Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Gift To The Bride

For Jenna Hager (nee Bush), a dose of humility based on this post.

Update 5/16/08: Oh, and by the way, Mrs. Hager, it was "practical" for Marine Lance Cpl. Casey Casanova also (here).

A Bang-Bang Manion Freeper Misfire

This story in the Bucks County Courier Times tells us that…

Compelled by the murder of Philadelphia police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Thursday called on Pennsylvania's congressional delegation to re-enact a federal assault weapons ban.

“This issue is quite simple,” Rendell said in a statement. “Either (you) support law enforcement or you don't. And if you don't, you'll have to tell the widow of the next victim or the young child of the next victim why you didn't vote to protect them.”
And according to this information from The Brady Campaign, Rendell is absolutely right…

Q: Does law enforcement support the ban on assault weapons?

A: Every major national law enforcement organization in the country supported the federal assault weapons ban and worked for its passage (note: the ban was passed in 1994 but Dubya allowed it to “sunset” in 2004 despite his campaign promise to renew it). Among the many law enforcement organization that supported the ban are the Law Enforcement Steering Committee, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major City Chiefs Association, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, the National Black Police Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Police Executive Research Forum, and the Police Foundation.

Q: Why should the federal assault weapons ban be renewed?

A: Even with the success of the ban, assault weapons still pose a threat to the safety of all Americans, and particularly to law enforcement officers. Tens of thousands of "grandfathered" assault weapons are still in circulation, and thousands more will go into circulation if the ban is not renewed and gun manufacturers begin producing and selling them again. As one leading law enforcement executive put it, the weapons banned by the 1994 law are nothing more than "cop-killer guns."
And this article tells us...

"We've gone backwards in a lot of areas," says Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "In effect, the only real gun law we've got on the books now is the Brady background checks."

Robert J. Spitzer, a distinguished service professor of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland, who wrote the book "The Politics of Gun Control," agrees. "It's an issue that's largely off the table," Spitzer explains. "You've got, basically, the Democrats running away from the issue and deciding that this is not where they want to hang their hats, and Republicans who are . . . extremely sympathetic to the policy goals of the [National Rifle Association]."
And as far as last year’s Virginia Tech shootings are concerned…

The expiration of the ban may have had some consequences in Blacksburg. ABC News has speculated that the shooter probably used a high-capacity ammunition clip of a type that was prohibited under the ban but became widely available when the ban expired. The other major piece of anti-gun legislation passed in the Clinton era, the Brady Bill, has been weakened as well, because of rules put in place by former Attorney General John Ashcroft when he took office in 2001.
And here’s more on the Dems and their “running away” from the gun control issue, as Helmke noted…

The desire to court voters in swing states with a large percentage of gun owners is the primary reason that Democrats have recently tended to view the issue of gun control as poisonous. There were other reasons as well, however. First, there were fears that support for gun control could split a key Democratic constituency: union members. A survey done by Americans for Gun Safety has shown that 54 percent of union households own a gun. Moreover, gun control is an issue with what Spitzer describes as "hassle" and "intensity" factors that don't favor advocates. Supporters of gun rights are passionate in a way that supporters of gun control are not -- gun-rights backers are single-issue voters and activists, while on the other side, Spitzer says, "the typical gun control supporter is somebody for whom the issue is not a No. 1 concern, it's No. 6 or No. 8."

Doug Hattaway, who was national spokesman for Gore's 2000 campaign and is now the president of Hattaway Communications, concurs. Hattaway notes that organizations like the Brady Campaign cite the high public support for gun control measures, but says that support doesn't translate into electoral victories for Democrats.

"There's a difference between agreeing on an issue and having it motivate your vote," Hattaway says. "Yes, people agree, but there's not a potent pro-gun control constituency in national elections."
And the article also notes the influence of “Third Way” characters such as Franklin Foer and one-time Dems Crazy Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman as individuals who did their best to steer the party away from gun control as an issue after the 2000 election, noting that Al Gore lost in southern states where the gun issue was considered part of the “culture war” that the Democrats perennially lost in prior elections for years (funny how that stuff slowly was trumped over time by our crappy economy, health care crisis and war without end in Iraq, wasn’t it?).

So with all of that background out of the way, let’s return to the Courier Times story…

Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-8, a co-sponsor of a bill to reinstitute the assault weapons ban and son of a former Philadelphia police officer, said the government needs to be “proactive” to quell gun violence.

“While I support the right of gun ownership and I believe in the Second Amendment, I strongly believe that if someone wants to fire an assault rifle they should join the military,” Murphy said.
Kudos to Patrick for reviving this issue and supporting Governor Rendell and Mayor Nutter.

So what does Patrick’s Repug challenger for the 8th District PA House seat have to say? Take a wild guess…

Tom Manion, a Republican from Doylestown Township, said the focus should be on stricter law enforcement, not on enacting more gun laws.

“I really don't think a ban on assault weapons is going to do anything to keep the criminals from getting their hands on guns,” Manion said.

He noted all three men police accused in the Port Richmond bank robbery and fatal shooting of Liczbinski were released early from previous prison sentences. Had they served their full sentences, Manion said, the suspects would have been in jail Saturday when the Philadelphia police officer was slain.

“It's easy to look at the Second Amendment, but we have to focus on keeping the criminals off the streets,” Manion said.
Maybe Manion ought to familiarize himself with the stories of James Oliver Huberty, who carried out the San Ysidro, CA McDonald’s massacre in 1984, or Sylvia Seegrist, who shot up the Springfield, PA Mall a year later. These people did not have prior records of criminal behavior, though they still committed horrific acts of gun violence.

Though Seegrist had been institutionalized prior to the shootings, apparently Huberty was not, though in the case of Seegrist, there was some aberrant behavior tipping people off to the fact that there was something wrong with her, and with Huberty, a police dispatcher gave the wrong address of the McDonald’s, which was part of the reason why the massacre wasn’t prevented (Huberty used a 9 MM Uzi among other weapons, and Seegrist used a Ruger Mini-14 light semiautomatic carbine rifle).

My point is this; why leave the responsibility for preventing gun violence solely in the hands of law enforcement? How sane a policy is it to not do all we can to stop shootings from assault weapons and expect police to magically somehow save the day a moment before the shooter pulls the trigger (to say nothing of the effect of this “willful blindness” on law enforcement, such as the tragic shooting of Sgt. Liczbinski)?

This is an issue the Dems need to confront head on, and kudos to Patrick for doing just that. In the meantime, Manion and his pals can do all the crowing they want about lenient sentences (perhaps an issue, even though according to this 2006 survey, the U.S. has the highest citizen incarceration rate of any other country). Meanwhile, we’ll be trying to save lives through passing common-sense gun laws.

Update: Speaking of Patrick, I don't know how he can continue to tolerate these people (here).

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Stuff

Comparing Arianna to "a hooker giving up a john," huh Smerky? All class, dude (and I'll clue you in on something; it's really pathetic when bald guys grow beards to compensate for follicle impairment - h/t Think Progress)...

...and I know this is waay too damn much of Lanny Davis, but just file this away and watch it later after Obama wins Oregon and ends this mess, and try not to laugh too hard.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (5/9/08)

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.

Combustible-dust rules. Voting 247-165, the House passed a bill (HR 5522) directing the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to adopt rules for controlling combustible dust at factories. The regulations would preempt any state rules that do less to protect workers from dust explosions and fires. The federal rules would be in addition to existing OSHA regulations for grain silos. The bill would require interim rules within 90 days of enactment and final ones within 18 months. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill, which is now before the Senate.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), and H. James Saxton (R., N.J.).

Not voting: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.).
And why would President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History not veto this bill, given the following (from here)…

Since George W. Bush became president, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history, public health experts say. It has imposed only one major safety rule. The only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court.

The agency has killed dozens of existing and proposed regulations and delayed adopting others. For example, OSHA has repeatedly identified silica dust, which can cause lung cancer, and construction site noise as health hazards that warrant new safeguards for nearly three million workers, but it has yet to require them.

“The people at OSHA have no interest in running a regulatory agency,” said Dr. David Michaels, an occupational health expert at George Washington University who has written extensively about workplace safety. “If they ever knew how to issue regulations, they’ve forgotten. The concern about protecting workers has gone out the window.”
Here is a link to the OSHA site, by the way; good luck getting blood from the proverbial stone.

Regulations delay. Voting 178-237, the House refused to delay action on new federal dust regulations until after completion of a government probe into causes of an explosion Feb. 7 at the Imperial Sugar refinery near Savannah, Ga., that killed 13 workers. The amendment was offered to HR 5522 (above).

A yes vote was to delay the bill.

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

Voting no: Brady, Fattah, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Not voting: Andrews.
Here’s more on the Imperial Sugar refinery explosion; I’m sure the families and friends of those who were killed or injured will be happy to know that the sickening Repug obstruction here was defeated (though kudos to LoBiondo and Chris Smith once again – another good vote).

Highway, transit spending. Voting 358-51, the House sent President Bush a bill (HR 1195) that would speed the release of billions of dollars previously authorized for highway and transit projects. The bill gives a green light to hundreds of earmarked projects and makes technical changes to expedite spending on other projects.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Not voting: Andrews.
I can’t believe Joe Pitts forgot to vote “No” here; I hope he’s feeling OK (and to help Bruce Slater, click here).


Federal aviation budget. Voting 88-0, the Senate took a preliminary step toward debating a bill (HR 2881) authorizing $51 billion for Federal Aviation Administration programs through fiscal 2012. A threatened GOP filibuster rooted in disputes over amendments then delayed the bill. The Senate conducted no other votes during the week.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.)
This week, the House took up bills to ease the U.S. housing crisis, while the Senate continued to debate federal aviation programs (and the farm-bill conference report may have come to a vote, but we'll find out...can you contain your excitement? :-).

Tom Manion, Master Of The Obvious

So Deadeye Dick Cheney dropped into Philadelphia recently to give a 10-minute speech about how peachy our economy is supposed to be at the Northeast Philadelphia Financial Center, then flew out as fast as he could (as noted here).

And Patrick Murphy wasted no time in calling him out…

“To tell Pennsylvania families that our economy is strong when so many of them are struggling is a slap in the face,” said Murphy, a Democrat who represents Bucks County and small parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia. “It's time for Democrats and Republicans to start working together to solve problems instead of pretending that there are none.”
And what does Murphy’s Repug opponent Tom Manion have to say about this?

(Manion), a Doylestown Township Republican running for Congress, called the stimulus plan (that Cheney propagandized about) a “short-term fix” and said the government needed to do more to deal with “significant problems” within the economy, particularly rising energy and health care costs.

“Much more needs to be done,” Manion said.
Yeah, like President Clueless filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the Saudis for restricting the flow of oil and driving up the price, as noted here (a short-term attempt at a solution I’ll admit, but better than nothing; of course, that will happen when Dubya is accepted into MENSA).

Given all of this, I thought it would be worthwhile to note the following costs we deal with every day and the response (or “non”-response, more likely) of the Repugs:

1) Health Insurance – As noted here…

Workers with job-based coverage for their families saw earnings rise 3% from 2001 to 2005, while their health insurance premium contribution increased 30%, according to the study by researchers at the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota.

The average cost nationally of family coverage during the period increased nearly $2,500, to $10,728 from $8,281.
In response, Dubya vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have provided a $30 billion extension of SCHIP coverage.

2) The Iraq War – As noted here…

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- The Iraq war has already cost the lives of nearly 4,000 U.S. troops, but there is another cost that is not so readily quantifiable: the economic toll. Forecasts of the cost to the U.S. have reached into the trillions of dollars, fueling a controversy over the impact on the budget and the economy.
And Dubya requested an additional $70 billion for the war, as noted here…

3) Other Expenditures - Lest we forget, our ruling cabal has provided or pledged...

  • $29 billion for the bailout of Bear Stearns, one of the largest investment banks and global trading firms in the world (here)

  • $770 million in emergency food aid worldwide (here)
  • But what about preserving the homes of the “working people of America,” to use Deadeye Dick’s parlance?


    WASHINGTON (AP) - President George W. Bush and Congress are clashing over how to address the U.S. housing crisis, clouding the prospects of an election-year rescue package.

    Bush said Wednesday he would veto Democrats' broad housing aid plan, saying it would not help struggling homeowners.

    The measure, aimed at preventing foreclosures, would have the government step in to insure up to $300 billion (¤194.4 billion) in new mortgages for distressed homeowners. A House vote is expected by Thursday (I believe it passed).
    So to summarize, Bushco continues to wage a war costing into the trillions of dollars (including $70 billion as noted above) while overseeing the $29 billion Bear Stearns bailout and requesting $770 million of food aid on top of that. Meanwhile, this regime won’t even bother to complain about the Saudis stringing us along over our oil dependency (profligate stupidity if it ever existed, primarily on our end) and denies expansion of medical coverage to sick families and children, and on top of that, opposes a $300 billion homeowner bailout over the subprime mortgage meltdown.

    (By the way, I’m not opposed to the food aid, but I am merely asking that you consider it in context with our other needs.)

    Yes, I would indeed agree with Tom Manion that “much more needs to be done.” And to do it, click here.

    And I can’t help but express my own, particular personal loathing over Cheney’s contamination of that location with his presence for this story – I’m glad my dad didn’t live to see this.

    "Dividing" The Dems At Obama’s Expense

    The New York Times presented more Democratic “doom and gloom” yesterday (from here)…

    All of this (re: Obama’s primary success) poses a challenge to Mr. Obama as he seeks to move the Clinton wing of the party beyond with (sic) the Clinton era without offending Mrs. Clinton’s considerable base of supporters. Exit polls in Indiana and North Carolina once again suggested just how cleaved the party is between young and old, white and black, lower-income and upper income.
    That’s interesting, given the fact that Obama’s support among white voters equals that of John Kerry four years ago (here). Also, this tells us that Obama is better at retaining Democrats for the general election against John W. McBush than Hillary. Finally, this tells us that Obama’s support remains unchanged after the “bitter” nonsense that played out during the PA primary and has pretty much rebounded after the manufactured media controversy surrounding a certain African American preacher here.

    I don’t know how “cleaved” the party truly is since Adam Nagourney of the Times doesn’t present any statistics to back up his charge (though I just did, of course).

    But not to be undaunted, he continues...

    “It’s going to be hard,” said Bob Kerrey, a former senator from Nebraska, and a supporter of Mrs. Clinton. “Part of what I’ve seen in this campaign is how difficult it is to unite this party: To unite voters in West Virginia with Democratic voters in South Central Los Angeles. That is what he has to do and what is going to be hard.”

    “He has to learn to set aside grievances; and there are going to be plenty of them,” Mr. Kerrey said. “Can we disagree without being disagreeable? The answer is, no. We get disagreeable. And this has been a disagreeable primary.”
    Concerning Bob Kerrey, I present the following quote from Wikipedia…

    "Even before John Edwards was chasing ambulances in North Carolina and Barack was voting ‘present’ in the Illinois state senate, Senator Clinton was involved in major policy initiatives."
    And as we know, Kerrey emphasized Obama’s middle name here and charged that Obama had attended “a secular madrassa,” whatever the hell that is (he later apologized...and by the way, voting "present" in the Illinois state legislature is perfectly acceptable).

    All class, that Bob Kerrey (and here's even more nonsense).

    (Former Senator and presidential candidate Gary) Hart recalled that after a similarly divisive primary battle against Walter F. Mondale in 1984, he made a point of throwing all his effort into trying to get his supporters behind Mr. Mondale. In that case, Mr. Hart was more equivalent to Mr. Obama than Mrs. Clinton, having drawn new voters into the primary system.

    “I went to the platform and moved his nomination by acclamation,” Mr. Hart recalled. “And then I went out and did over 40 campaign events for him on my own. And I was not able to move the younger and independent voters, as the results made clear.”
    Yeah, well, the problem in 1984 was the fact that Ronnie Baby’s popularity was starting to rebound somewhat and he suckered in the majority of those younger and independent voters. It was easy to buy into the narrative that the incumbent Reagan had found his stride and represented “morning in America,” the “shining city on the hill” and all of that blather, and Mondale was just some old, tired New Dealer who was able to zing the Gipper once in a debate but, otherwise, not present himself as an alternative that too many people wanted (ignoring Mondale’s vast experience in government and the fact that he would probably have proved to be highly competent at the very least).

    But it fits Nagourney’s own story line to suggest that the Dems were too “divided” between Mondale and Hart to come together once more against a highly popular Repug president who ended up wiping out Mondale anyway.

    I realize that our dear corporate media cousins are going to live off what I would call the “divided Democrats” myth at least until November, though I think it’s pretty obvious that the Repugs are hardly lined up behind “Senator Honor and Virtue” 100 percent.

    I’d rather be in our shoes than theirs. And no “crackpot history” lesson from The Old Gray Lady will change that fact.

    Update: And this turns out to be more good news for Obama.

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    Meet The "New" Boss, Comrade

    This MSNBC World Blog post tells us that Dmitry Medvedev was recently sworn in as the new Russian president, with Vladimir Putin still very visible and hanging around as prime minister.

    While press censorship is extreme in Russia, among other places, it should be noted that a white paper by Russian journalist Boris Nemtsov recently emerged (as noted here, it is not being carried by Russian bookstores, but it is available from the blog La Russophobe).

    As the Moscow Times tells us…

    After a one-paragraph review of Russia's success -- "true but only the lesser part of the truth" -- the authors launch into an unremitting assault on the crimes, follies and failures of the Putin administration. The central failure was not using the oil windfall to modernize the country's economy, army, health care, education and infrastructure.

    Authoritarianism only brought corruption on a colossal scale -- $300 billion a year. Transparency International ranks Russia 143rd on its Corruption Perceptions Index, along with Gambia and Togo. The authors' analysis of the larceny under Putin is sharp, detailed and convincing. They do not hesitate to call his a "criminal system of government."

    Meanwhile Russia is dying out. Men can expect to live less than 59 years ("I'm officially dead," a Russian friend said to me on turning 60). The annual numbers are bad -- car accidents (33,000), murder (30,000) and suicide (57,000). Drinking, smoking, poor diet and the lamentable health care system polish off even more.
    And as I noted here in March, Our Gal Condi Rice and Bob Gates had an opportunity to meet with leading Russian reformers in an attempt to put some pressure on Putin to try and reacquaint him with the concept of human rights in at least a rudimentary form, but chose not to sit down with the most influential individuals of that country.

    What a shame “no one could have predicted” this, even though President George W. Milhous Bush “looked into Vlad’s soul” years ago.

    Snarlin' Arlen Tries To Nix Bushco Court Compromise

    The news here I guess is that Bushco is actually giving ground to the Dems a bit (don’t worry, though – they’re still likely to get the upper hand).

    This New York Times story tells us the following…

    WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats and the White House moved ahead Wednesday with a compromise to break a years-long impasse over approving judges for the federal appeals court based in Ohio.
    The court in question is the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, by the way.

    But Senate Republicans seemed markedly unenthusiastic about the plan as the Judiciary Committee held hearings on two nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit who are at the heart of the compromise. One nominee is Helene N. White, a liberal Democratic candidate originally put forward by President Bill Clinton, while the other is Raymond M. Kethledge, a conservative Republican chosen by the Bush White House.

    One effect of the compromise would be to cement Republican conservative control of the court for the foreseeable future no matter who is elected president.
    So let me get this straight; the Repugs would end up with a 9-7 majority on the court if the deal goes through (as the story states), with White the Dem and Kethledge the GOP choice…and the Senate “Roadblock Republicans” are STILL unhappy??

    It would seem so; the Times story tells us…

    (Senate) Committee Republicans criticized the plan, saying it would allow the Democrats to shut down the confirmation process before other Bush appeals court nominees could be considered. They also made plain that they disapproved of Judge White, although their reasons for doing so were less clear. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, criticized some of Judge White’s rulings as a state judge.
    I haven’t been able to determine exactly what rulings Our Man Arlen was wondering about, but from this story, we know he asked about the following…

    "Did you ever get a (tax) bill that you didn't pay for a protracted period of time?" Specter asked White.

    She answered, "I paid what I believed to be my taxes at the time. And if it turns out it's not correct, then I'll pay whatever I'm supposed to pay."

    Specter launched into White's driving record, which she said includes speeding.

    Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy jumped in and said if no one could be a judge or U.S. senator because they've speeded "there's going to be a pretty darned empty chamber around here if that is the standard."

    Specter also hammered White on rulings that were overturned by a higher court, and forced her to acknowledge she doesn't have direct experience on what Specter termed "front-line issues" that federal appeals courts are dealing with -- such as whether the executive branch has overreached in trying to combat terrorism.

    "There's always a 'first time' with any subject matter. The question is how the judge approaches it," White said of her Michigan state-focused resume.

    Leahy jumped in and questioned one of the other three Michigan judicial appointees -- Raymond M. Kethledge -- to make the point that White was not the only candidate without judicial experience on high-stakes federal issues.
    Yeah, Arlen, you meanie – whaddaya wanna know next, the results of Judge White’s last visit to her gynecologist?

    The Detroit News story tells us that this deal was the result of moving around another judge in addition to White and Kethledge…

    As part of the deal announced last month, White and Kethledge, a Troy (MI) attorney, were nominated to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The nomination of Stephen Murphy, a Detroit U.S. attorney, to the appeals court was withdrawn to open space for White. Instead, Murphy was nominated to the U.S. District Court in Detroit (with White and Kethledge then receiving nominations for the Sixth Circuit).
    And the Times tells us the following about the Sixth Circuit court…

    The court, one of 13 regional appeals courts just below the level of the Supreme Court, hears cases from Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan. It is widely recognized as the most fractious appeals court in the nation as its judges not only regularly split along partisan lines but also have often used opinions to criticize the integrity of their opponents on the court.
    Sounds like a nice bunch; I guess a “fractious” confirmation process was to be expected, then. Of course, what would be REALLY funny is if the whole deal goes up in smoke, a Dem wins the White House in November, and then two Dem judges are nominated with the potential to deadlock the court at 8-8 and thus remove the one-member Repug advantage.

    So you go, Arlen – keep “putting a match” to this thing, if you will (and by the way, we’re still waiting to hear about that book deal.)

    Little Ricky's Terra! Terra! Terra! Name Game

    It looks like Senator Man-On-Dog has returned to his regular schedule for concocting his “Elephant Poop In The Room” column.

    It's official: We're fighting . . . terrorists.

    You can also call them violent extremists if you like, but never use jihadist or mujahedeen or Islamo-fascist to describe our enemy. These words are deemed pejorative and offensive, according to a recent Bush administration memorandum to federal employees whose jobs involve explaining our ongoing war to the public.
    Gosh, I’m so glad Little Ricky cleared that up, aren’t you? Why, I’m sure this has already been propagandized about, oh, I don’t know – maybe a few hundred times already??!!

    And our former senator also communicates that he encouraged President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History to stop using the word “terror” (which, as far as Ricky is concerned, is only a means to an ends) and instead used the term “Islamic fascism” to connote what we’re truly up against.

    Also, our hero has the following sad news…

    In speeches I give across the country, I ask basic questions about the ideology and motivation of the enemy. The response? Blank stares. Seven years into this war, that's an indictment of our government rather than the intelligence of the public. Why should we learn about radical Muslims if they are not the problem?
    He’s actually right about our government’s failure to properly communicate what the true enemy is all about and why there are plenty of fundamentalist nut jobs out there who want to blow us up along with themselves. The problem is that if Little Ricky were to actually pursue that line of reasoning seriously, he would be forced to admit that our ongoing occupation of Iraq is the single biggest reason why these people want to kill us (we leave, and that removes a powerful incentive for new recruits to join al Qaeda and groups with similar inclinations against us).

    And why should be expect such insight from someone who has referred to President Clueless as “Lincolnesque” here, as well as predicting another terror attack within a year (dated last July here…we still have a couple of months to go; let’s hope and pray he’s wrong).

    Oh, and did I also note that former Senator Scumbag, along with former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra here, proclaimed that “we found the WMD” in Iraq in the form of leftover chemical munitions, even though Bushco’s Iraq Survey Group stated that all such WMD-related stockpiles were destroyed in 1991? And do you really want to take the word of someone who said that the mythical “Eye of Mordor” was on Mesopotamia here?

    As I and others have said repeatedly, there is a legitimate battle to be fought against a very real enemy, but we must do so with courage, resolve, common sense, and through respect of and adherence to international laws and protocols. Demagogic name calling and a trite, oh-so-worn-out preoccupation with labeling won’t accomplish anything except to enlist ever more people against us.

    And I have a question, by the way; as many times as Santorum has been utterly wrong on this issue as well as many others, at what point does his “squawk box” get taken away from him once and for all?

    (I know the answer, but I’m compelled to ask anyway – sigh.)

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    Wednesday Stuff

    So what about Baba Wawa and that damn book of hers anyway...

    ...and "The Pap Attack" keeps the drumbeat going concerning the story of the co-opted military analysts by David Barstow of the New York Times; we are indeed "living a new reality in America today."

    A Baseball Legend Hangs Up His Spikes

    I’m going to “dust off the memory banks” a bit here and delve into sports, which I haven’t done for a little while (sorry, but I just can’t deal with super delegates, declining home sales, a dead ice cream salesman, or the fact that almost 19,000 Indianans - ? – actually voted for Willard Mitt Romney in the Repug primary yesterday).

    It’s going to take a minute or two for me to set this up; I’ll move it along as fast as I can.

    In 1982, I was still a pretty avid area sports fan (much less so now, though I’m still interested to a point), and it mattered to me whether or not the Phillies actually had a shot at the World Series (they ended up getting there in ’83, though they then lost to the Baltimore Orioles). But back then, the team’s “brain trust” was composed of four individuals: owner Bill Giles, GM/manager Paul Owens, head scout Hugh Alexander, and a certain “Jack Daniels” if you will; the news about this fourth “representative” came out later, though it was plain that something was wrong with that team’s trades, such as acquiring a serviceable but forgettable shortstop named Ivan DeJesus for just-about-done veteran Larry Bowa and a “throw-in” named Ryne Sandberg, who starred with the Chicago Cubs for years before retiring and being honored with entry into the Hall of Fame.

    Well anyway, these characters in the team’s management decided that they wanted to acquire a player from the Cleveland Indians in ’82 named Von Hayes and play him in right field. The three (with the aid of the fourth, of course) got it into their heads that Hayes was the second coming of Ted Williams. And it was true that Hayes could hit, field, run and throw with the very best (today, he would probably be considered a “five-tool player,” or someone with that potential).

    So the Phillies decided to trade five players for Hayes (the “Five-For-One” nickname hung over Hayes like a millstone for years; he had a decent run with the team for awhile before age and injury ended his career). They were second baseman Manny Trillo (he had not quite declined to the extent Bowa had – both were members of the 1980 championship team – but he was getting there), outfielder George Vukovich, catcher Jerry Willard, and someone named Irusha Peiris (lost to obscurity apparently; can’t find a thing on any of the search engines).

    And the fifth player in the trade was Julio Franco, who started out with the Phillies as a shortstop, though before his career ended, he would also play second and first base and as a designated hitter on a regular basis.

    He played with Cleveland for five years before he was traded to the Texas Rangers, where he played from 1989 to 1993 (coinciding with the period when a certain individual served as the team’s managing general partner, and would that he had stayed in that job and forsaken politics – you knew I’d find a way to mention Dubya, didn’t you?). While with Texas, Franco was named to the American League All-Star team three times, and he was the game’s MVP in 1990, driving in the winning runs off flame-throwing Cincinnati reliever Rob Dibble. Other highlights from Franco’s career include winning the AL batting title in 1991 (Hayes was a National League All-Star in 1989).

    Franco played overseas in the ‘90s in Japan and South Korea, sandwiched in between stints with the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland (again), Milwaukee and Tampa Bay before he returned to the National League in 2001 with Atlanta (the Braves purchased his contract from a team in Mexico City where he played briefly). At this point, Franco played first base, primarily.

    In 2004, Franco replaced Cap Anson as the oldest position player in the history of major league baseball. Franco is also the oldest player ever to hit a grand slam, a pinch-hit home run, two home runs in one game, and to steal two bases in a game (and stealing from the Wikipedia article some more)…

    On July 29, 2006, against the Atlanta Braves, Julio Franco became the oldest player ever to pinch run, when he came in for Carlos Delgado after Delgado was hit by pitch. On September 19, 2006, a day after the Mets clinched the division title, Franco started at third base in a game against the Florida Marlins. This was Franco's first start at the position since his rookie year, an astonishing 24 years between starts at the position. [2]
    Last Friday May 2nd, Franco, 49, officially announced his retirement from baseball to his Mexican league team, the Quintana Roo Tigers. He leaves baseball with a total of 4,229 career hits; the only other players with more hits are Pete Rose and Ty Cobb.

    With a career like that, I can’t think of any reason why Franco shouldn’t join Ryne Sandberg in Cooperstown. And for good measure, his introduction speech should be given by Bill Giles.

    A Betrayal In Victory From Another Era

    I had planned to post on yet another episode today of Incurious George lambasting Congress while we sink further into oblivion (I honestly wonder sometimes why any of the three current principals want to be president, considering the mess they will inherit from this clueless narcissist and his gang of pirates), but I came across this item today from Der Spiegel that I thought was much more interesting.

    It tells the story of Yevgeny Khaldei, a lieutenant in the Soviet Navy during World War II, who also photographed the image of the hammer and sickle flying over the Reichstag in Germany after it fell to the invading Russian Army on May 2nd, 1945.

    As the story tells us…

    Khaldei used up an entire roll of film, shooting 36 photographs. Various versions of one of (the photos) became an icon of the 20th century. It was an image that came to symbolize the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Red Army's victory in both the German and Russian collective memories.

    After the war Khaldei became the victim of anti-Semitism in Stalin's totalitarian empire and fell into oblivion. It was only in 1991 that the Berlin artist Ernst Volland came across these photographs by chance in Moscow and decided to publish them in a book. On May 8, the anniversary of the end of World War II, Berlin's Martin Gropius Bau museum is opening a Khaldei retrospective, highlighting the work of the most important photojournalist of the Soviet era.

    The exhibition will show photographs from the "Great Patriotic War" -- the Red Army's conquest of Sofia, Bucharest, Budapest and Vienna, the Potsdam conference and the Nuremberg trials. It will also feature photographs of everyday life in the Soviet Union, from before and after the war.
    As the story tells us, one of the reasons why the photo of the flag was doctored so much is because the Red Army soldier flying it was wearing wristwatches on each arm that he had stolen during the looting after the Reichstag fell.

    How ironic that Khaldei, a Jew, photographed an image of the defeat of one empire built largely on anti-Semitism only to fall victim to it on behalf of his own country.

    But of course, we here in the U.S. don’t know anything about staging or doctoring photos during wartime for propaganda purposes…

    do we?

    Newt Gingrich Is Lost In Space!

    Fear not, GOP, your deliverer is at hand (or so he thinks anyway).

    This New York Times story (I pretty much don’t even bother with the Inquirer anymore unless something extraordinarily stupid is published, though I should check out other sites more I guess) tells us that the author of the Contract On America is back to warn his fellow party members of impending doom (doesn’t take a rocket scientist or even a TV actor to see this one coming, does it?)…

    In what was titled “My Plea to Republicans,” published on the Web site of the periodical Human Events, Mr. Gingrich, a former speaker, urged House Republicans to convene an emergency meeting in the wake of Saturday’s loss of a longtime Republican House seat in Louisiana. He called on them to force the leadership into devising a new approach to the coming elections.

    “This plan should involve real change in legislative, communications, and campaign strategy and involve immediate, real action, including a complete overhaul of the Congressional Campaign Committee,” Mr. Gingrich wrote.
    The blogger Ara has dug more deeply into what Newt proposes here (good job; that’s more time and attention than I would have ever paid to this philandering blowhard) and tells us of the following points in Newt’s plan to deliver the party he once led in the U.S. House to "the promised land" (I’ve added the appropriate commentary)...

    1. Repeal the gas tax for the summer
    Yeah, well, that’s pretty much been shown up to be nothing but a con at this point.

    2. Redirect the oil being put into the national petroleum reserve onto the open market.
    Sure, as soon as President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History decides to go along with it, and there’s no sign at the moment that he intends to do that (here - and the "Edwards" is Chet, by the way).

    3. Introduce a "more energy at lower cost with less environmental damage and greater national security" bill.
    Uh – OK; sounds like another PR job for the RNC…should keep them busy well into the fall. I’m sure Boehner and Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao will be on board with this one.

    4. Establish an earmark moratorium for one year.
    That’s going to be a real tough sell, as noted here.

    5. Overhaul the census and cut its budget radically.
    As noted here, though funding and conducting the upcoming 2010 census properly would appear to be a partisan issue…

    ...miscounts in any direction are bad for democracy. The census is used to decide core issues, like the number of Congressional representatives from each state, the shape of electoral districts and the allocation of federal dollars. To the extent the census is skewed, so is government.
    Oh course, if you hate government like Dubya and the Repugs, well then, what's the dif, right?

    And the Times editorial stated that, as of last year, there was an $18 million shortfall in funding to conduct the census. Guess how much money Dubya approved for it?


    6. Implement a space-based, GPS-style air traffic control system.
    Oh dear God, I’m laughing so hard over this one that I may bust a gut (hence the post title)!

    I’m not even going to “Google” for anything on how stupid an idea this is (maybe this is Newt’s way to pay homage to The Sainted Ronnie R; Newt threatens the employment of air traffic controllers here also).

    Let’s see, years of R&D, billions in funding after contracts are awarded to create a network of orbiting satellites, the possibility that Lex Luthor could devise an invisible death ray to blow them all to pieces, thus forcing Superman to reroute every plane on earth…never mind.

    7. Declare English the official language of government.
    Yep, just keep digging that hole, Newt – you’re really winning over the Hispanic vote that way, thank you very much.

    8. Protect the workers' right to a secret ballot.
    Yes, we know you guys oppose the Employee Free Choice Act and have killed it, for now.

    9. Remind Americans that judges matter.
    Yep, I think I just covered that, actually.

    And what do Newt’s own Repug brethren have to say? Well…

    Others said it was not exactly a revelation that Republicans were suffering through some political turmoil. “Thanks a lot, Newt,” said Representative Mike Simpson, Republican of Idaho.
    Actually, Newt, I have an idea that may help you out. Why don’t you start raising funds to build a spaceship to Mars for every Republican in Washington? That way, you could all go there to live and create this wonderful, fantasy conservative kingdom you guys tried to achieve over the last eight years, thus leading to the presently ruinous state of this country.

    Next time you get any more bright ideas, contact the Weekly World News. I’m sure they’d be happy to give you some column space along with the Fountain of Vermouth Vermouth story and helpful tips on what to do if you’re bitten by a vampire (true!).

    Update: Apparently the stupidity is contagious.

    McCain And Hangin' Judge J.R. - Perfect Together

    So “Senator Honor And Virtue” criticized Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for very wisely opposing the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court (a related post is here; glad the two Dem nominees weren’t in that group of 22 senators who caved).

    And of course, this gives John W. McBush all the opportunity he needs to crow to the conservative “base” about how he would appoint “non-activist” judges were he the winner of the November election (God help us).

    Well, I think Christy Hardin Smith at firedoglake here pretty much “took down” that farcical label here. And in a link to a New York Times editorial nested in her post, we learn that…

    A new study supports our fears: Supreme Court nominees present themselves one way at confirmation hearings but act differently on the court.

    Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, for example, told the Senate that they had strong respect for Supreme Court precedents. On the court they were the justices most likely to vote to overturn those precedents.
    And what of the Hangin’ Judge J.R. court then, of which McCain is so enamored? Well, from here, we learn that it…

  • Voted to severely limit the ability of women who were unlawfully denied equal pay for equal work, and other victims of wage discrimination under Title VII, to obtain back pay (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.)

  • Voted to strike down the voluntary integration plans of two public school districts, undermining the ability of school boards to promote racial diversity in their schools (Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1)

  • Voted to limit the ability of federal taxpayers to challenge government expenditures that violate the Establishment Clause, undermining the separation of church and state (Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation)

  • Voted to uphold the federal ban on so-called “partial birth” abortions, despite the absence of an exception in the law to protect a woman’s health (Gonzales v. Carhart)

  • Voted to deny free speech protections to government employee internal whistleblowers (Garcetti v. Ceballos)

  • Voted to undermine the Endangered Species Act (National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife)
  • And let's not forget the recent farce of the Indiana Voter ID ruling also.

    And from the Caucus link, we learn the following from commenter Fran N…

  • Justices Loosen Restrictions on Campaign Ads 5-4 [“The Supreme Court today loosened the restrictions on what companies and unions can spend on television advertisements just before elections, and in so doing may well have affected the thinking of political strategists for the 2008 elections.” NYT] (Argued April 25, 2007—Decided June 25, No. 06–969. 2007* Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas)

  • Justices Limit Student’s Speech Rights 5-4 [“…the court found that a high school principal and school board did not violate a student’s rights by punishing him for displaying the words “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” on a banner across the street from the school as the 2002 Olympic torch parade went by.” NYT] No. 06–278. 2007-Roberts, Scalia, (Argued March 19, 2007—Decided June 25, Thomas, Alito, Kennedy)
  • And as far as those who would be “waiting in the wings” for McCain were he given the chance to name them to the bench, we have the following…

  • William Pryor, who voted in a similar manner as the majority of The Supremes did in the Ledbetter case, and also ruled to deny adoption rights to same-sex couples.

  • Priscilla Owen, who voted to overturn a $3.5 million jury verdict in favor of a woman who was the victim of medical malpractice, on the ground that she should have known sooner that the drug doctors prescribed for her during her pregnancy could have caused her serious heart and lung problems even though her doctors themselves claimed that the drug did nothing to cause her injuries (try figuring that one out – The Eternal Molly Ivins absolutely despised her as a judge, and for good reason).

  • Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Cir.), who tried to rewrite legal protection for employees against sexual harassment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, explicitly contradicting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and several previous court decisions (Lutkewitte v. Gonzales); she also has ruled that the EPA doesn’t have the right to regulate vehicle emissions.
  • And I’m sure that, in a McCain presidency, we would also see the return of individuals such as Miguel Estrada, a lawyer and member of the Federalist Society who has never served as a judge, and who withdrew his name from consideration for the D.C. Court of Appeals in September 2003 (despite the outcry from conservative stalwarts such as Orrin Hatch, Bushco didn’t even go to the trouble of requiring Estrada to complete a job application, as noted by former Dem Senate leader Tom Daschle – I’ll never forget the supremely arrogant look on Estrada’s face as all of this played out at his hearing).

    Why does all of this matter exactly, you ask? Well, as this People for the American Way post tells us, The Supremes have the potential to rule on a wide range of issues (some of which was already noted), including civil rights, the environment, free speech, gun control, choice of course, immigrant rights, religious liberty, public education, workers’ rights, disability rights, privacy rights, and campaign finance reform (just for starters).

    And this Open Left link tells us that the matter of the composition of our courts, in particular our highest one, can “galvanize Democrats as no other can” (and more reasons to be concerned are here).

    So for that reason, we should probably encourage that “straight-talking maverick” to expound on this matter every chance we get. It will emphasize even more that the enemy is not either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but the senator from Arizona who would continue the catastrophic Bushco reign for at least four more years.

    Update: I've had issues with Nat Hentoff in the past, but I think he's spot-on here.

    Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    Tuesday Stuff

    K.O. takes on KBR, Rummy and Richard Perle - hard to tell which item is more repugnant, though the faulty wiring for which one or more people should face criminal charges tops them all...

    ...and congrats on the great news from North Carolina (Indiana would be a bonus, but we'll see); makes you wonder a bit about Obama being received so well in southern states while running into such Clinton-machine-and-media-manufactured nonsense in PA, Ohio and elsewhere up here...maybe I'll shut my yap from now on about the legacy of Jim Crow living on only below that Mason-Dixon line, if you know what I mean...

    ...and it sounds like "Count" Kondracke has a theory on Hillary's recent successes (and since he communicates it on Faux TV, you know it's ridiculous - and Krauthammer really cares about her; man, that's way too damn funny)...

    ...and here's K.O. one more time on "moving the goalposts" HRC style (which she'll probably do again regardless of how Indiana turns out).

    MySpace Is Worse Than Useless!

    (You can file this under "a word from our sponsor" and ignore it if you so choose...).

    I've received a few "friend requests" from individuals in MySpace, and I have a message for these people (in the event that they happen to read this blog, of course).

    I apologize for not responding to you, but I have been locked out of my account for some reason for months; I continually receive the message "You Must Be Logged In To Do That!" whenever I try to log on (MySpace is truly a wonderful community networking site - snark - there's no bleeping way to log off!).

    And yes, I have contacted MySpace through every available link I can find to obtain something approximating technical support that could somehow address this (and perhaps provide some elemental information that I apparently do not get somehow), but all I receive are auto-generated messages that are a total waste of time.

    So if you've contacted me and wonder who this guy thinks he is to keep blowing me off, rest assured that I would reply if I could. And for anyone reading this who hasn't set up an account with MySpace, take my advice and don't waste your time - there are numerous other sites out there that are MUCH better, most notably Facebook.

    Praising Those Who Risk Their Lives To Inform Us

    (Posting may get sporadic again starting tomorrow – not sure yet…)

    I should apologize at the outset because, though I was out of commission towards the end of last week anyway, I could not acknowledge Saturday May 3rd as World Press Freedom Day (of course, our media organizations with acronyms for names didn’t bother acknowledging that either since they were preoccupied with still more rehashing of a certain black Chicago preacher, pictures of Miley Cyrus’s semi-nude back, and the tragedy of putting down a horse with broken ankles in the middle of a racetrack).

    As correspondent Mark Fitzgerald tells us here…

    The annual snubbing of World Press Freedom Day by U.S. newspapers and other media is yet another indication of our insularity. This is a big deal in the rest of the world. There will be demonstrations in Paris and London. In Mozambique, Unesco, the UN agency that created the day 15 years ago, will present the 2008 Unesco/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to the courageous Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro (pictured), who was arrested and sued for criminal libel by state authorities covering up for the ring of powerful pedophiles she exposed in her reporting.
    And of course, the world’s biggest offender when it comes to jailing of journalists is the one holding the lion’s share of our debt, as it turns out…

    Just this Thursday, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) said at least 10 foreign journalists based in China have received death threats.

    In a poll several months ago, club members reported 180 violations of the "liberalized" media restrictions, including arrests and surveillance of journalists. The poll also included the question, "Has China kept the promise made by Olympics Games organizer Wang Wei in Beijing in 2001, that, 'We will give foreign media complete freedom of reporting.'"

    Just 8.6% of members said yes it had.
    The news is barely any better at many other countries in the world also, as noted here.

    And Fitzgerald also tells us…

    On Wednesday, for instance, the Hong Kong government denied entry to Zhang Yu, a Swedish-based editor and coordinator of the Writers in Prison Committee of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, who was coming to the city for an international conference on freedom of expression in China.

    WAN reports that this is the third time Zhang, who holds a valid Chinese passport, has turned away from his homeland in just the last year. The reason given is that his work for PEN, the free expression group, somehow endangers national security.
    And lo and behold, that alleged threat to “national security” is the exact same reason Bushco opposes passage of a media shield law currently awaiting activity within Congress (based on this, it looks like the Senate has to “keep this ball rolling”; since we pretty much ignored World Press Freedom Day in this country, I think following through on this piece of legislation is the least we can do).

    “Mighty Mike” Does A Heckuva Job At Bushco’s DEA

    This AP story tells us a Justice Department audit found that…

    …19 of 699 DEA intelligence analysts surveyed had only low-level security clearances needed to review intelligence, while another 62 had not been reauthorized to keep their top secret clearances, as required every five years. One additional analyst had no security clearance at all as of last September, the audit found.

    All DEA analysts are required to have top secret clearance in order to fully do their jobs.

    “Because our testing showed approximately 12 percent of DEA's intelligence analysts' security clearances did not meet the DEA's security requirements, we are concerned that similar deficiencies may exist in the approximately 19,300 clearances that we did not review,” the audit noted.
    Uh huh: the story states that “an estimated 20,000 employees and contractors work for the DEA.”

    And here’s why this matters…

    The DEA collects intelligence and other information about drug smugglers and shares it with other spy and law enforcement agencies. It was formally included in the government's intelligence community in February 2006.

    Other intelligence agencies, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department, praised the information gleaned from DEA analysts.

    “We also assessed the quality, usefulness and effectiveness of intelligence analysts' work, the audit noted. “Our surveys and interviews indicated that both internal and external users generally were satisfied with DEA intelligence analysts' work.”

    However, a survey of 16 DEA intelligence reports found they took an average of 21 months to be completed and published.
    Almost two years to complete an intelligence report, God knows how many agency employees working without the proper clearance…yep, this is Bushco, Working For You! yet again.

    So who would be in charge of the DEA? Why, that would be “acting” Administrator Michele “Mighty Mike” Leonhart (I don’t know, but somehow I would guess that this administration leads all others when it comes to “acting” department heads, with that prefix assigned since they were temporary appointments who couldn’t pass Congressional scrutiny for one reason or another…Leonhart recently took over for Karen Tandy, who resigned to take a position with Motorola).

    This post by Pete Guither tells us more about Leonhart; she definitely fits the Bushco mold in that she’s an opportunist who has worked on behalf of its foul agenda (attacking California’s medical marijuana laws for starters), apparently enjoying the role-playing aspect of working as a DEA agent (she could act as the head of her own organization one day and then be a “dumb girlfriend” the next).

    I realize that none of that is illegal. However, Leonhart ended up forging a relationship with frequently used snitch Andrew Chambers for many years; Chambers worked for the DEA from 1984 to 2000 – he was compensated handsomely, but he had this little perjury problem, see, which Leonhart apparently was willing to overlook.

    As Guither tells us…

    The most startling statement in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation of Andrew Chambers (cited in Guither’s post) was from Michele Leonhart:

    "The only criticism (of Chambers) I've ever heard is what defense attorneys will characterize as perjury or a lie on the stand."

    She continued by saying that once prosecutors check him out, they'll agree with his admirers in DEA that he's "an outstanding testifier."

    That's the key. To an agent like Leonhart, getting the bust and getting the conviction is all that matters. The testimony is good if it leads to a successful conclusion (from her perspective). Why nitpick about the truth?
    It should be noted, by the way, that Chambers' snitching career was finally ended (despite numerous complaints within the DEA about Chambers' perjury problem that were ignored) by then-Attorney General Janet Reno in 2000.

    And if you’re not going to “nitpick about the truth,” as Guither states so accurately, I’m sure Leonhart’s Bushco handlers would never bother about nitpicking over basic managerial competence either.

    Screwed By The Second Circuit Again

    The New York Times tells us here that the U.S. Court of Appeals of New York for the Second Circuit did it again last week. But first, a bit of background.

    As noted, the city filed suit against gun manufacturers in 2000, alleging that they had “knowingly flooded illicit, underground markets with their weapons.” and the suit was upheld in December 2005 by Judge Jack B. Weinstein of Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

    Enter the Second Circuit (from here)…

    The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, by a 2-to-1 vote, ruled (on 5/1) that the nuisance law (the city argued that the gun makers were in violation of that law) does not count because it does not apply specifically to gun sales. That is a bad reading of the federal law. Congress said only that the state law must be “applicable” to gun sales, and the nuisance law — which prohibits creating a condition that endangers the safety of others — clearly is.

    Congress, of course, is also very much to blame, for trying to immunize the gun industry in the first place. It should not insulate its friends from the responsibilities imposed by the civil justice system. The way for the gun industry to protect itself from liability is to obey the law.
    And you can add this to the other infamous ruling by the court of Judge Dennis G. Jacobs here, namely that former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman could not be held liable for assuring residents near Ground Zero that the air was safe to breathe, even though U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts (whose ruling was overturned by the Second Circuit) said that Whitman’s actions “shocked the conscience.”

    The Times encourages Bloomberg to appeal the second circuit ruling, which I believe he should. However, in the event that this ends up with The Supremes, which seems likely to me, I can’t imagine that the court of Hangin’ Judge J.R. is going to be amenable, especially considering that they may end up overturning Washington, D.C.’s gun ban, as noted here.

    Jerry Lewis And House Slapstick Of Another Kind

    In today’s New York Times, we learn from here that…

    WASHINGTON — Defying President Bush, House Democrats are preparing to forge ahead with a war spending measure that would include extended unemployment assistance and new educational benefits for returning veterans.

    After a meeting Monday evening of House Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to bring a $178 billion measure to the floor this week. What could be a contentious debate on the matter is likely to be held on Thursday, aides said.
    Cue the predictable Repug umbrage…

    “The Democrat leaders of the House and Senate are attempting to jam a 200-plus-billion-dollar spending bill through the Congress with absolutely no oversight or scrutiny by a vast majority of members, senators or their constituents,” Representative Jerry Lewis of California, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said in a statement on Monday. “Never in my 30 years in Congress has there been such an abuse of the processes and rules of the House.”
    Oh, that’s rich (and the “Democrat” leaders also – nice touch, scumbag).

    Do you want to talk about “abuse of processes,” Jerry? Well then, let’s start with Brent Wilkes, shall we?

    As this Congresspedia article tells us, Wilkes, who ran defense contractor ADCS, is a “Pioneer,” having raised at least $100K for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign. He also gave $840,000 to 32 other House members or candidates (which is legal, I realize).

    Wilkes also allowed Randy “Duke” Cunningham access to his 14.5-foot, 170-horsepower fiberglass boat, and in return Wilkes received Cunningham’s support in securing defense contracts. Wilkes was eventually convicted on November 5, 2007 on 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, and wire fraud (an appeal of the case is underway). Cunningham was also convicted on bribery charges.

    What does that have to do with Lewis? Well, as Congresspedia tells us here…

    Lewis has received $88,252 from Wilkes and his associates. He is the third-highest recipient of campaign contributions from Brent Wilkes trailing only Cunningham and John Doolittle, who is a self-professed friend of Wilkes.
    And by the way, Doolittle decided last January not to seek re-election under suspicion of numerous questionable dealings; he gave up his seat on the Appropriations Committee in April 2007 “in the wake of FBI agents searching his house in a congressional influence-peddling investigation” (one particularly odorous moment with Doolittle was the time he tried to remove FDR from the dime and replace him with Ronald Reagan – former Philadelphia Daily News columnist Pete Dexter called Doolittle “a lying, unprincipled, crooked piece of human garbage,” and that’s good enough for me...Doolittle is also being investigated for alleged ties to Jack Abramoff, of course).

    Also, the business with Brent Wilkes is the tip of the proverbial iceberg concerning Lewis (kind of reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel where everyone else gets picked off and, for the moment, only Lewis is left standing); as someone once remarked about PA politicians in general, when Lewis “sheds his mortal coil,” the degree of his crookedness is such that instead of being buried, he should be screwed into the ground.

    And this cretin has the unmitigated gall to talk about “abuse of process” and “rules”…

    Will Hoosier Repugs Bounce Burton At Last?

    Ordinarily I really wouldn’t care about what goes on in a Republican primary election, but today could be a historic day in Indiana; longtime U.S. House scumbag Dan Burton is up against challenger Dr. John McGoff, with the winner facing a Dem opponent in November, as McClatchy tells us here…

    The key issue is ethics, as McGoff hammers Burton for skipping House votes to attend a golf tournament and for casting the only no vote against a bill banning gifts from lobbyists. He's said he wanted a stronger bill.

    "He's being badgered because of absenteeism and arrogance, and he finally has a quality opponent," said Jim McDowell, a political scientist at Indiana State University.

    Burton has been forced to spend more than $1 million, a career high, to fight off McGoff's challenge. McGoff has spent less than $400,000.
    Where to begin with this guy? Well, let’s start with the Helms-Burton act then, a truly odious piece of legislation that tried to punish non-U.S. corporations and non-U.S. investors who have economic interests in Cuba, as noted here; it earned such international ridicule that Canada passed a similar law calling for the return of Canadian property in this country seized during the American Revolution (the law was never enforced), and the EU passed a law making it a crime to comply with Helms-Burton (a crime to comply with a U.S. law – think about how mind boggling that is).

    Oh, and the “Helms” in the Act is a certain race-baiting tyrannical demagogue who once represented North Carolina in the U.S. Senate (apparently, he’s still out there drawing a breath somewhere).

    And as noted here about Burton…

    In 1997, Burton was accused of demanding a $5,000 contribution from a Pakistani lobbyist. When the lobbyist was unable to raise the funds, Burton complained to the ambassador for the Bhutto government and later threatened to make sure "none of his friends or colleagues" would meet with the lobbyist or his associates.

    In 1998, Burton admitted to fathering a child outside of his marriage.

    That same year, his investigation of campaign fundraising irregularities during the 1996 Presidential campaign ground to a halt when it was revealed that his staff had doctored transcripts of prison phone calls made by former Clinton administration official Webster Hubbell.

    In 2006, he fought against extending the Voting Rights Act for minorities.
    So do your duty, any Repug Hoosiers who may be reading this (I can dream). Make sure this isn’t the “right place, wrong time” for Dr. John (snark).

    And though I obviously want Obama to walk away with that state’s primary, it would be apropos in a way given Burton’s pathological Clinton hatred (as McClatchy tells us, Burton even shot a melon to try and prove that Vince Foster was murdered, a crime against produce everywhere) that the 26-year incumbent’s House career ended on the same day Hillary won.

    Update 5/7/08: Indiana re-upped Burton, sadly, but with only 52 percent of the vote (wearing out his welcome, maybe?).

    Monday, May 05, 2008

    Monday Stuff

    Maybe there's more to "Senator Honor And Virtue" and his "secret" life than I hinted at in the earlier post; "The Onion" has more...

    McCain Declines Secret Service, Dares Assassins To Try Something

    ...and I liked this "Obama in 30 Seconds" ad sponsored by MoveOn; you can go to the site and view the rest (and if any Dems in Indiana and North Carolina are reading this, you know what you must do tomorrow).

    Some Truly Bad Twenty-Year-Old Wanking

    (Huge network issues earlier, so I'm just getting to this now...)

    Robin Toner of the New York Times managed to do something pretty unbelievable – and repugnant – yesterday in this Political Memo column, which included the following (digging for some really old dirt in an effort to impugn the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular)…

    WASHINGTON — Sometimes, as Senator Barack Obama seemed to argue earlier this year, a flag pin is just a flag pin.

    But it can never be that simple for anyone with direct experience of the 1988 presidential campaign. That year, the Republicans used the symbols of nationhood (notably, whether schoolchildren should be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance) to bludgeon the Democrats, challenge their patriotism and utterly redefine their nominee, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts.

    The memory of that campaign — reinforced, for many, by the attacks on Senator John Kerry’s Vietnam war record in the 2004 election — haunts Democrats of a certain generation.
    And I just love the way that Toner treats all of this as anything but absolutely scurrilous, by the way (which surely would have occurred if a Dem had done this to a Repug).

    The 1988 campaign was, in many ways, the crucible that helped create Bill Clinton’s centrist philosophy and his fierce commitment to attack and counterattack, which drove the politics of the 1990s.

    I might as well point out right now that Toner somehow manages to write about all of these truly putrid moments in our political history with NO MENTION WHATSOEVER of the two most notorious practitioners who fouled our climate the most during that time, and that would be Newton Leroy Gingrich and Lee Atwater (pictured).

    (At least Dorothy Wickenden of The New Yorker managed to write a column that had already contained much of what Toner already said, thus trying to emphasize this Obama/Dukakis narrative in a much more subtle way, and even properly documenting Atwater’s role and his own contrition over the forces he had unleashed as he lay dying from a brain tumor.)

    But just remember that, as far as Toner and our corporate media is concerned, attacks on someone’s patriotism through flag lapel pins and questioning their war record, to say nothing of trivialities on the issues list such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, all fit into a nice, neat little niche...

    Twenty years ago, the nation was in an era of comparative peace and prosperity; a sense of crisis did not hang over the election. Today, with the war in Iraq in its sixth year and the economy stumbling, more than 8 in 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track. A new generation of voters have entered the electorate, who may not be as susceptible to values issues.

    In such a climate, it would presumably be far more difficult than in 1988 to keep the campaign focused on symbolic, values-related issues, or matters of personality.
    See, as far as our corporate media is concerned, the ENDLESS fixation with a certain black preacher, a candidate’s bowling score or basketball prowess as well or the aforementioned attacks on one’s patriotism are all “values issues.” Not ridiculous, mindless nonsense that fills up our dialogue like cotton candy, slowly dissipating as we realize that we’ve been hoodwinked out of a legitimate discussion of issues AGAIN. Not a total abdication of any sense of journalistic ethics or responsibility.

    No, these are all “symbolic, values-related issues,” or “matters of personality” (and yes, I know this scam isn't new, but it deserves to be called out for what it truly is).

    (And the Times no doubt wonders why its circulation is declining along with just about every other newspaper in the country…)

    And believe it or not, Toner’s column actually gets better (well, worse really)…

    Even with so many big issues at stake this time around, the race between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton has often been focused on questions of values, background and character — witness the recent fixation on Mr. Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., or the continued unfounded rumors that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.
    Oh, but even though “unfounded,” you’re going to repeat them anyway, aren’t you, Toner (as opposed to ignoring them for the freeper agit-prop that they are)? Nice job.

    And still more “fun” awaits…

    Attacks on a presidential candidate’s patriotism are hard for many politicians to take seriously. “Unless you’re talking about the Manchurian candidate, the idea that someone who put their heart and soul into running for president didn’t care deeply for their country is kind of ridiculous,” said Drew Westen, a psychologist and political consultant.
    But again, that doesn’t stop you guys from repeating it anyway (and nice job to parrot Mann Coulter’s talking points, Drew – Westen is one of these guys who keeps telling Democrats to “dumb down” their campaigns and talk to voters like they’re stupid (here)…actually, all it takes is someone with a minimum of speaking talent and an ability to interact with voters and a rapid response against Repug slime, and with all due respect to Al Gore and John Kerry, they really didn’t have any of that, though they would have been wonderful presidents – sigh – and somehow I don’t think we’ll be hearing Westen dispensing any advice to Obama on this).

    And though I’m not a big fan of the DLC, I thought this quote from Bruce Reed in Toner's hit piece, the group’s president, spoke volumes…

    “Republicans have been trying to put us in the same box for 40 years now,” Mr. Reed said. “We win elections when we don’t let them.”
    And our media has been trying to do the same thing for at least half that amount of time (and the same thing happens when we don’t let them either).