Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Videos

Staind ("So Far Away"; a collection of photos here - sometimes the fan videos are the best)...



...some belated birthdays as we return to the '80s; Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode ("Personal Jesus"; Pope Benny's favorite song? And real subtle horse imagery, guys)...



...also to Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys ("West End Girls")..



..and finally to Suzanne Vega ("Left of Center").

He Hasn't Got A Prayer

Based on this story of a man who felt abandoned while he committed crimes and sued God as a result, I think we can count on two subsequent developments.

The first is that, since the man mentioned The Almighty, Dubya will find a way to sneak a rider into pending legislation rewarding him with a government grant, noting that his prison activity as a “faith-based initiative.”

The second is that, since Pavel Mircea is a Romanian, Pope Benedict XVI will issue an edict stating that all Romanians are automatically going to go to hell regardless of what they do; the clarification and apology in response to the Romanian rioting will follow soon afterwards.

(And in a related story, I thought this was well-written from Roland S. Martin; a spokesman for God could not be reached for comment.)

Edwards Leads The Way Again

The latest from the Edwards for President campaign (sorry about mentioning $$ again; I mainly want to point out the stuff on Edwards and climate change)…

Dear fellow Edwards supporter,

The people have spoken! This week, MoveOn.org, the League of Conservation Voters and other progressive groups brought over 100,000 Americans together to watch all the Democratic candidates present their plans to solve global warming and then vote for the best.

Their choice? John Edwards by a landslide. John's plan got more votes than our two closest competitors—combined.

This is a victory for substance. The media may want to obsess over trivial things, but Americans are ready for bold change—and that's exactly what John Edwards has to offer.

If we can get our message of substance to the Democratic voters and caucus goers in Iowa, New Hampshire and the other key early states, we can win there too.

Can you chip in $25 to help us spread the word on the issues that matter in the key early states? Please give what you can
here.

We see it on the ground and we see it online: When voters take a close look at what the candidates have to say on the real issues, John's bold ideas carry the day. Here's what some of the voters had to say this week:


A leader's biggest job is to inspire and inflame our hearts and minds to take on whatever challenges face us... Big problems need big ideas. Crises require passionate commitment. John Edwards seems to me to have the vision necessary to begin healing our earth.

-Kathleen F., Abbeville, SC

All efforts at progress rest on a simple truth: the public good is more important than any private interest. John Edwards understands this. His emphasis on poverty and political economy interface perfectly with efforts to combat global warming. Go Edwards!

-Jason O., Brunswick, ME

As a resident of New Orleans, I appreciate how John Edwards understands the close connection between Global Warming, Hurricanes, Coastal Protection, Green Jobs, and Poverty ... all of which affect New Orleanians directly.

-Grant C., New Orleans, LA

The D.C. pundits can talk about hair until they're blue in the face. We know what matters. And so do voters and caucus goers.

That's why we know that if we can raise enough to get our message straight to the key early states, we'll be right where we need to be come Election Day. Now we just need your help to get there:

Please pitch in $25 or whatever you can afford right now
here:

Thanks for all that you do,

Ben Brandzel
John Edwards for President
Thursday, July 12, 2007

P.S. Speaking of substance, only four days until John begins his historic Road to One America tour to shine a spotlight on the injustice of poverty in America and build a movement to stop it. You can learn more and get involved
here.
To learn more, click here.

Teaching Others To Plan Wars Badly?

Just when we all had hoped that, somehow, Donald Rumsfeld would utterly vanish from the face of the earth, this story appears about Rummy setting up some kind of “a foundation to attract others to government service.”

Gee, I didn’t know it was possible to help “mentor” others into becoming preening, delusional, intimidating egomaniacs who regularly threatened subordinates and created tension and conflict with other departments. I suppose that is a marketable skill (especially for Bushco).

Well, I’m not surprised that Rummy has taken this course since, apparently, that job search hasn’t gone so well:-).

First Oil, Then Blood

The Times Of London tells us today that Iran has asked Japan to pay for its oil in yen instead of dollars. And, as also noted in the story…

Three big oil producing nations — Iran, Venezuela and Russia — have all been moving much of their foreign currency reserves from dollars to euros in recent months.

The latest move can only add to the long term pressure on the dollar, already hit by worries about the US economy based on the crisis in the sub-prime mortgage market.
And yes, the Dow continues to move in ostensibly a positive direction, and the Labor Department continues to manufacture statistics in a way that creates the mirage of economic growth (why on earth should we trust anything produced by Elaine Chao who, by the way, is the only originally appointed member of Dubya’s cabinet still serving in that position as of Rummy’s departure?).

But “the reckoning,” in whatever form or shape it may take, is coming, and this post explains why, particularly this excerpt…

Oil consuming countries have no choice but use the American Dollar to purchase their oil, since the Dollar has been so far the global standard monetary fund for oil exchange.

This necessitates these countries to keep the Dollar in their central banks as their reserve fund, thus strengthening the American economy.

But if Iran – followed by the other oil-producing countries – offered to accept the Euro as another choice for oil exchange the American economy would suffer a real crisis.



Many countries had studied the conversion from the ever weakening petrodollar to the gradually strengthening petroeuro system.

The de-valuation of the Dollar was caused by the American economy shying away from manufacturing local products – except those of the military - by outsourcing the American jobs to the cheaper third world countries and depending only on the general service sector, and by the huge cost of two major wars that are still going on.
The post by Dr. Elias Akleh doesn’t take into consideration something noted in the Times story, notably the turmoil of the sub-prime mortgage market that could drive down stock prices in that market sector, possibly leading to as many as five million foreclosures as well as the fact that spending would be slowed even more since consumers would focus on debt payment instead.

And the Akleh post also offers this cautionary note…

In its economical war Iran is treading the same path Saddam Hussein had started when he, in 2000, converted all his reserve from the Dollar to the Euro, and demanded payments in Euro for Iraqi oil.

Many economists then mocked Saddam because he had lost a lot of money in this conversion. Yet they were very surprised when he recuperated his losses within less than a year period due to the valuation of the Euro.
And we know what happened after that, don’t we?

Standing Up To The Supremes

As noted in this story, Democratic House Representative George Miller and Senator Hillary Clinton are responding to the recent ruling by Hangin’ Judge J.R.’s Supreme Court in the Ledbetter pay discrimination case.

A lower court had awarded Lilly Ledbetter, a longtime supervisor at Goodyear Tire & Rubber's plant in Gadsden, Alabama, damages after it agreed with her that a series of actions by Goodyear, including at least one negative performance review, had ended up lowering her pay far below that of her male coworkers. However, the ruling was overturned by an appeals court, and that ruling was upheld by the Supremes, because they decided she had waited too long to file her case beyond the 180 days of the discriminatory act that led to her underpayment.

However, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued in dissent that similar prior rulings had decided that each instance of pay discrimination amounted to a new violation, thus starting up the 180-day counter all over. But Roberts, Alito and the rest of the Gang of Five didn’t see it that way.

Based on the New York Times story, however, Miller and Clinton (along with Ted Kennedy) are trying to write into law that which was commonly understood by reasonable people up until now…

The House measure would direct a return to the interpretation of the civil rights law in which each unfair paycheck perpetuates discrimination. The measure would also apply to other forms of compensation like benefits.



Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, plans to introduce a similar bill, whose details are still being worked out.
And of course, the typical Repug apologists are complaining that the move would “gut the statute of limitations” by creating an open-ended timeline, according to Howard P. McKeon of California.

That of course is not true, and, as noted from this link, there are other strategies available for employees seeking compensation if they believe they have been victims of pay discrimination (I’m not taking issue with the Godfrey and Kahn analysis since I have no grounds to do so, but I still cannot help but wonder how anyone could surmise that Ledbetter had dropped her Equal Pay Act claim and weaken her case, unless her or her attorney wrongly assumed that the Supremes would honor standing case law).

I (and I’m sure a great many others) will keep an eye on whatever legislation emerges from Rep. Miller and Sens. Clinton/Kennedy as a result of what Justice Ginsburg correctly (I think) termed a “parsimonious” reading of the law by five of her colleagues.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday Videos

Queens Of The Stone Age ("Little Sister" - these guys rock)...



...Happy Birthday to to Robin Wilson of The Gin Blossoms ("Hey Jealousy")...



...Happy 73rd Birthday to piano virtuoso Van Cliburn, performing "Widmung" by Schumann/Liszt here (looks like about 1962, I would guess)...



...and Happy Birthday to another pretty fair pianist, and that would be Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac ("Songbird," perhaps her signature song, accompanied by a photo montage).

A Notable Milestone

I really would be remiss if I failed to note the 70th birthday of Bill Cosby today.

I’ll be honest with you; I was never the biggest fan of the T.V. show, but I thought it did have some enjoyable moments. Mainly, I think his stand-up comedy has frequently been hilarious, though not so much lately. He has also been successful at turning himself into a one-man industry, primarily on behalf of advocating for families and what I guess you would call individual self-empowerment.

Yes, he’s been pretty obnoxious at hawking all kinds of products (if I had his fame and notoriety, though, I’d probably do the same thing), and some of his movies have been certifiable clunkers (though the young one enjoyed “Fat Albert,” and it is entertaining if you suspend belief more than a little bit). I think his hay day was in the ‘60s with “I Spy,” the first TV show, and some of his earlier movies; that period also yielded his best comedy as far as I’m concerned.

And oh yes, he’s given probably more than anyone can imagine to many causes, most notably my alma mater (and his).

So Happy Birthday, ‘Cos. Keep doing your thing for better or worse; for me, it’s made the world a better place.

(By the way, posting is a question mark for tomorrow – we’ll see.)

The Dreadliest Catch

After reading this (a great post from Chris Kelly at HuffPo), I imagined the following scenario (based on this)…

The Noordam ends up veering hundreds of miles off course when, in a fit of manly self-determination, Dick Morris and William Rusher are consumed by an excessive wave of testosterone that sweeps throughout their bodies upon hearing the news of “some progress” in Iraq from the latest George W. Bush press conference.

They seize control of the boat and, unknowingly, end up setting a course for Dutch Harbor in Unalaska. Soon afterwards, the ship is utterly destroyed from brutal sea storms, including huge swells and gale force winds, causing conservative academics, politicians and pundits to be scattered across the Bering Sea.

All passengers end up unaccounted for, but for three. Here are their stories…

“Narrator: We join the crew of the Cornelia Marie after a night of fishing for Alaskan King Crab. Captain Phil Harris tells us of a strange sight that he encountered in the icy darkness.”

“Harris: At first I couldn’t make it out – just thought it was some big ‘Opi’ crab boat that had run aground somehow, so I tried to navigate over to find out of there were any survivors. Well, it turns out that it was just some kind of a sauna or lounge or something or maybe a gym that was part of a ship that somehow made it all the way out here. I gotta tell you, though, that the guy hiding in it didn’t look like he’d been working out or anything. We took him on anyway as a greenhorn.”

“Narrator: That new greenhorn was Ramesh Ponnuru.”

“Ponnuru: Ugh, God, this is ugly, filthy work! I’ve been up for two days straight, stacking pots, scrubbing the ship deck and cleaning out the toilets!”

“Harris: Hey, Ramesh, get your gear on, go up on deck and start helping the crew with dumping the crabs! I don’t care how rotten the weather is. If I lose the captain’s wager, you’re going to find out what ‘a culture of death’ really means!”



“Narrator: Meanwhile, Rich Lowry had somehow survived the journey also across hundreds of miles to the Farwest Leader, clinging for dear life inside the remains of a jacuzzi. Captain Greg Moncrief has more.”

“Moncrief: Yeah, after we fixed the ‘dog’ that we use as a wench to help lift the pots, it turns out that New Rich was better than Old Rich at steering them so we could drop ‘em into the water. The problem is that, pretty soon, he got so good that he started yakking all over the place about how we’re waging a war out here, and how much of a force for good the righteous anger of the American people can be, whatever the hell that means. So anyway, the winds pick up and the boat tosses more and more, and we tell him to zip it because we can’t hear ourselves giving directions, but still he won’t shut up.”

“Narrator: I don’t see him out on deck. Where is he now?”

“Moncrief: Oh, don’t worry. We got him all stowed down in the hold inside a pot. He was calculating that I’d put him in charge of the deck hands. He was wrong. Calculation has its advantages, but no one likes naked calculation.*”

* - actual Lowry quote, by the way


“Narrator: As the wave swells continue to rise and the boats pitch dangerously on the frozen water, Captain Sig Hansen of the Northwestern tells us this strange story.”

“Hansen: The guys start bitching at me more and more from the deck ‘cause I tell ‘em I want ‘em to keep up with the 300 pots instead of the usual 150, since we’ve hit a nice spot and I want to keep the run goin’. Even though they get so tired they act like robots, that’s good. Robots don’t complain. Robots don’t sleep. I like it that way.

All of a sudden, we hear this shrieking in the darkness. The boat gets closer, and the shrieking gets louder and louder. Then all of a sudden, we realize it’s a woman’s voice, so we send a hoist over the side and tell her to hang on while we pull her on board. She looks all frozen, with barnacles all over her and seaweed sticking out of her hair. It looked like she was wearing some kind of an evening gown, but it’s all wet and matted all over her. To tell you the truth, it was showing off a lot of her, but we didn’t want to look. Maybe we’ve been out to sea for too long or something.”

Narrator: “Tell us what happened next.”

Hansen: “Well, you’d think she be happy to be alive, but she starts screaming and crying even more, and she actually starts kicking us in her stocking feet. Screaming over and over, ‘I’m Ann Coulter, I’m Ann Coulter!’ as if that’s supposed to mean something. Acting pretty godless, if you take my meaning.”

Narrator: “Could you tell us where she is?”

Hansen: “Well (looking away a bit), I hate to say this, but while she was fighting with us, we got this monster 20-foot swell, and the boat pitched so badly that it threw her over the side back into the water again, and this time, we just took off without her. And it’s just as well. A woman’s bad luck on a crab boat anyway.”
I wonder if could sell the pilot to The Discovery Channel, or maybe CNN to replace Glenn Beck? The mind boggles…

How Nice To Finally Owe Up To It

On a day where we honor the passing of a much-admired first lady, the president from her home state admitted that someone broke the law in the White House today (coming, of course, in light of his commutation and pardon in all but name of a high-profile and well-connected flunkie), but, upon admitting that fact, said we should just “move on.”

I guess I’m just naïve or something, but I think it’s a big deal when the president admits that he’s covering up for a law-breaker and, in effect, betraying his oath of office and thus committing an impeachable offense (of course, assuming this is his first, which it isn’t, as we know).

But of course, much of America was riveted by the fact that “Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix” made $44.8 million on its opening day, so it largely escaped notice.

Living Up To His Name Again

So John Boehner thinks Repug senators who “have begun to favor a change of course in Iraq are ‘wimps’,” huh?

That means that Sen. Richard Lugar, who served in the Navy for three years, is a wimp? Sens. Chuck Hagel and John Warner, both of whom served in the Marines, are wimps also? And I guess that would also include Sen. John McCain (and I really don’t need to recount his story, do I?).

I have disagreements with all of these people (particularly McCain and his disappearing presidential candidacy), but there is no denying that they put themselves in harm’s way to protect us at some point in their lives.

And what did Boehner do? As mcjoan notes, Boehner was discharged from basic training after eight weeks for medical reasons. Also (as noted here)…

…Boehner had no issue with the favoring of "mandatory surrender dates" before he was against him as he voted multiple times to speed up the timetable to bring the troops home from Somalia under President Clinton (House Roll Call Vote #179, 5/22/93 and House Roll Call Vote #555, 11/9/93) and voted against funding the war effort there. (House Roll Call Vote #188, 5/26/93).

In other words the House Minority Leader, the Congressional leader of the Republican Party voted to force the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief, to withdraw troops from active combat earlier than the President thought was necessary on more than one occasion, and actually voted not to fund combat operations. ALL IN A MILITARY OPERATION WHERE ONLY 43 U.S. SERVICE PERSONNEL WERE KILLED IN COMBAT.
Any loss of life is significant, but it’s plain to see that nothing but rank, putrid political posturing is behind Boehner’s antics. And though the numbers offered here are still nothing to brag about, I think it shows that the voters don’t have any regrets about handing over Congress to the Democrats last November.

A Great Lady Passes

If you have a minute or two, I’d ask that you read this fine tribute to the former Claudia Alta Taylor written by Enid Nemy of the New York Times. It details the quite-full life of “Lady Bird” Johnson, who left us yesterday at 94.

I suppose it’s hard now to conceive of a woman acting in a subservient manner to a powerful man who could still be formidable herself, but that was very much the case with Mrs. Johnson, and it was a role she chose at a time when others chose the same, for good or ill.

There’s so much to appreciate and respect about her life that it’s hard to summarize it, though many people have focused on her commitment to the environment, which is as it should be. But it’s important that we not forget about her compassion and understanding as well.

I dusted off our copy of “The Vantage Point” last night, which is the memoir Lyndon Johnson wrote about his presidency, in an effort to find some anecdotes about her. There are plenty of acknowledgements of her, but not a lot that reveals anything about her. However, the book does note how she comforted Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination, and I also found this recollection after they both returned to Austin, TX in 1969 after the inauguration of Richard Nixon…

The weather was warm and mild at the Ranch. After we changed into comfortable clothes, Lady Bird and I walked around the yard together. In the carport behind the house the luggage was piled in a giant mound. For the first time in five years there were no aides to carry the bags inside. Lady Bird looked at the scene and began to laugh. “The coach has turned back into a pumpkin,” she said, “and the mice have all run away.”
Here are other examples of her characteristic folksiness, emblematic of her character, as noted in the Times tribute…

Mrs. Johnson’s Texas heritage was often evident in her speech. “I’ll see you next week if the Lord be willing and the creek don’t rise” was one expression. Her description of someone who acted without thinking was “the type who would charge hell with a bucket of water.”
I know I shouldn’t dishonor this tribute by noting the obvious connection to that phrase and another Texas president who is microscopic versus LBJ in terms of intellect and integrity, but…

I doubt we will ever see the likes of Lady Bird Johnson again, largely because she was a product of her time, and we will be the worse for it.

Update 7/20: Though this tells an unfortunate story, it also honors her legacy; it also shows that we have much to do to build on her fine work.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A "Penumbra Of Angst" On Parade

I happened to read this recent interview with Mitt Romney in U.S. News and World Report (a corporate media publication on behalf of primarily the investor class, to be sure), and I’d like to share some of my observations in the usual manner.

You have released a plan to fight "violent jihad" worldwide. Where does Iraq fit in?

Clearly the war in Iraq is an enormous front in the war against radical jihad, less than well managed over the past several years. We did a fine job in knocking down Saddam Hussein. We were underprepared and underplanned for what occurred afterward. I support the troop surge at this stage. I would just recommend that the administration publish the metrics they will use to determine if it is working, because if we wait until September, there will be a lot of skepticism as to whether we chose metrics that just happened to be the ones that were working.
You want “metrics,”Mitt? Here, check this out. This should give you all the metrics you need.

Why do so many Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track?

It has gotten worse in part because of the immigration issue. I think Iraq is an enormous cloud over the American people. When every day, Americans are being shot and Iraqis are being blown up, it is just, using the Supreme Court term, a penumbra of angst.
Whoa…a “what” of angst?

According to The Free Online Dictionary, I think the best definition here of “penumbra” is “an area in which something exists to a lesser or uncertain degree.” However, I don’t think there’s anything uncertain at all about the desire of the majority of this country to get out of Iraq (as noted here – and as mcjoan points out, how ridiculous is it for Repugs to believe that the immigration issue trumps Iraq?)

What do voters want from their next president?

I think what Americans long for is the return of the principles that Ronald Reagan spoke about. The fundamental pillars of conservatism—a strong military, a strong economy, and strong families and values. I look at '08 as kind of a watershed where I think Hillary Clinton would take us toward big government and big taxes and Big Brother, and I think that would take us toward where Europe has gone: anemic job growth and relative economic stagnation.
Putting aside the typical Repug cheap shots (“Big Brother,” huh? Warrantless spying and disregard of habeas corpus for detainees at Guantanamo (see update) happened under Dubya, not her husband, the biggest manifestations of “Big Brother” I can imagine, and I also realize it’s pointless to engage Romney in an intelligent discussion here since there’s no way to have one), let’s look at the non Ronnie-fluffing stuff Romney says here.

How can you have a “strong military” when it has been broken in Iraq (to say nothing of declining enlistment)? And as far as “a strong economy” is concerned, take a look at this.

How will you deal with criticisms of your Mormon faith?

I have said that time will give us the answer on whether we do a big speech; and then I read Hugh Hewitt's book, A Mormon in the White House? and his conclusion was, don't give a speech, you know it can never be as good as Jack Kennedy's [addressing critics of his Roman Catholicism]. And that's true, and it won't answer the critics. But more recently I am more inclined to [because] there have been comments about my faith that have been inaccurate, and it has become more of a visible issue.
Well, then, Willard Mitt, why don’t you give this a look?

George Bush portrays himself as the CEO president. Has that model failed?

Not every business leader has exactly the same experience and orientation. I came from a very analytically driven industry. I love conflict and debate. I can't make a decision without hearing both sides. [I] recognize that every problem is soluble.
Such as both sides in the question of same-sex marriage and civil unions, which he supported in 1994 but has recently opposed (as noted here under “Political Positions”)?

What would you do differently in managing the government?

I think we would benefit more by a more deliberative debate field, argumentative, data-driven analytical approach, setting benchmarks. What are our benchmarks in healthcare, education, environment, energy, global jihad?
It continually makes me laugh to read people from the “for profit” sector who believe that you can just drop a bunch of milestones, methodologies and a well-honed mission statement into government and make it work all by itself, not realizing that there are vital differences when it comes to providing services and managing revenue on behalf of all kinds of disparate constituencies in this country.

What happens when Romney plugs in his magical numbers and then the facts on the ground force him to realize all of his assumptions are bogus? Do the Repugs ever seem to have a Plan B?

How would you overcome the current rancor in Washington?

One, not worrying about who gets the credit. Two, not making personal attacks. States are working. Statehouses with Republican and Democrat division work well. States are balancing their budgets. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. We did it in Massachusetts. Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota.
“Democrat” division, huh? Good one, you scumbag.

I will give Ahh-nold some credit here for showing vision as a Repug governor, particularly on global warming; he’s proven people wrong who’ve underestimated him his whole life (there are times when I think he’d make an interesting Democratic candidate, but that will never happen, and short of the U.S. Congress, he’s gone as far as he can). As for Pawlenty, though, “The Mittster” should take a look at this.

What did you learn from studying the presidential campaign of your dad [George Romney, who ran in 1968]?

I got a master's thesis by a fellow who worked in my dad's campaign. His thesis was "Why George Romney Lost," and it was the best analysis I had seen—20 reasons. By the way, one of them was not his Mormon faith. There were a number of things. Dad had two offices, the headquarters in Michigan and the headquarters in Washington. A disaster. Even if it is a tough place, you bring everybody together. But there are a number of things he went through. In some respects, [he was] a reluctant candidate—my dad wasn't sure he was in, back and forth. He got thrust in before he was ready.
Mitt is “gilding the lily” a bit here. Sorry to be unkind, but there was a bit more to it than that (as noted here, and you have to keep in mind that the term George Romney used was highly charged for his time given movies like “The Manchurian Candidate” and the treatment some of our P.O.W.s were getting from places like the “Hanoi Hilton.”)

Who will be the Democratic nominee?

I think it is going to be Hillary Clinton. On our side, it is just too uncertain. I think there will be an advantage to somebody who has actually run something. Mayor Giuliani and I have both run something. He ran a city. I ran a state. Now, I also ran the Olympics and businesses for 25 years. I think it is going to be very hard to get the nomination or win the presidency if you have never managed something.
Oh sure, Mitt, you’ve “managed” a thing or two. You managed to completely discount Osama bin Forgotten here.

You managed to concoct some unfortunate language during the “Big Dig” tragedy last year (and here’s an update on that story, by the way – not a good development for one of Bushco’s favorite contractors).

You managed to allow one of the Swift Boat Lying Liars for Lies into your campaign (here).

You managed to show what many feel is inappropriate “regret” over the defeat of a measure to let the voters decide on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts instead of the legislature.

Oh, and you managed to torture your dog too.

If it seems like I’m paying too much attention to “the Mittster” here, it’s only because I have kind of a sick feeling that this guy could yet emerge as the Repug presidential nominee (though I have a similar digestive reaction to everyone else in that field). No matter which way the Fundies look, they’re going to have to pick someone (Romney, Rudy!, Fred “Flaw And Ardor” Thompson) who has pro-choice “skeletons” that they want to hide. Barring the entry of Newt Gingrich into the race (which would set off a blogging frenzy for all lefties out there including yours truly), these are the characters from which “the faithful” must choose.

And though that will give Repug voters a lot more than “a penumbra of angst,” it gives the Dems the best opportunity to turn this whole mess around in the White House that I’ve ever seen. All they have to do is not screw it up.

Update 7/12: Spank my butt and call me Charlie; how could I have forgotten about this one (and I'm still awaiting confirmation on those "seven-year French marriages" also).

Update 7/23: I guess I should call him Mitt "Lighten Up" Romney now.

Update 8/1: And he's a fan of Hezbollah's universal health care in Lebanon also (here) - I'm totally serious.

Parker's Toke(n) Support For Pot

Not that I would expect in-depth analysis from columnist Kathleen Parker on the issue of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes (I came across her column in the Bucks County Courier Times).

Parker says that the arrest is no cause for celebration, which is true of course, but then manages to suggest at the end that Al Gore could moderate a discussion about legalizing this drug, and oh, wouldn’t that be just soooo delicious of a topic for Parker and her fellow journalistic assassins.

(I swear, these people have absolutely no shame. And on top of that, Parker even manages to sneak in another evergreen freeper lie about Social Security getting ready to go bankrupt at any moment.)

While Parker provides a litany of reasons why the drug should be legalized nationally – the fact that possession of the drug has been decriminalized in twelve states, the idiocy of federal law enforcement invading the homes of people using the drug for medical purposes in states where such a practice is permitted, reduced law enforcement costs generally – she doesn’t really tell any of her reader how to support this position.

This link takes you to information on House Bill H.R. 2592, The States’ Right To Medical Marijuana Act, introduced by Barney Frank of Massachusetts in 2001, along with 42 cosponsors including Ron Paul of Texas (#20 on the list - sorry for all the work, but the Thomas site links are flaky). As you can see, the bill has been languishing in a House subcommittee for almost seven years. Here is the text of the bill…

This legislation states: "No provision of the Controlled Substances Act [or] ... the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict

(A) the prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use, (B) an individual from obtaining and using marijuana from a prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use by such individual, or(C) a pharmacy from obtaining and holding marijuana for the prescription of marijuana by a physician for medical use under applicable state law in a State in which marijuana may be prescribed or recommended by a physician for medical use under applicable State law." Since 1996, nine states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) have implemented laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess and use medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision. While these laws protect patients from state criminal marijuana penalties, they do not shield patients from federal prosecution, nor do they allow a state legislature to legally distribute medical marijuana. H.R. 2592 would afford patients legal protection under federal law by rescheduling marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, and permit those states that wish to establish medical marijuana distribution systems the legal authority to do so.
To contact Congress and tell them to get moving on this, click here. Also, I wish the Gores well as they deal with this difficult family matter.

Family Leave, Asked And Answered

This editorial appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 26th from Kathleen A. Davis of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey.

The message that the business climate in New Jersey is less than hospitable is falling on deaf ears in Trenton.

The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey has presented study after study and anecdotal evidence that demonstrates the challenges of operating a business in our state.

We've given state officials information on surveys that rank New Jersey last in a small-business survival index and third worst in its business tax climate; show we're ahead of only six states in our ability to compete for businesses to locate or stay in our state; show that business leaders throughout the country believe ours is the most likely state to reduce or eliminate business incentives; rank New Jersey 46th in private-sector job growth; and present data where 83 percent of respondents in a survey of chamber member companies graded our state's business climate a C or less, with 36 percent giving it a failing grade.

Despite this evidence, there is an inexplicable desire to push through an AFL-CIO/CWA agenda item that lacks any evidence that it is needed - paid family leave. Under the guise of "balancing work and family," this proposal would allow workers to take up to 10 weeks off every year to care for a newly born or adopted child, or to care for a sick family member. Benefits would be paid out of the state disability fund and funded by a payroll tax.

Paid family leave will not only cost business and taxpayers money, but also will disrupt the work/family balance for those employees who would have to work longer hours because they have to take on additional duties of those out on leave.

The cost to business is obvious. Having one or more employees out for extended periods of time will burden other employees who will have to cover their coworker's tasks. This will result in lower morale, increased overtime costs, and decreased productivity. Further, the cost of replacing an employee includes a premium on top of the hourly pay rate. Finally, as more employees avail themselves of paid leave, businesses will simply find it more difficult to remain competitive.

If passed, taxpayers can look forward to footing the bill of what will certainly become an entitlement for government workers. Following California's lead, state and local government employee unions will likely negotiate for government (therefore, taxpayers) to not only pay full salary during this leave, but also to pay the tax that funds this benefit.

Proponents of paid family leave seem to ignore the fact that New Jersey is one of only five states that provides paid maternity leave (a minimum of 10 weeks). They also point to a study conducted by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University. Ironically, it demonstrated that all of the employers in the study successfully made arrangements with workers to accommodate needed leave time because they have the flexibility to do so.

Legislating employee benefits for the private sector in such a tenuous business climate is dangerous public policy. Union leaders should do their jobs at the bargaining table and be consistent in their cries to the legislature to "negotiate, don't dictate!" We can't help but recall the testimony of labor leaders last fall, who asserted the Legislature had no authority to dictate benefits unilaterally - that wages and working conditions of workers should be determined through collective bargaining - a sacred principle for unions! On this point, we couldn't agree more. Let employers - not government - decide which benefits to offer in order to attract and retain talent in this highly competitive global economy.
I don't know what is more odious; the insinuation from Davis that other workers would have to pick up the slack for those individuals in need of family leave or her speculation that those workers in need of leave would only ask for more concessions in the future.

Anyway, this letter to the editor appeared in response in today's Inquirer.

A recent attack on family-leave insurance by Kathleen A. Davis, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, fails to grasp the realities of the 21st-century economy ("Legislation on family leave unneeded," June 26). One of the hardest jobs anyone has today is balancing work and family. Conflicts are inevitable, often involving having to care for a sick child, spouse or parent.

Family-leave insurance in New Jersey would let men and women take some time off at reduced pay (but at least some pay) for family emergencies. Employees would pay (on average, under 50 cents a week) into a fund that would provide those needing it up to 10 weeks off at two-thirds pay (capped at $502 a week).

During legislative hearings, small-business owners from the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition came in support of family-leave insurance. They understand they won't have to pay a penny into the fund. They know workers who get time to help their families are more productive.

A study by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University found employee turnover costs far exceed the cost of providing employees' leaves. It also found that while many New Jersey small-business owners (under 50 employees) already give time off to care for family members, they regret being unable to provide any pay.

Business groups against family-leave insurance fail to note the legislation doesn't require small businesses to save the job of anyone taking leave. But at least the fund the workers paid into will provide financial help for a while. What is antibusiness about that?

Economic life today is difficult. It requires partnerships among working people, businesses and government to make things work. Family-leave insurance is just that.

Eileen Appelbaum
Director,
Center for Women and Work, Rutgers University

Jon Shure
President,
New Jersey Policy Perspective
To learn more about family leave insurance across the country (well, most of it anyway – maybe Pennsylvania will exit from the dark ages on this issue eventually), click here.

I'll Drink To That

As noted here in a column by New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Bushco reopened the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room yesterday for its dutiful Beltway stenographers, at a taxpayer cost of $6 million (the total renovation cost was $8 million).

Press Secretary Tony Snow Job, of course, created some fanciful narrative whereby Laura noticed decrepit wiring in the old room and commanded, “This won’t do. Fix it,” and then, as if by magic, all was made better (largely on our dime, of course).

And why exactly has this all transpired? Well, because Bushco isn’t being featured in the news as much as it would like, and they’re looking for sympathetic reporting (awwwww).

As Stolberg notes…

Mr. Bush’s communications team, trying to gin up coverage, has gotten more creative. Last summer, he held a news conference in Chicago intended to attract regional coverage. In April, he used high-tech electronic graphics in Grand Rapids, Mich., to promote his troop buildup in Iraq. He held one town-hall-style meeting in Tipp City, Ohio, in April, and another Tuesday in Cleveland — a departure for a White House that prefers controlled events.

“They have to dig a little bit deeper into their toolkit at this point in the presidency to get the front-page coverage,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a political scientist at Towson University in Maryland who studies the White House communications operation.
Can I make a suggestion?

Dubya should hold the next press briefing during happy hour at a local upscale pub, or, short of that, set up a wet bar in the briefing room. Maybe if everyone involved got a little lubricated and felt less inhibited, we’d get reporting that would represent a better return on our money.

Update: Yep, I think BarbinMD's one-word analysis here is spot-on ("Cogitate," huh? I didn't know that word appeared in Archie Comics anywhere.)

Another News Pro Leaves Us

(It’s hard to read the cartoon because I had to shrink it, but “The Governator” is supposed to be holding up Jim Inhofe, wearing a button that says “What Global Warming?”).

That was the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette who died yesterday in a car accident. He also penned the syndicated comic strip “Kudzu” and wrote the novels “The Bridge” and “Magic Time.”

As noted here, Nick Anderson, the Houston Chronicle/Washington Post Writer’s Group creator and president-elect of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, said: "This is really shocking. He was only 57. It's a loss to the world of cartooning. He was a respected member of our profession. There will be a conspicuous absence on the pages of American newspapers. I'd like to extend my sympathies to his family."

Marlette is survived by his wife, Melinda, and his adult son, Jackson.

(I probably should have added this earlier, but to check out more of his work, click here.)

Take My Study, Please

This doesn’t have anything to do with politics, but...

According to this HuffPo news story, researchers at Washington University tested a sampling of 40 individuals 65 or over and 40 undergraduate students in an effort to examine cognitive flexibility, abstract reasoning and short-term memory, as well as humor comprehension, among older adults.

The results of this study can be accessed from here (I just read the abstract; I have no desire to pay for a copy of the results).

As the story notes, the research was conducted by graduate student Wingyun Mak and psychology professor Brian Carpenter, and they used a verbal joke test from 1983, which I think is the first problem. The second is that a nonverbal component was introduced, namely, excerpts from the Ferd’nand comic strip (as Wikipedia notes, Ferd’nand is a series of pantomime comic panels without words, which is bound to appeal to a younger audience).

I’m definitely not an academic, but I cannot imagine how one’s capacity for humor can be properly evaluated with dated verbal tests that don’t account for the thought processes of adults which are bound to acquire more sophistication with age (discounting physical impairment, of course). Part of that sophistication is the appreciation for subtlety of language and layers of meaning, taking into account what I guess you might call current cultural sensibilities that are highly subjective (such as math professor and comedian Tom Lehrer’s famous observation that a fellow college student “majored in animal husbandry, until they caught him at it one day”).

I will acknowledge one point for researchers Mak and Carpenter, though, and that is the fact that people who consume what I would call the traditional, corporate media in this country (magazines and newspapers especially) tend to be older. And given the relentless torrent of bad news primarily over the last seven years, that would be enough to fracture anyone’s funny bone.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday Videos

I had to delete last night's music post because of formatting issues - here's hoping for better luck tonight.

Richard Thompson ("Dad's Gonna Kill Me," from "Sweet Warrior" set to a photo montage, with "Dad" being military slang for Baghdad)...



...and Happy Birthday to fellow folkie graybeard Arlo Guthrie ("City Of New Orleans" by the late, great Steve Goodman; may God watch over that wondrous place during this hurricane season).

Make Him Leave

I’m going to try and get something started; it may quickly flame out, it may move forward but then dissipate, or it may actually accomplish something. I don’t know, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

After reading this post from mcjoan at The Daily Kos, I can flatly state that I want Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party now more than ever before.

Are you as fed up with his pontifical whining about how the Iraq debacle is really some great cause but the rest of this country is screwed up because we see it for what it is (“hostage crisis” is a perfectly apt way to put it, as mcjoan did)? Are you sick of the sanctimony and obstruction from this cretin? To say nothing of his attack on a man like Harry Reid who has done everything he can do to be felicitous to this scumwaffle?

Good. I am also.

That is why I’m going to contact Senate Majority Leader Reid of Nevada from here and tell him that I want him to remove Lieberman from his assignments on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Armed Services, Environment/Public Works, and Small Business committees. If this were to occur, there is no way Lieberman would remain with the Democrats and officially “jump ship” to the Repugs instead, having suffered such an incalculable loss of pride (I think someone came up with this idea earlier when the Dems took over the Senate, but I want to get it started again).

Yes, I know the probability of success is virtually nil here. But other causes have faced longer odds and they have been accomplished (I can’t think of one at the moment, but in my own personal umbrage, I’m sure this is true – kind of in a John-Belushi-was-it-over-when-the-Germans-bombed-Pearl-Harbor mode a bit here).

And yes, I also know the Senate would be 50-50 again with Darth Cheney as the tie breaker. But even if we can get legislation passed through the Senate, it would just be vetoed by Incurious George anyway.

And the moment Lieberman becomes a Repug, he will fade into the pack and lose the celebrity he enjoys in his egomania as an “independent.” He doesn’t seem to want to switch and see that happen now, but if Reid forces his hand, it will hasten a bit of a fall for Lieberman from the media spotlight.

So let’s contact Senator Reid and let him know that we want this to happen. If we got this ball rolling to the point where Reid acted on it (again, a long shot I know) it would stand as a message to this country that the Dems are serious about trying to end this war, and anyone who doesn’t want to do that should pack up and move across the aisle (or, short of that, STFU).

Update 7/23: What Atrios sez...

Oh God Benny, Just Shut Up

I know that’s highly disrespectful towards the leader of my faith, and I’m sorry, but every time this man does something, he seems to “put his foot in it.”

So Orthodox churches are “defective” because they don’t recognize the primacy of the pope? And as this news story notes at the end, why even mention it when this was already stated in a document written in 2000? Maybe because Benny was unofficially calling the shots back then but he’s officially calling them now?

And this comes on the heels of a call to return to the Tridentine Latin rite mass which advocates the conversion of Jews to Catholicism, which was met with the predictable (and justifiable) outcry. It also comes in the aftermath of the pope’s trip to South America where he ignored the liberation theology movement, and it also follows his attempt to tell people how to drive. And it also comes in the face of the Vatican's dismissal of the chief astronomer for correctly pointing out that "intelligent design" isn't science, as well as Benny's criticism of Bob Dylan.

And it also comes after his slap in the face at Islam for some mysterious reason.

I don’t know if it’s possible to have “pope fatigue” (I’m sure if it is, then it’s a sin), but I seriously think that I have it.

Update: Devilstower at The Daily Kos makes a great point here.

Help Fight Global Warming Today

The latest from the John Edwards for President campaign...

Right now, we have a critical chance to spread the word about John Edwards' ground breaking plan to solve global warming—but we have to act fast.

Between now and tonight at midnight Pacific time (3:00 AM Eastern time), please go vote for John's global warming plan in the MoveOn.org "Virtual Town Hall" on climate change:

Click here.

When the media is obsessed with the money race and silly distractions, it's up to us to turn the spotlight on the issues that actually matter in people's lives. And that's where this campaign really shines.

MoveOn asked all of the candidates to talk about their plans to address global warming, and now it's up to the public to pick the best proposal. Tomorrow morning the national press will cover the results, and later MoveOn will run an ad highlighting the top plan—so this is a huge opportunity.

Please go hear John explain his global warming plan and cast your vote right now at:

Click here.

Why is John's plan to stop global warming the best in the pack? It's the substance.

When John introduced his plan, The League of Conservation Voters called it:

"the most comprehensive global warming plan of any presidential candidate to date...[it] understands the magnitude of the challenge before us and the need for bold leadership to meet it."

The environmental magazine Grist called it:

"far and away the strongest, most comprehensive climate and energy plan (of) the three front-runners."

Here's the quick summary:

John's energy plan calls for an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050—according to the latest science that's the reduction necessary to actually halt the worst effects of global warming. And it calls for freezing the growth of our electricity usage for a decade through national efficiency programs.

John's against all federal subsidies for liquid coal, and stands for a complete moratorium on new coal plants that cannot capture their carbon pollution.

John's calling on America to lead the world towards a new climate treaty that would sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

And John's plan would help spur a new energy economy to break our dependence on foreign oil while creating 1 million new jobs.

We know climate change is a global crisis that's already upon us—we owe it to ourselves and our children to find the courage for truly transformational change. John Edwards has that courage. But as always, John and this campaign depend on people like you and me taking action to turn that vision for change into reality.

So before the polls close at Midnight Pacific time (3:00AM Eastern time) tonight, please take a minute to watch John outline his plan and then cast your vote here:

Click here.

Thanks for all that you do,

Ben Brandzel
John Edwards for President
Tuesday, July 10th, 2007
To learn more, click here.

Smile When You Write That, BoBo

(Because it’s ridiculously funny, in a completely unintentional way…)

David Brooks created a new threshold for stupidity in editorial journalism today in the New York Times (here). It’s almost a historic occasion, actually.

His subject is the recent spate of what I guess you would call “girl-hate-guy” songs; the Inquirer had something about this yesterday I believe – I really didn’t pay too much attention since life is short and I was too busy dumping on the paper for other reasons.

I’ll give you some examples from Brooks’ column; in the song “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood, the girl, in a rage over seeing her beau with some little blonde harpy, busts up the headlights of his car with a baseball bat and does other stuff to it. In “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne, he implores her guy to dump the girl he’s messing with “so she can show him what good sex is really like.” And in “U + Ur Hand,” Pink plays with guys to get them to buy drinks for her before she shoots them down, telling them “it’s just you and your hand tonight” (do you kiss your mother with that mouth, Pink?).

I should hasten to add that these interpretations come from Brooks’ column and nowhere else (I attempted to find the Inquirer column in question through Google and philly.com’s awful search engine, but I was unsuccessful).

If Brooks’ column were composed of only what I’ve just mentioned, I wouldn’t waste your time by mentioning it. However, Brooks the know-it-all sociologist believes that these songs reflect the fact that young people face a “social frontier” and are responding here in a uniquely American way, much like Clint Eastwood did in his movies including “High Plains Drifter” (from which the above pic was taken) and in the manner Humphrey Bogart did in “The Big Sleep” and Charles Bronson did with his characters, presumably in the “Death Wish” movies.

I swear, I couldn’t make this stuff up (and Brooks should be careful, by the way; he’s infringing on Michael Medved’s turf here a bit).

I will cut Brooks just a bit of slack and note that movie themes became more personal and boundaries concerning violence, sex and language were broken with establishment of the ratings system in the late ‘60s, which I believe yielded some of the finest films ever made (“The Godfather” Pts. 1 and 2, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Network,” “Chinatown,” “The Conversation,” “The Last Detail,” and on and on).

However, in each of the movies Brooks mentioned, the characters experienced a level of suffering through which they sought fulfillment through vengeance with their stories explained in a way that lent a more thorough and credible examination of who they were and why they did what they were doing than you could obtain through a three or four minute long pop song (though of course I do not advocate vengeance for reasons of fulfillment; I don’t believe that can ever be achieved anyway).

In “High Plains Drifter,” Eastwood’s character (depending on your interpretation) is the ghost of the town sheriff seeking revenge after he was killed. In “Death Wish,” Bronson’s wife was killed and his daughter was sexually assaulted, causing him to go nuts. And I’ve never been able to figure out the exact plot of “The Big Sleep” in a way that would lend itself to some kind of easy explanation (though Bogart played hardboiled characters in other urban movie dramas such as “Knock On Any Door” where, as a lawyer, he tried to keep young thug John Derek off death row).

In all of the songs Brooks mentioned, though, a bunch of pissed off women are bitching and acting up in response to stupid behavior from their boyfriends. That’s it. That has nothing to do with “an autonomous Lone Ranger fantasy hero” amidst a “wide open social frontier.” It’s simply immature, stupid conduct all the way around.

And the songs will probably make tons of dough for the performers and Brooks will continue to write puritanical drivel over other assaults on common sense brought to us by the “entertainment” industry, thus proving beyond a doubt that money drives all of this instead of “ambiguity and uncertainty.”

Besides, if Brooks wants to hear good music instead of this stuff, he should check out this instead.

It Isn't "Hypothetical" Any More

Wow, it’s difficult to digest (at least for me, anyway) the fact that the Iraq government missed all of its benchmarks in anticipation of some kind of a handoff between our forces and what passes for leadership in that war-ravaged country (as well as ours).

I’m not sure it is possible for Bushco to continue to prop up this idiotic façade of something approximating success in Iraq any more as the congressional leadership of his own party continues to quite rightly disown him on the war (an escapade that has exacted a huge financial cost in addition to the toll on human life, as noted here). Of course, our ruling cabal will continue trying to do that, but events are overtaking their rhetoric in more dramatic ways by the day, including the massing of a huge Turkish military force on Iraq’s border in response to attacks by separatist rebels from Iraq into that country (and if anyone thinks Turkey would invade Iraq to go after the terrorists and then quietly leave without setting up some kind of a presence, they’re as naïve as Dubya).

This stunning failure of Iraq’s government made me recall this article in the Washington Post last October written by Thomas E. Ricks and Walter Pincus (don't know if registration is required) in which President 29 Percent Mandate “stacked the deck” rhetorically when it came to Iraq meeting its benchmarks, dismissing the consequences of failure to do so as “hypothetical.”

By that time, our country had long since become utterly fed up with this pointless war. Yesterday’s dismal benchmark news was merely an exclamation point of sorts.

But of course, that still gave partisans such as Repug Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, who steadfastly supports our horror in Iraq and opposes either extending habeas corpus rights to those held at Guantanamo or shutting down the facility altogether, a chance to spew more freeper nonsense.

Well, as far as setting a deadline to “walk off the battlefield” in Iraq, as Kyl put it when the Dems sent the war funding bill with timelines to Dubya earlier this year prior to the inevitable veto, this Think Progress link notes that, while Kyl opposes setting a deadline for withdrawal of our forces under Dubya, he had no problem doing that twice under President Clinton (and do I really have to note whether or not Kyl served?).

Also, mcjoan at The Daily Kos notes here that the benchmark news makes the bill from Senate Dem Ken Salazar and Repug Lamar Alexander that would bring us “Iraq Study Group II – The Sequel” look even more ridiculous (approved also by Sideshow Bob Casey, who hasn’t covered himself in glory at all on the war between that and opposing the Reid-Feingold amendment here).

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Philly Pity Party

I have to comment on one more item from yesterday’s Inquirer.

I don’t have too many “rules of thumb” when doing this, but I suppose one is to consider everyday letter writers, opinion columnists and non-journo types as “civilians” at this site and thus leave them alone unless they take direct aim at an issue or political candidate for which I have advocated. But I’m going to break that rule for a minute.

I’ll provide just a bit of background; the Inquirer just loves to run letters and Op-Ed pieces about how screwed up Philadelphia is because it isn’t more business friendly, reflected in part by its odious city wage tax – as noted here, the resident rate is about 4.26 percent and the non-resident rate is 3.75 percent. And by the way, I am no fan of it either, having paid it for years along with my wife before circumstances changed.

With all of this in mind, here is a letter to the editor from Mary Barr Mann that the Inquirer published yesterday…

Yo, the one thing I really need you to do is . . .

. . . bring me back to Philadelphia. I know this sounds rather self-serving, what with all the pressing crises of the city - including poverty, crime, and education. But I represent the vast Philadelphia diaspora - the many former inhabitants who long for Philadelphia, who spend hours a week on Philly.com and phillyblog and read the Business Journal and City Paper on line. We miss our neighborhoods, our families and our soft pretzels. We want to come back, but something is missing: jobs.

Almost seven years ago, I married a man who lives and works in North Jersey. His technology-based firm is thriving in the New York area, with many clients ranging in geographic location from Garden City, Long Island, to Parsippany, N.J. How many clients do they have in the Philadelphia area? One. In Blue Bell.

Philadelphia needs to significantly lower its wage and business taxes and aggressively work to attract and grow new businesses. Some might argue that there is growth on the Route 202 corridor and in other suburbs, but without a vibrant economic engine at the center, the Philadelphia region is lagging behind metro areas like New York and Boston. Jobs will bring new residents, new income and new life to the city - both at its center and in the neighborhoods.
So why does all of this sound fake somehow?

Well, am I to assume that Ms. Barr Mann would return to this area from North Jersey on a somewhat regular basis to enjoy the benefits of “a vibrant economic engine” (if that isn’t Chamber of Commerce boilerplate, I don’t know what is) if the city created new jobs? Am I to assume that she misses living in Philadelphia while she is currently residing in North Jersey with her husband (a formidable commute from one place to the other, by the way, mass transit or no) and tax cuts would somehow create a job in nearby Blue Bell for her old man?

Well, for her information, the city wage tax already was cut to its current amounts from 4.54 percent for residents and 3.96 percent for non-residents (as noted here – I don’t remember exactly what we had to pay, but I can guarantee you that it was more than that). And Michael Nutter, the presumptive next mayor, is an ardent opponent of the wage tax, so you can expect further cuts once he takes office.

Also, if you read the post from lawmummy here, you’ll find he (?) makes an excellent point. People who leave Philadelphia do so to find better schools elsewhere and lower insurance, to say nothing of crime. Overwhelmingly, they don’t do it for the wage tax. Also, the wage tax pays for city services like police, fire and garbage collection. In many parts of the country, while they don't have a wage tax, those services are paid out of other (and sometimes higher) property taxes, convenience and sin taxes, licenses and fees. Get ready for that eventuality in Philadelphia without the wage tax.

Think about all of this while you’re eating your hot pretzel, Ms. Barr Mann.

Polman's High-Court Postscript

Dick Polman’s column in yesterday’s Inquirer about his belief that the Supreme Court isn’t a major issue with most voters may be true at the moment, but we’ll see whether or not he’s right come Election Day next November.

As noted here, the Supremes just finished the most pro-activist, pro-business-and-conservative-boilerplate-issues term seen in this country for decades, ruling on a variety of issues from whistleblower status to the so-called “partial birth” abortion act to school desegregation and student free speech. The impact of these rulings is going to sink in and evolve over time and be evaluated through the muddy prism of Dubya’s failed, utter nightmare of a presidency.

My biggest gripe, though, is that Polman, as is so often the case with “concern troll” columnists, under the guise of trying to inform, ultimately couches his observations in such a manner so that they end up being remembered as nothing but contributions to the right-wing narrative. Polman, for one, is more skilled at this than, say, Jonathan Last or (hah hah) Kevin Ferris, but the end results are similar.

For example, while Polman properly summarizes some of what the horrendous high court has wrought, he sarcastically reinforces his point about voters not caring with some sort of imagined breakfast-table discussion between a husband and wife making fun of the possibility of discussing stare decisis in the midst of buttering a piece of toast and ogling the latest photo of this week’s beautiful but stupid male or female celebrity in trouble (and if there's one thing I know about, by the way, it's sarcasm :-).

Polman also notes that “the experts” tell him that most Americans aren’t comfortable discussing the high court, and his column also points out that “legal conservatives have nurtured a farm team of like-minded scholars” while totally ignoring the abundance of liberals and progressives online, in our educational institutions and “think tanks” who are part of the ongoing effort to advance people-powered politics.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reading these meta-data commentary columns from journalistic know-it-alls like Polman. I don’t need anyone at the Inquirer or anywhere else to suggest to me what I think about a particular issue. If I don’t know at the time, I can assure you that I’m in the process of making up my mind on the matter.

Just report the story, and go away.

Update: Actually, after coming across this (wish I'd found it earlier), I think I was being way too kind to Polman. A minimal amount of investigation on his part would have produced this item that appeared in the New York Times on July 4th, which shows that both the Democratic Party leadership and members on all levels are refusing to take this hijacking of our principles, to say nothing of basic decency, by this Supreme Court lying down.

The Four Horsemen Are Saddling Up, Again

The McClatchy Newspaper home page brings us this story about a suggestion to revive The Fairness Doctrine, which was abolished by the FCC in 2000 in response to a court challenge, thus exacerbating the ever-rightward tilt of our corporate media.

And you’ll never guess who made the suggestion. Was it Hillary Clinton? Ted Kennedy? Dennis Kucinich? Joe Biden? Michael Moore?

No. It was Trent Lott (I’m serious).

It seems our Jim Crow descendent is unhappy over the failure of the immigration bill in the Senate, complaining that the outcome of the whole matter was dictated by right-wing talk radio.

Uh, yep. And you have a problem because?

I mean, let’s face it Trent; this was the plan all along, and you know it. The freeper bloviators provide the sole source of “information” to too many people who are either too lazy or too ignorant to read about and analyze news issues themselves through a variety of source material and thus make up their own minds. So the Limbaughs, O’Reillys, Hannitys and Medveds of the world reduce everything to simple pabulum which is usually factually incorrect, pretty much telling a bunch of gullible morons what they should do for the ultimate betterment of corporate America and the investor class.

And now you’re suggesting that – gasp! – the government steps in to provide balance, sanity and intelligence to our hopelessly polluted political dialogue again? Have you gone mad? What in the name of Richard Mellon Scaife could you possibly be thinking about here?

And regarding the argument that only conservatives can be successful on talk radio, I present this highly skewed interview Smerky gave to progressive talker Ed Schultz (didn’t take much note of the host’s contribution to the Inquirer yesterday, by the way).

An Unholy Bushco Milestone

I wouldn’t wish for Don (“The Defense Secretary You Ha(d)”) Rumsfeld to receive a birthday cake full of IED fragments that would detonate the minute it came into contact with flame from the candles, but if that happened and he were wounded, I wouldn’t give it a second thought (just desserts there – sorry).

However, in honor (?) of this cretin’s 75th birthday, please allow me to present this story from yesterday’s New York Times which explains how Rummy nixed a secret mission into Pakistan in early 2005 to capture some of al Qaeda (I hesitate to use the phrase “senior members” or assign a numeric designation to these people since, although that may be correct usage by the reporter, that has been thoroughly discredited due to this administration’s propaganda as far as I’m concerned).

And here is another recent post with more lowlights from this morally bankrupt individual.

Don't Get Sick, Kids

In an utterly predictable scenario explained in this New York Times article, we have Bushco and the Repugs fighting once again to expand health insurance on behalf of those who need it the most, particularly children. In this story, the following quote from Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt appears (page 2)…

Mr. Leavitt said it was absurd that “families making over $81,000 a year would have children eligible for public assistance.”
In response, here is a link to a post that ostensibly castigates Third Way as a corporatist tool though they purport to represent Democrats; buried further down is this…

Listen to Turley K. Hayes of Topeka, Kansas – a relatively low cost of living area: “I earn a gross income of $81,000 and support my disabled domestic partner. My NET income from this (after taxes, insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Co-Pays for medical) is down to $46,435. My partner and I live paycheck to paycheck, as prices have risen. The ‘money’ specialists say we haven't had inflation. Tell that to me after I go to JC Penney and buy a new pair of workshoes, identical to the ones I bought last year and pay $21.34 more (and that was after a 10% discount coupon). There is inequality, those at the low end can get help, those at the high end don't need it. Those of us in the middle are suffering because we make too much to get help and not enough to save for anything.” But that schmuck David Brooks tells the world that such household incomes are just fine. How many households below the median can afford to send a child to even a state college and also save for retirement, because virtually no one gets a pension anymore?

As to economic inequality: Adjusted for inflation, wages rose about 11.5 percent from 1979 to 2006 for those at the median (the story notes that that’s really not that impressive a rate of growth for about 25 years). Those near the bottom of the wage scale saw their pay rise just 4% during that time, while the incomes of those at the top rose 34%. That’s unfair distributional economics. If you are in the Upper Class, you could care less. But most Americans feel economic anxiety, because direct experience tells them that they are close to – or moving closer to – economic disaster. They are just one serious illness or job loss away from requiring government welfare assistance, losing their home, and going bankrupt.
And if you project the cost of insurance for kids versus that of adults from the numbers in Figure 1 here (that is, $4,410 for both adults and children), you find that the cost for kids is $3,988 (public insurance) versus $3,145 for adults (though any parent will tell you that, in cases assuming regular visits, immunizations and checkups and barring an illness requiring long-term coverage, children’s health care costs will exceed that of adults).

What that means is that, in the example with Turley K. Hayes noted above, the cost would have been at least competitive for a single earner making a $81,000 wage carrying a disabled partner if that person had been caring for a child instead (though the cost could easily be higher).

This explains why it is not absurd at all for families with children that earn $81,000 to be eligible for public assistance.

But what else can we expect from a man who, as governor of Utah, allowed that state’s Department of Child and Family Services to degenerate into a tragic joke (as noted here)?

And speaking of screwed-up health care, here's more information on "Sicko" by Michael Moore.

The Inky Misfires On Guns Again

I noted last week that The Philadelphia Inquirer had said nothing regarding the so-called Tiahrt Amendment, sponsored by Repug whack job Todd Tiahrt of the U.S. House (R-Crazyland, otherwise known as Kansas). This, as the Inky notes, protects rogue gun dealers by tying the hands of law enforcement in an effort to determine trends in murders committed by handguns through obtaining “trace data.”

However, the paper did finally speak out on the matter today (here).

The editorial also slams the PA State Legislature for its typical “thank-you-sir-may-I-have-another” routine on behalf of the NRA and politely chides the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus because, though they tried to get sensible gun legislation passed in Harrisburg (good luck there), they tried to do it by holding up the state budget in the process, affecting funding for SEPTA, preschool programs, etc. (but when all you have to grasp at are straws, sometimes straws look pretty damn good).

But since we are talking about the Inquirer after all, I must point out and try to refute this item of propaganda…

The odds of (firearms continuing to be obtained illegally) are heightened because of the lack of political will in Washington and Harrisburg to displease gun-rights absolutists.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate especially should feel ashamed.
If the Inky wants to blame the five Dems on the Senate Appropriations Committee who voted for this horrific amendment, go ahead. But, as Broder did yesterday, they cast blame on the party in power while absolving those chiefly responsible for the problem, and that would be the 14 Repugs on the committee who marched in lockstep with the gun nuts (as noted here, including Arlen Specter, who is mysteriously given a pass here by Philadelphia’s “newspaper of record”; on second thought, maybe that isn’t such a mystery after all).

So, welcome to the fight at long last, Inky (with reservations, though, I know). Of course, you could have said something about the Tiahrt Amendment when it actually mattered as the Courier Times did here (before it was voted on, that is), but I guess that was too much to ask.