Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What's the Purpose?

video

I didn't want Black History Month to pass without acknowledging it. My contribution is The Daily Show's Senior Black Correspondent, Larry Wilmore, on Black History Month.

His response to Jon Stewart's question whether Black History Month serves a purpose:

Yess. The purpose of making up for centuries of oppression with 28 days of trivia.

Oh, What a Day

On this day, in 1854, the Republican Party began.

~ ~ ~

Republican comes in the dictionary just after reptile and just above repugnant.

-- Julia Roberts

Cartoon of the Day




* Pat Bagley

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Sequel



The Best War Ever.

This video, by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton explores how America defeated itself in Iraq -- by believing its own spin.

Stauber & Rampton are also the authors of a book by the same name: The Best War Ever. The book delves into the spin machine that sold us the Iraq War & how they're still doing it—as the people who sold us the war in Iraq are now trying to sell an expansion into Syria and Iran.

The book is especially timely in light of the talk of a possible war against Iran. Seymour Hersh has a new article in the New Yorker, The Redirection, which is a must read (like all of his pieces are), in which he begins:

In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
Read the rest. Recent interviews with Hersh discussing his article can be found at Crooks & Liars here and here.

Hersh has been sounding the warning about Iran for some time now, see, A Messy World.

~ ~ ~ ~
Lies got us into this war. Only the truth will get us out.

Cartoon of the Day

* R. J. Matson

A New Way to Say You Suck


Via Dan McQuade at Philadelphia Will Do, comes the story of a man after my own heart (I guess I missed the story in the Inquirer between all the ads). McQuade explains the story:

When I was in high school, I used to drive by this couple almost every day that would stand out front of a store with sandwichboards on, urging people not to shop there. "Refund my $500, Andalusia Television," the one sign said (something like that, at least). "Don't shop at Andalusia TV," read the other. I can only assume that, unless Andalusia TV refunded their $500, the old couple is still there, still asking for $500, still urging people not to get their TVs repaired -- if people still do, indeed, get their televisions repaired -- at Andalusia TV.

Point is, people go a little over-the-top when they think somebody cheated them out of money. Such is the case with Jim Broomell, who hates Cherry Hill Dodge so much he's affixed magnetic signs on his truck saying "Cherry Hill Dodge Sucks." He even has a website dedicated to hating Cherry Hill Dodge, available at the easy-to-remember URL cherryhilltriplexscrewedmesuedmeandlost.com.

And, indeed, Cherry Hill Dodge -- aka Cherry Hill Triplex -- did sue Jim Broomell for putting those signs on the side of his truck, and did indeed lose after the lawsuit was thrown out on a technicality.
This is definitely something I've thought about doing several times, when I've felt that I've been taken advantage of by a company -- especially when they disclaim any responsibility for their mistake. It's not so much the original error, but the attitude problem that too often follows a complaint. Makes you wanna holler -- and then get revenge. Sounds like this guy did both! It's nice to know that there's someone will do it for all of us wimps who grouse about it, but then do nothing.

The story as told in the Inquirer gives it a slightly different slant. In its piece, The Internet as battleground of free speech, the paper focuses on the boundaries of free expression with this type of "speech:"

Still, the case raises this question: When does an expression of consumer dissatisfaction cross the line, particularly on the Internet, where the venues for venting are limitless?

Harold Pohlman, the director of the Law and Public Service Program at Dickinson College, said speech - even hate speech - is protected "until you get into intimidation."

"I would be shocked if a simple assertion of 'I want to hurt your business' would be dispositive... especially if the signs asserted a simple expression of opinion," he said.

Sheldon H. Nahmod, a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, agreed that negative opinions of businesses are free speech, but said lawsuits "are going to happen more and more because of the Internet."

"This is not a new issue," he said. As to "what makes it different... look at the kind of communication involved."

I'm certainly not a 1st Amendment lawyer, but I'd be very surprised if this type of expression were not permitted. Seems to me saying that a business "sucks" is the essence of opinion, which is (or has been, up to now) protected speech. As the Judge in the case put it:

Although Snyder threw the case out, he did address the dealership's request for an injunction to stop Broomell from using his e-mail addresses.

"The Constitution protects this type of language," he said. "The fact that speech could result in economic harm isn't enough to override the burden."

Of course, that's not to say that a big company won't try to take action against an individual to intimidate or bully the individual, in hopes of making the person back down, as happened here.

Gee, rather than just moving our accounts, maybe I should create a site for that local Bank that screwed up the deposits for our business account & then tried to say it wasn't their fault . . .

Tags: ,

Monday, February 26, 2007

The News



SNL mocks the Media's coverage of Anna Nicole Smith vs. real news.

Cartoon of the Day


* Justin Bilicki

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Believe in Life


W.E.B. DuBois

Born: February 23, 1868
(Belated)

To be a poor man is hard,
but to be a poor race in a land of dollars
is the very bottom of hardships.
~ ~ ~ ~
Believe in life!
Always human beings will live
and progress to greater, broader and fuller life.
(his last message, 1957)

For Dave

Saturday, February 24, 2007

(Don't Worry) If There's Hell Below . . .



As most people have heard by now, Dana Priest and Anne Hull of The Washington Post, in Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility and The Hotel Aftermath, as well as related articles in the series, see The Other Walter Reed, told the shameful story of the treatment of returning soldiers who have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last month I wrote about the woefully inadequate manner in which the military treats those who seek treatment for mental health services, see And How About Them?.

And then yesterday, I listened to an NPR report on the toll on families of those who serve that made my heart ache, Iraq War's Effects Seen, Felt in High School's Halls. For example:

She also says some students worry their mothers might commit suicide while their fathers are deployed. As a result, the kids stay up all night, keeping watch.
In the video above, Keith Olbermann also devoted a segment on his Countdown show, describing in detail the conditions at Walter Reed, including an interview with Dana Priest.

Like every other word uttered by the Bush Administration, the slogan "Support our Troops" is just a catchphrase.

As I heard the stories on NPR, I could imagine a special place in hell that must be reserved for Bush & Cheney. Then this morning, I saw this & realized the folly of my thoughts:



(Video via The Largest Minority and poster via Crooks and Liars).

Cartoon of the Day

* Jeff Danziger, NY Times

We'll Have Nun of That

The Washington Post reports on the latest in the US Attorney purge (that's purge, not surge), Justice Department Fires 8th U.S. Attorney, with the forced resignation of US Attorney Margaret Chiara. The paper reports:

U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell, the chief judge in Michigan's Western District, said in an interview yesterday that Chiara has an excellent reputation in Grand Rapids.

"This is a very classy, distinguished, highly regarded public servant," said Bell, who was appointed to the bench during the Reagan administration. "She's one of the best United States attorneys we've had in this district, and all of my colleagues agree. . . . To have her suddenly disappear without warning catches us all flat-footed."

See also, Prosecutor Purge: Number Eight?

As All Spin Zone, US Attorney Fired for Not Loving Death Enough, explained: "It appears Ms. Chiara, who studied to be a nun earlier in her life, was asked to resign because she holds a different personal opinion about the death penalty than does the Bush Administration." Jeralyn Merritt of Talk Left, AG Gonzales Terminates 8th U.S. Attorney, concurs:

So, why are these U.S. Attorneys being fired?

Nearly all of the dismissed prosecutors had positive job reviews, but many had run into political trouble with Washington over immigration, capital punishment or other issues, according to prosecutors and others. At least four also were presiding over high-profile public corruption investigations when they were dismissed.

The prosecutors' views on the death penalty may be a factor:

Chiara -- who had once studied to be a nun -- is personally opposed to capital punishment....Another of the fired U.S. attorneys, Paul K. Charlton of Phoenix, also clashed with Washington over the death penalty.

An ex-nun who opposes the death penalty because of religious beliefs? As I mentioned in my last post, Onward Christian Soldiers, Alberto Gonzales has introduced a new program to protect religious freedom. This is just the sort of case that the Department of Justice's new "First Freedom Project" is looking for! And Gonzales can have the honor of prosecuting it against himself.

The irony is just too delicious. God just has to have had a hand in it.

Onward Christian Soldiers

In Attorney General Gonzales Deputizes the Southern Baptist Convention in New Initiative, Talk to Action reports on a new "First Freedom Project" that the Department of Justice "announced earlier this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, [in] an effort to tout and enhance the Department's pursuit of religious discrimination claims through the Civil Rights Division."

Don Bird of Talk to Action also observed that Gonzales has enlisted the Christian right to help the DOJ protect religious freedom:

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sought out a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee as his venue to unveil the new religious liberty initiative of the Department of Justice during a speech in Nashville on Tuesday. The "First Freedom Project" touts the Administration's record arguing religious freedom claims through its Civil Rights Division, provides resources on free exercise rights, and a new "Report on Enforcement of Laws Protecting Religious Freedom." The project also invites tips on potential discrimination the DOJ might investigate. Gonzales made special mention of this near the end of his talk:
[M]ake no mistake, I am here to ask the Southern Baptist Convention, and all of you in this room, for your help. The Department of Justice has many tools to protect religious freedoms in this country, and we are using them. But even with all of our passion and our dedication to this cause, we cannot do it alone.
This has been part of the "mission" of DOJ for some time. Last summer I cited several articles noting a trend in the Department of Justice away from traditional employment related claims alleging discrimination on the basis of race, instead focusing on reverse discrimination claims against whites and religious discrimination against Christians, see Civil Rights & Estate Taxes.

Of course, now that we've eradicated discrimination on the basis of race and sex, it's time to turn our efforts elsewhere. Gays have no rights, so that leaves religion. Of course, we're not talking about freedom from bias against religions such as Islam, or even for non-believers, such as Atheists (Agnostics, who can't decide, probably don't deserve protection). No, the focus is on those long suffering Christians.

As a born & bred Catholic, I can't tell you how often I have felt the burden of discrimination because of my faith!! Any discrimination on the basis of sex that I may have experienced over my career pales in comparison. Thank god the DOJ is finally taking action.

~ ~ ~ ~

Whenever I read about this issue, I am reminded of this quote by Jon Stewart:

"Is there an expiration date on this Christian Persecution Complex? Because last time I checked, you guys have pretty much controlled everything since Constantine was in power. Can we move on, please? And he converted in, ahhh, what was it, 312 AD? I'm just saying, enjoy your success."

- Jon Stewart

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Mike Thompson, Detroit Free Press


How About None of the Above?


This graph shows the results of a USA Today/Gallup Poll that asked the following question:

"Between now and the 2008 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates -- their education, age, religion, race, and so on. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [see below], would you vote for that person?"

Not good news if your an older, gay non-believer who's thinking of running for President.

The Carpetbagger Report also has a breakdown of the results, What kind of people won’t Americans vote for?, by political ideology. The study showed that liberals are more open to "non-traditional candidates" (read that: someone other than a WASP male) than those who are conservative. I'm glad I was sitting down when I read that one. Who would have thunk?

(This one's for the Ladies Who Lunch)

In the Name of the Father & Son



As described by the YouTuber who posted it:

A song parody of Cat Stevens tune, "Father and Son", written, produced and sung by Stew (the man of 1000 voices). I love America and support the troops but sometimes dissent is patriotic. Dedicated to Jon Stewart, Al Franken, Michael Moore and especially for all those who lost their lives in the Iraqi debacle.

(Via onegoodmove)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Pat Oliphant, NYTimes

Hemlock for Helen


Calling it "a sign of Washington’s changing pecking order, and of the new ways that Americans get their news," Mike Allen of the Politico Helen Thomas Moving Back After 46 Years Down Front, reported:

The press corps is scheduled to move from temporary facilities back into the spiffed-up, rewired briefing room in May or June. Thomas, who has been questioning presidents and press secretaries for 46 years, plans to be there. But her front-row seat won’t be. Plans call for her to be moved to the second row to make room for a cable news channel. . . .
As I noted in Move to the Back of the Bus, the rumors of her banishment were first raised last week, even earning a mention on the Colbert Report.

So the new media has a new way of reporting the news? Does that refer to the sycophantic stenography that the media has been giving us in lieu of real reporting? Or is it the all entertainment, all the time "news" format that parades as news? Whatever it is, it's not journalism.

Likewise calling it Helen Thomas Goes to the Back of the Bus, Night Bird's Fountain reacted to the phrase in a different way:
Well, I can't help but think that it's more than the "new ways that Americans get their news" that relegated Helen to the back of the pack. I think it has more to do with her biting criticism of this administration and their inability to answer truthfully. In any case, it is a shabby way to treat a remarkable hero of American Journalism. And, yes, after 46 years, I consider the second row the back of the bus.
Thomas, ever the professional, shrugged it off, as Allen's piece continued:
“I didn’t think I had a monopoly on that seat,” Thomas, 86, said in a telephone interview. “Since my peers have decided that I don’t belong there, I’ll bow to their – I’ll drink the – What did Socrates drink?”

Hemlock?

“I’ll drink it,” she said. “You have to submit to the will of the people, and apparently this is the will of my peers. It’s OK with me. I’ve had a good run in the front seat.”

* * * *

She is deeply disillusioned by the state of press-presidential relations. “I think we have a public trust, and I think we have fallen down on the job,” she said. “The newest crop of journalists don’t do their job. For one thing, they’re being blocked. I think they came out of their coma on Katrina. But the questions that should have been asked have not been asked and time has passed us by.”

I pointed out that there is a school of thought that questions are worth asking even if the president won’t answer them. “At least the public’ll know you’re doing your job,” she said. “Questions should be out there, because the American people have seen us become so compliant and complicit. You were there for the run-up to the war. Where were the questions? Who asked why, what, what do you mean? We drop bombs and we accuse the enemy of meddling? We attack a country that did nothing on us? We dropped bombs on innocent people and started this war. You were there. Nobody said why.” When she paused and I filled the silence with “fascinating,” she continued: “It isn’t fascinating. It’s rid– it’s, it’s sad.”

Sad, but true.

(Photo & story via Cliff Schecter)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Pat Olipant, NYTimes

The Alarms are Ringing

Via Attytood, who inquires "Did anyone know about this?" a recent NYTimes editorial, Making Martial Law Easier, notes:

A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night. So it was with a provision quietly tucked into the enormous defense budget bill at the Bush administration’s behest that makes it easier for a president to override local control of law enforcement and declare martial law.

The provision, signed into law in October, weakens two obscure but important bulwarks of liberty. One is the doctrine that bars military forces, including a federalized National Guard, from engaging in law enforcement. Called posse comitatus, it was enshrined in law after the Civil War to preserve the line between civil government and the military. The other is the Insurrection Act of 1807, which provides the major exemptions to posse comitatus. It essentially limits a president’s use of the military in law enforcement to putting down lawlessness, insurrection and rebellion, where a state is violating federal law or depriving people of constitutional rights.

The newly enacted provisions upset this careful balance. They shift the focus from making sure that federal laws are enforced to restoring public order. Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or to any “other condition.”

Changes of this magnitude should be made only after a thorough public airing. But these new presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate. The president made no mention of the changes when he signed the measure, and neither the White House nor Congress consulted in advance with the nation’s governors.
A bipartisan bill was recently introduced to repeal this alarming law (as Will Bunch of Attytood rightfully terms it), which is no doubt what brought this to the attention of the Times Editorial Board.

In a way, the answer to Bunch's question proves even more disturbing. In an October 29, 2006 post, No More Disorder, I quoted:
The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act, accomplished in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority to declare martial law, is now an accomplished fact.
This was from a post by the Unknown Candidate, and I called this yet another sign of a Creeping Dictatorship.

The Times editorial notes that this law is serious enough that it is a threat to our our democracy itself. So where was the Times (as well as the rest of the media) when this odious law was first passed? Why is this just being brought out in an editorial, rather than being reported first as the news it is (or I should say, was)? It couldn't have been that hard to discover, if I discovered it within a few days of its passage.

And, once again, this assault on our freedom was enacted shortly before the 2006 midterm elections, but is only being addressed now. If the press had spent as much time reporting on this issue, as say, who the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby is, who knows what the election results could have been. I seem to recall this happening before . . . .

The real question is: Why didn't everyone know about this?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

*Joel Pett

Never Say Never


In an excerpt from his new book, Salon columnist Joe Conason explains why, for the first time since the resignation of Richard M. Nixon, Americans have reason to doubt the future of their democracy. In It could happen here, Conason warns:

For the first time since the resignation of Richard M. Nixon more than three decades ago, Americans have had reason to doubt the future of democracy and the rule of law in our own country. Today we live in a state of tension between the enjoyment of traditional freedoms, including the protections afforded to speech and person by the Bill of Rights, and the disturbing realization that those freedoms have been undermined and may be abrogated at any moment.

Such foreboding, which would have been dismissed as paranoia not so long ago, has been intensified by the unfolding crisis of political legitimacy in the capital. George W. Bush has repeatedly asserted and exercised authority that he does not possess under the Constitution he swore to uphold. He has announced that he intends to continue exercising power according to his claim of a mandate that erases the separation and balancing of power among the branches of government, frees him from any real obligation to obey laws passed by Congress, and permits him to ignore any provisions of the Bill of Rights that may prove inconvenient.

* * * *
As the midterm election showed, more and more Americans realize that something has gone far wrong at the highest levels of government and politics -- that Washington's one-party regime had created a daily spectacle of stunning incompetence and dishonesty. Pollsters have found large majorities of voters worrying that the country is on the wrong track. At this writing, two of every three voters give that answer, and they are not just anxious but furious. Almost half are willing to endorse the censure of the president.

* * * *
Bolstered by political impunity, especially in a time of war, perhaps any group of politicians would be tempted to abuse power. But this party and these politicians, unchecked by normal democratic constraints, proved to be particularly dangerous. The name for what is wrong with them -- the threat embedded within the Bush administration, the Republican congressional leadership, and the current leaders of the Republican Party -- is authoritarianism.

The most obvious symptoms can be observed in the regime's style, which features an almost casual contempt for democratic and lawful norms; an expanding appetite for executive control at the expense of constitutional balances; a reckless impulse to corrupt national institutions with partisan ideology; and an ugly tendency to smear dissent as disloyalty. The most troubling effects are matters of substance, including the suspension of traditional legal rights for certain citizens; the imposition of secrecy and the inhibition of the free flow of information; the extension of domestic spying without legal sanction or warrant; the promotion of torture and other barbaric practices, in defiance of American and international law; and the collusion of government and party with corporate interests and religious fundamentalists.

What worries many Americans even more is that the authoritarians can excuse their excesses as the necessary response to an enemy that every American knows to be real. For the past five years, the Republican leadership has argued that the attacks of September 11, 2001 -- and the continuing threat from jihadist groups such as al Qaeda -- demand permanent changes in American government, society, and foreign policy. Are those changes essential to preserve our survival -- or merely useful for unscrupulous politicians who still hope to achieve permanent domination by their own narrowly ideological party? Not only liberals and leftists, but centrists, libertarians, and conservatives, of every party and no party, have come to distrust the answers given by those in power.
The whole excerpt is well worth a read. I think I may have to add Conason's book to my reading list. I have expressed similar sentiments (although not in such eloquent terms), and I know that some of my friends and colleagues think I am being histrionic and am exaggerating the level of concern that we are truly in danger of losing our democratic way of life.

However, after college I became "obsessed" with the Third Reich in Germany and read (and still have) a number of books on Hitler and the rise of the Nazi Party. I just could not understand how the Holocaust could have happened. Not in the Holocaust denial sense, but rather -- how could the German people (as well as the rest of the world) stand by and allow a group of fanatics to take over and annihilate millions of people because of a difference in faith? After immersing myself in that shameful period in history, I realized how just how easily it happened.

I certainly don't want to raise the specter of Nazism (which is not what I believe is happening here), but I do believe that there is an aura that existed then is present today. Fear mongering, inciting racial and ethnic hatred and exaggerated patriotism are all indicia of the type of environment that is ripe for an erosion of our rights and freedoms.

After the fall of Hitler, the motto was "Never again." I think the motto today should be "Never say never."

Sunday Funnies - President's Day Edition



I saved the Sunday Funnies for Monday in honor of President's Day.

(Via Daily Kos)


To Bush on Presidents Day

Al Neuharth founder of USA Today, corrects himself and issues a Mea culpa to Bush on Presidents Day. He explains:

A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying "this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst."

"She's wrong," I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. "It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list," I added.

I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.
He's #1.

In honor of President's Day, here are a few other posts on the issue:
Sui Generis, Without.A.Doubt and And the Winner Is?.

(Via Editor & Publisher, Al Neuharth: Bush Is Worst President of All-Time)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Jeff Danziger, NYTimes

Move to the Back of the Bus




Citing the new Politico blog, the Huffington Post, in Helen Thomas Losing Her Seat?
reports that:

Helen Thomas, long-time Presidential correspondent, may be about to lose her front row seat in the Press Briefing Room.

Apparently, being the first woman officer of the National Press Club, the first woman member (and president) of the White House Correspondents Association, and the first woman member of the Gridiron Club, not to mention covering every president since John F Kennedy, does not necessarily entitle Thomas to a front row seat.
It seems that CNN and Fox News want the front row, but the Press Room renovations will only create one extra seat per row. So, there's talk that Helen Thomas may be banished from her front row seat to make room for the cable news boys.

Of course, moving White House Correspondent Helen Thomas to the back of the Briefing Room will hardly work to silence her voice. The video shows Stephen Colbert taking on Steve Doocy of Fox News for trying.

Best quote:

He's starting an email campaign to steal an old lady's chair. Bravo, sir. That takes courage. And of course FOX News deserves that chair. If anything, they should get two chairs because Tony Snow has been polite enough to stand for the past year.

And of course, I'm Helen's #1 fan. See e.g., No Gentle Good Night for Her and Thomas the Terrible.

(Video via Crooks & Liars)

Closed Until Further Notice


In keeping with the treatment of the constitution -- and liberty -- by the Bush Administration over the past few years, the National Park Service tried a variety of ways to lock up the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. And, to literally show it's disdain for the judiciary, it went so far as to close Old City Hall, where the first Supreme Court was located. See, e.g., Free at Last.

Last month, the Park Service eventually backed down and announced that it would use a simple post-and-chain cordon for security. Ronnie Polaneczky of the Daily News, Plan restores dignity to national icons, reviewed the revised plans:

The Park Service got it right.

What a wonderful shock that is, considering its post-9/11 history of security overkill at America's birthplace of freedom. . . .

But the proposal not only scraps the [7-foot-high fence] obtrusive fence and reduces the size of the security perimeter of Independence Square, it substitutes simple bag-checks for the airport-like magnetometer scanning currently required of visitors to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

Perhaps they felt that the Democratic Congress would only do it anyway, so why not change the plans and at least get some good press out of it. In any event, the revised security measures were welcome news.

But into every life a little rain must fall. Snow too. For example, last week Pennsylvania had major problems with its roads during a relatively minor storm. Less reported, however, the same storm caused the closure of Washington Square and Independence Square in Philly. Nathanial Popkin wrote a post on Valentine's Day at Phillyskyline which describes the cordoning off of the Squares:

[Y]our government . . . decided that because of snow (or was it slush?) you ought not to enjoy your park. Caution tape was strung across all seven entrances to Washington Square (and all those I could see of Independence too) after they had taken the trouble to power sweep all the pathways. Swept clean and closed. Why? Is it because a government this incompetent can't imagine -- can't imagine! -- keeping the pathways of an historic public square in the center of a bustling city -- that square itself filled with the remains of thousands of men who died to secure our freedom from the inveterate enemy of liberty, as Paine called George III -- free of snow and ice so that you may walk through it, stop to look at the white flakes gathering against the gray branches of the plane trees, or watch your child play? . . . . Is it because they thought they knew so well that you or I might slip in the slush, hurt ourselves, that it wanted to think, decide, protect us on our behalf? (Where the hell are all the libertarians while this is going on?) Is NPS really worried that if I fell and hurt myself I might demand to know why we have a national park service if it can't keep the shrines of our national heritage accessible to the public in the middle of the afternoon on day that produced rain and no more than a dusting of snow?
Somehow the caution tape mysteriously disappeared (with the aid of Popkin) and the park had it's usual visitors -- kids, pets and tourists. When he called to inquire about the need for the closure, Popkin was told "that the caution tape was put up to keep visitors safe from icy conditions. When I asked her why they had done so after using their new expensive equipment to clear the paths, she had no answer."

That's because there is no answer.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Ann Tellnaes, CBS News

Chuck Cheney

"Two words: Dick Cheney."
-- Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), quoted by U.S. News and World Report, explaining why Democrats won't push to impeach President Bush when they take control of Congress next year.
See Political Wire. I thought touche and chuckled when I read that quote shortly after the election.

Last November, there also was a conference at the National Constitutional Center in Philly, which discussed impeachment. See Impeachment Now and Employee Misconduct. Although I truly believe that Bush deserves to be impeached, I have to admit that I have been reluctant to support the movement, because I'm afraid that it would further divide and disrupt the country. The resulting turmoil would be beyond anything that could be accomplished before Bush departs in 2008. I figured, his days are (thankfully) numbered, so why bother? And to do it again so soon after the impeachment of Clinton would devalue the point of impeachment, making it akin to yet another salvo in the arsenal that the political parties use to attack each other.

That is not to say that I don't think that it would be justified. I agree with former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman's position, as described in Impeachment: The Case in Favor,"that President George W. Bush had committed high crimes and misdemeanors and should be impeached and removed from office. His impeachable offenses include using lies and deceptions to drive the country into war in Iraq, deliberately and repeatedly violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on wiretapping in the United States, and facilitating the mistreatment of US detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act of 1996."

However, as usual, I also agree with sometimes Daily News op-ed contributor Deborah Leavy, who took the idea a step further, writing:
But then what? Consider the consequences. Vice President Dick Cheney would succeed him. Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire! From the moment Cheney selected himself as vice president, he has been directing Bush's presidency. It was Cheney's idea to expand the powers of the president, and that is what started this whole sorry mess. Cheney, too, violated his oath to uphold the Constitution, so he should probably be impeached as well.

Next in line is the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. Dennis Hastert? What kind of presidential material is that? Then comes the president pro tem of the Senate . . . .
See Attytood, quoting Leavy.

Then, while visiting at Kiko's House, I read Can Cheney Be Agnewed?. Shaun Mullen researched the resignation of Nixon's VP, Spiro Agnew, which departure was precipitated by the specter of a criminal indictment for tax evasion. This led Shaun to ponder:
Lying about sex is an impeachable offense in America, but not being detached from reality. Nevertheless, I want to revisit the idea of giving the vice president -- who really does seem to have gone through the looking glass -- the old heave-ho.

I argued . . . that trying to impeach George Bush would be an enormous distraction and for that reason I’m against doing so. But there is always the specter of the president not being able to serve out his second term, which would put Dick Cheney, one of the most disputatious politicians of any era, in the catbird seat at a time when the U.S. needs to move ahead and not be bogged down in the veep's alternate universe.
See also his earlier post on the issue, Fuggedabout Bush; Impeach Cheney.


There has been speculation for some time that Cheney may "give up the ghost" (only figuratively, of course) and step down. At the Huffington Post, Dumping Dick Cheney, Al Eisele posits on this possibility one more time. As the revelations from the Scooter Libby trial have come out, Will Bunch, in Dick Cheney is in up to his..., recently pondered:
With this news, we would have to speculate that the impeachment of Dick Cheney in the new Democratic House is a very, very real possibility. There are significant pros and cons, politically, but it may prove an effective way to keep the White House in check without tearing the nation apart. Perhaps this explains the Negroponte/Condoleezza Rice manuevers, to clear the decks for a new VP.
And best of all -- if we impeach Cheney, we get rid of the real power behind the throne, as Robert Kuttner noted in this Boston Globe piece, The Cheney presidency.

(Poster via Culture Kitchen)

What Did He Say?



As I said, "He's Back." Here are the new New Rules, covering Ted Haggard, manners in Congress and for his extended riff -- gaffes by Presidential candidates.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette


He's Back

In anticipation of Real Time's return tonight (not that I'll be able to stay awake long enough to see it), Bill Maher was interviewed by Joan Walsh at Salon, Real talk with Bill Maher. During his 13 week break in the Show, Maher has been busy:

[He's been] working on a documentary on religion with "Seinfeld" creator and "Borat" director Larry Charles, titled "A Spiritual Journey." No, he hasn't found religion; Maher will be spoofing it, although he insists he's not an atheist. "Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don't need. But I'm not an atheist, no," he told the Onion AV Club in a 2002 interview. "I believe there's some force. If you want to call it God. I don't believe God is a single parent who writes books." (Emphasis added)
I think that's the best quote against organized religion that I've heard in a long while. That and a variation of the old Woody Allen line -- who'd want to be in the same club with the likes of William Donohue and his ilk.

The interview is interesting, touching on the issues that have arisen while he's been away, such as the new Democratic Congress, the "Surge," and Maher's view of the various candidates for President. He's pretty much right on the money.

Maher speaking about the flak he took after he challenged Bush's calling the 9/11 hijackers cowardly:
This was our little time of trauma. We were angry. The president didn't focus that anger. He did not channel that anger anywhere it could have done some good. If he had made a speech and said, "You're angry at these people? Well, these are the people who are filling your cars with the substance that funds their terrorist activities," you could have passed a pretty comprehensive energy reform bill, just the way Reagan, after he was shot, could have passed significant gun control legislation. Who could have challenged the president, as he was sitting in the hospital with a bullet an inch away from his heart, on gun control? Even the NRA would not have dared to speak too loudly about that. But he let that moment pass. Now, LBJ, after Kennedy was shot, he pushed through that civil rights legislation. That probably would have been a lot more difficult to pass if it had not been over the body of our slain president.

As I think many people have pointed out, in Chinese the character for tragedy is the same one for opportunity. And there are opportunities in tragedy. So it's sort of a double tragedy when we let them pass.

Maher on the Democrats:

And the reason why the Democrats won't cut the money is that they're always afraid how something will look. In my view, the fatal flaw of the Democrats is not having confidence in their own ability to make a case, to say, "We're not against the troops when we're cutting the money. Of course we're not going to abandon them on the battlefield with no money and no weapons." It's not that hard a case to make, to decouple the idea of cutting funding from the idea of abandoning the troops.

* * * *
You'd think they would have learned how to win a national election. But they keep making the same mistakes over and over. John Kerry ran pretty much the same campaign that Al Gore did in 2000, which said to the American people, "Look, I'm not going to really outline how different I am from this guy, because I'm afraid there are some things about his positions you like. So I'll just trust that when you get into the voting booth you'll say, 'Well, the one guy is a retard. It's a no-brainer, I'll vote for the other guy.' "
John Edwards will be one of his guests tonight. Both the article and his show are worth checking out.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Make Up Your Mind



video

On the Daily Show recently, Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore discusses Barack Obama's candidacy & whether he's black enough (or too black) to win.

Wilmore’s #1 Quote: “For every three black votes you get, you scare away five white votes. It’s true. Do the math. The black support is really only worth about three-fifths as much as white support.”

But whichever way Obama goes, it all may be for naught, because Hillary may snag the "black vote" anyway. What?? you may ask.

In his American Debate blog, Dick Polman talks about the hidden weapon in her campaign, The "honorary soul brother" calls in his markers -- Bill Clinton. As Polman observes:
No other pol in the Democratic party can match his clout in the black community (author Toni Morrison once said that Bill was America’s “first black president”), and that fact is crucial to understanding why Hillary Clinton will be strongly competitive in the primaries that follow Iowa and New Hampshire. . . .

Obama, on paper at least, can sink roots in the black community by appealing to racial pride (while seeking, of course, to avoid the broader perception that he is merely a “black candidate”). And reports indicate that Obama was trying to recruit those aforementioned South Carolina black leaders. But, in the end, Darrell Jackson (an influential pastor, public relations man, and state senator) and Robert Ford (another state senator) went with the Clintons. Here’s the key reason:

In their world, Obama is a newcomer who hasn’t paid his dues…whereas the Clintons are demigods who have been building relationships with the black community since Bill’s initial bid 15 years ago. Which helps to explain why a January ABC-Washington Post poll found that Hillary Clinton tops Obama among African Americans nationwide by 53 to 27 percent.

Polman details why Clinton generates such enthusiasm & loyalty in the black community, so much so that he can garner support for his wife with a bit of his personal touch. Interesting indeed.

(Video via The Largest Minority)

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Cartoon of the Day

* John Sheriffius, Boulder Daily Times

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Go Away


Melissa McNamara of CBSNews' Blogophile provides the perfect ending to Valentine's Day with her post, Bloggers: Cupid Is Stupid -- Sappy Hallmark-Style Greetings Go Out Of Fashion Online -- In Are Anti-Valentine's Messages.

She observes "Bloggers are seizing on the latest trend in Valentine's Day: Anti-Valentine's Day!"

Trendy as I am, I didn't want to miss out.

I'm (With) Spartacus



See I'm Spartacus for details of the purpose of this post.

Richard Blair of All Spin Zone details the story, We Are All Melissa and Amanda, of two liberal women bloggers from Pandagon and Shakespeare's Sister who went to work for the Edwards campaign, only to be attacked and harassed by the vile likes of William Donohue, a racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic individual who has tried to co-op the Catholic religion for his own purposes. As Amanda explains:

Because I had the nerve to be critical of the Catholic church’s stance on birth control and abortion—nevermind their political opposition to distributing condoms to fight HIV, a stance that has helped usher thousands and possibly millions to their untimely deaths—I’ve gotten a number of letters from people who call themselves “Christians”, as Bill Donohue also calls himself. Chrisitians are people who are supposed to follow the behavior and teachings of Jesus Christ. I mention this, because it seems to me that therefore, when Christians are contemplating an action that is morally questionable, it appears they should consult the Bible before acting.
See also, A Blogger for Edwards Resigns After Complaints.

I was born & raised in the Catholic Church. Except for attending a public high school, my education -- from Kindergarten through law school -- has been in Catholic schools and institutions. Members of my family are members of religious orders. Yet, my views and opinions on the Church are like those of Amanda.

When the Church is peopled with the likes of Donohue, is it any wonder? Donohue is the sort of person who would have been involved in the Inquisitions and he represents everything that is wrong with the Catholic Church and the so-called Christian movement of today. He does not speak for me.

Rather, as Richard Blair of All Spin Zone said "Jesus weeps."

(Via QuakerDave).

Happy Valentine's Day


It's that special day. A day for romance -- maybe some flowers and candy -- and definitely music.

For the best in Valentine's Day Music, the go-to site is Some Velvet Blog, who also teams up with some blogger friends to pool a selection of love songs. The perfect selection! Bruce from SVB adds this Valentine's Day message:

Remember these oft-cited words of wisdom for this day:
1 - If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with.
2 - Always love. Hate will get you everytime.
3 - Love makes the world go round.
4 - Love stinks.
5 - Love is the answer.
6 - True love travels on a gravel road.
7 - One is the loneliest number that you'll ever know.
8 - To find someone you love you gotta be someone you love.
9 - Love can make you happy.
10 - And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
SVB also had a few early Motown treats, Sending You A Love Letter for Valentine's Day.

And for a slightly different twist on the Valentine tunes, check out this video at The Liberal Doomsayer -- Are You Lonesome Tonight, sung by Sam Kinison.

(Poster via A Touch of Style)

Cartoon of the Day

* Matt Davies, The Journal News

Roses are Red

/

The Cheney's open Valentines from their "fans."

(Via PoliticsTV)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Dana Summers

Snow Upon the Water



View from Kelly Drive this afternoon. What's missing from this picture?

Answer: The Schuylkill River.

You Drive Me Crazy

Confirming that Republicans are truly the psychotic bunch I always thought they were, a Psychology Today article, The Ideological Animal, sums it up as follows: "We think our political stance is the product of reason, but we're easily manipulated and surprisingly malleable. Our essential political self is more a stew of childhood temperament, education, and fear of death. Call it the 9/11 effect." The article finds:

Most people are surprised to learn that there are real, stable differences in personality between conservatives and liberals—not just different views or values, but underlying differences in temperament. Psychologists John Jost of New York University, Dana Carney of Harvard, and Sam Gosling of the University of Texas have demonstrated that conservatives and liberals boast markedly different home and office decor. Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics. And that's just a start. Multiple studies find that liberals are more optimistic. Conservatives are more likely to be religious. Liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz, conservatives, country music. Liberals are more likely to enjoy abstract art. Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to prefer conventional forms of entertainment like TV and talk radio.
* * * *
As kids, liberals had developed close relationships with peers and were rated by their teachers as self-reliant, energetic, impulsive, and resilient. People who were conservative at age 23 had been described by their teachers as easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable at age 3. The reason for the difference, the Blocks hypothesized, was that insecure kids most needed the reassurance of tradition and authority, and they found it in conservative politics.
The article is fascinating. Citing this study, The Angry Liberal at The Grey Matter, notes:
But in the end, the smarter the person, the more likely he/she will be liberal in their thinking and beliefs.
Education goes hand-in-hand with tolerance, and often, the more the better: Professors at major universities are more liberal than their counterparts at less acclaimed institutions. What travel and education have in common is that they make the differences between people seem less threatening. "You become less bothered by the idea that there is uncertainty in the world," explains Jost. That's why the more educated people are, the more liberal they become.
Perhaps the best part in the article comes near the end, with the author explaining how the more gut-level, reactive thinker (conservative) can almost instantly become a more rational, analytical thinker (liberal).
Is there any way we can overcome our easily manipulated fears and become the informed and rational thinkers democracy demands?

To test this, Solomon and his colleagues prompted two groups to think about death and then give opinions about a pro-American author and an anti-American one. As expected, the group that thought about death was more pro-American than the other. But the second time, one group was asked to make gut-level decisions about the two authors, while the other group was asked to consider carefully and be as rational as possible. The results were astonishing. In the rational group, the effects of mortality salience were entirely eliminated. Asking people to be rational was enough to neutralize the effects of reminders of death. Preliminary research shows that reminding people that as human beings, the things we have in common eclipse our differences—what psychologists call a "common humanity prime"—has the same effect.

"People have two modes of thought," concludes Solomon. "There's the intuitive gut-level mode, which is what most of us are in most of the time. And then there's a rational analytic mode, which takes effort and attention."

The solution, then, is remarkably simple. The effects of psychological terror on political decision making can be eliminated just by asking people to think rationally. Simply reminding us to use our heads, it turns out, can be enough to make us do it.
So it's very simple: to become more liberal, think more rationally.
That rules out George Bush and his cronies.

~ ~ ~ ~
Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, political parties, nations, and eras it's the rule.
~Friedrich Nietzsche
Beyond Good and Evil (1886)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Funnies



The Sunday Funnies.

If you still need a laugh, there's more Sunday Funnies at OneGoodMove.

Cartoon of the Day

* David Horsey, Seattle Intelligencer Times

And in a Blink, He Was Gone

Dan Rubin, who has blogged for almost 2 years for the Philadelphia Inquirer via Blinq (which stood for a contraction of Blog and Inquirer), announced that he is giving up his online blog for a metro column in the paper, Forward, Into The Past. Rubin covered the blogosphere, looking for interesting tidbits about a variety of topics -- funny, irreverent and interesting. He was on my "A-List", so I'm going to miss him.

Sounds like he may be taking over John Grogan's column, Inky Pulls Big Toe Out Of The Blog Pond, since Grogan recently left to pursue fame & fortune on the best seller list, see The Reader's News Digest. I guess this is a good thing for Rubin, so I'm happy for his new "digs," but I wish there was a way he could continue Bling -- even if he was just part of a group of Inky writers sharing the Bling space.

Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House expressed the paucity of content that is found on the Philly.com site, in Media: Another Funeral in Philadelphia (which I sited before), aptly observing:

I seldom do more than glance at the papers’ websites and on some days don't even do that. Too little breaking news. Too little special content. Too much yesterday and too little tomorrow . . . .

Don't get me wrong. Snazzy websites, world-class bloggers and interactivity out the wazoo are not cure-alls for what ails Philadelphia's newspapers, let alone others.

But they are the only proven way to stanch the loss of old readers and (gasp!) even attract new ones, and that message still has not sunken in.

I wonder whether it ever will.
Who knows what's up with the Inquirer. Despite the promises, promises of the new owners, things have not improved since Brian Tierney ascended to take over the running of the paper. Despite saying they weren't going to make any major changes to the editorial pages, this week brings the voice of conservative radio talker Michael Smerconish, Meet the new face of the "liberal media" in Philly. It's not bad enough that the paper carries Charles Krauthammer?

I also thought that the Inquirer/Daily News was supposed to be revamping their online presence, but this move seems to be heading in reverse, The End of An Era. Maybe they needed to make room for more advertisements on the website, since the paper & the website seem to be all ads, all the time.

As Tom Durso of Shallow Center said in Blinq and You'll Miss It:
And here's a public plea to the Inquirer to continue his good work online. The Philadelphia blogging community is a rich and diverse collection of writers, and no one was pulling them all together quite like Rubin was. Seems to me it would make for good journalism and good business to have someone keep an eye on the men and women who are supplementing the paper's coverage of city politics, culture, news, and sports with outstanding (and volunteer) commentary and observations.
I blinked and he was gone. And the beat goes on.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

First Time



Roberta Flack -- my all time favorite
Date of Birth: February 10, 1939

The First Time Ever I saw Your Face


Who We Gonna Hate today?


In neighboring Jersey, bigotry seems to be prevailing over better sense. It seems that the Evesham school district has decided that a documentary that helps kids understand the different shapes families take today has been removed from the curriculum for 3rd graders. The Inquirer, in Use of diversity video suspended, reported:

That's a Family! is a half-hour video that depicts children explaining their various family structures, including single parents, divorced parents, adoptive parents and others. The film also contains a segment on families headed by same-sex couples, which sparked the ire of some parents.

School officials said the video was meant to teach diversity and respect for all families, as part of the state-mandated health curriculum.

The district's decision to suspend the showing of the video comes two weeks after administrators held a viewing for parents. Afterward, a debate raged, with parents at times shouting each other down.

The majority of the parents who spoke at that meeting opposed That's a Family!, saying the video was inappropriate for 8-year-olds and that lessons of diversity should be taught at home.

Others called the video "disgusting," and one woman stood to shout that third graders "don't need to see homosexual people in the classroom."

Really? What the kids really need to see is less hatred in the home. See also, Hate wins the day.

I have been following the controversy at The Quaker Agitator since it started, with QuakerDave's first posts on the issue, Speak up for tolerance and More on our little hate problem. After reading about it, I watched a clip of the film, That's a Family!, and thought that it was a well-done, thoughtful, tasteful discussion of families -- of various shapes and sizes.

It amazes me that anyone would find it offensive. After all, diversity makes life interesting. It should be celebrated, not scorned. Why anyone would want to surround themselves with others just like them is beyond my comprehension. Of course, my daughter attended a Quaker lower/middle school that didn't need the film -- the school community embodied the principles promoted in the documentary. I used to joke that a straight couple, of the same faith and race, was the only real minority at the school. She thought two moms or dads was just another version of a family, no big deal.

Evesham apparently does not share that sentiment. Ugliness reigned supreme. Hatred and bigotry were out in force, opposing the use of the film that -- showed gay couples as parents!! See "The homosexual people are coming!"

And Bill O'Reilly had to get in on the act, since screaming hate filled rants were involved. He featured a segment on the school, interviewing two parents. See He's at it again. Funny that. The parent opposed to the film did not even have a child in the 3rd grade at the school. Guess no one else wanted to parade their bigotry for all the world to see. And if we are going to be bigoted, then lets say that the stereotype of the ignorant redneck was safely preserved with his performance. Now that wasn't nice, was it? Nope. Bigotry never is, no matter who it is directed at.