Friday Mashup (2/14/14)

February 14, 2014
  • This story hits me where I live.

    If it had not been for the winter weather, I very well may have been involved in this disaster in the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I chose not to travel that route today).

    What matters most, of course, is immediate medical attention to the victims, which is currently underway of course. What matters beyond that is somehow allowing everyone trapped on the highway to get out as safely as possible (with their vehicles intact, or, short of that, with their vehicles salvaged somehow). And then, the roadway needs to be cleaned up to the fullest extent possible, of course.

    But at some future point, when everyone involved is OK (hopefully), I want SOMEBODY to ask this question (preferably a politician – put them to work doing something constructive):

    Why the hell is there STILL no light rail, mass transit alternative from Bucks County near the New Jersey/Trenton area to the western PA suburbs and Chester County in particular?

    Yes, I know – NIMBY. But as far as I’m concerned, that was never a good enough explanation. And it DEFINITELY isn’t a good enough explanation in light of this massive chain accident today.

    Commuter trains run near where we live (the R-3 West Trenton line in particular). It’s no big deal – you barely hear them (can’t say the same for the CSX freight trains, which are a whole other story). And they are clean, relatively speaking. There’s no reason why at least one commuter line cannot run from Bucks through Montgomery to Chester County (or even beyond). No, I don’t have any recent data on this, but I don’t know of a circumstance where a mass transit alternative was offered versus negotiating a congested thoroughfare, and that alternative was ignored.

    The time has long since passed for this discussion to be settled once and for all. If anything positive whatsoever can come of this horror today, then let this be it.

    Update 2/15/14: I apologize for being a bit unclear about something – when I’m talking about mass transit from Bucks to Chester counties, I mean that for both directions.

  • And as noted herewow, so Smerky has graduated to the higher (?) ranks of the pundit class now that he has been absorbed by “The Most Trusted Name in News.”

    I think this calls for a brief retrospective of some of his “highlights”:

  • As noted here, he once complained that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels felt that he had to drop out of consideration for the 2012 Repug presidential nomination because of too much scrutiny of Daniels’ personal life, even though our intrepid Philadelphia Inquirer columnist had no qualms about going after former Dem presidential candidate John Edwards.
  • He came out in defense of saner schedules and more rest for air traffic controllers, which is good, without noting of course that the Teahadists in the U.S. House sought to cut the budget of the FAA (here – third bullet).
  • He criticized the de facto discrimination against the jobless in hiring, though he basically said that there’s nothing that the federal government should be able to do about it (here – typical).
  • He once heckled Roger Waters of Pink Floyd for supporting the Palestinians here, and was actually quite proud of his behavior (Smerky, I mean).
  • He tried to mythologize The Sainted Ronnie R here (third bullet), criticizing Obama for criticizing the Supremes over Citizens United, saying Ronnie didn’t do that on Roe v. Wade (no, not much – he just created that stupid “Mexico City” policy to go with his criticism, that’s all).
  • He compared Arianna Huffington to a hooker outing a john here (nice).
  • I will admit that Smerky is cagey enough to know he has to take a page, as it were, from the book of someone like Joe Scarborough, who pretends to be sensible amidst spouting his full-on wingnuttery, particularly over the Clintons.

    So I guess congratulations are in order to Smerky for playing the typical corporate media game and ensconcing himself to an undeserved position of influence (though I guess he also deserves points for honesty based on this).

    And once again, I am compelled to ask the question…this is CNN?

  • Next (and speaking of wingnuttery), you can always rely on more bilious right-wing propaganda from Cal Thomas, and he delivers more of it here (from clownhall.com)…

    In 1976, Jimmy Carter promised never to lie to us, a promise that rested on a perception of his own virtue. Given his sad record, the country might have willingly exchanged veracity for competence.

    Interesting that Thomas would say that now even though he once complimented Carter on the former president’s “worship experience” here (and as noted here, he has a rather infamous track record at proclaiming “doom and gloom” over alleged “values” issue anyway).

  • Further, I give you the following from Repug U.S. House Rep Ted Poe via Fix Noise here

    (The) NSA argues that its employees only carry out the actions necessary to find terrorists and protect our country. They have even claimed that terrorist attacks have been prevented as a result of their actions.

    If this is true, those success stories should be made public. At a Judiciary Committee hearing last week, I asked Deputy Attorney General James Cole how many criminal cases have been filed as a result of this massive spying operation.

    His answer? Maybe one. And he wasn’t even 100% sure of that.

    That’s right, the NSA has launched one of the largest data collection programs in U.S. history that monitors who we call, how long we talk to them, who they called, and where our calls were made from, all in order to “maybe” catch one bad guy.

    In any event, the ends do not justify the means. NSA has trampled on the Fourth Amendment rights of millions of Americans.

    It’s funny in a way that Poe mentions the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution when you consider the following; as noted here, the USA Patriot Act…

    violates the Fourth Amendment, which says the government cannot conduct a search without obtaining a warrant and showing probable cause to believe that the person has committed or will commit a crime.

    Violates the Fourth Amendment by failing to provide notice – even after the fact – to persons whose privacy has been compromised. Notice is also a key element of due process, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

    Under the Patriot Act PR/TT orders issued by a judge are no longer valid only in that judge’s jurisdiction, but can be made valid anywhere in the United States. This “nationwide service” further marginalizes the role of the judiciary, because a judge cannot meaningfully monitor the extent to which his or her order is being used. In addition, this provision authorizes the equivalent of a blank warrant: the court issues the order, and the law enforcement agent fills in the places to be searched. That is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment’s explicit requirement that warrants be written “particularly describing the place to be searched.”

    And who voted to renew the Patriot Act three years ago? Why, Ted Poe, as noted here (other idiocy with Poe can be found here…he’s #39 on the list – Poe also opposed the census here; second bullet).

  • Continuing, I came across the following item that made my jaw drop (here)…

    Ask this question to almost anyone, and the resounding answer will be something like: “Yes! It is the American Way. ‘One person, one vote’ is the cornerstone of democracy.”

    True, but interesting in light of this from yet another elitist scumbag (but I digress)…

    Just how deep this sentiment runs can be seen in the recent protests against policies requiring all voters to first produce a photo ID. The protesters seem to feel that any restriction on the unimpeded access to voting undermines our very democracy.

    I support voter ID laws. Without them, a single person could theoretically cast many votes during one Election Day by going to different polling stations; the fraud potential is enormous. If there are people too poor to procure an ID, the small amount of money needed for this purpose should be provided, either by government or private charities.

    Even by the admittedly lame standards of The Daily Tucker, the stoo-pid with this one was thick enough that it could be cut only with a hack saw.

    The author of this column is someone named D.B. Ganz, who apparently wrote something called Uncommon Sense and is published at a site called The Blaze. Since he shows no apparent knowledge of how one votes in this country based on his commentary, please allow me to provide the following information.

    I reside in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (not news I guess considering what I said earlier about the Turnpike), so when I registered to vote, I did so at the Bucks County Court House in Doylestown. Of course, I could have picked up a voter registration application elsewhere or even online, completed it, and mailed it in (or pressed a button and sent it into cyberspace). On the application, it is necessary to enter your basic demographic information, including your address.

    I honestly don’t remember how I found out where my polling location was; I could easily have accessed the Board of Elections link from buckscounty.org and done a bit of searching to find out where it is, or I could have called someone (maybe we were notified by mail?). What matters is that, when I found out where my polling location was (and I go to vote on Election Day or Primary Day), I notify a worker and they check my information to see if I am in their book. I sign the book on the line next to my name and demographic information after checking my info; of course, they now ask me for a voter ID, which they don’t enforce yet (I can provide a driver’s license, so it’s no big deal, even though I object to voter ID in principle of course).

    Here is my point (took awhile to get there, I know) – I cannot just vote anywhere I want! I have to vote in the area where I live and where I am registered to do so (to prevent to supposed rampant “voter fraud” that the Repugs profess to hate). So that proves that Ganz doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    I actually grew a little curious about Ganz, so I read up on him and found another column where he said that supporting health care reform was “short sighted and cruel,” or something. Which I thought was a really curious observation, seeing that Ganz is, “a long-time student of ancient Jewish texts, primarily the Talmud,” and Israel has universal health care with an individual mandate, as noted here.

  • Finally, and in observance of the recent 205th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, former Bushie Glenn Hubbard tells us the following here

    What would a mobility-enhancing agenda for today propose? A dynamic economy requires support for innovation, market expansion, and entrepreneurial risk-taking. “I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable,” Lincoln said. Higher federal spending on basic research, trade-promotion authority, and business-tax reform to reduce marginal tax rates on income from business investments are important.

    Republicans should not be timid here. Lincoln was not: He expanded land ownership (the Homestead Act of 1862), access to higher education (the Morrill Act of 1862, with support for land-grant colleges across the states), and the scale and scope of commerce and trade (the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, which supported the transcontinental railroad).

    Lincoln’s crusade for economic development was a lifetime political agenda. Just as the opportunity agenda he championed is much bolder than many conservatives appear willing to propose today, he was much less mired in emphasizing inequality than today’s Left. “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good,” he said. “[But] while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

    Fair enough (aside from the “ooga booga” nonsense about “today’s Left”), but let’s let the following also be known about our 16th president – as noted here, Lincoln definitely fought income inequality, particularly when it profited the banks (though he was once a lawyer for railroad companies also, which wasn’t in any way illegal I realize). And in opposition, Hubbard has called for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit – that’s nice, but that, along with food stamps, housing allowances, heating assistance and Medicaid, have turned into welfare for corporations, subsidized by the taxpayers of course, as noted here.

    And on the subject of labor and capital, please allow me to quote President Lincoln once more (here)…

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

    I would also like to point out the following about Lincoln (from “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, pg. 104)…

    Lincoln’s abhorrence to hurting another was born of more than simple compassion. He possessed extraordinary empathy – the gift or curse of putting himself in the place of another, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires. The philosopher Adam Smith described this faculty: “By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation…we enter as it were into his body and become in some measure him.” This capacity Smith saw as “the source of our fellow-feeling for the misery of others…by changing places in fancy with the sufferer…we come either to conceive or to be affected by what he feels.” In a world environed by cruelty and injustice, Lincoln’s remarkable empathy was inevitably a source of pain. His sensibilities were not only acute, they were raw. “With his wealth of sympathy, his conscience, and his unflinching sense of justice, he was predestined to sorrow,” observed Helen Nicolay, whose father would become Lincoln’s private secretary.

    Though Lincoln’s empathy was at the root of his melancholy, it would prove an enormous asset to his political career. “His crowning gift of political diagnosis,” suggested Nicolay, “was due to his sympathy…which gave him the power to forecast with uncanny accuracy what his opponents were likely to do.” She described how, after listening to his colleagues talk at a Whig Party caucus, Lincoln would cast off his shawl, rise from his chair, and say: “From your talk, I gather the Democrats will do so and so…I should do so and so to checkmate them.” He proceeded to outline all “the moves for days ahead; making them all so plain that his listeners wondered why they had not seen it that way themselves.” Such capacity to intuit the inner feelings and intentions of others would be manifest throughout his career.

    And based on this signature moment from Hubbard, I would say that he has a thing or two to learn in the empathy department.

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    Monday Mashup (8/27/12)

    August 27, 2012
  • Oh noes! According to Fix Noise, it looks like those baaad Democrats are at it again (here)…

    Tropical Storm Isaac isn’t the only force threatening to rain on the Republican National Convention next week.

    Democrats are planning to break from the tradition of keeping a low profile during the rival party’s convention, dispatching Vice President Biden to the host city and putting other A-list surrogates on the campaign trail to perhaps steal some of the spotlight.

    This tells us that, though Biden had changed his anticipated travel plans to Tampa, he decided to cancel them altogether in light of Tropical Storm Isaac.

    Also, I don’t know what this double-secret unwritten rule about the other party supposedly lying low or something during the other party’s convention is all about.

    Well, maybe I should clarify that a bit; the Repugs did indeed keep a low profile during the 2004 Democratic Party Convention in which the Kerry/Edwards ticket was nominated (as I recall), but as noted here, that didn’t mean that they weren’t busy gathering material to attack the Democratic ticket (and let’s not forget that the 2004 smear-fest included the disgusting mockery of Kerry’s purple heart citations, as noted here, with that imbecile from Texas with the Band-Aid on her chin forever enshrined as one of the worst practitioners).

    And as noted here, Patrick Buchanan put together a fairly detailed blueprint to help the Nixon White House spy on the Democrats during their convention in 1972 (and as noted here, Willard Mitt himself was responsible for mischief in Maine, co-starring the odious Ben Ginsberg of Florida 2000 infamy, and here in Nevada during the recent primary season).

    As long as I’m on the subject, though, this provides some links to convention-related material (including the Repugs outlawing abortion under any circumstances as one of the “planks” in their platform, as noted here – a shame some of these nitwits can’t be hit over the head with it), and this provides a bit of a lesson in unintended consequences (seriously, I hope no one gets hurt from that or weather-related misery).


    And I think it’s waay beyond hilarious that Willard Mitt Romney and his people won’t even allow this guy the chance to speak a single word.

  • Next, this tells us the following…

    Three Republican Federal Election Commissioners have found that unions or corporations can compel employees to campaign for political candidates in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

    In a Statement of Reasons memorandum signed on August 21, 2012, the commissioners contend that the United Public Workers union (UPW) was within its legal right to require employees to “provide support for Hawaii Fist Congressional District candidate Colleen Hanabusa’s candidacy in a special congressional election on May 22, 2010.” The case stemmed from a complaint in which two employees alleged that they were fired after refusing “to comply with a UPW request to sign-wave, phone bank, canvass, and contribute to Hanabusa’s campaign.” The GOP commissioners found that current law and regulations do not prohibit employers from requiring participation…

    Maybe I’m supposed to say this is OK because Hanabusa is a Democrat, but there’s a larger principle involved here; namely, it is that no union or corporate entity should have the legal right to compel anyone on its membership or payroll to vote in a way that is in opposition to their interests or political opinion.

    The three commissioners who said what the UPW did was OK, by the way, are Caroline C. Hunter, Donald F. McGahn II and Matthew S. Petersen. And is it any surprise at all that all three were nominated by George W. Bush?

    And as you might expect, this isn’t the first time that the FEC commissioners in question have run afoul on the issue of free speech, IMHO. Here, Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 criticized Hunter and Petersen for voting not to pursue an investigation against the so-called Economic Freedom Fund. Wertheimer and the Campaign Legal Center alleged that the EFF, a 527 group, “violated the law by failing to register as a political committee and failing to abide by the disclosure requirements and contribution limits that apply to such committees, notwithstanding EFF’s extensive election-related activities immediately prior to the 2006 election.”

    In addition, CREW alleged here that McGahn, Petersen and Hunter were “working in concert with Republican campaign finance attorneys and outside groups to undermine election laws and thwart enforcement of what laws remain after the Citizens United decision.”

    And as noted here

    In April, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked the FEC to close the loophole (by which the identities of Super PAC donors did not have to be identified) for “independent expenditures” (versus “political” expenditures) and filed a lawsuit challenging the loophole for “electioneering communications.”

    Last month the six FEC commissioners killed — on a 3-3 vote — a motion to begin consideration of Van Hollen’s suggestions. By law, the agency may have only three members of any political party. By tradition, the president chooses three commissioners and the other party’s Senate leader chooses three. The three Republican appointees — Commissioners Caroline Hunter, Donald McGahn II and Matthew Petersen — were the three “no” votes. The same trio also made headlines last month when they took the view that even coordination between Super PACs and candidates might not qualify as coordination between Super PACs and candidates.

    The lawsuit is still pending.

    Because of these loopholes, virtually none of the funders behind the Super PAC attack ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will be disclosed until well after the voters there have cast their ballots. And the funders behind 501(c)(4) attack ads may never be known.

    So while it was the Supreme Court’s majority that opened the floodgates for corporate money in our elections, it is the deadlocked FEC that is keeping voters from even knowing where that money comes from.


    Someday, the legacy of this assclown will truly be dead, buried, and long forgotten. And that day can’t come soon enough.

  • Finally, I thought Mr. Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv-Behind-His-Back made a startling revelation here

    Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) began resurrecting some of President Obama’s most famous gaffes on the campaign trail Tuesday, reminding a crowd assembled at a Pennsylvania steel plant of the president’s remark four years ago that some voters are “clinging to their guns and religion.”

    “Remember this other time when he said people want to cling to their guns and religion?” Ryan said. “Hey, I’m a Catholic deer hunter, I’m happy to be clinging to my guns and religion.”

    Ryan has repeatedly cited his Catholic faith while campaigning in swing states in recent days.

    Well, putting aside this concerning Ryan and how he allegedly practices his “faith,” as noted here, I’m beginning to wonder now if what Obama originally said was a “gaffe” after all.

    I mean, Ryan just validated Obama’s point, didn’t he?

    Does that mean that we’ll now hear an apology from William Kristol and John McCain for their allegations of Obama’s supposed elitism for stating what is plainly obvious (and what Ryan, in a rare moment of candor for him, just admitted – noted here)? Or an apology from Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, George Will, Kevin Ferris or J.D. Mullane, among many others (with the latter claiming that Obama expressed “bigotry” in his remarks, as noted here)?

    Or from “Joe Scar,” as noted here?

    (Yes, I know – cue the sound of crickets…)

    In ’08, then-candidate Obama stepped on a “third rail,” if you will, because, as an African American politician (and, Heaven forbid, a Democrat), you just aren’t supposed to talk about “cultural” issues affecting white people. You…just…aren’t.

    Given this, it is a tribute to his consummate political skill (as well as the craven cluelessness of his opposition) that he was subsequently elected to anything whatsoever.


  • Thursday Mashup (6/14/12)

    June 15, 2012
  • So the Federal Election Commission is going after Former Senator “Wide Stance,” huh (here).

    Here is my question: why not the Department of Justice?

    As TPM tells us…

    The case stems from the Idaho Republican’s embarrassing 2007 arrest by an undercover cop in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom stall. The cop said Craig made sexual advances toward him by tapping his feet under the stall divider.

    The senator quietly pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct three months later. But after his case hit the media, Craig reversed himself and hired a team of attorneys to get his guilty plea thrown out.

    On Monday, the FEC alleged that Craig used campaign donations from supporters as his own personal piggy bank to try to reverse his plea. The commission said he paid $139,952 to the Washington, D.C. law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan and another $77,032 to the Minneapolis firm of Kelly & Jacobson.

    “These legal costs were not made in connection with his campaign for federal office or for any ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in his connection with his duties as Senator,” FEC lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

    Sooo…Craig will not have to undergo the criminal prosecution meted out to another disgraced former Senator?

    Craig won’t be called “a cheating, lying, disgraceful, husband…and human being,” as a certain ex-North Carolina senator was here?

    Why not? Is it because John Edwards was accused of squirreling away $1 million in campaign funds for Rielle Hunter and the baby he fathered with her, and Craig is accused of using only about $200,000 of his campaign funds for his self defense?

    Really, do the dollar amounts matter? If that’s all that determines whether or not someone rich and powerful is prosecuted in this country for alleged illegality, then we’re worse off than I thought.

    No, this just confirms that the John Edwards trial had very little to do with matters of law. However, it had everything to do with trying to create salacious headlines and “news” tidbits about a photogenic individual guilty of admittedly seamy conduct in an attempt to manufacture a guilty verdict that lawyers for the Department of Justice, due to lack of evidence or incompetence, could not actually win on their own. And I’d really like to hear someone try to explain why Larry Craig should not be prosecuted in a similar manner (maybe because Craig looks like your granddad after too many highballs and the notion of sex with men in bathrooms is too icky for Eric Holder, and he’d like to keep it out of the headlines any way possible?).

    God Bless America.

  • Also, this item is a bit “off the beaten track” for me, but I feel like I should respond anyway (never stopped me before :-))…

    Making good on its threat, the new leadership of the Philly Pops filed a motion Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking to end the organization’s relationship with Peter Nero, its music director of 33 years.

    Nero’s contract, the Pops said in its filing, is “simply too economically burdensome.” The Pops “can no longer afford to compensate Nero at the levels provided for in the employment agreement while simultaneously hoping to continue its existence in the future.”

    The Pops has begun the search for a replacement for Nero for the 2012-13 season – even as tickets have already been sold for concerts billed as being led by Nero – and will import guest conductors for lower fees, the filing states. The motion requests an expedited hearing in court, with a rejection of the contract by June 30.

    Nero is fighting the move.

    “We don’t think it’s Peter that needs to go, but the board that needs to go,” said Nero’s lawyer, Albert A. Ciardi 3d. Ciardi said he had only briefly looked at the motion, but was preparing a strategy that would keep “Nero performing with the Pops. We don’t believe they have a very good business justification for doing this.

    “Peter is the Pops, and the Pops is Peter.”

    If successful, the rejection would end an institutional personification that has been Philadelphia’s answer to other rarefied pops partnerships such as Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops and Erich Kunzel’s Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Nero has characterized the move as a “takeover attempt” of the ensemble he has led since its founding in 1979 by impresario Moe Septee.

    The move to oust Nero, 78, comes after an unsuccessful attempt to renegotiate his contract in the middle of its term. The Pops has sought to impose a 40 percent pay cut on Nero, whose most recent annual compensation was $513,000, according to Frank Giordano, the Pops’ president and chief executive. Nero has disputed that figure, saying it included office space, storage, transportation, and other expenses related to his job as both conductor and the artistic chief.

    The effort is being led by Giordano, who started as a volunteer before beginning to pay himself a $1,000-per-week salary in January.

    How noble on Giordano’s part, until you read the following later in the story…

    One solution, which (Walter D. Cohen, chairman of the board overseeing Philly Pops) said he argued for at the board meeting, would be delaying the hiring of a new chief operating officer to save money. Giordano has prepared a budget for next season that calls for hiring that additional administrator, plus raising his own salary to $91,000 a year. Cohen called that “a problem.”

    Uh, yeah – I would say that a raise for the COB of about 910 percent while this same person cries poor mouth over the compensation owed to Philly Pops’ most recognizable talent constitutes “a problem” also.

    For another point of view on this, I give you the following from here (concerning the original bankruptcy filing by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association in a story dated from May 2011…it should be noted that the Pops is in bankruptcy as a result of formerly being part of the Association)…

    The Philadelphia Orchestra is not insolvent and it is nowhere near insolvent. According to its IRS filing, it ended Fiscal 2009 with an endowment of over $129,000,000 (down from $143,580,000 the year before) and this sum is more than three times its liabilities as of the filing date of the Chapter 11 proceeding. To the extent that there is a genuine problem it is cash flow. A cash flow crunch, and a nasty desire to stick it to the musicians who make the music which is the alpha and omega of the orchestra’s reason for being is what’s motivating this bankruptcy filing…

    The 700 pound gorilla in the room is the Orchestra Association’s obligation to the musician’s pension fund. This was an obligation it negotiated and now wishes to go back on. In common parlance (and at the risk of insulting Bryn Terfel) it wishes to welch on its debt. The orchestra argues “this is worse than it appears.” And indeed it is, but not in the way the orchestra claims.

    Management no longer wishes to have any part of the agreement it solemnly entered into. The pension obligation is roughly $3,000,000 per year, and if it withdraws from its obligation it is contractually committed to make a one-time $25,000,000 payment to the pension fund. The Orchestra Association argues on the one hand that by welching on this and other debts it can save $40,000,000 over five years. This is fascinating in that management’s last audited financial statement estimated pension costs over the next five years at $16,340,000. It is little wonder that the musicians’ union does not believe the Philadelphia Orchestra Association’s numbers since they are simply made up.

    Worse, years ago the Orchestra Association went to the musicians and in effect said “Look, we have a cash crunch. Please allow us to issue an IOU to the pension fund instead of cutting a check.” The union agreed and a series of memoranda of understanding were entered into, creating an unfunded pension liability. That accrued pension liability, which was $18,984,000 at the end of FY 2009, was $22,895,000 at the end of FY 2010 according to the Orchestra Association’s audited statement. So if I am reading this right, the orchestra is in the hole to the pension fund to the tune of $22,895,000 as of the end of FY 2010 and, if it opts out of the agreement, it owes another $25,000,000 on top of that (instead of $3,000,000 or so per year going forward). It is this debt that the Orchestra Association wants the Bankruptcy Court to say may be skipped out on. In fact, it was the short-sighted, greedy decision by the Orchestra Association to try to avoid this debt that motivated the bankruptcy filing. The musicians bailed the Orchestra Association out by accepting $22,895,000 in IOUs instead of cash on the barrel-head and this is the thanks it gets. Sort of restores your faith in human gratitude, doesn’t it Mr. Scrooge?

    The lesson for any group covered by a pension plan when the non-sovereign employer (that is, an employer not possessed of the power to lay and collect taxes) says “We need to create an unfunded liability due to our cash situation” is “Absolutely not unless you bond the obligation.” One assumes that the musicians’ union will know for next time.

    Of course, throughout all of this the orchestra members have done 100% of what they were contractually obligated to do: Play music to the best of their estimable, world-class abilities. The Orchestra Association had 100% of their effort and 100% of their skill, on time and in the manner required. The Orchestra Association responded to this by providing zero good faith and zero professional competence.

    Oh, and by the way, it looks like the Orchestra Association also exceeded its limits on “fees and expenses for public relations during the past 15 months as it worked its way through the Chapter 11 process,” as Peter Dobrin of the Inquirer reports here (in addition to his coverage on the Peter Nero story).

    And who was one of the beneficiaries when the limits were exceeded?


    Brian Communications, that’s who (a PR company founded by the former head of the Inquirer and Daily News, which is expected to be paid $780,000 through the end of the bankruptcy process, according to a forecast provided to The Inquirer).

    Sooo…$780,000 in PR for Tierney is OK, but $513,000 for a world renowned talent like Peter Nero is a problem.

    Tell you what – how about if they take some of Tierney’s dough, use it to “comp” Nero the amount the Board doesn’t want to pay, and if Tierney still wants the money he’s owed, he can earn it cleaning the mouthpieces of the woodwinds and the brass instruments, and maybe tidying up in the orchestra pit at the Kimmel too.

  • Finally, turning to our backyard, I haven’t said anything about the PA State House race in the 31st district between incumbent Dem Steve Santarsiero and Repug challenger Anne Chapman, so please allow me to do so here.

    As noted in this story from a couple of months ago…

    “I believe that my campaign message resonated with the voters who are tired of the burdensome taxes, the waste in government and the piling up our debt,” Chapman said in an interview with BucksLocalNews.com.

    Spoken like a card-carrying member of the bunch that ran up the debt in the first place – continuing…

    She lauded her campaign manager Rob Ciervo, a Newtown Township supervisor, for his continued hard work on her behalf during the primary election cycle. She also thanked her donors and the voters who came to the polls and gave their support.

    And for a reminder about “Self” Ciervo, I give you this

    Chapman, a described life-long conservative, entered the race to promote and enact job growing intiatives (sic), reform to save tax dollars and end property taxes. She said that her ideas are met with concrete solutions.

    She said House bills such as the Property Tax Independence Act will eliminate pesky property taxes by providing a “more equitable tax that would be fair to all and based on ability to pay.”

    “The act would fund our schools by an increase in the sales and usage tax of one percent on non-essential items and a less than one percent increase in state income tax, which would fund our schools in a revenue-neutral way and adjust for changes in pupil enrollment,” she explained.

    To her knowledge, she said the act would share the responsibility for funding schools with residents and out-of-staters who visit and use products and services in Pennsylvania.

    Really? As noted in a recent Santarsiero mailer (can’t find an online link yet)…

    The proposal (HB 1776) would raise the personal income tax by 0.94%. So, as an example, for a family with a household income of $100,000, state income taxes would rise by $940.

    Under the bill, the state sales tax would increase from 6% to 7%. Even worse, the bill would expand the sales tax to include many goods and services that are not currently taxed. For example, clothing over $50 would now be taxed at 7%. Moreover, all food and beverages other than some meats, milk, cheese, eggs, produce and certain cereals would be taxed at 7%.

    (Also), individuals and families would have to pay a tax on most legal, accounting, architectural and even parking services, while corporations would be exempt from doing so.

    Despite its authors’ claims, HB 1776 does not eliminate property taxes. Property taxes would still exist for county and municipal services. They also would remain to pay for school debt. The bottom line is that about 30% of your property taxes would remain, in addition to the new taxes listed here.

    And speaking of that, here are items that would be taxed at 7% under HB 1776:

  • Non-prescription medicines
  • Most toiletries
  • Newspapers and Bibles
  • Textbooks (another burden for our students)
  • Candy and gum
  • Services rendered in the construction industry, including home repair and remodeling (which would undoubtedly hurt our already-ailing housing market)
  • Flags of the USA and Pennsylvania (presumably you could buy a flag of a foreign country without paying a tax)
  • Caskets, burial vaults and grave markers/tombstones (a new twist on the “death tax”)
  • And here are services and activities that would be taxed at 7% under HB 1776:

  • Barber/hair styling (what, no tanning beds or yachts, Repugs?)
  • Dry cleaning
  • Pet grooming
  • Veterinary services
  • Sporting events (Phillies, Flyers, Eagles, Sixers, etc.)
  • Golf, tennis, bowling, skiing, fitness, facilities, etc.
  • Theatre, movies, music, dance
  • Museums, parks, zoos, historical sites
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Psychologists services
  • Chiropractors
  • Air and ground transportation
  • Television
  • Waste disposal
  • But wait, there’s more!

    One of the big reasons why our property taxes are high right now is because the state does not adequately fund its share of costs for school districts like Pennsbury and Council Rock (despite a constitutional mandate to do so). To fix that problem, we need to change the formula by which state funding is given to school districts so that we get our fair share.

    Unfortunately, HB 1776 would give the sole authority to decide educational funding to Harrisburg.

    Hey, Simon Campbell and his minions in charge of the Pennsbury School Board may be nuts, but at least they’re our nuts, people!

    If state revenue for all the new taxes mentioned above falls because of a downturn in the economy, our schools will get shortchanged even more than they do already. How does HB 1776 propose to address that problem? It lets school districts impose a new, local Personal Income Tax (on top of any existing local Earned Income Tax and the state Personal Income Tax).

    Under HB 1776, most residents of the Newtown-Yardley area will pay more in taxes. At the same time, we would lose local control over our school boards and the quality of our schools. That is not a good bargain.

    Oh, but Anne Chapman and Rob Ciervo like HB 1776. What could go wrong?

    Only everything.

    Please click here to support Steve for another term, so sanity will prevail in PA-31 for the foreseeable future.


  • Cheesed Off Over A Right-Wing Blogger Whine

    May 11, 2012

    (Get it, “whine” and cheese…never mind.)

    So it looks like someone named Naomi Schaefer Riley is all in a snit over her firing from the Chronicle of Higher Education, because…well, as noted here

    …last week, on the Chronicle’s “Brainstorm” blog (where I was paid to be a regular contributor), I suggested that the dissertation topics of the graduate students mentioned were obscure at best and “a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap,” at worst.

    For instance, the author of a dissertation on the history of black midwifery began her research, she told the Chronicle, because she “noticed that nonwhite women’s experiences were largely absent from natural-birth literature.” Another graduate student blamed the housing crisis in America on institutional racism. And a third argued that conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas and John McWhorter have “played one of the most-significant roles in the assault on the civil-rights legacy that benefited them.”

    Scores of critics on the site complained that I had not read the dissertations in full before daring to write about them—an absurd standard for a 500-word blog post. A number of the dissertations aren’t even available. Which didn’t seem to stop the Chronicle reporter, though. And 6,500 academics signed a petition online demanding that I be fired.

    (By the way, about the “Chronicle Reporter,” it should be noted that Schaefer Riley wrote her post in response to a story appearing previously in the CHE called “Black Studies: ‘Swaggering Into the Future,'” in which the reporter described how “young black-studies scholars . . . are less consumed than their predecessors with the need to validate the field or explain why they are pursuing doctorates in their discipline.” Of course, the reporter didn’t name names of critics of the “black studies” program, so Schaefer Riley, being a good little wingnut-ette, felt the urge to speak up right away, thus bringing all of this upon herself when all she had to do was keep her mouth shut.)

    In response, I think the following should be noted from here…

    Schaefer Riley admits that she hadn’t read these dissertations, but she had no compunctions about assailing the work of three grad students by name.

    Note that academics read the Chronicle the way that New York media types read Gawker. Being called a disgrace to your discipline in the CHE is a crushing blow for a young scholar. I mean, consider the source, but still….

    Schaefer Riley’s main self-defense is that she made the same arguments in a book she wrote before the Chronicle hired her.

    She scoffs at the idea that she should have read these dissertations before attacking the students by name. Her disregard for the facts justifies the Chronicle’s decision to fire her all by itself.

    Schaefer Riley is trying to paint herself as a victim of political correctness. She’s no such thing. The Chronicle fired her for impugning the reputations of scholars with no evidence. She proudly declared herself guilty as charged in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. QED.

    The question is not why she got fired, but why the Chronicle picked her up in the first place.

    I really have tried to avoid blogger hissy fits particularly in the world of academia, but as I read about all of this, all I could think of was the witch hunt against Melissa McEwan and Amanda Marcotte (orchestrated by the perpetually odious Bill Donahue of the Catholic League), two bloggers of my political stripe who went to work for John Edwards when he ran for president, which as noted here, led to Marcotte’s resignation before she had the opportunity to do anything whatsoever on behalf of the campaign. Where were all the cries from the wingnuts about “political correctness” then?

    As Lindsay Beyerstein noted in her criticism of Schaefer Reilly, all of this dustup will no doubt win the latter a cushy gig at the Heritage Foundation anyway (or perhaps a job at Fix Noise, assuming that Schaefer Reilly has a bottle of peroxide handy and has no trouble squeezing into a form-fitting dress with a plunging neckline, and showing plenty of leg for Rupert, Roger and the boys also).


    Tuesday Mashup (3/30/10)

    March 30, 2010

  • 1) I must tell you that I came across something that was utterly hilarious in the Op-Ed section of the Bucks County Courier Times today.

    Editorial Page Editor Guy Petroziello published a letter in which he wrote that the paper could not publish letters in favor of health care reform and thanking U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy who voted for the law because Petroziello believed that the letters were orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee, and “we cannot publish letters that are part of an organized campaign” (he also pointed out that the paper’s editorial submission policy, as stated in the Op-Ed section, does not allow publishing of thank you notes; he made it sound as if he was making an exception to the policy by publishing any thank-you letters to Murphy at all).

    Which begs the question – is Petroziello actually naïve enough to believe that anti-Murphy letters actually aren’t part of an organized campaign also?

    Check out PA Water Cooler or (especially) BucksRight every so often, Guy. Right-wing social networking is very much alive in this state and can easily lend itself to letter-writing campaigns also. Besides, when you get about a hundred letters all complaining about a “Patrick Murphy/Pelosi/Reid” axis, “Obama-care,” “taking over one-sixth of our economy,” “trillion-dollar tax hike” and (in particular) “tort reform to lower health care costs,” as well as everyone complaining that Patrick Murphy didn’t hold an in-person town hall so the teabaggers could stage their antics, then I definitely do not believe that you are talking an organic phenomenon, however much you may believe to the contrary. And those letters apparently run into no obstacles at all before they are printed.

    Also, in the right-wingnuttia department, J.D. Mullane (in between recycling columns as to whether or not college is “necessary”) opined as follows on the subject of someone at a Burger King who, it is alleged, recently viewed porn on a PC provided at one of their eateries (the company’s defense is that it blocks porn sites and the individual was reading an E-mail attachment, or something)…

    What’s the big deal, when even former Sen. John Edwards has a sex tape – and he could have been president of the United States.

    I’m the last person who is going to defend the lies and stupidity of John Edwards, but as noted here, his mistress Rielle Hunter acknowledged that she created the tape (I don’t know if Edwards ever consented to the recording, for the record, not that it really matters much I suppose). And as nearly as I can tell, the tape traveled in one way or another between Hunter and former Edwards campaign staffer (and tell-all book author) Andrew Young. To my knowledge, Edwards never “had” the tape.

    If you’re going to shamelessly demagogue as you attack Dems, J.D., at least go to the trouble of getting your facts straight.

  • 2) And if that isn’t enough yuks for you, Pantload Media’s Helen Smith tells us here how Jeff Goldstein and others of the right-wing world of bizarro reality should deal with “the Left’s disrespect and lack of empathy.”

    This is what Goldstein said when Ben Domenech, co-founder of the blog Red State, was nailed in 2006 on allegations of plagiarism after Domenech was given a forum for his diatribes at the Washington Post…

    Ben has owned up to his mistakes. He has, as I anticipated he would, taken that most difficult first step to rehabilitating his credibility. Now it’s time for other folks to do the same: Molly Ivins; Larry Tribe; Stephen Ambrose; Dan Rather; Jason Leopold; Joe Biden; Micah Wright; Ward Churchill; Eason Jordan; CNN’s agreement with Saddam’s Iraq; Joe Wilson; Steve Erlanger—we’re looking at you.

    And of course, Goldstein provided no citations for his charges (and as Atrios points out, historian Stephen Ambrose died in 2002).

    I report, you decide.

  • 3) And finally, N. Gregory Mankiw appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times and told us the following (here)…

    When I was chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, I spoke openly about the need to reform regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I did not know when or how these government-sponsored enterprises would come crashing down, but I thought they posed undue risks for the economy and for taxpayers.

    I was not alone in that judgment. While working on the issue, I consulted privately with an economist who had held a high-ranking position in the Clinton administration. He shared precisely my concerns, as did Alan Greenspan, who was then the Fed chairman.

    I would say that this exchange between Greenspan and Henry Waxman, then head of the House Oversight Committee speaks volumes (deflating Greenspan’s “magical thinking” on the markets).

    Continuing with Mankiw…

    Why was nothing done (about reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)? Many members of Congress were worried less about financial fragility than about expanding access to homeownership. Moreover, lobbyists from these companies assured Congress that there was no real problem, while the sheer complexity of these institutions made it hard for legislators to appreciate the enormity of the risks.

    I recount this story not because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the main cause of the recent financial crisis — they were only one element — but because it shows the kind of problem we’ll encounter on a larger scale as we reform oversight of the financial system.

    I have to reluctantly point out that Mankiw is correct when he says that he warned of risks to so-called government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs (here, primarily Fannie and Freddie…of course, Mankiw cheered the deficit and offshoring at the same time also, but those are subjects for another day). The problem, as noted in this Wikipedia article about Congressman Barney Frank, is as follows…

    In 2003, while the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal, in response to accounting scandals, for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Department. The proposal, supported by the head of Fannie Mae, reflected the administration’s belief that Congress “neither has the tools, nor the stature” for adequate oversight. Frank stated, “These two entities…are not facing any kind of financial crisis…. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”[50] Conservative groups criticized Frank for campaign contributions totaling $42,350 between 1989 and 2008. They claim the donations from Fannie and Freddie influenced his support of their lending programs, and say that Frank did not play a strong enough role in reforming the institutions in the years leading up to the Economic crisis of 2008.[51] In 2006 a Fannie Mae representative stated in SEC filings that they “did not participate in large amounts of these non-traditional mortgages in 2004 and 2005.” [52]In response to criticism from conservatives, Frank said, “In 2004, it was Bush who started to push Fannie and Freddie into subprime mortgages, because they were boasting about how they were expanding homeownership for low-income people. And I said at the time, ‘Hey—(a) this is going to jeopardize their profitability, but (b) it’s going to put people in homes they can’t afford, and they’re gonna lose them.’” [10]

    So Bushco, including Mankiw, wanted to further remove Fannie and Freddie from visibility by sticking them in Treasury away from congressional oversight because they were supposedly in trouble, and pushed them towards higher risk home mortgages at the same time to make sure they would be in trouble.

    And here is something else to consider (from Wikipedia)…

    Frank further stated that “during twelve years of Republican rule no reform was adopted regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007, a few months after I became the Chairman, the House passed a strong reform bill; we sought to get the [Bush] administration’s approval to include it in the economic stimulus legislation in January 2008; and finally got it passed and onto President Bush’s desk in July 2008. Moreover, “we were able to adopt it in nineteen months, and we could have done it much quicker if the [Bush] administration had cooperated.”[54]

    Also, I thought this post was amusing, in which Mankiw claimed that people with “good genes” make lots of money and pass their intelligence off to their kids who then get high SAT scores.

    And if they’re really lucky, they get a column in the Sunday Times from which they can create partisan mythology about once or twice a month.


  • As The Greek Tragedy Nears Its End

    January 28, 2010

    I’ve really tried to steer clear of the latest miseries in the personal lives of John and Elizabeth Edwards, though they are ready grist for the tabloids (of course) and our corporate media in general (even the supposedly august New York Times, which has easily devoted more coverage to the recent revelation of his parentage of Rielle Hunter’s child than it ever did to Edwards’ campaign, and I’m sure the news of the Edwards’ separation will receive a lot of play also).

    Over at the Blogger site, I devoted an inordinate amount of time publicizing Edwards’ one-time campaign for president, and I was appropriately contrite when it turned out that the whispers about Edwards and Hunter were true, whispers which I dutifully ignored because of the brazenness of Edwards’ lies that they were false.

    And I’ve really tried to leave Edwards behind to wallow in the utter carnage he has made of his personal and political lives because of his ridiculous dalliance. Still, every now and then I would write a post to anyone who would care to read it that Edwards was still out there and could serve in some unpaid capacity as some sort of advisor or someone to do some kind of pro-bono “troubleshooting” of one type or another (preferably in some of the destitute areas of our country).

    I suppose, though, that the thought of Edwards going to some God-forsaken place to try and do some good is hilarious to the life forms amused by the “I Feel Pretty” You Tube video of Edwards fussing over his hair, thinking that to be indicative of his shallowness (though I believe Edwards is in Haiti now; a cynic would say that’s one way to avoid the spotlight at the moment, which I guess is a good point).

    But here is why John Edwards used to matter to me (I’m also compelled to point this out after reading Richard Cohen’s typically ridiculous column about Edwards here – Cohen criticizes Edwards on poverty, but since Cohen is a practitioner of typical accountability-free Beltway punditry, he offers no specifics).

    Edwards’ stand on poverty is indeed one of the reasons I supported him – not so much because what he said on this subject was necessarily groundbreaking, but because he even acknowledged it at all (Bill Maher said that Edwards was the first Democratic presidential candidate who cared about poverty since Bobby Kennedy, a span of over 40 years).

    I also supported Edwards because he said he was flat wrong on Iraq during a time when it was politically unpopular to do so. Also, he was the first candidate in the ’08 race to put out a policy on health care that was well-received by experts on the subject, including Paul Krugman.

    So while people ridicule Edwards over his sin (making me recall a certain individual who once said something about casting the first stone), let’s not chortle too loudly over the Edwards’ separation, if for no other reason because young children are involved.

    Oh, and another thing – good luck trying to find the kind of passion on display in the clip below on health care reform from any of our politicians, who have so thoroughly prostituted themselves on behalf of the insurers and drug companies while entrusted with the well being of us all, including upwards of at least 31 million of our fellow citizens without health insurance.


    An End To The FEMA-NoLA Follies In Sight?

    February 27, 2009

    femaThis story from CBS News tells us that, as a result of their investigation into “cronyism, sexual harassment and racial discrimination in their New Orleans office” that yielded “more than 30 complaints,” U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu called for the resignation yesterday of Doug Whitmer, FEMA chief of staff of the Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office in New Orleans.

    Also, this story tells us that…

    President Obama hasn’t yet named a FEMA administrator, but is said to be considering two potential nominees: Ellen Gordon, a former Iowa emergency response manager who is now associate director of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security, and Craig Fugate, head of Florida’s emergency management agency.

    And concerning Homeland Security Secretary (and former Arizona governor) Janet Napolitano (who seems to be willing to go along either way concerning whether or not FEMA stays in her organization), she appeared before Congress recently (here), where she was lambasted by Repug U.S. House Rep Peter King of New York for “failing to use the word ‘terrorism’ in her remarks” (yeah…to paraphrase that great quote about Former PA Senator Man-On-Dog, King is one of the greatest minds of the 19th century, as noted here).

    Another thing – I keep mentioning this guy out there since he’s still in exile of sorts over his little dalliance that cost him his presidential aspirations, but I mean, c’mon people! It’s not like he has a hell of a lot to do at the moment, I’m sure.

    edwards_013008
    Just put him in charge of the FEMA Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office after Whitmer is gone and see what happens, OK? Hell, don’t even pay him for a three-month probationary period if you want. If he doesn’t do a good job and you end up “booting” him, then what have you lost?

    Update 3/4/09: Looks like Fugate will get the nod to run FEMA based on this, which is an even better reason to give Edwards a shot, IMHO.


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