Saturday, April 30, 2005

Carl Hiassen, newspaperman and novelist, complains that newspapers have become "strenuously tepid and deferential." If deferential can be stretched to mean parroting misrepresentations, then Hiassen is correct. Media Matters details instances of the press mindlessly repeating Bush's whitewash job of his new Social Security plan.
While television news reports acknowledged that Bush called for benefits cuts for "wealthier workers" or "higher-income" earners, many failed to report that these cuts would also impact lower-middle and middle-class workers. As Media Matters for America has noted, the Bush proposal would likely cut the level of guaranteed benefits promised under the current Social Security system for all workers making over $20,000 a year -- or just above the poverty threshold for a family of four with two children under 18 -- while leaving guaranteed benefit levels for those making under $20,000 unchanged.

The bottom line isn't difficult to comprehend. I could make a ten year old grasp it in less than two minutes: If someone makes less than $20,000, he'll get the same benefits. If someone makes more than that, his benefits will be cut.
Now, nobody thinks $21,000 a year makes you wealthy, and yet Fox News repeatedly said that only the wealthy would have benefits cut. Well, no surprise there, but so did CBS, NBC, CNN, and the Los Angeles Times. For example: NBC White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell reported that Bush's proposal "could mean, in the future, a cut of benefits for more wealthy Americans."
Besides the "wealthiest Americans" perversion, the press also swallowed Bush's fabrication that his plan only slows growth of benefits. Media Matters again:
Cable news channels adopted Bush's characterization of his proposed benefit cuts as a proposed slowdown in the rate at which benefit levels go up. In fact, Bush proposed an actual cut in promised benefits for all but the lowest income workers, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
CNN host Wolf Blitzer reported that Bush "did make a case ... that lower-income Social Security recipients would get more increases more rapidly than the higher income Social Security recipients." [CNN, press conference coverage, 4/28/05]
Pundits on all three cable news channels falsely suggested that low-income workers would receive greater Social Security benefits under Bush's proposal than they are promised under the current Social Security system.

You can look at the list of who said what that really wasn't so. I wouldn't call these pundits sycophantic brownnosers, but I wouldn't call them responsible journalists either.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wendy Dickson offered the piece below for the blog. I'm sure any Republican who reads it would echo the pointed haired boss in Dilbert: "Don't get all mathy on me." Yeah, well that's what you say when the math supports the other side.
Nuclear Option is Tyranny of the MINORITY!
I DID THE MATH. With population numbers from the 2000 Census and a calculator, I confirmed my suspicion that Republicans represent fewer Americans in the Senate than Democratic Senators even though they are outnumbered by 10. The 55 Republicans Senators represent states with a population of 112,858,577 residents or 49%, while the 45 Democratic and Independent Senators represent States with a total of 117,657,044 residents or 51% of the population. I divided population numbers equally in states with divided party representation. (Yes, I included the District of Columbia with Democrats even though they are technically not represented. Without DC the numbers only change by a tenth of a percent, but more importantly, since DC votes nearly 90% Democratic, their views are clearly represented by Democratic Senators.)
But what about the 2004 election with Republican landslides in Congress and Bush¹s so-called "mandate" with the SMALLEST winning margin of any re-elected President. Well, first of all, Bush was not elected King, so he is NOT entitled to "absolute power" or 100% of his judicial nominees.
Then I tried another angle and added up the votes received by each winning Senator in the 2004 election and came out with a surprising result. Even though Republicans won 19 of the 34 Senate races last year, Republican Senators received fewer votes than Democratic Senators.
Democratic Senators won 15 seats in 2004 with 26,480,865 votes.
Republican Senators won 19 seats in 2004 with 25,148,676 votes.
That is a difference of 1,332,189 votes or 2.6%.

We all understand that the Senate was set up as a "check and balance" to the inherently more politically populace driven House of Representatives. By choosing Senators by State instead of population, the founding fathers hoped to protect the rights of the minority against the "tyranny of the majority." But if population is considered, or the vote count received by each Senator, there is no doubt that our founding fathers' fear is being turned on its head.
Republican Senators, in fact, represent a minority of Americans. If the "nuclear option" is utilized to strip Democratic Senators of their right to dissent, when they represent the majority of Americans, then we will have, in fact, A TYRANNY OF THE MINORITY!
Thomas Jefferson must be rolling in his grave.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Missouri Democrats have come out with a report card for Matt Blunt's first 100 days in office, and they give him an F. That's unfair. After all, Blunt took heat from his religious base for vowing to veto the bill to criminalize stem cell research. So, fair is fair. An F is too low. On the other hand, after looking at the list below, I can't give him more than an F+. Most of what he's done is selfish and hypocritical.
F on Healthcare
--Cutting healthcare for 100,000 Missourians
--Eliminating the First Steps program
--Voting to end Missouri's Medicaid program by 2008
--Drastically cutting the state's children's health care program (CHIPS)
F on Education
--Giving $0 in new discretionary education funding
--Withholding $100 million in education funding
--All but assuring courts will be running our schools after failing to reform the state's education funding system
F for Hurting Families:
--Taking away rights of all workers injured on the job and rewarding businesses that keep unsafe workplaces
--Cutting support for adoptive parents
--Cutting home-delivered meals for senior citizens
F for Justice
--Rationed justice for Missourians injured by negligent corporations
F for Integrity
--Proposed a budget that is $240 million out of balance
--Gave $3.6 million in no-bid state contracts to the family of the federal prosecutor responsible for investigating corruption in his administration
--Awarding of fee offices to political cronies and campaign donors led to investigations of both state and federal ethics violations
--Let lobbyists handpick his cabinet, allowing insurance execs to select the state's chief insurance watchdog
--Spent $117,000 redecorating his personal offices, at the same time he was demanding state agencies slash their spending and he had called for gutting health coverage for 100,000 Missourians
--Had the state buy two brand new SUVs for him and his family to use at the same time he enacted a ban on new vehicle purchases for the rest of the state government
F for Keeping Promises
--Reduced Medicaid eligibility
--Failed to address the school foundation formula
--Cut aid to Missouri's most vulnerable rather than rooting out waste and fraud
--Withheld education money from Missouri's colleges and universities

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Frank Rich's Sunday New York Times column about tonight's "Justice Sunday" t.v. presentation, starring Bill Frist, discloses that "activist judges" is code for gay.
Back [in the sixties, George] Wallace called for the impeachment of Frank M. Johnson Jr., the federal judge in Alabama whose activism extended to upholding the Montgomery bus boycott and voting rights march. Despite stepped-up security, a cross was burned on Johnson's lawn and his mother's house was bombed.
The fraudulence of "Justice Sunday" begins but does not end with its sham claims to solidarity with the civil rights movement of that era. "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias," says the flier for tonight's show, "and now it is being used against people of faith." In truth, Bush judicial nominees have been approved in exactly the same numbers as were Clinton second-term nominees. Of the 13 federal appeals courts, 10 already have a majority of Republican appointees. So does the Supreme Court. It's a lie to argue, as Tom DeLay did last week, that such a judiciary is the "left's last legislative body," and that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, is the poster child for "outrageous" judicial overreach. Our courts are as highly populated by Republicans as the other two branches of government.
The "Justice Sunday" mob is also lying when it claims to despise activist judges as a matter of principle. Only weeks ago it was desperately seeking activist judges who might intervene in the Terri Schiavo case as boldly as Scalia & Co. had in Bush v. Gore. The real "Justice Sunday" agenda lies elsewhere. As Bill Maher summed it up for Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show last week: " 'Activist judges' is a code word for gay." The judges being verbally tarred and feathered are those who have decriminalized gay sex (in a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Kennedy) as they once did abortion and who countenance marriage rights for same-sex couples. This is the animus that dares not speak its name tonight. To paraphrase the "Justice Sunday" flier, now it's the anti-filibuster campaign that is being abused to protect bias, this time against gay people.
Anyone who doesn't get with this program, starting with all Democrats, is damned as a bigoted enemy of "people of faith." But "people of faith," as used by the event's organizers, is another duplicitous locution; it's a code word for only one specific and exclusionary brand of Christianity. ...
Tonight's megachurch setting and pseudoreligious accouterments notwithstanding, the actual organizer of "Justice Sunday" isn't a clergyman at all but a former state legislator and candidate for insurance commissioner in Louisiana, Tony Perkins. He now runs the Family Research Council, a Washington propaganda machine devoted to debunking "myths" like "People are born gay" and "Homosexuals are no more likely to molest children than heterosexuals are." It will give you an idea of the level of Mr. Perkins's hysteria that, as reported by The American Prospect, he told a gathering in Washington this month that the judiciary poses "a greater threat to representative government" than "terrorist groups." And we all know the punishment for terrorists. Accordingly, Newsweek reports that both Justices Kennedy and Clarence Thomas have "asked Congress for money to add 11 police officers" to the Supreme Court, "including one new officer just to assess threats against the justices." The Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making body for the federal judiciary, has requested $12 million for home-security systems for another 800 judges.

I recommend reading the entire column.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Radical right wing Republicans have painted themselves into a corner by threatening the nuclear option, and now Rick Santorum is darting his eyes around the room, looking for a way out. He's privately arguing for delay because internal Republican Party polls apparently show a lack of support for eliminating the filibuster. The poll figures aren't being released--which, in itself, tells us that the G.O.P. is worried about what they say. Santorum comes from moderate Pennsylvania, and his extremist rhetoric on Shiavo and "the option" have cost him dearly in state polls. He's up for reelection next year and is currently trailing his political rival 49-35.
Daily Kos, an excellent left-wing blog, quotes Dick Morris, a Republican writer:
With the filibuster decision bookended by the Terry Schiavo case before and a Supreme Court confirmation battle likely following it, the issue has the potential to spell disaster for the Republican Party.
Now that Iraq seems to be more pacified and the war on terror is receding as the key national issue, Bush can no longer count on his success in protecting America to anchor his popularity. His inept handling of the Social Security reform issue further drains his approval ratings.
But an attempt to switch the rules in the middle of the game on judicial filibusters will really make his alliance with the Christian right the main issue in his second-term presidency, with disastrous results.
Americans are simply not on board with his Moral Majority agenda. They voted for Bush twice -- or once -- despite his advocacy of a pro-life position, and his Schiavo posturing alienated moderate voters even more. His attempt to bar a filibuster will be seen as an effort to steamroll America into accepting the radical-right agenda on moral issues and will cost Bush the ballast he needs to appeal to the center of American politics.

When Dems stick together, as they have on this issue and Social Security, they can be an effective opposition party. Two more recent signs of a stiffening backbone surfaced from conservative Democratic senators. Ken Salazar, just elected in Colorado, lit into Focus on the Family last Thursday, saying: "I think what has happened is Focus on the Family has been hijacking Christianity and become an appendage of the Republican Party. I think it's using Christianity and religion in a very unprincipled way."
The same day, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who has considered himself an evangelical Christian for 25 years, pointed out that theocon tactics threaten "to make the followers of Jesus Christ just another special-interest group. It is presumptuous of them to think that they represent all Christians in America, even to say they represent all evangelical Christians."
A backlash against the prospect of the Moral Majority running our country--now wouldn't that be loverly.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

About some things, I'd like to be wrong, and Iraq is one of them. I listened to the enthusiasm about their election and read a news report about Iraqi soldiers killing 85 insurgents, locating them with the help of Baghdad citizens. I've listened to Bill Maher point out that they've only had a government since January. Give them more than...say, a couple of weeks, he advises, to get a democracy in place. After all, he reminds listeners, our own country didn't even have a constitution for eleven years after the Revolutionary War started. I wish such optimism was justified, but it isn't.
An article in the May 2 issue of The Nation by Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts summed up his visit to Iraq. He came home just as skeptical as ever. He rode into Baghdad in a helicopter between two soldiers pointing their guns down at the ground. He spent most of his only day there (staying overnight was too dangerous) in the heavily fortified Green Zone, listening to the brass try to sell eight members of Congress a bill of goods: Conditions here are improving; we have 147,000 Iraqi troops; we do not plan to build permanent bases here. They admitted to no post-invasion mistakes and just kept repeating, "We're moving in the right direction." One military leader said that he can tell conditions are easing because when U.S. helicopters fly over certain parts of Iraq, people wave.
Considering his own helicopter ride into Baghdad, McGovern asked if perhaps the officer was confusing a wave with a plea not to shoot. The congressman's take on conditions there was 180 from what was being touted.
Conditions are not improving. Iraqi women leaders he talked to said that there was more electricity before the war, and according to the World Food Program, hunger among Iraqis is getting worse. It's true that the recent level of violence has decreased, but it's still unacceptable, and the insurgents use our presence there to recruit members.
We have no plans to draw down our troops because most of the Iraqi troops aren't combat capable, and no one can say when they will be. In fact, even their "85 insurgents killed" headline was, it turns out, likely to have been exaggerated.
The claim that we're not going to build permanent bases there is disingenuous: Congress just appropriated $500 million dollars for that purpose. Oh, and Bush plans to ask for more billions for the war later this year.
In fact, the only honest answers McGovern received while he was there came from the soldiers--who told him straightforwardly that they'd been forbidden to share any complaints with visitors. So McGovern came away feeling that the lies that led to this war and to his mistrust of the Bushies are just continuing.
But Bush's re-election and the supposed good news from Iraq have taken the steam out of the anti-war movement. Unfortunately, our troops will not be coming home until the anti-war movement here revs up again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tom DeLay and
The Courts

by Calvin Trillin

The courts, DeLay believes, have run amok.
He's catalogued the wrongs that must be righted.
If he already rails against the courts,
Just think of how he'll feel once he's indicted.

May 2 issue of The Nation

Here's a short, timely article from the online magazine, Truthout:

New Pope Intervened against Kerry in US 2004 Election Campaign
Agence France-Presse
Tuesday 19 April 2005

Washington - German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican theologian who was elected Pope Benedict XVI, intervened in the 2004 US election campaign ordering bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters including presidential candidate John Kerry.
In a June 2004 letter to US bishops enunciating principles of worthiness for communion recipients, Ratzinger specified that strong and open supporters of abortion should be denied the Catholic sacrament, for being guilty of a "grave sin."
He specifically mentioned "the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws," a reference widely understood to mean Democratic candidate Kerry, a Catholic who has defended abortion rights.
The letter said a priest confronted with such a person seeking communion "must refuse to distribute it."
A footnote to the letter also condemned any Catholic who votes specifically for a candidate because the candidate holds a pro-abortion position. Such a voter "would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy communion," the letter read.
The letter, which was revealed in the Italian magazine L'Espresso last year, was reportedly only sent to US Catholic bishops, who discussed it in their convocation in Denver, Colorado, in mid-June.
Sharply divided on the issue, the bishops decided to leave the decision on granting or denying communion to the individual priest. Kerry later received communion several times from sympathetic priests.
Nevertheless, in the November election, a majority of Catholic voters, who traditionally supported Democratic Party candidates, shifted their votes to Republican and eventual winner George W. Bush.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

If we don't get our deficit under control, the economic consequences could be devastating. If foreign investors decide we're not financially responsible enough and stop investing here, the bottom could fall right out of our economy. Oddly enough, though, there's a solution to the deficit quandary--or there would be if the Bush administration weren't a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America--and that would be to get corporations to stop their tax cheating. We could bring in an additional $312 billion to $353 billion a year. An American Prospect column by Robert Kuttner points out that:
Much of [the big tax cheating] is in the form of very complex tax shelters, deliberately designed to make the tax evasion techniques so complicated that auditors have trouble figuring out what's legal and what isn't. Much of the rest happens overseas, where affiliates of U.S. corporations arrange to book their profits in tax havens with which the United States has no enforcement treaty.
Last fall, Citizens for Tax Justice examined federal taxes paid by 275 of America's largest corporations. On average, they paid a rate of 17.3 percent -- lower than the rate paid by nearly everyone who is reading this column. The statutory corporate rate is 35 percent.

Clinton was taking steps to make corporate tax evasion more difficult, but then Bush arrived . . . .
[The Bush] administration, in its first weeks in office, sidetracked an agreement negotiated by the Clinton administration that would have produced greater tax collaboration among nations. The agreement would have required the reporting of financial transactions with nations used as tax havens.
But this sort of international enforcement is strenuously resisted by America's blue chip trade associations, corporate lobbyists, and their political allies. ''This is a crime wave," says McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice, ''facilitated by the most prestigious accounting firms and law firms, with ordinary taxpayers footing the bill."
The Bush administration is willing to invade privacy when the purpose is thwarting terrorists but abets criminals when the purpose is corporate tax evasion. As the folk song ''Pretty Boy Floyd" put it, ''Some will rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen."

Kuttner's column is not long in case you care to read it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Family Research Council insists that using the filibuster to derail radical right judicial nominations is an attack on "people of faith". Not at all. These are not nominations that most people of faith in this country would approve of. Rather these are judges approved by such radical clerics as Jerry Falwell and others like him irrational enough to think that the Tinky Winky teletubby is gay because it's purple and that Bert and Ernie are lovers. It would be irresponsible to let the theocons take over the branch of government that is meant to be independent of voters' passions.
Blocking these nominations is not an attack on all people of faith any more than pulling out an obnoxious weed from your flower bed is an affront against the environment. By weeding out the bad guys, who would use the constitution to suit their limited views, the Democrats are protecting the checks and balances in our government so that people of every faith can have freedom in our country. Radical right Christians, no matter how sincere they consider themselves, are ignoring a basic tenet on which this country was founded. They're acting as if anybody who tries to stop them from taking over the entire government is in league with the devil to keep Christians from running their own country. Do Americans want a theocracy such as the one in Iran, here?

Friday, April 15, 2005

A couple of years ago, Paul Krugman wrote a column about the dangers to our economy of many corporations underfunding their pension plans. The warning fell into a black hole. I heard no more about it--until I saw the cover article of the April Harper's magazine: "The $4.7 Trillion Pyramid--Why Social Security Won't Be Enough to Save Wall Street." It turns out that rescuing underfunded pensions may be the lurking motivation in the rush to privatize Social Security. Let me explain.
Until the fifties, few average Americans had money in stocks. IRAs and 401(k)s didn't exist yet. Then in 1950 General Motors set up employee pensions by deducting a percentage from each paycheck and adding a percentage of corporate money. Other businesses followed suit and soon everybody was doing it. The influx of cash contributed to the fifties bull market. From the beginning, though, corporations tended to fudge on their responsibilities by investing the money only in their own stock, thus driving the price up and giving them enough cash to buy out other companies. The problem was that if a company went bankrupt, the pensions disappeared as well. In the seventies, the government required corporations to diversify their pension investments and mandated that all such pension funds had to buy insurance from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC). Well and good, but as the decades rolled on, more and more corporations began underfunding their pension plans. They justified shortchanging pensions by making wildly optimistic predictions about the rate of return they expected from the market, in essence saying, "This is all we need to invest for our pensions because we expect fantastic returns."
The faster companies projected their funds to grow, the less they had to set aside to pay their retirees. The lower set-asides in turn allowed them to report higher earnings, thereby driving up the price of the company's own stock to "create shareholder value." Faced with a choice between living up to their pension promises or reporting higher net earnings, companies simply decided not to live up to their employee agreements.

Companies could squeak by with that kind of thinking during the nineties, but once the high tech stock bubble burst, corporations began facing consequences. Pension plans for the airline and steel industries, in particular, are in trouble, and the auto industry looks shaky as well. Of course, there is insurance for such problems, but a series of bankruptcies last year pushed the PBGC $23 billion into the red, so if the PBGC had to bail out all the underfunded pensions at once, it would go bankrupt itself.
What these businesses need is a large enough influx of cash into the market to give them great returns on their investments. Enter privatized Social Security accounts. They would keep the Ponzi scheme afloat for a few years more. Eventually, of course, it would collapse, though.
It's not the first time a government has scammed investors. In the early seventeen hundreds, both Britain and France, desperate to pay off public debt, persuaded citizens to invest in stock bubbles that burst and the investors paid dearly. One way or another, the public bids fair to pay for this pension fiasco. Perhaps the G.O.P. take on it is that it's better to put off the day of reckoning. But I think we'd be better off swallowing the bitter pill when pensions go bust and knowing the truth about who was at fault. Keeping the Ponzi scheme going by privatizing Social Security will only create larger disasters in the end.
After the market crash of 1929, F.D.R. put Jack Kennedy's father, Joe, in charge of the SEC and ordered him to craft a series of market reforms. Joe Kennedy had made a fortune in the market in the twenties and more money even as the crash was going on. F.D.R. took a lot of heat for the appointment, but his theory was that it takes a thief to catch a thief, or at least that a thief might know how to prevent future robberies. Considering the never-ending craftiness of corporations, we need a new Kennedy/Roosevelt duo in power in every generation. Without someone to rein them in, corporations, shortsighted in their greed, will always find a way to shoot the whole country in the foot.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Mike, I want this on a bumper sticker! :)

"The meek shall inherit the earth, just as soon as we kick some right-wing ass."


Mike Ankelman writes:

At the end of my rant (what? another?), please find a GREAT example of how progressives need to learn to speak to the electorate about complicated issues
like the Terri Schiavo case. I'm not joking. I'm as serious as a hemorrhoidal flare-up on a 100-mile bike ride. This is how it needs to be done.

But first, another example. The Missouri state Republicans (Their Motto: "Making Mississippi look better every day") recently fell all over themselves in
order to pass a bill that would make it illegal to take a picture of any puppy mill without permission, thereby protecting those lawbreakers who operate
illegally substandard puppy mills from any reporters who would dare attempt to disclose their illegalities by securing irrefutable photographic proof.

The Democrats should have compared this bill to making it illegal to take a picture of a criminal robbing a bank, or a drug dealer selling drugs. They
should have held the Republicans responsible for making the disclosure of a crime A CRIME ITSELF. And there's your soundbite for the 5 o'clock news --
"Democrats accuse Republicans of protecting criminal activity for political payback." THEN people would pay attention.

And if you can't make political hay with starving puppies living in their own excrement, hobbling on the painful wire floors of tiny cages with no light or
heat, then turn the freakin' party over to Democracy For America, Americans Coming Together, Move On .Org, and Common Cause.

If we can take pictures of people in their own cars running red lights, if we can take pictures of unsanitary meat-processing practices, it should be legal
to take a picture of a puppy mill or other so-called "animal husbandry facility" to document animal abuse, if admission to said facility was obtained
legally, whether or not by deceit, i.e., going undercover and getting a job at a puppy mill in order to get pictures. 60 Minutes and other news shows do it all
the time. The last time I looked, deceit, itself, was not illegal.

What the Republicans have done, are doing, and will continue to do, is abject political thuggery. It's time to implement some razor-sharp stiletto
tactics, and make Republicans pay dearly for their arrogant audacity.

The meek shall inherit the earth, just as soon as we kick some right-wing ass. (You may quote me.) Here's the afore-promised example (that came to me as a forwarded e-mail, by
the way -- thanks, Beth!) of a great grassroots response to the Terri Schiavo case. It effectively taps the emotive, anti-"guv-mint" sentiments of the
"I.Q.-99-Or-Less-Club" known as the Red State electorate:

New Living Will

I, _________________________ (fill in the blank), being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means.

Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of peckerwood Politicians who couldn't pass ninth-grade biology if their lives
depended on it.

If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to sit up and ask for a diet Pepsi, it should be presumed that I won't ever get better. When
such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my spouse, children and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes and call it a day.

Under no circumstances shall the members of any Legislature enact a special law to keep me on life-support machinery. It is my wish that these
boneheads mind their own damn business, and pay attention instead to the health, education and future of the millions of Americans who aren't in a
permanent coma.

Under no circumstances shall any politicians butt into this case. I don't care how many fundamentalist votes they're trying to scrounge for
their run for the presidency in 2008, it is my wish that they play politics with someone else's life and leave me alone to die in peace.

I couldn't care less if a hundred thousand religious zealots send e-mails to legislators in which they pretend to care about me. I don't know
these people, and I certainly haven't authorized them to preach and crusade on my behalf. They should mind their own business too.

If any of my family goes against my wishes and turns my case into a political cause, I hereby promise to come back from the grave and make his
or her existence a living hell.




Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Couldn't help reporting this hot, just-breaking "story" (Since I'm not a main-stream media journalist, I have to admit it's not totally true up front):

George W. Bush Elected Pope!
Catholic Cardinals Stunned!

Reported by Willie E. Davis

The almost 120 Cardinals from around the world that gathered to choose a successor in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel were stunned and expressed amazement. Cardinal Mohoney the Vatican spokesperson had this to say, "We in the conclave are all shocked. We cast our vote's using these new electronic voting machines.The results overwhelmingly favored George W. Bush over all the Catholic candidates. The last Pope, John Paul, was a superb linguist, fluently speaking 11 languages, this one can't speak fluently in one language. We just don't know what to say."

The White House has announced that Dick Cheney will assume command as President of the world tomorrow morning, when "W' travels to Rome to begin his duties as Pope.

George W. Bush had this to say moments ago as he spoke from the Rose Garden:

"I am honored to be the spiritual lighthouse, and the first War Pope. I promise Evangelical Catho-licks and Prostates alike that I will be embodied in salvation and fair in the performance of my duties. I am a Unitifier, not a Divide-a-cater. I am obliged to try to save as many lost souls as I can, at least the Devout Wealthy Elite Souls, as it is well known that Heaven is a very select place, indeed, it is more exclusive than even the best of country clubs. It is a members only Heaven. I may have to put a fence around it.

I will preform miracles in a fair and balanced manner. Just as God use to wipe out entire races of people without warning, burning whole towns of perverts, killing off an entire nations, and drowning everybody without a ticket to board Noah's Ark, I shall deliver the world from Evil Empires as I unleash the Apocalypse Wrath of Revelations. I will ensure the Rapture and the Reunion with our beloved deceased family members and with our departed purebred pets. I will not allow those awful Liberal Sissy Homosapiens to marry each other and I will put and end to the Clergy marrying Choirboys.

I will lead the Crusades against all them towel-headed heathens demon-possessed
voodoo-hoodoo barbarians who's Pseudo-religions that don't except Christ as the Light of Democracy, and who worship fake, made-up gods. They shall they shall
suffer my Godly Conservative Wrath and I will Destroy them with my Cherubic Armies of Angels and they shall burn for eternity in Hell, because Me and God don't take no prisoners!

Remember, it is written in the Gospel of Luke, or.... maybe it's Larry, ugh, 12, ugh,5 or something, that Jesus told us we are to live our lives in FEAR of God and the Terrorists, for God and the Terrorists have the power not only to kill us, but to torture us forever in Hell.

And to you Non Believers and Democrats, I say, I can't wait to see you burn in Hell, I mean it.....I can't wait!!!"

Thanks to:

The 1967 movie "A Guide to the Married Man" is a comedy about men cheating on their wives. In one scene, a wife walks in on her husband and his lover in bed. She rails at him, but he never says a word, just gets dressed and goes into another room where he sits down with the evening paper. He doesn't utter that canard, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?" but that's the point. And after awhile, the wife decides not to believe her lying eyes and asks what he wants for dinner.
Wish I could ask Tom DeLay if he's seen that movie, because it embodies his modus operandus. A recent Associated Press article detailed two fund-raising memos from his office:
One fund-raiser wrote, "What companies that you know of would be interested in tort reform in Texas with asbestos problems?" His memo was prospecting for donors to the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, or TRMPAC.
The memo got an answer identifying several large companies and interest groups nationwide, the documents show. ...
Other fund-raising memos mention that Texas racetrack owners needed state permission for video gambling, that banks wanted new Texas home-lending rules and that energy firms wanted less regulation.

DeLay's spokesman responded that "These memos already have been covered in the press, and the conclusions being reached are speculative and unsubstantiated."
In other words, are you going to believe me or your lying eyes? I've watched many a cop show where the drug dealer handed over the goods, took money, and got arrested. The two situations seem analogous to me.
It turns out, though, that 42 percent of Americans aren't even sure who Mr. DeLay is. That's according to an editorial in this morning's Post that lays out the case against him.
So. Maybe it's still too early to successfully get him boosted out of the House Majority Leader position. In fact, some Congressional Dems want him to stay. They'd prefer to have him to point their fingers at when they're campaigning next year.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I'm aware that Pope John Paul II had many virtues, but the mainstream media has so deified him that I half expect him to rise again in three days and appear on Larry King Live. The April 25 issue of The Nation, on the other hand, gives a balanced assessment of his papacy. Without further ado, I'll let the editors speak:
Pope John Paul II knew, above all, how to seize the historical moment--particularly if it was televised. He condemned exploitation and tyranny, hatred and violence, capitalist globalization, imperialist war and the death penalty. After instructing the Polish Stalinists that workers were not "means of production," he told post-Communist Eastern Europe that Marxism contained a "kernel of truth" in its refusal to make everything in life a commodity. He opposed both wars in Iraq and supported the United Nations, not the American Empire. He insisted on the moral responsibility of the rich Northern Hemisphere to the poorer Southern one and on decent treatment of Third World immigrants to Europe. He apologized for the Roman Catholic Church's terrible past--for the Crusades, the Inquisition, anti-Semitism. He opened dialogue with Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
At the same time, however, he lived a step from the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo's depiction of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and had a sense of sin that constantly threatened his doctrines of hope. He was an inflexible traditionalist in denying equality to women in church and society. He regarded homosexuals as sinners and so legitimized the most primitive of hatreds. These are not just matters of dogma. The Vatican's opposition to birth control programs contributes to the povery of the Third World; its refusal to accept the use of condoms likely facilitated the spread of AIDS; its coalitions with Islamists in international bodies reinforced their capacity to deny rights to women.
Argument and experiment within the church, so creative under John XXIII, gave way to personalized party line. ... Theologian Father Hans Kung declared the papacy of John Paul II a monarchical nightmare. ... The fate of the liberation theology movement is a striking example: In a continent desperate for justice, it was pronounced heretical--setting back reform of Latin American society a generation. ...
Loving concern for the earth and its inhabitants, refusal to accept inequality and abhorrence for violence are themes on which philosophical antagonists can unite, but first their philosophical differences will have to be confronted in dialogue. It is difficult to see how Catholics can engage in that dialogue with secular progressives, and with the other world religions, if dialogue in their own church is so attenuated. The Pope leaves, then, an ambiguous legacy.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Why is Bush calling government bonds in the Social Security Trust fund IOUs,
as if they were scraps of paper in a shoe box? Why is Bush "implying" that
our government may default on the treasury bonds that will pay future Social
Security? Those "IOUs" Bush loves to talk about, are the ones HE WROTE, with
our credit, when he created the deficit to finance an unnecessary war and
tax cuts for the rich. Is Bush saying that the IOUs he wrote are no good?
Our President wants people to be confused, insecure and afraid, because
there is one thing this President knows how to exploit and that is FEAR.
Remember what happened when Bush "implied" that Iraq had a nuclear bomb? It
didn¹t matter that Iraq never had WMD of any kind; Bush still got his war.
Isn't it ironic that those who question the wisdom of American foreign
policy are ridiculed as unpatriotic and weak. Now our President is
questioning the very solvency of the United States government. Yet, no one
points out how irresponsible and UNPATRIOTIC his actions are or how Bush is
weakening our fiscal power by casting doubt on the "full faith and credit"
of the United States of America.
It is time to stand up to this nonsense. Bush can NOT get away with
preaching that his government is all powerful in foreign affairs, but too
weak to pay it's debt to the elderly and infirm.

Wendy Foster Dickson

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Has anyone in your family suffered from diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, MS, sickle cell disease, ALS, or a spinal cord injury? If so, you belong to the more than half of Missouri families who could potentially be helped by stem cell research. Nevertheless, Missouri Right to Life, the most powerful grassroots lobby in the state, is dead set against it. They threatened Republican legislators who've opposed abortion with downgrading them from an A to an F if they voted against the stem cell research ban. Considering that threat, it's surprising how many Republicans opposed the ban. The stakes had to be high for them to risk offending MRL.
Public opinion in this state soundly favors stem cell research by a margin of two to one. That polling data has motivated Republicans to step out on a limb and dare MRL to chop it off. The other motivator is economic. The human genome project has put Washington University on the high tech scientific map. Even science students who don't necessarily plan to study genetics are attracted to Wash. U. (and St. Louis U.) as a result of that kind of reputation. We've got to be graduating those high quality science students if we hope to lure biotech firms to this area, and biotech is the economic wave of the future. Blunt and other Republicans know that. In fact, Sam Fox, a local businessman and the biggest G.O.P. contributor in the state, is disgusted with the anti-science bent of this legislature. Fox contributes money to the science department at Wash. U. and spoke with disgust recently of "religious zealots".
The stem cell ban is dead--for this year, anyway. But the rift it created in the Republican party may have repercussions. The legislators who dreaded offending MRL with their stem cell vote must be heaving a sigh of relief that the bill got shelved. And in fact, some Democrats were hoping for a vote on it just to put those people on the spot and create dissension in G.O.P. ranks. But Republicans who opposed the ban didn't completely dodge the bullet. They got grazed, because the only way to avoid a vote on the issue was to stand up against it during the floor debate and make it obvious that the bill would fail.
This bill ought never to have been proposed. Even though it didn't pass and won't pass, it has a chilling effect on biotech companies looking to locate here. Who wants to be a scientist in Dogpatch? There is an upside, though. Not only is the bill dead meat, it has opened a rift in the state G.O.P. Hallelujah, and let's hope it grows.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I was pleasantly slackjawed when I discovered that Matt Blunt would not support the ban on stem cell research in Missouri. Then I learned that many Republican legislators share his point of view. Whoa. What's up with this progressivism? It turns out that when legislators learned what was actually involved in--pardon the mouthful--somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT, many of them reacted with: "Oh. Is that all it is? Well, that's ... no big deal."
This is not to say, of course, that all Republican legislators think creating new stem cell lines should be allowed in Missouri. Matt Bartle (R-Lee's Summit) is sponsoring a bill to criminalize it here. (Almost four years ago, President Bush declared that no federal funds would be granted for creating new stem cell lines, but he did nothing to criminalize it.)
So what exactly is this process that has state Republicans at odds with each other? Creating a new stem cell line involves removing the nucleus from an egg and replacing it with any ordinary human cell, then activating the egg to begin dividing. From the resulting mass, cells are taken for research. So why all the fuss? Some of it arose from the unfortunate choice of terminology that scientists originally used to describe the process: embryonic stem cell research. "Embryonic" is such a hot button word and, in fact, an inaccurate one. Most medical dictionaries define an embryo as a fertilized egg that has been implanted in the womb. Since these eggs never meet a sperm and aren't implanted in the womb, they aren't embryos. Nevertheless, Bartle et. al. feel that the eggs have the potential for life. Such a protective attitude may seem odd considering how profligate God or Mother Nature--choose your term--is, even with fertilized eggs. Almost half of them are washed out in menstruation. One wag, Katha Pollitt of The Nation, even suggested that if we're truly concerned about fertilized eggs, perhaps we should have funerals for tampons, just to be on the safe side.
Bartle would be horrified at her flip attitude. During Wednesday's debate he pointed out that if senators doubt whether the process results in life, they should "err on the side of protecting human life." Chris Koster (R-Harrisonville), however, argued that "What makes us human occurs in the womb, not the petri dish." Playing on Bartle's own rhetoric, he suggested that if senators cannot verify scientifically that the cells are human life, they should err on the side of protecting people who are definitely alive and hoping for cures.
At the Wednesday St. Louis Meetup, Don Ruben, of Missouri Cures, explained the basics of stem cell research and its political consequences in our state. He was clear and informative. He gave us forms for signing up to support the fledgeling group, and I urge you to go to the website and add your name to their mushrooming group.
Ruben made a point of using either the term SCNT or else "early stage stem cell research". If there was anything about his presentation I would change, it would be those references. What a cold fish term those four letters are and the alternative is just a mouthful. So here's my question for you born again framers of language: what should we call it?
I'll have more to add tomorrow on the political ramifications of this issue.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Thanks to the Washington Post for the following:
Living will is the best revenge
By ROBERT FRIEDMAN, Perspective Editor
Published March 27, 2005
Like many of you, I have been compelled by recent events to prepare a more detailed advance directive dealing with end-of-life issues. Here's what mine says:
* In the event I lapse into a persistent vegetative state, I want medical authorities to resort to extraordinary means to prolong my hellish semiexistence. Fifteen years wouldn't be long enough for me.
* I want my wife and my parents to compound their misery by engaging in a bitter and protracted feud that depletes their emotions and their bank accounts.
* I want my wife to ruin the rest of her life by maintaining an interminable vigil at my bedside. I'd be really jealous if she waited less than a decade to start dating again or otherwise rebuilding a semblance of a normal life.
* I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and that little girl who got stuck in a well.
* I want those crackpots to spread vicious lies about my wife.
* I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.
* I want the people who attach themselves to my case because of their deep devotion to the sanctity of life to make death threats against any judges, elected officials or health care professionals who disagree with them.

There's more if you care to click here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

In case you've never read it, Daily Kos is a left wing blog worth signing up for. Take a look, for example, at today's entry:
Byron York of the National Review has a new book out "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy". Below is the cover, with what I assume are the players of said conspiracy. Daily Kos is on there. [Click here to see the cover and the comments.]
Problem is, I have never conspired with anyone else on the list. Not that I wouldn't mind doing some conspiring, mind you. But alas, we're still working up to it.
It'll be interesting to see what crazy theories York has cooked up for the book because quite frankly, he's about 2-5 years too early on this. We ARE building a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy to rival the $300 million conservatives spent on theirs every year. But we are but a seedling at this point. Not very "vast", in other words.
One thing I have heard -- York goes after some of our 527s and has a whole chapter devoted to the Center for American Progress. Word is this book is the first salvo of the Right's attempts to destroy our nascent institutions before they can get fully off the ground.
Whatever York has "dug up", expect to be the genesis of many a legal challenge from right wing "watchdog" groups in the coming months.

There are a bazillion comments. I liked these two:
"Potential conspirator here ... Let me know how I can help once this thing gets off the ground. Proud Member of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy."
This is the beginning of a concerted attack by the Right Wing as they conspire to destroy the Left Wing and progressives from effectively organizing into greater relevance and power. Don't be fooled by this as "paranoia". This is just good P.R. thrown out to frighten and squelch any real power developing from the Left Wing. It's NOT funny, and should be taken seriously. Fight back HARD on this to preserve OUR right to grow into a powerful force. Do not assume it's irrelevant because it so off the mark. This is an intentional assault and [full steam] resistance to this should be mobilized. This kind of book is not to be sneered at. It's just the beginning. Be aware!!

In case you've never read it, Daily Kos is a left wing blog worth signing up for. Take a look, for example, at today's entry:
Byron York of the National Review has a new book out "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy". Below is the cover, with what I assume are the players of said conspiracy. Daily Kos is on there. [Click here to see the cover and the comments.]
Problem is, I have never conspired with anyone else on the list. Not that I wouldn't mind doing some conspiring, mind you. But alas, we're still working up to it.
It'll be interesting to see what crazy theories York has cooked up for the book because quite frankly, he's about 2-5 years too early on this. We ARE building a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy to rival the $300 million conservatives spent on theirs every year. But we are but a seedling at this point. Not very "vast", in other words.
One thing I have heard -- York goes after some of our 527s and has a whole chapter devoted to the Center for American Progress. Word is this book is the first salvo of the Right's attempts to destroy our nascent institutions before they can get fully off the ground.
Whatever York has "dug up", expect to be the genesis of many a legal challenge from right wing "watchdog" groups in the coming months.

There are a bazillion comments. I liked these two:
"Potential conspirator here ... Let me know how I can help once this thing gets off the ground. Proud Member of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy."
This is the beginning of a concerted attack by the Right Wing as they conspire to destroy the Left Wing and progressives from effectively organizing into greater relevance and power. Don't be fooled by this as "paranoia". This is just good P.R. thrown out to frighten and squelch any real power developing from the Left Wing. It's NOT funny, and should be taken seriously. Fight back HARD on this to preserve OUR right to grow into a powerful force. Do not assume it's irrelevant because it so off the mark. This is an intentional assault and [full steam] resistance to this should be mobilized. This kind of book is not to be sneered at. It's just the beginning. Be aware!!

Monday, April 04, 2005

It's not because Dems are the minority party that they keep losing major legislative battles in D.C. recently. When they stick together, as they have on social security and ethics allegations about DeLay, they're hard to beat. They could have stopped drilling in ANWR, for example, if three Democratic senators hadn't caved. The vote would have been 52-48.
An article in Truthout, reprinted from The Nation, quickly lays out the numbers for us--the numbers of Democrats who fold under pressure from corporate money and avoid anything resembling gutsy. (For example, although polls showed Americans overwhelmingly opposed to DeLay's move to overrule Florida state law in the Schiavo case, only 53 House Democrats opposed it.)
The Nation plans to do what it can to pressure Democratic wafflers and weaklings:
Perhaps being shamed publicly, and being pressured by the grassroots, will help Congressional Democrats get their act together. Toward that end, we've initiated a biweekly "Minority/Majority" feature that identifies--by name--Democrats who give succor to the GOP. (It also praises those who've helped the cause of Democrats becoming the majority party again.) If Democrats don't define themselves as an effective opposition soon, they could end up being an ineffective one for a long time to come.
I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

I just suffered an attack of Molly Ivins withdrawal--curses on you, Eric Mink--but remedying the problem is as easy as clicking on AlterNet, which I did. A couple of weeks ago, Molly was pointing out that Tom DeLay is NOT typical of corrupt Texas legislators. Even the ethically challenged Texas pols wouldn't do what DeLay does. She certainly wouldn't claim they're angels:
The John Wesley Hardin Died for You Society has a theme song that goes: "He wasn't really bad. He was just a victim of his times." I sometimes find this useful in trying to explain Texas political ethics to outsiders.
My theory is that few Texas pols are actual crooks, they just have an overdeveloped sense of the extenuating circumstance. Woodrow Wilson Bean once warned himself that he was skatin' close to the thin edge of ethics. After a moment, he concluded, "Woodrow Wilson Bean, ethics is for young lawyers."
We had a governor who was caught in a big, fat lie about a football scandal (serious stuff) and explained, "Well, there never was a Bible in the room."

But DeLay is leagues beyond the "extenuating circumstance rationalizer". Let Molly, in her own inimitable way, explain the difference.
Click here to read the rest of "The Stench of Rotting Ethics".