Monthly Archives: December 2009

Fighting Over the Squandered Decade, By E.J. Dionne

Here’s a snip from a really well-thought-out column by E. J. Dionne. You’ll probably go in and read the whole thing:
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Certain decades shape the country’s political life for generations by leaving behind an era to embrace or, at least as often, to scorn.
I’m afraid that the past 10 years will be seen as a time when the United States badly lost its way by using our military power carelessly, misunderstanding the real challenges to our long-term security, and pursuing domestic policies that constrained our options for the future while needlessly threatening our prosperity.
I am aware that the previous paragraph is thoroughly controversial, and that befits any description of a politically consequential decade. Much of the contention surrounding Barack Obama’s presidency is simply a continuation of our argument over the effects of George W. Bush’s time in office.
That is why Obama, despite his fervent wishes, has been unable to usher in a new period of consensus.
So the Bush camp—Karl Rove’s regular contributions to The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages are emblematic—must stay on the attack.
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New Year’s Eve… Elly and Bill at Home

Yup. No parties, no restaurants, no fireworks… we’ll stay up to see the year turn into 2010 and then go to bed and sleep our way into the next cycle.

I’m cooking a new Vegan Macaroni and Daiya Cheese with Mushrooms casserole and some steamed organic carrots as the evening’s treat. Sounds very simple, but smells and looks (and hopefully tastes) pretty good.

We’ve been keeping a pretty tight budget while I’m out of work… all things being equal. Where we used to do at least a movie a week, we’re doing one every two weeks or longer (saw UP IN THE AIR yesterday when we went on the Wednesday discount food shop at Common Market in Frederick… great film. Loved George Clooney.)

So we’re sitting around watching food competitions on TV (on Food Network) after spending much of the afternoon filling in on-line job applications while watching a Burn Notice Marathon on USA Network. The snow we had this morning got iced over by some rain and I guess the roads around Shepherdstown are a mess anyway.

Not a bad New Year’s Eve at all.

Join a Community Bank… let’s have a new economy!

I’d like to lend my support to the “Move Your Money” campaign. It’s time we take back control of our economy.

OK… if you are convinced after the video, go HERE for a listing of Community Banks to move to. The you can be like Stephanie Frost, who ditched Bank of America after reviewing the “Move Your Bank” material:

The Last Day of the Year…

…and I will be more than happy to see 2009 disappear into the mist. It was a difficult year with, as a review the blog postings here and at other sites, more in the negative than in the positive to define it. For me, personally, it was pretty dismal, even though a few highlights kept me going.

But tomorrow is 2010… I have a job interview in Frederick, MD, on Tuesday… second interview, actually, having done a phone meeting before Christmas… for a job I feel qualified for. Plus it appears they are hiring at Frederick Community College, so I am putting an application together today to send off.

I start rehearsing Hunting of the Snark on Monday Night, and that is part of making the year start on at least a more creative note (still short 1 minor male role… will tackle that today as well).

Of course, we are kicking it all off with a new snow outside… if I see any more snow this winter it will be too much.

What is it about Republicans?

Do they live in a parallel universe?

News of the Not Quite Serious…

Here’s something to start your Wednesday morning with:

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Military Wives Support Their Troops With Stripteases

Military wives wanting to surprise their returning husbands don’t enter the bedroom unprepared— they’re going to burlesque basic training first.

Taught by a former professional stripper and current military wife, Operation Bombshell travels around the country offering military women lessons in sexy striptease. The students take it seriously, the New York Times reports, arriving in gym clothes and cross trainers.

After being separated by yearlong tours in Afghanistan, military wives hope these routines will jumpstart their sex lives. Would you learn some burlesque moves to bring to the bedroom, or would you have a hard time keeping a straight face as you performed?

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Did you know that George Bush inherited 9/11 from the Clinton Administration?

No kidding! Mary Matalin said so, and she said Bush inherited a recession from Clinton, too:

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Former Dick Cheney adviser Mary Matalin told CNN’s John King the Bush administration “inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history.”

Those of us on planet earth know that the 9/11 terror attacks happened eight months after President Bush assumed office and that the 2001 recession technically began in March of 2001, well into Bush’s first term.

The effort to revise the history of the Bush years appears to be in full effect. Just last month, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told Sean Hannity that there were never any terror attacks while Bush was in power.

Lead Photo
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Wow. Maybe Carville could keep Mary Matalin in the house and not let her push this trash out on the rest of us.

David Levine, the great caricaturist, dies at 83

I was sorry to read of the death of David Levine today. How many Book Reviews were illustrated with his wonderful caricatures? I couldn’t count.

I started enjoying Levine’s work almost fifty years ago when I was a freshman in prep school.

The NY Times, whose Book Review he decorated for decades, said:

Mr. Levine’s drawings never seemed whimsical, like those of Al Hirschfeld. They didn’t celebrate neurotic self-consciousness, like Jules Feiffer’s. He wasn’t attracted to the macabre, the way Edward Gorey was. His work didn’t possess the arch social consciousness of Edward Sorel’s. Nor was he interested, as Roz Chast is, in the humorous absurdity of quotidian modern life. But in both style and mood, Mr. Levine was as distinct an artist and commentator as any of his well-known contemporaries. His work was not only witty but serious, not only biting but deeply informed, and artful in a painterly sense as well as a literate one; he was, in fact, beyond his pen and ink drawings, an accomplished painter.

The Times compared him to the 19th Century greats Honoré Daumier and Thomas Nast, and I think they are correct.

Farewell David Levine.

Is this a surprise? Rosa De Lauro might go along with Senate’s abortion language…

The whole article that this is clipped from is in the HuffPo today”:

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A key pro-choice House Democrat, working on health care in Congress, hinted on Monday that said she might be willing to support the Senate’s abortion language.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) who has been tasked by leadership with helping hammer out a compromise on abortion between the two chambers, said she was not thrilled with either the House or Senate legislation’s provisions. But in an interview with the Huffington Post, the Connecticut Democrat did say she would support the Senate’s version of abortion-related language provided that she could confirm her belief that it did not go beyond current law.
“There are some questions I still have,” DeLauro said. “And that’s why I want to see this side-by-side with the language. It’s not Stupak-Pitts [the House’s language]. So, it’s already [an improvement].”
DeLauro is one of the strongest champions for women’s reproductive rights in the House; her blessing over the Senate abortion language represents a potentially major concession.
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DeLauro says:

“It would appear that you’ve got the Catholic Bishops who aren’t happy. But [Sen. Ben] Nelson (D-Neb.) found his way there as did Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) [both pro-life Democrats]. And the pro-choice side said, ‘We don’t like this as much as we would like to not deal with this language.’ But, you know, we’re not going to defeat health care.”

Looking for work, moving Snark forward, and getting over the fall and bruising I had the other night…

It is hard in general to get anything of substance accomplished in the dead period between Christmas and New Years. There are few people around who are working at their jobs, schools are on break and stores that didn’t make their holiday scores are not in the economic shape to hire.

It’s the third day since I fell and I’m walking around pretty easily now, although using the old cane that I had to use when this happened a couple of years ago in Laurel. I feel like I’ve lost a significant chunk of time to be working on my future and now a new month… new year… is coming and I’m still an aging guy without a regular job. Imagine, two degrees, 40 years of mixed and accomplished experiences and a clear intent and I still can’t get work!

As to Snark, I’m 52 days away from opening at Full Circle Theater and I’m still short 1 baritone… small part and, if all goes badly, I can cover it myself, but I really don’t want to. Today I’m sending packages out to the whole cast so far… rehearsals start next Monday night.

So I hope everyone has a nice day… I hear bad weather is coming for New Year’s Eve and I don’t look forward to it.


US Intelligence Found Iran Nuke Document Was Forged

This was an interesting, long article at… Certainly worth reading before we send troops to Iran in the future (and who knows?, we’ll probably add Yemen, too if Joe Lieberman gets his way).

Read the clips then go over to Truthout and read the whole thing. Then wonder why we get involved in this crap!

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U.S. intelligence has concluded that the document published recently by the Times of London, which purportedly describes an Iranian plan to do experiments on what the newspaper described as a “neutron initiator” for an atomic weapon, is a fabrication, according to a former Central Intelligence Agency official.
Philip Giraldi, who was a CIA counterterrorism official from 1976 to 1992, told IPS that intelligence sources say that the United States had nothing to do with forging the document, and that Israel is the primary suspect. The sources do not rule out a British role in the fabrication, however.
The Times of London story published Dec. 14 did not identify the source of the document.
Giraldi’s intelligence sources did not reveal all the reasons that led analysts to conclude that the purported Iran document had been fabricated by a foreign intelligence agency. But their suspicions of fraud were prompted in part by the source of the story, according to Giraldi.
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The article ends:
This is not the first time that Giraldi has been tipped off by his intelligence sources on forged documents. Giraldi identified the individual or office responsible for creating the two most notorious forged documents in recent U.S. intelligence history.In 2005, Giraldi identified Michael Ledeen, the extreme right-wing former consultant to the National Security Council and the Pentagon, as an author of the fabricated letter purporting to show Iraqi interest in purchasing uranium from Niger. That letter was used by the George W. Bush administration to bolster its false case that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons programme.

Giraldi also identified officials in the “Office of Special Plans” who worked under Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith as having forged a letter purportedly written by Hussein’s intelligence director, Tahir Jalail Habbush al-Tikriti, to Hussein himself referring to an Iraqi intelligence operation to arrange for an unidentified shipment from Niger.

A word from Jim Hightower:

From Minuteman Media:

CEOs Sacrifice Workers While Enriching Themselves

Funnyman Bob Newhart used to do a comedy bit in which he portrayed a commanding officer addressing his troops on the eve of a big battle. The commander spoke bluntly about the bloody horror the troops would face and the certainty that many of them wouldn’t survive. The officer rallied them with appeals to courage and sacrifice and then concluded by saying, “My only regret is that I, personally, will not be able to go with you.”

That’s a perfect expression of today’s corporate ethic as practiced by chief executive officers. With bloody ruthlessness, CEOs constantly sacrifice workers in the name of global competitiveness, but the chiefs never seem to join in the sacrifice. We’ve recently been given another example of this disparity in a report on corporate pensions by the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO found that four of the largest corporate bankruptcies of the last 10 years were disastrous for the employees’ pension funds. Prior to their bankruptcies, United Airlines, US Airways, Polaroid, and Reliance Insurance had underfunded their employees’ retirement plans by $11 billion—money essentially stolen from the workers. The corporations then abandoned any responsibility for the pensions, turning the obligation over to the federal government under a program that pays only a fraction of what is owed to the employees.

But guess which employees did not suffer any cut at all in their retirement money? Right—the four CEOs. Indeed, as they were underfunding and axing the workers’ pension plans, the four chieftains quietly pocketed a total of nearly $50 million in retirement pay for themselves.

Bob Newhart’s joke has become a nightmare for millions of workers. It’s time for Congress to tie CEO pensions to the value of their employees’ retirement funds.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and winner of the 2009 winner of the Nation/Puffin Prize. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

Is technology oppressing our lives?

It is an odd kind of thing to be presented by a guy who lives on his blog many hours of the day, but this article in New Scientist by Yair Amichal-Hamburger attracted my attention.

I’ll give you a clip from it, but I suggest you read the whole thing:

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“THE age of melancholy” is how psychologist Daniel Goleman describes our era. People today experience more depression than previous generations, despite the technological wonders that help us every day. It might be because of them.

Our lifestyles are increasingly driven by technology. Phones, computers and the internet pervade our days. There is a constant, nagging need to check for texts and email, to update Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn profiles, to acquire the latest notebook or 3G cellphone.

Are we being served by these technological wonders or have we become enslaved by them?
In many homes, the computer has become the centre of attention; it is the medium through which we work and play.
In this era of mass consumption, we are surrounded by advertising that urges us to find fulfilment through the acquisition of material goods. As a result, adults and children increasingly believe that in order to belong and feel good about themselves, they must own the latest model or gadget.
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Sorry to have posted so little…

… in the last couple of days, but I had an accident coming out of the theatre on Saturday. I tripped and fell on the still partly icy sidewalk and hurt my knee and ribcage enough to keep myself propped up on pillows in my recliner for 36 hours or so. A lot of the pain is gone now, but yesterday I couldn’t even deal with keyboard typing without it hurting a lot.

I expect to make up for it today and from now on. Fortunately, not much is happening during the Congress’ holiday layoff, and even Joe Scarborough is taking one of his (very,very many) vacation days from Morning Joe, so I guess we’re all laying a little low.

So onward and upward… btw, I’m still looking to cast one more man in Hunting Of The Snark (any baritones out there?) which goes into rehearsal one week from today.

Tom Harkin may turn to filibuster in January

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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told the Washington Post that he would introduce legislation to reform the filibuster in January.

I’m going to reintroduce that again in January. And people are going to say I only worry about this because I’m in the majority. But I come with clean hands! I started when I was in the minority! …

We’ve entered a new era here of outright stoppage at all costs. So that’s what I’m trying to address with this amendment. I doubt anything will happen. But at least we’ll start the process.

Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa told reporters this weekend that he might reintroduce legislation to end the filibuster, something he first proposed in 1994. The Hawk Eye reports:

“I think there’s a reason for slowing things down … and getting the public aware of what’s happening and maybe even to change public sentiment, but not to just absolutely stop something.”

When Harkin fought the filibuster 15 years ago, one of his top allies was none other than Joe Lieberman.

Too many things turn round and round.

Dennis Kucinich Comments…

Russia Today interviewed Congressman Kucinich and he commented on Afghanistan, War, Generals and more. Give a listen…

Dear Mr. President:

I don’t know if you get to read incoming e-mail. I doubt it, as I know the value of your time in running the country and still finding some room for your wife, children and dog. However, I would like to offer you a couple of points from my not-so-unique position as an unemployed American with two college degrees who worked on your campaign steadily for many months last year… and who is now getting more and more disappointed in your progress, or lack thereof.

“Progress” is the key word here. The expectation of so many of us who walked from door to door or sealed and sent mailing pieces or stood at intersections waving signs instead of going home to our families in the evening was that your Presidency, tied with the majorities for the Democratic Party in both Houses of Congress, would bring us out of the fiscal slurry that the Bush Administration had sunk our lower extremities in. Oh, I know you have made accomplishments… that somehow you and Bernanke saved us from a Depression with a fairly hideous Recession, that you started a process to close Gitmo and began making buddies again with the rest of the world. I know all of that.

What I can’t understand is why, after the huge effort you put into the election campaign making us all convinced you were a Progressive Hope for all of us, you have really become a mostly talk and let others do the action kind of guy. I speak specifically about Rahm Emanuel, who seems to really run the domestic policies that are fed out to the Congress,  about Tim Geithner and the rest financial service types who made sure their industry was protected first while your small voters, who could not commit the millions in campaign bucks that you seem all too willing to sell us off for, cut down on their grocery shopping and debated the best way to come up with their kids’ tuition over mortgage payments, and about the Military’s need to keep us involved in the most unnecessary confrontation anyone could imagine, making our international debt so huge that even words don’t describe it.

I can’t understand why the Health Care deals where made with the Pharmaceutical companies and the lobbyists from the Insurance industry, and the Liebermans and Nelsons and  other bought and paid for types, and not with the cast majority of people who elected you…people who once thought there was a chance at a single-payer solution to Health Care and who continued to think they would still get an advantage with the now vanished Public Option.

We thought you wanted to change things.

Instead, you have worked yourself into a sticky and overgrown corner where just getting out is nearly impossible. While it is possible that you might reevaluate the situation before the Fall and the 2010 Congressional elections start and get into the fray yourself (and, frankly, tell your current policy wonks to listen to the people who elected you OR ELSE), the reality seems to be that all the changes we had hoped for have been sidelined by the most controllable of uncontrollable things.

I hope you had a chance to watch, or listen to, or at least read a transcript of Bill Moyers’ Journal from the 18th of the month (and one that had not been edited by your staff to remove the highlights that they are most involved in). If not, I think you should note that the first half of the program is something is something that you should pay close attention to. It’s called “Is Washington For Sale?” and it features some very clear words from Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and Economist Robert Kuttner. You can see it on line at, if you are able to get on line. I hope you can. Hell, you’re the President. Call PBS and ask them to send you a DVD!

It is so important that you become aware of what the community of Americans, who gave the government to you and the Congress not so long ago, think. All our futures are tied together, but you have your hand on the knot.


Bill Tchakirides

Shepherdstown, WV

Juan Cole comments on the failed plane bomber…

This is a clip from a longer article… but I agree with Juan. Abd al-Mutallib was not a sophisticated bomber and was probably trying to get attention from Al Qaida.

A piece of the article here:

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The details of the attempted attack on the Amsterdam/ Detroit flight Friday are still murky and I don’t trust the only official from whom we are hearing details, Rep. Peter King of New York. The LAT says Homeland Security is now downplaying the purported al-Qaeda or Yemen connection around which rumors swirled earlier Friday, saying that the al-Qaeda thing may have been “aspirational”.

Umar Farouk Abd al-Mutallib, 23, a Nigerian engineering student at the University College of London, took the flight from Lagos Nigeria to Amsterdam and thence to Detroit. Someone set him up with a leg pouch filled with an incendiary chemical that was supposed to set a big fire on board when he injected it with chemicals from a syringe.

It was a replay of the shoe bomber episode, in other words, and suspiciously enough occured on the anniversary of the Richard Reid attempt.
No cause for complaisance here, but contrary to what rightwing politicians are saying, no cause for panic, either.
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Cartoon(s) of the Week … hard choice to make!

There were too many good ones this week and I had too much time on my hands reviewing them, So here are my favorite four:

Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Yes, it has been a great Christmas for lobbyists… and we once thought that with Obama they’d get a lump of coal in their stocking!

– and –

Tony Auth in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Isn’t Scrooge supposed to learn that he has been wrong?

= and –

Tom Toles in the Washington Post:

And it looks like the strategy is well on its way…

– and –

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Belief is a strange thing…

More on the Detroit airline explosion failure..

This led Salon’s report this morning… more at the Salon site:
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The passenger, who was traveling on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam, was not identified. He was being questioned Friday evening, according to one of the officials, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.
The motive of the Christmas Day attack was not immediately clear.
“He appears to have had some kind of incendiary device he tried to ignite,” said one of the U.S. officials.
Authorities initially believed the passenger had set off firecrackers that caused some minor injuries.
Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane’s descent. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow, and noticed a smoke smell. Then, he said, “a young man behind me jumped on him.”
“Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic,” he said.
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And this from CNN:

The administration official said there was no evidence that Abdulmatallab was a hard-core, trained member of al-Qaeda.

The suspect, identified as a Nigerian national, claimed to have extremist ties and said the explosive device “was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used,” said a federal security bulletin obtained by CNN.

The FBI is investigating, bureau spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.

The remains of the device used are being sent to an FBI explosives lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis, the sources said.
The suspect, identified as a Nigerian national, claimed to have extremist ties and said the explosive device “was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used,” said a federal security bulletin obtained by CNN.The FBI is investigating, bureau spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.

From Salon this afternoon…

I guess Salon got this from the AP. Not sure how accurate it is… we’ll find out more as we go along.
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Al-Qaida link in failed plane attack

The White House is reportedly calling the incident an attempted act of terrorism
U.S. officials say a Northwest Airlines passenger from Nigeria said he was acting on behalf of al-Qaida when he tried to blow up a flight Friday as it landed in Detroit.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., identified the suspect as Abdul Mudallad, a Nigerian. King said the flight began in Nigeria and went through Amsterdam en route to Detroit.
One of the U.S. intelligence officials said the explosive device was a mix of powder and liquid. It failed when the passenger tried to detonate it.
The passenger was being questioned Friday evening.
Both of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.
The motive of the Christmas Day attack was not immediately clear.
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A quote for the day…

“It’s been a long time since the legislative system did anything this big, and people have forgotten how awful the victories are. But these are the victories, and if they feel bad to many, they will do good for more. As that comes clearer and clearer, this bill will come to feel more and more like the historic advance it actually is.”

– Ezra Klein in the Washington Post.

Merry Christmas

Elly and I are enjoying our Xmas morning, having slept late and now finishing our favorite holiday breakfast (adapted to our new Vegan status) of potatoes and “sausage”… and we are watching C-Span discuss favorite non-fiction books of the year with the call-in audience.

As usual during a holiday, there is no real political activity going on… at least not on television… but we will undoubtedly return to the lively discussion of the merger of the House and Senate bills and the extremes the Republicans will go to in order to (try to) kill it altogether.

We took most of yesterday visiting my Mother in Virginia and my daughter Penny and her sons in Maryland, and came home to our dogs who were VERY upset that they had spent the day without us. Today we spend a lot of time paying attention to them.

I hope all of you have a nice holiday. and drop in again. I don’t know what else I’ll be listing or discussing today, but there is likely to be something. Peace.


The Vote Has Been Taken by the Senate…

…and the Health care Bill has passed 60 to 39 with NOT ONE REPUBLICAN joining in to advance the future of America. I’m waiting for Senator Reid’s comments outside the Senate Floor (near the Ohio Clock).

Now we have what looks to be several weeks of reconciliation with the House of Representatives. Senator Baucus has said that they are targeting a compromise Bill on the President’s desk by the time of the State of the Union Message at the end of January.

Senate Clears Final Hurdle to Vote on Health Care Bill

This clip from the NY Times:
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The Senate trudged Wednesday toward passage of sweeping health legislation after disposing of Republican claims that it would be unconstitutional to require Americans to have health insurance, as the bill does.
The Senate was poised to take a final vote on the legislation, President Obama’s top priority, on Thursday morning.
Republicans could not crack the 60-member Democratic caucus, which hung together Wednesday to advance the legislation in the face of solid Republican opposition.

The bill cleared a last procedural hurdle on Wednesday when the Senate voted 60 to 39 to wind up debate on the measure, which would extend coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Sixty was the precise number needed to limit debate.

The Senate on Wednesday rejected a Republican effort to require disclosure of all items inserted in the bill for the benefit of specific states and entities.
The Senate also rejected a constitutional point of order against the bill by Senator John Ensign.
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Tomorrow’s vote is scheduled for 7:00 AM… Be There or Be Square!