Thought You Were Already There, Mike

It looks like the “aw, shucks” Repug presidential candidate is at it again, based on this other excerpt from the presidential debate last night.

Sure, the notion of “sending Hillary Clinton to Mars” was a clever line to work wingnuttia all into a froth, and then of course, Huckabee got all serious…

"Whether it's the medical technologies that saved many of our lives and the lives of our families, it's the direct result from the space program," he said. "We need to put more money into space and technology exploration."
Um…OK, Governor “Razor Blades” (Huckabee does at least offer a smiling face to his lockstep right-wing orthodoxy, though, as Hendrik Hertzberg notes here in this week’s issue of The New Yorker).

The problem, Mike, is that the head of your party refuses to properly fund the agency (as noted here), with Dem Senator Barbara Mikulski and Repug Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Richard Shelby trying to secure supplemental funding.

As the story tells us…

"Based on current projections, we will not be able to meet the 2014 milestone originally called for when President Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration," (NASA Administrator Mike) Griffin said during the first of three hearings held last week on NASA's 2008 budget request.

The White House is seeking $17.3 billion for NASA for 2008, or a 6.5-percent increase over the agency's current budget, which is the same amount it was in 2006. When compared to what NASA was expecting to get for 2007 before Congress decided to keep most non-defense programs funded at their 2006 levels rather than tackle a pile of unfinished spending bills, NASA's 2008 request represents a 3.1 percent increase.

Regardless of how NASA's budget request is framed, congressional Democrats, and even a few Republicans, said last week that it is too small to cover all that NASA needs to get done.

"NASA has too many responsibilities and not enough resources to accomplish them all," said Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W. Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee. "Although the administration gave you a reasonably high budget request compared to many other domestic discretionary programs, it really is not sufficient."

House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said during his committee's NASA hearing March 15 that the U.S. space program is "headed for a train wreck" without additional money. "I will not kid you that it's going to be easy to get the funding you are asking for in this year's request, especially if the White House remains disengaged," he said.



While Griffin did not point out that the White House also has failed to increase NASA's budget at the pace it promised back in 2004 forcing the agency to make unpopular cuts to its aeronautics and science programs, several lawmakers did.

"I think it's clear we have a budgetary situation that bears little resemblance to the rosy projections offered by the administration when the president announced his Vision for Space Exploration three years ago," Gordon said.
Oh, and regarding Dubya’s “Vision For Space Exploration,” more information is available here (reflecting his usual lazy “commitment” to just about anything including the recent farce in Annapolis, pretending to be engaged just long enough to generate a photo op or two; his problem and ours, though, is that we saw through this long ago).

Update: Paul Krugman posted this on Huckabee earlier and weighs in on the Repug debate here (Actually looking for common sense? My God, man, whatever would "the base" say about that?).

Today's Boneheaded Fred Thompson Moment

From here…

The candidates were asked by YouTube user Leroy Brooks from Houston, Texas if "this flag right here (the Confederate rag flag) represents the symbol of racism, a symbol of political ideology, a symbol of Southern heritage — or, is it something completely different?"

"I know that everybody who hangs the flag up in their room like that is not racist," said Thompson, who has played up his southern roots while campaigning in South Carolina. "I also know that for a great many Americans it's a symbol of racism."

Thompson added that, "as far as a public place is concerned, I am glad that people have made the decision not to display it as a prominent flag, symbolic of something, at a state capitol."

But the Confederate flag in South Carolina's state capital is in a very public place — located on the Statehouse grounds along Gervais Street in Columbia, next to the Confederate Soldier Monument.
Some posts just write themselves.

Thursday AM Videos

Jim Hightower tells all holiday shoppers how to "vote with our dollars"...



...and more from Mike Papantonio of GoLeft TV and Air America's Ring of Fire talking about how the American media has failed the public and abandoned reality in order to sell Bush's troop escalation in Iraq as a "success" (we know a lot of this already, but it bears repeating).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some More Damn Political Videos

The newest campaign video from John Edwards, a message to the people of New Hampshire...



...and by the way, Representative Press over at Brave New Films (via HuffPo) has this interesting bit of information concerning the way CNN selects its candidate debate questions (just so you know).

Fantasy Politics In The Home Of Disneyland

Having visited “The Sunshine State” earlier this year, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that there are just way too many damn people residing there who think Rudy! is “tough on terrorism.”

Wonder how they feel about “America’s Mayor” engaging in fraud to hide his adultery while mayor of New York City (here)?

Just asking…

(Actually, though, someone from that state should ask a Repug presidential candidate what they would do about this.)

Update 1 11/29/07: Here's the "money quote" from this update by Kagro X...

"Think Clinton couldn't keep it in his pants? At least he never expensed a blowjob."
Genius.

Update 2 11/29/07: Even better than the earlier post here...

Update 3 11/30/07: All Rudy, all the time...

Not Smirking Now, Are You?

This Inquirer story (staying with them for now) tells us that Mark Everson is out as head of the Red Cross because, according to the report, he (a married father of two) was having a “personal relationship with a female subordinate.”

Far be it for me to delight in someone else’s misfortune, and I don’t intend to do that here. Also, I realize that you can’t properly measure someone’s management skills after only six months on a job (not usually anyway).

But Everson came from the IRS, where he froze more than 120,000 low-income taxpayers' refunds on suspicion of fraud without notifying the taxpayers or giving them a chance to respond (here), privatized tax collection and tried to allow third parties to have access to our tax information (here), and eliminated the highly-convenient and inexpensive (versus filling in paper forms and mailing them) TeleFile program for filing tax returns (here).

I hope he is able to get his life back together with his family to some degree. Afterwards, he should apply for a job as a mid-level manager for a retail franchise and take another crack at that “giving good consumer service” thing.

And by the way (just noticed this), in another Bushco departure (that turnstile just keeps spinning, doesn't it?), Alan Hubbard, former head of the National Economic Council, has called it quits here (I hope he at least bothered to learn the size of the national debt before he departed).

Tell Dubya How The Choo Choo Goes

(Possibly the most infantile blog post title I’ve ever come up with, but I’m trying to communicate in a way that could be easily understood by George W. Milhous Bush.)

So our preznit is going to act now, thus “forestalling a possible strike by Amtrak workers on Saturday,” is he (as noted here)? Wow, talk about being proactive! I mean, this is only Wednesday; he could have waited two more days at the most…

(Yes, that was snark.)

The Inquirer story also notes…

The labor dispute centers on health-care contributions, proposed changes in work rules, and back pay to Jan. 1, 2000, when the last contract ended.

Amtrak has about 15,000 unionized workers in its workforce of 18,500. About half of the union workers are represented by the nine unions affected by the current impasse. They include train dispatchers, track repairmen, signal operators, machinists, electricians and coach cleaners.

A strike, which would be the first by Amtrak workers, would also disrupt commuter railroads, including SEPTA and NJ Transit, which operate some of their trains on Amtrak tracks and rely on Amtrak dispatchers.

The presidential board has 30 days, starting Saturday, to investigate the labor dispute and report back to Bush.
Anything not related to the Iraq war or other key Repug constituencies (such as insurance, pharma, or financial services) has been hurt by the budgets submitted to Congress by this administration, but Amtrak is a noteworthy case. As stated here…

President Bush's fiscal year 2006 budget proposal, which represents the leanest funding proposal so far of the Bush presidency, includes reductions in and elimination of many programs important to America's cities, such as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and Amtrak operating subsidies, while preserving a directive that 80 percent of homeland security grants must go directly to local governments.
And as noted here…

…the president's budget proposal makes deep cuts to Amtrak funding to $900 million in 2008 from $1.3 billion estimated for 2007. This 83 percent cut jeopardizes Amtrak’s ability to serve many of its passenger lines and removes an alternative to automotive transportation fueled by gasoline and diesel.
However, the U.S. House recently passed an Amtrak funding bill, noted in this story which also tells us that…

For the past six years, the Bush Administration has repeatedly sought to break up Amtrak's service and eliminate rural routes. (Dem Sen. Robert) Byrd (WV), joined by Senators from both political parties, has consistently led the effort to protect Amtrak and improve its service. In the 2007 Amtrak bill, Senators Byrd and Rockefeller successfully opposed an amendment that would have taken funding away from “long-distance” routes, including those serving West Virginia.

“Amtrak carries people between our biggest cities and our smallest communities,” Byrd added. “Without Amtrak service, many regions of rural America would not benefit from the convenience and economic opportunities offered by a rail system. I have consistently fought against efforts that would harm Amtrak service in West Virginia, and will continue to do so.”

Amtrak’s last authorization, the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act (ARAA), expired in 2002. In recent years, attempts by Congress to improve and modernize Amtrak’s operations were stalled by the Republican-controlled House.

“After more than seven years of stopgap funding bills, the new Congress has acted responsibly by putting a plan in place that will sustain Amtrak for the long-term,” Byrd said. “This $19.2 billion authorization will mean better long-term planning and stronger accountability for Amtrak. This plan is right for America, and it is right for West Virginia. I hope the President will do the right thing and sign this legislation into law.”
Dubya and the Repugs are being particularly dumb here because, as noted in this New York Times story…

..Amtrak could see a ridership growth spurt of 50 percent in the next five to 10 years, but it would require billions of state and federal dollars invested in the tracks of other railroads, and millions more of private investment in passenger rail cars, the new president of the railroad (Alexander K. Kummant) said Thursday in an interview.
I realize that funding Amtrak and negotiating a new contract for Amtrak’s workers are financial issues that have dependencies but are also exclusive to each other somewhat, but the way each have been approached by our primarily-Republican-run government over the last few years can be summed up by one word: neglect (so many reasons why this is dumb; as noted above, mass transit ridership is up partly because of energy costs, and that should be encouraged because of global warming, our highway infrastructure wouldn’t break down as quickly, etc.).

Maybe it would help if I put this another way, Dubya; many of those mass transit riders vote, and you should try to get it through that particle of gray matter of yours that neglect on this issue will further hurt the chances of your party next November. And though I would ordinarily do anything I legally could to hurt Republican prospects in an election, I have to encourage you and your cohorts to act like adults on this for a change for the reasons I just stated.

The title of this post notwithstanding, it’s long past time for you to act like a grownup on this, among many other matters.

On Balance, A Loss For Us (For Now)

In these parts, the Bucks County Courier Times noted this morning that PA State Rep. Dave Steil (a Republican, I should note) has announced that he won’t seek re-election for his state House seat next year.

Reporter Kori Walters tells us here that Steil was first sent to Harrisburg in 1992, where he emerged as a key figure on zoning and land planning issues as well as a voice for reform (and if there was ever a place where reform is needed, it is in Harrisburg). Steil is also owed a debt, as the story tells us, because he was “one of six Republican mavericks who helped oust former GOP speaker John Perzel earlier this year.”

I have issues with Dennis O’Brien, the current Repug speaker who emerged over Perzel, when it comes to guns and the NRA in this state, but to be fair, O’Brien is actually an improvement over Perzel every way else (and only in Harrisburg would a Repug say that installing another part member as speaker would “(give) Democrats control of the House,” as Republican Rep Scott Petri once said, so noted in Walters' article).

Walters doesn’t mention Steil’s role in the last spring’s effort to enact Act 1, which was the latest plan for property tax relief in PA with at least two others having failed also (as noted here). The highlight of the plan was to impose a one percent earned income tax in exchange for a projected $600 savings yearly in property taxes.

The Courier Times story on Act 1 notes that it was scuttled by school boards who weren’t comfortable with relying on gaming revenue (another aspect of the act) and also because the act would have required voter approval of budgets when a take hike was required due to inflation, as noted here. It also died because, as the ubiquitous G. Terry Madonna notes, it relied on a complicated formula that impacted different types of earners in different ways; it also relied on voters trusting Harrisburg not to raise other taxes disproportionately and screw up the funding. Given all of that, the result was predictable.

However, though I’m glad on balance that Act 1 failed, I think Steil did the best he could with a difficult issue. And I really don’t know of too many other Republicans who would have bothered to roll up their sleeves, as it were, and tackle something that impacts all of us, regardless of the outcome (I remember that Steil wrote a Guest Opinion in the Courier Times on this, but I cannot locate it at the moment).

So I just want to take a minute and say thanks to Steil and wish him luck.

And by the way, this also opens up some interesting possibilities for the Democrats. Mike Diamond ran well against Steil last year, but I wonder if this would look attractive to Steve Santarsiero also?

Update 1/18/08: Based on this, it looks like Steil's job will be of interest to both Mike and Steve, among others.

This Is Where I Part Company

OK, so the "A listers" have quite thoroughly laid waste to any pretense of journalistic objectivity or basic professionalism on the part of Joe Klein regarding the whole fiasco of his Repug-friendly stenography on the Democrats' RESTORE Act (noted here by Rush Holt, one of the bill's authors). And Glenn Greenwald has quite thoroughly posted about the moral bankruptcy of Time Magazine as a tool of our corporate media.

Bravo, and well done.

So what's next? Atrios (pictured) posts the following...

Wikipedia says Rick Stengel (Time's managing editor) has multiple child rape convictions. While I have neither the time nor legal background to verify this allegation, it's well beyond stupid for Time to employ such a person.
Yes, I get it that this uses some of Klein's copout language as to why he didn't know what he was talking about in his original post on the RESTORE Act. And yes, I get it that the point is that Time will apparently print anything without sourcing it if the right person of influence tells them to do so.

But child rape? How nice. What's next, jokes about gas ovens on Holocaust Remembrance Day?

And of course, since this came from Atrios, it was automatically picked up by The Daily Kos and Glenn Greenwald, among others I'm sure (with Greenwald considering this "satire," which I suppose it is of a fashion).

Can someone tell me, however, how this isn't reinforcing the ridiculous stereotype that lefty bloggers are generally nuts? Couldn't we have made this point some other way? As hard as we all work to produce the best content we can, all it takes is something like this to reinforce that notion.

Thanks for giving Limbaugh, the Malkinites and their ilk something else they can use as a distraction (God, I hate it when we do good and then manage to shoot ourselves in the foot anyway).

(Obligatory disclaimer - yes I still read the "A" listers, yes they still get more site traffic than I will, que sera sera, water wet, sky blue; this is a recording...)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday Videos

The Cobbs ("Smile," a video by Jonas Odell)...



...and Jimi Hendrix would have been 65 today ("Hear My Train A Comin'" on a 12-string acoustic - I think Gary Weis, who was once associated with "Saturday Night Live," filmed this).

More Tuesday Campaign Videos

Chris Dodd has a great question to ask the Republican presidential candidates (and I'm sure their answer is "Terra! Terra! 9/11! 9/11!")...



...and I have to set this one up (big hat tip to Cliff Schecter and Brave New Films); the National Republican Senatorial Committee held a web ad contest, with the goal of attacking Dems of course, and believe it or not, this is the leader in the contest - a pro-Dem ad; well, sort of.

More Freeper Angst On Iran

Jonathan Last wrote about a new book by Penn State professor Philip Jenkins last Sunday in the Inquirer here in which Jenkins believes that Iran could turn into the “Denmark of tomorrow” (meaning that it could become less authoritarian and more liberal because the country is experiencing declining fertility rates and an aging population).

Putting aside this absurd notion (appealing though it is) if only because of cultural differences between the two populations (laid bare by the incident described here), I found myself wondering how some of the arguments proposed by Jenkins and Last would stack up when compared to this country (and after all, wouldn't that comparison be more instructive anyway?).

Here is some of Jenkins’ argument…

Population decline, he believes, could "usher in a new era of stability," creating "an Iran that is bourgeois [and] secular." To support this thesis, Jenkins notes that high-fertility nations include hot spots such as Iraq, Somalia and Sudan, while low-fertility nations include countries such as Italy, Germany and Japan.



…Jenkins (also) argues that the presence of fewer children in Iran will weaken communal, and hence religious, ties, promoting secularism and even helping to make Iranians "more accepting of people who seek options outside of traditional marriage" - by which he means same-sex marriage.
This is a familiar argument that gets revived from time to time in this country also; namely, that fewer kids means that the population is automatically going to descend into some kind of hippie hedonistic state or something (here). And it gives Jenkins a chance to tell us that…

…With Iran's fertility rate dropping, it currently has what is known as a "youth bulge." Its median age is 25.8, and 23 percent of its males are under the age of 15. The German demographer Gunnar Heinsohn makes a compelling case that such bulges of young men lead historically to military conflict.
Also noted by Jenkins and Last is this…

…By 2050, 30 percent of Iran's population will be composed of elderly dependents, and a dwindling number of younger workers will be forced to support them at their own expense. In wealthy First World countries such as Denmark, this situation leads to discussions about pension benefits and taxes. In poor, developing countries such as Iran, it could well lead to unrest and instability. It is one thing to be old and rich; being old and poor is quite another.
This Wikipedia article notes that, as of this moment, 60 percent of our population falls between the ages of 20-64 (that’s an awfully wide spread, but I don’t see that shrinking over time, meaning that the number of elderly dependents in this country is bound to rise also). And as far as the “old and rich” versus “old and poor” statement goes, well, once again, the Repugs just don’t get that whole “irony” thing, do they?

And this New York Times story from 1992 tells us that…

…whites will account for a declining share of the population (in the U.S.). Indeed, it says, the non-Hispanic segment of the white population will stop growing by 2029, when it is expected to reach a peak of 208 million.
And the Times story also tells us that Asians, African Americans and (in particular) Hispanics will become an even larger percentage of the population over time than now (yeah, just keep up with that confrontational rhetoric and denial of reality on immigration, Repugs; you’re doing fine there).

And getting back to Last, he tells us this…

Already, Iran's economy is fraying at the seams. In 2002, 40 percent of the population was below the poverty line. The Iranian government's own (rosy) projection puts unemployment at 15 percent (it is likely twice that, and even higher among the volatile youth cohort). Inflation was 12 percent in 2006 and has, by all accounts, risen since.
The Wikipedia article I linked to above about the U.S. population also notes that the unemployment rate in this country is officially listed at 4.5 percent, though I’ve never trusted that number anyway partly because it doesn’t take into account seasonal workers or anyone who’s given up on looking for a job. And this CAP article states that one in eight Americans (37 million) now live in poverty (yep, I busted on them and Osnos earlier, but they do a good job with “backgrounder” material like this).

And as far as our own economy goes, take a good, stiff drink to numb the pain and read this from Paul Craig Roberts (the headline is perfectly appropriate here).

Update 11/29/07: This is more current information on the economy in a similar vein, and Leonhardt's final paragraph here is a real "punch in the gut."

So let’s take a minute and summarize what Last and Jenkins are telling us here:

  • Iran’s population is declining and getting older (we’re in the latter category also).

  • It has a glut of young males due to a demographic glitch that isn’t expected to occur again.

  • Its economy is “fraying at the seams” with high unemployment (see bullet #1).
  • So what do Last and Jenkins suppose will happen next?

    …Its only hope lies in the prospect of expansion: Southeast Iraq, Saudi Arabia (where Shiites dominate the oil-rich eastern region), and the United Arab Emirates all present attractive targets for Iran, with ample oil reserves and potentially sympathetic populations. Empire is Iran's most logical path to salvation.
    Hmmm…I haven’t noticed Iran invading any countries lately, unlike us of course. But given what has happened in Iraq since March 19, 2003, there’s really no reason why they should have to, is there?

    Time To Round Up The Bloggers Again

    I got a bit of a laugh out of this Editor and Publisher story where Peter Osnos finds it so hard to understand how the news of former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s book about his shilling for Bushco could have created such a media frenzy.

    Osnos describes in painstaking detail the decision making on the part of PublicAffairs (the book’s publisher) in choosing which excerpt to highlight to generate the maximum “buzz” for the book, and I would say that the excerpt chosen (in which McClellan admits that he now knows that the five highest-ranking individuals in Bushco were telling lies about Saddam Hussein’s WMD in Iraq) achieved the maximum impact in this regard (and for the moment, I'm giving McClellan the benefit of the doubt here which I'm sure he doesn't deserve).

    And I would have given Osnos a pass also here except for this criticism...

    Scott McClellan is writing a responsible book about his moment in history. Much of our popular media, including some leading brand names, apparently shoot first and ask later. The blogosphere and cable news operate in a universe of their own in which frenzy and vituperation are the major currency.
    Oh, stop it already, will you, Osnos?

    I will acknowledge that you’re a pro in the business of journalism, but I have to point something out, and this is as good of an excuse to do it as I’ll ever get.

    I receive notice of articles published from the Center for American Progress every week, and Osnos is part of this organization. CAP does a lot of good and I give them credit, but more often than not, I find that their articles recycle information found online in lefty blogs that is at least a few days old already (yes, I know the group is basically a think tank, and yes, some of my content isn’t as fresh as it could be either, I’ll admit, including something I may get to later). Granted, they add a lot of depth and background, but it’s hard to do much with their articles except to add them as updates to prior posts (Eric Alterman is an exception from time to time, though, I should note).

    CAP, however, does have something of a relationship with the high-profile lefty sites, and given that fact, it is ridiculous for Osnos to make that blanket generalization (to say nothing of the absurdity of linking bloggers with cable news organizations).

    And on the subject of why “frenzy and vituperation are the major currency” for bloggers, I give you this from Atrios who perhaps knows the reason as no one else does, and I also give you this from Gene Lyons who understands what bloggers are all about better than Osnos ever will (registration required for the Arkansas Gazette to read Lyons, I should note).

    A "Nudge" With A Grudge

    While Glenn Greenwald continues to quite rightly beat up Joke Line for his unbelievably wretched FISA column (here), I suppose it falls upon your humble narrator to continue pillorying the New York Times.

    Yes, I know it’s repetitive, but some truly wretched “journalism” is oozing out of the vicinity of 620 8th Avenue in The Big Apple, and those responsible must be called to account.

    Here is today’s example from Steven Lee Meyers…

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 — It might seem, after nearly seven years of deliberate detachment from Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, that President Bush has plunged into Middle Eastern diplomacy with Clintonesque energy.



    In fact, Mr. Bush and his aides still deplore what they view as President Clinton’s disastrously hands-on involvement in the peace process in 2000. And they insist that Mr. Bush does not intend to negotiate personally the two-state peace he has pronounced as his vision, just as they insist that this is not an 11th-hour effort to forge a legacy other than the one left by the Iraq war.

    “The United States cannot impose our vision,” Mr. Bush told the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Oval Office on Monday, before saying, and sounding, again, Clintonesque, “but we can help facilitate.”

    For all the pomp of the Annapolis gathering, the White House is not calling it a summit meeting or anything else suggestive of substantive progress. Mr. Bush’s vision is ambitious, but his strategy is cautious — he may be repeating Mr. Clinton’s role, yet he rejects what he sees as the meddlesome quality of it.
    Such “reporting” by Meyers here is truly farcical. “Disastrous(ly) hands-on involvement” and “meddlesome quality” of Clinton’s 2000 Camp David summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat?

    Sure, let’s write this in such a way that it looks like Dubya is doing something (the “nudge”?) but also nail his predecessor at the same time. How clever.

    Just for the record, there were four principal obstacles to an agreement in 2000 according to this Wikipedia article:

  • Territory

  • Jerusalem and the Temple Mount

  • Refugees and the 'right of return'

  • Israeli security concerns
  • Is Dubya going to even begin to broach any of these topics? Do you really even need to ask that question (and you have to dig deep into the story to find the quote from Dennis Ross, the Middle East envoy for Bill Clinton and Poppy Bush, which basically says that a “broad vision” won’t work when discussing Middle East peace, which thus far has remained insoluble for all preceding Presidents of capable or greater intellect, as opposed to George W. Milhous Bush).

    There is absolutely nothing “Clintonesque” about Dumbya; we know that, but apparently Meyers doesn’t (or willfully ignores that in his efforts to frame this story in as favorable a light for the preznit as possible).

    Prof. Marcus left a great comment a couple of days ago about this whole Annapolis photo-op nonsense, and I think this is a good time to present it once more…

    the palestinians definitely have as much or more blood on their hands as the israelis, but, nevertheless, i can't countenance punishing the entire population of gaza and turning it into a concentration camp... nobody on either side can convince me that state-sponsored terrorism, retaliatory violence, and driving both innocent and guilty to starvation, illness, and death is justified... the failure of the u.s. to condemn israel's actions in gaza is squarely in the same category as our supporting the wahhabist regime in saudi arabia, and turning a blind eye to the rule by decree and martial law in pakistan... by supporting such state-sponsored terrorism, we reveal ourselves to be sponsors as well... how the u.s. can presume to lead a "peace process" for israel and palestine is beyond absurd... and, if that wasn't sufficiently down the rabbit hole, the annapolis summit will be opened by a president who, over his seven years in office, has NEVER visited either israel OR palestine... the fact that this is happening on and is accepted as normal is truly beyond belief...
    And finally, we are left with these cautionary words from Meyers’ story…

    “If the conference fails, it doesn’t leave you in equipoise…It could put you in a worse position.”
    Now you know Dubya is in trouble when John Bolton actually sounds like a moderate.

    And oh yeah, speaking of the Klein/FISA fiasco, I should drag out this ad once more that was run on the pages of Time and ultimately led to the cancellation of our subscription; we'll get objectivity out of these people - sure we will.

    Update 1: And why am I not surprised that Paul Craig Roberts has another great post relevant to the subject here?

    Update 2: On Klein's fiasco, Rush Holt, one of the authors of the bill attacked by Klein, weighs in from HuffPo via Atrios here.

    Update 3 11/28/07: Concerning Annapolis, BarbinMD at The Daily Kos explains it all here.

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Monday Political Videos

    I'm going to try something a bit different tonight and bring you this from Mike Papantonio of GoLeft TV and Air America's Ring of Fire, talking about how the religious right has fractured over the current GOP presidential field; he wonders if true Christians are beginning to see the lies they've been fed by the Republicans...



    ...and the latest campaign ad from John Edwards (says it all as far as I'm concerned).

    Legitimizing "Terror High" Intolerance

    This AP story courtesy of the San Diego Tribune tells us that the Islamic Saudi Academy K-12 school in Fairfax County, VA should be closed pending a review of its curriculum and textbooks based on a recommendation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (which includes a chairperson and two vice chairs).

    The story also tells us…

    The teachers, administrators and some 900 students at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax County have heard the (terror high) allegations for years – after the Sept. 11 attacks and then a few years later when a class valedictorian admitted he had joined al-Qaeda.
    OK, that’s not a good thing, I’ll grant you that. But before we rush to judgment here, I would ask that we think about how many students from the entire school have joined an organization that encourages killing Americans and all non-Muslims; if it’s only a fraction of the student body, then what is the issue exactly? Don’t non-Muslims join al Qaeda or related groups also?

    The story also tells us…

    …many people familiar with the school say the accusations are unfounded. Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald Hyland, whose district includes the academy, has defended it and arranged for the county to review the textbooks to put questions to rest. That review is under way. The academy's Alexandria campus is leased from Fairfax County.

    Schools that regularly compete against the academy in interscholastic sports – many of them small, private Christian schools – are among the academy's strongest defenders.

    Robert Mead, soccer coach at Bryant Alternative High School, a public school in the Alexandria section of Fairfax county, said the academy's reputation has been unfairly marred by people who haven't even bothered to visit the school.

    “We've never had one altercation” with the academy's players on the soccer field, Mead said. “My guys are hostile. Their guys keep fights from breaking out.”
    The story notes that school students (most of whom are Christian, by the way, along with the faculty) worry that news accounts casting the Academy in a negative light could hurt their college applications.

    In addition, the story also tells us that 12 senators are trying to shut down the school, including Dem Chuck Schumer and Repug Jon Kyl (not a combination that makes me sympathetic here, I should point out). And in so doing, they argue (along with other members of Congress) that this would comply with the recommendation of the commission.

    This begs the question to yours truly, by the way – exactly what is this commission and who serves on it?

    Well, it was created in 1998 under President Clinton in response to the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the commission’s intent was to make recommendations to the State Department regarding countries that violated religious freedom.

    All good so far, but as you can read here, Michael Cromartie was elected chair of the commission in 2007 after Dubya named him to the commission. Here’s more on Cromartie…

    Cromartie is Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he directs the Evangelicals in Civic Life program and the Media and Religion program. Cromartie, who has served previously as Chair and Vice Chair of the Commission, is also a Senior Advisor to The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and a Senior Fellow with The Trinity Forum.
    And this describes Cromartie as…

    … Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to public policy issues.
    I don’t know about you, but that description definitely doesn’t fill me with confidence.

    And as noted from the Dallas News link, the one vice chair, Richard D. Land…

    …is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He hosts three nationally syndicated radio programs: For Faith & Family, For Faith & Family’s Insight, and Richard Land Live! He is also Executive Editor of FFV, a magazine covering traditional religious values, Christian ethics, and cultural trends, and is the author of several books, most recently The Divided States of America? (2007).
    The other vice chair, Preeta Bansal, is a lawyer with extensive experience in public and private practice and has served on the advisory boards of various human rights organizations. The Dallas News article describes the other commission members.

    So what we appear to have is a commission with two of Bushco’s evangelical simpatico types forming a majority over a third who appears to actually understand what the commission is supposed to be all about (yes, I know I’m “painting with a broad brush” here, but anyone who can prove me wrong is definitely invited to do so; it’s just that this fits the same tiresome, repetitive Bushco pattern).

    And by the way, it seems like the commission has overlooked alleged abuses of religious freedom against Muslims and Christians in Israel as noted here (and I know this article has some inflammatory language and generalizations, but again, if the substance is wrong, proof would be nice).

    So it sounds to me like the stated purpose of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has been compromised somewhat from its original intent upon its formation in 1998 to the point where it is now a tool of wingnuttia to a degree that I cannot truly determine at this point (which I’m sure is just fine with Schumer and Kyl).

    And I also think there are individuals in this story betraying the ideals of what our country stands for. And I’m not talking about the vast majority of the kids at the academy either.