Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stuck Between Iraq And An Afghan Hard Place

I’ve been meaning to point this out for a little while, and I guess I’d better get to it before the end of the month; the chart from this link tells us that our corporate media cousins would like nothing more than for none of us whatsoever to trouble our beautiful minds with tales of woe from Iraq.

And as this Baltimore Sun editorial tells us…

…it is becoming increasingly clear that the only long-term answers to the problem of insufficient troop strength are either a military draft or an end to U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. And neither of those options seems likely to come to pass anytime soon.
And the editorial also proposes the idea of “a bigger army for a longer conflict” (don't know how you feel about that, but that sets off all kinds of alarm bells for yours truly).

And as noted here…

… only a few thousand US troops have left Iraq since President Obama took office, and few if any are expected to go through the beginning of next year. This certainly leaves doubts as to the president’s willingness to actually withdraw troops from the nation in a timely fashion, and (Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al) Maliki seems like he may be willing to oblige a long-term stay.
And I should note that the last sentence runs counter to the withdrawal deadline of December 2011 for all forces as stipulated in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Apparently it is necessary to point out to the new administration once more that which was inflicted upon us by the Bushco cabal and its media minions (and were it not for the “fudging” on the SOFA timetable, this would be welcome news…and by the way, did anyone know about the current water crisis faced by Iraq, noted here?).

And who better, outside of the Kagans, Danielle Pletka or their like, than Tom Friedman to bring us up to date (removing my tongue from cheek now)?

As noted here…

I’ve long argued that there should be a test for any officer who wants to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan — just one question: “Do you think the shortest distance between two points is a straight line?” If you answer “yes,” you can go to Germany, South Korea or Japan, but not to Iraq or Afghanistan. Well, this war has produced a class of officers who are very out-of-the-box thinkers. They learned everything the hard way — not in classes at Annapolis or West Point, but on the streets of Fallujah and Kandahar.

I call them: “The Class Too Dumb to Quit.” I say that with affection and respect. When all seemed lost in Iraq, they were just too stubborn to quit and figured out a new anti-insurgency strategy. It has not produced irreversible success yet — and may never. But it has kept the hope of a decent outcome alive.
Just think – we’ve suffered all of this misery over Dubya’s war of choice to “keep the hope of a decent outcome alive.” Peachy.

And it gets better…

At least The Class Too Dumb to Quit is in charge, and they have a strategy: Clear areas of the Taliban, hold them in partnership with the Afghan Army, rebuild these areas by building relationships with district governors and local assemblies to help them upgrade their ability to deliver services to the Afghan people — particularly courts, schools and police — so they will support the Afghan government.
Ah yes, it’s “Clear, Hold And Rebuild – The Sequel.”

Well, Peter Beaumont, the foreign affairs editor of the Guardian, tells us the following (from here)…

And this probably won’t make anyone feel better either (turning once more to "The Moustache Of Understanding," as Atrios calls him)…

Iraqis know who they were, and they don’t always like it, but they still have not figured out who they want to be as a country. They are exhausted from years of civil strife and really don’t want to go there again. Yet on the big unresolved issues — how will power be shared in Kirkuk, how will the Sunnis who joined the “awakening” be absorbed into the government, how will oil wealth and power be shared between provinces and the central government — the different ethnic communities still don’t want to compromise much either.
Given all of this, then what the hell was the point of the Iraq war; oh yes, let’s see now – to be welcomed as liberators, to spread democracy, to make the world safe for soldiers of fortune and Halliburton profiteers (and its partners and subsidiaries), to “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here”…

(Yes, I know that, if you’re reading this, you’re probably fully aware of the depressing history at least as much as I am, but please humor me in allowing one more recitation.)

Now, from the reality-based community, I give you the following (here)...

The subordination of women by Iraq’s religious zealots has been strengthened by the fracturing of Iraqi society brought about by the American invasion.

The zealots ride much higher than they ever did under Saddam. Mr. Friedman should give up his attempt to rationalize the irrational and admit that former President George W. Bush’s invasion was a ghastly and unforgivable mistake.

Will Jourdin
Ubud, Indonesia
And returning to the area of the world we should have been focusing on exclusively all along, we learn the following (here)...

Gates and Mullen face a raft of festering problems in Afghanistan: the Taliban and its allies are growing stronger, and they have killed 35 U.S. troops in the first three weeks of July — more than in any month since the U.S. invaded in October 2001. The Afghan government is salted with corruption, while its prisons are hellholes that turn citizens against their government. Pakistan remains a safe haven for launching attacks against U.S. and NATO troops in eastern Afghanistan, and despite the Obama Administration's strenuous efforts at persuasion, Islamabad shows little interest in extending its campaign against domestic extremism into a fight against the Afghan insurgency.
We know how this movie ends, people (at least in this country), namely, with the voting out of power of the ruling political majority responsible for the military debacle that has taken place on its watch (or, at the very least, the utter emasculation of that party to the point where they can no longer govern on its own).

Obama has earned a pass on Iraq since he opposed it and has thus far sought to remove our presence over time (despite some of the worrisome information I linked to from, which, God willing, will never become official policy). However, no politician has any such luxury on Afghanistan, despite the wretched Bushco bungling that has led us to our current sorry state.

And I, for one, have worked too hard doing what I can to see the Democrats rise to power once more (including the wretched “Bush Dogs” in the House and Evan Bayh’s contemptible Senate “centrists”) to see it all go up in smoke over war without end in the Middle East (as opposed to war without end in Southeast Asia about forty years ago...yes, I know the human cost as noted in the pic above is paramount to relatively minor political considerations).

Mr. President, as The Eternal Molly Ivins has pointed out (among others), when you’re in a hole, it’s time to stop digging.

And that’s every bit as true in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq.

Update 7/28/09: Kudos to the Brits, who seem to be "way ahead of the curve" (here and here).

A Brief Note On The Gates Case

I wasn't planning to say anything about this story (as well all know by now, professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested in his home by Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Massachusetts police force), but I thought Digby (via Atrios) made some great points here (as did Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. here).

(And by the way, am I the only one who finds it utterly ridiculous that a Massachusetts cop arrests a black professor in his home...but somehow the "big story" is how our African American president has to assuage the hurt feelings of the white arresting officer because our president dared to say that the actions of the cop were stupid, or something like that, even though they were? Hey, give Sgt. Crowley a free pass or two to the Valley Swim Club!).

Anyway, here is What Digby Said...

Henry Louis Gates may have acted like a jackass in his house that day. But Sergeant Crowley arresting him for being "tumultuous" was an abuse of his discretion, a fact which is backed up by the fact that the District Attorney used his discretion to decline to prosecute. Racially motivated or not he behaved "stupidly" and the president was right to say so.

* And by the way, if anyone wants to see some real incoherence on this subject, consult the right wingers who are defending the policeman today, but who also believe that anyone has the right to shoot first and ask questions later if they "feel" threatened in their own home. By their lights, Gates should have been arrested for behaving "tumultuously" but would have been within his rights to shoot Sgt Crowley. This is why conservatives have no standing to discuss anything more complicated than Sarah Palin's wardrobe.
A fresh round of wingnut umbrage will begin momentarily.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Stuff

Given what I just posted about "Byko" in the Philadelphia Daily News, this is probably a perfect accompaniment (maybe I'll add a typo to make him feel better - how's taht?...I admire David Shuster's passion here, but he's "preaching to the choir")...

...and the following is a public service message from the National Rifle Association (I can't even keep up with all of Jack White's bands at this point).

More "Byko" Anti-Blogger BS

There's been something burning me up all day, and I just want to take a minute or two (but no more) and share it.

You see, columnist Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News decided to attack bloggers in general again yesterday with this laughably nonsensical column (oh, but for a time, it was actually the most viewed item on's site over the last two days; I don't know if that's a more pathetic commentary on the site overall or its readers).

Stu shared the following with us (and for the uninitiated, he's referring to ballplayers on the Phillies)...

I DON'T have a blog. If I did blog, this is what it would be like. (To make it seem like a real blog, I'll include typos and factual errors.)
Ha and ha, Stu - jackass...

Will someone please create a shrine for whoever brouhgt (sic) Raul Ibanez to town?

While he gets competition from the peppy Shane Victorino, Always All-Star Chase Utley and Hammering Ryan Howard, Ibanez connected with (sometimes finicky) Philly fans. The creaky old guy even has a joyous nick-name - Rauuul.

It's great. He's great. (While in the geriatric center, high five to fan-friendly family man Jamie Mayer - sic.)

You'd have to go back to the '95 World Series team to find Phillies so adored, even if you wouldn't let some of them near your sister. The current champions are like choirboys.

They're fun to watch, they don't quit, they dirty their uniforms and they personify professionalism.

Guys love their guts and girls love their cutes.

How can you not love them?
Umm...I don't know exactly what this is representative of; possibly a delusional mind and nothing more?

Let me conclude this insipid interlude by pointing out the following (referred to by an astute commenter...and no, it wasn't me).

As noted here, Stu Bykofsky claimed that "another 9/11 might help America," or words to that effect.

And was he suspended? Fired, even?

Why, no. His work was published again the following week and each week thereafter. Hell, if anything, he was rewarded (though I'll admit that it's a stretch to consider an interview on Fix Noise as a reward).

However, if a blogger (or Bykofsky's idea of one, composing something complete with "typos and factual errors") published something like that, this person would quite rightly be utterly vilified.

"WTF," indeed.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (7/24/09)

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 (and I also posted here).


Appropriations, auto dealerships. Voting 219-208, the House passed a bill (HR 3170) to appropriate $24.2 billion in fiscal 2010 for the Treasury Department, White House, District of Columbia, the federal judiciary, and several independent agencies, including ones that regulate financial markets, protect consumers, and fund small businesses. The bill would require General Motors and Chrysler Corp. to restore franchise agreements with more than 2,000 dealerships, leaving the firms closed but entitling them to seek compensation under state laws, something disallowed in bankruptcy proceedings.

In part, the bill would provide $6.9 billion for the federal judiciary; $1.04 billion for the Securities and Exchange Commission; $848 million for the Small Business Administration; $768 million for the District of Columbia; $292 million for the Federal Trade Commission, and $113 million for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The bill also would give the District of Columbia the same right the 50 states have to spend locally raised funds on abortion services.

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.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Yep, I’d say it’s pretty much a “slam dunk,” as they say, that the “abortion services” item ensured that the Repugs would continue to inflict the “poor stepchild” treatment on DC, whose representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, is able to serve on and vote with committees, as well as speak from the House floor, though she is not permitted to vote on final passage of any legislation because she is not a full member of Congress (pathetic).

At least Mike Castle acted like an adult here – my compliments.

Energy, water appropriations. Voting 320-97, the House passed a bill (HR 3183) to appropriate $33.3 billion for energy, water and nuclear programs in fiscal 2010. In part, the bill would provide $6.3 billion for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile; $5.5 billion for Army Corps of Engineers public works; $5.4 billion for environmental cleanup at nuclear sites; $4.9 billion for research into long-term energy needs; $373 million for developing clean-vehicle technologies; $259 million for solar energy, and $208 million for upgrading the nation's electrical grid.

Additionally, the bill would fund the administration's decision to permanently bar nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and establish a commission to evaluate alternatives.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts.
This is yet another brain dead vote by PA-16’s rep, but I actually think that you have to cut Pancake Joe some slack here.

You see, he’s been busy picking a fight with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg over a comment in a New York Times Magazine article almost two weeks ago implying that there was an abortion-worthy class of “undesirables” out there (I would say it was a “wise Latina” moment by Justice Ginsburg on the matter of abortion services that aren’t available for poor women, though they are generally for women of means, and that’s what she was trying to communicate – this site is sympathetic to Pitts, but trust me; he doesn’t deserve it).

Also, as noted here (third item), “Values Voter” Joe was busy propagandizing over the supposed abortion mandate in the upcoming health care legislation. So my guess is that all of the activity tired him out and made him more disoriented than usual.

Energy, water spending cut. Voting 167-259, the House rejected a proposed 5 percent across-the-board cut in fiscal 2010 appropriations (HR 3183, above) to fund the government's energy and water programs. The amendment would have trimmed $1.7 billion from the bill's $33.3 billion in discretionary spending.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Adler, Dent, Gerlach, Murphy, and Pitts.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, Holden, LoBiondo, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.
This amendment was introduced by Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who, as noted here…well, you can make up your own mind on how awful her remarks were.

John Adler continues to languish in some kind of a slump with yet another bad vote (and with respect, Patrick, this was not a good one for you either – siding with Pitts, Dent and Gerlach is not a good place to be).

Wild horses, burros. Voting 239-185, the House passed a bill (HR 1018) to protect the estimated 36,000 wild horses and burros that roam public lands in the West. The bill would prevent the sale of these animals for slaughter, greatly expand the federal acreage available to them, and prohibit the penning of them for longer than six months.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts.
Comforting to know that Joe was prevented from aiding the “Trigger burger” industry here (seriously, this could have affected the food supply, to the point where tainted meat could have made us as ill as we would be after a lengthy review of Pitts’ voting record).


Hate-crimes prosecutions. Voting 63-28, the Senate advanced a hate-crimes amendment that sponsors seek to add to the $680 million, fiscal 2010 defense budget (S 1390), which remains in debate. The amendment would expand the federal law against hate crimes to include offenses based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability as well as the existing categories of national origin, religion, and race.

A yes vote was to advance a hate-crimes measure.

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

Religious freedom. Senators voted, 78-13, to ensure that hate-crimes language proposed for S 1390 (above) could not limit religious expression except when the intent of the expression is to plan, prepare for, or incite an act of physical violence.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Menendez, and Specter.

Voting no: Lautenberg.
There’s more going on here than meets the eye, as bmaz, blogging for emptywheel, tells us here…

There are inherent First Amendment and equal protection issues with any "hate crime" legislation as I pointed out when Eric Holder started aggressively pushing Congress for passage of a new bill. That said, if you are going to enact such laws, they must be targeted, rational and designed to effect the result desired and not any other. Such laws should not be vague and expansive, should not be able to be wielded by prosecutors as selective bludgeons and should not infringe on First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

Late Thursday night, the Senate passed a Hate Crimes Bill that arguably violates all of the above.
The post goes on to note that the following language was omitted from the Senate version of this bill (versus a comparable House version)…

Evidence of expression or association of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense. However, nothing in this section affects the rules of evidence governing the impeachment of a witness.
Without that language, bmaz and the ACLU believe that prosecutors will “use hate crimes statutes much more as leverage to force plea agreements and prove defendants guilty simply on the basis of non-conforming speech and membership in gangs, fringe political groups and the like than they do for the righteous purpose intended.”

And the amendment noted above by Sam Brownback of Kansas (who surely understood the danger of the vagueness of the Senate bill without the language noted above), which was passed, now gives the anti-abortion forces legal protection denied to those of opposite political and social points of view.

Kudos to Sen. Lautenberg for realizing that and voting No to the Brownback amendment (and a pox on those who voted Yes).

New census chief. The Senate voted, 76-15, to end a Republican-led filibuster against the nomination of Robert M. Groves as director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

He had directed the University of Michigan Survey Research Center. Republicans delayed the nomination for three months with claims that a Democratic administration might politicize the 2010 census.

A yes vote backed Groves as Census Bureau chief.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
This prior post (second item) discussed the typically idiotic Repug obstruction on the appointment of Dr. Groves, which is happily now no longer an issue.

This week, the House took up the 2010 intelligence budget, while the Senate continued to debate the 2010 defense budget.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Stuff

Here are some more Americans struck by the loss of health care benefits who Kent Conrad can laugh at...

...and I think this group will be at the XpoNential Music Festival this weekend in Philly (didn't see them in the lineup, though - it will be hot and humid, so be prepared).

Thursday Mashup (7/23/09)

Yep, not a lot going on again today, but I just wanted to get to some items.

  • As noted here, the “Looney Thune” gun amendment was defeated – barely - in the U.S. Senate yesterday by a vote of 58-39.

    As a nested Thing Progress post tells us…

    This amendment would, in effect, mean that states with the weakest laws will set the law for all other states. In so doing, it would strip each state’s power to enact its own public safety laws. For instance, 31 states currently prohibit “habitual drunkards” from carrying guns. The Thune amendment would render these provisions useless.
    And as the New York Times tells us today (from here)…

    “Lives have been saved with the defeat of this amendment,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a leading opponent of the amendment, said in a statement. “The passage of this amendment would have done more to threaten the safety of New Yorkers than anything since the repeal of the assault weapons ban.”

    Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, said the provision would not undermine local laws. He quoted a letter from a constituent who said she felt safer carrying her concealed weapon when she went out at night with her family.
    Fine, lady – if you want to carry a piece while shopping with your kids at the mall…well, I think you’re nuts, but just don’t do it in PA (call me a “states rights” liberal on this one…and I hope it goes without saying that I don’t believe “Diaper Dave” Vitter for one minute).

    Also, as long as I’m posting on this, I would like to express my thanks to Repug Senators Richard Lugar and the departing George Voinovich for doing the right thing.

    The Times story also tells us the following…

    In May, Congress approved a measure that let gun owners with proper permits carry their loaded and concealed weapons in national parks. And Mr. Thune, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, and other pro-gun lawmakers had said they intended to bring more provisions seeking to expand gun rights to the Senate floor this year.
    By the way, I’m sure Coburn isn’t a member of the AMA (haven’t been able to determine that), since that organization, to its credit, favors common sense gun control measures.

    And before I depart from this topic, I just want to reiterate something I said previously.

    I would ask that you take a look at this photo of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter leading a funeral procession for Office John Pawlowski last February. It is a stirring image of Philadelphia’s finest.

    The next time a gun control measure is introduced in Harrisburg, that is exactly what I want our senators and representatives to see as they deliberate over it before they vote. If they defeat it, they should know that they will have to explain why to those who risk their lives for us every day.

    And it wouldn’t hurt for medical personnel in their “scrubs” to be part of that also (I know it’s a bit much to ask them to do more than the great work they do already, but they can make a hell of a lot more of an impact on this issue by their mere presence than I can).

    Update 7/24/09: The NRA sure keeps interesting company, doesn't it?

  • Repug political strategist Doug Heye posted here on 42 congress- ional Democrats who he believes will scuttle the nascent health care legislation currently winding its way through Congress (with a vote scheduled for September as of now, according to this item – looks like the entire inglorious “Bush Dog” cadre in Heye's post minus, to his credit, Patrick Murphy).

    I wanted to pass on this at first because Heye and his ilk can regurgitate this stuff faster than I can ever answer it, but one name of this list stood out, and that is Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina.

    This story last week from MSNBC tells us the following…

    Also at (a Congressional Dem-sponsored health care) press conference, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer argued that health-care reform is a moral issue. "Reforming health care is an economic imperative, a budget imperative and a moral imperative."

    Both Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn attempted to play down the talk of deep divisions within the Democratic Party over health care. Many recent reports from Capitol Hill have suggested that Blue Dog Democrats are apprehensive about a health-care bill that will dramatically increase spending. In response, Hoyer stated, "I think, to a person, Blue Dogs believe that we need to pass and they want to support health-care reform."

    "I think that where we are is a pretty good place with all of this," Clyburn said. "We are much, much, much better off today than we were of Thursday last week."
    Maybe Heye had better make that number 41, or possibly lower (and it might do Repug Minority Whip Eric Cantor – the guy who supplied this stuff to Heye – some good to take a lesson or two in remedial math).

  • Finally, R. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary tells us the following on the pages of the WaPo today (here), in the matter of President Carter’s recent decision to sever ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, issuing the following statement to that effect: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable" (I should note that President Carter, in so doing, cited as his main authority the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948).

    Here is some of Mohler’s response…

    All this fits a pattern for which Mr. Carter is now well known. He simply rejects the texts in the Bible that clearly establish different roles for men and women in the church and the home. He dismisses these verses for the simple reason that he also rejects the inerrancy of the Bible.

    He may well be the world's most famous Sunday School teacher, but over just the last several years he has publicly expressed his rejection of the belief that persons must come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. He has also stated that his faith would not be shaken if Jesus did not perform some of the miracles attributed to him in the New Testament. His denial of biblical inerrancy is not merely theoretical -- he actually operates on the assumption that at least some texts of the Bible are false, untruthful, malignantly oppressive, and thus untrustworthy.

    President Carter actually makes no argument for women as pastors. He simply dismisses out of hand what the Christian church has believed for centuries -- and what the vast majority of Christians around the world believe even now. His argument should embarrass any serious person who considers this question, for it is grounded in little more than his own sense of how things ought to be. He makes claims about the Bible that are reckless and irresponsible and historical claims that would make any credible church historian blush. He straightforwardly rejects what he admits some texts of the Bible teach.
    So, assuming Mohler's claims can be taken at face value, it looks like he is favoring as literal an interpretation of the Bible here as he can concoct for the purpose of subjugation by gender. And I don’t know what the issue of women as pastors has to do with any of this (important, though not for this discussion I believe).

    And for the record, here is a link to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which the equal rights of men and women are noted in both the Preamble and Article 16 (you can argue with whether or not it applies directly to any organized religion, but I think such an association, if not directly expressed, is at leas implied here…it should also be noted that the person who played the most important role in bringing this wonderful document to fruition was none other than Eleanor Roosevelt, who I’m sure would side with President Carter in this matter).

    And as far as Mohler is concerned, this Wikipedia article tells us that he has said that “any belief system, any world view, whether it's Zen Buddhism or Hinduism or dialectical materialism for that matter, Marxism, that keeps persons captive and keeps them from coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, yes, is a demonstration of Satanic power."

    Oh, and did I mention that he also encouraged the “evangelization” of Iraqis in May 2003, called Catholicism a “false church,” and encouraged a prenatal treatment to reverse (a baby’s) sexual orientation to heterosexual (if it) is ever developed” (Wikipedia tells us that Mohler was "frustrated by the public response to his statement"...I'm sure he was).

    I firmly believe that President Carter exemplifies a character more closely associated with a faith and spirituality I recognize and try to practice (imperfectly, I know) more than any other figure in public life. And I applaud his decision to leave the Convention for the reasons he has stated.

    And as far as Mohler is concerned, he doesn’t have a prayer.
  • Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Wednesday Stuff

    Here is the bilious garbage of right-wing hate radio in all its ignominy; the day Michael Savage actually sounds intelligent is the day that I'll be ready for "the old liberals home" at an undisclosed location in Massachusetts...

    ...oh, and by the way, wingnuts, this is called leadership (after eight years of having to endure the swaggering idiocy of Commander Codpiece, I personally am not going to budge ONE FREAKING INCH on core issues responsible for President Obama's election like this one)...

    (Update - Well, the MSNBC vid above isn't cooperating, so let's try this one from CNN.)

    ...and by the way, the previous sentence was aimed also at chicken Dems like Kent Conrad (it disgusts me that I have to share a party allegiance with toadies and gutter snipes like this character, but alas I must)...

    ...and by the way, this has a bad word in it, but I think it completely fits (sadly, though, I believe the answer to the question is "yes")...

    ...and in memory of Gordon Waller of Peter and Gordon, I present the following (though I'm sure Peter Asher, producing performers such as Linda Ronstadt, ended up doing OK also)....

    ...and congratulations to Jackson Browne for this; way to "stick to your guns," dude.

    Real ID vs. Pass ID And More 9/11 Report Wrangles

    (I also posted here.)

    To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 Commission Report today, the Washington Post printed the following Op-Ed recently by U.S. House Repugs Lamar Smith, James Sensenbrenner, Peter King and Darrell Issa (now THERE’s a collection of wingnuts).

    The subject is the Real ID Act versus the Pass ID Act; here is an excerpt…

    Despite the fact that a unanimous Senate -- including then-Sen. Barack Obama -- passed the Real ID Act, several senators recently introduced legislation known as the Pass ID Act, which promises to return the nation to pre-Sept. 11 dangers.

    Under the Pass ID legislation, about which the secretary of homeland security testified last week, states would no longer need to verify a person's identity before issuing a driver's license or identification card. They would not be required to resolve Social Security number mismatches; nor would they need to ensure the person does not possess duplicate or additional licenses or identification cards issued from other states.
    To begin, this Wikipedia article tells us the following about the Real ID Act of 2005…

    The Real ID Act started off as H.R. 418, which passed the House[4] and went stagnant. Representative James Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin, the author of the original Real ID Act, then attached it as a rider on a military spending bill, H.R. 1268, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005. The House of Representatives passed that spending bill with the Real ID rider 368-58,[5] and the Senate passed the joint House-Senate conference report on that bill 100-0.[6] President Bush signed it into law on May 11, 2005.[7]
    So basically, what President Obama signed off on was the conference report on a spending bill with Real ID as a rider to the bill; hardly a glowing endorsement (in fact, this tells us that Obama in fact opposed the bill for the following reason)…

    "I do not support the Real ID program because it is an unfunded mandate, and not enough work has been done with the states to help them implement the program."
    And this Las Vegas Sun editorial tells us the following…

    Since the Real ID Act was passed by Congress four years ago, criticism of this legislation to increase the security of driver’s licenses has arisen from many sources, including state governments, privacy groups and travel agents.

    The federal law was passed as a response to 9/11. Its purpose was to prevent terrorists from easily obtaining false licenses, enabling them to set up bank accounts, rent living quarters and otherwise blend into American society unnoticed.

    Although its intention was good, the Bush administration followed its usual pattern — quickly writing legislation and pushing it through a Republican-controlled Congress without thinking much about problems that could arise.

    The National Governors Association has endorsed an alternative to Real ID that is backed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. She was governor of Arizona when that state, along with many others, protested Real ID as too expensive and unworkable from technical and privacy standpoints.

    Such protests led the Bush administration to essentially punt by delaying implementation of the law until a new administration took office.
    (I know – as far as Bushco is concerned, just another case of “lather, rinse, repeat.”)

    More to the point (and more in line with President Obama’s comments), this tells us the following…

    States have bristled at provisions of the Real ID Act that require them to upgrade their driver's licensing programs with new technology at their own expense, and that frustration is forming the nucleus of a movement to repeal the 2005 law in favor of a less expensive alternative.

    On July 15, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that it would cost states an estimated $1.5 billion to update their systems and electronically verify applicants’ information.
    All of this has a lot to do with why DHS and members of the National Governor’s Association (including Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Jim Douglas of Vermont, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Bill Ritter of Colorado) support Pass ID, projected to cost $2 billion as opposed to the $3.9 billion price tag for Real ID, as noted here.

    Also, this release from the Department of Homeland Security tells us the progress achieved to date in complying with the 9/11 Commission recommendations, though as noted here, there are still waay too many Congressional committees and subcommittees involved with agency oversight (and believe it or not, the ability of first responders to communicate with one another during an emergency remains an issue – Secretary Napolitano and former 9/11 Commission chair Lee Hamilton claim that we’re making progress, however…hope they’re right).

    And of course, what would this topic be without some corporate media hilarity, courtesy of Fix Noise here, in which talking head Greg Jarrett neglected to mention that the post of Director of National Intelligence, a commission recommendation, was not allowed to coordinate Pentagon intelligence gathering activities and related budgeting, among other misinformation (the 2004 Republican intelligence bill – actually not an oxymoron here – did not implement the other commission recommendations either; the stronger Senate bill provisions were “watered down” by the anemic House version).

    Also, let’s not forget that the 9/11 Commission Report from 2004 stated categorically that “America's leaders failed to grasp the gravity of terrorist threats before the 9/11 attacks.”

    I’m just going to let that quote “hang there,” more or less – somehow I think that is no longer the case (I hope and pray as much anyway), but more fool us if somehow it is.

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    Tuesday Mashup Part 2 (7/21/09)

    (I also posted here; took me awhile to get to Part 2 of this.)

  • BoBo tells us the following from here, perched upon his ivory tower at The Old Gray Lady…

    Only 11 percent of the (stimulus) money will be spent by the end of the fiscal year — a triumph of ideology over pragmatism.
    Apparently this is the right-wing talking point du jour (and presumably, David Brooks is referring to a report by the Congressional Budget Office).

    Well then, please allow me to point out that the CBO forecasted here in January that “only 40 percent of the appropriations money will flow in the first 18 months, and slightly less than 70 percent in the first 30 months” (with that number revised downward to 23 percent in February, as noted here).

    More importantly, though, I think we should keep the following in mind, as noted from the American Progress post in January…

    It is also important to recognize that contrary to the representations of some critics of the program, job creation under most programs in the package will significantly precede the outlay of federal funds, which is what the CBO data projects. The U.S. Highway Administration, for instance, allocates funds to the states based on a federal highway formula, but states do not actually get reimbursed from the U.S. Treasury (creating an “outlay”) until after the contracts have been signed, employees have been hired, and a phase of the construction project has been completed.
    So just because whatever percent of stimulus funds have been allocated, that doesn’t mean that jobs funded from the “stim” aren’t already on the way.

    What a shame that “stim” funds aren’t required to staff jobs for corporate media pundits.

  • And while I was away, the ever-execrable Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times brought us the following bit of hilarity (from here)…

    The president is in a big rush to get (health care) reform through Congress by Aug. 7, when Congress takes another of its lengthy vacations from four-day workweeks.
    I think Laura Bush’s former employee has apparently confused the 111th Congress with the 109th, which, as noted here, served for seven fewer days than the infamous “Do-Nothing Congress” of 1948.

    Also noted in the WaPo story is the following (written soon after the 109th ended in December 2006)…

    With the new calendar, the Democrats are trying to project a businesslike image when they take control of Congress in January. House and Senate Democratic leaders have announced an ambitious agenda for their first 100 hours and say they are adamant about scoring legislative victories they can trumpet in the 2008 campaigns.
    Also, this tells us of former Repug House Rep (and now Obama Transportation Secretary) Ray LaHood complaining in essence about having to work a five-day work week as a reason why he wanted to leave Congress (along with fellow House Repug Jack Kingston of Georgia, who I hope has found his flag lapel pin by now, as noted here).

  • This story tells us the following (hat tip to Mark Halperin of The Page - yeah I know, but fair is fair)…

    WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Dick Cheney's Secret Service protection has been extended for at least another six months, beginning Tuesday.

    Normally, ex-veeps only get six months of protection at taxpayer expense. But Cheney asked for an extension, and President Obama - whom Cheney has excoriated in several interviews since leaving office - recently signed off.

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signed the order extending Cheney's security detail, her spokeswoman Sara Kuban confirmed Monday.

    If the Obama administration hadn't gone along with Cheney's request, he would have been forced to hire his own security agents - or go without.
    As noted, far more than any other member of Bushco, “Deadeye Dick” has attacked the Obama Administration with a peculiar kind of vigor not seen while he was in office, lurking in the shadows of his “undisclosed location” (or hiding in the trees in that creepy photograph when Dubya spoke to reporters at the White House a year or so ago).

    And by the way, we’re still awaiting proof from the former veep of the success of the “enhanced interrogation” methods he championed (here). And this tells us about the recent disclosure of Cheney’s supposed secret assassination program (with the predicatable Repug response here).

    I think a reasonable person would have a hard time arguing the opinion that, at this moment, Dick Cheney is the most disreputable person in the world (or short of that, at least a qualifier for the top five in that category).

    Given all of this, I can only add the following:

    Mr. President, Dick Cheney can pay for his own damn security (and it’s not as if he can’t afford it).
  • Monday, July 20, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    I'm still in semi-blogging mode at the moment, but I hope to get back to more posting soon.

    In the meantime, here are some high-res pics of Apollo 11's first moon landing, which we experienced 40 years ago today...

    ...and once more, time to rock.

    Snarlin' Arlen's Sotomayor-Saudi Slam

    (By the way, I also posted over here.)

    This item appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer last Friday (still in catch-up mode here)…

    Sen. Arlen Specter suggested during Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing yesterday that the Obama administration sought to block Supreme Court review of lawsuits blaming Saudi Arabia for the Sept. 11 attacks for fear of offending an important ally.

    In a July 7 letter to Sotomayor, Specter also raised the issue of Saudi involvement in the attacks, asserting that "plaintiffs' counsel had developed considerable evidence showing Saudi complicity."

    At (the Sotomayor) hearing, Specter said: "There was a case in which the Supreme Court denied certiorari just a couple of weeks ago involving claims for damages brought by survivors of victims of Sept. 11 against certain individuals in Saudi Arabia. The executive branch interposed objections to having that case decided because of the sensitivity of matters with Saudi Arabia.

    "Don't you think that this is the kind of case the Supreme Court should have heard?"

    Sotomayor deflected the question, saying she had not been part of the Supreme Court discussion and thus could not make a judgment.
    I find it more than a bit galling that “Democrat” Arlen Specter would use the Sotomayor confirmation hearing as an opportunity to blame the Obama Administration for trying to shield the Saudis from prosecution (though it is a fair charge, I’ll admit) given the following, as noted in this November 2005 post (dated from when Specter chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, during a hearing called “Saudi Arabia: Friend or Foe in the War on Terror?”)…

    …testimony also discusse(d) an audiotape, obtained by NBC earlier this year, of the chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council heard exhorting young Muslims to go to Iraq to kill Americans. When NBC asked Saudi officials for their reaction, Saudi officials falsely claimed that the tape was a fabrication. NBC then contacted the Sheik directly in Saudi Arabia, who admitted that he made the recording. When asked about these and specific instances of propaganda cited by (reporter Nina) Shea, Anthony Cordesman replied that Saudi officials had never expressed warlike sentiments to him during his numerous visits there over 30 years, and that we are seeing real, though incomplete, progress by the Saudis in excising hateful propaganda from textbooks.

    The Saudis refused to testify and have not assured committee chairman Sen. Specter that they have excised their textbooks, but they did mount a PR offensive today. They announced that they have a fugitive Al Qaeda suspect in custody; they used another Washington event to deny the committee's bipartisan criticism; and the new Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. "vowed" that his government would show terrorists "no mercy." His words are ironic considering that he personally assisted the Taliban after they took in UBL and also oversaw the spread of the hateful literature that was the subject of the hearing. But the Ambassador couldn't stop the State Department today from releasing its report citing Saudi Arabia as one of 8 countries "of particular concern" for failing to safeguard religious freedom.
    I don’t recall Specter making any noise about this whitewashing of the behavior of our “friends” the Saudis back when he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, now that the Democrats run our government again, I suppose 20-20 hindsight is appropriate as far as he's concerned.

    (Also, let’s be clear on something; did Specter really think Sotomayor would do anything besides deflect that question?)

    Besides, there is ample evidence documenting our involvement on behalf of the Saudis in matters related to the 9/11 attacks; this tells us that the Saudi Defense Minister hired the law firm of Baker-Botts (including “Poppy” Bush “fixer” James Baker) to represent him in a suit brought by the 9/11 families in 2004. Also, this tells us of former Sen. Bob Graham’s charge that Bushco blocked an investigation of a probable 9/11-Saudi link (Graham was the Democrat who co-chaired Congress’s probe into the attacks, though Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow cleared Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi government agent living in San Diego, California, who, according to Graham, gave “significant financial support” to two of the hijackers – given this, though, I would be skeptical of Zelikow, to say the least).

    I’ll admit that I’ve had bigger issues with Specter in the past than this one, and asking Sotomayor a question about a Supreme Court review of cases involving possible Saudi-9/11 involvement is fair game (really though, even if the Obama Administration supported such a review, does anyone think this Supreme Court would grant it?).

    But for Specter to pose this to Sotomayor with no context as to his own actions is disingenuous to say the least (as are Specter’s actions recalled in this post).