Saturday, March 08, 2008

Saturday Stuff

Time to introduce "John McBush," the Repug '08 presidential nominee (as someone from The Daily Kos noted, though, watch out if Deadeye Dick Cheney says he wants to head up the committee to search for a VP candidate; actually, I'd like to see that)...



...and to be fair, here's a video for Hillary (no blackface distortions or comparing her rival to Ken Starr, it should be noted - update 3/15/08: by week's end, this would truly be symbolic of HRC's campaign at this point)...



...OK, two videos for Obama coming up: the first is John Legend on "The Colbert Report" (amusing, but Legend says good stuff, I think)...



...and the other is from Oliver Willis, cutting right to the chase as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Stuff

Stephen Colbert is great, but my fear as always is that not enough people will get the joke (h/t Atrios)...



...and doing about a 180-degree turn, here's Erin Coker of Global Pulse with a report on the campaign in Russia for president recently won by Putin protégé Dmitry Medvedev; the report analyzes the links between the two, related press restrictions and the likely consolidation of political as well as economic power that will ensue. Also, chess champion Garry Kasparov is noted and his attempts to influence his country's agenda (I really haven't said anything about this and I probably should have, so here it is).

Us Versus Them (An '08 Lesson)

It seems that local radio personality Dom Giordano of radio station 1210 AM WPHT in Philadelphia is going to follow the typically bad advice of Flush Limbore and switch his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican Republican to Democratic so he can vote next month in the primary for Hillary Clinton, then presumably change his affiliation back to Republican so he can vote for "Straight Talk" McCain in the fall (noted here). And of course, he's telling his hammerheaded listeners to do the same thing.

If someone wanted to give the enema to Philadelphia's conservative body politic that it so sorely deserves, Giordano's mouth might be the place they would stick the tube.

How many levels of stupid? Well, think about the election officials hopelessly overburdened with the attendant paperwork to satisfy the whims of these troglodytes, and then think about any mixups that would occur in the general election if these Republican/Democrat/Republicans weren't re-registered in time. And think about the screaming from these characters if they weren't accommodated (it would serve them right, actually).

Also, here's something to consider.

Yes, it's true that Markos at The Daily Kos encouraged Democrats in Michigan to vote for Willard Mitt Romney in an effort to derail "Senator Honor And Virtue" as much as possible (here). However, Michigan has an open primary, so such voting was totally within the rules. Pennsylvania does not; if it did, I wouldn't care if Giordano or any of his minions chose to vote for Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader, Bill Kristol, Dick Vitale - anybody the hell they wanted.

Besides, which political party out there is the one always screaming about voter fraud? Well, then, what do you call this?

This is a desperate act by the water carriers for a morally and intellectually bankrupt political movement, one that wrested the keys to Dad's roadster, as it were, in December 2000 and subsequently drove it right off a cliff (9//11, Iraq war, Katrina, corruption, economy in shambles - you know the sad litany as well as I do). And this November, it will finally go splat once and for all.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (3/7/08)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.

House

Energy-tax changes. In a 236-182 vote, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 5351) to raise taxes on the five largest oil companies by $13.6 billion over 10 years and use the revenue to fund tax breaks that would spur the development of renewable fuels and promote energy efficiencies.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
In this area, all of the Dems and most of the Repugs did the right thing minus the usual characters, as you can see (including you-know-who; and speaking of which, to help Bruce Slater, click here; he has more on Pitts and this vote).

And for those of you living outside the Philly metro area who may be reading this, here is a link to the Sierra Club that I received from a friend of mine (many thanks) pertaining to a related bill that passed in December last year; you need only enter your zip code and/or state name to find out how your rep voted on this bill also (never a doubt about Patrick on this one either).

Senate

Subprime mortgage relief. In a 48-46 vote, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a Democratic bill (HR 3221) enabling holders of shaky subprime mortgages to rework payment terms in bankruptcy court.

A yes vote was to start debating the bill.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.)
So just remember how the Repugs decided to pull their obstruction act again here, all of you stuck out there with those ARMs adjusting upwards again while our inflated home equity plummets as well, even though foreclosing on a home usually costs more than restructuring the terms of a mortgage.

And as always, screw you, Arlen (who obviously didn’t read this).

Iraq pullout mandate. The Senate voted, 70-24, to advance a bill (S 2633) that would require the administration to start withdrawing most U.S. forces from Iraq within 120 days and cut off most war funding by the same deadline.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Menendez, Lautenberg and Specter.

Voting no: Carper and Casey.

Not voting: Biden.
Before I say anything about this, I should point out that I am definitely not an expert on the inner workings of the United States Congress. I’m just a Google monkey trying to make sense of our chaotic life and times. If I happen to stumble upon the nut more often than not, it is attributed more to divine providence than any expertise I may ever claim to have.

And the reason for that disclaimer is because I simply could not figure out what the hell was going on with this vote this week, but luckily I stumbled upon this individual who was equally surprised. The reason is because cloture motions on the war that have anything to do with troop withdrawal tied to funding always fail.

However, this one passed (I mean, it would get vetoed anyway by President Nutball – and by the way, did anybody besides me happen to catch that goofy dance he did while waiting for John McCain’s car to pull up to the White House yesterday? One day, one of those weasels in his administration is going to spill the beans, and when that happens, all those “values voters” out there still in the “19 Percent” crowd won’t know whether to listen to Rush Limbaugh or wind their watch.)

I think the reason Carper and Casey voted no is because they objected to the time limit and wanted to continue debate (I can’t possibly imagine any other way that Carper would do something logical concerning the war, though I think Casey would).

And I think Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter all wanted to bring it to a vote so it could go down in flames…again.

If anyone else out there has any insight into this and wants to offer an explanation, be my guest.

War-strategy shift. Voting 89-3, the Senate advanced a bill (S 2634) requiring the administration to report to Congress within 60 days on its broad strategy for confronting al-Qaeda in countries in addition to Iraq.

A yes vote was to debate the bill.

Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Casey, Menendez, Lautenberg and Specter.
Yep, I can see Dubya reaching for his veto crayon and scribbling a big X over this one too (this is the other bill besides 2633 sponsored by Russ Feingold – the three Nos were from Repugs John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, as noted here…by the way, anybody besides me notice how quiet Hagel has been on the war for a little while now? I don’t know why, with him leaving and all…).

Indian health care. Voting 83-10, the Senate passed a bill (S 1200) to renew through 2017 an array of federally funded health-care programs for American Indians and native Alaskans.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Casey, Menendez, Lautenberg and Specter.
I’m sure there’ll be more fun next week, so stay tuned.

Friday Mashup (3/7/08)

  • So Samantha Power of the Obama campaign has resigned after calling Hillary Clinton “a monster” (as noted here). To me, an apology would be good enough for that, but I think she deserves credit for acting so honorably.

    Now in turn, the very least the Clinton campaign can do is identify the person responsible for the utterly guttural depiction of Barack Obama (above - hat tips to HuffPo and Americablog, also in the mouse-over attribution) and sending him or her packing. Purposely darkening Obama and distorting his features is, to quote a notable person, “right out of Karl Rove’s playbook.”


  • Update 3/8/08: Yep, this is a good idea also.

  • I know I’ve taken more than a few shots at lazy reporters, so I should definitely publicize those trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability, and Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times definitely falls into the latter category. Not only did she write this excellent column holding “Straight Talk” McCain’s feet to the fire several days ago, but she riled “Senator Honor and Virtue” here by following up in her questioning with the persistence not demonstrated by the Repug presidential nominee’s chummy pals in the press.

    Memo to Times management: Bumiller deserves credit for her work, not some unceremonious burial of her reporting in the National Report just before the Op-Ed page in Section A. Would that more of her peers at the paper followed her example.


  • Update 3/8/08: Here's more on what Bumiler was asking about; smintheus is right - McCain is a poor liar, and that's why he has the media run interference for him.

    Update 3/10/08: Ah, indeed.

  • So now that Ron Paul has been eliminated from the Republican presidential nomination (uh, he really isn’t going to try and stage some convention coup over delegates, is he?), I would like to ask the same question as I asked while back: what is going to happen to all of his campaign dough, and exactly how much are we talking about?

    By law, he could not use it in his U.S. House congressional primary campaign against Chris Peden (not that he would have needed it anyway, since Paul beat him by a 2-1 margin), but if I’d given money to his presidential campaign, I’d want to know this (and more importantly, how much of it is going to be siphoned back into the RNC to help Saint McCain, someone who is going to hasten the Repug descent right off the cliff, as it were, and away from the direction advocated by Paul and his supporters).

    Oh, and by the way Dr. Paul, class move not to call McCain and congratulate him, as noted here by Lew Rockwell; I don’t like him either, but it would have been the sporting thing to do.
  • A Pretend Hero Stars In Comic-Book Commentary

    Kevin Ferris of the Philadelphia Inquirer (here) interviews Darius LaMonica, one of the creators of a new comic book superhero named Santiago Matamoros; he is based on the patron saint of Spain inspired by St. James who defended that country in the battle of Clavijo against Muslims in 844.

    The local angle here is that LaMonica and his writing partner are from nearby Conshohocken, PA, and as he tells Ferris…

    LaMonica says he has already received hate mail about the comic and its title, but he likes the idea of St. James inspiring Spaniards to defend their homeland. He sees that as a natural role for his own Matamoros - and for Americans in general.

    "In the mind of [9/11 hijacker] Mohamed Atta, civilian targets in the United States are as much of a legitimate battlefield as the house-to-house fighting in Fallujah," LaMonica says. "We need guys to step up, take them on and resist."

    In a sense, Matamoros is carrying on the homeland defense work of the late, great Captain America. Dig up a copy of "Case No. 1," published in the 1940s. The captain is born of a World War II medical experiment that is designed to create a corps of superagents who will "become a powerful force in the battle against spies and saboteurs."
    By the way, Ferris tells us that “In true superhero fashion, LaMonica and (co-author) Sleet prefer not to reveal their true identities”; somehow, though, I don’t think Ferris would ever consider bloggers who are known by “handles” other than their real names as “superheroes” unless their content was sympathetic to Ferris’ point of view.

    And I really don’t think it’s wise for Ferris to regard LaMonica’s hero as someone who could “carry the mantle” of Captain America, by the way, considering that Stan Lee (who created that character and many others with Marvel Comics) has stated here that he thinks pretend superheroes fighting real villains is “corny propaganda” that is “outdated and inappropriate.”

    And to get an idea of just how much of a dyed-in-the-wool freeper LaMonica truly is (I mean, he’d have to be, or else why would Ferris even give him the time of day?), I would ask that you take a look at this interview with LaMonica conducted by Front Page Magazine…

    When we began the writing process, we wanted a story that would address today's threat of radical Islamism but would also point out that today's jihadists see themselves as the successors to the Islamic armies who rode out from the Arabian desert to establish a Caliphate which stretched from Persia to the Atlantic Ocean.



    These creeps are already talking about the "tragedy of Andalusia (Muslim Spain)" and how they want it back. And they're not basing these threats on some "root cause" of poverty - they're basing it on their notion that they have a religious duty to re-conquer any areas that once were held by the Caliphate. This is the same basis for their desire to conquer Israel and the people in Spain who voted Jose Aznar out of office had better realize that if Israel falls to radical Islam, Spain is going to be the next country in the jihadists' crosshairs.
    I don’t see the state of Israel “falling” anywhere but in the imagination of hopeless partisans such as LaMonica (we should support them and be vigilant, but also intelligent about it, and Bushco has utterly failed on that score).

    And today's jihadists do see their mission as reestablishing the Caliphate. All one needs to do is read the source writings of today's jihadists-like in Ray Ibrahim's "Al Qaeda Reader"-in order to find this motivation. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was especially fond of talking about trying to establish an Islamic state in the old heart of the Caliphate-modern day Iraq-until a bomb from an F-16 finally shut him up.

    And our use of this word in the title has nothing to do with a desire to start some type of religious war. I've already dealt with fools raising this straw man against the book.
    Oh, right, we’re “fools” to wonder why LaMonica would invoke the name of a legendary Catholic saint in a comic book against Muslims that has nothing to do with religion, of course.

    Also…

    “…here's some information which doesn't fit the left's view of a happy, peaceful world which was ruined solely by the European colonial powers (he’s talking here about Islamic military forces destabilizing conquered countries).”
    And…

    “It's amazing to me how Hollywood completely ignores the valor of our men and women in the war with radical Islamism and Arab tyrants.”
    Oh yeah, right…Hollywood “ignored” our military so thoroughly that Tom Hanks made sure that five of our service people stationed in Baghdad presented the Academy Award for Best Documentary a week ago last Sunday (here).

    And never forget, everyone, that, as LaMonica tells us, it’s all the fault of those “academic elites” for not recognizing what Norman Podhoretz does, and that is that we are currently in “World War IV” (somehow I missed World War III – I must have been walking a precinct in Northeast Philly or attending a Greenpeace demonstration or something…by the way, LaMonica is also a fan of Mark Steyn and David Horowitz - surprised?).

    Finally, I should note that Stan Lee (whose mantle LaMonica pretends to carry in a way with his comic book) started his career through the WPA, a program founded by FDR (and had LaMonica lived during that time, I cannot imagine that he would have ever been sympathetic to this country’s only four-term president). Lee also is broad minded enough to have recently authored a book in the vein of political satire, and he also produced a comic about a gay gunslinger (here, earning the wrath of Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition, which I’m sure bothered Lee not one bit).

    In a way, though, I’m glad that Ferris discovered this comic book created by LaMonica and his cohorts. I can see how therapeutic it is to retreat to a fantasy world when the complex realities originating primarily from the wrong war waged in response to the worst terrorist attack in our country’s history become too difficult for him to comprehend.

    More Obama "Concern Trolling" For BoBo

    David Brooks presents the following today (re: the resurgence of Hillary Clinton and how he thinks Barack Obama should respond, here)…

    The Obama people seem to have persuaded themselves they can go on the attack, but in the right way. They can be tough and keep their virginity, too. But there are more than five long months between now and the convention.

    Unless they consciously reject conventional politics, the accusations will build on each other. The BlackBerries will buzz. The passions will rise. The Obama forces will see hints of Clinton corruption all around, and they’ll accuse and accuse again. The war will begin to take control, and once you’re halfway through you can’t suddenly surrender because it’s become too rough.

    And the Clinton people will draw them every step of the way. Clinton can’t compete on personality, but a knife fight is her only real hope of victory. She has nothing to lose because she never promised to purify America. Her campaign doesn’t depend on the enthusiasm of upper-middle-class goo-goos. On Thursday, a Clinton aide likened Obama to Ken Starr just to badger them on.
    I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what the hell Brooks was talking about for a minute, but it turns out that the term “goo-goos” has a history, as noted here, and I’m sure he meant it to be used as pejoratively as possible (implying either that Obama’s supporters were elitists or that Clinton’s supporters were stupid, to go along with more pundit name calling towards Obama; Gerson called him “a pleading, panting joke” here, and now Brooks calls him a “wimp” – I was always taught that that sort of thing was the last refuge for small minded people).

    I grudgingly admit, though, that Brooks has a point about the tactics primarily of the Clinton campaign; I agree with Markos Moulitsas who admires Hillary personally but utterly despises the people surrounding her, so much so that I should tell you that I honestly don’t know how I’m going to vote in a few weeks.

    Aside from that, there’s really no other reason to take Brooks seriously; he blames Obama for not spelling out how his campaign will “produce bread-and-butter benefits to people in places like Youngstown and Altoona” (as if anybody else from either party has done that). And I don’t buy Brooks’ assertion that Clinton has a national edge in the Latino vote; if that were true, then how come Obama is poised to win the Texas caucus after Hillary won the election (I thought this was a good article about this issue).

    Also, I thought this post by Daily Kos blogger DHinMI was a much better analysis of what Obama needs to do at this point to secure the Democratic nomination for president, noting that he has a less difficult road to go here than Hillary does.

    In the meantime, I’m sure we can count on BoBo to bring us all of the latest developments concerning that pivotal “goo-goo” voting bloc.

    Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Thursday Stuff

    I've been living up to my name a bit too much lately, so I'm going to try and lighten up a bit...

    First, community activist Christopher Johnson of Austin, TX talks about gentrification in his neighborhood and why he supports Barack Obama, who stands to win the caucus after Hillary won the election (hey, it's Texas; I can't figure it out either)...



    ...and "The Young Turks" remember "the fallen GOP candidates," a couple of whom are still in the race of course (this video is about seven minutes long; it might be tough to take all of that self-flattery - also, if any candidate I may ever support interrupts a press conference for a gimmicky phone call, they can kiss my vote goodbye).

    Truly An Olympian Task

    My hero for the moment is U.S. House Rep Frank Wolf (amazing that he’s an R from Virginia, but there you are) based on this story (he’s opposed to Dubya attending the Olympic games in Beijing this August)…

    …(Wolf) cited concerns about China's record on human rights during a congressional hearing on Thursday and said Bush's presence would be akin to President Franklin D. Roosevelt sitting in the same stands as Germany's Adolf Hitler in 1936.

    "Ronald Reagan would have never gone to the (Beijing) Olympics. I guarantee you that. Never gone," said Wolf, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

    Wolf, who co-chairs a congressional caucus on Sudan, blames China for not using its close ties with the Sudanese government to end the violence in Darfur. Wolf also charges that China has sold weapons to U.S. enemies, jailed countless political prisoners and tried to spy on America's high-tech industry, including companies in his district.
    By the way, it should be noted that The Sainted Ronnie R wasn’t faced with a dilemma like this during his presidency: the Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul, South Korea in 1988, and the Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo in 1984 (which, sadly enough, ended up decimated by the war in Yugoslavia later) and Calgary in 1988.

    Also, filmmaker Steven Spielberg backed out of working as an “artistic adviser” to the opening and closing ceremonies of the games last month in protest because he felt China wasn’t doing enough to try and resolve the crisis in Darfur (here, and I agree).

    And concerning alleged human rights violations within China, I had to laugh at this quote from Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in response to an inquiry from British Foreign Secretary David Milband (here)…

    "Ask ten people from the street to face public security officers and ask them to say 'human rights are more important than the Olympics' ten times, or even a hundred times, and I will see which security officer will put him in jail," Mr Yang said. "If they've been talking for too long and get tired, the officer will offer him a cup of tea."
    Sure he will, accompanied by manacles and a truncheon against the side of the head I’m sure, before this person utterly “disappears” (and if you think I’m exaggerating, read about Hu Jia, Yang Chunlin and Ye Guozhu from here…we should press China to free these people, assuming this country under Bushco still cared about human rights and what should be, after all, the true spirit of the Games).

    And by the way, do I even need to point out that Dubya has no intention of blowing off the Chinese (of course, not that we could afford to do that anyway, lest they decide to start liquidating our debt).

    Iraq, "Where Wings Take Dream"

    Here (h/t Atrios) is evidence, and against this bleak scenario, here is an even bleaker one from the LA Times today (here)…

    Batul Abdul Hussein thought her son, Wesam Saleh, was (a martyr). On Feb. 13, 2007, as U.S. and Iraqi troops began enforcing a new security plan to quell violence in Iraq, the 25-year-old policeman left for his night shift. He never made it home alive.



    "In all the books of God, if someone is killed even by accident, their family should be compensated," said Hussein, 57, clutching a pale pink folder containing documents about her son's case. On the walls of her home are framed photographs of Saleh, who joined the police force in 2006.

    Saleh was unmarried, so he always offered to ride in the front vehicle of police convoys, where it is most dangerous, Hussein said. That's where he was when gunfire hit his patrol.

    U.S. officials say the military strives to avoid civilian and friendly-fire casualties. They say intelligence and technology help alert forces to the presence of noncombatants during missions. They also rely on Iraqi security officials to notify them of Iraqi police and military patrols.

    But errors and accidents occur, and the system for allotting compensation often fails.

    About 60% of claims filed to the U.S. military in recent years, for losses that vary from wrecked cars to civilian lives, were rejected, according to military records. Of 7,103 Iraqi claims filed with the United States in fiscal 2007, 2,896 were approved for payment, and a total of $8.4 million was paid. The previous year, 9,257 claims were filed; 3,658 of them, totaling just over $13 million, were paid.
    The story notes that the Iraqi interior ministry is trying to get the government to pass a law “…to change this” (re: the fact that family members of those Iraqis accidentally killed by the U.S. military do not receive “martyr payments”). However, it should be kept in mind that we’re talking about the same Iraqi government that has failed to meet the milestones set out for it as a condition of “the surge.”

    Also…

    The stew of formal and informal fighting forces in Iraq, combined with insurgents' operations in civilian areas, presents extraordinary challenges for the Americans, said Navy Capt. Vic Beck, a military spokesman in Baghdad.

    "The level of complexities can't be overstated," Beck said. "You're literally fighting to ensure you and your fellow soldiers come out alive."
    But not to worry…The Almighty Petraeus will appear before Congress next month, and when he does, I’m sure our politicians and corporate media will be too busy admiring his presentation skills and shiny medals to bring stories like this to his attention (I’d love to be wrong, but I’m not holding my breath).

    And besides, this kid deserved to get it. After all, his name was Hussein, wasn’t it?*

    (*-sarcasm borne of disgust bordering on simmering rage over the fact that the war has "fallen off the radar" for way too many people in this country, assuming it was ever there to begin with – ed.)

    Update 3/7/08: By the way, I'd been meaning to link to this NYT story on the war by Sheryl Gay Stolberg in particular for the following...

    (A senior Bush administration) official, speaking on condition of anonymity to give a more candid picture of the administration’s plans for Iraq...
    Translation: If we ask them about it point blank, all they'll do is lie to our face (but why would we not know that anyway at this point?).

    Oil Economics 101

    Remember when the Repugs and their acolytes were touting George W. Milhous Bush as “America’s First MBA President” (here)? Remember when we were led to believe that this meant that he supposedly would manage our economy more efficiently than those “career politician” government types who merely gave us budget surpluses and a dollar that, if not strong, didn’t fall through the floor as ours does now, currently trading at $1.53 against the Euro?

    Remember the day we woke up?

    All of this came (excuse me) gushing back to mind as I read this story in the New York Times today about our “good friends” the Saudis who currently have just about everything they could want; most notably, oil at $104 a barrel (it was at a previous record of about $60 a barrel in 2005, and it’s been setting records ever since as we know) and no motivation whatsoever to increase supply and this lower our price at the pump, which also cuts into their profits of course.

    And on top of that, they can lecture us about how the mess we’re currently dealing with is our own fault. And the worst part about it is that they’re right.

    “OPEC is angry that President Bush wants them to increase production while the dollar is sinking and the administration is doing nothing about that,” said Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Company in New York. “It’s really not surprising that they have ignored him.”
    And by the way, this goes to the title of this post…

    “OPEC’s biggest fear is that this is a bubble and that prices will drop by $30 a barrel,” said Roger Diwan, a managing director at PFC Energy, who was in Vienna to attend the meeting. “So they keep tightening supplies and prices keep going up.”
    Yep, ya’ gotta watch out for those “bubbles” as we’ve done so successfully ourselves (snark – see dot.com, housing…).

    So what does our preznit do when he’s ignored? What he always does, of course, in the manner typical of a spoiled child; he throws a tantrum…

    “I think it’s a mistake to have your biggest customer’s economy to slow down” because of high energy prices, he said.
    Demonstrating his superb elocution skills again - and if you want to read something really funny…

    “America’s got to change its habits; we’ve got to get off oil,” Mr. Bush said at a conference on renewable fuels in Washington. “Until we change our habits, there’s going to be more dependency on oil.”
    However, as Will Bunch notes from here…

    "The Bush/Cheney administration has paid lip service to renewable energy and backed it up with inadequate and incremental funding support, favored old dirty and unsafe technologies, threatened vetoes of energy bills because they supported renewable energy incentives and mandates, and undermined the science of and the search for solutions to global warming," said a statement from Senate Democrats.
    And we can always count on the investor class to withstand any turbulence particularly when it comes to energy, can’t we (as the Times tells us)…

    “The market continues to be well supplied,” Rex W. Tillerson, the chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, said at a conference in New York. “There has been no interruption of supplies.”
    And speaking of ExxonMobil, I meant to note earlier this simpatico gesture from Hangin’ Judge J.R. (yep, sounds like another “activist judge” showing his true colors again).

    Maybe Lee Raymond’s old company got that hug they were looking for after all. I’d ask if they would impart the same to me to help take the sting out of our woeful economic state due to President 19 Percent Mandate’s gross incompetence, but being the corporate criminals that they are, they’d probably lift my wallet out of my pocket while doing so.

    Wednesday, March 05, 2008

    Wednesday Stuff

    Dr. Frank Newport of The Gallup Poll has some numbers about how we see ourselves versus the rest of the world (hint: the numbers are trending the wrong way)...



    ...and I think it's because we all know this is what's going on in our name in Iraq (some of these pics are intense; maybe we should be more mindful of all this as we approach the five-year anniversary of the beginning of the war, not digesting so easily the claptrap spoon fed to us by our media and the generals who don't want us to see this while they chant, "the surge is working, the surge is working"...and this is a good post from Will Bunch in a related vein).

    This Would Make Learning A Real Blast

    The Times tells us here today that AZ State Senator Karen S. Johnson…

    ...has sponsored a bill, which the Senate Judiciary Committee approved last week, that would allow people with a concealed weapons permit — limited to those 21 and older here — to carry their firearms at public colleges and universities. Concealed weapons are generally not permitted at most public establishments, including colleges.

    Ms. Johnson, a Republican from Mesa, said she believed that the recent carnage at Northern Illinois University could have been prevented or limited if an armed student or professor had intercepted the gunman. The police, she said, respond too slowly to such incidents and, besides, who better than the people staring down the barrel to take action?

    She initially wanted her bill to cover all public schools, kindergarten and up, but other lawmakers convinced her it stood a better chance of passing if it were limited to higher education.
    I am almost completely at a loss to respond to the incredible stupidity behind a proposal like this (and a great big raspberry goes out to the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee as well for this; also, I love Johnson’s rationale that the police “respond too slowly to these incidents” – real appreciation there for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day, Senator). Also, I can tell you without a doubt that, though the school attended by the young one has more sense than to allow guns on its premises, we would automatically remove him from enrollment if somehow they ever did.

    This Project Vote Smart link tells you that Johnson is a card-carrying wingnut concerning the usual menu of legislation besides this hammerheaded notion as well as their other standard causes (a mother of 11 kids, though – wow). And this from the Lippard blog tells you that Johnson sided with scientology in sponsoring anti-psychiatric legislation, and she of course sees no reason whatsoever to differentiate between church and state, understanding neither the establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution or the even stricter constraints of that observed by her home state.

    And from the Times story, we fortunately have the following voice of sanity…

    …Cole Hickman, a student at Arizona State University in Tempe, said he had sought to rally opposition to the bill, concerned that, among other things, it would further jeopardize people during a mass shooting. Proponents of the bill, Mr. Hickman said, underestimate the difficulty in shooting a live target in a chaotic episode.

    “If another student in the room or a teacher had a gun and opened fire they may hurt other students,” he said, “because unlike police officers, concealed-weapon permit holders are not necessarily well-trained in shooting in crowds and reacting to those kinds of situations.”
    And those permit holders include everyone not trained in law enforcement methods, including moonbat state senators.

    And I have no doubt that the gun apologists with their minutae of anecdotal evidence are at this moment typing furiously to fend off the pestillence of godless liberals such as your humble narrator in response.

    Time To Ante Up, Ralph

    With the 2008 Democratic electoral circus due to check in to my home state shortly in anticipation of the primary on April 22nd (give me strength), I think it’s long past time to revisit a pivotal issue from the 2004 election, especially since the culprit responsible has surfaced again.

    Ralph Nader owed approximately $61,000 in court costs for losing a challenge in 2004 to keep his name off the presidential primary ballot in PA (as of last year, noted here; the signatures on Nader’s petition for his candidacy were determined to be fraudulent here). And despite my perusal of his Nader’s campaign web site and some random Googling, I can’t determine if Nader ever resolved this matter.

    But of course, Nader can continue to stiff the residents of this commonwealth but has no problem calling Hillary Clinton “a political coward” here.

    As I said awhile back, Ralph, Hillary Clinton may be a lot of things, but a coward is not one of them. And she’s not a chiseler like you either.

    Dorgan And The Dems Send A Message To KevMart

    This story tells us that Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) introduced a “resolution of disapproval” today against the latest FCC rule change that would allow newspapers to buy T.V. stations and spur even greater media consolidation, thus further silencing dissent.

    As noted in the story…

    Dorgan tried to block the vote legislatively, but failing that, he promised to take the unusual legislative step of invalidating an independent agency’s regulations. He also tried the same maneuver when the FCC passed an even more deregulatory rule change in 2003. It even passed the Senate before going nowhere in the Republican-controlled House. It was also mooted by a Third Circuit Court of Appeals stay of the rules.

    That could happen again, since both broadcasters and anti-consolidation media activists filed suit against the rule change, arguing that it was too much (activists), and too little (broadcasters).
    And of course, FCC chairman Kevin Martin says that there was plenty of opportunity for public comment on the rule. True, but what Martin doesn’t say is that the comment overwhelmingly told him not to implement the rule, but Martin did so anyway.

    Also, the story tells us that Dorgan’s resolution has 13 co-sponsors, including Repugs Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine. One of those Dem co-sponsors is Jon Tester of Montana; I haven’t had much to say about him since he was sworn in, which probably means that he’s doing a good job.

    Finally, the story also tells us above that Dorgan fought this rule change previously in 2003 (just call me a typically suspicious, filthy, unkempt liberal for wondering why Martin is always trying to implement this rule before a presidential election) and did so with the help of former Repug senator Trent Lott of Mississippi. There are all kinds of reasons to disdain this man, but I have to (gulp…easy Doomsy) give…Trent…Lott…credit here.

    That was tough – I think I need a drink...

    Update 3/17/08: ...not as much as anyone working in Martin's FCC does, I'm sure, based on this.

    The "Soft Bigotry" Of Slamming Obama-Rama

    Be warned that, with the sudden resurgence of Hillary Clinton following her primary wins in Rhode Island, Ohio and Texas yesterday, our corporate media smells blood in the water emanating from the Barack Obama camp, and they’re not in the mood to snack on chum, if you know what I mean.

    And one of the first to try and close in for the kill is Michael Gerson of The Washington Post here (center in photo, of course); the fact that the Post gives him space for his propaganda without reminding readers of his sordid role as one of the chief Bushco propagandists speaks volumes for the moral bankruptcy of the Beltway chattering class.

    Might as well get to it (see, Gerson is speculating on Obama’s first 100 days as president in “glass half-empty” mode)…

    Redeeming his inaugural pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden, fly any distance to meet with our enemies," Obama's first major international meeting is with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. National security adviser Samantha Power does her best to talk tough on human rights in preparation for the meeting. But, as Henry Kissinger once said, "When talks become their own objective, they are at the mercy of the party most prepared to break them off." Having made Iranian talks "without precondition" his major foreign policy goal, Obama is left with little leverage to extract concessions, and little choice but to move forward.
    Funny, but if Gerson was looking for a quote from someone concerning negotiating with your enemies, you would think he’d check with “his childhood political hero Jimmy Carter” (noted here) instead of Henry “Salted Peanuts” Kissinger, one of the most notorious liars the world has ever seen.

    The New York Post runs a front-page picture of the Obama-Ahmadinejad handshake under the headline "Surrender Summit!" The story notes another of Obama's historic firsts: the first American president to meet with a Holocaust denier.
    Yeah, it’s a shame that Obama can only be the first president to meet with a Holocaust denier, isn’t it, especially since one of our former presidents has already paid homage to a location where actual Holocaust perpetrators are entombed (here).

    America's moderate Arab allies in the region also feel betrayed, assuming that America is cutting a bilateral deal with Iran that accepts its nuclear ambitions, while leaving the Sunni powers out in the cold.
    Assuming you could call Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq a “moderate Arab ally,” he has no grounds to complain about anyone cutting deals after this.

    The Egyptian press notes that President Obama's motorcade in Tehran passed near a street named in honor of Khaled al-Islambouli, the assassin of President Anwar Sadat.
    By the way, Islambouli was an Egyptian citizen; why the name of a street in Iraq is supposed to be Obama’s problem is something I can’t imagine (also, do you know that only 2 of the 24 states in the Arab league sent representatives to Sadat’s funeral? It’s a testament to Sadat’s courage that he took the initiative he did in the Camp David Accords knowing that practically all that would result is animosity in the Arab world).

    Obama's 100-day agenda would be designed, in part, to improve America's global image. But there is something worse than being unpopular in the world -- and that is being a pleading, panting joke. By simultaneously embracing appeasement, protectionism and retreat, President Obama would manage to make Jimmy Carter look like Teddy Roosevelt.
    Well, at least Obama wouldn’t look like George W. Bush, the recipient of Gerson’s attempts at image enhancement through his speeches (most notoriously, Dubya’s 2005 inaugural address). That’s bound to be an improvement over the status quo, documented in such depressing detail here.

    However, as noted here, Gerson is an old hand at misrepresenting Obama (“a pleading, panting joke” indeed).

    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    Monday Stuff

    A report on the latest Israeli incursion into Gaza (again, why is Hamas firing the rockets to begin with, though this situation calls for mediation from adult leadership in this country that we won't see until 1/21/09 at the earliest; indeed, this tells us about yet another related Bushco scandal)...



    ...oh, and by the way, congratulations to "Senator Honor and Virtue" for withstanding the daunting challenge of Mike Huckabee's candidacy...



    ...and congrats again...



    ...and "The Pap Attack" presents a pretty damn ugly lesson in Econ 101 for the benefit of Dana Perino.

    Ben Stein Still Needs A Conscience

    Time for a comment in response to the latest pro-business hosannas from one of our most visible conservative media shills (from this NYT column Sunday, where Stein basically tells both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to stop beating up poor ExxonMobil and, presumably, “embrace their inner capitalist”)…

    First, ExxonMobil, like all the other gigantic integrated energy companies in this country, is owned not by a cabal of reactionary businessmen holding clandestine meetings in a lodge in the Texas scrublands (as Oliver Stone so brilliantly illustrated in “Nixon”).

    ExxonMobil, in fact, is owned mostly by ordinary Americans. Mutual funds, index funds and pension funds (including union pension funds) own about 52 percent of ExxonMobil’s shares. Individual shareholders, about two million or so, own almost all the rest. The pooh-bahs who run Exxon own less than 1 percent of the company.

    When ExxonMobil earns almost $12 billion in a quarter, or $41 billion in a year, as it did in 2007, that money does not go into the coffers of a few billionaire executives quaffing Champagne in Texas. It goes into the pension and retirement accounts of ordinary citizens. When Exxon(Mobil) pays a dividend, that money goes to pay for the mortgages and oxygen tanks and in-home care of lots of elderly Americans.
    Let’s put aside the laughable suggestion from Stein that ExxonMobil acts out of some sort of benevolent instinct towards its shareholders beyond its typically rapacious methods of ensuring unabated profit (and it has been particularly good at that, of course, aided in no small part by what has to be the most sympathetic administration to its needs that this country has ever seen).

    Let’s instead take a look at the utter bare-knuckled, bunker mentality of this company towards governments, unions, and “activist” shareholders.

    And let’s also take a look at its refusal to implement non-discriminatory practices (from HuffPo’s Marc Gunther here after its last shareholder meeting; this year's meeting hasn't been announced yet but it could come in May, with proxy mailings due to be sent to shareholders soon)…

    “Your failure and unwillingness to communicate with your shareholders speaks volumes about your corporate governance policies,” said California’s state controller John Chiang on a conference call.

    Robert A.G. Monks, the longtime shareholder activist who holds 100,000 XOM shares through a family trust, said ExxonMobil is “unwilling to acknowledge that they live in a world where they are accountable.”

    “It is a closed company,” said Monks, who’s been a regular at the company’s shareholder confabs. “It is a company that listens only to itself.”

    Among the institutional owners who say they will withhold their votes for (Stanford University’s Michael) Boskin (as president) are the California state teachers retirement fund, and public pension funds from New York state, New York City, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, North Carolina and Connecticut, as well as labor union funds. Not an insignificant group.



    You won’t be surprised to hear that ExxonMobil will again stubbornly oppose a resolution asking the company to adopt in writing a non-discrimination policy against gays and lesbians. All but two FORTUNE 500 companies have done that. Exxon says it opposes discrimination. But what kind of a signal does XOM’s refusal to codify its stance send to GLBT employees or prospective employees?
    And believe me, though ExxonMobil’s stock has performed well, there is an entire universe of investment instruments out there for fund participants that could yield comparable or better returns for Stein’s elderly oxygen-tank-dependent Americans (and doing so with a much clearer conscience, I might add).

    See, it’s a lot easier to Stein to poke fun at people who question an invested company’s earnings than it is to acknowledge potentially actionable legal behavior (and to read more about the antics of this bunch, including alleged connections to military killings and human rights violations, to say nothing of the periodic environmental catastrophes for which these cretins are responsible from time to time, read here).

    ExxonMobil doesn’t need a hug; it needs an indictment. And the law of averages says that one day, despite their mammoth power and influence, they’re going to get it.

    The Iraq Shell Game Continues

    (Posting is questionable for tomorrow, by the way.)

    So Admiral William Fallon, the top military commander in the Middle East, testified today before Congress “that officials will probably need some time this summer to reassess the situation in Iraq before drawing down more troops.”

    And The Almighty Petraeus will return to also testify before Congress next month on the state of things (April 8-9th as of now, or his version of that anyway).

    What will Petraeus recommend? Depends “on conditions that we find” to make sure we don’t lose “the security gains our military has achieved.”

    What will Fallon thus recommend? Don’t know, but we’re on track to reduce our brigades from 20 to 15 by July, with Petraeus recommending “a period of assessment” and telling Dubya to wait “until as late as September to decide whether to bring home more troops.”

    Somehow I think they’d be less duplicitous if they just said “Give us six more months; this is a recording.”

    And doesn’t it just get you that, as always, the concerns of the vast majority of this country don’t exist as far as these people are concerned?

    Well, since I really can’t count on much of our media to give us even a vaguely realistic picture of what is going on, I checked the site of the Times of London and found this account by correspondent Martin Fletcher...

    There is less gunfire, and fewer explosions. No longer do I instinctively look for mutilated torsos floating down the Tigris. I have ventured out to shop and eat - albeit in one of Baghdad's safest districts. The night-time curfew has been relaxed. Schools, markets and the national theatre have reopened. Families visit refurbished parks. Men sit outside cafés drinking sweet, black tea. Children play soccer on side roads.

    I found myself writing less about death than rising oil exports, the opening of Baghdad's first Chinese restaurant, and the resumption of a rudimentary passenger train service to Basra. It has been a welcome change.

    American soldiers are increasingly focused on encouraging reconstruction, not preventing destruction, and for the first time I sensed that they felt good about their mission. The Iraqi security services - particularly the army - are gradually expanding and improving. Moqtada al-Sadr, the volatile Shia cleric, has just extended the six-month ceasefire of his infamous Mahdi Army militia that was responsible for so much sectarian killing. The threat of civil war has receded, and talk of Iraq breaking up has, for now, died away. The centre has held - just.

    But all this must be set in context. What passes for normality in Iraq would be utterly abnormal anywhere else. The number of Iraqis killed in January was the lowest in 23 months, but still numbered 541. Hundreds of thousands of Baghdadis now live in walled-in, ethnically cleansed, heavily guarded enclaves that they are terrified to leave. Sunnis do not venture into Shia areas, and vice-versa. Sectarian hatreds have been contained, but not resolved.

    The capital is choked by checkpoints and more than 100,000 sections of concrete blast barrier. Coils of razor wire roll across pavements like tumbleweed in Texas.

    Some 50,000 exiles have returned from abroad since last autumn, but several thousand were so horrified by what they found that they left again. There are still four million displaced Iraqis.

    Al-Qaeda, though on the defensive, is far from defeated. It still mounts spectacular attacks, notably last month's bombings of Baghdad's pet markets. Its killings of Sunni “traitors” - the concerned local citizens (CLCs) who switched allegiance to the Americans last year - have doubled since October. Headless bodies are found quite regularly in those provinces north of Baghdad where al-Qaeda is still a force.



    To talk of America “winning” a conflict that has lasted longer than the First World War is now grotesque, whatever the outcome. There has been far too much suffering for that. This long ago became a salvage operation - and one whose success is still not assured.
    Fletcher’s entire account is excellent; I’ve only highlighted key passages. You would do well to take a minute or two and read it in its entirety (yeah, I guess we’ve achieved gains when it comes to fewer mutilated torsos anyway…dear God).

    I want to thank Fletcher for reporting “the reality on the ground,” which is obviously too much to ask of those either elected to represent us or to serve us in the defense of our country.

    Speaking From Experience

    Wow, I was just so pleasantly surprised to read here that Flush Limbore apologized to Senator Barack Obama for bringing “dishonor and guttural utterances” into the campaign when Flush laughed with a caller who said that she thought Obama looked like the monkey Curious George.

    This means a whole lot from someone who compared Obama to a terrorist (here), who routinely used the word “spade” in context with African Americans (here), and once attempted to link Obama to Osama bin Laden (here – I could find more examples, but life is short and I don’t want to accidentally turn my own stomach).

    All of this means that Flush, however kicking and screaming, is somehow approaching a level of discourse that may one day be acceptable to most adults in this century.

    The only thing I’m wondering about now is what he must have said about McCain to merit an apology to him as well.

    McCain Stirs Bipartisan "Tanker Trouble"

    And as much as I’d like to slam that “straight-talking maverick” for this, I really can’t; please allow me to explain.

    This tells us that the U.S. Air Force has awarded a $40 billion tanker contract to Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), the parent company of Airbus, over Boeing (with manufacturing facilities based in Washington state and Kansas).

    However, the following should also be considered in this story (from here)…

    Back in 2004, McCain launched a one-man to crusade to undo the scandal ridden lease for Boeing aerial refueling tankers based on the 767 design. Subsequent congressional investigations showed a systematic failure of the Air Force's procurement process in opting for a lease of the Boeing aircraft that would be more expensive that purchasing the tankers outright. While Air Force officials blamed one Pentagon official about to start a her new career at Boeing as responsible for swinging the deal to hr new employer, Senator McCain was having none of it. As the Washington Post reported in November 2004:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has conducted an equally vigorous campaign against the lease, said in releasing the internal Pentagon communications in a speech on the Senate floor that the missives reflect a "systemic Air Force failure in procurement oversight, willful blindness or rank corruption."

    McCain said top Air Force officials have recently been trying to "delude the American people" into believing that a single person is responsible for misconduct in the $30 billion leasing plan -- namely, Darleen A. Druyun, the Air Force contracting official who pleaded guilty two months ago to overpricing the tankers as a "parting gift" to Boeing before she became one of the firm's executives.

    "I simply cannot believe that one person, acting alone, can rip off taxpayers out of billions of dollars," said McCain, who said he will keep pursuing internal Defense Department and Bush administration communications until "all the stewards of taxpayers' funds who committed wrongdoing are held accountable."
    The story goes on to tell us that Air Force Secretary James G. Roche and Marvin R. Sambur, the Air Force's top acquisitions manager, resigned several days before McCain's speech as part of the fallout from the reversal of Boeing’s lease.

    And this story tells us that…

    Although the Northrop-EADS tanker will be assembled in Mobile, Ala., the major A330 airframe sections will still be built in Europe and shipped across the Atlantic.
    And this has raised political hackles all over the place, particularly in an election year; McClatchy tells us here that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, no doubt already trying to distance herself from the pending sellout on telco immunity concerning FISA, has called for an investigation, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have criticized the contract award (Boeing’s corporate HQ is in Chicago, IL).

    (And by the way, speaking of the FISA fiasco, it's pathetic that I have to add this link, but I do what I must...also, "what Stoller sez" here).

    But if you want to consider how Northrop-EADS won (from the Seattle Times)…

    Scott Hamilton, an Issaquah-based analyst who has long considered the Northrop-EADS proposal superior, described that bottom line as "astounding."

    Hamilton criticized Boeing's public-relations campaign during the contest for focusing on aspects such as the creation of U.S. jobs and government subsidies to EADS, rather than the merits of the two planes.

    "Boeing doesn't seem to have a leg to stand on for a successful protest," said Hamilton. "I think that [local] anger really ought to be directed at Boeing for putting together such a poor proposal."
    And…

    The Northrop proposal, which put forward the much bigger A330 against the 767, even swung the Air Force around from its original thinking.

    "The Air Force started out believing that the larger aircraft was a liability," Thompson said. "Northrop did such a superior job of analysis that they convinced a reluctant Air Force to treat the larger aircraft as an asset."

    His memo listed the five key criteria as capability, risk, past performance, cost and "integrated fleet aerial refueling assessment," a score from a computer model that measures performance in various war scenarios.

    "Boeing didn't manage to beat Northrop in a single measure of merit," Thompson wrote.

    The two proposals were assessed as equal on the perceived risk that the contractor would not perform as required.

    By every other measure, Northrop won. On past performance, the big delays to the Japanese and Italian 767 tanker programs weighed heavily against Boeing, Thompson said.

    And Thompson, who was considered by EADS to favor Boeing in the competition, added this damning endnote to his memo:

    "The reviewers concluded that if they funded the Northrop Grumman proposal they could have 49 superior tankers operating by 2013, whereas if they funded the Boeing proposal, they would have only 19 considerably less capable planes in that year."
    Yep, it sounds pretty much like Northrop-EADS “handed Boeing its lunch” here, and no amount of political squawking by anyone is going to change that.

    Besides, McCain’s home state of Arizona isn’t affected at all by this deal; take a look at this if you want to get an idea of how aerospace-related industry is booming there.

    And I have to say that, while I’m highly sympathetic to anyone in this country losing a job even though they performed to the best of their ability, I live with the reality of my job being affected for cost reasons from an offshore partner all the time (and there are times when I think I should put the word “partner” in quotes permanently, but I won’t go there).

    The Northrop-EADS award is nothing but “the miracle of our global economy” at work, everybody. Besides, I didn’t hear any politicians crying while this country’s IT industry was decimated by offshoring under the foul reign of Bushco. Why weren’t Nancy Pelosi or her congressional counterparts prior to November 2006 calling for some kind of a special investigation while all of that was going on?

    But oh, this story affects a huge workforce from two states, one of which (Washington) should swing for the Dems unless something goes horribly wrong; Kansas is starting to trend that way also, but I don’t quite think it will be completely “blue” by November (I’d love to be wrong, though). And I suppose that makes all the difference.

    And wouldn’t it be ironic if McCain ended up taking his biggest electoral hit for actually performing some astute Congressional oversight for a change?

    Update 3/8/08: Nope, I don't see this story going away either (here).

    Update 3/11/08: "Astute congressional oversight," huh? Good thing I don't get paid for this (snark - but just keep telling yourself, "this is good news for Republicans").

    The "Friendship" That Isn't There

    The Washington Post tries again today to link Barack Obama and Louis Farrakhan in the following underhanded fashion (in the “Under God” column by Claire Hoffman, lending the proper satiric touch to the whole nonsensical episode in my opinion – in her column, she’s actually trying to let “St. McCain” off the hook for his political dalliance with John Hagee)…

    Where things get uncomfortable is when Hagee is grinning on stage next to McCain, who could lead this diverse country and directly affect the lives of said Catholics, gays and Muslims. Obama faced this same question of a divisive friendship last week when he said he would reject the endorsement of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
    This is ridiculous; there is no “friendship” between Obama and Farrakhan. Obama has “rejected and denounced” Farrakhan as thoroughly as possible (here).

    But of course, this really isn’t about anything approximating reality. It is all about our media trying to construct a narrative along the lines of “well, Obama received an endorsement from Farrakhan, so it’s all right for McCain to accept one from an anti-Catholic bigot.”

    And today, Richard Cohen tells us here that it is up to Obama to save African Americans from their collective plight of lost job opportunities and the inability to advance themselves economically (a result partly of bad individual decision-making in many cases, but also our country’s refusal to invest in our cities particularly under Dubya and fight poverty as well). This comes on the heels of Cohen’s “piling on” column concerning Obama and Farrakhan, which kind of makes me wonder what human crisis involving people of color Cohen will call on Obama to resolve next week (and of course, Cohen conveniently tries to absolve himself and everyone else of supporting the regime that has done virtually nothing concerning the task now consigned to Obama).

    (I suppose Cohen could call on Obama to help the Democratic congress to “grow a pair,” but I think that’s too much of a job for any mere mortal at this point…related to this post which is somewhat off-topic, but highly important for the moment).

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    Monday PM Stuff

    And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Pastor" John Hagee, whose endorsement was accepted by "Straight Talk" McCain even though Hagee called the Catholic Church "The Great Whore"...



    ...and "It's 3 AM, your kids are asleep, you and the wife are"...never mind (h/t The Daily Kos).

    Webb No Wonder For Obama-Rama

    I agree with Frank Rich of the New York Times more than I disagree with him, but he brought up the following scenario yesterday here in a column about John McCain, the all-but-named Repug nominee for president, and I just want to comment on it…

    If, as he says, the surge is “succeeding,” voters may well join the Democratic ticket (possibly including the Vietnam War hero Jim Webb?) in asking why we’ll still have some 140,000 troops on indefinite duty in Iraq as of this summer, a year and a half after this “temporary” escalation was announced.
    Here I believe we have more pundit navel gazing for no good reason (and you can add this to the “conventional wisdom” that a longer primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is automatically good news for Republicans).

    Senator Jim Webb of Virginia deserves credit for introducing the “dwell time” amendment here which stipulated that all soldiers should be given as much time or more between deployments as the amount of time of the deployment itself, though the amendment was defeated. And Webb’s voting record has ended up mirroring our own Bob Casey’s fairly closely as it turns out.

    That’s both good and bad, however. Both have been inconsistent on the telco immunity issue concerning FISA (fighting before eventually caving), and Webb has consistently voted against the amendment by Russ Feingold to begin redeploying our troops out of Iraq (here).

    I think that, for these reasons, naming Webb to the ticket with either Obama or Hillary is asking for trouble; it would end up undercutting what they're all about. And given the geography involved, I don’t think there’s enough of a benefit to either candidate when it comes to the south, and it will be seen as a pandering move, which I think it is in fact (the south, by and large, would go for Hillary less than they would go for Obama as of now anyway). Also, it overstates the notion of trying to negate any military “cred” from McCain; we all know how much good any military advantage was for John Kerry versus Dubya four years ago.

    For these reasons and more, I think the choice for either Obama or HRC as a running mate is the easiest, safest one, and that would be Bill Richardson (pictured).

    There are so many ways that adding Richardson to the ticket would complement the nominee. As former governor of Arizona, he has a record of sound fiscal administration and job creation. As a former diplomatic envoy and U.N. representative, he has a record in foreign policy that I believe in unmatched among prospective candidates for the second part of the ticket (all of this and more is detailed here).

    Most importantly, though, he would provide the Latino support that either candidate (particularly Obama) would need in the general election (this article in the Times yesterday by James Traub explains the back-and-forth between the African American and Latino voting blocs in this country; though the Repugs have largely lost these individuals because of their idiotic immigration intransigence – excepting Florida, of course – no Dem should ever take their votes for granted).

    Nominating Richardson would put a metaphorical boot onto the throat of the McCain candidacy when it comes to the Hispanic vote (and by no means am I trying to diminish Richardson himself here; I don’t mean to imply for a second that adding him is an act of political calculation and nothing more). Hillary is a little more solid with the Latino vote than Obama and would have a little more flexibility on the VP choice I believe, but in the event that she doesn’t make it, I think this should be a lock for Richardson (and I’m sure that he’d have some “home state” dirt on McCain also, to use only as a last resort though).

    The Latest Heresy Involving “St. McCain”

    This probably amounts to nothing more than an “echo chamber” post, but I don’t care.

    It would be nothing more than merely good sport to see John McCain’s candidacy for president imploding all over the place* despite the corporate media narrative that he somehow has been vindicated on Iraq if it weren’t for the presence of John Hagee.

    (* - wish fulfillment on my part...ed.)

    Of all the posts I’ve seen so far on this human nematode, I think this from MyDD captures Hagee in all of his ignominy better than anything else I’ve seen.

    See, it’s not enough that Hagee has referred to the Catholic Church as “The Great Whore” (which is offensive enough to yours truly; despite some of my admittedly liberal adherence to church doctrine for which I make no apology, I still defend the faith), but he has also offered the following observations…

    Hagee on Hurricane Katrina

    "All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

    Hagee on Islamic Beliefs

    Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked if Hagee believed that "all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews," to which Hagee replied, "Well, the Quran teaches that. Yes, it teaches that very clearly." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

    Hagee on African-Americans

    The San Antonio Express-News reported that Hagee was going to "meet with black religious leaders privately at an unspecified future date to discuss comments he made in his newsletter about a 'slave sale,' an East Side minister said Wednesday." The Express-News reported:

    "Hagee, pastor of the 16,000-member Cornerstone Church, last week had announced a 'slave sale' to raise funds for high school seniors in his church bulletin, 'The Cluster.'

    "The item was introduced with the sentence 'Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone" and ended with "Make plans to come and go home with a slave." [San Antonio Express-News 3/7/96]

    Hagee on Catholicism

    "Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews." [Jerusalem Countdown by John Hagee]

    Hagee on Women

    "Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist." [God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, Sarah Posner]

    "[T]he feminist movement today is throwing off authority in rebellion against God's pattern for the family." ["Bible Positions on Political Issues," John Hagee]

    Hagee on LGBT Americans

    "The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

    Hagee on Iran

    "The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty," Hagee wrote [in 2006] in the Pentecostal magazine Charisma. "Israel and America must confront Iran's nuclear ability and willingness to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. For Israel to wait is to risk committing national suicide." [The Nation, 8/8/2006]
    And Sarah Posner of The American Prospect has more on that here...

    In Hagee's telling, Israel has no choice but to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, with or without America's help. The strike will provoke Russia -- which wants Persian Gulf oil -- to lead an army of Arab nations against Israel. Then God will wipe out all but one-sixth of the Russian-led army, as the world watches "with shock and awe," he says, lending either a divine quality to the Bush administration phrase or a Bush-like quality to God's wrath.

    But Hagee doesn't stop there. He adds that Ezekiel predicts fire upon those who "live in security in the coastlands." From this sentence he concludes that there will be judgment upon all who stood by while the Russian-led force invaded Israel, and issues a stark warning to the United States to intervene: "Could it be that America, who refuses to defend Israel from the Russian invasion, will experience nuclear warfare on our east and west coasts?" He says yes, citing Genesis 12:3, in which God said to Israel: "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you."

    To fill the power vacuum left by God's decimation of the Russian army, the Antichrist -- identified by Hagee as the head of the European Union -- will rule "a one-world government, a one-world currency and a one-world religion" for three and a half years. (He adds that "one need only be a casual observer of current events to see that all three of these things are coming into reality.") The "demonic world leader" will then be confronted by a false prophet, identified by Hagee as China, at Armageddon, the Mount of Megiddo in Israel. As they prepare for the final battle, Jesus will return on a white horse and cast both villains -- and presumably any nonbelievers -- into a "lake of fire burning with brimstone," thus marking the beginning of his millennial reign.

    Now that's entertainment.
    I would merely write off Hagee as a typical wingnut and not pay him any further mind except for the fact that McCain has issued the following response (from the MyDD post)…

    "Yesterday, Pastor John Hagee endorsed my candidacy for president in San Antonio, Texas. However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee's views, which I obviously do not."

    "I am hopeful that Catholics, Protestants and all people of faith who share my vision for the future of America will respond to our message of defending innocent life, traditional marriage, and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society."
    That isn’t nearly close to good enough, “Senator Honor And Virtue.”

    Now, where is Tim Russert confronting McCain repeatedly over his acceptance of Hagee’s endorsement, as Russert did with Barack Obama over Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement (which Obama refused)?

    Even better, Media Matters makes a good point about this here.

    If McCain had any spine at all, he would categorically refuse Hagee’s endorsement and accept the flak (spelled without the “c,” I know, Senator) he would receive from the “values voters” that would result (as well as the further hue and cry from Flush Limbore and his ilk about how “Senator Maverick” isn’t a “true conservative”).

    Update 3/4/08: Totally not surprising...

    More Bad Inky Spin On The FISA Follies

    This editorial on the latest with the FISA law appeared yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, stating as follows…

    If President Bush wants to assign blame for the lapse of the nation's antiterror surveillance law, then he must also point to himself.

    Instead, the president wants to make House Democrats the villains. Not once but twice last week, Bush tried to cast the majority party as the bad guys for their refusal to renew the law exactly according to his terms.

    Trouble is, the president has been downplaying his complicity in the legislative standoff because of his own refusal to entertain a key compromise.
    Yes, the editorial gets off to a good start, but it will go downhill shortly…

    Bush has been trumpeting the threat of terror attacks without the rules, contending al-Qaeda agents and their ilk will be able to talk to their co-conspirators without being detected by authorities.

    Bush said Thursday that it's "dangerous, just dangerous" to go much longer without renewing the surveillance law.

    But no ongoing investigation has been halted by the law's expiration, and agents can use other existing tools to launch new probes.
    Close enough so far, but what was allowed to expire were the provisions of the Protect America Act which, as noted here, was an amendment to existing FISA law which (as the Inquirer notes) Congress offered to extend for a month while they tried to negotiate with Bushco on renewing the PAA (as futile an exercise as one can imagine, of course).

    Though the cretins at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, as well as other right-wing nut jobs, would have you believe that the U.S. House allowed FISA to expire, that most certainly is not true. The PAA expired, not FISA itself.

    To continue…

    The issue isn't whether the telecoms should be shielded in some way from massive damages. They should, inasmuch as the companies acted to cooperate with the government during a crisis.

    They cooperated with the NSA in a time of great national fear.


    So as a matter of fairness, Congress is right to look at workable measures such as having Washington assume the firms' liability in these cases.
    No, no and no! I consider that to be a totally crappy “compromise”!

    No one should be “shielded” for their behavior when it comes to illegal surveillance, and the excuse that it was “a time of great national fear” is ridiculous. Besides, who do you think assumes the responsibility if it is decided that the U.S. government should stand “in the docket” instead of the telcos?

    That would be all of us, ladies and gentlemen; any taxpayer in this country who would have to pay out in the event of a guilty verdict against the government acting on behalf of AT&T, Verizon, or anybody else named in a suit over illegal surveillance.

    Why on earth would I want to assume responsibility for these characters and their illegal spying?

    And…

    Bush's claim - that unless telecoms are granted complete immunity, they won't cooperate in the future - is certainly a valid concern.
    No it isn’t!

    See, there’s this little concept that Bushco has a whole lot of trouble with, I know, and it’s called “the rule of law.” If a corporate entity or other player in this situation does not provide something you seek in the way of information on a suspected threat to this country after one or more requests, you compel them to do so by initiating an action against them.

    And I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of anyone who has sought immunity for anything unless they had something to hide.

    As Kagro X says here…

    Why not let the judges -- whose actual job it is to be fair to everyone who comes into their courtrooms -- worry about being fair to the telecom companies?

    Why not let federal judges -- who don't and can't take $5,000 campaign checks from the telecom companies -- worry about being fair?
    And as Kagro X also notes, the telcos only stopped spying when the FBI didn’t pay its bill on time.

    Also, this Daily Kos post from diarist mcjoan tells us about Peter Sussman, a journalist and plaintiff in the ACLU’s pending case against AT&T, which would be automatically thrown out if telco immunity is written into law once and for all. His private records were shared with this administration.

    Does it make you happy to know that George W. Milhous Bush, Dick Cheney, and Mike McConnell, among others, are seeking access to details about how many times you called a family member, how many times you called a pharmacy to have your subscriptions renewed, how many times you may have called a confidential number to seek some type of medical treatment, how many times you called your day care provider, or how many times you may have called a 900 number for one reason or another? Does it make you happy also to know that any telco who provided this information for them would be shielded from liability if the congressional Democrats cave and give it to them?

    Don’t you think that information is nobody's damn business but yours?

    Then contact your elected U.S. House representative from here and tell them (Patrick Murphy, as usual, is on the right side of this issue and stated the obvious; that allowing the PAA to lapse does not infringe on our ability to conduct legal surveillance of anyone who may be a legitimate threat to this country).

    And under no circumstances should some type of phony-baloney FISA “compromise” be tolerated by any U.S. citizen.

    Update: I haven't read all of this yet, but as far as I'm concerned, Froomkin nails it here so far; he's usually "on the beam" anyway.