"How long do you have to get hit in the head before you start asking who's hitting you in the head?"

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Home Again

Well, I’m safely home in LA and almost completely unpacked. I’m already back at work—where I’m really busy this week, so my posts may be on again, off again for a few days. Many thanks to the fleshpresser, who did such a fabulous job while I was on the road.

I haven’t seen any news to speak of since I left VA. What’s going on? Has anything in particular really cheered you up or pissed you off?

Here’s something that pissed me off recently: I had to speak to an IT person while setting up my new Internet account on Tuesday. Everything was fine until the very end, when the guy said, out of the blue, “Thank you and God bless.” It really got under my skin, especially since he rang off before I could respond with “I’ve been touched by His noodly appendage,” “The earth is flat,” “Santa saves,” or some similar nonsense. Why do people feel compelled to say that kind of silly shit to complete strangers? The older I get, the less tolerant of said silly shit I become.

Does “God bless” bother you? And if not, would “Allahu Akbar” or “Hail Satan”?

Here’s something that cheered me up, though: I’m back in LA, baby!

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Today marks the day that the United States Senate once again tries to take our attention away from what is truly important in this country, to argue for a hollow, destructive, and truly un-American amendment - the "flag desecration" amendment.

As regular readers of my blog know, I've already been on my soapbox over this smokescreen.

If this Amendment passes, I will never fly an American flag again. This may sound extreme, but let me explain. I view the flag as a symbol... a symbol of our freedoms as American citizens. By amending our Constitution in this way, the symbol becomes hollow, and as such, loses its intrinsic values that are allegedly being protected.

I find far more heinous "desecrations" of the American flag every day in my community - the magnetic flag slapped on the back of a minivan, caked in mud - a supposed sign of uber-patriotism. The miniature flags parked along the curb by a realtor on Flag Day to draw attention to an Open House - long since forgotten and left in the rain soaked gutter. The American flag "Made in China," hanging as decorative trim in a store window's Fourth of July Sales Extravaganza.

Need more examples of flag desecration currently unrecognized as such? Take a look at some of the pictures I posted earlier.

The President of the United States, writing directly on the flag, in clear violation of the current United States Code - the individual who is allegedly the Standard Bearer is a Flag Desecrator:

According to the Citizens Flag Alliance, an organization that SUPPORTS the amendment, there were only twelve instances of flag desecration in this country in all of 2005. In 2004, there were three. In each of these cases, laws were already in place to punish the perpetrators.

More often than not, those who choose to desecrate a flag intentionally do so to someone else's flag - not their own. In other words, they choose to destroy the property of someone else. As such, there are laws which ALREADY exist to punish these people. The amendment is simply unnecessary.

Is flag burning ugly? Absolutely. But in America, we protect the rights of people to do ugly things. I cannot believe some of the ugly, despicable, and utterly hateful things that come out of the mouth of Ann Coulter. But she is protected not only to speak those words, but to publish and distribute those words in a variety of means. My stomach turns at the thought of the mere existence of the KKK in this country, but we protect the right of this hate group to assemble, to this day.

These are the costs of living in a country where freedom is TRULY a valuable commodity. And an occasional flag burning may be a part of that cost, as well. Despicable? Certainly. But meritorious of amending the Constitution? Never.

I've linked to this Washington Post story above, but this specific paragraph bears highlighting:
Fortunately, the Senate will have plenty of time to discuss that matter. The chamber has scheduled up to four days of debate on the flag-burning amendment this week. If that formula -- one day of Senate debate for each incident of flag burning this year -- were to be applied to other matters, the Senate would need to schedule 12 days of debate to contemplate the number of years before Medicare goes broke, 335 days of debate for each service member killed in Iraq this year and 11 million days of debate on the estimated number of illegal immigrants in the country.
The United States Senate is guilty of perpetrating a fraud against the American people in even pursuing this amendment to our United States Constitution, and should be ashamed for trying to protect our rights by limiting them. By placing such importance on the mere symbol, they disregard the importance of what they symbol represents.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sunday Funny

I'm not sure when olio will be back, and I didn't want to post too many of my political cartoons here, but if you'd like, you can come check out my weekly feature, The Week That Was, over at Pressing The Flesh.

This might be my last post here at olio, and I wanted to thank everyone for the hospitality while I was here. I'm going to pack up my stuff, sweep out my cubicle, and hope that olio doesn't notice that stain on the rug over there.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Whose Line Is It Anyway - Coulter V. Hitler

You may think it would be fairly simple to distinguish between the words of Ann Coulter and those of Adolf Hitler.

You might be surprised.

Take this short quiz and let us know how you did in the comments section.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some For Me - None For You

In 1996, the average cost of gas was $1.15 - ten years later, that same gallon of gas costs $3.19, on average.

In 1996, the average cost of a gallon of milk was $2.60 - ten years later, that same gallon of milk costs $3.79, on average.

In 1996, Members of Congress earned $133,600 - ten years later, Congress just voted to give themselves a pay raise, making their salary $168,500.

In 1996, the minimum wage was set at $5.15 an hour. Ten years later, it remains at $5.15 an hour.

For the average full time employee, working 52 weeks of the year and 40 hours a week, that amounts to $10,712 - and that's gross salary.

In 2003, the poverty threshold for a family of four, established by the United States Census Bureau, was $18,810. By that standard, there were 35.9 million people living below the poverty line.

In 2004, that same poverty line was adjusted to $19,307, due to cost of living increases. The official number of people living below the poverty line increased to 37 million.

The numbers for 2005 will be reported on August 30 of this year, and we can only expect the numbers to once again increase, given the rising cost of gasoline and other goods.

What hasn't changed amidst this? That minimum wage remains at $5.15 an hour. $10,712 a year. The poverty line almost DOUBLES what a minimum wage worker is able to earn in the United States.

Keep in mind - these are not jobs that offer health insurance. No paid vacation. Clock in and clock out for lunch. Have to miss work because a child is sick? It's coming out of your pay. Death in the family? That's too bad. No pay. Can't get to work because the car broke down and it has to be repaired? Go ahead and get it fixed. But no pay.

There are those who would argue that the minimum wage is nothing more than a summer wage for high school kids,. but this is simply not true. 35 percent of those earning minimum wages are sole breadwinners and the typical minimum-wage worker brings in half of total family income.

The Republican-led Congress had an opportunity to remedy this huge problem yesterday, but decided to take a pass and let the problem exacerbate further. I specifically use the words "Republican-led" because the vote, as it has every year for the last ten years, fell largely along party lines. Democrats voted for the minimum wage increase, and Republicans, with some exception, voted against it.

Keep in mind, we're talking about an increase to $7.25 - over the course of more than TWO YEARS. $7.25 an hour. That brings that full-time employee up to $15,080 gross - and that's TWO YEARS from now. It still doesn't bring the family above the poverty line, and who knows where that line will be adjusted to in another two years.

But the Republican-led Senate, in its infinite wisdom, decided that this wouldn't be a good move. Except for four of the Republicans, who voted FOR the minimum wage increase, who also happen to be up for re-election in the fall. Somehow, THEY saw the wisdom in at least appearing as though they were in favor of the increase.

Gosh, wonder why they would want to give that appearance?

The same Republican-led Congress, whose own salary has gone up nearly $35,000 in the last ten years, felt that a $4500 increase for a full-time working parent raising their child in poverty would not be prudent.

The same Republican-led Congress, who can take billions of our tax dollars and throw it at the oil companies in the form of subsidies, all the while watching the price of gas continue to climb, which in turn pushes those under economic strain further over the edge - that same Congress decided that it was best to leave the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour.

There was a popular phrase used a few decades ago to describe communism - "Better Dead Than Red". This phrase seems entirely appropriate to now affix to the Red State Republicans and their utterly inneffectual leadership of this country.

Better Dead Than Red!!!

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Although today marks the official beginning of summer, it also means there are officially only 866 days until the 2008 Presidential Election - too early to start paying attention? Not at all... candidates are obviously already raising money, refining message points, and positioning themselves for a potential 2008 Presidential bid.

The Road To Washington is a new weekly feature over at my home, Pressing The Flesh, taking a very individual opinion poll of how the potential candidates are doing, and whose stock is going up or down on any given week.

Given its debut this week, I thought it would be nice to cross-post here at olio.

I will provide a personalized list of those candidates whom I believe to be the best Democratic candidates for 2008 - this list will obviously shift from week to week, but I will try to give explanation to the poll positions.

Initially, we will keep the list at ten candidates - please let us know if you feel someone more important has been left off the list. As we get into the Primary season, the list will dwindle down to five candidates.

We will also include a listing of Republican candidates and their activity from time to time, in addition to any potential "other" items of interest, including a focus on third party candidates and other developments.

So, without further ado, here is the inaugural listing for The Road To Washington:

1. Russ Feingold - I've made my case here on PTF for quite a while as to why I like Russ Feingold so much, so this should come as no surprise. Feingold has long been the leading candidate in straw polls, only to be ignored in more mainstream polls. This week's U.S. News and World Report, however, mentions Feingold in the same breath as Warner and Clinton.

2. Barack Obama - Like so many others on this list, Obama has not declared himself to be a candidate. There was a really nice story about him, however, in The Washington Post and it's hard to ignore the potential of this charismatic Senator from Illinois. Obviously, it's easier for a Democrat to play in Chicago, but Obama's success in the "heartland" of southern Illinois as well as in the urban areas make him a VERY attractive candidate.

3. John Edwards - I've still got a soft spot in my heart for Edwards - he was the candidate I supported before Kerry became the eventual nominee. I think he has actually served himself well by taking himself off the radar for a while. While Al Gore has made the environment his pet issue, Edwards has chosen to focus on ending poverty, and is set to deliver a major policy address at The National Press Club tomorrow.

4. Mark Warner - There's no denying the appeal of Mark Warner and his ability to win over voters and draw consensus in a state like Virginia. He's a bit more conservative than I'd like, but he's beginning to talk tough, as well - taking a page out of Feingold's playbook, and making appearances most recently at places like last week's YearlyKos will raise his visibility, but I think Warner is most likely a lock for a veep position - not as a frontrunner.

5. Al Gore - No, he's not running again... at least that's what he says. Still, one has to question what a Gore campaign would look like if he had the same charisma and personality that he's shown lately in venues like his successful An Inconvenient Truth, his appearance on Saturday Night Live, or his interview with Keith Olbermann on Countdown. HIs book connected to the film debuted at #3 this week on the New York Times Bestsellers List. For all of his recent success, however, Gore still has baggage that probably won't allow him to win a Presidential election.

6. Wesley Clark - OK - I get it. He's a Democrat, and he's a former General. There's appeal for a man who truly understands the military to be in The White House. But if this is such a great idea, why didn't it work in 2004? He made the trip to YearlyKos, as well, and has support in the blogosphere. HIs PAC, Securing America, plays on his military experience, but I don't see enough credibility in Clark beyond his military experience.

7. Joe Biden - One of the few that has actually declared his candidacy, Biden prides himself on the fact that he doesn't beat around the bush. Don't get me wrong, I generally like Biden - but I think he represents the "Old Guard" Democrat, and is not what the party needs as a leader right now. I can't shake images of Biden sitting at those hearings, talking endlessly about himself, rather than asking tough questions of the nominee. If he heasn't been able to effectively work against the Republicans in the Senate, why should he be the man to take the White House seat?

8. Hillary Clinton - Too. Much. Baggage. Pure and simple. She's been a great addition to the Senate, and there's no doubt that she's been a great fundraiser in the Democratic party. There's no way she wins the White House in 2008, however, and so people need to stop talking about her and move on. If she's REALLY smart (and I think she is), she should have enough self-awareness to know this, and she should provide some "shock and awe" of her own by not running in '08.

As an aside here, can we PLEASE stop talking about Hillary as though there are not only two political parties in America, but only two political families? First, Reagan for 8 years with Bush as the Veep. Then Bush for four years. Then Clinton for eight years. Then Bush for eight years. Do we really want to consider Clinton for another four or eight years... followed by... I dunno... Jeb Bush for the next slot - are we THAT hard up in America for leadership that we can only turn to two families? I think not. But I digress.

9. Bill Richardson - I add Richardson here because I think he'll run. Not to win, but to be heard and to raise his visibility. At YearlyKos, he was one of the candidates making the rounds, but seemed out of touch with those to whom he was speaking. Richardson is an important voice in the party, but he will never be Presidential.

10. John Kerry - Yeah, OK. He was screwed in the 2004 election. Whatever. He had as much to blame on himself as he did on any poliing issues in Ohio. Kerry falls into the Biden category of Democrats. While someone like Gore has begun a rebirth, Kerry still has the stench of "loser" wafting from him, and his nomination as the Democratic candidate would be the death nail for the party in '08.

So, that's the list. What do you think? Please feel free to submit your lists, as well.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

I was talking to a fellow Democrat a few evenings ago, and asked him who he liked for a Presidential candidate in 2008. He mentioned the usual suspects, and when I asked him what he thought about Russ Feingold, he admitted to me that he didn't know who Feingold was.

Regular readers of Pressing The Flesh undoubtedly know that I regularly shower the Wisconsin Junior Senator with love and support.

But for those of you who may not know about Russ, I thought I'd take the time to give you some information about this tough, principled, intelligent, and plainspoken man from Wisconsin:

Need to know where Feingold stands on Bush, Iraq, and the current Administration? Where other potential candidates limply provide lip service to their base about their "tough" stance on Bush, Feingold is the only member of the Senate with enough spine to put his money where his mouth is. Witness:

Need to know where Feingold stands when presented with such "national priority" issues such as gay marriage? He called the debate last week just as he saw it:
The federal marriage amendment, which would write discrimination into the Constitution, is an obvious attempt to change the subject from topics that the Congress should be addressing to a hot button social issue intended to appeal to certain factions. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Frist plans to hold a vote on this mean-spirited proposal. It has no chance of receiving the two-thirds majority required for constitutional amendments. The only thing bringing it up now will accomplish is to push Congress further away from the issues it should be addressing and engage the Senate of the United States in a shameful political ploy.
You can listen to Feingold's speech from the Senate floor here.

Apologists continually criticize Democrats for tearing apart Bush Administration actions in Iraq without offering their own plans. Feingold has a plan, and it's good.

Compare John Kerry's appearance on The Daily Show (yawn), with that of Feingold earlier this spring and tell me who is more capable of communicating clearly with America.

Russ Feingold has an Everyman quality to him - he speaks directly, plainly, clearly, and you know what he said after he's through. You don't scratch your head wondering what version of the truth you just received.

Finally, Russ knows how to run a WINNING Campaign. For those for say they don't know who Russ Feingold is, or for those who believe he's not well known enough to run, I ask this simple question: Who knew at this point in the election who Bill Clinton was?

Take a look at some of Feingold's campaign ads for his Senate runs - arguably, some of the best campaign ads I've ever seen produced. They're funny, smart, and appeal to the common citizen without being inflammatory.

Get to know Russ Feingold, and if you like what you see, I would encourage you to wholeheartedly support him as we approach the 2008 Presidential elections.

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FleshPresser Taking The Helm

Whilst olio whisks across this great nation of ours, I have been given the privilege of guest blogging for the next week or so, and I coudn't be more humbled by the opportunity - it's no small leap of faith to trust someone else with your blog, and as such, I hope to do olio proud!

I run a blog over across the street called Pressing The Flesh - some of you may be familiar with it - if not, take a peek when you get the chance.

So, let me put down my bags and get organized here, and shortly I'll have all manner of great political ponderings posted for your pallette.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Tony Snow: Putting the ASS in Compassion

From yesterday’s press briefing:
Q Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?

MR. SNOW: It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something.

Yeah…they want their dead kids back, you insensitive piece of shit.

Have a nice weekend, everyone. I’ll be back in a week or so, blogging live from LA! In the meantime, fleshpresser’s got us covered.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What's the Opposite of Statesmanlike?

The leader of the free world, during this morning’s presser:
Q Is the tide turning in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: I think -- tide turning -- see, as I remember -- I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of -- it's easy to see a tide turn -- did I say those words?

What a maroon!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I’m Goin’ Back to Cali…

My posts may be sporadic this week because I’m moving back to LA. My friend fleshpresser has kindly agreed to post here next week while I’m on the road.

I have a lot of packing/organizing to do, so I haven’t had much time today to read the news, but I did cruise by the White House site, where I found this gem:
…the capacity to generate wealth from the ground distinguishes Iraq from Afghanistan…

You bet your ass it does, George!

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Monday, June 12, 2006

One “Good PR Move” Deserves Another

Today Bush begins a two-day meeting at Camp David “to reassess strategy on Iraq” and possibly “contend with fallout from” the recent Guantanamo suicides. I’m curious to see if he publicly distances himself from Colleen Graffy’s remarks on the incident, which have angered some allies and prompted this graphic response from UK cartoonist Martin Rowson:

What do you think of this cartoon?

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Friday, June 09, 2006

If a Car Bomb Explodes on the Other Side of the World…

… and no one is there to document it, did anything bad really happen?

According to Bush, the answer is no:
… there's still going to be tough days ahead, because the enemy has got the capacity to get on our TV with death and destruction. That's what they've got the capacity to do.”

What ? The ? Fuck ?

Read the entire transcript; it’s full of Bush-y goober goodness, such as his saying “we would like to end the Guantanamo” and “part of the issue I deal with is people want to know with certainty when certain things are going to happen.”

Well, I can tell you with certainty that I certainly hope to see you on Monday here at the olio. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006


Congress has raised the maximum fine for objectionable programming to $325,000:

The punishment was less than groups like the Christian Coalition and Parents Television Council had sought, but the passage of the bill could help bolster support for Republicans who are facing tough re-election races in November.

Allrighty then, fellow values voters! Let’s try to spot the "objectionable content" in the following passage:

In Iraq, billions in reconstruction dollars remain unaccounted for, and little reconstruction has been completed. Oh, Shit! Further, Iraqi women’s secular freedoms, “once the envy of women across the Middle East,” have all but disappeared; women are now being “stoned in the street for wearing make-up.” Goddamnit! Here at home, funding for port security has just been cut by $648 million. Aw…Fuck! And on Tuesday, “House Republicans blocked a vote to restore $750 million in anti-terror funding for big cities.” Sweet Santorum!

Shocking, isn't it?


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Marriage Protection? Oh, Please

I honestly don’t understand how the legal union of any two consenting adults could possibly threaten my marriage or my family—and I defy anyone out there to present a cogent argument* proving it would.

I’m proud to support marriage equality, and I’m proud to have signed the Human Rights Campaign’s “Million for Marriage” petition. You can sign it, too, by clicking here:

*The Marriage Protection Amendment was the topic of yesterday’s Washington Journal, and every single caller in support of it used either the slippery slope or the “biblical principles” argument. Good grief…


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Uh-oh: It’s The Devil!

Today is 6/6/6 and, as some feared, “THE DEVIL” is all jacked up and looking for mischief. I think he put some sort of weird spell on my dentist, who mysteriously rescheduled my appointment from next Tuesday to today!


Feel free to visit the comments section and wish “THE DEVIL” a happy June 6th, 2006. Or rebuke him in the name of “THE LORD.” Whatever…I’m going to take some Vicodin and watch C-Span…

I should feel better by tomorrow. See you then.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Degradation: As American as Baseball Paintball and "A Few Bad Apples" Pie

A placard from Camp Nama in Iraq,
where some detainees were used as paintball targets.

June is Torture Awareness Month, and the Pentagon has chosen to mark the occasion by “omit[ting] from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans ‘humiliating and degrading treatment.’”

Let that sink in: The Pentagon has decided that US armed forces—acting on behalf of me, and you, and our parents, and our children, and all of our friends and neighbors—can humiliate and degrade prisoners. Humiliate and degrade.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

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Friday, June 02, 2006

A Terrible Admission

I didn’t want to post about Haditha or any of the other, similar stories that are currently making headlines. I didn’t want to think about them, even. But I can’t stop, and I’m overwhelmed with emotion: I feel for the young men and women who fight to survive in a hostile land, and I seethe with anger toward those who sent them there. And I think about the countless “official” reports I’ve read of death in Iraq, each so similar to this one:
The bombing in Haditha on Saturday was aimed at a convoy of American marines and Iraqi soldiers, a Marine spokesman, Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool, said. After the explosion, gunmen opened fire on the convoy. At least eight insurgents were killed in the firefight, the captain said.
or this one, filed just a day later:
On Sunday, the Marine Corps said 15 Iraqi civilians and a marine were killed the previous day when a roadside bomb exploded in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. At least 11 other Iraqis were killed or discovered dead on Sunday in various incidents, and military officials reported the deaths of two more Americans and a British soldier.
And whenever I read such reports in the future, I fear that a little part of me will wonder: Is that what really happened?

There can be no compromise with war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense; for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible. [Jeanette Rankin, 1929]