Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Audacity augments courage; hesitation, fear. -- Publilius Syrus

Zorn nailed it.

Whenever I see someone trot out the familiar list of reasons why Barack Obama could never be elected president in '08 -- "his minimal foreign policy experience, his lack of any major accomplishments on the national stage, his apparent unwillingness to spend political capital on unpopular positions" -- I am struck by the same thing:

George W. Bush is apparently not the President of the United States.
  • As a candidate for the 2000 election, George W. Bush had almost no foreign policy experience. I believe that it consisted solely of eating Thanksgiving dinner with Saudi princes.
  • In the run up to 2000, George W. Bush lacked of any accomplishments on the national stage -- major or otherwise. Mr. Bush's sole accomplishments as governor of a weak-governor state were having his father's name and setting the record for executions.
  • And when it comes to "unwillingness to spend political capital on unpopular positions" Mr. Bush did his best to hide all of his actual positions -- pro-oil, pro-war, pro-rich tax cuts, theocratic totalitarianism -- from the American voters.
If Obama can't become president in '08, Bush must not have become president in 2000. And Bill Clinton was never president during the 1990's either.

No, Barack Obama is not the perfect candidate for President of the United States -- but who is? There is no ideal candidate and there never has been. So, lacking an ideal candidate for president, we would be damn fools to pass over Obama in a fruitless search for an imaginary, perfect presidential candidate.

And there never will be a perfect candidate. No amount of waiting will ever make Obama the perfect candidate. So if he is waiting to perfect his candidacy before running, Obama is fooling himself and doing the nation a disservice.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Roskam Compares Single Mothers to Criminals

Okay... I admit it... that headline is dishonest.

But it is no more dishonest than Roskam's analysis of this proposed legislation offering tax credits to businesses who help rehabilitate ex-convicts.
"It's a concept that can sound interesting in theory, at dinner conversation," said Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, who wondered, for example, about legislation that might prompt employers to hire ex-felons instead of single mothers. "But when you really start to put pen to paper, that's when you run into problems."
It would not be the first time that Roskam misrepresented a legislative proposal in a way that was "just disgusting."

I Just Like Thinking About a "Bush Post-Presidency"

Number 19 of 20 reasons I think you gotta read The [Tuesday] Papers at The Beachwood Reporter:
I haven't seen Al Gore's new movie, but whatever you think of him he is enormously smart and talented. Can you imagine George W. Bush making a movie? Or starting a TV network? Or having a coherent policy discussion? What will a Bush post-presidency look like? It's hard to imagine him doing much of anything except sitting on a couple corporate boards or being the commissioner of Major League Baseball one day - and bungling that job too. He certainly isn't capable of writing his own book.

Maybe he can join the military and learn a trade.
Barack Obama and George Bush meet in the hallway of the Capital.
"Hey 'Rac,'" says Bush, "What are you up to?"
"Working hard," Obama replies. "I've got to finish my book by the end of June."
"I hope to finish my book in June too," says Bush. "What book are you reading?"

Monday, May 29, 2006

Fear the Conservatives

In recognition of National Review's bogus list of the top 50 conservative rock songs here is my favorite genuinely conservative rock song:

I Don't Care About You
by Fear

Down on South Street Philadelphia,
Out from Avenue C,
I seen it in the eyes
it was ready to freeze
from the valley hotel!

I don't care about you!
Fuck you!
I don't care about you!
Fuck you!

I see Hollywood boulevard,
welfare hotel,
I spent the night in jail,
near the Wicox hotel!

I don't care about you!
Fuck you!
I don't care about you!

I've seen an old man
have a heart attack in Manhattan.
Well he just died
while we just stood there lookin' at him.
Ain't he cute?

I don't care about you!
I don't care about you!

I see man rollin' drunks,
bodies the streets.
Some man was sleepin' in puke
and a man with no legs
crawling down 5th street
trying to get something to eat!

I don't care about you!
Oh noooooo!!
I don't care about you!
Fuck you!
I don't care about you!
Hey! Hey!
I don't care about you!

Don't Forget the Reason for the Season

Thursday, May 25, 2006

At War With The Mystics

The Flaming Lips will perform "The W.A.N.D."
on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
tonight, Thursday May 24th. The program
begins at 10:35 p.m. central on Channel 5.

Sun-Times' Robert Novak and Karl Rove

It takes two to tango conspire to obstruct justice.

Rampaging Hastert

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks." -- Hamlet (III, ii, 239)

The Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reports that Rep. Hastert confronted President Bush over the FBI raid of a Congressman's home and that he has sent a nastygram to ABC news.

The Tribune's Andrew Zajac has posted the text of Hastert's letter accusing ABC of an "international falsehood."

Chicago: Barking Dogs A Menace, Except When They're Not

Aldermen propose crackdown on noisy dogs
Aldermen determined to restore peace and tranquility to Chicago neighborhoods introduced a pair of killjoy crackdowns Wednesday -- one establishing a 10-minute time limit on dogs barking outdoors, the other empowering police to impound ice cream trucks that play music after 7 p.m.

Park District hopes dogs can keep lake clean
Barking border collies are just one of the new weapons the Chicago Park District will use to reduce the number of swim bans during this year's beach season, which starts Friday.

"A Public Service Announcement for Those Americans Who Have No Problem with the Nsa's Telephone Data-Mining Program"


At Progressive Ruin, Mike Sterling spotted this unfortunate ad in the new issue of Diamond Previews:

Great Krypton!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Strippers Converge on Chicago

This weekend Chicago will host the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Awards. And this Thursday, May 25th from 5-7pm, the cartoonists and creators of 10 Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune comic strips will be signing their books at the Borders on State and Randolph:
  • Lynn Johnston - For Better or For Worse
  • Dan Piraro - Bizarro
  • Bill Amend - Foxtrot
  • Rick Kirkman - Baby Blues
  • Darrin Bell - Candorville/Rudy Park
  • Jef Mallett - Frazz
  • Paul Gilligan - Pooch Cafe
  • Greg Evans - Luann
  • Mark Pett - Lucky Cow
  • Mort Walker - Beetle Bailey
So head over to the Borders on State and Lake, and find out why the troops of Camp Swampy haven't been deployed to Fallujah.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Jay Mariotti, This is Why You Will Deserve It When I Punch You in the Face

"[Y]ou've pretty much been a rabble-rouser since exiting the womb with a smart-aleck grin. ***
You're an instigator, an agitator, a troublemaker, a wise guy."

Charity Begins at Home

It appears that Tribune Co. management is using the Tribune Foundation -- to the detriment of shareholders and foundation beneficiaries -- to protect Tribune Co. management.

From Crain's:
A steep plunge in Tribune Co. stock has exacerbated the conflict between the dual roles Dennis FitzSimons plays as CEO of the media conglomerate and chairman of the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation. ***

With Tribune shares down 47% since early 2004, the foundation's portfolio is shrinking fast. Assets dropped 19% in 2004 to $1.66 billion, and have almost certainly fallen further since.

"This is a conflict of interest," says Daniel Borochoff, president of the Chicago-based charity watchdog American Institute of Philanthropy. "Nobody would advise a charity to put all their money in one thing. It's just not smart."

Indeed, the broadly diversified Standard & Poor's 500 rose 9.6% while Tribune shares were plunging from their February 2004 peak. ***

Says William Josephson, who regulated charities for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer from 1999 to 2004, "Obviously, where the Tribune controls the board of the Tribune foundation, the Tribune foundation is not going to exercise its rights (as a shareholder) in a meaningful way."

Concentrating assets in a single stock contravenes widely accepted investing principles that emphasize diversification of portfolio assets.

"I would never advise institutional clients to have a single asset in their portfolio, because of the risk," says Eric McKissack, chief investment officer of Channing Capital Management LLC, which owns 607,000 Tribune shares, a 0.2% stake in the Chicago-based company. "It's the kind of thing that can come back to haunt trustees in a downturn. The real victims could be beneficiaries of the trust in the form of community groups and social service agencies that depend on the generosity of the foundation." ***

Doling out $95.0 million, the McCormick Tribune Foundation disbursed more than any local charity in 2004 except the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which gave $214.7 million.

McCormick grants in 2004 included $3 million to Rush University Medical Center, $2.1 million to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and $1.2 million to the University of Chicago. Tribune-sponsored and sports-team charities got $14 million.

Since 1999, grants have declined 15%, while giving by corporate foundations nationwide rose 22%, according to the Foundation Center in New York. ***

Since Mr. FitzSimons became CEO in January 2003, Tribune shares posted an annualized 11.7% decline in total returns, compared with a 14.1% annualized gain for the S&P 500. ***

"The issue you bring up is the one that frustrated us," [Diane Jaffe of mutual fund company TCW Group Inc.] says. "It was a very self-serving situation. Instead of serving the interests of shareholders, they were serving the interests of management."
Despite the plunge in Tribune stock value under his reign, a committee of the Tribune Co.’s board approved a 3.1% raise for FitzSimons in February, bringing his salary to $985,000 and his post-bonus pay to $1,235,000.

With business judgment like that, it is no wonder the Trib board is propping itself up with the McCormick Foundation.

"The Plan"

Lynn Sweet of your Chicago Sun-Times informs us that Barack Obama is not the only Illinois Democrat publishing a book:
I surmise Obama will not be penning a how-to-fix-the-broken-system volume. He's leaving that to Rep. Rahm Emanuel.

"Rahm is writing a book with Bruce Reed, which is sort of 'here is where we need to go,'" Obama says.

Clinton White House veteran Emanuel, along with Reed, a Clinton domestic policy adviser, are writing a book titled The Plan, due out in August.

As a special treat for readers of this blog, here is a sneak-peek at the three phases of The Plan:

  1. Undermine Grassroots
  2. ???
  3. Win!
Man, I sure hope they do the Phase Two roll-out before November.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Gallows Humor

My wife read this chuckle in Neil Steinberg's column and thought it summed up the state of affairs in the Bush White House:
At the president's morning briefing, Donald Rumsfeld told George Bush that the day before three Brazilian soldiers had been killed in Iraq.

To the secretary of defense's amazement, Bush reacted with a groan of dismay, slumping forward at his desk and burying his face in his hands. When he looked up, he was visibly shaken, almost in tears, his face ashen.

"Oh my God!" the president cried. "Tell me, exactly, how many is a 'brazilian'?"
By contrast, I think that this is the joke that best defines the Bush administration:
Bush and Cheney are sitting in a bar.

A guy walks in and asks the barman, “Isn’t that Bush and Cheney sitting over there?”

The bartender says, “Yep, that’s them.”

So the guy walks over and says, “Wow, this is a real honor. What are you two doing in here?”

Bush says, “We’re planning WW III.”

And the guy says, “Oh my God! Really? What’s going to happen?”

Cheney says, “Well, we’re going to kill a million Iranians and one blonde with big knockers.”

“'A blonde with big knockers'?!?" the guy exclaimed. "Why kill a blonde with big knockers?”

Cheney turns to Bush and says, “See George... I told you no one gives a damn about a million dead Iranians!”

Good joke.
Everybody laughs.
Roll on snare drum.

Local Author's Sophomore Effort

Some fella named "Barack Obama" is peddling a book called "The Audacity of Hope: Reclaiming the American Dream."

In this hopeless and divisive era, I just don't see how the guy can expect to sell many copies with that theme. And my understanding is that he has written another book that didn't make much of a splash when it was published. I sure hope he kept his day job.

Nevertheless, if you're curious, here's an excerpt.

Let's wish him luck.

"What Happened Is True. Now the Motion Picture That's Just as Real."

From your Chicago Tribune:
The distributors of the film *** submitted the poster to the MPAA, which must approve publicity materials for the films it rates, on April 24. It was rejected the next day.
Two genuine movie posters are reproduced below.

One film is about "America's most bizarre and brutal crimes," the other is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Can you guess which poster was rejected by the MPAA?

That's right.

The MPAA approved the one featuring the image of woman with her arms bound above her head being menaced by a man wearing a blood-stained smock and brandishing a bloody chainsaw.

But I suppose that if I, like the MPAA, were seeking a vastly expanded copyright to protect my floundering industry, I might do the bidding of the administration responsible for the Guantanamo abuses as well.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Creepy Pete Getting Sleazy

Crain’s reports that Peter Roskam (rô-skŭm') is getting sleazy:
'Sleaze factor' at play in battle for Rep. Hyde's seat

The hotly contested race in the west suburban 6th Congressional District took a new twist Thursday as the GOP nominee sought to turn the so-called sleaze factor on the Democrat in the race.

State Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, charged that Democrat Tammy Duckworth has received massive help from Chicago Democrats who have been caught in a growing series of political scandals.

“You don’t get to be the beneficiary of a machine that catapults you into office and then play Claude Raines,” said Mr. Roskam, referring to a movie figure whose character was “shocked, shocked” to discover gambling occurring in Casablanca.

But Ms. Duckworth’s campaign quickly countercharged by reminding voters that one of Mr. Roskam’s first jobs in politics was working for former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who recently had to give up his seat in a widening corruption scandal. ***

Mr. Roskam said he worked for Mr. Delay “for seven months, 27 years ago,” and rejected suggestions that he’s being hypocritical because he was the recent beneficiary of a fund-raiser starring Vice President Dick Cheney, whose office has been embroiled in a scandal over leaking the identity of an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency.

One of Peter's mentors should take him aside and explain the rule about not throwing stones while living in a glass house.

Denny A-Tax Working Families

Think Progress reports that Denny Hastert, who gets a fat annual salary of $212,010, had this to say about working-class families:
Well, folks, if you earn $40,000 a year and have a family of two children, you don’t pay any taxes. So you probably, if you don’t pay any taxes, you are not going to get a very big tax cut.
It is important to remember that the federal income tax is only one of several taxes that people pay. Other taxes, like excise taxes, sales taxes, and especially the payroll tax (a.k.a. FICA), are regressive — that is, the poor pay them at a higher rate relative to their income than do the non-poor.

Just because somebody does not pay any federal income tax does not mean that they "don't pay any taxes” or even that they pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than someone who does pay federal income tax. This is because employees and their employers must each pay 7.65 percent in payroll taxes — a combined 15.3 percent that never makes it from the employer to the employee — on top of their income taxes. Millionaires, by contrast, pay a maximum rate of just 15 percent on their income from capital gains and dividends.

Clearly, Denny has forgotten all about payroll taxes -- but that is what happens when you don't mix with people who work for a living.

Watch Denny tell-off wage workers here.

Actually, It's a Very Prestigious Award.

Unknown Unknowns

As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know.
— D.H. Rumsfeld, Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Congratulations to Eric Zorn for provoking some very thoughtful commentary on Ben Franklin's oft-[mis]quoted adage:
Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
EZ asks:
What are our essential liberties? How significant -- how big, how permanent -- does a social benefit have to be in order to justify the curtailment of even inessential liberties?
As most of his commentators recognize, the answer for each person is likely somewhat different because each individual engages in his or her own private balancing test, i.e. "Is the safety gained worth the liberty sacrificed?" Although we would disagree on particular instances, nevertheless, I believe that the vast majority of us would agree that ideally the amount of Liberty gained is offset by no less than a proportional gain in Safety.

In this idealized version of the proportional balancing implicit in Franklin's quote, when we sacrifice "just a little Liberty" we gain at least "just a little Safety", and when we surrender "a heck of a lot of Liberty" we are rewarded with nothing less than "a heck of a lot of Safety." But to intelligently undertake this Franklin balancing, one must know -- or have a reasonable idea of -- the how much Liberty and Safety are at issue.

Unfortunately, we are not living in an ideal universe.

Due to the Bush administration's fetishistic obsession with secrecy, the American people are unable to determine how much Liberty we are surrendering or how much Safety we are gaining. Naturally, there will always be a degree of uncertainty to the value of 'S' -- we do not know precisely how much safer any particular Liberty sacrifice makes us as individuals or as a nation. But we can make certain logical inferences when we understand the nature of the Liberty sacrifice.

Consider metal detectors at airports. We know that the Liberty sacrifice of requiring Americans to pass through a metal detector before boarding a plane rewards us with the Safety that comes with the increased detection of dangerous metal objects. And for most of us that passes the Franklin balancing test. Generally, the same holds true for requiring us to taking our shoes off and to show photo IDs.

But when the Bush administration takes our Liberties in secret, we have no way of determining if the amount of Safety gained justifies it. In the case of the NSA phone records collection, until USA Today broke the story, Americans didn't even know that they had made a Liberty sacrifice, much less had the opportunity to balance it against perceived gains in Safety. And this is true for any other Liberties that the Bush administration is currently, secretly infringing upon.

Even if one is willing to blindly accept that the privacy Liberty surrendered to NSA phone records collection is probably justified by the unknown amount of Safety gained, such blind faith will only carry one so far. What if the NSA was recording the content of every phone call and e-mail of every United States? What Safety gain would be necessary to justify that Liberty sacrifice? Would Safety gain justify it? No matter what your answer, shouldn't the American people be allowed to be part of that Liberty for Safety balancing determination?

But when the Bush White House covertly sacrifices Americans' Liberties in exchange for an unknown amount of Safety, they are prohibiting American citizens from participating in a knowing, rational Franklin balancing determination. And such knowledge and participation are essential to self-rule in a democratic republic by, for and of the people.

In his Politics, Aristotle said, "The defining principle of Democracy is Liberty, one aspect of which is having a share in ruling." I fear that, in exchange for an unknown -- and perhaps illusory -- amount of Safety, we are blindly sacrificing a Liberty essential to our democracy -- our "share in ruling."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Two Items From Page 25 of Your Chicago Sun-Times

U.S. keeps mentally ill at war front
U.S. military troops with severe psychological problems have been sent to Iraq or kept in combat, even when superiors have been aware of signs of mental illness ***

The Army's top mental health expert, Col. Elspeth Ritchie, acknowledged that some deployment practices, such as sending service members diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome back into combat, have been driven in part by a troop shortage.
Bush will call for troops to patrol border
President Bush will call for thousands of National Guard troops to be deployed along the Mexico border in support of patrols aimed at keeping out illegal immigrants, White House officials said Sunday on the eve of an Oval Office address announcing the plan.

White House aides worked into the night Sunday to iron out details of the proposal and allay concerns among lawmakers that using troops to man the border would further burden an overextended military. ***

The officials would not say how many troops Bush wanted to use, except that it would be in the thousands but less than an estimate of as many as 10,000.
I'm not saying that the Bush administration is deliberately trying to undermine the military effectiveness of the United States by wearing out our service men and women -- I just can't imagine what he would do differently if he was.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

From the EFF:
DOJ Moves to Dismiss AT&T Class Action under Cover of Night

Early Saturday morning, in the darkest hours of the night, the Department of Justice made good its threat to file a motion to dismiss our class-action lawsuit against AT&T, contending that AT&T's collaboration with the NSA's massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications (which violates the law and the privacy of its customers)--despite being front page news throughout the United States and the subject of government press conferences and Congressional hearings--is a state secret. The motion was accompanied by declarations by Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander, Director, National Security Agency and John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence.
You can help the EFF "vigorously oppose this motion."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Creepy Pete Supports Spying on 6th District Residents

From the AP:
Roskam supports collection of phone records

Republican State Senator Peter Roskam who is running for a seat in Congress says he supports the collection of phone records by the National Security Agency.
Roskam said during a taping today of WBBM AM's "At Issue" program that as he understands it there is no question that such data collection is legal.

News broke this week that the NSA has been collecting millions of Americans' everyday telephone records.

Roskam said Americans' civil liberties are "precious" but it has to be balanced with border security protecting against terrorist attacks.

Update -- Newt Gingrich on the domestic spying that Roskam says is without question legal:
I’m not going to defend the indefensible. The Bush administration has an obligation to level with the American people. And I'm prepared to defend a very aggressive anti-terrorist campaign, and I'm prepared to defend the idea that the government ought to know who’s making the calls, as long as that information is only used against terrorists, and as long as the Congress knows that it’s underway.

But I don’t think the way they've handled this can be defended by reasonable people.
But who has ever accused Peter Roskam of being "reasonable people"?

The NSA Is Building a Database of Every Phone Call Made in America!

"In terms of news judgement, isn't that, like, HUGE?"


Is there a connection between the USA Today report of NSA phone record data bases and the sudden disappearance of the "Prevention of Fraudulent Access to Phone Records Act," a bi-partisan bill that was headed to the floor of the House of Representatives?

That's what Rep. Ed Markey (MA-7), the ranking Democrat on the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee and a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, asks House speaker Denny Hastert (IL-14) in this letter.

Of course, you might want to ask Denny yourself...

"Forbid it, Almighty God!"

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" -- Patrick Henry, 1775

"If losing freedom be the price of safety, then safety be damned." -- Craig Crawford, 2006

Yes, That's A Two.

From the Wall Street Journal:
President Bush’s job-approval rating has fallen to its lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive poll. Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an “excellent or pretty good” job as president, down from 35% in April and significantly lower than 43% in January. Approval ratings for Congress overall also sank, and now stand at 18%.
And this poll was taken before the revelation that the Bush Administration is spying on every phone in America.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Are We Doomed?

These are the dumbasses standing between us and another 9-11.

Kids These Days...

From your Chicago Sun-Times:
An art teacher at a Northwest Side junior high school has been fired, days after she was accused of hurling racially insensitive comments at Mexican students in her classroom, officials announced Wednesday evening. ***

Students said the teacher, angry because she believed someone in the class had gotten paint on her jacket, said during a Friday art class that "all Mexicans are criminals" and that Mexicans "were only born to clean floors."
Something that has been lost in the coverage of this incident is the maturity and restraint of the students at Aspira Haugen Middle School.

If a teacher had dissed my classmates' and my families like that when I was in junior high -- that teacher would have gone home in a bucket.


Lights... Camera... Obama:

Late night with Conan Obama

Friday night, Conan wraps up his week in Chicago with Senator Obama as his guest. If you're in Chicago you can catch it on NBC 5 at 11:35 P.M.

Check here for local NBC stations.

Good Morning Obama

Senator Obama sat down with ABC's Good Morning America this week to talk about Mother's Day. The interview will air Friday morning and rebroadcast on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 14th. GMA airs on Chicago's ABC 7 starting at 7 A.M.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

an·gry -- adj., Feeling or showing anger; incensed or enraged

William Rivers Pitt:
Why the anger? It can be summed up in one run-on sentence: We have lost two towers in New York, a part of the Pentagon, an important American city called New Orleans, our economic solvency, our global reputation, our moral authority, our children's future, we have lost tens of thousands of American soldiers to death and grievous injury, we must endure the Abramoffs and the Cunninghams and the Libbys and the whores and the bribes and the utter corruption, we must contemplate the staggering depth of the hole we have been hurled down into, and we expect little to no help from the mainstream DC press, whose lazy go-along-to-get-along cocktail-circuit mentality allowed so much of this to happen because they failed comprehensively to do their job.
C.B. Shapiro:
You might be saying “Man, what are you so angry about, Angry Liberal Guy?”

I’ve compiled a short (and by no means complete) list just so I could see it all in one place:

I’m angry about the shredding of the constitution…illegal wiretaps…falsified intelligence…secret prisons… use of torture as an accepted means of interrogation…Terry Schiavo…the war on science…denial of Global Warming…the fascistic secrecy of our elected officials… presidential signings that declare the President above the law…the breakdown of the wall between church and state…the outing of a clandestine CIA agent for purely partisan political gain…the corrupting influence of K Street… the total sell-out of the legislative process to corporate interests… appointments of unqualified cronies at every level of government…Harriet Miers…Brownie…Abu Ghraib… Scooter …the complete mismanagement of the war in Iraq…the lies about the complete mismanagement of the war in Iraq…the grotesque budget deficits… the pathetic response to Katrina… a civil rights division dedicated to undermining civil rights…an environmental protection agency that refuses to protect the environment… (Take a breath, Angry Liberal Guy.)

And I’m angry about a smug, simple-minded, incompetent, unqualified President, and a press that denies the obvious fact that we have a smug, simple-minded, incompetent unqualified President.

If these things don’t make you angry, I have to ask -- what the hell is the matter with you?
What they said.

Who's Paying for the GOP Tax Cuts for the Mega-Rich?

As you are probably aware, since the Republican party has been in control of the Congress and the White House, poverty in the U.S. has climbed steadily. Some folks would suggest that putting off permanent tax cuts for Wall Street and the hyper-rich would be the best way to reduce the number of Americans living in poverty.

But under GOP leadership, the U.S. is cutting the number of poor Americans in a different way: U.S. Ranks Low on Newborn Survival
America may be the world's superpower, but its survival rate for newborn babies ranks near the bottom among developed nations.

Among 33 industrialized nations examined in a new report, the United States tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with a death rate of nearly 5 per 1,000 babies. Only Latvia had higher mortality figures, with 6 per 1,000, according to the report by the U.S.-based Save the Children.

"We are the wealthiest country in the world, but there are still pockets of our population who are not getting the health care they need," said Mary Beth Powers, a reproductive health adviser for Save the Children, which compiled the rankings based on health data from countries and agencies worldwide. ***

The lack of national health insurance and short maternity leaves in the U.S. can lead to poor health care before and during pregnancy, increasing risks for premature births and low birth weight, which are the leading causes of newborn death in industrialized countries.
But rest assured (and in peace) dead American babies: For a time the GOP really, really cared about you -- but then you were born.

Don't Believe The Hype

All the critics -- you can hang'em,
I'll hold the rope
-- Public Enemy

In his Slate story about bizarre accusations against the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, Chicago writer and blogger John Cook takes a radical stand: Your opinion of rap does not determine whether you're a racist.
The bizarre case against Merritt came to a head last month at the Experience Music Project's annual Pop Conference. Merritt was the keynote speaker, and in a panel conversation he described "Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah," from Disney's legendarily racist 1946 musical Song of the South, as a "great song." He made clear, according to a partial transcript of the panel provided by his band mate Claudia Gonson, that he did not actually like Song of the South, calling it unwatchable and saying that it has just "one great song. The rest of it is terrible, actually."

This was too much for [Chicago Reader music contributor Jessica Hopper], who was in the audience and had already written on her blog that she intended to confront Merritt. She walked out in anger and wrote, falsely, that, "I did not have to ask Stephin Merrit [sic] of Magnetic Flds whether he was racist, because his nice, long elucidating comment about his love, NAY, obsession with racist cartoon, Song of the South, served as a pre-emptive answer. It's one thing to have 'Zippitty Doo Da' be your favorite song. It is another to lay in for Uncle Remus appreciation hour amidst a panel—('I love all of it,' he says)."

Of course Merritt had said no such thing. Later, when confronted with a transcript of the panel, Hopper retracted her comments. But not before other bloggers picked up the meme.

Naturally, this story -- combining the traditionally volatile elements of alleged racism and musical taste -- has started a Blogfight!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Denny's Priorities: Rich Men and Wall Street First

Question: If you were Dennis Hastert, captain of the House GOP's sinking ship, what would you do?

Answer: Set Aside Middle-Income Tax Cuts to Focus on Rich
Republican lawmakers, facing the prospect that their power to cut taxes may soon be curbed, plan to extend breaks that mostly benefit the wealthy and Wall Street at the expense of reductions for middle-income households.

Six months before elections that may return a Democratic majority in at least one house of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois are focusing on extending the 15 percent rate on investments and repealing the estate tax. They won't push extensions of lower rates for all taxpayers and expanded breaks for married couples and families with children, which expire after 2010. ***

Internal Revenue Service data show taxpayers who earned at least $1 million reaped 43 percent of all savings from reduced rates on dividends and capital gains. The estate tax will affect only 12,600 families with more than $2 million in assets this year, a number that will decline to 7,200 by 2009, according to a study by the Tax Policy Center. ***

Democrats have taken the lead over Republicans on most issues, including taxes, for the November congressional elections, according to a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll conducted last month. The survey of 1,234 registered voters found that 49 percent of respondents favored Democratic candidates in their district, compared with 35 percent who said they would vote for a Republican.

Never Forget: In the GOP's America, if you're not First Class, you're Steerage.

XVP is the Job for Me!

This WSJ article on the former next President of the United States answers that age old question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Since conceding to Mr. Bush, [former Vice President Al Gore] has taught at several universities and written two books with his wife. He is on Apple Computer Inc.'s board and is senior adviser to Google Inc. He has founded Current, a youth-oriented, interactive cable network, and Generation Investment Management, which invests in companies deemed environmentally and socially responsible.
Heck, I'd even settle for jobs at just three out of four of those businesses.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Rahm: No Regrets on IL-6 Primary

From the Jonathan Singer's MyDD interview with Rahm Emanuel:
Singer: For all of your fundraising successes, your recruitment successes, the biggest complaint out of the progressive blogosphere relating to your tenure as DCCC chair has been your willingness to jump into internal primary battles, most notably supporting Tammy Duckworth over a grassroots' favorite, Christine Cegelis. How would you respond to this criticism?

Emanuel: I think there are places where primaries are good. Illinois, in the 6th, they had a primary. But my view was, I also have a charge, as you know Jonathan, to make every seat competitive -- or as many seats as I can competitive. And I know what my Republican counterpart said when Tammy won, which is this is going to be a very competitive seat now.

And so sometimes with being a leader at the DCCC comes criticism. That's part of the job. That's fine.

The voters in the end of the day in the 6th district made a decision. They made a decision to have Tammy be the nominee. In my view, it's now a discussion about Tammy's set of ideas about what it takes to move this country forward and the extreme ideas and policies that Senator Roskam has been voting on, like against stem cell research. He's for banning books and movies like "It's a Wonderful Life," like "Romeo and Juliet" from schools. He opposed the assault weapons ban. This is a debate about Tammy Duckworth versus Peter Roskam. This is not about what happened in the past.

Singer: Maybe just on a larger scale, not just in that race, do you have any concern that... There has been a lot of rhetoric coming out of the progressive blogosphere. Do you have any concern that might turn into, say, progressive voters staying at home on election day?

Emanuel: If the progressive blogs saying... Look, let's go back. What happened in 2004, John Kerry got 47 percent. Right?

Singer: In that district.

Emanuel: And Cegelis got what? Do you remember?

Singer: 44 percent.

Emanuel: So she ran below John Kerry in that district. Correct?

Singer: That's correct, I think.

Emanuel: So okay. I'm into a general election against Peter Roskam. And that's a suburban district. It's a district that's going to be won with independents, because there's not enough Democrats to win it. Okay?

"I know what my Republican counterpart said when Tammy won, which is this is going to be a very competitive seat now."

I knew he wasn't taking his cues from the Democratic grassroots, but his apparent satisfaction with attaboys from across the aisle surprises even me. I guess you take your affirmation where you can get it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Today is the BIG DAY!

Click the image to find your local participating shop.

Friday, May 05, 2006

No Recounts for DuPage County

From your Chicago Tribune:
For decades, the DuPage County Election Commission has failed to seek permission from a state office before destroying key polling machine records detailing how residents voted, said an official from the Illinois secretary of state's office.

Other election authorities comply by asking the Local Records Commission, a division of the secretary's office, said Gloria Huston, archival program administrator for the Records Management Section of the Illinois State Archives.

The Local Records Act states that "no public record shall be disposed of by any local governmental agency unless written approval of the Local Records Commission is first obtained." A violation is a felony, according to state statute. ***

Melissa Urda and Jean Kaczmarek, co-chairwomen of the DuPage Chapter of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, a non-partisan election watchdog group, came across the issue as they sought "poll tapes" for the November 2004 election. They were hoping to check the accuracy of optical scan voting machines made by Diebold Inc., a lightning rod for controversy because its former chairman is a supporter of President Bush. They have not been permitted to do so.

Poll tapes are the printouts made from the machines the evening of an election after the machine has read all the ballots and tallied the votes on its internal computer.

"The illegal destruction of records is a breach of public trust," Kaczmarek said. "If the commission has not been following the rule of law, how can we trust how they're conducting elections, particularly when the process is not transparent to the public?"

Neither the administrative nor the election code mentions "poll tapes" by name, but Huston says they are the modern "equivalent of a tally sheet." ***

In most of Illinois, county clerks oversee elections, though there are a few local election commissions. DuPage is the only countywide election commission. Formed in 1974, it is bipartisan and independent, although the county funds its roughly $4 million annual budget.

County clerks regularly seek permission from the state's Local Records Commission to destroy election-related records by filing what's known as a "records disposal certificate" with the agency, Huston said. Individual election commissions, such as those in Aurora and Peoria, also do this. The Chicago Board of Elections has filed 36 certificates requesting permission to destroy records since Jan. 1, 2003, Huston said.

In that same time, the Local Records Commission has gotten 568 requests to dispose of records from government offices in DuPage County, ranging from the Addison Fire Protection District to the county coroner. More than 60 came from countywide offices.

"That is a very good compliance rate," Huston said.

But the county Election Commission has "never filed a records disposal certificate" for poll tapes or any other documents, though it should have, Huston said. The Local Records Act defines public agencies as being "any court, and all parts, boards, departments, bureaus and commissions of any county, municipal corporation or political subdivision."

"It does not say, 'except the DuPage County Election Commission,'" Huston said.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Obama, America Step Up Against Genocide

From your ABC7:
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez that provides $60 million to fund a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Darfur region of Sudan. The amendment, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama, is part of a huge bill to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurricane relief on the Gulf Coast. President Bush has promised to veto the bill if it exceeds $94.5 billion. The bill is already close to $109 billion.

Obama, D-Ill., said the amendment sends a message to other countries to join the United States in efforts to end the genocide in Darfur.

"This sends a signal to the U.N. that we are prepared to do our fair share," Obama said.

Have I said I want that man to be president lately?

"Dying is Easy -- Comedy is Hard."

From Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher:
For two days the battle has raged on the Web: Did Stephen Colbert go too far in lampooning President Bush, to his face, at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night? Is that why his barbs did not generate more laughter around the room of 2700 journalists, celebrities and other guests? Or was it because he suggested the press was spineless in failing to confront the president on Iraq? Or was Colbert just not that funny?

In any case, the event has inspired debate on hundreds of political and media blogs, the posting of the video on dozens of sites, and massive traffic to E&P, where the first in-depth account of Colbert’s performance was posted Saturday night.

You’d think from all the criticism that the guy had based his routine on joking about launching a war and not finding the WMDs that inspired it. Oh, right, that was President Bush, two years ago.

Bush's tasteless WMD jokes may have been at the expense of the military men and women who were killed and wounded in Iraq, but at least he didn't show "bad manners."

Well, I guess that explains some things...

"I’m among those who attended the dinner who thought Colbert went beyond what good manners dictate, especially when dealing with the president" -- Frank James, Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau

Personally, I am less troubled about a deficit of "good manners" in Washington than I am about the lack of good faith, the lack of good government and the lack of good journalism.

I don't think people who make fun of me are funny either.

"Colbert didn't get laughs, applause because he wasn't funny"

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Immigration Question

This question has been haunting me all day long:

Is this little girl stealing jobs from 17-month old Americans
or is she just doing work that American toddlers refuse to do?

"Kill 'Em All -- Let God Sort 'Em Out"

From your Chicago Tribune:
Four of the nation's top arson experts have concluded that the state of Texas executed a man in 2004 based on scientifically invalid evidence, and on Tuesday they called for an official reinvestigation of the case.

In their report, the experts, assembled by the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization responsible for scores of exonerations, concluded that the conviction and 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the arson-murders of his three daughters was based on interpretations by fire investigators that have been scientifically disproved.

"The whole system has broken down," Barry Scheck, co-founder and director of the Innocence Project, said at a news conference at the state Capitol in Austin. "It's time to find out whether Texas has executed an innocent man."

The experts were asked to perform an independent review of the evidence after an investigation by the Tribune that showed Willingham had been found guilty on arson theories that have been repudiated by scientific advances. In fact, many of the theories were simply lore that had been handed down by generations of arson investigators who relied upon what they were told.

The report's conclusions match the findings of the Tribune, published in December 2004. The newspaper began investigating the Willingham case following an October 2004 series, "Forensics Under the Microscope," which examined the use of forensics in the courtroom, including the continued use of disproved arson theories to obtain convictions. ***

One of the four authors of the report, John Lentini, a private fire investigator who first examined the Willingham case at the request of the Tribune, is a leading proponent of grounding arson investigation in proven science.

The report calls upon the criminal justice system to require arson investigators to have backgrounds in the science of fire and that criminal defense lawyers be afforded money to hire independent fire investigators. It also urges that participants in the justice system, particularly prosecutors, who decide whether to bring charges, be educated about scientific advances in fire investigation.

"There is no crime other than homicide by arson for which a person can be sent to Death Row based on the unsupported opinion of someone who received all of his training 'on the job,'" the report states.

At the news conference, Lentini said the analysis of the testimony by fire investigators in the Willis and Willingham cases shows that "over and over and over again, they repeated the mythology. … These guys didn't know what they were talking about."
Local Note: Judy Baar Topinka, Republican candidate for governor, would have Illinois rejoin Texas in the killing business.

They'd never do that... Right?

John Shirley, the asks the musical question: Are the oil companies charging more so that they can pollute freely?

"And all the sinners -- saints."

Some members of the Chicago Police Department don't want the long awaited special report on torture allegations against former Area 3 Police Commander Jon Burge and other police made public.

Wonder why?

"Our immigration laws are absurd."

Once again, Steve Rhodes has stolen the thoughts from my mind even before I could fully formulate them:
Our immigration laws are absurd.

While illegal immigrants didn't follow the law to get here, they did something even more courageous: They risked life and limb to make a better life for themselves and, in many cases, even more so, for their children. You might say that no one wants to be an American more than an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
Did you miss the immigration rights rally yesterday?

Do you wanna know what happened and what may come of it?

Then check out your Beachwood Reporter's roundup your local papers coverage.

Note: You really should be reading The Beachwood Reporter every day. It's good and good for you -- like that daily glass of vino.

And it won't spill it and stain your shirt.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"My fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

America reacts Mission Accomplished: Year Three via CNN:
Three years after President Bush declared major combat over in Iraq, Americans have strong doubts that the United States will fulfill the promise of his "Mission Accomplished" backdrop, a poll released Monday found.

The CNN poll, conducted April 21-23 by Opinion Research Corporation, found that only 9 percent thought the U.S. mission in Iraq had been accomplished, while 40 percent believed it would be complete someday.

An additional 44 percent said the United States would never accomplish its goals in Iraq, where American troops are still battling insurgents three years after the invasion that toppled former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Nearly half of Americans believe that the U.S. will never accomplish its goals in Iraq?

Mind blowing.


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