Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

Halloween Extra

* Andrew Wahl

Let's Just Have Some Fun

It's Halloween, so a little scare is in order.

Here's Saturday Night Live's look at the final week of campaign ads from the RNC.

(Via The Quaker Agitator)

Cartoon of the Day

* Justin Bilicki

When the Saints Go Marching In

Op-ed columnist David Brooks and his column on PA Senator Santorum, Political Theater and the Real Rick Santorum, was the topic of discussion yesterday with Ladies Who Lunch (along with the post-mortum on Mohonk). Acting as an apologist for Santorum, Brooks said:

Every poll suggests that Rick Santorum will lose his race to return to the U.S. Senate. That’s probably good news in Pennsylvania’s bobo suburbs, where folks regard Santorum as an ideological misfit and a social blight. But it’s certainly bad for poor people around the world.

For there has been at least one constant in Washington over the past 12 years: almost every time a serious piece of antipoverty legislation surfaces in Congress, Rick Santorum is there playing a leadership role.
Not surprisingly, I pooh-poohed the claim that Santorum has dedicated his life (and term in Congress) to the poor. I suggested that it's most likely that his votes were cast when it wouldn't matter (the legislation was going to pass/fail anyway), so he could use stats like these when needed.

The video Tribute to Senator Santorum refutes that claim, particularly with respect to his environmental record. In Even Bono is wrong sometimes: Why Rick Santorum is no saint, Will Bunch of Attytood discusses Sanctimonious Santorum as well:
Rick Santorum is running out of cards to play in his Senate race here in Pennsylvania. In past elections, he was able to throw on a nice cardigan sweater right before Election Day, pose with his photogenic family and say something nice-sounding about dogs or old people, and hope that people from the heavily Democratic Philadelphia area thought he was from Ohio or something.

That's just not working in 2006.
Bunch also mentioned the accolades from Bono and Brooks, with the hope that voters might think "If the U2 lead singer thinks the Pa. senator is a good guy, then maybe we shouldn't toss him out with the Republican dirty bathwater, or so this argument goes."

Turning to the Brooks column, he says:

Wow, with all of that, why are we wasting time on the Senate re-election process? Can't we just skip straight to canonization?

Not so fast.

For one thing, as Brooks kind of quickly fudges, not all of Santorum's big ideas have become law -- pretty impotent for the No. 3 guy in the Senate when his own party controls both houses of Congress and the White House. If voters in Pa. insist on a Republican, maybe they should find one who gets things done.

The truth is that when you look at the big picture, Santorum's GOP revolution in Washington has been ineffective in fighting AIDS, won't train doctors to staff those community health centers, and has frozen money for that Healthy Start program -- just to cite three examples from the Brooks column. In fighting for the poor, we don't have the luxury of separating Santorum from the company he keeps.

But there's more. Charity, after all, begins at the home. And if Rick Santorum's main concern in the world is fighting poverty, as Bono says, he can have a funny way of showing it.

1) If Rick Santorum is all about what he can do for the poor man, why did he found a charity, and then watch the bulk of its money go to wealthy political cronies and related expenses, with only a fraction actually aiding anti-poverty groups?

As we first reported in the American Prospect this winter, the Santorum-chaired Operation Good Neighbor Foundation only paid out 35.9 percent of the first $1 million it raised on actual charity, or less than half of what experts recommend as a minimum; the rest included a healthy salary and rent for Santorum's campaign finance director and a political fundraiser, as well as travel and the like.

* * * *
2) If Santorum is such a big supporter of compassion and personal responsibility, why won't he release copies of his income taxes, as opponent Casey has done? There could be lots of reasons why Santorum, who has hemmed and hawed on this issue throughout the campaign, hasn't done this? Could it be that this compassionate conservative, with a six kids and a $500,000 mortgage on his Virginia McMansion while "living from paycheck to paycheck," gives little or nothing to charity?

* * * *

All blogger snarkiness aside, we don't think Rick Santorum is evil; and so he does care about poor people when he can afford to, which is why Bono pals around with him, but he really, really cares about rich people, and big corporations and campaign donors, whenever he has to take a side, and whenever it truly matters.

So Santorum's not a Republican who hates poor people...he's just a hypocrite.

That's the Real Rick.

(Tribute to Santorum video via The Pennsylvania Progressive)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Our weekend office fun fest at the Castle Retreat has come to an end (with, of course, enough business transacted to justify the business deduction).

In between meals, our Ladies Who Lunch Alliance managed to get in some hiking, dancing (with a spirited rendition of YMCA no less), a few massages, yoga, a book group, and some work on our office business plans. Mohonk also had several Halloween activities over the week-end, so there was much to do. We even agreed upon a name for the group -- no, I mean Alliance.

The true sign that it was a success is that we're calling it our 1st Annual Retreat.

~ ~ ~ ~
Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze.

~Emily Dickinson

No More Disorder

The Unknown Candidate calls it The Unreported October Surprise:

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..

Referring to this article by Frank Morales, Bush Moves Toward Martial Law:

In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is "martial law."

Another sign of the Creeping Dictatorship that I referred to in It Just Takes the Will to Do It.

See also the essay, Let Us Not Speak Falsely Now by Kim Gongre at Peace, Social Justice and Truth for All and Will there be a "November Surprise"? by Mark Crispin Miller.

(Poster via Unknown Candidate)

Cartoon of the Day

* Clay Bennett

Apocalypse Now

Iraq is the theme for both Frank Rich and Paul Krugman this week in the NYTimes.

Rich, in Dying to Save the G.O.P. Congress states:

Of course all the White House’s latest jabberwocky about “benchmarks” and “milestones” and “timetables” (never to be confused with those Defeatocrats’ “timelines”) is nothing more than an election-year P.R. strategy, as is the laughable banishment of “stay the course.” There is no new American plan to counter the apocalypse now playing out in Iraq, only new packaging to pacify American voters between now and Nov. 7.

* * * *
And recycled packaging at that: President Bush had last announced that he and Mr. Maliki were developing “benchmarks” to “measure progress” in Iraq back in June.

As Richard Holbrooke, the broker of the Bosnia peace accords, has observed, the only real choice left for the president now is either “escalation or disengagement.” But there are no troops, let alone money or national will, for escalation. Disengagement within a year, however, is favored by 54 percent of Americans and, more important, 71 percent of Iraqis. After Election Day, adults in Washington will step in, bow to the obvious and pull the plug. The current administration strategy — praying for a miracle — is not an option.

* * * *

One way or another the various long-shot exit scenarios being debated in the capital will be sorted out: federalism and partition; reaching out somehow for help from Iran and Syria; replacing Mr. Maliki with a Saddam-lite strongman. There will be some kind of timeline, or whatever you want to call it, with enforced benchmarks, or whatever you want to call them, for phased withdrawal. . . . In any event, the timeline will end no later than Inauguration Day 2009.

* * * *

Our troops are held hostage by the White House’s political imperatives as much as they are by the violence. Desperate to maintain the election-year P.R. ruse that an undefined “victory” is still within reach, Mr. Bush went so far at Wednesday’s press conference as to say that “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq. He explained his rationale to George Stephanopoulos last weekend, when he asserted that the number of casualties was the enemy’s definition of success or failure, not his. “I define success or failure as to whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves,” the president said, and “as to whether the unity government” is making the “difficult decisions necessary to unite the country.”

* * * *

The ultimate chutzpah is that Mr. Bush, the man who sold us Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds and “Mission Accomplished,” is trivializing the chaos in Iraq as propaganda. The enemy’s “sophisticated” strategy, he said in last weekend’s radio address, is to distribute “images of violence” to television networks, Web sites and journalists to “demoralize our country.”

This is a morally repugnant argument. The “images of violence” from Iraq are not fake — like, say, the fiction our government manufactured about the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman or the upbeat news stories the Pentagon spends millions of dollars planting in Iraqi newspapers today. These images of violence are real. Americans really are dying at the fastest pace in at least a year, and Iraqis in the greatest numbers to date. To imply that this carnage is magnified by the news media, whether the American press or Al Jazeera, is to belittle the gravity of the escalated bloodshed and to duck accountability for the mismanagement of the war.
Krugman's portrayal was even bleaker. In The Arithmetic of Failure, he said:
Iraq is a lost cause. It’s just a matter of arithmetic: given the violence of the environment, with ethnic groups and rival militias at each other’s throats, American forces there are large enough to suffer terrible losses, but far too small to stabilize the country.

* * * *

Afghanistan, on the other hand, is a war we haven’t yet lost, and it’s just possible that a new commitment of forces there might turn things around.

The moral is clear — we need to get out of Iraq, not because we want to cut and run, but because our continuing presence is doing nothing but wasting American lives. And if we do free up our forces (and those of our British allies), we might still be able to save Afghanistan.

* * * *

If we stopped trying to do the impossible in Iraq, both we and the British would be able to put more troops in a place where they might still do some good. But we have to do something soon: the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan says that most of the population will switch its allegiance to a resurgent Taliban unless things get better by this time next year.

It’s hard to believe that the world’s only superpower is on the verge of losing not just one but two wars. But the arithmetic of stability operations suggests that unless we give up our futile efforts in Iraq, we’re on track to do just that.

(The Unknown Candidate also has the Rich article here and the Krugman article here)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Saturday Silliness

New Rules from Bill Maher.

New Rule: America must stop bragging that its the greatest country on earth and start acting like it.

(Via One Good Move)

Cartoon of the Day

* Jeff Danziger

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Castle Retreat

The Ladies Who Lunch (a/k/a my officemates) have decided to take a long lunch. We are off for a long week-end retreat. A little business, a little booze, a lot of fun.

We're headed to the Mohonk Mountain House resort in the Hudson Valley -- a nineteenth-century, Victorian-style castle, towering over a sparkling “lake in the sky.” Amenities include a spa, a pool, golf, tennis, hiking, and sitting by the fire . . .

(Of course, my laptop is making the trip as well. For those who know me, what else is new?)

~ ~ ~ ~

falling leaves
hide the path

so quietly

~John Bailey

Cartoon of The Day

* David Horsey

It's All About Me

In an example of power trumps all, Face the Nation comments on this Washington Post article, Bush Balks at Criteria for FEMA Director, Signing Statement Asserts Right to Ignore Parts of New Homeland Security Law:

President Bush reserved the right to ignore key changes in Congress's overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- including a requirement to appoint someone with experience handling disasters as the agency's head -- in setting aside dozens of provisions contained in a major homeland security spending bill this week.

Besides objecting to Congress's list of qualifications for FEMA's director, the White House also claimed the right to edit or withhold reports to Congress by a watchdog agency within the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for protecting Americans' personal privacy.

Then there's the Donald. Donald "Back Off" Rumsfeld, that is. In Rumsfeld Tells Iraq Critics to 'Back Off', the Post notes his "pugnacious defense of the Bush administration's Iraq strategy:"

With his chorus of critics expanding deeper into Republican ranks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told detractors yesterday to pull back as U.S. and Iraqi officials grapple with the uncertainties of laying out Iraq's course.

"You ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult," Rumsfeld said, appearing unusually combative as he sparred with reporters at the Pentagon. "Honorable people are working on these things together," he said, adding emphatically that "no daylight" exists between the U.S. and Iraqi sides.

Attytood provides the best summation of Rumsfeld's "mud flap:"

(Video via SilentPatriot at Crooks & Liars)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Short, Sweet & to the Point

Dan Rubin of Bling pens a prosaic post about the shortest tale ever told. In Writes Fast With A Dog Underneath, Rubin explains:

Tell your tale in six words? Wired enlisted 38 writers and designers. They were inspired by Hemingway's briefest.

As Wired said in Very Short Stories:

We'll be brief: Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") and is said to have called it his best work. So we asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves.

A few of my favorites:
Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

Wasted day. Wasted life. Dessert, please.
- Steven Meretzky

Heaven falls. Details at eleven.
- Robert Jordan

Bush told the truth. Hell froze.
- William Gibson

Thought I was right. I wasn't.
- Graeme Gibson

Lost, then found. Too bad.
- Graeme Gibson

Will this do (lazy writer asked)?
- Ken MacLeod

Steve ignores editor's word limit and
- Steven Meretzky

And my own contribution:

A few zig-zags, a different life.

This one's for Lee.

It's Much Worse Than You Think

I realize that the November elections are less than 2 weeks away. However, maybe a reconsideration of Rick Santorum is in order. I know that I didn't understand all that was at stake in his re-election.

I thought it was merely a matter of letting Rick be Rick. A resident of Virginia who works for the K street lobbyists. I really believed that by removing him from office, we were just eliminating the middleman. That is, he wouldn't have to pretend to live in Pittsburgh or be a member of Congress. He could accept his full paycheck from the corporate interests and reside in his manse on the hill in Leesburg, Virginia.

Then I read an article describing what's really involved in this election. In Santorum issues GOP call to arms, the Lebanon Daily News puts it all in stark perspective:

Likening the times to the late 1930s as Nazi Germany was rising to power, Sen. Rick Santorum said last night that if he loses his re-election bid, it could set the stage for terrorism to become more of a threat than the Nazis ever were.

“If we are not successful here and things don’t go right in the election, there’s a good chance that the course of our country could change,” he said. “We are in the equivalent of the late 1930s, and this election will decide whether we are going to continue to appease or whether we will stand and fight while we have a chance to win without devastating consequences.

“And you here in Pennsylvania — you here in this room — will have a huge role to play as to what happens.”

Santorum, Pennsylvania’s junior senator who is seeking re-election to a third term, focused mainly on terrorism during his speech at the Lebanon County Republican Committee’s annual dinner at the Lantern Lodge.

* * * *

The United States declared war on the Nazis in Germany and imperialists in Japan during World War II, he explained, and this is no different.

“I’m sure that offended a lot of Germans when we went out and declared war against the Nazis and fought that concept, as it did the Japanese in America. When we fought Japanese imperialism it offended a lot of Japanese,” he said. “But it didn’t deter us from identifying the enemy, what they’re about and what they want to accomplish. But because we’re dealing with religion, we cower away. We refuse to stand up and pinpoint the enemy, define it so the people of America will have a better understanding of what we’re up against.”

The threat the United States is up against now is the greatest threat it has ever faced, Santorum said. Unlike every other threat, terrorists don’t care if they establish an earthly kingdom.

“They’d be fine if you all submit to Islam, but they don’t anticipate that,” he said. “They anticipate a world war, a conflagration that the world has never seen. ... They don’t mind that because they are willing to die. In fact, they want to die. Their whole intention is to die for their cause because it will ensure them eternal life in the world they care about.”

Good lord, who knew?? So just remember when you go into that voting booth on November 7th. If Rick Santorum loses -- it's the end of the world as we know it. And it's all your fault.

(Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson of Philadelphia Daily News)

UPDATE: John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News also remarks on this topic in Santorum leans on doomsday rhetoric. As he says:
Santorum is fierce. I long thought he'd find a way to win this race. But not anymore. I just don't see this stuff working.

* * * *

What's puzzling is it comes at a time when voters are war-weary, and most Republicans try to avoid discussion of the war, since it's key to election outcomes and working against those associated with it.

It also comes at the close of an election in which Santorum's vulnerability is national and international issues and his asset is Pennsylvania and how his high-ranking incumbency helps the state.

Yet we get this full-metal bellicosity.

It's a strategy disconnected from the realities of the race, almost as if he's preaching to a different constituency for a different office.

I have no doubt he believes what he says. Just as he believes homosexuality's akin to bestiality, Boston's liberalism caused pedophilia in the Catholic Church, Terry Schiavo was "executed," public education is "weird socialization," mothers of means shouldn't work outside the home, and the mainstream media lie about him.

There's a gathering storm all right. It's the one he brought upon himself.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Money Doesn't Talk -- It Swears

In Much Ado About Nothing, I gossiped about the latest diversion in Chestnut Hill, with the local "real estate magnate" providing a source of amusement for some people (me, at least). Of course, once I covered the issue, the Inquirer decided that the story was obviously worth reporting.

Noting "Chestnut Hill groups are in a tizzy over developer," in Local antihero signs up enemies, Natalie Pompilio covers the controversy:

Snowden is the area's highest profile landowner and the managing partner of Bowman Properties, the company that owns the sign-bearing real estate. His name - often preceded or followed by obscenities - is the one scrawled across some of the signs and is hissed at by those who forcibly remove them. Most of the signs have been placed on vacant properties.

The oversize boards seem to be harbingers of Snowden's continuing love-hate relationship with the community his family has called home for generations, and which has taken one of its dark turns.

Reached by cell phone last week, Snowden said he does not speak to The Inquirer but would have his company send a statement. Bowman Properties then issued the following on company letterhead:

"While it is not the practice of the Bowman Partnership to comment publicly on business matters, the current marketing effort reflects a repositioning of our Chestnut Hill real estate portfolio to reflect the leadership and support of the community's various organizations."
The man is obviously a Republican. That statement is pure spin-speak for I'm going to have a temper tantrum and take my toys and go home. I will also teach Chestnut Hill a lesson it won't forget. Rehashing the incident over the series of articles about Snowden in the Local that is the source of his pique, the Inquirer adds:

What Snowden wants is an apology, printed on the newspaper's front page, above the fold, with specific language. He also wants the newspaper to agree not to write about him, his family or his business dealings.

One 2004 draft of the apology, obtained by The Inquirer, includes sentences such as, "Mr. Snowden believes that he was unfairly criticized by this most recent story and a series of reports on his business within the past three years... . The Local regrets any impression that it may have conveyed to suggest that Mr. Snowden or his company are anything but respectable and responsible members of the Chestnut Hill community."

Ron Recko, president of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, said the organization and the newspaper would not be "extorted" by Snowden's demands.

"He says he wants respect. How can you respect a person who wants to destroy a neighborhood?" Recko asked.

* * * *

Coincidentally - or perhaps not - the first signs went up just hours before the Chestnut Hill District launched "AbZOOlutely," an exhibit that features sculptures of about 50 animals, each decorated by local artists and placed throughout the neighborhood.

The event drew a crowd that included residents, politicians and local television stations.

"Mr. 'I love my neighborhood,' Mr. 'I'm so concerned with historic beauty,' puts these ugly signs up to distract from the day," said Paul Roller, owner of Roller's Restaurant at Flying Fish, a Germantown Avenue staple.

Roller said the signs weren't pretty and customers asked him about them, but he didn't think they hurt his business. Still, he's not happy with Snowden's tactics and he's not afraid to say so publicly.

"A lot of folks up here are scared of [Snowden]," Roller said. "He's not worth being scared of. As Bob Dylan says, 'Money doesn't talk. It swears.' "

Notwithstanding the kick I get out of making fun of this guy, John O'Connell of Weichert Realtors, McCarthy Associates, put it in the right perspective:

"I am constantly reminded that there are children in this city who aren't getting a proper education, who go to bed hungry. Look at the violence we have here," O'Connell said. "My guess is Richard Snowden lives a life of great comfort. His problem with a small community newspaper pale in comparison to people in this city who have real problems."

Border Circus

By popular request of the Ladies Who Lunch (and Nicole & Andrea), I am posting this video.

In PA-13, which straddles Northeast Philly and Montgomery County, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz faces the unitentionally hilarious Raj Bhakta.

It's a variation on "See Raj Run" -- it's "See Raj Ride."

As Wonkette put it:

The only explanation is that election day is a black hole and the closer we get to the event horizon the more ridiculous events become. How else to explain Trump-reject and Geraldoesque candidate Raj Bhakta’s mariachi serenaded elephant parade across the border? You can’t make this stuff up, no matter how much you wish you had.

Sound & Fury

Countdown's Keith Olbermann has a Special Comment on the advertising of terrorism. As Crooks & Liars says "This time he takes on the GOP's newest fearmongering ad which quotes Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri superimposed over pictures of explosions with the sound of a ticking bomb in the background. As if that wasn't enough, it's topped off with the cryptic message echoing LBJ's 1960 "Daisy" ad that ran just once: These are the stakes."

As Mark Kleinman of the Reality-Based Community said, in The Masters of Terror:

Make no mistake about it.

There is evil in the world.

There are men who don't care how many innocent people they kill in their lust to seize and hold power.

There are men who hate our freedoms, and want to terrify us into surrendering them.

* * * *
The same men who ignored the experts and failed to plan for the occupation of Iraq.

* * * *
The same men who preferred gay-baiting to recruiting Arabic translators.

The same men who neglected the need for the FBI to hire counter-terrorism agents who spoke any of the relevant languages.

The same men who have made the Department of Homeland Security a bad joke.

The masters of terror.

Fear them. Fight them.

(Video & transcript also available at Crooks & Liars)

Cartoon of the Day

* Drew Sheneman Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

A New Course

Stay the Course No More. . .

In The optimist-in-chief as political albatross, Dick Polman of American Debate asks incredulously:

When host George Stephanopoulos referred to the phrase “stay the course,” during their discussion about Iraq, Bush sought to correct him: “We’ve never been ‘stay the course,’ George.”

Did he really say “never?” I have to confess that I had a problem with Bush’s remark, probably because I am not suffering from amnesia. I suppose that in the Orwellian world of 1984 - where all past inconvenient remarks were automatically deemed inoperative and stuffed down a “memory hole,” to be “whirled away on a warm current of air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere” – anything spoken by the leader would be automatically welcomed as credible. The problem in America is, we still have memories, and here’s just a sampling of what those memories yield . . .

Polman then listed a number of instances where Bush uttered "Stay the Course."

I always loved the book "1984," but I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd be living it.

(Video via Suburban Guerrilla)

Cartoon of the Day

* Nick Anderson

A Right of Privacy, Not Hypocrisy

Bill Maher's show, Real Time, was very good this week. His New Rules were excellent, see Can't Think in a Tank.

The panel discussion (see video) on gays in Congress was also very good, with Rep. Barney Frank (D. Mass) on the panel. For example:

Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal said: What, the fact that there are Gay Republicans, is that a crime?

Barney Franks responded: It would be if the Republicans had their way. (laughter) Excuse me, I mean that literally.

Leonard Pitts also explored this theme in a Philadelphia Inquirer article, GOP's tent not as big as needed. As he remarks:

The GOP philosophy seems to be that it's OK to be gay, so long as you're not, you know, "gay." Sort of in the way the party prizes those black folks - Rice, Colin Powell - who don't go around reminding people they're black all the time. The thinking seems to be, sure, you can join us. All it will cost you is who you are.


Another Real Time segment worth viewing, is at One Good Move, Jack Bauer Justice.

Barney Franks again got to the heart of the matter when he said, "It's not terrorists we're talking about, it's people accused of terrorism."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Much Ado About Nothing

I like Chestnut Hill, with its tree lined, cobblestoned streets. I also like to patronize the small shops and boutiques along Germantown Avenue over the Mall (any Mall) any day. For an idea of the charm of this section of Philly, see my last post on Chestnut Hill, AbZOOlutely Animalicious.

But every so often, the Chestnut Hillers do something to live up to their name (and reputation). To wit: the repair of the bridge leading into Chestnut Hill from the suburbs was a 10 year project because the Hillers wanted a "historically appropriate bridge" (which was eventually done & is charming), rather the the modern version proposed by the city streets department. See Déjà vu all over again.

This is one of those times. A few weeks ago, I was driving on Germantown Avenue, when I noticed the following signs scattered about on various buildings up and down the Avenue:

I started to laugh & almost had to pull my car over. I thought, there goes Lord Snowden -- having another snit. I don't know this man, so I have no idea how old he is. However, I can say without any doubt that he has a case of arrested development -- he never outgrew the Spoiled Brat stage. On my way home, I stopped to buy the Chestnut Hill Local, to see what the fuss was about.

Part of the allure of Chestnut Hill -- the ambiance if you will -- is that the Hill is home to some of Philadelphia's scions (and Snowden is one of them). Its shopping district reflects that. So "discount" anything is less than desirable, especially of the check cashing or dollar store variety. That's for the lower end of Germantown Avenue in Germantown, not here.

Not surprisingly, rental rates are high on the Hill. Snowden is involved in Bowman Properties, which owns (and doesn't lease) a number of properties on the Hill. Apparently, for tax reasons, it's often better for the space to be empty rather than rented. Other Bowman rental properties come & go because it is difficult for many of smaller businesses make a go of it with high overhead. A bad winter is always a killer. When we have a bad winter, you can always expect to see a few merchants shut their doors by spring. Certainly not Snowden's fault, but the empty retail spaces are. Over the years, there has been much controversy over his retail rental philosophy. See the series of articles on Bowman in the Chestnut Hill Local.

The latest feud is, at least in large part due to those articles. Snowden has demanded that the Local issue an apology to him, on the front page of the Local. See Signs, signs.... everywhere, signs. He has taken his anger and spite out against his tenants and the community. See Bowman Properties threatens tenants.

I think it is time to give him what he wants. Put the apology in BIG letters on the front page of the Local:

We're Sorry You're an Ass

(Cartoon & Photo via the Local). See also, how the "controversy" has spilled over to the AbZOOlutely Animals, Much ado about a duck.

Sunday Reflections

It's Sunday. It's time to turn to thoughts of religion.

As I've mentioned, Jesus -- The 1st Compassionate Conservative, David Kuo has written a book, Tempting Faith, about his White House faith-based initiative days. However, Don Davis of the Satirical Political Report adds that Kuo's book is not the tell all he's made it out to be.


But the full story hasn’t really been told by Mr. Kuo. This reporter, in private conversations with the Almighty himself, has it on very reliable authority that the following are the actual comments made by Karl Rove and company:

10. Jesus! Even Jesus would have had those nuts crucified.

9. I’d take the Devil himself over that Axis of Evil of Falwell-Dobson-Robertson.

8. Those ignorant bastards have been “staying the course” since the 13th Century.

7. Whaddya’ say to people who think SpongeBob Squarepants is more dangerous than Kim Jong-il?

6. Why are they always bitchin’ about our policies; we’re doing our best to bring about Armageddon as soon as humanly possible.

5. These folks get you thinking maybe abortion is not always such a bad thing.

4. If I were them, I’d be less worried about gay marriage, and more concerned with first cousin marriage.

3. Those preachers are almost as good at conning white trash as we are.

2. You gotta’ admit, they’re their own best case against the theory of evolution.

1. They want us to spend money for the poor? They have a better chance of witnessing an Immaculate Conception.

And the Rovian 25 point bonus diss: What a bunch of ingrates: our whole Iraq adventure was a faith-based initiative!

Cartoon of the Day

* Jimmy Margulies

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Free at Last

If not free, at least fenceless.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Independence Park fence plan scuttled, and the Daily News, Feds lose fencing match over Independence Mall, both reported that the proposed six-foot-high wrought-iron fence that would have cut through Independence Square has been dropped by the National Park Service. See Give Me Liberty or Give Me a Fence and Chain of Fools for earlier posts on the story.

As the Inquirer reported:

At a news conference yesterday at Independence Visitor Center, new Park Service director Mary A. Bomar said the fence would give way to "less intrusive" security measures.

The park also announced that security screening for Independence Hall would be moved out of Old City Hall, the building where the Supreme Court first met, and into the east wing of Independence Hall, which is a later addition to the complex.

The proposed fence would have cleaved the square where the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly in 1776. Independence Square, created early in the 18th century, has never been cut by a fence, and the proposal to do so aroused intense criticism.

Although it is still uncertain what security measures will be put in place, this is still great news. The article noted that:

But while the iron-fence proposal has been torpedoed - and Specter said flatly, "There's not going to be a wall" - some kind of barrier behind Independence Hall is still a possibility, according to Dennis Reidenbach, park superintendent.

Reidenbach said park officials must "strike a balance between security and liberty" and would be sitting down with public officials, citizens, and other interested parties to discuss how to achieve that goal behind Independence Hall.

He cited new security technology and increased security personnel as possibilities in lieu of an intrusive fence. But some kind of barrier replacing the current slew of bike racks in the square is also a possibility, he said. No decision on replacing or simply removing the bike racks has been made.

Moving security screening out of Old City Hall has been a goal of a coalition of area business leaders and residents. Reidenbach said the measure would allow the park to dramatize the historical significance of the original court building.

All bicycle barricades will also be removed from around the Liberty Bell Center, and plans for a screening hut for the center have been scrapped. Instead, bell visitors will be screened in the center itself.

Of course, it is only by coincidence that the announcement was made a few weeks before the upcoming election -- with the terrible twins, Senators Specter and Santorum, in tow. As the Daily News reported:

Bookended by smiling U.S. senators Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, both R-Pa., Bomar said the Park Service had decided to "eliminate" the proposed fence and to remove the bicycle barriers outside the Liberty Bell Center.

"This is a great day for freedom," Specter said, adding, "Today, we have told the would-be terrorists, we're not going to pay any attention to them" when it comes to limiting public access to Independence Mall.

"There oughtn't to be a fence," Specter said. "People ought to have access."

There was always the possibility that the fence plan would have been scuttled if the Democrats took control of Congress. Of course, I'm sure that didn't factor into the decision that was made by Santorum and Specter at this point. They would never have acted with the thought of trying to get credit from this move if it was only going to happen anyway.

But in the end, however it happened, I'm just happy it did.

(Photo by John Fischer)

Can't Think in a Tank

Worth watching. The latest New Rules, from Bill Maher. As Norm Jensen of One Good Move describes them: "Beer, banks, Pee Wee Herman, 'exercise', think tanks, and those who man them."

Best quote:

"You can't call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid." Maher then went on to call to task the two major right wing think tanks, The Heritage Foundation and Project for the New American Century:

"And if you're someone from one of the think tanks who dreamed up the Iraq war and predicted that we'd be greeted as liberators and that we wouldn't need a lot of troops and that Iraqi oil would pay for the war, that the WMDs would be found, that the looting wasn't problematic and that the mission was accomplished, that the insurgency was in its last throes, that things would get better after the people voted, after the government was formed, after we got Saddam, after we got Zarwqawi and that the whole bloody mess wouldn't turn into a civil war...you have to stop making predictions!"
(Quotes via The Rational Feast)

The Great Pumpkin

We are into the Countdown. Only 10 days left until Halloween and the end of October. For political junkies, it also means the countdown to see what other "October Surprises" may occur. Linton Weeks discusses the topic in a Washinton Post article, Boo!? An Inevitable October Surprise. He says:

The October surprise: It's as much a seasonal sure thing in Washington as cherry blossoms and the National Christmas Tree.

When leaves fall and elections loom, the term gets tossed around more than a Manning family football. This October, too, is chockablock with shockers. Already "October surprise" has been applied to: several unflattering new books about the White House, an upwardly revised civilian casualty estimate from the Iraq war, the Mark Foley scandal . . . and October isn't over yet.

Originally the term meant some alakazam rabbit-from-a-hat trick that an incumbent party would unveil to keep its candidate in office. Over time the phrase has been bandied about and overused to the point that it now means any startling surprise from any direction that might somehow affect the outcome of an election.

* * * *

The earliest mention of "October surprise" in a Nexis database search of American newspapers is in The Washington Post in late August 1980. William R. Van Cleve, co-director of candidate Ronald Reagan's panel of military policy advisers, said that the notion of the incumbent president, Jimmy Carter, pulling an "October surprise" somewhere in the world to influence the pending election "has been nagging at some of us for some period of time." The rumored surprise was an invasion of Iran, which was holding dozens of Americans captive.

In October 1992, the issue of Penthouse magazine with the Gennifer Flowers interview about her relationship with candidate Bill Clinton went on sale. In late September 1996, questions arose about campaign contributions from foreign sources to the reelection campaign of Clinton and Al Gore. On Nov. 2, 2000, just five days before the election, a Maine television station reported that candidate George W. Bush had been arrested in 1976 on a drunk-driving charge. "Call it the October surprise a few days late," a CBS reporter said at the time.

In some years the October surprise, like the Great Pumpkin or Godot, is much anticipated but never appears.

There are variations. And trying to guess the next iteration -- sex scandal, international policy shift, military assault -- makes for a popular bar game. But in this era of muck-slinging politics with candidates "going negative" and "digging up dirt," a true October surprise would be an October without one.

For more on the October surprise, see Surprise.

Cartoon of the Day

* Ann Tellnaes

Friday, October 20, 2006


Kevin Tillman, has written a eulogy of sorts, After Pat’s Birthday, in remembrance of his brother Pat, whose birthday is November 6th -- the day before election day. Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.

Reflecting on his service and that of his brother, Tillman says:

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

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You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania

For your "Friday Funnies" viewing pleasure, Jon Stewart tackles corruption in Congress -- otherwise known as Business as Usual. The latest news is that Curt Weldon, a PA (Republican) Congressman from the Philly suburbs is under investigation by the FBI. Weldon's mad (both literally and about this investigation) about the fact that news about his wrongdoings and those of his cronies is coming out now, right before the election. Just think, this kind of stuff might impact the election!!

As Jon Stewart says:

The White House finds itself confronting a scenario even worse that nuclear annihilation. Losing control of Congress.

Cartoon of the Day

* John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Who's Watching Now?

I am a big fan of Google. Their search engine, in my opinion, changed the face of the internet, making it easier to assess its vast resources of information. Even better, when it does its "googly thing" (as I call it), it works and works well. Their desktop search is tops. Not to mention Google maps, Google Earth, Google News, Gmail, Blogger, Picasa (both the photo program and web version).

Then I had to come across this: Is Google Evil?

Adam L. Penenberg writes about the reach of Google in Mother Jones, noting:

Internet privacy? Google already knows more about you than the National Security Agency ever will. And don’t assume for a minute it can keep a secret. YouTube fans--and everybody else--beware.

So the question is . . . whether Google, with its insatiable thirst for your personal data, has become the greatest threat to privacy ever known, a vast informational honey pot that attracts hackers, crackers, online thieves, and—perhaps most worrisome of all—a government intent on finding convenient ways to spy on its own citizenry.

* * * *

Every search engine gathers information about its users—primarily by sending us “cookies,” or text files that track our online movements. Most cookies expire within a few months or years. Google’s, though, don’t expire until 2038. Until then, when you use the company’s search engine or visit any of myriad affiliated sites, it will record what you search for and when, which links you click on, which ads you access. Google’s cookies can’t identify you by name, but they log your computer’s IP address; by way of metaphor, Google doesn’t have your driver’s license number, but it knows the license plate number of the car you are driving. And search queries are windows into our souls, as 658,000 aol users learned when their search profiles were mistakenly posted on the Internet: Would user 1997374 have searched for information on better erections or cunnilingus if he’d known that aol was recording every keystroke? Would user 22155378 have keyed in “marijuana detox” over and over knowing someone could play it all back for the world to see? If you’ve ever been seized by a morbid curiosity after a night of hard drinking, a search engine knows—and chances are it’s Google, which owns roughly half of the entire search market and processes more than 3 billion queries a month.

And Google knows far more than that. If you are a Gmail user, Google stashes copies of every email you send and receive. If you use any of its other products—Google Maps, Froogle, Google Book Search, Google Earth, Google Scholar, Talk, Images, Video, and News—it will keep track of which directions you seek, which products you shop for, which phrases you research in a book, which satellite photos and news stories you view, and on and on. Served up à la carte, this is probably no big deal. Many websites stow snippets of your data. The problem is that there’s nothing to prevent Google from combining all of this information to create detailed dossiers on its customers, something the company admits is possible in principle.

* * * *
[Speaking with] Nicole Wong, Google’s associate corporate counsel. I asked her if the company had ever been subpoenaed for user records, and whether it had complied. She said yes, but wouldn’t comment on how many times. Google’s website says that as a matter of policy the company does “not publicly discuss the nature, number or specifics of law enforcement requests.”

So can you trust Google only as far as you can trust the Bush administration? “I don’t know,” Wong replied. “I’ve never been asked that question before.”

Now, at some level, I'm sure I understood this (or would have, if I have given it much thought). But did he have to spell it out in vivid detail?

(Via Bling)

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Jesus -- The 1st Compassionate Conservative

David Kuo has been making the rounds, discussing his new book, "Tempting Faith."

He's been on Countdown, see The Nuts, and 60 Minutes, see Politics: The Only Religious Value.

Not surprisingly, Stephen Colbert's interview style is unique and provides yet another perspective. Enjoy.

Cartoon of the Day

* John Sherffius

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* David Fitzsimmons

Four Republicans of the Apocalypse

"The Signing"

Famine, War, Pestilence and Cheney

As a follow up to my last post, Bye, Bye Miss American Pie

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, via Attaturk at Eschaton)

So bye, bye Miss American Pie

. . . And we sang dirges in the dark, the day the music died.

For the folks who are now humming Don McClean's American Pie, the video is available here: American Pie.

A "stain on our Nation's History" is how Senator Feingold aptly described the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which was signed into law yesterday by George Bush.

Keith Olbermann discusses the new law in this Countdown episode (see video). As Crooks & Liars notes:

135 years to the day after the last American President (Ulysses S. Grant) suspended habeas corpus, President Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006. At its worst, the legislation allows President Bush or Donald Rumsfeld to declare anyone — US citizen or not — an enemy combatant, lock them up and throw away the key without a chance to prove their innocence in a court of law. In other words, every thing the Founding Fathers fought the British empire to free themselves of was reversed and nullified with the stroke of a pen, all under the guise of the War on Terror.

George Washington University Constitutional Law professor, Jonathan Turley said:
"People have no idea how significant this is. Really a time of shame this is for the American system.—The strange thing is that we have become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. The Congress just gave the President despotic powers and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to Dancing With the Stars. It's otherworldly..People clearly don't realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us. And I'm not too sure we're gonna change back anytime soon."

Olbermann notes the habeas anniversary, but does not ascribe any motive to the fact that the bill was signed on that particular date. Unlike Olbermann, I'm much more cynical about the Bush Administration. I believe that the signing was intentionally delayed until the anniversary, as some sort of Machiavellian "inside joke" of the Bushies. I remember reading that after the passage of the Act, that Bush issued a statement approving the legislation, not signing it, then taking off for political appearances. I wondered why the delay then. Now we know.

See also my earlier posts on this Act, Tyranny, Thy Name is US and Forget About Freedom Act (with an earlier Olbermann video on this subject).

(Via the Silent Patriot at Crooks & Liars)

UPDATE: Olbermann followed up with a Special Comment on the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus. See Crooks & Liars for video & transcript. As he notes:
We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived… as people in fear.

And now — our rights and our freedoms in peril — we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid… of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

* Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

It Just Takes the Will To Do It

This piece, Creeping Dictatorship by Fred Reed, should be required reading for every American. This is definitely one of those articles that should make you afraid. Very afraid. It's importance is not necessarily that it will happen -- but as a cautionary tale as to how easily it could happen. As Reed says:

I miss the days of smoke-filled rooms when crooked pols chose corrupt presidential candidates who were approximately sane. Today we have a sort of presidential bus-station lottery. We choose as ruler any beer-hall putz who can shake hands and grin his way successfully through New Hampshire. This, plus the deep rot of the American political framework, is allowing the rapid conversion of the United States into something previous Americans would hardly recognize.

Permit me a foray of a paragraph into psychojournalism. It fascinates me to know that George Bush was a male cheerleader at Andover. Yes, it could have been worse. He might have been a table-dancer. But most of us who were in high school when he was recognize that you either came to watch football, or you came to watch the girl cheerleaders. There was something odd about a boy who wanted to be one.

We are ruled by a male cheerleader who favors torture. I wonder what things twist in the inner fog.

Given a president who seems chiefly concerned to display his indomitable manhood, the question arises: What restraints keep him from absolute control of a formidably armed nation of three hundred million? The Constitution, noblest of fables, was designed to do just this. But absent the will to enforce them, checks and balances do not exist, and laws, principles, and constitutions mean nothing. If no one says “no,” the president simply behaves as he wants. The genius of the strange little man in the White House has been to recognize this, to divine the weakness of the American political order.

When he wanted to attack Iraq, he simply lied, and lied again, and shifted his ground and lied again. It worked. When he didn’t want to follow the Geneva Conventions in his treatment of captured Iraqis, he just declared his prisoners of war not to be prisoners of war. Torture? He just did it and faced down the country and the world. Disregard of civil rights? Spying? He just did as he chose.

Here is the great discovery of the little man who doesn’t read. America is not the land of the free, nor of the brave, nor of the politically sentient. Nor is it a country of laws or of principles. It is a country of those who just do as they want. A president can do anything he chooses. Who will tell him no? Nobody has.

Today there is speculation as to whether he will make war, perhaps nuclear war, on Iran. The universal assumption seems to be that if he wants to, he will just do it. The legislature, already having given up its authority to declare war, seems to regard the military as the private guard of the president. Is it not interesting that one dim, pugnacious, ignorant little man can bring on nuclear war all by himself?

When Mr. Bush gets caught lying or breaking the law, he shows no embarrassment, contrition, or sense of having done anything wrong. He seems to have no conception of right and wrong, of principle. He is not accustomed to being told “no,” and accepts no constraints on his power. All that matters to him is that he get his way. He gets it.

Where will this lead? Obviously, to vastly increased police powers. But I wonder. If, down the pike, Bush announced that to protect us from terrorism he would have to postpone the presidential elections and remain in office—what would happen? Suppose he came up with a bit of supportive theater. If just before the elections something blew up, and were attributed not to the CIA but to Terrace, what then? The Reichstag has burned before. The public, the congress, the judiciary are so very, very easily manipulated. All it takes is the will to do it.

And that the little man has.

A tribal rite in the column racket is the discovery of darkness in the hearts of presidents, or witlessness, and we discover away industriously. I have done my share. I thought Clinton a bright, libidinous lout, Jimmy Carter a moralizing cipher, Reagan a sort of Grandfather Barbie and, by contrast, Eisenhower a wise man hiding behind remarkable syntax. None was evil, or mad. Bush is something new in presidential politics, genuinely dangerous and genuinely out of control. The time is ripe for him. America no longer has the institutional defenses to say "no."

What would happen if a president just refused to go? To remove him, someone would have to act. Who? Little would be necessary to stop a coup, granted. A couple of helicopters of Marines landing across the street from the White House would be enough. The various federal police bully civilians well (ask Steve Hatfill), but would find fighting real men another thing. But who in the military would have the courage to do it?

Would the public do anything? I doubt it. The Born Agains would support him, the suburban Christians suck their thumbs and wait, blacks ignore the matter, conservatives see it as necessary to stop Tersm, and most people would watch football on television. The necessary strength is not in the country. The timbers are rotten.

A popular uprising I cannot imagine. Who would rise? Overweight people with Volvos do not become urban guerrillas. Again, conservatives, who tend to be armed, rank among the most ardent supporters of Mr. Bush. In any event, how does one rise? Would upset semi-heterosexual professors at Cornell hold a Take Back the Night march? Oh joy. After three days the vigilists would become bored. Back to the television set.

The Supreme Court certainly would, and could, do nothing. The court consists of insular antiquities who so far have shown no disposition to stand up to Bush. The termites have hollowed the judicial woodpile.

Congress? It does what is paid to do, by anyone. What could it do? Some might say that it could shut off funding. With the threat of imprisonment at its collective head? It would huff, fumble, and hold committee hearings. But a coup would have to be squelched immediately or not at all.

My impression is that much of the public wants authoritarian rule, or would be perfectly content with it if it even noticed its arrival. No, I can’t prove it. But what do most people care about beyond television on screens that grow ever larger, beyond porn, beer, and the competitive purchase of grander SUVs? I ask this not as a lifelong curmudgeon being tiresome (though doubtless I am both) but seriously. Who in a sprawling TV-besotted country cares about the Constitution? A comfortable police state is after all comfortable.

I do not predict that the reigning curiosity will stage a coup (which should it occur would not be a coup but “an emergency measure,” necessary to protect us from Terrace). I do say that what is happening today is unlike anything that has happened before, and that people do not always see what is coming. If you read books from the Germany of the 1930s, you will find that people were uneasy, divided, unsure of things, but had no idea just what the squatty little man with the voice had in mind for them. He just did it. The unimaginable does sometime occur. We notice only afterward.

(Via ThomasMc)