Archive for June, 2006

Superman, revisited

Yes, it’s an awful lot of space to dedicate to a middling movie, but the hero is an American icon. And, like a lot of other icons, dull. Why?

He’s omnipotent. Yes, yes, there’s trouble in this movie and others, he nearly bites it, and so forth. But in every movie, he’s the favorite. It’s Lex Luthor who’s the underdog.

Did I mention he’s omnipotent? That means he can do anything. Where’s the risk? What are the stakes? Ironically Superman’s omnipotence is his weakness. It makes him less interesting than, say, Batman or Spiderman. In the early comics, Superman was not so powerful. He couldn’t fly, he could only leap…tall buildings. He didn’t have the multitude of visions he later developed, x-ray, laser vision. I think others crop up when the need arises. H*ll, the dude can turn back time.

I’ve read this before, I’ll repeat it as my own, but unlike other superheroes, Superman is the real guy, Clark Kent is the manufactured identity. The other heroes are people first; the hero is an inner expression, a persona that goes with the powers – usually accidental. That’s what drags down Superman. We can never really sympathize because we could never become Superman. He’s an omnipotent alien descended to the stars like some arbitrary God. He’s not an average joe squeaking by doing the best he can with his limited gifts like the rest of us.

Other super thoughts:

So the guy can hear everything. He knows what goes on everywhere. So…how does he decide who to save and who to let hang? Now that’s an awesome responsibility and the only challenge as far as I can see that taxes his superpowers. There are just too d*mn many of us.

Which leads me to the next question: why does he have a job? It’s a waste of time, isn’t it? Eight hours he could be fighting crime, saving downed planes, putting out fires. It’s a big world. Does he sleep? Eat? If not, why bother work as a journalist at all? If he does eat and sleep, why the job? Couldn’t he just make his own food, rearrange molecules or something? He could sleep wherever he wanted. On the sidewalk. In a flophouse. On a roof somewhere where it’s warm – not that heat or cold affect him. It’s not like anyone’s going to surprise him in his sleep, stick him with a knife or anything.

And he always chooses Metropolis over the rest of the world, Lois Lane in particular. How many others have died so that Lois can go on a quiet midnight ride over Metropolis Bay?

World Cup thoughts

Seems like the final was already played: Argentina v. Germany. Not a great game because the teams were so evenly matched and the ball spent the majority of its time in the midfield. But what skilled, cohesive teams! What deadly offensive skill, what smothering defense!

Brazil – Ghana was a dull game. Ghana controlled the ball most of the time and had a load of opportunities. Brazil’s defense is just good enough. And Brazil’s goals, all of them sort of cheap, quick counter-attacks, timing passes, etc. You know what? Brazil is the new Argentina. I hate that style of play. They are not a fun team to watch.

Defenders should never have a perm. Leave the perms for the strikers. Defenders should have everyday conservative haircuts. If possible, a defender should even be balding.

Speaking of hair, I’ve discovered an easy way to tell who’s going to win the game early on. By the team hair. The more hair bands, hair nets, and head bands a team has to pull back long, flowing locks highlighted, teased, cut into shapes, the less likely that team will win the game.

You think I’m joking?

South Korea – Switzerland. South Korea had perhaps the worst haircuts in the tourney: between the forward with the bleach surf ‘do and the defender with the 1960s Beatles mop-top were a whole lot of other bad cuts. Switzerland sported not a single ‘do that leaked over the ear. Switzerland wins, 2-0.

Spain – France. Spain featured at least three guys with shoulder-length hair and perms. One guy even wore the kind of u-shaped hair band you find on preppie teens. Two others wore headbands. Another had moussed himself a mohawk. France has a couple of bald guys and a guy missing a side burn and some hair on his temple because of a scar. France wins, 3-1.

Argentina – Germany. Historically, Argentina – along with Italy – is a hair disaster. They practically revolutionized the greasy-mop-tied-with-string look. This year they were less egregious, with only one or two greasy mops tied with a string. They had at least one perm. They also had a wild-haired Native American looking guy who actually looked kick-*ss. Germany, however, features nary a single extraordinary ‘do. Germany wins on PKs, 1-1 (4:2).

Go back and examine the record. You’ll see I’m right. Besides Ronaldhino, Brazil has very modest haircuts – and Ronaldhino’s having a very mediocre tournament. They win. England has subdued hair this time around and has survived despite mediocre play. Italy’s hair is toned down this year, and lo! They do not get booted out on PKs!

Hair predictions for the rest of the tournament:

Tomorrow, Beckham, in a conservative close-cropped do, and teammates beat a heavily permed and treated Portuguese team. Conservative hair Brazil defeat the bald and missing side burn of France. Next, Germany easily takes down the subtler, yet still more groomed Azzurri. England loses to Brazil despite Ronaldhino’s poor play on a bad pass made by the tousle- and moussed-hair forward, Crouch. In the final, the German squad, uniformly conservative in their hair styling, defeat an overrated Brazil squad as the country blames curly-locked Ronaldhino for its loss. (He just can’t replace the close-cropped leader of the 2002 WC champs, Rivaldo.)

You can put money on it!

So I saw Superman today. Matinee. Eh.

As part of the plot, super reporter and Superman love interest, Lois Lane, penned two separate editorials: “Why the world doesn’t need Superman,” and “Why the world needs Superman.” You can guess for yourselves how this fit into the plot and Lois’ – er — interest in the Hunk of Steel. But I thought it’d make an interesting post.

And I come down…against Superman.

That’s right.

At first, when I was watching the flick, I was like “ooo yeah, if only Superman were here now, he’d know what to do with the CIA’s secret prisons.” I can easily picture him twisting iron train ties around the necks of certain federal officials, dusting off his hands, and considering a job well done. He’d save us all for truth, justice, and the American Way, none of which seems terribly popular in Congress or the White House.

Yeah, an invulnerable hero swooping in and cleaning out the bad guys. Yeah, that’s what we need, right?

Superman was first popular just as the Great Depression got underway. Some consider him the “ultimate immigrant” (from Krypton) who battled the rich and the corrupt. (His first appearance had him bust up munitions manufacturers and their corrupt, bought government cronies who started wars to boost sales – oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!) He was a social crusader, a man of the people, of the downtrodden. And he was omnipotent. He could do anything.

In other words, he’s the model for a dictator.

The funny thing about Americans is that when they hear “dictatorship,” they inherently think of the negatives of such an institution. A dictatorship, in our popular gestalt, is a jack-booted thug wearing a silly military uniform and ordering the deaths of a considerable swath of his own population. There’s prisons and beatings and death camps, barbed wire, German shepherds, and search lights.

But dictatorships have their benefits, too. There’s no check on an executive: he can act swiftly and decisively to, say, eliminate mid-level corruption among bureaucrats or make the trains run on time. There’s an awkward dispute with two controversial sides? No problem! Enter the dictator and poof! Problem solved. You don’t like the solution? Off to the Gulag with you, brother!

Remember, both the Hitler and Stalin dictatorships were popular with their people. Popular enough anyway to have the benefits outweigh the negatives, if you were lucky enough not to be a Jew or Trotskyite. Hitler reversed the economic depression in Germany by building a war machine; Stalin modernized the Soviet Union’s economy and made the country a world superpower.

And that’s the danger of a dictator, the allure. It’s easy to picture Superman as a friend. And, heck, he’d probably do a decent job as dictator – after all, there have been absolute monarchs who had peaceful, prosperous, and tolerant reigns. But once you open up the door – even to someone you like and trust – there’s no closing it again. And someone you don’t like might step through the opening.

So, for me, I’m going to say “no thanks” to Superman. This is a job for you and me.

Links…

Matt Stoller has an amazing description of the Net Neutrality debate in the Senate Commerce Committee and what it likely means for the issue on the floor.

Wulfgar! emerges from his den and mauls the flag-burning amendment and its supporters.

GOP bootlickers rush to give President the authority to ignore the recent SCOTUS decision regarding military tribunals. Um…that still wouldn’t make it constitutional

Digby is pessimistic that Bush will heed the court’s decision anyway. Good point.

The Department of Homeland Security does not make you safer. Apparently it is a big money-pit. Can we have some accountability in Washington, please? Oh, that’s right, we’re busy arguing about fags, flag burning, and those traitors at the New York Times.

Speak out! What should the goal for Western Strategy be? How about saving the country from the GOP?

I know some people out there think we should be “above” sliming Rush – but I can’t help it! It’s too funny!

Colbert tackles the SWIFT scandal: “The New York Times wants you dead.”

The New Republic comes out against…baseball caps. For the record, I’m with them on this one.

Boing Boing! has the video for a new mixed soundtrack for class sci-fi full length animation, “The Fantastic Planet.” If see only one 1970s sci-fi feature-length cartoon, this is it.

The other statewide race this election – the House race – just isn’t getting much attention. It pits incumbent Rehberg against challenger Lindeen, in another battle between a corrupt and out-of-touch DC insider and a feisty Montana Democrat with an excellent record in the state legislature.

Rehberg is a real winner. Not only has he supported Bush at every turn, he received a failing grade from the Drum Major Institute for his votes affecting the middle class, he voted against the minimum wage the same week he gave himself a pay raise, wants to eliminate the estate tax, and opposes Net Neutrality.

Rehberg’s also involved in a number of Montana-based scandals, including INSA and the Carter county lobbyist scandal; like Burns, he apparently feels that government exists to personally enrich himself and his pals.

Lindeen, on the other hand is an advocate of Net Neutrality, ethics reform, affordable health care, and energy independence, and is a strong opponent of the encroachment of the executive on our civil liberties. In the state legislature, Lindeen was an advocate of affordable secondary education.

Like Jon Tester, Monica Lindeen is a hard-nosed Montana Democrat and a lifelong native of the state. The daughter of a truck driver and a waitress, she put herself through school, started her own business – an early local Internet provider – and then served four terms in the state legislature marked by her reputation for competence, hard work, and ability to forge bipartisan coalitions.

I’ve met her personally, and she’s just the right kind of person we need in Washington DC right now. We need someone who knows how to govern, who won’t fleece the taxpayers, who won’t be influenced by lobbyists, and who will stand up to the Republican party.

And she’s got a real chance to win, too, especially if the INSA scandal breaks this summer as it threatens to do. And if she gets enough funding.

Unfortunately the House race is getting overshadowed by the Senate race in traditional media circles and here on the Internet. Rehberg as the incumbent has all the financial advantages. Monica needs our help.

Let’s turn Montana BLUE! Contribute!

Links…

Pogie contemplates Burns’ flip-flop over the Rocky Mountain Front.

Schweitzer supports Tester. He’s also quite the showman, apparently.

A Canadian weighs in on the SWIFT-press controversy: the Bush administration wants a loyal press, not a free press.

Olbermann on the right-wing press bashing.

Rumsfield on loose lips. Takes some to know some…

And it appears – from an expert’s point of view, anyway – that the SWIFT program likely was obsolete.

Are the right-wingers’ days numbered?

Insurgent groups offer to halt attacks if the US leaves. Ruse or real?

People still don’t think the economy is all that hot, despite what the Bush administration tells them! Pesky people! (Partial and complete poll results – pdf)

Hooray for the rule of law! Hooray for the judiciary, which has successfully fulfilled its duty! Hooray for checks and balances! Hooray for the Constitution!

SCOTUS has “delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration” and ruled that the military tribunals that try Guantanamo detainees are unconstitutional.

The case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 36-year-old Yemeni with links to al-Qaeda, was considered a key test of the judiciary’s power during wartime and carried the potential to make a lasting impact on American law. It challenged the very legality of the military commissions established by President Bush to try terrorism suspects.The case raised core constitutional principles of separation of powers as well as fundamental issues of individual rights. Specifically, the questions concerned:

• The power of Congress and the executive to strip the federal courts and the Supreme Court of jurisdiction.

• The authority of the executive to lock up individuals under claims of wartime power, without benefit of traditional protections such as a jury trial, the right to cross-examine one’s accusers and the right to judicial appeal.

• The applicability of international treaties — specifically the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war — to the government’s treatment of those it deems “enemy combatants.”

The ruling was 5-3. SCOTUSblog has the syllabus. Justices Stevens, Breyer, Bader Ginsburg, Souter, and Kennedy in the majority. Dissenting were Thomas, Scalia, and Alito. Roberts had to recuse himself because he participated in the federal appeals court decision upholding the administration’s position.

Surprise! Roberts and Alito are gung-ho on executive privilege! What a shocker! Actually you probably won’t be surprised, but I wrote on this topic some months ago:

These Supreme Court nominations aren’t about abortion. They aren’t about prayer in school or the posting the Ten Commandments in school, outlawing sodomy (i.e., fags), protecting the Pledge of Allegiance, or prohibiting flag burning. No. These nominations are about vesting authoritative powers in executive branch.

Luckily for this country these executive-backers haven’t achieved a majority on the bench. Yet. But this case also shows how negligent Senate Democrats were to allow the Alito nomination to sail through Congress. You remember, right? Democratic leaders wanted to filibuster Alito’s nomination. Only the usual gang of tepid lawmakers voted for cloture in order to avoid the stigma of divisiveness.

Let’s remember those Senators who did the right thing and voted for the United State Constitution and against cloture:

Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Boxer (D-CA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wyden (D-OR)

You can figure out for yourself who’s not on this list.

You’ll also notice there aren’t many “Rs” in the list. When the jackbooted thugs knock down your door, you’ll know who to thank.

Remember civil liberties and the rule of law aren’t just for those people we agree with or like, they’re also meant to apply to people we don’t like or we distrust.

Yesterday I framed the SWIFT story around a single question: who should have the power to decide what’s printed in a newspaper, the publisher or the government?

Of course, what I didn’t mention are the various laws that hedge newspapers. A paper can’t print libel, for example. There are also laws governing national security, too. A paper can’t knowingly print national secrets that endanger the nation’s security. (See the Valerie Plame case.)

So now the real “experts” can act. That is, if the New York Times truly endangered national security, the government can prosecute.

Greg Sargent:

Both Snow and Dick Cheney have explicitly said that the Times has put the nation’s security at risk — and presumably they think the paper continues to do so, since it won’t back off its right to publish such stories. Yet by all indications the administration is unlikely to take any real action against the paper…

According to Sargent, there are two possible conclusions we can take from the administration’s unwillingness to prosecute:

Either the administration is putting politics ahead of national security and won’t act aggressively against an institution it says is endangering American lives — because it would be bad for Bush. Or the administration’s claim that The Times endangered national security is just the latest in a long string of lies it has told to the American people.

It’s a good point. Budge has been at me for supporting the Times’ right to publish stories like this, criticizing the paper for printing without knowing the real effect of publication to national security, because it’s not an expert in the area.

Now the “real” experts can act. If publication really hurts security, then the federal government should prosecute the newspaper.

Likewise with the multitude of other illegal programs the administration engages in. Budge again criticizes me for calling warrantless domestic wiretapping illegal, because the legality is “debatable” – though I haven’t seen too many, if any, objective voices praising the programs. But if the administration believed in the legality of warrantless wiretapping, data mining, suspension of habeus corpus for “enemy combatants, ” or torture, they would rush the issue to court.

Instead, in each case they’ve either abandoned their programs before a court could consider the case or set up administrative roadblocks to ensure the case can never reach a legal decision. Not the type of behavior you’d expect from an administration that is confident in the legality of its snooping.

And you won’t see the SWIFT issue go to court, either.

I say it’s time to put up or shut up.

Update: The HuffPo’s Alex Koppelman also chimes in. According to him, there have been published reports as early as 2001 that show the Bush administration was seeking to track financial records via SWIFT. So the story that broke recently was not new information. The main story of the Times (and other publications) was that the administration tried to avoid oversight on the program.

Another point that Koppleman makes is that the Times was not the only newspaper that printed the story. The LA Times did too, as did the Wall Street Journal.

Hey, you folks concerned about national security! When are you going after the WSJ?

*crickets*

Can’t say I’m surprised. Although with the other flip-flopping Burns has done recently to improve his image during the election cycle, I thought maybe – just maybe! – he’d do the right thing. You know, with all the scrutiny the election is bringing.

I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Today, the Wyden Internet Non-Discrimination Act died in committee on an 11-11 vote. Senator Conrad Burns voted against Net Neutrality.

You think his vote had anything to do with the $162,600 he took from telecomm lobbyists?

I still haven’t heard from Baucus about his stance on a free Internet.

I just saw the Missoulian’s editorial against the Missoula City Council’s decision to help homeowners with a city plan to make improvements to city sidewalks.

The Missoulian has come down against the plan. Fine. I can understand why they object to the project from an ideological standpoint, that the city shouldn’t implement a project that charges homeowners for improvements they may not want.

But then the editorial makes the following outrageous claim:

Moreover, city officials should do what we’ve been doing since this issue surfaced this spring: Spend a good deal of time walking the city’s sidewalks with an eye toward evaluating the necessity of spending some $1 million a year replacing older sidewalks and installing them where they don’t exist along existing homes.

What you see, as you stroll around, is that a good many sidewalks are cracked, frost-heaved or otherwise flawed, but generally useful nonetheless. Where sidewalk segments are missing or badly damaged, generally there are perfectly good sidewalks on the opposite side of the streets. There are places where pedestrians must take to the street shoulder for want of a sidewalk, but this rarely is much inconvenience, much less danger, at least on relatively quiet residential streets.

And here’s the kicker:

What’s needed in terms of sidewalks isn’t merely an easy-payment plan but a rethinking of the whole approach. What our city officials ought to strive toward is a functional and reasonably safe network of sidewalks. The goal should be a city that’s fairly inviting and safe for pedestrians.

Apparently the author of this scrap has never left Missoula’s upper income University District (which contains the city’s first million-dollar home). Once you leave the ritzy neighborhood abutting Missoulian headquarters and cross Russell street to the west or Broadway to the north – the city’s densest and fastest-growing neighborhoods – sidewalks are pretty much nonexistent, especially on the busiest thoroughfares, like Third Street past Russell or Johnson.

That is, most neighborhoods in the city don’t have a “functional and reasonably safe network of sidewalks.” Most neighborhoods aren’t “fairly inviting and safe for pedestrians.”

For me, the issue is personal. I live in one of the dense, lower-income areas of Missoula. There are few sidewalks. To get around my neighborhood – to go to the park or nearby supermarket – my family has to walk in the street.

Did I mention I have two two-year olds?

Links…

Criminal charges pending for INSA officials?

Burns flip-flops again. This time on drilling in the Rocky Mountain Front.

Butte featured on the Daily Show!

Oops, looks like the feds’ SWIFT spying might violate EU regulation. Another Bush diplomatic failure. (Why is it Americans have to rely on Europe to protect our personal information?)

The flag amendment stalls in the Senate.

The next bullsh*t morality legislation designed to distract and divide: The “American Values Agenda.”

A sobering moment for the President, via John at Blogenlust.

George Bush, alcoholic – part 1.

Iran appoints two thugs to the UN council on Human Rights. What’s next, Alberto Gonzalez and Dick Cheney to join them?

Rockridge Institute on Bush: “Bush’s disasters — Katrina, the Iraq War, the budget deficit — are not so much a testament to his incompetence or a failure of execution. Rather, they are the natural, even inevitable result of his conservative governing philosophy. It is conservatism itself, carried out according to plan, that is at fault.”

Digby on Rush: “He’s just another flawed, dysfunctional, rich, celebrity Republican drug addict with a taste for kinky sex.”

The New York Times broke the story about the US combing through bank transactions to track terrorists. Bush had a fit:

“…the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We’re at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America.”

Newspapers everywhere scrambled to justify the breaking of the story. Right-wing pundits attacked. The Weekly Standard:

The New York Times is a national security threat. So drunk is it on its own power and so antagonistic to the Bush administration that it will expose every classified antiterror program it finds out about, no matter how legal the program, how carefully crafted to safeguard civil liberties, or how vital to protecting American lives.

If that weren’t extreme enough for you, consider a right-wing blogger’s proposal:

Wouldn’t executing Risen, Lichtblau, and Keller for treason (along with the person or persons responsible for leaking the government secrets) bring with it the ancillary benefit of encouraging other journalists and editors to find more socially beneficial ways to win a Pulitzer Prize and government leakers other ways of carrying out their leftwing Democratic party-supporting political agenda?

Yes, this blogger is saying that supporting Democrats is akin to treason.

Personally, I think the Times and other papers are doing US citizens a favor by publishing reports on intelligence agencies and the administrations working outside the bounds of law. The agencies and administration should follow the rule of law. End of story.

There’s a number of theories that Bush and his allies were only half-heartedly concerned about the leak, if at all, but are using the story as a pretext to divert attention to the media and away from Bush’s illegal domestic spying.

In the end, it comes down to the question posed by Bernie Ward: who should decide what newspapers should print? The newspapers or the government?

Over at Coobs’ site (find your own link) we were treated to glimpse of the GOP mindset surrounding the Iraq War.

10:13 am

Coobs posts:

To Jon Tester & his loyalists, I’ll type this slowly, since I know you don’t read fast:

Staying the Course = victory on the war on terror

Cutting & Running = failure

Any questions?

11:02 am

Less than an hour later, this tidbit appeared in the comment thread, posted by Coobs:

If we stay in Iraq until October, when the Iraqi’s can police themselves, we have accomplished the objective.

If we tuck in our tail & run, we fail.

So what happened between 10:13 am and 11:02 am to get Coobs to reverse his position and advocate for “cutting and running” in October? The news that the administration is planning to reduce troops in Iraq in – surprise! – September!

What appears at first to be the inept fumbling of a minor local blogger actually looks to be a part of a larger pattern:

The next step, of course, will be for the same people who three days ago were demanding the execution of John Kerry and John Murtha for even daring to suggest a withdrawal timetable to immediately begin calling for a withdrawal timetable — that is, when they’re not hailing the Cheney administration for having won a smashing victory in Iraq. In fact it’s already started.

What this whole about-face on “cutting and running” represents in a larger scheme is that the Republican party is again using the Iraq War for political gain. They don’t care about the war, whether Iraqis or Americans die, whether the country really does become a democracy or even stable as long as it benefits their party.

That seems like a stretch, doesn’t it, to make that sweeping assumption based on one local blogger’s flip-flopping and some lefty blogger commentry? But watch. Coobs is, if anything, an accurate barometer of Burns’ and the GOP’s campaign tactics.

The Bush administration and their Congressional yes-men have since day one preyed on the fears of everyday Americans in the wake of 9/11 in order to win themselves political advantages over their Democratic peers. Iraq enabled Republicans to paint their opponents as weak on security, unpatriotic, or downright treasonous. Iraq’s occupation has been relentlessly partisan and political: Bush has appointed party hacks in key positions in the occupation’s administration. (Party hacks refused to give the military the number of troops they said they needed to pacify Iraq. Party hacks wasted taxpayer dollars on feel-good photo-ops of library or school openings for front cover stories in US papers instead of working to restore electricity or sewage. Party hacks stretch the troops and force soldiers to stay in country long after their service time should have run out.)

And now withdrawal after saying leaving would be cowardice, or worse.

But is the withdrawal permanent? billmon:

Has all the recent hollering about cutting and running simply been an elaborate smoke screen to cover the preparations to, well, cut and run?I don’t know, although I lean towards the more cynical view that this is simply a ploy to try to get through the elections. Leaving Iraq (I mean really leaving Iraq) would be an enormous loss of face for Shrub and his ventriloquist — not so much here at home, where the semi-official media generally can be relied upon to call black white on command, but in the Middle East and wherever else America is hated. The Cheneyites might just as well wrap Iraq up, put a bow on it, and give it to Tehran as a going away present. At least, that’s how it would be seen in the region.

For the record, I agree. I don’t think Bush leaves Iraq during his Presidency. I think he was speaking truthfully when he said he’d leave Iraq to future Presidents. I also think the US is going to try to build permanent military bases in the country, and that we’ll be fighting there for years to come.

Yes, folks, I believe the GOP is playing politics with Iraq and US troops. And you wonder why we’re losing the war. Had enough? Isn’t it time we had a plan for Iraq?

Update: Maybe I was right when I first called troop withdrawal two weeks ago. Here’s a dandy quote, if I do say so myself:

I’m betting it’ll be this Republican administration that begins “cutting and running,” just in time for the upcoming midterm elections. That’s right! All these shifts in policy signal one thing: the imminent gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

I listed the rhetoric likely to follow from the right — which appears already to be happening. I also predicted that troop strength will go right back up after the midterms.

D*mn this is like shooting fish in the barrel. The GOP is so predictable…

Links…

Wulfgar! on the idiotic commercial released by the national Dems. Stay the f*ck out! Last thing we need is help from a ten-time loser!

Moorcat weighs in on the debate.

Bay to the Beltway on how Joe Klein doesn’t do his research when it comes to the Patriot Act in Montana.

Helena IR has a poll up asking who won the debate. You know what to do. (Via Intelligent Discontent. There are more links.)

This may be old news for some, but check out this Ned Lamont commercial, where Bush talks and Lieberman’s words come out: it’s frickin’ brilliant! (Via a Kos post about Lieberman’s response. Worth a read.)

Can the GOP really fool people there were WMDs in Iraq? Again? Surely Americans have learned their lesson already? Naturally, it depends on traditional media to set the record straight. *Gulp*

The TPMCafe thinks Bush’s outrage over the Times story on SWIFT is a not-too-subtle pretext for attacking the media. So…does the media stand up to the President or cower in fear?

Arthur Silber: “The press in this country has voluntarily placed itself in the role of abject dependent for several decades.”

Some extremists think journalists should pay with their lives for the story.

A trio of clowns sabotages a Minuteman III missile with a bolt cutter and a sledgehammer. Hey, how’s our national security coming along?

Speaking of clowns, Jon Stewart mulls the Miami Seven.

More clown news: Rush Limbaugh detained for illegally possessing Viagra. Guess now we know why he’s so hostile all the time…

By the way, Intelligent Discontent has been amazing in covering the Burns-Tester debate. In fact, I’d argue too amazing.

That is, I didn’t see Pogie’s three “Fact check” posts until now, because they were buried under additional commentary. I had planned on doing some of this stuff, but Pogie not only beat me to it, but did a better job on it than I ever could.

So, for the two people that don’t regularly visit Intelligent Discontent, you can read Burns’ misstatements in three posts, Fact Check on Conrad Burns part 1, part 2, and part 3.

You can tell a candidate is poorly prepared for a debate when you need three separate posts to show all his errors.

Pogie neglected one area of Burns-ian misstatements, though, and that’s on illegal immigration. While Burns came down firmly against amnesty, as did Tester, the junior Senator implied that Tester gravitated towards his position. Oh, dear GOP readers, were it only so!

Luckily for me, Matt Singer has already written a post about the multitude of positions that Senator Burns has held on the issue. In March, he was in favor of amnesty for undocumented workers. Then again in his infamous Marianas Islands vote, he opposed tougher border control.

Tester, on the other hand, has as far as I know always opposed amnesty for undocumented workers.

(Please note that 4&20 blackbirds favors amnesty. Just because I’m voting for Tester – and urging everyone else to do so – doesn’t mean I agree with all of his views. But he’s honest, and I trust him to do the right thing. So…I’ll give up amnesty. Although I still think it’s inevitable.)

Update: Now you can find all the misstatements in one handy post over at Intelligent Discontent!

Thinking more about Tester’s comment that Burns is spending like “a drunken sailor”…That comment really sticks, doesn’t it? Not just because it’s…well…accurate for the particular issue – Burns’ habit of stocking bills with fat appropriations earmarks – but it also touches on something about Burns that nagged at me the entire debate.

Burns acts like an addict.

His addiction isn’t women, drugs, or alcohol. His addiction is ethical impropriety. He’s a bribe-aholic.

The endless back-scratching and quid-pro-quoing Burns has done for the past 18 years has altered him (assuming it wasn’t part of his nature to begin with). It’s his world, it’s his universe. You see it in his campaign claims, his body language, his statements, especially during the recent debate. Burns’ campaign is all about justifying his habits and drawing you into sharing his addiction.

First, there’s the talking point Burns has been using since Day One: that he’s the man bringin’ home the pork for Montana. You can see this strategy at play on his campaign website under the link, “accomplishments.” Once you click the link, you’re taken to a page entitled, “What Conrad Burns Means To You!” (The exclamation point turning a simple statement into an in-your-face shout.) The page features an interactive map of the state: click on your county and find the pork Burns doled on your hometown.

What this is, of course, is a tacit confession that he’s dirty. He avoids discussing his votes on Iraq, health care, and contributions to the national debt. He avoids the accusations of his dealing with Abramoff. He avoids discussing the topics that actually mean something to Montana voters. Instead, he gives us this list, this sordid laundry list of all the favors he’s done for you, dear voter.

And he’s asking for your vote in return. As if we owe him.

In this rhetoric, we see classic signs of the addict. The justification of his behavior. “I’m doing it for you.” The attempt to draw us into his behavior. “You owe me.” And by voting for him, you’re not only approving of his behavior, you’re participating. You’re giving him the green light to pursue “business as usual,” which means making “deals” with lobbyists, voting against labor rights and increased border security, for example, on a group of Pacific Islands or diverting federal grants to groups that don’t really need them, in exchange for a little campaign money and fat-laden appropriations for Montana.

That rhetoric appeared again in Burns' closing statements during yesterday's debate.

During the debate, too, you could see the outrage in Burns when he was challenged by Tester on issues, like border security. What an outrage! How dare he challenge me! And even in campaign commericials that high-pitched outrage creeps into his voice: the man won't even consider his fallibility. He's so locked into his world view, one slip outside and blam! He's a goner. In other words, he can't challenge or question his own behavior. The only way Burns wins this race is if he admits to being swayed by lobbyists — maybe saying that DC is a crazy, corrupt place and he only wanted what was best for Montana — and throwing himself on the mercy of the state's voters. Don't hold your breath. Admitting that means admitting to himself that he's flawed.

(Even DeLay, who resigned under controversey and tacitly admitted he's guilty as sin, has a defiant attitude that says it's not him that's corrupt, it's those pesky rules hemming his greatness in that are corrupt.)

If you, like me, believe legislators are supposed to be honest and competent, you’ll be sickened by Burns’ campaign tactics. If you, like me, want someone in office who’ll not only fulfill his duties to the state, but also will seek to protect the Constitution, make our borders safer, stand up to the President on Iraq, work towards energy independence, and balance the budget, then you’ll vote for Jon Tester.

Links…

Pogie Jason finds some reactions to the Senate debate from around the ‘Net. My fave: “Conrad Burns debates like my mom.” Pogie found video of the debate.

Joe Klein was at the debate? So…who exactly got to attend the debate?

Jeff Mangan on Net Neutrality.

The Slog and The New Republic on Net Neutrality.

California’s Contra Costa Times shocked — shocked — that Montana Democrats oppose gun control.

The Existentialist Cowboy notes there is no course to stay in Iraq.

SCOTUS to consider if the Bush administration must regulate carbon emissions. Best quote of the story: “’Fundamentally, we don't think carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and so we don't think these attempts are a good idea,’ said John Felmy, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute…”

In other news, global warming is actually worse than we thought.

Surprise! The GOP isn’t interested in lobbying reform!

Feds busted a would-be terror group in Miami, more pathetic than dangerous, but lets real Florida-based terrorists go unmolested.

Now we know why Conrad Burns skipped out of the first debate.

I believe this debate was more than just a clear victory for Jon Tester. Actually, calling it a victory implies there is a competition, a fight. That's not what we got today. On one hand you had a three-time incumbent Senator who looks visibly tired, who has been dogged by ethical improprieties and inefficient legislating, who used claims and misdirection he must've borrowed from the meanest of right-wing blogs, who stumbled for words, who looked visibly confused at times. On the other hand, you had a young- and healthy-looking man who stated his case plainly and clearly, whose answers always satisfied and showed a unified coherence that hints at a broad and practical plan for governance.

This was no contest.

Burns' closing remarks illustrated how low he's stooped, how out of touch with the state he's become, how his overlong stay in Washington DC has warped his common sense.

In the remarks, he rambled about all the programs he's brought to Montana, the different grants and funding and tax credits he's won for different projects. (Listening to him, you'd think he's responsible for all of the work that's been done recently to fix the mess the state GOP wrought on Montana, not the Democratic-controlled legislature.) This laundry list was faintly sickening. Burns has spent so much time scratching backs and getting his own scratched in return, apparently that's how he believes the world should work. Look, he's saying, I did all this for you: you owe me.

But it's more like a drunk trying to cadge a buck by telling you about all the work he did for the factory twenty years ago.

Let's put aside for a moment the suspicion that a number of appropriations Burns won from the federal government may have benefited him and his friends first (INSA, anyone?), or his claim on appropriations that others – like Baucus – probably won. Let's assume that everything he listed actually benefited the state and was won fairly by his work on the hill: that's your job, Conrad. Am I supposed to send you back because you're doing the bare minimum you're supposed to? Do I reward mediocrity?

Tester on the other hand showed that he has vision. It's a word that's bandied about too much. It's become cliche. But it's a word that applies to Tester. For everything, Tester had sensible ideas. Ideas that would work. It's also obvious that Tester knows more about the subjects they discussed than Burns did. Which is shameful if you're the incumbent.

Tester also won hands-down in comportment. While Burns sneered and interrupted, Tester gave clear, forceful answers to challenges and questions, and refused to let Burns dominate the conversation with right-wing talking points.

If I have any criticism for Tester, it was that he didn't attack Burns enough, especially on the subject of Abramoff and INSA. In the last debate, one of the moderators basically said that the public had had enough of the Abramoff scandal – let's hope that Tester didn't consider that remark to be reflective of what Montanans think. That guy was an establishment politico-media type who probably had heard more about Abramoff than he'd like, but as we know a lot of journalists aren't real keen on changing the status quo, either. This is a slam-dunk issue for Tester and anything that makes Burns look like a rooster with his tail on fire is a good thing.

Ultimately, though, those watching this debate were folks like me and you, the people that follow the issues and know the answers to most of the questions. We've probably already made up our minds. In order to win this election, Burns needs to win the votes of people who don't know the details of the Abramoff or INSA scandals, the Senator's voting records on tax cuts for the elite, and an almost pathological support for any appropriations bill that crosses his desk. He also needs to energize the single-issue voters, like that anti-abortion and anti-gay crowds, who will have to balance his corruption and incompetence with the lip service he pays to their cause (though his inaction on conservative social issues might keep folks away).

But still, people had a chance to watch this debate, and it seems clear who the more competent and visionary candidate is.

Had enough? Vote Tester.But let's take a closer look at the debate.

On Iraq. Tester kicked *ss on this one. Burns said we're in for the long haul, claimed we're making “progress,” and justified invading Iraq for reasons that have long since been debunked, that Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and that he had WMDs. But honestly, most of Burns' answer was garbled. He alternatively compared to Iraq to Vietnam and Korea.Tester said we need to fight terrorists, not continue to be bogged down in Iraq, that we need an exit strategy. Right now there's no plan. Iraq has diverted resources away from other security and humanitarian issues like Iran, Korea, and Darfur, and even negatively impacted Montana by not freeing up State Dep't officials from negotiating environmental issues between the US and Canada. He reminded us all that we were tricked into going to Iraq, and that the Senate didn't do anything to stop Bush.

On national security. Here, Burns went back to the time-honored GOP strategy of scaring people. He emphasized terrorists, at one point saying (I think verbatim), “they're going to kill us!” And accused Tester of wanting to “appease” terror organizations, negotiate with them (?). The federal police efforts of spying and etc must be working, because we haven't had anymore terrorist activity in the States. Plus we're spying on the bad guys, not you. He invoked the specter of drug dealers slipping across our borders and tried (lamely) to tie NSA wiretapping to busting meth manufacturers. He said Tester was plagued by “the liberal mind” that would have us sacrifice our security by giving terrorists special rights.

Tester said that after 9/11 we had a great opportunity, everybody was willing to effect real change and eradicate terror organizations. We had allies and willing cooperation. But all Bush told us to do was “go shopping.” And then came the Patriot Act, which “penalized our people first.” We don't need to take away Americans' freedoms to catch terrorists; we can still follow the rule of law and catch terrorists. There's no reason to go around FISA. Real and effective measures that would prevent terrorist activity haven't been implemented, such as securing the US – Canada border, which, despite all of Burns' rhetoric on security, he hasn't done anything about.

On illegal immigration.

The two candidates pretty much shared the same views: no amnesty, more border patrol. But Tester was more specific: crack down on employers who hire illegals and enforce international treaties that would better working conditions in Mexico and other states, which should give people less reason to come to the U.S.Here, Burns tried to make it look as if Tester swung to his position on the issue. But didn't Burns initially waffle on this issue? I know he was seriously considering supporting the President's immigration bill when it was first proposed, although that probably had more to do with a fund raiser the President threw for him.

On FEMA and Hurricane Katrina. Burns basically blamed the states for not calling FEMA in earlier. He claimed to be against the emergency appropriations bill helping the region – which has since been sorely abused – but he voted for it anyway. Tester said the response time was outrageous, that evidence existed years ago that the levees needed repair, and that FEMA's inept performance shows what happens when you make political appointments to key government offices.

On energy independence. Burns took credit for the Montana legislature's Judith Gap wind farm, and mentioned some pork projects in the 2002 farm and energy bills. Blamed the Democrats for blocking legislation that would have aided energy independence.

Tester cited the work of the state legislature in spurring energy independence, including Judith Gap. Said that wind farm and ethanol production would benefit both rural workers by giving them jobs and the environment. As to the claim that Democrats blocked legislation: “Last time I looked the executive, Congress, and the judiciary all had Republican majorities.” Zing!

On taxation. Burns cited a number of tax raises Tester voted for. Said that he's working for more tax cuts, including the repeal of the estate tax.

Tester: “We're at war with Iraq!” A balanced budget is critical. Sure Burns has cut taxes, but he's also a “borrower and a spender.” The deficit is enormous and saddling everybody with $50-60K of debt. Tester said, as a farmer, he's learned to “take care of yourself” and “not pass on debts to your kids.” Zing!

This led to some heated back-and-forth in which Burns claimed that Congress has made great progress towards “retiring the debt.” Which was double-speak for “we're borrowing less money than we did last year,” but that Tester still noted that we're still adding to the deficit, not reducing it. Tester said it must be “new math,” then Burns said that's the kind of math Tester is good at, right? Wink, wink, you liberal. Where Tester got p*ssed and said that Burns was “spending money like a drunken sailor.

One tactic Burns tried (unsuccessfully) was to get Tester to say how he would have voted on particular pieces of legislation. Tester refused to go down that rat hole.

The first time this occurred was over illegal immigration. Several times Burns demanded to know how Tester would've voted on the recent Senate bill. Tester eventually said he'd have to read the legislation first, there might be something embedded in it that he'd object to. Burns blinked a few times, looking stunned that anyone would actually consider reading the legislation up for vote.

Burns hammered on drilling in ANWR, saying it'd bring relief to farmers' high fuel costs. Tester noted (correctly) that the amount of oil in ANWR is too small to actually bring relief in prices. Burns then demanded to know how Tester would've voted on ANWR in a snide sort of way, like he had just pulled a “gotcha” on Tester, complete with sneer. Um, most people are against drilling in ANWR, Connie.

It's Los Angeles. Thousands fill the streets, speaking a foreign language, waving the flag of their home country. They cut out of work to come here and sing patriotic songs lauding their homeland. Children skipped classes. Some of them traveled hundreds of miles to come here.

No, these are not the pro-immigration rallies we saw recently. These are Koreans gathering to watch South Korea play in the World Cup.

Closer to home, here in Montana, the state will be adding additional languages to road signs on Route 93. No, not Spanish. Salish and Kootenai.

Why no fuss?

Paleo-conservatives will have you believe that cultures can't live alongside one another and still retain their identity. They're saying an influx of Mexicans will drown out “American” culture – whatever that is – that we'll have to learn Spanish to get by, that Mexican values will predominate.

But their silence at these other obvious manifestations of foreign-ness (and apologies to the Salish and Kootenai for having to say that) makes it apparent that paleo-conservatives object to the influx of Mexicans alone. Maybe it's racist. Maybe not. Whatever it is, it's hypocracy.

Ignore the hyperbole. The articles above should remind us that America is already a country with diverse interests, politics, languages, and culture. That's a good thing.

Apparently the policy advocated by Karl Rove is to run the midterm campaign on the Iraq war. We’ve seen how this will look already in the recent debates in the House and Senate, and the sycophantic regurgitating of the message by the major news outlets, that the GOP has “a plan” and the Democrats are confused and squabbling.

Rove’s master plan kicked into action with the death of Zarqawi. Freepers around the country crawled all over themselves to crow and quickly turn a military success into a rhetorical advantage over their lefty counterparts. “What’s Right…” (find your own link) ran the following headline: “#1 Terrorist in Iraq killed – bad news for the Democrats.”

This is indeed bad news for Democrats, who hope for defeats & set-backs in Iraq so they can keep criticizing.

In fact, the Democrats new hero in Montana, Jon Tester wants to implement a policy of cutting & running in Iraq.

What makes you feel safer, cutting & running, or killing the terrorist leaders one-by-one?

(Forget for a moment that the main solace Coobs finds in a rogue terrorist’s death is the hope that it props up his favorite politicians a bit, or that no Democrat could claim this was “bad” news, or that a so-called “independent” blogger would pump this hate-filled rhetoric into the Net at the exact same time Rove the GOP started their like chest-thumping.)

The idea, of course, is to show that Democrats have an “irrational” dislike of Bush, and that they would gladly lose a war if meant winning an election. The position is also intended to show how the GOP has a backbone and the Dems don’t.

In reality, however, the Republican lawmakers have just yoked this country to a rudderless Iraq policy that threatens to last at least two more years. That’s the real story, and while it will probably increase the advantage of the Dems to win seats in the midterms, I’d rather have the GOP Congressional representatives do the right thing.

At the very least, the Republican Congress needed to force the president to make some sort of coherent policy.

I admit, I didn’t feel any sense of wild ebullience when Zaraqawi was killed. I did feel dread, because I knew Bush, Co. and its GOP yes-men would beat us over the head with his death. As they have, even touting it as a watershed moment in Iraq, the turning of the tide. Rove accused Dems of “cutting and running.” I didn’t celebrate because I knew Republicans would use it to play up their failed plan and commit us to Iraq indefinitely. Well, what’s happened since this “watershed” victory?

Iraqi insurgents set up roadblocks in downtown Baghdad and fired on US, Iraqi troops. State of emergency declared, over 20 killed.

–Ten killed in a mosque explosion.

–Britain sets timetable for troop withdrawal.

–Japan announces troop withdrawal.

–News of US atrocities in Iraq grows, including the murder of an Iraqi by several marines, sailors.

–Questions swirl around senior officers’ conduct surrounding the Haditha massacre.

–North Korea threatened a missile launch.

–The Army considers troop reduction.

Bad news and more bad news. And not just the usual run-of-the-mill roll call of the dead, but news that reveal larger issues that will promise to plague us. News that shows how unstable the country is, that insurgents could take over parts of the capitol. News that hints that US military officers might have suppressed information on atrocities – for political reasons? The North Korea situation should remind us all the natural reaction of gunboat diplomacy and military aggression: increased tensions with states opposed to us, and a rush to gather nuclear weapons to prevent US invasion. Iraq has weakened our national security.

And the Army is considering pulling out some troops anyway. (Does this mean the administration is “cutting and running”?)

Just the events in the last week show how unstable and dangerous Iraq has become. Can the Republicans survive the summer with a constant barrage of bad news? Bet on seeing a whole lot of terror plots broken up, like the news of a home-grown group stopped before blowing up Chicago’s Sears Tower. I’m with Andrew Cohen:

It is entirely possible that the government has just foiled a plot that would have led to immeasurable loss of life and property. It is also entirely possible that the government once again is trying to sell us a pig in a poke; trying to make much more out of a terrorism investigation than the facts warrant.

Even if the FBI did save the Sears Tower, we’ve been fed so much hooey about terror plots – all of which have been laughable or pathetic or untrue. Can you blame us if we don’t believe the administration anymore? Based on accounts what’s not disputable is that these men were never a real threat.

I dislike Bush because he’s incompetent, he disdains the Constitution, and he’s a wayward spender. I don’t revel in our minor victories because I know as long as he’s in power – and the Republican Congress rubber-stamping all of his policies – the war will not be won. I wish Congress had sent a clear message to him and the American people, that we will not accept business as usual in Iraq.

Had enough? I have. Vote the bums out.

So my old man did it. He sent in his letter, and our local newspaper dutifully printed it:

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:

With the recent kick-off of the Art of the Game and in an effort to add to Pittsfield's rich baseball heritage, I think we should institute new rules to the game calling for offensive and defensive teams, to move in the same direction as the NFL. After all, now that NFL players have to take a break to take on oxygen after a 20-yard-run, should we penalize our baseball players by making them play both sides?

We should have nine players who only play defense, which would eliminate having a good batter who cannot catch a fly ball on the field. The good batters can all be on the nine-man offensive team and flail away at the ball. Fans would love the additional offense and marvel at good fielding plays. After all, wouldn't this just be the natural progression after the initiation of the designated hitter?

As this concept is adopted in the Major Leagues, we can all proudly say it started here in Pittsfield, just as baseball itself started in 1791. Ah the Glory!

I’ll keep you posted on the reactions. Baseball talk is the crack of New England: rest assured we’ll see some steamy reaction to this epistle. Heck, I might even have to create a “curmudgeon” tag just to track the discussion. (I just hope no angry football players ambush pop outside the A&P.)

By the way, how fast did the Eagle print that letter? That was fast! They must know a good baseball brouhaha when they see one.

Links…

David Crisp compares Coulter to Hitler. Coobs defends her: “She's much better looking than Adolph Hitler!” Matt Singer found a “Hitler vs. Coulter” quiz.

New West comes out against Initiative 154. Nice summation.

The West is not “nowhere.”

The Slog reports on lying signature gatherers trolling for John Hancocks for a Washington initiative ending the estate tax.

PBS has made Frontline’s show on Dick Cheney, “The Dark Side,” available online.

Firedoglake on the Senate vote yoking us to the Bush administration’s rudderless war policy.

The GOP upends the Voting Rights Act. These guys are lovely.

White House “happy talk” infiltrating the “liberal” press, despite the fact that the majority of Americans and troops want out of Iraq.

TAPPED has breakfast with Grover Norquist.

The “Had enough?” campaign in action. Have you had enough? Then this is a little way you can add to the buzz.

Digby thinks, like US Grant, it’s time to stop thinking about what the GOP, and start making the GOP think about what we’ll do.

Matt Singer posted this link, but I think it’s worth posting here, too. “My Lieberman problem – and ours.” An not-unsympathetic profile of the Senator and why he needs to go.

Coobs over at “What’s Right…” (find your link) ran a comparison of how Tester and Burns stands on the “issues.” (Please interpret the quotes to indicate how laughable I find the topics Coobs feels worthy of fighting over.) One of these “issues” Coobs highlights is flag burning.

Senator Burns – supports constitutional amendment banning desecrating the US flag

Jon Tester – would not support amendment, considers flag burning free speech.

Shocking, Tester’s stance on flag burning.

Anyway, a high-profile celebrity was recently caught on film desecrating the flag. If Coobs – and Burns – believe the flag to be a sacred symbol of the country and are willing to change the Constitution to protect it, they should be up in arms about the President autographing flags. It’s illegal. How does it rate against perjury, I wonder? If Coobs/Burns think the desecration of the flag is so important, shouldn’t they advocate for the impeachment of Bush for sullying the symbol of the land he’s “serving”?

Desecrating the flag is either worthy of criminalizing, or it’s not.

Of course everyone knows the flag-burning amendment is a senseless wedge issue intended to turn the dim-witted patriots against those that don’t support it. But let’s face it, not even those who favor it really believe in it. Otherwise Senator Conrad Burns would be up in arms against the President.

Here’s the deal. You either favor expression of speech and think Bush was doing a nice thing by signing autographs for his fans, or you favor protecting the flag at the cost of speech and prosecuting Bush for desecrating the flag.

In the spirit of disclosing my connection to the great Left Blogosphere and its great Sun shining at its center, the Wizard of Kos, just as Matt Singer has admitted in light of the recent “Kosola” accusations that he was never influenced by money or threats to post or withhold any content at his site, I, too, hereby fully disclose that I work for no one. This blog earns me no money. Not a penny. I have full and final say of all content at “4&20 blackbirds.” I even made up the name.

I don’t even get emails from Kos for my trouble.

However, I want that to change. I am announcing that I am looking for an overlord. Coobs has one, why can’t I? I accept gifts of all kinds, too. Heck, a little flattery goes a long way!

If you are an overlord looking for a mouthpiece, you could do worse than “4&20 blackbirds”! I’m funny! I’m good looking! I’m easily bought!

Here are some things I will blog for:

— Coffee. I love coffee. Hey, Starbucks! Remember those nice posts I wrote about your health-care package? I will blog for coffee! Picture this: “Starbucks’ 4&20 blackbirds.” Or “4&20 blackbirds baked in a pie, served with a tasty Starbucks frappichino.” Yes, a long name, but unique!

— Sleep. I love sleep and can’t get enough. Is the Sandman real? Does he pay well? I will blog for extra sleep in the morning, Mr. Sandman.

— Chocolate chip cookies. Mmm-mmm. Mmmmm. Mom, I’ll blog for you if you make some cookies and mail ‘em to me.

— Health care. The health plan for blogging sucks.

You see how easily a partisan blogger can be bought? (Well, except for the health care.) Mull it over. Surely you’ve got a cause or politico that needs promoting. Or maybe you just want to be famous…to a dozen faithful 4&20 readers.

(I wonder which is more, the birds in the pie, or my regular readers?)

Links…

Burns doesn’t like Montanans very much, apparently.

Bush caught on camera defacing flags. Writing on a flag is illegal. So…if you’re a conservative supporter of the flag-burning amendment, this is your chance to go after a high-profile flag defacer! We’ll see whether the flag-burning rhetoric is politics or belief.

Digby on the proposed insurgent amnesty proposal. Burns is one of the “amnesty 19.”

Wulfgar! gives a nice summary of how Burns changed his vote on the Marianas Islands labor-reform bill for $5K. And the results of his vote.

Thoroughly convincing argument against giving a possessor of child porn a 200-year sentence.

Formerly silenced climatologist, Jim Hansen, writes an essay on climate change: “The Threat to the Planet.”

Idaho’s GOP House candidate Bill Sali has ties to Abramoff? What’s up with Republicans? Are they all corrupt?

O’Reilly thinks we should run Iraq just like Saddam Hussein. And then we would have fought this war for…nothing?

Joshua Micah Marshall on White House spokesman Tony Snow’s false analogy of US public opinion now to during WWII’s Battle of the Bulge: “…the American people…will stick through a lot of adversity if they think the war they’re fighting matters and that their president knows what he’s doing.”

US out of WC

Watched the US WC loss to Ghana today. Slightly bummed. I didn’t really expect the team to advance, but hoped like h*ll. And because Italy downed the Czech Republic 2-0 this morning, with a win over Ghana they would have gone on.

That’s pretty good when your third game in the first WC round still counts. And I’m Ghlad about Ghana. The only African team to move on. I admit I have a soft spot for scrapping underdog Africans ever since Cameroon’s remarkable run in 1990.

But that’s about all the good I can take away from the US’ play this WC. They looked terrible against the Czech Republic, fantastic against Italy, and somewhere in the middle today. Their midfield is world-class. The defense was much better than 2002. Keller was adequate in goal. No bone-headed mistakes. But no amazing saves, either.

The refs killed them this tourney. And let’s face reality: the US will never get breaks from WC refs. What’s in the best interest for FIFA, a strong US showing, or a strong Italian showing? Follow the money…

But what really killed the US was their offense. They scored one goal in this tournament. (The other was an own-goal, people.) One. Their best striker is Brian McBride, whose weird upright stiffness makes him look more suitable for English tea parties than soccer. Their set plays are atrocious. Donovan’s weak kick out of bounds on a direct kick just outside the box in the 80th minute today pretty much drove a stake through the team heart. US crosses are weak, flat, and inevitably off-target, yet they rely on the lob as their main offensive arsenal. The forwards can’t beat anybody. They’re slow.

And look at all the awesome African strikers! There’s about six on the Ivory Coast and at least three on Ghana! Let’s start handing out some passports, people! If France can “naturalize” players from Morocco and Africa for their national team, why can’t we? Aren’t we a “melting pot”? If we can’t make strikers, let’s buy ‘em!

Of course no one wants to move here anymore.

I’ll definitely be pulling for Ghana. Other than that, I’m open to suggestions. I was pulling for Holland until I watched them play the Ivory Coast. I just don’t like ‘em. Germany?

Nice guest editorial in today’s Gazette on the minimum wage pointing out the gulf between the Republican-controlled Congress and…well…you and me.

The editorial notes that Congress has recently voted itself a pay raise of $3,300 while effectively striking down a hike in the federal minimum wage:

The House refused to block the $3,300 "cost-of-living adjustment" that will raise congressional pay on Jan. 1 to $168,500 — not counting great health benefits, pensions and perks.

Congressional pay raises between 1997 and 2007 will add up to $34,900. That's more than average workers make in a year.

It would take more than three workers to make $34,900 at the minimum wage stuck at $5.15 an hour — just $10,712 a year — since Sept. 1, 1997.

Essentially the hike was killed in the Senate, where Montana’s junior Senator voted to deny the pay raise. The House hasn’t voted on a wage hike, and probably won’t, but it did pass the House Appropriations Committee, which was a surprise, because it’s controlled by the GOP. Some procedural mess and swift politicking will keep the proposal from a House vote until after the election, but at least the issue arose. In order for it to pass the committee, several Republican Congressmen had to vote in favor of the hike:

Seven Appropriations panel Republicans voted with Democrats to approve the wage hike on a 32-27 vote: John Sweeney and Jim Walsh of New York, Ray LaHood of Illinois, Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania, Bill Young of Florida, and Mike Simpson of Idaho.

Please notice that one particular name is missing from this list, Montana’s Representative Denny Rehberg, who sits on the Appropriations Committee. That’s because he voted against a minimum wage hike.

Knowing that Rehberg voted himself a raise while voting down a minimum wage hike, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Rehberg is an enemy of the middle class. According to a Drum Major Institute (DMI) report, Rehberg has voted consistently against the interests of the bulk of his electorate. The report explains that Congressmen were graded on their support or opposition to legislation that benefits ordinary Americans.

Congress championed the wish lists of oil companies, the insurance industry, and credit card issuers over the concerns of middle-class consumers and small businesses, while making it harder for ordinary citizens to hold corporate wrong-doers accountable. 2005 was the year of the energy bill that ignored the skyrocketing fuel prices burdening the middle class while providing massive tax breaks for profitable energy corporations. It was the year that credit card issuers finally won bankruptcy legislation, squeezing more money from families so overwhelmed by job loss, medical bills and family break-ups that they could not cope with the debt. It was another year when the House passed a bill raising health care premiums for small businesses while allowing insurers to offer health plans with fewer benefits. And to top it off, it was a year when Congress put new obstacles in the path of ordinary citizens trying to hold corporations accountable for defective products, deceptive marketing or unfair employment practices through class action lawsuits.

Rehberg scored an “F” on the report card, voting against the middle class at nearly every opportunity.

In my post yesterday on Net Neutrality, Jason commented:

The Senate version (S. 2686, Communications, Consumers Choice and Broadband Deployment Act) of the bill that Net Neutrality failed to make it into in the House is due for markup in committee on Thursday. Burns is on the committee marking it up.The committee will also have the opportunity to remove a piggyback provision from the bill that would require broadcast flags for digital content, meaning that anything capable of viewing digital content would have to refuse to read anything without it. This would be an infrastructure for controlling content on everything from TVs to PCs. And it has no good reason to be there except that a couple of very powerful lobbying organizations (MPAA, RIAA) are trying to protect their benefactors increasingly obsolete business model.

Burns needs to hear from his constituents before Thursday’s hearing. He’s still our Senator for now.

Montana Jones has a dog in this race: he relies on the Internet for his livelihood. He penned letters to Baucus and Burns, and got a response from Burns’ office:

I completely agree that the Internet should remain an open and neutral medium to conduct commerce and gather information. I generally dislike Internet regulation, but I agree that the concern over large ISPs granting priority to one content provider over another has merit and should be monitored closely. Although it hasn't happened yet, the issue of large ISPs granting exclusive deals with content providers is a serious one and could have drastic effects on Montanans and Montana businesses.As you know, there is a piece of legislation that has been introduced by Sen. Snowe and Sen. Dorgan that addresses the issue of net neutrality. While I fully support the spirit and intent of this bill, I do have some concerns with how it goes about ensuring the Internet remains a free an open forum. I feel that the FCC is in a much better position to protect consumers from abuses regarding the Internet than Congress and would like to see them monitor this situation to make sure large ISPs do not grant exclusive deals and harm consumer's interest. I also have concerns with a blanket 'equal priority' because there could be serious unintended consequences due to the increase in popularity of VoIP and related emergency communication over the Internet. There could be a day when we want to ensure emergency VoIP calls have priority over downloading music or video games.

Sen. Stevens has included language in the telecommunications overhaul of 2006 which will give the FCC the tools they need to closely monitor this issue and quickly act if any large ISPs attempt to make exclusive deals with content providers. I feel this is the best way to solve this potential problem without creating any unintended consequences. Rest assured, I am taking this matter very seriously and am working hard to ensure the Internet remains and open forum and remains an effective and useful tool for Montanans.

Seems to me he’s saying he’s against Net Neutrality, doesn’t it?

One of Burns’ concerns – “…we want to ensure emergency VoIP calls have priority over downloading music or video games…” – is actually addressed in the Net Neutrality amendments presented by Markey in the House and Drogan/Snowe in the Senate. As I posted yesterday, the Net Neutrality amendments ensure that network providers can prioritize the type of information sent, but not discriminate within that type based on company or product or — *gasp* — political affiliation.

Ultimately, Jason is right. Call Burns. Drop him notes. Let him know that Net Neutrality is important to Montanans.

And I still haven’t heard back from Baucus. Neither has Montana Jones. Hello? Baucus, you have a constituency!




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