Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Jeff Danziger

It's My Party, I'll Cry if I want to

This is definitely a "Best of Philly" moment.

Daniel Rubin of Bling, in a post Dismissed, Denied. reports on a legal decision about a bad party, the internet, a silly Philly guy and a lawyer, natch. The Court's opinion describes the party scene:

On December 31, 2005 . . . Anthony DiMeo’s publicity firm organized what turned out to be the New Year’s Eve party from hell. Renamity first contracted with Athmane Kabir, owner of Le Jardin, a restaurant located in the Philadelphia Art Alliance gallery, to host 325 guests on New Year’s Eve for a four-hour party with food and an open bar. . . . Twice as many people appeared. . . . When alcohol and food ran out well before midnight, attendees — who had paid $100 each — became disenchanted. ‘The staid, sprawling landmark on Rittenhouse Square never saw such a ruckus. Patrons seeking food burst through doors leading into a dining room of Kabir’s Le Jardin restaurant. Two mixed-media works on loan by Antonio Puri were stolen from museum walls. Sconces were torn. Someone tried to haul off the donations box. Kabir, fearing injuries, called police about 10:30 p.m.’”
(Opinion and analysis of the decision is available at My Election Analysis, Max Wins).

In the aftermath of the party, more mess ensued. As detailed by Bling in The Blueberry Heir v The Web's Bad Boy:

A defamation lawsuit filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court asks these questions, and pits local publicist and man-about-town Anthony DiMeo III against Tucker Max, a New York writer and man-about-town, who uses his web site to chronicle long nights of drinking and debauchery. And apparently annoy DiMeo endlessly.

Call it the Blueberry Heir v the web's bad boy.

DiMeo, 30, is suing Max, also 30, saying Max's widely-read web site has libeled him repeatedly.

Max, a Duke Law school grad who is representing himself, says he's done nothing of the sort.

Max has gained some notoriety for his writing, landing his book "I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell," on the New York Times best seller list (No. 26) and finding himself in court for publishing a full-frontal account of his sex life with a former Miss Vermont. He won, and has posted the gory details about the case on his site as well.

He describes himself on his website as an #$%hole. His emails carry this blurb from the Times: "...highly entertaining and thoroughly reprehensible..."

Juicyness aside, the case has the potential to test the constitutionality of the recent change to the Communications Decency Act of 1934 that makes it illegal to "annoy" someone anonymously on the Internet.

For the past two years posters on have ridden DiMeo for the way he uses his own web site to promote his parties, his acting career, his Renamity pr firm, his being heir to a blueberry farm in South Jersey. DiMeo's suit, filed by attorney Matthew B. Weisberg, of Morton, Pa., asks for $150,000 in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages of another $1 million.

See also, Philadelphia Will Do here and here, for more background on the case.

Now this is exactly what the law is all about. Protecting First Amendment rights. Blinq describes the decision of the good Judge Stewart Dalzell (and he is a good judge), affirming free speech rights everywhere, including the internet:
Tucker Max may be a lout, but he's no libeler, says a federal court in Philadelphia. A federal judge has tossed the case against Max, whose popular Web site celebrates his boozy carousing. On Friday, U.S. District Court Stewart Dalzell dismissed the claim by local publicist and event planner Anthony DiMeo III, who had contended his reputation suffered from comments made on after his New Year Eve party went awry.

* * * *

The judge's decision reaffirms that a Web site proprietor is protected from libel actions based on comments visitors make, either by name or anonymously. And it provides for more lively reading than one will encounter in a year of reading such things.

The decision begins, "Tucker Max describes himself as an aspiring celebrity 'drunk' and 'asshole' who uses his Web site,, to 'share (his) adventures with the world.' Anthony DiMeo III, who says he is an heir and co-owner of a large New Jersey blueberry farm, threw a New Year's Eve party this past December that, apparently, ended in a shambles."

* * * *

While Dalzell wrote that "there is no question that could be a poster child for ... vulgarity," he found the law must protect "the coarse conversation that, it appears, never ends."

Bling also interviews the victor:
Max, reached by phone in Los Angeles, was characteristically charming in victory:

"It was the legal equivalent of a bitch slap I think it's fair to say. The judge made sure these sorts of cases won't be brought again in his district. DiMeo will think twice before he slaps a frivolous suit on a legitimate expression of free speech."

To see his website, go to TUCKER WINS!!! DIMEO LOSES!!!.

Of course, luckily for us, this is not quite the end. Oh, but no, says Daniel McQuade of Philadelphia Will Do:

You might think the fun might be over. No more DiMeo randomly threatening to sue any independent blogger who happens to report on a disastrous party he has or says things about him other than "Anthony DiMeo is awesome and throws the best parties!" You might think that this decision has affirmed that the Internet is a place where people who are, say, blueberry heirs can't simply use their money to threaten to squelch any criticism of them. You, of course, would be wrong. According to our buddy Daniel Rubin, DiMeo is planning on appealing.

The other part I love about this is that the lawyer is not the bad guy.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Day for Memorials

Blogger Pachacutec at Firedoglake has a Memorial Day post on the "War on Terror," There Is No “War on Terror”, that gives voice to some of the thoughts that I have been having of late. This is especially true because the justification for much of the Administration's sweeping power grab is premised upon the never-ending "War on Terror."

Whenever I hear the War excuse used by Bush, I keep asking myself, was there an official declaration of war by Congress? If so, when does it end? The way Bush describes it, it will last forever. Yet, the reality is that there was no official declaration of war. Just a do whatever, whenever. See Michael Kinsley's prophetic blog from March of 2003, The Bush Doctrine: War without anyone's permission, calling the resolution to use military force "the biggest scandal in constitutional law: the gradual disappearance of the congressional Declaration of War."

As Pachacutec said:

There is no "War on Terror."

There is, however, a "war" on the U. S. Constitution.

After September 11, 2001, we’ve learned that we can take a punch and move on. We’ve faced far worse threats to our national survival in our history - the Civil War, the War of 1812, World War II to name a few - but we never abandoned our Constitution. Until now.

Terror is an emotion. Emotions are part of human nature and cannot be eradicated. A "War on Terror" is therefore a war on humanity. The Bush administration has exploited the fear and shock of a nation in the wake of a surprising and dramatic act of violence to whip national fear and paranoia into a constant boil.

* * * *
There is no "War on Terror." There is only a war on the law, a conscious destruction of the U. S. Constitution. This is not the first time right wing interests have attempted to overthrow the U. S. government. An attempt was thwarted during the FDR administration. Then as now, America’s greatest enemies come from among the ranks of America’s ruling master class.

Bushco has enslaved Americans into a psychological reign of "War on Terror" that amounts to a criminal protection racket. We are told we must be afraid. That is, we are told we must live in terror. This is to protect us from. . . terror. Then, because we feel terrified, we must give up our freedom - freedom to write what we believe without fear of reprisal, freedom of due process and habeas corpus protection, freedom from secret intrusion into our private lives by government.

Today is Memorial Day. Today we remember countless patriots who died and fought for those freedoms our president tells us we must abandon. . . in the name of "freedom."
Let's worry a little less about the matching red, white & blue decor & a little more about freedom. Otherwise, we really do have much to fear.

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All Power to the President

Charlie Savage has yet another installment in his excellent series of articles in The Boston Globe on presidential "signing statements," in Cheney aide is screening legislation. Truly scary stuff. Focusing on the origin of the "unitary executive theory," the article examines the role and relationship of Dick Cheney and David Addington. As Savage describes:

The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials.

The officials said Cheney's legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington , is the Bush administration's leading architect of the ``signing statements" the president has appended to more than 750 laws. The statements assert the president's right to ignore the laws because they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.

The Bush-Cheney administration has used such statements to claim for itself the option of bypassing a ban on torture, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, and numerous requirements that they provide certain information to Congress, among other laws.

Previous vice presidents have had neither the authority nor the interest in reviewing legislation. But Cheney has used his power over the administration's legal team to promote an expansive theory of presidential authority. Using signing statements, the administration has challenged more laws than all previous administrations combined.
* * * *
The administration insists that Bush's use of signing statements is not unprecedented. Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said, ``President Bush's signing statements are lawful and indistinguishable from those issued on hundreds of occasions by past presidents."

The use of signing statements was rare until the 1980s, when President Ronald W. Reagan began issuing them more frequently. His successors continued the practice. George H. W. Bush used signing statements to challenge 232 laws over four years, and Bill Clinton challenged 140 over eight years, according to Christopher Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University of Ohio.

But in frequency and aggression, the current President Bush has gone far beyond his predecessors.

All previous presidents combined challenged fewer than 600 laws, Kelley's data show, compared with the more than 750 Bush has challenged in five years. Bush is also the first president since the 1800s who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments.

Douglas Kmiec, who as head of the Office of Legal Counsel helped develop the Reagan administration's strategy of issuing signing statements more frequently, said he disapproves of the "provocative" and sometimes "disingenuous" manner in which the Bush administration is using them.

Kmiec said the Reagan team's goal was to leave a record of the president's understanding of new laws only in cases where an important statute was ambiguous. Kmiec rejected the idea of using signing statements to contradict the clear intent of Congress, as Bush has done. Presidents should either tolerate provisions of bills they don't like, or they should veto the bill, he said.

"Following a model of restraint, [the Reagan-era Office of Legal Counsel] took it seriously that we were to construe statutes to avoid constitutional problems, not to invent them," said Kmiec, who is now a Pepperdine University law professor.

By contrast, Bush has used the signing statements to waive his obligation to follow the new laws. In addition to the torture ban and oversight provisions of the Patriot Act, the laws Bush has claimed the authority to disobey include restrictions against US troops engaging in combat in Colombia, whistle-blower protections for government employees, and safeguards against political interference in taxpayer-funded research.

Cheney's office has taken the lead in challenging many of these laws, officials said, because they run counter to an expansive view of executive power that Cheney has cultivated for the past 30 years. Under the theory, Congress cannot pass laws that place restrictions or requirements on how the president runs the military and spy agencies. Nor can it pass laws giving government officials the power or responsibility to act independently of the president.

Mainstream legal scholars across the political spectrum reject Cheney's expansive view of presidential authority, saying the Constitution gives Congress the power to make all rules and regulations for the military and the executive branch and the Supreme Court has consistently upheld laws giving bureaucrats and certain prosecutors the power to act independently of the president.

One prominent conservative, Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School, said it is ``scandalous" for the administration to argue that the commander in chief can bypass statutes in national security matters.

``It's just wrong," Epstein said. ``It is just crazy as a matter of constitutional interpretation. There are some pretty clear issues, and this is one of them."

Laurence Tribe, a prominent liberal at Harvard Law School, said: "Nothing in the text and structure of the Constitution, or Supreme Court precedents, supports the Bush-Cheney assertion that Congress cannot limit or direct what government officials may or must do."
It's difficult to provide a short excerpt, the article should be read in its entirety to understand the full scope of what is happening within what is supposed to be our government. Additional commentary and discussion on this piece can be found at FireDogLake, A Constitutional Crisis of Cheney’s Making?

Sad to say, but something is seriously broken in our form of governance of late. I just don't know how to fix it, when so few people seem to be paying attention. It sometimes seems like those who try to point out the truth are treated like Cassandra, the Cursed Prophetress of Greek Mythology -- doomed to tell the truth, but never to be believed.

For the earlier Boston Globe articles on this topic, see Dictator-In-Chief and When the Moon is in the 7th House.

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, Washington Post


The Spinmeister

"People in Washington are morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings."

So says Karl Zinsmeister.

Who? Karl Zinsmeister is the Bush Administration's new Domestic Policy Advisor -- the replacement for Claude Allen -- the man who gave new meaning to the resignation phrase "want to spend more time with the family," when he was arrested for shoplifting after his departure, see Some Family Time.

And a fitting replacement he is. As a recent NY Sun article, Questions Arising Over Quotations Of Zinsmeister, noted of Zinsmeister:

A magazine editor named to a top White House policy post, Karl Zinsmeister, altered his own quotes and other text in a published newspaper profile of him posted on the Web site of the magazine he has edited for more than a decade, the American Enterprise.
Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory provides details in New Bush appointee caught changing and distorting his own quotes. As he explains:
Several days ago, the Bush administration announced that Karl Zinsmeister, the long-time Editor of the right-wing American Enterprise magazine, would become its new Domestic Policy Advisor. The appointment was celebrated by self-proclaimed personal friends of Zinsmeister such as Scott Johnson at Powerline and Jonah Goldberg, both of whom lauded his great intellect and integrity.

But an exposè today in The New York Sun documents rather compellingly that integrity does not exactly appear to be one of Zinsmeister's strong suits. In 2004, The Syracuse New Times published a profile and interview with Zinsmeister which contained some rather controversial and provocative quotes, as well as some disrespectful and critical quotes about the Commander-in-Chief. But when Zinsmeister re-published the New Times profile on the American Enterprise website, he fundamentally changed the controversial quotations in order to make it appear that he never said them.

* * * *

Is there anything less credible in the world than Zinsmeister's claim - made through the White House spokesperson - that he altered these potentially embarrassing quotes because he was repeatedly misquoted, given that he not only never claimed he was misquoted, but sent e-mails praising the outstanding journalism evinced by the story? Nobody who was misquoted in such fundamental and unfair ways would thereafter send e-mails specifically praising the "professionalism" of the reporters and lauding the "fair and thoughtful treatment" they were given, let alone call the article "the best and hardest kind of journalism." All of that is self-evident.

Zinsmeister clearly changed his own quotes because he thought they reflected poorly on him, an incredibly unethical thing to do, especially since he misled people into believing that he was quoting the article itself. Now, when caught, he refuses to take responsibility for what he did, but instead begins offering up patently false explanations for why he did it, even going so far as trying to heap the blame on the supposedly sloppy and/or unethical practices of the reporter and editor who were responsible for the story -- all in order to save himself.

This kind of reprehensible behavior would completely disqualify Zinsmeister from working with any reputable organization which cared about honesty, integrity and truthfulness. That's the good news for him; his new job is clearly not in jeopardy with the Bush administration. He's probably already in line for a promotion.
When the position of Domestic Policy Advisor is solely focused on the promotion of spin, the Spinmeister has shown that he is certainly "the right man for the job," as Bush is wont to say, since his previous experience obviously makes him eminently qualified.

Dick Polman's blog, American Debate, also offers a quotable Zinsmeister at An honors graduate of the Last Throes School of Military Policy.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Quote of the Day

Born: May 27, 1911

For the first time in the history of mankind, one generation literally has the power to destroy the past, the present and the future, the power to bring time to an end.
-- Hubert H. Humphrey

(Via My Left Wing)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Michael Ramirez

He Doesn't Live Here Any More

An editorial in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tries to get in the last word on the Tale of the Mysterious Abode.

In Nobody home -- Santorum tries to cover his tracks on residency, the paper states:

Before every election, the Post-Gazette routinely sends letters to the candidates seeking material for the Voters Guide. Back in March, as part of that process for the primary, the newspaper sent a letter to Rick Santorum at his home address, at least the one that he claims. Back from Penn Hills came the letter with a sticker from the U.S. Postal Service checked as "Not Deliverable As Addressed -- Unable To Forward."

That is all you need to know about the nasty dispute between the Republican Sen. Santorum and his Democratic opponent, Bob Casey Jr., in the November election. The whole thing is rooted in one inconvenient fact for Sen. Santorum: He doesn't live here anymore.

* * * *

Mr. Casey described Sen. Santorum's claims as "weird" and "bizarre." Actually, they are beyond weird and raise serious questions about the senator's ethics that go beyond the residency question. In a letter to Mr. Casey, he speaks of his "outrage" regarding the actions of the Casey campaign "which have put our six young children at a serious safety risk."

Though that suggestion is far-fetched to the point of absurdity, it would be a potential source of fear only if the senator actually lived in Penn Hills, but -- let us repeat one last time -- the Santorum family is at no risk because he doesn't live here anymore and the family is in Virginia most of the time. So what we have is the senator making untrue and outrageous comments while seeking to hide behind his wife and kids in order to get around an inconvenient fact.

We have a feeling that those who do live here may have something to say about this cowardly tactic at the November polls.
One point I haven't seen anyone make is that if the Santorums did truly reside in this home, wouldn't he just have invited the media inside to see his lovely, lived-in home, to prove that those nasty Democrats are terrible people for making this story up? Haven't seen that film at 11:00 and won't -- because he doesn't live here any more. In fact, I don't believe Santorum ever lived in this house -- this small, 3 bedroom home, with his 6 kids.

An earlier post on this story (along with a picture of the Virginia home) can be found at A House is not a Home.

UPDATE: You can hear Santimonious Santorum Speak, or rant, on a Pittsburgh radio program at Eschaton. I was actually taken aback when I realized it was him speaking. He sounded a bit like one of those nuts that call talk radio. I think he's losing it over this issue. Listen for yourself.

(Picture & story via Attytood and Eschaton)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Jerry Holbert, Boston Herald

The Good News and Bad News

Yesterday, it was announced that an investor group led by Brian Tierney bought the local Philly papers, Phila. investors buy Inquirer, Daily News. As an interested "voyeur" of journalism (or at least a consumer), I have to add my comments. I have been a reader of the Inquirer since the mid-70s, when I worked in Harrisburg writing press releases. I have more recently come to appreciate the Daily News and it's offerings.

Certainly there is much to be happy about. Both papers will remain open and a 2-paper town (even if jointly owned) is better than one. At least the range of news is broadened. The papers no longer have to answer to Wall Street's lust for profits. And local ownership has its pluses, since they have more of an investment in the community.

Inquirer political analysist Dick Polman, whom I respect greatly, described it best in his American Debate blog, A fresh start:

This is a big deal. It means that the two papers will be freed from the dictates of Wall Street, where, under the destructive credo of capitalism run amok, publicly-traded media companies for decades have been under constant pressure to milk their products dry, diminish quality, slash costs, and generally violate the public trust, all in the interests of squeezing extra dollars for the next quarterly report. I, along with many others, have witnessed this process in action at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Two personal examples: I used to be a foreign correspondent based in London; now there is nobody in London. I used to write regularly for the Sunday magazine; now there is no Sunday magazine.

It would be foolish to think that the new [investor group], helmed by marketing/advertising executive Brian Tierney, will suddenly rain down money on the Inquirer newsroom, restore foreign bureaus, bring back the Sunday magazine, and hire scores of young and hungry reporters. That's not how the world works . . . .

So nirvana will not dawn tomorrow; nor will we know, in the short term, whether the various special interests that comprise [the investor group] will adhere to their signed pledge to keep their mitts off the newsroom. Nevertheless, there is a great sense of relief that we have avoided the worst of all outcomes -- being stripped, ravaged, and abandoned by some new absentees who know or care little about these papers and the community they serve. We had enough of that from the dying Knight Ridder, whose chairman, Tony Ridder, leaves the scene with his golden parachute. Tierney has the opportunity to play a key role at ground zero of a great national experiment, and those of us with a stake in that experiment wish him well. We would like nothing more than to see it succeed, and help make it happen.
Will Bunch of the Daily News and Attytood, who has written extensively (and with depth and passion) for the last several months on the future of journalism and the Daily News, was somewhat speechless (or wordless, if that's the written equivalent). His reaction:
After all that I've written in the last six months about saving the Daily News, you'd think I'd have a typically long and complicated reaction to the "stunning conclusion" of the saga, the purchase by "admitted Republican" Brian Tierney and his group of local investors.

Frankly, I don't.

Today, I'm happy. I'm keeping a job that I love (and a blog that I love), and will still be working here with some of the best journalists and best people I've ever known. There will be many battles ahead, to be sure, but you can't fight the good fight if you're not there. As for the big picture "norg" type stuff, my biggest hope was for an owner with a new way of thinking, willing to do things outside-the-box, who would seek to makeover news for the 21st Century. Tierney is an outsider who will try to do exactly that.

Beyond that, Bunch provides a survey of opinions (his and others) on the new owners and what they portend for the future. Dan Rubin of Blinq also provided a summary of blog reactions, View From The Cheap Seats.

For the bad news end of this, Editor & Publisher carried an article, Ex-'Inky' Editor: New Ownership Of Philly Papers Could Be 'Dangerous', quoting:

Former Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Robert Rosenthal, who spent 22 years at the paper, said the sale to a local investors group could prove problematic.

"It is a unique situation and I don't think it is necessarily a great one for journalism," said Rosenthal, who is currently managing editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. "Many of them are some of the most influential business people in Philadelphia and people who actively support politicians locally and nationally."

The veteran editor called the situation "very interesting and dangerous ... at times." He said it would be interesting "to see where the paths and relationships cross when it comes to the owners' relationships in the city and where the journalism leads." He added, "I don't think there is a situation like this in the country where the ownership group is so much a part of the political and economic power structure of a city."

In addition, Rosenthal called the leader of the investment group, Brian Tierney, a "fierce advocate who is used to getting his own way....I can't imagine a guy like Brian Tierney taking a back seat and letting things get in the paper that he is unhappy with," Rosenthal told E&P just hours after the deal was announced. "He was a very fierce advocate for his clients, there was nothing subtle about him -- elbows and knees."

* * * *

Rosenthal tangled with Tierney years ago when the Inquirer was sued by a former reporter, Ralph Cipriano, over a story Cipriano wrote about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The suit ended in a settlement in which the Inquirer paid Cipriano $7 million. Tierney, who runs a major public relations firm, had handled P.R. for the church and dealt with Rosenthal on that and other stories.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, in an interview with E&P then, praised Tierney for keeping one of Cipriano's critical stories out of the Inquirer. Tierney told E&P at that time that religious organizations and non-profits should be covered differently than other institutions.

Cipriano had sued the paper after Rosenthal made comments to The Washington Post that were critical of Cipriano's work on the Archdiocese story. The reporter, who was fired, had complained about the paper refusing to publish some elements of his reporting, which included accusations that money had been wrongly spent by the church.

* * * *

Rosenthal said the owners have their hands in such volatile issues as labor, politics, development and other business circles, which may cause problems with balanced coverage. "A lot of those people involved in owning the paper do have and will have involvement in those issues," he said. "The danger is whose toes are going to get stepped on. Perception is something very powerful, whether it is real or not. People who own the paper now are deeply embedded in many of the issues that confront Philadelphia and have a personal stake."

The Inquirer itself noted the controversial Tierney, in Frequent critic of media takes newspapers' helm. And, based upon his past dealings with the paper, that's putting it mildly, to say the least. As Attytood said several months ago,Be careful what you wish for?, when the hometown boys first expressed interest in the papers:

In the days since it was announced that the Daily News and the Inquirer have been thrown back on the market by our nominal new owner, the McClatchy Co., there's been a lot of speculation, much of it gushing, about the concept of local people buying Philadelphia's newspapers.

It's a great idea. The notion of a benevolent and patient Philadelphia millionaire/billionaire investor, willing to make a modest profit in return for the civic clout and the adventure of running the most influential hometown media outlet, is hard to resist. It certainly trumps the greedy Wall Street investor, demanding irrational profits while irrationally destroying the product to save it.

But the generic "local owner" is a lot like the generic Democrat or Republican they plug into congressional polls in off-years. They always do great, until the name of a real flesh-and-blood, flawed mortal has to be inserted. And in many of the news accounts so far, we've seen two local names -- two very flawed local names, Brian Tierney and Vince Fumo.

It's OK that they're flawed -- we all are. And even though they're political -- Tierney a Republican, Fumo a Democrat -- there's nothing wrong with that, either. In fact, the standards that I have for a local owner are ridiculously low. The only deal-breaker would be a record of hostility to the First Amendment and journalists' pursuit of the truth, a record of fighting for the protection of sacred cows instead of standing by while we shatter them.

And until now, Tierney and Fumo have flunked that test -- spectacularly.

In Tierney's case, there is considerable evidence that his aggressive PR campaigning for the Archdiocese crossed the line from advocacy into something more than that. The city's former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua told Editor and Publisher in 2001 that Tierney had "stopped the story" that Ralph Cipriano was trying to write about his spending practices. Cipriano, one of the best journalists we had in this city, was ultimately fired by the Inquirer. sued the newspaper for libel, and received a reported $7 million.

* * * *

Then, there's Vince Fumo. Sigh.

For Attytood readers here in Philly, Fumo needs no introduction. For out-of-towners, the longtime Democratic state senator is the top cog in this city's Democratic machine, a master of political hardball and patronage nicknamed "the Prince of Darkness." Last year, both the Daily News and Inquirer reported that federal agents had seized computer files from Fumo's legislative offices, in an effort to learn more about charities and non-profits with close ties to the senator.

That doesn't bother us, though, as much as Fumo's attitude toward Philadelphia's working press, highlighted by his active (and possibly successful) campaign to prevent the Inquirer from winning a Pulitizer in 1998. Fumo's best friend in town is attorney Richard Sprague, a man so quick with a libel suit that...well, that's just it, I can't really tell you what I really think of him.

* * * *

The sad thing is that there's a lot more I could write about Fumo and Tierney's hostility toward the medium that now say they want to rescue, but I think you get the idea.
Regarding of the Cipriano matter, that was a sordid tale that I followed at the time. I had recently moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh, as did Cardinal Bevilacqua, so I had some "history" with him and his ways. Cipriano's story about the Archdiocese was eventually published in the National Catholic Reporter, see Lavish spending in archdiocese skips inner city, which won a prize for the series. Cipriano also ended up suing the Inquirer over his termination and won a tidy settlement. I suppose it's only fitting that the person mainly responsible for the debacle -- Tierney -- should finally find a way to make amends. For anyone who's interested, in an aptly titled piece, Cipriano v. Rosenthal: The Whole Sordid Affair, Citypaper has a compilation of the various articles related to the incident. Very interesting reading.

In the end, like everyone else, I've ended up providing a compendium of others opinions. Like most others, I have mixed feelings about it. Having dealt with personalities like Tierney in my career, it's difficult to see him acquiescing to a hands-off approach. On the other hand, perhaps the challenge of proving everyone wrong will be sufficient incentive for him to focus his energies in that direction and just pull it off. As Suburban Guerrilla, said:
Saviors, or insect overlords? Who knows, only time will tell.
And finally, as a sort of p.s. -- for a postmortem on Knight Ridder, see the post Journalism's Darth Vader by former Daily News editor and reporter, Shaun Mullen, of Kiko's House, who concludes with:
Screw you, Tony Ridder. And you can quote me on that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Nothing But the Truth

Blogger DaveV at Daily Kos put together a List, entitled, Stephen Colbert was not funny.

The rest of The List:

*Helen Thomas is old and batty.
*Mexicans are taking our jobs.
*Iraq sent its WMDs to Syria.
*Democrats don't want to wiretap terrorists.
*Joe Wilson admitted that Valerie Plame wasn't covert.
*Karl Rove has a faulty memory.
*Scooter Libby has a faulty memory.
*Tom DeLay is like Jesus Christ.
*No one could have anticipated that the levees would be breached.
*We do not torture.
*There is no global warming.
*There is global warming, but humans didn't cause it.
*Howard Dean can't raise money.
*John F. Kerry is a flip-flopper.
*George W. Bush is a decider.
*John McCain is a straight-shooter.
*Dick Cheney is a sober shooter.
*Nobody at the White House knows Jack Abramoff.
*Democrats do.
*The economy is great.
*Evolution isn't supported by the facts.
*Diebold voting machines are secure.
*Fox News is fair and balanced.
*Mission accomplished.
*Bill Clinton did it too.
*No one could have anticipated the Iraqi insurgency.
*The budget deficit will be cut in half in four years.
*Anyone who thinks Dubai shouldn't control our ports is racist.
*No one who thinks we should build a wall along the Mexican border is racist.
*George Allen isn't a racist... anymore.
*Terry Schiavo wants to live.
*Andrea Clark wants to die.
*We've turned a corner in Iraq.
*There's a war on Christmas.
*There's a war on Easter.
*There's no civil war in Iraq.
*The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
*Up is down.
*Black is white.

Read the additions to the List here.

Contributions by AMERICAblog:

* God hates Fags
* Karl told me he didn't do it.
* If gays are allowed to marry then heterosexual men will leave their wives.
* Ken Mehlman isn't gay.
* Wanted: Dead or Alive.
* The recession started BEFORE Bush came to office.
* Republicans are for small government.
* Republicans are pro-defense.
* Bush will try diplomacy before invading Iran.
* There will be no draft.
* George Bush won the election.
* George Bush doesn't hate black people.
* The PDB was a historical document.
* The religious right speaks for Christians.
* What Americans REALLY care about is flag burning and gay marriage.
* George Bush speaks Spanish.
* George Washington authorized wiretapes too.
* "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

My contribution to the List:

*I believe that God wants me to be President.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Pancho, La Monde

Viva La Difference

The Colbert Report has a new feature called "The Difference Makers," to honor those normal, everyday people who make a difference -- even if they are not "superheroes" -- a la Bush and Cheney. The first episode tells the story of Tim Donnelly, "the leader of a band of heroes called the Minutemen, who work day and night on weekends to keep our borders safe." See video: The Difference Makers (via One Good Move).

Oh, those good ole boys, the Minutemen. We have our own contribution to the Minutemen, with a Pennsylvania contingent. The Philadelphia Inquirer featured an article in March (no longer available online) about John Ryan, the Quakertown resident who founded our local version. As the article, entitled, "Border worries reach from Mexico to Phila. - Local group joins illegal-immigrant watch," noted:

The mission of the controversial organization - and of loosely allied groups such as Ryan's - is to keep out illegal immigrants it believes could be terrorists, drug traffickers or disease carriers and who depress U.S. wages, founder Chris Simcox says.

* * * *

While Simcox and his followers call themselves a "national town watch," others, including President Bush, have used the word "vigilantes." They are the Minute Klan, opponents say, a group whose rhetoric has racist overtones, particularly toward Latinos and Muslims.

* * * *

The Minutemen group "doubtless contains some well-meaning people," said Mark Potok, a director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "However, it embodies a lot of what's scary about the [border-control] movement: a mix of weapons, bigotry and conspiracy theories."
Minutemen are definitely heroes -- of the Republican, Christian Right. Just the right mix of Family Values they hold so dear.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* David Horsey, Seattle Post Intelligencer

Dead or Alive -- It's Lost

Matt Yglesias at Talking Points Memo puts it in perspective perfectly:

"I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties," Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) remarked at yesterday's Hayden confirmation hearings, "but you have no civil liberties if you are dead." This comes via Dave Weigel and nicely encapsulates at least three different pieces of horribly misguided rightingery.

First off is the sheer cowardice of it. Sure, liberal democracy is nice, but not if someone might get hurt. One might think that strong supporters of civil liberties would be willing to countenance the idea that it might be worth bearing some level of risk in order to preserve them.

Second is just this dogmatic post-9/11 insistence on acting as if human history began suddenly in 1997 or something. The United States was able to face down such threats as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany without indefinite detentions, widespread use of torture as an interrogative technique, or all-pervasive surveillance. But a smallish group of terrorists who can't even surface publicly abroad for fear they'll be swiftly killed by the mightiest military on earth? Time to break out the document shredder and do away with that pesky constitution.

Last, there's the unargued assumption that civil rights and the rule of law are some kind of near-intolerable impediment to national security.

* * * *

If you don't have some faith the American way of life is capable of coping with actual challenges, then what's the point in defending it?
And then see this at Attytood: What we've become.

Today democracy, liberty, and equality are words to fool the people. No nation can progress with such ideas. They stand in the way of action. Therefore we frankly abolish them. In the future each man will serve the interest of the state with absolute obedience. Let him who refuses beware. --Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Funnies

And so it began. Jon Stewart & the Daily Show, go back to the beginning with the latest installment of "The Decider" -- The Origin of the Decider.

For earlier episodes of "The Decider," see You're Not the Boss of Me and Friday Funnies.

A House is not a Home

When there's no one there . . .


Maybe he's just remodeling his Penn Hills home. That would explain why PA Senator Rick Santorum's "house" in Pennsylvania is empty.

According to KDKA news (via Eschaton) in Pittsburgh, Patrols Beefed Up Near Santorum's Home:

Rick Santorum's residency in the area and, in fact, his residency in Pennsylvania, has become an issue in this still young U.S. Senate campaign.

KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti reports Santorum’s residency is no longer just only a political issue... it's now become a police matter, as well.

“He doesn't live here,” said Ed Vecchio of Penn Hills. “The house he's registered to vote out of, is vacant -- no curtains, furniture, nothing in there. It's abandoned for over a month. So, I feel it's my right to contest his vote.”

Those comments from the husband of the head of the Penn Hills Democratic Party led police to beef up patrols around the home of U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

The increased police presence began late Tuesday, after authorities in Washington D.C. contacted Penn Hills authorities.

U.S. Capitol Police received a complaint from Karen Santorum.

She was worried that someone was trespassing or prowling on their Penn Hills property.

* * * *

Machesky said the beefed up security around Santorum's house does not detract from police service to the rest of Penn Hills.

* * * *

Right now, Penn Hills Police don't know who, if anybody, trespassed on Santorum's property.

No one has been charged.

As for the Santorums, they think someone would have had to go onto their property to know what is, or isn't inside.
Now things aren't all bad for Santorum. He's not homeless. He does, of course, have a second home in Virginia, pictured above.

Will Bunch of the Philly Daily News (and Attytood), wrote a piece in Mother Jones, Sanctus Santorum, noting that "many people here don’t think of Santorum as a resident. In 2001, as he began his second term, the senator bought a fortress- like house, recently assessed at $777,500, in Leesburg, Virginia, an affluent exurb of Washington, D.C.; he also owns a small home in Penn Hills, where a relative of his lives. People here rarely see Santorum, who voted by absentee ballot in 14 of the past 21 elections and didn’t seem troubled by the arrangement until it came out last fall that the local school district had paid at least $34,000 to educate five of the senator’s children in Virginia through online coursework."

Bunch obviously enjoys the subject of Santorum. He penned another article a few months ago about Santorum in the American Prospect, With A Little Help From His Friends, in which he recalls:
When Santorum first ran against incumbent House Democrat Doug Walgren in 1990, he released an attack ad that drew the attention of Roll Call, the Capitol Hill weekly: “Strange music plays while a picture of an attractive white house is shown. The announcer says, ‘There’s something strange about this house.’ The reason is because Walgren lives in McLean, which is ‘the wealthiest area of Virginia’ rather than his suburban district. ‘Maybe that’s why he voted for a pay raise seven times,’ the announcer argues.”

But in 1995, just after winning election to the Senate (and thus five years before he would have to face Pennsylvania voters again), the couple purchased a $292,000 house in Herndon, Virginia. “I made the pledge that I would live in my district as a congressman, and I did,” Santorum said at the time. “The Senate is a very different place from the House.” For two years he didn’t even own a home in Pennsylvania, but in 1997 bought a small house in Penn Hills -- in the Pittsburgh area, next door to his wife’s parents -- for $87,800.
See also: Media Matters, which noted that Santorum referred to his opponent as a "carpetbagger" for living outside the district, and that:
During his 1990 congressional campaign, Santorum "unseated Democratic Rep. Doug Walgren after running attack ads criticizing Walgren for buying a house and raising his three children in McLean, Va."
Now some people might call that hypocritical. I, on the other hand, would say it's just Santimonious Santorum Speak.

(Photo via Attytood). For more Santorum, see Tricky Ricky.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Attytood has a post on this latest Santorum empty nest story, including a picture of the Penn Hills digs. Check it out here: Overreacting?. Bunch also reports on the accusation by the Santorum camp that Bob Casey is behind this whole episode.

Two thoughts on that. He's behind what -- you might ask? Making an issue of the fact that the house is empty? Sounds like more Santimonious Santorum Speak to me. Also, calling a democrat who happened to raise the issue a Casey operative may be overreaching just a bit. Maybe Santorum has been away from Pennsylvania too long. Scranton (Casey's hometown) is about as far from Penn Hills/Pittsburgh as you can get. I should know. I'm from Scranton and lived in Pittsburgh for many years, so I made that trek on many occasions.

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, Washington Post

We Had a Heads-up

AlterNet has an exclusive interview with former NYTimes reporter Judith Miller, The 9/11 Story That Got Away (via Attytood), where she reveals:

In 2001, an anonymous White House source leaked top-secret NSA intelligence to reporter Judith Miller that Al Qaida was planning a major attack on the United States. But the story never made it into the paper.
As Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher says, Miller and 'NYT' Had a 9/11 Warning Tip:
Judith Miller, the embattled former reporter for The New York Times who spent 85 days in jail last year for refusing to reveal a source and ultimately left the paper after a dispute, has another new twist to her Times tenure.

In an interview with the Web site, Miller now claims she had advance intelligence information leaked to her months before the Sept. 11 attacks indicating Al Qaeda was planning a major attack on the United States.

Posted today, the story contends that Miller was sparked by the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole to increase her reporting of al-Qaida. She says that ultimately led, in July 2001, "to a still-anonymous top-level White House source who shared top-secret NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) concerning an even bigger impending al-Qaida attack, perhaps to be visited on the continental United States.

"Ultimately, Miller never wrote that story," the Alternet piece continues. "But two months later -- on Sept. 11 -- Miller and her editor at the Times, Stephen Engelberg, both remembered and regretted the story they didn't do."
Or, as Shaun Mullen of Kiko' House put it, in A 9/11 Bombshell (Or: Miss Miller Regrets):
Disgraced former New York Times reporter Judith Miller now says the National Security Agency had specific information that Al Qaeda was planning to hit a high-priority target in the U.S., but decided not to go with the story -- something she says she now very much regrets.

Putting this surprising revelation in context, The NY Times, Judy Miller and 9/11: The most stunning failure yet?, Will Bunch of Attytood makes the apt observation:
Because just now, some 56 months after the fact, we are learning that both Judy Miller and her editors at the New York Times had information that foretold the 9/11 terror attacks and elected not to publish it. Reading the new story carefully, it does seem that a decision to publish the article in the summer of 2001 was not a "slam dunk,' that there were legitimate questions whether Miller's tip was enough to hang a story on. But the episode does raise a couple of other serious questions -- surely about the pre-attack ineptitude of the Bush White House, but also over the Times' handling of this explosive info both before and after 9/11.
It is yet another example of the devolution of journalism. The importance of providing news and information to the public has somehow been subsumed by the importance of placating government, which no doubt was involved in the decision not to publish the news after the fact. Bunch notes:
As for the New York Times, the decision not to publish pre-9/11 is a toss-up. But why, in God's name, was this information not published in any clear and meaningful way immediately after 9/11, on the pages of the Times itself. Doesn't anyone think that information of advance warnings of the attack in the highest levels of Washington is something that the public needed to know in those early days after the attacks?

Instead, from what we can gather, the information has dribbled out... some of it in a 2005 article in Columbia Journalism Review, and some of it today in a story on an alternative, progressive Web site. Who exactly was the Times protecting in not writing this article in September 2001, immediately after the attack, and why?

The foreknowledge of the Bush Administration is another point that didn't (and still hasn't) gotten much press. Bunch notes:

This has been said so many time before, so we won't belabor the point, but how much more evidence do people need that the Bush White House had plenty of information about the pending 9/11 attacks, and failed to take the threat seriously? The relatively high marks that Bush gets on terrorism issues, even today, just aren't supported by the facts.

The Existentialist Cowboy also has a very good post, Bush's biggest fraud: the phony war on terrorism!, exploring the propaganda from the Administration on this issue, as well as the larger "war on terror" campaign.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What have you done for Jesus lately?

Religion & Politics -- a godless mix -- as told by Lewis Black on the Daily Show, in Religious Test (via One Good Move). Black says:

I'd like to talk to you a moment about Jesus. Have you taken him as your personal lord and savior? No, then you're probably not in politics.
Also, as I noted the other day, in What have you done for me lately?, the Religious Right is an insatiable beast. Black's skit riffs on the religious element of that, noting:
Focus on the Family's James Dobson has been asking conservatives, What have you done for Jesus lately?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Mike Lester, Rome News Tribune

We're in Trouble

In a post on the NSA Spy Scandal, Spies 'R (On) Us, I quoted from CNN's Cafferty File, during which Jack Cafferty said: "We'd better all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because he might be all that's standing between us and a full-blown dictatorship in this country."

In his Unclaimed Territory blog, Glenn Greenwald reports that Specter has rolled over on the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping scheme by making the program essentially FISA-proof. Greenwald quotes from The Hill, Specter strikes NSA deal:

Specter has mollified conservative opposition to his bill by agreeing to drop the requirement that the Bush administration seek a legal judgment on the program from a special court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.

Instead, Specter agreed to allow the administration to retain an important legal defense by allowing the court, which holds its hearings in secret, to review the program only by hearing a challenge from a plaintiff with legal standing, said a person familiar with the text of language agreed to by Specter and committee conservatives.

Former Daily News reporter Shaun Mullen, who blogs at Kiko's House, explains:
There used to be a joke (and probably still is) in the newsrooms where I worked to the effect that Arlen Specter was able to talk out of both sides of his mouth at the same time.

"Wafflin' Arlen," as we called the veteran Republican senator from Pennsylvania, marched before the cameras after USA Today reported that the NSA's domestic spying program was much broader than previously disclosed and announced that his Senate Judiciary Committee would be holding hearings posthaste to get to the bottom of this Orwellian outrage.
Noting the Cafferty line about Specter, he said:
I noted that Mr. McCaffery might be jumping the gun given Specter's history as a waffler. I was right.

The Hill reports . . . that Specter, true to form, has capitulated to right-wing colleagues who have been blocking a long overdue judicial review of the NSA program.
So, does that mean that it's offfical now? We are now the other "D" -- and I don't mean Democratic.

~ ~ ~ ~
Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. -- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

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What have you done for me lately?

It just took one sentence to cover it. As Dick Polman said, "President Bush is sending troops to guard against any further defections from his conservative base."

In his Inquirer article, Stopping the right's flight, Polman describes the unsuccessful balancing act that Bush tried to pull off with his recent immigration speech. Emphasis on the word unsuccessful, since "Bush had barely finished last night before the conservative blogosphere went to work on him."

Following up on his piece in the Inquirer, Polman continued the discussion on his blog. In a post entitled The downside of having convictions, Polman suggests that although he was trying to appease the Bush's view on immigration is sincere. As he put it:

Yes, he felt compelled to lean rightward on border enforcement (at least symbolically) because the anti-immigrant right-wingers have been putting the squeeze on him. But he didn't go belly up and pander, either. He still managed to slap them around pretty well, with this passage:

"We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone's fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say."

That's presidential politesse, of course, but what it means in plain English is this: "People in my own base are acting like racists and demagogues, and they oughta knock it off."
On this one, I can't agree with Polman. Rather, I tend to agree with the Attytood, who colorfully says, Blah blah blah illegal immigrants blah blah, of Bush. Picture this:

What Bush says to Americans:

We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone's fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.

What they hear:

A parting gunshot from a vehicle leaving Waffle House in West Asheville, NC shattered a window and caused a minor injury, police said.

The shooting happened around 3:00 a.m. Saturday after a group of whites argued with a group of Hispanics at the 24-hour restaurant on Smokey Park Highway, Asheville police Lt. Wallace Welch said

"“The two groups were jawing back and forth with each other over citizenship issues and whatnot,"” Welch said. As the Hispanic group drove off, someone in the vehicle fired at least once into a large window near the front door, he said.

We love Bush's knack for the occasional word or two begging to remind the world that he's "a uniter, not a divider." But those words, rare as they are, are totally meaningless unless they're backed up by actions. And make no mistake, by kowtowing to the radical right by sending our overstretched National Guard to inflame border tensions, Bush is once again a divider, not a uniter.

If you don't believe it, just take a drive down to the Waffle House.

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post also provides his usual excellent take on the speech, in his White House Briefing post, News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration, including a rundown of the analysis and reaction to the speech.

Reading all of this, I also can't help but enjoy the irony that this difficult situation has created for Bush within his own Party. The Conservative Right so epitomizes the "What have you done for me lately?" mentality.

For example, despite the view of many moderate and liberals that Bush is in bed with the Christian Right, the NYTimes reports on the unhappiness of that contingent, in Conservative Christians Criticize Republicans:

"I can't tell you how much anger there is at the Republican leadership," Mr. Viguerie said. "I have never seen anything like it."

In the last several weeks, Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and one of the most influential Christian conservatives, has publicly accused Republican leaders of betraying the social conservatives who helped elect them in 2004. He has also warned in private meetings with about a dozen of the top Republicans in Washington that he may turn critic this fall unless the party delivers on conservative goals.

Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry. -- Sir Winston Churchill

G-grams to Bush

The Colbert Interview with Kevin Phillips was very interesting, see video at Throw away your TV .

Phillips, a former Republican strategist who first coined the term "Sun Belt" and predicted the rise of the party in the Southern states. According to the NYTimes Book Review of his book, 'American Theocracy:'

No longer does he see Republican government as a source of stability and order. Instead, he presents a nightmarish vision of ideological extremism, catastrophic fiscal irresponsibility, rampant greed and dangerous shortsightedness. (His final chapter is entitled "The Erring Republican Majority.") In an era of best-selling jeremiads on both sides of the political divide, "American Theocracy" may be the most alarming analysis of where we are and where we may be going to have appeared in many years. It is not without polemic, but unlike many of the more glib and strident political commentaries of recent years, it is extensively researched and for the most part frighteningly persuasive.

Although Phillips is scathingly critical of what he considers the dangerous policies of the Bush administration, he does not spend much time examining the ideas and behavior of the president and his advisers. Instead, he identifies three broad and related trends -- none of them new to the Bush years but all of them, he believes, exacerbated by this administration's policies -- that together threaten the future of the United States and the world. One is the role of oil in defining and, as Phillips sees it, distorting American foreign and domestic policy. The second is the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government. And the third is the astonishing levels of debt -- current and prospective -- that both the government and the American people have been heedlessly accumulating. If there is a single, if implicit, theme running through the three linked essays that form this book, it is the failure of leaders to look beyond their own and the country's immediate ambitions and desires so as to plan prudently for a darkening future.

* * * *

Phillips is especially passionate in his discussion of the second great force that he sees shaping contemporary American life -- radical Christianity and its growing intrusion into government and politics. The political rise of evangelical Christian groups is hardly a secret to most Americans after the 2004 election, but Phillips brings together an enormous range of information from scholars and journalists and presents a remarkably comprehensive and chilling picture of the goals and achievements of the religious right.

He points in particular to the Southern Baptist Convention, once a scorned seceding minority of the American Baptist Church but now so large that it dominates not just Baptism itself but American Protestantism generally. The Southern Baptist Convention does not speak with one voice, but almost all of its voices, Phillips argues, are to one degree or another highly conservative. On the far right is a still obscure but, Phillips says, rapidly growing group of "Christian Reconstructionists" who believe in a "Taliban-like" reversal of women's rights, who describe the separation of church and state as a "myth" and who call openly for a theocratic government shaped by Christian doctrine. A much larger group of Protestants, perhaps as many as a third of the population, claims to believe in the supposed biblical prophecies of an imminent "rapture" -- the return of Jesus to the world and the elevation of believers to heaven.

Prophetic Christians, Phillips writes, often shape their view of politics and the world around signs that charlatan biblical scholars have identified as predictors of the apocalypse -- among them a war in Iraq, the Jewish settlement of the whole of biblical Israel, even the rise of terrorism. He convincingly demonstrates that the Bush administration has calculatedly reached out to such believers and encouraged them to see the president's policies as a response to premillennialist thought. He also suggests that the president and other members of his administration may actually believe these things themselves, that religious belief is the basis of policy, not just a tactic for selling it to the public. Phillips's evidence for this disturbing claim is significant, but not conclusive.

See also my previous post on Phillips, God Loves Republicans.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

(Be sure to read small print)

* Pat Oliphant

Primary Election Day in PA

Today is primary election day in Pennsylvania. Not a tremendous number of hotly contested races in the primary, but voting is always important (Lynn Swann should be reading this).

We are now seeing the ill effects of a disastrous election , so it should reinforce the need to vote. The Philadelphia Inquirer has a summary of the issues for PA voters, in At Pa. polls, a moment of truth.

The suspense of today's election comes farther down the ballot, as almost a third of state legislators face challengers - and an electorate still mindful of the General Assembly's July pay raise vote.

* * * *

"If just one of them is defeated, it sends a message," said John J. Kennedy, an assistant professor of political science at West Chester University. "If they all survive, you might interpret it as the status quo. But even in that situation, I think lawmakers will remember this for a long time."

Non-presidential primary elections usually bring about 25 percent of registered voters to the polls, according the Department of State. Weather forecasts across the state call for overcast skies with showers possible - which could hinder turnout in the Southeast, where the anger over the pay raise has not been as strong as it has been elsewhere in the state.

Though the races for governor and Senate lack competitive nomination fights, candidates across Pennsylvania are challenging incumbent legislators in numbers that haven't been reached in more than a decade.

For me, the real issue is: Do I vote for Bob Casey???

Blogger Richard Cranium of The All Spin Zone has addressed my angst in his post, Voting Conscience Today in Pennsylvania. As he said:

How can anyone who considers him/herself "progressive" in Pennsylvania support Bob Casey Jr.? While Casey is surely to the left of Santorum, his platform and personal politics are still far to the right of what anyone could remotely consider "progressive".

* * * *

During the runup to the general election last year, I felt that anyone throwing a conscience vote to a progressive presidential candidate other than John Kerry was wasting their vote, and even potentially damaging the prospects of getting George Bush out of the White House. After the election, I changed my mind...

I've been doing this "voting" thing for the past 33 years, and in 2004 I came to a realization that it was way past time to vote my conscience. I'm electorally tired of compromising my personal principles by voting for the least offensive of the two major party candidates.

I agree with that view philosophically, but I also think that every effort to unseat Santorum must be made. Casey certainly has been disappointing, since he has exhibited a bit too much Hillary Clinton syndrome for my taste, but he is still a major improvement over his Republican opponent. I can accept his religious-based opinion regarding abortion, even if it does not match my view, but a few of the other issues that he has supported have struck me as an attempt to pander to conservatives in the state (you know, that terrible T in the middle of the state).

One of the Ladies Who Lunch in my office & I had a long conversation about this issue today. I couldn't decide. I know I want to vote for Chuck Pennacchio, but I don't know if I will.

So, what will it be? I'm on my way to vote now. I guess that I'll decide when I'm in that booth . . . .

UPDATE: OK, I voted. I voted my heart, not my head. Translation = Chuck now. Casey later, I'm guessing.


Rid Out

Of course I didn't watch Bush's "militarize the border" speech last night. I never like watching (or listening) to him, but especially when his speech is nothing more than a transparent, craven pandering to the base talk. Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, provides a short, sweet summary that says it all.

The GOP has long been a haven for racism and bigotry, see Bill's a Bigot, and the current crop of Republican "Christians" have tried, with some success, to make bigotry mainstream. The anti- Latino bias that underlies and surrounds the Immigration issue cannot be ignored.

A recent example of this is extremely alarming. Citing an article, Against a Fence, posted at World Net Daily (which I will not link to), Crooks and Liars, notes that the author -- a self-professed Christian libertarian -- argues that the Administration should just look to the Nazis to see the way to get rid of illegal immigrants:

Not only will it work, but one can easily estimate how long it would take. If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society.
See also, Blogger Hullabaloo discussing the article at The Final Solution. I'd like to "rid us" of them.

We live in dangerous times.

Spy Tales

The Daily Show provides its own special spin on domestic spying, Diplomacy, as does Bill Maher and Panelists Slam Bush on Domestic Spying.

As this Spy Tale continues to unfold, with new of spying on leakers and journalists,as reported at ABC News' The Blotter, the comparisons to Nixon Era are inevitable and appropriate.

Blogger Digby at Hullabaloo has an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Rick Perlstein, "Nixonland." It is a must read. Change the war from Vietnam to Iraq and substitute the names of Nixon et. al. with Bush and his buddies and its eerily the same story. Billmon at Whiskey Bar likewise draws the parallels to Watergate in Plumber's Helper.

Even conservative commentator Joe Scarborough could not avoid the comparison to the Nixon Administration, see Crooks and Liars, saying that democracy is in danger when the government spies on us.