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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Crocodile tears

The sight of a grown man weeping is something that will always stop you as you flip through the channels. But the sight of a Republican congressman weeping after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges struck me as phony.

The great GOP attack machine suffered the first major hit (the first of many we can assume) when California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham copped a plea to a variety of charges evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode (we'll skip the lovely symbolism there.)

As the Washington Post noted "The decorated Vietnam War-era fighter pilot, 63, entered his guilty plea at a federal courthouse in San Diego and then choked up as he proclaimed: "In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame." Quel domage!

As also noted, it was the second time in two weeks the smaller fry have been cooked and the signs are more ominous. Jack Abramoff crony Michael Scanlon is singing today after his guilty plea. The songs no doubt feature the words Tom DeLay.

The culture of greed that has been the GOP rule of Capitol Hill and the White House is growing a little moldly. DeLay's K Street Project is the most glaring example of the rotten relationship between "leaders" and lobbyists but as Jeffrey Birnbaum catalogues there are others that don't pass the smell test -- a Democrat or two included.

We've had DeLay's arrogance and Cunningham's crocodile tears, wrapped up in a bow by the overreaching Cheney sneer (The secrecy of the Bush-Cheney machine will eventually loosen and we will be treated to tales ranging from the secret energy task force to the Halliburton deal and that sewer will be repulsive.)

So much from restoring honor and faith to government. And they did it was corruption as well as lies.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Promises, promises

What a surprise. The Bush administration has more of an interest in rebuilding Iraq than in rebuilding New Orleans. Too many Democrats in the city? Or is because Halliburton doesn't have a lock on the contracts?

When is this bunch going to be held accountable on their misleading statements (in deference to Vice's contention they don't lie.) Whether it is a question of WMDs, emergency management, "compassionate" conservatism or restoring faith in government, the track record is virtually spotless. Promises made are promises not kept.

About the only thing they have delivered on its taking care of their cronies.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Frankly people, you just don't get it

There's an interesting juxtaposition of two Times stories today: Republicans are deeply divided over which fat cats will get the latest round of tax breaks and the so-called average Bush voter explaining why some of them are losing faith in their guy.

You really have to marvel at how people have consistently voted against their economic interests by electing Bush and his cronies in the ultimate do-nothing Congress. It shows once again the power of the cultural issues that the GOP has used to divide and conquer.

These opinion pieces about health care and the yawning disparities between rich and poor show how deep the disconnect between the Theocons and the rest of the nation have become.

If you are looking for answers and how to combat that, I'm not sure I have them. And if I did, I sure would not subject myself to the harsh world of GOP personal attacks. That's why I'm just sitting here opining as an Outraged Liberal!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Fighting a losing war

It's time to be forthright and direct: George W. Bush is not simply a man of firm convictions. He is pigheaded in the face of overwhelming reality.

That, to me, is the takeaway message from the ongoing debate over what the poll numbers mean. A majority of the American people do not believe the man was honest and forthright in leading us into a conflict that continues to find new ways to demonstrate base human behavior (in the name of an extreme form of religion, it should be noted).

Beyond feeling that he is dishonest, a majority is now also reacting to his obstinacy in refusing to so much as acknowledge the possibility that he may have been wrong. If, and it's a big if, Iraq becomes a model democracy, it will have been in spite of George Bush.

Or was I misreading the stories that said even the fledging Iraqi leaders want the US to set a timetable?

I've heard enough

Any semi-regular visitor knows I have virtually steered clear of Supreme Court nominees. John Roberts is too conservative for my taste but there was nothing there that could justify a rejection. Not so with Sam Alito.

This story clinches it
. It strikes me as a stirring affirmation of Barney Frank's old line that conservatives believe life begins at conception and ends at birth. It makes a mockery of the claim that pro-life means pro-child.

The callous disregard of the psyche of the 10-year-old child by subjecting her to a strip search is shocking. Let's assume for the sake of argument the child was carrying contraband. Adding another indignity in the form of a strip search on top of that is disgraceful. Wasn't there another option?

Ten-year-olds are not hard bitten criminals. How about asking a direct question rather than engage in conduct that could be found as sexually abusive by a judge with a heart -- and a brain).

What started me leaning against was the mind-boggling discovery that he had a problem with "reapportionment." The excuse that he was raising the issue of whether each person is entitled to a vote simply in the context of a job interview is bogus.

Anyone looking to appease a hiring authority by coming down against established law (and basic justice) by spouting support for a system that helped keep Jim Crow in place and disenfranchised the poor should be rejected for bad judgment.

That is especially true for his current job application.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Weasel words

"It all depends on the what the meaning of 'is' is...."

Conservatives love to ridicule liberals for parsing words the way Bill Clinton did in his deposition or John Kerry did when he said he voted for the war before he voted against it.

So here comes a conservative crusader from Georgia, out to educate us dumb Yankees about words again. Unfortunately, he's the guilty party when it comes to meaning.

"Mean Jean" Schmidt and Scott McClennan used one of the oldest devices in the world when they called John Murtha a coward. The true coward is the person who isn't willing to stand up for what he or she believes but chooses to deflect the blame on someone else. W and Vice are masters at this little smear. Jean and Scott have a way to go to catch up.

If you don't have the courage to stand up for your convictions, pipe down. So Barry, I know John Kerry. John Kerry is a friend of mine (OK, maybe not). You're no John Kerry.

Another compassionate conservative

This story says it all about the way Theocons rate compassion versus conservative "principles."

The Archbishop of Boston cancels his attendance at his own fund-raising dinner to object to the fact diners are to honor Mayor Thomas Menino, a supporter of a woman's right to choose and equality of marriage.

The leader of the diocese which will live in infamy for putting the rights of pedophiles over children is taking a "moral" stand at the expense of efforts to raise funds for its charitable goals. Let's not forget that this is a diocese that has ripped apart large sections of its own fabric to close churches and sell them off to pay the legal obligations left in the wake of its last politically minded "leader" Bernie "Above The" Law.

It really does look as if the Massachusetts Legislature should get cracking on a proposal that would put churches in the same category as every other charitable organization in the Commonwealth that is required to list its financial assets and liabilities.

Come to think of it, the archbishop's blatant political posturing seems like a great reason to classify these organizations as businesses, subject to taxation.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Never mind!

George Bush has always prided himself on saying what he means -- no shades of gray for W. That trait is what endears him to his loyal fan(s) and what makes the blood boil in his critics.

So what do you make of this pronouncement by the Leader of the Free World? An Emily Litella moment?

After a week of reprising the virulent patriotism-baiting rhetoric of the 2002 and 2004 campaigns, W now wants to say he didn't mean it? I guess that means neither did Vice, who as John Murtha properly pointed out, is the leading Chicken Hawk of our time.

So who do you believe? The Swift Boat-loving, reckless know-it-all who led us to war against the wrong enemy for the wrong reasons or his kinder, gentler doppleganger?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Shallow Throat?

It's getting increasingly difficult to tell who the good guys and who the bad guys are in DC. And that goes for journalists as well as politicians.

The news that Patrick Fitzgerald is planning a new grand jury to investigate questions raised by Bob Woodward's admission that he had a source of the Valerie Plame leak that was NOT Lewis Libby has sent the pols into another frenzy. Denials are being issued by the bushel-full. Eventually everyone in Washington will have denied speaking to Woodward. This one is clearly the best:
In another development, a person familiar with the federal investigation said that Vice President Dick Cheney is not the unidentified source who told Woodward about Plame's CIA status.
It's one thing for Robert Novak, the Prince of Darkness, to clam up about who gives him material to use in his knife fight assaults on Democrats. You expect it from him. But Woodward? And then going on Larry King to diss the prosecutor?

Many other folks have delved into this one so I won't go on. It's just tough when one of the few folks you thought represented ethics and honor in your former profession make you think twice.

Next thing you'll tell me is there isn't a Santa Claus.

And the band played on

It's getting to be a little mind-numbing: Suicide bombings that kill scores of people, while the survivors condemn Bush's "peace"; the joke also known as the Republican-lead US House of Representatives engaging in GOP gutter politics, better known as when all else fails accuse your opponent of treason.

On the home front, the moral power of religion is on full display; Americans can feel safe in the streets and in their homes and compassion is the watchword as the holidays begin.

Meanwhile, George Bush and Dick Cheney insist that they have been and always been right.

Perhaps it's only right and proper that one TV network is using this sweeps weekend to re-create a fictional maritime disaster. But in the real world, the Titanic is going down and the band is still playing the stale tune that got us in this mess in the first place.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Good Night and Good Luck

Finally got to see George Clooney's attempt to show that we've been here before. It should be mandatory viewing.

We can skip the questions of who today's McCarthy is -- Bush or Cheney (my money's on Darth although I may switch to Maureen Dowd's nickname of Vice.) We can quickly glide past the eerie similarities between the war on communism and the war or terrorism.

The Bush administration's broad brush strokes painting anyone who disagrees with them "against us" has been well covered here. The use of the smear -- whether it was McCarthy on Murrow or Vice on Joe Wilson (actually a thousand times worse because it involved an undercover operative) -- is a classic tactic for the armies of the right.

No I'd rather focus on the most depressing question: where is the media today? Who is the next Murrow? Sadly, the answer is I don't know.

Dan Rather? Say what you will about Dan but he is one of the last cast from the Murrow mold. The verification process used to check the Texas National Guard records left something to be desired but lost in the right wing heat over last year's allegations is that others, particularly the Boston Globe's Walter Robinson, got it right.

Ted Koppel? He's getting out of the network news biz, perhaps only a few steps ahead of the entertainment division folks. Maybe the independent company he and Tom Bettag will achieve the Murrow standard.

Brokaw? Retired. Jennings? Brian Williams?

Sadly, most of today's TV journalists have all the gravitas of Ted Baxter. The jury is out on Anderson Cooper but the early returns are not promising. Aaron Brown? It takes a network. George Stephanopoulos or Tim Russert? They are trained as politicians, not journalists, a crucial distinction. Local anchors? Fuhgedaboudit.

The TV magazine shows are principally fluff -- murder mysteries and makeovers greenlighted by the news divisions that know they need advertisers in prime time. Long gone are the days that the hosts could offer to pay for the spots the way Murrow and Fred Friendly did.

Fox News and its "fair and balanced" hooey represents the wisdom of the right in following the simple rules of revolution: the first thing you do is capture the TV stations. Stephanopoulos and Russert are amateurs in the political wars compared to Fox boss Roger Ailes. Think Willie Horton. And of course the godfather of all of this empire is Rupert Murdoch.

What about print? Aside from the fact that dead trees delivery is a failing medium who's the first person you think of on the print side: Judy Miller if you are charitable. Jayson Blair if you are not.

The news business is in bad shape, brought on by its own failings: predictability, carelessness and the fact that too many reporters enjoy being that close to the action (I know, I was one of them though I didn't let it affect my reporting).

The public is saying (or at least the consultants are saying the public is saying) that they are tired of the petty stuff and don't care about the real but boring stuff that is government at work. Unless it is a scandal guaranteed to gin up ratings of course.

And that's just fine for the media companies: large, focused on Wall Street, not Main Street. Newspapers are the only business where a 20 percent profit is not enough.

Have I depressed you yet?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

God really is the co-pilot

Need more proof the Theocons are staging a silent coup? Try this.

Outrageous does not begin to describe this banana republic tactic. The flouting of the Constitution is shocking. And oh yeah, it really does a lot to disprove Osama's charges about Christian infidels seeking to destroy Islam.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Some always call it treason

Bullies like to name call when they are caught off guard or in a lie. For the Bush administration, that name stops just short of "treason."

Bully Boy was at it again today, twisting the truth for his purposes. Yes, a thousand times, yes, there were Democrats who believed that Saddam had WMD and they voted for the Iraq war resolution (principal motivation for the vote being cowardice over the prospect of facing the Bush attack machine.)

But Democrats did not rush to go to war before all the facts were in; they did not insult UN inspectors who were looking to to do their job and ultimately proved all the so-called intelligence wrong; they did not insinuate the waiting for the facts to come in was wimpy and treasonous, invoking images of mushroom clouds; they did not claim Saddam and Osama were a team ready to attack the US.

Oh and they did miss the memo about 9-11.

No need for a plumber

Some leaks apparently are worse than others, at least in the eyes of the even-handed congressional leadership.

While no one seems too concerned about the source of the leak that outed a CIA agent (or the reasons why the CIA came up with the bad intelligence used to justify a rush to war) our intrepid leaders surely needed to get to the bottom of who outed secret CIA prisons that stand in direct opposition to the Constitution.

Is this what they call the Bush "hit-back" campaign?

It's so funny I forgot to laugh

Mitt Romney and his speech to the Federalist Society: What more needs to be said about "compassionate conservatives."

Please remember this when one of those saintly conservatives talks about how liberals cheapen the debate. I'll take Margaret Marshall any day. Certainly over the saintly people Mitt hangs around with.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Trimming the weeds

GOP talking points are sprouting like weeds these days on right wing sites, the left wing counterparts and in mainstream media (subscription required. Hard to find but my eyeballs caught Lou Dobbs parroting the line one night last week). All delivering the same message: Clinton and Gore "lied" about WMD too.

Yep, classic smear job. Take something that has an element of truth and blow it out of context. Logic and common sense said Saddam Hussein had them -- he gassed the Kurds after all. I believed it likely to be true too.

Big difference though, which the righties ignore. Bill Clinton did not construct an elaborate game plan around that unproven statement to take us to war, nor did he rush, cajole or demean the inspectors trying to get at the truth.

His unseemly haste to rush into war before it could be proven true or false, in hindsight, can be taken as proof (if I were a rightie bent on winning points, no matter what) that he knew there were no weapons. Somersby deconstructs this talking points blitz much better than I can here.

I guess now that they've linked Bill and Al to this one, the GOP can move on to the next Bush-Cheney lie -- Clinton said Saddam and Osama worked hand in glove to plan 9-11.

After that, who know where the dynamic duo will go to show their solidarity with the Clinton White House. Blue dresses? Cigars?

Congratulations to the voters of New Jersey -- and especially Virginia -- for their Howard Beale imitations.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Be afraid, be very afraid

Big Brother Bush is watching you,

Here's a very chilling story about the Patriot Act, its use and abuse and the very cavalier attitude of FBI attorneys and agents in charge of using the law to spy on each and every one of us.

Some not-so-comforting passages from the story:

"Congress has given us this tool to obtain basic telephone data, basic banking data, basic credit reports," said Caproni, who is among the officials with signature authority. "The fact that a national security letter is a routine tool used, that doesn't bother me."
Valerie Caproni, the author of that quote, is the FBI's general counsel. Apparently she does not know the history of the man whose name is on the building in which she works. Nor does she know the acronym COINTELPRO.

"I don't necessarily want somebody knowing what videos I rent or the fact that I like cartoons," said Mason, the Washington field office chief. But if those records "are never used against a person, if they're never used to put him in jail, or deprive him of a vote, et cetera, then what is the argument?"

Michael Mason is an assistant FBI director. He obviously doesn't have a strong connection with the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. And the FBI (short for Freaking Bumblers and Incompetents?) should really give its agents and attorneys a short course on its history for messing up. What do you think, Whitey Bulger?

The story notes the abuse of the national security letter in a check on one of the myriad terrorist alerts raised by this administration in times of their political trouble. The subhead plays on the slogan that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

What happens in Washington and at the FBI very rarely stays there. Try not to breath to hard on the line when you listen in on my calls, Mr. Fed.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

'Scuse me?

You truly have to marvel at the audacity of theocons like Tom "Termite" DeLay. His latest excuse -- the Democrats made me do it.

OK, we know the Dems are the reason he's been indicted in Texas. No, not the phony allegations of prosecutorial bias. The yet to be judged allegations that he laundered money to screw the Democrats by redistricting the Texas legislature, using corporate money despite laws against that sort of thing.

No, the Democrats, Termite Tom says, are to blame for the massive pork barrel spending in this year's transportation bill.

The Washington Post reports (alas without a direct quotation) that the Tommeister told the Heritage Foundation the Demmies made them do it.

Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who was instrumental in shaping the highway bill in the House, apologized for its excesses during an appearance on Thursday before the Heritage Foundation.

In a speech to a group of conservative academics and policy experts, DeLay blamed the runaway spending of recent years on minority Democrats. When he took questions, the first came from a senior official at the American Conservative Union, who asked DeLay, "How large does the Republican majority in the House and Senate need to be before Republicans act like the fiscal conservative I thought we were?

"I'm not here to defend the highway bill," DeLay responded. He described the overall 1,000-page legislation, which funds major interstate, bridge and mass transit projects and distributes gasoline tax revenue to states according to a formula, as an important economic development tool.

He conceded that Congress may have gone a bit overboard."Our responsibility, that frankly we didn't perform very well, is to make sure those are legitimate earmarks for legitimate reasons," DeLay said, referring to the pet projects.

(Note to Heritage Foundation: If you are looking for indicted Republican officials I hear Scooter Libby is available. Probably only costs a small donation to his legal defense fund).

And of course the biggest oinker in the stew is the "Bridge to Nowhere," a tribute Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, pork prowess. Congress set aside a mere $223 million to build a bridge connected a community of 8,900 with another one of 50 souls. That 7-minute ferry ride was too much for folks I guess. That kind of spending actually makes Boston's Big Pig, er, Dig, seem fiscally responsible.

DeLay, you will recall, is the man who kept roll calls open well beyond allotted time to twist Republican arms to get things passed. He controls the House (oh yeah, I forgot, he stepped down as majority leader) with as tight a fist as any past leader of either party.

Yet he claims (and his Heritage audience no doubt believes) that the Democrats are responsible for this current effort to snag our great-great-great grandchildren in crushing debt?

Maybe so, because they also believe we aren't spending any money in Iraq. After all, it's not on the budget.

Friday, November 04, 2005

How's that again?

One man's (or woman's) tax is another man's free ride. Or as Russell Long allegedly proclaimed long ago "don't tax me, don't tax thee, tax the man behind the tree."

Massachusetts business lobbyists are opposed to the payroll tax included as part of the House-passed health care bill. Bad for business, they say, mouthing the usual talking points.

Funny, thing though. Under the current system, businesses that provide health insurance for their employees also pay a surcharge that is used to subsidize the uncompensated or "free care" pool. The state, insurers and the hospitals also kick in to provide for care for people without coverage. So in effect, the only ones who get away cheap are the businesses that stiff their employees in the first place.

The bill makes accommodations for the size of the business and even the size of the salaries. It is the first serious attempt to do something about the soaring costs of health care in a decade.

Responsible business leaders say the system needs reform. But of course, the man behind the tree should pay for it. That would be all of us (except them.)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

At long last, have you no shame....

Consider this....

The Bush Administration stands for being compassionate conservatives, protecting those who need protection, including the poor who would benefit from the caring of moral people.

The Bush Administration will set a higher legal standard than those nasty Clintonites.

The Bush Administration will make America an example for the world.

George Bush will restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office.

Republicans don't play nasty tricks to tie the Senate up in knots like those Democratic obstructionists.

Republicans have restored honor and dignity to Congress.

You don't have to live on a farm to know what the stench out of Washington resembles.