Tuesday Mashup (10/29/13)

October 29, 2013
  • Last week, Philadelphia’s supposed “newspaper of record” ran a front-page story on “No Corporate Tax” Pat Toomey…

    I had no objection to reopening the government. My main objection was combining that with several hundred billion dollars of additional debt that’s piled onto our already excessive levels of debt with no reforms whatsoever,” Toomey told The Inquirer. “Nothing that curbs the spending.”

    Gosh, how nice of “No Corporate Tax” Pat not to have an “objection” to “reopening the government” – here is a partial list of everyone who was screwed over by the calamitous antics of Toomey’s political party.

    And as far as Obama and reducing the debt is concerned, I give you this and this.

    Continuing…

    Toomey had sought to distance himself from the GOP’s most strident voices in the latest fight, saying he disagreed with threatening a shutdown to “defund” Obamacare. He called that “a bad idea” that could not succeed with President Obama still in the White House.

    But when the deal to reopen the government after 16 days included plans to increase borrowing authority without finding savings elsewhere, he said it was more than he could stomach.

    I read that last phrase in particular in disbelief because it totally disregards the impact of the ruinous “sequester” – as noted from here

    In fact, Democrats have agreed to the sequester funding levels, not the funding levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act, the law that supposedly set priorities for spending limits. The Tea-Publican economic terrorists have already won. Democrats have agreed to the Ryan budget spending levels that American voters overwhelmingly rejected in the 2012 election.

    Indeed – as the graph from the linked article indicates, the Senate “continuing resolution” funding request (taking the sequester into account) was $72 billion below the proposed budget for 2014. How much more in the way of “funding savings” does Toomey expect us to cough up by emptying our pockets and looking under the seat cushions (as it were)?

    The rest of the article is right-wing political insider crap and really deserves no further comment, so I won’t provide any.

    Update 10/31/13: Wonder what Toomey has to say about this (cue the sound of crickets).

  • Next, former Bushie Peter Schaumber haz a sad over Richard Griffin’s nomination to the NLRB (here)…

    For the second time in a year and a half, a powerful official may be appointed to the National Labor Relations Board without the Senate scrutiny his nomination requires.

    President Obama’s controversial nomination of Richard Griffin, Jr. for general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board was voted out of committee without a hearing, and the full Senate will vote on Griffin without a meaningful debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) set a cloture vote limiting debate for October 28. The Senate’s Democratic leadership has shown again that it is willing to dispense with a necessary element of the democratic process to serve the interests of Big Labor.

    Maybe the lack of “Senate scrutiny” is due to the fact that Griffin’s nomination, as well as that of Sharon Block to the NLRB, was filibustered, as noted here (third bullet)…

    When Obama took office, the NLRB only had two members. In April 2009, Obama nominated three people to serve on the NLRB – Mark Pearce (D), Craig Becker (D) and Brian Hayes (R). Yet Senate Republicans’ silent filibusters were effective in preventing a Senate vote on these nominees.

    In March 2010, Obama recess appointed Becker and Pearce to the board. In June, the Senate confirmed Pearce and Hayes, but continued to block Becker.

    When Becker’s recess appointment expired on Jan. 3, 2012, the NLRB didn’t have a quorum to make decisions. Confronted with Senate Republicans intent on undermining the NLRB’s authority, Obama made three recess appointments – Sharon Block (D), Richard Griffin (D) and Terence Flynn (R) – to guarantee a fully functioning board. These members joined Pearce and Hayes, who left the board in December 2012.

    Oh, and if you think the party of Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao was gumming up the Senate to a fare thee well already, get a load of this case on the docket of The Supremes, which could enable the Repugs to wreak even more havoc (and as the Media Matters post tells us, the ruling of unconstitutionality by the D.C. Circuit Court on the recess appointments by the Obama Administration of Block and Griffin was “extreme” and “contradictory to settled executive branch practice” according to the Constitutionality Law Center).

    Fortunately, based on this, it looks like two other competent Democrats got through all the ridiculous obstruction by the Senate minority party and were named to the NLRB.

    And Peter Schaumber, Peter Schaumber…why does that name ring a bell?

    Oh yeah – this tells us the following from April of last year…

    WASHINGTON — A top labor adviser to GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stepped down from his volunteer role with the campaign not long before he was publicly implicated in a federal ethics investigation, according to a Romney campaign aide.

    The inspector general of the National Labor Relations Board has asked federal investigators to examine whether Peter Schaumber, a former NLRB board member and erstwhile Romney adviser, may have been involved in violations of the Hatch Act, the federal law that prohibits civil servants from engaging in partisan politics.

    The Hatch Act request stems from an earlier investigation by the labor board’s inspector general that found that NLRB board member Terence Flynn had allegedly violated the agency’s ethical code by sharing sensitive information with outsiders, including Schaumber, while serving as counsel last year. Flynn was notified Dec. 5 that he was being investigated. According to the aide, Schaumber left the campaign in December. The NLRB investigation first became public in March and now appears to be widening.

    In fact, the former campaign of Willard Mitt even scrubbed all mention of Schaumber from its web site last year (here).

    Tee hee hee…

  • Continuing, I give you the following from Debra Saunders (here)…

    During the Obama years, a potent mythology has taken root in Democratic circles. In this narrative, Democrats are victims, martyrs even, whereas Republicans are wily tricksters.

    Last year, there was a hyped-up fable about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. President Barack Obama told “60 Minutes,” “When I first came into office, the head of the Senate Republicans said, ‘My No. 1 priority is making sure President Obama’s a one-term president.'” Sen. Dianne Feinstein even told the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board she heard McConnell speaking to that effect on the Senate’s opening day.

    The thing is that the quote in question first appeared nearly two years later — in an October 2010 interview with the National Journal’s Major Garrett.

    And guess what? Saunders is absolutely right.

    That being said, I think the following should be noted from here

    WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

    The event — which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured — serves as the prologue of Robert Draper’s much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.”

    According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

    For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.

    “If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

    The conversation got only more specific from there, Draper reports. Kyl suggested going after incoming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for failing to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes while at the International Monetary Fund. Gingrich noted that House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) had a similar tax problem. McCarthy chimed in to declare “there’s a web” before arguing that Republicans could put pressure on any Democrat who accepted campaign money from Rangel to give it back.

    So basically, GOP obstruction of this president began on the very day he was inaugurated. Imagine the howls of outrage had a similar meeting been held by the Democratic congressional leadership the night of January 21, 2001.

    To use a parlance you’re sure to understand, wingnuts, you “built this.” Have the courage and basic human decency to own up to it, OK?

  • Further, I have some health-care-related items for discussion, beginning with this one

    Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan says the troubled Obamacare rollout could potentially vindicate the tea party for the government shutdown.

    “During three and a half years, from 1942 to ’45, the United States government built, with the help of the industrialists, got hundreds of thousands of aircraft, 1600 ships. We armed the United States — 12 million men, Russia, the British Empire — destroyed two of the greatest empires on earth,” Buchanan told “On The Record” host Greta Van Susteren on Thursday. “And you mean to tell me these folks in that amount of time, and with $500 million can’t create a website?

    Oh, yes, Obamacare website, Obamacare website, Obamacare website…yes, it’s bad, but cut them some slack, OK? I mean, it’s not as if hugely popular federal government entitlements (which I supposed the Affordable Care Law is, to an extent) haven’t had trouble during the roll out phase before (here – and by the way, we also can’t seem to be able to build a commuter tunnel from New Jersey to NYC either – here…hopefully voters in the Garden State will remember this before they rush off to give Governor Bully four more years in about a week…and to do something to prevent that, click here).

    And potentially “vindicate” the Teahadists for the government shut down, huh? Well, this tells us what this country thinks of those wheezing old white, middle-aged-and-older crybabies, and this tells us that the Affordable Care Law, while still trying to win approval despite everything currently going on, is gaining traction to a degree, despite Republican efforts to kill it in its infancy.

    Turning to Indiana, this also from The Daily Tucker tells us the following…

    Obamacare will cause 11,000 low-income residents of Indiana to lose their existing health coverage.

    Oh brother… in fact, it was known in September that, under Repug Governor Mike Pence, the 11,000 or so residents would be moved from the state exchange and have to enroll because, as the Journal-Gazette tells us here, “the income eligibility threshold (will) drop significantly, from up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level to up to 100 percent.”

    And get a load of this…

    The Obama administration demanded that an Indiana health insurance program for the poor alter its eligibility requirements and recommended that booted patients seek out Obamacare plans instead.

    I don’t know how accurate “demanded” is, but what I do know is that, like every other Repug governor I can think of, Pence turned up his nose at Medicaid expansion (in essence, free money) to cover the cost of enrolling everyone in his state who was eligible under existing guidelines. So of course the guidelines had to be modified, booting off about 11,000 “Hoosiers” (and here is more Pence nonsense on this issue).

    gwb_13-george-w-bush
    And just when you thought we were done with this guy, along comes Dr. Marc Siegel (who?), who inflicts the following from here

    From Benghazi to the health of former President George W. Bush, wild unsubstantiated assertions by the news media take the place of real reporting. Fox News is left to set the record straight, yet frequently it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

    OK, I’ll stop. Continuing…

    The stent placement in President Bush’s coronary artery is the latest example of the world of Fox News versus wild speculation.

    The subsequent media firestorm and unsubstantiated August debate over whether Bush’s heart procedure was needed has culminated in yet another round of anti-journalistic speculation this week more than two months after the fact.

    I had attempted back then to report the facts about the severity of President Bush’s lesion, and the appropriateness of his treatment by his team of doctors in Dallas, led by Dr. Tony Das, who inserted the potentially lifesaving stent.

    My source for the real medical facts back in August was the president’s senior spokesperson, Freddy Ford.

    President Bush, typically unselfish, was not responding to criticism with anything personal or political but was concerned for the reputation of his doctors who he felt were being falsely maligned.

    Um…the dookey’s getting pretty deep quickly, so I’d better respond with this by Steven M. Greer, M.D…

    A recent short article in an obscure Washington, DC wonky journal triggered national media when it asserted that President George W. Bush’s (43rd President) coronary artery disease was far more dangerous than originally reported in August. NBC Nightly news picked up the story along with numerous other national outlets. The headline was “President Bush had a 95% blockage of the artery”.

    When President Bush first received a coronary stent in August, after a routine “Executive Physical” exam at the Texas Cooper Clinic found coronary artery disease, the national TV and print news (and this author) widely reported that the stent was unnecessary and did little to reduce his chance of future heart attack. A Washington Post Op-Ed went on to use the Bush case as an example of expensive ineffective therapy in the American healthcare system. A contrarian view came from Fox News’ Dr. Marc Siegel in his USA Today Op-Ed.

    On October 15th, in response to the NBC, Dr. Siegel appeared on afternoon Fox News to scream to the world that “We got this story first” and send the message, “Told you so. The Bush stent was critical to saving his life and the doctors in Texas were Super Heroes”. During his segment, Dr. Siegel insinuated that he is very close with President Bush and that President Bush personally informed him of the details of his coronary artery lesion, location, etc.

    Dr. Siegel’s behavior seemed so erratic and manic that the credibility of his comments were in question. We emailed him to clarify a few points, and he promptly replied by telephone. What ensued was a bizarre series of calls.

    I’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to read the rest of Dr. Greer’s post about his communication with Dr. Siegel (yep, it’s pretty unusual, all right).

    Not being a medical professional, I don’t have the first clue as to whether or not George W. Bush actually needed a stent or not to correct his heart issue. And despite the ruin he oversaw while he occupied space in An Oval Office, I don’t wish ill on him. I don’t wish anything particularly good for him, either. I wish he would continue to just go away and stay away.

    I wanted to take a moment and comment on this, though, because this stuff is about as serious as it gets. A decision about this type of a procedure should be made after careful consultation with the appropriately degreed medical professional (I know, duuuh!). And unless time is of the essence (which it often is with a heart-related blockage), a second opinion is a good idea. There are tradeoffs to this type of a procedure, and they should be discussed along with the benefits (and preferably not with someone who doubles as a pundit for Fix Noise).

  • Finally (for folk in Bucks County, PA, Lower Makefield in particular), I just wanted to point out that a week from today is Election Day (that would be November 5th). Click here to support Deb Wachspress and Josh Waldorf for the Pennsbury School Board (this is our chance to boot Simon Campbell, people – what more do I need to say?), and click here to support John Lewis and Mark Moffa for Lower Makefield Supervisors.

    Because…

    Every_Election_Matters


  • Thursday Mashup (8/8/13)

    August 8, 2013

    rbby_92

  • Gosh, it looks like RNC Chair Reince Priebus has his proverbial shorts in a knot here, all right…

    The Republican National Committee is threatening not to partner with NBC and CNN on future presidential debates unless they halt production of recently announced programs about Hillary Clinton, according to letters RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sent to network heads.

    NBC announced in July that the network would air a four-hour miniseries about the former first lady called “Hillary,” and CNN Films is producing a documentary about her as well.

    In letters addressed to NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt and CNN President Jeff Zucker on Aug. 5, Priebus warned that RNC members intend to vote on a resolution at their party-wide meeting later this month to shut out the networks from partnering with the party on Republican primary debates if they do not cancel the programs.

    “Out of a sense of fairness and decency and in the interest of the political process and your company’s reputation, I call on you to cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production,” Priebus wrote. “If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.”

    Somehow I don’t think Priebus knows the meanings of the words “fairness” and “decency,” but that’s a secondary point (and I actually hope the two networks tell him where to go – I realize the ad revenue rules their world and they don’t want to miss out, but all of those debates should be run by the League of Women Voters anyway).

    But to refresh Priebus’s memory in the “political ad masquerading as an unbiased production” department, here and here are prior posts from 2006 concerning the “Path to 9/11” non-documentary that aired on the Disney/ABC/RNC network, full of all kinds of questionable assertions about that dreaded day that (surprise, surprise!) aired two months before the 2006 midterm elections (fortunately, based on the electoral outcome, the strategy backfired).

    And I thought the following was interesting (from here)…

    …I also wonder if Priebus might have motivations of his own for getting some RNC debates off networks. Given that the Republican Party seems no closer than it was in 2012 to reaching a decisive break between its radical and moderate wings, if I were Priebus, I might want to keep that debate between them as far away from mass audiences as possible. Given how far moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney have had to run to the right during their primary campaigns, one of the things that debates do is generate a vast trove of high-quality clips of things that the eventual nominee will eventually have to try to explain away in a shortened general election season. If I were Priebus, I’d want as few of those debates as possible, and I’d want them to happen further from the public eye so my eventual candidate has less baggage that can eventually be hung around her or his neck.

    So we’ll see if our corporate media goes weak in the knees when confronted with the “Ooga Booga! Li-Bu-Ruul Bias!” charge once again (though, based on this, I think the GOP needs a dose of “physician, heal thyself” if they’re so concerned with women voters, among other demographics that they’re losing badly).

    On a related note, I have to tell you that this is a real head-scratcher as far as I’m concerned (h/t Atrios). Normally I definitely side up with David Brock and Media Matters, and I’m sure the NBC miniseries will be nothing but trash TV (and I don’t know how CNN can say they’ll create a “documentary” on HRC without involvement of the news division), but rightly or wrongly, here is where I come down on this.

    First, this furor assumes that cable TV will hold sway over the outcome of the 2016 presidential election (assuming Hillary runs – wink, wink), and to be honest, I don’t know how you can say that. No, I don’t have viewing demographic numbers in front of me at the moment, but I think the very fact that the two cables in question are even contemplating these productions gives you an idea of how hard-up they are ratings-wise (relative to Fox, of course, which is a whole other discussion). And I want to emphasize that I’m talking about holding sway over the general election; from what I read last year, the ratings for the 2,347,618 Republican primary debates actually weren’t bad – if Priebus and Brock have leverage here, this is it (i.e., CNN and NBC wouldn’t want to lose out).

    Second, can you really honestly say that there are that many people without an opinion on the Clintons one way or the other at this point (people likely to be swayed by these two productions, which I’m sure will be heavy on the “entertainment” and very light on the facts and historical context)? So basically, I don’t care if CNN and NBC go ahead with these productions; I have a feeling that there will be salacious stuff with no basis in reality (I can see it now…the closet door of the darkened room pops open while Bill and Gennifer Flowers are engaged in carnal acts, and Hillary, holding a gun, shoots Vince Foster, who was trying to talk Bill out of it…fade to black), but there will probably also be complimentary stuff too. As I said earlier, my beef with Priebus is that he’s alleging preferential treatment from the networks, when he definitely benefitted from some of that in the “Path to 9/11” mess.

    A final observation: how big of a dope is Reince Priebus anyway to end up doing something that ends up playing into the hands of David Brock and Media Matters (and as noted here, just when I was about to post this, Priebus said something else that would qualify as “gobsmacked,” I guess – what a maroon).

    (Last but not least, I think this is full of great observations from kos).

    Update 8/9/13: And I would say that this sums up most of what I’ve been saying for the last eight years or so.

  • Next, I give you the following pro-fracking commercial that recently appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer (here)…

    The Marcellus Shale formation – the second-largest natural-gas field in the world – has been a blessing for Pennsylvania’s workers and our economy.

    Almost a quarter-million people in Pennsylvania work to produce natural gas from the Marcellus Shale or in related industries. Thanks to the growth of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, the Marcellus has been responsible for more than 150,000 new hires in the past three years – almost three-quarters of them state residents. The average salary in core fracking industries is more than $90,000 a year. In 2010 alone, oil and gas development utilizing fracking contributed more than $11 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy.

    Fracking is safe and environmentally friendly. In Pennsylvania, more than a dozen state and federal regulatory agencies oversee all aspects of fracking, from well development to pipeline construction. Properly constructed wells leave a very small environmental imprint, and about 99.5 percent of the solution used to free natural gas from shale formations is just water and sand.

    Pennsylvania leads the country in developing safe, effective fracking technologies and policies – and other states are starting to follow suit.

    If fracking is so “safe” and “environmentally friendly,” then how come the fracking companies, after paying out large settlements to people whose properties have been ruined by fracking, make those folks sign gag orders, extending not just to the parents, but to their kids also, as noted here? (An update is here.) Or, as noted from here, “these gag orders are the reason [drillers] can give testimony to Congress and say there are no documented cases of contamination,” said Earthworks organizer Sharon Wilson.

    And as noted from here, Pennsylvania is 33rd in the nation in employment; that’s OK, but nothing to brag about as far as I’m concerned.


    The writer of this column, Kevin Colosimo, serves as a managing partner at Burleson LLP in Pittsburgh, and is a trustee at large for the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation in Kentucky (I sincerely hope that he is based in Pittsburgh and not Kentucky, since the former is smack in the middle of the Marcellus Shale but the latter isn’t, as you can see from the gray area in the map above – it would be pretty low down for him to be praising something that has no chance of blowing up in his face, an expression you can actually take literally when talking about fracking).

  • Continuing, It’s time to find out what our wet noodle PA-08 rep is up to (from his web site here)…

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) ignited a bipartisan push Thursday (8/1) with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) to ensure our nation’s veterans play a critical role in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure with the introduction of the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act.

    “Our fighting men and women are the most highly skilled workforce in history,” said Fitzpatrick, “We must leverage their unprecedented skills to get our economy moving once again.”

    “Rebuilding our nation’s transportation infrastructure is one of my top priorities and is absolutely essential to growing our economy and creating jobs,” said Bustos, “The brave veterans who served us so honorably deserve our full support and that starts with making sure they have good-paying jobs here at home.”

    “With the unemployment rate for returning veterans remaining far too high, it is common sense that they should have access to the contracting preferences available for transportation projects,” Bustos continued.

    This is more distracting feel-good pabulum that is yet another feint to burnish Mikey’s alleged “moderate” bona fides while his utterly lunatic U.S. House “leadership” fiddles as our country burns.

    And that is because, as noted here, Dem U.S. House Rep Rosa DeLauro introduced the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2013 on June 27th, but no vote was scheduled (there was no other activity of any kind, apparently). On top of that, the Water Infrastructure Resiliency Act was introduced by Dem U.S. House Rep Lois Capps on February 15th here (same story).

    “Oh, there you go again, telling us that it’s only the Dems who are doing the right thing. How typical!”

    Well, guess what? As noted here, Republican U.S. House Rep Tom Marino of PA also introduced the Energy Infrastructure Improvement Act, and that is currently in the same limbo as the other two bills (the people who have signed on as cosponsors automatically makes me suspicious about the bill’s intent, but it is no less worthy of a vote than the other two). So the utter, craven failure of the House Speaker and Majority Leader cuts both ways.

    With that in mind, this tells us why the federal government should have a role in infrastructure projects, along with the attendant benefits (for example, does anything think we actually would have our highway transportation system from coast to coast if it had been left up totally to the states?). And this tells us how the Repugs have blocked transportation infrastructure projects, thus hindering our recovery (though they have no trouble with funding infrastructure in places like Afghanistan, as noted here).

    Mikey and Cheri Bustos can introduce all of the bills giving the military preference on infrastructure jobs that they want (which is fine by me and commendable, actually), but it won’t matter if there’s no infrastructure funding forthcoming from this wretched Congress.

    Besides, on the subject of the military, I never found out why Mikey voted against a combat pay increase (here) or a guarantee to pay our military in the event of a government shut down (here).

    With all this in mind, if you really want to do right by someone from our military, click here.

    Update 8/16/13: And it looks like Mikey wants to ultimately phase out credits for wind here, which, as far as I’m concerned, is a dumb idea (would the cost savings make that much of a difference?). Wonder if he’d dare do the same thing for Big Oil, as noted here? Do I even need to ask (seeing as he once voted to cut funding of clean energy here)?

  • Further, it’s time to bring “teh stupid” with Fix Noise here

    Vague terrorist threats shutting down nineteen of our embassies, Russian strongman Putin thumbing his nose at President Obama, Iran jerking our chain – the U.S. hasn’t looked this cowardly on the world stage since the Jimmy Carter administration.

    Here at home, too, we’ve gone back to the Carter future; unemployment is high, Keynesian economics are all the rage, our professorial president is increasingly whiny and ineffectual; all that’s missing is a cardigan sweater and that infernal violin.

    I know you know what’s coming – wait for it anyway (and here is food for thought on the whole “Keynesian” stuff)…

    President George W. Bush is widely scorned these days for attempting to export democracy to the peoples of other lands; Mr. Obama, like Carter before him, has sought kindness and justice from the likes of Hugo Chavez and Bashar-Al-Assad. Which is more naïve?

    Naivete is costly. Both the Carter and Obama administrations have been distinguished by the rare murder of an ambassador.

    So was the administration of Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History; this tells us that U.S. Ambassador David Foy was murdered in Pakistan in 2006 (and if you want to real the real story of what happened under Number 43 on this score, click here).

    This Liz Peek person also tells us that Carter didn’t win an agreement on Pershing missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet SS-20 missiles; in response, the following should be noted from here

    (In 1979) Presidents Carter and Brezhnev (sic – Brezhnev was the Soviet Premier) sign SALT II treaty, setting ceiling of 2,400 strategic missiles and bombers on each side, to be reduced to 2,250 by 1981. After Soviets in- vade Afghanistan, US withdraws SALT II from Senate, but both governments say they will abide by provisions. In December NATO decides to deploy 572 US Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe starting in late 1983 to counter threat from Soviet SS-20s targeted on European cities.

    And here is another choice item from Peek…

    Who today believes that ObamaCare is the best possible answer to reining in the cost of healthcare?

    I do, for one, based on this (#1 just for starters).

    Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh).

  • RS_Media_Friendly_0802

  • Finally, I have to tell you that I’ve been quietly fuming for the last week or so about this pic from The Philadelphia Inquirer over the Rolling Stone story on Dzhokhar Tsarnev and his brother and their alleged involvement in the Boston Marathon bombing (sticking with terrorism).

    Yes, I get the fact that Tsarnev the younger was photographed with a background that would normally be reserved for a rock star that is popular at the moment. However, the cover makes it clear that the magazine quite rightly considers him to be a “monster” (how that constitutes “too friendly” for the tastes of the Inquirer is something I cannot fathom).

    Also I wonder how many of the people who screamed about the magazine’s cover actually took the time to read the story by Janet Reitman? Like just about everything else I’ve ever read in Rolling Stone, it was thoroughly researched and written very well. The story takes you inside the life of this kid, including his family, friends, and lifestyle (I was surprised by how plentiful pot apparently is on college campuses, if the Cambridge area is any indication – I didn’t know parts of the first “Harold and Kumar” movie were a documentary; yes, I’ve been out of that loop for a long time). In addition, while I respect the fact that Tsarnev and his family faced great financial difficulty, I cannot imagine how two parents could emigrate back to Russia two years ago (though they were separated for a time) and leave their four kids at the mercy of whatever fate befell them in this country, including Dzhokhar, his older brother (who really did call the shots) and his two sisters, who ended up in arranged marriages and apparently disappeared (and yes, I know this is partly a cultural issue, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s no excuse on the part of the parents).

    It’s hard to say what exactly led to the Tsarnev Brothers’ murderous and terroristic behavior – whether or not their impulse for violence existed all along, how much of their radicalism was fostered by the disintegration of their family and older brother Tamerlan’s burning desire for jihad (Tamerlan was a Golden Gloves boxer), et cetera. But this to me is a hallmark of good reporting; the story makes you think about it enough to try and connect those dots on your own.

    Does the story make me feel sorry for either of the Tsarnevs? Hell no! The older brother got what he deserved as far as I’m concerned, and at a minimum, I hope the younger one rots in prison (the story tells us that Dhzokhar apparently had a pretty casual attitude while the carnage went on and the manhunt ended up shutting down the city of Boston – let’s give him the rest of his life to think about his behavior, unless he ends up getting a date with a needle).

    It’s easy to bash Rolling Stone as some kind of a nutty, left-wing-hippie publication. That of course is utterly wrong (and I thought the paper has done a good job trying to defuse the cover controversy). It’s obviously a lot harder to give it credit for crafting exemplary journalism. What a pity.

    Update: And I guess it would be a good idea to link to the Rolling Stone piece too, wouldn’t it (here).


  • Abyseeinya, Little Ricky

    July 15, 2010

    Santorum_Card
    As noted here, yesterday marked the final “regular” (???) column in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Former Senator Man-On-Dog himself, Little Ricky Santorum. And, true to form, he conjured up all kinds of “Oooga Booga!” scenarios in response to the news that “a federal district court judge in… Boston ruled that the majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act for the one purpose forbidden by law: ‘to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves’.”

    To which I reply, well…duuuuh! And of course, it is also appropriate that Santorum ended his stint at the Inky by taking another shot at Beantown, as he did here.

    As noted here, “The (Boston) ruling relied on two arguments: that the law interfered with the rights of states guaranteed in the 10th Amendment, and that it violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause. “

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that a “tenther,” “states rights” argument was used to refute a position or belief most commonly held by Tea Party wingnuts?

    Well anyway, I should note that, on the occasion of Santorum’s final Inquirer column, it really behooves us all to take a look back at some of his less stellar moments (I’m just providing excerpts here – if I included all of them, it would take two days to write this post)…

  • Said President Obama was “detached from the American experience” here
  • Said Obama’s “charm offensive” was a bust in Muslim nations, though the numbers state otherwise (here)…
  • Blamed President Clinton for inflating the housing bubble here (seriously)…
  • Argued here that if a government-run public option had been included in health care reform, it would have meant fewer dollars for the life sciences industry in Philadelphia…
  • Defended Dutch filmmaker and politician Geert Wilders from Muslim attacks without noting that Wilders had drawn a correlation between the Koran and Mein Kampf here
  • Criticized Joe Biden for blocking a resolution he sponsored against Iran when he was senator, though Santorum voted against a resolution penalizing companies doing business with Iran (here)…
  • Asked (and answered), “But are any treatments with embryonic stem cells being used today? No,” and also asked/answered, “Are there any anticipated in the near future? No,” and he was wrong on both counts (here)…
  • Said that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was “replacing legitimate popular elections” here (uh, no – if that country rids itself of him, they’ll be able to do it without our help)
  • Criticized Obama for trying to control the manipulation of gas prices on the futures market here – meanwhile, he voted No on a bill to reduce our oil usage by 40 percent instead of 5 percent by 2025, voted Yes on terminating Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards for vehicles within 15 months, and voted Yes to defund renewable and solar energy…
  • Kept up the same theme as his signoff column about how “teh gay” is trying to destroy marriage here
  • And just to let you know that I actually agreed with Santorum once in a great, great while, I did so in response to this column in which he criticized a PA voter for switching his party allegiance from Republican to Democratic in 2008 to vote for the “weaker” Dem presidential candidate in the primary election (Pennsylvania has “closed,” primaries, I should point out).
  • Finally, for what it’s worth, this was my reaction when I first heard that The Inquirer was going to give Santorum a “soap box” for his blather.
  • So there you have it, and with that, one “regular” right-wing ideologue columnist for philly.com bites the dust (don’t worry, though, since they still have at least three more between Kevin Ferris, Christine Flowers and John Yoo).

    And I have no doubt that we’ll hear from Little Ricky again – I’m sure either The National Review or The Daily Caller is beckoning, probably among others.


    Remembering The Day Philadelphia Burned

    May 13, 2010


    The Inquirer has a number of articles today on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the MOVE headquarters in West Philadelphia and the subsequent fire that ensued, killing six adults and five children. The fire also destroyed the entire block of Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia.

    I know a lot of people who have lived at one time or another in Philadelphia and have claimed ownership of sorts regarding a circumstance or event that they call “distinctly Philadelphian” or something like that, with more than a touch of snobbery. However, the MOVE fire definitely falls into that category, and to say it’s nothing to brag about is an understatement.

    This Wikipedia article takes you to more details on the radical group’s history, including a 1978 confrontation that killed Police Officer James Ramp. It also links to an Inquirer multimedia presentation, including interviews and other materials.

    Today’s Inky contains an article describing the ordeal faced by those who have stayed on Osage Avenue after all these years; as the story tells us…

    Thirty-seven of the 61 homes here, including those on either side of her redbrick rowhouse, sit dark, bought up by the city and left abandoned. Their windows and doors are boarded, some marred by graffiti, with ominous, padlocked bars across the doors.

    At 6221, the former MOVE house, yellowed junk mail lies on the small patio, and insulation flaps in the breeze.

    The story also tells us about the payouts offered to the homeowners that were subsequently knocked down on appeal, as well as the shoddy construction of Ernest Edwards, the “contractor” responsible for rebuilding the homes and who ended up as the only person to go to jail over the entire incident (noted here…it should also be noted that the city’s trade unions offered to rebuild the homes for free, but the offer was rejected).

    As part of the Inky’s coverage, reporter Connie Langland interviews the life form known as Ramona Africa (here), who claims to this day that she and the other MOVE members inhabiting the compound weren’t permitted to leave their burning dwelling due to gunfire, which, unfortunately, was corroborated by the MOVE investigating commission in 1986. I will also grant her point that, if anyone in city government had possessed an ounce of common sense, the adult members could have been apprehended without putting the children at risk, to say nothing of torching the neighborhood.

    After that, though, she and I definitely part company. The fact that she somehow remains free after being part of a gang that terrorized a city neighborhood for years is somehow difficult for yours truly to fathom.

    The Inquirer’s coverage also includes interviews with former Mayor Wilson Goode (here) and former Fire Commissioner William Richmond (here…former Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor, the person who probably had more to do with the events of that day than anyone, did not allow an interview for today’s coverage…I can recall, during the MOVE investigation, that Richmond seemed to be the only one in authority not trapped in some kind of a fog and who recognized the scope of the nightmare that day.).

    Also, I have to give the Inquirer credit for doing the right thing and publishing an opinion column on this from former columnist Clark DeLeon; to say he took the events of that day personally is an understatement, having been on-scene as part of the paper’s coverage that day. He basically believed that the deaths of the children in the MOVE fire was a blight upon the city’s conscience, including anyone living there at the time; I lived in Philadelphia then, and yes it was terrible, but I never believed that I was personally at fault. Still, I admired DeLeon’s passion on this, and still do (he also blames anyone who voted to return Goode to office after the fire; Goode was running against former Mayor Frank Rizzo, and though Goode’s reputation was justly stained, at least he didn’t fail a lie detector test as Rizzo did).

    (Also, you can tell that DeLeon is speaking truth to power, as they say, by the volume of the wingnut bellowing in the comments.)

    For someone not familiar with the events of May 13, 1985 involving MOVE, it’s hard to communicate how surreal a day it truly was. As we would later learn from the MOVE Commission Report, as Goode watched the events unfold, he thought the fire raging out of control was snow on his television set. Also, local reporter Harvey Clark, among others, did an outstanding job of communicating the day’s events as an entire city block was destroyed.

    (Also, to get an idea of how divisive an episode it was, I should tell you that I once got into an argument with a guy I worked with out in the Chester County suburbs who claimed that the C4 dropped from the helicopter onto the roof of the MOVE compound didn’t start the fire, but the MOVE people started it themselves, and the news media edited the tape on purpose to make it look like the C4 started the fire – I ended up telling him what he could do with his tin foil hat…we each eventually resigned anyway.)

    It was incomprehensible to contemplate the horrific events as they unfolded on that day. Twenty five years later, with the memory of those events fading somewhat, it is only slightly less so now.

    Update 5/15/10: I said earlier that Ernest Edwards was the only person to go to jail over MOVE, but that is incorrect; Ramona Africa ended up serving seven years in prison also before she won a half-million-dollar judgment from the city (unbelievable). Also, a state grand jury overruled the original MOVE Commison finding that gunshots prevented the group members from leaving the house as it burned (hat tip for both of these clarifications to the Inquirer clip here).


    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.


    An “Inartful” Solution To PA’s Budget Impasse

    September 22, 2009

    jfa1881l
    Given that I rightly dump on the Inquirer and Daily News on a regular basis, it would be unfair of me not to give either paper credit when they do really good work. And that is true of Karen Heller’s column today (the subject is the last-minute deal to slap “an 8 percent surcharge on tickets and membership at arts and cultural organizations in Philadelphia, 6 percent elsewhere, at a time when endowments are down, giving is down, and attendance is down,” as Heller tells us)…

    “I don’t know what Gov. Rendell and the leaders of the legislature were thinking,” Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance president Peggy Amsterdam said before launching a “Fight the Arts Tax” movement at last night’s fall meeting. “The really sad thing is we try to make cultural experiences accessible and affordable to everyone. This is going to make it harder.” Increased ticket prices, she argued, will drive away even more patrons already hit by the recession.

    Of the alliance’s 390 member institutions, 40 percent are suffering deficits, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, with shortfalls of $3.3 million last fiscal year and a projected $7.5 million this year. It’s like drawing blood from an anemic. Amsterdam says projecting $100 million in annual tax revenues is pure folly: “Our estimates are nowhere near that – maybe $20 million statewide.”

    Arts administrators complain there are no details on how much will be redirected or where. What’s to prevent Republican lawmakers from taking Philadelphia Museum of Art revenues and shipping them, say, to the Enchanted Woodlins chainsaw carvings of Elk County?

    “If this had been proposed totally across the board on all forms of entertainment, you might say, ‘This stinks. It adds to our challenges, but these are really difficult times and we’re all doing our share,’ ” said Cultural Alliance chairman Hal Real. “But it’s not across the board. And it’s symptomatic of how undervalued the arts are in our culture.”

    “Not across the board” indeed: as Heller points out, anyone who wants to pony up some dough to ogle Megan Fox in “Jennifer’s Body” as she cavorts with and then subsequently attacks her boyfriends (apparently she’s a vampire also – I only know about the flick from the commercial that seems to be on everywhere) is free to do so without paying the 8 percent tax on top of the ticket price.

    And that also goes for anyone who wants to get drunk at a tailgate party and watch the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense get carved up by a reasonably competent NFL quarterback again (to say nothing of watching slapstick special teams play), as Drew Brees of New Orleans did last Sunday (I’ll admit that Brees is a lot better than “reasonably competent,” though). Also, in the matter of football, don’t you worry, all of you egomaniacs driving around in your Hummers, Jettas and Lexus SUVs with your lion’s paw decals and bumper stickers saying, “If God Isn’t A Penn State Fan, Why Did He Make The Sky Blue And White?”…it looks like your precious Nittany Lions weren’t affected either.

    And you want to know who else wasn’t affected by the 8 percent arts sales tax? The warmongering Pattison Avenue Potentate himself, Ed Snider, that’s who. Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to watch Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins skate circles around the orange-and-black at the same cost you would have paid otherwise, to say nothing of watching the Sixers get eaten alive by other teams’ big men in the paint.

    (By the way, to the Eagles’ credit, I should point out that owner Jeffrey Lurie and Snider are polar opposites politically; the Eagles are big contributors to the Democratic Party.)

    Yes, I’m more than a little pissed about this, partly because, as Heller points out, it doesn’t make economic sense. However, the tax does appease the Republican Party for the purposes of doing the deal, which of course is what this is all about.

    And with that in mind, this tells us the following…

    The philosophical divide between those who see the arts as frivolous and those who see its value is as old as the nation.

    During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the federal Works Progress Administration paid thousands of unemployed artists to write regional guidebooks, produce plays and organize symphony orchestras. The work of more than 5,000 artists can still be seen today in murals commissioned for schools, post offices and other government buildings.

    President Obama has not proposed such a program but supports increased arts funding. Most Republicans oppose spending tax dollars on aesthetics.

    “America is a practical nation that comes from very practical roots,” says Robert Lynch of the advocacy group Americans for the Arts. “That practicality … is part of what we’ve had to overcome.”

    It was on display in the recent debate in Congress over the economic stimulus package.

    The House of Representatives version included $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts to help non-profit arts organizations avoid closing or laying off workers, but the Senate version left it out. The final bill restored the money for the NEA.

    “Putting people to work is more important than putting more art on the wall of some New York City gallery frequented by the elite art community,” said Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia during the debate.

    No word on whether or not Kingston ever found his flag lapel pin, by the way.

    But on top of that, anyone who thinks arts spending doesn’t make a positive economic impact (like Kingston) is just plan wrong (I linked to this in a prior post, but it bears repeating)…

    In Chicago, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations generate $1.09 billion in revenue, support 30,134 jobs, and deliver over $103 million in tax revenue to local and state government, according to the Illinois Arts Alliance. In Illinois, 23,643 creative enterprises employ 132,882 people, according to Americans for the Arts.

    And as noted here…

    The arts are a prime vehicle for job creation and a valued economic distribution mechanism. The country’s more than 4,000 local and state arts agencies have nearly 50 years of proven history as good stewards of our tax dollars and can ensure speedy disbursement to local projects, along with the excellent direct distribution track record of the National Endowment for the Arts itself. The arts are essential to the health and vitality of our communities.”

    NEA funds, on average, leverage $7 in additional support through local, state, and private donations, for every one dollar in federal support. Fifty million in economic stimulus will leverage $350 million of investment.

    And returning to Heller, she concludes with this…

    If you were a deeply cynical sort of person, even someone with a fleeting knowledge of the sour feelings Republicans have for Philadelphia and Rendell, you might think this latest culture tax was a spirited flamenco dance atop the city’s fiscal woes.

    In high heels, for good measure (to twist the old saying a bit, I guess PA’s Harrisburg poobahs don’t know much about spending money efficiently, but they know what they like…or don’t like in this case).


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