Thursday, June 30, 2005


Painting day

I'm painting the basement today, so I'm keeping this posting short and sweet. I'm sure many of you are relieved.

On public access and prescriptions

Four days later, I still await word from the staff of Matt Blunt, Boy Governor, on the status of his campaign promise to "study" the feasibility of an import prescription drug program such as what our neighbors in Illinois have employed. It appears the level of access to the governor's office I've been granted directly corresponds to the amount of money I donated to the governor's campaign last year.

My question, however, is now obviously moot as Canada has decided to end its growing industry of exporting prescriptions back to the country where many of them are actually manufactured. I suppose that lets the governor off the hook with his so-called promise to the voters.

"Canada cannot be the drugstore for the United States of America; 280 million people can't expect us to supply drugs to them [at] controlled prices within our pricing regime," said Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh.

Admittedly, the very idea seemed like the most half-assed, duct-taped fix to the huge problem of middle-income Americans bankrupted into poverty by out-of-control prescription prices. Bush's response was the Medicaid prescription bill that left out millions of Americans and provided billions in a subsidy windfall to the pharmaceutical companies. I actually heard Paul Harvey last week parroting the pharmaceutical industry's tired old line that they have no choice but to rip us off so that they can produce all those wonder drugs. It's a veiled threat. You consumers had better shut your mouths or we'll quit producing all these drugs that save and enhance your life. I couldn't tell if Paul Harvey was delivering sincere opinion or if this was one of his paid advertorial pitches like what he does for Neutrogena or Wells-Lamont gloves.

In fact, a very large percentage of what we spend on prescriptions are devoted to marketing. Researchers have directly linked the spike over the last decade in drug prices to the FCC's rule revision to allow prescription drugs to be touted over the airwaves. If you want to know how pharmaceutical companies spend their money watch the commercial breaks during the evening network news.

The mail keeps coming:

A reader doesn't like that I hold conservatives accountable for their hateful words:

I've got to say, you Dems are great politicians. Dems have really mastered the art of using words as weapons. And I mean that, in this sense - Dems are masterful at using words to manipulate the truth. For instance, Demostrategists develop "talking points" and distribute them every morning via fax machines to Dems on capital hill. The Dems can be heard all over TV land parroting the same phrase, and soon you start hearing it from the Demominions around the country. The second tactic used by Dems to suppress and manipulate the truth is "branding." This involves branding or labeling some one or some idea in a consistent manner, regardless of its applicability, in order to create a negative association. The Mouth has done a fine job of this in recent post, branding anyone or anything said in disagreement as "devisive," or "hatfull." But, I suppose its true, if you say anything often enough, people will start believing it.

I'm sure Democrats do those things. They are politicians after all, and we liberals tend not to look at these people perhaps more realistically than conservatives, who seem quite worshipful of folks like Karl Rove and Tom Delay. Yes, I'm consistent and unrelenting in my assertion that conservative rhetoric is consistently and relentlessly mean-spirited and divisive and have been for 15 years. If the same conservatives who go on and on about personal responsibility refuse to take responsibility for their own mean-spirited words, then someone needs to hold them accountable. They believe they have the right to be as outrageous and unfair as they won't and no one has the right to call them on it. As for representing constant repitition as some perverted form of the truth, isn't that what President Bush did Wednesday night when he attempted five times to link Saddam to 9/11?

In another letter, a reader responds to my call on conservatives to take a stand against companies and individuals who give free enterprise a bad name:

If I remember correctly, wasn't it the Bush administration (under your friend, John Ashcroft) who 1. Continued the pursuit of Microsoft. 2. Prosecuted Enron (I don't remember any conservative defending Enron's actions, thank you.) 3. Prosecuted Tyco, Arthur Anderson, and Merrill Lynch? And if I remember correctly, didn't all of the wrong doing in these corporations go on during the Clinton administration? If it was going on then, why was it the Republican administration who caught them and not the Dems? And if I remember correctly, wasn't it the DEMOCRATIC party, under Clinton's administration who just racked in the contributions from multiconglomerates like Microsoft? And excuse me, but I don't remember the Democrats supporting small business during, say the last century. It has been Republicans, my friend.

Those are good points. I would point out that these prosecutions were not personal initiatives of Ashcroft's but the actions of U.S. prosecutors. I suppose he deserves indirect credit, mainly for allowing the prosecutors to do their jobs. And I admit, under the Bush administration, allowing a federal emplyee to do his job is quite noteworthy, if not exactly praiseworthy.

As for Bush himself, in the wake of these scandals, he chose to do little other than make a few speeches encouraging executives to do better and to make throw around some get-tough rhetoric. The substance behind the rhetoric was an impotent law enforcemen arm that had no new resources devoted behind but was merely a reshuffling. Challenged to do more, Bush attempted to push some fox-and-henhouse self-regulation schemes. Finally, realizing public opinion was behind him, Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act into law, a piece of legislation he had vehemently opposed.

Please don't even mention Bill Clinton's name. This liberal finds Clinton an abomination and disgrace. Not only was he morally repugnant, but much of his executive substance was a betrayal to liberalism. That I voted for him twice should tell you how much I dislike the Republican way.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Is that it?

So, we've gotten our customary eight hours of sleep in the wake of President Bush's address last night, time for overtaxed brains to chew on words designed to make a straightforward and passionate case for sallying forth in Iraq. And I think my sleep-addled mind has finally developed a response.

Is that it?

After everything, the 1,744 troops killed and more killed weekly, the daily bombings that kill Iraqi civilians, the deceptions and even lies that got us into this war, the growing fear in mainstream America that this is turning into another Vietnam, that we shouldn't have even done this in the first place, that's all President Bush had to say?

We'll stay as long as it takes, not a day longer. We either fight them over there, or we fight them over here. Sept. 11. Sept. 11. Sept. 11. Sept. 11. Sept. 11. Blah, blah, blah.

Five times in his speech, Bush linked the Iraq invasion to Sept. 11, a bold deception that's been so repeatedly discredited that repeating it now serves as nothing more than a brazen lie. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Sept. 11. Yes, we know he was acquainted with some terrorists. Under President Reagan, we maintained an acquaintanceship with Saddam. Does that link us to his chemical weapons attacks on the Kurds? I think not. Yet, Bush persists in perpetuating this lie, not only because it works, but also because denying it now would serve as an admission that we devoted our military to some ridiculous tangent when we should have been fighting terrorists where they actually were. Of course, the terrorists have since been glad to migrate to where we are in Iraq.

I agree with Bush that since we're in this quagmire, we can't merely pull out now. The handful of liberals who propose this are just plain wrong. Also foolish would be a timetable for withdrawal. Still, Bush gave us no clearer picture of anything. Several questions are unanswered? What specific milestones or landmarks will we pass to let us know we're on the right track? What specific goals along the way shoud we be accomplishing? We know we eventually want peace, stability and democracy in Iraq, but what specific attributes will we see that will let us know that Bush really can declare "mission accomplished?" Bush clued us in on none of this last night, and I suspect it's because he doens't really know.

Of course many of the right-wing pundits this morning are crowing over Bush's alleged oratorical victory last night. You'd think our president had delievered the Gettysburg Address for these times. I'm certain Bush's base was sufficiently energized, not that they ever question anything he does. Yet I suspect mainstream America felt neither furhter enlightened nor mor energized by Bush's long string of platitudes.

Last April, the news media marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon by showing old film clips of the frantic last days there at the U.S. embassy. As I listened to Bush blather on last night, and when I hear Dick Cheney give transparent lies like "The insurgents are in their last throes," I can't help but envision those old clips showing the helicopters ascending from the embassy roof.

The postman cometh

An anonymous reader responded to my posting giving 10 reasons why I dislike Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt. Specifically, this reader makes a point on Blunt's use of taxpayer dollars to buy newspaper ads that essentially served as free campaign literature. I said the ads merely had Blunt's name in big letters, but our reader points out:

If I remember correctly, the pre-election ads also featured a flattering photo of our fair-haired future boy governor.

Yes, indeed. Thanks, kind reader, for pointing that out. Our tax dollars at work. I will say this, Blunt's still not as bad as our last Republican governor. Even non-Missourians will recognize the name John Ashcroft.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


Missourians bludgeoned by a Blunt

We're coming up on the first six months of Matt Blunt's occupancy of the Governor's Mansion here in Missouri, and I'm not impressed. Not that I thought I would be. The guy is 34 years old, for crying out loud, younger than I am. I've got dead plants on my front porch because I can't remember to water them, and this guy is the chief executive of a midsized state. The very thought frightens me.

And look at the guy. You can just bet he was one of those weasly College Republican types about 12 years back. Surely you remember them from your own varsity days, wearing suits and power ties to weekly meetings, pretending to be junior Trumps or at least weak imitations of Alex P. Keaton, discussing the brilliance of supply-side economics and swiping Clinton election signs out of people's yards.

So you say those are really dumb reasons to dislike the guy? OK, you're right. Instead, let me provide you a list of 10 good reasons why you shouldn't like Matt Blunt, Boy Governor. If you're not from Missouri, read on anyway. Matt Blunt represents the effort to spread Bush's extremist anti-people agenda down to the state and even local level. Take for example:

1) Blunt ran for governor while serving as secretary of state, the overseer of elections in Missouri. Not shy at all of the potential conflict of interest, Blunt spent $48,000 in taxpayer money to put ads in newspapers urging folks to vote. With his name in big letters on the ads appearing on election day, he essentially gave himself free advertising, courtesy of you the taxpayer. He also blocked early voting in St. Louis, a Democratic stronghold, and ruled that overseas military personnel (who typically vote Republican) could e-mail(!) their votes.

2) In choosing Dale Finke as director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Blunt appointed a screening panel of industry insiders to interview Finke prior to the appointment. Although one of Finke's primary jobs is as a protector of us the consumer, no consumer advocacy representatives were invited to serve of the panel. The panel was made up of a registered lobbyist for the Missouri State Medical Association, an insurance agent, a Blue Cross-Blue Shield executive, a registered lobbyist for the American Family Insurance Group and a physician. At least three of the parties represented on the panel were Blunt contributors and one served on his election campaign.
Jay Angoff, insurance director under the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he'd never heard of a watchdog candidate prescreened by the industry he would be charged to regulate. "I think it's shockingly inappropriate," he said.

3) If there's any question about what kind of insurance director this industry-friendly prescreening gets us, consider what happened in April. Finke, once named Missouri Insurance Man of the Year, went to court to stop Secretary of State Robin Carnahan from yanking the securities trading license from insurer Waddell & Reed for its improper sale of annuities that basically cheated its customers. Finke was successful in having W&D's license restored. By the way, representing W&R were attorneys Andy and Amy Blunt, brother and sister of our governor.

4) Speaking of insurance, Blunt named an insurance defense attorney as director of the state's Labor and Industrial Relations Board. As a partner in the Kansas City office of Evans and Dixon, which mainly defends businesses against workers' and crime victims' compensation claims. His primary job as labor director is to represent the public interest in such cases. Conflict? Hmmm.

5) This Friday, 100,000 Missourians will lose their Medicaid benefits as one of the more extreme measures in Blunt's austere budget. The hatchet job cuts off folks from such necessities as dental care, podiatry, rehabilitation services and even prosthetic devices. The same legislative Republicans who voted for this budget slashing measure apparently saw nothing wrong with continuing themselves to receive taxpayer-financed healthcare benefits. Although Blunt said this move amounted to a tough choice made during tough times, apparently there was enough money to buy two new SUVs for the governor's family and pay for a $117,000 redecoration job on his personal offices.
Click below to read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's list of the "Shameless 20" who voted to cut off Medicaid to thousands of their constituents but have continued to accept healthcare benefits from the taxpayer:

6) One person who will be noticibly absent Friday when all those people are tossed off the Medicaid rolls is Blunt's social service's director, Gary Sherman. Sherman started his tenure March 7 by immediately taking a five-month leave of absence. Either that or he has an 825-mile daily commute to Jefferson City from Laramie, Wyo., where he's teaching at the University of Wyoming. Blunt assures us that Sherman will get to work August 7. In the meantime, Sherman has been collecting a $103,000 salary for a job he isn't doing. I guess there' s no rush. Providing social services isn't exactly Blunt's greatest priority.

7) In an ironic twist, Blunt signed a law this past Friday that in his office's words "improve's Missouri's First Steps program." The program provides aid to children with developmental disabilities like mental retardation and autism so they can be addressed when children are young and have the best chance for improvement. What makes this ironic is that the bill directs families to apply for Medicaid, which Blunt of course says is strapped for cash.

8) Blunt fired the state's official consumer advocate John Coffman after Coffman did his job by criticizing Blunt's and the legislative Republicans' agenda as anti-consumer. Coffman said he was given no reason for his termination and Blunt's people refuse to discuss it. Coffman's firing followed his protests over two specific pet bills of Blunt's before the General Assembly, one that would relax phone company regulations and another making it easier for public utilities to impose rate hikes. Coffman was replaced by regulatory law judge Lewis Mills Jr. The Associated Press reported, "Blunt spokesman Spence Jackson said Mills was better equipped to advance Blunt's goal of creating an entrepreneurial climate in Missouri."
You know what that means, don't you? It means screw the consumer. Why does aiding entrepreneurship always have to be win-lose game to conservatives? They win. We lose.

9) During last year's campaign, opponent Claire McCaskill pledged to initiate a drug-importation program to make inexpensive prescriptions from Canada available to Missourians. Blunt expressed interest and promised to "study" the issue. As you might suspect, the study apparently has been sucked down the black hole where studies seem to always go and hasn't been heard from since Election Day. I contacted the governor's office to check on the status of this alleged study and still await a reply. Whether I ever hear anything remains questionable. After all, I'm only a resident and taxpayer of this state, not a six-figure contributor.

10) Blunt's attack on the state's budget included axing monthly child support payments for adoptive parents, a $250 monthly payment first approved to encourage foster parents to adopt children who might have otherwise bounced through the system year after year. So much for family values, huh?

So there you go, 10 reasons I don't like Matt Blunt, Boy Governor. Let me say, I really don't think he's an evil, rotten, horrible person. Probably, he's nice enough. And let me say, I wasn't a big fan of Blunt's Democratic predecessor, who was often whiny and petulant and used school funding as a means to get back at Republicans in the Legislature. Although Blunt sometimes plays hard and fast with the public trust, I think he's really one of those well-meaning conservatives who really thinks he's doing the right thing for Missouri.

But it's so clear whose side he's on. I don't think it's ours. And with all this I've discussed and only six months down, what do the next 3 1/2 years have in store?

Mail call

A writer is outraged that I would dare quote some of the outrageous, mean-spirited things Republicans choose to say. The writer especially takes issue with my quoting Karl Rove's own words. The writer responds:

You say, hatefulness and divisiveness, I say, truth. Is it hateful to tell the truth? I didn't see any "hatfull" attitude. While you're bringing up "hatefulness and divisiveness," don't forgot Senator Dick Durbin's quote (what conservatives have really been talking about - not Howard Dean) How on earth can the party of Dick Durbin, Teddy Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, and Michael Moore even mention anyone else as hatefull and devisive? Y'all wrote the book. Here's Durbin's quote:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."

Actually, I think Lee Atwater and Rush Limbaugh wrote the book. As I recall, conservatives were gleeful in their acceptance and even embrace of these cheap rhetorical tactics. It was conservatives who turned talk radio into a all-day attack machine which continues today. As for Dick Durbin, his comments were extremely poor. As I've stated before, liberals need to quit throwing around words like gulag and Nazi. They merely detract from any truth they are trying to impart and give the Dick Cheneys and Donald Rumsfelds of the world an opportune vehicle to deflect criticism and further obfuscate. As I've also stated Howard Dean apologized for his comments and Dick Durbin's tearful apology was about as unequivocal and eloquent as an apology can be. Meanwhile, Karl Rove refuses to accept responsibility for his mean-spirited and gross mischaracterization of Move On's resolution presented in the wake of 9/11.

If conservatives really are God's chosen as they so brazenly claim, I wonder when some of them plan to start acting like it.


Soak the middle class II

Yesterday, I signed off without including some important links. If you're interested in learning more on how Bush is bankrupting our country and using that as an excuse to further his assault on the social compact, click on the links below:

Citizens for Tax Justice:

Center for American Progress:

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The Concord Coalition:

By the way, I forgot to mention that no president in our country's history has attempted massive tax cuts while fighting a war. Until now, that is.

The middle class loses yet again

I was profoundly disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision last week to uphold the use of eminent domain for the sake of private speculative ventures. I had to laugh, although bitterly, as I heard city officials in various municipalities interviewed explaining their decisions to take people's homes away and hand them over to the land developers. Well, it's never an easy decision, they said. We certainly don't take these things lightly. Funny, these decisions seem to be increasingly taken quite casually and with little concern for anything but the bottom line. Here in St. Louis, we learned this week that a developer is lobbying the city of Arnold to condemn 45 homes to build a shopping center. The city council's decision is probably a forgone conclusion.

I still respect our current Supreme Court as being an overall reasonable, sensible body. You won't hear the kind of carrying on here that conservatives have feverishly undertaken recently. But I have to say, this time the court was wrong, wrong, wrong.

More from the files of Republican hate-mongering

"Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians."
Rep. John Hostettler (R-Indiana), responding to attempts to reign in aggressive proselytizing by evangelical Christians at the U.S. Air Force Academy

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Bush's war cry: Soak the middle class!

Hey kids, how about a joke!

OK, so Bill Gates and his accountant walk into a bar. It's a seedy skid row kind of place with a bartender and five drunks staring into their drinks, grateful to be someplace warm. With Gates and his accountant, that makes eight people. The accountant does some quick number crunching and announces that the average person currently inhabiting this establishment enjoys a net worth in excess of $5 billion.

Funny, huh? No, not really? Yeah, you're right, it's not funny, especially considering this is the kind of math President Bush used to sell us on his tax cuts. As it turns out, the joke's on us. And the punchlines never seem to stop.

I bring this issue up in the wake of the House's passage of a bill that would ax about $1 billion in spending and eliminate 48 federal programs. You see, the Republicans have become budget hawks this week. Apparently, we have $1.6 trillion to finance these current and future tax cuts. But all of a sudden, Republicans are talking about frugality and the need to make tough choices on our spending.

Let's talk more about those tax cuts. Remember how Bush promised the average American more than a $1,000 in annual tax cuts? He was a 100 percent correct. Of course he neglected to point out that we have such huge income disparities these days between the top 1 percent (those earning at least roughly $1.2 million) and the other 99 percent of us that those averages would be skewed by the seven-figure-plus incomes earned by the those at the top. Hence the oft-repeated anecdote about Bill Gates in a skid row bar exponentially boosting the average income. Once you look at the median tax cut, a far more reliable landmark, that tax cut drops sharply with estimates ranging anywhere from $150 to $650.

Now consider this: One third of Americans will get nothing back from these tax cuts. That's right, one-third will get zero, nada, zilch. Many of these unofrtunates earned too little money and paid too little in taxes. Still others couldn't claim any of the desirable deductions. You know, capital gains, spouse, kid and all that. Now I ask you, if the average American earns more than $1,000 in tax cuts, but one-third of our population gets nothing, how can this be a reliable figure? It seems even less reliable when you consider that 1 percent of the population will receive at least half of these tax cuts. Had Bush considered cutting payroll taxes, do you think the benefits would have fallen more evenly up and down the ladder? I wonder.

In the meantime, the mega-wealthy have done quite well. Using Bush's favorite statistical landmark, the average 1-percenter earned $12,000 last year. As the Bush tax cuts continue to kick in through the end of this decade, the super-wealthy will accrue cuts averaging $342,000.
As for you, middle-income American, don't expect to accrue much of anything. Under Bush's tax plan, you've probably gotten what you're going to get, if you got anything at all.

Now let's circle back to this business of budget cuts, the second in this one-two punch. We've clearly spent a lot of money to provide large windfalls to 1 percent of the population, and let's not even talk about the $400 billion we've spent so far in Iraq. The Republicans are suddenly feeling positively hawkish about the budget and have proposed eliminating 48 programs and making $1 billion in cuts, and this is just one of 11 spending bills. On the chopping block, we have a program to train doctors willing to work in rural America, $806 million in funding to Bush's own already-underfunded No Child Left Behind education program and $320 million in community action agencies to assist the poor. That last one seems especially rough, doesn't it? Bush has cut a program that helps the poor in order to subsidize tax cuts that didn't benefit the poor at all.

And if you hear any trickle-down dogmatists start in on how these tax cuts are needed to stimulate the economy, remind them that Bush's first term showed the greatest net job loss of any presidential term since Herbert Hoover's one time at bat. Eighty percent of those jobs lost by Bush vanished after the first of the tax cuts kicked in.

To wrap up, let's look at what seems to be the truly dark side of all of this. Many conservatives see nothing wrong with huge budget deficits. Take President Reagan, for example. He had no problem running up a budget deficit of over $250 billion. Our current budget deficit stands at well over $400 million. Is this wreckless spending intentional? Could it be that these huge deficits provide the Bush administration and Republican Congress the excuse they need to take an ax to our government? Far fetched? I don't think so. Don't forget that conservative bigwig Grover Norquist said he wishes to shrink government to the size where he can drag it into the bathtub and drown it. If they get their wish, where does that leave the other 99 percent of us?

The joke's clearly on us, and it's growing less and less funny.

From the files of Republican divisiveness and hate-mongering

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers...Liberals saw what happened to us and said 'We must understand our enemies.'"
- Karl Rove, speaking Wednesday at a fund-raiser

"If people want to try to engage in personal attacks instead of defending their philosophy, that's their business."
- Scott McClellan, defending Rove's comments

As I've pointed out, leading Democrats were quick to repudiate Howard Dean's comments a few weeks ago. What we see here, of course, are Republicans again making excuses for clearly inappropriate behavior.

Friday, June 24, 2005


Massachusetts family values

So we've all heard about this red state/blue state thing. And we've all seen these 2000 and 2004 election result maps showing this huge mass of red in the heartland (You know, that's where all the red-blooded patriotic Christians live.) with little pockets of blue on the coasts and in our big cities (You know, that's where all those pot-smoking homosexual atheist commies live). The conservatives have made it clear that this map proves once and for all that their ilk makes up the true America. After all, what good American lives in Massachusetts or California?

Those blue places must really be hell on earth, according to all I've heard from Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity (We'll forgive them for being New Yorkers. When they're not in the Big Apple or inside the Beltway, they let us red-staters know how swell we really are.) I hear that blue-staters are shooting up heroin in the streets, dipping crucifixes in urine, and watching Woody Allen movies. Not only that, but I hear they know their way around a wine list! But God bless the red-staters like those of us in the Show-Me State. We listen to country music, eat barbecue, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and drive big pickups, so we must be truly good people.

Just to let those America-haters in places like Boston or L.A. know how much they're missing out on, I decided to look at real data, not just the kind of foolishness they'd appreciate like Starbucks locations per capita and availability of escarole and brie in local supermarkets. No, this is data on things that matter like infant mortality rates, out-of-wedlock births and SAT scores (although we family values types know that Bob Jones probably care much about SAT scores).

Below you'll find a ranking on states by certain issue. By each state's name, I've indicated whether they're red or blue. States going blue in 2000 and red in 2004 or vice versa, I've labeled as purple.

We'll start with those rankings where being ranked near the bottom of the list is most desirable:

Infant Mortality Rates
1. Delaware (Blue)
2. Mississippi (Red)
3. Louisiana (Red)
4. Alabama (Red)
5. South Carolina (Red)
46. California (Blue)
47. Minnesota (Blue)
48. Massachusetts (Blue)
49. Utah (Red)
50. New Hampshire (Purple)
From the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Handbook 2004

Teen Birth Rate
1. Texas (Red)
2. Mississippi (Red)
3. New Mexico (Purple)
4. Arizona (Red)
5. Georgia (Red)
46. Massachusetts (Blue)
47. Maine (Blue)
48. North Dakota (Red)
49. New Hampshire (Purple)
50. Vermont (Blue)

Percentage of Children Living in Poverty
1. New Mexico (Purple)
2. Mississippi (Red)
3. Louisiana (Red)
4. West Virginia (Red)
5. Arkansas (Red)
46. Iowa (Blue)
47. Maryland (Blue)
48. Connecticut (Blue)
49. Minnesota (Blue)
50. New Hampshire (Blue)

Percentage of Single-Parent Families
1. Louisiana (Red)
2. New Mexico (Red)
3. Mississippi (Red)
4. Ohio (Red)
5. Alaska (Red)
46. Colorado (Red)
47. Iowa (Purple)
48. New Jersey (Blue)
49. Minnesota (Blue)
50. Utah (Red)

Divorce rates
1. Nevada (Red)
2. Arkansas (Red)
3. Oklahoma (Red)
4. Tennessee (Red)
5. Wyoming (Red)
46. New York (tie) (Blue)
46. Pennsylvania (tie) (Blue)
47. Rhode Island (Blue)
48. New Jersey (Blue)
49. Connecticut (Blue)
50. Massachusetts (Blue)
From the Centers for Disease Control monthly vital statistics

Violent crime
1. South Carolina (Red)
2. Florida (Red)
3. Maryland (Blue)
4. Tennessee (Red)
5. New Mexico (Purple)
46. South Dakota (Red)
47. New Hampshire (Purple)
48. Vermont (Blue)
49. Maine (Blue)
50. North Dakota (Red)
U.S. Census Bureau 2000 statistics

Percentage of all persons living below the poverty line
1. Arkansas (Red)
2. New Mexico (Purple)
3. Mississippi (Red)
4. Louisiana (Red)
5. West Virginia (Red)
46. New Jersey (tie) (Blue)
46. Connecticut (tie) (Blue)
48. Maryland (Blue)
49. Minnesota (Blue)
50. New Hampshire (Blue)

Now let's look at those ranking in which you would like your state to come out highest:

Persons with bachelor's degree or higher
1. Massachusetts (Blue)
2. Maryland (Blue)
3. Colorado (Red)
4. Virginia (Red)
5. New Hampshire (Purple)
46. Nevada (Red)
47. Wyoming (Red)
48. Mississippi (Red)
49. Arkansas (Red)
50. West Virginia (Red)

Average Annual Pay
1. Connecticut (Blue)
2. New York (Blue)
3. New Jersey (Blue)
4. Massachusetts (Blue)
5. California (Blue)
46, Arkansas (Red)
47. North Dakota (Red)
48. Mississippi (Red)
49. South Dakota (Red)
50. Montana (Red)

Average SAT scores
1. Iowa (Purple)
2. South Dakota (Red)
3. North Dakota (tie) (Red)
3. Wisconsin (tie) (Blue)
5. Illinois (Blue)
46. Delaware (Blue)
47. Florida (Red)
48. Texas (Red)
49. Georgia (Red)
50. South Carolina (Red)
The College Board 2004 scores

Now let's tally up the rankings putting purple states aside. I counted 35 favorable rankings for the blue states and 10 for the red states. As for unfavorable rankings, I counted 42 for the red states and 3 for the blue states. Considering there were so many red states and so few blue states, the results certainly are striking. It appears that while red-staters talk the talk about family values, blue-staters statistically walk the walk.

Some might say I tried to cherry pick the lists that would put blue states in the best light, but I honestly sought out rankings that showed what most Americans agree are reliable statistical indicators of a healthy and family-friendly society. If anyone finds anything else out there that I neglected to show, I would be glad to put it on this blog, regardless of whether it favors my point of view.

All sarcasm aside, if you right-wingers promise to leave this red state/blue state nonsense alone, I promise to quit laughing at your beloved red states' sorry showing regarding the family values you claim to care so much about.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


I'm back!

The Mouth has returned after a few days on the road. Quite a bit of mail has piled up, so let's take a look at some of the highlights.

In response to the selection of right-wing quotes I put out last week to balance some unfortunate words from Howard Dean:

Keep it comin'. You're right. Anne Coulter with her obscene rages gives the left more ammo than she does her own cause. I don't think I've seen a more hateful person on the airwaves before.
- Throat Deep

Thanks Throat Deep. Keep readin' and I'll keep it comin'.

Another reader writes:

Actually, I'm a big Howard Dean fan. I hope he continues to lead the Democratic party...right into the grave. Yes, you're right, there isn't a lot of difference in what Dean says and Coulter says, except that Coulter isn't the head of the Democratic party. Dean may be a delight to extremist liberals but there is no doubt that he's driving a lot of Dems. to the Republican party.Go Dean! Go Dean!
- Brian

Dean most certainly will drive the Democrats into the grave if he doesn't learn to watch his mouth. I readily admit it, being as this is a true no-spin zone as opposed to a mere imitator I'm hearing about on Fox News. And it's not just me. The Democratic party leadership openly repudiated Dean and also met with him to make sure no more of this happened. Can the GOP say the same for their handling of Tom Delay?

Brian, that's what separates us liberals from you conservatives. We admit our mistakes, something you conservatives will never do. Look at the White House for an example. Instead of acknowledging that Anne Coulter's comments are wrong and shameful, you instead make excuses. Well, at least she's not head of the party like Howard Dean, you say. But I'm not surprised. That's the typical moral double-standard we've all come to expect from you guys.


In my recent posting on less-than-flattering poll results for our president, I said I was not aware of a Fox News poll showing the president's approval rating. A reader has pointed out that Fox News does indeed have a poll showing a truly unimpressive 48 percent approval for President Bush. The Mouth regrets the error and thanks this observant fan.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


One last word on Howard Dean

OK, so enough on Howard Dean, already. Right? Yes, but in light of the self-righteousness and self-serving indignation conservatives have been raising over Dean's comments about Republicans, I thought it might be nice to review some of the many thoughtful things conservatives have been saying about us liberals.

"Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam. Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do. They don't have the energy. If they had that much energy, they'd have indoor plumbing by now."
- Ann Coulter

"Liberals hate religion because politics is a religion substitute for liberals and they can't stand the competition."
- Ann Coulter

"I'm not saying that liberals...are evil. I'm saying they have a disturbing habit of winking at evil-of ignoring it or turning a blind eye to it."
- Sean Hannity

"I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians, who are actively trying to make an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way...I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
- Jerry Falwell on the events of Sept. 11

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building."
- Ann Coulter

"Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position."
-Ann Coulter (I'm already weary from quoting her this much.)

"(The Democratic Party) has reinvented itself as a cool hangout financed by Hollywood celebs, media yuppies, trial lawyers, multiculturalists, God-haters and the race-relations mafia who look down on the working people who once made up the backbone of the Democratic Party."
- Laura Ingraham

Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism
- book title by Sean Hannity

The Enemy Within: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Schools, Faith and Military
- book title by Michael Savage

Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity
- book title by David Limbaugh

Now tell me, which side should really be hanging its collective head in shame?

Wal-Mart un-American

For years Wal-Mart has wrapped itself in red, white and blue as some sort of lovable, wholesome embodiment of everything great about this country. Of course, we've also been hearing for years about what a scourge they are on the middle class that makes this country so great. It's certainly no breaking news that their single-minded drive for the lowest-possible prices on goods to be borne on everybody else's back has led to a massive exodus of manufacturing jobs out of the U.S.

But have you seen the recent Frontline on PBS dealing with this topic?

I was out of town last week and saw it on a PBS affiliate in Columbia, Mo. What was striking was the degree to which Wal-Mart has actively and quite vocally pressured and even bullied American manufacturers to ship jobs overseas, especially to China, so they could sell their goods to Wal-Mart for an even cheaper price.

This episode didn't talk about all the other reasons to hate Wal-Mart: forcing people to work off the clock, locking workers in buildings. encouraging employees to apply for public assistance to supplement the substandard wages they pay, busting up union organizing, lying to the public about its "Made in America" policy, driving under mom-and-pop businesses and so forth.

No, this business of forcing manufacturing jobs overseas is Wal-Mart's greatest ill, and we're all paying for it. Not only are we losing jobs, but our trade deficit now stands at an all-time high of $195 billion. Allen Greenspan certainly didn't mind crowing about how Wal-Mart has single-handedly kept inflation low. He neglected to talk about Wal-Mart's share in driving up our trade deficit.

You can watch the episode or read a transcript by clicking here:
It's the kind of journalism Ken Tomlinson is trying put an end to at PBS.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Conservative revolution, my ass


That's the percentage of Americans who think President Bush is doing a good job, according to a New York Times/CBS poll released today.


That's the percentage of Americans who disapprove of Bush's performance, according to the same poll.

Americans apparently aren't very impressed with our president these days. His arrogant ideological activism, his embarrassing continued bumbling in Iraq, his lies that got us in that mess, his insistence on destroying Social Security, his self-serving sanctimoniousness over Terri Schiavo, his tax cuts that benefit only the super wealthy, his ever-expanding budget and resulting uber-deficit have apparently all worked together to leave Americans decidedly unenthusiastic about our White House these days.

The low general approval ratings mask even lower ratings on Bush's handling of specific issues like Social Security (25%), foreign policy (39%), the economy (also 39%), and the war in Iraq (7% "very well," 33% "somewhat well"). Only 45% said we should have even gone over there in the first place, as opposed to 51% who said we should have never even considered it.

Compareing Bush's 42% general approval rating with that of other recent presidents at this very point in their tenures - Clinton, 60%; Reagan, 59% - one quickly realizes what an embarrassment this must be to the Bush administration and conservatives everywhere. In other words, in spite of an avalanche of corporate money and a right wing propaganda monolith of think tanks, pundits, publishers, magazines and bloggers, the public ain't buying it, plain and simple. But try to tell it to Bush, who once said, "Look, I don't care about the numbers. I know the facts."

Oh, and just in case any of you whiny right-wingers out there doubt the veracity of anything put out by the New York Times and CBS, consider Bush's approval rating according to other recent polls: Associated Press-Ipsos, 43%; Gallup, 47%; Washington Post/ABC, 48%. I'm yet to hear of an American Spectator/Fox News poll, but if there were such a thing, I'm sure you right-wingers would probably like its results.

More on Ken Tomlinson

NPR's Morning Edition reported this morning that Corporation for Public Broadcasting chief Kenneth Y. Tomlinson is also heads the obscure parent of Voice of America radio. VOA began broadcasting to Nazi-occupied Europe in 1942 and since then has provided news throughtout the globe, especially to people living under oppression. One might think this would be pro-American propaganda, but quite the opposite is true. VOA has always committed itself to fairness, accuracy and balance, and is most decidedly not a government press agancy. It truly has served as a beacon throughout the world to the true American way.

Well, Tomlinson of course wants to change that and has pressured reporters and editors to slant coverage of events in Iraq, downplaying any American setbacks and emphasizing happy feature stories. You know, Americans passing out candy bars to children. I'm all in favor of upbeat news myself, but the overall picture seems to be that Tomlinson wants to turn VOA from an independent source of reliable journalism into a red, white and blue version of Pravda.

But instead of reading me ramble on, listen for yourself to the NPR story:

Quote of the Day
From the files of idiotic Republican statements:

"Is the country still here?"
-Calvin Coolidge, waking up from a nap.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Odds and Ends

The Mouth returns after four days on the road. The Mouth regrets any withdrawal you've experienced.

Something rotten at CPB

The plot thickens at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the parent overseer of PBS and NPR. As I'm sure you've heard, a bill before Congress would strip CPB of $250 million in funding, a move by conservatives to eventually dismantle the organizations which they believe dish out left-wing propaganda.

Now The New York Times is reporting that CPB's right-wing chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, shelled out $15,000 to two Republican lobbyists, yet failed to report that expenditure to the corporation's board. One of the lobbyists was retained to evaluate and report on any alleged political leanings of Bill Moyers, former host of the "Now" news program on PBS. The two lobbyists then made suggestions to Tomlinson on possible legislation for House Republicans to cut off funding to CPB. That's a real violation of public trust and of the corporation's charter which states that its purpose is to buffer and protect public broadcasting entities from
politicians who would seek to unduly influence what all of us regular folks see and hear.

These developments are just the latest in a series of attacks on PBS and NPR by whiny conservatives who see a liberal behind every microphone not given the White House stamp of approval. And so again we have another example of a Bush appointee who has set out to intentionally undermine and destroy the agency he oversees, an agency designed to serve the public.

For the record, I have openly acknowledged that PBS tends to lean leftward, although not to the preposterous extreme of anything put out by the right. I also understand the criticism that tax dollars shouldn't be used to support unbalanced journalism, not that the Bush Administration had any trouble with using our tax dollars to produce fake news releases and bribe Armstrong Williams for positive coverage. I would also point out that only 15 percent of PBS' budget comes from federal funding. With that in mind, I support spinning off PBS and NPR as wholly private non-profit enterprises. It would really hurt in the short run, but only then would we have public broadcasting that we could trust to serve the American public. We certainly can no longer expect our federal government to do so.

Speaking of Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers speaks

Here's what he had to say in his commencement address at City University of New York:

The web of cooperation is under siege. A profound transformation is occurring in America as the balance between wealth and the commonwealth is threatened by the winner-take-all ideology. From public schools and universities to public lands and other natural resources, from the media with their broadcast and digital spectrums to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs - and to politics itself - a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a public shift away from public responsibility and obligation to private control and exploitation.

This is no ordinary time. You are leaving here as the basic constitutional principles of America are under assault - an independent press and judiciary, the separation of church and state, progressive taxation and the social contract. You are going to be needed if we are to recover America as a shared project.

Thank you, Bill. Keep giving the bad guys hell.

In defense of Howard Dean

If you'll recall, last week I had some strong words to say about Howard Dean. I believed that his rhetoric had crossed the line into the sensational and even ridiculous. It was the kind of talk that I thought beneath Howard and more worthy of right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Let those two and their fellow travelers corner the market on rhetorical demagoguery, I said. We can be tough, yet factually, academically and intellectually fair and honest.

Still, I'm troubled. I feel that much of the anti-Dean sentiment was orchestrated and calculated. We have a right-wing that wants to tie us down with our own fair-mindedness and decency while they beat us over the head with the meanest of rhetoric possible and the broadest strokes of the paintbrush imaginable. Their objections to Dean's comments - while fair and correct on the surface - also smacked of political opportunism. How dare you don't turn the other cheek and let us kick the other side of your face, the right-wingers tell us. How dare you refuse to fight with one hand tied behind your back. Indeed I fear that decent folks like myself played right into their hands.

With that in mind, I want to tell my liberal and progressive friends about Democratic Solidarity Day today. A liberal blogging ally of mine, Wendy Foster Dickson, passed me a list of several things we can do:
1. Tell all your friends.
2. Give money - even $5 sends a message - to the DNC.
3. Call elected Democratic officials in the House and Senate.
4. Sign the Dean Speaks for Me petition.
5. Write letters to the editor.

Frankly, sometimes Dean can be a bit much. But I also know that Dean has done more to energize the Democratic party than anyone else. Had it not been for his early fire last year, I know we would not have done nearly as well as we did. And I don't care what people say, our showing in November was pretty damned impressive.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Please extract the foot from Howard Dean's mouth

"I hate Republicans and everything they stand for."
-Howard Dean

Goodness, that seems a little a harsh, like the kind of rhetoric Sean Hannity would employ. I drop Sean's name because I first heard about Dean's comments on Hannity's show last week. At the time, I was hoping, they were grossly taken out of context, but no, Dean really said those words and they were presented by Hannity in the correct context. Frankly, it would be hard to portray those comments in anything but the correct context.

Dean also said Republicans "have neve made an honest liviing in their lives" (I suppose a badly outdated reference to the Gatsbian days of trust-fund kids voting for Harding and Coolidge) and "This is a struggle between good and evil, and we are the good." He even did a coke-snorting impression of Rush Limbaugh for one crowd in Minnesota (Hey, Howard, Rush is an OxyContin fiend, not a cokehead.) In conclusion, Dean said, Republicans are "pretty much a white Christian party."

Understandably, Hannity was outraged by all of this. After all, name-calling and demeaning and belittling opponents has traditionally been the domain of right-wingers. The man who says "Liberals hate America" and who named his book "Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism" naturally isn't pleased that an opponent would resort to right-wing schtick. Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes invented it, Limbaugh filed for the copyright and Hannity and Ann Coulter have purchased the rights. Dean's use of such tactics constitutes outright thievery. Sean is right. Let him and his cronies hold exclusive dominion over that kind of rhetoric.

Besides, as one Democratic bigwig put it, we'd sure like some of those white Christians to vote for us. Calling them names isn't going to attract them. It's one of those Dean-like scenarios: fire up the base, alienate everyone else. And the fact is, such comments aren't fair. Most conservatives are good, decent people. Many of my friends happen to be conservative. That they count me as a friend shows that they're reasonable and open-minded too. It's a relatively small group that trades in and is swayed by this noise (although a group the GOP panders too almost exclusively). I welcome those folks to stick with Hannity, Limbaugh and Coulter while the rest of us move on and do something productive for our great nation.

Apparently, many Democrats agree. Ranking Dems in the Senate had a powwow with Dean and told him to knock it off. Dean agreed and said he intends to. Yet this nicer, more reasonable approach can be dangerous too. For quite some times, Democrats I fear have been relatiely reasonable and have gotten mowed down by the rhetorical panzers of the right-wing noise machine. I suggest a middle ground, tough and on-target with a relentless honest message that Americans will buy. We'll let the right-wing ideologues stick with the name calling; they have little else to work with.

I try real hard here at South City Mouth to employ a higher standard. I throw bombs, but they're a more thoughtful Molotov. A kinder, gentler incendiary, if you will. I'm not saying I've never called someone a name here (I did just call Rush a druggie, after all), but at the same time, I use labels sparingly and only when I think there's a real point to it. And I promise to never paint an entire group with a single mean-spirited brush. To do otherwise would be sooo Hannity.

From the mailbag:

Big B from Big D responds to yesterday's posting on GM's failure to develop hybrid technology:

The problem with you tree-huggers who don't know anything about business, when you criticize business, you do so with an elementary and at best book-learned knowledge about business, the corporations, and how business really works. (Save for a few Ben & Jerrys, and the Ivory elite who've turned to liberalism as penance for the guilt derived from wealth.) When the Big 3 decided to invest more in Hummers than hybrids, it had little to do with the future of either one.

Americans wanted - still do want - big cars and trucks. (Mark my words, the slump in big cars will last as long as a ride in a hybrid) Business is about business. It's about pleasing the consumer and geting paid for it. Toyota is doing well because of quality, not innovation. Remember the Carter no-gas fiasco of the 70's? How long did Americans yearn for Pintos? You Tree Huggers may wish for Pintos, but the rest of us want our cars like the spirit of America.

The Mouth responds:
Assuming that Big B is the captain of industry he purports to be (That he would even defend the perennially inept GM makes me wonder), he appears to labor under the delusion that many large corporations really care about consumer demand. For years, many consumers expressed interest in fuel-efficiency technology, a notion GM dismissed as wackjob environmentalism. The fact that Honda and Toyota can't make hybrids fast enough to satisfy waiting lists, while plenty of traditional Corollas and Civics sit on the lots (Honda's sales are down too, but not by anywhere near as much as GM's.) merely reinforces my position.

Yes, we know people really wanted SUVs, although recent sales figures show they're less enamored these days of huge unwieldy boxes on wheels. I strongly suspect sales will continue to drop, not only because of gas prices, but also because of changing tastes. Many former SUV drivers are turning to minivans, station wagon and (gasp!) traditional cars. GM once again failed to spot the trend.

I suppose the free market works. GM, in its one-size-fits-all arrogance, chose to dictate supply instead of respond to a diversity of demand, and now it's paying the price. As for the Pinto, it failed because the gas tank exploded on impact, a sympton of that period when just about everything Detroit produced was a disaster, regardless of gas mileage.

Brian responds to my critique of conservative talk radio:

I was reading your ramblings, uh, I mean comments on Rush and thought I'd suggest that conservative talk radio has broadened its scope since the days where Rush was a lone conservative voice shouting out across the red states.

Honestly, I've got to say that I don't find myself listening to Rush much any more, but instead to hosts like Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved, Dennis Praeger, and Michael Savage (who I can't stand, but find interesting sometimes.) Oh, I also listen to Alan Colmes occasionally (as he's the only liberal talk show host on the radio here). Have you listened to these guys? Laura and Michael Medved would be my favorites. Now, this may seem odd, but you know who I really miss hearing? G. Gordon Liddy. There was just something I liked about Liddy, loved his voice. I think he was just really, really an interesting character too.

The Mouth responds:

Ah, a conservative who has liberated himself from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage. That's certainly refreshing, and makes me feel almost guilty for defending Michael Moore. Almost.

As work on Mount Budmore continues this summer, I'll try to check out Michael Medved and Dennis Praeger. I've always found Medved thoughtful and reflective, although I confess I'm not familiar with Praeger. I find Laura Ingraham to be the same old right-wing rant. As for G. Gordon Liddy, well, let me just say I try to avoid rat-eating psycopaths. But to each his own.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


An assorted array of stuff

Sorry for the absence these last couple of days. The Mouth simply got weary of politics and needed a rest. I'm back now, and I'm as pissed off as ever. Today, let's talk about a few odds and ends that have been cluttering my reporter's notebook.

Slap Suit

Have you heard the one about the two civic-minded folks who went to court to save a landmark building, and all they got was a lousy lawsuit filed against them?

It's no joke. Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeir were outraged by plans to level the 1896-vintage Century Building in downtown St. Louis to make way for a parking lot (What is this, 1965? I thought we quit doing things like that decades ago.) To try to save this lovely Beaux-Arts building (one of the few 19th-century office buildings left downtown), these two filed two lawsuits to halt the demolition. Ultimately, the litigation failed, and the Century Building collapsed into a pile of rubble late last year.

Now Behrendt and Plackemeier are being sued by the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri who contend they were the target of malicious prosecution. They want $1.5 million to compensate for alleged legal expenses, as well as to "deter said defendents and others from like conduct."

Sure sounds like a slap suit, doesn't it? For the uninitiated, a slap suit is a form of intimidation and bullying when lawsuits seeking large dollar amounts are filed against individuals or grassroots organizations who make a big stink about wrong-doing, often from a large corporation. Sometimes, as in Behrendt's and Plackemeier's case, slap suits can take the form of a counter-suit. In other cases, they are filed as slander or defamation suits. The message is always the same: Keep your mouth shut, or we'll litigate it shut. Our pockets are deeper than yours, slap suit litigants say, and we can bury you. It's the kind of thing we'd expect from some sleazy corporation, but it's something else to learn the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri are using our tax dollars to engage in such conduct.

Sadly the Post-Dispatch has written very little about this case; I've heard more about it from KWMU, the NPR station.

To learn how to help Behrendt and Plackemeier, click here:

To see for yourself what we lost with the wrecking ball, click on any of these four links below:

Had they only listened to us tree-huggers.

So, General Motors is in trouble. They need to ax 25,000 jobs and slim down its line of boring cars (What! You mean people aren't lined up to buy Luminas?) and trucks. It appears the folks in Detroit didn't care what we tree-huggers had to say. For years we insisted, You're making too many SUVs. You need to consider fuel efficnency.

Did they listen to us? Noooooooo. You Bolsheviks don't know anything, the suits at GM said. Nobody wants a hybrid. People want Hummers and five-ton SUVs. We're dispassionate businessmen, see, and our judgment is infallible.

Apparently their infallible judgment neglected to foresee $2-per-gallon gas prices. Their infallible judgment also scoffed at Honda and Toyota for putting so much effort into developing hybrids and then actually marketing them. Yeah sure, GM stuck a few people on a low-priority effort to develop fuel-efficient technology. You may remember a rather shameful 60 Minutes piece that amounted to little more than public relations for GM with Dan Rather driving delightedly around a test track in a hybrid that corporate officials probably never planned to actually market.

Toyota, however, came up with the Prius and Honda developed the hybrid Accord, and the waiting lists are at least six months long. Meanwhile in Detroit, GM officials are several years off from actually putting a hybrid on the showroom floors. I guess Dan Rather will have to wait for his. But I hear there are some Yukons that aren't moving off the lot these days. GM sounds willing to cut Dan and the rest of us a pretty good deal to unload them.

Name that President

Can you guess which president they're talking about here?

"The...administration had remained a small junta, suspicious of the bureaucrats it presides over...distrustful of those it can't control, at once defensive and sometimes outright arrogant in behavior. It is unnecessarily inhospitable to people whose ideas might occasionally help it. The junta's deep sense of being surrounded by enemies has permeated the Washington atmosphere."

That's actually from a 1972 Life magazine editorial on the Nixon White House. Remind you of a more-recent president? As the unmasking of Deep Throat last week causes us to reflect back on Watergate and the abuses of power in high places, we are sadly reminded of how history repeats itself.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Delay tactics

The state from whence I came has produced much that we liberals find abominable, but it does indeed crank out a pretty fine magazine, Texas Monthly. Although perhaps a little right of center in its political views, Texas Monthly has never been shy about taking the Lone Star State's political scoundrels to task. And boy, are there plenty of scoundrels down in Texas!

This month, the magazine focuses on Tom Delay with a "quiz" on the House majority leader's ethics. I put that word quiz in quotes because all the multiple-choice questions can be answered "All of the above." All the true-false questions can be answered "true." In other words, expect the worst possible scenario, and there you have The Hammer's ethical worldview. With the news on Delay's problems leaked out bit by bit, the casual observer tends not to see the whole picture. Confronted with all of Delay's misdeeds at once, the casual observer's jaw tends to drop sharply.

Unfortunately, due to Texas Monthly's online stinginess, I can't just link to the quiz. So I shall steal liberally from their story with the disclaimer that I assume no responsibility for jaw-drop-related injuries. Consider the following:

*Delay sponsored two energy deregulation bills that would have given Enron a retroactive $254 million tax break to the disgraced Houston energy giant. Is it any coincidence that Enron raised $300,000 for two of Delay's PACs, $32,000 in direct campaign contributions to Delay, and a $750,000 consulting contract to two of his top aides?

*Delay took trips to Russia, Britain and South Korea, paid for either by lobbyists or registered foreign agents. Under federal law, that's a big no-no.

*Delay was admonished by the House ethics committee for, among other things, using the Department of Homeland Security to search for Democratic state legislators hiding from a vote in Austin over a highly shady redistricting bill. Delay also was admonished for shaking down an energy company for donations at the same time that legislation important to that company was before the House.

*The House ethics committee approved new rules that would effectively end the probe against Delay and essentially let him off the hook. Two Republicans with some backbone voted against the rules changes and were removed from the committee by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The two were replaced by lackeys who promptly demonstrated a low ethical standard. The maneuverings were so transparently crooked that 10 former Republican Congressmen signed a letter that described the whole affair as "obvious action to protect Majority Leader Tom Delay."

*Three Delay associates are currently under indictment. One, a former Delay fund-raiser, for "making and accepting prohibited corporate contributions; the second, the director of a PAC closely associated with Delay, for money laundering and accepting illegal contributions; and the third, one of Delay's main men, also for money laundering.

*The above-mentioned PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority or TRMPAC, itself is under criminal investigation for alleged illegal campaign financing for Republicans running for the Texas Legislature.

*Delay's PACs and campaign committees have paid his wife and daughter $500,000 for "political work" since 2001.

*Delay personally interceded in an investigation of Charles Hurwitz, CEO of Houston conglomerate Maxxam, by federal bank investigators to determine whether Hurwitz defrauded a savings and loan. Hurwitz made the following contributions to Delay: $10,000 to The Hammer's legal defense fund; $24,000 to his campaign committee; $5,000 to TRMPAC.

*Delay is a big supporter of Big Tobacco, having sponsored a provision (oddly, on an anti-terrorism bill) to shield it from foreign lawsuits. Big Tobacco is a big supporter of Delay, having funneled $131,000 to another Delay-controlled PAC.

*The same quid-pro-quo seems to work with the airline industry. Airlines contributed $159,000 to one of Delay's committees. Delay tried to make anti-terrorism security training for flight attendants voluntary instead of mandatory and at far less cost to the airlines.

*Same goes for a liquor company, which gave $20,000 to one of his PACs. Delay later supported an amendment favorable to the company.

*For contributions ranging from $300 to $20,000, Delay has promised personal meetings with top Bush administration officials. For contributions of as much as $500,000 to one of his charities, Delay offered meetings with high-ranking Republicans at last year's GOP convention.

*Delay has done the following for his lobbyist brother Randy: He authored a newspaper op-ed piece arguing that dumping tariffs should not applied to Mexican companies, not mentioning that Randy represented a Mexican company. He lobbied for support of a railroad merger between Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, a company Randy represents. He worked his damndest to fund the Interstate 69 project, which would benefit Texas' Rio Grande Valley, where Randy represents several municipalities.

So there you have it. You may now pick your jaw up. According to Texas Monthly, a reporter asked Delay, "Have you ever crossed the line of ethical behavior in terms of dealing with lobbyists, your use of government authority or with fund raising?" Delay answered, "'Ever' is a very strong word."

So why are Republicans so loathe to own up to their own moral shortcomings? Remember the Republicans' Contract with America in 1994? We won't be like those Democrats, they said. We'll be the party of good, honest government. Apparently, partisan Republicans and conservatives are doing their usual expemplary job of maintaining two standards: above-board honesty and transparency for the likes of Bill Clinton (and deservedly so!), and deflection and obfuscation for the likes of Delay.

I mainly used the article in Texas Monthly to write this posting, but you can learn more about Delay by clicking on these links below.
Democratic National Committee's "Scandal Man":

The Center for Media and Democracy's SourceWatch:

Roberti returns to "help" us

If you live here in the Gateway City and read this morning's column by Bill McClellan, your jaw probably dropped for reasons having nothing to do with Tom Delay. Remember Bill Roberti, the big-talking New Yorker who was going to save us from our schools for the reasonable, one-time price of $5 million? I didn't think it was possible, but he left our city schools in worse shape than when he arrived. We're still mopping up Roberti's mess.

You were probably thinking he was gone for good. But you thought wrong. He has returned for a limited engagement, this time at the invitation of the city of St. Louis and the Missouri Department of Economic Develpment, and for the bargain basement cost of $50,000. His job this time is to advise in merger talks between our locally based May Department Stores and Federated Department Stores.

Why didn't anybody ask me? I'd tell them to lose the Red Apple sales and start stocking merchandise that someone under the age of 60 would actually choose to buy. And hell, I'd only charge a fraction of Roberti's fee.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Right-wing noise, Part II

Let's see. Where was I?

If you'll remember from the other day, I was describing a recent lazy Thursday afternoon listening to conservative talk radio. After 30 minutes of Rush Limbaugh, I felt weariness and extreme boredom set in, so I turned over to Bill O'Reilly on 97.1 Talk (It's like Fox News on the radio with all your favorite talking heads.)

Now ol' Bill is a different sort of conservative. He doesn't mind giving the Bush Administration a hard time, and I respect him for that. But he calls himself an independent. That would be like Pat Buchanan, another frequent Bush critic, calling himself an independent. In other words, O'Reilly is pretty darn right wing. And he's a loudmouth and bully too. His schtick is to find the biggest loser out there with the biggest nutball agenda and excoriate him before millions as if he's performing some national service by telling off some poor, defenseless kook.

Today, he's forsaken the kooks for Juan Williams, an NPR guy and frequent Fox talking head. Juan's a pretty smart guy and liberal too, so I give Bill brownie points for providing equal time and not with some tepid moderate like Alan Colmes. Today's debate topic: the Amnesty International report. Bill says that it's just a bunch of hot air from people who hate America and would love to see soldiers killed.

"The left-wing websites started claiming, torture, torture, torture, abuse, abuse, abuse, without any proof," he says. "The torture industry is designed to undermine the Bush Administration and elect Hillary Clinton president in 2008." (That's one of those things conservative talk-show hosts like to do, drop Hillary's name. The mere mention sends listeners into a rage. It seems cheap and gratuitous like a comedian using the f-word to elicit laughs.)

Bill speaks out both sides of his mouth. So much for no-spin in the zone. On the one hand, he says that the torture and abuse haven't been proven. On the other, he opposes releasing more photos, saying that it will cause our soldiers to die. It's basically rhetoric designed to keep the public from knowing what's really going on in Guantanamo and our other detention centers. But Bill persists.

"I don't want our soldiers to die. I don't want our soldiers to die. I don't want our soldiers to die."

If you've ever seen Bill's apoplectic and beet-red face on the cover of Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, then you have a picture to match the voice I'm hearing on the radio at this point. Bill doesn't want soldiers to die. How nice. I'm sure our men and women in Iraq thank him.

Personally, I've noticed that our soldiers are dying anyway with or without photos of Abu Graib, so I say let the dirty laundry hang. That's how we improve our country. Juan agrees.

"I suspect you want to close your eyes because it will erode support (for the war)," he tells Bill.

Overall, it's a lively although rather overheated debate. It was worth listening to, but I fear I'm neglecting construction of Mount Budmore, so I turn off the radio and resume my important work. At 2, I turn the radio back on and listen to a half-hour of Sean Hannity. But don't get me started on that guy. We'll talk about him some other day.

Again, please, please, please sign the petition to bring progressive talk radio to St. Louis, so I can construct Mount Budmore in a more peaceful Zenlike fashion. By the way, we're up to 680 signatures. That's about 200 more in just one week, but we still need yours, so click here:

Friday, June 03, 2005


Right-wing noise

Bloggers note: If you're a first time reader, be sure to look back in the archive, linked from the bottom of this page. Thanks!

There's nothing more sad than a male schoolteacher out for the summer. Women are so much more industrious; we men founder under the crush of free time. We do things like launch left-wing blogs and construct elaborate beercan sculptures out on the back deck, one Budweiser at a time. I was doing precisely that yesterday, constructing Mount Budmore while listening to the radio, when curiosity got the better of me. I wonder what Rush Limbaugh has to say today, I thought.

I know I should have kept listening to the usual overplayed crap I had on - but I felt compelled to turn over to KMOX, a once legendary AM station now reduced to pandering to angry white males from places like Lemay, Mo., and Mitchell, Ill. Here's what I heard:

11:25 a.m.
Rush is in a lather over Mark Felt, the recently unmasked Deep Throat Rush asserts that Felt is not a hero. And I suppose I agree to some degree. Although Felt took some serious chances with his career and with the possibility of prosecution and disgrace, he also seems somewhat opportunistic, a disgruntled FBI man passed over for a promotion, and a rather Machiavellian FBI man, at that. So what do you know? I actually agree with Rush, at least to some degree.

But Rush begin Rush, he has to go too far. He soon turns his wrath on Bob Woodward, Ben Bradlee and nearly anyone who ever worked at the Washington Post. How dare they make money off Watergate? Rush says, conveniently neglecting to point out that Charles Colson, G. Gordon Liddy, H.R. Haldeman, Howard Hunt and others cashed in with books of their own. Furthermore, does anyone think Colson and Liddy could have launched careers in right-wing punditry had they not cashed in on their notoriety as convicted felons?

11:25 a.m.
Rush is now making excuses for Nixon and for Watergate:
"It goes on all the time."
"Did Nixon rape anybody or molest anybody? Did he? No, he didn't do those things." (That one really left me scratching my head.)
"What is Watergate? What did he do? There's no question he broke the law. Clinton also broke the law."
"I just wonder if you even know what Nixon did. Then I wonder if you know what FDR did. What JFK did."
He ends this rambing jaunt, with the disclaimer, "I'm not defending Nixon. But..."

Of course, Rush plays the old conservative double-standard - a high moral threshhold for liberals; a highly flexible, grossly situational set of standards for conservatives. Everybody's doing it. If you only knew what the liberal media covered up about JFK. Watergate was a whole bunch of nothing. Liberals couldn't stand Nixon, so they set out to ruin him.

Fact is, anybody who knows anything about Watergate knows that Nixon gave our country one of its greatest Constitutional crises since perhaps the Civil War. Anybody who says otherwise either doesn't know or wishes to make excuses for an indefensible pattern of conduct. If you don't what Watergate is, then let me know, and I'll tell you all about it.

11:37 a.m.
Rick from York, Pa., calls. Oddly, it's the only listener call I'll hear in my 90 minutes of right-wing talk-show listening today. After effusively telling Rush how great he is, Rick does the unthinkable.
"I gotta disagree with you Rush," he says. "Nixon was absolutely bad."
That's the last we ever hear of poor Rick. He is sent to telecom Purgatory as Rush rambles on more about how he's not making excuses for Nixon, but really he is. We then are treated to yet another endless string of commercials.

11:52 a.m.
Rush returns with a commercial of his own. For four minutes - that's an eternity in broadcasting - Rush tells us about his MP3, featuring catchy parodies of pop songs and other fun novelties he has for sale.
At this point I feel deprived and disappointed. I so badly wanted to be outraged. Instead I'm bored. This guy is the standard-bearer of conservative talk show hosts? The rambling, disjointed pontifications remind me of a conversation I once had with a resident of the Florida Keys who said that on some nights, he could hear Fidel Castro on the radio yammering on for hours at a stretch. Castro must sound an awful lot like Rush. I think I'll find someone else to listen to, maybe Bill O'Reilly.

To be continued tomorrow.

If you're liberal and live in St. Louis, please sign the petition requesting progressive talk radio for our area. For the love of God, I beg you.

Quote of the Day (Today is two-fer day):
"I agree that so many people voted against their self-interest. But I would argue it was a very good thing."
Senior Bush-Cheney strategist Matthew Dowd, speaking today on last fall's election on NPR's Morning Edition.

"I never thought anybody with such a position of sensitivity at the Justice Department would breach confidences.... A hero is someone that you want other people to emulate...and to say he was a hero because he broke his trust..."
Convicted Watergate felon Charles Colson, directing his moral outrage at Mark Felt.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Public access

The president is coming! The president is coming! He's coming to St. Louis today! Hip-hip-hooray!

Of course, without $2,000 in hand for a plate at his dinner to raise funds for our right-wing Sen. Jim Talent, neither you nor I are invited. We won't be admitted, either, to his appearance earlier today in Hopkinsville, Ky. Only a collection of local sycophantic Babbitts, no doubt, are invited to participate in what handlers are calling a "round table" on Social Security reform. The word round table connotes an exchange of ideas. I suspect few ideas will be exchanged here; Bush will speak and his fellow round-tablers will tell him how brilliant and Godly he is.

But that's how it is for the White House. It's nothing new. We heard all about it during last year's campaign with loyalty oaths required to attend events and people forcibly removed for wearing anything deemed anti-Bush. Keep President Bush away from any random encounters with average folks, the M.O. goes. Regular people might tell him something negative. The TV cameras could even pick it up and show it on the evening news. These aren't good times for our president anyway.

Most Americans aren't buying his idea that they'd be better off investing their retirement funds. They're not happy at all about the protracted war in Iraq. They were extremely put off by the Republicans' calculated moral posturing over Terri Schiavo, and they're increasingly offended by what seems to be right-wing ideology run amok. Bush also finds himself increasingly tainted by the creeping ick of Tom Delay. In fact, it appears the American public is seeing right through our president.

The numbers themselves paint a bleak picture for Bush. According to the Pew Center for the People and the Press, only 43 percent of Americans in May approved of Bush's performance. Other reliable polls show similar numbers. A Pew poll released yesterday shows that only 32 percent of Americans feel optimistic about the national economy and only 44 percent feel good about their own personal finanes.

So don't expect Bush to show up at your door anytime soon, asking how you feel about things. He really doesn't want to hear about it. But St. Louisans shouldn't feel too snubbed by Bush's two-hour fly-in, fly-out visit today. As a gift to the people, he has promised to thoroughly bollix rush hour traffic as the Secret Service entirely shuts down I-70 sometime around 5 p.m. Sorry about that, St. Charles County commuters, but that's what you get for voting Republican.

From the Nixon Tapes, October 1972
President Nixon and H.R. Haldeman discuss whether to name Mark Felt as FBI director to replace the recently deceased J. Edgar Hoover.

Nixon: Is he Catholic?
Haldeman: Jewish.
Nixon: Christ. Put a Jew in there?

Have I mentioned how much I hate Nixon?

Quote of the Day

"The 19th Amendment (granting women the right to vote) is around because men weren't doing their jobs, and I think that's sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family."
Kansas State Sen. Kay O'Connor, who currently is seeking the Republican (naturally) nomination for secretary of state in the Sunflower State.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005




With that, President Bush summarily dismissed Amnesty International's report calling the U.S. to task for gross human rights violations in its ongoing purge to rid the world of evil-doers. Typical of our current White House, any criticism, any allegations of wrongdoing are quickly brushed aside. In this case, the report was deemed by Bush in a press conference yesterday as silly allegations by people who hate America.

The AI report, casts wide its net of criticism, encompassing everything from prisoner torture and abuse at a wide range of detention facilities from Guantanamo Bay to Cuba to secret detentions of suspected terrorists. It's a long document, and I admit to only skimming it, but the documentation is extensive. Among its demands of the White House:

*End all incommunicado detention.
*Give the Red Cross access to all prisoners everywhere, even those held in secret prisons.
*Give detainees due process under the law.
*Establish an idependent commission to investigate abuse allegations.
*Make sure that individuals who violate human rights are brought to justice.

One gripe: AI's use of the word "gulag" to describe Gitmo. I've read Solzhenitsyn. I don't think Guantanamo comes even close to what Stalin had going on, and such rhetoric only gives Bush further ammunition in his almost obligatory dismissal of real facts.

The facts are bad enough, and it's certainly not acceptable for a country such as ours to simply say, well, at least we're not as bad as Saddam was. That many Bush apologists even suggest such a frightening moral relativism shows that our torch is in danger of dimming. Sadly, most people tend to shrug when they hear the reports of human rights abuses at American hands. They're bad people, they say. They're terrorists, and we have to protect ourselves. I'm can hear the right-wingers now telling me all about how I want to coddle terrorists and sit with Osama and his boys in a circle, hold hands and sing, "Kum-ba-ya."

I'm sure most detainees are indeed guilty as charged. Well, perhaps not charged since nobody's actually ever "charged" with anything anymore. We also know that some innocent people have been swept off the streets and faced almost indefinite detention and abuse before being cleared and released. We know this; it's documented. Well, then the system works, some say. I suspect those who were cleared after months - even years - of detention and abuse would disagree that the system worked for them.

And there's a larger question here, and that is, do we actually stand for something here in the United States or don't we?

What's going on now is virtually unprecedented in our history, especially considering the tens of thousands of people involved. With even the remotest suspicions of terrorist ties, you can be plucked off the streets by American soldiers or agents and held in secret prisons without the opportunity to contact anyone in the outside world. If your family comes to ask where you might be, they are told nothing, not even that you have been arrested. Nor will anyone else in the outside world ever know. You have no right to a lawyer, no right to challenge your detention. You don't even have the right to know what charges have been filed against you. Hell, there probably are no charges. You can be held indefinitely and apparently abused, tortured and possibly even killed (There's plenty of documented evidence of detainees tortured to death). In fact, the government appears to have built a place at Guantanamo to hold you for the rest of your life if it decides not to ever charge you with anything.

Sounds positively medievel doesn't it?

That's what's going on these days. The Bush Administration has unilaterally decided that the Fourth Amendment doesn't count for an entire class of people to be determined at the administration's whim. And lest you think this is somehow necessary for national security, guess again. This isn't an episode of 24, where Jack Bauer has to torture and kill to find the nuclear device. Even administration officials admit that torture doesn't work to extract reliable information. It's used merely as a means to "soften up" detainees before the real interrogation begins.

But then, we can't really say what goes on in those places, can we? And we should never question the Bush Administration. That would be unpatriotic. I'm sure we can trust them, can't we? At least if we're fair-skinned and don't speak with a funny accent?

Read Amnest International's reports for yourself:
"Guantanamo and Beyond":
"Human Dignity Denied":

Quote of the Day

"The president has this obsession, which he inherited from Reagan, of brush clearing. I don't get it. What do you get when you clear brush? You get a photograph of yourself with a chain saw and a cowboy hat."
Larry McMurtry, on President Bush's so-called ranch near Crawford, Texas

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