“Civility” For Thee, But Not For Me?

March 15, 2016

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We learn the following from today’s issue of the Bucks County Courier Times (here)…

A Bucks County Republican candidate for the 8th Congressional District came out vehemently against a rival’s call to sign a civility pledge for the duration of the campaign. Fellow GOP candidate Brian Fitzpatrick issued the pledge to campaigns on both sides last week, amid controversy over a parody website and accusations of Hatch Act violations.

“It is one of the most insulting documents ever presented to me as a candidate,” said Andy Warren, a former county commissioner seeking the Republican nomination in the April 26 Pennsylvania primary. “I’ve never said one disparaging word about any candidates. I’ve been issue-oriented from the beginning.”

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Oh, and speaking of Andy Warren (What is he this week? A Democrat? A Republican? Try flipping a coin.), as far as I’m concerned, you can’t say much about him without a nod to this legendary post on Warren from Above Average Jane, in which we learn (among many other things) the following…

“It’s more difficult to build [roads] in Bucks because if Newtown says it’s Wednesday, Lower Makefield says, “No, it’s not. It’s the day before Thursday,” said Warren. “And you can substitute any two municipalities in Bucks for Newtown and Lower Makefield.” …. “You don’t have that in places like Lackawanna County,” Warren said.

Yep, ol’ Andy is prone to what you might call the “incendiary quote” himself from time to time; he may be technically right about not insulting other candidates, but he’s not exactly acting in accordance with Emily Post here, either (you can Google it). And I never did find out what is behind his apparent preference for Lackawanna County.

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Returning to the story…in typical fashion, the Courier Times mentions possible Hatch Act violations committed on Brian Fitzpatrick’s behalf, but fails to point out that the possible violations were carried out by none other than Brian’s brother, our departing wet noodle rep himself, “Mikey the Beloved” Fitzpatrick.

Specifically, as noted here…

Last year, long after GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick announced he would retire, the Philadelphia-area representative began calling Republicans in his district to pitch them on a perfect successor: his brother.

But Brian Fitzpatrick, a FBI agent and Mike’s younger sibling, was still working as a federal law enforcement official when the calls began, according to two sources with knowledge of Mike Fitzpatrick’s efforts, one of whom received a call personally. That could prove a problem: The below-the-radar persuasion campaign may have violated a law that prohibits federal employees, or surrogates acting on their behalf, from running for partisan office or making preparations to do so.

Only a couple weeks after his campaign launch, Brian Fitzpatrick drove another leading GOP contender out of the race. He secured the endorsement of the local Republican Party soon after, as the field cleared. But a campaign law expert says his brother’s legwork beforehand may have run afoul of the Hatch Act — specifically the part which forbids federal employees from even “preliminary activities regarding candidacy,” including preparation by proxies.

So am I the only one out there who thinks this whole “civility” thing is nothing but a ruse to try and deflect attention from the Hatch Act issue?

Oh, and for the record, the parody web site aimed at Brian Fitzpatrick and linked to the Steve Santarsiero campaign is small potatoes by comparison when you consider this that was perpetrated by Brian’s brother (or, at a minimum, Mikey’s NRCC supporters without a word of reprimand against them) in 2012.

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PA’s Teahadist “Eminence Grise” Strikes Again (Updates)

February 26, 2016

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The Bucks County Courier Times recently gave column space to State Senator Scott Wagner, with predictable results (here)…

More money — $3.6 billion to be exact. That is the amount of additional tax revenue Gov. Wolf wants from you to fund his tax and spend budget. To that I ask, “How dare he?”

Although his budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly was lacking specifics of his 2016-2017 budget proposal, the reality is that Gov. Wolf is continuing the tax and spend theme presented last year.

During his speech, the governor painted a doom and gloom picture as a means to convince the people of Pennsylvania — or maybe himself — that massive tax increases are needed to address the commonwealth’s fiscal problems. He even reflected back on his time as a business owner stating, “You have to take a clear-eyed look at how the problem arose, and then you have to solve it. And fast. Or you won’t be in business very long.”

Besides failing to identify the real problem, Wolf’s only solution is to raise your taxes. Again, how dare he? How dare the governor ask for more money from the people of Pennsylvania without taking basic steps to control costs?

How dare Gov. Wolf ask you to give him more money without:

Doing anything to reform the pension system that is driving costs — and property taxes — through the roof?

Actually, Wolf introduced the pension reform clamored for by Wagner and other Repugs last August, as noted here. But of course, that was shot down by the Repug-controlled General Assembly, including Wagner of course.

And let’s not forget about how public employee pensions prop up local economies (so, if you start cutting, get ready to anticipate the ripple effects, as noted here).

Oh, and Wolf’s budget includes property tax reform, as noted here (with York, the county “represented” by Wagner, poised to do well under the plan – that is, of course, if Wagner would actually support it).

Continuing with Wagner…

Reforming our archaic liquor distribution system to maximize not only consumer convenience but also revenue to the state?

Actually, Wolf took a step in that direction by proposing a private manager, but of course, it isn’t outright privatization, so the Repugs and Wagner opposed it (here).

Continuing with Wagner…

Implementing a real hiring and wage freeze on state workers?

In reality, Wolf ordered a hiring freeze last December, as noted here, even though a state meteorologist managed to get in before the freeze took effect (Wagner made a crack about that here, but as noted here, that’s actually a good idea; I’m sure this Jeff Jumper person could make much more money in the private sector). Of course, state government agencies managed to hire about 3,132 workers anyway; I don’t see how Wolf could be blamed for that.

Continuing with Wagner…

Asking for more concessions from state employees that enjoy pay and benefits unmatched in the private sector?

As noted here for 2012 (the most recent year that I could find data for), on average, a public-sector employee’s salary can range from about $38,000 to about $66,000, with PA workers in the mid-range of that on average; I don’t know how “unmatched” the benefits are, but the pay certainly isn’t.

Of course, demagoguery on the subject of public employees is typical for Wagner who, as noted here, made his fortune in waste disposal and trucking before he won a special election in 2014 and entered public life. And soon after that, he referred to public sector unions as “kind of like Hitler and Stalin and Putin”…nice.

Continuing with Wagner…

Asking for concessions from the money managers that get paid hundreds of millions of dollars to manage the state pension funds?

This may come as a shock, but Wagner is actually right about that. And Wolf agrees with him and has proposed firing the higher-fee managers and replacing them with lower-fee ones, particularly since the funds of the lower-fee managers have outperformed their counterparts (here).

Continuing with Wagner…

Using savings from innovations and efficiency to shrink the looming budget deficit?

I don’t know what that means, and somehow I don’t think Wagner does either.

At this point, I think I’ll stop critiquing the rest of what Wagner said, particularly since he repeats himself like crazy for the rest of his Guest Opinion (besides, at this point, we already know that Wagner is a pro when it comes to regurgitating talking points from the Commonwealth Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and other Teahadist-affiliated groups).

Instead, I’ll provide more information on Wagner, who, as noted here, is a big-time advocate of charter schools (as noted here, Wagner once tried to guess at how well-funded he thought public schools were in his district by flying over them and observing from a helicopter). And as noted above, in addition to direct loans, he also tried some back-door means to fund charters through gaming revenue, which proceeded to totally piss off the school districts where the charters were located (here).

And another thing – let’s not forget how well-versed Wagner is when it comes to the eliminationist rhetoric supposedly employed by Wolf (re., the “garbage” reference Wolf used to refer to the Repug General Assembly proposal last December), with Wagner claiming that he and his same-party pals “had their foot on Wolf’s throat, and (we) let him up” here.

Also, even though the Courier Times has the right to print an opinion of this type no matter how wacky it is, what does it tell you about how far out on the fringe Wagner resides on this issue given that the paper cheered on Governor Wolf when he rejected the GOP’s sham attempt at a budget (here)? This came after a budget more in line with what Wolf has promised passed the PA Senate 43-7, as noted here (and guess who was one of the 7 “No” votes, as noted here?).

As far as I’m concerned, Scott Wagner is more responsible than anyone else in Harrisburg for our current budget impasse for all of the reasons noted previously. And kids, those living in poverty, families, minorities, and working men and women in this state (including those previously-mentioned public sector workers he despises, including policemen, firemen, nurses and teachers among many others) have all suffered and will continue to suffer as a result.

Update 1 3/5/16: Given what Wagner said above, I think it’s important to note the following (from here – h/t Atrios)…

My own state has a budget hole that the legislature is going to blow open worse next year as they expand tax cuts for energy producers, and up north in Pennslyvania (sic), Gov. Wolf is trying to clean up Corbett’s mess but Republicans are having a god damned siezure (sic) over raising the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.4 percent. You read that right. from .0307 to .034. Meaning for every hundred dollars of taxable income, your income tax rises from $3.07 to $3.40. For the median income in PA, that is basically 150 bucks a year.

So when Wagner says “How dare he?” about Wolf, it has to do a tax raise that is, on average, about $150 a year.

I just want to make sure we all understand that.

Update 2 3/5/16: Another response is here.

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Update 3/30/17: So Teahadist Wagner (who of course has announced that he’ll challenge PA Dem Gov. Tom Wolf) believe that climate change is taking place because of “warm bodies” (here)? Truly, it is to laugh (though the consequences definitely aren’t funny of course).


V for Vote

February 24, 2016

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I just finished watching “V for Vendetta” once more on one of the cable channels, and the following thoughts came to mind.

No, I’m not advocating blowing up buildings or a violent, armed insurrection (the South already did that to start the Civil War), but even though the movie is fiction of course, isn’t it nice to see a citizenry that sees through the propagandistic bullshit of its ruling regime enough to accept the word of a disfigured mutant wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, to the point where they march on a heavily fortified military post guarding the houses of Parliament?

How refreshing to not see a population utterly cowed by the fairy tales and mythology authored by our corpocratic class of overlords, dutifully recorded and propagated by our corporate media stenographers, to the point where even our family members and spiritual counselors tells us that THAT is what we are supposed to believe in as opposed to what we observe and comprehend as part of our everyday experience.

Oh, you know what I’m talking about…the pitiless appeals to class, race, party, ethnicity, presumed physical dominance or desirability, sexual preference and financial status, among other supposedly exalted circumstances, echoed throughout our newspapers (those few precious independent voices still left), our workplaces, places where we congregate for one reason or another, and ultimately what passes for our entertainment. The mythology of our age, which hardly serves to inspire, but instead performs the function of keeping us anxious, dreadful, mistrustful of everyone and everything, and, ultimately, afraid.

And with fear comes the servile compliance that our true “masters,” as The Eternal George Carlin once called them, demand without exception.

It’s probably trite and deflating to automatically go on a rant like this and use it as a commercial of sorts for a political point of view, but I will anyway. Because, even if you truly detest Democrats and President Obama, what else but a sort of mass hypnosis can explain a shrug of the shoulders in response to this? And by the way, don’t forget this in response (and this).

No, we can’t get rid of Mitch McConnell for a while yet; lazy Democrats and mentally calcified Republicans in Kentucky made sure of that. But why the hell would you not AT LEAST register to vote if you have not already done so in opposition to McConnell’s fellow miscreants and encourage others to do the same in response?

They’re laughing at you. At me. At all of us. Our true overlords, I mean.

Their pawns, their lickspittles taking up space on Capitol Hill under the guise of doing “the people’s business,” are deciding to punt on doing their jobs and spitting in our collective eye.

They assume that we’re too lazy and dependent on the pabulum of their so-called “conventional wisdom” that gets served to us throughout every conceivable portal of our media to know how rigged in their favor the game truly is. And how that not only inhibits and degrades all of our lives regardless of our age group, but in particular for those who will mature to adulthood now and into the next generation. And they expect that we’ll merely change the channel, roll over, and go back to sleep.

Are they right?


In Defense of a Progressive Hero

November 22, 2015

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There are some issues out there where, for better or worse, I admit that I break with what you might call liberal/progressive orthodoxy. One of them is the death penalty; I don’t believe that I have the right to tell someone who has had a friend or family member killed as the result of a violent crime that the person who was convicted of that crime cannot be put to death for it. The issue I have with it now, though, is how it is carried out – I have a problem with the application of the death penalty (here), but not the death penalty in principle.

Another issue is the guilt of Mumia Abu-Jamal; I’ve heard some learned arguments about the fact that the jury pool that convicted him was disproportionately white, but as far as the facts and evidence, I have not seen anything to date that convinces me that he didn’t kill Officer Daniel Faulkner.

And now, I’m writing about another issue where you can say that I part company with what you would call conventional wisdom.

As noted here

A group of Princeton University student protestors arrived at Nassau Hall Wednesday afternoon with sleeping bags, toothbrushes and backpacks in hand.

They said they were determined to stay and sleep in university President Christopher L. Eisgruber’s office until he agrees to make campus-wide changes for black students.

Among the changes they demanded the administration recognize the “racist legacy,” of Woodrow Wilson and change the name of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs – as well as anything else bearing the former Princeton and U.S. president’s name, the letter stated.

I think this is taking political correctness to an utterly absurd level for reasons that I will do my best to try to explain (and I know that Dr. Cornel West, a man I otherwise respect, is now involved – just an observation and not a commentary on West one way or the other).

I am not a Wilson scholar, and I didn’t even go to Princeton; years ago, I wrote a term paper on Wilson while in college (I think I got a B for it). However, I did recently read a book by someone who I consider to be a scholar on Wilson, and that is A. Scott Berg (here).

(Now, before I begin, I want to note two things: 1) I will be careful about my selections from Berg’s book since I didn’t contact the publisher for permission to publish any excerpts from it, and 2) there are no financial considerations whatsoever involved in me doing this – I just want to put out there what I think is the best information available.)

Also, it is true that Wilson was a “son of the south,” having been born in Staunton, VA in 1856, and he enjoyed what could be called borderline racist activities such as mimicking the telling of Uncle Remus stories he heard as a boy and imitating black speech affectations from the era (I mean, Amos n’ Andy, one of the most popular radio shows from about a century ago, were basically two white guys). And yes, Wilson liked “darky” jokes and minstrel shows and participated in many such utterly “non-PC” activates during his upbringing and time in academia and government service.

But I have news for you – so did a hell of a lot of other people during the last century! And I don’t know if this will shatter any illusions or not, but I’ve said what you would call racial things too. Stupid on my part? Definitely. Sorry? Again, definitely. But I like to think that I’ve learned and know better now (it’s called “evolving,” which most people do on this and plenty of other issues).

Getting back to Wilson, though, I want to note three passages from Berg’s book that I think merit special consideration on the question of Wilson’s racism. Here is the first:

When it comes to race issues, Berg recounts how Wilson basically was betrayed by William McAdoo, who was Wilson’s Treasury Secretary and would also become Wilson’s son-in-law by virtue of his marriage to Wilson’s daughter Eleanor, and Albert S. Burleson, in charge of the U.S. Post Office. Both were primarily responsible for the segregation of their departments.

As Berg recounts (p. 309)

“Wilson…did not equate segregation with subjugation. Rather, he considered it a way for Negroes to elevate themselves, getting a foothold in American institutions so that they could start assimilating. He thought the new forces of black workers in the federal government first had to occupy the same buildings as whites before they could share the same rooms. Gradually, he believed, proximity would breed familiarity, and, in time, harmony. Powerful bigots saw segregation as a way to keep the black man down; but Wilson viewed it “with the idea that the friction, or rather the discontent and uneasiness, which had prevailed in many of the departments would thereby be removed. It is as far as possible from being a movement against the Negroes. I sincerely believe it to be in their interest.” While his cabinet members had put the policy in motion, Wilson stood behind it and owned it. “My own feeling,” he told (American journalist Oswald Villard), “is by putting certain bureaus and sections of the service in charge of Negroes, we are rendering them more safe in the possession of office and less likely to be discriminated against.” Or so (Wilson) had convinced himself.

Was it wrong for Wilson to defend this arrangement? Yes. But I don’t think Wilson did so with racial intent.

(p. 310)

“I believe that by the slow pressure of argument and persuasion the situation may be changed and a great many things done eventually which now seem impossible,” Wilson said. “But they cannot be done, either now or at any future time, if a bitter agitation is inaugurated and carried to its natural ends.” He appealed to Villard and the NAACP to “aid in holding things at a just and cool equipoise until I can discover whether it is possible to work anything out or not.” Wilson believed that there was so much intolerance in the nation just then that it would take “one hundred years to eradicate this prejudice”; if they could all avoid stirring emotions with incendiary talk and rely on evolution, they might be able to avoid revolution.

The second passage in Berg’s book has to do with the utterly barbaric 1918 Estill Springs lynching and (believe it or not) genital mutilation (lynchings were commonplace back then), about which Wilson said the following…

(p. 485)

“There have been many lynchings,” he added, “and every one of them has been a blow at the heart of ordered law and humane justice.” He declared such actions as nothing less than un-American. “We are at this very moment fighting lawless passion (referring to Germany and WWI),” Wilson stated, and lynchers only emulated Germany’s disgraceful example by disregarding the sacred obligations of the law. He said, unequivocally, “Every American who takes part in the action of a mob or gives it any sort of countenance is no true son of this great Democracy, but its betrayer, and does more to discredit her by that single disloyalty to her standards of law and of right than the words of her statesmen or the sacrifices of her heroic boys in the trenches can do to make suffering peoples believe her to be their savior.” He implored every Governor, law officer, and citizen to cooperate, “not passively merely, but actively and watchfully – to make an end to this disgraceful evil.”

The third passage of Berg’s book has to do with the private White House screening of “Birth of a Nation,” filmmaker D.W. Griffith’s hosanna to the Ku Klux Klan (and yes, I admit that that screening actually took place). Wilson had this to say afterwards…

(p. 349)

“It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true,” Wilson reportedly said when the lights came up (after the screening was over). In fact, Wilson almost certainly never said it. The encomium does not even appear in the unpublished memoirs of the self-serving Thomas Dixon (whose book “The Clansman” was the basis for the movie – Dixon apparently was able to “play” Wilson somewhat to get publicity for the movie). The only firsthand records of Wilson’s feelings about the film appear in a letter three years later, in which he wrote, “I have always felt that this was a very unfortunate production and I wish most certainly that its production might be avoided, particularly in communities where there are so many colored people.” There is no record of his sentiments beyond that, though he surely would have been troubled by the political implications of publicly supporting a movie mired in controversy. Another member of the audience that night reported that the President seemed lost in thought during the film and exited the East Room upon its completion without saying a word to anybody.”

I think something else should be considered in the matter of trying to expunge Woodrow Wilson, noted by Professor Geoffrey R. Stone (here)…

Wilson also made progressive innovations in the curriculum, raised admissions standards to move Princeton away from its historic image as an institution dedicated only to students from the upper crust, and took strides to invigorate the university’s intellectual life by replacing the traditional norm of the “gentleman’s C” with a course of serious and rigorous study. As Wilson told alumni, his goal was “to transform thoughtless boys . . . into thinking men.”

Wilson also attempted (unsuccessfully because of the resistance of alumni) to curtail the influence of social elites by abolishing the upper-class eating clubs, appointed the first Jew and the first Catholic to the faculty, and helped liberate the university’s board of trustees from the grip of tradition-bound and morally-conservative Presbyterians. Given that record of achievement, it’s easy to understand why Princeton has chosen to recognize Woodrow Wilson as one of its greatest and most influential presidents.

Basically, Princeton wouldn’t even BE Princeton if it weren’t for Woodrow Wilson!

Stone also notes the following…

…if Woodrow Wilson is to be obliterated from Princeton because his views about race were backward and offensive by contemporary standards, then what are we to do with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson, all of whom actually owned slaves? What are we to do with Abraham Lincoln, who declared in (1858?) that “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” and that “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people”?

What are we to do with Franklin Roosevelt, who ordered the internment of 120,000 persons of Japanese descent? With Dwight Eisenhower, who issued an Executive Order declaring homosexuals a serious security risk? With Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act? With Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, both of whom opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage?

And what are we to do with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who once opined in a case involving compulsory sterilization that “three generations of imbeciles is enough”? With Leland Stanford, after whom Stanford University is named who, as governor of California, lobbied for the restriction of Chinese immigration, explaining to the state legislature in 1862 that “the presence of numbers of that degraded and distinct people would exercise a deleterious effect upon the superior race”?

And what are we do with all of the presidents, politicians, academic leaders, industrial leaders, jurists, and social reformers who at one time or another in American history denied women’s right to equality, opposed women’s suffrage, and insisted that a woman’s proper place was “in the home”? And on and on and on.

I think this entire movement to rid Woodrow Wilson from Princeton University is a publicity crusade by people who don’t have the slightest notion whatsoever of Wilson’s true legacy. I believe the entirety of Wilson’s vast accomplishments cannot and should not be diminished by admitted lapses in racial judgment and temperament to the point where individuals who have benefitted from Wilson’s enduring legacy now claim the right to disparage the individual who, more than anyone else, created the template for Democratic Party leadership that has endured for over a hundred years and stood as a bulwark against the corporatism and nativism that has threatened our democracy almost from its very inception.


For The “Faithful,” A Walk On The “Wilde” Side

October 26, 2015

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For personal reasons, I should note that your humble narrator happened to be in the vicinity of Huntingdon Valley/Lower Moreland PA outside of Philadelphia last Saturday evening at around 4:30-4:45. Being Catholic, I looked for evening services and remembered that I was in the vicinity of St. Albert’s Parish, so that’s where I went.

I hadn’t been inside the church for a long time, and I didn’t realize that it had been remodeled; I would guess that about a third of the pews had been removed and the altar had been lowered and reconfigured a bit. I couldn’t immediately located the tabernacle, but after a minute or so, I realized that it had also been lowered and set off slightly to the right of the church (facing towards the congregation – always surprised when it isn’t centered and elevated on the altar a bit since I think that should be the focal point of everything; guess I’m just a purist that way).

So I enter the church and settle myself a bit, and the service begins in the usual way. I find out that the celebrant is Msgr. Joseph Duncan, the pastor, and the mass would be co-celebrated by Rev. Denis Wilde of Priests for Life (we’re reminded that October is Respect Life month, which actually was the first sign of trouble).

The Liturgy of the Word portion of the Mass proceeds through the readings and to the Gospel (read by Wilde, Mark 10:51 I believe), and then he starts with the homily.

And, my fellow prisoners, I must tell you that I have never heard such intolerant, hateful garbage in my life.

Wilde spoke briefly about the Gospel reading, and of course latched onto the theme of blindness to blow all of the typical conservative dog whistles (“abortion on demand,” “culture of death” – sorry I can’t paraphrase all of them properly, but it was the most ferocious right-wing verbal assault that I’d ever heard and I don’t recall every word as I’d like). And Wilde is a polished practitioner at this sort of thing, going on for nearly 40 minutes and sounding syrupy smooth for most of his rant, though he chose to yell at us at the very end, presumably to exhort us into action (this nonsense may work for those Teahadist fools or “values voter” morons, but at the time, it did nothing for me but make me more pissed off than I already was).

As I debated whether or not I should get up from my spot in the middle of the pew, excuse myself and leave, I basically rubbed my hands together because I found myself so enraged that I didn’t know what else to do with them. I was far away from the altar so that rushing to the pulpit and wringing Wilde’s neck wasn’t an option (I wouldn’t have done that in church anyway of course, despite how awful Wilde was).

To me, though, the whole “respect life” thing is cover for the Church anyway. What they really care about (and the reason for Wilde’s appearance) is Election Day on November 3rd; we’re going to be voting for PA Supreme Court judges, among other contests. The court currently has a 3-2 Republican majority over the two Democratic judges, and Wilde and his fellow “pro-life” zealots want to keep, and possibly build on, their Republican majority, since they have had much more success on the state level than the federal level in trying to carry out their anti-woman (and anti-family, I would argue) agenda.

So what exactly can we do about this? Well, if you live in PA, you can support Dems David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty for the PA Supreme Court (more here and here).

Of course, since we’re talking about the Catholic Church, they can’t literally tell people to vote Republican or that would endanger their non-profit tax status. So they use code language, which Wilde did artfully, such as telling people not to vote “checkbook union” (not too much of a stretch to realize what political party THAT was aimed at – when I heard that, I REALLY DID want to run up to the altar and punch Wilde in the face…I didn’t of course partly because I knew I was in God’s house, and I also would be arrested).

Oh, and did I mention that on every occasion where Wilde uttered the phrase “a woman’s right to choose” (which he did about four times), he laughed? Also, he said at one point that 48 million unborn children had been killed through abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973 (choosing to forget, of course, the fact that abortions had been performed pretty much since the beginning of recorded time), and at another point in his rant, he said that 58 million had been killed…he should get his propaganda straight the next time he demagogues in public like this (and knowing someone like Wilde, I can just about tell you that there WILL BE a next time).

All of this made me curious about Wilde, so I did some searching online for both him and Priests for Life. You soon find that this group has filed innumerable lawsuits, particularly against the Affordable Care Law, to the point that, were you inclined to donate to the group (which I definitely am NOT), you probably would be paying for court costs and legal fees as opposed to anything that would be more germane to what should be the spiritual mission of this organization. And to me, this point was driven home by the fact that, as noted here, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York broke with Priests for Life and the group’s head, Fr. Frank Pavone, because the group would not submit to a forensic audit.

As for what you might call Wilde’s own “body of work,” he was once arrested with several others while protesting outside of the White House here, basically for refusing to obey an order to disperse while protesting the so-called contraception mandate of the already-noted Affordable Care Law. And what was Wilde’s response?

”Occupy Wall Street protesters have been occupying federal property for months, but when we kneel in prayer, the police are called in and we are arrested,” Father Wilde said.

Well, my guess is that the Occupy protesters were ordered to disperse and actually obeyed the law, unlike you apparently.

Also, as noted here (tied in a bit with the number of unborn supposedly killed by abortion since 1973, the number that got mixed up), Wilde tried to equate his pro-life efforts with the civil rights battles fought by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is a familiar refrain for these individuals (and of course echoed by at least one Republican Party presidential candidate, as noted here). I should also note that Wilde compared the death of Terri Schiavo to 9/11 here (in a quote from the article, Wilde used the phrase “the womb is the most dangerous place to live,” which he also used in his homily).

Another legislative priority for Priest for Life is the so-called “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which has passed the U.S. House, though it is currently blocked in the U.S. Senate (and which President Obama has, quite rightly as far as I’m concerned, promised to veto). Basically, the bill is a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks. And as noted from here

Compassionate choices appear at a minimum in the House’s 20-week legislation, which contains no exceptions for women’s health or fetal abnormalities.

During floor debate last month, Democrat Louise Slaughter, of New York, called the bill “disgustingly cruel” and Democrat Jackie Speier, of California, talked about how it felt to “carry around a dead fetus for two days” while waiting to obtain an abortion.

And while the legislation has exceptions for rape and incest victims, women who have been sexually assaulted must get counseling – not from an abortion provider – within 48 hours of obtaining an abortion. (Two doctor’s visits can mean increased cost and days off from work, prohibitive mandates for many women.) Minor rape victims must report their assault to the police, and there is no exception for adult incest victims.

“There is no science or medicine behind 20 week bans – just politics,” Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards said in a statement. “The vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester – but that doesn’t mean it’s the only time a woman might need an abortion.”

As Richards pointed out in an interview with Democracy Now, abortions after 20 weeks are extremely rare: “This is usually a situation where you have a very much-wanted pregnancy go wrong and where doctors and women and their families need the best medical care possible.”

All of this amplifies (as far as I’m concerned) the belief that, as Sister Joan Chittister O.S.B. tells us here

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

And that is something that Wilde, for all of his snake-oil-salesman-cleverness, will never choose to understand.

Try laughing at that, you disgusting fraud (oh, and by the way, after this episode, I’ll never enter St. Albert’s Parish again).

Update 10/29/15: Uh, yep.

Update 4/1/16: And I’m sure Wilde thinks this is perfectly acceptable too.


Monday Mashup (8/11/14)

August 11, 2014
  • I guess it wasn’t possible to avoid David Horowitz forever (here)…

    Earlier this year, congressman and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan released a proposed budget for 2015. It contains an impressive list of cuts projecting a $5.1 trillion savings over ten years. It is also the height of political stupidity and an example of everything that cripples Republicans in their battles with the left.

    If you are going to make budget cuts, you do it. You don’t telegraph it. Paul Ryan can’t even make budget cuts unless Republicans win the White House and he has just made it harder for them to do it.

    For starters, Ryan’s list of cuts includes the subsidy to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and likely reductions in funding to the Legal Services Corporation. These cuts (and there are many more) may be reasonable from an accounting point of view. Politically, however, what they mean is that the tens of millions of fans of public radio and television will see Ryan and the Republicans as mortal enemies, and so will the poor who benefit from Legal Services, and also their advocates and more importantly all those middle class Americans who have a charitable attitude towards the less fortunate. Republicans should hope that no one hears of Paul Ryan’s plan.

    Of course Republicans will be thrilled by all these proposed cuts. But everyone who understands the importance of fiscal responsibility is probably already a Republican.

    Oh brother – as noted from here

    1981-1989: With full support from congressional Republicans, Reagan begins the worst annual deficits the nation has seen since WWII.

    2001-2009: With full support from congressional Republicans, Bush begins running enormous deficits again as a way of pumping the economy back up from the dot-com crash. Bush hits the accelerator hard enough to double the gross debt that had already been quadrupled during the Reagan-Bush I years. Most of the new annual deficits that add to the debt are due to the Bush Tax Cuts, two wars, and the expansion of government. Bush manages to break the United States for the first time since the Great Depression just as Reagan broke the Soviet Union … by drawing it into military spending that it obviously could not actually afford.

    Also, I know this is “water wet, sky blue” stuff at this point, but this reminds us just how awful Ryan’s budgets truly are; being a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, I’m inclined to lump them all together since they pretty much do the same thing, and that is to stick it to the “47 percent” out there, those dastardly “takers” if you will, and starve the federal government so all it can do is generate tax cuts and military spending (no wonder Horowitz wants those cuts to be put in place without anyone knowing about them first).

    There are lots of other ways to respond to Horowitz, and I guess we can begin by pointing out the following:

  • He accused Media Matters for America of “ignoring the actual facts,” which is truly hilarious given how veracity-challenged Horowitz is (here).
  • He once said here that the Fort Hood killings are the “chickens of the Left” coming home to roost (here).
  • He also said that President Obama sought a “rapprochement with the Islamist regime” of Iran, among other dreck, here (also alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al Qaeda were allies, when in fact, quite the opposite is true…fifth bullet).
  • In addition, Horowitz cooked up a completely unsubstantiated story about how a college student supposedly failed an exam because he wouldn’t answer a question about why Dubya is a war criminal (I give you The Rude Pundit here, definitely NSFW).
  • In his Daily Tucker screed, Horowitz also says (trafficking in usual violent wingnut imagery) that “Republicans need to punch Democrats in the mouth by using a moral language to describe the atrocities they have committed against minorities and the poor. But they are probably too polite to do so.”

    Actually, inasmuch as those few sane Republicans left have any political smarts at all, they know that the ultra-right fringe as exemplified by Horowitz will drag down their electoral hopes now and always, so they’re trying to distance themselves any way possible (of course, it would be better if they did so for the good of the country they claim to represent, but I guess I’ll take what we can get at this point).

  • Next, I have a bit of an update to some prior Bushco-related posts, as noted from here

    Colombian families whose relatives were massacred by paramilitaries cannot sue the Chiquita Brands fruit company in federal court, the 11th Circuit United States Court of Appeals ruled last week. The victims charged that Chiquita was responsible for the deaths by funding a right-wing paramilitary group.

    A panel of judges decided the victims did not have standing in U.S. court, even though the North Carolina-based banana giant pled guilty to U.S. criminal charges in 2007. The victims were claiming potentially billions of dollars in damages from the company.

    The ruling was a big victory for the banana giant — and for the rights of American companies to finance international terrorism.

    In a general statement sent to ThinkProgress, a Chiquita spokesman said, “Chiquita has long maintained that these cases do not belong in the U.S. courts and that the claims should be dismissed. We are gratified that the U.S. Court of Appeals has now agreed with us.”

    As for the families whose loved ones were murdered, Chiquita says it has “great sympathy for the Colombians who suffered at the hands of these Colombian armed groups” but asserts “the responsibility for the violent crimes committed in that country belongs to the perpetrators, not the innocent people and companies they extorted.”

    As Think Progress tells us, “Chiquita made at least 100 payments — $1.7 million in total — to the United Auto-Defense Forces of Colombia (or AUC, a paramilitary group responsible for the most heinous human rights atrocities committed over the course of Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict) between 1997 and 2004. In the decade prior to that, the company had maintained a similar arrangement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the nominally leftist rebel group chased out of the region by the combined (and coordinated) efforts of the AUC and Colombian military.”

    Also…

    Between 1997 and 2004, 3,778 people were murdered in Uraba, with an additional 60,000 forced into what is now the second-largest internally displaced population in the world. Between 1991 and 2006, 668 unionists were killed from the main banana-workers union alone, according to the National Union School.

    If the testimony of several former high-level paramilitaries can be believed, Chiquita played an integral role in the formation of Uraba’s so-called Quintuple Alliance, a sprawling conspiracy made up of politicians and public servants, large landowners and business interests, military officials, paramilitaries, and narcotraffickers. This would at least partly explain why, in 2001, some 3,400 AK-47 assault rifles sent to the AUC from Nicaraguan trafficking partners were unloaded by a Chiquita subsidiary on a Chiquita dock, the same dock where a company official had recently paid $30,000 in bribe money to Colombian customs officials.

    In its 2007 settlement with the Justice Department, Chiquita assured it never received “any actual security services or actual security equipment in exchange for the [AUC] payments.” Instead, the company says it paid the AUC out of concern for its employees — something it was not generally inclined to express through things like wage increases, favorable labor conditions, or a pesticide-free work environment, according to former members of the banana-workers union.

    I commented on this some time ago here because former Bushco DHS Head Mike (“City of Louisiana”) Chertoff once knew that Chiquita’s payments to the AUC were illegal, but pretty much “kicked the can” because a friend, Roderick Hills of the Chiquita board, was involved (Hills and Chertoff were law school colleagues). And as noted from here, former Bushco Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez played down anti-labor violence in Colombia.

    And while there has been some halting progress in the area of human rights abuses, Colombia is still a horrifically dangerous country (here); they have a refugee crisis that has led children to our southwest border (here – maybe something that we should remember the next time we hear idiocy such as this). And while I lay a lot of the blame at the feet of Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, Number 44 definitely doesn’t get a pass either.

  • Further, NRO’s James Sherk tells us that the Obama NLRB has declared war on the franchise model for corporations, or something (here)…

    Would you like to own a small business someday? If so, sorry — the Service Employees International Union would rather you didn’t. The SEIU has convinced the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to eviscerate the franchising model that many small-business owners rely on.

    Under the current model, these small-business owners pay for the right to use a corporate brand. The franchising corporation researches appealing products. It also does marketing to promote the brand. In return, the local franchisees agree to produce those products to fit certain price and quality specifications. The local franchisee handles all the hiring and employment.

    This division of labor cuts the risks of starting a small business, because the franchisee can focus on running the business without having to develop a market niche from scratch. A franchisee opening a new restaurant, for example, doesn’t need to market a new menu. The corporate brand has already done the work. The franchisor similarly does not have to operate thousands of local restaurants remotely.

    Many businesses, from Burger King to Jiffy Lube to the Hair Cuttery, use franchising. It enables many Americans to run small businesses that would otherwise never get off the ground.

    However, unions hate this business model. They find it much easier to organize big businesses than small ones.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    According to the US Department of Labor, fewer than 2 percent of food service workers are unionized. It shows. Employees…are at a major disadvantage when demanding better pay and working conditions. Average wages in the sector have stagnated at just above the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, for two decades. About 13 percent of fast-food workers have employer-sponsored health benefits, compared with 59 percent of the workforce as a whole. Whether through traditional unions or some other vehicle, one of the quickest ways to improve the lot of most restaurant employees would be for them to band together.

    Larger unions often have trouble making inroads into restaurants because of the small-scale nature of the business, with its mom-and-pop eateries and franchised fast-food outlets. Fortunately, less conventional advocates for workers are filling the gap.

    One promising example is New York-based Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which recently expanded its efforts to Boston. The advocacy group is probably best known for a $5.25 million settlement it helped win against celebrity chef Mario Batali in 2012 after servers at several of Batali’s famed restaurants alleged their employer had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, in part by pocketing gratuities. Beyond its workplace justice campaigns, however, ROC-United offers its 10,000 nationwide members benefits such as free job training and an affordable health plan. In Boston, this work should complement local immigrant worker centers, which already help collect unpaid wages, connect employees to enforcement agencies, and provide multilingual education on workers’ rights.

    And in a case of a restaurant in these parts that took gratuities from the staff that they shouldn’t have, I give you this; a shame because we like the place, but that doesn’t give them the right to break the law.

    So yeah, maybe the NLRB ruling on franchises makes it easier for workers to organize. And the problem is?

    As noted from here

    McDonald’s has even warned some franchisees that they were paying their workers too much.

    If McDonald’s thinks it’s the company’s business to correct when workers are being paid too well, shouldn’t it be held responsibly when they’re not paid enough, or are fired illegally? It seems that the NLRB agrees. McDonald’s is, of course, challenging that.

    Yeah, and Mickey D’s is also “challenging” by firing workers who have tried to organize, as noted here.

    Think Progress continues…

    The justification for targeting McDonald’s corporate is based on a computer system the company installs in its stores to monitor labor costs. “Managers at McDonald’s look at something they call the ‘labor number’ on the computer throughout the day,” said Jason Hughes, who has worked at a McDonald’s location in Fremont, CA, for the past two years. “The labor number is how much the store spends on workers versus how much money the store brings in, and I often hear managers worry that ‘labor is too high,’” Hughes said on a call with reporters Thursday afternoon.

    “I knew I wouldn’t be making a lot of money,” said Hughes, “but I thought that a well-known company like McDonald’s would treat me fairly, or at least follow the law. We brought this lawsuit because neither of those things happened.”

    The use of the “labor number” monitoring computers is crucial to these class-action suits’ effort to hold the corporate center of McDonald’s accountable for wage law violations at its stores. According to attorneys who explained the suits to reporters, those computer systems are installed in franchise and corporate-owned McDonald’s locations alike, and they are systematically used to keep workers in unpaid limbo, which violates federal wage and hour laws. “When that labor cost reaches a certain percentage,” Michigan attorney Ed James said, “the franchisees take people off the clock to get it down below that number, then get people to clock back in.” There are about 1,500 workers in Michigan who will be eligible to join the two suits there should it be granted class-action status, according to James.

    Wage theft is rampant in low-wage occupations, and laws against it are difficult to enforce. In California, even workers who successfully prove they were not paid for hours worked and win a judgment in their favor hardly ever see any back pay, because companies simply close down and rebrand rather than pay what they owe.

    And it’s not as if the fast food industry, among other franchisees, enjoys tax breaks already (and why is that, exactly?) as noted here.

    Raising the federal minimum wage would go a long way towards getting rid of the types of abuses carried out by the “golden arches” and their fellow corporate “persons” against their workforces. In addition to simple economic decency and fairness, it’s also good business (here). But don’t expect that there’s a snow ball’s chance in hell that that will ever happen with this Congress (and the lesson is to go out and help elect Democrats to change that, as well as protecting the ones we already have, in case anyone hasn’t figured that out by now).

  • Continuing, Cal Thomas of Fix Noise inflicts the following here

    STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, England – William Shakespeare is not known for his economic expertise, but the advice he gives through Polonius in “Hamlet” may be the best counsel ever offered for individuals and governments.

    After years of debt (90.6 percent of GDP in 2013) and deficit spending, Britain’s ruling Conservative Party is crowing about the latest economic figures that show the country has outpaced the developed world in its economic recovery. Reuters reports that the International Monetary Fund recently upgraded Britain’s projected economic growth this year to 3.2 percent, leading “the world’s big rich economies.” According to UK’s Office for National Statistics, Britain has recovered all of the ground lost during the recession.

    Well, that’s nice, even though our supposedly glorious private sector economy did that very thing two years earlier under Number 44, as noted here, and I don’t think a 0.8 GDP increase is much of anything to crow about (here – and by the way, even though Thomas doesn’t mention the quote for some reason, this is what he’s talking about with the Polonius//Hamlet thing).

    But if Thomas really wants to talk about how The Bard viewed income inequality, he should note the following (here):

    “So distribution should undo excess, and each man have enough.”
    [King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1]

    And when it comes to Thomas and money matters, I give you the following bit of hilarity from here (and speaking of McDonnell…).

  • Finally, it looks like longtime Repug dirty trickster Roger Stone is back to hawk a book timed for the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s registration from office, which we recently observed, as noted here.

    And who is Stone blaming in his book as the supposed mastermind of Watergate? Why, former White House counsel John Dean, of course (removing my tongue from my cheek)…

    Dean began the cover-up shortly after the 1972 election by telling Nixon he had concluded that the White House had nothing to do with the break-in. Nixon would announce this in a press conference.

    Actually, I would argue that the cover-up began on August 1, 1972, when a $25,000 cashier’s check earmarked for the Nixon re-election campaign was found in the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars. As the Watergate timeline article also tells us, further investigation revealed that, in the months leading up to their arrests, more thousands had passed through their bank and credit card accounts, supporting the burglars’ travel, living expenses, and purchases. Several donations (totaling $89,000) were made by individuals who thought they were making private donations to the President’s re-election committee. The donations were made in the form of cashier’s, certified, and personal checks, and all were made payable only to the Committee to Re-Elect the President. However, through a complicated fiduciary set-up, the money actually went into an account owned by a Miami company run by Watergate burglar Bernard Barker. On the backs of these checks was the official endorsement by the person who had the authority to do so, Committee Bookkeeper and Treasurer, Hugh Sloan. Thus a direct connection between the Watergate break-in and the Committee to Re-Elect the President had been established.

    And John Dean didn’t have a damn thing to do with any of that.

    To be fair, though, I suppose there is a bit of a “tit for tat” nature to this, because Dean has also recently published a book called “Nixon’s Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It” based on 1,000 hours of tapes that only he has had transcribed, or so Stone claims. Stone says that Dean should also submit transcripts of the tape “for independent review,” whatever that may mean.

    Stone’s argument seems to be that Dean needs to “come clean” on his alleged activities on March 13,16, 17, 20 and 21st, 1973. I’m not sure why Stone believes that is necessary when the House Judiciary Committee record tells us the following (there’s a lot going on here, and I’ll try to summarize at the end):

    On March 13, 1973 the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in executive session to ask John Dean to testify in the (hearings to confirm L. Patrick Gray as head of the FBI) concerning his contacts with the FBI during the investigation of the Watergate break-in.

    On March 14, 1973 Dean wrote to Senator James 0. Eastland, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and, citing the doctrine of executive privilege, formally refused to testify in the Senate confirmation hearing on the nomination of Gray to be Director of the FBI. On the same day the President met with Dean and White House Special Counsel Richard Moore in his Executive Office Building Office from 9:43 to 10:50 a.m. and from 12:47 to 1:30 p.m. They discussed a press conference scheduled for the next day and making Dean a test case in the courts on executive privilege.

    On March 15, 1973 the President held a press conference. He stated he would adhere to his decision not to allow Dean to testify before the Congress even if it meant defeat of Gray’s nomination as Director of the FBI, because there was “a double privilege, the lawyer-client relationship, as well as the Presidential privilege.” He also stated that he would not be willing to have Dean sit down informally and let Senators question him, but Dean would provide all pertinent information.

    On or about March 16, 1973 E. Howard Hunt (ringleader of the Watergate burglars) met with Paul O’Brien, an attorney for (the Committee to Re-Elect the President). Hunt informed O’Brien that commitments had not been met, that he had done “seamy things” for the White House, and that unless he received $130,000 he might review his options. On March 16, 1973 Hunt also met with Colson’s lawyer, David Shapiro (Charles Colson was Nixon’s special counsel). According to Colson, Hunt requested of Shapiro that Colson act as Hunt’s liaison with the White House, but was told that that was impossible.

    On March 17, 1973 the President met with John Dean in the Oval Office from 1:25 to 2:10 p.m. (On April 11, 1974 the Committee on the Judiciary subpoenaed the President to produce the tape recording of the March 17 meeting. The President has refused to produce that tape but has furnished an edited partial transcript of the meeting. After having listened to the tape recording of the March 17, 1973 meeting, the President on June 4, 1973 discussed with Press Secretary Ron Ziegler his recollections of that March 17 meeting. A tape recording of the June 4 discussion has been furnished to the Committee. The evidence regarding the content of the March 17 meeting presently possessed by the Committee also includes a summary of the March 17 meeting furnished, in June 1973, to SSC Minority Counsel Fred Thompson by White House Special Counsel (Fred) Buzhardt and the SSC testimony of John Dean.)

    In his discussion with Ziegler on June 4, 1973 the President told Ziegler the following regarding the March 17 meeting: Up to March 17, 1973 the President had no discussion with Dean on the basic conception of Watergate, but on the 17th there began a discussion of the substance of Watergate. Dean told the President that Dean had been over this like a blanket. Dean said that (Jeb Magruder, Deputy Director of CRP) was good, but that if he sees himself sinking he’ll drag everything with him. He said no one in the White House had prior knowledge of Watergate, except possibly (Haldeman aide Gordon) Strachan. There was a discussion of whether (White House Chief of Staff H. R.) Haldeman or Strachan had pushed on Watergate and whether anyone in the White House was involved. The President said that Magruder put the heat on, and (Hugh)Sloan (treasurer of the Committee to Re-Elect) starts pissing on Haldeman. The President said that “we’ve got to cut that off. We can’t have that go to Haldeman.” The President said that looking to the future there were problems and that Magruder could bring it right to Haldeman, and that could bring it to the White House, to the President. The President said that “We’ve got to cut that back. That ought to be cut out.” There was also a discussion of the (Daniel) Ellsberg break-in.

    On March 19, 1973 Paul O’Brien met with John Dean in the EOB and conveyed a message from E. Howard Hunt that if money for living and for attorneys’ fees were not forthcoming, Hunt might have to reconsider his options and might have some very seamy things to say about Ehrlichman.

    On March 20, 1973 (Nixon Assistant for Domestic Affairs) John Ehrlichman met with John Dean at the White House. They discussed Howard Hunt’s request for money, the possibility that Hunt would reveal activities of the Plumbers’ operations if the money were not forthcoming, and plans for Dean to discuss the matter with (Attorney General John) Mitchell. According to Dean, Dean discussed the matter with Mitchell by telephone later that evening, but Mitchell did not indicate whether Hunt would be paid. On the afternoon of March 20, 1973 Ehrlichman had a telephone conversation with (White House lawyer) Egil Krogh and told him Hunt was asking for a large amount of money. They discussed the possibility that Hunt might publicly reveal the Plumbers’ operations. Krogh has testified that Ehrlichman stated that Hunt might blow the lid off and that Mitchell was responsible for the care and feeding of Howard Hunt.

    On March 20, 1973 Dean had a conversation with Richard Moore, Special Counsel to the President. Dean told Moore that Hunt was demanding a large sum of money before his sentencing on March 23, and that if this payment were not made, Hunt was threatening to say things that would be very serious for the White House. After this conversation, Dean and Moore met with the President from 1:42 to 2:31 p.m. According to information furnished to the Senate Select Committee by Special Counsel Buzhardt, the President and Moore agreed that a statement should be released immediately after the sentencing of the defendants. According to Moore, following this meeting he told Dean that Dean should tell the President what he knew.

    According to Dean, Dean told Moore that Dean did not think the President understood all of the facts involved in the Watergate and particularly the implication of those facts and that Dean felt he had to lay those facts and implications out for the President.

    On March 20, 1973 John Dean had an evening telephone conversation with the President during which he arranged a meeting with the President for the next morning. According to the edited transcript of this conversation made public by the White House, Dean requested a meeting with the President to go over soft spots and potential problem areas. Dean said that his prior conversation with the President had been “sort of bits and pieces” and that he wanted to paint the whole picture for the President. The President agreed to such a meeting, and the President also instructed Dean to try to write a general statement like one that would state categorically that based on Dean’s investigation Haldeman, Colson and others were not involved in the Watergate matter.

    On the afternoon of March 21, 1973 Dean met with Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman and Dean have testified that the participants at the meeting speculated about John Mitchell’s role in the Watergate affair, and wondered whether Mitchell’s not coming forward was the cause of the beating everyone was taking on the subject of Watergate. Dean and Haldeman have testified that in the late afternoon of March 21, just before their second meeting with the President on that day, Dean told Haldeman that perhaps the solution to the whole thing was to draw the wagons around the White House. According to Haldeman, Dean also said that they should let all the chips fall where they may, because that would not hurt anybody at the White House since no one there had a problem.

    OK, so it sounds to me like, more than anything else, the White House (including Dean of course) was trying to find a way to get Howard Hunt to shut up. And it sounds like that meant trying to get the Committee to Re-Elect and the White House on the same page concerning the Watergate break-in. They were also trying to keep the Senate at arms length so questions wouldn’t come up during the confirmation hearing for L. Patrick Gray. It also sounds to me like John Dean was busy more with trying to get all of this stuff coordinated between the White House and the Committee to Re-Elect in a way that would shield the White House as much as possible (though, in one of the March 21 meetings with Nixon, Dean used the phrase “cancer on the presidency”).

    So my conclusion is as follows: if Dean was supposedly the Watergate “mastermind” as Stone alleges, then Dean was pretty crummy at the job.

    I would argue, though, that Stone has, as best, only a casual relationship with historical scholarship anyway, seeing as how he also produced the following book last year supposedly proving that Lyndon Johnson murdered JFK (here). And I would also that Stone is hardly an impartial observer on the subject of Nixon, seeing as how Stone has a tattoo of our 37th president’s face on his back, as noted here (Stone also acknowledged a certain sexual proclivity in Jeffrey Toobin’s 2008 New Yorker article, describing himself as “a libertarian and a libertine”…just sayin’). And as noted from here (#2), Stone denied having anything to do with the Willie Horton ad that Lee Atwater ran against Michael Dukakis on behalf of Poppy Bush in 1988, and Stone also denied having anything whatsoever to do with the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” that halted the Miami Dade vote recount in Florida in November 2000 (I guess this is typical for a guy who says, “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack”…more on Stone is here, and I guess the answer to the Media Matters question is yes).

    Stone also says that Dean proposed Operation Gemstone – actually, according to Wikipedia, it was proposed by Liddy, though Dean was in attendance to hear about it along with Mitchell and Magruder.

    The Watergate break-in and the downfall of Richard Nixon’s presidency, I’m sure, will be written about, studied and analyzed for many years to come because of its cautionary lessons concerning governance and the abuse of presidential power. No doubt many works of scholarship will be added to that body of knowledge for study by future generations (and probably this too).

    And I have a feeling that anything concocted by Roger Stone will not add to that in any way, shape or form.

    Update 8/19/14: From here

    Dean also slammed author Roger Stone, whose book, Nixon’s Secrets: The Rise, Fall, and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate, and the Pardon, questions Dean’s account of the scandal, seeks to defend Nixon, and claims Deep Throat, the secret informant for The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, wasn’t FBI Associate Director Mark Felt — despite the fact that Woodward and Bernstein confirmed his identity in 2005.

    Stone is one of several former Nixon aides who have been defending the disgraced president in recent media appearances. A “professional dirty trickster” with a history of virulent misogyny, Stone believes Nixon should not have been impeached for Watergate. He wrote three op-eds for FoxNews.com in the last few months in which he attacked Dean and other Nixon critics, plugged his book, and claimed that “Nixon was bad but Obama is worse.”

    “This is typical of the alternative universe out there. That is pure bullshit, why would Woodward say it if it is someone else?” Dean said about Stone’s Deep Throat claim. “I don’t care to know anything about Stone. From everything I’ve been told about him I’m not sure you want to put in print.”

    Uh, yep.


  • Thursday Mashup (7/17/14)

    July 17, 2014
  • As the family and I were about to embark on our vacation (more later on that), I found out that Richard Mellon Scaife had died.

    For the uninitiated (maybe one or two of you out there), I should point out that Scaife founded The Arkansas Project. As noted from here

    The Arkansas Project was created and funded with the sole objective of digging up, and if necessary fabricating, any information that could be used to defame the Clintons and those around them. Over the course of several years, Scaife allocated approximately 2.4 million dollars to the [American] Spectator for sole use in its “investigative” efforts to defame and humiliate Clinton… efforts which resulted in the “revelation” (“fabrication” is perhaps more accurate in most cases) of tabloidesque stories such as the “Troopergate” and Whitewater scandals, Paula Jones’ allegations of sexual harassment, and the legitimization and continuation of conspiracy theories about the death of Deputy White House Counsel and close Clinton friend Vince Foster, among others…

    The “investigative” efforts of those involved in the Arkansas Project eventually led, albeit indirectly, to Clinton’s impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky scandal…

    Over the next thirty years, Scaife alone would contribute $200 million to conservative causes (“The Right’s Big Moneyman”). This growth and expansion of conservative journalism and conservative think tanks, which together formed a cohesive social and political movement, continued throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, bolstered by the Presidency of Ronald Reagan.

    Indeed – as noted from here

    Scaife’s money has established or supported “activist think tanks that have created and marketed conservative ideas from welfare reform to enhanced missile defense; public interest law firms that have won important court cases on affirmative action, property rights and how to conduct the national census; organizations and publications that have nurtured conservatism on American campuses; academic institutions that have employed and promoted the work of conservative intellectuals; watchdog groups that have critiqued and harassed media organizations, and many more.”

    By the way, as the first Daily Kos post points out (the one where Scaife announces his illness and, yet again, creates an opportunity to smear his targets – “oh, woe is me – oppressed by liberals again even though I’m gravely ill”), Scaife’s political donations actually extended back to the Nixon Administration, and Newt Gingrich credited Scaife’s involvement in GOPAC as the main reason for Gingrich’s political ascendancy.

    Ritchie-and-Richard-Mellon-Scaife
    More on Scaife’s family history (basically, the story of how he accumulated his financial largesse) is here. Also, this tells us some of the seamy details of Scaife’s divorce; normally I would leave stuff like that alone, but as long as he punished the Clintons over personal details that, as far as I’m concerned, we never needed to know, I don’t know why Scaife shouldn’t receive the same treatment.

    Before there was Fix Noise and the plethora of conservative web sites out there (to say nothing of right-wing talk radio), there was Richard Mellon Scaife, along with the Birchers, the Klan, John Podhoretz and Commentary Magazine, and of course William F. Buckley and the National Review, along with Paul Weyrich (and I suppose I’m forgetting other infamous right-wing notables). Scaife did his very best to maintain the conservative outrage machine that, once marginalized, now permeates what passes for our political dialogue, enforcing its narratives over just about every policy discussion that takes place affecting this country; the entirely predictable outcome is that we never seem to be able to resolve a critical problem of any type whatsoever (this book documents Scaife’s attacks on the Clintons better than I ever could).

    I don’t know the disposition of Scaife’s remains. However, if he received a burial, then I think the resulting toxicity of the location would necessitate that it be designated as a Superfund cleanup site.

  • Next, I give you the latest from the utterly cretinous Mark Meadows, U.S. House Repug from North Carolina, here

    It was only a matter of time before the new unity government between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, proved to be a deadly agreement for both Palestinians and Israelis.

    I saw the writing on the wall as soon as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) chose to embrace the terrorist group, effectively ending hopes of a peace agreement between the PLO and Israel.

    Really? Then I wonder why Meadows didn’t have anything to say (nothing I could track down anyway) when President Obama’s wretched predecessor did the same thing here?

    Oh, you dumb libtard, I hear some of you cry…yeah, GWB supported the unity government, but he withheld funding for the PLO.

    OK, all well and good. But riddle me this – name for me one president who has had to deal with this type of nonsense from a U.S. Congress related to funding in that area of the world (here)…

    The House Appropriations Committee (recently) approved a 2015 foreign operations bill that bars aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) from some $440 million in proposed funding.

    The Senate’s version of its 2015 foreign operations bill, which includes similar language barring funding to the PA, was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 19.

    Unlike previous years, when the House banned funding for a government over which Hamas “exercises undue influence,” this year’s language targets any type of power-sharing government “that results from an agreement with Hamas.”

    It also imposes strict conditions under which Obama can waive the funding ban. According to language approved last week, Obama must not only certify that the new government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and commits to honor previous agreements, but that it acknowledges Israel as “a Jewish state.”

    Also…

    A much more restrictive bill, introduced in April by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., failed to attract sufficient support by Senate colleagues.

    Labeled the “Stand With Israel Act,” the bill aimed to rescind the president’s right to waive funding for any type of Palestinian unity government.

    Congressional action on the funding halt comes at a time of unprecedented coordination between the PA’s Fatah-commanded security force (PSF) and thousands of Israeli ground troops maneuvering through the West Bank in search of three victims of an alleged Hamas kidnapping.

    Israeli security officials have urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fervently opposed to the Hamas-led government, to refrain from diplomatic or other action that could trigger collapse of ongoing coordination with the PSF.

    Similarly, supporters of Israel who champion a two-state peace deal between Israel and the PA warn that a precipitous halt in US funding will undermine PA President Mahmoud Abbas and ultimately harm Israeli security interests.

    “Funding for the PA’s security services is in Israel’s national security interests,” said Ori Nir, spokesman for the Washington-based Americans for Peace Now public policy organization.

    In a (sic) interview Wednesday, Nir warned that pulling the plug on US aid would harm Israel as much as the PA.

    “Israeli military commanders in the West Bank will tell you just how valuable their security coordination with the PA is. Many deaths of innocent Israelis have been avoided due to this coordination, as has the eruption of mass Palestinian violence,” said Nir, an Arabic-speaking former Israeli journalist who specialized in Palestinian affairs.

    He noted that Abbas has vehemently condemned the June 12 abduction and vowed to uphold security coordination with Israel, which he described as a “sacred” top priority for the new consensus government.

    And as I’m sure many of us know by now, the three Israelis abducted were found dead; it should not be necessary to point out what an indefensible criminal act that is.

    But returning to Washington, D.C. for a minute – according to that supposedly brilliant Republican Party intellectual Rand Paul (try not to laugh too hard), Obama is supposed to agree to an absurdist scheme like this that would limit his own presidential power and could possibly exacerbate an already bad situation, in an area of the world that knows almost nothing but bad situations anymore.

    I defy you to give me an example of a president who has ever had to deal with these types of restrictions from a U.S. Congress on a foreign policy issue.

    If the Repugs on Capitol Hill ever decide to get their act together in this conflict, then I have no problem with them deciding to withhold funding to the new “unity” government. But when that doesn’t turn out to be the quick fix that the wingnuts crave (on this or any issue), then don’t run kicking and screaming to sympathetic media about how that alleged Kenyan Muslim Socialist on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue hates anything having to do with the state of Israel (which, let’s not forget, awarded Obama this – and to read about more lowlights with Meadows, click here).

  • Further, I give you the following from The Daily Tucker (here)…

    The president of a Washington state company cited as an example of the Export-Import Bank’s usefulness came out against its re-authorization Tuesday.

    Edmund Schweitzer III, founder and president of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, expressed this opinion in a letter to the editor of the Spokesman-Review.

    “Some Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories customers have used the Ex-Im Bank for financing, at their choosing. SEL does not depend on it, nor encourage it,” he writes. “If the Ex-Im Bank were to disappear, I believe buyers and sellers would find attractive commercial options unencumbered by politics and special interests.”

    I don’t know anything about how businesses operate in Washington State, but when it comes to reauthorizing the export-import bank, Kevin Strouse, Dem candidate for the PA-08 U.S. House seat currently held by Mikey the Beloved, had this to say…

    Bristol, PA — (On 7/10/14) (Strouse), former Army Ranger and Democratic candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, called on Congressman Fitzpatrick to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to bring export-import bank reauthorization to the floor for a vote.

    This letter, supported by the Chamber of Commerce, urges House Leadership to reauthorize the federally backed export-import bank, which was founded in 1934 to help American businesses finance foreign sales. The bank has a long history of bipartisan support as a common sense tool for supporting American business and creating jobs. If Congress fails to act by September 30th, the bank’s charter will expire.

    Kevin Strouse remarked that reauthorizing the bank is a common sense solution for economic growth in the 8th District. “Congressman Fitzpatrick and his Tea Party allies have created such a culture of dysfunction in Washington that they won’t even allow their Republican Congress to pass a historically bipartisan, pro-business measure. We need new leaders in Washington who can put an end to this senseless dysfunction and work towards common sense solutions to help spur economic opportunity and create jobs for the middle class,” said Strouse.

    Strouse continued, “There are 23 businesses in the 8th District directly impacted by this issue–failure to immediately act to reauthorize the export-import bank would be only the latest example of Congressman Fitzpatrick and this Republican Congress allowing their self-interested dysfunction to hurt Pennsylvania’s economy and jobs…”

    Sounds like common sense to me, as opposed to the idiocy routinely inflicted by Mikey and his pals in Congress (to help Kevin, click here).

  • Continuing (and staying with PA politics on the state level this time), I came across this item from the Philadelphia Inquirer…

    High-powered Democrats have asked political novice Steve Cickay to withdraw from what is viewed as a pivotal Bucks County state Senate race, according to sources familiar with the discussions, and give way to Shaughnessy Naughton – who lost in the May primary in her bid for a congressional seat.

    Leading party operatives, including former Gov. Ed Rendell and State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Philadelphia), believe Naughton’s name recognition and her ability to appeal to female voters make her a stronger candidate to take on two-term incumbent Chuck McIlhinney, the sources said.

    Naughton, 35, also could use whatever leftover campaign funds she stockpiled during her congressional run for a state Senate bid, two election-law experts said, potentially giving her more resources to challenge McIlhinney than Cickay, who has struggled with fund-raising.

    The race could be crucial for state Democrats, who are eager to wrangle control of the Senate from Republicans but have a limited number of winnable seats statewide, political experts say.

    So far, Cickay, 59, has shown little desire to leave the race, saying he’s gotten a positive response while campaigning.

    “I start something, I finish it,” he said in an interview. “I feel an obligation to these people that voted for me. . . . I feel I owe it to them to finish.”

    (Before I comment on the substance of this story, I’d like to point out something to the supposed “webmaster” at philly.com. I saw this story in the hardcopy edition of the paper, and I tried multiple search combinations using keywords from this article, both at Google’s main page and also at the philly.com site, and the only way I managed to come across the link to the story was from another post by a local aggregator. Basically, I don’t know how philly.com’s search algorithms are constructed, but in my admittedly imperfect opinion, I would say that they need work.)

    OK, now to the story…I didn’t include the excerpt above pointing out that Shaughnessy Naughton reported about $158,000 in cash on hand as of April 30th from her recent PA-08 primary contest won by Kevin Strouse. I also didn’t note that Cickay had only $1,717 in cash on hand as of June 9, according to campaign records, compared with more than $150,000 for McIlhinney.

    So yeah, it’s entirely possible that, if Cickay stays in the race and keeps Naughton out, he could get completely wiped out by McIlhinney in the general election (and Ed Rendell supported Naughton in the PA-08 Dem primary a little while ago, just for the record).

    But while I begrudge nothing to Naughton, who has the right to seek any elective office she chooses, I want to say something in defense of Steve Cickay.

    I realize the Inquirer isn’t in the business of giving a plug to another newspaper, one that is a rival in a portion of its coverage area, so I don’t expect them to note how prominent a voice Cickay is on the Op-Ed page of the Bucks County Courier Times. In the midst of the interminable flotsam of wingnuttery that frequents that section, Cickay is a tireless voice on behalf of the environment, the middle class, and the economy overall, as well as women, LGBT individuals, the poor, the sick, and the elderly; Steve’s commentary is a welcome reprieve from the avalanche of duuuh! that all too often fills up editorial column space in that paper. And you know his words carry an impact based on the parade of mischaracterizations and insults from the great unwashed in response to his thoughtful commentary.

    As much as I don’t like the Repugs, sometimes I honestly think they’ve learned the lesson that all politics are ultimately local, as opposed to the Democrats on occasions such as this one. And I’m sure Naughton could put up a real scrap against McIlhinney, but Steve Cickay has been doing that all along, and I think it’s wrong to just tell him to go away because of paltry funding numbers.

    If you’re so inclined to help Steve as much as your means allows (an uphill fight to be sure), please click here.

  • Finally, I just want to take a minute and report that your humble narrator and the family spent last week at Martha’s Vineyard (we were sent there to scout locations for the Obamas – joke). The weather was perfect, and it was a welcome respite that we all needed. We were able to frequent the Net Result for lobsters at Vineyard Haven, the Art Cliff Diner (same location) as well as Nancy’s and Coup de Ville in Oak Bluffs; we also took jaunts to Menemsha, Edgartown, and Chillmark. We were saddened a bit to hear about the beach erosion at Squibnocket and the encroachment upon the shoreline at Aquinnah, which has put the light house in jeopardy (if you can help with the effort to save it, click here…I should note that Aquinnah is the Wampanoag Indian geographic reference for Gay Head – the Wampanoags settled there long ago; you can come up with your own scatological references if you wish).

    And to answer your question, no, I’m definitely not rich. It just made sense for us to spend the money we would probably have spent on a Jersey shore rental on a location we already know, and one that is surrounded by water and everything else we were looking for in the way of a summer break (also, speaking of the Vineyard, we recently observed the 15th anniversary of the tragic plane crash in that area that took the life of John Kennedy, Jr., his wife and her sister).

    The reason why I’m telling you this is because, in addition to the connector bridge from 95 to 195 East outside of Providence, RI (when we last made the trip in ’08, that area was nothing but construction full of closed lanes and cattle chutes – now, the transition from 95 onto the bridge and 195 is effortless), there was something else we noticed during our travels that was new.

    wind_turbine
    And that was these things that dotted the landscape across Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including the Vineyard. And they actually aren’t eyesores.

    As noted here, Connecticut has committed to 23 percent of its total energy portfolio from renewable sources (including wind) by 2020. Also, this tells us that Rhode Island and Massachusetts are “on the leading edge of offshore wind energy development.”

    I’ll admit that I’m a bit torn on this issue, because I don’t support the so-called Cape Wind project to install 133 wind turbines in the middle of Nantucket Sound (more here). Yes, I get it that that’s the highest concentration of wind in the area, but I honestly think more work needs to be done to estimate what would be a cataclysmic impact to the Sound’s ecosystem.

    I wondered, though, what would possibly be a driving force behind the embrace of wind power in those three states (although, technically, Massachusetts is a commonwealth, similar to PA in that regard). And it occurred to me that all three are run by Democratic governors: Dannel Malloy in Connecticut, Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island, and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts.

    So just remember, people – if you want renewable energy, vote for Democrats, gubernatorial candidates in particular (including this guy).

    One final comment about the trip; this isn’t meant as a knock on any public radio station in our area, but absolutely none of them compare with WMVY, which has a terrific song mix (I could count on one hand the songs I head multiple times during the week) and engaging personalities; hell, I could even tolerate the commercials. It was truly a pleasure to listen to the station during the week, just as it was six years ago, particularly since they were off the air for a time but managed to return unbroken, as it were, as noted here. Well done!


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