"What's black and white and read all over?"

Thursday, September 07, 2006
Posted 11:53 PM by

Pop goes the quiz

In honor of students going back to school, I decided to give you a pop quiz today on current events.

In the immortal words of Drew Rosenhaus, 'Next question.'1. He cowers in one corner, surrounded by enemies he can't distinguish from friends and fearing for his life, waiting for the retreat order that never comes so he can live a quiet, peaceful life unfettered by war at some unforseen date.

Is it an American veteran stuck in Iraq?

Nope, it's British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

2. He's been assaulted by critics, can't get any domestic proposal through Congress, sees trouble brewing within his own party and can't seem to get enough TV face time.

Is it a veteran Democrat in Congress getting ready for the midterm elections?

No, it's President George Bush.

3. They decided the 2004 presidential election and are now, finally, getting the scrutiny they deserve.

Are they Floridians?

No, even though they still make me mad enough to hang somebody named Chad, that was in 2000.

It's the fraudulent folks in Ohio. (Never trust a state whose name begins and ends on the same letter.)

4. What did the government do today that you can only wish would happen where you work?

No, it did not impose new taxes on stupidity, people who stand in running water, have silly walks or wear a bad toupee, but I'm sure those are coming.

It guaranteed the pension plan for workers and retirees of Oneida Ltd., a designer and distributor of tableware.

Extra credit: What's a pension plan?

5. MULTIPLE CHOICE: What's taken 24-years to complete and has folks wondering if our government perpetually lies to us?

A. Project Blue Blook's UFO study.

B. The Warren Commission's revised, amended and magic bullet-proofed final report on the JFK assassination.

C. The declaration that the high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain is safe.

D. The finding that Agent Orange did not affect Vietnam veterans.

E. All of the above.

Hey, they can't all be gold. Have a fun Friday while I sleep in and finally enjoy my Labor Day holiday.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Posted 10:57 PM by

Bush admits to torture, Army prohibits it

U.S. President George W. Bush acknowledged for the first time today that some foreign terrorism suspects have been held by the CIA outside the United States.U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld underwent shoulder surgery this week to repair a torn rotator cuff.

The damage must have been done from carrying the burden of knowing he, more than anyone else in George Bush's administration - save for the president himself, is responsible for the morass we're stuck in in Iraq.

That and the near-pointless deaths of 2,658 U.S. soldiers there.

And while Democrats in Congress called for his head today, the Republican majority was able to stifle a no-confidence vote just as they've turned a blind eye to the truth about a war unconnected to 9/11 and Bush's false pretense of weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, Bush did some truth telling of his own today by finally admitting that the CIA is running secret prisons overseas in friendly countries that condone torture.

"Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland," Bush said.

Sure they think that. They're the ones doing the torturing, or at least letting their plausibly deniable civilian contractors do it for them - just in case a future administration should decide a war crimes trial might be in order.

Bush's admission that the U.S. is torturing prisoners came on the very same day the U.S. Army outlawed using similar techniques against the prisoners it holds.

The president also conveniently failed to mention that the some of the suspects were kidnapped from their homelands through the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program. And that at least one person - innocent German citizen Khaled el-Masri - was grabbed erroneously and tortured.

In a giant circle jerk, el-Masri's federal lawsuit against former CIA director George Tenet and the NSA was dismissed by the U.S. District Court on the grounds the case might reveal national secrets.

The only opinion Judge Anna Diggs Taylor had to draw on to justify her ruling was a case in which two Civil War spies for the Union were denied the ability to sue the government for backpay because of what they might reveal in open court.

In Congress, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, continues to lead the charge to legalize Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program after another federal court found it to be unconstitutional.

The cause of all this - al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden - remains in hiding somewhere on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

ABCNews reported this morning that Pakistan's top Army spokesman said bin Laden is free to enjoy a "peaceful" life so long as he doesn't commit more terrorism. However, Pakistani officials now claim he was misquoted.

As for Bush, he was twice quoted in 2002 saying the capture of bin Laden was "not our priority."

It is to me.

I'd carry his head on a pike through the streets of New York during the ticker tape parade, and I'm almost a pacifist. (I truly believe there are Just and Unjust wars, as Michael Walzer puts it.)

Meanwhile, Pakistan, our "strategic partner" in the war on terror, has also freed nuclear scientist/secrets peddler Abdul Qadeer Khan and is letting the engineer seek treatment for cancer. This, after Khan sold nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and our new good friend, Libya.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Is it any wonder why I want Bush, his cronies and most of Congress thrown out of office. If the Democrats in Congress had any balls they'd file bills calling for his impeachment every day until he leaves office.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Posted 11:07 PM by

Bad move by the ACLU

The ACLU can beat the Bush administration's NSA domestic eavesdropping program in court, but can't budget its money properly.I'm on the federal government's Do-Not-Call list for telemarketers, which has dramatically cut the number of sales calls to my apartment.

However, it has done nothing to deter political parties, candidates, pollsters, and a labor union I'm not even a member of from repeatedly bugging me.

Today, I added the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to that list, and afterwards, they probably scratched me off their's.

The woman was pleasant enough on the phone and said she was calling to inform me about how our government was behaving.

"Misbehaving," I corrected her.

She laughed, then tried to explain about the ACLU's successful federal lawsuit against the NSA's domestic eavesdropping program, the Bush administration's appeal and the Republican Congress' push to make the whole thing legal anyway after the fact.

I stopped her short, saying I know all of that and to bottomline it for me. Was this a request for another donation or just a call to update members?

Yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and for the most part, I'm proud of the organization.

When the ACLU isn't pursuing freedom for the Ku Klux Klan to hold hate marches and fighting frivilous lawsuits about whether the Ten Commandments should be displayed in some backwater courthouse, it occasionally does really good work by fighting to protect our civil liberties.

So what gives?

Rather sheepishly, she explained the ACLU had scrimped and saved where it could, but still spent all it had on the NSA lawsuit. She wanted to know if I could subdivide my annual donation into 12 parts to make it easier for the group to budget its funds.

"Excuse me?" I asked, laughing and wondering if she was serious.

She apologized and said she was. Big mistake.

I'm a progressive liberal. I am not a sucker or a fool, though sometimes the Democratic Party makes me feel that way.

I told her I had no problem sending the ACLU a $20 annual donation to become a member, but I'd be damned if I was going to send them $1.66 a month just because they didn't know how to spend my donation properly.

They're not children. They don't need an allowance.

"I'm also a member (of good government group) Common Cause," I told her. "What does this situation say about your organization's governance?"

Especially, for a group that advocates truth and accountability, I thought.

I then advised her to tell her bosses that perhaps if they had better budgeted the money they spent on making telemarketing calls, and the money they made from selling their membership list, they might be in the black now.

She apologized for disturbing me and politely hung up.


Monday, September 04, 2006
Posted 10:36 PM by

Labor pains

Is this our future once again when baby boomers break the stock market of our war-mortgaged country and cause a deep recession, if not the first depression of the new century?It's 10:30 p.m. and I've been up since 4 a.m. because I had to work today - marking the third major holiday of the summer I've done my job instead of being able to sleep late.

So, forgive me if I cut this one short tonight and simply ask you to re-read the Labor Day rant I wrote three years ago for my now-defunct "Pave the grass" column.

Nothing much has changed since then, unless you count baby boomers getting ready to crash the stock market - and my 401(k) - by yanking their money out in preparation for their retirements.

There are a few things on the Web worth reading, though, in today's holiday-abbreviated newspapers.

The Scranton Times-Tribune did a nice profile piece on blogger Chris Lilik, of the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania.

I was especially tickled to read a quote in it from liberal activist Eric Epstein, who said, "The problem for Democrats is they have no Chris counterpart."

As a less-than-loyal liberal Democrat, I think the party needs to reexamine its policies, platform and priorities if it hopes to capture the minds of today's youth.

Menwhile, Chris and I have e-mailed occasionally and have found common ground on both last year's legislative pay raise and slots gambling in Pennsylvania.

Unlike party true believers, we both think ethics should transcend politics.

In fact, if you want a glimpse of Pennsylvania's future you need only look at today's Atlantic City Press, which featured a lovely article detailing that city's past 20 years of political corruption.

The Press also wrote an interesting piece about a group already planning the recall of Mayor Bob Levy after less than a year in office.

Of course, reform movements in New Jersey politics seem to die quickly, which is probably why municipal judge J.R. Powell is able to serve that function in 11 different towns and collect nearly $187,000 a year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The 52-year-old magistrate's paychecks, which total $186,404, qualify him for an estimated $74,000 yearly pension from the state when he turns 60.

As Mel Brooks might say, it's good to be the judge.

While reforming public employee pensions is being considered, more New Jersey residents are actually clamoring for changing the way the state funds schools.

I say good luck with that. Pennsylvania tried it this year and wound up hiking taxes on renters and legitimizing slot machine gambling just to give the average homeowner a $200 break. This after most districts raised their property taxes by more than that on July 1.

Finally, I'll leave you on a good note.

The Allentown Morning Call's Road Warrior column today dispels the myth that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission uses EZPass and toll card entrance and exit cards to determine if a motorist was speeding and should get a ticket.

There's no provision in Pennsylvania law allowing the Turnpike Commission, the state police or anyone else to enforce speed restrictions in this manner, Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo told the newspaper.

"All we do is operate a toll road," DeFebo said.

And judging from my post yesterday, "Pa. polls selling us out," they don't do a very job at that.

Happy motoring.


Sunday, September 03, 2006
Posted 11:43 PM by

Pa. pols selling us out

Talk about your highway robbery. Pennsylvania politicians ran up red ink, failed to fix the state's highways and are now planning to sell the blacktop out from beneath us. If we're lucky, it will go to the highest bidders.

The road to hell may be paved with good intention, but the highway to get there is in Pennsylvania and built upon the stupidity and shennaningans of politicians.Most Pennsylvanians don't expect a heck of a lot from their state government.

For many, their interaction with it is limited to buying their booze at a state-run liquor store, having their cars inspected and renewing their registrations annually, and getting a new driver's licenses every few years.

Oh, and we all ride on state-run highways.

But for how much longer?

Facing at least a $2 billion budget crunch and crumbling highway and turnpike infrastructure, due to bad planning and poor fiscal policy for decades, Gov. Ed Rendell, the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission are now seriously considering selling the blacktop out from underneath us.

And in typical Pennsylvania fashion, the discussions on selling some of the highways have already begun in secret with one potential buyer, the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre reports today.

What else should we expect from Rendell, who saw no problem with the way slot machine gambling and last year's now-repealed legislative pay raise were passed into law without public comment.

I say to hell with that.

Fixing the roads is a basic constituent service for which we already pay ample enough in state taxes and turnpike fees.

If Rendell, his minions and our current state government can't manage the task, it's time for a new government.

And I'm a Democrat.


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