Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday Stuff

Here's a plug for "Turn Around America 2008" (more info. here - have to turn the volume up a bit)...

...and Iraq, Halliburton, war, destruction, and situation comedy - yes, it all really fits for a change...

Update 4/13/08: Wow, that got pulled in a hurry...

...let's try this instead (not bad, from SNL).

Saturday Military Madness

The Bucks County Courier Times tells us today (no link)...

Thumbs Up to the Bush administration for reducing the tours of duty for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from 15 to 12 months.

We already ask so much of our soldiers, and we're glad to applaud anything that gives them a bit of relief. We're sure that three months less of combat per tour is a welcome change for them and their families.
Ummm - WHAAAA????

Here is Steve Coll from his column in The New Yorker last week...

Last week, (General Richard A. Cody) appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and testified that this method of engineering (tasking our military to fight terrorism, quell the Taliban, invade and pacify Iraq, and, at the same time, prepare for future strategic challenges, whether in China or Korea or Africa all at once) has failed. “Today’s Army is out of balance,” Cody said. He continued:

The current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies. . . . Soldiers, families, support systems and equipment are stretched and stressed. . . . Overall, our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it. If unaddressed, this lack of balance poses a significant risk to the all-volunteer force and degrades the Army’s ability to make a timely response to other contingencies.


In this environment, it is perhaps unsurprising that General Cody’s plainspoken, valedictory dissent about the Army’s health attracted little attention. His testimony marked a rare public surfacing of the contentious debates at the Pentagon over the strategic costs of the surge. These debates involve overlapping disagreements about doctrine (particularly the importance of counter-insurgency), global priorities (Iraq versus Afghanistan, for instance), and resources. At their core, however, lies Cody’s essential observation: the Army is running on fumes, but (Gen. David) Petraeus and his fellow surge advocates are driving flat out in Iraq, with no destination in sight. It hardly matters whether Petraeus would recommend keeping a hundred and thirty thousand or more combat troops in Iraq for a hundred years, or only ten. Neither scenario is plausible—at least, not without a draft or a radical change in incentives for volunteers.

Flag officers in the Bush Administration’s military have learned that they can be marginalized or retired if they speak out too boldly. The Administration does not romanticize the role of the loyal opposition. Last month, Admiral William J. Fallon, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, announced his early retirement, under pressure from the White House, after he argued privately for a faster drawdown from Iraq, to bolster efforts in Afghanistan and to restore a more balanced global military posture. Publicly, Fallon also described the “drumbeat of conflict” against Iran as “not helpful.”
Besides, if George W. Milhous Bush and his Repug cronies gave a damn about the mental and physical well being of our forces, the least they could have done was support Sen. Jim Webb's amendment last year limiting deployments and mandating more downtime before our troops are returned to battle.

But that of course was impossible because it would have amounted to giving a Democrat who had served recognition at the Repugs' expense, even though the "welcome change" for our troops and their families would have come a hell of a lot sooner.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Stuff

As I noted earlier in the post about "Straight Talk" McCain blowing off the “Compassion Forum” at Messiah College in Harrisburg this Sunday, I just can't imagine why he and "Pastor" John Hagee wouldn't want to participate... well as Rod Parsley, McCain's "spiritual guide"...

...oh, and by the way, when is he going to decide to support the new G.I. bill? (FINALLY an appropriate use for a song by Rick Astley)...

...and Barack Obama talks about the injustice of compensation for CEOs whose companies go in the tank, as well as what he's trying to do about that (the volume fades in and out a bit, but these are welcome words).

(And man, is Obama "talkin' my language" here; he's not quite correct about HRC and the Bankruptcy Bill though - she didn't vote for it, but she didn't vote against it either.)

Friday Mashup (4/11/08)

  • I don’t know if Repug U.S. House Rep Patrick McHenry of North Carolina (pictured here with Incurious George) is the stupidest, most arrogant politician in the country (lots of competition of course), but based on this story, I’d say he’s made it to very near the top of the list.

    This is the guy who criticized one of our military for not allowing him to work out at a gym inside Iraq’s “Green Zone” when he visited last March 22nd as part of a congressional delegation (McHenry called the person who told him he didn’t have the proper credential “a two-bit security guard”).

    Now, we learn the following…

    The Pentagon told a North Carolina lawmaker Tuesday that he couldn’t re-air a video he'd shot in Baghdad after accusations surfaced that he breached operational security in detailing enemy rocket attacks.

    The new criticism stems from a video that was featured on his Web site last Friday. Shot in the Green Zone, it showed McHenry gesturing to a building behind him and saying that one of 11 rockets “hit just over my head.” Then he named two other places struck by the rockets.

    On Monday, a veterans group called accused McHenry of giving away intelligence information that could have aided terrorist organizations in targeting the Green Zone.

    “The bottom line is that whoever launched that strike could take the information McHenry provided and use it to kill Americans in the Green Zone,” wrote Brandon Friedman, vice chairman of, a veterans advocacy group that has called for troop withdrawal and promoted veterans for political office. “This is why professionals operating in a combat zone are trained not to reveal any battle damage after an attack.”
    McHenry pulled the video after Friedman’s post appeared (I would say that the gentleman from North Carolina is a total asshat).

  • So what kind of a greeting did Jackie Speier, the new California Dem U.S. House Rep taking over for Tom Lantos who recently passed away, receive today as she gave her first speech in Congress?

    mcjoan at The Daily Kos tells us here…

    …Speier spoke out about Iraq, and the boos and hoots began from the Republican side of the aisle.

    "When will we get out of Iraq?" was the most frequent question she heard, she told the House, while campaigning in the special election she won Tuesday to succeed the late Rep. Tom Lantos.

    "The process to bring the troops home must begin immediately," she said, as several Republicans loudly booed. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Vista Republican, bolted from his seat and left the floor.

    The hoots grew in volume as Speier, a Hillsborough Democrat, continued....

    "Why are they booing my mother?" Speier's middle-school daughter Stephanie asked, according to a staffer.
    All class, those House Repugs (and by the way, in case you'd forgotten, Issa is the fool who once threatened Henry Waxman...and yes, "do you think he really wants to investigate directly" about Blackwater constitutes a threat).

  • This story from the Times of London tells us about a new book soon to be published on “the health and medication of world leaders,” and it apparently contains some revelations on the medications administered to former president John F. Kennedy…

    In his riveting volume In Sickness and In Power, former Foreign Secretary and medic David Owen reviews the health and medication of leaders over the last century. The chapter on Kennedy is jaw-dropping.

    Owen starts by convincingly asserting that Kennedy was much sicker than is commonly appreciated and certainly much sicker than was appreciated at the time. His Addison's disease was very debilitating and needed constant attention.

    In particular, without the knowledge of his other doctors and at the same time as they were giving him other drugs, he was being tended to by Max Jacobson, a doctor known as "Dr Feelgood" because of his reputation as a provider of amphetamines and pep pills. In time Jacobson's drug treatment became almost a recreational drug for Kennedy. Jacobson was later struck off.

    Owen shows that is quite likely that Dr Feelgood, specially flown to Vienna, injected Kennedy with intravenous amphetamine just before he met Khrushchev.

    Then later in the year Dr Hans Kraus took control of Kennedy's medication. He demanded total control and began using massage rather than injections to treat the President.
    The review tells us that when Dr. Kraus took over, Kennedy regained his stability (from what the book claims as a bit of incapacitation around the time of the Bay of Pigs, when Kennedy was under Jacobson's "care") enough to lead the nation through the Cuban Missile Crisis, that little dustup Dana Perino didn't know about.

    Interesting stuff, though; I’m sure we’ll receive a response from a Kennedy spokesperson at some point.

  • And finally, David Brooks told us earlier that, as far as he’s concerned, “memory is the new sex.”

    Well, based on this story, I think the old one is doing just fine, thank you.
  • Is Saint McCain Beyond Redemption?

    Cenk Uygur tells us the following here…

    Reverend John Hagee has called the Catholic Church the "Great Whore." He has said that the Anti-Christ will rise out of the European Union (of course, the Anti-Christ will also be Jewish). He has said all Muslims are trained to kill and will be part of the devil's army when Armageddon comes (which he hopes is soon). John McCain continues to say he is proud of Reverend Hagee's endorsement.

    Reverend Rod Parsley believes America was founded to destroy Islam. Since this is such an outlandish claim, I have to add for the record, that he is not kidding. Reverend Parsley says Islam is an "anti-Christ religion" brought down from a "demon spirit." Of course, we are in a war against all Muslims, including presumably Muslim-Americans. Buts since Parsley believes this is a Christian nation and that it should be run as a theocracy, he is not very concerned what Muslim-Americans think.

    John McCain says Reverend Rod Parsley is his "spiritual guide."
    Well, then, I'm glad these “men of God” will have an opportunity to communicate these beliefs (with “straight talk” McCain in tow) to an upcoming gathering of their peers, and that would be at the “Compassion Forum” at Messiah College in Harrisburg on Sunday the 13th (noted here).

    Oh, wait; I just reread this press release, and it notes the following…

    Senator McCain has thus far declined the invitation, which is still open.
    Gosh, I wonder why.

    I mean, I know McCain is the de facto Repug nominee for president and it’s not as if primary votes actually matter to him at this point.

    But he’s the candidate of the high-minded, holier-than-thou, values-voters-comprised Republican Party for Christ’s sake (oops – sorry). How can he even imagine passing up this chance to meet with other spiritual leaders and watch them utterly eviscerate interact with these self-righteous phonies upstanding spiritual counselors?

    I’ll ponder this as I turn on my cable news channel this evening and see the thousandth or so rehashing of the Rev. Wright “scandal” (or perhaps something just as stupid – and Cenk’s question in the headline is absolutely appropriate).

    Update 4/13/08: No mention that John W. McBush blew off the invitation here, but of course the headline is over an utterly laughable charge of "elitism" against Obama by Clinton - unbelievable (no, on second thought - typical).

    Where The Rubber Meets The Road (4/11/08)

    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 (back from a brief hiatus)...


    HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB. By a vote of 308-116, the House authorized spending $50 billion over five years for U.S. support of global programs to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. The bill discontinues a mandate that one-third of AIDS spending be allocated to abstinence programs.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 5501).

    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.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.) and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
    Abstinence programs don’t work anywhere, and certainly not in sub-Saharan Africa, so the logical move is to remove funding for one of Dubya’s pet projects (yet another in a long line of failures). Given that, you just knew Pancake Joe Pitts was going to nix that common sense idea, didn’t you?

    And by the way, to help Bruce Slater, click here.

    HIV/AIDS funding cut. By a vote of 175-248, the House refused to cut the spending authorization in HR 5501 (above) from $50 billion to $30 billion over five years.

    A yes vote backed a 40 percent spending cut.

    Voting yes: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
    Typical petty, cheap Repugs and their one-upsmanship (and another gutsy vote by Chris Smith, realizing that trying to save lives in some of the most destitute places on earth is more important than partisan politics)…


    Mortgage counseling. In a 44-40 vote, the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes needed to double funding in a House bill (HR 3221) for mortgage counseling by nonprofit agencies. The amendment sought to increase the outlay from $100 million to $200 million in order to extend counseling to an additional 250,000 holders of problem mortgages.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

    Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).
    And just as a reminder, that “60 vote needed for passage” rule is needed because that is the vote total that prevents the automatic filibuster by the Repugs against any Senate action they don’t like (e.g., 60 votes weren’t needed to confirm Mukasey as AG). As a result, the Repugs have already set a record for filibusters in this, the 110th Congress.

    And as the Repugs quibble about whether or not homeowners caught in the subprime mortgage debacle should get $100 million or $200 million for counseling, I would ask that you keep in mind that the Iraq war is costing about $411 million a day (here).

    Subprime loans, bankruptcy. Voting 58-36, the Senate killed a measure that sought to give bankruptcy judges authority to change the terms of subprime mortgages on primary residences. The proposal, offered as an amendment to a housing-related bill being debated in the House (HR 3221), would have given the judges power to cut interest rates and principal to help borrowers keep their homes.

    A yes vote was to kill the amendment.

    Voting yes: Carper and Specter.

    Voting no: Biden, Casey, Lautenberg and Menendez.
    Here is more on HR 3221; if Carper has a spine, he’ll make it official and change parties to Republican at the end of this session (votes to increase funds for mortgage counseling, then votes against allowing a judge to restructure the terms so it can be paid off - unbelievable; and by the way, he voted for the Bankruptcy Bill, of course).

    And as always, screw you, Arlen.

    Gulf Coast aid. Voting 74-5, the Senate expanded HR 3221 (above) to include a projected $1 billion for homeowners suffering major losses in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The amendment would fund grants of up to $150,000 designed to narrow the gap between insurance payments and home values.

    A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

    Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Casey and Menendez.

    Not voting: Lautenberg and Specter.
    And as we consider the question of $150,000 for homeowners suffering from Katrina and Rita, keep in mind – again – that the Iraq war is costing about $411 million a day (here - and the five cretins who actually voted against this were Jon Kyl, Judd Gregg, Jim DeMint, Bob Corker, and John Barrasso, from here – and I don’t need to mention their political party, do I?).

    This week, the House took up a bill on ocean pollution near shorelines, while the Senate continued to debate a housing bill.

    Doan Still A Pill At The GSA

    The New York Times tells us here that many government employees have been abusing credit cards issued to them, running up such charges as $360 to buy lingerie before heading off to drug enforcement training in the Ecuador jungle, as well as hundreds of laptops, iPods and digital cameras to the tune of $1.8 million (all on our dime, of course).

    And here’s more on this from the AP…

    Agencies often could not provide the required paperwork to justify questionable purchases. Investigators also found that federal employees sometimes double-billed or improperly expensed lavish meals and Internet dating for many months without question from supervisors; the charges were often noticed only after auditors or whistle-blowers raised questions.

    "Breakdowns in internal controls over the use of purchase cards leave the government highly vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse," investigators wrote, calling the government-wide failure rate in enforcing controls "unacceptably high."

    "This audit demonstrates that continued vigilance over purchase card use is necessary," the 57-page report stated.

    The report calls for the General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget, both of which help administer the government's credit-card program, to set guidance to improve accounting for purchased items, particularly Palm Pilots, iPods and other electronic equipment that could be easily stolen.

    OMB and GSA were also urged to tighten controls over convenience checks, which are a part of the credit-card program, and to remind federal employees that they will be held responsible for any items if the purchases are later deemed improper.
    The head of the OMB is Jim Nussle; the following was noted about him from here…

    Half the time he was Budget Committee chairman, Nussle couldn’t even pass a budget -and he played a key role in approving the president’s policies that ran up the debt, mostly to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthy. With Nussle at the helm of OMB, Bush’s fiscal policy loses even more credibility.
    And the head of the GSA is none other than Lurita Doan (pictured) who, as noted here by Think Progress last May, appeared completely befuddled before the Henry Waxman’s House Oversight Committee over whether or not she and/or her employees violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government resources – including employees' time or space in a government building – from being used for partisan politics.

    I know this is yet another example of Bushco stuffing government agencies with partisan cronies who have not a clue when it comes to effectively managing budgets or personnel as well as formulating or implementing policy to enable efficient operation of their departments, but these stories (small by comparison to the Iraq war or the teetering of our economy towards collapse, to say nothing of our infrastructure in a similar state), in total, paint the picture of a branch of government that has totally abdicated its mission of service on our behalf.

    Also, Sen. Charles Grassley has sponsored what I believe to be an utterly pointless related bill called “The Government Credit Card Abuse and Prevention Act of 2007” (here).

    Instead of crafting legislation trying to mandate common sense, though, I believe the correct thing to do is to put people in charge of OMB and GSA who actually are not total hacks and let them do their jobs to the best of their ability.

    To sum up, here are some more credit card charges…$14,000 for Internet dating services and a dinner at a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Orlando, Fla.; $45,000 at Brooks Brothers and similar stores for tailor-made suits — $7,000 of which were purchased a week before Christmas; and $642,000 from 180 convenience checks written by an Agriculture department employee for a live-in boyfriend over a six-year period.

    January 21, 2009, with a Democratic president newly sworn into office and Bushco gone from our lives forever?


    Friday Mind Games With BoBo

    Part of me wants to ignore completely the latest musings from David Brooks that appear in the New York Times today, but it probably behooves me to communicate some of them anyway. He sets it up with a description of interaction with friends and acquaintances at social gatherings, giving us a peek into the “smart set” of guiltless extravagance where, apparently, the primary points of discussion are the dates and times of upcoming jaunts to fashionable resorts and the appreciation of each other’s investment portfolios (think pre-Anschluss Vienna about 70 years ago in terms of obliviousness to wartime reality).

    And I say that because, though Brooks feigns memory loss in an attempt to be humorous, he does manage to work in the following…

    They say the 21st century is going to be the Asian Century, but, of course, it’s going to be the Bad Memory Century. Already, you go to dinner parties and the middle-aged high achievers talk more about how bad their memories are than about real estate. Already, the information acceleration syndrome means that more data is coursing through everybody’s brains, but less of it actually sticks. It’s become like a badge of a frenetic, stressful life — to have forgotten what you did last Saturday night, and through all of junior high.

    In the era of an aging population, memory is the new sex.
    Wow, dude, I’m really sorry to hear that. And as if that weren’t enough…

    The dawning of the Bad Memory Century will have vast consequences for the social fabric and the international balance of power. International relations experts will notice that great powers can be defined by their national forgetting styles. Americans forget their sins. Russians forget their weaknesses. The French forget that they’ve forgotten God. And, in the Middle East, they forget everything but their resentments.
    Well, for a nation that has supposedly “forgotten God,” I believe the story noted here shows some truly honorable compassion in His name…

    ABLAIN ST. NAZAIRE, France After 148 Muslim war graves were desecrated on the weekend, Muslims, Christians and Jews prayed yesterday in the Muslim section of the Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery in northern France to protest what a local Islamic leader called an "odious and irresponsible act." Abdelkader Aoussedj, deputy head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion, said his community was very touched by the "mobilization of national and regional" authorities and by the "marks of sympathy" from other religions. Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders, along with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, have expressed anger at this latest vandalism of Muslim war graves…in France's biggest war cemetery.
    And BoBo sums up as follows…

    As in most great historical transformations, the members of the highly educated upper-middle class will express their suffering most loudly. It is especially painful when narcissists suffer memory loss because they are losing parts of the person they love most. First they lose the subjects they’ve only been pretending to understand — chaos theory, monetary policy, Don Delillo — and pretty soon their conversation is reduced to the core stories of self-heroism.

    Their affection for themselves will endure through this Bad Memory Century, but their failure to retrieve will produce one of the epoch’s most notable features: shorter memoirs.
    Memo to Clark Hoyt and Andrew Rosenthal of the Times editorial board: is this supposed to be funny? If that’s the intention, then I can tell you that it isn’t.

    The next time Brooks finds himself without something legitimate to propagandize about as a deadline approaches, he should just either recycle some tired narrative from past columns or just call up his boss and say, “Hey, I got nuthin’ – maybe you could let O’Hanlon and Pollack write another column in favor of the Iraq war or something.”

    Because, unlike the trendy sort of memory loss that Brooks describes while one is tossing aside witty bon mots after sipping the Chardonnay and passing the sweet and sour shrimp, I can tell you that I have seen actual degenerative memory loss suffered by a family member, and there is nothing whatsoever about it that is clever or desirable in any way.

    Grudgingly, though, I will admit that Brooks has a bit of a point about his so-called “great forgetting.” Though it is a flimsy excuse, I can think of nothing else to explain the two-term candidacy of Bushco and the continuation of the Iraq war.

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Thursday Stuff

    Another casualty of the "war on terror" - this exclusive report from The Onion gives us the details...

    ...and speaking of casualties, K.O. tells us that Faux News pretty much ignored the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war (no surprise, I guess...tying into the post from earlier about the draft and the practically-non-existent reporting of this carnage).

    John W. McBush Solves The Subprime Mortgage Mess!

    (Not sure about posting for tomorrow, by the way...)

    Leave it to that “straight-talking maverick” to come up with something like this…

    McCain's speech outlined a plan to help struggling homeowners restructure mortgages that have gotten out of control and provide lenders with federal backing to support the new loans. He also called on the Department of Justice to investigate wrongdoing in the mortgage market.

    But before we are all overcome with glee, boys and girls, please allow me to interject the following reality from here…

    In a major shift of policy, the Justice Department, once known for taking down giant corporations, including the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, has put off prosecuting more than 50 companies suspected of wrongdoing over the last three years.

    Instead, many companies, from boutique outfits to immense corporations like American Express, have avoided the cost and stigma of defending themselves against criminal charges with a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, which allows the government to collect fines and appoint an outside monitor to impose internal reforms without going through a trial. In many cases, the name of the monitor and the details of the agreement are kept secret.

    Deferred prosecutions have become a favorite tool of the Bush administration. But some legal experts now wonder if the policy shift has led companies, in particular financial institutions now under investigation for their roles in the subprime mortgage debacle, to test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws.
    So…under a John W. McBush presidency (gasp!), how far do you want to bet that those “wrongdoers” would “test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws”?

    Oh, I dunno…2012? 2016? 540160?

    It’s a shame there’s no “anti-fraud” laws for presidential candidates. My suspicion is that, if there were, “Senator Honor And Virtue” would be disqualified immediately.

    A New Hope To Fix An Old Mistake

    Earlier this week, the Philadelphia Gay News was pretty upset with Barack Obama here for not accepting an invitation to grant an interview (Hillary Clinton did – “Straight Talk” McCain was invited also…don’t ask).

    Well today, Obama tells us here…

    The Democratic presidential front-runner favors repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays, which was instituted during the Clinton administration. He said his priority for the Joint Chiefs will be that they make decisions to strengthen the military and keep the country safe, not their position on the policy.

    "I would never make this a litmus test for the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Obama said in an interview with The Advocate, a gay newsmagazine.
    I got into this a little over a year ago here, but unlike then, there is now hope that we may see a commander-in-chief who lives in the real world and cares foremost about how well our troops serve our country, as opposed to intrusively poking around in an effort to learn about their bedroom habits instead.

    Smerky Concern-Trolling On Immigration Again

    (I hadn’t used this pic for a little while – I was beginning to miss it.)

    Today in the Philadelphia Daily News, our intrepid freeper pundit is telling us here that (wink, wink) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could (wink, wink) reach white, blue-collar male voters (wink, wink) if they both visit Geno’s in South Philadelphia, the establishment owned by Joey Vento (which I sounded off about here), and also visit Hazleton, Pa. (wink, wink), all for the purposes of talking about illegal immigration (wink, wink).

    And gee, Smerky must be right, because Dem pollster Neil Oxman basically told him that… I just repeated it.

    Of all the issues facing this country, illegal immigration is way down the list as far as I’m concerned (granted, I don’t live in the Southwest region of this country, but there you are). This is partly because in my line of work, my employer has no trouble going offshore to find people to do the jobs they want, and I don’t hear enough people crying about that (and Smerky certainly isn’t one of them, anyway) as opposed to individuals risking their lives to cross our border in an effort to better themselves.

    Besides, as Smerky himself noted, the whole matter is currently under adjudication by a U.S. Court of Appeals. Why on earth should anyone say anything and turn out to be wrong, to say nothing of possibly prejudicing a case?

    Illegal immigration is the number one issue in the minds of Smerky’s right-wing following that would never even bother to get past their Clinton hatred or obsession over whatever new faux Barack Obama controversy was cooked up this week long enough to listen to either one of them (and besides, the Repugs had a chance to sponsor legislation that provided a common-sense path to citizenship for those who did the right thing, but their knuckle-dragging followers hooted it down; they have only themselves to blame for the current stalemate here).

    And one more thing: as long as Smerky has brought up this issue, I’d like for him or anyone else to explain to me their opposition to providing driver’s licenses for illegals. Is the thinking that, somehow, these people are worse than the other clueless meat sacks out there who are primping themselves, eating fast food take out, texting, watching TV, or doing just about anything besides PAYING ATTENTION TO THE DAMN ROAD WHILE THEY’RE DRIVING??!!

    (Sorry, had to vent…).

    This tells us that the law in Michigan related to denying driver’s licenses to illegals is being challenged by the ACLU. This is a good thing, because providing licenses for these people has two benefits; 1) Depending on the laws by state, they will have to pay auto insurance – I don’t know if that’s uniform across the country, but it should be, and 2) In the event that we ever figure out how to implement REAL ID fairly, their licenses could serve as the basis for their ID cards.

    Besides, if we don't allow them a means to get to their jobs by granting a license, all we'll end up doing is hastening their entry into the underground economy of this country, which doesn't do anyone any good.

    Until someone (Smerky or anyone else) can provide quantifiable numbers across this country proving conclusively that illegal immigrants are involved in more vehicular accidents than legal citizens, this is where I will stand on this issue (and hopefully, both Clinton and Obama will join me there, and stay put).

    Pimp My Draft, Arianna

    Frank Schaeffer over at The Huffington Post presented the following in which he called for a return of civilian conscription. I would like to reply to some selected passages…

    Why don't people protest (John) McCain's lack of patriotism? Because, the all-volunteer military means that civilians have to play the game of military hero worship. Most civilians never volunteer, and so they are hesitant to be critical of military policy articulated by military heroes like McCain.
    I think it is highly inappropriate to question John McCain’s patriotism in light of his service to our country about 40 years ago, in particular the captivity he endured as a prisoner of war. Besides, there are many other ways McCain can be criticized over his stated perceptions concerning the Iraq war and the policies he support that make him totally indistinguishable from George W. Milhous Bush.

    What I didn't know when I started to write on the subject of the military was that I would find that some people in the military perceive themselves as having been forgotten, underrated or disparaged by the larger society, even while at the same time there is a sense of superiority.
    I think Schaeffer is referring to individuals such as Marine Col. Jessup (think, "you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall!!"), the character portrayed by Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” who demanded unquestioning loyalty from his charges and communicated a highly demeaning attitude towards anyone who was not a member of his beloved Corps (or even towards some who were). To say that they thought little of civilians is an understatement.

    These people, rightly or wrongly, have been part of the military culture forever. I cannot possibly imagine how bringing back the draft is going to “soften their edges.”

    Schaeffer also tells us of the following communication in which a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel told him…

    Problems [in the military] are only exacerbated by the propensity of Congress to micromanage and meddle, by media and academia seething with overt, relentless hostility, by political correctness, and by an irresistible tendency to treat the military as no more than a playpen for social engineering experiments."
    Schaeffer interprets this as part of the disconnect between civilians and the military, and I would tend to agree with that (particularly regarding the “political correctness” and “social engineering” stuff), though is response Schaeffer tells us…

    Civilian leadership of the military is weakened as civilian leaders without military experience are hesitant to tell those with experience what to do, as is in pathetic evidence in Congress, while at the same time people in the military wonder if their civilian leaders have their best interests at heart.
    At this point, I think it’s time for Schaeffer to remove the phrase “civilian leaders” and replace it with “George W. Bush and the Republican Party.” The Democrats have tried over and over to rein in this renegade, war-mongering cabal on the issue of troop strength, withdrawal timelines and whether or not the Maliki “government” in Iraq has any actual intention of meeting the milestones set for it with the time bought for it to do so by our forces with their talent, bravery, and blood, and in many cases, their lives.

    America was founded by farmers, tradesmen, statesmen (and bankers) who were military men when circumstances called for it. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and others did not want a country with a military culture, but they expected their countrymen to serve the nation when needed, when asked legitimately, without reservation.
    That’s actually a good argument for an all-volunteer army, though Schaeffer reaches the directly opposite conclusion…

    Progressives need to push for the reintroduction of the draft. It is fair, it is democratic, it will help prevent stupid wars. And that is why people who are determined to start wars don't want the draft back. A draft will confiscate their toys.
    This is dangerous, willful naiveté of the highest order.

    Do you know what George W. Bush and his fellow war criminals would have done differently in Iraq had there been a draft? Nothing, that’s what. KBR, DynCorp, Parsons, Blackwater…they all still would have run amok absent accountability. And Schaeffer laments the fact that our “contractors” (don’t understand his use of quotes) don’t “count” when it comes to casualties, which to me is merely the flip side of the free rein they have enjoyed in Iraq for over five years (if they want to act like cowboys, or something far worse at times, then that’s the price they some of them should pay).

    I’m tired of reading communication like this from people who think that the return of the draft is somehow supposed to be a remedy for the almost biblical destruction on so many levels wrought by George W. Milhous Bush and his war of choice in Iraq. I suppose the rationale goes that the “answer” to the evil abuse of our military by these blundering ideologues is to give them a bigger military to abuse…?? (and here's Exhibit A).

    And when Schaeffer wants to look for villains on the issue of civilians in this country out of touch with what’s going on in Iraq, why don’t you cast some blame in the direction of our corporate media which will give us voluminous coverage of the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama’s bowling mishap (I posted on the latter, but it was a joke, people!), but which will tell us virtually nothing about the war (I still can’t get over the fact that I had to find a news report from al jazeera to post last night because nothing comparable was available from the alphabet soup of news outlets in this country).

    All of this is actually a setup, believe it or not, to what I want to note about a recent column in The New Yorker by Eric Alterman (in addition to the American Progress link above) about The Huffington Post and the rise of online media versus the decline of paper and print journalism (in terms of circulation; any consideration of quality of the product as a whole as a result is another discussion I know).

    Alterman tells us…

    Until recently, newspapers were accustomed to operating as high-margin monopolies. To own the dominant, or only, newspaper in a mid-sized American city was, for many decades, a kind of license to print money. In the Internet age, however, no one has figured out how to rescue the newspaper in the United States or abroad. Newspapers have created Web sites that benefit from the growth of online advertising, but the sums are not nearly enough to replace the loss in revenue from circulation and print ads.

    Most managers in the industry have reacted to the collapse of their business model with a spiral of budget cuts, bureau closings, buyouts, layoffs, and reductions in page size and column inches. Since 1990, a quarter of all American newspaper jobs have disappeared. The columnist Molly Ivins complained, shortly before her death, that the newspaper companies’ solution to their problem was to make “our product smaller and less helpful and less interesting.”
    Speaking of which, I may give the Inky a pass on this occasion; even though every other Thursday is a “high holy day” with the appearance of Little Ricky and his “Elephant Poop In The Room” column, he is in full “onward Christian soldiers” mode today over the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI (which would be fine if we were talking about the Catholic Standard and Times, which of course we’re not).

    That may help explain why the dwindling number of Americans who buy and read a daily paper are spending less time with it; the average is down to less than fifteen hours a month. Only nineteen per cent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four claim even to look at a daily newspaper. The average age of the American newspaper reader is fifty-five and rising.

    Taking its place, of course, is the Internet, which is about to pass newspapers as a source of political news for American readers. For young people, and for the most politically engaged, it has already done so. As early as May, 2004, newspapers had become the least preferred source for news among younger people. According to “Abandoning the News,” published by the Carnegie Corporation, thirty-nine per cent of respondents under the age of thirty-five told researchers that they expected to use the Internet in the future for news purposes; just eight per cent said that they would rely on a newspaper. It is a point of ironic injustice, perhaps, that when a reader surfs the Web in search of political news he frequently ends up at a site that is merely aggregating journalistic work that originated in a newspaper, but that fact is not likely to save any newspaper jobs or increase papers’ stock valuation.
    I have not lost sight of that fact either, by the way; sourcing corporate news organizations is a big part of what I try to do, and I suspect that this site would be considerably less interesting (depending on how interesting one thinks this blog is anyway, I know) if those organizations no longer existed.

    The web will never offer a replacement to the experience of sitting down in the morning with a cup of coffee and something for breakfast while reading a newspaper. Learning about the world this way, to say nothing of challenging a preconceived point of view with an intelligent counter argument, is one of the fundamental means of obtaining information to make informed political decisions. That is why I do not celebrate what looks to be the eventual demise of “dead-tree media.”

    Though Huffington has a news staff (it is tiny, but the hope is to expand in the future), the vast majority of the stories that it features originate elsewhere, whether in print, on television, or on someone’s video camera or cell phone. The editors link to whatever they believe to be the best story on a given topic. Then they repurpose it with a catchy, often liberal-leaning headline and provide a comment section beneath it, where readers can chime in. Surrounding the news articles are the highly opinionated posts of an apparently endless army of both celebrity (Nora Ephron, Larry David) and non-celebrity bloggers—more than eighteen hundred so far. The bloggers are not paid. The over-all effect may appear chaotic and confusing, but, (Kenneth) Lerer (one of HuffPo’s founders) argues, “this new way of thinking about, and presenting, the news, is transforming news as much as CNN did thirty years ago.” Arianna Huffington and her partners believe that their model points to where the news business is heading. “People love to talk about the death of newspapers, as if it’s a foregone conclusion. I think that’s ridiculous,” she says. “Traditional media just need to realize that the online world isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s the thing that will save them, if they fully embrace it.”

    Arthur Miller once described a good newspaper as “a nation talking to itself.” If only in this respect, the Huffington Post is a great newspaper. It is not unusual for a short blog post to inspire a thousand posts from readers—posts that go off in their own directions and lead to arguments and conversations unrelated to the topic that inspired them. Occasionally, these comments present original perspectives and arguments, but many resemble the graffiti on a bathroom wall.

    The notion that the Huffington Post is somehow going to compete with, much less displace, the best traditional newspapers is arguable on other grounds as well. The site’s original-reporting resources are minuscule. The site has no regular sports or book coverage, and its entertainment section is a trashy grab bag of unverified Internet gossip. And, while the Huffington Post has successfully positioned itself as the place where progressive politicians and Hollywood liberal luminaries post their anti-Bush Administration sentiments, many of the original blog posts that it publishes do not merit the effort of even a mouse click.
    I definitely wouldn’t say that about Schaeffer’s post; his arguments show some thought and reflection even though I think he’s fundamentally wrong. But it is fortunate that he can make his case and receive feedback in real time, which is one of the few advantages I would give to online media versus its print counterpart.

    And the point of this post is also not to slam Arianna Huffington, by the way. Even though I grow ever more annoyed by her site’s preoccupation with quasi-literate celebrity pontifications (should I really care what Larry David thinks of Dick Cheney?), gossipy celebrity tripe and an ever-escalating amount of intrusive popup ads, I know she’s “altering the landscape” in favor of a participatory exchange of ideas tilted somewhat towards a progressive point of view.

    And if our corporate media as a whole bothered to give the time of day to those with our political orientation, then there might not be a need for her site (or many blogs I guess, possibly even this one also) to even exist. But we do, and she does, and more often than not (but not always), her voice is ours as well.

    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    Wednesday Stuff

    And on and on and on (but at least I'll get the day right today I hope)...

    ...and we know The Onion "supports our troops" (dancing on that razor's edge between reality and satire, as always)... we have a video about the dangers our troops face from roadside bombs in Iraq that was filmed by al jazeera; am I the only one who thinks it's really messed up that this was filmed by al jazeera, even though it's a good report?...

    ...and "The Pap Attack" starts out beating up Deadeye Dick Cheney on Iraq again, but then it takes it takes a bit of a U-turn, in a very thought-provoking manner.

    More On McCain’s Campaign Finance Fraud

    Today brings us the following from “that straight-talking maverick”…

    John McCain's campaign is seizing on Barack Obama’s comments Tuesday night deriding the public financing system for presidential campaigns. A senior McCain adviser calls it the latest signal that the Democratic candidate may abandon a promise to participate in the system, should he become the Democratic nominee.
    Well, that's about par for the course from the Repugs, I know.

    And here’s a particularly outrageous misrepresentation from CNN’s Dana Bash…

    Last week, McCain's campaign returned $3 million in funds received from major donors towards general election expenses, and encouraged them to send the money to the Republican National Committee's Victory Fund instead — one of the strongest signals to date he intends to participate in the public financing system, which prohibits him from receiving those donations from individuals who have already contributed the $2,300 primary season maximum.
    I have news for you, Dana, based on this; McCain already is participating in the public financing system!

    Oh, and while you’re at it, try asking the Senator when he plans to release his tax returns, will you?

    The Lost Presidency

    I hope and expect that, at some point in the future, I will find myself in a position on more than one occasion where I will have to explain how it came to pass that George W. Milhous Bush managed to take up space in the White House for eight years, pretending to act as commander-in-chief somewhat in accordance with his predecessors and our Constitution which he swore twice to “preserve, protect and defend,” while he, in fact, pursued a dictatorial path all his own (as laid out for him by Deadeye Dick Cheney).

    (I should note that I hope for that because it will mean that God has granted me many more years on this earth, not because I actually want to discuss this individual.)

    And as I reflect on the present time that I cannot wait to refer in the past tense with every fiber of my being, I will be forced to recite the almost endless litany of screwups by this human accident, extending through his entire life from the days when he dumped his shares of Harken Oil stock in a particularly egregious example of insider trading, knowing that the company was tanking (here), up until now when his every policy, position, written statement and verbal utterance as president has proven to be fundamentally flawed and, ultimately, catastrophically wrong.

    And I may end up noting how, in the final, dwindling days of his tenure at this moment, he tried to impart a measure of humility to make us forget the sneer, the smirk, the swagger, the “Thumbs Up” in the flight suit he wore during that cringingly inappropriate “Mission Accomplished” moment on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln before the “real” Iraq War II began in earnest.

    And if and when I recall such a singular moment of phoniness by this presidential pretender (as noted above, in which he discusses his alcohol abuse – I refuse to refer to it in the past tense, by the way; I can think of no other excuse for this recent moment), I can assure you that I will retch.

    Because if I note in the future that George W. Milhous Bush tried to be “human” by confessing his own addiction, I will also note in the future that, at this moment, he, as he has throughout his ill begotten time in office, has yet again ignored the addictions and sufferings of others (here).

    Part of me hopes that redemption awaits this man in the afterlife, because I cannot possibly imagine how he will ever achieve it on this earth.

    Broke In The Age Of Bushco

    We will soon be observing the three-year anniversary of the Congress- ional passing and signage by George W. Milhous Bush of the so-called Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, more commonly referred to as the Bankruptcy Bill. It passed on April 14, 2005 and became law on April 20th.

    Aside from the so-called “K” Street project, the energy industry giveaways, cuts in the estate tax and cover-up of Mark Foley (as well as failing to craft 9 of 11 appropriations bills after they lost Capitol Hill in November 2006), this to me represents the single most scandalous act of the 109th Congress (lots of company in that category, I realize).

    James Surowiecki of The New Yorker provides more background and tells us what has happened since (from here)…

    In recent months, a lot of people have been handed financial get-out-of-jail-free cards. C.E.O.s who presided over billions in losses have walked away with tens of millions in compensation. The Federal Reserve has showered cheap money on banks and brokerages. Even Bear Stearns caught a break when, last week, J.P. Morgan agreed to quintuple the price it will pay to take over the firm. But there’s one group for whom forgiveness has not been forthcoming: ordinary consumers struggling with piles of credit-card debt. For them, escaping the burden of their bad decisions and their bad luck has become much harder.

    That’s because of a law that Congress passed (the Bankruptcy Bill), which has made it more difficult for people to write off their debts. Filing for bankruptcy has become much more expensive. More important, while lower income people can still declare Chapter 7, which takes away your assets but then discharges your debts, most middle- and higher-income people now have to declare Chapter 13. That means they have to pay their creditors monthly for five years before they’re free.
    And as we know, Dubya promised, not unlike the carney hustler at the circus, that this scheme would “make credit more affordable” …

    So are we (better off)? That depends on your perspective. The law did slash the number of bankruptcies – they fell by sixty-two percent between 2004 and 2006. And the credit-card companies should be happy – their profits rose thirty percent between 2005 and 2007. But the law hasn’t done much for anyone else. Interest rates and credit-card fees have not fallen as promised. And for debtors life has become significantly harder: many can’t afford bankruptcy – strangely enough, it’s possible to be too poor to pay the filing fees – and many others can’t qualify. These people will either spend the next five years having their paychecks garnished or simply muddle along, avoiding debt collectors and accumulating huge interest and late fees on their credit cards.
    And this Democracy Now! post, including an interview with Dem U.S. House Rep Jim McDermott, tells us…

    The core of the bill was written in 1997. The House passed versions of it eight times but it usually stalled in the Senate. When the bill did pass the Senate, then-President Bill Clinton refused to sign it.

    This time around (in ’05), House Republican leaders refused to consider amendments on the floor and voted down a Democratic attempt to return the bill to committee. The amendments would have forced lenders to keep fees in check, expand disclosure, and would have given extra protection to victims of identity theft.
    And speaking of amendments to the Bankruptcy Bill, this incredibly detailed Daily Kos post from March 2005 by Maryscott O’Connor give us a breakdown on how they were defeated in the Senate so the bill in its entirety could be “ramroded” through Congress (as the Washington Post noted at that time – apparently, a moribund journalistic impulse from its editorial board sprung to life - the bill’s “staunchest proponents should be embarrassed that it was muscled through the House in this kind of Potemkin-democracy way. This process-or, more precisely, lack of process-is becoming routine”).

    In the O’Connor post, three names appear over and over again as the amendments are defeated, and those are Tom Carper, Ben Nelson, and Orrin Hatch (and as much as I praised Sen. Charles Grassley on SCHIP over the last few months, he deserves equal parts scorn for bringing this vile garbage of a bill to hideous fruition). Hatch opposed a so-called “homestead” exemption to protect senior citizens from being forced into bankruptcy due to health-care costs because it could have also allowed our government to go after the estates of wealthy robber-baron CEOs should we try to hold them liable for their mismanagement and fraud.

    Also, for anyone who wonders why Joe “Boogaloo” Biden can never seem to get it going with that presidential candidacy of his every four years, consider that, despite his numerous accomplishments in public life, he has cast some genuinely stinky votes every so often, and he did so here, opposing an amendment “…To protect service members and veterans from means testing in bankruptcy, to disallow certain claims by lenders charging usurious interest rates to servicemembers, and to allow servicemembers to exempt property based on the law of the State of their premilitary residence.”

    Another note…though he is still not a well man I’m sure, Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota nonetheless needs to be held to account for his cowardice here also.

    And going back to the Surowiecki column, he makes the following point also…

    Making it harder for people to discharge their credit-card debts has other drawbacks as well. Homeowners would once do almost anything to keep up their payments on their homes, even if it meant falling behind on other debts. In the past year, though, economists have reported an increase in the number of people who are just walking away from their homes, because it’s now often easier to abandon a mortgage than a credit-card bill. (The practice has even been given a name – “jingle mail,” because people simply send their keys back in an envelope.) So the new law may very well have exacerbated the housing crisis.
    I know Atrios among others has made that point before now, but it bears repeating - back to Surowiecki...

    (During the ‘90s)…a tougher law would have made sense if the U.S. really had been dealing with a crisis. But it wasn’t. While the number of bankruptcies soared, the economy as a whole showed no great signs of strain; it grew briskly, creating millions of new businesses and new jobs. The credit-card companies themselves were doing fine too: between 1995 and 2004, as bankruptcies nearly doubled, their profits nearly tripled. In responding to an imaginary threat, we ended up making the economy less dynamic and less flexible. Now that hard times are here, we may find ourselves with a genuine bankruptcy crisis. But it will be one that Congress created.
    And how exactly did the three individuals running for president vote on the Bankruptcy Bill? Glad you asked…

    To say that this was an inopportune vote for the New York senator to miss is an understatement.

    Finally, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt brings us a summary today on the economic effects of the non-prosperity brought to us by our ruling cabal, including the destruction caused by the Bankruptcy Bill (a well-written but depressing read). Lest I leave you with nothing but gloom and doom (living up to my “handle,” I know), please allow me to note that Leonhardt – with the type of reporting typically forsaken for so long by our corporate media during the reign of Bushco – tells us that the eventual way out of our mess will come with the investment in the people and infrastructure of this country that has been neglected for very nearly 30 years, primarily under Republican governance.

    If that isn’t a message written in great big 20-foot-high neon letters to keep in mind this November 4th when we all do our civic duty, I don’t know what is.

    Update 4/22/08: More horror stories...

    Sects And Violence In Iraq

    (You knew I was overdue for a really bad pun, didn't you?)...

    White House flak Tony Fratto in the Monday press briefing (from here)…

    Q Also, how does this latest violence in Iraq and the latest uncertainty about what's going on color the Petraeus-Crocker testimony this time around? It obviously has changed the equation. I mean, weeks ago it looked like the surge was -- you know, had this pretty rosy cast, and now with all this renewed violence, I think it has changed the dynamics. So how has this changed the equation?

    MR. FRATTO: Well, I think we've thrown out all of the rose-colored glasses in how we look at Iraq, and try to look at it through clear lenses as to what is actually going on in the country. And what is happening there, I think what we are all seeing is that the Iraqi political leadership is trying to take hold of the security for their country. They took a very bold, aggressive action in Basra. It wasn't a overall success, but it -- but we learned a lot about what the capabilities of the Iraqi army are, and we learned a lot -- and maybe this is even the most important thing -- of what the capabilities and intentions of the Iraqi leadership are to go after criminal elements and illegal militias in their country, and to evenly enforce the rule of law across the country.

    And that is critically important, and it's something that other political leaders in Iraq have rallied around. Remember what was -- something that was overlooked in here -- I saw a lot of coverage last week about a number of Iraqi soldiers who refused to take part in the Basra action. What didn't get a lot of coverage, but was really significant, was that these were integrated Shia and Sunni Iraqi army units, fighting mainly Shia criminal elements and Shia militia in the Basra region. We also see these same integrated Shia and Sunni units fighting Sunni elements in the north, in Mosul, and in northern Iraq.

    And that's important. This is what the -- what the critics have said that the Iraqi leadership didn't have the capability of doing, which was to fight Shia; that they were sectarian -- and I think we're seeing evidence to the contrary of that; that they are willing to fight illegal militia and criminal elements wherever they find them; that if you are carrying a gun in opposition to the government, they were going to oppose you. And that is -- that's very important.
    Meanwhile, Cenk Uygur provides the following dose of reality here...

    Who is the Iraqi Army? That seems like a strange question. What do I mean?

    The Bush administration claims the Iraqi Army is a unified force of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds who fight together for the centralized government of Iraq. That's complete nonsense.

    In fact, the different divisions of the army are segregated by sect. The so-called Iraqi Army fighting in the south right now is mainly the Badr Corps. This is a rival Shiite militia to Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

    The Badr Corps is connected to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Don't get freaked out, they're theoretically the good guys. Well, at least they are the largest political party in Iraq and the ones we are supporting. Here's the problem -- they're not the good guys at all. They ran death squads and torture chambers out of the Interior Ministry throughout the period of ethnic cleansing in Iraq.

    And get this, out of all the parties in Iraq, the one most closely linked to Iran is -- the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and their militia partners in the Badr Corps.

    …I'm not frustrated by the fact that the public isn't up on all this. I'm frustrated that our media hasn't even bothered to try to figure it out…The press has bought into this fiction that we are fighting against Iranian proxies.
    Confused? I sure as hell am (and somehow, I’m sure Fratto and his playmates are also).

    285 days and counting, people…

    Jim's And Pat's Have Better Steaks Anyway

    (A local Philly thing coming up, just to let you know…).

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve just about had it with Joey Vento, owner of Geno’s, a steak sandwich shop in South Philadelphia.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports here that Vento won his case against the city of Philadelphia in which he was asked to take down the sign outside of his establishment that said “This is America. When ordering, please speak English.”

    (Of course, there’s the issue of whether or not “English” is a proprietary language of this country or Great Britain since there are subtle differences between the two, so Vento really couldn’t claim English as a wholly American language anyway, or at least imply that…but I digress.)

    Apparently, though, merely emerging victorious is not good enough for Vento, who…

    …yesterday demanded a revision of the Commission on Human Relations' practices. If nothing is done, he said, he will sue. Also, he wants an apology from Mayor (Michael) Nutter.

    Vento said yesterday he was insulted by Nutter's returning a $1,000 donation he had made to his election campaign, and by the mayor's statement that the commission's pursuit of the case "was good for the city."

    "At this point, I can't have respect for the mayor," Vento told reporters gathered at his shop at Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue.

    Mayoral spokesman Doug Oliver said Nutter had no comment on Vento's case.

    "We recognize that the Human Relations Commission plays an important role in investigating complaints of discrimination and bias-related issues," Oliver said.
    And of course, Vento has a second lawyer involved in addition to Albert Weiss who represented him in the original action (his right, I know)…

    Shannon Goessling, executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm in Atlanta that championed the case as a "First Amendment question," said Vento wanted a change in the way the city handles such cases.

    "What the commission did to Mr. Vento in dragging his name through the mud for 21 months was unconscionable and unconstitutional," she said.

    "A decision could have been made two days after the complaint was filed," Goessling said. "That's not what happened. But for the resources of Joey Vento and his attitude about standing up for the small-business owner, he might not have been in the position you see now. He is a victor because he had resources."
    OK, so now Vento is prepared to wage another legal battle to try to make Philadelphia’s Human Rights Commission respond more proactively (as he sees it), costing more taxpayer dollars that could be used more effectively for city services and other related costs, a particularly important issue during this recession.

    Over a sign. Over a stupid, fracking sign!

    I realize that neither I nor anyone else has the right to tell Vento how to run his business. But as City Councilman James F. Kenney noted, the sign sends a particularly bad message when the city is trying to attract international tourists.

    But hey, if Vento wants to be a troglodyte, that’s his choice. However, suing the city because it didn’t act the way he wanted is venturing beyond mere egomania into xenophobic stupidity…cubed.

    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    Monday Tuesday Stuff

    Annie Lennox should sue over this - "is it McCaining with you?" Well, IS IT??...

    ...getting serious, here is Obama more or less trying to provide context about Iraq "on the record" today as opposed to asking Petraeus an actual question, important as it is for the Senator to do that; Hillary Clinton also "speechified" in a statesman ("statesperson"?)-like way as well, and aside from confusing the Sunnis and the Shiites again, McCain acted like you'd expect...

    Update 4/9/08: Yep, sometimes this blogging thing gets to be a bit of a chore; my bad for brainlessly screwing up the day.

    The Latest From The McCain PR Agency

    Time’s Jay Newton-Small tells us here that the Repugs are doing their best to tell us what “Straight Talk” McCain really meant to say at that New Hampshire town hall meeting pertaining to that “100 years” quote of his.

    See, McCain meant “100 years” of something approximating our presence in South Korea (which has not always been joyful at times, though nothing like Iraq) and not, like, y’know, actual war for that whole period (though, as Newton-Small notes, I’m sure it would be news to Seoul to discover that we were, in fact, an occupying power).

    The point of noting this, ultimately, isn’t to play word games. It is to note the fact that neither McCain nor anyone else has a clue as to how we may find ourselves in a situation in Iraq where, absent actual fighting, we are little more than a ceremonial presence, as we are in South Korea. And leave it to Newton-Small and her brethren to make sure we all understand what McCain’s wording meant, even though trying to “connect the dots” as to how we may achieve a circumstance described by the wording is apparently too much trouble.

    And as if that wasn’t enough…

    The GOP has been quick to accuse (Barack) Obama of crossing the politics-of-hope line in the sand with his continued use of this line. Perhaps they have a point. It is because of the Bush campaign's daily flip-flop attacks that no one actually remembers what (John) Kerry meant when he made that infamous statement (in 2004): that he’d voted for the $87 billion war supplemental when it was offset by getting rid of Bush’s tax cuts to the very wealthy.
    Oh, so NOW you report that! How decent of you!

    To be fair, though, it’s the fault of the Kerry campaign that that message wasn’t communicated in response when it mattered, though of course the media landscape for a Dem, while still tough now, was much worse back then we our dear cousins with those initials for names saw that their game of fluffing Dubya was still working well into the election.

    But NOW, when the Repugs allege that the Dems are engaging in a variation of the same “voted-for-the-Iraq-war-before-he-voted-against-it” smear on McCain over the “100 years” quote (again, highly debatable)…NOW is when they tell us that “well, y’know, Kerry really didn’t quite say that.”

    Nice job continuing to prop up the failed Bushco regime. As Stephen Colbert said at the press club dinner in 2006 here, pretty much articulating the M.O. for our corpocracy's stenographers…

    But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!
    And as you can see here, McCain is STILL having trouble with that little “Sunni vs. Shiite” thing.

    Update 4/10/08: And as Media Matters notes, Newton-Small was fundamentally wrong anyway, not noting that McCain didn't even mean a "South Korea-like" presence based on this.

    Night Of The Living Democrats

    Yes, Harry Fawkes, it’s true; at long last, we’ve delivered enough of our minions from that baad City of Philadelphia to conquer Bucks County, and we’re now poised to “cannibalize” our way into state, federal, and county government forever…BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    (OK, snark mode off – for now; based on this post that contains Fawkes’ excuse about the re-election of both Jim Cawley and Charley Martin as Bucks County Commissioners by a thinner margin than Fawkes would have liked; Martin should at the very least send a Christmas card to Jay Russell for each year he remains in office.)

    All of this pertains to this Bucks County Courier Times story from today, telling us the following…

    Don’t be surprised if Bucks and Montgomery County Democrats show up to work a bit foggy-headed this morning.

    They had reason to celebrate Monday when word spread that registered Democrats overtook Republicans by a combined 11,000 voters in the two counties — 7,533 in Montgomery and 3,472 in Bucks.

    That’s big news for former Republican strongholds where the GOP retains the majority of county commissioners and has held the registration advantage for decades in Bucks and for as long as anyone can remember in Montgomery.
    This is what happens when you remain tethered to a political party utterly hijacked by clueless ideologues who believe that they will remain in power forever (and we’re going to keep “banging at the door” of the Commissioners’ HQ in Doylestown with our candidates until we get our majority, Harry; it’s not too early to start planning for ’09).

    And by the way, this notes a guy who would have been ideal for you to replace Jim Greenwood in the U.S. House had you not passed him over for Mike Fitzpatrick in ’04 (his brand of common-sense moderation would play pretty well with registered Repugs about now, I think).

    Update 4/9/08: Oh, and just to let you know, that “virus” from those “bad Philadelphians” seems to be spreading; the Inquirer reports here that…

    For the first time in the history of Chester and Delaware Counties, the Republican Party cannot claim the majority of registered voters, having been supplanted by a combination of Democrats, independents, and other party affiliations.
    And what do the Repugs think of that?

    Jay Johnston, chairman of the Norwood Republican Party in Delaware County, said he was not worried. Philadelphians moving into the lower part of the county tend to hang on to their Democratic registration, he said, but they would vote for the Republicans in local races, such as borough council.

    "They see them do the job and do it well," he said. "Most people don't take their party seriously."
    We’ll find out on November 4th, won’t we, Jay?

    Update 4/10/08: Daily Kos blogger smintheus has more.

    The “Central Front” In His Imagination

    Thus sayeth Dubya here (timed for today’s latest war cheerleading by Ambassador Crocker and The Almighty Petraeus)…

    "Al Qaeda in Iraq is run by foreign leaders loyal to Osama bin Laden," Bush said. "Like bin Laden, they are cold-blooded killers who murder the innocent to achieve al Qaeda's political objectives.

    "Yet, despite all of the evidence, some will tell you that al Qaeda in Iraq is not really al Qaeda and not really a threat to America."
    Now, for the reality-based community (here, concerning John W. McBush among others)…

    "McCain is certainly lying when he says that Iraq will become an al Qaeda state if the U.S. leaves," said Nir Rosen, a journalist who has spent extensive time in Iraq. Rosen told IPS that insofar as the "global war on terror" has any coherent meaning, it is certainly not taking place in Iraq.

    With regards to Iraq, University of Michigan professor and blogger Juan Cole said that no U.S. advantage is to be gained through the war in Iraq and that it could serve to bolster the weakened global Jihadi groups.

    "The real al Qaeda is using Iraq as a recruiting tool," he said. "[The U.S. is] playing into the hands of bin Laden. To the extent that the U.S. is involved in the military occupation of an Arab-Muslim country, they're playing by bin Laden's script."

    Cole sees no connection between foreign al Qaeda fighters and the struggle in Iraq.

    "We have 24,000 prisoners in Iraq. Just about 150 of them are foreigners," said Cole. "So what that tells me is that we're fighting Iraqis. If the foreign fighters -- the al Qaeda types -- are a significant group, we should have more of them in prison. What, do they run faster? It's not possible given that statistic that Iraq is the central front in any war on terror."
    And this would seem to be borne out by this story in the New York Times today, which tells us…

    …as members of (a terrorist cell suspected of sending insurgents to Iraq early in 2005) are awaiting a verdict in their case (in Paris), French and other European intelligence and law enforcement officials are saying (fears of terrorists returning to France from Iraq to carry out attacks) appear to be overblown. The logistical challenges and expense of reaching Iraq has been one deterrent, they said, particularly with Syria’s making episodic efforts to halt the use of its territory as a transit route. Compared with the thousands of European Muslims who joined the fight in Afghanistan in the 1990s through organized networks in Britain, the number of fighters going to Iraq has been extremely small, according to senior French intelligence officials.

    Another factor, the officials say, is that Iraqi insurgents currently neither need nor welcome European Muslims who lack military training and good Arabic-language skills — except if they are willing to conduct suicide missions.

    The nature of the battle has also changed, making Iraq an alien destination for many would-be insurgents. The fight in Iraq is no longer just a jihad against foreign occupiers, but also a confusing civil war pitting Muslim against Muslim. Many young people have family and ethnic ties to Pakistan or North Africa, making those places more attractive destinations, and further advancing those regions’ potential for recruiting and radicalizing young Muslims.

    “At the moment, the major threat to Europe is coming from elsewhere — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” a terrorist organization based in North Africa, said Judge (Jean-Louis) Bruguière, (France’s senior counterterrorism magistrate) who now works for the European Union investigating terrorist financing.
    We now return you to your regularly scheduled corporate media propaganda.

    Update 4/9/08: Kudos to Biden for this (h/t Atrios).