Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday PM Stuff

Barack Obama returns the dialogue in the campaign to some level approximating reality for about the thousandth time, and he'll probably have to do it a thousand or more times (h/t Prof. Marcus - and no sooner do I finish typing the words...)...

...Patrick Murphy does a fine job here on "The Colbert Report" (yes, I'm biased, but it's true - h/t Atrios - have to turn the volume waaay up here; I hope Comedy Central is trying to figure out how to make better videos)...

...and while it's truly objectionable that John W. McBush, he of the sleazoid letter trying to link Obama to Hamas noted above (and you KNEW that was coming, didn't you?) hasn't agreed to co-sponsor the new G.I. Bill as K.O. tells us, I think the IRS scam is pretty damn repugnant also...

...and this week started with the "bitter" and "clinging" nonsense, and it may end that way; Willard Mitt Romney here called Barack Obama "elitist."

I'll repeat that because it's so unbelievable: Willard...Mitt...Romney...called...Barack...Obama...elitist ("The Mittster," he of the "penumbra of angst," "sanctuary mansion," and the "who let the dogs out" nonsense).

We are now "through the looking glass," people - check your sanity and sense of reason at the door as you descend.

Mitt Romney Defends Himself Against Allegations Of Tolerance

Friday Mashup (4/18/08)

  • Boy, this didn’t take long…

    Spain and Italy were embroiled in a war of words on Wednesday after Silvio Berlusconi criticised his Spanish counterpart for appointing so many women to his cabinet.

    In one of the first interviews after being elected Italy's prime minister for the third time, Mr Berlusconi attacked Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government, describing it as "too pink".

    Speaking about Mr Zapatero's decision to give nine out of 17 cabinet positions to women, he said: "Now he's asked for it. He'll have problems leading them."
    I’m so glad to see “Prime Minister Jesus” back in power. World news was starting to get so boring and repetitive.

  • And don’t look now, but Dubya has apparently named a competent individual to replace Alphonso Jackson at HUD, and that would be former SBA head Steve Preston (here - Dubya's expression here is only slightly exaggerated from the look on his face in the pic provided by MSNBC).

    Only took Incurious George 7 ½ years to get the hang of the whole “putting competent people in charge of agencies who aren’t total party hacks” thing. The mind reels!

  • According to this story, it sounds like “Click It Or Ticket” as they say in our beloved common- wealth, has come to Iraq…

    Later this month, traffic police officers...will start issuing tickets to anyone who drives without buckling up. Violators will be fined 15,000 dinars — about $12.50. “It is part of the healing process of this country and of Baghdad to enforce the law, law by law,” said Brig. Gen. Zuhair Abada Mraweh, traffic commander for the capital’s Rusafah district.
    No word on whether or not drivers will receive extra credit for negotiating through endless checkpoints, enduring many blocked roads while trying to commute short distances, avoiding other drivers swerving across lanes, or – oh, I dunno – merely making it through the day alive!!

    I applaud the desire of some Iraqis to establish something approximating civilized behavior while crazies exist everywhere trying to blow up whomever and whatever they can (gee, maybe there was a reason Saddam Hussein was such a mean, brutal guy, you know?). But somehow I don’t think it’s wise to waste scarce resources on trying to enforce something like this.

    And since Iraq has chosen to model itself after PA this way, I suppose it’s only a matter of time now before someone petitions the Iraqi “government” to make sure no law mandating that motorcyclists wear helmets is ever passed, or to repeal any such law that may exist (And texting? DU NT GO THRE!).

  • Barack Obama was endorsed today by former Dem senators Sam Nunn and David Boren, and yesterday, he was endorsed by Republican William Ruckelshaus

    Ruckelshaus was serving as deputy attorney general in 1973 when he made history as part of the infamous Saturday Night Massacre. He and his boss, Attorney General Elliot Richardson, were fired after they refused Nixon’s order to dismiss the independent counsel investigating the Watergate break-ins.

    The former Nixon FBI director and secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency hopes to help Obama defeat Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton in the May 6 primary in Ruckelshaus’ homestate of Indiana. The state has been a longtime Republican stronghold in presidential politics.

    “Senator Obama’s ability to attract not only Democrats, but also Republicans and Independents, makes him uniquely qualified to build the broad coalitions needed to address our nation’s challenges,” said Ruckelshaus in a statement.
    And as history tells us, though neither Richardson nor Ruckelshaus fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, Solicitor General Robert Bork stepped in and did so on Nixon’s orders; in the process, Richardson and Ruckelshaus ended up earning the enmity of movement conservatives for all time (and the thanks of all people of reason everywhere).

    Update: Forgot about Robert Reich here...

  • Speaking of movement conservatives, here’s another “triumph” from perhaps the reddest state of them all…

    The Oklahoma Legislature voted Thursday to override Gov. Brad Henry's veto of a bill that would require women to receive an ultrasound examination before receiving an abortion.

    By an 81-15 vote, the House voted to override the veto. That followed a 37-11 vote in the Senate.

    It is the first time Henry has had a veto overridden in his two terms as governor.
    I don’t know what is worse, the fact that this was overridden by such a wide margin, or the fact that Henry vetoed this only because it didn’t exempt victims of rape or incest.

    I consider turning this into law an act of torture, and I’m not talking about the unborn life in question, by the way.

  • In light of the prior story, I don’t know if Eve Ensler has ever performed “The Vagina Monologues” in Oklahoma, but if she hasn’t, I believe she needs to do so if she can.

    The Times of London here tells us that the production marked its 10th anniversary last weekend with a performance in the New Orleans Superdome (gosh, I’m sure Faux News was all over this, but drat, I still missed it!).

    Explore this penetrating (ahem...) story, as they say…

    Few people know that New Orleans is the vagina of America. Few would suggest it. “It is fertile. It's a delta. And everyone wants to party there,” explains (Ensler), activist, feminist icon - and the author of The Vagina Monologues. Never one to act on a small stage when a bigger one would do, last weekend she turned the New Orleans Superdome into the Superlove - a two-day global event to mark the tenth anniversary of her V-Day movement, the campaign to stop violence against women which she founded on the back of her play.

    Not everyone got it. “When Eve told me New Orleans was the vagina of America, I was like, oh sweet Jesus,” says the actress Kerry Washington, putting her head in her hands. “Sometimes I think, Eve, do you really want to go there. Really? But now I get it. Its sexy, everybody loves it - but when it has problems nobody wants to know.”

    With success, she turned her time, and a portion of her profits, over to creating V-Day, a charity aimed at stopping violence against women. And that meant all violence against women in the world. En route, she recruited a cast of A-list celebrities including Oprah, Jane Fonda, Glenn Close, Salma Hayek, Kerry Washington and Rosario Dawson. Kate Winslet was among those who turned out for the first V-Day benefit performance in the UK at The Old Vic in 1999. That was back in the days when Ensler performed the show herself at The King's Head in Islington, London. “Ah, the King's Head,” she says fondly. “I had to pee in a pot because there weren't any toilets.” She returned to London in 2001 for a successful West End run, and annual V-Day performances have continued up and down the country.

    Few could have predicted V-Day's spontaneous success - ranked as a top ten charity, it retains only a few staff, working from their own homes, tuning into a global grassroots network of women that have raised more than £25 million.
    Kudos to Ensler – her play isn’t really my thing, as they say, but she’s worked hard for the betterment of women in danger across the world, and for that she deserves credit.

    I wonder if she’ll receive a congratulatory telegram from Silvio Berlusconi?
  • Where The Rubber Meets The Road (4/18/08)

    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.


    U.S.-Colombia trade. By a vote of 224-195, the House delayed indefinitely a U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement that President Bush had sent to Capitol Hill under "fast-track" legislative rules. This vote on H Res 1092 canceled a deadline in those rules for the House to approve or reject the trade pact. The deferral did not require Senate or presidential concurrence and took effect immediately.

    A yes vote was to delay the trade agreement.

    Voting yes: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

    Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Not voting: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.).
    (I guess Andrews was too busy sucking up to North Jersey fat cats trying to raise money so he can unseat Frank Lautenberg. As I said earlier, that’s his right, but Lautenberg has more integrity in his pinky than Andrews has in his whole body.)

    More to the point, here and here are posts from David Sirota to commemorate what will be the 94th anniversary of the Ludlow, CO mining massacre on April 20th; a government militia slaughtered union representatives trying to organize coal miners there in 1914.

    What does that have to do with the Colombia “free trade” agreement? Oh, just about everything. As Sirota tells us in Part One…

    Colombia resembles Colorado in the early 20th century, only with more frequent slaughters. In the last two decades, over 2,500 Colombian labor organizers have been assassinated, making Colombia the world's most dangerous place for unionists.

    This situation, like Ludlow, developed not in spite of the governing elite, but thanks to it. As The Washington Post reports, Colombia's "most influential political, military and business figures helped build" the killing machine. Recently, prosecutors connected these paramilitaries to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's allies.

    Colombian labor leaders have begged the White House to drop the deal, saying it will undermine their struggle for human rights by validating Uribe's thug-ocracy. Nonetheless, President Bush bolstered Uribe with a pact giving corporations incentives to leave America for the corpse-strewn pastures of Colombia — a union hater's paradise.
    Sirota also criticizes Chiquita Brands for collaborating in the anti-union violence; to be fair, I should note that I defended the company in an earlier post because their CEO had brought his concerns about working with a group dubbed a terrorist organization to Mike Chertoff, who, in typical fashion, ignored them, ultimately leading to an action against Chiquita that possibly could have been avoided (embedded in this post - I don’t have an update on that right now). I didn’t mean to imply that the company was innocent, but only that there were other corporate offenders we could have pursued that operate in that country instead.

    it may be inevitable that we’ll have to deal with these characters in Colombia in the event that there’s no substantive changes among them or the policy of their government (sorry, but have to plan for that), but to me, that still does not mean this agreement should be ratified any earlier than January 21, 2009 (if at all), particularly when that country’s labor leaders are asking us not to because it would legitimize Uribe and his tactics.

    And if the agreement doesn’t get passed, then maybe it will mean that former President Bill Clinton and/or Mark Penn won’t get paid for lobbying on Colombia’s behalf. I think that would be fair – never justifiable to sell out American workers, no matter who we’re talking about.

    U.S. landscape conservation. The House voted 278-140 to give force of law to an eight-year-old program designed to preserve landscapes of national significance on Bureau of Land Management acreage in the West. The bill (HR 2016) would codify what are now administrative protections for landscapes of exceptional ecological, cultural or scientific value on the agency's 27 million acres.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak, Smith.

    Voting no: Pitts.
    This week’s obligatory stupid “No” vote by Joe Pitts (and to help Bruce Slater, click here - I LOVE the idea of writing in Bruce's name on the Republican ballots - genius!).


    Housing relief package. In an 84-12 vote, the Senate sent the House a bill (HR 3221) to help mortgage holders, communities and businesses cope with the U.S. housing collapse at a projected cost of $15 billion over 10 years. The bill authorizes $6 billion in tax rebates to homebuilders and other businesses, $150 million for credit counseling to head off foreclosures, and $4 billion for use by localities to buy empty houses.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

    Renewable-energy tax credits. Voting 88-8, the Senate expanded HR 3221 (above) to extend renewable-energy tax credits due to expire at year's end. The amendment would add about $6 billion over 10 years to the national debt. The tax incentives are designed, in part, to promote energy from sources such as the sun, wind, earth and crops and promote the manufacture of more energy-efficient homes, buildings and appliances.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Biden, Casey, Lautenberg, Menendez, Specter.

    Voting no: Carper.
    He casts a “No” vote like this and then actually has the gall to promote Earth Day – what planet does Tom Carper live on?

    Federal land inventory. Voting 30-63, the Senate refused to require the federal government to start publishing an online inventory of all land it owns and the cost of administering it, with the database to be updated annually. This amendment was offered to a noncontroversial bill (S 2739) on public lands that was later passed.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Specter.

    Voting no: Carper, Casey, Biden, Lautenberg and Menendez.
    How thoughtful of Tom Coburn to try and add this provision to the bill (and thank you, Inky, for deciding for me that S 2739 is “noncontroversial,” by the way) whereby the head of OMB would have to report every year with an inventory on all federal lands; God willing, it will be an OMB director for a Dem president starting next year (one would wonder why Coburn failed to insist on this for Bushco, with Jim Nussle being so talented and all).

    This week, the House took up bills on reforming student loans, forgiving poor countries' debt, and controlling beach pollution. The Senate debated a highway bill.

    Nice Try, Hil

    So I get home from work last night and check our answering machine, and here the Clinton campaign left a message telling me to vote for Hillary this Tuesday in the PA primary because Barack Obama voted for the 2005 Energy Bill.

    As HuffPo’s David Roberts tells us here, that was objectionable, but…

    The headline of the press release makes it crystal clear why Obama (and fellow Ill. Sen. Dick Durbin) voted the way they did -- ethanol subsidies and "clean coal" research money (recall that as of Dec., the feds' $1.8b FutureGen boondoggle will sited in Ill.).
    The post by Roberts notes that even though this was a stumble, Obama has “green cred” and a realistic plan for what’s needed and what’s achievable on the issue of climate change (no one can truly know what any of these people would do as President, but that’s a good sign).

    Also, Hillary Clinton did not oppose the fraud 2005 Bankruptcy Bill (Obama voted against it), and that makes a bigger difference to me than Obama’s support for the energy bill.

    One more thing...the Obama campaign actually sent a DVD to our house containing an eight-minute production telling us about him and some of what he wants to do as president (believe me when I tell you were are not big party donors; not sure if we did anything to deserve it). It’s pretty slick, to tell you the truth.

    Also, as long as I’m discussing Obama, I just want to link to Paul Krugman here who talks about the same thing everyone else has discussed, but he has some original thoughts that, as usual, he can support with evidence. In particular, he takes Obama to task for conflating Dubya and Clinton on the economy, something I confess that I should have thought of myself earlier.

    Today's BoBo Blather Against Obama-Rama

    I really was going to ignore this, seriously, but I thought I’d better not (I know I always say that, but it’s true); what we’re seeing is the next ever-more-childish media contrivance based on the whole “Barack Obama is an elitist” fiction. And who else to do the “honors” but the New York Times’ own David Brooks here…

    (In the pox on democracy debate the other night) Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates’ words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100 years in Iraq comment.
    Not only is that wrong, but McCain himself can’t even make up his mind as to whether or not he’s referring to a combat presence of what amounts to a ceremonial one as peacekeepers and nothing else, unless hostilities broke out (a silly notion anyway considering that our very presence is fueling the insurgency).

    …(Obama) made an iron vow to get American troops out of Iraq within 16 months.
    From Obama's web site here...

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

    (Obama) made a sweeping read-my-lips pledge never to raise taxes on anybody making less than $200,000 to $250,000 a year.
    I’m not sure what Brooks is referring to exactly, but this tells us about Obama’s desire to create some kind of a “donut,” if you will, between the $96 limit on earnings subject to Social Security withholding and about $200-$250 K in earnings, conceived by Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee. Obama’s desire is to increase the amount paid into Social Security by the top 6.5 percent of earners in this country while protecting those whose salaries fall in the “donut” range from having to pay into Social Security if they decline to do so; I have to admit that I myself was wrong when I previously said that Obama wanted to get rid of the cap altogether.

    Back to BoBo...

    Then there are the cultural issues. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News are taking a lot of heat for spending so much time asking about Jeremiah Wright and the “bitter” comments. But the fact is that voters want a president who basically shares their values and life experiences. Fairly or not, they look at symbols like Michael Dukakis in a tank, John Kerry’s windsurfing or John Edwards’s haircut as clues about shared values.
    (And of course, "voters" wouldn't look at how John McCain's wife Cindy has basically financed their high lifestyle and his entire political career since she's an heiress to a beer fortune, because that's OK since they're Republicans - give me a break.)

    At this point, I’m going to defer to Glenn Greenwald who tells us here…

    Brooks takes whatever opinions he happens to hold on a topic, and then -- without citing a single piece of evidence -- repeatedly asserts that "most Americans" hold this view, and then bases his entire "argument" on this premise. Thus, the only way for Democrats to have any hope of winning elections is to repudiate their radical, rabid Leftist base and instead follow Brooks' beliefs, because that is "centrism." This is actually a defining belief of the Beltway pundit, and it is as intellectually corrupt as an argument gets.

    There is now this new invention called "polling data" which reveal what "most Americans" actually think about virtually any topic. Yet when Beltway pundits claim that "most Americans" think X (and, invariably, X = "the opinion of the Beltway pundit" which = "conventional Beltway wisdom"), they rarely cite polls because those polls virtually always contradict what they are claiming about what "most Americans" think.

    Instead, Beltway pundits believe that they are representative of, anointed spokespeople for, the Average Real American, and thus, whatever the pundit's belief is about an issue is -- in their insular, self-loving minds -- a far more reliable indicator of what "Americans believe" than something as tawdry as polling data. Nobody uses this manipulative tactic more than David Brooks.
    And in the prior comments from BoBo, just replace the phrase “most Americans” with “voters,” and you’ve got a typical BoBo rehash of his own biased beliefs dressed up in Broder-esque fashion as the opinion of Americans who, for the most part, long since stopped taking BoBo seriously anyway.

    A generic Democrat now beats a generic Republican by 13 points, but Obama is trailing his own party. One in five Democrats say they would vote for McCain over Obama.
    I honestly don’t know what “Obama is trailing his own party” means, but this tells you that Obama leads McCain currently 49-44 percent, while Clinton leads 48-45 percent (though I’ll admit that I think those numbers are nonsense because its waaay too early to take them seriously – it will only matter when Clinton finally faces reality and gives up, this making way for Obama vs. McCain to begin in earnest).

    General election voters are different from primary voters. Among them, Obama is lagging among seniors and men. Instead of winning over white high school-educated voters who are tired of Bush and conventional politics, he does worse than previous nominees. John Judis and Ruy Teixeira have estimated a Democrat has to win 45 percent of such voters to take the White House. I’ve asked several of the most skillful Democratic politicians over the past few weeks, and they all think that’s going to be hard.
    Yep, we’re dealing with more “conventional wisdom” here, people; some anonymous “skillful Democratic politicians” think the election will turn on high-school educated voters who think that Obama is an elitist over the whole “bitter,” “cling” nonsense.

    According to the Gallup poll cited above, though (as Greenwald predicted), it looks like the majority of those surveyed have pretty much put that idiocy behind, unlike our media gasbags.

    Well, at least he didn’t say Obama was “the new sex,” as he did here about memory (still don’t get that, honestly). However, there’s still months to go in the campaign, sadly, meaning there’s time for more pointless, stupid media narratives to be concocted in lieu of reality and reporting of substance (but then again, that will just give me more work to do).

    Friday AM Stuff

    R.I.P., Danny Federici (ugh)...

    ...and I'll be with you in spirit at the McCarter in Princeton tonight, RT (maybe next year - sigh).

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Thursday Stuff

    Jon Stewart brings us analysis of the analysis (uh, yup) of the Pope's visit...

    ...and gee, aren't you glad that that dried up, washed out fossil Imus has learned his lesson; so Obama is "a bigger pussy than (Hillary) is," huh? Go do a hit or two of blow and a few shots of Crown Royal and fall down in a corner somewhere - that's the best public service you could provide (and of course, he thought George and Charlie did a good job)...

    ...and even the lowlights were painful (I take back a bit of what I said about Imus, actually; he's right about Charlie Gibson and those damn glasses - way past time for biofocals, dude)...

    ...and this is actually more "serious" than ABC's election coverage...

    ...and by the way, kudos to Dem Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland for slapping down that idiot Jim Nussle of OMB here; watch and learn, Dems (h/t to "J" Street at The Nation).

    Oh My Papa

    I lifted this verbatim from The Daily Howler and Bob Somerby - enjoy...

    SMILE-A-WHILE: People vote on every conceivable basis. This example caught our eye today. It’s from David Broder’s column, for entertainment purposes only:

    BRODER (4/17/08): Another Democratic voter, Ellen Sharm, 49, of Fort Washington (PA), is unequivocally opposed to Clinton “because my father hated Bill Clinton and he hated her.”

    Sharm herself is equivocal about Obama and McCain and she said she is "halfway between" their opposing views on Iraq—with Obama urging an immediate start on a pullout and McCain saying the United States should remain there in force until Iraq is stable. Sharm described her own position on the war as "wishy-washy" and, while her disqualification of Clinton "out of respect for my father" dictates a vote for Obama in the primaries, she said “if it’s Obama versus McCain I'll have to consider" what to do in November.

    Too funny! People vote for various reasons—including the desire to show their respect for their (late?) father’s sanctified hatreds.
    Keep polishing up your flag lapel pin (surely you own one!) and that "Support The Troops" decal on your Hummer, Ellen. A grateful nation thanks you.

    An Opinion's An Opinion, No Matter How Small

    I’d just about given up on finding anything that didn’t deal with any of the nonsense that has engulfed our media (in “dead Diana” mode, as The Eternal Molly Ivins once called it) when I came across this HuffPo post from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    Kareem, he of the killer sky-hook shot and the five-minute movie career, has detected a problem with the new animated movie Horton Hears A Who! based on the Dr. Seuss book, of course, and voiced by Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, Jesse McCartney, and Carol Burnett, among others…

    How can a beloved Dr. Seuss story do so much harm? Well, the original book by Dr. Seuss is just fine, a timeless tale that has been delighting children since it was first published in 1954. The story of the brave elephant that is willing to endure the harshest condemnation from his friends and community in order to protect those in need is a wonderful lesson for children.

    But then along comes the movie. To make the story long enough for a full-length movie, a sub-plot was added about the mayor of Whoville who has 96 cheerful daughters and one brooding son. This is where things take a nasty turn. Basically, the mayor ignores his 96 daughters in order to groom his uninterested son to become mayor. Why doesn't he groom one of his much more enthusiastic daughters? And, of course, it is the brooding son who, in the end, saves the entire world of Whoville. The daughters? They get to cheer from the sidelines.
    And Abdul-Jabbar states that this movie has done more harm than the spate of Iraq war films (Rendition, Stop-Loss, Lambs for Lions, Redacted, In the Valley of Elah, etc.) have done good.


    Well, to begin with, I should tell you that the young one and I saw this movie a few weeks ago, and being a boy, he had no trouble with it, of course. But for the benefit of anyone reading this who isn’t a parent, I should tell you that kids have a pretty highly developed sense of what is phony and what isn’t. Meaning that if this movie were really set up in such a manner that little JoJo (the boy) was supposed to be supported by his smarter sisters at every turn but wasn’t, my son would have looked up at me and said something like “Dad, how come his sisters aren’t doing anything instead?” Yes, really.

    What I mean is that I don’t think it would have been possible to satisfy Abdul-Jabbar’s concerns here without fundamentally changing the original story, and Abdul-Jabbar said he was OK with it (the book of course, not the movie).

    Besides, the way the story is told mainly in the movie, JoJo is kind of quiet and brooding throughout (or at least utterly bored and disenchanted), which Abdul-Jabbar admits, though he ends up recognizing that his father the mayor is right when he claims that the town is in trouble. Would he prefer that some of the girls be portrayed as indifferent also?

    I think trying to read sexism into this movie (and Abdul-Jabbar goes one step beyond, as they say, by indicating that the movie condones racism because it condones sexism also - ???) is more than a little bit of a stretch. Would he be happy if the filmmakers had added a scene where one of the 96 daughters (God, is the Whoville mayor Wilt Chamberlain?) had said, “Oh yeah, I helped JoJo with that noise-making thingamabob doohickey whatsit device of his”?

    (I’m trying to be polite in my criticism because, though he’s probably a peace-loving Muslim, Abdul-Jabbar is also a very tall man who, when provoked, could quite possibly kick my ass.)

    I’m sure Abdul-Jabbar loves all kids, and I don’t blame him as a father for being protective. It’s an admirable instinct. However, after trying to decipher his argument, I ended up with the same headache I once had while trying to read “Green Eggs And Ham” with half a load on (nothing induces the throbbing at one’s temples such as repeating lines like, “Would you eat them in house? Would you eat them with a mouse? Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox?” over and over and over).

    Besides, based on what I noted here (third topic), boys have at least as much to be concerned about in early development as girls – maybe more, actually (and if he’s going to criticize the movie of Horton Hears A Who!, then he could at least comment on the fact that Jim Carrey, who happily is fairly restrained throughout the production, sounds an awful lot like Steve Carrell, and it’s hard to tell the two of them apart).

    A Lesson In Priorities For G.B.

    We know about the arrival of His Holiness in not Boston Washington yesterday, but did you know that an actual head of state as opposed to a symbolic one arrived in Washington also from overseas today…

    (British Prime Minister Gordon) Brown, who is on his second trip to the United States since replacing Tony Blair last June, held private 45-minute sessions with each of the candidates at the British Embassy in Washington.
    Among the topics discussed with Obama, “Calamity” Hil and John W. McBush included the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (of course), global warming and (with Obama in particular) “strengthening the Trans-Atlantic alliance.”

    And as for meeting with Dubya…

    Following his meeting with the candidates, Brown was scheduled to meet with President Bush to talk about the global economy.
    That’s it? No state dinner? No photo-op of taking Brown to see the Washington Nationals baseball team or something (are they even in town now)? Nothing to indicate Dubya’s “Brit love” from our lapdog media?

    Color me shocked (and by the way, I went to the White House web site and saw only a brief mention of Brown’s visit also).

    Could this be why (as noted here)…

    Brown announced last October (2007) that Britain would cut the number of soldiers based on the outskirts of the southern city of Basra to 2,500 from spring this year, and a senior government official said then that all could be home before 2009.
    Just a wild guess, I know…

    Update 1 4/18/08: I'm glad to be wrong here; credit where it's due to His Holiness.

    Update 2 4/18/08: Back to Brown and Dubya, I wanted to note this excerpt from here...

    “Listen, our special relationship has been forged in common values and history, and we’re making history together,” (Dubya) said, adding: “Our relationship is very special and it’s — I’m confident future presidents will keep it that way. There’s just such a uniqueness in the relationship. That’s not to say you can’t have other friends, and we do. But this is a unique relationship, truly is.”

    Apparently not satisfied with his own answer, Mr. Bush finished up: “Look, if there wasn’t a personal relationship, I wouldn’t be inviting the man to a nice hamburger. Well done, I might add.”
    Given their differences on Iraq, I was going to say to Brown, "don't have a cow, man," but it sounds like he already did (ba-dump!).

    More Non-Issues With Barack Obama

    In case you were wondering, the Asinine Broadcasting Company is trying to build off its historic performance (and not in a good way, of course) with the following journalistic piffle…

    Last week, in order to bring some media attention to the issue, (Sen. Arlen) Specter suggested senators sign a petition to take responsibility for initial consideration of three nominees away from the judiciary committee, and wrote letters to all three presidential candidates asking for their opinion.
    The post notes that only Obama responded. So you’d think Specter would be appreciative and maybe ask Hillary and “Straight Talk” McCain why they haven’t done so also, right?

    Boy, are you wrong. Didn’t you get the memo? Why, this is “Pile On Barack Obama For Inane BS Time,” you great, big silly…

    Obama's response drew criticism from Spector Wednesday morning on the Senate floor even though the Illinois senator was the only one to respond.

    "A senator's duties are not delegable (Obama said “he'll defer to (Sen. Patrick) Leahy to schedule (Judiciary Committee) hearings and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule votes”). No senator can delegate to anyone else his constitutional responsibilities. The constitution does not refer to the judiciary committee. The constitution does not refer to the majority leader," Specter declared.

    "Even if it did, that would not provide a basis for a senator duly elected, sworn, sworn to uphold the constitution, as I took an oath on five occasions, and as senator Obama has taken an oath," he continued.

    "Every member of this body has taken an oath to uphold the constitution. The constitution says the Senate confirms."
    Remind me never to show a shred of sympathy or human decency towards Specter again, OK? What a cheap shot.

    And Obama was also endorsed by a pro-gun group yesterday on the anniversary of the VA Tech shootings (as if the timing for such a vile trick by people who probably wouldn’t even give Obama the time of day is somehow the Senator’s fault), and ABC “News” is also crowing about the fact that Obama apparently forgot what he wrote on a gun questionnaire in 1996.

    I don’t know about you, people, but I can barely remember if we even made our mortgage payments from two months ago, let alone twelve years ago! This is more “gotcha” BS totally devoid of any substance whatsoever.

    Apparently, that pathetic "debate" last night was supposed to be the cherry on the icing of the proverbial cake after a day of Obama bashing (except for the questionnaire thing, I guess). Nice.

    And by the way, the ABC blog tells a story of earmark abuse by Repug U.S. House Rep Don Young of Alaska, one of the guilty culprits in the 2006 “Bridge To Nowhere” fiasco. I’m only pointing that out for the benefit of the Bucks County Courier Times editorial board so they can read about earmark abuse for real instead of piling on Patrick Murphy yet again today for earmark requests of his own that will be revealed “in the light of day” when they are decided upon one way or the other on behalf of this district and not Murphy himself in any way (God, what a broken record - and I'd like to see one of these "Taxpayers For Common Sense" characters run for public office and get elected so I can see how well they do at practicing what they preach).

    Update: And by the way, this is a great post explaining why the pundit blowhards are frothing over "Bittergate" (ugh).

    Crawling From The Wreckage

    (The name of a great song by Dave Edmunds and Rockpile, by the way...).

    I don't have anything particularly brilliant to add to what many, many other bloggers have said so very well (posts here and here by Will Bunch are particularly outstanding, and kudos to Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher for being the first to label's last night's cringingly awful chapter in the erosion of our democracy for what it really was).

    However, this is why I gave up on watching any debate whatsoever from start to finish unless it was moderated by the League of Women Voters (Bunch notes today how important it is that they be allowed to call the shots, and if last night isn't proof positive of that, then I don't know what is). They will ensure that the questions aren't insulting to a four-year-old child and provide for follow up when the answers a candidate provides are utter nonsense (and it will be harder for candidates to do that when the original question reflects a bare minimum of thought).

    Do what I do; don't watch these childish exercises in utterly bastardizing what is supposed to be a participatory democracy. All our corporate media cares about is ratings. When they're not getting them any more, they'll drop these things, and then something approximating integrity will be restored to our debates.

    Update: Matt Stoller has some good ideas here.

    Thursday AM Stuff

    (Don't know about posting today, by the way...)

    K.O.'s "Worst Person In The World" from yesterday is Cindy McCain, though O'Reilly might as well be for blaming G.E. for our Iraq casualties (I don't like G.E. either, but blaming them for that is preposterous)...

    ...and no, this actually isn't ABC, but it might as well be.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Wednesday Stuff

    There are a few ways you can channel your absolute, total disgust over the beyond-farcical “debate” brought to us by ABC tonight (the network that also brought us “The Path To 9/11,” let’s not forget), but after you contact them and tell them how you feel (212-456-7777 818-460-7477) or here) something else you can do is watch this and respond accordingly about Our Gal Condi…

    …and “The Pap Attack” takes on McCain, for real.

    Dubya Plays "Pope-A-Dope"

    From here…

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, making only the second visit by a pontiff to the White House, on Wednesday urged Americans and their leaders to base social and political decisions on moral principles to create a more just society.
    I agree, and it would have been nice if His Holiness had bothered to tell his host that you cannot have such a society when you deprive funding on behalf of those in need in favor of never-ending war, as noted here.

    Three Quick Wednesday Hits

  • Seriously, I’m sorry to hear about this, and I wish Sen. Specter the best.

  • Hillary’s “Better, Not Bitter” strategy continues to work so well, as noted here in this endorsement by the Bucks County Courier Times of Barack Obama today (and I guess this means Obama is “tougher than the rest”; hope so, anyway – also, I’m not sure PA is the “lock” it once was for Team Clinton, since her little trick didn’t work after all, apparently).

  • The Virginia Tech massacre took place a year ago today, and I think the most appropriate gesture in response would be for the House to get moving on the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007 proposed here by New York Dem Rep Carolyn McCarthy.
  • A Corporate Media Poster Boy At A Crossroads

    I have to tell you that New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich truly performed a service here in his Sunday Magazine profile of Chris Matthews, the host of “Hardball” on MSNBC and the walking, talking, breathing, exclaiming embodiment of all that is truly wrong with what passes for news and commentary in this country (the magazine cover, with Matthews’ mug plastered menacingly on the front, is a bit of a warning of what’s to come, since our intrepid TV host looks as if he’s about to have an orgasm).

    It’s all captured – the utterly narcissistic preening, desperate attempts at inclusion with others of his loathsome breed (with the notable exception of Keith Olbermann – I’ll get to him shortly) and pretense of regular-guy objectivity while dwelling practically every moment of his life inside his comfy Beltway bubble provided for him and his family by the corpocracy on whose behalf she shills so shamelessly (this has been highlighted elsewhere, but there’s much more in Leibovich's story to work with).

    Where to begin? Well, for starters…

    “Did you get a load of Lou Rawls’s wife?” Matthews said as he left the spin room (where the press had gathered after a Democratic debate in February). Apparently the Rev. Jesse Jackson was introducing the widow of the R&B singer at the media center. “She was an absolute knockout,” Matthews declared. It’s a common Matthews designation. The actress Kerry Washington was also a “total knockout,” according to Matthews, who by 1 a.m. had repaired to the bar of the Cleveland Ritz-Carlton. He was sipping a Diet Coke and holding court for a cluster of network and political types, as well as for a procession of random glad-handers that included, wouldn’t you know it, Kerry Washington herself. Washington played Ray Charles’s wife in the movie “Ray” and Kay Amin in the “Last King of Scotland.” She is a big Obama supporter and was in town for the debate; more to the point, she said she likes “Hardball.” Matthews grabbed her hand, and Phil Griffin, the head of MSNBC who was seated across the table, vowed to get her on the show.

    “I know why he wants you on,” Matthews said to Washington while looking at Griffin. At which point Matthews did something he rarely does. He paused. He seemed actually to be considering what he was about to say. He might even have been editing himself, which is anything but a natural act for him. He was grimacing. I imagined a little superego hamster racing against a speeding treadmill inside Matthews’s skull, until the superego hamster was overrun and the pause ended.

    “He wants you on because you’re beautiful,” Matthews said. “And because you’re black.” He handed Washington a business card and told her to call anytime “if you ever want to hang out with Chris Matthews.”

    “People are a little impressed with themselves,” Griffin went on to say, continuing his commentary about the scene. “It’s a bit of an echo chamber.” Matthews is central to that echo chamber — at the Ritz, as in the 2008 presidential campaign. He is, in a sense, the carnival barker at the center of it, spewing tiny pellets of chewed nuts across the table while comparing Obama to Mozart and Clinton to Salieri. At one point, Matthews suddenly became hypnotized by a TV over the bar set to a rebroadcast of “Hardball.” “Hey, there I am — it’s me,” he said, staring at himself on the screen. “It’s me.”
    God, I just started this post, and I already think that I’m going to be ill.

    Let’s discuss K.O. then…

    Matthews told me that the interview (about his book “Life’s A Campaign”) was a painful experience. Not only did (Jon) Stewart humiliate him, but the interview exposed an essential truth that people by and large don’t want to hear advice from politicians, a breed that, in many ways, has defined Matthews’s value system. “I think Stewart was right in that he caught the drift of antipolitics,” Matthews said.

    So has Olbermann, the host of MSNBC’s “Countdown.” While Matthews is clearly a stalwart on the MSNBC menu, he is hardly a flavor of the month, or the year. Olbermann is. “Countdown,” on at 8, is getting good ratings, usually second in its slot to “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News. Olbermann draws considerably more viewers than Matthews — about one million a night, compared with 660,000 for the 7 p.m. broadcast of “Hardball” (which typically runs third in its time slots after Fox News and CNN but is up in the ratings this year). There is a view within the TV industry that MSNBC is positioning itself as the younger, edgier, left-tilting cable network, and no one there embodies this ideal better than Olbermann. NBC executives have been promoting him heavily, and three network officials asked me why I was writing about Matthews and not Olbermann.
    But that clearly did not prevent scenes such as this…

    The morning after the Cleveland debate, Matthews was walking through the airport to catch his flight home to Washington. People kept squinting at him, double-taking, stepping in and out of his monologue.

    “I like the fact that people don’t think of me as famous, but that they know me,” Matthews said. “They come up to me and say, ‘Chris, what do you think?’ There’s no aura. It’s a different kind of celebrity. People assume they have a right to talk to me. They want to know my take.”
    Ugh (and not surprising here)…

    He’s big into the Pennsylvania primary, talks a lot to “Eddie Rendell” and urged me repeatedly to call the Pennsylvania governor’s office and “talk to Eddie Rendell about me.”

    “By the way, have you figured me out yet?” Matthews said at the end of another phone conversation the following day. “You gotta understand, it’s all complicated. It’s not like Tim.”

    Tim — as in Russert, the inquisitive jackhammer host of “Meet the Press” — is a particular obsession of Matthews’s. Matthews craves Russert’s approval like that of an older brother.
    The article points out that Russert said some uncomplimentary things about Matthews that came out in the “Scooter” Libby trial, by the way (with Matthews viewing Russert as No. 1 in the pecking order of T.V. talking heads, while he views himself as approximately No. 36) …

    Matthews has berated Russert to several people at NBC and has told friends and associates that Russert is like John F. Kennedy while he is more like Richard Nixon. Kennedy was the golden boy while Nixon was the scrapper for whom nothing came easily. It’s an imperfect comparison, certainly (Matthews is Irish Catholic, for starters, and Russert is not charismatic by any classic Kennedyesque definition), but it does offer a glimpse into how Matthews perceives himself, especially in relation to Russert. It’s also worth noting that Nixon was obsessed with Kennedy, and Kennedy could be dismissive and disparaging of Nixon.
    So, can we then envision a day when Matthews will appear on “Hardball” making a plea for his job telling everyone that “All my wife has is this cloth coat, and we just bought this little dog named Checkers”?

    (By the way, I’m very sympathetic to people facing job difficulty, but Chris Matthews has many options available to him that others don’t. If his $5 million - !!! – a year contract isn’t renewed, he’ll only have himself to blame if he doesn’t land comfortably somewhere else.)

    But at least K.O. has Matthews pegged, as noted here…

    “There is a sense at times that we are always joining Chris Matthews already in progress,” Olbermann told me. Matthews has been on 10 years, he went on to say, “and he has no idea when it stops and starts. My responsibility sometimes is to grab the wheel when he doesn’t hold it.” Matthews has also called their joint appearances “Hardball,” which annoys Olbermann and which he has not been shy about correcting on the air. “No, this is not ‘Hardball,’ I will say, and in those instances, a correction is appropriate.”

    Sometimes during commercial breaks, Matthews will boast to Olbermann of having restrained himself during the prior segment. “And I reward him with a grape,” Olbermann says.
    God, that’s funny; and as far as whether or not the people whose names are dropped by Matthews really appreciate it…

    As I began researching this article, Jeremy Gaines, an MSNBC spokesman, gave me the names of about a dozen people that Matthews recommended I speak to, all famous — everyone from Nancy Pelosi to Marvin Hamlisch. But gatekeepers for more than one of these people expressed confusion as to why Matthews would refer me to them. “Please keep us out of this,” pleaded a spokesperson for one prominent politician whom Matthews had recommended via Gaines.
    And as far as any of Matthews’ alleged journalistic skills are concerned…

    In a recent interview on “Morning Joe” with Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who had just endorsed Obama, Matthews described the “stunning picture” of a Latino governor (Richardson) standing with an African-American candidate and how inspiring it was for so many voters. “That is where we should be putting our focus, not on the feelings of the Clintons, about what people owe them and their sense of entitlement,” Matthews said.

    Richardson tried to say something, but Matthews just kept going. “We’ve got to stop talking about this as if this were a sitcom,” Matthews continued. “We had eight years of the sitcom. . . . It’s a sitcom, and it’s gotta end.” He lamented that 4,000 people are dead in Iraq “because of decisions made by politicians like the Clintons.”

    Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of “Morning Joe,” then asked Matthews whether he was endorsing Obama.

    “Why would you say that?” Matthews said, looking dumbfounded.
    This man truly is not playing with a full deck, ladies and gentlemen.

    It can be amusing if slightly painful to watch Matthews’s facial expressions and body language on the set of “Hardball” when others are talking; he will, at times, bounce in his seat like a Ritalin-deprived second-grader who is dying to give an answer but has been admonished too many times for interrupting. He appears to go through the same pained exercise in his own home. Indeed, as I learned at Sunday brunch there, the degree to which the cadences of the Matthews dining room mimic “Hardball” is striking.
    The article gets into a lot more detail of Matthews’ family life, including the reaction to the episode where Matthews shamelessly ogled correspondent Erin Burnett; Leibovich said that when he mentioned her name, “it landed like a brick on the dining room table.”

    As I mentioned earlier, the article notes that MSNBC isn’t quite sure what to do with Matthews at the moment, since his contract is about to expire (I was surprised to learn that he’s 62). One possible option that was discussed is taking the job replacing Bob Schieffer as host of “Face The Nation” on Sunday mornings, which doesn’t matter to me personally since those shows have descended into parody of what they once were for the most part anyway.

    Given the status of Little Katie Couric’s contact at CBS, I’d suggest putting Matthews in her slot when she departs. It would be at least somewhat interesting to watch Matthews gyrate, twitch, and spew forth with uninformed and bellicose non sequiturs (name dropping as much as possible, of course), as opposed to Couric’s obsequious compliance to her interview subjects and authority figures in general.

    (And Eric Boehlert has much more here.)

    Update 5/16/08: To be fair, kudos to Matthews for this (h/t Atrios).

    A “Faith-Based” Iraq Initiative

    This story tells us…

    BAGHDAD – For Um Wissam, a small office packed with food aid in Shiite-dominated Sadr City is a lifeline. With her son killed two years ago, the widow has nowhere else to turn for support.

    "They're really great," she said. "They give us whatever they possibly can."

    "They" are fervent anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army.

    A new report from Washington-based Refugees International says that Muqtada and his Mahdi Army are the largest "unofficial" aid agency in the country. And they're not alone. In the patchwork quilt of sectarian neighborhoods that make-up Baghdad, almost all aid is delivered through political and religious groups, according to report co-author Kristele Younes.
    The story also tells us that the United Nations really isn’t doing much; since a massive bombing at its headquarters killed 22 people five years ago, they’ve pulled out most of their staff.


    How about the Iraqi government? It has done little. While the rising price of oil has enabled the Iraqi government to amass $30 billion in reserves, the Refugees International Report said little funding has gone to help Iraq's most vulnerable. And there are many of them. Oxfam said more than half of all Iraqis are living in "absolute poverty."
    Another sad testimonial to the spectacular failure of the Maliki regime, which decided to try and destroy al-Sadr instead of try to work with him on behalf of innocent Iraqis at death’s door (I don’t like al-Sadr either, but he’s “the only game in town”).

    And as long as I’m mentioning Iraq, here is an inspiring story of Iraqis “standing up” so out troops can “stand down” – sure…

    BAGHDAD — A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias.

    The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led to a tense series of exchanges between American soldiers and about 50 Iraqi troops who were fleeing.

    Capt. Logan Veath, a company commander in the 25th Infantry Division, pleaded with the Iraqi major who was leading his troops away from the Sadr City fight, urging him to return to the front.

    “If you turn around and go back up the street those soldiers will follow you,” Captain Veath said. “If you tuck tail and cowardly run away they will follow up that way, too.”

    Captain Veath’s pleas failed, and senior American and Iraqi commanders mounted an urgent effort to regain the lost ground. An elite Iraqi unit was rushed in and with the support of the Americans began to fight its way north
    Of course, no one could have predicted that (uh huh).

    More Big Media Love For McCain

    I’d like to extend a big hat tip to Adam Blickstein at Democracy Arsenal for this little gem from “Senator Honor and Virtue” last night on “Hardball” (I’ll try to have more to say about Chris Matthews later, by the way - and is it my imagination, or is McCain slowly morphing into Ed Snider, or is it the other way around?)…

    MCCAIN: We can look back at the past and argue about whether we should have gone to war or not, whether we should have invaded or not, and that’s a good academic argument.
    I don’t see anything “academic” about these numbers, I should point out.

    MCCAIN: So what’s an area of disagreement? Climate change. Climate change. I believe that climate change is real. I think we have to act...
    This takes you to more information on McCain’s atrocious voting record, in particular the following…

    “Out of 535 Members of Congress, John McCain is the only one who chose to miss every single key environmental vote scored by the League of Conservation Voters last year. When it came time to stand up and vote for the environment, John McCain was nowhere to be found,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Every other Member who received a zero from LCV last year at least had the temerity to show up and vote against the environment and clean energy time after time. And unlike John McCain, I doubt any of them would claim to be environmental leaders or champions on global warming.”
    Returning to the “interview” (what brilliant non-follow up by Tweety, by the way)…

    MATTHEWS: You’re also- you disagree with (Dubya) on torture.

    MCCAIN: Absolutely. And could I take a few seconds on that? Because I think it’s important because I think it’s what America’s all about and what kind of country we are. We should never, ever torture anyone who is in the custody of the United States of America.
    That’s interesting given that John W. McSame voted against a bill “imposing sweeping new restrictions against interrogation methods used by the CIA” (here).

    MCCAIN: ...So my point is that for the future of this country, we have to make sure that we remain a nation that does not do things that our enemies do. And I promise you, my friends, I’ll close Guantanamo Bay and we will never torture another person in our custody again.
    If he’s serious about closing Guantanamo, then where does he plan to hold the commission hearings that Bushco is planning to hold there shortly (they’ve actually built facilities at Guantanamo for that purpose).

    Jeffrey Toobin wrote a great article about what’s going on there that appeared in The New Yorker recently; here’s a link to an abstract – I have tons of technical difficulties when I try to view or read content from The New Yorker’s web site (hint, hint).

    I could go on and on with John W. McBush over this stuff, but instead, I want to note that his wife Cindy was profiled in a USA Today cover story, yesterday for which she declined to be interviewed – the article does note her one-time addiction to painkillers (she says she’s recovered) and siphoning pills from her own charity…more from this Daily Kos link.

    Also, from what I’ve read, it appears that our dear media cousins were trying to provoke a dustup between Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama in February over Obama’s “proud of my country for the first time” statement (as if that is actually news). Based on what I’ve read, I don’t believe Cindy McCain used that necessarily for one-upsmanship (if somebody thinks I’m wrong, fire away), and I think she deserves credit for that.

    (And by the way, it sounds like "Senator Honor And Virtue" as well as MSNBC needs a math lesson too.)

    Update 1: Speaking of Michelle Obama, I thought this was a nice comeback about you-know-what.

    Update 2: And speaking of Mrs. McCain, does this now qualify as "(insert "scandal" name here)-Gate?"

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Tuesday Stuff

    As a tribute to Ollie Johnston, the last of the "nine old men" who animated such great Disney films as "Bambi" and "Snow White," here's the Mussorgsky "Night On Bald Mountain" clip from "Fantasia" made in 1940 (influenced somewhat by the global conflict going on at the time I would guess - easy to mistake this for footage of the 2004 Republican National Hatefest :-)...

    ...and again, it looks like the only way to learn about what everyday Americans are dealing with, such as these folks in PA, is to watch these reports from al jazeera - yes, you read that right (gee, Hil, why don't you ask them if they're "bitter"...sorry).

    Something To Be "Bitter" About For Real

    For anyone still wondering about how legitimate a candidate for president Barack Obama still is after the media circus over you-know-what, I should link to the following interview he gave Will Bunch here noting that he “is at the least open to the possibility of investigating potential high crimes in the Bush White House,” particularly in light of Bushco’s recent admission here that “yeah, we tortured people…what are you gonna do about it?”

    And while it is discouraging to see Obama rule out impeachment (it could still be made to happen, honestly), it is at least encouraging to see a possibility that this country will one day be once more a place where the rule of law is paramount over politics.

    Obama notes the role that his attorney general would play in reviewing the prior wretched legal episodes of this cabal; I’ve been pondering this for a little while now, but I think the person best suited for the role of AG under Obama (someone to clean up the DOJ mess for good, and it would be a HUGE job) is the guy pictured right here.

    The Return Of "Prime Minister Jesus"

    Also, I couldn’t let the day go by without acknowledging the return of Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister of Italy once more. And aside from rehashing all of the other comical posts about this guy, I just wanted to point out something from here…

    …turnout in the politically polarized nation (for this year’s election) reached 80 percent, nearly as much as the 84 percent in the last national ballot in 2006.
    This Wikipedia article tells us the following about this country’s last presidential election in 2004…

    60.7% of the electorate voted—the highest percentage since 1968.
    Suddenly, I’m not laughing any more.

    Update 4/16/08: Interesting thoughts from the New York Times here...

    A Taxing Neocon Nuisance

    (I should warn you at the start that I’m probably going to end up calling this guy names, against my better instincts I know.)

    In anticipation of the tax filing deadline at midnight tonight (we filed awhile ago), the New York Times’ Deborah Solomon interviewed Grover Norquist in the Sunday Magazine a couple of days ago.

    You remember Grover, don’t you? That human mistake who laundered money from a casino-operating Indian tribe to Ralph Reed. That pusillanimous little toad who compared the estate tax to the Holocaust. Even a guy Tucker Carlson once called a "mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest little creep ... the leering, drunken uncle everyone else wishes would stay home" (all noted here).

    But yet, in their “wisdom,” the Times thought it was important enough to give this guy column space to plug his causes (including his new book, of course).

    Here are some particularly ripe excerpts…

    Now that we’re facing an economic slowdown, not to mention a $9 trillion national debt, is it fair to ask whether the Bush tax cuts have damaged the country? Oh, no, no, the spending has done the damage.

    The spending in Iraq? That’s what the White House says. But it’s not true. The war spending is a fraction of the spend-too-much problem. When you want an extra dollar for the war, you have to give Congress $2 for other stuff.
    There’s a lot that could be said in response, but for starters, I’ll present the following from Democracy Now! here (in which the cost of the Iraq war is estimated at three trillion dollars)...

    AMY GOODMAN: Joseph Stiglitz, the White House press spokesperson, Tony Fratto, said yesterday, “People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure. One can’t even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9/11.”

    JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, I think the White House lacks the courage to engage in a national debate about the cost of the Iraq war. The Joint Economic Committee has asked the White House to come down and discuss the numbers; they’ve refused. Security is important, and we don’t deny that. The question is whether this war has been the best way of obtaining the security. And no matter what you’re going to do—you know, what you think about security, you still have to look at the cost. The costs have been important, even for the way we’ve waged the war. The reason the administration presumably did not buy, for instance, the MRAPs, these special vehicles that would have reduced the number of deaths by a very large fraction, is economics. So, you know, no matter what one says, economics is important, and the American people have the right to have an understanding of what those costs are. When we went to war, they said it was going to cost $50 billion. We are now spending that money upfront every three months, and that’s not even including the cost of veterans’ healthcare and disability down the line.
    And of course, if Bushco had ever acted like adults and tried to scale back on the war (with Iraq stepping up to pay for it instead of squirreling away its money and letting us foot the bill), then there wouldn’t be a "spend too much problem" on the war, would there?

    Are you serving as an economic adviser to the McCain campaign? I was working with all of the Republican candidates. He won, and he’s the tax cutter, so I am with him. He reciprocates by sending at least one person to each of our Center-Right meetings.
    As noted by SourceWatch earlier, that would be the Wednesday meetings of Norquist’s “Leave Us Alone” coalition, a gathering of similarly pigheaded conservatives and self-interested shills…

    The "Wednesday Meeting" of Norquist's (coalition) has become an important hub of conservative political organizing. President Bush began sending a representative to the Wednesday Meeting even before he formally announced his candidacy for president. "Now a White House aide attends each week," reported USA Today in June 2001. "Vice President Cheney sends his own representative. So do GOP congressional leaders, right-leaning think tanks, conservative advocacy groups and some like-minded K Street lobbyists. The meeting has been valuable to the White House because it is the political equivalent of one-stop shopping. By making a single pitch, the administration can generate pressure on members of Congress, calls to radio talk shows and political buzz from dozens of grassroots organizations. It also enables the White House to hear conservatives vent in private -- and to respond -- before complaints fester.
    I detest these people, but I have to admit that they have been effective.

    And of course in the interview, Norquist trots out all of the typical winger complaints, such as “having to wear a helmet when we ride a Harley…how much water can be in your toilet bowl (and) how big your car can be…”

    You can’t possibly think that American cars are too small. Everyone would have bigger and safer cars if they didn’t have those CAFE standards, corporate average fuel economy.
    Well then, Norquist should be pleased to read from here that, in typical fashion…

    Last month (January 2004), U.S. EPA chief Mike Leavitt joined Detroit kingpins in a splashy D.C. conference to trumpet the arrival of new vehicles and fuels that reduce sulfur emissions -- a notable achievement, but what Leavitt was passing off as a Bush administration success was in fact an initiative launched under President Clinton. Days later, Leavitt announced additional funding for the Clean School Bus USA program -- some $60 million to replace pre-1991 school buses with new ones that have state-of-the-art emission controls.
    This change was regarded by environmentalists as having “a negligible effect on emissions,” by the way.

    While these efforts drew lots of media attention, there was one recent car-related announcement that the Bush administration slipped under the radar, and this one is likely to have much broader effects. On Dec. 22, the Bush administration proposed a major rewrite of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. One notable outcome of the proposal would be the closing of a loophole that currently exempts vehicles over 8,500 pounds, such as the Hummer H2, from any fuel-efficiency standards whatsoever. But despite this welcome tidbit, few environmentalists were pleased with the proposal as a whole.

    "The loophole the Bush administration proposes to close may move us one step forward," said Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming and energy program. "But their proposal also includes another loophole for the auto industry that will move us three steps back."
    So Norquist can continue to drive his gas guzzling monstrosities when he wants a break from riding his Harley without a helmet if he wants.


    Many prominent conservatives feel the movement needs to be more environmentally conscious and are recommending big-government solutions like a carbon tax. But nobody listens, because it’s nonsense.
    Here’s more about Norquist’s “nonsense.”

    The intention of a carbon tax is environmental, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and thereby slow global warming. It can be implemented by taxing the burning of fossil fuels — coal, petroleum products such as gasoline and aviation fuel, and natural gas — in proportion to their carbon content.

    Unlike market-based approaches such as carbon cap-and-trade systems, direct taxation has the benefit of being easily understood and can be popular with the public if the tax is hypothecated or earmarked to fund environmental projects[1].


    In 1993, President of the United States, Bill Clinton proposed a BTU tax that was never adopted. His Vice President, Al Gore, had strongly backed a carbon tax in his book, Earth in the Balance, but this became a political liability after the Republicans attacked him as a "dangerous fanatic". In 2000, when Gore ran for President, one commentator labeled Gore's carbon tax proposal a "central planning solution" harking back to "the New Deal politics of his father."[2] In April 2005, Paul Anderson, CEO and Chairman of Duke Energy, called for the introduction of a carbon tax.[16] In January 2007, economist Charles Komanoff and attorney Dan Rosenblum launched a Carbon Tax Center[17] to give voice to Americans who believe that taxing carbon emissions is imperative to reduce global warming.
    The Wikipedia article also notes that Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway, Italy, The United Kingdom and New Zealand have all devised their version of a tax, so I guess they’re not listening either.

    Do you see your work as a kind of rebellion against the pro-tax activities of your mother (a tax assessor in Weston, MA)? Oh, no, not at all. She is generally with me on the need for overall lower taxes. I thought up the no-tax-increase pledge when I was 14 years old.

    What is the point of that? I feel like my children will be paying for the budget follies of this generation for the rest of their lives. Oh, good, then my kids will be off the hook.
    Maybe if your kids are born in another century, you selfish neocon turd (sorry – tried to hold back on the name calling as long as I could); this tells us that the budget deficit will likely exceed $350 billion this year, including at least $100 billion from an upcoming deficit-financed economic stimulus measure.

    I’m sure the next subject for an upcoming Times Q&A by Solomon will no doubt be Rummy now, since there apparently is no standard that the interview subjects must meet for honesty; he’s got a book coming out now too, as noted here (and no, it’s not titled “How To Commit The Most Horrific Foreign Policy Blunder In U.S. History,” but it should be).

    And in regards to the question posed by the CBC link of whether or not anyone would read his book, I got a kick out of this answer in particular…

    The question on whether I will read his book is interesting to me, because as we know, there are "known knowns"; there are things we know we know. We also know there are "known unknowns"; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also "unknown unknowns" — the ones we don't know we don't know.

    So I don't know if I'm going to read Rumsfeld's book.
    Tell you what – if someone sends me a copy, I’ll shred it and use it to line my cat’s litter box, OK (hopefully, he won't object).

    Still More "Bitter" Fallout

    Once again, I truly apologize for dwelling on the faux issue of the moment, but there is such an avalanche of media and political spin out there that some of it must be addressed; the fact that Kristol Mess AND BoBo are both chimed in, for example (the latter today) tells you something.

    What it tells you, actually, is that our media-political-industrial complex has worked itself into the greatest froth I’ve ever since I started this blog; the only thing comparable was the Terri Schiavo circus, which I fortunately missed (for posting purposes, anyway). And their goal is nothing less that to take remarks uttered by Obama that are absolutely true and use them to make the voters of this country recoil out of umbrage (and of course, since these clowns hold sway over our discourse for the most part, they seem to be doing that).

    George Will treats us to a hilarious column where he pretends to care about the middle class (sorry, but find your own link if you want). Bob Herbert criticized Obama for saying voters were “bitter” instead of “angry,” as if semantics are going to matter to someone who has lost his or her job, home, or health insurance.

    And not to be outdone by any means, J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times tells us the following here…

    You may have heard what Sen. Barack Obama thinks of small town Pennsylvanians: They are “bitter” and “cling” to guns, religion and bigotry because they don't have good jobs.
    For the record, here is what Obama said, which Mullane actually repeats later in his column…

    “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
    As you can see, Obama clearly said nothing about bigotry; which is actually confirmed by one of the subjects Mullane talks to for this column my bad - of course, we find that out near the end of the hit piece after Mullane disingenuously sticks “bigotry” in the lead…a typically sleazy journalistic trick.

    It is nothing short of sickening that we have a ruling executive cabal that has sought to abolish, at the very least, the first and fourth amendments to the U.S. Constitution (totally supportive of torture, abuse of executive privilege, legally labeling NGOs and human rights groups as terrorism supporters, an on and on), that sits idly by while employers in this country shed payrolls while still clamoring to lift restrictions on H1B visas for foreign workers (if anything, Bushco has done all it could do to encourage it), that wages war without end in Iraq, engages in acts of typical deception on the climate crisis, that staffs the governmental agencies under its purview with utterly incompetent party hacks…and yet, it takes some wording about rural PA voters that some consider inappropriate to rankle the sensibilities of a foundering presidential candidate and the media stooges doing her bidding to keep the blood sport going for as long as possible.

    Well, just for the hell of it, here is what I did in response.

    I did a little digging and found a link to an article written by the director of the Developing Communities Project, described as “an institutionally based community organization on Chicago's far south side,” which was published in 1990. The article, “Why Organize? Problems and Promise in the Inner City,” was written by a man who had just recently enrolled at Harvard to study law.

    You’ve probably heard of the author, by the way, because the director of the Developing Communities Project was a guy named Barack Obama.

    This is what he wrote…

    The debate as to how black and other dispossessed people can forward their lot in America is not new. From W.E.B. DuBois to Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, this internal debate has raged between integration and nationalism, between accommodation and militancy, between sit-down strikes and boardroom negotiations. The lines between these strategies have never been simply drawn, and the most successful black leadership has recognized the need to bridge these seemingly divergent approaches. During the early years of the Civil Rights movement, many of these issues became submerged in the face of the clear oppression of segregation. The debate was no longer whether to protest, but how militant must that protest be to win full citizenship for blacks.

    Twenty years later, the tensions between strategies have reemerged, in part due to the recognition that for all the accomplishments of the 1960s, the majority of blacks continue to suffer from second-class citizenship. Related to this are the failures — real, perceived and fabricated — of the Great Society programs initiated by Lyndon Johnson. Facing these realities, at least three major strands of earlier movements are apparent.

    First, and most publicized, has been the surge of political empowerment around the country. Harold Washington and Jesse Jackson are but two striking examples of how the energy and passion of the Civil Rights movement have been channeled into bids for more traditional political power. Second, there has been a resurgence in attempts to foster economic development in the black community, whether through local entrepre¬neurial efforts, increased hiring of black contractors and corporate managers, or Buy Black campaigns. Third, and perhaps least publicized, has been grass-roots community organizing, which builds on indigenous leadership and direct action.

    Neither electoral politics nor a strategy of economic self-help and internal development can by themselves respond to these new challenges (facing the inner city and African Americans in particular – my paraphrasing). The election of Harold Washington in Chicago or of Richard Hatcher in Gary were not enough to bring jobs to inner-city neighborhoods or cut a 50 percent drop-out rate in the schools, although they did achieve an important symbolic effect. In fact, much-needed black achievement in prominent city positions has put us in the awkward position of administer¬ing underfunded systems neither equipped nor eager to address the needs of the urban poor and being forced to compromise their interests to more powerful demands from other sectors.

    Self-help strategies show similar limitations. Although both laudable and necessary, they too often ignore the fact that without a stable community, a well-educated population, an adequate infrastructure and an informed and employed market, neither new nor well-established compa¬nies will be willing to base themselves in the inner city and still compete in the international marketplace. Moreover, such approaches can and have become thinly veiled excuses for cutting back on social programs, which are anathema to a conservative agenda.

    In theory, community organizing provides a way to merge various strategies for neighborhood empowerment. Organizing begins with the premise that (1) the problems facing inner-city communities do not result from a lack of effective solutions, but from a lack of power to implement these solutions; (2) that the only way for communities to build long-term power is by organizing people and money around a common vision; and (3) that a viable organization can only be achieved if a broadly based indigenous leadership — and not one or two charismatic leaders — can knit together the diverse interests of their local institutions.
    As I read the excerpt above, it became crystal clear to me that Barack Obama has a thorough understanding of the root causes of the utter disintegration of our cities and the monumental challenge of restoring economic opportunity through a combination of government-business partnership, civic action, and individual self reliance (and after reading this excerpt, I’m tempted to try and locate the book “After Alinsky…” on and read more of what he has to say).

    As far as I’m concerned, this excerpt was written by someone with both the keen mind and knowledge of what it takes to try and resolve complicated issues and the courage to face the daunting challenges that lie ahead of this nation (Obama wrote primarily about African Americans, of course, but his words could apply to those of other races, creeds, ethnicities and gender persuasions also).

    It most certainly was not written by an “elitist,” who used the word “cling” inappropriately for some, as well as others who thought it strange that he ordered orange juice without coffee, or wishes to sit down and meet with Hamas (he doesn't, by the way).

    (Actually, with this in mind, I wish our corporate media cousins would all get together and come up with a list of behaviors that they consider to be appropriate and give the list to Obama; that way, he would know how to act to please them and they would thus resist the temptation to concoct such utterly ridiculous “stories” about “scandals” with a “-gate” attached at the end.)

    And with all of this in mind, I now have a message for Hillary Clinton.

    It is apparent that the only way you believe that your campaign can succeed truly is to utterly trash Obama and hope that, by some scurrilous design, the “super delegates” you so desperately wish to possess will flock to you somehow as crows descend to pick at the carcass of a dead animal (God help me, but all in the corporate media punditocracy who said this was the case turned out, despite my ridicule at the time, to be absolutely right).

    So, for that reason, go ahead and win your “victory” in Pennsylvania (which I’m sure will be delivered to you by PA Governor Ed Rendell, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and others– I’m sure you don’t have the qualms about handing out “walking-around money” to local Philly poobahs that Obama does; and I applaud Obama for that, by the way). Rack up your 10-15 percent margin of victory, or whatever it will be. Go ahead and jog a victory lap around the clothespin at 15th and Market if you want. Fire a gun, drink a shot and a beer…whatever.

    And the next day, put an end to this utterly putrid, painful exercise of a campaign of yours for good (and take all your preferred “girl chums” with you if you want).

    The lost delegates aren’t going to come back. And Florida and Michigan aren’t going to matter either. The only way you could win would be in response to Obama’s electoral destruction, and despite your positively juvenile manufacturing of this non-issue, that won’t happen (if anything, I can’t wait to see how this boomerangs on you in other primaries).

    It’s over, and apparently, you are the last to know. You exist only as a candidate for the amusement of Fox “News,” The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal editorial page so you can generate the negative force required to eviscerate your own party, which happens to be the only way that their favored candidate, John W. McBush, can actually win.

    The stain on our memory left by your “Insult-40-States Express” will be with us for a long, long time. This latest episode of accusing Obama of “elitism” – Obama, someone who worked as a community organizer in Chicago on behalf of residents in desperate poverty – would be laughable if it weren’t so fitting, so emblematic of your utterly failed campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for president.

    And after enduring this pitiable farce, I actually cannot imagine how you could ever hope to mount a candidacy of this type ever again.

    Update 1: And by the way, Ed's right here; the comment will be forgotten because HRC will only be a memory in November.

    Update 2: Funny how The Big Dog gets a pass for making very similar statements here but Obama doesn't.

    Update 3 4/16/08: Just for the record, MoDo wasted newspaper ink on this today also (and reap what you sow, Hil).