Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thursday Stuff

(By the way, the next time you hear HRC or a member of her coven screaming about Obama and "elitism," tell he/she/them/it to get a load of this.)

Shocking when Neil Cavuto of His World actually makes sense for a change (and once more, "Happy Mission Accomplished Day")...

...and just when you thought we'd never hear about Jack Abramoff again, along comes this ad trying to get Repug senatorial candidate Bob Schaffer (from Colorado) to clean up his act...

...and when people criticize Obama about the usual litany of nonsense, I don't give a hoot in hell, as they say; however, as much as it pains me to admit it, I think HRC is stronger on the issue noted here by John Edwards, and I think Obama needs to do something about it...

...and to commemorate the passing of Dr. Albert Hoffman at 102 (here - !), the founder of LSD, what follows is a short film telling us the results of testing on a British Army regiment from the '50s or '60s (so veddy, veddy efficient I know - I kept waiting for Graham Chapman to interrupt the film and tell us it was too silly; not funny when you think about what happened to Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd, among others, though).

OK, that's really it for a few days, people. Talk amongst yourselves, play nice, and remember not to accidentally shoot anyone in the face (I may give Blogger's new whiz-bang "future posting" a try, though, but I can't guarantee anything).

In the meantime, Courage.

Thursday Mashup (5/1/08)

I really don’t have much else for today but just a lot of stuff to throw together here; probably a good time to shut things down until early next week, which I plan to do after today.

  • Did you know that John W. McBush supports a plan to allow people to bring loaded weapons into our national parks? And this tells us that he’s finally responded against Sen. Jim Webb’s idea of a new G.I. bill; see, McBush opposes “a new bureaucracy,” of course, and the bill McBush supports (didn’t know there was one) offers scaled benefits inclined to make our people re-enlist, which they’re doing anyway because decent jobs are ever more scarce because of Dubya’s recession.

    Update 5/2/08: What Kagro X sez (and a typically sleazy Inhofe move)...

  • Here’s the latest from Walt Sherman and Shut The Duck Up! via Philebrity…it turns out that those ridiculous duck boats used for Philly tourism (making the noise of real ducks, along with the duck noises from the boat patrons), are causing an ecological problem, as follows…

    The popular “quackers” distributed to Duck Boat riders are indistinguishable from call of a real Mallard hen. World Champion Waterfowl Caller and Call-Maker Sean Mann corroborated the effectiveness of these souvenir quackers stating that “very lonely ducks” are likely to be drawn to the alluring snare of the Duck Boat calls. Philadelphia neighborhoods affected by the Duck Boat tour route have experienced a spike in traffic incidents involving duped loner ducks, who have become disoriented by the imitation calls and inadvertently cause automotive accidents.

    The growing congregation of deluded ducks has also attracted the attention of the waterfowl’s natural predators. Recent sightings of fox, raccoons, and stray dogs patrolling the route of the Duck Boats has neighborhoods up in arms over the increased disappearances of family cats, and daily nuisance of having to manage overturned trash cans and recycling bins.
    I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine that these tours are bringing in enough dough to set off all the other damage done to the area through noise and other types of pollution (not that money could really offset that anyway, I realize).

  • This tells us that another Bush operative has departed, and that would be Lurita Doan (a related post is here).

  • This tells us that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, he who once vowed not to have sex until after the election he eventually lost to former prime minister Romano Prodi, is now interested in another “f” word, and that would be fascism (oh, joy).

    Berlusconi would do well to remember the last leader of his country who trod that political path (pictured); he ended up summarily shot and then hung upside down from a hook so he could be pelted with rocks to make sure he was dead.

    Just sayin...

  • And in today’s animal news wrap-up (aside from the story of the lonely Philly ducks), an African lion was caught near Ottawa, Canada, a cougar was shot hear Chicago, the Japanese panda Ling Ling has died (pictured - a gift to that country from China, with the bear’s passing taking place as Hu Jintao is scheduled to visit; bad luck there), and Roger Waters’ pig that escaped from the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival was found in tatters (as the song goes, “that’s what he gets for pretending the danger’s not real” – wonder if Smerky will heckle Waters over it as he did here?).
  • Where The Rubber Meets The Road (5/1/08)

    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.

    (Not much to say this week - our people were basically on their best behavior, except for one U.S. House rep, as always.)


    Medicaid funds dispute. The House passed, 349-62, a bill (HR 5613) placing a hold until April 2009 on new administration rules that would cut the federal share of Medicaid by $13 billion over five years and leave it up to the states to replace the funds or cut health services to the poor. In part, the new rules concern hospital and nursing-home services, graduate medical education, the placing of retarded children in family settings, and transportation for disabled children. President Bush has threatened to veto this bill.

    A yes vote was to block the Medicaid cuts.

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

    Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).

    Not voting: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.).
    This week’s obligatory stupid “No” vote from Pancake Joe (and to help Bruce Slater, click here).

    Coast Guard budget. Voting 395-7, the House approved an $8.4 billion fiscal 2008 budget (HR 2830) for the Coast Guard that funds the agency's traditional marine-safety mission along with post-9/11 national-security duties.
    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

    Not voting: Andrews.


    Payday equality. Voting 56-42, the Senate failed to get 60 votes needed to advance a bill (HR 2831) making it easier for plaintiffs to file lawsuits alleging pay bias based on gender, race or disability. The vote affirmed a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., that the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires such suits be filed within 180 days of the first act of discrimination even if the employee was unaware of the infraction.

    A yes vote was to advance 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.).
    Kudos to all of our people for doing the right thing, though the failure of this bill to pass is an utter disgrace (noted here).

    Veterans' benefits. Senators voted, 96-1, to authorize $1 billion through fiscal 2012 to expand veterans' benefits such as disability compensation, pensions, burial payments, life insurance and job training. In part, the bill (S 1315) would increase burial allowances from $300 to $1,200 for veterans who are without next of kin and from $2,000 to $4,100 for survivors of veterans who die of a service-connected ailment.

    A yes vote was to send the bill to conference with the House.

    Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Casey, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.
    This week, the House took up bills that would outlaw discrimination based on genetic testing and set regulations to protect workers from dust explosions and fires. The Senate debated the Federal Aviation Administration budget.

    Tom Manion Joins The Fray (Sort Of)

    I noted the story yesterday where our U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy and his Repug challenger Tom Manion both agreed on eliminating the gas tax over the summer, but I blew off some of what Manion said that I want to highlight now…

    Manion pointed out in a statement that the price of a gallon of gas has jumped from $2.33 to $3.60 since Democrats took control of Congress in January 2007 and said Democrats have given only “false promises” to lower the price of gas.

    “If the Democrats in Congress can't lead on this vital issue, they must get out of the way so real solutions can be put into place,” Manion said.
    Well then, Tom, let’s see what the head of your party has proposed in the way of “real solutions,” and that would be President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History…

  • He whined that Congress wouldn’t let him drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an act of environmental terrorism opposed even by “Senator Honor and Virtue” running for president (here). And here’s why…

    "President Bush's claim ignores the primary causes behind record high oil prices: a cheap dollar, high demand from China and India, and speculators driving the price up. Drilling and sullying the Arctic would not address any of these causes of high oil prices," said (Daniel) Weiss (of the Center for American Progress).
    And the supply of gasoline it would eventually yield would last about 3-6 months at best (to say nothing of the environmental damage noted here).

  • Bush was asked by Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Senator from his own party (and his own state!) to halt deposits into the Strategic Reserve (increasing supply bound for the reserve would probably lower the pump price), but this story tells us that Incurious George “brushed aside her request” (and is it even necessary to note that pump prices were lower before Bush took office?).

  • This tells us that leading House Democrats have contacted William E. Kovacic of the Federal Trade Commission to investigate higher gas prices (thus far, I believe we’ve only heard the sound of crickets in response).

  • Something else that’s going to contribute to the high price of gas (as a commenter here noted recently) is tensions involving oil-producing countries. Given that, can someone please explain to me why the hell we have a second carrier now stationed near Iran in the Persian Gulf (And what are we “reminding” them of, by the way? The fact that, through our blundering in the Middle East, we’ve tilted the balance of power in their favor?).
  • So, Tom, here’s what I think; if all you intend to do in this campaign is recycle RNC talking points as opposed to presenting ideas to help us actually solve problems, then the only person who should “get out of the way” is you.

    (And in a related story, as they say, a $10.9 billion profit "disappoints"?

    Oh well, I'm sure Hangin' Judge JR and Ben Stein are still fans, so ExxonMobil shouldn't worry too much.)

    Five Years Of Avoidance

    Greg Mitchell of E&P informs us of the 5-year anniversary of Dubya’s “Mission Accomplished” moment on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, my vote for the stupidest and most insulting photo-op of all time (just remember that nobody got killed while former MA governor and one-time presidential candidate Michael Dukakis rode around in the tank, OK?). Here is more in recognition of this day from Democracy Arsenal (as well as this from BarbinMD at The Daily Kos; "the anniversary of when that banner flew on that ship," Dana? That sure wasn't how it sounded when your boss was crowing about it to everyone who had to listen to him).

    Also, here’s a post from Adam Blickstein at D.A. which tells us…

    "[al Qaeda] has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri," (a State Department report) says.
    Blickstein also wonders what the new CENTCOM commander thinks of this report, but I think I can provide an answer based on this post, which states…

    By the time (Admiral William) Fallon took command of CENTCOM in March (’07), Pakistan had become the main safe haven for Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda to plan and carry out its worldwide operations, as well as being an extremely unstable state with both nuclear weapons and the world's largest population of Islamic extremists.

    Plans for continued high troop levels in Iraq would leave no troops available for other contingencies in the region.

    Fallon was reported by the New York Times to have been determined to achieve results "as soon as possible". The notion of a long war, in contrast, seemed to connote an extended conflict in which Iraq was but a chapter.

    During the summer (of ’07), according to the Post Sep. 9 report, Fallon began to develop his own plans for redefine the U.S. mission in Iraq, including a plan for withdrawal of three-quarters of the U.S. troop strength by the end of 2009.

    The conflict between Fallon and (Gen. David) Petraeus over Iraq came to a head in early September. According to the Post story, Fallon expressed views on Iraq that were sharply at odds with those of Petraeus in a three-way conversation with Bush on Iraq the previous weekend. Petraeus argued for keeping as many troops in Iraq for as long as possible to cement any security progress, but Fallon argued that a strategic withdrawal from Iraq was necessary to have sufficient forces to deal with other potential threats in the region.

    Fallon's presentation to Bush of the case against Petraeus's recommendation for keeping troop levels in Iraq at the highest possible level just before Petraeus was to go public with his recommendations was another sign that Petraeus's role as chief spokesperson for the surge policy has created a deep rift between him and the nation's highest military leaders. Bush presumably would not have chosen to invite an opponent of the surge policy to make such a presentation without lobbying by the top brass.

    Fallon had a "visceral distaste" for what he regarded as Petraeus's sycophantic behaviour in general, which had deeper institutional roots, according to a military source familiar with his thinking.
    I think we pretty much knew that Fallon was pushed out already in favor of The Almighty Petraeus, but that kind of puts added emphasis on the matter (it also drums home the fact that Petraeus has no intention of doing anything to shift our focus from Iraq to the Afghan/Pakistan border where it belongs – and speaking of Afghanistan, I’ve been trying to come up with a reason to link to this great post from profmarcus over the weekend, and I think this is as good of an opportunity as any…waaay too much to ask of our professional journos - like Brian Williams - to do anything close to this kind of quality work, apparently...the Inky called Afghanistan "a promising road full of potholes" here - WHAAAA????!!!).

    And by the way (getting back to the “Mission Accomplished” thing), here’s the latest attempt to spin that blunder in favor of the administration from our ruling cabal of liars.

    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Wednesday Stuff

    K.O. expertly takes down President George W. Milhous Bush on the economy (housing, gas prices, you name it; Dubya is a clueless, lying cretin here as usual)...

    (And here's more on Hope Now, which Incurious George mentioned in the clip.)

    ...and here's more "Pop-Up Double Talk" fun on health care with that "straight-talking maverick" himself.

    Trying To Revive Obama-Rama

    (This is probably the “meta post from hell,” but I feel like I have to say this stuff.)

    I think it’s pretty clear that the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination is foundering at this point; even a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger such as yours truly can see that, let alone some high-profile, nicely accessorized and meticulously coiffed politico. And even though the damage is definitely not terminal, I’d like to chime in with some thoughts on how to try and put things right.

    (There were a couple of posts that helped me focus on this matter: the first is here from Open Left about how the campaign needs someone to help coordinate a competing narrative among us blogger types that we can keep trying to hammer over and over as opposed to the daily drumbeat of “Jeremiah Wright, flag lapel pins, orange juice without coffee, guns, bitter, Bill Ayers, bowling” etc., and the second here notes Hillary Clinton’s appearance with the local Indiana steel union…how she can act as a champion for these people given that NAFTA passed under Bill is chutzpah cubed.)

    To begin, Obama should state that he will no longer appear on Faux TV and he should stick to his promise of no more debates. I don’t know if he’s getting a bit weary from all of the attacks, which would be understandable given that they’re coming from Hillary Clinton, her husband and former president, AND John McCain at this point, but he needs to buy time and regroup (short notice I know with both Indiana and North Carolina coming up in less than a week). Or, if he DOES agree to a debate, make sure it’s moderated by the League of Women Voters, and make it plain that that’s the only way you’ll participate. That way, when Hillary starts throwing her mud (to say nothing of the inanity of the network anchors and their silly, insulting questions), he’ll have a neutral individual telling her to knock it off.

    Appearing on Faux TV is not going to get more of that “middle of the road, white, blue collar” vote that Obama will need in respectable numbers to win not just the nomination, but “the whole enchilada” in November. He should link his policy to practicality and use his formidable presentation skills to communicate this to voters not just in upcoming primary states, but across the country (also – and I’ve said this before pertaining to other candidates, and I’ll say it again concerning Obama – I want to remind the senator from Illinois about a tactic employed by Our Man Arlen Specter in PA, among others, and that is the “voter testimonial”…some of Specter’s campaign ads, which may be popping up again starting next year depending on his health, are people talking about the difference he’s made and why they support him. That is gold; use it as much as you can! Let them speak for you if you are able.).

    To get that “middle of the road” white vote, Obama has to just be himself, and a bit of an edge from time to time wouldn’t hurt either (he should think of running for office as parenting of a sort, only your “kids” are all voting age or older – that might help).

    Maybe Obama had too easy of a time knocking off Alan Keyes to win the Senate seat to begin with (I mean, who wouldn’t, right?), and he’s not totally sure of how to take on HRC at times.

    Basically, he needs to remind the voters of this country exactly why he wants to be president; I mean, we already know, but the American voter is typically someone who, sheep-like, has to be schooled over and over to be made to perform a certain way to achieve a desired result (and I don’t automatically absolve myself when I say that – sometimes that describes me also). This is particularly true when there is so much else out there competing for people’s time and attention.

    Now having said all of that, I want to go back to the second post for a minute (where Hillary appeared with the Indiana steelworkers) and note the following…

    At an event in Indiana, Sen. Hillary Clinton got a ballsy introduction by the president of the local steelworkers union who said it's "going to take an individual with testicular fortitude" to deal with solving the nation's problems.
    Interesting that “ballsy” isn’t in quotes, by the way; normal, acceptable language for a “news” organization, is it (quick - time for another blogger ethics panel!).

    While Clinton cracked a smile and then burst into laughter behind him, union leader Paul Gibson called for a president who would take a "strong, hard look" at trade and continued, "I'm tired of these Gucci wearing, latte-drinking, self-centered egotistical people that have damaged our lifestyle." He backed Clinton saying "I know the entire executive board has not made a move yet to endorse whoever in this primary, Paul Gibson is going to do it right here tonight, she's standing right behind me.”
    (Update: Here's some more rather interesting pandering on trade and manufacturing by Hil and Bill courtesy of David Sirota).

    I’ve never met Paul Gibson. I don’t know how well he does or doesn’t represent and support his membership on matters such as contract rates and work allocation, benefits including overtime and health care, providing for retirees, and other issues. But based on this excerpt, he sounds like an idiot.

    And he’s thrown the gauntlet right at the feet of Barack Obama, implying that he fits the ridiculous characterization noted in the story; I mean, even if I recognized who Gibson is referring to – and I don’t – I can’t imagine how his charge that these people “have damaged our lifestyle” could be true.

    So here’s what Obama should do; he should say to Gibson, in essence, “are you talkin’ to me?”

    And here’s why (as noted here)…

    (Upon graduating with his law degree from Harvard in 1991) Obama worked on cases where the firm represented community organizers (he worked in community organizing in Chicago starting in 1985), pursued discrimination claims, and (worked) on voting rights cases. He also spent time on real estate transactions, filing incorporation papers and defending clients against minor lawsuits.[14] Mostly he drew up briefs, contracts, and other legal documents as a junior associate on legal teams.[14]
    Basically, Obama could have cleaned up had he gone directly into the private sector after graduating from Harvard Law (probably fitting comfortably into Gibson’s stereotype if he chose to do so). But he didn’t. He instead worked on behalf of individuals of meager means, some of whom (but for a matter of geography) probably could have been members of Gibson’s local.

    The whole “guns, bitter” nonsense was the beginning of Obama getting tagged as some kind of an “elitist,” as we know. But (in a similarity to John Kerry that is a bit haunting as far as I’m concerned) Obama is hardly that; I don’t know how anyone who traveled as much as he did and attended as many different schools as he had to in the process could come away with that attitude. If anything, it provided an extraordinary enrichment through personal sacrifice. And while his orbit is very different now, of course, it wasn’t always that way, and I honestly believe he’s learned the lessons of his early years based on his words and actions in this campaign.

    Hey, I don’t know Barack Obama; I don’t know any of these people (though I was privileged to meet Patrick Murphy not too long ago). But I do know they’re hardly perfect, and I know what we see is largely the face they want us to see. But that is true of everyone in public life, including – and especially – the senator from New York (and as I said, it’s almost comical at this point for her to pretend that her route to winning the party nomination is one in which Obama is not utterly destroyed, something else I wish Obama would articulate more often to all who have ears to hear).

    So in response, Obama should ask Paul Gibson who exactly he’s referring to, as I said. And if Gibson says it’s someone else besides Obama, then he should be told to make that plain the next time he decides to start acting like an imbecile (a comment like this coming in the wake of North Carolina Governor Mike Easley’s “pansy” reference here means apparently that our political discourse is picking up speed as it slides further into the gutter).

    Obama should just stick to the “bread and butter” issues where he beats Hillary; the energy bill was not a good vote, but again, it helped his state, whereas the bankruptcy non-no vote by Hillary hurts a lot more people. And of course, he’s been right all along on the war (by the way, April has been the worst month for troop deaths – 49, I believe – since last September). And if he thinks Hillary’s mandate for universal coverage is bad, he should explain why in terms a four-year-old child can understand (Willard Mitt Romney did the same thing in Massachusetts, with questionable results). And there are a lot of other issues where Obama can speak with typical eloquence and remind voters that, “oh yeah, this guy gets it after all.”

    And one more thing: I’m tired of watching Democrats, in essence, apologize for being smart. Obama was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and was graduated magna cum laude from that university in ’91. That’s a strength, and it should be noted accordingly (subtly, I know). As for whether or not anyone who watches Faux News and takes it seriously will appreciate that…well, I think we just answered our own question.

    At any rate, he’s received a lot of flak and dished some out, but he needs to “get his back up” a bit more (apparently the latest – and final, I hope – Wright speech showed that a bit). The voters of this country understand and appreciate trying to “remain above the fray,” but what they understand is someone responding with a bit of a “chip on the shoulder” also.

    I’m just concerned because I watched the John Edwards candidacy get knocked off in part through a preoccupation with media nonsense to the point where it consumed any possible discussion of actual issues (in his case, he was also hurt by a pretty thorough media blackout), and I don’t want to see that again if I can help it. We have too many problems to fix in this country to let a scenario occur allowing John Sidney McCain III to get sworn into office on January 21st next year.

    Update 4/30: I meant to link to this great related Daily Kos post earlier.

    Update 1 5/1: This was some interesting nonsense by Gail Collins in the New York Times today...

    The Jeremiah Wright event has raised questions about Barack Obama’s presidential campaign that go beyond speculating about how aging white voters are going to react. (As an aging white voter, I would like to report that we have moved on and are now concentrating exclusively on the fate of the farm bill.)

    Obviously, Obama doesn’t share Wright’s racial paranoia. But the saga does play into Hillary Clinton’s most powerful argument: that he is not seasoned enough to be elected president.
    So...Obama isn't "seasoned" enough because he doesn't share the "racial paranoia" of a controversial preacher undergoing what I would call an unprecedented amount of media saturation?

    It's not even lunchtime yet, and I already have a headache.

    Update 2 5/1: As Atrios sez, more like this.

    More Anti-Dem Spin From "The Brian Williams Network"

    I came across the following “hatchet job” masquerading as reporting from MSNBC Mike Viqueira here (concerning the 110th Congress)…

    So far this year, the stimulus package has passed, and that's about it. It has been slow going, no question. Behind the scenes, the Democratic leaders are still wrestling with the question of how to handle the president's latest request for war funding, this time for $108 billion.
    Funny that Viqueira should mention the latest war funding demand hissy fit request, since Kagro X of The Daily Kos addressed that subject here (including Dubya’s promised veto if more funding is included for our military to receive the education they were promised upon enlistment; the Repugs’ protest over requiring President Stupid Head to sign waivers when he rotates untrained, unrested, and unarmored troops back into combat; Dubya’s demand that the war be funded through his term and six months into the term of his successor, and on and on).

    They are looking at legislation to ease the housing crunch.
    True (and by the way, it’s worth noting here that the Dems’ legislation is picking up traction, even among GOP converts).

    The farm bill has been on the verge of closure for weeks, if not months.
    True again, but farm policy is typically a tangled web, so much so that a farm bill passed in 2002 has been renewed five times; this tells us that a new bill is nearing completion, so even though it might emerge as a treasure trove of giveaways to well-invested players, it would be best for everyone to wait out the process, since signoff could come inside of two weeks (and why the hell does President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History care about a farm bill anyway?).

    And Democrats are clamoring for a second stimulus package for the economy, this time focused on extending unemployment insurance, infrastructure spending, and other items that they failed to pass in the first version.
    Correction – all the items that had to be removed to get it past the congressional Roadblock Republicans.

    But none of this is going to be easy. And on the fundamental job of Congress -- to pass spending bills to keep the government functioning -- it is quite possible, if not likely, that Democrats will simply punt it all into next year, thereby giving the new president, who they obviously hope will be one of their own, a clean slate on which to enact new policies and priorities.
    That’s an outrageous accusation with no substantive proof at all, particularly pathetic when it was the Repugs who did that to 9 of 11 appropriations bills when they lost Congress in November 2006.

    I’ll tell you what; here’s a list of accomplishments for the 110th Congress as of about a year ago – if I come across any updates, I’ll post them here as soon as I can.

    And by the way, it’s not as if Viqueira hasn’t carried water for the Repugs before, as noted here (truly repellent stuff on the Mark Foley scandal).

    (One more thing - Williams "responds" to his network's failure to cover the scandal of the military analysts here...h/t Atrios).

    An Energy “Solution” That Taxes Only Our Sanity

    There aren’t too many occasions where I have principled disagreements with Patrick Murphy, but this is one of them.

    This Courier Times story tells us that both Patrick and Repug U.S. House challenger Tom Manion want to suspend the gas and diesel taxes for the summer. Even though it would be nice to alleviate the pinch on my wallet any way possible when I fill up the Doomsy-mobile, I am honestly concerned by the loss in revenue (approximately $10 billion by some estimates) that would be caused by a meager savings at the pump.

    However, it should be noted that Patrick wisely wants to make up that lost revenue by suspending the obscene tax breaks lavished upon our energy companies (and a good start in that process is to try and get this piece of legislation moving).

    Barack Obama quite rightly is opposed to suspending the tax for the summer, which has earned him the vilification of both Hillary Clinton and John McCain; “Senator Honor And Virtue” apparently came up with this hare-brained idea. And I have to tell you that Hillary’s umbrage here is positively hilarious, given her one-time opposition to suspending the tax here as well as her numerous flip-flops on ethanol.

    And on this subject, I must tell you that it truly pains me to give Little Tommy Friedman credit for anything, but he’s absolutely “on the beam” in his column in the New York Times today (noted here, among others). Even though I think every non-Iraq war topic he writes about for the rest of his life is going to represent an attempt to distance himself from that catastrophe and his morally repugnant cheerleading, he’s right about the fact that we have a ways to go in this country when it comes to funding and developing clean energy and making that the predominant consideration in our energy policy (though if we could use the hot air from what passes for political discourse in this country, we’d achieve energy efficiency for all eternity).

    No Way To Run A “Necktie Party”

    This item from the New York Times blog The Lede tells us that the judge who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death recently voiced some regrets over the final moments of the former Iraqi strongman.

    Chief Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman said that legal and religious rules were broken during the hanging that took place on December 30, 2006, according to CNN.

    “It was uncivilized and backward,” he said. “In Iraqi law, there are no public executions. [The Sunni feast of Id al-Adha] is a time of love, tranquility and reconciliation, not a time for executions.”
    This tells us that there was a lot more that was wrong with the trial than the atmosphere in which the sentence was carried out…

    The court itself was set up illegitimately by the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority, under conditions of an illegal war and occupation. It was funded with $138 million in U.S. aid. Every aspect of the case, including courtroom procedures, the prosecution’s case, even the layout of the courtroom were determined by the U.S. American advisors effectively controlled the process every step of the way--directly and repeatedly intervening throughout the trial to control the evidence and shape the outcome.

    During the course of the trial, three defense attorneys were murdered and another abducted and wounded. One presiding judge was forced to resign because he was allegedly too sympathetic to the defense; his replacement had family members killed in one of the massacres Saddam (was) tried for. Prosecutors often delayed giving evidence to the defense or didn’t provide it at all. According to Human Rights Watch, microphones were sometimes shut off and translators stopped by the Iraqis and Americans in charge if defense testimony didn’t suit them.

    A prime U.S. objective was covering up its own complicity in Saddam Hussein’s crimes against the Iraqi people, and making sure none of this came to light. The only charges against Hussein heard before his execution concerned the 1982 Dujail massacre (where 148 were killed after an assassination attempt on Hussein)--not Hussein’s massacres against the Kurds, his invasion of Iran, his use of poison gas, or his slaughter of communists after the 1963 Ba’ath coup--because all could have gotten into U.S. involvement.
    And this tells us that Tauriq Aziz, formerly of Hussein’s regime, went on trial in Baghdad yesterday over his alleged involvement in the murder of 42 people, and Ali Hassan al-Majid – also known as “Chemical Ali” - is already on death row, having been convicted last year of leading a campaign in which tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds were massacred in the late 1980s (he is too ill to attend court proceedings related to his appeal because he has high blood pressure and diabetes, as the story tells us).

    Remember when these were the only bad guys over these we had to worry about, featured prominently on the “deck of Iraqi playing cards” back when we only had to worry about 140 casualties among our military while President Clueless had his “Mission Accomplished” moment (I’d better stop – getting a little too painful).

    And to give an indication of our “success” over there (and as always, I’m never blaming our military who were totally set up to fail by our ruling cabal), the “Lede” post tells us…

    On Monday, (Hussein’s) 71st birthday was celebrated by hundreds of schoolchildren carrying flowers, dancing and singing in his honor (in his home village, Awja, near Tikrit), according to reports.

    A Shiite back in Baghdad told Agence France-Presse that the occasion was a “sign of democracy in Iraq” since the mourners were “free to celebrate the birthday of a man … who brutalised this country for decades.” But the only adult interviewed by The Associated Press felt less than free. Indeed, he refused to disclose his name “due to fear of reprisals.”
    Glad to see that “freedom is (still) on the march” (see the 2/21/05 Brussels remarks from here).

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Tuesday Stuff

    K.O. presents Ken Rudin of NPR, the “Worst Person In The World” for comparing Hillary Clinton to a knife-wielding, homicidal maniac (and that was AFTER she won Pennsylvania – just kidding, people; Stephen Grover of Burger King is my choice, though, since he impugned Florida migrant tomato pickers online for asking for a penny more per pound even though Taco Bell and McDonald’s already agreed, and to do it using his elementary school daughter’s screen name – niiiiice!)…

    …and Bob Cesca of HuffPo here makes some really compelling arguments as to why I don’t give a hoot in hell about Rev. Jeremiah Wright – he could strut down Broad Street in a neon clown suit, a ‘fro with a pic stuck in the middle of it, wraparound shades and platform shoes, and I would still mutter “uh huh” and turn to the Op-Ed section of any paper handy at the moment instead – besides, although I hear about Hagee in passing, I’m STILL not hearing anything about McCain and this guy…

    Update 5/2/08: This is a start.

    ...“The Pap Attack” takes on GOP “fiscal conservatism”...

    ...and last but far from least, a great big Happy 40th Birthday goes out to radio station WMMR in these parts and around the world (with Pierre Robert delivering his "Beer Baptismal" during that station's "Day Off At The Slopes" about a year ago, with commentary by Preston and Steve and Jerry Garcia playing in the background, appropriately enough).

    “Righting” An Imaginary Wrong

    Before this session of the Supreme Court began last September, the New York Times told us the following (I highlighted this in the following post on Justice John Paul Stevens also)…

    The case that will most test the court’s ability to rise above partisanship is a challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law. Indiana is one of a growing number of states that require voters to present a government-issued photo ID. Such laws have been billed as anti-vote-fraud measures, but there is little evidence of vote fraud at the polls. The Republicans who have pushed these laws are trying to make it hard for poor and minority voters, who are less likely than other groups to have drivers’ licenses — and more likely to vote Democratic — to cast ballots. The court has traditionally championed voting rights, but a conservative majority may boost Republican chances in 2008 by endorsing this disturbing barrier to voting.
    They absolutely nailed it (and here's more). But the really depressing part is that Stevens helped them go along with it, even though the voter ID law would have ended up still enforced anyway.

    Amanda Terkel and The Guardian tell us here that…

    To justify his decision Stevens had to point to an anecdotal example of ballot box stuffing in the 1868 New York City elections during the notorious Tammany Hall era, an instance of one person committing voter fraud in the 2004 elections in the state of Washington and a 2003 case of fraud in an Indiana mayoral primary election. The last example, however, involved an absentee ballot, which would be not covered under this new law.

    On May 6, voters without photo IDs may cast provisional ballots. More likely, they'll just stay home. Writing the dissent, justice David Souter predicted: "Indiana's 'voter ID law' threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting right of tens of thousands of the state's citizens and a significant percentage of those individuals are likely to be deterred from voting." This last scenario is exactly what conservatives want.

    In Indiana, 13% of registered voters lack the documents needed to obtain a license, and therefore, cast a ballot. These restrictions disproportionately affect not only low-income, minority and elderly voters, but also disabled, homeless, transgender and urban residents, leading to lower levels of voter participation.

    Additionally, these affected voters tend to vote Democratic, as Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales were more than aware. A 2007 study (pdf) for the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity and Race found that just 81.7% of Democrats in Indiana have access to a photo ID, compared with 86.2% of Republicans.
    And McClatchy tells us here that…

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court's decision Monday to uphold Indiana's photo ID law in elections will permit Republican-dominated legislatures in nearly a dozen other states to pass legislation that liberal political advocates say will disenfranchise poorer, Democratic-leaning voters.

    Project Vote, a liberal-leaning voter registration group, said 59 voter ID bills have been introduced in 24 states — nearly all of them by Republicans — during the 2008 legislative session. Forty are pending. Republican legislators in 11 states also are pushing bills to require proof of citizenship to register to vote.
    I sincerely this ruling does not end up as a valedictory of sorts for a man who said, “I don’t think of myself as a liberal at all,” even though he wrote a stinging dissent from the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore, but if it does, Judge Stevens only has himself to blame.

    Update 5/6/08: Wow, nice job, you six! You'd better hope Obama doesn't end up 12 votes short (assuming these sisters would have voted for him, of course).

    Update 5/16/08: And this is another unholy consequence (h/t J Street).

    A Common American Of Uncommon Courage

    The New York Times ran this editorial on Sunday in praise of Laura Berg, a VA nurse who received the new PEN/Katherine Anne Porter First Amendment Award.

    As the Times tells us…

    The PEN American Center, the literary organization committed to free expression, is honoring an American most people in this country have never read or even heard of: Laura Berg. She is a psychiatric nurse at a Veterans Affairs hospital who was threatened with a sedition investigation after she wrote a letter to the editor denouncing the Bush administration’s bungling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war.

    That’s right, sedition: inciting rebellion against the government. We suppose nothing should surprise us in these days of government zealotry. But the horror and the shame of that witch hunt should shock everyone.

    Her superiors at the hospital soon alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and impounded her office computer, where she keeps the case files of war-scarred veterans she treats. Then she received an official warning in which a Veterans Affairs investigator intoned that her letter “potentially represents sedition.”

    It took civil rights litigators and Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico to “act forcefully” in reminding the government of the Constitution and her right to free speech. The Department of Veterans Affairs retreated then finally apologized to the shaken Ms. Berg.
    After I read this, I found this Truthout article about the origin of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to learn more about how “sedition” could apply in this context, and the article tells us that the Acts were written because we were upset with France (sound familiar?) over their attempt to extract a bribe from three of our emissaries who were meeting with that country to get them to stop attacking our ships (France was mad because we’d signed a treaty with the British without their knowledge…yes, there was actually a time when we weren’t a superpower, though, sadly, we may see that day again).

    As the Truthout article tells us…

    The Sedition Act made it unlawful for any person to write, print, publish, or speak anything "false, scandalous and malicious" about the government, either Congress or the Executive, if it was done with the intent to defame or to bring the government "into contempt or disrepute," or to excite the hatred of the people against the United States.

    Does this remind you of John Ashcroft's December 6th (2002) rant before Congress in which he equated civil liberties with aid to terrorists and declared that any public debate would "give ammunition to America's enemies"?

    The Alien and Sedition Laws were a blot on the democratic record of this country. They were not used to protect against dangerous aliens. The Alien Act was used by Federalists to keep out of Congress qualified Democratic candidates who had only recently become U.S. citizens (such as Swiss immigrant, Albert Gallatin, who two years later became Secretary of the Treasury under President Thomas Jefferson). The Sedition Law was used to arrest, prosecute, and jail Democratic newspaper editors who dared to oppose the Administration.
    And by the way, the Albert Gallatin award, as Wikipedia notes here, is “the United States Department of the Treasury's highest career service award.” I know, because my father received it shortly before he retired from government service.

    But more to the point of the post, I think we should all ponder Laura Berg’s example briefly and see how we emulate her courageous act, recalling the following (as the Times tells us)…

    Ms. Berg identified herself as a V.A. nurse when, soon after Katrina’s horrors, she sent her impassioned letter to The Alibi, a paper in Albuquerque. “I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government,” she wrote. “We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.”
    She received the award last night, and I sincerely hope that a splendid time was had by all.

    Nothing Left To Fight For, Then

    This story tells us that Repug U.S. House Rep Paul Broun of (wait for it…) Georgia...

    …wants to stop the sale of Playboy and Penthouse at military bases around the world, invoking an argument that at the very least is scientifically questionable: that consuming even soft pornography makes men more prone to committing sex crimes. A doctor by profession, Broun says he began drafting the bill after a constituent described her distress at having watched, along with her young children, an officer buy a nudie magazine at a military exchange store.
    I can just imagine the effect of Broun’s actions now…


    “Sir! Yes, Sir!”

    “March on down to the PX and pick me up the latest issues of Busty Beauties, Gent, and Celebrity Skin! ON THE DOUBLE!”

    “Sir! No, Sir!”


    “Sir! The private cannot comply as ordered because U.S. House Representative Paul Broun of Georgia had those magazines banned Sir!”

    Or something like that (yes, I know there was a bit of “license” there)…

    And I would strongly advise Broun’s “constituent” here to grow up. Allowing this indulgence among our military men, many of whom are at their physical and sexual peak, is the very least we can do considering the likelihood that they could be killed or wounded (along with our women, of course) in combat.

    As the story tells us, though…

    Broun has been in Congress since last year, when he was elected to replace the 10th District representative, who died of cancer. This July he faces a primary vote against a conservative member of the state's House of Representatives, Barry Fleming, in a district Broun describes as very Republican. But Broun denies the bill is linked to the election. "The purpose is just to get DoD to uphold the law," he says.
    And if you believe that, then I’ll bet you believe that everyone buys Playboy and Penthouse only for the news articles.

    Also, this takes you to more information on Broun. And you really don't have to wonder whether or not he has actually served, do you?

    Dubya’s “Taxing” Demagoguery On The Economy

    President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History thus sayeth the following here… (not sure why CNN mixed this with a story on North Korea - maybe to lessen the blow of bad news..??).

    Bush said people are looking to leaders in Congress to take action, but "all they are getting is delay."

    Speaking from the Rose Garden, Bush blasted Congress for not doing enough to address Americans' financial fears.

    Asked if he was premature in saying the economy is not in a recession, Bush said "the average person doesn't really care what we call it."

    "The average person wants to know whether or not we know that they're paying higher gasoline prices and they're worried about staying in their homes," he said.
    As if he would know anything about “an average person”…

    It is truly incomprehensible for this man to blame anyone else but himself and his puppet master Deadeye Dick for the price of gas, considering that he said during the 2000 presidential campaign here that he would use his “force of personality” to help the Saudis “increase the supply” (the first clue to our corporate media that something was wrong with this guy, to say nothing of the tax cuts he has showered on his friends in the energy business who have delivered only more misery at the pump in response...more on them in a second).

    And as far as the economy is concerned (more “department of the obvious” stuff, I know, from here)…

    (Dubya’s tax) cuts were an utter failure. Business investment has always recovered after a recession, but this was the most sluggish recovery in memory. As a result, business investment has grown 65% more slowly since the peak of the business cycle five years ago than the average for similar periods after nine cycle peaks in the last 60 years. (A business cycle includes a recession and the expansion until the next recession. The peak of a business cycle occurs just before a recession.)

    In the recession and recovery of 1990-1994, instead of cutting taxes, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton signed tax increases into law. Yet businesses’ investment grew much faster during that recovery than it has during the last four years.

    The Bush tax cuts have been a waste precisely because they were targeted at business owners and the wealthiest Americans, rather than the average consumer whose increased demand and consumption would have made it sensible for businesses to invest.
    (And speaking of the economy, as well as the price of gas...).

    265 days and counting, people…

    A Corporate Media "Sign 'O The Times"

    (Now watch me get sued by The Artist Formerly Known As…).

    This post by Meteor Blades over at The Daily Kos today pretty much captured how I feel and what I wanted to say about the fact that our dear cousins who work for “news” operations with initials for names have pretty much ignored what I would call the story of the year (and in the running for story of the decade as far as I’m concerned).

    And that would be the total co-opting of our military analysts by Don Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to the point where these people went on T.V. to provide commercials for the war and thus feather their own financial nests; the problem is that their words utterly flew in the face of reality to the point where our military was killed in ever-increasing numbers, to say nothing of other coalition force members as well as innocent Iraqis (all of this was thoroughly and expertly documented by Times reporter David Barstow a week ago Sunday).

    And as much as I want to praise Meteor Blades here, I have to make a minor correction; as Media Matters tells us here, though “legitimate” news organizations are providing the proverbial sound of crickets in response, Jon Stewart and Comedy Central paid attention.

    As I was digesting all of this, I happened to come across a post to the blog of Brian Williams and NBC News (didn’t know they had one) from HuffPo. In the post, Williams employs the typical “kill the messenger” strategy concerning the Times instead of legitimately reporting on the numerous questions raised by Barstow’s account.

    Williams starts by noting that the circulation of the Times has decreased (something else noted here and here), but to be fair, that is true of practically all newspapers in this country (as much as I wanted to pillory the Inky over it, it really wasn’t news, I thought...also, the recession has more than a little to do with that, I'm sure). Of course, Williams’ “NBC Nightly News” broadcast is apparently doing well in the ratings in what seems to be a nip-and-tuck battle with its ABC equivalent (with their ratings, CBS and Little Katie Couric might as well be up against a test pattern).

    After noting the Times’ circulation loss, Williams tells us the Times carried “an op-ed piece by Elizabeth Edwards bemoaning the lack of serious, in-depth coverage of the political race” (and she was right, of course, though that’s true of ALL media, particularly broadcast) and then proceeds to list the stories in the Times that caught his attention in the most snarky way possible.

    And as if that isn’t enough, Williams links to a Wall Street Journal screed by Peggy Noonan which he considers typical of Noonan’s “Pulitzer”-worthy commentary (I’ll try to save you the time and annoyance by telling you that she thinks undergoing an airport security check is “demoralizing to our society,” and she also notes that no one in the terminal en route to their planes was watching Wolf Blitzer’s report on the PA primary – a small victory for common sense, I’ll admit – though noting the Dem contest between HRC and Barack Obama gives her the opportunity to depict him as “a snooty lefty, as the glamorous, ambivalent candidate from Men's Vogue” and mention flag lapel pins for, oh, I’d say about the two millionth freaking time, while John McCain “carries (America’s history) in his bones,” and George W. Milhous Bush “has left on-the-ground conservatives…feeling undefended, unrepresented, and alone”).

    Yep, I would say that Williams’ news judgment, or lack thereof as far as I’m concerned, is truly on display here.

    So just to recap, Brian Williams of NBC News has pretty much run away from the true scandal of the bought-and-paid-for military analysts polluting our media, but he somehow believes he still has the right to take the New York Times, the paper that broke the story wide open, to task over it’s coverage selections that aren’t to his liking.

    And by the way, here is Williams failing to ask New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg about his surveillance of peaceful anti-Bush protestors during the 2004 Republican National Hatefest; here he is erroneously implying that trying to impose a timeline for withdrawal in an Iraq war funding bill, something the Dems have sought repeatedly, would leave our troops “high and dry”; and here he is stating that scientists disagree on whether or not global warming is man-made, even though the author of the study he cited said that it is.

    I will give Williams some minor praise for blowing off that ridiculous White House correspondents’ dinner the other night so he could be at home to spend some quality time with the baubles and trinkets awarded to him by his handlers over lo these many years (and it’s funny, by the way, that Williams himself has a blog, given what he generally thinks of people who do this, as noted here).

    Update: I just came across Glenn Greenwald's typically thorough refutation of Williams here (h/t Will Bunch), using bigger words and longer paragraphs; Glenn's stuff is always worth a read.

    Update 5/5/08: This may not be the most boring blog post I've ever read, but it's right up there.

    Monday, April 28, 2008

    Monday PM Stuff

    Go on with your bad self, Barack (from "Barely Political" - wish he'd gone all "gangsta" on Faux News; as long as they're going to try to slam him anyway for imaginary nonsense, try giving them something they can work with, though you have to wonder why he felt like he had anything to prove to them at all)...

    ...and keeping it musical (more so than the prior video), here's "Cheney's Toy" by James McMurtry (video by Carolyn Macartney)...

    ...uh oh; could it be that the "straight talk express" has derailed again??...

    ...and as jedreport says, how come he always makes so much damn sense?!

    Petri Dishes Some Pro-Gun Pabulum

    The Bucks County Courier Times ran the following Guest Opinion from PA Repug House Rep Scott Petri on Saturday in which he hailed the passage of HR 1845. And Scott is fairly bubbling over concerning this bill that adds onto existing after-the-fact penalties for gun crime, though it is missing a vital piece…

    I’ll let “law and order” Scott tell you himself…

    The Levdansky amendment which failed to pass, did not create…a database of lost and stolen guns. Encouraging the reporting of lost and stolen guns is important, even though local law enforcement indicates that is already done. A local chief of police has said that of the 100 -plus crimes involving lost or stolen guns last year, 100 percent had been reported already.

    The sale of handguns by straw purchasers to hardened criminals who have committed violent crimes is a serious problem. That is why I have introduced legislation which requires a mandatory prison sentence of five years for such offenders (House Bill 784). Only when our judiciary begins to enforce stricter and harsher penalties will we be able to reduce the number of handguns getting into the hands of convicted criminals.
    Hmm, the Levdansky amendment. Why exactly does that ring a bell?

    Oh yeah, I remember now; it’s because Scott and some other cowardly Repugs voted against the amendment here even though it “was backed by law-enforcement agencies, city councils and district attorneys in every region of the state.”

    And the issue of whether or not Levdansky created “a database of lost and stolen guns” is utterly irrelevant. The amendment required handgun owners to report, within three days, if their weapons were lost or stolen.

    That’s it. And as you noted above, Scott, of the 100-plus crimes involving lost or stolen guns last year, 100 percent had been reported already.

    So if reporting a missing gun is pretty much a formality anyway for a law-abiding gun owner in this state, something that they surely can do within three days, WHY THE HELL DID YOU VOTE AGAINST LEVDANSKY??!!

    Don’t worry, I know the answer (think NRA, campaign contributions...ka-chiing!). And by the way, here’s some place where we can learn more and try to put a stop to this madness (a tough battle in this state, but definitely one worth fighting).

    Another "Triumph" Of "Free" Trade

    As noted here, Dubya met today with Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom and of course praised the president of that nation for implementing “reforms.”

    And as noted here from the White House site (a repository of lies if one ever existed), President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History said…

    We've had a good discussion about a variety of issues. We discussed bilateral relations between Guatemala and the United States, which are very strong. We are friends. We treat each other with respect. Our objective with U.S. foreign policy is to have a neighborhood that is peaceful and prosperous, where social justice is important; want to achieve social justice through good health policy, good education policy, good judicial policy. The United States is pleased to help this government as best as we possibly can help the average citizen get a good education and have good health care.
    I’m not sure I have the time to refute that paragraph as thoroughly as I should, but I don’t know how anyone can consider Guatemala “peaceful” (and “prosperous” is definitely open to interpretation also).

    Reviewing random news stories related to Guatemala since Colom took over this January (not blaming him exclusively for the violence endemic in that country), you find an account of 30 police officers taken hostage (February), kidnapped Belgian tourists (March) a political figure accused of ordering murders of his enemies (March also - let me put it you this way; a “CSI” show from there would probably run 24/7/365), as well as the random lethal earthquake and occasional disaster such as a bus accident that killed 37 people recently.

    And by the way, the overall poverty rate is 51 percent (some of the people comprising that stat are in the pic, I’m sure).

    Also, as noted here (pertaining to the issue of “social justice”)…

    The AFL-CIO accused Guatemala of failing to meet the terms of a free-trade agreement by allowing companies to bust union organizing campaigns and not prosecuting murders of union members.

    The complaint by the largest U.S. labor federation is the first under the Central American Free Trade Agreement and forces the Bush administration to decide whether to begin consultations on the case with Guatemala.

    ``There is a climate of terror for trade unionists,'' Thea Lee, the chief international economist at the AFL-CIO, said in an interview. ``But so far the Bush administration hasn't lifted a finger to enforce any of the labor chapters.''
    And if anyone is wondering why trade unionists in Colombia are opposing a trade agreement between us and their country, consider that the delay is leverage of sorts for the unions to demand justice for the murders of members and organizers. Once the agreement is signed, as is the case with CAFTA and Guatemala, that leverage is gone, and there’s no motivation for anyone in either government to do the right thing.

    There actually is some good news here; this story tells us that USAID, Mercy Corps and Wal-Mart are working on behalf of rural farmers in Guatemala. And that sounds nice until you realize that, as noted here, Wal-Mart can pretty much set whatever price they want for the goods grown by the farmers, and somehow I can’t believe that the people behind those big, yellow, smiley faces are going to be too keen on the whole “workers rights” concept.

    So it sounds like Guatemala is right on track for that whole “social justice,” “peace and prosperity” thing as far as President Clueless is concerned. Just don’t expect that 51 percent number to budge anytime soon, OK?

    “Insensitive” Is As “Insensitive” Does

    John W. McBush said here that Barack Obama is “insensitive” to poor people.

    As you consider this, I would ask that you also take a look at the photo. It is that of Dubya (of course) presenting a birthday cake to McBush in Arizona on the airport tarmac as New Orleans was drowning from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

    (And though it is a comparatively minor point, I should note that the cake melted in the heat and nobody ate it anyway; I detest wasting food, for whatever that’s worth).

    Also, that “straight-talking maverick” had a chance to vote for Dubya’s feeble economic stimulus package (the bill being a gesture in futility when you consider the more endemic root causes of our recession), but he neglected to do so (typical for his record of voting absenteeism in the Senate). Though an act of desperation, the stimulus measure will still help (however temporarily) many of the poorest in this country (and by the way, both Obama and Hillary Clinton voted for it).

    Now who’s “insensitive”?

    Today's "Kristol Mess" Moment

    The New York Times’ quota hire opines as follows on Barack Obama today (from here)…

    On Friday in Indiana, Obama talked tough in response to a question: “I get pretty fed up with people questioning my patriotism.” And, he continued, “I am happy to have that debate with them any place, anytime.” He’s happy to have fantasy debates with unnamed people who are allegedly challenging his patriotism. But he’s not willing to have a real debate with the real person he’s competing against for the nomination.
    From here, dated last February (God, this was easy)…

    But Obama chose to present his flag-pin removal as a principled gesture. "You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest."

    Leave aside the claim that "speaking out on issues" constitutes true patriotism. What’s striking is that Obama couldn’t resist a grandiose explanation. Obama’s unnecessary and imprudent statement impugns the sincerity or intelligence of those vulgar sorts who still choose to wear a flag pin. But moral vanity prevailed. He wanted to explain that he was too good — too patriotic! — to wear a flag pin on his chest.
    See, Bill, there’s this thing called “Google” which you can use to search for topics and find out just how many times you’re lying when you concoct this dreck for all to see.

    Our “liberal media,” ladies and gentlemen…

    Repug Desperation Reigns In Bucks County, PA

    I really need to let everyone in on a hilarious new narrative emerging in the U.S. House 8th district contest between incumbent Dem Patrick Murphy and Repug challenger Tom Manion, and it is that, somehow, Patrick is “out of touch” with Bucks County because he supported Barack Obama, who was creamed in Bucks by Hillary Clinton last Tuesday.

    Just to repeat, Clinton’s triumph was owed more than anything else to Dem machine politics which worked in a state with a population that skews older versus that of the rest of the country, though as I’ve said several times from a Daily Kos post noting a poll taken right after the vote, Obama gained ground among whites 60 and older (men and women voters), those earning less than $50K, and Protestants between the Ohio and PA primaries.

    But those inconvenient facts aren’t stopping the Repugs from doing their little happy dance since the guy Patrick backed lost big time in Bucks (haven’t seen district-wide numbers, though), as typified in this clueless letter.

    I think those engaging in premature celebration would do well to remember that, for the first time, registered Democrats have overtaken registered Republicans in Bucks (as noted here), to say nothing of the entire state, and the unhappiness that has led people to do that isn’t likely to be lessened over the loss of one Dem versus another in the primary (there may be some defections to McCain in the general election, but I think that will largely constitute people who would have done that anyway in response to Flush Limbore’s little game for which he was called out by Diane Marseglia here).

    If this is a legitimate “issue” for the Repugs in the 8th district contest, then the biggest challenge we may have is fighting overconfidence (besides, if you’re going to talk about politicians tethered to unpopular presidential candidates, I’ll take Patrick’s endorsement of Obama versus the affiliation of the characters in the pic below; one is out, one remains, and one has about 266 days left).

    And by the way, to help Patrick, click here.

    Schooling Dubya On Student Loans

    President George W. Milhous Bush says here that…

    "Congress needs to pass legislation that would give my administration greater authority to buy federal student loans," Bush said. "By doing so, we can ensure that lenders will continue to participate in the guaranteed loan program and ensure that students continue to have access to tuition assistance."
    I think that statement gives us the order of Dubya’s true priorities here, by the way, namely that lenders come first and students second (and as you'll see, Dubya typically misses the boat when it comes to "guaranteed" loans).

    Interesting, isn’t it, how our “don’t know much about nothin’ at all” leader (apologies to Sam Cooke) has now become a cheerleader of sorts for students to receive affordable aid for advanced education.

    As this Village Voice article from January 2006 tells us, though, that was not always the case. Here’s a brief history: President Clinton tried to end the federally guaranteed student loan program in 1993 (guaranteed loans cost students more, of course), in favor of “direct” loans in which the Department of Education would receive U.S. Treasury funds and thus cut private lenders out of the picture.

    As you can imagine, the private lenders howled (including Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord), so both guaranteed and direct loans remained available. Eventually, though...

    Along with other student lenders, Sallie Mae sued Richard Riley, then secretary of education, in 2000, for offering discounts on interest rates and fees for Direct Loans in an attempt to keep the program competitive.

    The case became moot, though, after the 2000 election. President George Bush appointed William Hansen, the CEO of the Education Finance Council, another plaintiff in the suit, to be the deputy secretary of education. Bush's election, says the official, was the beginning of a war of attrition in the Office of Federal Student Aid, and by extension, the Direct Loan program. "The people Bush brought in told us we were no longer allowed to give speeches, talk to colleges, publish any brochures or reports, make any hires," he says. "The annual Direct Loan conference was canceled. Our communications person wasn't allowed to talk to the press without a [Bush] appointee in the room. You almost had to ask permission to go to the bathroom, and you never, ever got it."


    Ten years of government data now show that the guaranteed student loan program costs the government 10 times as much as Direct Loans, including administrative expenses. Yet since 1998, Direct Loans have dropped to just 23 percent of all student loans—a proportion that, in today's larger student loan market, translates to not quite $14.8 billion.
    The story also tells us that, in 2004, Sallie Mae’s market share beat out that of the Direct Loan program for the first time. However, last September, Dubya signed a Democratic-sponsored bill slashing subsidies to private lenders after “months of scandals involving kickback schemes and conflicts of interest among lenders and college officials” became apparent, including some rather unsavory doings with a certain U.S. House Minority Leader here.

    I don’t have an approximate number on how many billions were wasted by the Repugs’ favoritism towards private lenders at the expense of the direct loan program sponsored by President Clinton, but I’m sure it is a typically eye-popping number.

    So, as with so many other issues, Dubya would do well to shut his pie hole instead of trying to assume some imaginary rhetorical high ground on the matter of student loans. The habitual profligate waste sponsored by his party to which he cast a blind eye for so long would make a person of even slight moral and intellectual means blush with shame (though a delusional narcissist like our preznit is incapable of such reactions, as we know all too well by now).

    Sunday, April 27, 2008

    A "Top 40" Legend Departs

    This doesn't have anything to do with news, politics, or much of anything else, but I really should note the passing of "Big Ron" O'Brien of radio station WOGL in these parts (this post from blogger classicrockfm captures him pretty well and also includes today's obit in The Philadelphia Inquirer - he had been sick with pneumonia).

    In addition to his radio career, he also helped raise money for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, so he knew all about giving back also.

    I really think we should take note when someone who truly loves his or her work leaves our midst, so I just want to do that here. And as a tribute, here's "Let's Live For Today" by The Grass Roots, which he acknowledged numerous times as his favorite band.