Friday, July 07, 2006

Maybe This Is A Sign

This is unbelievable even for Ann Coulter; so now we have the "Flatulent Raccoon" theory of how life came to exist?

What's next, the "Indigestive Pundit Theory" of the our origins, which state that everything began when a right-wing hatemonger belched out out what was supposed to be actual scientific fact but was instead regurgitated talking points from The Heritage Foundation and The National Review?

And speaking of icky stuff coming out of our bodies...

In our modern world of "the good foul," drawing blood from your opponent is never apparently punished as significantly as the victim has suffered.

This allows bladder tumors like Ann Coulter to suppurate over the public, much to their eventual reward.

So much of our public discourse has come to accept this moral metastasis that conservatives now complain when liberals use less than pristine language to reply to this downpour of pus and urine.

Ben Burrows
Elkins Park
Eeeewwwwwww! (I've read great stuff from Ben Burrows, but I will say that if he's going to invoke revolting images, Coulter is probably the most worthy reason for it I can think of).

Well, I don't know about you, but bodily emissions from woodland animals (and humans) is where I draw the line. Besides, as I noted below, I'm getting ready to blow this popsicle stand for about seven days or so anyway (up to a beautiful blue state location where, in all probability, I won't have internet access, so I won't be able to share/inflict my wisdom on you).

You'll probably see me again on or about the 16th or 17th, so have fun, and in the words of Atrios, try not to accidentally shoot anyone in the face (this has sound).

Giving Us A Lube Job

So I'm getting the Doomsymobile ready for an upcoming road trip down at Mr. Goodshaft's, and the local area "happy talk" "news" show is on, when suddenly, I hear the baritone voice we have all been conditioned to dread for years:

"This is a special report from NBC News. Now, here is correspondent Brian Williams."
Oh great, I think to myself. North Korea has launched another missile. More troops have been killed in Iraq. Somebody famous has died, or Ken Lay has revived himself and fled the country.

No, corporate network mouthpiece Williams informs us, it's just to announce a press conference with Dubya from Chicago (and though I'm annoyed to know that President Stupid Head is going to take over and tap dance about nothing, I'm glad it's nothing worse than that).

And just to confirm that this is about nothing, Williams immediately goes to Tim Russert, who brings us this insider "scoop" that Bush has decided to take to the road and field questions to get away from the Beltway media establishment, or something like that (if so, then what exactly does that make you, I think to myself).

I couldn't tell you what Dubya talked about, because I honestly have tried to listen to him, but I can't stand it. He's proven himself time and again to be a total liar, and I'm not going to waste my time trying to disseminate the tiny particles of fact thoroughly immersed in his fiction.

And I have news for you; there were four other people in the waiting area who were also getting their vehicles serviced, and none of them were listening to him either, only talking among themselves and treating Dubya as nothing more than a distraction (and by the way, what I DID manage to hear was more rambling about "jobs American workers won't do" and "continuing to fight the war on terror," etc., but I heard maybe one question in the midst of about ten minutes of his ramblings).

There was a time when Americans actually listened when the president spoke. Maybe that will come again in my lifetime. We'll see.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (7/6)

As published in last Sunday's Inquirer,here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.


Voting rights. The House rejected, 254-167, a proposal to strip the 1965 Voting Rights Act of a requirement that voting officials provide ballot information in multiple languages. The vote occurred during debate on the Justice Department's 2007 budget (HR 5672).

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

Voting yes: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.)

Not voting: Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) and Tim Holden (D., Pa.).
This amendment even came up in the first place because of an organization called ProEnglish led by someone named KC McAlpin. ProEnglish, according to this Kos link, is one of thirteen like-minded organizations founded by anti-immigrant advocate John Tanton. Tanton's multi-million dollar web of groups includes not only ProEnglish and another group called NumbersUSA, but also the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Anyway, a form letter was generated to House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner in response to what should have been an automatic renewal of the act, but instead, the letter proposed removing the multiple languages provision in concert with the anti-immigrant activities of the Tanton organization. Further down in the comments to the Kos story is a list of the House reps who signed the McAlpin letter, and Weldon’s name is on that list (didn’t see Pitts).

Go get ‘em, Joe!.

Medical records. The House defeated, 230-189, a bid to deny funding in HR 5672 (above) for the FBI's issuance of National Security Letters to obtain medical records in terrorism investigations without subpoenas.

A yes vote was to subject the warrantless subpoenas of medical records to secret court review. (A yes vote backed the amendment.)

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah and Schwartz.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Fitzpatrick, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.

Not voting: Gerlach and Holden.
So basically, this was a vote to make the FBI comply with the law when obtaining medical records in terrorism investigations (could that be MORE OF A BROAD, CATCH-ALL CATEGORY?).

And it failed.

How nice.

Medical marijuana. The House defeated, 259-163, an amendment to HR 5672 (above) to bar federal legal action against patients in the 11 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

A yes vote supported the amendment.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady and Fattah.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Fitzpatrick, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Schwartz, Smith and Weldon.

Not voting: Gerlach and Holden.
Oops, sorry...I’m a little late on this because I was tokin’ on a “big fatty,” and I lost my concentration for a minute.

And why exactly are the Repugs the party of “states rights” again? Can someone run that by me one more time?

Pay way too much for gas, become embroiled in war without end, face the prospect of a missile attack on the West Coast, watch our good-paying jobs disappear offshore, deal with global warming and climate change, and keep trying to prosecute cancer patients who are just trying to alleviate their pain.

This whole goddamn country is turning into more and more of a horror movie every day.

Offshore drilling. The House passed, 232-187, and sent to the Senate a bill to end a policy that for a quarter century has banned oil and gas drilling in U.S. coastal waters except the western Gulf of Mexico. The legislation (HR 4761) would permit drilling to within 50 miles of shore unless a state extends the line to 100 miles.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Brady, Dent, Holden and Pitts.

Voting no: Andrews, Castle, Fattah, LoBiondo, Saxton, Schwartz, Smith and Weldon.

Not voting: Fitzpatrick and Gerlach.
Let’s just start ripping up all of our coastlines to feed our oil dependency, shall we? Let’s just DESPOIL EVERYTHING AND EXACERBATE THE PRODUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GASES THAT ARE SLOWLY KILLING US, OK??!!

Concerning the yes votes, I should mention that, some weeks ago, Joe Pitts voted against HR 5253 directing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and prosecute price-gouging by sellers of gasoline and other fuels. He was the only one from this area who did, though, and the vote passed. Now, he’s voting to rip up our coastlines.

Is a Democrat running against this guy? If anyone knows who that may be, please let me know so I can do all I can to help this person.

Also, though I’ve beaten up on Mikey for a variety of reasons, he has done some good things on the environment. I don’t think he would have voted yes, but we’ll never know, will we?

Press condemnation. The House passed, 227-183, a nonbinding resolution (H Res 895) to condemn newspapers for publishing stories on a classified antiterrorism program that tracks global banking transactions.

A yes vote was to pass the resolution.

Voting yes: Castle, Dent, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden and Schwartz.

Not voting: Fitzpatrick and Gerlach.
A totally farcical, party-line vote on this, especially given the fact that Dubya said he would do this anyway shortly after 9/11, and Fitzpatrick was smart to miss it and not look like he’s as big of a yahoo as his Repug brethren (though please understand that this is a tongue-in-cheek remark – it’s not my intent to give Fitzpatrick credit for this).


Flag amendment. In a 66-34 vote, the Senate failed to get the 67 votes needed to approve a House-passed constitutional amendment (SJ Res 12) allowing Congress to outlaw the desecration of the American flag.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).
I can see that Menendez would vote for this as a nod to his immigrant ancestry and the fact that he’s in a race with Baby Kean in New Jersey that will probably heat up big time in the fall, but it was still good that the vote failed…it only becomes an issue in an election year and is made into sport by jingoistic Repug politicians who use it as a means for political cover.

Flag law. The Senate defeated, 64-36, a substitute for SJ Res 12 (above) that sought to punish desecration of the American flag by statute instead of by amending the Constitution. The measure would have criminalized such acts as burning a flag with intent to incite violence, destroying a flag stolen from federal property, or burning a flag at a veteran's funeral.

A yes vote backed the substitute.

Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Santorum and Specter.
This makes eminently more sense, so that’s why the Repugs killed it.

Oman trade accord. The Senate passed, 60-34, and sent to the House a measure (S 3569) implementing a free-trade accord with Oman. The pact would remove or lower duties and tariffs now impeding U.S. trade with the Arab Gulf state.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Santorum and Specter.

Voting no: Biden, Carper, Lautenberg and Menendez.
I thought this was interesting. Part of the reason this would be opposed is because Oman officially boycotts trade with Israel, though according to the information from this link, this has not been enforced since 1994. Also, Democrats have expressed concerns about the alleged use of slave labor in Oman. Finally (again, from the linked text)...

Some concerns have been raised about whether the Oman FTA would allow companies from Oman and companies that conduct business activities in Oman to control U.S. ports. Specifically, the U.S. Schedule of Annex II (Investment and Services Non-Conforming Measures) to the Agreement includes landside aspects of port activities, operation and maintenance of docks, loading and unloading of vessels directly to or from land, marine cargo handling, operation and maintenance of piers, waterfront terminal operations, and other related activities. Under the terms of this Agreement, companies from Oman would be entitled to conduct these activities in the U.S. In light of the of the recent Dubai Ports World experience, concerns have been raised as to whether the Administration would invoke national security provisions or exceptions in the case of foreign acquisitions of strategic infrastructure and assets.
Well, the measure passed anyway, so we’ll see what happens next in the House (and, as the paper noted, Congress is in recess until July 10).

An Act Of Atonement

I wonder what George W. Bush will do today in honor of our troops who have fallen in his Iraq War?

I mean, I know he gave them some phony baloney pep talk as part of Operation Use Our Military People For Props In Unending Photo Ops, and talked about how great it was that al Zarqawi is dead.

But is that it?

Approximately 2,539 of our troops have been killed since May 2003 when combat operations supposedly ended…and that’s it?

Except for the valor of our military caught in this hellacious nightmare, NOTHING about this war has been honorable. Not the rationale, not the plan (we had one?), and certainly not the result.


And I never cared about the fact that Saddam Hussein was a mean, rotten guy who victimized his own people. It was never proven to me at any time that he could actually attack us (Israel is another story, but as far as I was concerned, that was their problem). And despite all of the saber rattling about Iraq in 2002, Iraq’s neighbors were absolutely silent, which I took as a sign that something dirty was afoot.

I realize it’s pointless to rehash all of this, because we are where we are and we can’t go back and change history. But I feel I have to mention this because of my utter disgust at watching President Stupid Head slather birthday cake all over his mug while our people continue to be killed for his illegal war.

We have all been forced to watch George W. Bush on the grand stage since November 2000, and we know him by now. He is a total intellectual lightweight who, among other things, is apparently incapable of empathy, remorse, or contrition.

So with this in mind, I have an idea.

I would like to see the establishment of a special college scholarship fund for the sons and daughters of our troops who have been killed in action called the July 6th Fund as a gesture by Dubya towards the bereaved families. You would think that the business friends of Bush and Cheney would support something like this, seeing as how they have benefited so magnificently because of all of the tax cuts and legislation that has been passed under the watch of the Repugs that has so thoroughly lined their pockets.

I mean, you would think so, right? But I suppose this “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch would resist because they would have a hard time seeing how they would benefit from it.

Still, I’m proposing this, and doing so in the name of the following service people:

- U.S. Army Sergeant David B. Parson, 1-37th Armored Battalion, 1st Armored Division
- U.S. Army Specialist Jeffrey M. Wershow, National Guard, 2-124th Infantry, 1st Armored Division
- U.S. Marine Private 1st Class Rodricka Antwan Youmans, 2nd Light Armored RECON Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force
- U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Scott Eugene Dougherty, 2nd Light Armored RECON Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force
- U.S. Marine Corporal Jeffrey D. Lawrence, 2nd Light Armored RECON Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force
- U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Justin T. Hunt, 2nd Light Armored RECON Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force
All of these men were killed on Bush's birthday (in 2003 and 2004).

I think this is a small goodwill gesture of sorts showing that our troops should be always in our prayers and thoughts, in particular as we celebrate joyous occasions in which they are unable to participate because they have bravely answered the call to serve and defend us (especially given the fact that it is summertime now, but the livin’ is in no way easy for them).

I’m pretty much just shouting this out into the Internet wilderness, I guess, but I think it’s better than keeping this to myself. Let’s see if anything comes of it.

And by the way, this post was prompted also by what I consider to be Bush's insulting attitude towards our casualties as shown in this story, in particular this excerpt:

When Stars and Stripes nabbed an exclusive interview with President Bush on July 4 -- aboard Air Force One -- it devoted most of the questions to ones submitted by service members.

One, put to the commander-in-chief by the newspaper's Jeff Schogol: Has he attended even one funeral for a fallen soldier from Iraq? No, he replied. “Because which funeral do you go to? In my judgment, I think if I go to one I should go to all. How do you honor one person but not another?” he said.
Since you have been so derelect in this duty as commander-in-chief, Dubya, you can begin to make amends by acting on the suggestion I posted above.

Update: I sent an Email to Steph Odell at Patrick Murphy's campaign about this just to get some feedback and try to generate some "buzz." I'll keep updating this if anything else happens.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Warm Up Another Spit In Gehenna

I posted over at Brandoland that I think Kenny Boy “offed” himself – the coroner attributed Lay’s death to a massive coronary, to which I say, “How con-VEEE-nient!” (OK, I'll be honest - I have no clue on that...just my instinct.)

However, the fact remains that the former Enron CEO has now shed his mortal coil, as it were, so I think this tribute (?) from Molly Ivins is fitting.

Update 7/6: I'm not proud of admitting this, but apparently, the New York Post and I are on the same page, so to speak.

Update 7/7: Even more interesting...

How To Stuff A Wild President

I mentioned in the earlier post on North Korea and the missiles that Dubya celebrated his 60th birthday recently (actually, the date is tomorrow – leave it to him to get that wrong too). Am I the only one who is deriving some sort of amusement over the fact that both Dubya and the bikini hit that milestone at about the same time?

I would say that both are noteworthy for providing cover and a measure of secrecy for appearances sake on behalf of assets that can only be revealed by those who are entitled to the highest level of access.


The Missiles Of July

While I read that North Korea has launched a seventh missile (following six launched hours earlier, as CNN noted), I was so heartened to read the following:

President George W. Bush met with (U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen) Hadley, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the tests were going on, a senior administration official said.

But he went ahead with plans to watch Independence Day fireworks and hold a gathering at the White House for his 60th birthday, the official said.
“See the sparks from that Roman candle, Mr. President? Imagine them shooting way, way up high into the sky and across the ocean and landing far, far away and wreaking untold devastation and havoc on the west coast, OK? That pretty much describes the threat we could be facing from North Korea. Now make a wish and blow out the candles on your cake, OK?”

Also, these are the choices offered by the CNN “Quick Vote” question on this grave issue (the question being, “how do we handle this”?):

- Ignore Pyongyang
- Give aid/money to the North
- Sanctions/embargoes
- Military action
Call me silly, but gee, I’d like to see “negotiation” in there somewhere too, OK?

I would also like to call attention to the statement from the White House on this story:

"This provocative act violates a standing moratorium on missile tests to which the North had previously committed."
Please keep this quote in mind as you read the following excerpt from this article in The Nation dated 1/27/2003 (weeks after Dubya’s infamous State Of The Union speech):

According to most accounts, the North Koreans told (Assistant Secretary of State James) Kelly they were willing to end their effort to enrich uranium (In October 2002), abide by existing safeguards on plutonium-based weapons and accept new inspections in return for a US pledge not to launch a pre-emptive attack, sign a peace agreement and normalize relations. Bush refused, saying the North must stop its program first; when that didn't happen, he cut off shipments of fuel oil promised under the 1994 agreement (more on that below). Within weeks, Kim had restarted (the plutonium-based reactor at) Yongbyon and kicked out UN weapons inspectors, who have been monitoring the reactor since 1994. "If the United States legally assures us of security by concluding a nonaggression treaty, the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula will be settled," Pyongyang's ambassador to China reiterated January 3, 2003.
In a situation like this, you must negotiate with North Korea, especially when they’re offering a solution. Yes, they abrogated the 1994 framework; the original break from Bushco’s point of view took place when Kelly presented evidence of a uranium enrichment program to the North Koreans and they owed up to it, but unfortunately, this is how the game is played (of course, if the ruling cabal in Washington had any clue about this sort of thing, we probably wouldn’t be at this point right now).

(The 1994 “Agreed Framework” from the Clinton Administration, by the way, stipulated that North Korea would halt activity at Yongbyon in exchange for promises of a pair of light-water reactors and US diplomatic and economic relations).

Also, I noted here that, while Bushco trumpeted the success of slapping around North Korea in some phony currency scheme, the nuclear issue was allowed to fester.

It would have been nice, of course, if CNN had provided more background instead of devoting space to President Stupid Head’s birthday activities, but again, I know that’s “so pre-9/11” of me (I’m sure Kyra Phillips added the personal stuff about Dubya…she was one of NINE correspondents on the story, ALL OF WHOM failed to provide the context I added here).

Update: Gosh, I'm so comforted to know that Dubya won't back down to "the little pygmy," aren't you? And I KNOW this is a serious story now, because CNN has featured two photos on its web site of Condoleezza Rice glowering in her typically ominous fashion against a black background.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Faith Of Our Forefathers

On the occasion of my 1,000th post (I can't believe it either; I hope at least some of them have been interesting), I'd like to muse a bit on what July 4th means to me and hopefully to you also.

Aside from the obligatory fireworks and outdoor summer stuff, it is a time for commemoration of our flag (which, by the way, is a symbol of such strength that it doesn't need to be propped up by an anti-desecration amendment to the Constitution) as well as contemplation of the ideals which support our democratic republic. Among those ideals are tolerance, forgiveness, and trying to build bridges to those who may hate you.

(One of my favorite films, by the way, is the version of "The Razor's Edge" with Bill Murray made in the mid '80s, which opens with wonderful images of a July 4th picnic that turn out to be elegiac given the irreparable changes that the four main characters undergo, Larry Darrell in particular, brought on in no small part by World War I.)

In this spirit - joyful summer exuberance tinged with melancholy reflection - I have to mention that Cindy Sheehan and Michael Berg have been on my mind a bit lately, and I have a message for them (assuming they ever read this post, which I admit is unlikely).

In much the same way that President Lincoln would reflect back on the Battle of Gettysburg in November, 1863 (the battle itself took place over three days 143 years ago, and on July 4th, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were in full retreat, having lost the battle partly as a result of the suicidal Pickett's Charge - the Confederates were also losing Vicksburg, MI at about the same time, tilting the Civil War irreparably in the favor of the Union Army), I would like to see Sheehan and Berg reflect on the terrible tragedies in their lives that have unwittingly thrust them into the spotlight and reach out to our service people to a greater degree than they ever have before.

And by the way, I'm not talking about appearing on any more "barking head" gab fests so Berg can be verbally assaulted by "Falafel" O'Reilly again or Sheehan can be called names by Faux News and its acolytes. I mean requesting time to speak at VFW meetings and gatherings of service people and stating their case, engaging and a give-and-take with veterans who may disagree with them as part of the process of (hopefully) reaching a mutual understanding.

I don't see evidence that they're doing this (perhaps I'm missing it online, but I don't think so - I'd like to be notified if I'm wrong about that). I see them supporting like-minded brethren in their opposition to the war, a right which certainly belongs to them that they've earned through terrible tragedy. However, in much the same way that Lincoln reached out to the South in the Gettysburg Address (paying tribute to those in both armies who spent the "last full measure" to achieve "a new birth of freedom"), I would like to see Sheehan and Berg reach out to those who oppose them by stressing that we are all Americans, regardless of the color of our state or the flavor of our politics.

I realize that Sheehan and Berg owe me absolutely nothing, but if they were to undertake the effort I just described, it would show a particular level of courage and leadership that would underscore the fact that they're trying to collectively enhance the intellectual strength of our nation through the free exchange of ideas as part of the dialogue which is so necessary if our country is to continue, and thus see many more July 4th celebrations recognizing the endurance of the freedom we cherish.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The “Last” Word In Mock Sympathy

I just shook my head when I read Jonathan Last’s column in The Inquirer yesterday; it defined the meaning of the phrase “concern troll” to me (I’ll say more on that later – hence the reason why I included the picture with this post).

One Last Thing - Helpful advice for wayward liberals
By Jonathan Last

The Vegas odds on Democrats doing well in the next two elections are fairly sunny. (At most of the casinos I've consulted, Hillary Clinton is about a 3-1 favorite to win the White House in 2008.) But as an ideological matter, liberalism, the intellectual backbone of the Democratic Party, is in a good deal of trouble.
God forbid that Last would produce anything resembling a basis for that claim, though if he were to mention the friction between the netroots and the beltway DLC establishment that has done nothing but lose elections, he’d be correct to a point. However, Last didn’t bother to say that; I just did.

And of course, let’s spread the popular fiction that Hillary Clinton is the pre-ordained, presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in 2008. This is a trap for at least one reason; if HLC were dumb enough to say “Oh, all right, you found me out. My re-election is only a formality. I REALLY want to be president.” – and somehow, I seriously doubt that she would ever do that – that would give the Repugs a reason to say, “A-HA! See there, voters of New York State! All you are to her is a stepping stone!,” thus giving a boost to Clinton’s opposition, who I guess at this moment is either John Spencer or K.T. McFarland (based on this Wikipedia article, the Repugs will have a primary in September to decide the nominee).

Today there are two books on radically different topics by radically different authors - the National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru and the New Republic's Peter Beinart - that, taken together, could help liberal intellectuals (and the Democratic Party) figure their way out of the blind alleys that most hobble it: "life issues" and foreign affairs.
“Life issues” being code for “moral values” which is code for “hating the gays,” OK? Let’s be honest and up front about this.

Also, let’s explode the myth once and for all that Repugs actually want to “help” liberals, which is the definition of a concern troll. They want to “help” liberals by “helping” them TO BECOME CONSERVATIVES (in the same way that our dear friend Joe Klein resurrected Michael Kinsley’s comment recently that conservatives want to embrace you while liberals make you take a litmus test – I could explode that a few different ways, but that’s the subject of a whole other post.)

The first is Ponnuru's The Party of Death. It's the rare conservative book constructed not as a balm to make Republicans feel good about themselves, and not as a hammer to bludgeon liberals, but as an argument that seeks to convert.
Last is honest enough to validate what I just said – I’ll give him that much.

Ponnuru's subject is the broad range of life issues, from abortion to stem-cell research to infanticide and euthanasia.
I’m not going to waste one second of my life reading a book written by someone from The National Review. Besides, Ponnuru had an opportunity to plug this on an episode of “Real Time With Bill Maher” earlier this year, and he said virtually nothing.

Liberals may or may not be open to persuasion on these topics individually, but Ponnuru's grand argument is entirely persuasive: The intellectual foundation of life issues connects them and leads in unsavory directions.
So, as far as Last is concerned, I guess we’re supposed to hate the gays also, I guess. And I’m open to a bit of persuasion and an intelligent argument, not freeper boilerplate.

The political problem with being for abortion isn't being for abortion, per se. It's that this support easily slides toward assisted suicide and then euthanasia.
No it doesn’t. That’s one of the biggest freeper lies out there, and it doesn’t have a shred of truth (I know this is also the position of the Catholic Church, and with due deference, I must say that they're wrong on this also).

There are extremely difficult, real-world-based reasons why a woman would have an abortion, hopefully with a support network so she isn’t totally alone in the ordeal. And based on our experiences with other couples, it is because something has gone horrifically, catastrophically wrong with the pregnancy. However, I will acknowledge that my experience in this may be peculiar to someone else’s, but I have a feeling it isn’t.

You could also argue about the inconsistency of conservatives who oppose abortion but favor the death penalty (I very reluctantly support the right to both).

If left unattended, an unquestioning devotion to abortion rights can lead toward a utilitarianism so cold and merciless that it would make FDR, JFK and Bill Clinton jump back with fright.
Someone’s going to have to explain that sentence to me. I’m lost.

For Democrats and liberals, The Party of Death is a call to wake up and see where the logic of abortion-at-all-costs is taking them. If the Democratic Party is to regain vitality, it needn't become antiabortion - although many of us would like it to - but, as both a moral and political imperative, it must erect bulwarks against going the way of liberal theorists Ronald Dworkin and Peter Singer.
I don’t have the time to sit down and familiarize myself with the work of these two authors, so I have no comment on them. But “regain vitality”? Gee, I would say that Dr. Dean and a vast network of Democratic, grass-roots volunteers is making the party pretty “vital” right now; it has been in the recent past, it is so now, and it will be that way even more in the future with all of us working together (freepers excepted, of course).

The second book is Beinart's excellent foreign-policy corrective, The Good Fight. For a combination of reasons having to do with Vietnam, multiculturalism, and a distaste for George W. Bush, many Democrats and liberals have allowed themselves to become mired in a belief system based on the distrust of American power.
This is a clever way for conservatives to take the fact that Bushco has horrifically mismanaged the illegal Iraq War and personalize this as an issue of “liberals hating Bush, and therefore, hating our military also.” This is typical clownish freeper obfuscation - it's not that we distrust American military power per se; we just don't trust this administration with it because they abuse it.

And by the way, Peter Beinart has recently been embraced by some on the left because he has apaprently come to the realization that the Iraq War was wrong and is issuing some mea culpas over it. I have two words for Beinart on this, and I’ll give you a hint: they’re not “happy birthday.” Beinart should tell his fellow freepers to stop demonizing anyone who opposes them as he once did and maybe I'd take him seriously.

"From Henry Wallace in the late 1940s to Michael Moore after September 11, some liberals have preferred inaction to the tragic reality that America must shed its moral innocence to act meaningfully in the world," Beinart writes. If "we demand that American power be perfect, it cannot be good."
What a loap of crap! At what point has Michael Moore ever “argued inaction”? What does that mean? Is that Beinart’s way of saying that Moore has said we should not have done anything after 9/11? Any proof on that? And we must “shed our moral innocence”?

This country has never been “innocent.” However, there was a time when the leaders of this country labored strenuously (with this country’s military, which has been steadfast throughout) to do the right thing, acknowledging its place as the leader of the free world. But I suppose Beinart’s cowardly phrase “sheding its moral innocence” means that Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are OK since they happened under Our Great Father Of War George Dubya Bush.

Beinart understands that this impulse, so prevalent on the left, causes liberals to see enemies only on the right. Instead, he argues, antitotalitarianism (which in its current guise means the struggle against Islamist terrorism) should sit at the heart of the liberal project. "If today's liberals cannot rouse as much passion for fighting a movement that flings acid at unveiled women as they do for taking back the Senate in 2006," he says, "they have strayed far from liberalism's best traditions."
As you can see, Beinart is still pushing emotional buttons for effect, and probably always will be. I could find plenty of incidents of young conservatives not rousing passion for Dubya’s Iraq War (see “Operation Yellow Elephant”), assuming that that’s also true of young liberals, which I don’t believe of course. Besides, has it occurred to Beinart that there are many returning Iraq veterans who are running for Congress AS DEMOCRATS? How can that be if the Democratic cause cannot rouse passion to fight radical Islam, as Beinart alleges? And if someone can figure out what “the liberal project” is, I’d appreciate it if I could be enlightened on that.

For a model, Beinart looks to the dawn of the Cold War, to Reinhold Niebuhr and Harry Truman. It was the Democratic Party and liberals who first hardened America's stance against communism and founded the policy of containment, successfully practiced by two generations of Democratic and Republican leaders.

Beinart argues that a hawkish liberalism must necessarily include liberal domestic ideology, and here, too, he points to Truman, who explicitly linked the struggle against Communism to the fight for civil rights. Liberals might effectively do the same today, perhaps with Islamism and gay marriage, if only they could overcome the impulse to believe that all cultures are of equal moral worth. Highlighting the importance of gay rights would necessitate pointing out that cultures which treat homosexuals as criminals are inferior. For many liberals, making such judgments part of their politics would be distasteful.
Again, we’re returning to “hating the gays” as the supposed central issue of our time – it certainly is for the radical right – though how that could possibly be associated with radical Islam is a mystery to me.

Here’s what’s going on; Beinart and Ponnuru want liberals to argue with conservatives about gay marriage/civil unions and abortion at the expense of everything else, and this is a win-win-win for the Repug base, which will NEVER CEDE ANY GROUND WHATSOEVER ON THIS ISSUE. Cutting through all of the theoretical and high-minded jibberish in this column, this is truly the heart of the matter.

Therein lies the problem. In the 1940s, liberalism excommunicated Communism, and along with it men such as Henry Wallace, who had once been heroes to the movement, but who refused to condemn Communism. If contemporary liberalism is to bloom again, it will have to do the same painful pruning of those unwilling to put aside cultural relativism.
“Cultural relativism” is another code phrase for supporting gay marriage/civil unions and abortion rights (and despite all of this, “Roe v. Wade” is still the law of the land, though I’m not sure how much longer that will be the case). As Atrios says, a woman’s uterus should not be community property, and I entirely agree.

If liberalism is to become, once again, one of our great governing philosophies and Democrats are to have a serious political future, the two institutions must find their way to change. Beinart and Ponnuru have given them a map.
As I said earlier, Beinart and Ponnuru have given them a “How To” book for becoming a Repug and establishing a one-party state, which would suit Last just fine.

I would really like to hear what Last thinks, by the way, of the latest bit of conservative bile floating around online having to do with the freeper war on the New York Times (as Hunter over at The Daily Kos has posted on with totally unsparing language, which I applaud). This is the very heart of right-wing, jackbooted Repug neo-conservatism as far as I’m concerned; vicious, hateful, and ignorant adherence to a worldview that is dying an inexorable death under the weight of untold tragedy it has authored primarily in this country and Iraq.

And Last, Beinart and Ponnuru each are guilty of bringing it to life and thus sustaining it to this moment (that line about "overcom(ing) the impulse to believe that all cultures are of equal moral worth" just hit me a minute far as I'm concerned, that could only come from people who are soulless monsters).

Update 7/7: I read an excellent review of Beinart's book earlier today by George Packer in The New Yorker, and I've been reconsidering the book a bit more based on that.

I think a point can be made that the Democrats should state more forcefully that they support movements towards democracy in the Middle East; I'll be honest and say that I haven't found them doing that (maybe they are, and I've just missed it). Just because Dubya and the Repugs have so thoroughly botched the Iraq War doesn't mean that we should become totally isolationist under the next administration (make it the Democrats, please God, and help them get their act together to make it happen). And of course, I'd like to see ALL of the Dems embrace something like John Kerry's position on pulling everyone out by the end of the year (the last "next six months" that there is). Mrs. Clinton would do well to get on board with that, especially since Joe Lieberman, the Dem she was closest to on this, is being politically destroyed at this very moment (though, if he runs as an independent, he may take down Ned Lamont with him and hand the Connecticut Senate seat to a Repug, which would be Lieberman's final ignominy as far as I'm concerned).

From what Packer said, Beinart said today's Democrats have to embrace "the war on terror" the way Harry Truman and Democrats of his generation embraced anti-Communism. Packer disagreed with Beinart based on the fact that anti-American sentiment in Muslim countries manifests itself in all kinds of ways that are radically different from the "us vs. them" mentality of the Cold War years, basically saying that Beinart can't draw a one-to-one correlation between the two (tribal/ethnic/regional fanaticism vs. nation/state gamesmanship). Also, the fact that Beinart apparently ignores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict severely undercuts whatever validity some of his arguments may have.

Finally, let's keep this in mind; the Democrats need to work on this issue, sure, but guess what? As we know, they have been OUT OF POWER AND WITHOUT A MAJORITY IN ANY BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT SINCE JANUARY 2001 (despite the Jeffords switch to Independent which forestalled what was inevitable in the Senate, unfortunately). The MAIN ISSUE is the INCOMPREHENSIBLE ARROGANCE AND INCOMPETENCE OF THE REPUGS that has put us in this terrible mess! In light of that, I don't see that some inter-party quibbling disqualifies the Democrats from calling the shots once more on this or ANY OTHER issue.

Smile For The Camera, Roy

So U.S. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt thinks a new football movie was rated PG instead of G because it contained religious content, even though the ratings board denies that (of dare the object of a wingnut’s accusation actually have the impertinence to FIGHT BACK, right?).

Actually, this all raises a question as far as I’m concerned, which is this; when did the U.S. Congress somehow morph into Jack Valenti?

You don’t think Blunt could be making an issue out of this to divert attention from all of his other dirty laundry, do you, including his strikingly-similar behavior to that of his one-time mentor? Naaaahhh…

And speaking of film critics, our prayers go out to a REAL one (one of the best) dealing with difficult health issues at this time.

Kansas Would Be Proud

I’m sure that, if I read the fine print of the recently passed PA state budget which was signed by Gov. Ed Rendell last night, I would realize that it does a lot to provide health care for the neediest families in our state as well as funding for our schools and libraries, and even some business tax cuts (though there was some last-minute Machiavellian maneuver by Sen. Vince Fumo in the process, which is typical). This is all good and marks another accomplishment in Rendell’s administration, along with delivering property tax relief.

But I’m really burned up over the following item (from the Inquirer story that can be accessed here – registration required of course):

The only major defeat for Rendell was a proposed $1 billion program to advance bioscience research. Republicans, who control the House and Senate, balked at the so-called Jonas Salk Legacy Fund, named after the developer of the polio vaccine, believing it was too costly.

Speaking with reporters shortly before signing the budget bill, Rendell criticized legislators for axing the proposal, which "had no budget implications."

The two-year program would rely on $500 million in matching funds from research institutions and would be financed by $35 million a year in future funding from the national tobacco settlement. Rendell stressed that he would work in the coming months to build enough support to enact it.
The senators who axed this program obviously have no clue of what the life sciences industry means to Philadelphia. This is why students from all over the world come to this area for study.

I sincerely hope Rendell is successful in reviving this program despite the dunderheaded actions of some provincial pols who apparently want this state to regress into the dominion where those who teach evolution are threatened as part of the ongoing war against the scientific method and critical analysis, relying exclusively instead on the sort of blind adherence to doctrine best practiced by those who chant incantations in the woods, read ouija boards and rely on The Psychic Friends Network for everyday guidance.

By the way, I don't know how my state senator Joe Conti voted on this. If I find out, I'll update this post.

A Bang-Up Business

I realize some people have started shooting off fireworks already, but in an effort to perform a bit of a public service, I thought it would be a good idea to link to this story to remind everyone to be careful. The vast majority of injuries in fireworks accidents are suffered by children, young boys in particular.

My rule of thumb, for whatever it’s worth? If you don’t have ready access to a field and supervision by someone 18 or older, you shouldn’t even be handling them (and I’m talking about sparklers, Roman candles, that sort of thing – small cap explosives should still be supervised because they can cause injury; also, M-80s shouldn’t even be part of this discussion).

And if you want to read about something truly bizarre, this tells you about how Pennsylvania residents can go into a fireworks store to look around, but if you haven’t filled out a permit application, then you can’t purchase them (sensible), but if you’re from New York, you can get them without a problem even though fireworks are illegal there (weird).

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Memo To Mikey: Because Water Is Wet

(Before I say anything, I have a messsage for anyone who may be reading this who works for The Bucks County Courier Times; your web site is absolutely horrible. Either reformat it and update your links or give up.)

So our illustrious 8th district U.S. House rep from PA wants to hold hearings to "gather information on the causes of frequent flooding in Bucks County," as reported in the Courier Times this morning.

Does the phrase "global climate change" ring a bell or two, Mikey?

See, it's that meteorological inconvenience mentioned over and over again by the vast majority of scientists who study the earth's temperature fluctuations. It's the phenomenon that is denied over and over and OVER again by the head of your party; you know, the guy who's entertaining the Japanese Elvis impersonator at the moment.

It's the reason for the increased water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico leading to more hurricanes there and elsewhere (where only a fraction of a degree can make a difference between a Category 3 and a Category 5 hurricane).

I'll tell you what; here's a link (this has sound) to learn more about Al Gore's great new movie "An Inconvenient Truth" (which, if I don't manage to see in the theater, I definitely will watch when it comes to DVD). Save us the money you would spend on phony baloney hearings which would do nothing but generate photo-ops for your re-election campaign and watch it instead, OK?

Update 7/5: As Above Average Jane noted (can't find her link at the moment), Fitzpatrick served on the Delaware River Basin Commission, so how necessary should it be for him to conduct hearings on this anyway? Shouldn't he already be familiar with the background on this? And by the way, Mikey...class move to remain in Washington while Yardley "takes it on the chin" again and Patrick Murphy and his staff actually helps those people flooded out of their homes.