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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    Thursday Mashup (9/16/10)

    September 16, 2010

  • 1) This story has been buzzing around a bit; it’s at philly.com, but I also came across it here…

    The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response has embarrassed Pennsylvania’s Governor. Governor Ed Rendell apologized Tuesday to groups whose peaceful protests or events, from an animal rights demonstration to a gay and lesbian festival, were the subject of regular anti-terrorism bulletins being distributed by his homeland security director. Rendell said that the information was useless to law enforcement agencies and that distributing it was tantamount to trampling on constitutional rights. Bulletins also went to members of Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry because of several acts of vandalism at drilling sites.

    A Philadelphia rally organized by a nonprofit group to support Rendell’s push for higher spending on public schools even made a bulletin, as did a protest at a couple of Rendell news conferences in recent weeks as he pressed for a tax on the natural gas industry.

    “This is ludicrous. This is absolutely ludicrous,” Rendell said. “And I apologize to any of the groups who had this information disseminated about their activities. They have the right to protest.”

    Basically, as the ACLU tells us here via Daily Kos, PA’s Homeland Security Director James Powers authorized the ITRR to spy – and quite probably harass in the process – opponents of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale (with ITRR granted a contract for this type of surveillance by the state…one of the questions quite rightly posed by Rendell when he found out about this was why PA was contracting with the ITRR, when the PA State Police is capable of this type of investigation and response from law enforcement…if need be…also).

    I’ve done a little bit of poking around and I found out the following here about PA Homeland Security Director Powers; as you can read, he spent 30 years in U.S. Army Special Forces, attaining the rank of colonel. It’s highly possible that he circulated with some big names in the defense biz (which would figure since, as noted here, he was following the U.S. DoD Training Manual, which treats protests of the type over the Marcellus Shale drilling as “low-level terrorism”).

    Kudos to Rendell for putting the brakes on this as soon as he heard about it; also, I think you can be safe in assuming that there will be more forthcoming on this story.

  • Update 9/18/10: More here via Atrios…

    Update 9/26/10: I would say that this is a good reason to protest drilling in the Marcellus Shale (dear God).

  • 2) Also, Michael Smerconish of the Philadelphia Daily News had what I thought was a somewhat interesting observation on the whole Pastor Terry Jones/Almost Burning the Quran thing (here – a lot of this is a rehash from last week’s column by Christine Flowers, by the way, but at the time, I was on Jones-Mania-Overload if you will, so I didn’t bother to say anything)…

    Politicians can’t treat fringe players like they are world leaders. This story was energized by the likes of Gen. David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama. The more they talked, the more credibility the object of their ire got from the media.

    OK, but Smerky then tells us the following a little later…

    Let’s be clear. Petraeus was right. So were Gibbs, Clinton and Holder. The president was right, too, especially in his assessment of the event as a stunt.

    But by engaging the instigator – even though they were condemning his actions – Petraeus, Gibbs, Clinton, Holder and Obama created the impression that he was a serious person.

    The result? Round-the-clock media attention, which in turn fueled international outrage toward the U.S. And even though the organizer didn’t actually end up burning any Qurans, the attention he received was enough to inspire copycats.

    Ummm…so Gen. David Petraeus was right to call attention to that nut because his actions could pose harm to our troops (noted here), but Petraeus was wrong because he contributed to “round-the-clock media attention” also?

    Well then, I suppose it’s up to everybody to just ignore religious or pseudo-religious figures who incite passion in an attempt to garner publicity for themselves. OK.

    Just remember, though, that that includes this guy also.

  • 3) Finally, I give you the following from the campaign of Patrick Murphy for U.S. Congress:

    We knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time.

    Big Oil has officially put me on their list.

    This week the corporate front group Americans for Prosperity bought TV and radio ads attacking me.

    Americans for Prosperity is the comically named corporate front group for the oil industry. They have the distinction of being the primary corporate sponsors for those “grassroots” Tea Party rallies. Now they have decided to back my opponent, and it’s no wonder why.

    Americans for Prosperity uses their vast corporate resources to advance their radical agenda. This was the group that fought so that oil companies like BP could drill wherever they wanted to, however they wanted to. Then when things went wrong, they fought to make sure that BP could carry on like nothing ever happened. These are my opponent’s new best friends.

    My opponent has sold his campaign to the far-right. Americans for Prosperity is just one of many groups he has courted by simply molding his beliefs to fit with theirs. He has been rewarded for his “flexibility.”

    All my opponent had to do was deny the existence of global warming, turn his back on working families, and pledge his allegiance to corporate tax breaks instead of investing in American jobs. This time his reward was $22,000 in character attacks against me.

    Now we know who is in my opponent’s corner. Now we know whose interests he fights for – BP and Big Oil, not us.

    Well, I want you to know that while my opponent knows he can count on his friends from Big Oil, I know I can count on you. I need your help to fight back against Mike’s pile of corporate cash.

    Please, contribute $25, $50 or even $100 today, and help me reach my goal of $22,001 so we can show these corporate interests that we are NOT backing down.

    Together, we can show my opponent and his Big Oil buddies that the people own this seat now – and it’s not for sale.

    Thank you as always for your incredible friendship and support.

    God, this is so disgustingly typical of Mikey.

    He couldn’t even win the PA-08 seat to begin with in 2004 without some truly foul campaigning against Ginny Schrader, trying to link her to Hezbollah (and worse, as noted here, a particularly rank stunt since Schrader’s husband was a Jew).

    He couldn’t even defend the seat in 2006 without trying to slime Patrick Murphy’s military service with the assistance of Young Philadelphia Republican Kevin Kelly (here).

    And now, having lost the seat, he can’t compete for it once more without more odious campaign garbage as noted above (and in all three instances, he’s tried to disavow any knowledge of what went on or make sure he has an “out” for himself).

    Let’s help Patrick however our means may allow and send Mikey packing for good by clicking here (and don’t strain too much listening for a response of protest from the teabaggers, who profess to oppose politics as usual…if the issue has anything to do with Mikey, you can rely on hearing nothing but the sound of crickets).


  • A K.O. Encore On “Citizens United”

    January 24, 2010

    This is for the benefit of Smerky, who actually defended the decision in the Philadelphia Inquirer today (here).

    And I would have left a comment at the Inky expressing my disagreement, by the way, but I got tired of my comments being rejected even though I used no profanity whatsoever (though veiled threats of violence against liberals make their way online at their site from time to time). Apparently even a slight hint of sarcasm from a Dem/liberal/progressive/whatever is enough to offend the paper’s delicate sensibilities.


    Stand Still. Get Crushed. Wal-Mart.

    December 4, 2008

    wal_mart_logo_moneyIntrepid Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News columnist Michael Smerconish (who famously proclaimed here that “I don’t do reporting” – uh, kind of odd to admit that in a newspaper, n’est-ce pas?) blamed the tragic death of Long Island, NY Wal-Mart employee Jdimytai Damour on “semicrazed shoppers (who) left a man’s body lying next to a metal door frame that was ‘crumpled like an accordion’,” here.

    Yep, that’s partly the reason, but then Smerky, in his inimitable fashion, goes on to decry other individuals in our corporate media such as Peter Goodman of the New York Times, who blamed Damour’s death on “the bleak economy.”

    I grudgingly admit that Smerky has a point; as awful as our times currently are, at least we still have SOME credit, and there was none to be had during the Great Depression, a comparison invoked by Goodman (or so an expert on this subject tells me, and that would be my mom, because she lived through it). I think comparing these times to those awful years is a little off base (probably not by much, though).

    However, did anyone else know that two other Wal-Mart customers in Maryland are filing personal injury lawsuits because they claim back and neck injuries from a similar accident as the one that claimed the life of Damour (here)?

    But then again, what else can you expect from a company that demoted a female assistant manager because she had to take time off from work for an emergency hysterectomy (here – h/t Wake Up Wal-Mart)? Or successfully sued a brain damaged former employee for insurance money that she received before an award in a car accident case here (and did I mention that she also lost her son in Iraq?).

    Yes, the people who did nothing while Damour was trampled to death deserve a measure of blame. But is it too much to ask of the smiley-faced vendor of cheap knockoff junk to perform a little crowd control on the busiest shopping day of the year?

    Update 12/7/08: Curiouser and curiouser…


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