Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sound familiar?

From The New Yorker:
The Administration's planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House's assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House's dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community. Cheney and his aides discounted the assessment, the former senior intelligence official said.

Honestly, how can anyone support this Administration anymore? Maybe I'm cranky because it's late, but you really have to be dumber than a box of rocks to continue to support George W. Bush.

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The GOP becomes even more laughably irrelevant

The latest dictum (so to speak) from the other world known as Republican Land is this: American citizens under the age of 30 should be discouraged from having sex:
the latest twist in the Abstinence Education Program from Bush's increasingly laughable Department of Health and Human Services, a $50 million slice of embarrassing government detritus that is now actually encouraging all states to tell their single, youngish residents that they should -- how to put this so you don't shoot coffee through your nose? -- that everyone should avoid sex entirely, until they turn 30.

See? See your reaction? You are like: No way. You are like: Is the United States government really saying that? You are like: Laughter, a smirk, maybe a shrug and a sigh and a sad shake of the head and another glass of wine because, you know, what the hell is wrong with these people?

Maybe you think I am making this up. Maybe you think that our fair government, as sad and lost and nipple-terrified as it is, can't seriously be suggesting that, to avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancy and unchecked misery in their obviously sad and irresponsible little lives, single people under 30 should not have sex, like, ever. And maybe not even then.

You would, of course, be wrong.

It's for real. It's an actual HHS dictum and there are people who actually believe it should be adhered to, and I'm right now guessing you broke this rule this very morning and if you didn't you really, really wanted to, and if you're over 30 and/or married chances are you are sitting there right now wishing you were still single and/or under 30 just one more time just so you could squishily, juicily break that rule again, oh my God yes please. Just a guess.

One can only hope that this is, as once put by Michael Moore, the final wail of a dying animal. These people are laughable, hopelessly irrelevant, and with no grounding in reality. Then again, reality doesn't concern them in other arenas (Iraq, evolution, the Constitution), so it's no shock that they are hilariously out of touch. As a newspaper columnist once said to me, it's been a tough couple of years for those of us who base our views on reality.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Comic of the day

ACLU Comics: Racial Profiling

Harrisbug Zero: Mayor Steve Reed

Our first two-time winner!

What has become blatantly obvious through the course of the budget debate in Harrisburg is that Mayor Reed apparently learned his leadership skills from George W. Bush. Or vice versa. The Mayor is now using the city's "official" website as a platform for criticizing his partners in city government. This headline is currently on the city's website, just below the word "Welcome":

Classy. It would be nice if the mayor would act his age and act like the leader he is supposed to be.

Mayor Reed is now on notice. We'll take off Astronomers. They've had their 15 minutes after sending Pluto to the minors.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Race matters: Rebuilding the neighborhood

Today I was in Alison Hill, one of Harrisburg's tougher neighborhoods, which is mostly minority. I was there for work purposes and walked 13th Street between Market and Derry and walked both Derry and Market for a few blocks.

Along the way, I passed multiple construction sites. These were sites where old homes were being restored. I probably saw at least a dozen workers over the course of 2 or 3 sites, but only one of those workers was a minority.

Something about that just strikes me as odd. Where are the minority workers?

On a related note, I had to chuckle a bit when I stopped at the laundromat at 13th and Derry to post a flyer and saw a travel advertisement in Spanish. The flier showed pictures of white people vacationing at Disney World, the beach, and a ski resort. Come on, man, please do not insult our intelligence. Folks in that neighborhood are working hard just to be sure that there is food on the table next week. They're not thinking about Disney World. When we lived in the city, I don't recall any of our neighbors going to Disney World or some posh ski resort.

Quote of the day

"I don't know about y'all, but I had a damn good week."
--Michael Franti, musician, to the crowd at his show in Pittsburgh on Sunday

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Are the Republicans trying to muddy the waters in PA?

A friend heard on NPR this afternoon that Pennsylvania is the state with the most voter complaints. Let's see: The Republicans are about to go down hard in this state, including conservative poster boy Dick Santorum. Plus, our governor, who is running for re-election, is a Dem. Would anyone put it past the Re-thug-icans to call in bogus complaints in order to debase the credibility of the vote? Seriously, you could not put it past them. No one could believe that they are above making Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes the Democratic version of Ken Blackwell.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cheney hostile to democracy

As if the PATRIOT Act, warrantless surveillance, the fixing of elections in FL and OH, torture, and the end of habeas corpus didn't already show the administration's hostility toward representative democracy, Darth Cheney's answer to a George Stephanopoulos question surely further illustrated it:
(The war) may not be popular with the public. It doesn't matter in the sense that we have to continue the mission and do what we think it right, and that's exactly what we're doing. We're not running for office, we're doing what we think it right.

In other words, we only care about what the public thinks when we have to run for (re-)election. Once we've run our last race, we cease representing the people.

And a wag of the finger for G-Steph for not leaping on him for that.

The crumbling of the GOP

I have plenty to say about the way the Rethugnican party has imploded, but at the moment, don't have the time. However, this editorial called "GOP must go" says plenty:
On Nov. 7, the world will be watching as we go to the polls, seeking to ascertain whether the American people have the wisdom to try to correct a disastrous course. Posterity will note too if their collective decision is one that captured the attention of historians—that of a people voting, again and again, to endorse a leader taking a country in a catastrophic direction. The choice is in our hands.

And which magazine wrote thie editorial? The American Conservative.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Haggard Affair

It's very easy to watch with glee the falling star of Rev. Ted Haggard, an anti-gay civil rights evangelical Christian leader who has been accused of having an affair with a gay prostitute and using crystal meth. Let me be clear: I have a real problem with people who kick around the most vulnerable in our society. That disdain is double for those who are in powerful positions and are able to use that power to inflict the harm they inflict, be it on gays, immigrants, or anyone else.

And I feel that way about people like Haggard whether their personal life is sparkling or tainted.

But when my mind is clear, one feeling comes up again and again for Rev. Haggard- compassion. Unlike those with the Judeo-Christian mindset, I am much more interested in the suffering in the Rev's mind that would lead him to commit these (alleged) actions than I am in the actions themselves. Actions, including those that some would consider sinful, do not happen in a vacuum. Something in a person's mind motivates him or her to commit these actions. It is not a result of being naturally bad or "fallen."

In the Rev's case, one could speculate on what was going on in his head. Perhaps he felt tremendous pressure from his position at the mega-church. Perhaps his marriage is broken. Perhaps he felt lost after spending years in the closet, which may have pushed him to drug use, a point touched on by Andrew Sullivan:
But it is also important to remember that this is what the closet does: it is a dagger aimed at the heart of the family. It has wrecked so many marriages, destroyed so many families, traumatized so many kids. It must end.

No one knows but the Rev himself, but like all of us, he is a suffering human being with his own imperfections. Perhaps now he has learned the lesson of what harm his style of preaching does to real people.

Overheard today on the streets of Harrisburg

Voter fraud or media fraud? Sitting in the pizza shop for lunch, I had to stomach Fox News, which was on the TV. (Between my slow service today and the fact that Fox News has been on the last two times I've been in there, I'm considering abandoning my favorite downtown pizza shop.) Fox was doing one of their usual manipulation jobs, trumpeting a story about 10,000 deceased people who are still registered to vote in Missouri, seven of whom supposedly voted in 2004. Fox, of course, missed two key facts: A) Those who supposedly voted only came up that way because poll workers accidentaly scanned the bar codes next to their names when they shouldn't have done so. And B) remaining registered is simply a clerical error. It only becomes a grave problem (so to speak) when these supposedly dead people are voting en masse.

But the lady behind me didn't think this through. "Ha," she said. "Dead people are voting in Missouri."

"Voter fraud," one of the pizza guys said.

Fox knows full well that when people think of dead people voting they think of the Democrats in 1960.

Multi-culturalism lives in central PA. The International House and the Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs had a wonderful turnout for their first La Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. In fact, the turnout was greater than the organizers expected, and it was a diverse crowd. South central PA can embrace diversity, immigrants, and their cultures.

His favorite team. As I walked by a group of men near the capitol today, I heard this: "They're going to decide on Sunday morning. He's played the last few weeks but hasn't carried the ball very well." Ah, a good ol' fashion conversation about someone's favorite team? "I can't cut him." The team in question is not the Eagles or the Steelers or some other NFL squad. It was this guy's fantasy team.

Harrisbug Zero: Mayor Steve Reed

Usually, the Harrisburg Hero and Harrisburg Zero awards are reserved for those in state government. However, today the mayor of Harrisburg, Stephen Reed, deserves the Zero.

There is a dispute at the moment between hiz honor and city council over how much money the city should borrow in order to maintain its budget without layoffs and a minimal tax increase. The council approved a loan but not as much as the mayor suggested. Now the mayor is laying off workers, including police officers and fire fighters.

I'm not going to pretend to know what the best solution is. Few of us actually know who is correct here and whether or not the city can get by on what the council approved. Admittedly, it seems a little strange to borrow money in order to maintain financial health. I'm not sure how you can be financially healthy when you are borrowing money.

But Mayor Reed gets the Zero for his ongoing support of the Harrisburg Incinerator, which is one of the major drains on city resources. I lived in South Harrisburg for five years, about a mile- as the crow flies- from the incinerator, and attended numerous meetings on the issue, some organized by the Stop the Burn coalition and some sponsored by DEP.

In those days, the message residents were sending to the mayor was clear: The incinerator is too damn expensive. Shut it down.

But the Mayor, in a leadership style that would make only George W. Bush proud, refused to listen to and work with these citizens. He plowed forward with the incinerator project, which at that time was spewing fumes into the air 30 times higher than EPA standards. It was only when the state DEP forced his hand and mandated a shutdown that the mayor finally did something about it. And then he and the city council opted for an upgrade- an upgrade that was supposed to launch in January but still hasn't started and is going to cost the city an additional $13 million, on top of the $80 million that has already been spent. The incinerator generates electricity through steam and was expected to put revenue in the city's pocket, but since it has yet to launch, that cash is not there while the incinerator itself is responsible for more than $100 million in city debt.
Built in the 1970s for about $9 million, the problem-plagued incinerator was finally shut down in June 2003 by the state for routinely violating emission standards. Its legacy is $104 million in debt that was rolled over into a new borrowing to be paid off over 30 years, along with $100 million in interest. Reed, with City Council support, gambled that a new incinerator (carrying an additional debt load of $125 million) not only would pay for itself but would also cover the debt on the old one.

The mayor's numbers indicated this was possible. But they also indicated that the incinerator would have to run at near perfection and at full capacity to achieve revenue projections. Given the city's history operating an incinerator, that seemed, even at the time, more than a stretch.

The city is in a serious financial bind that isn't going to be solved by short-term borrowing or juggling the books. The chickens are coming home to roost

Patriot News editorial: Council should authorize loan, take a hard look at budget

Those were heady days when I was going to those meetings. It was when I first started getting active in community issues, and this one was and is important. If the mayor had listened to us then, maybe the city wouldn't be where it is now.