Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fourth of July Stuff

Smart cat...

...don't worry - here they are (from 2005, recorded at Disney-MGM Studios in Walt Disney World, FLA).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (7/4/09)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes for the week ending Sunday June 28th.


Homeland-security budget: By a 389-37 vote, the House approved a $44 billion Department of Homeland Security budget for fiscal 2010, up 6.5 percent from 2009. The bill bars development of a national ID card, requires threat assessments of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and prohibits spending to block individuals from importing FDA-approved drugs from Canada.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), 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.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.).
As noted here, the presence of language in the bill about barring development of a national ID card was in all likelihood the reason for Castle’s “No” vote here (no other information on his web site). And I realize the argument for this has some theoretical merit, but trying to implement this in the real world would be a nightmare (one of the reasons why I personally support licenses for illegal immigrants – we need to track these people somehow). Also, telling foreign nationals that they suddenly need an ID card to work and/or study here would exacerbate the “brain drain” that developed after 9/11 at a time when we can least afford it.

Air marshals budget. By a 134-294 vote, the House refused to cut spending in the Homeland Security Budget for the Federal Air Marshal Service from $860 million to $819 million. The agency's mission is to station armed marshals on an undisclosed number of passenger flights.

A yes vote was to cut the air marshals budget.

Voting yes: Castle, Pitts.

Voting no: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.
I’m hearing rumblings that Castle might make a run for the Senate in 2010. If he does, I can’t wait to hear him try to defend votes like this one.

Economic stimulus. By a 113-318 vote, the House refused to cut Department of Homeland Security spending by $2.7 billion, which is the amount of stimulus funds Congress added earlier this year to the department's budget.

A yes vote backed the spending cut.

Voting yes: Adler.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Pitts, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.
I have to admit that it took a long time for John Adler to made a rookie mistake like this one (can’t find any further information to explain this).

2010 military budget. By a 389-22 vote, the House authorized a $680 billion military budget for fiscal 2010, including $130 billion for war in Iraq and Afghanistan and $9.3 billion for the National Missile Defense. The bill sets a 3.4 percent military pay raise, increases active-duty personnel by 40,200 troops to 1.4 million troops, and bars permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Withdrawal from Afghanistan. By a 138-278 vote, the House defeated an amendment to the 2010 military budget requiring that the Defense Department report to Congress by the end of the year on any plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Brady, Fattah, and Sestak.

Voting no: Adler, Andrews, Castle, Dent, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Pitts, Schwartz, and Smith.
Here is a link to a congressional votes post from September ’06 where a measure calling for accountability from Dubya on Iraq was introduced in the Senate and defeated in a party line vote. I’m just trying to point out here how one party kept in lockstep with its commander in chief, as opposed to the Dems.

Yes, accountability is always a good thing, but, for better or worse, Obama has barely had time to do anything is Afghanistan. Do I personally agree with what he’s doing? Not completely. But all I’m saying is that he deserves a chance before politicians of his own party start hectoring him over withdrawing troops.

Interrogation videotapes. The House required, 224-193, the government to videotape all military interrogations, except during combat, and retain the tapes in a secured and classified repository. The amendment was added to the military budget bill.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.

Voting no: Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Holden, and Pitts.
Patrick once opposed this (here), but kudos for doing the right thing this time (and Castle looked like a chump earlier, but he does the right thing here; also, even though there’s a lot not to like about Chris Smith, he also keeps casting votes like this one).

Cap-and-trade energy package. The House voted, 219-212, to shift U.S. energy production and consumption from fossil fuels to renewable fuels while setting cap-and-trade rules to cut emissions linked to global warming.

A yes vote was to pass the measure.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, LoBiondo, Murphy, Sestak, Schwartz, and Smith.

Voting no: Dent, Gerlach, Holden, and Pitts.
I weighed in on this earlier here (first item) – shocking that, except for the air marshals vote with Castle, Joe Pitts isn’t hanging out on a limb all by himself this week.


Tourism in America. By a 53-34 vote, the Senate failed to get 60 votes for ending a filibuster on a bill that would establish a federal corporation to increase foreign travel to the United States and expand Department of Commerce tourism programs.
A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

Not voting: Arlen Specter (D., Pa.).
Yeah, why the hell do we need to spend money on any stinkin’ tourists, particularly in light of this?

Harold Koh nomination. The Senate confirmed, 62-35, the nomination of Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh as the Department of State's top lawyer.

A yes vote was to confirm Koh.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
Now that Koh is confirmed, hopefully Dawn Johnsen will be next.

Legislative branch budget. The Senate killed, 65-31, a motion to reduce the $3.12 billion legislative branch budget for fiscal 2010 to its 2009 level. The bill remained in debate.

A yes vote opposed a budget freeze at 2009 levels.

Voting yes: Casey, Carper, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
The Inquirer reports that Congress is now in a July 4th recess, with everyone scheduled to return to Washington next week.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Friday Stuff

Words can't express my shock over the news that Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin is resigning (and not even finishing out her term...???) - with that in mind, here once more is her interview in front of the turkey slaughtering processor, for the benefit for the half-dozen-or-so people on this planet who haven't seen this yet (there's a version out there with commentary by K.O., but I think the captions here are funnier)...

...Jon Stewart takes down that idiot Michael Scheuer for wishing another 9/11 on this country (Stewart's initial five-word reaction nails it - h/t The Daily Kos)...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Osama bin Laden Needs to Attack America
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

...and time for a bit of summer fun...

...also, Happy Fourth, everybody.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Thursday Stuff

A word from our sponsor: the Friday area votes in Congress thing is on my "to do" list, but after that, I don't know what will be going on around here over the 4th and into next week. I'll keep you posted.

But in the meantime, let's kick start this baby...

...and memo to President Obama: sometimes worrying about setting a precedent isn't as important as doing the right thing, particularly when the Bushco cretins outed a patriotic American, Valerie Plame by name (David Shuster, sitting in for K.O., interviews Michael Isikoff)...

...and RIP, Fayette Pinkney of The Three Degrees, pioneers of The Philly Sound (I don't think she was in this later incarnation of the group from '82, though)...

...and if Karl Malden had never acted in another movie besides this one, which of course is "On The Waterfront" with Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando from 1954, he would deserve a special place for it alone (particularly for this scene).

Lamenting “Polarization” With Bernie, Smerky And Irv

I really didn’t have a lot to say about the passing of local radio personality Irv Homer (pictured) last week except for a brief mention at the end of another post, but intrepid Philadelphia Daily News columnist Michael Smerconish had some words on the subject in his column today.

Homer held court on radio station WWDB in these parts, among other employment locations. And it was not uncommon for us in the Doomsy household to put the station on in the morning (we’re talking about the late ‘90s here) for news with Gil Gross and Pat Farnack, with Irv coming on at midday. After that, the lineup often changed, with a pair of talkers named Jay and Hilarie (?) followed by Kent Voss and Dr. Jim (God rest him). So basically, I can vouch for Smerky here when he says that Homer went back and forth between conservative and liberal viewpoints, being true to what he was, and that was a libertarian.

All of that went up in smoke the day before the 2000 presidential election, when Beasley Broadcasting bought the station and changed the format (one of many times) to all-80s hits (or, as I always tell the missus, you just can’t get enough of A Flock Of Seagulls – and I always wondered about the timing of that change).

And I probably would not have another word to say about any of this were it not for the fact that Smerky then used this as an excuse to note his recent conversation with one Bernard Goldberg (former CBS News correspondent and pathological liar), in which he tells us…

"What we have in this country is we have people who hang on every word" that people like Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann say, Goldberg told me. The problem with that, he continued, is that "regular folks have now confused cable television with real life." They think America really is as divided as a split-screen TV - far from the truth, Goldberg noted.

And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Listeners and viewers become so dependent on the labels and ideology that they block out any personality or any show that doesn't fit neatly into one box or the other. Politicians and candidates for office play the game to get their name in the paper or on the on-screen graphic.

The shame of it is that these 24/7 split-screen kerfuffles serve only to shut down the important debates the country could be having on the important issues of the day. The end result is the snuffing out of nonpartisanship in this country.
Cue the tinny-sounding violin someone, please (as if either Goldberg OR Smerky would have a clue about “regular folks”).

Gee, I wonder if the reason why Goldberg lumped in K.O. with Flush Limbore here is that Olbermann busted Goldberg on taking a question from Charlie Rose to Tom Brokaw in an interview the former conducted with the latter, taking a completely different answer from Brokaw to another question and clipping the quote to boot, and putting them both together to make it sound like Brokaw was agreeing with Rose that “there’s a lot we don’t know” about Obama here?

Also, how sad is it that Goldberg ducked an interview with CNN’s Howard Kurtz, of all people (backgrounder here), here after Goldberg accused Kurtz of “being in the tank” for Obama?

And for more Bernard Goldberg nonsense, here is his claim that “left wingers” “threw Oreo cookies” at RNC chairman Michael Steele, and here is another bogus charge that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama, when they were running for president last year, condemned the “General Betray Us” MoveOn ad.

And as far as Goldberg’s book about the 100 people who are supposedly “screwing up America” (from 2005, with new Minnesota Senator Al Franken at number 37, I believe), this review from The Boston Globe tells us as follows…

In a similar vein, if Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert Byrd of Virginia are ''screwing up America," hasn't Representative Tom DeLay (R-Texas) contributed at least a little? What about Representative Dan Burton (R-Indiana), the far-right conspiracy buff who once shot a pumpkin in his backyard to reenact the supposed murder of Clinton aide Vince Foster -- and has joined forces with the loony left to propagate the dangerous canard that vaccines cause autism?

And if Goldberg is going to throw the book at leftist academics, writers, and pundits who were quick to blame America for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, it's odd that evangelical ministers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who asserted that we brought it on ourselves by angering God with secularism, feminism, abortion, and gay rights, are let off the hook.
It’s also funny how we never heard the whining from Smerky and his pals about America being as “divided as a split-screen TV” when the Repugs just about wrecked our country when they were in charge from 2001 through 2006, isn’t it?

And it’s sad that Irv Homer can no longer “take to the mic” once more to say those very words, which I’m quite sure he would.

Update: God, is Kurtz a mess (here).

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wednesday Mashup (7/1/09)

(And I also posted here.)

  • This tells us the following…

    GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A federal judge has struck down the Bush administration's change to a rule designed to protect the northern spotted owl from logging in national forests.

    U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled from Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service failed to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of changing the rule to make it easier to cut down forest habitat of species such as the spotted owl and salmon on 193 million acres of national forests.

    "I am hopeful that this is the last nail in the coffin to (President George W.) Bush's assault on our public forests," said Pete Frost, an attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center in Eugene, which represented plaintiffs in one of two cases challenging the rule.
    Amen to that; this is actually a follow up to this prior post, in which the Obama Administration…

    …told a federal court that it will not defend the Bush administration's decision to cut back protections for the northern spotted owl.

    Interior Department lawyers said in the motion that the decision was based on an inspector general's report finding there was political interference in owl protections by a former deputy assistant interior secretary.
    And that person would be Julie MacDonald; the prior post gets into all of the gory details (the best that can be said for her is that she’s gone).

  • Here’s another item of interest…

    WASHINGTON — A federal panel said Wednesday that a judge should reconsider the $110,000 in fines he levied against two companies in the 2002 Quecreek Mine accident.

    The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission's preliminary decision was in response to challenges by PBS Coals Inc. and Musser Engineering Inc. against the fines levied by an administrative law judge last fall. A federal safety panel had previously recommended lesser fines of $5,000 against each company.
    As noted here…

    In August 2003, the (U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration) blamed the accident on inaccurate mine maps and said the companies could have done more to ensure the miners' safety. The safety administration had suggested PBS Coals and Musser Engineering were moderately negligent, but (Administrative Law Judge Robert) Lesnick found both companies "grossly negligent" (Lesnick said the companies played "Russian roulette" with the lives of the miners and exhibited a "very high level of negligence”).

    (Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission) Chairman Michael Duffy said he was having "serious problems" with characterizing the actions of the companies as "gross negligence." He asked why the panel should not be influenced by considering what was standard operating procedures by companies involved in mining in Pennsylvania during the time period in question.
    So it sounds like the federal panel is contemplating reinstating the fines that were originally referred to as “outrageous” by the United Mine Workers of America here in 2004.

    And this post about the tragedy of the Sago Mine Collapse in West Virginia tells us the following (12 of the 13 mine workers were killed)…

    A New York Times article dated August 9, 2004 detailed the Bush administration's close relationship with the coal mining industry. While the piece largely focused on environmental issues, it still makes it clear that (the) administration's concern for the health and safety of coal miners took a back seat to their concern for the bank accounts of their allies at the mining companies.
    Given all of this, I cannot imagine how the existing judgments against PBS Coals and Musser Engineering can be overturned (well see what happens, though).

    I also wanted to note that the acting governor of PA at the time, Mark Schweiker (pictured), did a commendable job of communicating news developments as the Quecreek drama unfolded (PA having learned its lesson in media disaster management after Three Mile Island – Schweiker assumed the role of governor after Tom Ridge was named to head the Department of Homeland Security in 2001). I often wondered if he would have beaten Ed Rendell in a head-to-head race for governor, but Schweiker opted out of public life to become president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, leaving Attorney General Mike Fisher as the Repug standard bearer who would lose to Rendell in 2002.

  • You’re absolutely not going to believe this item from Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik, including the following…

    Two weeks ago, I praised Fox News for being one of the only TV news operations seriously questioning the administration of President Barack Obama as it pushes an agenda of massive social change not seen since Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

    Whatever the reasons for Fox's tenacity, I said, it is the one channel that seems absolutely committed to being a watchdog on the White House -- a job crucial to any notion of press responsibility.
    It is to laugh, my fellow prisoners...

  • This tells us how, after enjoying exclusive coverage of Dubya, Fix Noise blasts ABC for last Wednesday's “infomercial” on health care.

  • Also, here is some typical Fix Noise punditry on the stimulus from Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke...

    BARNES: There's already a lot of stimulus in place. We have had gasoline prices that dropped like crazy, helping the poor and the middle class. Rich people don't get much more for that. Gas for their limos maybe doesn't cost as much. We've seen the Federal Reserve pumping all this money into banks, another $150 billion to go out. As we know, because there's a problem, there will be billions more after that. Look what the Federal Reserve is doing, it's buying up tens of billions of these mortgage securities. They're increasing the money supply. They're buying treasury bonds. There's a lot of stimulus out there. If you added some tax cuts, plus some spending to ease the pain of the recession, I think it would be great shape.

    KONDRACKE: All that's being done and the economy is still cratering.

  • Here is still more from the recently sane Shep Smith...

    Fox News' Shepard Smith falsely suggested that a $500 individual tax credit, reportedly included in President-elect Barack Obama's proposed economic recovery plan, would benefit people who don't currently pay taxes, asking, "I know we don't know the details yet, but $300 billion in tax cuts -- how do you cut taxes on people who don't pay taxes?" In fact, all American workers are required to pay taxes on their wages for Social Security and Medicare under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.

  • And finally, I give you this...

    Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) took the lies (about the stimulus) to a new level today when he — with the help of an enthusiastic Fox News’s Megyn Kelly — declared that the 2009 omnibus bill included funding for a train traveling straight from “Disney” to Nevada’s most famous brothel, the Moonlight Bunny Ranch (supposedly supported by Harry Reid, of course).
  • Thanks for playing our game, Dave - here are some lovely parting gifts...

  • And in a typical no-class move, Sen. Jim Inhofe said here that Al Franken, who was FINALLY proclaimed the winner of the Minnesota U.S. Senate race yesterday, was “a clown.”

  • This tells us that Inhofe “derailed a study on motorcycle safety by making sure it was to be conducted by an underfunded Oklahoma state agency.”

  • This tells us that, in his global warming denialist hysteria, he decried a children’s book on the subject published by one of the producers of An Inconvenient Truth.

  • This tells us that Inhofe claimed as follows…

    WASHINGTON — U.S. Jim Inhofe, who earlier said a criminal investigation "probably should be'' conducted into allegations the EPA suppressed a climate change report, said Tuesday he is not qualified to make that determination.

    In his interview with the Tulsa World on Tuesday, he also said that his own investigation into the matter has not uncovered anything that would warrant a criminal investigation.

  • This tells us Inhofe said "There has never been a documented case of torture at Guantánamo" and he also called Obama’s Cairo speech “un-American.”
  • Well, given a choice, all I can say is that I’d rather be a clown than an idiot.
  • Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    He's good enough, he's smart enough, and...HE'S FINALLY A FREAKIN' UNITED STATES SENATOR!! CONGRATULATIONS, AL!

    (And by the way, isn't it hilarious the way the report makes it sound like Coleman was some kind of a good guy or something by deciding not to exhaust his final appeal of the election, which would have been to the Supreme Court of Hangin' Judge JR? I wonder if the fact that they just finished up also until October had anything to do with Coleman deciding not to exhaust that appeal?)...

    ...and we can only wish, right?...

    ...and gee, I wonder if mentioning Delaware and Indiana were ever-so-veiled references by Dr. Dean to "corpocrats" Bayh and Carper here (more here)...

    ...and yep, PA State Senator John Eichelberger continues to be a homophobic...well, I won't use the word I'd like to here; I'm sure you can think of good ones also (an update from this)...

    ...and once more, time to rock (probably good advice for Eichelberger here).

    Starting To “Draw Down” For Good In Iraq

    (And I also posted here.)

    On the occasion of our partial withdrawal from Iraq today, I actually thought it was a good idea to revisit part of a speech President Obama’s predecessor gave here on that country in front of a typically sympathetic AEI audience, before Iraq War II began in February 2003…

    Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before -- in the peace that followed a world war. After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.
    I'd like to comment on the text I just highlighted.

    In the matter of “rebuilding Iraq,” I realize I could point out a few different things, but I happened to come across this good story from last March in the Boston Globe (don't say all I ever do is bitch about Iraq and ignore the "green shoots" of good stuff, if you will)…

    John Dunlop, 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds of muscle, works out of the US Army's Forward Operating Base Falcon in the Rashid District, at the sharp end of Baghdad, but he's not in uniform. His mission is to help Iraq rebuild itself, block by block, and yesterday, as it happened, verse by verse.

    Poetry is in the lifeblood of this proudly literate country, and so it was that Dunlop and an Iraqi arts professor convened a poetry competition in war-ravaged Rashid. It was one more way to revive a sense of possibility.

    "When you've got local poets who are identified with the community coming forward, it pulls the community around a common identity. It's like everyone's pulling for the same football team," Dunlop said by telephone from Iraq on the eve of the final round of the competition. "It's a sense of normalcy, not war and instability - of culture, of things happening, the kinds of spices that make communities worth defending."


    Dhafer Al Makuter, an Iraqi translator who has worked with Dunlop since last August, said the importance of poetry to Iraqis can't be overstated. "It's like McDonald's to Americans. Poetry is for when you pray or go to the circus. Everything in Iraq is done with poetry. Today we bought some tractors for Iraqi farmers. A poet was hired to read poetry to the guests at the ceremony for almost an hour. Poetry in Iraq is people's life."

    Doug Arbuckle, a USAID colleague who was Dunlop's boss in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2001, is working with him again in Baghdad. Arbuckle is USAID's executive officer for the Iraq mission, which has 120 expatriate staff such as Dunlop as well as 1,500 contractor employees and 3,700 Iraqi employees.

    "John is unafraid. He plows right in and gets the work done. He is a great big guy, and in many of the environments we work in he could be very intimidating, yet he is extremely effective. He establishes rapport very quickly with new people, " Arbuckle said. "And he is the kind of personality who appeals to the military. He's big enough that nobody messes with him."
    And let’s not forget that, when it comes to “remaining in Iraq,” Dubya said here that he wanted to “see a lengthy U.S. troop presence in Iraq like the one in South Korea to provide stability but not in a frontline combat role,” though, judging from the celebrations as our troops pulled out of their cities, you can argue as to whether or not that is something the Iraqis actually wanted.

    Although, when it comes to “leaving behind an occupying army,” General George Casey, as noted here (from last month)…

    …said this week that the American military is preparing to continue its interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan for at least another decade.
    Kind of makes me wonder how much different this is from “Straight Talk” McCain’s notorious answer about a possible “hundred year” occupation during the presidential campaign (a pox on both political parties for this...nothing "hopey, changey" about this).

    And when it comes to Iraq having a constitution and a parliament…well, they have the former, as noted here, but as far as the latter is concerned, the New York Times tells us this today…

    We once hoped that a clear timetable for an American withdrawal would finally persuade Iraq’s leaders to make the political compromises that are the only way to hold their country together without an indefinite occupation. That has not happened. The Parliament has still not passed a law to divide Iraq’s oil resources equitably.

    Indeed there are worrying signs that Iraqi politicians are doing the opposite — looking for ways to shore up their communal interests in case the civil war reignites. Many of Iraq’s neighbors are making the same calculations.

    We are particularly concerned about the Iraqi government’s cavalier — or worse — treatment of the Awakening Councils. Those are the former Sunni insurgents who decided to switch sides, at Washington’s urging. Members have complained about delays in being paid. The government has barely made a down payment on its commitment to find jobs for the group’s 94,000 members in the security services, ministries or private sector.

    Baghdad blames dropping oil prices and a budget squeeze for the employment problems. But keeping these fighters, and their relatives and neighbors, on the government’s side should be a top priority. Mr. Maliki has further alienated many Sunnis by ordering the arrest of several council leaders and a few high-profile Sunni politicians. Iraqi officials say the arrests are justified. United States officials need to impress on the prime minister the dangers he is courting.
    And when it comes to leaving behind “an atmosphere of safety”…

    Violence is down, but extremists are still trying to spark a new cycle of attacks and retaliation. In June, more than 300 Iraqis and 10 Americans were killed.
    Finally, I don’t know how anyone can seriously claim that “liberty found a permanent home” when you realize the following (from here)…

    George W. Bush’s misguided attack on Iraq has had catastrophic consequences for the Iraqi people. Although the removal of Saddam Hussein was a blessing, the bloody chaos that resulted was not. Estimates of the number of dead in the ensuing strife starts at about 100,000 and rises rapidly. The number of injured is far greater.

    Moreover, roughly four million people, about one-sixth of the population, have been driven from their homes. The most vulnerable tended to be Iraq’s Christian community and Iraqis who aided U.S. personnel — acting as translators, for instance. Yet the Bush administration resisted allowing any of these desperate people to come to America, since to resettle refugees would be to acknowledge that administration policy had failed to result in the promised paradise in Babylon.

    As the Iraq War played out, the Bush administration seemed to do everything in its power to ignore the refugee crisis. Former President Bush, reluctant to admit to a failed war policy, never mentioned the plight of the refugees and for years refused to allow Iraqis fleeing the war zone to resettle in the U.S. Only after significant political pressure from members of Congress and advocacy groups did the administration’s policy begin to change, and refugees began gaining access to the United States.
    And of course, Obama has said “this is a major problem, that we are responsible for this problem and we will try to change this.”

    We’ll see, won’t we?

    And just out of curiosity, I actually visited the AEI site to see what they had to say about this milestone day in Iraq, and…surprise, surprise…they actually didn’t ignore it, given their prior war cheerleading. But as far as the violence that has transpired during the transition, “resident scholar” Michael Rubin had this say…

    The worst is yet to come.
    Take a bow, you cretins.

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    Kudos to Lee Stranahan for this...

    ...and this also (more here - Casey and Specter have both said they support the public option)...

    "Worst Persons" (somebody donated $10 grand to run bus ads telling atheists to make themselves public, even though the person who ran the ads wants to keep his identity a secret - hey, talk about mixed messages; Flush Limbore predictably attacks Judge Sonia Sotomayor for her ruling in the Ricci firefighters case now that JR and the Supremes have made new law - again - with Limbore of course choosing to ignore the fact that Sotomayor HAD to rule the way she did because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was still in force in her original ruling before Roberts and his pals gave it a brand new interpretation with this "strong basis in evidence" stuff - I know, waay too much explanation here; but "Joe The Plumber" gets it for threatening to lynch Chris Dodd...throw this idiot's mangy ass in jail)...

    ...and time to rock (lyrics here).

    Monday Mashup (6/29/09)

    (This turned out to be long - and I also posted here.)

  • Over at The Hill, there’s a whole raft of Repug propaganda about the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act (HR 2454), which passed the House by a 219-212 vote last Friday. It has been called “an energy tax that will hurt Americans” (Rep. Dean Heller), “not serious” (Rep. Brian Bilbray), “more taxes for Texas” (Rep. John Culberson), a “national energy tax that will strain families’ budgets” (Rep. John Kline – and he cites data from The Heritage Foundation; who would know better about “working families,” right?), and here, the House Repug leader, none other than “Man Tan” Boehner, called the bill “a pile of shit” (uh oh, time for another blogger ethics panel).

    Well, it should be noted that there were actual Republicans who acted like actual grownups and supported HR 2454, and one of them was Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey (pictured), who tells us the following from here…

    The ‘American Clean Energy and Security Act’ is the opportunity to break the cycle of inaction and finally move our nation towards real energy independence.

    This is by no means a perfect bill but, for New Jersey businesses and families, many of the federal standards that will be created are mirroring state standards long on the books. For the past decade, New Jersey has been forward-looking in its energy policy and sought to establish diverse, renewable alternative sources of energy to meet the state’s needs. From the development of biofuels based on crop waste and planning for additional nuclear reactors, to building small and large-scale wind farms and countless solar panel projects, individuals and municipalities recognized opportunities and took action.

    In the process, new local businesses were founded and jobs were created in the emerging ‘green industry’ here in New Jersey. What must happen next is the growth of domestic manufacturing of the materials needed for alternative energy production, such as solar cells, wind turbines and environmentally-friendly buildings. This legislation rightly focuses on growing that manufacturing base, creating green jobs and finally establishing our energy independence. The positive effects will be felt nationally and here in South Jersey. These are objectives I have long believed and advocated for as part of a national energy policy.
    I have disagreed with LoBiondo (as well as Mike Castle and especially Chris Smith), and I will again, but for now, thanks to the three of them for doing the right thing.

  • I recently had the opportunity to read Jane Mayer’s fine article on Leon Panetta taking over at the CIA, when I came across this excerpt…

    Panetta, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up washing dishes in his parents’ restaurant. He is disarmingly forthright, with an easy laugh; he is also a stern disciplinarian and a workaholic. Colleagues say that Panetta, who attends Mass regularly, can be principled to the point of rigidity. It was partly Panetta’s rectitude that got him the C.I.A. job. During the Bush years, he decried the country’s loss of moral authority; in a blunt essay for Washington Monthly last year, he declared that Americans had been transformed “from champions of human dignity and individual rights into a nation of armchair torturers.” He concluded, “We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.”

    Panetta’s impassioned essay unexpectedly became an asset during the Obama transition, after John Brennan—the initial candidate for C.I.A. director—was pressured to withdraw. Critics accused Brennan, who had been a top agency official during the Bush years, of complicity with the torture program. (A friend of Brennan’s from his C.I.A. days complained to me, “After a few Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear who write blogs voiced objections to Brennan, the Obama Administration pulled his name at the first sign of smoke, and then ruled out a whole class of people: anyone who had been at the agency during the past ten years couldn’t pass the blogger test.”)
    Well, you can just add this latest bit of ridicule to this collection from Glenn Greenwald, as well as this, in which David Simon, former Baltimore reporter and creator of HBO's The Wire, tells us that the state of the news biz is one in which "the parasite is killing the host" (not too hard to figure that one out).

    Oh, and by the way, Mayer (pictured) tells us that, despite this, Brennan eventually became “a senior official on the National Security Council.” We also learn the following…

    Brennan’s supporters have argued that he had no operational control over the interrogation program, and point out that his tenure as Tenet’s chief of staff ended in March, 2001, before the Al Qaeda attacks. But he was subsequently named deputy executive director, and served in that position until March, 2003—the period when the most brutal detainee treatment occurred. In addition, Brennan often briefed President Bush about daily developments in the war on terror. Brennan has described himself as an internal critic of waterboarding—a position that friends, such as Emile Nakhleh, a former senior officer, confirm. Yet, in an interview with me two years ago, Brennan defended the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques and extraordinary renditions, in which the C.I.A. abducted terror suspects around the globe and transported them to other countries to be jailed and interrogated; many of those countries had execrable human-rights records. He also questioned some people’s definition of “torture.” “I think it’s torture when I have to ride in the car with my kids and they have loud rap music on,” he said. Asked if “enhanced” interrogation techniques were necessary to keep America safe, he replied, “Would the U.S. be handicapped if the C.I.A. was not, in fact, able to carry out these types of detention and debriefing activities? I would say yes.”
    Gee, Mr. Brennan, if we water boarded you half as many times as say, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would you consider THAT torture too?

    But just remember, the outcry over Brennan is only because of “Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear who write blogs,” and not because we’re talking about a person who equates brutal interrogation techniques with listening to his kids’ too-loud music in the car.

    There’s all kinds of great stuff in Mayer’s story, also including the following…

    In April, Panetta fired all the C.I.A.’s contract interrogators, including the former military psychologists who appear to have designed the most brutal interrogation techniques: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The two men, who ran a consulting company, Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, had recommended that interrogators apply to detainees theories of “learned helplessness” that were based on experiments with abused dogs.
    All done by Bushco in our name, people.

  • And during my little tour of pundit land, I happened to come across this item from former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm, in which he alleges that the nomination of Mignon Clyburn for FCC commissioner (daughter of Dem House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina) is a “quid pro quo” for Mr. Clyburn’s support during last year’s presidential campaign.

    Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. But I think it’s important to note the following (from here)…

    (Mignon) Clyburn is a South Carolina public service commissioner…(and) she is currently the chair of the Washington Action Committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC).
    So at least she has already served as a public service commissioner.

    Now, let’s compare the Mignon Clyburn nomination to some ACTUAL nepotism, Dubya style, in the case of Julie Myers (here)…

    Myers has been a controversial figure since the day that President Bush nominated her. She was widely criticized as being a crony hire, being the daughter of former Air Force Gen. Richard Myers and possessing almost no immigration or customs experience. During her tenure, ICE was heavily criticized for carrying out politically-motivated immigration raids.

    Myers’s resignation comes just days after a “federal law enforcement official” told the AP that Barack Obama’s aunt was living in the United States illegally. ICE officials, however, are “prohibited from commenting on any individual’s status or the status of any case.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) has called for an immediate investigation into the matter. On Saturday, Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone questioned whether Myers may have been the source of the unauthorized leak.
    And as Think Progress also notes, Myers was involved in that untidy little incident where she was photographed with an ICE employee in blackface.

    Now, Malcolm, do you still want to talk about nepotism?

  • Charlie Savage of the New York Times has been reviewing about 150 hours of recently-released recordings from the Nixon White House covering January and February of 1973, as noted here. Some of what we find out is that Nixon encouraged abortions for “black and white” babies, and we also hear his ruminations on Jews and attractive Republican women (ugh).

    Also, The Sainted Ronnie R thought getting rid of special prosecutor Archibald Cox (in tandem with the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus) was just fine, which makes sense when you realize that he later would reward the solicitor general who made it happen with a Supreme Court nomination, and I’m talking about Robert Bork, of course.

    But we also learn the following in a discussion between Nixon, his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, and secretary Rose Mary Woods (this is set up by a discussion of whether or not Harry Truman was a good president for firing Douglas MacArthur, who wanted to cross the Yalu River into China during the Korean War – I think Truman did the right thing, personally)…

    NIXON: In America, you can — even when the president is wrong, you cannot have disloyalty. ...

    HALDEMAN: And before it’s decided they should tell you what they think. After it’s decided they’ve got to be on your side.

    NIXON: Well, they ought to come in and try to buck you up a little. Say good point.

    WOODS: I wish we could try some of our senators and congressman for treason.

    NIXON: Don’t worry about that.

    WOODS: I really do. Some day we’ll write them up —

    NIXON: The story will be told, Rose, sooner than you think.
    Wow, Rose Mary Woods had a trace of Madame Defarge, people. Color me shocked!

    Yes, I knew that she was “fiercely loyal” to Tricky Dick, but I just never figured her for a co-conspirator to all of the machinations of the Nixon White House (in spirit anyway, if not in actual practice).

    Just thought I’d share that one, that’s all.

  • And finally, I journeyed online to the Bucks County Courier Times site, only to find that they’re taking note of the number of words in constituent replies from Patrick Murphy’s office (here) - wow, hard-hitting stuff!

    And I also came across the following from J.D. Mullane’s blog (once again, real rough going there, people)…

    I thought we weren't going to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations. Maybe if the Honduran military had shot innocents on the streets, Barack Obama would have laid off the meddling.
    See, Bucks County, PA’s journalistic mistake alleges that Obama is at fault for not preventing the ouster of the president of Honduras (Manuel Zelaya), even though we apparently knew it was coming.

    But for background purposes, I think it’s important to note the following (from here)…

    Tanks rolled into the Honduran capital city of Tegucigalpa today and soldiers seized the national palace, just hours before the country was to hold a constitutional referendum.

    Zelaya had orchestrated the vote in hopes of changing the law to allow him to stand for re-election, which is prevented by term limits in Honduras.

    The country's supreme court had ruled the referendum illegal and congress -- as well as Zelaya's own political party members -- had opposed it. But Zelaya had pushed forward despite widespread opposition.

    Zelaya is a close ally of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has become a unifying force for strong, leftist political movements in Latin America.

    Roger Noriega, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, said Zelaya underminded his own government's institutions and now those institutions aren't there to protect him.

    "No one should applaud an illegal interruption of power. I don't think coups are good for institutions in the Americas and you need institutions to have stability and justice in these countries. Having said that, Zelaya was attacking these institutions," Noriega said. "The lesson I think we should get from this is that these populist strongmen really need to play by the rules."

    Local media reports say that Zelaya, who the Honduran military had flown to Costa Rica, is now making his way to Nicaragua where he's expected to meet with OAS officials later in the week.
    So now, we are in a position where we must work “behind the scenes” in an effort to help Zelaya return to power in some legitimate fashion (and in the meantime, make it plain to him that he does not have the authority to disobey the courts of his own country).

    And all of this is Obama’s fault as far as J.D. is concerned.

    Well then, let’s “compare and contrast” with how Obama’s predecessor chose to intervene in that hemisphere and take a look at the results (here)…

    The effort to engage Mr. Zelaya differed from Washington’s initial response to Venezuela’s brief coup in April 2002, when the Bush administration blamed Mr. Chávez for his own downfall and denied knowing about the planning of the coup, despite the revelation later that the Central Intelligence Agency knew developments about the plot in Caracas on the eve of its execution.

    After his return to power following the 48-hour coup, Mr. Chávez demonized the Bush administration, and the ties that frayed with the United States are only now being repaired in part by the decision last week by Washington and Caracas to return ambassadors to embassies from which they had been expelled.
    So, as he did in Iran, President Obama has chosen to follow the rule of law and let natural events play out within a sovereign nation (with a diplomatic assist), as opposed to interfering and thus consolidating anti-American support.

    When it comes to “meddling,” your hero Dubya was a pro, J.D., as opposed to that “piker” Obama, wouldn’t you say?
  • Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Sunday Stuff

    I also posted about this over here - unbelievable...

    ...and RIP, Sky Saxon of The Seeds (love the guitar solo where the fingers don't even strum the strings).