Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saturday Videos

For anyone who hasn't noticed, I should point out that I'm going to be scaling back activity at this site a bit for a variety of reasons, including the videos in particular - I may get into why exactly a bit more later.

But for now, here's Rialto ("Untouchable")...

...Happy belated birthday to Sammy Llanas of The BoDeans ("Fade Away")...

...happy belated birthday to David Denny of The Steve Miller Band ("I Want To Make The World Turn Around"; I think he was gone by the time this song was recorded, though)...

...and happy belated birthday to Tom Rush ("No Regrets").

Friday, February 08, 2008

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (2/8/08)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.


Economic stimulus: In a 385-35 vote, the House passed a $146 billion anti-recession package that would provide $100 billion within months in rebates to 117 million U.S. households that file federal income-tax returns. The bill, which awaits Senate action, also would provide $46 billion in one-time tax breaks for businesses.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 5140).

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.) Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Not much to say or do here except provide this link to Bruce Slater’s web site; he’s running against Joe Pitts this year, so let’s help him all we can, OK?

And yes, I'm being a bit kind on the House version since it did a little more to address the issues that matter versus the Senate version that ultimately passed (as noted here, though, I'm not sure anyone in our government is willing to truly admit the scope of what we're dealing with).


Intelligence committee: In a 48-45 vote, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes for advancing a bill drafted by the Senate Intelligence Committee to expand the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act beyond its original domestic focus to address U.S. government spying on electronic communications in which at least one party is located overseas.

A yes vote was to advance the bill (S 2248) without amendments.

Voting no: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
Good work by all to keep the debate going on this proposed Bushco monstrosity (here).

This week, the House addressed the rising cost of higher education. The Senate, and possibly the House, conducted votes on economic-stimulus bills, and the Senate resumed debate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Dubya Sure Knows About “Spirits,” Doesn’t He?

So President George W. Milhous Bush visited Lafayette, Tennessee as noted here to “raise the spirits” of area residents hardest hit from tornadoes that swept across that state, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama on Tuesday (as noted here).

And when it comes to trying to correct past mistakes…

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the government has learned many lessons since Katrina, and is much better now at not only answering locals' needs in times of emergency, but anticipating them. FEMA assets were in the tornado-struck region as early as Tuesday night, he said.

“States and localities have also given a lot of thought to the issue over the years and have improved their response as well,” he said.
Well, that’s positive, but allow me to live up to my name again and dash all of this happy talk with the following bit of bad news, courtesy of Dubya’s utterly awful (and fortunately, last) proposed budget…

The Proposed Elimination and Reduction of Key Programs in the President’s Budget Compromises the Nation’s Capacity for Response, Resilience, and Recovery in the Wake of a National Catastrophe:

  • The budget includes a colossal $750 million (79%) cut to the State Homeland Security Grant Program.

  • The President’s budget cuts funding for the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) Grant program by nearly 50% and proposes eliminating the SAFER firefighter staffing program.

  • The President seeks to eliminate funding for the Metropolitan Medical Response System in FY 2009.

  • Congressional Democrats rebuffed efforts to eliminate this critical program last year, and funded MMRS at $41 million for FY 2008.
  • 346 days and counting, people…

    I Hope You're Right, Sen. Obama

    As noted here, Barack Obama was recently interviewed by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes and stated that he could “withstand any last-minute ‘swift-boat’ attacks from Republicans on his race or past drug use because winning the grueling contest for the Democratic nomination will make him the "toughest, baddest candidate on the block."

    Well, if he emerges as the Democratic party nominee (and I’m still going back and forth between him and HRC, just to let you know; both are admirable in their ways and on balance good candidates, but both have baggage that’s making me think long and hard), he’ll have a chance to put that bravado to the test.

    This tells us that another well-funded freeper attack group called Citizens United (sorry - I know I shouldn't give these clowns a link, but this explains them a bit) has not only put together a hit movie on Hillary Clinton (including interviews with every one of the “usual conservative suspects” that you can imagine), but they are preparing one on Obama also, purporting to critique his days as a community organizer, state legislator and U.S. senator.

    Anyone who didn’t see this coming must also believe that “The Path To 9/11” was an actual documentary (and yes, the propagandist behind that one is involved with the Clinton movie also – he’ll probably end up involved with the Obama smear as well).

    Harry Reid To The Jobless: Drop Dead

    Sorry, Mr. Majority Leader, that more people looking for work weren’t able to lobby you or other members of the Senate to communicate that you should have fought harder for that 13-week extension of unemployment benefits that (according to the New York Times from here) the Repugs opposed because it would “encourage idleness” (as noted here, the economic stimulus passed, but with that notable exception – and for the moment, I’ll disregard that sickening Repug excuse).

    But see, that’s the point, Mr. Majority Leader; unemployed people can’t do that stuff because they’re looking for work! Perhaps in their naiveté, they expect the Democratic Party to look out for them.

    And as noted here, the actual vote in favor of passing the stimulus was 59-41 before Reid changed his vote to No in some kind of “parliamentary maneuver” (don’t ask me for an explanation). And I’ll give you three guesses as to which presidential candidate could have voted Yes to ensure the benefits extension but blew off the vote altogether (for the answer, click here).

    And of course, the Repugs continue to claim that a $15 billion extension of unemployment insurance costs too much while the Iraq war continues to cost us $720 million a day with no end in sight (here).

    Well, this calls for some more shock reality therapy from none other than Paul Craig Roberts (here). And this is even more motivation to ensure that as many Repugs as possible are looking for new jobs themselves sometime after November 4th of this year.

    Friday AM Political Stuff

    "Straight Talk" McCain, "cutting to the chase" with a little help from the film "Dr. Strangelove"...

    ...and more examples of double talk from the presumptive Repug nominee.

    Thursday, February 07, 2008

    Some Good Economic News (Sort Of)

    The New York Times reported the following today...

    By virtually every indicator, 2007 was a dismal year for American workers. Job growth slowed, unemployment jumped and wages lost what little ground they had gained against inflation since 2003. There is one sliver of good news: the percentage of American workers who belong to a union rose for the first time in three decades.

    The Labor Department reported that the number of workers belonging to a union grew by 311,000 to 15.7 million. That means union members increased from 12 percent of the American work force in 2006 to 12.1 percent last year. In the private sector, unions’ share of workers inched ahead from 7.4 percent to 7.46 percent. While the rebound is tiny, and might yet prove to be a statistical mirage, it is the first recorded increase in organized labor’s ranks since the 1970s, when almost one in four workers belonged to a union.

    There is little doubt that American workers need unions. Wages today are almost 10 percent lower than they were in 1973, after accounting for inflation. The share of national income devoted to workers’ wages and benefits is at its lowest since the late-1960s, while the share going to profits has surged. The decline in unionization has been a big part of the reason that workers have lost so much ground.

    The future of organized labor is not cause for great optimism. Employers have become more aggressive about keeping unions out. Competitive pressures from globalization, deregulation and technological change have resulted in the loss of many union jobs.

    Indeed, unionization rose last year partly because of the slow pace of job creation in nonunionized sectors of the labor market. The jump in unionization rates in the construction industry, for example, was partly attributed to the steep decline in residential construction, where there are fewer unions, while the more heavily unionized commercial construction sector remained strong.

    Still, the uptick offers hope that the renewed emphasis on organizing workers by some of the nation’s largest unions — like the service employees’ union, the Teamsters and others that split off from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to form the
    Change to Win coalition — might start paying dividends despite the difficult odds.

    A bill that would have made it easier for unions to organize workers died in the Senate last June. Congress should take up this issue again to stop companies from using threats and other aggressive tactics to keep organized labor out, and to help win workers their rightful share of the economic pie.
    For more information, click here.

    Still Not Too Late

    This tells us that the majority of people of Brattleboro, Vt. approved the resolution to issue arrest warrants for George W. Milhous Bush and “Deadeye Dick” Cheney after a few knuckle draggers called the town a bastion of “liberal appeaser wimps” and “whackjobs” recently.

    And this links back to the recent column on the impeachment of Bush and Cheney written by former U.S. House Representative Elizabeth Holtzman. Also, here are stories on the impeachment efforts in California, New Jersey, and Washington State, as well as a link back to; here is also the latest I have from Florida Rep. Robert Wexler on the move to impeach Cheney (and by the way, Wexler went at it today with AG Michael Mukasey on whether or not Dubya told him not to enforce the subpoenas of Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, with Mukasey basically saying he reports to Dubya and everyone else can drop dead - h/t Atrios).

    Just trying to keep beating that drum, that’s all…

    Whither The Mittster?

    I simply cannot let the exit of Willard Mitt Romney from the Republican contest for that party’s presidential nomination go unnoticed without a look back at some highlights.

    Where to begin? Well, we had Roger Simon of The Politico swooning over him here, along with Romney’s claim that France has seven-year “trial marriages” here, his abandonment of former campaign liaison Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig here, his criticism of Rudy Giuliani for running a “sanctuary city” for illegals in NYC here (Giuliani’s response that Romney ran a “sanctuary mansion” was the only positive moment of the former’s campaign as far as I was concerned), as well as Romney’s proposal to end taxes on investment earnings for families making less than $200,000 per year here (definitely not my neighborhood – and how does it feel to have your campaign ended now as well as that of John Edwards who you criticized?).

    Well Mitt, just don’t take any instinct of self pity too far – The Onion has been known to accidentally hit upon the truth from time to time.

    More "Conventional Wisdom" From "Genghis" Cohen

    While Roger Cohen of the New York Times isn’t quite as bombastic today about Super Tuesday as he was here, he still managed to sneak in some unsubstantiated freeper propaganda today on the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, to wit…

    The longer the Democrats duel, the more Republicans benefit. McCain could shore up his conservative, religious and southern base by picking the buoyant Huckabee as running-mate. That looks powerful.
    I swear, it simply never stops (Proof? Anywhere in sight? Hello??).

    And of course, Cohen is hardly alone when it comes to manufacturing this notion that, somehow, those coveted “independent” voters will become inclined to side with the Repugs as they watch those crazy feminist, tree-hugging, terra-loving li-bu-ruuls club each other over whether or not their presidential candidate will be a black or a woman, as noted here also (being tongue-in-cheek on my end, I assure you).

    The problem, though, is that, as usual, that narrative utterly flies in the face of reality; as noted here…

    Democratic voters’ strong enthusiasm for their presidential contenders led to record-high numbers of primary and caucus participants for the party on Super Tuesday, while Republicans saw a spotty mix of increases and dropoffs for their own party’s presidential nominating contests.

    Overall yesterday, some 14.7 million voters cast Democratic ballots in the 15 states holding primary contests — compared to just 7.1 million in the 2000 contests in the same states. Turnout for Republican contests in those same states was 8.9 million in both 2000 and this year.
    And as Daily Kos blogger smintheus notes here…

    In only two states, Utah and Arizona, did the Republican winner yesterday get more votes than the leading Democrat. And in the former, Barack Obama got more than four times as many votes as presumptive frontrunner John McCain.

    It's nearly the same story when you compare total votes cast in the Republican and Democratic primaries. Republican candidates attracted more total votes than Democrats only in three states, UT, AZ, and AL.
    And as far as this notion of naming Mike Huckabee as a vice presidential candidate with presumptive nominee “Senator Honor And Virtue,” I say go ahead. Let’s hear him tell us once more about how he favors the death penalty because, as far as Huckabee knows, Jesus didn’t oppose it (I favor it also with reservations, but I consider that reasoning to be evasive at best), as well as the fact that Antonin Scalia is Huckabee’s “own personal hero.”

    And let Huckabee tell us once more about how Roe v. Wade is the reason why this country is currently dealing with the issue of 35 million illegal immigrants at last count (here - and by the way, should I get started on the Wayne Dumond case again?).

    Oh, and there’s also that matter of Huckabee telling Imus he looked “emaciated” because he had “just come out of six weeks at a concentration camp held by the Democrat (sic) Party of Arkansas in an undisclosed location, making a hostage tape,” and this was followed by an interesting non-apology to Jewish leaders (here).

    And did I note Huckabee’s little gift registry fandango at the expense of Arkansas’s taxpayers, as well as his mindless 23 percent “Fair Tax” which would be ruinous to the poor and middle class of this country (noted also in the prior link)?

    Actually, now that I think of it, Cohen may be right, but not the way he realizes – a McCain/Huckabee ticket could be “powerful,” in that it would encourage more independents and somewhat moderate Republicans (yes, they’re actually out there) to vote for Democrats in the general election than they would otherwise.

    Update 1: By the way, great "leadership" from "Senator Honor And Virtue" here; the stimulus bill the Repugs stalled in the Senate also would have extended unemployment benefits and provided home heating assistance, as noted here, yet Dubya is asking for more money to reward al Qaeda captures here - bastards.

    Update 2: Everyone who doesn't like McCain, please control yourselves from self-combustion - tee hee.

    Thursday AM Political Stuff

    Haven't kept up lately with the Repugs and their antics on FISA in the Senate, so I'll try a bit of catching up with this from Russ Feingold (h/t The Daily Kos)...

    ,,,and "The Pap Attack" takes on Bain Capital and the FCC, first and foremost (yep, "hitching their wagon" to the Mittster doesn't look like too swift of a move right now, does it?).

    Also, here's a link to something that I thought was clever; I received this from a friend of mine - many thanks (haven't had any luck embedding it, though, but I'll keep trying).

    Wednesday, February 06, 2008

    Love, Peace, Death, And Some Really Bad Spin

    Are you as fed up with anyone comparing this presidential campaign to anything that took place in the 1960s as I am?

    Are you also tired of our corporate media using the spat over what Hillary Clinton supposedly said about needing a president to enact civil rights legislation, or words to that effect (here), and subsequently running with that to ever-more-absurd dimensions?

    Good. Then allow me to bring some highlights (?) to you for our amusement more than anything else.

    A week ago, we had David Brooks of the New York Times trying to create the following faux equivalency in another attempt to demonize the Clintons (though Bill set himself up for that treatment a bit – here)…

    The (Sen. Ted and Caroline) Kennedy endorsements (of Barack Obama) will help among working-class Democrats, Catholics and the millions of Americans who have followed Caroline’s path to maturity. Furthermore, here was Senator Kennedy, the consummate legislative craftsman, vouching for the fact that Obama is ready to be president on Day One.

    But the event was striking for another reason, having to do with the confluence of themes and generations. The Kennedys and Obama hit the same contrasts again and again in their speeches: the high road versus the low road; inspiration versus calculation; future versus the past; and most of all, service versus selfishness.

    (Ted) Kennedy went on to talk about the 1960s. But he didn’t talk much about the late-60s, when Bill and Hillary came to political activism. He talked about the early-60s, and the idealism of the generation that had seen World War II, the idealism of the generation that marched in jacket and ties, the idealism of a generation whose activism was relatively unmarked by drug use and self-indulgence.
    Well, it’s nice I suppose that Brooks actually likes Ted Kennedy for the moment, as opposed to calling him and Sen. Robert Byrd “Chicken Littles” as he did here for comparing Iraq and Vietnam.

    And working off that, we have Rick Perlstein in the Washington Post today telling us…

    The Library of Congress, which houses the photo archives of Look magazine and U.S. News & World Report, holds hundreds of images of the violent confrontation between cops and demonstrators in front of the Chicago Hilton at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and, from the summer of 1969, of Woodstock.
    See, the Clintons were part of that drug-taking, self-indulgent generation, along with a hell of a lot of other people, of course, ignoring Obama's own history on that; not trying to slam the man, just stating facts (and of course, we’re in the mess we’re in now totally because of confrontational, baby-boomer politics – riiiight), but Obama represents the era of “marching in coats and ties” (the impression that Woodstock was violent is definitely communicated there – and if Brooks were a pundit back then and Obama were a politician, the former probably still would not have liked the latter anyway).

    There’s one problem with that argument, and that’s the fact that Woodstock was a pretty peaceful gathering considering half a million people showed up, according to Max Yasgur, the owner of the farmland upon which the concert took place in New York (and of course, who can forget the brouhaha some months ago from “Straight Talk” McCain about Hillary Clinton proposing a Woodstock museum, which probably would make a lot of money; that grandstanding moment which I would consider pretty idiotic actually helped return his campaign to the spotlight, unbelievable as that may seem).

    And to hark back to the ‘60s once more, we have Chris Kelly of HuffPo all over The Mittster here for saying last June that he wished he’d fought in Vietnam, when he also said in 1994 that he had no intention of serving anyway (funny – say good night, Willard Mitt; looks like you’ve concocted “a penumbra of angst” for good).

    Update 2/7/08: You have to admit that it takes a certain brand of chutzpah to both bail out of a presidential race (hat tips to Atrios and Prof. Marcus) and slam the Democrats at the same time; can't wait for the blog post on this one.

    Let our pundits take the comparisons to the ‘60s as far as they want; I’ll play along for now. But if we get to the point where Obama shows up to a rally wearing a Nehru jacket and Hillary does so adorned in tie dye, then we’ll know the whole thing has gone too far.

    Oh, and speaking of connections to the ‘60s, I’m sure we all heard about the passing of this guy who, as far as I could tell, was nothing but a professional “hanger-on,” sponging off celebrities every chance he got.

    Uh Oh, Silvio Redux

    And now, this world news update; it looks like Italy may be ready for another round of fun with “Prime Minister Jesus” (another country besides this one is currently preoccupied with a national election).

    As Der Spiegel reports here…

    Attempts to form an interim government in Italy have failed and President Giorgio Napolitano has been forced to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections for April. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition is way ahead in the opinion polls and the media magnate looks likely to secure a third term in office.
    The story also notes that former Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s government recently lost a no-confidence vote after only 20 months in office.

    I wonder if Silvio will pledge to abstain from sex pending the election results as he did here, or encourage any fishy ingénue entrepreneurs as he did here?

    I have no idea what will happen next in Italian politics, but I really believe it will be a lot more interesting with Berlusconi in the spotlight once more. And not considering our own election for a minute, I should note that we need all of the comic relief we can get.

    A Super Tuesday Note

    To the extent that I actually care about all of the statistical minutiae from yesterday (and sorry, but basically I don’t, probably because I couldn’t vote yet – probably the wrong attitude for someone billing himself as a political blogger, but oh well), I just want to point out something.

    Funny, but with the departure of Rudy! from the presidential race and possibly a similar exit for The Mittster upcoming, I’m not hearing either of these individuals referred to as a “headless chicken” (with leaving the contest determined to be the "honorable thing") or “frauds or clowns” (I dare Satullo to characterize Giuliani that way by name) and being encouraged to get the hell out at the earliest possible moment, nor would I expect any of them to be referred to as “a cute 8-year-old boy” or endlessly accused of hypocrisy because they may have chosen to fight against poverty while enjoying the hard-earned trappings that frequently come with notoriety (here, and Giuliani and Romney haven’t waged that fight by any means, of course).

    And before I forget, please allow me to extend my gratitude to Flush Limbore and his fellow practitioners in right-wing bombast for doing all they can to weaken the presumptive Republican party presidential nominee (here and here). A grateful nation thanks you all.

    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Tuesday Mashup (2/5/08)

    A full-page ad appeared in the New York Times last week for the NRDC, and I’m just trying to give their cause a plug here; their Action Fund is trying to get Bushco to halt its proposed slaughter of gray wolves in Greater Yellowstone (the blight and pestilence from this bunch continues).

    Remember back when John McCain’s campaign was floundering and it looked like Rudy! was the presumptive Repug nominee for president (had me fooled a bit, I’ll admit), with The Mittster just kind of hanging around and Huckabee largely written off as a joke (my bad again there)? And remember when McCain tried to portray himself as a reformer by being the only candidate besides John Edwards who accepted public campaign financing?

    Well, it looks like McCain has figured a way to weasel out of that, as noted here (h/t Atrios).

    This Yahoo News opinion from January 11th (sitting around for awhile I know - sorry I'm just getting to it now) tells us that writer Jon Scieszka was named as a reading ambassador by the Library of Congress; Scieszka is the award-winning author of The Stinky Cheese Man And Other Fairly Stupid Tales. He was appointed to address the growing gender gap in this country concerning literary skills between young boys and young girls (boys are falling behind).

    As the opinion notes…

    In Illinois this fall, state reading tests revealed broad gender gaps in reading. At one Cook County elementary school, girls' scores topped boys' by up to 55 percentage points.

    Once boys fall behind in reading skills, it carries through the rest of their academic careers. Diminished literacy makes it harder for them to earn college degrees or compete in today's economy.

    (Scieszka’s) message: Don't think of reading as just the classics. Young boys celebrate the gross and the weird, so why not exploit that to get them hooked on reading? Books scoffed at by purists, such as Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series, have a place in classrooms.
    And if you want to get an idea of how this issue can compound itself, this tells us that…

    Recent federal testing data show that what starts out as a modest gap in elementary-level reading scores turns into a yawning divide by high school. In 12th grade, 44% of girls rate as proficient readers on federal tests, compared with 28% of boys. And while boys still score slightly higher on federal math and science exams, their advantage is slipping.

    Most startling is that little is being done to correct the imbalances. All of the major players — schools, education colleges and researchers — largely ignore the gender gap. Instead of pursuing sound solutions, many educators merely advocate prescribing more attention-focusing Ritalin for the boys, who receive the drug at four to eight times the rate of girls, according to different estimates. "Too often the first reaction to an attention problem is 'Let's medicate,' " says Rockville, Md., child psychologist Neil Hoffman. "Some schools are quick to recommend solutions before they've fully evaluated the problem."

    This isn’t about denigrating the accomplishments of young girls, by the way – not in any way, shape or form. It’s about trying to help boys catch up since, traditionally, girls mature earlier anyway when it comes to this stuff and many other ways as well.

    If anyone has any doubt about how important it is to read to your kids and encourage their own reading (particularly boys), the Scieszka story should erase that for good. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a comic book, cereal box, or instructions on a box of Legos. You won’t just be helping them to do their best in school, but you’ll be helping them to live the best lives they can also.

    A Promise I Had To Break

    (I’ll explain the post title shortly.)

    A few weeks ago, Chris Satullo, formerly the editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote this piece of refuse masquerading as a newspaper column that purported to be some kind of a primer for the presidential candidates of both parties (first saw it on Eschaton). And if you’re able to read it (and I suggest not doing so on a full stomach), you will see that he was doing so with some kind of a smart-alecky attitude about most of them (and yes, I would be a bit disingenuous here if I automatically blew off someone because they were trying to be that way).

    Well anyway, here is what Satullo had to say about John Edwards…

    John Edwards (D.): Had the most costly haircut since Samson. Trust me: That notorious $400 snip job on his gleaming locks will never stop costing Edwards with the working-class Americans who he thinks are his constituency. A silly, concocted demerit, sure, but that's modern politics. If you liked how nominating a faux populist with a seven-figure bank account, a killer mansion and ab/fab hair worked out for the Dems in '04, you'll love Edwards.
    Yep, you guessed it; I pretty much hit the roof when I read that (and as I go back and pick some more dreck from Satullo’s mess, I realize that he slammed Chris Dodd even more by totally ignoring Dodd’s courageous stance against telco immunity in the proposed FISA bill).

    Well anyway (and I left a comment at Eschaton about this around that time), I emailed Satullo and told him how ridiculous he was for writing this and how some of his other “Center Square” columns about how to make Philadelphia better were really BOOR-ING and read like chamber of commerce boilerplate (off topic, I’ll admit). I also said that I thought it was condescending of him to put the word netroots in quotes the way he did.

    Satullo actually replied and said that he put netroots in quotes because he had some information documenting the fact that only five percent of the Inquirer’s readership understood what the netroots was, and as far as his other columns are concerned, he told me not to read them because I obviously don’t get it, or words to that effect. I responded and said maybe the reason only five percent of the Inquirer’s readership knows anything about the netroots is because your paper has done such a poor job of reaching out to us, and the best way to fix that would be to publish David Sirota as other newspapers have (including the Bucks County Courier Times, as noted here) and as far as not reading your column goes, I can assure you that I won’t from now on (hence the broken promise, and my apology).

    So anyway, I scanned today and came across the latest from Satullo, and I couldn’t help but read some of it. And what on earth do you think it contains?

    Passages like this…

    Cynicism and mockery have long been our default public attitudes toward our political leaders. Lord knows, we have reason.

    But negativity and scorn are acids that eat away not just at naïveté, but also at reason and goodwill.
    And as if that holier-than-thou pronouncement isn’t repulsive enough given the Satullo column where he committed drive-by journalism on Edwards, he concocts this in his same column today…

    An irony: All of this is happening during a presidential race that has smiled on several candidates of high merit, and driven off the frauds and clowns.
    “Frauds and clowns”? Only a few sentences after Satullo condescends to write that “cynicism and mockery have been our default public attitudes”?

    I really don’t want to know the universe this man inhabits where such thought processes are looked upon as rational.

    Once again, this is considered to be acceptable editorial content for Philadelphia’s conservative newspaper of record, in which political opinion writing appears to be little more than an excuse for curmudgeonly scolding at the behest of Brian Tierney and Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C. as opposed anything acquainted with the established practices of the Fourth Estate.

    Dubya's Final Budget

    The New York Times gives us the gory details here today…

    President Bush’s 2009 budget is a grim guided tour through his misplaced priorities, failed fiscal policies and the disastrous legacy that he will leave for the next president. And even that requires you to accept the White House’s optimistic accounting, which seven years of experience tells us would be foolish in the extreme.

    With Mr. Bush on his way out the door and the Democrats in charge of Congress, it is not clear how many of the president’s priorities, unveiled on Monday, will survive. Among its many wrongheaded ideas, the budget includes some $2 billion to ratchet up enforcement-heavy immigration policies and billions more for a defense against ballistic missiles that show no signs of working.

    What will definitely outlast Mr. Bush for years to come are big deficits, a military so battered by the Iraq war that it will take hundreds of billions of dollars to repair it and stunted social programs that have been squeezed to pay for Mr. Bush’s misguided military adventure and his misguided tax cuts for the wealthy.

    The president claimed on Monday that his plan would put the country on the path to balancing the budget by 2012. That is nonsense. His own proposal projects a $410 billion deficit for 2008 and a $407 billion deficit next year. Even more disingenuous, Mr. Bush’s projection for a balanced budget in 2012 assumes only partial funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for 2009, and no such spending — zero — starting in 2010.

    It also assumes that there will be no long-running relief from the alternative minimum tax — which would be ruinous for the middle class — and that there will be deep cuts in Medicare and other health care spending that have proved to be politically impossible to enact.

    Mr. Bush, of course, inherited a surplus from the Clinton administration, which he quickly used up on his tax cuts. He then continued cutting taxes after the surpluses were gone and even after launching the war in Iraq — $600 billion and counting. Mr. Bush remains unrepentant. Even now, with the economy — and revenues — slowing, he is pushing to make those tax cuts permanent. That would be fiscally catastrophic.

    The big winner, predictably, is the Pentagon. After adjusting for inflation, the proposed defense budget of $515.4 billion — which does not include either war spending or the cost of nuclear weapons — would be up by more than 30 percent since Mr. Bush took office and would be the highest level of military spending since World War II.

    Mr. Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, on top of the war of necessity in Afghanistan, has seriously strained the American military — its people and its equipment. Even a new president committed to a swift withdrawal of American troops from Iraq will have to keep asking for large Pentagon budgets, both to repair that damage and to prepare the country to face what will continue to be a very dangerous world.

    What is so infuriating about this budget is there is not even a hint of the need for real trade-offs. As far as anyone can tell, not a single weapons system would be canceled. That means it will be up to Congress — also far too captive to military-industry lobbyists — to start scaling back or canceling expensive programs that don’t meet today’s threats, or tomorrow’s.

    There is one place we’re delighted to see Mr. Bush invest more money: a proposal to hire 1,100 new diplomats. The next president will need all of the diplomatic help he or she can get to contain the many international disasters Mr. Bush will leave behind.

    Predictably, the big losers in Mr. Bush’s budget are domestic-spending programs — including medical research, environmental protection and education — which will either be held flat or cut.

    Even more predictably, most of Mr. Bush’s touted savings would come from programs intended to protect the country’s most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the poor and the disabled. The budget would sharply restrain the growth of spending on the huge Medicare health insurance program, in an effort to save some $178 billion over the next five years. The administration would achieve that primarily by cutting the annual increases in payments to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers that are designed to keep up with the rising costs of caring for Medicare beneficiaries.

    There is clearly room to restrain the rate of growth in some of these payments. But the size and duration of the cuts are irresponsible. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush — who insists that every answer to the country’s health care woes can be found in the private sector — has left largely untouched the big subsidies that prop up the private Medicare Advantage insurance plans. Eliminating these unjustified subsidies could save Medicare more than $50 billion over five years and $150 billion over 10 years.

    Just as the nation seems on the edge of a recession, the budget would also shave federal contributions to state Medicaid programs by some $17 billion over five years. That is exactly the wrong direction to go in tough economic times, when low-income workers who lose their jobs need Medicaid coverage and states have fewer funds to supply it.

    All of this means that Mr. Bush will leave his successor a daunting list of problems: the ever-rising cost of health care, the tens of millions of uninsured, a military that is desperately in need of rebuilding. Thanks to Mr. Bush’s profligate ways, it also means that the next president will have even less money for solving them.
    After watching the fiscal horrors perpetrated by this cabal of crooks, it’s tragic that George W. Milhous Bush was given any other currency in his life to use besides monopoly money.

    Update: And as long as we're talking about Dubya, I should note that he's actually threatening to veto a bill that doesn't exist yet (here; re: FISA - if anyone had any doubt left as to how delusional this man is...).

    ‘Zo Jackson’s Got His Homey’s “Back”

    It’s been awhile since I’ve had an opportunity to take a shot at one of this administra- tion’s flunkies, but, life under George W. Milhous Bush being what it is, you just knew an opportunity would present itself. And so it apparently has.

    It seems that HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson has been accused by the Philadelphia Housing Authority of ordering the city to turn over $2 million to “a politically connected developer,” and then refusing to turn over millions of dollars in additional federal aid to PHA after Jackson’s directive was refused.

    And as reported in this New York Times story by David Kocieniewski, that friend of Jackson’s is Philadelphia soul songwriter and producer Kenny Gamble; he and partner Leon Huff formed the Philadelphia International recording label in 1971 (noted here) and churned out a bunch of hits with The O’Jays (“Back Stabbers,” “Love Train”), Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (“If You Don’t Know Me By Now”) and Billy Paul (“Me And Mrs. Jones”), among other artists. Subsequent to that, Gamble formed University Community Homes, which was awarded the contract for the redevelopment of the Martin Luther King, Jr. projects.

    (By the way, if you want a chuckle, get a load of this PHA press release trumpeting the projects. I mean, I hope things are working out reasonably well for the people living there and I wish them the best, but how covering almost every conceivable speck of land with concrete, save for a token tree here or there, to build living space and a garage at the expense of any other greenery whatsoever can be considered “environmental friendliness” defies any logical conception to me.)

    This story was also reported previously by the Washington Post and the Inquirer provides more information here, but here’s the thing: Jackson wants the money for the redevelopment of the MLK Jr. projects to go to Gamble’s company, Universal Community Homes. And you could just chalk this up to another example of Bushco’s cozy cronyism at work, except for the fact that Gamble hasn’t been able to follow through on the work.

    As the Times story tells us…

    Only 80 units (of 236 contracted in 1999) were built when Universal’s partner withdrew from the project, forcing the authority to help with the rest of the construction...(so Carl R. Greene, PHA’s executive director) turned down its request for the $2 million parcel of land, where the company intended to build 19 homes at full market rates.

    As the city housing authority rebuffed Mr. Gamble’s effort to get control of the property, it was also in a dispute with housing officials in Washington about whether Philadelphia had failed to meet a federal requirement that 5 percent of its public housing be made accessible for the disabled.

    In the lawsuit, Philadelphia officials said that they had exceeded that by 1 percent and provided detailed studies by experts who contend that federal housing inspectors had undercounted the city’s efforts. Mr. Greene’s affidavit stated that he and other Philadelphia housing officials had repeatedly urged federal officials to reconsider, even traveling to Washington last summer to make the case in person. But in his affidavit, Mr. Greene said that Mr. Jackson’s deputies told him that Philadelphia would get credit for its efforts to provide housing for the disabled — and qualify for millions of dollars in federal aid — only if the city agreed to transfer the property to Mr. Gamble.
    And just for the record, the Inquirer story by Mark Fazollah and Craig McCoy notes the following…

    While most of his contributions went to Democrats, (Gamble) also gave to some Republicans, including Sen. Arlen Specter, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
    And regarding those 19 full-market-rate homes Gamble wanted (trying to capitalize on the market boom in real estate at that time)…

    In 2006, Greene told Universal it would not be getting the land. Greene said yesterday that Universal failed to hold up its end of the deal and deliver the social services it promised, such as jobs and school counseling.

    According to Greene, Gamble was confident that he would prevail. He said Gamble told him as they left a June 2006 meeting with (former mayor John) Street in City Hall that he did not need to hire a lawyer to fight PHA.

    "He said he didn't need any lawyers because he had friends - and Alphonso Jackson is his friend," Greene said.
    Well, this really is “par for the course” isn’t it with Jackson, just another example of rewarding a pal as he did here with allowing a housing project in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to be executed by his Hilton Head, S.C. golf buddy (and as noted here, Jackson professed to apologize for stating in a public speech about how he kills government contracts if the owners of the companies in question don't support President Bush.)

    And I don’t see where you can question the PHA on this one, since it sounds like they’re being squeezed by Jackson. And also, though I understand Gamble for trying to curry favor from people of influence, he should have called off his little power play when he should have realized (maybe he did) that he was hurting the redevelopment effort and affecting people’s lives.

    And after reading about this, I should add that I’ll have a whole new take on one of Gamble’s hits, “For The Love Of Money,” the next time I hear it on the oldies station.

    Update 2/20/08: And I'm sure this is doing wonders for HUD employee morale also (h/t Atrios).

    Tuesday AM Videos

    Some videos to get us all into the spirit of Super Tuesday, I hope - here's a message from "South Park" and "Puff Daddy" (P Diddy? Can't keep it all straight - God, I'm so Caucasian)...

    ...and some timely words from the band Slaughter also (really, though, with everything at stake, can we imagine why anyone in these 20 states with a pulse wouldn't decide to sit this out?).

    Monday, February 04, 2008

    Matt Bai Scours The Repug Wreckage

    In a column in the New York Times Magazine yesterday that was sometimes tiresome for lamenting “the bitterness and polarity of (baby) boomer politics” as the reason for the sorry state we find ourselves in today (as if confrontation in politics is always baaad), Matt Bai came up with what I thought was the best description I’ve read in awhile of the current state of the Republican Party…

    In a way, it is precisely this lingering adherence to Reaganism that makes the Republican candidates so implausible to many of the party’s own voters. Reagan’s ideology, after all, was devised at a time when Republicans hardly governed anything; it was the basis for a movement, not a majority. Over the last two decades, as Republicans have enjoyed far greater electoral success, they have also run up against the limits of modern conservative theory, the practical barriers to enacting a rigid ideological solution. It is little wonder that Mike Huckabee finds himself assailed now for raising taxes, or that Rudy Giuliani has to answer for his mayoral spending, or that Mitt Romney had to change his positions on gay rights and other issues. These Republicans actually had to govern, and what they found is that successful governing doesn’t lend itself to the inflexible theologies of a cause. (Reagan himself experienced the same thing, resorting to tax hikes as governor of California.) We are witnessing, in a sense, the closing act of those middle-aged Republicans who swooned for Goldwater and deified Reagan; they are left now to survey the sprawling wreckage of the conservative governing model, powerless to defend their own concessions to reality or to articulate any notion of how to adapt.
    And oh yes, this was yet another homage to the so-called “superdelegates” who could play a role at the Democratic convention in the event that a winner has not yet been decided by then; Bai cited the 1984 campaign of Gary Hart vs. Walter Mondale as a precedent, claiming that Mondale locked up the superdelegates in California before the convention to secure the nomination, arguing that Hillary Clinton could try to do the same thing. We’ll see.

    This Day In Intolerance (2/4/08)

    Bloomberg tells us that Earl Butz passed away, the former agriculture secretary who surely uttered one of the most racist quotes of all time in 1976 (I’ll link to it from here and let you decide whether or not you want to read it verbatim).

    What a shame he wasn’t a radio talk show host about 30 or so years from that point into the future. If he were, he probably would have ended making a lot of money and achieved syndication throughout the country (h/t The Daily Kos – Butz probably would have been fired or suspended a time or two, but these people always seem to rise up out of the muck regardless).

    More “Obama-Rama” Wonderment

    As the “fired up, ready to go” senator from Illinois makes a last push for votes along with Hillary, St. McCain and The Mittster before Super Tuesday tomorrow, it’s worth nothing that Obama recently received an endorsement that would make me question once more whether or not he is truly a candidate of change or a slightly more palatable version of much of the corporate status quo under which we currently live.

    (OK, now let me emphasize here that if I take shots at Obama and Hillary Clinton, it is NOT merely out of reflex because John Edwards dropped out of the race. In this case, I think Obama has received plaudits from someone who really doesn’t give a damn about the progressive political community Obama purports to represent.)

    I’m glad Hale “Bonddad” (?) Stewart of HuffPo is so pleased here that Paul Volcker (pictured), the former Federal Reserve chairman under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, has endorsed Obama, with Stewart praising Volcker as…

    … the primary reason the country didn't fall into a period of rapidly escalating inflation in the early 1980s (due to his actions). His solution wasn't exactly popular.
    I would call that an understatement when you consider the following as noted in this New York Times letter from 1987 upon Volcker’s retirement…

    It's true that Mr. Volcker deserves credit for stopping the runaway inflation after President Carter appointed him in 1979 as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. By the same token he must accept the consequence of his high-interest tactic: the cruelest recession since the Great Depression.

    When that combined with the cuts in anti-recession measures like unemployment compensation, which Mr. Reagan engineered in 1981, literally millions of workers and their families paid the price for stopping inflation.
    Also, I’m not an economist and I can’t tell you that there’s a definite link between energy prices and inflation, but I should note that the rate of inflation under Volcker peaked at least partly because of the actions of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1979, including Iran when the clerics took over and produced less oil, driving up the price; eventually, due to reduced demand and overproduction, inflation fell in the ‘80s amidst an “oil glut,” leading me to believe that OPEC’s mishandling of their oil supply deserves as much recognition here for the decrease in inflation as Mr. Volcker’s financial acumen.

    Although, as noted here, Volcker is absolutely spot-on concerning global warming (really though, the time to actually debate this issue ended years ago), so he deserves credit for that much anyway.

    And one more thing concerning Obama: this New York Times story yesterday by reporter Mike McIntire tells us of the deal he cut with Exelon Energy (my interpretation of the story, I hasten to add) over a bill regarding radioactive leaks at Exelon’s nuclear plants.

    And if you think I’m being unkind, please note that…

    …Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.

    Another Obama donor, John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon, is also chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry’s lobbying group, based in Washington. Exelon’s support for Mr. Obama far exceeds its support for any other presidential candidate.

    In addition, Mr. Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has worked as a consultant to Exelon. A spokeswoman for Exelon said Mr. Axelrod’s company had helped an Exelon subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison, with communications strategy periodically since 2002, but had no involvement in the leak controversy or other nuclear issues.
    God, do I miss John Edwards’ candidacy right now.