Thursday Mashup (4/22/10)

April 23, 2010
  • 1) Occasionally the Bucks County Courier Times experiences a journalistically lucid moment, and they did so yesterday here in an editorial about departing County Operations Office David Sanko…

    Sanko, an ex-big wig with the GOP, was hired in 2004 at $125,000 a year, not exorbitant for the chief executive of a large organization. But let’s remember that his was – and remains – a government job, which means the benefits are good and holidays plentiful.

    When Sanko resigned five years later, he was earning $140,688. Again, not outrageous. But during that time Sanko also drove a county car, compliments of taxpayers. And, it turns out, he received a sweet retirement deal – also compliments of taxpayers.

    How sweet became clear this week when the county revealed that Sanko received $76,500 – the amount the county deposited into a “457” retirement fund for Sanko over his tenure. Unlike the shrunken 401(k) retirement accounts most people in the private sector have, Sanko did not have to deposit any of his own income into the account, according to the county finance director.

    That’s not how it works for other non-union county workers. Their 457 retirement plans are built on the employees’ own contributions; the county doesn’t throw in a dime. That Sanko’s retirement deal turned the formula upside down made it unique in Bucks County, the finance director said.

    Uniquely generous!

    In fact, when taxpayers file their federal income tax returns next year, they might consider claiming part of Sanko’s retirement as a charitable contribution. Or maybe they should consider it a political contribution.

    Either way, taxpayers’ charity doesn’t end there. The “deferred compensation” Sanko received is just part of his retirement deal. When Sanko reaches 60 he’ll be entitled to pension payments of $18,000 a year – for his five years of service here.

    The editorial points out that Dem Bucks County Supervisor Diane Marseglia has quite rightly said that a deal should not be signed for a new supervisor unless the compensation for this individual is held up for public scrutiny.

    Well, given that Director of Finance and Administration Brian Hessenthaler was promoted yesterday to fill Sanko’s job (supported by all three commissioners, as noted here), I think any hint of controversy has been avoided for the moment at least (Hessenthaler deserves the benefit of the doubt, though I’d be curious to learn more about the other job applicants).

    Oh, and in the story about Hessenthaler’s promotion, we also learn the following…

    Commissioner Jim Cawley said there has been an unfair implication that Sanko’s benefits were concealed, when, in fact, his contract was a public document from the moment he was hired.

    Well, I don’t know where this public document supposedly is. I just spent a few minutes here looking for it, and I’ve come up empty.

    And I’m sure Hessenthaler will represent an improvement over his predecessor, who is recalled not so fondly here.

  • 2) Also, I stumbled across this item in which Fix Noise pokes fun at another Democrat, in this case Harry Reid for not returning a campaign donation from Goldman Sachs (I’m not thrilled about him receiving a donation like that either, though there a lot of corporate malefactors out there besides them; Lloyd Blankfein and his pals are particularly bad, I’ll admit)…

    It’s no secret that politicians constantly travel to Wall Street to raise money from the deep-pocketed financial industry executives. It happens all the time, and the financial crisis didn’t change much. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-CT, recently reiterated that this is a good reason to enact public financing of campaigns!

    I assume that the nameless individual behind this commentary doesn’t fancy the idea of public campaign financing, hence the exclamation point. However, the following should be noted in response (here, from January)…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — About 40 current and former corporate executives have a message for Congress: Quit hitting us up for campaign cash.

    In a letter to Congressional leaders on Friday, the executives urged Congress to approve public financing for House and Senate campaigns. They sent the letter a day after the Supreme Court struck down limits on corporate spending in elections.

    “Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors,” the letter said. “And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the court’s decision, the fund-raising pressure on members of Congress will only increase.”

    The companies represented by the executives who signed the letter include Playboy Enterprises, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, the Seagram’s liquor company, the toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines, Men’s Wearhouse, the Quaker Chemical Corporation, the Brita Products Company, San Diego National Bank, MetLife and Crate and Barrel.

    They sent the letter through Fair Elections Now, a coalition of good-government groups that has long lobbied Congress to pass legislation establishing public campaign financing.

    This also takes you to a site where you can learn more about public campaign financing, including an interactive map to find out what your state has done on this important issue.

    You want to get rid of the Michele Bachmanns, Jim Inhofes, Steve Kings and Louie Gohmerts out there, people? Limit the election cycle to 30 days, keep the corporate money out of it (tough, because a lot of people make a lot of dough out of this stuff, including the broadcast networks), and force these people to run on their accomplishments, or lack thereof (my grand and glorious plan also depends on an informed electorate, though, I realize).

    And if you think they look silly now…

  • 3) Finally, we recently observed the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, but we’re also a week beyond the third anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. And with that in mind, I give you the following USA Today story from last December…

    Administrative buildings began shutting down nearly 90 minutes before the first campuswide alert about the April 2007 shootings that eventually left 32 students and teachers dead.

    According to the report, two unidentified university officials notified their own family members of the first shootings more than an hour before the first alert was issued at 9:26 a.m., April 16.

    Campus trash collection was even canceled 21 minutes before students and teachers were warned.

    One of the two officials also alerted a colleague in Richmond more than 30 minutes before the campuswide alert but cautioned the colleague “to make sure (the information) doesn’t get out” because the university had not made an official announcement.

    The first warning came more than two hours after the first shootings and 14 minutes before Seung Hui Cho continued the rampage in a classroom building where some students were shot at their desks in the most deadly campus shooting in U.S. history.

    “What happened at Virginia Tech is by its very nature inexplicable, and we may never fully understand the tragic events that transpired that terrible day,” (former Governor Tim) Kaine said in a written statement Friday. “However, the Commonwealth has remained committed to providing as accurate a factual narrative as possible.”

    After reading this account, I have a question; why isn’t a grand jury looking into this (I’ve looked around and found no news story on that)?

    Why was campus trash collection, for example, halted before the entire campus was notified that a shooter was on the premises (allegedly)?

    Oh, I forgot – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is too busy suing over health care reform as part of burnishing his conservative bona fides (as noted here) to do the job he was tasked to do by Governor Bob McDonnell (who isn’t far behind him in the winguttery brigade).

    I have no doubt that Virginia Tech is, among other things, a wonderful community of individuals of all kinds of ethnicities, life experiences and skills. And it is a tribute to the talent and resiliency of the school’s students, faculty and other personnel that it has come back from one of the darkest experiences surely that any institution of learning could imagine.

    And that makes it even more of an almost unspeakable travesty that the shootings that very nearly tore it apart have not been investigated as fully as possible as part of every effort to ensure they never occur again.

  • Update 5/25/10: More bang-‘em-up pro-gun antics from McDonnell – somehow, I’m sure he knew what he was doing by allowing the name of the non-existent group here.

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    More Monday Economic Harwood Hackery

    March 8, 2010


    John Harwood of the New York Times really served up the laffs in this “Caucus” column today…

    For President Obama and Congressional Democrats, public opinion this past year has mostly gone in the wrong direction — on his job performance, on health care and economic stimulus, on midterm elections.

    It’s interesting to me that Harwood would say that, given this poll that appeared in his own newspaper last month saying that those surveyed still trusted Obama over Republicans, though three-quarters of those surveyed said they disapproved of Congress, the highest percentage since the survey started in 1977 (often, though, this is a case where the institution is vilified, though those surveyed often hold a more favorable opinion of their legislators).

    Harwood also tells us the following…

    Three-fifths of Americans supported tougher regulation of Wall Street in April 2009, according to Pew Research Center polling. Despite rising disaffection with government, three fifths still supported it last month.

    Of course, heaven forbid that Harwood would actually cite a number to support his claim of “rising disaffection with government.”

    Also, when it comes to the possibility of a financial regulation bill from the Senate…

    The ranking Banking Committee Republican, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, has returned to discussions with (Sen. Chris) Dodd, after earlier reaching an impasse and watching his junior colleague, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, step up as Mr. Dodd’s Republican interlocutor.

    I don’t really have a criticism of Harwood on this item, but I just wanted to point out the following concerning Dodd’s “interlocutor” (here).

    And Harwood gives us a real whopper near the end…

    …financial regulation gives Democrats a rare opportunity to tap the Tea Party populism that Republicans have exploited on health care.

    If Harwood thinks any Democrat whatsoever can achieve common cause with those uninformed, Obama-hating, conspiracy-theory-crazed, primarily white, middle-aged fools wearing their funny hats and carrying their detestable signs, then he must be taking hallucinogenic drugs.


    Another “Short Ride” On Health Care From Holy Joe

    August 24, 2009

    tv_7sep05_Joe-Lieberman_I guess it had been waay too long since what passes for our political discourse was fouled once more by the whining, sniveling sanctimony of the “Independent Democratic” U.S. Senator from Connecticut, but alas, The Last Honest Man was granted a forum to pontificate on one of the Sunday morning gab fests, and he did so, true to form (here)…

    “Great changes in our country often have come in steps. The Civil Rights movement occurred, changes occurred in steps,” he argued. Lieberman added that Congress should address the nearly 50 million uninsured at some point down the road:

    LIEBERMAN: Morally, everyone of us would like to cover every American with health insurance but that’s where you spend most of the trillion dollars plus, or a little less that is estimated, the estimate said this health care plan will cost. And I’m afraid we’ve got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy is out of recession. There’s no reason we have to do it all now.

    As you can read from healthreform.gov here, what follows are issues pertaining to health care in Connecticut and how the Obama Administration is trying to help address them (of course, it would be nice if DINO Joe felt compelled to actually do something about this also)…

  • Right now, providers in Connecticut lose over $383 million in bad debt which often gets passed along to families in the form of a hidden premium “tax”.1 Health insurance reform will tackle this financial burden by improving our health care system and covering the uninsured, allowing the 34 hospitals2 and the 15,257 physicians3 in Connecticut to better care for their patients.
  • Premiums for residents of Connecticut have risen 98% since 2000.4 Through health insurance reform, 274,200 to 332,600 middle class Connecticut residents will be eligible for premium credits to ease the burden of these high costs.5
  • 56,659 employers in Connecticut are small businesses.6 With tax credits and a health insurance exchange where they can shop for health plans, insurance coverage will become more affordable for them.
  • Under health insurance reform, insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive. Insurance companies will also have to abide by yearly limits on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses, helping 36,400 households in Connecticut struggling under the burden of high health care expenses.7
  • There’s a host of other good information available from the healthreform.gov site for all fifty states; just click on the interactive map for more information.

    And by the way, I’m having a hard time trying to stomach this particular moment of sanctimony from Lieberman seeing as how he chose to try and establish a false equivalency here with the civil rights movement…I would say that Lieberman left those days behind long ago (here is a rather shameful chronology, and I really didn’t care much one way or the other in the matter of actor Alec Baldwin contemplating a run against Lieberman, as noted here).

    But as we know, this is par for the course when it comes to a guy who was on the short list for VP with John McCain at the head of the ticket last year (here – at least Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin was a whole lot more entertaining) and who supported the right of hospitals not to provide contraceptives for rape victims because “In Connecticut, it shouldn’t take more than a short ride to get to another hospital,” as noted here.

    I know Chris Dodd (Connecticut’s other U.S. Senator, of course) is a bit too cozy with some bigwigs in the financial services racket, but as far as I’m concerned, there are a multitude of other reasons to support him; it’s beyond pathetic to me that Lieberman faces better election prospects than the “Nutmeg State’s“ legitimate Democratic senator.


    McBush’s Feeble Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Attack

    September 19, 2008

    Never one to miss an opportunity to make political hay out of a catastrophe, John W. McBush tells us the following today (here, from the National Review Online)…

    Two years ago, I called for reform of this corruption at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Congress did nothing. The Administration did nothing. Senator Obama did nothing, and actually profited from this system of abuse and scandal. While Fannie and Freddie were working to keep Congress away from their house of cards, Senator Obama was taking their money. He got more, in fact, than any other member of Congress, except for the Democratic chairmen of the committee that oversees them. And while Fannie Mae was betraying the public trust, somehow its former CEO had managed to gain my opponent’s trust to the point that Senator Obama actually put him in charge of his vice presidential search.

    This CEO, Mr. Johnson, walked off with tens of millions of dollars in salary and bonuses for services rendered to Fannie Mae, even after authorities discovered accounting improprieties that padded his compensation. Another CEO for Fannie Mae, Mr. Raines, has been advising Senator Obama on housing policy. This even after Fannie Mae was found to have committed quote “extensive financial fraud” under his leadership. Like Mr. Johnson, Mr. Raines walked away with tens of millions of dollars.

    The former Fannie Mae CEO is Jim Johnson, who resigned as head of Obama’s vice presidential search team after it was revealed that he got a sweetheart deal on a mortgage from Countrywide Financial (as McBush acknowledges). And I believe McBush is also correct, amazingly enough, about Obama ranking #2 in donations, with Chris Dodd at #1 (and how is that an issue anyway? Is McBush serious about alleging corporate influence in the Obama campaign? Just how many lobbyists work for McBush at this point anyway, about a thousand??!!).

    And by the way, former Fannie Mae chairman Frank Raines has issued the following statement in response: “I am not an advisor to Barack Obama, nor have I provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matters.”

    All of this is corroborated by Time’s Swampland reporter Karen Tumulty here, in her story about McBush’s latest vile campaign ad, implying some nefarious activity between Obama and Raines while an elderly white woman appears distressed and vulnerable.

    Of course, if McBush had been interested in accuracy, as Tumulty reports, it could have shown Obama and Johnson, but it didn’t because Johnson is white and Raines is black, and what McBush is going for is a racial smear as opposed to a legitimate shot over Johnson’s role in the Obama campaign.

    And I’m not going to bother researching how much money Johnson and Raines got for “walking away” (though, as you can read here, being told by a company to go away and receiving way too much damn money to do so is a familiar scenario for at least one senior McBush adviser).

    Instead, I want to take note of this “call for reform of the corruption” that McBush is talking about (and actually, it was over three and a half years ago, not two – also, has anyone noticed besides me how McBush flails away at everyone in sight when he has a hissy fit? Otherwise, why on earth would he blame “the administration”?).

    This takes you to information on S. 190, the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005 (and as you can see, the sponsor of the bill was Senator Chuck Hagel, though McBush was a co-sponsor). It was introduced on January 26, 2005.

    Pop quiz: which Congress was in session at that time? The current 110th Democratic congress? The 108th?

    Nope – it was the utterly-beyond-useless 109th, my friends (as it states on the linked page).

    The fact that this bill was introduced but never scheduled for debate isn’t the fault of the Democrats. Hell, it isn’t even Dubya’s fault, for a change.

    It’s the fault of the ReThuglican Congress that never bothered to move it along! And they could have done so easily since they, being the majority party, ran all the committees! Blame then-Majority Leader Bill “Cat Killer” Frist for never scheduling a debate over it!

    Using allegations of malfeasance against your opponent to launch sickening racial attacks is no more going to solve this mess than it will win the election for you (and by the way, Hunter at The Daily Kos has some similar concerns here also – and if you think this latest stunt is going to improve these numbers, McBush, you’re crazier than I thought).

    Update: “As we have done” indeed.


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