Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Stuff

Kelvin Lovely of GoLeft TV has a few words for Dennis Miller (nice)...



...the great Rush Holt of New Jersey speaks to the House about the FISA bill crafted today (well done)...



...and we keep being told how bad it is that our kids are trailing Asian children in math and science; now, the Onion tells us that African kids are ahead of ours in another category - more on this story as it (hopefully) doesn't develop...



...and Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films show us how "Fox Attacks" (and, by extension, everyone else) Barack Obama...again (and how much do you want to bet this will get ignored...h/t Prof. Marcus).

Friday Wrapup (3/14/08)

  • Last December 23rd, Mark Bowden of the Inquirer wrote the following in this column…

    No one should be prosecuted for waterboarding Abu Zubaydah.

    Several investigations are under way to find out who ordered the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes, apparently an effort to cover up evidence of (his) torture.


    In the unlikely event that Zubaydah knew nothing of value and that every bit of information he divulged was false (regarding the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and possibly the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole), it was still reasonable to assume in 2002 that this was not the case. If his interrogators were able to stop one terror attack by waterboarding him, even if they violated international agreements and our national conscience, it was justified. All nations have laws against killing, but all recognize self-defense as a legitimate excuse. I think the waterboarding in this case is directly analogous, except that Zubaydah himself, although he richly deserves it, was neither killed nor permanently harmed.

    I can understand why someone at the CIA ordered the videotapes destroyed. It was both to protect those who did it (more from their own government, I suspect, than from terrorist reprisals) and to prevent the images from ever becoming public. We have seen the disastrous, self-defeating consequences of such pictures, which untethered from context assume a damaging life of their own. Whoever made the call now runs the risk of being prosecuted for obstruction of justice, a risk I am sure was evaluated before making the choice.
    Last Sunday, however, Bowden wrote the following here – late getting to this, I know…

    With the first two terrorism cases from the Guantánamo Bay detention center in the pipeline at last, the United States has an important opportunity.

    Open and honest proceedings could showcase Western values and stand in sharp contrast to the horrid little jihadist snuff videos furtively circulating on the Internet. The opportunity may be squandered, however, if the government proceeds with plans to try inmates with evidence obtained in coercive interrogation.

    News that the military has employed "clean teams" to reinterview some inmates who gave self-incriminating evidence under coercive interrogation is hardly reassuring. Such efforts are no more than a fig leaf.



    It is important here to distinguish between two kinds of interrogation. One kind is for the purposes of intelligence gathering; its purpose is to obtain information to prevent attacks. This is the only circumstance in which coercive methods can be justified morally, if not legally. The other kind of interrogation is for the purposes of criminal prosecution, to prove and punish acts committed in the past. Extracting confessions through torture is the opposite of justice, and such evidence has no place in any fair judicial setting.
    I believe the “fig leaf” remark, but my point here is that Bowden is trying to have it both ways, saying on the one hand that, yeah, torture (called “coercive methods” by the author - I don't buy Bowden's attempt to differentiate between the two) is bad if you’re trying to “gather intelligence,” but it’s OK if you’re trying to “prevent attacks.”

    Torture is bad under any circumstances. Period (and here’s some appropriate reading material). And I’m not going to waste my time linking to yet another post explaining that the “intelligence” you get from it isn’t any good anyway, episodes of “24” notwithstanding.


  • I received the following communication from Joe Sestak of PA’s 7th Congressional District yesterday…

    Dear Friend,

    I now have a very serious Republican challenger. At the 11th hour, the Republicans recruited an assistant US District attorney (who is also a decorated F/A -18 aviator from the First Gulf War; a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve; and who served as legal counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) to run for this seat.

    I am only the second Democratic Congressman to hold this seat since the Civil War -- a District where Republicans outnumber Democrats by almost 2:1. I am asking you to please help me with my fundraising this most crucial quarter.

    Please contribute: click
    here.

    It appears that national security views will again play a role in this campaign season, as my opponent has articulated views on Iraq and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) with which I disagree. The campaign season will flush out our other differences on domestic issues, but I need your help now.

    Please contribute: click
    here.

    The amount of money that we raise by March 31st is crucial because this quarter will be my opponent's first reporting period. There is no more important quarter for a challenger than his first -- and, therefore, for me also. We know. Two years ago, when I was the challenger, our campaign was viewed as competitive at the outset -- and attracted additional funding in subsequent quarters -- because we nearly out-raised a 20-year Republican Congressman in our first quarter. A particularly strong fundraising effort by the FEC reporting date of March 31st -- whereby we significantly out-raise my opponent -- will prevent him from gaining "financial credibility" and therefore "traction" in terms of future fundraising support in the quarters to come.

    Please contribute: click
    here.

    With 35% of the electorate in my District registered Democrat -- and given that I am only the second Democratic Congressman over the last 142 years since the Civil War -- my opponent has been running hard in raising funds this quarter because of the Republicans' belief that this is "their seat". I disagree -- it is the "people's seat". I believe in a new approach to politics that benefits everyone -- not just one party. With your support, significantly out-raising my opponent sends this signal, while at the same time, deterring future fundraising support for him after this quarter.

    Please contribute: click
    here.

    I have enjoyed my first year as a Congressman. Please know that I do not ever forget your support, and am forever grateful for all that you have done. I would not be doing this job, were it not for you.

    Warmly,

    Joe Sestak
    No word on whether or not Admiral Joe’s opponent will be Patrick Meehan, who may decide to bail on the Vince Fumo corruption trial since Fumo is stepping down from the PA state house due to health reasons.

    Also, I know Admiral Joe has been lending a hand to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, which seems to define a good day any more as one without any implosions, but at the end of the day, we're all Democrats (well, most of us), so let's not forget that.


  • And finally, I couldn’t let the week go by without noting the passing of former Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum at 90. He won a few battles and lost a few (some of his own making), but he kept fighting (even with John Glenn, who defeated him to win election to the Senate, though they worked together again later in political life to help Metzenbaum get re-elected).

    The Inquirer, in the link to his obituary, described the former “Senator No” as an “unabashed liberal,” a badge of honor I would be happy to wear one day if and when the time comes to look back upon your humble narrator with either fondness or disdain (hopefully not for a looong time, though, I want to emphasize).
  • Where The Rubber Meets The Road (3/14/08)

    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 (barely worth the trouble to post, as it turns out).

    House

    Mental-health insurance. In a 268-148 vote, the House passed a bill (HR 1424) requiring the same level of coverage between mental and physical illnesses in group medical plans. The bill applies to employers with more than 50 workers.

    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.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.) Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

    Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
    Yep, Joe Pitts would have been crazy to vote for something that makes as much sense as this does (sorry, too easy - and to help Bruce Slater, click here).

    Senate

    Safety commission overhaul. In a 79-13 vote, the Senate passed a bill (S 2663) to expand powers of the Consumer Product Safety Commission while more than doubling the agency's budget over 10 years and beefing up its staff and testing capabilities.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
    And Nancy Nord still is in charge, by the way, despite this (and this tells you who the 13 cretins were who voted No, including Diaper Dave Vitter, who still takes up space in the Senate while Eliot Spitzer prepares to vacate the governor's mansion in Albany).

    Tune in for more fun next week.

    How “Unromantic” Can The V.A. Get?

    President George W. Milhous Bush yesterday when discussing the war in Afghanistan with civilian and military personnel (here)…

    "I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

    "It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.
    After a certain point, pointing out the failings of this numbskull kind of becomes similar (I would guess) to the same sensation you feel after punching a wall made out of Silly Putty for about a half hour or so.

    What best describes that phrase? Naïve? Misinformed? Blindly optimistic? Inappropriate?

    STOO-PID??!!

    Well, while trying to figure out how to respond, I finally decided that the best way to do so would be to try and figure out what is going on with the Veterans Administration; you know, that agency whose title is more or less self-explanatory formerly run by Repug “rainmaker” Jim Nicholson before he was replaced by Dr. James Peake?

    I was hoping that Peake had somehow straightened out that maligned department, but apparently not...

    SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 29 (IPS) - Another high-ranking George W. Bush administration official has resigned. The Department of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Benefits Daniel Cooper quit Thursday amid mounting criticism over a backlog of disability claims for injured veterans that runs six months long and an appearance he made in a fundraising video for an evangelical Christian organisation where he said Bible study was more important than doing his job.
    And why exactly should I be surprised by stories like this by now?

    Cooper has been under fire for using his office to proselytise for evangelical Christianity ever since he appeared in a 2004 fundraising video for Christian Embassy, which carries out missionary work among the Washington elite as part of the Campus Crusade for Christ.

    In the video, Cooper says of his Bible study, "It's not really about carving out time, it really is a matter of saying what is important. And since that's more important than doing the job -- the job's going to be there, whether I'm there or not."
    Well, apparently, it seems that the job remains of course, but Cooper will now go off to study the Bible while the backlog of veterans in need of VA services continues to build.

    And given all of this, I think it’s important to revisit some meanings of the word “romantic” as used by Dubya concerning our military, and those would be “imaginative, not practical,” and “imaginary or fictitious.”

    That seems to describe the possibility that this agency will ever operate efficiently under the Bushco gang.

    The "Blunder From Down Under" Returns

    In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer “Back Channels” column, Kevin Ferris tells us of former Australian PM John Howard’s recent visit to the American Enterprise Institute.

    I’ll spare you the exceedingly tedious details and just try to highlight some major points instead (the West must hold fast to its values and resist “vacuous” calls for change, Howard “modernized” Australia’s economy partly through labor law changes, the Archbishop of Canterbury is wrong to state that “some acceptance of sharia law was inevitable in Britain,” each of our countries must be “culturally assertive” in a manner advocated by Maggie Thatcher and The Sainted Ronnie R, and of course, Iraq and Afghanistan are both fronts on the GWOT against “Islamic Fascism”; this is a recording).

    Yeah, I can remember Howard being “culturally assertive” all right when he said here that Osama bin Forgotten was “praying” for Barack Obama to win the U.S. presidency, earning Howard a swift rebuke over his country’s troop presence in Iraq which was virtually nonexistent when compared to ours.

    (Oh, and speaking of Iraq, I’d still like to find out about that little alleged “quid pro quo” whereby Howard sent more troops to Iraq if we in turn didn’t look into some of the “financial relations” between Saddam Hussein and the Australian Wheat Board here).

    And Ferris tells us of another wonder of Howard’s tenure, which was his “tax reform” that, apparently, actually helped his country’s economy (Wikipedia tells us here that part of that supposed reform was Howard’s institution of a Goods and Services Tax during his second term, something he said he wouldn’t do when he first ran for prime minister.

    However, it seems that the issue that trumped all for the Aussies in last year’s election was the environment, made so by that country’s seven-year drought, as noted here; Howard was defeated by Labor party opposition leader Kevin Rudd who was aided in no small part by Peter Garrett, law graduate and environment spokesman and also former lead singer of the band Midnight Oil (it’s hard to blame Howard for the environment, but he can be faulted for sucking up too thoroughly to Dubya…and by the way, Howard and his coalition lost big last year, giving up 23 seats in Parliament – it was an unusually decisive blow given their electoral history).

    And Ferris noted that Howard said the following to his sympathetic AEI audience...

    Some would counter that the West, particularly Bush's America, is already too arrogant, too willing to ignore the needs or values of other cultures and nations. Why not give a little?

    "We should not think that by trading away some of the values which have made us who we are will buy us either immunity from terrorists or respect from noisy minorities," Howard says.

    "If the butter of common national values is spread too thinly, it will disappear altogether."
    Yep, just like Howard’s career in public life, apparently (and he and Ferris know a thing or two about “noisy minorities,” I’ll admit).

    A Real Joker Plays The Race Card Again

    The Rev. Al Sharpton, as quoted in this New York Times story yesterday about the Democratic presidential primary, which has now shifted to my home turf of course (with a reference to the Gerri Ferraro mess, which seems to have abated for the moment)…

    In addition to Ms. Ferraro’s remark, Mr. Sharpton cited (Sen. Hillary) Clinton’s decision not to fire her top ally in Pennsylvania, Gov. Edward G. Rendell, for saying in February that some white voters there were “probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate.”

    “When you hear the lack of total denunciation of Ferraro, when you hear Rendell saying there are whites who will never vote for a black, one has to wonder if the Clinton campaign has a Pennsylvania strategy to appeal to voters on race,” Mr. Sharpton said in an interview. “I would hope Mrs. Clinton would make it clear that she is not doing that.”

    Mr. Sharpton ran against Ms. Ferraro in 1992 in New York in a primary for a Senate seat.
    A “Pennsylvania strategy”? Let’s see, how many ways do I object to that term (and though I suppose Tawana Brawley will always claim that she was gang-raped, what little credibility Sharpton had took a serious hit over that to the point where I don’t think he has the right to represent or speak for anyone). How much do I personally object to being lumped into such a demeaning characterization?

    While I will admit that Ed Rendell’s statement looks bad when you consider that it comes on the heels of the Ferraro mess for the Clinton campaign (which also counts Rendell as a supporter of course), the fact of the matter is that Rendell happens to be right; he’s not attacking Obama in any way, but merely speaking the truth.

    But of course, we can’t have Reverend Al admitting that, so instead, he has to create another tempest in the proverbial tea pot by linking Rendell somehow with Ferraro; I do not consider the former to be racist in any way, while I think the latter person needs to either obtain counseling or sit down with an audience of African American Democrats for a serious “heart to heart.”

    I think Barack Obama has handled this whole mess fairly well, trying to stay out of the fray with Ferraro and let it run its course. But if The Reverend continues to interject himself into the campaign as a one-man “race police” squad, then I think the senator from Illinois should take this blowhard aside and tell him to shut his yap or else Obama will publicly disavow him (“reject,” “denounce” – whatever term meets the approval of Clinton and Tim Russert).

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Thursday Stuff

    I should have put this up yesterday since that's when I was reaming out that mental flea Jonah Goldberg, but better late than never...



    ...and I have to admit that this is a clever idea from Eli Pariser and MoveOn.org (apparently, today was a good day for the Clinton campaign in that no one did anything stupid - at least, nothing we know about).

    Hopefully, A Road Never Traveled Again

    When I see the byline of certain writers in an AP story (Nedra Pickler, Anne Flaherty), I try to pay extra-special attention because there’s a chance they’ll end up giving me something to do. And being that Andrew Taylor is another one of those people, I found this interesting item in his article yesterday about the Dems and Repugs jousting in Congress over budget priorities…

    The rival budget plans display the difficult trade-offs facing the next president, who must weigh tax cuts that expire at the end of 2010 with popular spending programs like education, highway construction and Medicare. Simply put, it's impossible, under current estimates, to have it all and still claim a balanced budget.
    I have to admit that I’ve never seen those items grouped together before; I mean, while Medicare is a wonderful entitlement that we’ll have to figure out how to fund under the watch of responsible adults (automatically ruling out anything until 1/21/09 at the earliest), this country could go on without it (though it would impose great hardship). However, without funding education or highway construction, this country simply cannot exist; you cannot simply write them off as “popular spending programs.”

    And this made me a bit curious as to how we could have arrived at such a state where funding of our highways could be such a point of contention, so I did a little digging and found out a thing or two.

    This tells us about the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which…

    …was signed into law, allowing nearly $200 billion for highway construction and maintenance from 1998 to 2003. Most of the money for federally subsidized highway and airport projects comes from excise taxes on fuel, airplane fares, trucks, and related products. Americans also spend more than $1 billion annually on tolls. In 2003 the Bush administration was working with Congress to develop a replacement package for TEA-21, which expired in September 2003.
    And in anticipation of that expiration, what did Bushco do? Well, this New York Times story from February 2002 tells us that…

    …Senior members of Congress from both parties said today that they would reject President Bush's proposal for a 28 percent cut in federal highway spending, one of the largest in the entire budget.

    Lawmakers said the cuts would be unwise as the nation struggles to climb out of a recession and unthinkable in an election year. Building roads creates jobs, lawmakers said over and over. It also provides tidy bundles of federal cash for lawmakers to send to their home districts.

    ''It's hard to say anything nice about this proposal,'' Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, said.
    And when George W. Milhous Bush once more had the opportunity to fund our highways in 2005 (noted here)…

    Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta recalls how his boss, President George W. Bush, bristled at the idea of raising gasoline taxes in the 2005 highway bill.

    ``He took his Sharpie out and said, `Norm, get those tax increases out. I don't want a tax increase,''' says Mineta.

    While Bush is still opposing higher fuel taxes, the Aug. 1 (2007) Minneapolis bridge collapse has altered the political landscape. The calamity, in which at least 12 people died, has become a rallying cry for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and trade groups representing the likes of Caterpillar Inc. and Terex Corp. that want to boost spending to repair the nation's roads and bridges.

    The result is that, even as Bush aides warn of a possible veto, the odds are growing for the first gasoline-tax increase since 1993. House Transportation Chairman James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, proposed a new bridge-repair fund a week after the collapse that would be financed by a nickel increase in the tax, which is currently 18.4 cents a gallon.
    I haven’t been able to find out what happened to Oberstar’s proposed gasoline tax increase; even if it somehow had passed (dubious for many reasons, one of which is that tax breaks for Big Oil have not been removed and it would be political suicide to pass a gas tax increase unless the tax breaks were gone), I cannot see how Incurious George would ever sign it into law anyway.

    And now, with the prospect of gas at $4 a gallon for our summer vacations (those patriotic Americans at ExxonMobil and co. always find a way to “pump us,” if you will, just when we’re getting ready to hit the road in the warm weather months), I would say that the best chance for us to pay a gas tax increase for road and bridge repair has evaporated like a plume of crude from a blown PCV valve.

    So there you have it; our preznit has “held the line” on a “popular spending program” like highway construction. What a guy.

    Let’s continue, then, to hope and pray that another bridge collapse doesn’t occur, or at the very least, we don’t suffer a busted car axle or two from discovering a heretofore unknown pot hole on one of our highways.

    And Oh Yeah, About The War...

    This is why Joe Galloway gets paid to do this and I don't...

    This month marks the beginning of our country’s sixth year of war in Iraq, and still the question is: Why? The other question is: When will it end?

    President George W. Bush, who started the war with the advice and go-get-em’s of his neo-conservative friends, is now doing everything he can to ensure that whoever succeeds him next January will find him or herself deeply mired in Iraqi quicksand.

    Bush has signaled that in coming months he'll negotiate a long-term status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government so American troops and bases can remain there. In fact, the deal may obligate us to remain in Iraq for years and to continue paying billions to the kleptocracy we’ve installed there.

    Bush also has signaled that he'll press ahead with an executive agreement and bypass the untidy bit of the U.S. Constitution which says that treaties with foreign governments must be ratified by Congress. That's no big deal for a White House, a president and a vice president who've gleefully and routinely ridden roughshod not only over the Congress, but also over the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, federal laws, international laws, conventions and treaties.

    The presumed Republican nominee for president, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., thinks that remaining in Iraq is just what the doctor ordered, and he predicts that our occupation and the war will drag on for decades.

    McCain and others who favor a "Long War" haven't bothered to address how we'll pay for an open-ended commitment that's now costing $170 billion a year in visible spending, and with a long-term tab that's estimated at $3 trillion or so — more than any other war we've fought except for World War II — even we left Iraq tomorrow.

    Nor have they addressed the issue of what another five or 10 years or more of regular combat tours in Iraq would do to those few in uniform who've borne the burden of fighting in Iraq for five years and multiple deployments — and to their families and to their war-fighting equipment, which is already worn out or wearing out.

    When the price of a gallon of gasoline and a loaf of bread both hit $5, and a full-blown recession has a chokehold on the country, how many Americans will be willing to keep pouring billions and trillions down the rat-hole of a pre-emptive war of choice in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons?

    It doesn’t really matter whether the temporary surge of American troops to Iraq has worked, or whether the improvement in security has come about because old Sunni Muslim enemies have become our new rent-a-friends for reasons of their own and the Shiite Sadr militia has taken a long vacation for reasons of its own.

    Improved security was meant to encourage the Iraqi government and parliament to start building a real nation where warring tribes and co-religionists could set aside their feuds old and new and live together in peace. Fat chance.

    Meantime, while George Bush wrestles with the demons of his own creation in Iraq, things continue to go south on us in two places that really matter — Afghanistan and Pakistan — where the demons are real and the stakes are high.

    Only now, after the Bush administration's attempts to hand that forgotten war off to our reluctant NATO allies failed miserably, are we beefing up U.S. forces in Afghanistan to near 30,000. Do any of the decision-makers in Washington remember that not very long ago the old Soviet Union sent some 100,000 troops against the Afghan tribesmen and laid waste to the countryside, but were still driven out with their tails between their legs?

    While we've poured the bulk of our troops and money and equipment into Iraq, where the real al Qaida isn’t, we've starved the effort to secure and rebuild and strengthen Afghanistan and bet all our chips on the wrong guy in Pakistan — two places where the real al Qaida and the real Taliban are growing stronger and more dangerous.

    Benign neglect of your sworn enemies in a place such as Afghanistan calls for a combination of arrogance and ignorance that's not just risky, but also truly dangerous. These are the people who really did attack our country and kill thousands of innocent people on 9/11; these are the people who sheltered the real terrorists and defied us to do anything about it.

    We let most of them and their leaders escape across the border into the wildest parts of Pakistan, where they've burrowed in, regrouped and are enjoying a recruiting boom that's sparked largely by the hatred born of our actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Now they pose a threat to Pakistan itself, a nation that has a hundred or more real nuclear weapons, unlike Iraq, whose nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction existed only in the fevered minds of a frightened president and his arrogant accomplices.

    The next time that we Americans start thinking about maybe electing someone with no known talent, limited useful experience and an IQ that's barely equal to his body temperature, what say we just leave the presidency vacant and the White House shuttered for eight years or so?
    And I have only this to add.

    Little Ricky The Elephant Poops On McCain

    It’s that every other Thursday, and we’re talking about the Philadelphia Inquirer of course, so we know the drill, don’t we?

    OK, then, let’s get started (from here – Senator Man-On-Dog attended the Council for National Policy freeper circle jerk where McCain showed up to try and placate these self-serving hypocrites*)…

    (*-sorry if I’m more strident than usual…OK, I’m not, really…but as far as I’m concerned, these noxious charlatans should have no voice in our national discourse since they proved long ago that they don’t have anything intelligent to say.)

    OK, Little Ricky, you have the floor…

    McCain has opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment in the past because he said states could handle the assault on marriage. Have they? No. Although some state courts have sided with the voters' wishes in their states, courts in other states have forced same-sex marriage and civil-union laws on the public.
    Notwithstanding the typical bilious propaganda in that passage (“assault on marriage”??), I thought this was some interesting information on what is basically a campaign by the Republican Party to discriminate primarily against gays and same-sex marriage (full disclosure: I don’t support same-sex marriage either, but I support all full legal rights for LGBT individuals aside from that, and I won't work against gays who advocate for it.)

    The FindLaw information tells us that the Republicans originally tried to pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, but Trent Lott (of all people) believed that the Act violated the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution, so instead, those opposed to gay marriage worked to have it banned in 37 states while it was passed in Massachusetts (Dubya, when campaigning in 2000, sought to leave it up to the states also).

    However, when you fast forward to 2004, you found “the party of states rights” sought to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution in 2004 (as in ’96 with the DOMA, both were pushed for passage shortly before the election), but it failed in the Senate (yes – so glad the Repug 108th Congress felt that they needed to pass a bill to tell me what constitutes such a union).

    And Santorum tells us the following concerning McCain and the climate crisis…

    If the science is changing, so are temperatures. Yes, 1998 was the warmest year since 1938, but every year since has been cooler, and we just learned that 2007 was the coldest year since 1966.

    Let's put these inconvenient truths aside and assume man-made global warming exists. The fact is, McCain's legislation would cost hundreds of billions and have almost no effect on global temperature.
    How magnanimous of Little Ricky to concede the obvious (I wish I had a nickel for every post and letter to a newspaper I’ve written on global warming…and I caught his idiotic snark towards the Al Gore movie as you did also I’m sure).

    However, I don’t know what legislation in particular Little Ricky is referring to here, but this article in The Nation tells us the following about how “green” McCain really is…

    • He voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and has sponsored or cosponsored the occasional, modest environmental protection bill (protecting whales; awarding tax credits for energy efficiency; boosting fuel efficiency). (Note, however, that his lifetime rating from LCV is a measly 29%.)

    • In 2003, he and Sen. Joe Lieberman introduced the first-ever climate bill to the Senate: the Climate Stewardship Act, which would establish a carbon cap-and-trade system to reduce US emissions. It was introduced and voted down in 2003 and again in 2005.

    • He acknowledges, without hedging, that anthropogenic climate change is real, and speaks eloquently about the need to address it. He has frequently criticized the Bush administration for inaction.
    Fair enough. But…

    • On June 21, 2007, the Senate voted on the Baucus amendment to the energy bill, which would have removed some oil company subsidies in order to fund renewable energy. The amendment failed to pass. Where was McCain? He didn't vote.

    • On the same day, the Senate held a cloture vote to overcome the standard Republican veto threat and pass the energy bill. The vote succeeded. Where was McCain? He didn't vote.

    • On Dec. 7, the Senate held another cloture vote to overcome the standard Republican veto threat on the energy bill, which had become substantially bolder after being aligned with the House version. The vote failed. Where was McCain? He didn't vote.

    • On Dec. 13, 2007, the Senate held another cloture vote to overcome the standard Republican veto threat and pass the energy bill, which had the Renewable Portfolio Standard stripped out of it but retained a measure that would shift oil company subsidies to renewables. The vote failed -- by one vote, 59-40. Where was McCain? He didn't vote -- the only Senator not to do so.

    • On Feb. 6, 2008, the Senate held another cloture vote to overcome the standard Republican veto threat and pass a stimulus bill containing a number of green energy incentives. The cloture motion failed, by one vote. Where was McCain? He didn't vote -- again, the only Senator not to do so.
    And you didn’t honestly think the intrepid Inky propagandist was going to give McCain a pass on stem cell research, did you…

    New science also has upended the debate over federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. It is now clear that the pursuit of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research is not only unnecessary, but with the advent of embryonic-like adult stem cells, it is now counterproductive, since it would displace money for more promising research.
    I’ll tell you what; feel free to read about the differences between adult and embryonic stem cells from this link and tell me if you agree with “Dr.” Santorum and his prognosis. To me (admittedly, a layman), it sounds like much more study is needed before embryonic stem cells can be dismissed for the purposes of research as “unnecessary” and “counterproductive.”

    And finally…

    Conservatives are not asking him to execute a series of 180s. We're looking for policy adjustments that show he has the independent spirit and pragmatic sense to change prior stands not simply because of new political realities, but new facts. Facts - which, as Ronald Reagan used to say, are also stubborn things.
    I don’t know if Reagan ever said that or not, but I can tell you that the author of that quote is John Adams, the second president of the United States (as noted here…God, Little Ricky is such a toad). And by the way, please allow me this opportunity to plug the upcoming HBO miniseries on Adams based on David McCullough’s book here; if you have that cable channel, I’d highly recommend watching it.

    So it sounds like our former Senator doesn’t intend to go out of his way to do anything but vote for McCain in the general election. And that’s fine, especially since I found this survey echoing information I’ve found elsewhere showing (as of now) Barack Obama defeating John McCain head to head in the general election (though we can’t assume anything of course). As you can see, it shows Obama with 280 electoral votes, which is enough to win given that fact that 270 are required to secure the presidency.

    And facts, as Little Ricky will certainly tell us, are stubborn things.

    Update 4/23/08: Of course "no one could have predicted" this, right? Not much.

    More Thursday FISA Follies

    This from Bloomberg News via the Philadelphia Inquirer today…

    WASHINGTON - House Democrats stuck by their refusal to end lawsuits against telecommunications companies for cooperating in the Bush administration's surveillance of terror suspects without court warrants.
    Atrios is so right…zombie lies never die.

    That is hardly the reason for the lawsuits. Check out this Daily Kos link once more to a post about journalist Peter Y. Sussman, who tells us…

    I am a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against phone companies – in my case, AT&T – for illegally sharing private customer calling records with the federal government. My co-plaintiffs include other journalists and attorneys, psychiatrists, doctors, ministers and a former Republican member of Congress.



    I and my fellow plaintiffs don't stand to win any money through our lawsuit, much less billions of dollars, but we do hope to assure governmental accountability, to open to public scrutiny the actions of corporations and government that have teamed up to deny citizens the rights guaranteed by law....
    And I’ll ask once more; if the telcos didn’t do anything wrong, why do they need amnesty?

    Update 3/14/08: georgia10 is spot-on as usual here.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Wednesday Stuff

    Just because the U.S. House did something really great today on FISA, don't think we're out of the woods, not by a longshot - are you reading this by some chance, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and the "Bush Dogs" (excluding Patrick Murphy)? Then watch this...



    ...and K.O. gives the Hillary Clinton campaign a reality check; obvious how pained he is to say this stuff, but it is sadly necessary.

    It Will Get Uglier Still

    When I see the byline for Matt Stearns in a McClatchy story, I know I can expect a commercial of one type or another for the Republican Party, and he doesn’t disappoint here today.

    And in the process, he quotes the following from conservative talk show host (and son of The Sainted Ronnie R) Michael Reagan…

    …(Reagan) opposes Obama's liberal policies but despises the fact that some of his callers refer to Obama by his middle name.

    "I truly believe when someone uses Barack Hussein Obama, that's their way of saying 'nigger.' That's their way of saying the N word, and it's copping out. ...
    Well, there it is at last, ladies and gentlemen. In true “concern troll” fashion, as he tells us that he really means to vilify callers referring to Obama using uncomplimentary language, Reagan gives us the worst G-rated word imaginable to describe an African American.

    “Copping out,” indeed....

    But in a twisted way, I think we owe Reagan a debt of gratitude. He once more has demonstrated the power of hate and prejudice in our politics.

    That, more than anything else, dictates how we vote (and never forget heaping doses of lizard-brained fear to go along with it).

    And this is a lesson that I believe Gerri Ferraro learned long ago, and it also tells me that, given her departure from the Clinton campaign today at long last, she now has a bright future ahead of her in talk radio.

    Pointing Fingers From The Sidelines Again

    (And, gosh, that strategy has worked so well for Bushco in the past, hasn’t it…).

    I’m still not done with the Philadelphia Inquirer; this column from Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies appeared on Monday. In it, she decries what is being called “Durban II” due to take place next year, which is a follow up to the 2001 World Conference on Racism held in Durban, South Africa.

    As Rosett tells us…

    So far, Durban II is shaping up to be at least as vile as Durban I, and possibly worse. The U.N. has come up with a 20-member executive planning committee chaired by Libya, has Cuba as its rapporteur, and includes such bastions of official intolerance as Russia, Pakistan and Iran (which, along with its record of supporting terrorism, threatening the existence of Israel, and hosting one of the preparatory meetings for Durban I, has experience organizing such hate-fests as its 2006 Holocaust cartoon contest).

    So nasty are the portents that Canada recently did the right thing and took the lead in announcing that rather than lend any legitimacy to this outrage by taking part, the Canadian government would boycott Durban II.
    (And by the way, please allow me to ask again why we extended diplomatic relations to Libya if we were only going to continue vilifying them. I never quite understood that.)

    In response to the boycott by Canada and Israel, as noted here…

    The "Durban 2" anti-racism conference can still be salvaged, despite recent decisions by Israel and Canada to boycott the gathering, according to David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

    Visiting Israel as part of his organization's Board Of Governors' mission, Harris told Haaretz that "we can't afford to declare 'Durban 2' lost without more focus on diplomacy, especially toward the European Union countries and others influenced by them."

    ...

    The fact that the conference is to be organized by the UN Human Rights Council, chaired by Libya, with Cuba as vice-chair, and that its two preparatory meetings are scheduled for Pesach and Yom Kippur, gave little reassurance that the next conference, whose venue has yet to be decided, will be any different from 2001.
    This link takes you to more information on the Human Rights Council, telling you some of what they’re up to, including the following…

    The Human Rights Council this morning continued its discussion with the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Among the issues raised during the interactive discussion with the Special Procedures were those pertaining to State complicity in addressing cases of torture, the voluntary trust fund for victims of torture, compensation to victims of torture and ill-treatment, legal frameworks for enforced disappearances, the right to truth, national efforts to combat all forms of violence against women and children, the gender perspective in combating acts of torture, rape as an act of torture and the link drawn between torture and sexual violence, the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and female genital mutilation.
    I’m only providing this information to let you know that real-world issues are “on the table” with these people. Whether they can reach a consensus on anything or issue formal recommendations is another story, though, I realize.

    And I’m not going to defend anyone who turns a gathering of nations such as this into an excuse to bash one individual or country in particular without any opportunity to present grievances or have them addressed. However (as the post title indicates), I’m sick and tired of watching people who purport to represent us saying, “oh, we don’t like you, so we’re just not even going to pretend you exist” (something about the Obama campaign to me which is so heartening, freeper mud-slinging notwithstanding, is his notion of actually talking to people and countries first before we decide to drop bombs on them, as reasonably intelligent adults should).

    And as long as I’ve mentioned one of the candidates running for president, here’s a link to a story where Hillary would "lead a boycott of the conference should current efforts to rein in the forces of hatred fail" (again, I think you sit down and try to talk first before you go storming out the door, and from Condi Rice’s response to Norm Coleman, I don’t think Bushco even cares anyway since they mercifully will be gone by the time Durban 2 takes place).

    Besides, I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to say that the first Durban conference was nothing but a waste considering the timing of the conference; it was held from August 31st to September 8th (and I would say that a whole bunch of things changed three days after its conclusion).

    Finally (as I always note whenever I have anything to say about a Rosett column), it should be pointed out that the author belongs to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. For the purposes of transparency, it would be nice if the Inky told you that this group is hardly what you would call a bunch of impartial observers, but since they don’t, I’ll link to more info on them here.)

    A HUD/PHA Update

    I don’t have much to add to this Daily Kos post today as well as this prior post except to point out that, yes, Judge Paul S. Diamond, who ruled that HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson did not have to testify in hearings stemming from the lawsuit filed by Carl R. Greene and the Philadelphia Housing Authority as a result of Greene’s decision not to transfer a piece of city property to Jackson’s friend and music mogul Kenny Gamble…

    …yes, Judge Diamond is a Bush appointee.

    A "Goldberg Variation" On Freeper Propaganda

    The Philadelphia Inquirer and Jonah Goldberg –perfect together (today here, rambling about patriotism and the Democratic Party)…

    Sen. John Kerry, who made his name vilifying the Vietnam War, suddenly wanted credit as a patriot for the same service when he ran for president in 2004. His opening line at the Democratic convention - "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty" - was cringe-inducing. The words came out as ironic, almost kitschy.
    Uh…apparently it is necessary to remind Goldberg of the following (from here; yeah, I had the same reaction when Kerry overplayed that hand at the convention, but the reason why Kerry claimed a bit of credit as a patriot is because he is a patriot)…

    Kerry joined the United States Navy Reserve during his senior year at Yale. He is quoted as saying that he decided to join the Navy after he approached his draft board for permission to study for a year in Paris, and the draft board refused.[11] In addition, several of his classmates were enlisting in the armed services. Upon graduation from Yale, Kerry entered active duty and served until 1970, eventually reaching the rank of Lieutenant. Kerry was awarded several medals during his second tour of Vietnam, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts.
    Back to Goldberg (I realize that ripping apart his literary dross is tantamount to the urge you feel to punch the Everlast speed bag as you pass by it in the gym)...

    When Democrats do speak of patriotism, it is usually as a means of finding fault with Republicans, corporations or America itself. Hence the irony that questioning the patriotism of liberals is a grievous sin, but doing likewise to conservatives is fine.
    I’m not going to address the inanity of that comment directly because I don’t think it deserves a serious response; I cannot recall ever questioning someone’s patriotism of either major political stripe unless it involved victimizing others for personal gain, such as cheerleading for others to fight in a war that that person would not fight in himself (right, Jonah?).

    Instead, I’d like to give you the words of a prominent Democrat on the subject of patriotism, and that would be actor Sean Penn here (regarding his full-page ad in the New York Times opposing the Iraq war on May 30, 2003)…

    One of the central issues Penn touches on is American patriotism. He returns to this theme several times, musing that the US flag reflects “sacrifice and heroism” and adding, “I am an American and I fear that I, and our people are on the verge of losing our flag.” The thought of the flag reminds him of the funeral of his father—blacklisted director Leo Penn, a veteran of World War II—in 1998, during which a military honor guard presented his mother with a folded American flag.

    He writes: “Yet, now here we are, just those five short years have passed, and that same flag that took me so long to love, respect, and protect, threatens to become a haunting banner of murder, greed, and treason against our principles, honored history, Constitution, and our own mothers and fathers. To become a vulgar billboard, advertising our disloyalty to ourselves and our allies.”
    And as noted here by Daily Kos diarist The Cunctator, Goldberg is actually working from a template created by former Nixon veep Spiro Agnew in 1970 when he was campaigning for (wait for it…) Poppy Bush himself when he ran for the U.S. Senate against Lloyd Bentsen. Here is what Agnew said…

    I am not questioning his patriotism, I'm questioning his judgment.
    As Cunctator notes, this is a linguistic trick to mean that the speaker is, in actuality, criticizing both the patriotism and judgment of the subject. And as you can see from the post (another example of that fabled Repug “message discipline”), this maneuver has been employed by the wingers and their acolytes pretty thoroughly since (including one-time Kerry defender Crazy Zell Miller before he turned on him, Dick Cheney, Henry Hyde, “The Gipper” himself of course, and even some other Dems on occasion besides Miller, believe it or not; maybe they forgot how the line originated).

    In my experience, though, I can only remember Repugs questioning the patriotism of Democrats, primarily those who have served in the military (this tells us of Flush Limbore’s attack on Paul Hackett, an Iraq War veteran from Ohio who ran for Congress, as well as Young Philadelphia Republican Kevin Kelly’s cowardly accusations against Patrick Murphy; also noted are similar charges against former U.S. Senator and Air Force veteran Tom Daschle, and perhaps the most infamous of all by Saxby Chambliss against former U.S. Senator and decorated Vietnam War veteran Max Cleland).

    So Goldberg is really employing nothing new here in his accusations (without proof, of course...well, slightly new anyway) of Democrats accusing Republicans of being unpatriotic, while there is abundant evidence of the opposite taking place for longer than many people can remember.

    Oh, and one more thing about Goldberg; aside from being a literary hack, he also has no qualms about welching on a bet (he never paid up here).

    “Snitchens” And Funny Money On Iraq

    I got a whole lotta stupid to get to today, so I might as well begin with this.

    In the Washington Post yesterday, Christopher Hitchens attempted to refute former Chief Economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz on the latter’s calculation of the cost of the Iraq war.

    I’m not going to bother to comment on Hitchens and his long-since-discredited, neocon-authored notions used in an attempt to rationalize this tragic military escapade since others better than I have refuted him on this already (all disguised not so cleverly in Hitchens’ typically windy suppositions and rambling, tiresome prose – maybe “pot, meet kettle” for yours truly on that, but there you are). However, this sentence stood out for me…

    If you think I am being unkind or frivolous (in responding to Stiglitz and co-author Linda J. Bilmes), see if you can detect the thread of reasoning that connects Iraq expenditures with the crisis in the mortgage system.
    All right, smart guy, I will; check this out…

    The spending on Iraq was a hidden cause of the current credit crunch because the US central bank responded to the massive financial drain of the war by flooding the American economy with cheap credit.

    "The regulators were looking the other way and money was being lent to anybody this side of a life-support system," (Stiglitz) said.

    That led to a housing bubble and a consumption boom, and the fallout was plunging the US economy into recession and saddling the next US president with the biggest budget deficit in history, he said.
    And speaking of spending on Iraq, this recent post from georgia10 at The Daily Kos is a must-read (I hesitate to say that, but it’s really true in this case).

    Go ahead and keep flailing away at the world with tales of Iraq sanctions that supposedly cost more than the war, the dangers of enforcing no-fly zones and apocalyptic images of burning Kuwaiti oil fields, Hitchens. Nobody cares about this stuff anymore except you and the other lockstep moonbats who think that what is essentially a stalemate after almost five years of the Iraq occupation translates into success.

    Update 3/14/08: I forgot about this "golden moment" also (h/t Atrios).

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Monday Stuff

    John Bird and John Fortune of the BBC provide the best explanation I've heard to date of the subprime mortgage crisis in honor of today's market rebound; this is about 8:00 of typically dry British humor until the "grabber" at the very end...



    ...and "The Pap Attack" has some good words for the evangelical movement, primarily people like Rick Warren who are trying to rescue it from the GOP bottom-feeders who have nearly ruined it...



    ...forgot these: K.O. brings us more-on :-) "Falafel Boy" and Glenn Beck (he needs a nick name, something preferably fit for mixed company)...



    ...and by the way, this is a documentary (h/t The Daily Kos).

    Make The Duck Riders "Quack Up"

    This is a Philly thing and it doesn't have anything to do with politics, but I promised Walt Sherman I'd give him a plug, so here it is.

    The date is April 4th at 10 AM where Race Street meets the water - come one, come all!

    Polishing The Windows Of Our Glass House

    This CNN story tells us that…

    China, host of the summer Olympics, is an authoritarian nation that denies its people basic human rights and freedoms, harasses journalists and foreign aid workers and tortures prisoners, the United States charged Tuesday.
    And in other late-breaking news, water is wet; more on this story as it develops…

    "The year 2007 saw increased efforts to control and censor the Internet, and the government tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the domestic press," the report says of China. "The government continued to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison journalists, Internet writers, and bloggers."

    The country-by-country report is compiled separately from U.S. diplomatic efforts, and presented to Congress. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was releasing it at the State Department.
    And to show that this country is “a model of good behavior” in this regard, please consider the following (from here)…

    The power to label individuals as “enemy combatants”—and detain them indefinitely—presents one of the most basic threats not only to elemental human liberties, but also to the democratic order. Why? Because a government that can simply banish its foes—and those it erroneously seizes—from public sight simply by labeling them as beyond the pale is not a government that labors under the rule of law.
    Also, our government would never perform data mining and conduct surveillance on us with virtually no accountability or try to control the news reported to us on TV (notwithstanding Fox, which is a whole other issue).

    But Condi Rice feels somehow that this is an appropriate time to send a message of sorts to our “partner.” Fair enough.

    Just remember, though, that as the saying goes, “if China sneezes, we get pneumonia.”

    A Note To Dr. Paul

    I’m breaking one of my rules by posting this murderer’s mug atop this post, but I believe I have to.

    You see, Ron Paul, no doubt nursing some illusions of glory within the long-since-bought-and-paid-for-by-the-corporatist-class-and-reactionary-wingnuts Republican Party, believes he can effect change as part of his “revolution” by helping to write his party’s platform in time for the convention in St. Paul, Minnesota this September.

    I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not overcome with rapturous joy at this moment.

    That’s fine, though; if he believes he will be heard by his party if he does this, more power to him. Then again, maybe I will ingest that Mocha Latte Grand from Starbucks one day that will cause multiple synapses to fire off within my brain and allow me through a miracle of mental cognition to realize the plan that brings peace to Israel and Palestine once and for all, returns oil to the once-staggering price of $62 a barrel within a year, and finds a destitute child in sub-Saharan Africa who will refuse to be adopted by actress Angelina Jolie.

    The problem for real, though, appears below…

    Paul pointed out that McCain is anathema to pretty much everything Paul has been fighting for the past 30 years and he probably won't throw his support behind McCain, even at the Republican National Convention in September.

    "Unity might be secondary to principle," he said.

    Nor does it mean that Paul is going to endorse a Democrat. He pointed out that Sen. Obama, one of the Democrats still in contention for the nomination, says he wants to pull out of Iraq, but continues to vote to fund the war and wants to send more troops into Afghanistan, where the Taliban has seen a resurgence.

    "His rhetoric is playing to the people that come my way, but he is every bit as much of an interventionist. He wants to send more troops into Afghanistan. He wants to broaden the military. I think it’s a fraud when he talks about how he wants to really get out of Iraq, but I think that's politics," Paul said.
    Yep, Dr. Paul, it sure is “politics” all right when your party continues to obstruct on any attempt whatsoever by Congress to tie funding of the Iraq war to troop withdrawals, to say nothing of the head of your party, George W. Milhous Bush, who would veto any bill mandating that anyway.

    And given that obstruction, we have scenarios such as this where Senate Democrats must vote for war funding on construction projects and necessities for our troops despite their professed objections to the war (oh, sorry, I forgot – you serve in the House and really don’t have a clue as to what goes on in the Senate anyway).

    And as far as Afghanistan is concerned, our troops were set up to fail because precious human and material resources were diverted to Iraq, so now we have to play catch-up so whatever gains we’ve accomplished aren’t totally negated (to say nothing of trying to get the guy in the photo after all; in a related vein, I thought this was an interesting post, though I have to admit that it prompted a bit of a "duuhhh!" reaction from yours truly).

    So just keep up this contrarian act as long as you want, Dr. Paul. You have a ways to go before you grow as tiresome as Ralph Nader, though I have to admit that you’re on a path to do that.

    Just remember that you will never be “the anointed one,” and remain on your best behavior later this year for your party’s TV show, full of pretend praise for diversity and tolerance of other points of view.

    The stars will be John McCain and his running mate, let’s not forget. Keep a stiff upper lip and a smiling face, and maybe “Senator Honor and Virtue” will let you clean up the confetti as the parade passes you by.

    Is Bush Bud Sarko Now French "Toast"?

    My, how the luster has worn off French president Nicolas Sarkozy!

    I mean, wasn’t it almost a year ago when conservatives in this country were engaged in all kinds of gyrations (here) over the fact that we now had a leader of that country who they liked because he supposedly was going to stand up to those nasty unions and snap his people into action (work more, play less, get the guys to start watching “he man” stuff like the WWF and indoor monster truck rallies instead of sitting around by the Seine moping while eating brie and drinking mineral water and listening to Edith Piaf…or something)?

    Gosh, whatever could have gone so wrong? Well, as noted here…

    According to a CSA poll published Sunday, only 48 percent of the French trust the president to run the country - a fall of seven points in a month. Since last July, his approval rating has plunged by 17 percentage points.

    "President Sarkozy is exposing his flamboyant personal life at the moment the French want him to deliver on his promises to improve the economy," said Stéphane Rozès, the director of CSA, in a telephone interview. "He has eliminated the line between public and private life, between his success in his personal life and his promises for the French people to succeed."

    The decline in Sarkozy's approval rating was particularly dramatic among older people; it fell 9 points among the French people from 50 to 64 and 15 points among those over 65.

    Indeed, while the French faced the New Year with higher retail prices and a decline in their buying power, Sarkozy was photographed with (model Carla) Bruni touring the pyramids of Egypt and the archeological sites in Jordan. There was Bruni, a beatific look on her face as her head leaned upon the president's shoulder; there was the president grabbing her around the waist, his fingers touching her exposed midriff.

    Dubbed by some commentators President Bling-Bling, the twice-divorced Sarkozy is said to have given Bruni a heart-shaped, rose-colored diamond engagement ring designed by Victoire de Castellane at Dior; she is said to have given him a Swiss-made Patek Philippe watch.
    Or, in the immortal words of Max Bialystock, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it, baby!” (and by the way, Sarkozy and Bruni were subsequently wed).

    And the real kicker to me, as noted here, is that sex appears to be on the rise (ahem…) within that country. And as we know, Europe in general cares less about extramarital affairs among its leaders than this country does: again, I don’t encourage that, but I think that’s an enlightened attitude (the trick, though, is to keep it to yourself, it seems).

    Yep, the more I read about France and Sarko, the more I think Eliot Spitzer picked the wrong country.

    The “Insult-40-States Express” Rolls On

    Note: Markos Moulitsas observed that he thinks that’s the Clinton “strategy” here; owing to Mark Penn I'm sure.)

    In today’s Bucks County Courier Times, the senator from New York criticizes Barack Obama (and, by extension, Patrick Murphy) on starting to end the war in Iraq here…

    On Monday, Clinton’s campaign and three high-profile military officers held a conference call where they criticized Obama’s plan for Iraq. Obama’s plan was crafted with Murphy, the first and only Iraq war veteran in Congress, last year.

    Lee Feinstein, the chief foreign policy adviser for Clinton’s campaign, said Obama’s war policy has been "words only," and his record in the Senate "doesn’t quite match the hype" of his calls to end the war.

    In a phone interview Monday, Murphy said Obama has been very clear about his plans to end the war while Clinton has not.

    "I’m disappointed that the Clinton campaign has to continue to use these misleading tactics," said Murphy, who is the Pennsylvania state chairman of Obama’s campaign. "[Obama’s] been very clear that we need a change of strategy [in Iraq and Afghanistan]."

    Obama’s policy is rooted in a bill unveiled by Obama and Murphy at a Feb. 6, 2007 press conference at the U.S. Capitol. Known as the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007, the bill was an attempt to stop President Bush’s troop escalation plan and, instead, initiate a withdrawal of all American combat brigades from Iraq by the end of this month.

    Murphy’s and Obama’s bill never made it to a Senate or House vote, although similar legislation was later vetoed by President Bush. Yet the bill has become a critical issue in Obama’s presidential campaign.
    Given all of this, I decided to do what our media is apparently not willing to do, and that is to go to the web sites of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and compare their stated plans for getting our people out of Iraq.

    First, I went to Obama’s site here and found out the following…

    Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.
    Then, I visited Hillary’s site here and read the following…

    Starting Phased Redeployment within Hillary's First Days in Office: The most important part of Hillary's plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq's civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As president, one of Hillary's first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration. She would also direct the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to prepare a comprehensive plan to provide the highest quality health care and benefits to every service member -- including every member of the National Guard and Reserves -- and their families.
    I should add, by the way, that both plans feature a lot of good ideas about utilizing diplomacy to involve other states in regional talks to secure Iraq’s borders, keep out neighboring countries, support reconciliation within Iraq, provide financial support for reconstruction, and address the refugee crisis which, according to Obama, affects two million people inside Iraq and two million outside the country (basically, all steps taken by adult leaders in this crisis). You could support either plan and definitely be on the right track.

    However, the difference to me between the two is that Hillary would convene the players who would tell her what to do, which is fine, but Obama already knows what to do (no doubt influenced heavily by Patrick’s recommendations).

    I also took note of this language in particular in Obama’s plan…

    The best way to press Iraq’s leaders to take responsibility for their future is to make it clear that we are leaving.
    That’s right out of the John Edwards play book, and I’m glad to see that Obama is saying the same thing.

    Given all of this, I really don’t understand the petulant reaction from the Clinton people towards what Obama is proposing. Maybe they just can’t get it through their heads that, yes, he actually has some good ideas on this and other matters, and yes, those ideas deserve to be respected. And though Hillary’s White House experience carries a lot of weight (in an unofficial capacity, though, I’ll grant you), that doesn’t automatically mean that Obama could not match that were he given the opportunity.

    Also, while I’m not surprised to see Joe Sestak lining up for Hillary (which is his right), this represents yet another reconciliation which will have to be achieved in the event that Obama wins the nomination (and even if Hillary does somehow, there will be a lot of residual bad feeling that will tar those associated with it from a seemingly never-ending series of statements from her supporters such as this one, and Our Gal Gerri has put her foot in it a couple of times already).

    Update 3/11/08: I think this is fair, especially since Samantha Power left the Obama campaign for a lesser offense.

    Update 3/12/08: Took her long enough...

    And speaking of Patrick, this Guest Opinion appeared recently in the Courier Times from a lady named Margie Cantwell Colton of Churchville, PA, a social studies teacher at Richboro Middle School (I almost got to this yesterday, but the Spitzer thing took care of that)…

    As a teacher of American history, it is my honor and privilege to help my students understand and appreciate the precious blessings of our American democracy, and the brilliance of our Constitution. Not all impulsive, fun-loving eighth graders, however, find studying the rule of law fascinating. Not all are thrilled that with freedom comes responsibility. Not all yet feel the need to clarify and cultivate values worth working and fighting for.

    Good teachers are ever alert and searching for resources to excite their students about learning, to help them to connect with generations gone before and those yet to come. I believe that Patrick Murphy's book, “Taking the Hill, From Philly to Baghdad to the United States Congress,” is one of those resources.

    Ever aware of my responsibility to keep my teaching free of personal political views, I can also recommend that my students read John McCain's “Faith of My Fathers,” or any of the other hundreds of worthwhile books written by our legislators — Democrats and Republicans.

    Some of the most essential principles I am charged to teach are tolerance for diversity and respect for self and others, despite differences. To understand history is to recognize the needs, values and experiences that unite us rather than just the opinions that divide us. These are lessons not easily embraced by all adolescents. In my teaching years, I have been fortunate to see most of my young scholars mature into responsible, respectful, compassionate young adults — somewhere between September of eighth grade and June of 12th. For some, the process is slower than for others.

    In their masked insecurity, teens are often quick to ridicule another for a mistake, a weakness, or a difference from “the crowd.” They often seek acceptance by practicing exclusion. Teachers and parents struggle daily to heal the damage done to our children and young adults by the bullying behaviors in which so many of them engage. Perhaps raising our children might be a little less difficult if our politicians and their supporters would model integrity and mutual respect, rather than rancorous, mean-spirited sabotage.

    This past Presidents' Day, I was fortunate to be in attendance at the National Constitution Center for a conference and book signing by Congressman Murphy. His conversation with audience members was inspiring. The intelligence, candor, conviction, and humility with which he responded to people's questions led me to agree with Fred Allingham's Feb. 19
    Guest Opinion: “Disagree with Murphy, but don't question his integrity.”

    Throughout the discussion of difficult issues, Murphy created and maintained a heartening “No Friendly-Fire Zone” in the auditorium, as recommended by Allingham. The topics were tough — U.S. objectives and responsibilities in Iraq, rules of engagement, veterans' medical care and employment training, and environmental issues. The congressman addressed decisions for which he has been criticized or accused of “rookie mistakes.”

    With courage he defended his early support for Barack Obama, despite his association with former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton. He pledged reduction of the enormous national debt to be inherited by our children. Perhaps most reassuring were his remarks about voting with his conscience, regardless of political consequences.

    In his demeanor throughout the dialogue, Murphy showed depth of character and unwavering confidence in America. He also evidenced his nonpartisan spirit in discussing productive collaborations with Republican colleagues. Murphy has learned the value of those collaborations on a very personal level. His wife and mother are both committed Republicans. I know the latter well. We spent three precious years together at Immaculata and still treasure the bonds of friendship forged in those special years. Among the 114 then-young women in our class, Margie Rapone Murphy and I were two of the four Margaret Marys.

    Reading “Taking the Hill” has renewed and strengthened my confidence that the future of America is bright because of young leaders like Patrick Murphy. Appreciating the values learned from his parents and teachers, he has been galvanized by coming of age in the dangerous and complex culture of our time. I am grateful to him, and to all of the courageous warriors who serve our country — in the barracks, on the battlefield, in the chambers of Congress, or in Bucks County.
    And to help Patrick, click here.

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Monday Stuff

    So much snark for this I know from May '07; I can't imagine how he thought he could have gotten away with it, but people in his orbit never do (say what you want about Dershowitz, but he's spot-on here)...



    ...and as I watch this, I continue to miss the presidential candidacy of John Edwards.