Friday, February 03, 2006

Fixing What Is Truly Sick

My assignment from Brendan is to research Dubya’s State Of The Union address from 2003 and find little tidbits that scream for a rebuttal. I’m going to begin doing that today, and I have a feeling that it will be an ongoing effort for some time. I’ll try to avoid the more obvious stuff that Brendan has already covered (you know…the “evergreen” ones about Saddam Hussein and WMD, yellowcake, non-existent al Qaeda links, etc.).

You remember 2003, right? We all knew what Dubya and his poodle were up to (and I don’t like calling Tony Blair that, since he’s yet another infinitely better person than Dubya who has utterly soiled himself by “lying down” with Bushco), but most of us figured “well, Dubya is the president, and he must know something we don’t,” so we went along with him (and how about this that has just come out, by the way?). I mean, I didn’t – honestly – but I know plenty of other people smarter than me who did.

Well, I seem to recall that Dubya, in the ’03 SOTU address, said something exactly like this:

Our second goal is high quality, affordable health care for all Americans. (Applause.) The American system of medicine is a model of skill and innovation, with a pace of discovery that is adding good years to our lives. Yet for many people, medical care costs too much -- and many have no coverage at all. These problems will not be solved with a nationalized health care system that dictates coverage and rations care. (Applause.)

Instead, we must work toward a system in which all Americans have a good insurance policy, choose their own doctors, and seniors and low-income Americans receive the help they need. (Applause.) Instead of bureaucrats and trial lawyers and HMOs, we must put doctors and nurses and patients back in charge of American medicine. (Applause.)

Health care reform must begin with Medicare; Medicare is the binding commitment of a caring society. (Applause.) We must renew that commitment by giving seniors access to preventive medicine and new drugs that are transforming health care in America.
From this “Common Dreams” article…

It’s the same with senior citizens and Medicare. Bush won our sympathy with bold words: "Health care reform must begin with Medicare, because Medicare is the binding commitment of a caring society." He then lied, calling a nationalized health care system one that "dictates coverage and rations care." But it is precisely the current system of private insurance companies and HMOs that dictates coverage and limits care – and that’s why we need health insurance reform.

Bush then promised senior citizens lower costs for pharmaceutical drugs, but with a catch. To get this benefit, seniors must leave Medicare for private HMOs and other insurance plans. The wealthy can afford that (they already have private plans to supplement their basic Medicare coverage). With Bush’s plan, they will reap additional savings on pharmaceutical costs. Meanwhile, the majority of senior citizens, dependent upon Medicare, will be left with the high pharmaceutical prices in a public system stripped of its universal application and its government support. The $400 billion that Bush proposes to pump into the system will not go into the universal Medicare program; it’s simply a government subsidy to the pharmaceutical companies and private insurance companies that will prosper under Bush’s misnamed and bogus Medicare reform.

Seniors happy with the current Medicare system should be able to keep their coverage just the way it is. (Applause.) And just like you -- the members of Congress, and your staffs, and other federal employees -- all seniors should have the choice of a health care plan that provides prescription drugs. (Applause.)

My budget will commit an additional $400 billion over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare. Leaders of both political parties have talked for years about strengthening Medicare. I urge the members of this new Congress to act this year. (Applause.)
Really? Marie Cocco begs to differ.

And how about this?

To improve our health care system, we must address one of the prime causes of higher cost, the constant threat that physicians and hospitals will be unfairly sued. (Applause.) Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care, and many parts of America are losing fine doctors. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. I urge the Congress to pass medical liability reform. (Applause.)
By the way, the next time you hear Bush or one of his apologists crowing about “Frivolous lawsuits,” I would ask that you consider this (knowing that the tort deform for class action lawsuits has already passed, unfortunately, which will undoubtedly hurt those litigants in the Christie Todd Whitman post below).

Let's Clear The Air

So Christie Todd Whitman, enemy of the environment and gutless EPA stooge who kow towed to Bushco at every conceivable opportunity, is back in the news again because a judge quite rightly refused to grant her immunity from a class action lawsuit by New York residents in Brooklyn and Manhattan over Whitman’s claim that it was all right to return to their neighborhoods after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center even though “toxic dust was polluting their neighborhoods,” according to the news story.

As Lou Dubose and Molly Ivins documented in “Bushwhacked,” this is par for the rotten course, so to speak, when it comes to Whitman’s tenure as head of the EPA…

(The book) also details the battle Deb Sanchez and her neighbors in South Denver fought with the Environmental Protection Agency over contaminated soil left in their neighborhood at the Shattuck Superfund site.

The soil was laced with radium and other contaminants, the byproduct of decades of manufacturing. Residents near the site were told by the EPA that the soil was indeed a danger and would be dug up and hauled to a licensed dump.

But the EPA, without notifying the neighbors, decided to mix the soil with concrete and fly ash and build a 6-acre monolith 10 feet high.

Sanchez and the others battled the EPA for 10 years in a seemingly vain effort to have the monolith removed. Only when
EPA Ombudsman Bob Martin stepped in did Sanchez and the others start to see results. With Martin, who as ombudsman regularly sided with residents in fights against the EPA, they forced the EPA to break up the monolith and haul it away (a process that is going on).

They would have been lost without Martin, who had long been a thorn in the side of EPA administrators appointed by the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Shattuck proved to be Martin's last victory. Although a Government Accounting Office report recommended more independence for the ombudsman, Bush appointee Christie Todd Whitman moved oversight of Martin's office into the EPA, gutted his budget and handcuffed his only investigator.

When Martin was out of town, Whitman took more than 100 boxes of case files out of his offices, removed the computers and phones and changed the locks. Martin resigned in protest.

In George Bush's America, according to Ivins and Dubose, people like Deb Sanchez don't have a voice at the EPA.
There’s more on Whitman here.

I realize you can’t do jail time for stupidity or environmental malfeasance, but if that were possible, then we should be readying a cell for her right now. She will have the thanks of an entirely new generation of children, senior citizens and others affected by asthmatic disorders and other respiratory difficulties.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The MSM Covers Up The Crime

This is the sort of thing that the blog Outsourced America used to hammer on very effectively, and I'm going to take a shot at it myself.

This article by reporter Reid Kanaley appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer today, and one of the things that gets me about it is that we never end up with an exact headcount of how many people Sashi Reddi employs in Philadelphia, much less a description of what the company's office, presumably downtown somewhere, looks like. It could be a collection of 386s on top of some milk crates in the basement next to the restrooms and a utility closet for all we know.

Also, please keep in mind a couple of things: 1) I like Kanaley's work and I don't mean to shoot at him in any way - whatever problems I have stem from the direction he was given on this by his editor, and 2) This isn't an anti-Indian rant; if someone comes here from any other country, does the best they can and does their part as a good neighbor, then he or she should be entitled to whatever they can earn. If you come here, settle somewhere, pay taxes, contribute to the economy, and do all that good stuff, then as far as I'm concerned, you're an American. The problem I have is when companies send good jobs requiring a sophisticated skill set of any kind someplace overseas to save money, because that job will be lost forever, meaning one less person in this country contributing to the economy and, ultimately, an expansion of our horrific trade deficit.

(Actually, please keep in mind a third thing, and that is that I may end up using a bad word or two here because it is necessary to do so.)

OK, now that that's out of the way...

When his dot-com went dot-bomb five years ago, entrepreneur Sashi Reddi survived the meltdown by regrouping to launch a high-tech service company.

He founded AppLabs Inc., based in Center City, which tests other people's software for bugs, vulnerability to malicious hackers, and ease of use. To his delight, it was a winner.

"From day one, we have had no trouble finding customers," Reddi said in an interview. "We were profitable from the first year."

Now with more than 900 employees - most of them in his native India - Reddi, 40, is about to take AppLabs public through a merger with a software-development firm, VisualSoft Technologies, whose shares trade on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange in New Delhi.
So basically, this new company will be based in India practically in its entirety with only a token presence here (probably status quo for them). I see.

He said the combined company would have annual revenue of $50 million to $60 million. The merger, set to close by the end of June, will also net AppLabs between $25 million and $30 million in cash that Reddi, who will become the chief executive officer, hopes to use for acquisitions.
I think it's worth noting the incredibly obvious fact that this column is aimed at potential investors in this proposed new company and, really, no one else. There is not the slightest indication whatsoever that Reddi is interested in employing additional workers in this country.

"We want to be the top testing company in the world, and we want to do that in the next 12 to 18 months," he said.

Software testing is a $13 billion world market, according to Gartner Inc., the Stamford, Conn., technology-research group. AppLabs competes against scores of domestic and foreign testing firms, including VeriTest, a division of Lionbridge Technologies Inc., of Waltham, Mass.; SQS Group, of Germany; and Tescom Software Systems Testing Ltd., of Israel.

AppLabs has tested software for about 400 companies, including SAP AG, InstallShield Software Corp., Broderbund Software Inc., American Airlines, and MSNBC.
I'm starting to wonder how much of this Kanaley lifted straight out of their annual report or marketing collateral.

The company's testers take a program, such as educational Reader Rabbit software, and check to see that all of its features work, that game narratives make sense, and even that it can be successfully uninstalled.
It will start to get more interesting shortly.

The company sends its most labor-intensive "cookie-cutter" work to its 850-employee testing center in Hyderabad, a city in south-central India, Reddi said.
Typical (but of course, whenever we hear some government suit or chamber of commerce shill trying to sell us the "benefits" of offshoring/outsourcing/whatever, it is to advance the unconscionable lie that it will keep "important" jobs here).

"For that type of work, we like to take advantage of the cost structure in India," he said.
Of course you do. I mean, you can't actually be bothered with trying to pay a competitive wage or provide a bare minimum of benefits to your employees, so you do what everybody else is doing, and that is send the job offshore to India or elsewhere in search of some imagined cost savings (of course, now wages have risen to the point in India where Indian jobs are now being offshored...tit for tat, I say). It would be so refreshing if one of these entrepreneurs like Reddi would actually come out and say this for a change.

More complicated testing is done in the United States, particularly at a company facility in Lindon, Utah, near Salt Lake City. The company has 65 workers in the United States, Reddi said.
Define "complicated testing" for me, OK? Maybe, in reality, it's the overflow from India, or possibly it could be work that's intensive due to internationalization or localization concerns, and Reddi doesn't want to send it overseas.

Reddi, who grew up in Hyderabad, holds a doctorate from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his family live in Gladwyne half the year, and winter in India.
Is THAT the "local angle" that you're trying to play up? Why should I care?

Besides, it sounds to me like this guy is taking the education he got in this country and using it to his own benefit somewhere else. Why should I feel anything but derision towards him?

Outsource software testers are benefiting from test-aversion among U.S. information-technology companies, said Carey Schwaber, an industry analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.
Now that Forrester has shown up in this article - and you KNEW they would - it will start to get ugly.

Testing has tended to get little respect in the industry, and is therefore "something that a lot of American companies really do quite badly," Schwaber said. So, when executives demand outsourcing to cut costs, "testing just looks like an easy target."
Let me try to get this straight - it gets "little respect," which actually is true (I've worked side by side with software testers from all over the place for years, by the way). And whose fault is that? Is it the fault of the tester busting his or her hump, so to speak, meeting impossible deadlines to complete and execute their scripts and deal with the inevitable push back from software developers, among others? Also, is it their fault that they are perennially short staffed? I would definitely say that THAT is the reason why most American companies "do it badly."

Typical solution by American business - "Let's set these people up to fail by not supporting their function, so we can look like geniuses when we send it offshore for less money where they work longer hours too." What bullshit!

As a result, outsourced testing is "a really quickly booming market," and companies that do it are growing at annual rates of 50 percent to 300 percent, Schwaber said. "The niche players like AppLabs, for a while, were the only players in the market. They were really the pioneers."

A Forrester report says India is "becoming the main destination for offshore testing work," and that financial-services firms such as Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, Morgan Stanley, and Standard Chartered Bank use Indian firms to test their software.
Of course, whenever Forrester is mentioned in a story like this, the company's profit motive behind sending jobs out of this country for good is never pointed out.

In January, AppLabs won a contract to test downloadable software - so-called adware and trackware, along with instant-messaging programs, Web browser toolbars, and the like - on behalf of TRUSTe, a nonprofit San Francisco group that certifies the privacy claims of Web sites.

"We had to go out and find an independent, credible testing partner," TRUSTe spokeswoman Carolyn Hodge said. "They were able to show us that they would be impartial in the testing of software."
There are PLENTY of "independent, credible" and - I'm sure, also - unemployed software testers in this country (notice how sending jobs to India has gone from a "profitable" venture to one that finds "credible" people in this story...can you just feel the knife twisting in your ribs as you read this if you happen to work in this industry, especially if you're looking for a job?).

Reddi started his first company, EZPower Systems Inc., a supplier of workflow and document-management software, in the 1990s.
No wonder he bailed out of that line of business - I would have too.

After EZPower was acquired by DocuCorp International Inc., a Safeguard Scientifics Inc. company, Reddi started iCoop, an ill-timed dot-com that was developing online purchasing software for business groups.
I would pretty much kiss off any notion of a "Philadelphia angle" in this story by now, by the way.

The same week that iCoop filed patents, Reddi said, another company backed by billionaire Microsoft Corp. cofounder Paul Allen also filed patents "to do exactly the same thing. There was no way I was going to be able to succeed."

He turned, instead, to services, and freed himself from the tedium and expense of building and marketing a software product.

Reddi said the coming merger with VisualSoft would broaden AppLabs offerings to include software writing and consulting services, though he expects most of the company's business to remain in testing.

Diversifying "gives them more wedges into accounts," said Forrester's Schwaber. So, "if the market for testing services ever cools down, they have other investments, too."

Testing, Testing
(funny...what dweebs)

AppLabs Inc. tests software developed by other companies, including SAP, Broderbund and American Airlines.

Founded: April 2001.

Headquarters: Philadelphia.

Founder & CEO: Sashi Reddi.

Employees: More than 900, including 850 in Hyderabad, India.
This public service announcement has been brought to you by the Greater India Chamber of Commerce.

Update: Regarding a comment I was asked to reject, my only answer is that I can be reached via Email from a link near the very bottom of the right nav bar.

"Huuh, Huuh...Not Cool"

So Rep. John Boehner of Ohio (and yes…that really is how you spell his name) is the new House Majority Leader, I see (with a "Delay-esque" look on his face if I do say so myself, if there is such a thing).

Well, as this article from Forbes Magazine explains, for-profit universities got the man they wanted. In this story, I thought the following paragraphs were instructive:

While the for-profits' revenue grew, so too did the attention they received from regulators. Late in 2003, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Education Department, state regulators and accreditation bodies mounted a flurry of investigations against the schools amid rumors they were overstating enrollments to collect more loan dollars. Students accused schools of misleading them about the value of their degrees. The FBI even stormed the headquarters of ITT Educational Services (nyse: ESI - news - people ) to seize documents. The investigations shocked investors and alerted the companies about how heavy the hand of regulation can be.

Today, many of those probes seem to have quietly wound up without any action. Nevertheless, probes had their effect on the industry. "What happens in Washington has a much greater effect on all the for-profits," says Eduventures analyst Sean Gallagher. "Regulatory issues have come to the forefront."

Now, as Congress considers rewriting the Higher Education Act, the for-profits are looking for more regulation--of the sort that will help them at the expense of traditional universities. The bill has been stalled in the Senate, and if Boehner is vaulted to the majority seat he might just be able to kick-start the legislation and put more of his education reforms through on Capitol Hill.
Boehner is a logical choice to succeed Delay in a way since, of the Repug house leadership candidates, he has been making the most noise lately about “reform.” However, based on this article, I think the only thing he’s going to end up doing, as opposed to actually cleaning out the Repug cesspool, is to make it flow more efficiently.

Update 2/7: Yep, the name definitely fits.

Don't Have A Sacred Cow, Man

Sounds like the French and German governments stood up to crazed nationalists yesterday and said that a cartoon that offended the sensibilities of a particular group of people should be published anyway.

Funny, but I seemed to recall a time when there never would have been a controversy like that in this country (right?), but I guess that's "so pre-9/11" of me, I suppose.

Caution From A Peanut Farmer

Keep in mind – he was actually there to monitor the election last week.

The popular wisdom in this country is that Jimmy Carter is a good man (which, to me, is a huge understatement…read books like “The Unfinished Presidency” by Douglas Brinkley to truly understand the esteem in which he is held around the world) but he was a rotten president.

Well, he did help broker the Camp David accords (though Anwar el Sadat of Egypt was more responsible for that than either Carter or Begin, who abrogated the accords the first chance he got), and he also ensured ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty, which actually was a good thing with lots of bennies for us in the deal, which is only appropriate I know since we built it after other countries tried and failed.

But of course he’s blamed for the OPEC energy crisis (funny how the price of gas climbed under him and he was roasted for it, but Dubya paid no political price for it since it’s happened under HIS watch) and that remark about the “malaise” (it’s just a word, people…let’s get a grip, OK?) and the Repugs and their echo chamber immediately capitalized on it (like that bit with Carter and the rabbit in the boat and his jogging collapse).

To be fair, though, I will point out that he and the rest of us were caught flat footed by the cowardly actions of the Islamist crazies in Iran, and I genuinely blame Carter for the aborted helicopter rescue attempt. Also, interest rates rose under Carter thanks to Reagan buddy Paul Volcker, who was Carter’s Federal Reserve chairman (imagine Greenspan pulling this stuff under Reagan or Bush).

But don’t seriously try to compare Carter’s “bad” presidency with Dubya’s.

Just don’t (and I’m sure the right-wing propagandizing against Carter will begin anew shortly).

Note: I didn't link to a lot of this stuff individually because it's covered in the Wikipedia article (it looks reliable enough).

Update 2/7: And wouldn't Harry Reid be a great mentor for THIS possible future senator (resemblance is almost scary).

Drink Up, Dubya

I heard from Clean Water Action yesterday, and I thought I should pass this along:

A few weeks ago we needed your help. Time was running out for people like you to comment on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule changes that would undermine one of the nation's most effective pollution prevention laws. Thousands of Clean Water Action members responded with letters, calls and e-mails that are now part of the overwhelming official record of public support for keeping these toxic protections in place.

The Bush-Cheney Administration's proposals would severely weaken a right-to-know program Clean Water Action fought hard to win back in 1986. Since 1989, companies have had to report the toxics they dump, store or transport and this information has been compiled into the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) - a database meant especially for the public.

The TRI database has helped people know what is going on in their communities and helped first responders like fire departments be prepared for accidents. The spotlight on waste also inspired many companies to change their processes. As a result, many tons of toxic pollution have been eliminated, making for safer, healthier communities and workplaces around the country.

But now, if EPA bureaucrats in this polluter-friendly Administration have their way, many companies would no longer be required to reveal what chemicals they are using or discharging into our air and water.

That is why Clean Water Action's campaign - and your support for it as a Clean Water Action member - are so important. Together with our allies, in environmental, community and public health protection groups, tens of thousands of comments were received by EPA, and committed to the official record, opposing these health-threatening changes. Clean Water Action also helped persuade powerful public officials - state Attorneys General, local health officials, members of state legislatures and others - to weigh in against this proposed rollback in protections.

By law, the EPA is now required to weigh this public input before finalizing any changes. You can bet they will think twice before acting contrary to the huge majority of comments they have received. It may be several months before a final decision is reached. But in the meantime, Clean Water Action would like to thank you for your role in helping to make the case for keeping your environmental rights - your Right to Know about health-threatening toxics - strong and effective.

Thank you again.
To make a contribution, click here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What's Next, A Gay Western?

Yeah…imagine having a “State Of The Union” speech AND press conference also, even though, apparently, Russian President Vlad Putin did that last night.

I thought the end of Rose Gottemoeller’s news article/opinion column, in which she contrasts both Bush and Putin, was particularly interesting.
Most interesting, perhaps, were the silences. This is the year when Russian holds the presidency of the G8, and the United States is a prominent member of the G8 -- one of those "fat-cat" countries that Putin pointed to in his remarks. Remarkable, therefore, that Bush said not a word about Russia or the G8 in his address, as if the issues so prominent for his G8 partners, especially energy security in Europe, had no meaning for the United States of America.

The Kremlin should not feel so bad about this, since Bush also failed to mention that other great Asian power, China, a country figuring prominently in Pentagon assessments of future threats to the United States. If China was not mentioned, then the bar for making it into the speech must have been high indeed. Isolationism, that American disease that Bush railed against in the speech, appears to be a danger in his own case.

In the end, Bush and Putin seemed to be operating in separate universes. This is fitting, perhaps, for two such different countries, one a great Eurasian power more concentrated on its neighborhood than anywhere else, the other a North American superpower whose culture and messianism both attract and repel the rest of the world.

But the separation is not comforting when we have so much work to do. Energy security alone could keep us busy for decades, and there is the small matter of thousands of nuclear warheads and tons of nuclear materials still left from the Cold War. Communicable disease, the fight against terrorism, unfinished conflicts the world over -- we two, together, have much to occupy us -- if our separate universes do not hold us apart.
Actually, I have to admit that, if Bush had had a press conference after the speech, even one carefully choreographed as per usual, I would have tried to watch it. Under ordinary circumstances, watching Dubya destroying the English language in a rehearsed speech is something I can only tolerate with the aid of hot and cold running shots at a bar and a basket full of beer nuts. However, the extra entertainment value from making him actually do something that could send him “off message” might be worth it.

(One more thing - I shortened Putin's name for layout reasons on the page...I have no idea if that's a nickname or not.)

The Man And The Mission

The Man: Ned Lamont

The Mission: To defeat Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary election

Of course, a contest between Lamont would be more of a “horse race” with a Repug challenger instead of a Democratic incumbent, but when you’re talking about Joe Lieberman, you’re basically talking about a Repug anyway. This has been demonstrated on many occasions, most recently during his cowardly “no” vote on the Alito filibuster followed by a “no” vote on Alito’s confirmation (if he were true to his commitments, whatever they are, he would have voted “yes” to confirm, but he decided to hide behind his “no” after the filibuster failed and it was certain Alito would be confirmed anyway).

I am thankful to commenter Aldon Hynes for setting me straight on Ned Lamont yesterday. I have set up a link to the Ned Lamont petition in the right column of this site, and I intend to add my name also shortly.

Update 2/2: Keep it up, Joe! You're doing great. Keep giving us the ammunition (hat tip to Atrios - Kos is on this also).

Dances With Crooks

This just in...I’ve been notified of a list used by Indian tribes dealing with Jack Abramoff for key Repugs who accepted donations. What is contained on the list is a set of Indian code names for the Repugs who accepted the payouts.

Having seen the list hidden in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall’s front porch, I can now reveal the contents, and here it is:

Hands In Many Pockets – Tom DeLay

Listening Monkey King – Dubya

Fornicates With Canine – Santorum

Stands With Defibrillator – Cheney

Cold Eyes On Dying T.V. Woman – Frist
So now I’ve got both the Repugs AND Native Americans steamed at me – cheers!

Take "The Spin" And Shove It

Apparently Gov. Tim Kaine did a good job with the Democratic rebuttal. I know Arianna Huffington, among others, thought he was the wrong choice for it because he supported the war, but Kaine has a lot more going for him besides that.

Here's more from Dr. Dean:

Remember this? "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Those are George Bush's famous 16 words from his 2003 State of the Union address, delivered less than two months before he sent troops into war in Iraq.

They were false. Three years later Americans are still demanding answers on the manipulation of intelligence by an administration eager to start a war.

Americans have a lot of questions that went unanswered tonight. When George Bush delivered his State of the Union address, he had a big megaphone and the world's attention. He had the opportunity to regain some degree of credibility with the American people -- more than half of whom disapprove of his performance as president. But he failed to answer the real questions ordinary Americans have about the state of our union:

- When will we have a new strategy in Iraq that protects American lives? Violence is increasing, not decreasing there and the mismanagement of this war has cost the lives of Americans and billions of dollars in fraud. And when will we secure our ports and chemical and nuclear plants, which remain vulnerable?

- When will the Republican Party put its responsibility to the people before its greed and thirst for power? The Republican culture of corruption in the executive and legislative branches has violated the law and cost taxpayers billions.

- When will President Bush and the Republican Congress wake up to the economic crisis tens of millions of Americans face? Good jobs are leaving this country, and many of the jobs that remain exploit working families by denying them adequate benefits. Millionaires and corporations receive tax breaks while Americans can't afford to save, and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen to levels unseen since the 19th century.

- When will we finally do something for the 46 million Americans who lack health insurance? Many have had their lives ruined financially when the worst happened, and many more no longer seek the care they need because they cannot afford it.

- When will we make serious strides towards energy independence? We get a greater percentage of our oil from cartels and dictatorships now than we did in 2000.

- When will he take steps to further ensure retirement security for every American? Growing old with dignity is a right, not a privilege, and dismantling Social Security in favor of private accounts is the wrong direction for our society.

If Bush and the Republicans would bother to answer these questions, the answers would be simple. But they won't answer.

That's because the answer to each and every one is "Never." Never as long as they control our government, never as long as they can execute the same incompetent, dishonest and destructive government without paying a price at the ballot box. The answer will be "never" until we grow the operation and build the infrastructure to beat them.

Part of that means telling people clearly and unambiguously what we stand for -- and I'll tell you right now:

Real security -- we will protect Americans at home by getting serious about homeland security, and address the real threats abroad by capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and focusing on actual (not imagined) nuclear proliferation. We will be prepared for the threats of tomorrow, and we will always tell the truth to our troops and the American people.

Honest leadership and open government -- we will end the criminal Republican culture of corruption and restore a sense of responsibility to elected office, and we will pass fundamental reforms that make government more honest, open, and accountable to the American people than ever before.

Economic prosperity and educational excellence -- we will keep good jobs from leaving and ensure that every job in America is a fair deal. We will balance the budget, ensure that the tax code is simple and fair, and invest in education to ensure that every American has an equal opportunity to succeed.

A health care system that works for everyone -- we will join every other industrialized country by making sure everyone has access to affordable health care. We will change a corrupt, inefficient system into one that makes sure the world's wealthiest country is also the healthiest.

Energy independence -- we will reduce our reliance on foreign oil by investing in cleaner and more efficient technology. We will treat energy independence as what it is -- not only a conservation issue, but an economic and national security issue.

Retirement security -- we will strengthen Social Security and make sure that a retirement with dignity is the right and expectation of every single American.

Tonight and tomorrow, Republicans will be out in full force, spinning, distracting, distorting and dividing. But don't be fooled. You know what you heard in Bush's speech -- and you know the reality.

When Republicans hurl insults and lies, we must be ready to stand up and speak the truth in response -- and to make sure our friends and neighbors are not afraid to do the same.

Please take the time to write a letter to the editor about what's wrong with the Republican priorities -- and what we'll do to put America on the right track:

We cannot sit back and let them attack us. And we cannot sit back and let them attack the values and ideals we hold dear.

That's why we are investing millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours to build the Democratic Party everywhere. We're building a year-round, 50-state party capable of winning elections for every level of office.

Building our party everywhere isn't only about electing more Democrats. It's about bringing people back into the political process and ensuring that we have at least one political party representative of, and responsible to, the people.

These are not short-term investments, and we are not there yet. But we will only create lasting change if every single one of us takes responsibility for speaking out and organizing in our local community.

Over the next ten months, that's exactly what we're going to do.

Thank you.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
I've already read a bit of one story in the Courier Times and two on the radio with the leads "Bush Confident After Speech," "Bush Looking To Continue Momentum," and "Bush Looking For A Bounce."

We're one "David" fighting about ten "Goliaths," so to speak, but we have no choice.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Somebody get Babs to start crooning, OK?

I remember it like it was yesterday... trying to negotiate the parking lot of The Mart on a Friday or Saturday night with some impromptu "keggers" going on, stopping by right out of purchasing a six pack at the Roger Wilco down the street on Rte. 73 in Palmyra in search of some Chicken-On-A-Stick.

Monica Yant Kinney provided some fond remembrances today in The Inquirer:

I don't know what I was thinking, waiting to make my last trip to the Pennsauken Mart until just a couple hours before closing time Sunday.

I figured it would be a long, lonely walk, just me and the melancholy merchants inhaling the stench of death.

Instead, the place was packed. Bargain-hunters and history buffs flocked to the Mart over the weekend in crowds not seen since the 1970s
They came. They spent. They cried, hugged and posed for pictures.

In all my years of shopping, I've never embraced anyone on the other side of the cash register at the mall.

But that sort of thing happened all the time at the Mart.

When you buy your lady an engagement ring on layaway, you get to know the clerks pocketing part of your paycheck each week as you get closer and closer to popping the question.

When you haggle with mom-and-pop shop owners over the price of everything from tire rims to tattoos, you can't help but become friends.

Charles Buran spent his childhood cruising the halls and stalls.

Now 34 and the father of four, he insisted on buying his children's clothes, coats and shoes at the Mart even though the family lives 30 miles away in Browns Mills.
Sunday, he dropped a wad of cash for old time's sake.

"You could always work a deal with these people," Buran explained, eying framed art.
"I'm giving them my money up 'til the very end."

Going, going, gone

The deals were plentiful, if pitiful.

There's "going out of business," and then there's "been forced out of business because the snobs who run the suburbs don't like your kind."

Socks for 50 cents? Wigs for $19.99? Seiko watches, half-off. Dusty bottles of perfume, three-for-the-price-of-two. Stereos could be had for a song.

Marc "The Doughnut Man" Pravitz sold out of his deep-fried delights Saturday, so he bought another 30-pound bag of mix for Sunday.

But after a few hours, he had nothing left but a few bags of blueberry cream-flavored coffee.

"You want it?" he asked me.

From gritty end to end, so many people spent so much, the county-imposed manager asked the merchants if they wanted to stay open late and let folks shop 'til they dropped.

Kerry Yobb, who ran the Gold Emporium, just scowled.

After everything local government officials put the merchants through - calling them "vermin", ruining their livelihoods, etc., etc. - the merchants were in no mood to do anyone favors.

And plus, they had a party at 6 p.m. Everyone loves a wake, even if it's your own.

Last dance

Joyce Hanley had a choice:

Should she arrange the inflatable dummies dressed as South Jersey politicos in compromising positions?

Or, should she portray Camden County Freeholders Jeff Nash and Lou Capelli as dogs on a leash attached to their "owner," powerbroker George Norcross?

The Mart's farewell party being a family affair at her beloved Stardust Ballroom, Hanley opted for the canine configuration.

"Who ever dreams of growing up to be someone's dog, anyway?" huffed Hanley, working through her rage.

Scott Talis, who ran a toy store in the Mart for 25 years, was more stoic.

He has a wife and kids to support, and no idea when the new Festival Market in Willingboro will open.

"So I'm going to look for a job at Wal-Mart," Talis said, solemnly.

What would the politicians who loathed the Pennsauken Mart have seen if they came to the last dance?

Tables full of Mart families saying prayers in Spanish and Russian.

Colleagues and competitors reminiscing over meatballs and Miller Lite about how much fun they had eking out a living on their own terms.

And, on stage, kids being kids at the karaoke machine, belting out "Over the Rainbow" completely oblivious to the lyrical significance.

Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me,
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops.
That's where you'll find me.
For nostalgia's sake more than anything else, I took one final drive by this evening, and it was depressing to see the demolition having already begun starting with the sign apart from the Mart facing Rte. 73 as well as the actual building itself. Also, a "gentleman's club" featuring Live Nude Lap Dances had disappeared, which was strategically placed near a Christian Science reading room. The latter remained while the former had long since vanished (drat those "better angels of our nature," so to speak, to take The Great Man's quote more than a bit out of context).

The one thing I can't understand about this, as Kinney touched on a bit in her column, is what Capelli, Nash, and Norcross (who apparently are the greedy schmoes behind this whole scheme) hope to achieve by this. The entire area on Rte. 73 between Cinnaminson and Palmyra to the bridge is zoned industrial. The entire character of the place is defined by machinery parts manufacturers, truck rentals, beer distributors, and titty bars ("shot and a beer back" places...sorry, Lord, but it's true). Does anyone think seriously that you could slap up a bunch of McMansions in a place like that?

I think I'm going to grab myself a "Ying," go downstairs to find "Brian's Song" on an Encore movie channel, sit down and watch it for awhile, and have a good, manly cry (sniff).

Update 2/11: I heard that Spectacor, the company that owns the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, may end up building a family skating rink there. That's a better use of that property than residential development.

While We Were Away

ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff and cameraman David Vogt returned today for continued treatment for injuries sustained in Iraq, and we can only hope that a living and breathing Jill Carroll will join them soon (though we know the track record of the murdering cowards currently holding her hostage).

I didn’t watch the video. I saw the photo. That was enough.

I felt the same way when I saw that as I did when I saw murdered CARE worker Margaret Hassan a couple of years ago. I’ll keep my reaction on all of that to myself for now.

Steve Gilliard had a good take on this, I thought.

Love Our Troops, Hate The War

I’ve taken the Philadelphia Inquirer to task recently for pretending to cover (here I go again with that word – dive…dive…) the “blogosphere,” because I thought that what they did was write about stuff that, pretty much, was utter nonsense of one type or another that pertained to blogging in a vague and/or unimportant way (i.e., the demise of the T.V. show “The West Wing,” the length of the pants worn by our military personnel in a ad protesting the war, etc.).

Well, I have to admit that they touched on something today that, apparently, has been pressing buttons all over the place, though it all was, quite literally, news to me. So, for the benefit of anyone who isn’t up on this, please allow me to explain.

About a week or so ago, Joel Stein, who I believe was a former Time correspondent before he got a job with the L.A. Times, wrote an opinion piece stating that he doesn’t support our troops and he doesn’t support the Iraq War, and he thinks that anyone who says that they support the troops but not the war is a wuss. In response, the Inquirer ran a column from someone named Angelina Sciolla who basically ridiculed Stein and said that anyone who said they supported the troops but not the war is a coward.

Update 2/6: Sorry...have to register for Stein's column at the L.A. Times site now. If I can find a link that doesn't require registration, I'll put it here.

(Note: I breathlessly await the day when we can have a discussion like this without the name calling, and yes – I’m aware of the fact that I’m guilty of that at times also. I went back and forth with Robert The Troll a few months ago and attempted to have some kind of dialogue like that with him in the post comments, but I got tired of his name-calling characterizations of people I respected and his unresponsiveness to my posts to the point where he would use the comments to pontificate on anything he wanted, so much so that I had to set up comment moderation. I’m sure that has discouraged commenting activity, though I don’t typically get a lot here anyway – that’s OK. Let’s just say that if the lefty bloggers and the right wingers got together and arranged a truce of sorts on that, I would sign on for it also.)

Before I go any further, I want to restate my position on both the troops and the Iraq War:

I support the troops, but not the war (I have NEVER supported this war).

Want me to repeat? OK.


Louder? Sure.


And this is one of the ways that I'm doing it (not a lot, I know, but it's something).

I would confront Sciolla directly on this, but here’s the reason why I don’t.

As anyone who has spent any time at this site knows by now, I don’t really tell you much about who I am (the photo in the profile, as I pointed out earlier, is that of the actor Patrick McGoohan from approximately the mid 1960s who played characters that embodied a lot of qualities that I admire – determination, self reliance, an inherent mistrust and loathing of authority, etc.). It wouldn’t be too difficult to find out more about me, but the reason I do this is primarily for the sake of my family. If I knew that people on any side of the political equation would act the way they should all the time, then I would say more. But I don’t. And I don’t think that makes me a coward; actually, I don’t really care if anyone thinks that it does.

Besides, I’ve done a bit of poking around regarding Sciolla, and she’s been mentioned prominently at the leading “freeper” sites like Free Republic, so, as far as I’m concerned, she’s a yapping attack dog anyway (though I do give her credit if she actually DOES literally support our troops to one degree or another; her Inquirer bio says that she writes letters of support to our soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital, and I can only hope that she is trying to provide comfort in doing that instead of advocating her politics).

In his column that started this ruckus, Stein makes what I believe is an excellent point (also made in a highly articulate way by Bill Moyers a couple of years ago); namely, that we adorn our jacket lapels and dresses and vehicles with pins, ribbons, etc. that say “Support Our Troops,” “Freedom Isn’t Free” and the like to pump ourselves up and hide the guilt that we feel over the fact that we have basically encouraged the amoral cabal that currently rules this country to sacrifice our troops on a fool’s errand in Iraq (the collective “we” probably including more people than it should here, I know). Aside from Stein’s other pointlessly snide remarks, that is the reason (I believe) why the “101st Fighting Keyboarders,” as Atrios calls them, went absolutely nuts, kicking and screaming furiously at the site of The National Review and columnist Jim Geraghty, who set up a comment forum on Stein’s piece.

Here is exactly what Moyers said about that, by the way, which he said to close an episode of his program "NOW":

“I wore my flag tonight, first time. Until now I haven’t thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans. Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustain me, whose armed forces protected me and whose ideals inspired me. I offered my heart’s affection in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother’s picture on my lapel to prove her son’s love. Mother knew where I stood. So does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15th. So what’s this doing here? I put it on to take it back. The flag’s been hijacked and turned into a logo, the trademark – the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On most Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it’s the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration’s patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official labels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao’s Little Red Book of orthodoxy on every official’s desk, omnipresent and unread.

”But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapel while writing books and running web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They’re in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks, even as they call for spending more on war.

”So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks. or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don’t have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the ‘Coalition of the Willing.’ I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government, and it reminds me that it’s not un-American to think that war, except in self defense, is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve and diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.”

Actually, between Stein and Sciolla’s columns, I don’t know which disgusted me more, so the Inquirer definitely got people stirred up for no good reason – that should help their circulation and their bargaining position during the pending sale of Knight Ridder. Stein “poked a stick in the eye,” as it were, at the radical right, which is stupid to do because those people are perpetually angry anyway and don’t need any reminder to be that way. Sciolla’s column was an insult because of statements such as this:

I supported the removal of Saddam and the attempt at establishing democracy in the region. I had also come to see some kind of U.S. presence in that part of the world as an inevitability, whether now or 10 years from now, when - as we currently contemplate the meaning of a Hamas victory in Palestine - we can hardly imagine what the political landscape will be.
I’ll probably be repeating this until my dying day, but the Iraq War was NOT originally sold to us as a war to bring democracy to Iraq and get rid of Saddam Hussein because he was a mean, rotten guy. It was sold to us on the basis that Iraq had WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION that could be HANDED OFF TO AL QAEDA, A GROUP WITH WHICH HUSSEIN WAS ALLIED AS SUPPORTED BY DOCUMENTED EVIDENCE, and the weapons would be USED TO DESTROY US. When the fact that this explanation was utter crap was finally exposed, the war became one “to bring Democracy to Iraq.” I also categorically reject Sciolla’s assertion that our military presence in that region was inevitable, and I laugh and wince at the same time over the notion that our troops “could win the war.” I respect, admire, and – yes – support our troops, but the situation was unwinnable in a scenario actually worse than Vietnam because of the region’s strategic importance assigned to it by our greedhead dependency on fossil fuel.

(By the way, every time we have this stupid argument back and forth from either side about “supporting our troops,” Dubya, Karl Rove, and Frank Luntz laugh their asses off because it distracts us from the dialogue that we SHOULD be having about the war, as spurred on by courageous individuals like Cindy Sheehan and Rep. John Murtha.)

So, bravo Inquirer! You FINALLY hit on something in your Op-Ed page about blogging that is timely, interesting, and important.

Now, all you have to do is tell Kevin Ferris to “hit the bricks” once and for all to truly make my day.

Update 2/1: Oh, so now "supporting the troops" isn't a good thing? Is it because that slogan (which CNN now considers to be "anti-war") doesn't support Bushco's PR purposes any more?

Cap The Knife Is Back

Oh, but because Ronnie left our Marines in Beirut like sitting ducks, well…well, we’re just supposed to forgive Ronnie because we loved him and his “optimism,” right? But if THAT WISHY WASHY LIBERAL JIMMY CARTER had done that (who, by the way, had the second-longest tenure of military service of any president from 1950-2000 except Ike), we would have ABSOLUTELY ROASTED HIM!!

Is it me, or am I the only one who’s noticed that they NEVER, NEVER mention the fact that our military misadventures under Reagan in Afghanistan helped get al Qaeda and bin Laden started?

(Take the tablets, Doomsy. Calm down a bit. Try reading this.)

A Great Lady Passes

I will always believe that she knew who killed him. I could see it from the look on her face, that look of both sadness and resolve.

I will also always believe that, for the good of the country and the betterment of the people her husband represented, she kept her thoughts to herself on that, seeking to unite instead of divide.

And not withstanding the utter garbage from the Bushes and Scott McLellan in this CNN story (especially in light of what John Edwards told us below), it is a wonderful tribute.

More For The "Have Mores"

The latest from John Edwards...

Dear Friend,

A mismanaged war, botched hurricane relief, illegal wiretaps, secret torture prisons, ethics violations. Just when I thought we had seen the worst from the Bush Administration, there is a new outrage that is down-right mean-spirited.

Big tax evaders -- mostly wealthy individuals and large corporations -- cost the government $300 billion each year in unpaid taxes. But in George Bush's America, these folks are getting off virtually scot-free.

The Internal Revenue Service is spending its limited enforcement resources on low-income taxpayers -- most of whom did nothing wrong. The IRS froze more than 120,000 taxpayers' refunds on suspicion of fraud without notifying the taxpayers or giving them a chance to respond.
This practice must stop, and I need your help to stop it.

The targeted taxpayers had a median income of $12,000 to $14,000. Many of them claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit, and count on their tax refunds to pay for home heating costs, school books for their kids, or to open a bank account and begin to build savings. The IRS has been holding up the refunds for an average of eight months -- but some people wait for years.

We've heard a lot over the years about racial profiling. Now it seems the Bush Administration has invented "poverty profiling." It's the cruel assumption that if you are poor, you must also be a tax cheat.

Please send a letter to IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. The IRS must release the tax refunds that low-wage families have worked for and earned. It is beyond the pale -- even for the Bush Administration -- to spend limited enforcement dollars on struggling mothers and fathers who scrape by to make ends meet while wealthy tax dodgers go free.
Make your voice heard now.

Forty years ago, President Johnson declared a war on poverty. This President has declared a war on the people living in poverty.

Please take a moment to send this letter. And urge your friends and colleagues to let George Bush know that we won't stand for this immoral practice. Thank you.

Your friend,

How many of those so-called "values voters" from the 2004 presidential election will help out with this? Easy to join in the party but tougher to actually try and solve the problem, isn't it (especially when the trouble is caused by the people you support).

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dubya, Heal Thyself (Yeah, Right)

Just had this communication with a good friend (which ties into the SOTU address tomorrow), so...

Subject: Bush Explains Medicare Drug Bill

Bush Explains Medicare Drug Bill -- Verbatim Quote

Submitted on 2005-12-13 16:35:14

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: 'I don't really understand. How is it the new plan going to fix the problem?'

Verbatim response (PRESIDENT BUSH):

'Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase! of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.'
My response...

He could say this in front of an audience in Kansas and they wouldn't be smart enough to do anything but applaud. He could do the same thing in front of an audience of our service people and they wouldn't have any choice but to do the same thing.

My guess (and I don't need to know this because it's none of my business) is that, after you pay whatever deductible or out-of-pocket charge for office visits, coverage, have to pay, you may not have enough to put into a "personal account" (I can tell you right now that we don't). If we did, it certainly wouldn't be enough to cover our care by itself.

The Repugs are counting on the fact that too many people who are working now aren't going to try and imagine what their health care costs are going to be after their employers refuse to pick up any portion of the tab any more (which has already happened for some people, I would guess - and unfortunately, their cynical calculations could be right). I wish, for example, people who support Dubya would listen to my mom (83) tell them what she has to pay out of pocket for health care and just try to imagine what it will be like when they get to that point (about $229 a month for her).

We need some form of nationalized, single-payer program, and Dubya's scheme will do absolutely nothing to get us to that point. He wants fewer people paying into Medicare/Medicaid so the entitlement can be small enough that it will default (part of Grover Norquist's scheme to reduce government to the point "where you can drown it in the bathtub"). That's the ugly truth that he's trying to hide from us in his typically idiotic fashion.
Will you be tuning in tomorrow?

I won't.

After The Train Wreck

Kos says a lot of good things here (and more will be said later on this, to be sure), and I respect him and his site enormously, but I have just one question: where has it been ordained apparently that Bob Casey, Jr. is going to be the PA Senatorial Democratic nominee?

One of the reasons why the Repugs keep winning these battles is because they ENERGIZE THEIR BASE. How can Casey do that when he thinks his “base” is the centrist/accommodationist/triangulationist DLC Democrats who do nothing but lose elections year after year? And how can I even measure whether or not Casey has any energy when, to tell you the truth, at this moment, I don’t even know whether or not he even exists, because I haven’t seen or heard from him in weeks?

Chuck Pennacchio stood up to that “Justice Sunday III” farce. Chuck Pennacchio has tried to engage Casey in a dialogue and received nothing but silence. Hell, Casey wouldn’t even be the nominee if it weren’t for some horrible miscalculation by DSCC Chairman Charles Schumer and Gov. Ed Rendell (I otherwise respect Eddie, but he really “bit it” on this one).

Chuck Pennacchio is the answer in Pa. If Casey gets the nomination instead, Santorum will win. And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of taking that “punch in the gut” from one Repug victory after another.

Update 2/1: Kos says Pennacchio "isn't viable". With all due respect, neither is Casey.

Kos is right of course about the money, having fought many wars in the trenches himself. But Casey has shown me less than nothing, and I'm going to stand or fall with a candidate who REALLY wants the nomination (I have a feeling I'll "fall" with him despite my best effort, which is truly awful to contemplate, but so be it).

Update 1/30 (I think): From Atrios, here are the 25 Dems who stood tall...

Bayh, Evan (D-IN)
Biden, Joseph R., Jr. (D-DE)
Boxer, Barbara (D-CA)
Clinton, Hillary Rodham (D-NY)
Dayton, Mark (D-MN)
Dodd, Christopher J. (D-CT)
Durbin, Richard (D-IL)
Feingold, Russell D. (D-WI)
Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA)
Jeffords, James M. (I-VT)
Kennedy, Edward M. (D-MA)
Kerry, John F. (D-MA)
Lautenberg, Frank R. (D-NJ)
Leahy, Patrick J. (D-VT)
Levin, Carl (D-MI)
Menendez, Robert (D-NJ)
Mikulski, Barbara A. (D-MD)
Murray, Patty (D-WA)
Obama, Barack (D-IL)
Reed, Jack (D-RI)
Reid, Harry (D-NV)
Sarbanes, Paul S. (D-MD)
Schumer, Charles E. (D-NY)
Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI)
Wyden, Ron (D-OR)
A few items I'd like to add:

- I once criticized John Kerry and Barack Obama for supporting the fraud bankruptcy bill that was passed last year; I said that based on some information that Arianna Huffington actually got wrong (it happens). A commenter put me wise to the fact that they voted against it, and Kerry stood tall by trying to "rally the troops" for a late charge in this for the filibuster - it didn't have much of a shot, but it was a battle that had to be fought (and Obama did the right thing also).

- I still definitely lean towards Molly Ivins in not supporting Hillary for the presidential nomination for all of the reasons related to the DLC that Molly mentioned in her column, but HRC came through when it mattered.

- I thought Lautenberg and Menendez in NJ played it just right, with Lautenberg being in a particularly tough spot having supported Alito in the past and both holding off on committing until the very end. Also, as you know, Menendez was not my first choice to replace Corzine (not any choice, actually), but this was a hell of a first vote for him, and the only reward he's going to get for it is a bitter fall campaign to keep his seat in the Senate.

- In addition to Lieberman, I noticed Tom Carper of Delaware as another "chicken Dem" missing from the list (along with a few others, of course). Amazingly enough, I don't see Tom Harkin of Iowa either, who I thought would know better. We remember things like that, don't we?

Write Down The Drain

I know that this site has more to do with politics than anything, but despite that, I’ve decided to weigh in a bit on the controversy behind author James Frey and his book, “A Million Little Pieces,” and Oprah Winfrey (who also celebrated a birthday yesterday, as it turns out). It’s because people who misrepresent themselves or some other subject in print is something that concerns me. I honestly try not to do that here, but if and when someone presents evidence that I’ve said something wrong or disingenuous, it is my intention to owe up to it.

First, I should tell you that I’ve read excerpts from Frey’s book, and it is truly a riveting account of someone (though, apparently, not him) overcoming substance abuse. When I read what was described and then saw and heard Frey promoting his book, I started to become a bit suspicious, because he looked too good for someone who had lived through what he described.

I don’t really understand why Frey did what he did – he could have said from the beginning that the book was a third-person account or it was based on a few different people he knew who he managed to consolidate into one character. The point is that if he said from the get-go that it was ostensibly a work of fiction, everything would have been fine. Instead, by misrepresenting himself, he diluted the power of his great work (which has apparently helped many other addicts to overcome their addictions), which is truly a shame.

But what of Oprah? What do I have to say to this self-promoting, self-manufactured media goddess who publishes and promotes a magazine which is apparently devoted to nothing more than every imaginable excess and circumstance of her life down to the most excruciatingly minute detail? What’s the word for this insular individual who equates an inability to shop at a trendy French department store with the subjugation of people of her race for over 200 years, including attacks from police dogs and water cannons?

Well done, I say. She held Frey accountable.

Now I don’t know exactly what caused her to experience this revelation or what evidence was brought before her to make her realize that she was wrong to originally defend Frey on “Larry King Live,” but the point is that she made him tell the truth. I also realize that her credibility was at stake – her “brand,” if you will – and that had more to do with it than anything. But she did it.

I would ask that you consider that when you realize that so much of what is mentioned and discussed at this site and many others has to do with people who just don’t do the right thing, and how anyone who misrepresents themselves should be held accountable. You could say that, if everyone represented themselves truthfully, this site and many others probably wouldn’t exist, and I have a feeling that you’d be right.

I’m bringing all of this up because there are many others who I wish would meet this same standard of accountability, and two of them are described in this recent column by Tom Ferrick, Jr. of the Philadelphia Inquirer (registration required).

As Ferrick notes, Richard Scrushy is a former C.E.O. of HealthSouth of the Birmingham, Alabama area, who was recently tried and acquitted of bilking $2.7 billion from his health care company. I maintain that we may never know how the “news” about Scrushy written by freelance journalist Audrey Lewis may have led to his acquittal (I know, in most cases, jurors are bound to be impartial in their verdicts, but they could have heard about what was written about Scrushy or even read the columns themselves). This only came out because Lewis complained when she received only $11,000 from Scrushy instead of the $150,000 promised to her and her church (charming).

Ferrick also mentioned Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at The Cato Institute who took money from Jack Abramoff to write favorable articles about Abramoff’s clients, who were often Indian tribes seeking casino licenses.

I could go on and on when it comes to journos taking payoffs (Armstrong Williams, George Will, etc.), but that really isn’t the whole point. Mainly, I just want to give Oprah Winfrey credit for doing the right thing (I also think she’s more than a bit shameless in promoting her book club, but if the net effect is that people are reading more, then I suppose I really have no right to criticize).

I’ll try to keep her good deed in mind the next time I hear about these programs of hers where she gives out automobiles as gifts to each of the members of the audience, which totally redefines “wretched excess” as far as I’m concerned.

"Joe-Mentum" My Butt

The Democratic senator from Connecticut is having a banner day for himself. First he says he’ll vote for cloture on Alito in direct opposition to John Kerry and his attempt to filibuster, and then comes this account on the latest FEMA incompetence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Here is the quote from the news story by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine (a Republican):

"It is indeed possible that there was additional suffering and maybe even loss of life that might not have occurred if these assets had been deployed…"
Still pretty bland stuff and not trying to assign blame to a member of her own party, but at least Collins is acknowledging the obvious.

So, what does Joe have to say?

“…the greatest honor we can pay those who risked their lives in the aftermath of Katrina would be to make sure that the heroes of the next catastrophe ... are given the proper equipment and the clear plan they need to succeed..."
Uh, Joe, can I clue you in on something?

You’re a member of THE OPPOSITION PARTY. You’re supposed to ACT like a MEMBER OF THE OPPOSITION PARTY. You’re supposed to SAY THE THINGS that a MEMBER OF THE OPPOSITION PARTY would SAY!

I know you’re not Newt Gingrich, but imagine what he would do if this happened under a Democratic administration. Name calling. Charges. Counter Charges. Incriminations. Recriminations. And on, and on, and on…

I detest Gingrich, but guess what? HE FOUGHT FOR WHAT HE BELIEVED IN, no matter how disingenuous or unscrupulous the cause.

Joe, my disgust with you isn’t quite as intense as it is with Bob Casey, Jr., but it’s close. If I could, I’d actually contribute to Republican Ned Lamont just to put you out of business (and how desperate is that?).

Update 1/31: So let me get this straight...he and a few other Dems (including Mary Landrieu) voted against the filibuster but against Alito too? That's called "playing both sides of the fence" and playing "not to lose" instead of "to win." That's why Lieberman and every chicken Dem who did this should be tossed out on their butts.

Good vs. Evil

Sort of in a bit of a birthday mode today, so with that in mind, here’s to a happy 124th to FDR (link to the presidential library here).

Our vice president is also celebrating a birthday today, so let me say as forcefully as I can, “happy birthday…Dick.” To commemorate, links are here (regarding the 2004 vice presidential debate), here (on Iraq), and here (on Cheney and Iraq before the war) to some of the veep’s most outrageous lies (and no word on whatever happened to that green parka he wore at the Auschwitz remembrance a year ago when everyone else dressed appropriately for the occasion).

Also, here is more information on the company Cheney once ran and their illegal activity.

I’d like to think that Cheney will get a birthday cake with a hacksaw planted inside of it, which would be appropriate. We can only hope that he’ll need it one day.

Another thing: even though it would be appropriate to drop an "F" bomb or two on Cheney in light of his use of language at Sen. Pat Leahy, I try to avoid that word at this site unless I have no other choice but to use it (which I've done in the case of a direct quote). However, if I were going to make an exception for anyone, Cheney would definitely qualify.

Update 2/1: Somehow I overlooked this unbelievable lie from Cheney and Gen. Michael Hayden (hat tip to Atrios - Dubya dutifully mentioned it again during the State of the Union last night even though it has been disproven...and how funny is it that he got a standing "O" in reverse for mentioning that Congress hadn't done anything about his Social Security scheme?).

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Maestro Of His Domain?

You have to hand it to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. No, wait...

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi isn't a guy you want to "rub the wrong way."

Oh, no that's no good, either.

Well, I'll give up and just say it straight out (I guess that's questionable too).

The guy has said that he doesn't want to have sex until after the April 9th general election in Italy. I'm not going to do the math on that, but I would guess that that's about 70 or so days.

I don't know what the Italian translation for "cold shower" is, but if Berlusconi is serious, he's going to find out right quick.

And it's not like the man isn't busy. According to AGI Online, he has stated that the Italian government's contingency bill "warrants sufficient energy saving margins to avoid having to impinge of (energy) stockpiles," adding that Italy can arrange a ménage et trios with Algeria and Libya to access their gas supplies which they will then use and cheaply discard, leaving a few lira on the nightstand without bothering to call for a cab when they're done.

Having been granted the U.S. helicopter contract for the presidential Marine One recently, as well as a promise for renewed consideration for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, Berlusconi, in a glistening moment of pulsing power, has continued to support Washington, which has been difficult as of late because of the shooting of Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari by U.S. troops.

Still, Berlusconi has throbbed and burst forward with his agenda, protruding ahead of other Italian politicians in trying to solve the problem of unemployment for Sardinian trade union workers and trying to stimulate Italian economic growth while wooing and trying to seduce the European Central Bank.

What a lusty, swarthy man he is (and self-deprecating also, apparently). I don't know if he's actually much of a leader, but anybody with the guts (or stupidity) to make a promise like that rates at least a mention in my book.

Come to think of it, is it me, or does he look a bit like Kramer with a suit and a haircut? (I loved that scene in the "Seinfeld" episode where he slams down the money on the counter and says, "I'm out.")