Saturday, November 18, 2006

W. causes the death of goats in Indonesia!

Well, it looks like W. finally got around to going to Vietnam, about 30 years too late. Now that it's safe for him to go there, he's acting like Vietnam isn't still a communist regime that violates its citizen's human rights. Incidentally, didn't we lose over 58,000 U.S. trying to bring democracy to that country a while back? Well I mean, W. didn't really, he was busy protecting the air space over Texas from a communist attck, while at the same campaigning for his dad, but now that we're losing about 100 troops and over 800 wounded a month in Iraq to bring democracy there, why is he breaking bread with these dirty reds? One thing, I guess, is that the communist threat isn't anywhere a dangerous as the terror threat. At least, the commies want to do business with us, and you've got to hand it to them, they really know how to control their dissidents.

Vietnam is probably one of the few countries in the world where he can be assured he won't be seeing any mass protests over his visit. The Vienamese regime has made sure to round up all dissidents and put them away for as long as W. is in Hanoi. Thuong Nguyen "Cuc" Foshee may be going home after a year in jail, but those fighting for democracy who can't leave are going to be spending a little time in the locked-up, so as to not to embarrass the president.

Human Rights Watch points out that:

"While the US says that only two "political prisoners of concern" remain in Vietnam, in fact hundreds of Vietnamese are serving long prison sentences for advocating democratic reforms, practicing their religion, or using the Internet to disseminate proposals for human rights and religious freedom."

Speaking of religious freedom, by the way, the AP reports that W. and "his wife, Laura, were to attend services Sunday at Cua Bac Church, a concrete basilica built by the French more than a century ago. They were to join about 500 worshippers, split between Catholics and Protestants." [Way to go there W., go visit the church of the hated occupier.]

The US State Department reports the follwing probelms with the regime W. is

The following human rights problems were reported:

inability of citizens to change their government

police abuse of suspects during arrest, detention, and interrogation

harsh prison conditions

arbitrary detention or restriction of the movement of persons for peaceful expression of political and religious views

denial of the right to fair and expeditious trials

imprisonment of persons for political and religious activities
limited privacy rights

restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association
restrictions on religious freedom

restrictions on freedom of movement

prohibition of the establishment and operation of human rights organizations
violence and discrimination against women

child prostitution

trafficking in women and children

societal discrimination against some ethnic minorities
limitations on worker rights

child labor

The last ought to please W.'s business buddies as he helps Vietnam into the WTO. I smell money!

W. may be basking in the warm glow of Vietnamese hospitality but just wait until he hits Indonesia on Monday. The indonesians are already working up a warm walcome of their own for W & Co. They're probably heartened by the assurance of Tony Snowjob that despite the Democratic takeover of Congress W. is going to 'stay the course' on his war on terror. Snow says, "He, of course, reassured them [APEC leaders] that, in terms of the foreign policy of the country, he was firm in his views and would be continuing that foreign policy along current lines." Is that reassuring? Is that really what anyone wants to hear?

Anyway, protesters are ramping up for his visit and the Indonesian government warns of an al-Qaeda attack. reports:

"Indonesian police warned Saturday that the threat of an attack by al-Qaida-linked militants has increased sharply ahead of U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to the world's most populous Muslim country."

And also reports:

"A renowned black magic practitioner performed a voodoo ritual Thursday to jinx President George W. Bush and his entourage while he was on a brief visit to Indonesia. Ki Gendeng Pamungkas slit the throat of a goat, a small snake and stabbed a black crow in the chest, stirred their blood with spice and broccoli before drank the 'potion' and smeared some on his face. 'I don't hate Americans, but I don't like Bush,' said Pamungkas, who believed the ritual would succeed as, 'the devil is with me today.'"

Have good time W.!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The bare minimum:

I see the Dems are poised to raise the minimum wage for the first time in 7 years (having never missed an opportunity to give themselves raises every one of those years). Nana Pelosi says this is legislation she's going to get passed within the first 100 hours of the next Congress. (Don't you just feel the urgency there?) But what the hell does the 'first 100 hours' mean exactly? It could take Congress five months to spend 100 hours actually working. They roll into to DC on Tuesday mornings and they roll out again on Thursday morning. [At that rate it would have taken FDR until 1964 to get all he got done in his first 100 days!] For all of us out there working crappy retail and food service jobs, we're used to getting only part time hours like that, but most of us actually have to get stuff done. If I slacked as bad as Congress does, I'd be out looking for another job.

This talk of raising the minimum to $7.25 per/hr may make the millionaires in the Senate like Ted Kennedy feel better about themselves, but in practical terms it’s too little too late. $7.25 at 40 hours a week would have made life livable 10 years ago, but now it's just chump change. The fact is that even if retailers and restaurants offered full time hours anymore -- which none of them do -- $7.25 is still poverty wages. I've noticed many retailers will offer a wage well above $5.15 -- because there's no way anyone, no matter how desperate, would bother working for what comes out to about $50 a week after taxes -- but they get around paying the wage by keep the hours low, low, low.

Here's a good project for you Teddy; go out and find me anyone working at a Wal-Mart, an IKEA, a Pier 1, or anyone other one of those crappy retailers -- who always talk a good game about wages and benefits in their ads -- making more than 20 hours a week. If a worker made $10 an hour at 20 hours a week they'd still only wind up with about $425 every two weeks after taxes. Try even paying the rent on that, never mind eating.

Back in the twenties progressives fought for a 40 hour work week and over-time pay, but now the situation is perversely reversed. Workers today need a guaranteed 40 hour work week and a minimum wage of at least $10 an hour. If the "liberals" in Congress really want to help the working poor, that's what they need to push for. Please don't insult me with this $7.25 an hour BS.

Grandma Pelosi with a 4-10:

The WaPo reports:

"House Democrats elected Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) the new majority leader yesterday over strong opposition from Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), exposing a deep political divide even before the party takes control."

Well, it looks like the Dems have finally resolved the whole Murtha/Hoyer controversy, anyway, thank God. Can we move on now? Please, no more stupid crap like that again. I mean, just a week after winning a huge election to retake the Congress for the first time in 12 years -- 12 years!-- here comes Grandma Pelosi runnin' down the freeway with a 4-10 loaded with lead, trying to strong arm her caucus into voting for her man to be majority leader. Not exactly a good start for the first woman in history to become Speaker of the House. Of course, it's unfair, but when women play hardball politics like this they come off looking like out of control bitches. (I can't wait until Hillary gets on the war-path. Just imagine the field day the media will have with her!) The Dems came off looking real bad during this recent episode; let's hope this sort of thing isn't going to be a regular feature of Nana Pelosi's iron rule.

[And can I just say that if this stupid little intramural dust up hadn't been going on, more attention might have been focused on the GOP making that dumb redneck Trent Lott minority whip in the Senate, again. The South has risen again and no one noticed.]

What was this media frenzy all about anyway? Do most Americans really care about who the majority leader is in the House; obviously not because, no one had even heard of Tom DeLay until he was indicted. The whole thing about Murtha's supposed ethics problems was way over blown by the media, to put it mildly. We kept being treated to a replay of the infamous Abscam tapes over and over again, as if there was some story there. The thrust of the reporting seemed to be that he was some how ethically challenged because he refused to take a bribe -- 25 years ago. There clearly was no there, there, but the media just kept running with it. And as far as his comments about earmarks are concerned; I think that he's probably in the majority of those in Congress who want no fiddling going on with their cherished pork.

And the notion that majority leader John Murtha would have wound up undermining the new Democratic push to clean up politics as usual Washington is ridiculous. I don't get the impression that Murtha in even in his wildest dreams could even come close to the kind of corruption that characterized the past twelve years of the GOP's congressional klepocracy. He's just doing what they all do by steering big defense contracts to his district, he's certainly no Richard Pombo.

I understand the urge to reward Murtha for coming out early for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, but I don't think that's enough to entitle him to be majority leader. Tom DeLay may have operated pretty much under the radar his whole tenure, while he sold the government to the highest bidder, but the media wouldn't have left Murtha alone. No matter what the Dems tried to get accomplished Murtha would be the in the center of some storm or other.

It's better for the majority that Hoyer is the leader, because he's media Sominex. If I see him on a Sunday talk show I'll be leaping up to change the channel before he puts me back to sleep (it's hard enough for me to get up that early on Sundays.) He's a good guy though; I think he'll do a good job. And I think he should get some credit for the speech he gave back in 2005 on the House floor during the Terry Schiavo debacle. He was only one of a few sane voices in that sorry affair. (Too bad some 47 of his fellow Democrats didn't listen to him and voted for that shameful legislation.)

And besides, I think it's a good thing that there'll be some healthy oversight within the majority looking over Nana Pelosi's shoulder. 149 Democrats in the House apparently think so, too, and you can see why. Within minutes of seizing so much power she's just tossed a bit of it away by losing this fight that she should have never picked in the first place. Imagine what Karl Rove is gong to do to her.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Philly neighborhood. The cat fries are yummy, come on down!

Here in Philly we're all about cheese steaks, people speaking English when they order them and. . . BBQ. BBQ? Well, not really, BBQ isn't exactly what people first think of when they hear the word "Philadelphia."

But when people in Philly hear the words "Port Richmond," besides immediately thinking of waves of teenage girls pushing baby strollers;, kids with their hats turned backwards yelling 'I just got arrested Yo;' they think of the Rib Ranch on E. Vanango Street.

They say they have the 'greatest ribs in the Northeast' and although that may sound like quite a boast, it happens to be true (from what I've been told.) But as great as the ribs might be, there's nothing like their side orders and appetizers! [And their grasp of the English language]

Just a sample from their great memu:

"Chicken Fingers (4 Pcs) tender filet of chicken breast lightly breaded and fried to a golden brour served with our fcannus mild or spicy bbq sauce. . .

Crispy Ranch Fries steak cat fries served golden burrito. . .

Crisp Cheese Fries steak cat fries, served golden brown, topped with wild cheddar cheese sauce. . .

Macaroni & Cheese a classic foucuise. . .

Onion Rings a generous portion of steak cut chicken bings fried to a golden brown. . ."

And don't forget the Ranch Burger # Dog:

"Ranch Dog 1/4 lb all beef chow broiled hot dog served on a fresh hearty italian roll includes four choice of ranch fives or baked potato.

So come to Port Richmond where the girls are pregnant early and the BBQ is "Secculent." Be sure not to miss the fcannus chicken bings!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Knock it off Rahm! It's called the Democratic Party!

Note: I heard Rahm Emanuel on NPR the other day refer to his Party as "the Democrat Party." Have things gotten so bad that the achitect of the successful Democratic campaign to take over Congress is now referring to his own party in the same terms the GOP does? Whenever I hear W, or any other GOP misfit, call the Democratic Party the "Democrat Party," my hair just stands up on the back of my neck.

Common'Rahm, I know you want to transform the party into Republican-lite while claiming it's really moving toward the "center," but do you have to call it the "Democrat Party," too? At long last Sir, have you no shame?

Thoughts on Veteran's Day and Robert Gates:

[Should have been published on Nov. 11th, but there were technical difficulties.]

First of all today let me just wish the Marine Corps. a happy birthday. Semper Fi. I hope all you leathernecks slugging it out in Anbar will be home soon and all of you gearing up to go for your first deployment, or your third, won't have to.

I would also like to thank all the veterans of all the branches for their service to our country. That includes my grandfather who served in WWI, my two uncles who served during the Korean War, and my Marine/101st Airborne father who got dropped into Lebanon in 1952. And also, a special shout-out to my girl friend's Nisei grandfather who was sent to a concentration camp in Arizona during WWII and went from there to fighting with distinction in Italy with the legendary 100th Battalion. Go for broke!

Let's hope from now on the leadership of our military will improve over the dismal performance of the previous 6 years of the Rumsfeld era. One can only pray that the skill and professionalism displayed by those following the orders will be mirrored, for once, by those giving them. Robert Gates is the new (old) man everyone is talking about, and although anything would have to be an improvement over the tenure of Rummy & Co., the jury is still out on his past and whether he will be able to bring the Herculean amount of effort its going to take to rebuild the military Rummy has destroyed.

Many also wonder whether Gates will be able to stake out his independence in an administration where loyalty and toeing the party line is paramount above all other considerations. In testimony he gave to the Senate in 1987 he said, "Sycophants can only rise to a certain level. Senior officials understand that the most dangerous thing in the world is a yes man. . ." (Ask Alberto Gonzales about that.)

Gates is in league with the James Baker cabal of the previous Bush administration, one of the so-called "realists." You know, the same bunch who did deals with Saddam while he was gassing the Kurds and are still very chummy with our good friends the Saudis, who even now are spreading their virulent form of Islam around the world with their dirty oil money, which has inspired numerous al-Qaeda wanna-be's from Bosnia to Malaysia. Apparently all the Republians have to offer in terms of new policies to confront the threats of the 21st century is relying on a rapidly aging old SOB like James Baker and his cronies to get us out of this mess.

This issue of Gates being a yes man came up in his 1991confirmation hearings to become CIA director when he was accused of fixing the facts to fit the policy while working at the agency. The NYT cites a CIA study that says American intelligence analysis of the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev era was some times withheld by Gates "because he held a different view." One of the study's authors, Raymond L.Garthopff, wrote that, "This was his right. But it was regrettable because the CIA analysis was far more correct than the view he had." [Hmm.. that sounds familiar.]

And then, of course, there's issue of Iran/Contra and what he knew about the secret Iranian arms deal and when he knew it. He says he knew nothing, but the Iran/contra Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh says:

"Gates was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment of Gates for his Iran/contra activities or his responses to official inquiries."

[Not exactly a ringing endorcesment of innocents, but then again, the longer it takes to confirm him the longer Rummy keeps his office.]

Tony Snow says Gates and W. are on the same page, so I don't know what he's going to do differently to get us out of this mess. Despite all this happy talk coming from the administration and the media about the Iraq Study Group's findings, it's pretty certain that no matter what they come up with, pulling out of Iraq won't be on the agenda.

The fact is, regardless of the elections, as long as Bush and Cheney are in charge, there's not going to any real move to fix Iraq policy. It's going to be more of the same for the next two years. We hear rumblings from James Baker about setting a new course involving engagement with the Syrians and the Iranians, but there's no sign that Cheney's views have changed, and he's the one who's really running the show.

The guiding principle of this administration has been from the beginning' 'never deal with your enemies.' The same goes for the administration's domestic enemies; moderate Republicans and the Democrats. W. can talk a good game about bi-partisanship now, but it’s all a ruse. Grover Norquist says, "I guess you're supposed to say that, regardless of whether you're actually planning on doing it. I hope he really doesn't mean it." [I don't think you have anything to worry about Grover -- not about that anyway. You're impending indictment is another matter]

The minute the Dems start pushing back on the Bolton nomination or the NSA wire-tapping bill, all you're going to hear is that they're being obstructionists. W. said at his press conference after the election: "The message yesterday was clear. The American people want their leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences . . . and work together to address the challenges facing our nation." What he means is that he wants the Dems to set aside their partisan differences and work with him to do exactly what he tells them to do.

What I don't think W. & Co. has understood about what the American people want is that they don't want him doing anything anymore. As one voter in Virginia said, he voted Democratic in order to "neuter Bush."
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