Saturday, May 31, 2008

Some humor to lighten up a sad situation.

Today Barack Obama resigned from the church he has belonged to for twenty years, Trinity United Church of Christ.

He said that the reason he was resigning was because every time that a member of the clergy said anything there, it would be attributed to him, even when the comments did not reflect his own deeply held beliefs.

And he is right about that. The black churches in general (and Trinity United is no exception) provide a refuge in a community that is often overrun with crime, drugs and poverty. It provides young people with hope and a way forward, and helps people in the community meet their temporal as well as spiritual needs. But because of a handful of inflammatory statements, culled from hundreds of hours of sermons that have been videotaped, the church has been misrepresented and used as a campaign issue against Obama.

Even after resigning from the church, some out of touch reporter looking for a story asked why he didn't go further and 'denounce the church.' His reply was characteristically blunt: he won't denounce it because it doesn't warrant denouncing. The church does a great deal of good for many, many people and there is no reason to denounce a church, with a membership of thousands, because of a handful of stupid remarks made from the pulpit.

It is a sad day in America when someone is forced to resign from a church just because of what somebody else said.

I will say though that now that Barack Obama is no longer a member of this church, I have some humorous thoughts about some churches he could join instead:

Catholic: In case another former spiritual advisor goes off with some more stupid comments then Obama can talk to the Monsignor about performing an exorcism.

Jewish: Hey, what the heck? It might help him in Florida. Then again there is that circumcision requirement (ouch.)

Hare Krishna: Imagine how much money they could raise for the Obama campaign by bugging travelers in airports?

Muslim: Polling shows that as many as seven percent of the American people are so behind the times that they've never even heard of Rev. Wright and believe that Obama is a muslim. Might as well make them right about something.

Anglican: Technically the British monarch is at the head of the church, so if he got elected President would that return the United States to formal recognition of British rule?

Southern Baptist: He'd be in the front row for some more race-baiting sermons. Only the race would change.

LDS: Just in case he doesn't get elected President this gives him a backup plan. He could go visit his relatives in Kenya for two years. On a mission.

Born again: We've had two Presidents who were born again Christians. Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. On second thought-- pick a different church.

Jehovah's witness: How is this for getting votes? Stand there and pitch to the same voter ignoring requests to leave, until he or she says yes?

FLDS: Just in case he gets tired with Michelle, he could get another.... and then another.... and then another.... Why would he want that? Simple. He could really play with Bill Clinton's mind and get him back for some of those campaign attacks.

Hindu: Just in case he gets tired with God, he could get another.... and then another.... and then another....

Falun Gong: Imagine how well this would go over with the Chinese.

Tibetan Buddhist: Same as the above.

Wiccan: Can put a hex on the McCain campaign.

Taoist: Life is not all black and white (or red and blue) but can come together. Plus, this would help with the Korean community.

Atheist: If there is no God, that makes the President of the United States the most powerful being in the Universe. This might appeal more to the Clintons.

Pentecostal: These folks are the most in shape folks there are. For a guy with a packed schedule, you can go to church on Sunday AND get your calisthenics done all at the same time.

Penitente: New Mexico is always a close state, and besides the cactus whip will be a lot better for persuading wavering superdelegates than anything Hillary's got.

Mennonite: Join a nineteenth century church, to contast to Republicans who still have nineteenth century ideas.

Quaker: In line with his pledge to leave Iraq.

Satanic: He could invert his flag pin and get fifty pentagrams at once!

Voodoo: If he's behind in the campaign maybe he can get a McCain action figure and some pins...

Animism: It would give him a stronger case to make for ending global warming.

Eastern Orthodox: According to the Julian calendar, today is May 15. So he could theoretically produce a document proving that he joined the Eastern Orthodox church before Father Pfleger spoke at Trinity United on May 25, and save himself the headache if nobody discovers the ruse.

Ancient Inca: Helps get rid of problems. For example, for his induction ceremony he could have Reverend Wright and Father Pfleger wrapped head to toe in ropes and dropped down a volcano high in the Andes.

Ancient Egyptian: Who better than a sun worshipper to make the case for alternative energy?

Ancient Greek: Offers a path to victory in Iraq: pray to Mars. Hey, it makes as much sense as anything the Bush/McCain administration has proposed.

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Happy Birth Day, Baby

Deer Watching

Quiet, calm, peaceful,
Solemn-eyed, but alert.
These are the deer,
Prancing through the
Forest to the meadow.
Quiet, calm, peaceful,
Solemn-eyed, but alert.
These are the people
Who notice the deer,
Prancing through the
Forest to the meadow.

- Mattie -

[Mattie (Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek) was born July 17, 1990 with a rare neuromuscular disease called dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, one of the 43 types of diseases being researched by the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He died at Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 from complications of the disease that weakened most of his body's major functions.]


Friday, May 30, 2008

Defending The G. I. Bill

Putting the Republicans on Defense Over G.I. Bill

Carl Hulse, NYT:

As John Adler, a promising Democratic congressional candidate in New Jersey, ended an appearance at a fund-raiser on Thursday with Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, one guest posed a question: Would Congress override any presidential veto of a new plan to pay the college costs of post-Sept. 11 veterans?

* * * * *
The measure not only reminds voters of the human costs of the war in Iraq, they say, but it gets them thinking about the nation’s colossal investment there during difficult economic times here. And it can reinforce the sense that the Bush administration has sometimes dropped the ball when it comes to caring for returning members of the armed forces, i.e. Walter Reed.

* * * * *
Mr. Webb, a veteran and former Navy secretary, made the bill his calling card after arriving in the Senate in 2007. At times, he seems uncomfortable with the way it is being used to draw a political dividing line, with him on one side and Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate and fellow Vietnam veteran, on the other. And some Democrats were initially skeptical. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi seized on the idea and Democrats moved ahead.

Under the Webb plan, anyone who has served at least three years on active duty would be eligible for what amounts to four years at a state college along with help with housing and books. The overall cost is estimated at $52 billion over 10 years.

Republicans recognize the political dangers posed by the bill. Before leaving for Memorial Day, 25 Republican senators broke with the White House and their leadership to back the proposal as part of a larger spending package. Thirty-two House Republicans supported it as well, even though the House version was paid for by a new income tax on very affluent Americans.

In addition, Congressional Republicans have come up with an alternative to the Webb measure that has the blessing of President Bush, the Pentagon and Mr. McCain. It is less expansive than the Webb plan, would be more generous to those who stay in the military longer and would allow those who do their duty to share the education rewards with spouses and children – a concept known as transferability. Supporters of the alternative fear the Webb plan is so enticing it will hurt their efforts to retain experienced military personnel they have invested in through training.

* * * * *

Yet many Republicans concede they feel boxed in by the veterans proposal. They say it is hard to explain why they are not willing to invest $50 billion in college aid for returning combat troops when the nation is spending at least that much rebuilding Iraq. House Republicans also feel their brethren in the Senate hung them out to dry by embracing the measure after so many in the House rejected it, leaving them open to charges that they are standing in the way of new help for veterans.

Democrats jumped at the opportunity.

* * * * *
Republican groups are pushing back.

* * * * *

But Democrats have managed to confound the opposition on what is typically a signature Republican issue. In what already looms as a tough year, it should be doubly troubling for Republicans to find themselves on defense over defense.

Article cross-posted* at HuffPo.

Read/download No Where to Go But Back
and other songs *by Max And The Marginalized:

There’s an upward trajectory that they promised
But to be frankly honest, I must’ve misunderstood
‘Cause they’re taking double the years that they’re giving
Waving around yellow ribbons, but they’re not making good
So, can you help me figure it out?
I can’t tell which side they’re on
when they talk out of either side of their mouths

So pay no attention to the signals they send
It’s not what you do, it’s what you spend
If you intend to hold up your end of the pact
And I know there’s a carrot stuck on a stick
It keeps getting longer they keep getting sick
A hundred or so world’s away from the inside track
Because there’s nowhere to go but back

Stabilize America first

Billings Outpost News:

Let’s see if I have it right.

Middle class families can’t send their kids to college because federal loans are cut. Our bridges are collapsing, roads and schools are crumbling, 50 million Americans are without healthcare. Horrendous numbers of home mortgages are in foreclosure, our three very biggest banks failed but for taxpayer bailouts. More to go! Bush administration told us “deficits don’t matter. President Reagan proved that!” Try that on your budget!

Republicans cut our Veterans Administration budget so up to 15,000 permanently maimed vets have been discharged with no benefits or medical care Our surging military is paying $24 million weekly to Iraqi insurgents if they point out other insurgents.

The Bush administration said oil revenues would pay for Iraqi reconstruction but so far it’s Uncle Sam. Seventy-seven percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s war, but the $3 billion a week war just goes on and on. Are we nuts?

Sen. John McCain, who wants to be president, says we may need to be there 100 years to stabilize Iraq. I say, stabilize America first.

We are edging into the very black abyss of Depression. Get out of personal debt quickly if you can. You may have less than a year. Hurry!

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Bush Won't Read McCellan's Book

Bush Refuses to Read McClellan’s Book, Calling It ‘A Book’

Puts Chances of Reading Book at Zero

From Andy Borowitz:

On a day when Washington was abuzz with the news that former White House spokesperson Scott McClellan had published a tell-all memoir, President George W. Bush offered his personal reason for not reading it.

“I have no intention of reading Scott McClellan’s book,” Mr. Bush told reporters, “because it’s a book.”

Mr. Bush said he was “surprised” that Mr. McClellan had written a book to criticize him because “if you’re trying to communicate some criticism to me, a book is pretty much the last place you’d put it.”

The president said that he thought the chances of his someday reading Mr. McClellan’s book were “zero,” adding, “If I didn’t read the Iraq Study Group’s report, I really don’t think I’m about to read Scott McClellan’s little book.”

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

McMore Of McSame Old McSame

McSame: John McCain Offers a Third Term of Bush

Progressive Media USA Research, McCain Source:

Fact Check Highlights

Bush Endorsed McCain For 2008

* Bush Said McCain Was Best to "Carry Forth His Agenda."

* President Bush: McCain Is "Not Going To Change When It Comes To Taking On The Enemy."

* McCain Said He Calls Bush Every Day To Remind Bush of His "Extreme Loyalty."

* Bush Said He Will Do Whatever It Takes For McCain To Win.

* Bush Said He "Looks Forward To Vigorously Campaigning" For McCain.

* McCain Is a "Foot Soldier Following Bush."

* Cheney Set To Headline Closed-Door Fundraiser For McCain's Victory Fund.

* McCain's Campaign Hired Bush-Cheney 2004 Communications Director.

McCain Supported Bush 100 Percent in 2008, 95 Percent in 2007

According to Congressional Quarterly, McCain supported President Bush a majority of the time--supporting Bush as much as 100 percent in 2008 and 95 percent in 2007. According to CQ, "CQ tries to determine what the president personally, as distinct from other administration officials, does and does not want in the way of legislative action. This is done by analyzing his messages to Congress, news conference remarks and other public statements and documents."

(CQ’s Presidential Support studies try to determine how often a legislator votes in line with the President’s position:

So, these studies only track votes when the President has an explicit, stated opinion on a bill.)

McCain/Bush Friendship Based on Issues

McCain Said Relationship With Bush Based On Shared Views On The Agenda.

Republicans Agree: McSame As Bush

* McCain's National Security Adviser Said McCain Would Continue Bush's Policies In Iraq.

* Lindsey Graham Couldn't Describe How McCain's Worldview Differed From Bush's.

* Chuck Hagel Refused To Endorse McCain Because He Represents a Continuation of Bush's Iraq Policies.

* President Bush: McCain Is "Not Going To Change When It Comes To Taking On The Enemy."

McSame On Economic Plan

* Like Bush, McCain's Economic Plan Is Centered On Tax Cuts.

* McCain Said The Bush Tax Cuts "Have To Be Made Permanent."

* McCain Proposed Corporate Tax Rate Cut.

* McCain Proposed A Freeze Of Discretionary Spending.

* McCain Advocated Free Trade, Criticized "Hid[ing] Behind Walls."

McSame On Health Care

* McCain's Plan "Would Seek To Lure Workers Away From Their Company Health Plans."

* McCain's "Move Away From Employer-Based Coverage" Resembles Bush's Failed Plan.

* McCain's Plan Would Force Patients To "Buy Health Insurance On Their Own."

* McCain Voted Against Providing Insurance For Millions Of Uninsured Children.

* McCain Supports Excluding Seniors From Prescription Drug Coverage.

McSame On Privatizing Social Security

* McCain Supports Privatization.

* McCain Was A "Big Booster" Of Bush's Social Security Privatization Plan.

* McCain Said, "Private Savings Accounts Work."

* McCain Defended Bush Plan, Said "Personal Savings Accounts Are Workable And Have Worked In Other Countries."

McSame On Eliminating The Right To Choose And Promising to Appoint Extreme Judges

* "Roe v. Wade Is A Flawed Decision That Must Be Overturned."

* McCain Promised to Appoint "Clones" Of Bush Nominees Alito And Roberts.

McSame On Siding With Big Oil

* McCain's Plan Gives Tax Breaks To Big Oil.

McSame On Education

* No Child Left Behind Is A "Major Milestone" And "An Accountability Act."

* McCain Repeatedly Voted Against Fully Funding No Child Left Behind.


McSame refuses to respect, support and honor our troops:

C&L and many other sites fight everyday for the rights of our troops, their health care, benefits and the conditions of Walter Reed. And the best way I know how to fight for them is to never send them to war without a true cause and bring them home now so their families can see them alive and healthy. You are against Sen Webb’s GI Bill not because it doesn’t give them adequate compensation for their service, but as you say, it will lead to many more troops leaving the armed forces sooner...

Is that an honorable argument?

"And yet there are still those in the media that call McSame a Maverick. That horse was put out to pasture long ago. Oh, and since we know how much the aging Senator loves him some lobbyists", let's also mention McCain's ongoing lobbyist problems, and add more about the Great Company He Keeps, from the Can't Make This Stuff Up department.

Breaking news on Tuesday’s Countdown, as Keith Olbermann reveals that former Senator Phil Gramm, a general co-chair of Senator John McCain’s campaign, actually lobbied Congress on behalf of financial giant UBS to try and stop legislation aimed at installing industry regulations that could have prevented the current mortgage foreclosure crisis.

* * * * *

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy, federal records show."

* * * * *

"So while Gramm was advising McCain to let people lose their homes rather than get more favorable terms on their loans, he was active as a lobbyist for UBS, which had a LOT to gain.

* * * * *

" add more to the growing UBS/John McCain story, MarketPlace reports this morning that the bank that caters to the very wealthy has warned some of its employees not to travel to the U.S., for fear that they might be arrested.

A couple of weeks back, a UBS banker was indicted on tax evasion charges, after it was alleged that he helped an American real estate developer to avoid taxes. Apparently, this was no rogue employee."

More on McSame's Lobbyist problems...

Chris in Paris:
McCain's lobbyist problems continue - will Phil Gramm now resign?

Christy Hardin Smith:
McCain’s Cronies: Phil Gramm (R-Enron) And His UBS Lobbying Problem

This sounds like a whole lot of Big Trouble. America sure doesn't need McMore of McSame old McFailures.

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McClellan was telling the truth.

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan is out with a book in which he claims that the Bush administration deliberately skewed facts in order to 'sell the Iraq war.'

So the die hard Bush loyalists are calling him a liar.

Only thing is, he isn't the first guy to say this. His account of how the country was mislead and stampeded into war reflects what was earlier said by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and by former Chief of Staff to Collin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson.

And they called them liars too.

OK. When the Bush administration ends and there are all those 'kiss and tell' books out there, they must all be written by liars too. Or will the Bush-can-do-no-wrong chorus just stick their fingers deeper into their ears and yell louder?

At what point do we start to blame the Bush administration for incompetence? If nothing else, for hiring so many 'liars?'

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering Our Veterans

With Amazing Grace:

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

~ Theodore O'Hara

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A few cheap shots and McCain being old:

Best thoughts about McCain being old:

1. He was an ace pilot in the war. In fact, he survived at least one dogfight with the Red Baron.

2. He went to junior high school with Strom Thurmond.

3. If McCain loses the election, he could team up with Bob Dole on those viagra commercials.

4. If they make another 'Indiana Jones' movie, McCain could play himself in it.

5. He thinks of himself as a Republican maverick, like Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, the truth be known, McCain really is Teddy Roosevelt.

6. McCain had a chance to sign the Declaration of Independence, but he decided to steer an 'independent' course and try to reach across the aisle to the British instead.

7. McCain is against torture. He became convinced it doesn't work during the Inquisition.

8. McCain, as a teenager, used to baby sit Ronald Reagan.

9. McCain's confusion over which Muslims are the Shiites and which are the Sunnis is understandable. He's used to thinking of them all as Saracens.

10. McCain has recently been speaking out against Global Warming. He remembers how hard it was for everyone the last time the ice sheets melted and flooded the land bridge to Asia.

11. And finally-- Al Gore may have invented the internet, but McCain has never been properly credited for his invention of the fishing net.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Remember acid rain?

Every once in awhile I will put up a comment on another blog that I feel would stand in its own right as a post.

And that is the case here. On Ann Althouse's blog (one of several I frequent where there are a range of views represented) she took some pictures of the forest and posted them in a post entitled, the view from the forest floor.

I thought about how great it is that liberals and environmentalists won a big battle a generation ago. The comment I posted was this:

I am reminded of how back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, many northern and especially Canadian forests were being destroyed by acid rain. So a campaign was launched to put in scrubbers in the smokestacks of power plants to sharply curtail emissions of sulfuric and nitric acid caused by the burning of sulfur-containing coal.

And opponents of the plan howled about how doing that would ruin the economy, and how all the power plants would go out of business, and how electricity would become so expensive that nobody could turn on their lights for more than a couple hours per day, and how America would lose out to the Soviet Union because the Russians cared nothing for the environment and somehow allowing our coal-fired plants [to] continue to be inefficient was supposed to put us at a competitive advantage. They called it all a matter of bad science and said that it was something else that was killing the forest and reducing power plant emissions of sulfuric and nitric acid would not change that.

Well, the opponents of the plan lost. The environmentalists won that battle. The new emissions standards were passed by Congress and mandated by law, and the scrubbers were installed by the local utilities.

And let's take a moment to look back at the results. The world didn't end. The economy did quite well during the rest of the 1980's and for most of the 1990's, thank you. The power plants did not go out of business. Electricity did not become unaffordable. The Soviet Union continued to be inefficient until it died and America prospered.

And the northern U.S. and Canadian forests are much healthier today than they were then.

Success is having the vision to think about what the future could look like, and then the persistence to make it so.

There are many things that still need to be done, and many battles to be fought and won against determined opposition. But every now and then it is worth appreciating progress that has been made, if only to raise our morale and realize that today's battles too, can be won.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Texas may lose their fight over FLDS children, and it will be an expensive loss.

I've in the past been quite critical of some of the aspects of the FLDS church, in particular their practices of forcing teenage girls into marriage (such as I blogged on here) and kicking out teenage boys (as I blogged on here.)

I've also made it clear that my problems with them have to do with child abuse in particular, not polygamy in general (what sexual relations consenting adults have with each other, and in what numbers, is not a matter which interests me, nor is it a matter which should warrant the interest of the state.)

However, following the recent raid in Texas, I wrote a post in which I expressed concern about civil rights violations by the state of Texas in their decision to remove hundreds of children from the FLDS compound, with no specific evidence that any of them in particular had been abused. The determining factor, in fact, was their religious identity and nothing other than that. It is true that several of the teenage girls were pregnant, but without being too blunt about it I suspect that if you go to any community in America you will find that a significant number of teenage girls are pregnant. My eldest daughter was pregnant when she was fifteen. I'm not suggesting that this is a good thing, but it's not grounds to remove a child from their home in the absence of any specific evidence of rape, incest or another crime causing the pregnancy (and as noted, they had none about specific children who they removed.)

Since then, Texas' case has been unraveling and they have been embarrassed by a steady stream of bad news about their case. The first came when it turned out that the phone calls that Texas authorities had received, claiming to be from an abused teenager named, 'Sarah' inside the compound, actually turned out to be a hoax after they were traced to a woman named Rozita Swinton in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her motivation was apparently a progressive, but misplaced mindset. These phone calls had provided the original justification for the raid and the warrant to go in, in the first place. What is especially troubling is that it is not all that hard to reverse trace a phone call and verify the caller's location (in fact this was obviously done but the information was apparently not examined until after the raid.) This leads to two scenarios, both troubling: either that Texas authorities were looking for a pretext for a raid and jumped so fast that they didn't bother to check a basic fact like this, or even more troubling that they knew the calls were phony and went ahead anyway.

Texas authorities then claimed that they had reason to believe that a man named Dale Evans Barlow had abused some of the children at the ranch. Only problem is that there is no evidence that Dale Evans Barlow was ever at the ranch. In fact during the time period in question, Dale Evans Barlow was checking in weekly with his Utah probation officer. It is conceivable but a bit far fetched to suppose that every week he met his probation officer, drove for about 36 hours to the Texas compound, stayed there a couple of days to abuse some girls, then drove 36 hours back to Utah and met with his probation officer, and then repeated this pattern every week. Texas Rangers did travel to interview Dale Barlow on April 12, but left without making an arrest, and they have no evidence at all that he ever did travel to Texas during the time when he is alleged to have committed the crime (though no one can even name who made the allegation in the first place, unless perhaps it was made by Rozita Swinton while she was pretending to be 'Sarah.')

Then we have the case of Pamela Jessop. Pamela Jessop was a pregnant teenager who was removed from the compound. She maintains that at the time told them that she is eighteen (legally an adult) and showed them her birth certificate to prove it. Records seized at the scene by the Texas authorities confirmed that her age was eighteen, so they knew how old she was. They forcibly kept her in custody anyway so that when she gave birth they were in a position to give her a choice of either returning to the compound without her newborn child (she also has a one year old) or to stay there with the newborn. Jessop has hired some attorneys and they are considering filing a Federal lawsuit against the state of Texas.

Which leads us to what happened earlier this week. State authorities returned to the compound, claiming that they believed there were more children inside. They were denied admittance despite having a search warrant. Understandably after what happened last month, the FLDS at the ranch are not very welcoming of another search warrant. More to the point though this feels a lot like a 'CYA' situation. When a case starts to fall apart, and especially if it is a case that could result in expensive lawsuits, sometimes authorities will dig in and desperately start trying to find any evidence they can, no matter how flimsy, in order to manufacture a case when the original charges don't pan out.

So then yesterday the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the mass removal of the children of 38 mothers was wrong because the state failed to prove that the children were in 'imminent danger.' Though the court stopped short of ordering all of the children returned immediately (allowing Texas to maintain them in foster care until they decide whether to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court,) the Court of Appeals made it very clear that the raid and continuing detention of the children is, in the opinion of the court, not justified by facts or evidence and may be a gross violation of civil rights occurring on a massive scale.

What Texas did earlier this week, apparently realizing that the Appeals Court case was likely to go against them, in trying to launch a second raid was an act of desperation. They realize now that they overreached in seizing hundreds of children with no specific evidence that any one of them is in danger, and now they are starting to realize that Pamela Jessop's likely lawsuit is only the first of hundreds that could be filed-- likely costing the state of Texas hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars. So this is likely to be a very expensive and painful lesson for Texas to learn about respecting civil rights.

I'd also like to point out how the 'hang 'em high, cowboy' attitude of Texas contrasts to the strategy that is being employed cooperatively by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard (a Democrat) and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (a Republican.) Goddard and Shurtleff have cooperated to seize and place the assets of the FLDS Church under the direction of an outside board of directors where they will be used for the benefit of the community and all its members, have put FLDS leader Warren Jeffs behind bars and recently held a joint meeting in St. George in which polygamists from Colorado City and Hildale were able to openly discuss their concerns and the concerns in their community. By focusing on enforcing the law against the leaders who pushed their flock into violating it but not punishing the members of the church, Goddard and Shurtleff have created an atmosphere of at least limited communication and understanding that it is safe to say after this episode law enforcement officials in Texas will never have. And with yesterday's court decision, it doesn't look like they will have anything else to work with either.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Senate Passes GI Bill

Via Think Progress:

By a veto-proof 75-22 vote, the Senate has approved Sen. Jim Webb's 21st Century GI Bill.

Sen. John McCain, fundraising instead in California, didn't bother to show his support for the troops.

President Bush says he will veto the bill.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

McSame Lobbyist Express

McSame Old Lobbyist Corruption

New York Times:

Mr. McCain’s political identity has long been defined by his calls for reducing the influence of special interests in Washington. But as he heads toward the general election as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he has increasingly confronted criticism that his campaign staff is stocked with people who have made their living as lobbyists or in similar jobs, leaving his credentials as a reformer open to attack.

McCain Source:

* Same Old Washington Corruption

* McCain's Lobbyists

* Foreign Lobbying

* McCain and Boeing

* Primer On Five Top Lobbyist Cronies

* At Least 118 Lobbyists

New: McCainPedia

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Senators Should Work For The People

As we keep Senator Ted Kennedy in our thoughts and prayers, and are grateful for the long history of all the good things he has done to better America and help its people, we hope that other Senators will follow with these ideals by also showing support for our troops:

Brandon Friedman, May 20, 2008:

We're launching an ad blitz today aimed at Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Cornyn (R-TX). If you've kept up with the news, you know that this has been a long time coming. We've listened to the debate go back and forth for months now, but the refusal of certain Senators to support the Webb-Hagel GI Bill can no longer be tolerated by veterans.

Senator John McCain, support the 21st Century GI Bill [:30]

Senator John Cornyn, support the 21st Century GI Bill [:30]

This bill would update educational benefits for our troops to cover the cost of college – a benefit they’ve earned. Unfortunately, Senators John McCain and John Cornyn oppose this legislation, which could split the Senate.

Senators McCain and Cornyn, show respect and support the troops and sign on to The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (S.22 & H.R.2702).

Support the troops, and support the 21st Century GI Bill.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

The Republican who wants to be Vice President (but McCain would be a fool to pick him.)

This weekend Republican runner-up Mike Huckabee went on the air and said he wants to be John McCain's running mate.

McCain is under no obligation to choose Huckabee however. It is true that the runner up is sometimes the veep nominee (for example John F. Kennedy famously chose Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan chose George Bush Sr. and John Kerry chose John Edwards.) But there is no obligation to do so. I will say that I do believe, and I say this as an Obama supporter, that Hillary Clinton has done so well this year in just barely finishing second that I believe that she has earned the right to be asked to be on the ticket (emphasis on the word, 'earned.' (though I don't know if she would accept it.) Huckabee, whose main role in this year's Republican primaries was to help derail Mitt Romney and clear the path for McCain to sweep to the nomination, has not come so close as to be able to say he's earned the right to be asked.

It may be that McCain, still trying to re-connect with conservatives, may need Huckabee, but I don't think he does. Huckabee's base of support-- white evangelical southerners, are likely to turnout in higher numbers than African-Americans in the deep south, simply because there are more of them. That will probably be enough to beat Barack Obama in the most racially polarized part of the country. And among some conservatives, economic conservatives in particular, Huckabee (who raised taxes in Arkansas) is even less popular than John McCain.

Beyond that, Huckabee, the man who proudly raised his hand during a Republican debate last year when a moderator asked anyone who did not believe in evolution to do so, showed himself unqualified in the highest degree with his remark at the NRA convention in Louisville last week joking about someone threatening to shoot Barack Obama.

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee drew cringes Friday when he made a joke at the National Rifle Association convention about Barack Obama getting shot at.

“We believe the government should get its hands off of us as much as possible, we don’t need that much of it, we’d like less of it and we darn sure would like for it to be less expensive but the reality is and I’m worried,” Huckabee said when he was interrupted by a loud thump from backstage.

The quick-witted Southerner looked behind him and said to the Louisville, Ky., crowd: “That was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair and someone pointed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.”

The audience fell silent and the charismatic former Arkansas governor seemed to immediately realize he had made a mistake with the offensive jab at the Democratic front-runner.

He may have realized it was a mistake, but it took two days before he released even a weasely apology of the "I'm sorry if what I said offended anyone," variety-- the kind of semi-apologies politicians make (usually late) when they don't really mean it.

So we have a man whose base is largely the same group of voters who are likely to show up just to vote against Obama because he's black, who doesn't believe in evolution and supports teaching creationism as an alternative, and who's just told a tasteless and obscene joke about someone threatening the other party's likely nominee with a gun.

Another loose cannon running around is not what McCain needs. Clearly he and the GOP have the right to choose which ever Vice Presidential nominee they want but in my opinion it would be hard for McCain to make a worse choice than Huckabee.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ripping Neo-Con Rhetoric

UPDATE to Tweety’s smackdown

Rachel and Tweety discuss clueless talking-point parrot, Kevin James:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The right vs. the right vs. the right

A group of communities and concerned landowners in Texas are filing suit against the Homeland Security Department in order to stop the construction of the border wall along the Mexican border.

The issue is that the Government, according to the landowners and their supporters, lied to the landowners about what they were going to do and how much of their land they would take, and then effectively seized the land while paying the landowners as little as $100 per acre. They did this by not technically taking formal ownership the land, just saying they wanted 'access' (implying they were only there to conduct a survey, not begin construction) and in the process will bisect and render useless scores of parcels of private property in south Texas.

Federal law does allow the Government to seize land for matters of 'public interest' (though it is debatable if the wall is that) but apparently fiscal conservatives balked at the going price for the land in the area and what would comply with a 1996 law requiring fair negotiations with landowners, and operating under the 'whatever it takes, just do it' policies that have marked the Bush administration's tenure, dealt disingenuously and likely illegally with the landowners, paying them practically nothing for the right to destroy their land.

Also an issue is that the wall built in South Texas will already have some sizeable gaps-- some land along the border belongs to Republican donors, such as the Hunt family from Dallas, and there are no plans to build anything on that particular land, just on land belonging to people who never donated large amounts of money to Republicans.

So this case pits rabid right anti-immigration right wingers vs. equally rabid property rights advocates vs. fiscal conservatives vs. rich Republican donors.

Get out the popcorn and watch to see how this one plays out, folks. It doesn't get any better than this. It's the kind of case that really exposes the fissures within the Republican base.

Oh, and the real irony, almost laughable is that by the time the wall is built it may be obsolete. Border arrests are down, despite beefed up security, all the way along the Mexican border from California to Texas. The reason why is because as the dollar continues its free fall, the value of what a Mexican can earn in the United States is declining. More and more of them are opting to stay home and work for pesos as the dollar accelerates downward, making the difference in the standard of living between the two countries less than it has been in the past. If this trend continues then the wall may be a joke by the time it is built, or maybe it will help keep Americans in so we don't hitchhike to Mexico and look for a job that will pay us in pesos that we can wire back home.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Short and Sweet

BarbinMD: An abbreviated look at the media's take on the current state of the Republican Party.

Tweety smacks down ignorant noise machine lunatic, Kevin James:

“When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

Ha ha ha.

DemFromCT: This has been a really bad week for the Republicans.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keith Olbermann Enraged

May 14, 2008:


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One year ago today

One year ago today, Sergeant Christopher Gonzalez died when his unit was ambushed near Salmon Pak, Iraq. I attended his funeral a few days later, and blogged on it A hero is buried and what his community still needs.

John Edwards used to speak about 'two Americas.' One is the America of plenty, where people are employed, have health coverage, have food on the table and can take basic services like electricity and running water for granted (though they still may have trouble paying for them.) Sergeant Gonzalez came from the other America.

I'd been visiting Birdsprings chapter regularly until I got a church calling and a time for church this year that overlaps chapter meetings. But I will try and make it to this Sunday's meeting anyway. I understand they have a new flagpole. They dedicated it to Sgt. Gonzalez yesterday.

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Boehner has trouble finding a slogan for change that isn't change

Republicans in the house, still reeling over their defeat in a special election in a deep-red Mississippi congressional district (the third such special election loss this year) that clipped the size of their house delegation to a psychologically demoralizing 199 members, want to adopt a message of change.

Of course there would in reality be no 'change' about it, just the same old, worn-out and failed mantra of 'tax cut, trickle down, deregulate... tax cut, trickle down, deregulate' that has led us to the mess we are now in. But what they want is to put it in a new package, and let the new packaging say, "change."

So, as House Republican leader John Boehner was casting about for a slogan for a Republican 'change' agenda he considered a slogan in which Republicans pledged to give voters "the change they deserve."

Only he can't do that, because the slogan is almost identical to the slogan that pharmaceutical manufacture Wyeth uses to market an anti-depressant called Effexor.

Well, maybe they should take a hint. Republicans in Congress may need an anti-depressant.

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McCain Flip Flops On Environment, Too:

The rhetoric and the reality on McCain and the environment

Carpetbagger Report, May 12, 2008:

And then there’s environmental policy, which McCain is emphasizing heavily this week as a way of making him appear more moderate, helping him with independents, and distancing himself from the far-right wing of his own party.

* * *

It all sounds very nice, just so long as you don’t look past the surface.

If we’re judging McCain on a sliding Republican scale, then sure, he’s not quite as reckless and irresponsible on environmental issues than some of his fellow conservatives. He believes global warming is real and he doesn’t believe trees cause pollution. If the soft bigotry of low expectations means anything, McCain looks pretty good in comparison to, say, James Inhofe.

But part of the problem is that McCain’s commitment to sensible environmental policies is a bit like the weather in Chicago: if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes, because it’s bound to change.

* * *

“I’m proud of my record on the environment,” he said at a news conference Friday at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. “As president, I will dedicate myself to addressing the issue of climate change globally.”

But an examination of McCain’s voting record shows an inconsistent approach to the environment: He champions some “green” causes while casting sometimes contradictory votes on others.

McCain has missed every major environmental vote this Congress

Raw Story, May 13, 2008:

Wall Street Journal completely omits McCain voting record

The Journal paints McCain as a maverick among Republican rank and file on environmental issues, in an article that is best misleading. While McCain has championed legislation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in his speeches, he hasn't voted for it. And while he's opposed drilling in the Arctic, he also refused to support a ban on drilling in a 2005 defense appropriations bill.

The article also fails to mention that McCain ranks last among the 535 members of the current Congress in a rating by the League of Conservation Voters.

McCain has missed every major environmental vote this Congress, according to an analysis by the League. His League lifetime record is just 24 percent. This compares with 86 percent for Obama and 86 percent for Clinton. Obama and Clinton ranked 67 and 73 percent in the League's most recent report.

"McCain was the only member of Congress to skip every single crucial environmental vote scored by the organization, posting a score lower than Members of Congress who were out for much of the year due to serious illnesses — and even lower than some who died during the term," a release from the Sierra Club noted in February.

"He's certainly better than Bush, and ... the average Republican senator" on environmental matters, but "dramatically worse than the average Republican governor," Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, told the Journal Monday. "Pope said his organization might refrain from endorsing one presidential candidate over another this year because 'there is huge opportunity for all three of them still to grow.'"

Strangely, the Journal used this quote to claim that the Sierra Club's decision not to endorse anyone was instead "a sign of Sen. McCain's potential appeal to environmentally conscious voters."

McCain touts himself as being out the Republican lockstep on the issue of climate change. His record, however, is mixed -- and his current proposals and outspoken stance on climate change don't entirely mesh with his voting record.

McCain Talks Environment, Misses Votes When It Counts

Crooks and Liars, February 23, 2008:

The Daily Green:

McCain skipped every one of the 15 votes that the League of Conservation Voters deemed critical measures for the environment, including votes where the Arizona Senator’s yea would have meant passage by a single-vote margin.

McCain has won support from many environmentalists … but his absenteeism on important votes this session calls into question his reputation as a maverick who might buck the party line on some energy and environmental issues.

“Out of 535 Members of Congress, John McCain is the only one who chose to miss every single key environmental vote scored by the League of Conservation Voters last year. When it came time to stand up and vote for the environment, John McCain was nowhere to be found,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Every other Member who received a zero from LCV last year at least had the temerity to show up and vote against the environment and clean energy time after time. And unlike John McCain, I doubt any of them would claim to be environmental leaders or champions on global warming.”

On the environment, McCain offers more of the same — for the most part

Carpetbagger Report, March 22, 2008:

Usually, when highlighting the ways in which John McCain offers the nation four more years of George W. Bush, the list includes a familiar litany of issues — war policy, foreign policy, irresponsible tax cuts for the very wealthy, healthcare, education. Dealing with the environment, however, generally doesn’t make the list.

To his credit, McCain, unlike most Republican leaders, believes global warming science and recognizes the need to combat it. His proposals aren’t exactly ambitious, but McCain’s position alone helps gives the impression that, as Republicans go, he’d be a step in the right direction on environmental policy.

Fortunately, even this assumption is starting to draw scrutiny.

In his quarter-century in Congress, McCain has demonstrated a “pattern of voting with polluters and special interests instead of consumers and the planet,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the San Francisco-based Sierra Club.

But, at least he’s good on climate change, right? Well, kind of.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sexist attack on Clinton goes too far

I've been plenty critical of Senator Clinton at times for both her positions on issues and for some things she's said. And I've been clear in my support for Obama, who I am glad is close to clinching the nomination. But in this post I have to say that Rep. Steve Cohen, an Obama supporter from Tennessee, went just one step too far, though Cohen did apologize for the remark. Not so some bloggers, who have gleefully spread it around on the internet.

He compared her to Glenn Close's character in the movie, "Fatal Attraction". I saw that movie once, many years ago, and have no desire to see it again. Close's character plays an obsessed psychotic killer who has an affair with a married man and becomes obsessed with murdering his wife and taking her place.

To begin with, this remark is dripping with sexism. No one considers Hillary Clinton to be a psychopath, but the intent is to suggest otherwise. In fact, about the only thing that is common between Clinton and the character is that they are both female. Cohen probably considered the first real or fictional female psychopath he could think of (I guess Aileen Wuournos crossed his mind later.) Stop and think. Suppose a male Hispanic politician was compared to Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem's chillingly cold killer in No Country for Old Men.) Would it be considered a racial smear? Absolutely. And it is no less a sexist smear to compare a female politician to such a horrible character.

I know, I know. Some Republican will undoubtedly point to some post where someone compared Bush to Hitler. All I'd say about that is that it is also wrong (There was only one Hitler, thank God, and no one since then has been as completely and unalterably evil.) I have been known to compare Bush to Mussolini a few times but when I have it has not been a reference to any real or perceived Italian heritage, but rather a reference to macho but incompetent leadership and poorly planned military adventurism (and I'll let the present state of things in the world make that case.) In other words, it is a comment about policy, not a comment about DNA or anatomy.

But while I may disagree about many things with Hillary Clinton, I respect her for putting her best effort and point of view out there, and we should applaud the first woman to come as close as she did to being nominated by a major political party for President of the United States instead of passing off sexist cheap shots.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hugs For Moms

Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave,
but not our hearts.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

John McCain did the same thing as Rick Renzi. Will he be indicted for it too?

Rick Renzi is under indictment for using his influence in Washington to push through a Federal land swap deal that benefitted campaign donor James Sandlin, as I wrote about here. Renzi helped fast track the deal despite concerns raised by environmentalists.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that John McCain pushed through a Federal land swap which benefitted long time supporter and campaign donor Steven Betts. McCain helped fast track the deal despite concerns raised by environmentalists.

And even today, McCain's campaign website has a link to a press release about his Arizona leadership team in which Betts and his wife are listed as members of the financial arm of the campaign.

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Sen. John McCain championed legislation that will let an Arizona rancher trade remote grassland and ponderosa pine forest here for acres of valuable federally owned property that is ready for development, a land swap that now stands to directly benefit one of his top presidential campaign fundraisers

Initially reluctant to support the swap, the Arizona Republican became a key figure in pushing the deal through Congress after the rancher and his partners hired lobbyists that included McCain's 1992 Senate campaign manager, two of his former Senate staff members (one of whom has returned as his chief of staff), and an Arizona insider who was a major McCain donor and is now bundling campaign checks.

When McCain's legislation passed in November 2005, the ranch owner gave the job of building as many as 12,000 homes to SunCor Development, a firm in Tempe, Ariz., run by Steven A. Betts, a longtime McCain supporter who has raised more than $100,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee. Betts said he and McCain never discussed the deal.

The Audubon Society described the exchange as the largest in Arizona history...But it brought an outcry from some Arizona environmentalists when it was proposed in 2002, partly because it went through Congress rather than a process that allowed more citizen input.

Although the bill called for the two parcels to be of equal value, a federal forestry official told a congressional committee that he was concerned that "the public would not receive fair value" for its land. A formal appraisal has not yet begun. A town official opposed to the swap said other Yavapai Ranch land sold nine years ago for about $2,000 per acre, while some of the prime commercial land near a parcel that the developers will get has brought as much as $120,000 per acre.

Well, you get the gist. Sounds a lot like what Rick Renzi may go to prison for. Almost exactly the same thing, in fact.

Of course, John McCain likely doesn't see anything wrong with pushing land swap legislation that benefits campaign donors. He certainly didn't see anything wrong with it in 2006, when in the midst of a bunch of reports about Renzi and Sandlin, McCain recorded a robocall praising Renzi for his HONESTY AND INTEGRITY BEYOND REPROACH.

Obviously John McCain has a different set of ethics than the rest of us do, if Rick Renzi represents his definition of honesty and integrity.

The question is now whether he will be indicted for committing essentially the same crime as Rick Renzi committed. And further, we know that one reason it took as long as it did to indict Rick Renzi was that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez tried to protect him by firing U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton when he started zeroing in on the connection between Renzi and James Sandlin. Wanna bet that the Bush White House pulls out all the plugs trying to protect McCain from any unwelcome probes into the relationship between him and Steven Betts?

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Out Of Touch Express

John McCain’s Top 10 Out-of-Touch Moments

Jon Perr, C and L


After all, John McCain isn’t merely fabulously well off, courtesy of his wife Cindy’s $100 million beer distribution fortune. At almost every turn, the Republican presidential nominee has shown almost a total ignorance of – or yawning disinterest in – the real lives of American voters. From the growing financial hardships of the economic slowdown and the foreclosure crisis to the disintegrating American health care system and the dangers U.S. troops face on the streets on Baghdad, it is John McCain who is truly “out of touch.” Yet voters and pundits alike agree that the supposed maverick is treated with kid gloves by the press, an elitist masquerading as a man of the people.

Here, then, are John McCain’s Top 10 “Out-of-Touch” Moments:

  1. Economic downturn is “psychological.”

  2. “Great progress economically” during the Bush years.

  3. eBay is the answer for poverty and recession.

  4. “Tear down” New Orleans?

  5. Irresponsible, undeserving homeowners

  6. Work a second job, skip a vacation.

  7. “Protect the privacy” of Cindy McCain’s tax returns.

  8. Opposed to SCHIP expansion, McCain speaks at children’s hospital.

  9. Baghdad safer than some American neighborhoods.

10. “I’m not running on the Bush presidency.”

… McCain might want to check his campaign’s position papers. After all, in his eternal quest for the Republican nomination, McCain has adopted virtually the entire Bush agenda, often reversing long held positions and compromising supposed core principles. From Iraq, tax cuts for the wealthy, broken promises on the deficit to opposition to SCHIP, tax credits for health care, overturning Roe v. Wade and a right-wing Supreme Court, John McCain represents a third Bush term. It’s no wonder Mr. Straight Talk said in February:

“I would be proud to have President Bush campaign with me and support me in any way that he feels is appropriate. And I would appreciate it.”


Wednesday, May 07, 2008


It's good to see more birds back visiting here.

Apologies for not getting better quality photos.

Taking pictures from inside toward the early day sun was not a plus.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Get The Lead Out

EPA Plans to Restrict Toxic Airborne Lead

Environment News Service:

For the first time in 30 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to further reduce the amount of lead in the air.

While leaded gasoline is history, about 1,300 tons of lead a year is emitted into the air from smelters, iron and steel foundries, and general aviation gasoline, the EPA estimates.

Once it is airborne, lead can be inhaled.

Or, after it settles out of the air onto surfaces, lead can be ingested - the main route of human exposure. Once in the body, lead is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and can affect many organ systems.

* * *

Children are particularly vulnerable, the EPA has said repeatedly. Exposures to low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on intelligence, learning, memory and behavior.

To protect public health, the EPA proposed Thursday to tighten the primary standard by up to 93 percent.

* * *

Under the new rule, monitors for lead would be required near large sources of lead emissions and in urban areas with more than one million people.

Some environmentalists say the new EPA lead standard is not strict enough. Avinash Kar, project attorney with the public health program of the Natural Resources Defense Council called the proposal "long overdue but flawed."

"According to EPA projections, emissions of 60 pounds of lead from a single pollution source could cause a median loss of up to three IQ points in children," said Kar. "Thousands of children across the United States live near lead plants emitting more than 60 pounds of lead every year. In fact, some plants emit tons of lead annually."

"By proposing a limit stricter than the current standard that was set in 1978, EPA is making progress in limiting lead exposure," he said, "but this standard still falls short of what's needed to protect the public."

* * *

Exposure to lead is associated with a broad range of health effects, including harm to the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, kidneys and immune system.

Lead also can cause toxic effects in plants and can impair reproduction and growth in birds, mammals and other organisms.

EPA is proposing that the secondary standard, to protect the environment, be identical to the primary standard.

* * *

The EPA will accept public comment for 60 days after the proposal on lead is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold two public hearings on June 12, 2008 - one in St. Louis and one in Baltimore.

EPA must issue a final decision on the lead standard by September 15, 2008.

Find details about the proposal and public hearing information at:


Monday, May 05, 2008

Beat The McMedia

Be the media.

McSame McMedia McCrap:

With a handful of exceptions, many members of the press refuse to hold McCain to the standards against which the Democratic candidates are being measured.

* * *

But this is 2008, not 2000, and while McCain's oh-so-cozy relationship with the press means he can continue to avoid the glaring scrutiny which other candidates must endure, today's voters need not rely on the well-fed and well-pandered press corp to know the real John McCain.

From blogs to YouTube to every nook and cranny of the internet between, voters today are more skeptical of the press and more likely to rely on the internet for information than ever before.

* * *

McCain's Achilles' heel has always been his policy oscillations. His limber "principles" allow him to sweep from one side of an issue to another; they are generally lauded as badges of maverickness in the press and recognized by the reality-based community largely as panderiffic moments of Washington as usual. And until now, because the traditional media has refused to properly cover these flip-flops and distortions, McCain has been able to get away with saying one thing and doing another, or voting one way and soon thereafter voting another. But how will the real McCain -- whiplash policy McCain -- play out in 2008, where video and blogs will be able to juxtapose his stances and statements in such a manner that shatters the myth of McCain as an "honest broker"?

* * *

McCain has enjoyed success thus far by courting the traditional media. It is a tried and true model for him. But the new media tools of 2008 pose a minefield for journalists' favorite "maverick." After all, unlike with members of the press, it's hard to get millions of YouTube viewers or thousands of blog readers to eat out of your hands.

For over a decade, McCain has been able to craft the image of a moderate, independent guy by controlling the media environment around him. When that control is non-existent online, when ordinary citizens are each armed with their own tools to tarnish McCain's shining armor, that's when the real McCain will be exposed.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Undermining America's Heroes

Life Will Never Return to Normal for an Injured Vet Like Tomas Young


Phil Donahue's documentary Body of War offers a chilling view of how the lies that led us to war changed the life of one Iraq veteran.

In the opening minutes of Body of War, we find a 25-year-old man struggling to put on his pants. He is wiry and tattooed, sitting shirtless on his bed, his thick eyebrows furrowed in concentration. His face is weathered beyond its years. He works to get one leg into his jeans, then the other, moves on to his sneakers and finally, his wheelchair.

Three years after this scene was filmed, paralyzed Iraq war veteran Tomas Young admits that dealing with his personal day-to-day challenges on camera took some getting used to. But "eventually it dawned on me that the more graphic and in-depth [the documentary] got into my life, the more people would see the consequences and ramifications of making an impetuous decision." The decision he refers to is the U.S. government's rush to invade Iraq in 2003; from the opening moments to the end, Body of War interweaves scenes from Tomas' life as he learns to live with his paralysis with C-SPAN footage of the October 2002 congressional vote that is responsible for it. As senator after senator parrots the lies of George W. Bush in a drumbeat for war, a sick sense of dramatic irony sets in. We all know how the vote will play out. But few could imagine what it means to be Tomas Young, one of the tens of thousands of veterans who have returned from Iraq with life-altering injuries after being betrayed by the government they enlisted to serve. Tomas Young feels that betrayal acutely. He lives with the consequences every day. [snip]

Still, like many members of IVAW, Tomas wants to make it clear that his opposition to the war is not proof that he doesn't support the troops. "I think military service is very honorable and noble," he tells me. Indeed, his younger brother Nathan -- whose own deployment to Iraq is one of the more heart-rending moments in the film -- is currently on a second tour in Iraq. Tomas considers himself a patriot, and he paraphrases a Frederick Douglass quote to explain: "A patriot is 'someone who loves their country but rebukes and does not forgive its sins,'" he says. And he cannot forgive the way the Bush administration has misused and abused the troops in this war.

John McCain Adores the War and Ignores the Warriors


He doesn't care if we're in Iraq for a hundred years, but when it comes to the veterans who've served over there, the senator is AWOL.

Do you know that he voted with the interests of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) only 20 percent of the time? [snip]

"It's time for Sen. McCain to stand up for veterans and be a leader," the chairman of VoteVets, Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz, said in a statement. "The success or failure of this bill largely rests on his shoulders. He is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. If he signs onto the bill, it will pass and become law. If he doesn't support it, he needs to explain why he doesn't." [snip]

McCain's response has been to propose his own, less expansive version of the GI Bill. Last week, he introduced a bill entitled the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment through Education Act, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Richard Burr, R-N.C. [snip]

Veterans groups were unimpressed.

"Sens. McCain, Graham and Burr are shortchanging our veterans and undermining America's heroes as they reach for the American dream," said VoteVets's Soltz. "Frankly, it hurts to have two veterans, like Sens. McCain and Graham treat us like this. We would expect that they would have more honor than that."

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Strongly Reject McCain’s Watered-Down Education Bill

"Stop undermining America's heroes," say war veterans…

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Vets and Missions Not Accomplished

Now Begins Month 61 Since 'Mission Accomplished'

Meteor Blades, KOS:

Whatever the number, it is horrendous. All the more so because the deaths of the Americans, of the Iraqis, of the other members of the coalition, have all resulted from a war of choice, an unnecessary war, a war of the new imperialism. A war founded and continued to this day on exaggerations, distortions, fabrications, concoctions and lies. A war which a smirking, strutting, absurdity of a president told us 60 months ago was Mission Accomplished.

Progressives should never declare our mission accomplished until justice is delivered to those who lied us into this war. Justice for the 52 Americans who died last month, for the 4065 who have died since March 2003, for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have also died. Without justice, they truly will have died in vain.

Webb calls out McCain on GI Bill: ‘He’s so full of it’

Steve Benen, C & L:

A couple of weeks ago, John McCain talked about the importance of increasing the size of the U.S. military. To entice more volunteers, he said, the government should focus on incentives: “[O]ne of the things we ought to do is provide [the troops with] significant educational benefits in return for serving.”

A few days later, McCain announced that he’ll oppose a bipartisan measure to renew and expand the GI Bill for a new generation of veterans.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), the leading proponent of the modernized GI Bill, is calling McCain out and creating an interesting battle.

* * *

McCain concedes he hasn’t tended to his day job in a while, but said his Senate office staff told him that Webb “has not been eager to negotiate.”

“He’s so full of it,” Webb said in response. “I have personally talked to John three times. I made a personal call to [McCain aide] Mark Salter months ago asking that they look at this.”

For Webb, this seems to have far less to do with campaign politics, and far more to do with a deep desire to get a bill through the chamber: “I don’t want this to become a political issue. I want to get a bill done.”

For the troops’ sake, it’d be great if McCain agreed.

Worst Persons Awards

SilentPatriot, C & L, has the clips:

John McCain takes home the silver after getting called out by Senator Webb for dragging his feet on the bipartisan GI bill and claiming Webb hasn’t reached out to him. And after five years of admitting the United States “invaded” Iraq, Bill O’Reilly takes home the gold for changing his mind by now saying we didn’t. Oh, Bill.

Vets say they feel misled about GI benefits


Cheated. Baited and switched. That's how veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan say they feel about military recruiters who sold them on how the GI Bill would benefit them.

Soldiers, Marines and airmen, speaking at a Capitol Hill rally Tuesday, said they are not given enough funds from the bill to cover college expenses as they were promised.

* * *

One of the early beneficiaries of the GI Bill was Petty Officer 3rd Class John Warner, who served in the Navy in WWII and went on to earn undergraduate and law degrees. The GI Bill covered both degrees in full at that time.

Warner is a U.S. senator from Virginia, and he spoke to the veterans at Tuesday's rally.

"I would not be privileged to have served now these 30 years in the United States Senate, and at one time chairman of the Armed Services Committee, had it not been this great nation giving me the opportunity through the GI Bill to receive that education, preparation and training," he said.

Warner is one of 58 senators co-sponsoring Sen. Jim Webb's Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act.

* * *

Webb's proposal is designed to dramatically expand educational benefits for military veterans. A version of the bill in the House has 241 co-sponsors. Covering active-duty National Guard troops and reservists, as well as other service members, it aims to cover the cost of the most expensive public in-state universities and a monthly housing stipend. Those who served on active duty for three or more months after September 11, 2001, would be eligible.

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"This is not a difficult concept. For all the people saying this is the new Greatest Generation, this is not a difficult thing. This is the easiest way to prove that," said Webb, a Virginia Democrat and Vietnam veteran.

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President Bush warned Tuesday at a Rose Garden news conference that he would veto any additions to the bill.

Vets Get Weak Brain Treatment, Report Says

Associated Press:

Many Iraq war veterans with traumatic brain injury are not getting adequate health care and job assistance for their long-term recovery despite years of government pledges to do so, Veterans Affairs Department investigators say.

"Significant needs remain unmet," according to the report released Thursday by the VA's inspector general. It is the first to examine the Bush administration's long-term efforts in supporting veterans with traumatic brain injury, a leading problem among soldiers struck by roadside bombs that often causes lasting emotional and behavioral difficulties.

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The VA pledged to coordinate the necessary follow-up care with the Pentagon, but the latest audit concludes that efforts are still falling short for roughly one in four patients.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Medical Care, McSame and Insurance

Report Questions Quality of Medical Care
for Workers in War Zones


An increasing number of federal employees are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is not clear that the government's policies go far enough to ensure they receive the best medical care or the most appropriate benefits, according to a congressional report released yesterday. [Wed.]

The report was issued by the House Armed Services Committee oversight and investigations subcommittee, which looked into the incentives and medical coverage being provided to civil service employees.

McCain’s Health Care Plan: Increases Taxes, Decreases Coverage


McCain wants to address our nation’s health care crisis by merely shifting costs around—and millions of people would pay higher health care costs as a result. McCain would tax health care benefits as income and push more people out of group insurance pools and into the often-predatory private market. In short, McCain would increase our taxes and ensure fewer of us could afford quality health care.

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McCain’s health care plan, as it currently exists, wouldn’t lower costs or expand coverage. Instead, through changing the tax system for health benefits, it could result in many employers cutting off health benefits altogether.

How to Talk About Health Care


The health care debate is not about right versus left. It's about McCain's radical scheme to dump our employer-provided health coverage into a ditch.

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In the case of McCain's proposal, the key fact is that the tax provisions will encourage companies to drop health insurance as an employer-provided benefit.

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Put another way, the McCain plan will cause businesses to drop health care benefits like a rotten egg from a picnic basket. The argument for McCain depends on the idea that once they cut health care benefits, corporations will increase our salaries to offset our loss! And no persuadable voter in America will believe this. So if you're middle-class in America, this plan should scare the sox off of you. This is Bush economics on steroids!

Getting married for health insurance

L A Times:

Some people marry for love, some for companionship, and others for status or money. Now comes another reason to get hitched: health insurance.

In a poll released today, 7% of Americans said they or someone in their household decided to marry in the last year so they could get healthcare benefits via their spouse.

"It's a small number but a powerful result, because it shows how paying for healthcare is reflected not only in family budgets but in life decisions," said Drew E. Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which commissioned the survey as part of its regular polling on healthcare.

On a broader scale, the survey found that healthcare costs outranked housing costs, rising food prices and credit card bills as a source of concern. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said they had experienced serious problems because of the cost of healthcare, compared with 29% who had problems getting a good job or a raise. Gasoline prices were the top economic worry, with 44% saying they had serious problems keeping up with increases at the pump.

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