Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Man In the Grey Flannel Suit

That might be a fitting costume for Roy Pearson tonight. He can go trick or treating as the Man in the Grey Flannel Suit -- or even better, in black robes, as a Judge. Either way, he'll be dressed up as something he's not. And now -- he definitely has plenty of time on his hands.

Not surprisingly, Pearson, the infamous DC Administrative Law Judge who got his pants in a twist over a pair of misplaced pants at his dry cleaners, lost his job yesterday. See Lose Some, Win Some. The Washington Post reports on the latest episode in this story in Judge Who Lost Pant Suit Loses Job:

Roy L. Pearson Jr., the administrative law judge who lost his $54 million lawsuit against a Northeast Washington dry cleaner, lost his job yesterday and was ordered to vacate his office, sources said.

Pearson, 57, who had served as a judge for two years, was up for a 10-year term at the Office of Administrative Hearings, but a judicial committee last week voted against reappointing him.

The panel had a seven-page letter hand-delivered to Pearson about 3:30 p.m., directing him to leave his office by 5 p.m. Pearson's term ended in May, at the height of his battle with the dry cleaners. Since then, he has remained on the payroll, making $100,000 a year as an attorney adviser.

Obviously the Committee was concerned about his reaction to the news, so wanted to be sure that he had a hasty exit, before he had an opportunity to do any damage. That may seem a little harsh, but based upon this guys conduct throughout this matter, it is not an unreasonable concern.

I'm sure they are also being extra cautious because they expect that this won't be the end of the story. Litigious is this man's middle name. I (along with anyone else who has followed this story) would be shocked if he didn't end up suing over the lost of his job. In anticipation of his claims, the Committee's decision to can the man was not premised on his abuse of the court processes with the dry cleaner case:

A source familiar with the committee's meetings said Pearson's lawsuit played little role in the decision not to reappoint him.

Instead, the committee said it had reviewed Pearson's judicial decisions and audiotapes of proceedings over which he had presided and found he did not demonstrate "appropriate judgment and judicial temperament," according a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.

Sources said Pearson also was criticized for displaying a "combative" nature with supervisors and colleagues and for failing to comply with policies in drafting opinions.

For earlier posts on this story, see Hell Hath No Fury . . ., No Pants, No Job, and The Appeal of the Pantload.

On an unrelated note, Verizon had its third visit to the house today to try to fix my phone/DSL problems. So far, looks like I'm back on-line.

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Cartoon of the Day

* John Branch, San Antonio Express News

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Pretty Plea

First comes love, then comes marriage.
Then comes Mia with a baby carriage.
However, sad to say, the family values ditty doesn't always work as planned.

And when things go awry, life can hold horrible consequences. This was the case with Mia Sardella, the Drexel University Freshman who was charged with killing her newborn son after his birth. See Momma Mia. After a preliminary hearing last month, she was held for trial on charges of homicide, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter charges as well as abuse of a corpse. The Witness.

With all of this, the ditty is of necessity modified.
First comes the charges, then they're less.
And the next step will be the plea quietly arranged.

The Inky reports today, in the latest installment on this sad story, Reduced charges for alleged baby killer:

Charges of first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter against the Drexel Hill teenager accused of killing her newborn child and putting the corpse in the trunk of her car were withdrawn yesterday by the Delaware County District Attorney's Office.

Mia Sardella, 19, still faces trial on charges of third-degree murder and related offenses in the death of the baby boy. The teen's mother found the corpse Jan. 22, about three weeks following birth, stuffed inside a duffel bag left in the trunk of Sardella's Volkswagen Beetle.

According to a court source, the Delaware County District Attorney's Office has filed a document in Common Pleas Court saying the more-serious charges were dropped after an extensive review of the forensic evidence and consultation with medical experts found insufficient evidence existed to support them. The official asked not to be identified because of a judge's gag order that prohibits lawyers and police involved in the case from talking to reporters.

* * * *

The case has generated considerable publicity in part because Sardella is the granddaughter of Albert E. Piscopo, chief executive of the Glenmede Trust Co., an investment firm that manages the assets of the Pew Charitable Trusts and other high-end clients.

Delaware County Medical Examiner Frederic N. Hellman, who has declared that the baby was born alive and viable, has ruled the infant's death a homicide due to asphyxiation by another.

Following a Sept. 28 preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Kelly A. Micozzie-Aguirre, Sardella was ordered to stand trial on 11 charges, including first-degree murder and abuse of corpse.

The judge had rejected lead defense attorney Arthur T. Donato Jr.'s contention that there was insufficient evidence to move the case forward.

So what's left? 3rd degree manslaughter and "related charges." And what are the chances that Sardella will end up going to trial or serving time in this case based upon the reduced charges? While pondering the odds, think about this: Of course, politics would never enter into the equation in Republican Delaware County, when dealing with the granddaughter of the CEO of Glenmede Trust.

This brings me back to my original post on this case, which focused on the delays in charges being brought. See Different Strokes for Different Folks. Special treatment still seems to be the order of the day with the way this case is being handled from start to finish. Compare this, for example, with the 17 year old Georgia teen who served 2 years (out of a ten year sentence) for consensual sex with a 15 year old. Georgia Court Frees Man in Teen Sex Case.

As much as I decry that disparity in treatment, as I said in The Witness, in the end I still want to maintain a modicum of mercy towards Sardella. So the end result may not be something that I would object to. I guess I just wish that mercy would be shown to those who may not be as privileged as she. All too often, that's what's lacking -- from those who are fortunate enough to receive it themselves.

The Party's Out of Step

Posting has been sporadic because of continual internet connection problems. In addition to several extended tech support phone calls, Verizon has been dispatched twice (so far -- with the 3rd visit pending) to fix phone/DSL problems. Grr, they are on the verge of forcing me to switch to Comcast!

In any event, I wanted to continue my Pennsylvania theme, with another post on the Western part of the state. Earlier posts touched on the funfilled divorce antics of Richard Mellon Scaife and my favorite terrorist, Rick Santorum. Seems like all roads lead to Pittsburgh (my old stomping grounds) these days.

For this installment, the focus is on the U.S. Attorney scandal, which has generated less press these days, since Alberto Gonzales has departed. Part of the remnants of that reign is the politicization of the Department of Justice and the US Attorneys office.

A well known (and respected) name in Pennsylvania politics is that of Dick Thornburgh, a former Governor and Attorney General. Although at one time I would have labeled him a conservative Republican, at this point I suppose he would be considered a moderate. He has joined the ranks of those few (albeit growing number) republicans who are speaking out against the abuses and excesses of the Bush Administration.

As the Washington Post reports, Ex-Attorney General Says Politics Drove Federal Prosecution:

Richard L. Thornburgh, who served as attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, accused the Justice Department yesterday of prosecuting a prominent Pennsylvania Democrat for political reasons, one of a series of cases singled out by House Democrats as examples of alleged GOP meddling at the Justice Department.

Thornburgh, who served as attorney general from 1988 to 1991 and whose law firm represents Cyril Wecht, a nationally known coroner from Pittsburgh, testified yesterday that Wecht had been indicted for mail fraud and a "hodgepodge" of other charges by overzealous prosecutors keen on pleasing political appointees in Washington.

"He has always been a contentious, outspoken, highly critical and highly visible Democratic figure in western Pennsylvania," Thornburgh told the House Judiciary Committee. "In other words, he would qualify as an ideal target for a Republican U.S. attorney trying to curry favor with a department which demonstrated that if you play by its rules, you will advance."

Thornburgh also said that Wecht "was not the only apparent political prosecution in western Pennsylvania," pointing to three high-profile cases of other local Democrats brought by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh.

TPM describes the issues that made Thornburgh step forward in Persecution of The Body Snatcher:

Thornburgh is one of Wecht's defense lawyers, and his complaints stem from what he's called the "sheer intensity" of the investigation, which involves relatively minor accusations that Thornburgh says should have been handled by the state ethics commission.

As a means of showing the relative triviality of the charges (the 84-count indictment doesn't put a price tag on Wecht's fraud), Wecht's lawyers have calculated that the cumulative cost for the 37 charges in the indictment that involve improperly charging the county for gasoline and mileage costs add up to $1,778.55. The most colorful of the charges, of course, involve the elaborate body snatching scheme: prosecutors allege that Wecht gave a local Catholic university unclaimed bodies in exchange for laboratory space.

The source of the investigation's "intensity" is U.S. Attorney for Pittsburgh Mary Beth Buchanan, a member of the DoJ's inner circle who played a role in the U.S. attorney firings. It's not the first time that Buchanan has drawn fire. During the heat of the scandal, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the district (from 1995-2000, before Buchanan took over) publicly called on Buchanan to resign because of "the extent to which she has looked to Washington for direction and political advancement." Or to put it in plainer terms: Buchanan has prosecuted a number of Democrats but no Republicans.

According to Wecht's lawyers, Thornburgh among them, Buchanan's office was single-minded in their pursuit of their high-profile quarry. Although Wecht holds the modest position of county coroner, he's a prominent Democrat in the state, even once running for the Senate in 1982. And it's only a minor exaggeration to say that he's made an appearance in just about every well-known murder case in the past 30 years, including O.J. Simpson, JonBenet Ramsey, Vincent W. Foster Jr., Martha von B├╝low, not to mention Elvis Presley and both Kennedy brothers.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also describes the to be expected assault on Thornburgh for speaking out, Wecht arguments go to Washington:

"Your testimony, to be blunt, is the most pathetic example of speculation and innuendo and hearsay that I have seen in seven years on this committee," said Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., during a joint hearing of two House judiciary subcommittees. "It's so far-fetched I'm almost embarrassed to be an attorney listening to it."

Mr. Thornburgh, himself a Republican and a lawyer for a firm representing Dr. Wecht, vigorously defended his client, who was indicted last year on 84 counts -- including mail fraud, wire fraud, and theft from an organization that receives federal funds -- and faces trial in January.

"It is not the type of case normally constituting a federal 'corruption' case brought against a local official," said Mr. Thornburgh, who served as Pennsylvania's governor from 1979 to 1987 and was the U.S. attorney for Pittsburgh from 1969 to 1975. "There is no allegation that Dr. Wecht ever solicited or received a bribe or kickback. There is no allegation that Dr. Wecht traded on a conflict of interest in conducting the affairs of his selected office."

He argued that many of the counts represent an overly "expansive" use of federal power to criminalize inconsequential actions, such as the improper use of the coroner's fax machine for private work.

For more on this issue, see also, Former AG Unsparing in Criticism of Bush DoJ, Former AG Thornburgh Says Prosecution Was Political and A Primer in Political Persecution. For my previous post on Mary Beth Buchanan, see The Devotee.

And I would also point out that Thornburgh is Of Counsel to Kirkpatrick & Gates, a white-shoe Republican firm in Pittsburgh (I should know, I spent a number of years there a million years ago). See, All the President's Men. In fact, I've noticed that the firm name is not often mentioned in press reports on the case; most likely, the firm wants to keep a low profile because of the side of the aisle they ended up on in this matter.

Finally, and truthfully what is most surprising -- nay, shocking -- to me about this is the fact that Republicans are breaking rank with the Bush Administration in increasing numbers. This is the party that I have routinely referred to as the "Stepford Party," see Imagine that, because they march in lockstep and brook no dissent.

The importance of long-time faithful party members, such as Dick Thornburgh, to come forward in this manner to confront the powers that be tells me that things are truly out of kilter and that it's not just my liberal lunatic ramblings. If anything, things are probably even worse than I imagine.

UPDATE: On the heels of my post, Atrios noted that the Stepford Party rules have been around for a long time. Quoting a May 1966 issue of Time Magazine, Parkinson's Law, he notes that the rule emanated from California GOP Chair Gaylord Parkinson:
In hopes of damping down the perennial feud between California's Republican moderates and conservatives—and thus lessening Democratic Governor Pat Brown's third-term prospects—State G.O.P. Chairman Gaylord Parkinson last fall handed the troops an Eleventh Commandment. 'Thou shall not speak ill of any Republican,' he ruled, and to everyone's surprise, Parkinson's law became holy writ.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Tony Auth, NYTimes

Inquiring Minds

This post started out as an update on the magical mystery terror tour of Rick Santorum that I covered in a previous essay, It's I-am-a-Fascist Week. However, as I started to write about it, I realized that it deserved it's own post.

As for the initial update on Santorum's pre-Halloween fearmongering: For more on the big man on campus' terror tour, see Muslims, Santorum debate radical threat and On the 3rd day of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week...

However, what was the most interesting bit of news about Santorum's visit to his former home state is the fact that was noted as an aside in the Inquirer's coverage of the event, Santorum presses his case against Islamic extremism, that Santorum is going to spread his hatefest in the editorial pages of the Inky on a biweekly basis. See also, Santorum, Curry to write columns for Inquirer. Of course, this is hardly a shock -- they've in in talks for some time. See Ricky@Inky?.

I wonder if Inky owner/publisher Brian Tierney is channeling that other great rightwing media mogul, Richard Mellon Scaife, in trying to follow his vision of a publishing empire -- by creating a vast right wing conspiracy like Mellon Scaife. For a glimpse at Tierney, see Inquire No More. It hardly needs to be said that Philly is heavily democratic, but even the Philly 'burbs are trending Democrat these days and most of the remaining Republicans are hardly of the extremist ilk of Santorum. Considering the "popularity" of Santorum in this area (and his overwhelming loss in his last Senate race is further proof of that), it doesn't make sense to alienate so many of your readers at a time that you are trying to increase readership. And Santorum most certainly will -- it's his persona.

Maybe I'm just missing the bigger picture here. Perhaps Tierney wants to turn the Inquirer into the Philly version of Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune Review -- maybe Tierney and his cohorts view themselves as wealthy enough to be able to squander millions by supporting ultra-conservative causes with a money losing paper, which is really just a "hobby." Scaife certainly made a career out of his hobby. This can be the Philly version: The Right inquiring minds pursuing "the news" -- the Right News.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's I-am-a-Fascist Week

While I'm focusing on the western end of the state, see Mr. Mellonhead, I certainly can't overlook the latest antics of the former Senator Rick Santorum, who is busy spreading hate and fear far and wide. His latest efforts to inspire terror and scorn for his fellow man is by way of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.

Will Bunch of Attytood describes IFAW, as explained in an email announcement, in It's the most wonderful time of the year: Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week:

Washington, D.C. - Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, will deliver a speech at Penn State University, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania during "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week," October 22-26.

"I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to speak at three of
Pennsylvania's great universities. While the sounds of opposition to the
war are heard frequently on our college campuses, I plan to offer a
perspective our students rarely hear - my views on who our true enemies are, what they believe, and why it is so important to defeat them," said Santorum.

"Rick Santorum has been the most courageous and outspoken public figure in America alerting all of us to the true nature of the enemy we face," said David Horowitz, founder of the Freedom Center, and organizer of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week," which includes events at over 100 schools across America.

Of course, maybe the reason that "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" isn't celebrated on most college campuses is that the term has no academic basis, but is a loaded political phrase that failed politicians like Santorum use to overhype the threat from terrorism, scaring the American people to justify torture, invading countries that had nothing to do with 9/11, and the incredible longshot of reviving Santorum's career.

For his part, Santorum is visiting Penn State, Temple and University of Pennsylvania to celebrate IFAW. Pennsyltucky Politics Happy Islamo-Fascism Week, reports on Santorum's campus efforts:
"If I were a Muslim on a college campus, I would embrace this movement to show that what we're talking about here is a group of Muslims that is not me," Santorum told us on Friday after receiving standing ovations from evangelical Christians.

* * * *
"When you engage in this blanket statement, when Ann Coulter says Jews need to be perfected, when Rick Santorum says you Muslims need to wake up, when he compares homosexuality to incest, it's all the same hate speech," said Kareem Shora, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

* * * *

Santorum responded by saying that moderate Muslims need to get over the word "Islamo-fascism," which he used unsuccessfully to sow fear and stir the electorate in last year's Senate campaign.

"That's not my problem" with how many Muslims interpret the message, said Santorum. "That is a problem that they must learn to overcome if they are going to enter into a debate and discussion in a pluralistic society."

Of course, it might help to not irritate or make these moderate Muslims the target of racism and stereotypes so we can have them on our side.

Josh Marshall of TPM also mentions IFAW, in several posts. In Islamofascism, he mentions Santorum's terrorist sidekick, David Horowitz:

In case you're not familiar with Horowitz, he's probably most charitably described as a rather entrepreneurial self-promotion artist, though perhaps more accurately as one of the great buffoons of the modern American soapbox.

So far, IFAW isn't drawing big crowds. For example, in A blast of a time in Happy Valley, Brett Lieberman reports that about 2 dozen people showed up for the film and speech, including protesters. Perhaps part of the problem is that a number of the colleges identified as supposedly participating in the festivities, aren't. See, Bogus Intel Used in Fight with Islamofascism.

Poor little Rickie. Even now, it seems that he still can't quite get the big man on campus thing down. As Will Bunch said:
But "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" sounds more like it should be called "Rick Santorum is Still Around Awareness Week" -- even though his sad and bizarre political journey now involves practically cheerleading for a new attack on U.S. soil, just to prove that he was right in his enemies crusade all along, that he deserves a second chance. In the meantime, Rick will campaign for a new postal stamp with a burning World Trade Center or organize a 10-kilometer "Enemies Walk," so that some day we can all celebrate our awareness of an ideology that doesn't even exist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Matt Davies, The Journal News

Mr. Mellonhead

He's a nasty tool of the right (who no doubt considers him a fool). He's never truly worked a day in his life, but he has lots of money (inherited, of course). A life-long drunk (who's finally dry), but not many friends. And above all, he's not very smart.

Sound familiar?

If you guessed Georgie Bush, try again. This dumbo is Dickie Scaife.

And you can bet Richard Mellon Scaife's not happy these days.

Despite having spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the cause, his dream of a conservative republican majority is over. Even worse, his "Family Values" mantra has been exposed for the lie it is, with the sordid details of his impending divorce the source of snickering gossip in news outlets across the country.

I've followed this man since my Pittsburgh days. And the mess that is his life has made many liberals extremely happy. I count myself as one. As I sit here recuperating, it's like the best medicine for the healing process.

A wonderfully vicious piece on Scaife was featured in the style section in the Washington Post, Low Road to Splitsville:

Remember him? The cantankerous, reclusive 75-year-old billionaire who's spent a sizable chunk of his inherited fortune bankrolling conservative causes and trying to kneecap Democrats? He's best known for funding efforts to smear then-President Bill Clinton, but more quietly he's given in excess of $300 million to right-leaning activists, watchdogs and think tanks. Atop his list of favorite donees: the family-values-focused Heritage Foundation, which has published papers with titles such as "Restoring a Culture of Marriage."

The culture of his own marriage is apparently past restoring. With the legal fight still in the weigh-in phase, the story of Scaife v. Scaife already includes a dog-snatching, an assault, a night in jail and that divorce court perennial, allegations of adultery.

Oh, and there's the money. Three words, people.

No. Pre. Nup.

The sordid tale of love gone wrong. As Daily Kos, put it, Because Richard Mellon Scaife deserves it:
And now he is getting a messy, bitter, public divorce. We cannot let such personal humiliation go unnoticed, not when it comes to Richard Mellon Scaife.

We had known for a while that Scaife's marriage to his second wife Ritchie was on the rocks. News that he had her arrested for trespassing at his Shadyside house broke in the Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh's main daily) after Christmas 2005. The famously private man who made a point to lie and distort the private lives of public servants now found some of his dirty laundry aired in public. Much more is coming to light in the ensuing divorce proceedings. David Segal in the Washington Post gleefully runs down the details, including financial irresponsibility, dog-snatching, an accused affair with a prostitute, criminal charges...and no prenup.
And what of Scaife? As the Post says:

Dickie, as he's known to his handful of friends, acquired a mean streak at an early age, according to his now-deceased sister, Cordelia Scaife. (She once told The Washington Post that she and her brother hadn't spoken for 25 years.) His trouble with alcohol started when he was at prep school, and he later was tossed out of Yale when he rolled a keg of beer down a flight of stairs and broke the legs of a fellow student. His father, a below-average businessman, died a year after Richard graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. His mother was "just a gutter drunk," as Cordelia put it.

Scaife owns a handful of newspapers and newsweeklies, including the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, a conservative answer to the Post-Gazette. When he isn't tending to this modest publishing empire, he's underwriting what Hillary Clinton once called "a vast right-wing conspiracy." His highest-profile expenditure is the $2.3 million he gave the American Spectator magazine in the mid-'90s, to try to unearth prurient and embarrassing details about Bill Clinton's years as governor of Arkansas. (The magazine came up virtually empty-handed.)

Though he jousts, indirectly, with public figures, Scaife seems to detest attention. He almost never speaks to the media, and on one of the few occasions he did, it was to tell a reporter, who'd sandbagged him on the street, that she was ugly and that her mother was ugly, too.

For the word on Scaife and the reporter, see Post Leaves Something Out About Richard Mellon Scaife.

And then for more on the history of this money man for the right, there's a 1999 Post series, Scaife: Funding Father of the Right and Money, Family Name Shaped Scaife, with his charming ways:

Richard Mellon Scaife, the most generous donor to conservative causes in American history, is astoundingly rich and has given away more than $600 million, yet is known to people who have worked for him as a cheapskate.

He has given at least $340 million to fund a "war of ideas" against American liberalism, yet no one interviewed for these articles could remember him discussing a book he had read or recall an original idea that came from him.

In his own small world in Pittsburgh, Scaife is known as a man who wants to be in control, who wants employees who say "yes," who is capable of bearing grudges for years. Once, it is said by knowledgeable sources, he compelled the Mellon Bank to fire a newly hired attorney in the bank's legal department because the lawyer was the son of a former employee Scaife had turned against.

Scaife has broken off relations with numerous friends and associates, waged a bitter, prolonged divorce battle with his first wife, has strained relations with his son and no relations with his daughter. He and his sister haven't spoken for 25 years.

Yet his friends describe the man they call Dick Scaife as charming, warm, easy to be with. He himself said once, "I'm genial and I'm jovial."

Genial, jovial and soon to be a little poorer after his divorce.

The only thing to make him even happier would be if his ex decides to donate some of his money to a few worthy liberal causes. One can always hope.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Silence

Via The Quaker Agitator, I read Leonard Pitts' op-ed piece on Ann Coulter, Ignoring Coulter is a mistake. Obviously jealous that Michelle Malkin was getting too much attention from her recent attack on kids needing health insurance, Coulter decided to use the religious bigotry card to trump Malkin. Riffing on the Pope's view that the Catholic Church is the one true faith and all the other religions are disordered, Coulter suggested that Jews need to convert to Christianity to be saved or "perfected."

As Pitts said of Coulter's latest:

Ann Coulter plays the news media like Louis Armstrong once played his cornet. She is a virtuoso of stage-managed controversy. So there's something to be said for refusing to play along, for ignoring her in the hope that she will just go away.

But some things only fester and grow in the dark. Some things use silence as assent.

Last week, Coulter told Donny Deutsch on CNBC's The Big Idea that in her perfect America, everyone would be a Christian. Deutsch, who is Jewish, expressed alarm. Whereupon Coulter told him Jews simply needed to be "perfected" - i.e., made to accept Jesus as savior. Which is, of course, one of the pillars (along with the slander of Christ's murder) supporting 2,000 years of pogroms, abuse and Holocaust.

* * * *

But time, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once observed, is neutral. Time alone changes nothing. It is people who make change in time. Or not.

While some of us are cheerfully assuring one another that They Don't Really Mean It, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of hate groups in this country has risen by a whopping 40 percent in the last seven years. If you had spent those years, as I have, jousting in print with the agents of intolerance, you would not be surprised. I've noted a definite spike, not simply in the hatefulness of some people, but in the willingness to speak that hatefulness openly and without shame. What used to be anonymous now comes with a name and address.

Like Coulter, many of those people find intellectual cover under the cloak of conservatism. It is a development thoughtful conservatives (the very need to use that qualifier makes the case) ought to view with alarm. . . .

* * * *

So this is not about bashing conservatives. It is, rather, about challenging them, and all of us. Within living memory, we have seen Jews in boxcars and blacks in trees and silence from those who should have been shouting. They pretended it wasn't happening until it already had.

So, what about Ann Coulter? What about the push-back against diversity, pluralism and tolerance that she represents? I keep hearing that we should just ignore it.

That's been tried before. It didn't work.

As Pitts observed, I have noticed the number of hate groups is up significantly, see Raging Racists, and the expression of bigotry is well on its way to becoming acceptable discourse. I have made those same observations, in Bill's a Bigot:

I do believe words have been given power. In fact, in the “Brave New Anti-PC World,” words have become more powerful. Racist words, sexist words, homophobic words, words denigrating non-Christian religions. That is, abhorrent comments such as those uttered by Bennett are part of an on-going attempt by the "Anti-PC Crowd" to make it acceptable to express racist sentiments. I have noticed an increased frequency in the number and intensity of inappropriate statements lately. So much so that it suggests to me that the expressions are deliberate.

See also, Crass public discourse: Time to push back?.

As if to prove the point, James Watson, DNA pioneer and Nobel winner, opined on his belief that whites are intellectually superior to blacks, as was reported in The Times (U.K.) Black people 'less intelligent' scientist claims:

One of the world’s most respected scientists is embroiled in an extraordinary row after claiming that black people are less intelligent than white people.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, has provoked outrage with his comments, made ahead of his arrival in Britain today.

* * * *

The 79-year-old geneticist said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.". He said he hoped that everyone was equal, but countered that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.

He has served for 50 years as a director of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory on Long Island, considered a world leader in research into cancer and genetics.

As is noted in a follow up piece on the controversy:
Dr Watson has courted controversy before. Three years ago, he was reported as saying that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine that it would be homosexual. He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, proposing a theory that black people have higher libidos, and claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured.
See Scientist James Watson flies home after employers suspend him. Watson has come under intense criticism for his remarks and has canceled his book tour, returning to the states to deal with his suspension from his Lab, Scientist Watson returns to U.S. over race row.

Ward Harkavy of the Village Voice also discusses Watson and the Eugenics Archive at Watson's Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Watson's Double-Helix Double-Bind Double-Reverse:
[T]he Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was the melting pot of all sorts of wack theories and experiments concerning race, and many of them had nothing to do with black people but rather focused on the supposed inferiority of southern and eastern Europeans. In fact, it was the Nordic-superiority bullshit that so inspired Hitler and his crew.

Just because crackpots use your ideas doesn't make you yourself a crackpot, of course. There were plenty of influential, widely praised people who endorsed eugenics and embraced ideas of racial inferiority and its inevitable corollary: racial superiority. No doubt that current anti-Mexican cretins will use Watson's latest comments to fan the flames of the anti-immigration cause.

All of which leads me to the issue of how to respond to racist eruptions. My tendency has been to ignore the ignorant bigots. I discussed the issue of responding (or not) to freaks like Coulter and Michelle Malkin in a recent post, It's That Time of Year:
Malkin, like Ann Coulter and the rest, are vicious people that will only go away when they are treated like they should be -- with scorn and then ignored altogether.

I also have to admit it. I am an elitist. I can't abide stupid people. And by stupid, I'm not referring to intelligence quotient. I am talking about vile, insipid people like Malkin who thrive on bullying and belittling others. As far as I am concerned, people like that should just be ignored. Attention gives them power. As I said in my last post on her:
Malkin not only should be ignored, she should be shunned.
After reading Pitts' column, I started thinking about this issue again. Clearly the constant barrage of bigotry by the media pundits on the right has resulted in a corresponding increase in the use of such language and related conduct by the racists. See e.g., Few Answers About Nooses, but Much Talk of Jim Crow. From the Jena 6 to the recent copycat incidents involving nooses, as well as the swastikas found in fields in New Jersey, there is a surge of hate filled activity in many parts of the country.

It is true, as QuakerDave says: "Silence equals complicity." In the context of these examples of hateful conduct, I agree with his view. Silence is never the answer. Yet, to respond the same way to the illiberal pundits, when that's precisely the reaction that they are hoping to elicit, is still a difficult concept for me to follow.

Mustang Bob at Bark Bark Woof Woof has a great suggestion about the best way to react to the haters, Don't Ignore Them; Laugh at Them:
Anybody who's read this blog for any length of time will know that I agree with Mr. Pitts's advice wholeheartedly; to ignore the bullies like Ann Coulter is dangerous, but I also don't believe in giving them the credibility that they think they're entitled to because they can get a gig on Hardball. I've always said that the best way to deal with them is the Mel Brooks approach: make fun of them. The quickest way to deflate pompous and self-important people is to laugh at them and let the limelight point out how ridiculous they are. . . .

As I've also noted, it takes a certain skill to make a mockery out of people like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin. It's easy to take cheap shots at them and speculate about Ms. Coulter's gender identification or her scanty clothing choices, Mr. Limbaugh's weight and addiction to pain pills, and Ms. Malkin's ethnic heritage. But that's counterproductive; all it does it make it about irrelevancies, even when their hypocrisy about gays, drug use, or interning immigrants begs for the comparison. In order to truly make a mockery of these clowns, you have to go after their outrageous opinions and statements and turn them back on them. You can't shame them; they have no sense of shame, or if they did, they long ago gave it up as a part of the deal. . . .

The response to these people shouldn't be scolding or flaming rage; all that does is prove that someone is actually taking them seriously. The Mel Brooks approach of bare-knuckle mockery and burlesque laughter is the best weapon. If you want proof of that today, look at how the right wing is completely thrown off the track by Hillary Clinton's laugh. They're baffled that she's laughing at Chris Wallace of Fox News and his furrowed-brow questions about "hyperpartisanship" on the part of the Clintons, which is a question you'd expect from Stephen Colbert. Suddenly the pundits are analyzing the hell out of Senator Clinton's laugh, and the subtext is a worrisome concern that she's not taking them seriously. "But we're pundits! She has to take us seriously!"

This isn't to dismiss Leonard Pitts's point, either. We shouldn't ignore the Ann Coulters and Tucker Carlsons, but we don't have to give them credibilty they crave. We should just laugh them off the stage.
I think that's something I could do -- with passion. If we're not going to shun them, let's make fun of them.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Venomous Villians

The Venomous Villains (also known as the "Values Voters") must be thinking that God has forsaken them. The ABC's (anything but Christian) are in dire straights without a sufficiently pure candidate for President. However, I don't think he has forsaken them, but has completely rejected them. The Christian Right has become the modern version of the money changer crowd that Jesus expelled from the Temple, because they were giving his Church a bad name.

Gail Collins of the NYTimes has written about their plight, Three-Card Morality Monte - New York Times, but it's hard to empathize:

If the Republican presidential candidates go any farther right, they’ll be opening their town meetings by biting the heads off squirrels.

* * * *

Nevertheless, the social super-conservatives are restive. Giuliani, McCain, Fred Thompson — what are all these ladies’ men doing in their primary? And while Mitt Romney has changed everything but his name in order to make them happy, a sizable chunk of the Christian right cannot seem to forgive him for being a Mormon. When Bob Jones University Chancellor Bob Jones III endorsed Romney, he couldn’t resist insulting Mitt’s faith in the process. (“As a Christian, I am completely opposed to the doctrines of Mormonism ...”)

The old guard of the religious right is terrified that if Rudy Giuliani gets the nomination people will conclude that the evangelical leaders aren’t all that powerful after all or — horror of horrors — that the evangelical rank and file are not obsessed with abortion and homosexuality to the exclusion of everything else.

Their affections are up for grabs, so all the Republican candidates betook themselves to Washington this weekend to woo the Values Voter Summit. (Social conservatives, having been so successful in appropriating the word “life” are now trying to commandeer “values.”) They’d been warming up for days. . . .

Even Fred Thompson emerged from his cave long enough to make an appearance yesterday. Thompson’s tendency to look down and read his remarks provided the audience with some of the most prolonged views of the top of a bald politician’s head in recent history. When you feel compelled to use an index card for lines like, “We must have good laws. We must do our best to stop bad laws,” you have been spending too much of your life filming 30-second bits of dialogue.

* * * *

When it comes to flip-flopping, this year’s Republicans make John Kerry look like those early martyrs who had their tongues torn out rather than renounce even the most obscure tenet of their faith. Do the values voters believe Mitt won’t flip back again? Should the people who admired Rudy Giuliani’s refusal to sign the idiot no-taxes-no-matterwhat pledge just presume that he was being insincere (pretend-pander) when he promised that he would rule out a tax increase for any purpose whatsoever? Are his fans voting for the Rudy who thought the flat-tax idea was stupid, or the new one who kinda likes it?

And are they voting for the Mitt who refused to sign a no-taxes pledge, or the one who is now bragging about having signed it at every conceivable opportunity? (When this man says “change begins with us,” he means it literally.)

This is a sensitive point, you know. We’ve been burned before. There was this Republican candidate in 2000 who opposed using U.S. soldiers for nation-building and promised he’d never invade a country without an exit strategy ...

Steve Benen of TPM also has some interesting notes on the Values Voter Summit, in Thompson's fall from grace and Romney tells the faithful what they want to hear, which expands on the state of affairs confronting the right. Maybe this is just what needed to toss out the Venomous Villians from the political pulpit. See also Moyers challenges UCC: 'Drive out the money changers'.

* Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune

Cartoon of the Day

I survived my surgery and am well on the road to recovery, minus one body part.

Luckily, the surgery went well, without any complications, and I am feeling fine. To the surprise of everyone, I haven't even needed any additional pain meds (but I'm taking my supply home in case the Bushies cause me too much pain). I guess they just don't understand that lawyers cause pain, they don't feel it.

I also was lucky enough to have a private room, with wi-fi access and received exceedingly solicitous care and treatment by all. It helps to have the best insurance available, and to have a lot of connections with the various doctors on-staff and hospital administration. I assume my treatment was a bit above and beyond the normal level of care, since I was asked more than once who I knew in high places.

Even absent that, the care at this hospital in a wealthy suburban Philadelphia community was excellent. Everyone was friendly and caring, and unlike their counterparts in Center City at the academic institutions, they are not overwhelmed with the volume of patients. Certainly you want to be at a Jeff or a Penn if you have a complicated or exotic health care issue, but for the mundane problem like I had, this is the place to be.

This is what the face of health care should be. And for all, not just the privileged few like me.

* Randy Glasbergen

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

So today's the day.

I mentioned that I would be having surgery, By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea, that will (hopefully) be relatively minor. I guess it's one way for me to see my clients from another perspective.

I may be out of commission for a few days or so. Then, I guess I'll have time to catch up on all the news as I recover.

* Stu's Views

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Therapy for Bikes & Phones, too

So yesterday was a busy day at the office, with several meetings with new clients. So I was kind of harried in the morning on my way to work. Once I got to the office, I parked my car in my usual spot, on the busy street in front of our building. In addition to my briefcase, I had a number of boxes, etc. to carry into the office, so my hands were full.

I rushed into the office, prepared for my first meeting, which was with a nice client who is doing a number of interesting things. After our meeting, I went back to my office and looked for my cell phone. You know -- that iPhone that I spend all that $$$ on.

I had it in a little phone bag, attached to my handbag. It was nowhere to be found. The phone bag and phone -- Gone. I raced back out to the car, looked in and around the car, traced my way back to the office. No phone. Of course, this is now several hours after I got in to the office.

A few of my colleagues looked around with me. No luck. We tried calling the phone several times, but we didn't hear it ringing and there was no answer.

Then, someone picked up. It was Lee.

Lee was biking by the office, which is along the bike path and he found my bag/phone. He wasn't sure how to reach me, so he waited for me to call. My husband, who works in Center City, went to the bike shop to retrieve my phone and got a tour of the place. He was impressed with the store and its bikes. And Lee.

Lee owns a wonderful bike shop, Bicycle Therapy on South Street in Philly. As his website notes:

Bicycle Therapy is a full service independent bicycle shop located in Center City, Philadelphia. Lee Rogers opened Bicycle Therapy in 1990 with a small loan and a loyal following. Since that time Lee has established himself as an expert technician, salesman, and master wheel builder.

From the beginning, Bicycle Therapy has been active in the Philadelphia cycling scene. Bicycle Therapy sponsors road and mountain bike teams, promotes local races and provides mechanical assistance on area charity rides. Lee and his staff are active cyclists and you'll see them regularly out on the roads, trails and at the races.

Lee is a good, honest person, who deserves success in his business and in his life. If you need a bike -- go see Lee. Obviously his therapy goes beyond bikes.

As for me -- I am re-united with my phone, thanks to Lee.

The Toilet Tirade

Scranton -- known as the locale of the series "The Office" and the home of the Toilet Tirade. As I reported the other day, The Terrible Toilet, a woman from Scranton (my home town) was cited for cursing at her toilet -- and at the off duty policemen who hear her yelling from her open bathroom window.

Important rights are at issue in this case. Not wanting the city of Hazelton to have all the fun with its wacky immigration stance, Scranton is trying to elevate the case to a struggle over the limits of free speech. "Freedom of Speech is not an unfettered right," according to Scranton officials. With that, the ACLU is getting involved, ACLU to defend woman cited for cursing her toilet with discussion:

She will receive legal assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is expected to represent her.

“This is an extreme example of the government trying to intrude into a place they have no business being, your bathroom and your home,” said Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the ACLU. “You can prosecute somebody for bad language in Iran, this isn’t Iran.”

* * * *
Scranton Patrolman Patrick Gilman, who was off-duty at the time, asked her to stop using profanity, setting off a brief verbal altercation between the neighbors, police said.

“He cursed at me and I cursed back at him. I didn’t know he was a police officer,” she said.

Shortly thereafter, Patrolman Gilman called police headquarters to file a complaint.

Patrolman Gerald Tallo cited Ms. Herb for disorderly conduct, a summary offense.

Efforts to reach the patrolmen were unsuccessful Monday and Tuesday. Scranton Director of Public Safety Ray Hayes said he stands by the officer’s decision.

“Upon further review, many types of these incidents are not as cut and dry as they originally appear,” he said. “Freedom of speech is not an unfettered right.”
Saying that she just wants "justice," Dawn Herb has pleaded not guilty, Woman enters not-guilty plea in toilet tirade with discussion, according to the latest installment in today's paper.

It seems that The Electric City is electric with the news and it's gone national. CNN has reported it, under "Funny News," Toilet tantrum triggers ticket, as has USA Today, Police charge woman who shouted profanities at overflowing toilet. It has even been picked up in the UK, Australia and Germany.

But, of course, my favorite is the legal bloggers who have cited the story.

TalkLeft questions whether the matter would have been pursued if the neighbor wasn't a policeman, Stupid Citation of the Week. See also, Abovethelaw. But the best is the legal discussion at The Volokh Conspiracy - Woman Ticketed for Screaming Profanities at Overflowing Toilet:
So you're wondering, is that really a crime? The answer is 'no, it's not.' Civil libertarians and those with bad bathroom plumbing, rejoice: In Pennsylvania, you can scream at your overflowing john all you want without violating the state's disorderly conduct offense.

* * * *
Annoying your neighbor by being really noisy may be inconsiderate. But it's not the crime of disorderly conduct, even if your annoyed neighbor happens to be a police officer. Free Dawn Herb!
The post and the Comments are worth a read.

Who knows, this might be the next Scranton-themed series.

(Cartoon via John Cole, The Times-Tribune)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Am the Law

PBS' Frontline last night, Cheney's law, was a powerful program, weaving together the secrecy and executive privilege that have become the hallmark of the Administration and detailing the Vice President's decades-long mission to expand the scope of presidential authority based upon his limitless interpretation of wartime powers as commander-in-chief. Although it does not have any new revelations, the storyline provides a terrifying reminder of the extent of Cheney's power grab and evisceration of the Constitution. With the assistance of his chief of staff David Addington, former Office of Legal Counsel stalwart John Yoo and current Office of Legal Council nominee Steven Bradbury, Cheney has used unprecedented claims of presidential authority to detain American citizens, authorize torture and spy on American citizens.

As described by Frontline:

For three decades Vice President Dick Cheney conducted a secretive, behind-closed-doors campaign to give the president virtually unlimited wartime power. Finally, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Justice Department and the White House made a number of controversial legal decisions. Orchestrated by Cheney and his lawyer David Addington, the department interpreted executive power in an expansive and extraordinary way, granting President George W. Bush the power to detain, interrogate, torture, wiretap and spy -- without congressional approval or judicial review.

Now, as the White House appears ready to ignore subpoenas in the investigations over wiretapping and U.S. attorney firings, FRONTLINE examines the battle over the power of the presidency and Cheney's way of looking at the Constitution.

"The vice president believes that Congress has very few powers to actually constrain the president and the executive branch," former Justice Department attorney Marty Lederman tells FRONTLINE. "He believes the president should have the final word -- indeed the only word -- on all matters within the executive branch."

After Sept. 11, Cheney and Addington were determined to implement their vision -- in secret. The vice president and his counsel found an ally in John Yoo, a lawyer at the Justice Department's extraordinarily powerful Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). In concert with Addington, Yoo wrote memoranda authorizing the president to act with unparalleled authority.

* * * *

As the White House and Congress continue to face off over executive privilege, the terrorist surveillance program, and the firing of U.S. attorneys, FRONTLINE tells the story of what's formed the views of the man behind what some view as the most ambitious project to reshape the power of the president in American history.

As Brian Tamanaha of Balkinization said:

As the program shows, the Bush Administration's primary opponents were conservatives who occupied key positions in the Administration (A.G. Ashcroft, Acting A.G. Comey, O.L.C. head Goldsmith, FBI Director Mueller--not a weak liberal amongst them). This was not a political dispute, but a dispute over respect for the rule of law. On one side of the dispute were the Bush inner circle and its legal enablers, who saw law as no more than an irritating hindrance, to be avoided or manipulated as necessary; on the other side of the dispute were those in the Justice Department who took seriously a commitment to the rule of law, although they largely agreed with the goals of the Bush Administration.

If you missed it, you can watch it ONLINE.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Tony Auth, NYTimes

The Terrible Toilet

Now, I have to admit that I have been told on occasion that I have a "potty mouth" (mainly by my mother), but I've never been accused of swearing at a potty.

Yes, it is true. A woman has been charged with disorderly conduct and "could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300 for allegedly shouting profanities at an overflowing toilet while inside her Luzerne Street home." The Times-Tribune reports, in West Side woman faces jail time for swearing at toilet:

The obscenities hit the fan when she battled her overflowing toilet around 8 p.m. Thursday, she said.

Although Ms. Herb doesn’t recall exactly what she said, she admitted that she was frustrated and let more than a few choice words fly. Unfortunately, it was near an open bathroom window.

“The toilet was overflowing and leaking down into the kitchen and I was yelling (for my daughter) to get the mop,” she said. “A guy is yelling, ‘Shut the f--- up,’ and I yelled back, ‘Mind your own business.’ ”

Her next-door neighbor, Patrick Gilman, a city police officer who was off-duty at the time, apparently had enough of Ms. Herb’s foul mouth and asked her to keep it down, police said. When Ms. Herb didn’t stop, he called the police.

Patrolman Gerald Tallo responded and charged Ms. Herb with disorderly conduct.

The citation accuses the defendant of using obscene language or gestures “with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm or recklessly (creating) a risk ...”
What makes this tale of the terrible toilet particularly terrifying is that the incident occurred in my hometown -- Scranton.

Some of my friends and relatives have asked me over the years why I so rarely return to Scranton. I moved away over 30 years ago and over the years, I must admit that my visits home have become less and less frequent.

I can now point to this as Exhibit A as a reason why. Profanity for me is a form of art. I try not to overuse cuss words, because they would end up losing their meaning. Instead, I swear and curse with passion. See e.g., Expletive Deleted. But to worry about offending someone when cursing out the misbehaving toilet in one's own house? What bullshit! Now, that's offensive!

If I have to watch my language in Scranton, that is surely not the place for me.

For a great article on the value of obscenity, see Why I Love Cuss Words.

(Many, many thanks to Philadelphia Will Do for this one)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cartoon of the Day


You're Sick -- You're Fired

I don't often blog about work related issues. In part, my blogging is my time away from my legal practice, so I don't want to feel like it's work. There is also a concern about possibly disclosing too much information about client matters, which are subject to attorney/client privilege. Better to rant & rave about politics.

But this article reminds me of a situation that I've seen several times of late. The Washington Post writes about 2 government employees who were terminated after being on leave with cancer, Stricken With Cancer, and Then Terminated. One employee, Katie Tremul, tells her story:

[She worked for] the City of Manassas in May 2006, when a doctor told her she had breast cancer. She had worked as an emergency communications specialist, directing calls for the fire and police departments for 12 years. But July 26 this year, after going on long-term disability while she underwent seven surgeries and chemotherapy, Tremul received a letter in the mail terminating her employment. With her job went her health and life insurance benefits, she said.

"You don't cut someone off at the knees when they're sick. And that's what they did," Tremul said. "I was fired for having cancer."

Another employee, who had been a Manassas firefighter for 20 years, had a similar medical crisis -- his with colorectal cancer -- when his letter arrived. As the article noted:

Lawyers who specialize in employment law said that although public servants tend to have more rights than those in the private sector, the degree of their rights depends on the municipality. Virginia law lays out a basic template for personnel policies, and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act offers umbrella protections, but a degree of discretion is left to each jurisdiction, they said.

"The thing with employment law is it's very fact-specific. You can't say one situation applies to another," said Camilla C. McKinney, a Fairfax-based lawyer who handles employment law throughout the region. "There's a difference between something that seems unfair and unjust and whether it's a legal cause of action."

Like Virginia, Pennsylvania (as is true in most other states) doesn't provide much job protection for long term illness. Most people tend to think they have more rights than they actual have under the law. I get to be the one to deliver the bad news. And once the job is gone, so is the health insurance and related benefits -- just when you need it most.

My clients are mainly health care professionals and I serve as their business attorney. However, every so often I take on a matter representing employees who are having work related problems. These are generally situations where the employee has been reprimanded or terminated. My role is to review the employment law issues and give my recommendations on a course of action. If possible, I get involved in trying to resolve the dispute. If it gets to litigation, I refer it elsewhere. Mostly, I do this work pro bono, since the people are hardly in a financial position to afford my fees.

I've had a few cases recently where the problem was a health related issue, which resulted in a termination of employment. In one, the employee suffered from serious depression and was hospitalized because of her illness. She had been a long term employee, who had always received excellent evaluations. After her return to work, she was put on probation for being behind in her work (duh, she was in the hospital because she had a severe mental health issue, when was she supposed to do her work?). This caused a relapse and another hospitalization. She was then terminated.

I managed to negotiate a decent financial severance package for her, including having the bad review rescinded, which was her biggest concern. Even better, her employer ended up putting her on a leave of absence, which permitted her to apply for long term disability. Her mental state was so fragile that she didn't even want to apply, but I convinced her to try. She was approved for long term benefits, which was great news because it meant that her health insurance was now covered by her employer so long as she was out on disability. And of course, continued coverage was a major issue, since she'll never be able to get coverage because of her pre-existing condition.

That this situation exists -- both the loss of employment and health benefits due to illness -- is yet one more example of our lack of compassion as a society.

At least every once in a while I get to do something good instead of being the scourge that attorneys usually are. I save that for the rest of my day.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Won't Wear That Pin

What is it with the flag obsession for the GOP? Gotta fly 'em, wear 'em and salute 'em in order to prove your patriotism.

Of course, for many, the ferver extends to the Rebel Flag as well, but that's the subject of another post. See The Flag Flies.

This week, Barack Obama created a controversy over the fact that he said that the flag lapel pin has become a substitute for "true patriotism" since 9/11, so he won't wear it any more. See Why Barack won't wear the flag.

OMG. What a scandal!! You would have thought he said his middle name was Hussein.

The ridiculousness of the reaction is the subject of Saturday's Silliness. A two-fer.

First up, Lewis Black from the Daily Show:

Next up: Bill Maher's New Rules:

(Videos via Crooks and Liars and onegoodmove)

The Flag Flies

Still having internet connection difficulties, so posting has been sporadic of late. But I wanted to follow up on the recent Rudy Giuliani Philly appearance. By way of TPM, Rudy's Man In Philly Hearts Confederate Flag, Greg Sargent notes that Rudy's Philly supporter, Joey Vento is also a big Confederate Flag fan.

I had written about Rudy's visit to Geno's in What's With My Paisans? and my blogging pal QuakerDave asked in the comments if Vento was flying the Rebel flag that day. I responded that I had seen some pictures taken that day which showed old Rebel flying on Vento's Harley. I observed that I was "sure Rudy gave it silent acquiescence, which is GOP Code for approval."

That theme was picked up by former Inky reporter Michael Currie Schaffer, who wrote a piece in the New Republic on Rudy's visit, Rudy's Immigrant-Bashing Photo-op:

For tourists, no trip to Philadelphia is complete without stops at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. For presidential hopefuls, meanwhile, the crucial photo-op takes place a mile or so to the south, near the intersection of Ninth and Wharton Streets: The block occupied by Pat's and Geno's, the dueling cheesesteak titans of South Philadelphia. Where the independence-era sites represent the secular shrines of a nation, the cheesesteak corner reflects the more localized civic religion of unhealthy eating.

* * * *

Like so many other once-innocuous things in American life, the corner of 9th and Wharton has become thoroughly politicized in recent years. Last year, a local controversy erupted after Joe Vento, who owns Geno's, put a sign in his window advising patrons to order in English. The kerfuffle followed predictable lines: Critics remonstrated, referring the matter to the city's human relations commission; defenders flocked to the restaurant clad in t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan the controversy had made famous: "This is America--Now Speak English."

A born showman, Vento mugged for the cameras all the while. He told a reporter that Mexicans carry disease into the U.S. because they "play and drink out of the same water." He defended himself against critics with a quick recourse to that last refuge of the demagogue: "I say what everybody's thinking but is afraid to say."

* * * *

Vento's fame might have presented a certain challenge for a non-immigrant-baiting Republican like Giuliani. Go to Geno's and you look like you're playing to the know-nothings; go to Pat's and you look like you're dissing the guy who got famous for saying what a lot of the GOP electorate appears to think.

But in the case of his trip to South Philly, Giuliani's choice showed more than a willingness to pander to a guy he not so long ago might have rebuked. . . . A little staff work, though, ought to have demonstrated that Vento was more than just another simple restaurateur with his mind helpfully focused on integrating non-English speaking immigrants into the modern U.S. economy. They might, for instance, have simply checked out his arm, which has a tattoo of the confederate flag. Vento says it's an homage to the old cartoon character Johnny Yuma, the rebel. He must have liked that show a lot, because he also had the flag on several of the Harley-Davidsons he keeps across the street from his restaurant.

A careful look at the pictures here shows the flag peeking out.

(Photos via Linh Dinh, who stopped by Geno's during Rudy's appearance, see Blowhards in Philly. Dinh also has a shot of that charmer Joey Vento -- which he notes means "wind" in Italian -- poking some guy in the chest who didn't like the signs on his store).

Cartoon of the Day

* Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

It's That Time of Year

The GOP likes to portray itself as the party of "Family Values." What does that really mean?

I know it means that the Party that would like to dictate the so-called "appropriate" moral values that we the people should -- no, must -- follow on matters such as pre-marital sex, contraception, abortion. They'd like to say who you can marry and what kind of family you should have.

Yet this is the same gang that says it is "pro-life," but also has limits on protecting life once it comes into being. As I always say the "pro-lifers" will fight for you until you're born, from there on in, you're on your own. And of course "pro-life" is really another way of saying anti-abortion, since pro-life doesn't extend to war, gun control or death penalty. For another interesting take on the "values" party, see the Comments to What a Joke.

The recent controversy over the SCHIP veto is but the latest example of that. As Paul Krugman describes, in Sliming Graeme Frost:

Two weeks ago, the Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address was delivered by a 12-year-old, Graeme Frost. Graeme, who along with his sister received severe brain injuries in a 2004 car crash and continues to need physical therapy, is a beneficiary of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Mr. Bush has vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have expanded that program to cover millions of children who would otherwise have been uninsured.

What followed should serve as a teaching moment.

* * * *
Graeme Frost, then, is exactly the kind of child the program is intended to help. But that didn’t stop the right from mounting an all-out smear campaign against him and his family.

* * * *

All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate. If service members oppose a Republican war, they’re “phony soldiers”; if Michael J. Fox opposes Bush policy on stem cells, he’s faking his Parkinson’s symptoms; if an injured 12-year-old child makes the case for a government health insurance program, he’s a fraud.

Meanwhile, leading conservative politicians, far from trying to distance themselves from these smears, rush to embrace them. And some people in the news media are still willing to be used as patsies.

Politics aside, the Graeme Frost case demonstrates the true depth of the health care crisis: every other advanced country has universal health insurance, but in America, insurance is now out of reach for many hard-working families, even if they have incomes some might call middle-class.

And there’s one more point that should not be forgotten: ultimately, this isn’t about the Frost parents. It’s about Graeme Frost and his sister.

I don’t know about you, but I think American children who need medical care should get it, period. Even if you think adults have made bad choices — a baseless smear in the case of the Frosts, but put that on one side — only a truly vicious political movement would respond by punishing their injured children.

So, so true. You would think that the Family Values Party would promote children. Little things, like life, education and health. Nothing is further from the truth. The people who have bastardized the word "Christian" are anything but. When I was younger, the term was used to refer to someone who exhibited love, mercy and kindness. Apparently the Born Again Christians have also found a new "Born Again" version of Christ -- one that is cruel, heartless and without compassion for anyone. Save me from the saviors!

The reality is that the Righteous Right wants you to be down and out before they'd even consider you worthy of any help. Colin McEnroe of the Current, explains what is at issue at his blog, To Wit, The War on Middle Class Solvency:
It would be a mistake to get caught up in the No Child Left Unsmeared aspect, because it conceals a much more important, substantive issue. If you boil away all the vitriol, what you're left with is a conservative argument that goes like this:

These people -- even with their combined income of a VERY modest $45,000 -- have no business turning to the government for help with their medical bills because they haven't been bankrupted yet. They're income is low, but they've managed to hang onto some assets that place them a little closer to the middle class. It's disgusting that they get help from the government if they have anything.

The opposing argument is that middle class existence of this sort is incredibly fragile. We ought to have a system in which families get help before they have lost everything they worked for.
That's correct. You need to be poverty-stricken before you should ask for charity. However, once you are, you should realize that the Righteous Right has no time for you then either. If you are down & out, you need to get yourself together and find a job. Look for no handouts here. And, if you are homeless -- we don't want to see you on our streets. After all, we have more important things to deal with -- like Family Values.

Regarding the sliming of the Frost family, I shudder at the malicious venom visited on these people for having the temerity to express their views -- and appreciation -- for the help they received in a time of need.

It was just about 2 years ago that I last mentioned Michelle Malkin. See The Ghouls are Out. At that time, she was attacking the Quakers, who were observing the 2,000th death in Iraq by holding a candlelight vigil. In her view, the American Friends Service Committee was "partying over the deaths" of the troops.

Malkin, like Ann Coulter and the rest, are vicious people that will only go away when they are treated like they should be -- with scorn and then ignored altogether.

I also have to admit it. I am an elitist. I can't abide stupid* people. And by stupid, I'm not referring to intelligence quotient. I am talking about vile, insipid people like Malkin who thrive on bullying and belittling others. As far as I am concerned, people like that should just be ignored. Attention gives them power. As I said in my last post on her:
Malkin not only should be ignored, she should be shunned.
UPDATE (10/14): Another favorite, E. J. Dionne, Jr. also takes a good look at the SCHIP issue in Meanies And Hypocrites.

* I should also mention that my daughter believed for many years that the word "stupid" was a curse word, because I taught her that she was never allowed to use it to describe someone. I think the word is that offensive. That just my way of saying how offensive I feel Malkin truly is.

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