Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Stuff

Stephen Colbert has a "valentine" of sorts for Glenn Beck ("yeeeoooowwhhh!")...

...The Gaslight Anthem ("Drive"; hope good things continue to break for these guys).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Stuff

Looks like the good people of Minnesota will be represented by their second Democratic U.S. Senator pretty soon based on this (and that would be the guy doing the Jagger impression here; works for me – h/t Eschaton)…

...and you wanna hear a Dem with an attitude? Check this out...

...K.O. and others pay tribute here to Beverly Eckert, one of the passengers who died on Flight 3407, a true hero for our times...

…and considering what transpired this week in the “will he, won’t he?” Judd-Gregg-at-Commerce saga (as I warned about here), the next time our president feels an urge to be “post-partisan,” he should do two things: 1) He should read this post to find out what that has gotten him so far, and 2) He should watch this video (Richard Marx in an 80s-glam-rock flashback) to help put everything into context a bit (politics only being slightly removed from porn and show biz anyway).

(And by the way, considering all of this, I thought this was the best post of the week...and this is just waaay too damn funny.)

Update 2/14/09: Spot-on commentary by Jamison Foser of Media Matters about all of this "partisanship" nonsense here (h/t Atrios)...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Stuff

You know, I have to tell you that I'm really torn on this proposal by Patrick Leahy about a commission to investigate Dubya and his pals for various crimes (primarily torture, but also encouraging federal prosecutors to engage in witch hunts against Democrats, as well as other stuff, including FISA abuse before it became legally codified). I believe Leahy is trying to do what he thinks is best, but K.O. and law professor Jonathan Turley are spot-on in the video here.

As I noted in the Frances Townsend post earlier today "when the Repugs were in charge of Congress under Bill Clinton, the House Government Reform Committee issued 1,089 subpoenas during the six years that Dan Burton served as chairman from 1997 through 2002. During this period, 1,052 of the Committee’s subpoenas - 97% - targeted officials of the Clinton Administration and the Democratic Party; only 11 subpoenas related to allegations of Republican abuses.”

I'm not encouraging the Dems to engage in that kind of bastardization of what the Reform Committee is supposed to do for real, or any other committee. I'm just pointing out the ridiculously obvious fact that the Repugs have no compunction about what to do with power when the voters of this country are stupid enough to give it to them.

Worried about "blowback," Dems? Screw "blowback"! You've won the last two major elections in a row. Find some gonads (metaphorically speaking, Nancy, of course), tell Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor with subpoena power AT LONG LAST, and let justice take its course (and by the way, you'll win a THIRD election cycle in a row next year if you do).

...and as a tribute to the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln (speaking of justice), here is actor Sam Waterston reading The Gettysburg Address.

Another “Forgotten, But Not Gone” Bushie Speaks

(And I also posted over here...)

This CNN analysis from Frances Townsend tells us that…

…the homeland security adviser must have direct and immediate access to the president. Ultimately, if terrorists successfully strike the United States, it is the president, and not his staff, who will be accountable to the American people for the failure.

The homeland security adviser must be able to get to the president quickly without clearance from his or her colleagues on the White House staff.

Unfortunately, there will be times when American lives are at stake and the president will need to be advised and operational decisions taken and communicated to the relevant Cabinet secretary in real time. These sorts of crises do not lend themselves to the normal bureaucratic process.
Oh, did I mention that Townsend was formerly Dubya’s homeland security adviser (who, judging from what she tells us today, superseded cabinet secretaries; I mean, she basically tells us that “operational decisions (were) taken and communicated” to these people – maybe they didn’t have input???...color me shocked on behalf of Condi and Bob Gates, among others).

We also learn the following from Townsend…

…the homeland security issues faced by our government are diverse and many. They range from preparedness and response to natural disasters (ice, flooding, fires and wind) to pandemic planning and biological and nuclear threats. These issues are often distinct from the more traditional foreign policy issues faced by the National Security Council and require experienced staff with significant expertise.
Was it your “significant expertise” that was responsible for a report on Katrina and its aftermath that could at best be called “incomplete” based on this highly interesting post (both “red” and “blue” bad guys alleged here, by the way)?

And as noted here, we learn the following about Townsend (a "refresher" of sorts)…

Promoted to domestic security adviser in 2004, she became a loyalist and said she was leaving wearied by the acrimony that hangs over Mr. Bush’s last year in office.

"I find it both offensive and crippling," she said. “When both career people and political people are worried about getting subpoenaed, it’s hard to get a lot accomplished.”
As I noted at the time, what was “offensive and crippling,” was her proclamation here that Osama bin Forgotten is “virtually impotent” and “can do little more than send videotaped messages” (the post provides evidence to the contrary, by the way). She also received a pass when she rightly said, actually, that the U.S. should attack Pakistan if it meant getting bin Laden (of course, Barack Obama said the same thing and got drilled, but as always, IOKIYAR).

And as long as Townsend was oh so bothered by those “offensive and crippling” subpoena threats, I should link once more to this post by Steve Benen, who reminds us that, when the Repugs were in charge of Congress under Bill Clinton, “The House Government Reform Committee issued 1,089 subpoenas during the six years that Dan Burton served as chairman from 1997 through 2002. During this period, 1,052 of the Committee’s subpoenas - 97% - targeted officials of the Clinton Administration and the Democratic Party; only 11 subpoenas related to allegations of Republican abuses.”

Oh, and did I mentioned that Fran did her whole “Ooga Booga!” bit here, warning that those “dern terrists” were going to attack at the time of the ’08 election (fat lot of good that did for John W. McBush and Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin, you betcha!).

Besides, what is there that remains to be said about a woman who (noted here) said, of Dubya, that "In 1937, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote of President George Washington: 'There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, til all men walk on higher ground in their lifetime.' Mr. President, you are such a man."

(God, I may retch! And Fran's letter looked so polished and professional, by the way.)

From a governmental policy point of view, I have no idea how helpful Townsend’s fatuous recommendations may actually be to Gen. James Jones, the current national security adviser to President Obama. However, since the grownups are now back in charge in the White House, my guess is that they figured out all of this stuff long before Townsend got the inclination to say anything.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Head Start Hijinks From "The Old Gray Lady"

(Also, I posted over here – this may be it for the week, but we’ll see.)

Last Sunday, Douglas J. Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute (your first trouble sign right there, people) and research associate Douglas Call wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times maligning Head Start, in which they claimed…

In 1998, Congress required the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct the first rigorous national evaluation of the program. The Clinton administration took this mandate seriously and initiated a 383-site randomized experiment involving about 4,600 children. Confirming previous research, the study found that the current program had little meaningful impact.

For example, even after spending six months in Head Start, 4-year-olds on average could identify only two more letters than children from similar backgrounds not in the program; 3-year-olds could identify one and a half more letters. More important, no gains at all were detected in more vital measures like early math learning, oral comprehension (very indicative of later reading comprehension), motivation to learn or “social competencies” like the ability to interact with peers and teachers.
Well, I did a little checking and found this story referencing the 1998 study in question, and I learned the following…

In 1998, Congress authorized the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a national study on Head Start's impact on children. HHS awarded a contract to Maryland-based Westat to conduct the research.

(Ronna Cook, associate director of the Human Services Research Group) presented preliminary results from the study, which assessed nearly 5,000 3- and 4-year olds. Data collection began in fall 2002 and followed children through the spring of their first-grade year.

Some of the findings:

  • Comparing skill levels of children in the study with those of the general U.S. population of 3- and 4-year-olds—including those not from low-income families—on the Woodcock-Johnson III Letter-Word Identification test showed that, after one year, the mean performance of Head Start children still was below the average level for all children. At the end of one year, however, Head Start was able to nearly cut in half the achievement gap that would be expected in the absence of a program;

  • Among children in the 3-year-old group, the frequency and severity of problem behavior reported by parents was lower for children in the Head Start group compared to those in the non-Head Start group;

  • Head Start had a small, positive effect on the extent to which parents reported reading to their children. Positive effects were found for 3-year-olds when their parents exposed them to a variety of cultural enrichment activities such as taking them to a museum or a zoo.

  • "We've seen positive effects in preliminary findings, but some areas need improvement," Cook said.
    So basically, while Head Start is definitely not a panacea, it is not “slumping…(having) run out of poor 4-year-olds to serve” either.

    And as I learned from the web site of Washington State Dem Senator Patty Murray here…

    Senator Murray supports strengthening Head Start and increasing resources for pre-literacy and language skills. Murray supports ongoing professional development for Head Start teachers in language and emergent literacy. Literacy training would include specific methods to best address the needs of children whose primary language is not English, have speech and language delays, or other disabilities.

    In 2003, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously agreed to a reauthorization proposal that would save Head Start from being dismantled. The Senate bill rejected an irresponsible House-passed proposal to block-grant Head Start funding to the states, where the program’s high standards could be degraded.

    Under questioning from Sen. Murray as to why block granting would be the best option for Head Start, a Bush Administration witness from the Department of Education told HELP Committee members: “We really do not have rigorous studies that speak either to the impact of Head Start as currently delivered or to the impact of state programs.”
    Thank God those people are FINALLY GONE!!!

    And by the way, as noted here, the projected $2.1 billion in the stimulus package that just passed in the Senate would have provided about 60,000 jobs; I say “would have” because, as noted here, $1 billion of that was cut from the bill.

    This is particularly galling when you realize that the $2.1 was already halved from the $4.3 billion originally requested (so Head Start funding, which, at any amount, will provide jobs and help out kids by providing better schools and curricula and allowing their parents more of an opportunity to work, ends up as a quarter of the amount originally requested).

    Heckuva job, you Senate “centrists” (and speaking of education, I thought this post was illuminating – something to remember the next time you hear conservatives bashing teachers unions).

    Update 2/13/09: Just to clarify according to this (h/t Eschaton), Head Start will get $1 billion and Early Head Start will get $1.1 billion.

    Where The Rubber Meets The Road (2/11/09)

    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 (given my likely sporadic posting for the rest of this week, I’d better get this done now).


    Children's health insurance. Voting 290-135, the House sent President Obama a bill (HR 2) expanding State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) coverage from 6.6 million children to about 11 million children.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), 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.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
    And upon passage, the bill was signed into law by President Obama; as noted here (registration required - sorry):

    "Today's reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program is a victory for the children of this country. With the stroke of President Obama's pen, states now have the funds to provide insurance coverage to more than 11 million children nationwide. During uncertain economic times, the White House and Congress have come together to wisely prioritize children's health," David T. Tayloe, Jr., MD, AAP president, said in a statement.

    The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) had a similar positive response. "Passage of this bill addresses an urgent need to cover children who fell 'between the cracks' and were not receiving any health insurance coverage," Kristin Kroeger Ptakowski, AACAP's senior deputy executive director, told Medscape Psychiatry.
    The funding increase, by the way, will be covered by an increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes, as noted in the story.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that this is at least the sixth time that Joe Pitts has voted against SCHIP, though fortunately, the bill passed in spite of his obstruction.

    How any voter can profess to have a single brain cell of intelligence and continue to vote for this cretin in light of this is something I will never, ever understand.

    Digital TV delay. Voting 264-158, the House sent Obama a bill (S 352) that would delay from Feb. 17 to June 12 the deadline for converting over-the-air U.S. television signals from analog to digital. But the bill allows individual stations to switch before the new deadline, and many have announced they will do so.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith. Voting no: Adler, Castle, Dent, Gerlach, Holden and Pitts.
    As noted here by New York Times columnist Gail Collins, the conversion was a total mess anyway (thanks again, 109th Congress!), so this will buy needed time.

    Updste 2/12/09: And speaking of the House, kudos to Patrick Murphy, among others, for helping to block a House congressional pay raise here.


    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Voting 75-21, senators confirmed Eric H. Holder Jr. as the 82d U.S. attorney general and the first African American in that post. A yes vote was to confirm Holder.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
    Yep, I tend to go with the assessment from d-day and Crooks and Liars here that Specter backed off on Holder due to the fact that wingnut Pat Toomey declared he wouldn’t “primary” Specter, and the only reason why Specter would challenge Holder is to burnish his wingnut “cred.”

    However, I have a feeling that Specter’s admittedly courageous vote on the stimulus that just passed the Senate (here, jumping ahead a bit) will earn him a primary challenger anyway (welcome to Republican Land, where the only “benefit” of doing the right thing is to get yourself utterly hosed).

    "Buy American." Voting 31-65, the Senate refused to strip a pending $900 billion-plus economic-stimulus measure (HR 1) of a "Buy American" requirement for public-works projects funded by the bill.

    A yes vote opposed the "Buy American" provision.

    Voting no: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.
    The fact that anyone would propose an amendment like this was so unbelievable to me that I did some checking to find out who sponsored it. And guess who did?

    John W. McBush, that’s who!

    Yeah, the guy chiming in on the wingnut chorus that the just-passed stimulus bill was “generational theft,”; in response, he and his fellow clueless Repug Arizona Senator Jon Kyl should take a look at this.

    And this provides more background on McBush’s criticism of “Buy American” provisions.

    “Wow,” indeed.

    Republican tax cuts. Voting 40-57, the Senate defeated the main Republican alternative to the Democrats' stimulus bill (HR 1, above). The GOP measure was projected to cost $420 billion, including $275 billion in tax cuts.

    A yes vote backed the GOP alternative.

    Voting yes: Specter.

    Voting no: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg and Menendez.
    Which would have accomplished absolutely nothing except prolong our economic misery (as always, screw you, Arlen).

    This week, the House is taking up a bill to conserve public lands, and both chambers will vote on an economic-stimulus report. At week's end, Congress begins a Presidents' Day recess until Feb. 23.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    "Still Bushed" from tonight (four Bushco cronies end up with sweet jobs in D.C., named to their posts by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History; Donald P. Gregg, former national security adviser to Poppy Bush, had some illuminating things to say about how torture, aside from violating everything we stand for, yields lousy intelligence here; and Ari Fleischer tells Bill Orally that Obama is going to cater to those nutty lefty bloggers and non journalistically-accredited types...hmmm, let's see now, I seem to recall somebody who got a free clearance who K.O. reminds us about below - and c'est dommage about Freedom's Crock, Ari, you creep)...

    ...and although Keith is too polite to tell us exactly what Gannon did for real to earn a buck, this pic should give you a hint...

    ...Thievery Corporation ("The Numbers Game"; this one goes out to Tim Geithner).

    Monday, February 09, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    (Posting continues to remain iffy, by the way - stuff to get to, but no "bandwidth" at the moment.)

    He should say all of this as many times as he has to, and hopefully those "masters of the universe" (and mistresses too, I suppose) under the dome will stop screaming about whether this is a stimulus or a spending bill (truly one of the stupidest questions I've ever heard) and DO THEIR JOBS!!!...

    ...and right on cue, here comes John W. McBush leading the wingnut chorus (yep, the "generational theft" line is right from the Armey/Coburn/Malkin Axis Of Stupidity; so tell me, John, do you honestly believe that you're SMARTER than Felix Rohatyn, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, etc., etc., etc. - with Bob "My Brother Owned A Baseball Team With Dubya, But Don't Tell Anyone" Schieffer only too glad to lob the softball for McBush here)...

    ...oh, and by the way, since I need a laugh, here it is (h/t Eschaton - lots of bad words)...

    Sony Releases New Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn't Fucking Work

    ...The Little Ones ("Morning Tide").

    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    Sunday Stuff

    Leave it to a life form as monstrous as Ken Starr to try and do something like this...

    ...The BPA ("Seattle").