Saturday, April 05, 2008

Saturday Stuff

The name of this skit is "Mrs. C" - no names, people, OK?...



...and yesterday marked another anniversary, just to let you know, though it was much less somber (K.O. explains on "Countdown" - h/t The Daily Kos).

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Stuff

"The Pap Attack" takes on the EPA and its latest nonsense in exacerbating the climate crisis (think Dubya and Dick Cheney and their energy industry buds holding sway over our planet once again; as always, take a bow, you "values voters" who perpetrated the obscenity of their re-installment in 2004)...



...and returning to Dr. King for a final time today, here's "Abraham, Martin and John," written by Dick Holler and performed by Dion DiMucci, recorded in 1968 of course - this was a multimedia project done at Milford High School, NH (break out the hankies and the Kleenex, everybody, 'cos you'll need them...something tells me I'll be embedding this again on or about June 6th).

Boehner’s Friday Flight Of Fancy

Sounds to me like the House Minority Leader is grasping at straws big time (or maybe his chain smoking habit marked by that "every-ready pack of Camels" has created a little too much “fog in his noggin” – here)...

By the reckoning of the Ohio Republican, the hard-fought Democratic presidential contest is going to leave one group of supporters or another sorely disappointed.

He figures some of those folks might then choose to back Republican John McCain or stay home altogether in November, either of which is potentially good news for House Republicans, who find themselves in a deep hole and still digging with the general election fast approaching.

“When you start to look at the fallout from the Democratic nomination process – the Democrats not showing up to vote – you are starting to create a scenario where we are in better shape than people think,” said Mr. Boehner. “You are going to have people voting for McCain or not voting at all. The picture is not as bleak as people want to paint it.”
That’s way too funny.

Since Boehner doesn’t have any numbers to provide for comparison purposes, I won’t do the research he should have done himself before making that charge. But I have news for him; the complaints about the real, actual, five-day work week from the 110th Congress (an implied reason for the Dems supposedly blowing off votes) weren’t coming from Democrats. The most notable whiner was one-man-idiot-quote-machine Jack Kingston, U.S. House Rep of Georgia, who defended a “three-day work week” and said House members “can keep in touch with their BlackBerrys” here.

Everyone from the Peach State who voted for this yutz, please raise your left hand – no, your “other” left…

And as far as people “not showing up” goes (or, more precisely, leaving work undone, from here)…

The (Republican) 109th Congress left office in the early hours of Saturday morning, December 9, having logged fewer days of legislative activity than even the infamous “Do-Nothing Congress” of 1948. Notably absent from the following list of last minute “accomplishments” is comprehensive immigration reform, a minimum wage increase, and nine out of 11 appropriations bills needed to fully fund federal activity for the 2007 fiscal year.

The failure to pass a working budget for the federal government—the fundamental constitutional task of Congress—highlights the failures of the conservative leadership of the departing Congress. Indeed, the incoming chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees, Rep. David Obey (D-WI) and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), took a look at the mess left to them and yesterday announced they will hold all spending at 2006 levels after ejecting all special earmarks and begin a more deliberative and open budgeting process next year for the next fiscal year beginning in October 2007.
And speaking of hard-fought campaigns, the Repug “shock troops” are sooo united behind St. McCain, aren’t they, as noted here…

James Dobson, founder of the hugely influential evangelical group Focus on the Family, said last month: "I cannot and I will not vote for Senator John McCain as a matter of conscience."
But as the Times story notes, it’s all “good news for Republicans”…somehow.

A Glimpse Into The Neocon Lap Of Luxury

This month’s issue of Philadelphia Magazine (a publication about those area “trend setters” and “go-getters,” the “beautiful people” about whose every moment we’re supposed to obsess, for the uninitiated) gives us a revealing look into the home of one Edward Snider, the chairman of Comcast-Spectacor and deep-pocketed contributor to Freedom’s Watch.

The magazine did not publish an online version of their pictorial into the home of Snider which he shares with wife Christine, so I scanned the six-page article and published it to a site which can be accessed from here. As you can see, I’ve numbered each page and I’ll do my best to reference the writeups to each appropriate page number and photo (the writeups will also appear with the photo, but it would probably be easier if they appeared here so you could read them and then look at the photos – and by the way, the article refers to the Snider abode as “the White House”…in our nightmares, people).

Got all that? Good. Let’s begin, shall we?

In the first photo, the comely Christine poses comfortably, and the writeup (referencing pics 1 and 2) tells us…

When eco-savvy Rydal, PA architect Paul Macht dreamed up the Sniders’ Gladwyne, PA dwelling, “The idea was simple, elegant – modern, but not showy – very minimal and Zen,” he says. The front-facing sitting room, conceptualized as a nighttime space, overlooks a reflecting pond whose surface makes the ceiling shimmer in evening. Seated on a pristine Minotti loveseat, Christine Snider faces a white lacquer coffee table, also by Minotti.
(By the way, I should note that I definitely am not a home design expert, which impacts my ability to snark on the furnishings. However, I’ll try to compensate in other ways.)

And speaking of Zen, I’m sure Ed believes fully in Little Tommy Friedman and his “Suck. On. This.” profundity here concerning dark-skinned people we’re not supposed to like.

Update: Why did I know the video from the Eschaton link wouldn't work (no bad on Duncan, though; how about the "bubble" between your ears, you numbskull)...



The article also provides the following background on Christine, by the way…

Christine Snider could have her pick of interior designers. As a former pop star and lyricist for Michael Jackson, as the entrepreneur behind Realwomenjewelry.com, and, as of 2004, as the jet-setting wife of (affluent Ed) Snider, she doesn’t have to do her own decorating. But the Belgian-born beauty is DIY at heart. “When I was starting out as a singer in Paris, I did my apartment piece by piece,” she says. Now that she’s Mrs. Snider, she applies the same method to the couple’s 7,000-square-foot gated home overlooking the Philadelphia Country Club. Christine sources antiques in L.A. She stocks up on Fendi Casa in Miami. She keeps an eye out for accessories in Paris, Turks and Caicos – and believe it or not, King of Prussia. The result: a gently contemporary, covetably outfitted bastion of whitewashed SoCal chic – right in the middle of the Main Line.
(Note to the editors at Philadelphia Magazine: I don’t think “covetably” is an actual word.)

Otherwise, too dreamy!!!

Back to the Snider manse…

3

(Above) The home’s largest, most ornate La Murrina Venetian chandelier – one of about a half-dozen throughout the residence – adorns the sunken family room. “Modern white furniture can be so cold, so plastic-feeing,” says Christine. “I mix white pieces with darker natural finishes, like this espresso-stained bamboo table and armchairs from Belgium.”
Personally, when I think of Ed and his war cheerleading, these are the “white pieces” that come to mind (before they’re covered with American flags, that is).

4

(Right) For the sunroom, Macht used Massangis Jaune limestone for the floors, and laid out rift-swan red oak ceilings in reverse board and batten. The dining chairs and sectional are by Fendi Casa. The glass-topped dining table is Christine’s own design.
Yep, I can almost picture Ed seated at the table writing a personal check to Carl Forti, Ari Fleischer, and the rest of Ed’s playmates.

5

(Above) Overlooking the family room, a sunlit dining room leads to the entry hall and kitchen. Here, Christine combined a tactile, casual sisal rug, a glossy chocolate-tone bamboo table, and an 18th-century Japanese screen from L.A. Asian antiques dealer Charles Jacobsen. A simple, natural bouquet of white tulips provides a serene and effortless centerpiece.
No doubt this is the room where Ed, in a particularly spiteful move, decided that the Sixers should not produce a video tribute to former star Allen Iverson when he returned to Philadelphia with his new team, the Denver Nuggets, on Wednesday March 19th (here…and white lilies might be more appropriate than tulips given all of those in our military who have sacrificed in the name of Ed’s fantasies of establishing something like a Zionist dominion).

6

(Opposite top, from left to right) An inky turn-of-the-century landscape by Hippolyte Camille Delpy plays against a Fendi console outfitted with Spy Bag pulls. The entryway’s moat-like reflecting pool has clever grass-and-concrete checkerboard edging. Christine transformed the powder room from stark white to spa-like by adding a curved honey-blond wood vanity and small and square frosted-glass windows. (Opposite, bottom) In the entryway living room are a white leather couch from Roche-Bobois, an antique Japanese carp screen from Charles Jacobsen, red-theme jars from Turks and Caicos, a rare terra-cotta sculpture from Sotheby’s, and a wispy faux-coral cutout (at far left) from…Pottery Barn, that cost $24.
Yeah, I think she got taken on the faux-coral cutout (as if I would know). Kind of makes me wonder why she and Ed wouldn’t instead just pay someone during a holiday romp to the Caribbean to go diving and get a REAL-coral cutout instead (too “nouveau riche” I guess).

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, a look into a Lifestyle Of The Rich And Famous War Mongerer.

I have not one negative word to say about Christine Snider, I want to emphasize. But as far as Ed is concerned, as the song goes, “all the money you make will never buy back your soul.”

A Bit Unpopular, Maybe?

This photo from Kevin Lamarque of Reuters accompanied the story in the New York Times today about Dubya “winning NATO backing for missile defense in Europe” (and again, I see only the Czechs signing off on that). And I think the photo tells you at least as much as any words could about how Dubya is viewed by his peers (everyone was sort of milling around a bit before posing for a group photo).

Incurious George truly has that “deer in the headlights” look in the version of this photo that appears in the Times print edition today – it floored me when I saw it.

More Joy In Bad Labor News For The Robertses

The latest free trade fairy tales from Cokie and Steve Roberts here come at a particularly bad time, with the most recent employment numbers taking another negative turn for March (80,000 down, to be exact, as well as a revision of the first two months of unemployment to almost double the original number).

Oh, but rest assured that that will never stop the Robertses from labeling those who want to end the practice of providing tax breaks to multinationals who offshore our jobs (particularly outrageous when they share so little of the tax burden versus the middle class) as “fools”; the Robertses don’t claim that in so many words, I’ll admit, but that’s the motivation behind the goal of raising the number of H1-B workers entering this country, and that is something they clearly DO advocate.

The Robertses communicate the same numbers and arguments for importing skilled workers that people of their ideology do every chance they get (including Tom Friedman who they cite here, for calling our policy of “kicking out…the next generation of innovators” something that is “pure idiocy”) so I won’t rehash all of it again.

However, I do want to take note of the following…

According to a recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy, the average high-tech company has 470 jobs open. Microsoft alone has 4,000 unfilled slots. The 500 largest companies combined are looking for 140,000 highly skilled workers.
As noted here, the National Foundation for American Policy is a conservative think tank, in case you were wondering about that.

Also, here is an article I linked to previously written by Linda Musthaler of Network World from 2006 which debunks the whole argument that there is this supposed shortage of skilled workers.

Here’s something the Robertses will never tell you (from the article)…

There is a shortage of corporations that see their employees as long-term assets and not as overhead that can be ditched at the first hint of a bad quarter. There is a shortage of organizations willing to implement formal mentoring and internship programs that will help the next generation of employees grow into the labor force for the long haul.

Too many employers have set their sights on the ideal candidates - the ones who come with the right degrees in hand, the right credentials on the résumé and the right project experience under their belt. Heaven help the candidate who lacks a certification, or who has extensive experience with one application and not another.

He'll never get noticed, because the résumé screening software has already chucked him into the waste bin. The software doesn't know, of course, that someone with good Windows administration skills can learn Linux skills to become the new Linux administrator who's desperately needed.
And this comment to Musthaler’s article is infuriating, but I don’t aim my wrath at the commenter, who is refreshing actually in his or her honesty (this person must be a recruiter of some type)…

I see the same silly ignorance (re: not being knowledgeable about the way employers screen out Americans living in this country for their Asian employment peers) in such books as ‘My Job Went to India and All I Got Was This Stupid Book’. The author, claiming to be an ‘insider’, is anything but, and hasn’t a clue what he’s writing about. He puts forth that American IT workers must practice and become resounding experts in their field, and become unquestionably better than their Indian or Chinese counterparts.

This is very poor advice, I am sorry to say. And I am ashamed to say why, so I will remain anonymous. The truth is, there is no way any resume of any American citizen applicant passing over my desk at Microsoft has any chance of finding a job. I will explain: my orders were to collect the resumes of American citizen applicants who applied to positions that we were required to advertise per Federal law.

My job then was to nit pick the details of those resumes against those of existing H1-B visa holders or those whom we were trying to secure H1-B visas for, usually from India. Lastly, I was to exaggerate any differences using elaborate technical fibs, in writing, as to why the American citizen candidates were inferior to the ones from India. My report (and similar reports from my peers) went to HR who then sent them to the Feds (INS, I suppose). My question to the author of the ‘India’ book would be “exactly how is all that studying & practice going to help any American citizen get by me, or others like me, doing their job to disqualify American citizens?”
One way to try and level the playing field is to change the tax code not just in this country but internationally also, as noted here, to provide a system of partial tax exemption that would “tax foreign income only if a foreign government failed to tax it under a comparable tax system. As a result, all corporate income would be taxed at a reasonable rate once and only once.”

The goal is to remove the tax benefit of employers offshoring labor to countries or regions where a tax rate is more favorable and labor costs are cheaper (author James Kvaal’s argument is sufficiently detailed to the point where I cannot easily summarize it here, so I would suggest reading his entire article to learn more….and yes, I know, good luck trying to make it through the buzz saw of eliminating tax havens for multinationals, but at least someone has figured out a plan of attack).

And by ensuring that workers in this country receive a fairer shake in the whole “globalization” struggle, we would be less likely to read the following demonizing rhetoric from self-congratulatory Beltway know-it-alls like the Robertses…

This hunger for "foreign talent" certainly reflects a series of American failures. School systems don't prepare homegrown scholars for rigorous college courses in math and science. Families don't instill the work ethic needed to flourish in these competitive environments.
Assuming you believe these claims to be legitimate (and I certainly don’t), I would add the utter moral bankruptcy of propagandists shilling for their corporate betters (step right up, Robertses) as one of the biggest “American failures” of all.

A Death, Then A Realization

I’m not going to tell you that of all the cataclysmic events of the 1960s, the murder of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the one that hit me the hardest.

To a 10-year-old way of thinking back then, there was something horrifically cyclical about his death. What I mean is that so many others had died in the struggle of African Americans to achieve economic equality and social justice – Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner and others – that it didn’t register with me the same way as, say, the death of President Kennedy five years earlier, which I was just beginning to understand back then.

But I knew it was inherently awful, of course, even though it was something that I could not relate to on a personal level because I’m white (again, a 10-year-old worldview speaking from back then). And it helped that, while much of the country raged over his death, Philadelphia “avoided the worst of the violence,” as noted here.

Over time, though, I “filled in the blanks” as much as I could, as did we all – the “how” (King had been asked to intervene in the strike of the Memphis sanitation workers), the “why” (theories that seeking economic opportunity posed a whole different set of problems for individuals of power and wealth who had only grudgingly come to accept voting rights for blacks, to the point where someone decided enough was enough), and the “who” (I don’t know if James Earl Ray was really the shooter or not, but as far as I’m concerned, J. Edgar Hoover might as well have pulled the trigger himself).

It has taken years for me to truly understand the importance of his life, and his immense accomplishments and the abundance of his legacy of self-determination, tolerance, courage and – above all else – love is something that I suspect I will spend many more years trying to comprehend and appreciate to the best of my ability. And my hope is that this is an exercise we continue to perform as a country each and every day.

And in so doing, I hope that those who work to achieve Dr. King’s dream (which is a dream ultimately for the whole world, let’s not forget) realize that, while we need to live and work as Americans in harmony with all races, ethnicities, and religious and gender preferences, we need to police ourselves also and act with a sense of personal self-worth and dignity that would make Dr. King proud and realize that the dream for which he ultimately died still lives among us.

And here are some tribute videos; say what you want about Hillary Clinton, but I think she means every word of what she says here...



...and here is a King/Obama mashup for the occasion also...



...this was the conclusion of King's final speech...



...and though I don't mean to trivialize this occasion in any way with a music video, I have to include this.



Finally, here is a prior post with a link to King's speech at the Barratt School in South Philadelphia in the mid-'60s; the link is still good, and his words are wonderful as always.

Update: Meanwhile, we have the following from "Straight Talk" McCain (here and here).

Update 4/7/08: I absolutely dare our corporate media to give Dr. King the "Reverend Wright" treatment based on this (h/t The Daily Kos).

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thursday Stuff

To be fair, this video doesn't claim that John McCain has not supported a new G.I. bill, but it requests that he co-sponsor it (truly a no-brainer)...



Update 4/4/08: What Kagro X sez...

...and K.O. talks with lawyer Jonathan Turley on "Countdown" about the second "Torture Yoo" memo (and I wasn't kidding last week about "Judgment At Nuremberg," was I?).

Today's "Silly Season '08" Lowlights

First up, Hillary Clinton tells us the following concerning the economy (from here)…

“I have continued to sound the alarm,” she said at an airport press conference in Burbank, Calif. “Sometimes I feel like Paulette Revere: the recession is coming, the recession is coming. I hope someone will do something about this besides wring their hands which is not in the best interest of our country.”
I take her at her word, but the problem is her continued wish to rely on the “Delphic oracle” who helped get us into this mess to begin with, as noted by Will Bunch here (and somehow I don’t think future generations of school children will be reading a poem called, “The Midnight Ride Of Alan Greenspan” – just sayin’).

Update 4/4/08: Glub, glub, Hillary...I hope you can tread water.

Next up, we have Joke Line of Time weighing in as follows on Barack Obama…

Patriotism is, sadly, a crucial challenge for Obama now. His aides believe that the Wright controversy was more about anti-Americanism than it was about race. Michelle Obama's unfortunate comment that the success of the campaign had made her proud of America "for the first time" in her adult life and the Senator's own decision to stow his American-flag lapel pin — plus his Islamic-sounding name — have fed a scurrilous undercurrent of doubt about whether he is "American" enough.
God, no wonder my “A” list “betters” hate this guy so much (and he gets paid for this too)!

OK, so…patriotism is a “problem” for Obama even though he gave that rousing speech about race and has distanced himself every way possible from The Rev. Jeremiah Wright (and I’m STILL waiting for a fraction of the coverage of Obama/Wright for McCain/Hagee/Parsley, by the way), and there is also an “issue” about what Michelle Obama said that Michelle Malkin so pungently attacked (witness the cycle of “news” from freeper agit-prop avatars to “legitimate” corporate media outlets), and also Obama’s flag-lapel pin remains an issue somehow even though a Repug criticizing him over it wasn’t wearing one either, and finally, we must hear AGAIN about Obama’s middle name.

Wow, Joe, I’m sooo glad you didn’t feed “the scurrilous undercurrent of doubt,” or else we really would have had a problem…

I have to admit, though, that when it comes to attacking Obama, Klein has nothing on Jack Kelly, who even used Obama to prop up his own preferred Republican (African American, of course), former Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, currently running for Congress representing Florida’s 22nd district…

"The West family is an example of the triumph of the civil rights movement, as well as Ronald Reagan's challenge to the black community," he said. "My parents were middle class, inner city Atlanta people. They were raised in the segregated South, but had a vision for their three boys...They did not sit back and wait for anyone to give them a handout, and that sentiment permeated throughout our extended family."

There are many blacks who share the sentiments of Allen West, more, I suspect, than who share those of Jeremiah Wright. But they tend to be ignored by the news media, who tend to view as "authentic" only the voices of anti-American radicals.
Um…yeah, OK (that’s about as much of Kelly as I can tolerate).

(By the way, I don't know if you could call it an "advantage" to be cued into the latest right-wing noise by reading the Bucks County Courier Times Op-Ed page on a somewhat regular basis, but that's what happens, and Kelly of course is a chronic offender.)

There’s a problem with West, though (Kelly thinks that, “if (West) wins, he'll do more for racial healing than any speech by Barack Obama“), as noted here by Wikipedia…

While serving in Taji, Iraq on August 20, 2003 as commander of the 2d Battalion 20th Field Artillery, Fourth Infantry Division, Lieutenant Colonel West was in charge of the interrogation of an Iraqi police officer who was suspected of having information about planned attacks on American forces. During the interrogation, soldiers under West's supervision assaulted the detainee attempting to get him to talk.

The police officer insisted that he did not know anything about planned attacks and was loyal to the United States Army. When the detainee didn't talk, Lieutenant Colonel West fired his 9mm pistol close to the man's head. At this point, the man gave information about an allegedly planned ambush, resulting in its being thwarted. According to West, there were no further ambushes on U.S. forces in Taji until he was relieved of command on October 4, 2003.

In an interview with the New York Times the Iraqi police officer, Yehiya Kadoori Hamoodi, said he felt he must have been falsely implicated by another alleged informant as being a plotting assassin. Then, when Hamoodi next went on an assigned patrol with the 4th Division, Hamoodi was bound and beaten by the Division troops and told that their leader was coming to kill him. Hamoodi said that when he heard of West's coming, he felt relief, due to West's reputation with local officials and tribal leaders as a rational man of even demeanor.

When West arrived, West held a gun to Hamoodi's head and threatened to kill Hamoodi unless Hamoodi divulged names of would-be conspirators.[1][2] West discharged his weapon near Hamoodi's head. Thereafter, according to Hamoodi, although in actuality he knew absolutely nothing about any planned attacks, Hamoodi offered "meaningless information induced by fear and pain".[3][4]
The Wikipedia article also notes that…

West was processed through an Article 32 hearing in November 2003, but was never Court-martialed. Instead in a deal with the prosecution, he admitted wrongdoing, was fined $5,000 over two months for misconduct and assault. He then submitted his resignation, and was allowed to retire with full benefits in the summer of 2004.
So yeah, if you want “racial healing” under the threat of gunpoint, West is your man.

And we should take Kelly at his word on this. After all, he’s been so right in the past, hasn’t he?

Bang, Bang - Another PA Gun Bill Is Dead

Here are some of the gory details from the Philadelphia Daily News…

TO FULLY appreciate state Rep. Dave Levdansky's courage, you have to compare him to House Speaker Dennis O'Brien, who earned his leadership position in part by providing a hiding place for the cowardly lions of the state Legislature.

Levdansky, D-Allegheny, a sportsman and avid hunter, was the prime sponsor of an amendment to require handgun owners to report, within three days, if their weapons were lost or stolen.

He stood up to withering questioning and attacks from the National Rifle Association and its surrogates in the House to strike a blow for gun-regulation sanity.

His measure, soundly defeated by a vote of 127-76, was backed by law-enforcement agencies, city councils and district attorneys in every region of the state.

Its purpose was to discourage straw purchasers who buy large numbers of handguns for resale to people who can't buy them themselves because of criminal records or other restrictions.
So, as opposed to fighting the lethal threat of straw gun purchases, the PA “Lege” caved again in the face of carping and whining from noisy gun owners who opposed a legal stipulation for the practice of missing a reporting gun, something they would (or should) do anyway?

Yep, that’s about it. And by the way, concerning O’Brien…

…when the votes were recorded and the opponents were finally flushed out, (the name of O’Brien), who has distinguished himself as the only lawmaker from (Philadelphia) to vote against the amendment (appeared first). He was joined by Stephen Barrar, R-Delaware; Paul Clymer, R-Bucks; Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks; Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery; Art Hershey, R-Chester; Bob Mensch, R-Montgomery; Scott Petri, R-Bucks, and Thomas J. Quigley, R-Montgomery.
(As you’ll see later in this post, though O’Brien is completely bought and paid for by the NRA, he has actually done good work in other legislative matters.)

And the Courier Times tells us more about the three votes from our esteemed Repug legislators in Bucks County here (glad to see they got that case of Geritol after all)…

DiGirolamo bought the innocent citizen argument. He also said laws are on the books regarding illegal gun sales. We don't need more. Plus, people who legally sell or transfer a gun they suspect will be used in a crime already face criminal charges.

He said the real problem is drug and alcohol abuse. That's what fuels gun violence, he said, and he pointed to legislation he's authored to attack that problem.

Clymer said we need fewer gun laws and more “traditional family values.”

Thanks, Paul.

Petri called the measure ineffective, but also said it was flawed. Something about how selling or transferring a gun that's used in a crime would be a lower-grade crime under the defeated measure than it is now if the accused claimed the gun was lost or stolen and if it was a first offense.

Got that?

We're still trying to figure it out.
And Petri also had this to say (from here)…

“We all knew this was a bad vote,” Petri said. “If you voted "yes,' you were potentially criminalizing normal innocent people. If you voted "no,' then you would be seen as soft on guns.

“I already can picture some of those grainy photos and campaign ads that use this vote to label me as pro-gun,” he added.
WAAAAAHHHHH!!!! Sorry, Scott, but that’s the deal – and maybe if, in a campaign ad, you’re labeled as “pro-gun,” it’s because you are “pro-gun.”

And as far as those who did the right thing, kudos to State Reps. John Galloway (D-140), Chris King (D-142), Tony Melio (D-141), and our own David Steil, (R-31), who, amazingly enough, has managed to earn an “A” rating from the NRA (which will probably get knocked down a grade as a result of this, which Steil should wear as a badge of honor).

And speaking of King and Galloway, they wrote the following Guest Opinion that appeared in the Courier Times on Monday March 31st…

Just over a year ago, we were members of a new class of state legislators. Elected by a public unhappy with business as usual in Harrisburg, we vowed to make state government more responsive to the needs and desires of our constituents.

We saw a need for more open state government, investment in our energy future, and assistance to ensure all Pennsylvanians could see a doctor when they were sick or hurt. We have accomplished those challenges.

Within the first months of this legislative session, House Speaker Dennis O’Brien formed the reform commission to rewrite the rules of the House to allow greater public access to state government. We didn’t stop there. With the help of other freshmen lawmakers, we achieved a new open records law that takes Pennsylvania from having some of the worst open records practices in the nation to having one of the best.

The momentum to facilitate real change for the people of the Commonwealth was palpable and we took advantage of that momentum to address the energy crisis that is knocking at our door. In just a few short years, energy rate caps will expire and many of us could see our electric bills double or even triple. Clearly new ways of lighting and heating our homes must be found.

We crafted a comprehensive package of bills known as the Energy Independence Strategy that not only addresses the pending hikes in power costs, but makes smart investments in the alternative energy industry in Pennsylvania. These are investments that not only would help to find affordable, renewable alternative energy for our residents and businesses, but also create thousands of jobs to grow our economy and make Pennsylvania a leader in this industry.

As the cost of health care rises and the economy slows, it has become increasingly difficult for businesses to offer their employees health-care benefits. As a result, there are thousands of working Pennsylvanians without health-care coverage. This is a complicated problem with no easy solution, but also too important to ignore. We are tackling the health-care crisis head on. We amended S.B. 1137 to create PA ABC, Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care. This plan would give lower-income working individuals and businesses that employ low-wage workers the opportunity to purchase affordable, quality health insurance.

This plan gives hope to those who, right now, have no access to insurance. It would also help to lower insurance costs for everyone because it reduces the number of people forced to use the emergency room as a primary care physician, which exacerbates uncompensated care costs.

We look forward to keeping the momentum going as there is much more work to be done. We must address our aging roads and bridges. We must pass the Keystone Opportunity Zone legislation to help boost economic development. And we must alleviate the property tax burden.
And finally (back to the gun bill), this word for Dennis O’Brien; if you choose to extend holiday greetings to your constituents again as you did here, please make sure you also remember to pray that they all make it through the year due to your legislative subterfuge.

A Lawless Environmental Assault

The New York Times says it very well (from here)...

To the long list of things the Bush adminis- tration is willing to trash in its rush to appease immigration hard-liners, you can now add dozens of important environmental laws and hundreds of thousands of acres of fragile habitat on the southern border.

On Tuesday, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, waived the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections to allow the government to finish building 700 or so miles of border fence by year’s end without undertaking legally mandated reviews of the consequences for threatened wildlife and their habitats.

Will this stop or slow illegal immigration? No. Long experience has shown that billions of barricade-building dollars will simply shift some of the flow to more remote parts of the 2,000-mile southern border. And no amount of border fence will keep out the 40 percent of illegal immigrants who enter legally then stay too long.

It will be a disaster on the ground. One example of what’s at risk is the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It runs in checkerboard fashion along the 200 miles of the Rio Grande before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. When the fence is finished, most of the refuge’s 95,000 acres — and the ocelots, jaguarundis and other rare species that live there — would wind up on the side of the fence closest to Mexico, virtually impossible to monitor and protect. Other sensitive areas in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas would also be affected.

Though environmental groups are planning to go to court to stop the Chertoff plan, a surer remedy lies on Capitol Hill. Congress created this mess by giving the secretary waiver authority in 2005. Then, in December, it gave itself an out, requiring that before the Department of Homeland Security receives any funds, the secretary must show that he has properly consulted with local officials and landowners. He must also provide a detailed justification for each separate segment of the fence.

To prevent an environmental disaster, Congress should use that oversight power to block the project, then move rapidly to rewrite a fundamentally bad law.
And by the way, if you’re wondering how Chertoff was able to skirt 36 federal laws while constructing this portion of his fence, you need to follow the odious trail back to the happily-long-gone 109th Congress.

Section 102 of the Real ID Act (the “fundamentally bad law,” so correctly termed by the Times) states as follows…

Amends the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) to authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security (the Secretary), in the Secretary's sole discretion, to waive all laws as necessary to ensure expeditious construction of certain barriers and roads at the U.S. border. Prohibits courts, administrative agencies, and other entities from reviewing the Secretary's decision or from ordering relief for damages alleged to have resulted from such decision.
The person responsible for the entire Real ID monstrosity is former House Repug Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (a prior post on REAL ID appears here).

And as a result, Chertoff will now try to build his “fence” which won’t do a damn thing to keep out illegal immigrants, but it will create an ecological disaster, as the Times states.

Here’s a link to contact your House Rep and Senator to tell them to put a halt to Chertoff’s monstrosity. And if anyone reading this lives in Wisconsin, ask yourself why you would even imagine voting for Sensenbrenner again this fall.

A Corporate Media Missile Misfire

It looks like our dear cousins working for the news organizations with initials for names are coming up with interesting new ways to prop up George W. Milhous Bush.

The AP reports the following here…

BUCHAREST, Romania - President Bush won NATO's endorsement Thursday for his plan to build a missile defense system in Europe over Russian objections. The proposal also advanced with Czech officials announcing an agreement to install a missile tracking site for the system in their country.
My goodness, could it be that Captain Clueless actually has a reason for that timelessly ridiculous smirk of his?

Well, maybe…

At a news conference in Bucharest on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwartzenberg announced that negotiations with the Americans have been successfully completed and that a deal would be signed in early May. No U.S. official was in attendance, but the Czechs distributed a joint U.S.-Czech statement that said, "This agreement is an important step in our efforts to protect our nations and our NATO allies from the growing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction."

The Poles have yet to agree to the plan.
But then again, maybe not; apparently, based on this report, the only NATO country that has agreed to the plan is Czechoslovakia – also, how weird is it that “no U.S. official was in attendance” for the announcement?

Well then, the Czech signoff would be a big deal. I say “would be” because, as it turns out, the Czech-U.S. missile defense negotiations were regarded as “complete” over two months ago.

So exactly what is the grand, glorious news for Dubya, then? That he’s taking a bow on April 2nd for negotiations completed on January 31st?

Yeah, I guess that would be it, then, wouldn’t it?

I’ll tell you what – if you want to read an account of this story that gives you an idea of how it’s playing “across the pond,” here’s the link to the Times of London. Aside from proclaiming our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin as the winner over the issue of accepting Georgia and the Ukraine into the U.N. "the bosom of the NATO alliance" (stupidly forced by Dubya in typical fashion), here is what it has to say about Dubya’s wonderful missile “victory”…

President Putin is in Bucharest and is due to speak at a meeting of the Nato/Russia Council tomorrow. He is also being joined by President Bush at the Black Sea port of Sochi on Saturday when the issue of Ukraine and Georgia, as well as America's missile defence plans in Europe, will top the agenda.



The (NATO) communique (about Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro joining the alliance) also contains a strong statement about the threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and the need to include the whole of Europe under the umbrella of America's missile defence system.
That’s it. No mention of an “endorsement” for Dubya on missile defense; if anything, it sounds like negotiations for such an “endorsement” from NATO are still very much in progress.

I guess this type of reporting on this matter (once dubbed “Star Wars” under The Sainted Ronnie R) is appropriate. Make-believe reporting fits in a way when the subject is a make-believe (and ridiculously costly) means of protection from our deadliest threats.

Update 1: I know there are times when I'm not "the sharpest knife in the drawer," but I'm reading the Times account here, and I have the same reaction as I do to the AP version.

Update 2: Glad to see the meeting is going so well (what an embarrassment that this yutz actually represents this country - h/t Atrios...and now as always, take a bow, you '04 "values voters" who reinstalled this nematode for four more years).

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wednesday Stuff

Elizabeth Edwards is interviewed on "Morning Joe" and talks principally about health care and pre-existing conditions (McCain vs. Obama vs. Clinton - she also debunks that story about Obama being snippy with the Edwardses that I linked to a couple of times; glad to hear that)...



...and leave it to "The Onion" to provide aid to those non-gay, non-Muslim, pro-life, antiterrorist, left-handed, Bush-loving famine victims of sub-Saharan Africa (truly commendable).

Not The "Right" Type Of Bucks County Voter?

(A hat tip to senior correspondent JW for this – totally “flew under my radar”…)

The Courier Times ran an editorial yesterday noting the following (no online link available)…

For more than 30 years (voters at the Creekside Apartments in Bensalem, PA voted at a site in their apartment complex). The site was moved last year after two letter writers, citing crime at the sprawling complex, expressed safety and parking concerns.

As a result, many Creekside voters stayed home on Election Day (last year). This was a shameful development, because most Creekside residents are naturalized Americans who worked hard to become citizens and cherish the right to vote.

But because many of these new citizens are elderly or disabled and don't drive or own cars, they couldn't get to the new polling site. That's why residents asked the board of elections last week to move the polling place back to Creekside. The board refused (voting 2-1).

Before trying to understand that decision, you should understand this: The county commissioners are the board of elections. And while two of the three commissioners are Republicans, most of the voters at Creekside are Democrats.
And those two commissioners would be Jim Cawley and Charley (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin. And the Courier Times editorial tells us that, according to Dem Commissioner Diane Marseglia (the sole vote in favor of moving the machines back to the apartment site), both of the Creekside letter writers “are or were GOP committee members.”

And here’s more on the petition filed by the Creekside residents to move the voting site back to the apartments (the turnout at the polls from the residents was historically very high until the move - there's your first clue)…

Russian-Americans and Indian-Americans at the Creekside Apartments filed a second petition with Bucks County Monday (3/31), once again alleging voter disenfranchisement and demanding a closer polling place.

The petition was signed by 23 residents of the apartment complex on Knights Road in Bensalem, according to attorney Kathryn Boockvar, who filed it on their behalf.

Deena Dean, director of the Bucks County Board of Elections, said changes to the voter district would be impossible before the April 22 primary.
Oh, but Dean had no trouble acting with haste to move the machines to begin with, didn’t she (and do I even need to mention that Dean is a Repug)? And Dean also tells us…

Other neighborhoods and retirement communities have asked for their own voting districts, but all have been turned down, Dean said. Federal law mandates that voter districts conform to census block lines from the most recent decennial census, she said.
That’s no excuse for not moving the machines back as far as I’m concerned; the worst that could happen is that the machines would be moved back to the site where they presently reside.

I’m not a lawyer, but if Cawley and Martin continue to obstruct from doing the right thing, then I think we have a potential violation of the Voting Rights Act (noted here). But of course, any enforcement actions would have to be executed by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department (that is, the Bushco Justice Department – sigh).

Given that this tactic is of the same odious variant as poll taxes and voter ID disenfranchisement, it looks to me that we now have a fourth Bucks County commissioner in addition to Diane, Cawley and Martin, and that would be Jim Crow.

And somewhere, Jay Russell smiles (and how ironic that the party that alleges voter fraud so frequently is so adept at actually practicing it).

Not A Solution I Recommend

Something for Mahmoud Abbas of the PLO to discuss with Khaled Meshal of Hamas, assuming they ever speak to one another…

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Brandishing "the sword of Islam," a Palestinian boy stabs President Bush to death in revenge for American and Israeli actions in a new puppet show for children aired by Hamas-owned television in the Gaza Strip.

The show, part of a series called "Exceptionals," first aired Sunday.

In the episode, Bush, a hand-held puppet dressed in a green uniform and wearing boxing gloves, is shown talking to a Palestinian child.

The child, with tears in his voice, accuses Bush of killing his father in Iraq, his mother in Lebanon and his brothers and sisters in Gaza with the assistance of the Israelis.

"You are a criminal, Bush, a despicable man. You made me an orphan. You deprived me of everything," says the hand-held puppet.
And just for the record, this is the same bunch of psychotics who broadcast a kids’ show a year ago where a Mickey Mouse knockoff encouraged kids to fight Israel “in the name of Islam.”

Of course, it’s not like we and Israel don’t propagandize using kids as well, though not to kill anyone, at least not in so many words (here).

More Work For Our Man Arlen

The latest, from People for the American Way...

Senator Arlen Specter claims to be pro-choice, although it would be hard to know it based on his record of supporting President Bush's anti-choice judicial nominees. But now, Sen. Specter has another chance to show where he really stands.

The nomination of Richard Honaker to the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming is awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Sen. Specter is the Ranking Member. Honaker is a staunch anti-choice activist.

Please call Sen. Specter's office now and urge him to prove he is pro-choice by OPPOSING the confirmation of Richard Honaker.

202-224-4254

Richard Honaker has worked vigorously to undermine women's reproductive freedom. Mr. Honaker has written that abortion is "wrong, and no one should have the right to do what is wrong." As a Wyoming state legislator, Mr. Honaker in 1991 introduced a bill entitled the "Human Life Protection Act" that would have prohibited abortion, except to protect a woman's life or in cases of incest or rape, but then only if the victim had reported the crime within five days of its occurrence -- a highly unrealistic requirement in many instances.

He has a disturbing record on government neutrality toward religion and a legal philosophy that threatens church-state separation. Mr. Honaker believes that the Bible is "true in law," and has publicly disparaged non-"Judeo-Christians" as unable to sustain "political liberty."

Mr. Honaker is a longtime board member of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) -- an extreme right-wing, anti-gay organization that, despite its name, has taken liberty-restricting positions on a range of matters that have nothing to do with home-schooling. A report in Salon quoted one observer of the Christian right as noting that "HSLDA and similarly motivated organizations . . . are major players behind recent efforts to mandate creationist curriculum and attack environmental education, sex-education, and multicultural classroom material." And HSLDA has created an "army of eager teen activists . . . called Generation Joshua," to "help defeat the giants of abortion, same-sex marriage and judicial activism."

Please call now and urge Senator Specter to OPPOSE the confirmation of Richard Honaker in Committee.

202-224-4254

You can let us know how the call goes with our online call report form from
here.

Why should you care about a federal judge in another state? As a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, Honaker's bad decisions could be looked to by judges in other states as persuasive precedent, and thus could affect all Americans. Women's rights advocates in Wyoming as well as leading national women's rights organizations, including NOW, the National Women's Law Center and NARAL Pro-Choice America, also oppose Mr. Honaker's confirmation, as do many other groups, including Americans United For Separation of Church and State and the Alliance for Justice.

-- Your Allies at People For the American Way

P.S. for more on Richard Honaker and source material for the statements contained within this e-mail, please see PFAW's letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to Mr. Honaker's confirmation
here.
And I'm still waiting to hear about that book deal, by the way.

Heckuva Job, "Pauly?"

(Knowing Dubya's propensity to assign idiotic nicknames to his underlings, don't be surprised if that's Paulison's actual "handle.")

McClatchy tells us here that R. David Paulison, the head of FEMA brought on after Mike Brown departed, will follow his predecessor out the door by no later than 1/20/09.

By the way, I know that Brown was redeemed somewhat by information that emerged subsequent to the Katrina debacle that he was more active in rescue efforts than we first believed. However, he remains every bit as culpable for the abysmal performance of his agency as does his boss, Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff and of course Dubya himself.

The one point I will give Paulison, though, is that, as former Administrator of the United States Fire Administration, he at least has experience that is somewhat relevant to disaster management.

Still, though, this Washington Post story tells us that FEMA knew “since early 2006 (from) warnings from its own field workers about health problems experienced by hurricane victims living in government-provided trailers with levels of (formaldehyde) 75 times the recommended maximum for U.S. workers.”

The story also tells us…

Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) decried what he called FEMA's indifference to storm victims and said the situation was "sickening." He said the documents "expose an official policy of premeditated ignorance" and added that "senior officials in Washington didn't want to know what they already knew, because they didn't want the legal and moral responsibility to do what they knew had to be done."

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said FEMA had obstructed the 10-month congressional investigation and "mischaracterized the scope and purpose" of its own actions. "FEMA's reaction to the problem was deliberately stunted to bolster the agency's litigation position," Davis said. "FEMA's primary concerns were legal liability and public relations, not human health and safety."



In his appearance at yesterday's committee hearing, FEMA Director R. David Paulison apologized and said "in hindsight" FEMA should have tested trailers earlier. "The health and safety of residents is my primary concern," he said. But he depicted the 200 or so complaints as voiced by a small fraction of the number of families in trailers, and he said more research is needed to determine why some trailer residents have become sickened and what level of formaldehyde is unsafe in homes.

Paulison promised to consult with half a dozen U.S. health, environmental and housing agencies and with trailer manufacturers. He also acknowledged that concerns of environmental toxins in trailers go beyond formaldehyde. "There is an issue inside the trailers, but I don't know if it's formaldehyde, mold, mildew, bacteria" or something else, Paulison said.
So why did it take an appearance before a House oversight committee to get Paulison to acknowledge the contaminated trailers approximately a year after FEMA’s field workers first notified the agency’s management of the problem?

Also, though I don’t know that FEMA’s fake press conference last October was his idea, Paulison should have been out in front decrying it and disciplining those responsible, as opposed to his boss (anything that gives Chertoff the opportunity to look like he actually has a spine is particularly galling).

And finally, this SourceWatch link tells us the following about Paulison (the quote was discovered by none other than Keith Olbermann around the time Paulison was first appointed to head FEMA)…

"Paulison brings an extensive resume to the post," Olbermann wrote. "He ran fire operations for Miami-Dade County in Florida, and was past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. But in light of the response to (Katrina), another comment he made at the time of the Duct Tape announcements (re: the DHS warnings from former agency head Tom Ridge) rings especially loudly. Paulison said in February, 2003, that in the first 48 to 72 hours of an emergency, many Americans would likely have to look after themselves."
Bushco, “Working For You” as always…

Yes, Paulison was definitely an upgrade from Mikey (“Arabian Horsey Time”) Brown. But his tenure at DHS is an improvement only because he thus far has not yet faced a Katrina-like disaster to demonstrate that FEMA has actually improved under his watch.

Update 4/3/08: Well, at least they got this right.

A Bushco Survivor Returns

I didn’t want to let too much time go by without acknowled- ging the interview Deborah Solomon conducted with former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

O’Neill weighed in as follows…

Do you think it was appropriate for the Federal Reserve to lend a helping hand to Bear Stearns and save a private investment company from its own bad decisions? I would say they didn’t save Bear Stearns. They saved the financial system from a panic collapse. I reject the notion that they helped Bear Stearns. Bear Stearns was destroyed.

No it wasn’t. It was purchased by JPMorgan, which will keep it alive. They’re going to keep the book alive. But the institution of Bear Stearns has been destroyed. They’ve gone from $158 to $2 of equity. It’s wallpaper. It’s not even good wallpaper. It’s butcher paper.

It’s so hard to understand how the subprime mortgage crisis has triggered a financial crisis of global proportions. If you have 10 bottles of water, and one bottle had poison in it, and you didn’t know which one, you probably wouldn’t drink out of any of the 10 bottles; that’s basically what we’ve got there.

Instead of helping Bear Stearns, why doesn’t the Fed help out homeowners? It’s too late now. Going back a year ago, if the Fed and the Treasury had set out to help the institutions provide clarity and differentiate between good loans and bad loans, we wouldn’t have gotten to this freeze condition.
I'm don't agree with that - just remember, though, that O’Neill was fired by Bushco because he opposed their tax cuts. And speaking of that…

Do you feel bitter about your service for the Bush administration? No. I’m thankful I got fired when I did, so that I didn’t have to be associated with what they subsequently did.
And as for the election…

How do you feel about John McCain, who claims to be a straight talker? I don’t want a straight talker. I want a leader. And a straight talker is one dimension of a leader.

McCain recently confessed in public that his grasp of economics is limited. Yeah. That’s a great place to start from, isn’t it?
Tee hee (no word on what he thinks of the Dems, though, to be fair).

Have you seen Dick Cheney since he fired you? I have been to a few events where the vice president was there, but we both did our best to ignore each other. You know, I was a pallbearer, and he was a pallbearer, too.

You mean at President Ford’s funeral? Yes.

And you didn’t say hello? Nope. It was a good time to be alone together.
God, it would have been so neat to have O’Neill around lobbing spitballs as these clowns; might have actually kept them from making some of their catastrophic decisions (I know O’Neill is a conservative through and through, but he built a successful company, Alcoa by name, which is more than I can say for anyone else in our ruling cabal).

And finally…

How did you first get involved in government? I went to Washington in 1961 because I believed what Kennedy said. If you want to make a difference, come here. It sounds corny, but it’s true.
It still is (corny perhaps, but no less the truth then as now).

Today's Inky Errata (4/2/08)

I haven’t said anything about this even though the problem has existed for some time because I didn’t want to waste valuable posting space on it, but I’ve finally reached my limit; apparently, Philly.com is incapable of performing basic quality assurance on its own website.

This link to Attytood from the philly.com home page looked really interesting, so I clicked on it….

…and was immediately linked to an Attytood/Will Bunch post from December 2007 (sorry the image decomposed slightly when I reduced it).

But remember, boys and girls, the REAL problem with the web site is that, according to Dick Polman, I misinterpreted data about the average length of time visitors view/read the site, as noted here (though, upon rereading my post and Polman’s response, I really didn’t break the issue down to the level of granularity Polman alleged, so basically I apologized somewhat for something that really wasn’t my fault – cannot find the original E&P story to confirm that, though).

Sorry to waste your time with this – carry on.

Update 4/3/08: I just checked, and the link is fixed.

A Morning Meditation

Sun is shining, birds are singing, not dealing with the nonsense yet so in the meantime, here's Patty Griffin singing "Heavenly Day" to a great slideshow by YouTuber davidj570...



...and Tom Lehrer, the funniest math professor who ever lived, brings us "Poisoning Pigeons In The Park."

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Again Getting Played on "Free" Trade

This Op-Ed column in last Saturday’s New York Times by Edward Schumacher-Matos argued in favor of a free trade agreement with Colombia, and I should tell you from the start that I oppose free trade agreements since they have never provided worker safeguards and I have yet to see such agreements generating reasonably well-paying jobs with respectable benefits in this country (if someone can make that case to me, feel free to try – I’m sorry, but with our economy in the tank, I’m not terribly concerned about generating jobs anywhere else in the world).

The author stakes his claim based on the following…

All sides agree that trade-union murders in Colombia, like all violence, have declined drastically in recent years. The Colombian unions’ own research center says killings dropped to 39 last year from a high of 275 in 1996.

Yet in a report being released next week, the research center says the killings remain “systematic” and should be treated by the courts as “genocide” designed to “exterminate” unionism in Colombia. Most human-rights groups cite the union numbers and conclude, as Human Rights Watch did this year, that “Colombia has the highest rate of violence against trade unionists in the world.”

Even if that is true, it was far safer to be in a union than to be an ordinary citizen in Colombia last year. The unions report that they have 1 million members. Thirty-nine killings in 2007 is a murder rate of 4 unionists per 100,000. There were 15,400 homicides in Colombia last year, not counting combat deaths, according to the national police. That is a murder rate of 34 citizens per 100,000.
Oh, and by the way, Iraq is safer than Philadelphia, just to let you know (God, am I sick of nonsensical statistics such as that…how about a rate 4 murders per 100,000 former Wall Street Journal columnists per year? Somehow I don’t think you’d be singing about that; I should note, though, that Schumacher-Matos is more sophisticated than your typical wingnut, and unlike many of them, he has actually served this country in the military with distinction).

Also…

(Colombia’s) two main guerrilla groups have an avowed strategy of infiltrating unions, which attracts violence. About a third of the identified murderers of union members are leftist guerrillas. Most of the rest are members of paramilitary groups — presumed to be behind two of the four trade unionist murders this month. The demobilization of most paramilitary groups, along with the prosecutions and government protection of union leaders, has contributed to the great drop in union murders.
Oh, so it’s the fault of the unions themselves that they face death in unacceptable numbers, is it?

This prior post tells you that the paramilitary groups working under the drug cartels “intimidate the workforce to the point where workers are scarce and wages are suppressed.”

And a comment to this AFL-CIO post tells you that, in addition to the fact that Colombia has squandered the money we sent them to fight the “drug war,” which is nothing but a slogan in this country particularly under Bushco (because those funds have padded the lifestyles of the rich and prosperous in that country)…

Colombia is a different world than the USA. It is difficult for reporters to even understand without living there. One must remember that 20% of the population has over 60% of the wealth. The 20% control the government and for them the FTA as written is excellent. However over 50% of the population lives below the poverty level. The disparity between rich and poor in the country remains one of the largest in the world, some reports have put it as high as 58 times. In order for there to be a market for American goods there needs to be people who can afford them.

Indeed the treatment of union members is important. Even more important is the need to eliminate fear in workers for exercising their right to organize. There are hundreds of thousands who work in terrible conditions and would like organize, but don’t for fear of death. It is bad enough that the government linked paramilitary is said to be responsible for the majority of murders of union members, but a U.S. State department report has even said Colombian military troops are responsible for some.
And the AFL-CIO post itself states the following…

All the Colombian union leaders told the (U.S.) delegation they oppose any free trade deal between the United States and Colombia until the government takes strong action to stop the violence against trade union members and ends the government’s assaults on union rights. They emphasized that the trade agreement in its current form will create more economic insecurity in their country and hurt workers more.
Gee, it sounds to me like the Colombian unionists care more about their livelihood and their lives than stimulating economic growth and jobs, contrary to what Schumacher-Matos tells us.

And Bushco and their acolytes have been trying to hand us the “Don’t worry about Colombia, everything’s fine” line for a little while, as Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez did last October, only to be properly slapped down by Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

And this tells us of the story of Chiquita Brands, which tried to do the right thing concerning the paramilitary organizations in Colombia and ended up getting rooked by Mike (“City of Louisiana”) Chertoff (who I guess will endure to the bitter end with this bunch, a moment that can’t come soon enough).

Something Else For Boehner's "Trusted Hands"

It looks like House Minority Leader John Boehner (pronounced bo-ner) is about to end up $1 million richer as a result of a lawsuit filed against U.S. House Dem Rep Jim McDermott (as noted here)…

The case dealt with an illegally intercepted phone call in 1996 involving Boehner that later was handed over to McDermott, who then leaked it to two newspapers.

Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled after the Supreme Court in December refused to hear the broader constitutional challenge by McDermott over whether he has legal protection as a lawmaker.

Hogan earlier had found the Washington Democrat violated a federal wiretapping law and ordered him to pay $60,000 in damages to Boehner, along with "reasonable" attorney fees.

It is believed to be the first time a Capitol Hill lawmaker has successfully sued a fellow member.

"Congressman McDermott broke the law, and as a result, he shattered the bonds of trust between our institution and the men and women we represent in the halls of Congress," said Boehner in a statement Tuesday.
Interesting note about Judge Hogan, by the way: he signed the search warrant authorizing the FBI to search the Capitol building offices of U.S. Congressman William Jefferson, the only such search in United States history (he was also appointed in 1982 under Ronnie Baby – just sayin’).

Oh, and one more thing; this tells us that the Supremes, despite a request from Bushco, aren’t going to rule on the Jefferson case, thereby letting stand a lower court ruling that the FBI went too far in searching Jefferson’s quarters (good move, Your Honor).

And oh yes, this gives Boehner such an opportunity to be shocked – yea and verily, truly shocked! – over the behavior of that Democratic ruffian McDermott (truth be told, yeah, McDermott probably should have at least turned the tape over to the DNC and let them make the call so Boehner wouldn’t be able to personally go after him).

But it’s a funny thing – I happened to come across this story from 2005 concerning the Republican Party of Virginia which intercepted two private phone calls by state Democratic Party members. Upon realizing they were caught, the Repugs settled, but…

"Quite beyond the legal question, this is an effort by the Republican Party of Virginia to avoid responsibility for their actions," Arlington Democratic Del. Bob Brink said on Thursday, referring to the recent news that the state GOP is suing its liability-insurance carrier for breach of contract because the carrier said that it would not cover the $750,000 that the party paid to Virginia Democrats to settle their claim.

Brink and three other state legislators who were original parties to the suit charged that the RPV's suit against the Lincoln, Neb.,-based Union Insurance Co. is "an abuse of the legal process," to use Brink's words, because the party had noted in a disclosure statement filed in conjunction with the 2004 legal action that it had no relevant insurance agreements in place at that time.



The party's former executive director, Ed Matricardi, and former party chairman Gary Thomson pled guilty to charges related to the intercepted phone calls.



"Had we been told that there was an insurance company, and that the insurance company was going to assume the responsibility, and that it would cost the Republican Party of Virginia nothing, I think we'd have been much less likely to have settled," (Lebanon Democratic Sen. Phil) Puckett said.



Arlington Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple was more direct.

"I don't like being lied to," Whipple said. "I think that's awful. It bothers me that an important entity like the Republican Party of Virginia would be willing to lie, both to us and the court. I think that's terrible."
So basically, cut out the “holier than thou” act, Boehner. Both sides engage in this stuff from time to time and should be penalized accordingly.

If you don’t get off your high horse, then I’ll bring up your truly cozy relationship with Sallie Mae again, OK?

An Obama Campaign Crisis

I stuck with the one-term senator from Illinois despite what was apparently a brushoff of John and Elizabeth Edwards over whether or not his health insurance proposals would cover all Americans (here). I kept quiet when I heard of the last-minute robocalls in New Hampshire earlier this year (somewhat fair, though, as a response to the “Insult-40-States Express,” I’ll grant you). And to me, the Reverend Wright thing isn’t as big of a deal as John Hagee calling the Catholic Church “the great whore” and Rod Parsley spewing gay hatred all over the place. And I bit my lip and said nothing when he praised The Sainted Ronnie R.

But Senator Barack Obama, I must tell you that my faith in your campaign is now shaken. And I know a lot of other people have beaten me to it on this, but I have to weigh in.

This story (under the oxymoronic banner of “Political Intelligence”) tells us that Obama visited an Altoona, Pa. bowling alley – and bowled a seven-frame score of 37.

A 37?? The young one can bowl a 37 without the benefit of gutter guards!

Well then, while keeping in mind your song parody written for The Gridiron Club on March 11, 2006 (what is it with Washington and these self-celebratory dinners and snobby gatherings…probably embedded with each other the same way that puke-green coloring is embedded in lima beans, I guess), back when you wanted to work with “Straight Talk” McCain on campaign finance reform, I’d like to offer the following (to the tune of “If I Only Had A Brain,” from “The Wizard Of Oz”)…

With the Clintons, ever cheatin’, for the White House we’re competin’
For votes from everywhere
And the bowlers I’d be wooin’ if I knew what I was doin’
And I’d only make a spare (a bowling thing, for the uninitiated)

For a sympathetic tally, I’d wind up in the alley
And toss the ball with flair
I would never be regrettin’ if the pins were all resetting
While I’d only make a spare

Dick Weber would be proud; my name would be a hit
Engraved on my shirt of poly knit
While I knock down that “seven-and-ten” split

And the junk food I’d be gnoshin’, with brewskis I’d be washin’
Down such gross blue-collar fare
Up the PA polls I’d rocket with their votes all in my pocket
If I’d only make a spare
And don’t worry, I won’t comment about what it truly means that some will actually base their votes in this sad display by an otherwise very worthy candidate.

Update 4/5/08: I was only joking of course, but apparently, our dear corporate media cousins were serious.

Yep, Check The Date Again

This just in...

Today in Washington, White House Press Secretary Dan Abrams announced the itinerary for President Kerry’s five-day trip to the Middle East during his morning briefing. The president will travel to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to sign the long-negotiated treaty stipulating that the Palestinians will renounce terrorism against the state of Israel and assist a U.N. peacekeeping force in disarming Hamas. In return, Israel will end its occupation of the Palestinian territories and pull back from all territorial gains achieved in its 1967 war against Egypt.

Other stops on the president’s tour include Iraq, where a delegation including Saddam Hussein and other Shi’ite mullahs, installed into office as part of a U.N.-brokered power sharing arrangement, have complied fully with weapons inspectors and human rights activists to achieve full transparency in revealing that country’s biological, chemical and nuclear weapons capabilities as well as reform of its courts and prisons.

In response to a question from the press, Abrams reminded everyone that Hussein’s prison sentence for humanitarian crimes was mitigated in a controversial move by The Hague due to the inability to reconcile Sunnis elements in Iraq with the governing Shi’ite majority, for the purposes of allowing Hussein to join the governing coalition. Hussein’s freedom is contingent upon the achievement of the following benchmarks by Iraq’s government, formed approximately three years ago: a distribution of oil wealth deemed to be equitable by the U.N. oversight board, the implementation and participation of the majority of Iraqis in free elections, and the reduction of that country’s child mortality rate and upgrading of disease prevention methods in compliance with recommendations from the International Red Cross.

Also from Washington, Vice President John Edwards is expected to announce today a new private-government partnership with the Gates Foundation that will launch programs assisting college students dropping out from school due to financial hardship as well as inner-city public libraries seeking funds to develop, maintain and eventually expand Internet access. Tomorrow, the vice president will fly to New Orleans to participate in a ceremony marking the end of the reconstruction of the Ninth Ward, completed with funds from an endowment dedicated to fighting poverty in the U.S.

In other news, former president George W. Bush is currently being treated in a Crawford, TX hospital for as-yet-unspecified injuries sustained in a brush-clearing accident. This is the third such occurrence over the last two months; no word on the president’s long-term prognosis. A representative from his library noted that this will postpone his planned upcoming visit to former Vice-President Dick Cheney at the federal prison camp in Nellis, Nevada where Mr. Cheney is serving a 20-year prison sentence for conviction on charges of money laundering, tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud U.S. and international governments.
I know, we can only wish.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday Stuff

This might be the edgiest piece The Onion has ever done ("talking to you is like talking to a goat," huh?)...


9/11 Conspiracy Theories 'Ridiculous,' Al Qaeda Says

...and to get serious, today would have been the 81st birthday of labor pioneer Cesar Chavez (this report has more; I have to say, though, that I think a federal holiday is pushing it a bit, but we'll see)...



...and here is a two-part report from John Gorenfeld on The Reverend Sun Myung Moon (more info here; Part 1 is about 9:24)...



...and Part 2 is about 8:19.