Saturday, March 07, 2009

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (3/7/09)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes for the week ending Friday February 27th.


Fiscal 2009 budget and congressional pay. Voting 245-178, the House on Wednesday sent the Senate a $410 billion appropriations bill (HR 1105) to fund agencies now on stopgap budgets. The Democratic-led Congress last year approved regular 2009 defense, veterans and homeland-security budgets, but delayed this bill to await a Democratic president. The bill denies a congressional pay raise in 2009.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

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.), and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Jumping ahead a bit, I should note that this ended up getting stalled in the Senate over earmarks (please…yes, I know it’s not the best practice, but that’s a fight for another day, people), and in addition to the typical Repug suspects, Evan Bayh and (shockingly) Russ Feingold have their finger prints all over this one (here).

The last I heard, Senate and House Dems were scrambling to pass a five-day emergency funding bill (with the Repugs yammering about a “spending freeze”…I thought Rachel Maddow and Ana Marie Cox hammered that one pretty well here).

And if you guessed that this was this week’s stupid “No” vote by Joe Pitts (with Chris Smith as an equally seamy collaborator), then you win a free commemorative “As A Dutiful Republican, I Pledged My Loyalty To Party Leader Rush Limbaugh And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt” T-Shirt.

Ethics and earmarks. Voting 226-182, the House on Wednesday killed a motion (H Res 189) to open an Ethics Committee probe of any suspect links between House members' receipt of campaign contributions and their sponsorship of earmarks that benefit the contributor.

A yes vote was to table the motion.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Murphy, Holden, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts and Smith.

Not voting: Dent
Gee, this would’ve been nice to have during that seamy little business here with former House Speaker Denny Hastert and that little earmark episode involving the Prairie Parkway in Illinois, huh?

Oh, and speaking of earmark hypocrisy...

Bankruptcy in mortgage cases. Voting 224-198, the House on Thursday set debate rules for a bill (HR 1106) that gives bankruptcy courts authority to ease the terms of mortgages on principal residences in Chapter 13 proceedings. Final action on this part of President Obama's anti-foreclosure plan was then delayed for several days. The bill would permanently raise to $250,000 per depositor per institution the level of government insurance on checking, savings and money-market accounts and certificates of deposit.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts and Smith.
And to learn more about why this is necessary, click here to read about the Orwellian-sounding "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005" (and even though Biden is VP now, he and Carper will never be able to erase their fingerprints from this one, along with the Repugs of course).

Primates as pets. Voting 323-95, the House on Tuesday sent the Senate a bill (HR 80) to ban interstate commerce in non-human primates such as chimpanzees. The bill was in response to a pet chimp's recent mauling of a woman in Stamford, Conn. While it would outlaw only interstate trafficking, sponsors noted that 20 states have laws making it illegal to keep non-human primates as pets.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted yes except for Pitts, who voted no.
I didn’t know there was a “pro-mauling chimpanzee primate” lobby out there; I guess Pancake Joe can count on them for a campaign donation next year.


Secretary of Labor. Voting 80-17, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed Hilda L. Solis, 51, a House member from California, as the 25th U.S. secretary of labor.

A yes vote was to confirm Solis.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted yes.
About freaking time, as Down With Tyranny tells us here.

House seat for D.C. The Senate on Thursday passed, 61-37, a bill (S 160) expanding the House of Representatives from 435 to 437 seats by establishing the District of Columbia as a congressional district (with voting power) and awarding Utah a fourth district. D.C. presumably would elect a Democrat and Utah a Republican. The new members would take office in 2011.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the House.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted yes.

D.C. gun law amendment. Voting 62-36, the Senate on Thursday amended S 160 (above) to deny the District of Columbia government authority to enact laws restricting private ownership or use of firearms. It would negate laws such as D.C.'s ban on gun ownership by persons voluntarily committed to mental institutions and its bans on armor-piercing sniper rifles and military-style semiautomatic weapons.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).
This was an uncharacteristically terrible vote by Bob Casey, and I left a message at his web site telling him so. He’s usually pretty good about responding; if and when I hear from him, I’ll let you know.

Last week, the House debated voting rights in Congress for the District of Columbia and a bill concerning bankruptcies and foreclosures. The Senate took up a $410 billion appropriations bill for fiscal 2009.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Stuff

The Onion News Network dares to raise a question we've all contemplated but have been too preoccupied to answer, what with the economy tanking and the wars and global warming and everything...

Are Violent Video Games Adequately Preparing Children For The Apocalypse?

...and time for a bit of fun.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thursday Stuff

Looks like the Repugs have been “kickin’ it old school,” yo (hat tips to The Daily Kos and Jack and Jill Politics)...

Update 3/6/09: This video is a joke, but the problem here is that DeMint is serious.

…and I was wondering what no-good Brad Blakeman was up to, what with “Freedom’s Crock” having gone up in smoke and all…

…and I think Maher was a little tough on Sullenberger here, but otherwise, this is good stuff (can’t imagine how much money he’s getting to endure Coulter on this “arguing tour” in New York, or whatever it is – what a joke)…

…time to rock harder, by the way.

CNBC, Explained By Jon Stewart

This was too good to pass up, crappy audio and all (h/t HuffPo).

Update 1 3/6/09: Good thoughts by Will Bunch on this here...

Update 2 3/6/09: Kudos to Stewart for not letting up here...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wednesday Stuff

I know I've been saying this a lot lately, but posting REALLY IS going to be sporadic for the next few days (in and out of sick bay); there are a couple of items I'll try to get to, but that's it. are a couple of videos - first up is K.O.'s interview with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse about the so-called "Leahy Commission" which seems to be taking shape; I have to admit that I didn't see the strategy at first, but Whitehouse spells it out pretty well, and kudos also to Thomas Pickering (Rivkin is nothing but a toad)...Scott Horton says straight up what many of we filthy, unkempt liberal bloggers have been SAYING FOR YEARS ALREADY, PEOPLE!!!!...

...and more "Worst Persons" (Bill Orally is an easy target here, but seriously, this "Alexa" group needs to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee; some Fox hairdo tries to peddle the lie (with a willing Repug congressional accomplice, of course) that Harry Reid is trying to fund development of a train running from Disneyland to the "Moonlight Bunny Ranch"; that's merely stupid, but Sean Inanity - with everything Flush Limbore has been up to, it's distracted from Hannity's particularly odious antics lately - tells the son of Lanny Davis that Reid wants our troops to be killed and maimed; yep, IMHO, Hannity just went over the line - if Reid had a spine, he'd sue Hannity, Murdoch and Newscorp for about $10 million for that...that should get that pirate's attention (Murdoch, I mean) - aaarrrgghhh!).

More Newt Nonsense From "The Old Gray Lady"

(And I also posted over here.)

This is a continuation of this post from yesterday in which I commented on the recent Sunday New York Times Magazine profile of Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich by Matt Bai.

So, after the congressional House Repugs congratulated themselves for standing in complete and total opposition to the stimulus proposed by President Obama and the Democrats (doesn’t look like much of a winner based on this), Bai’s story then harks back to Gingrich’s dissolute days as House Speaker, and tells us that…

Even now, all these years later, when you ask Republicans from that era what went wrong — how it was that Gingrich resigned from Congress just four years after finally becoming speaker, having suffered a major defeat at the polls and having seen his approval rating fall to 11 percent — you get a lot of blank looks and tortured shrugs. It’s as if the thing exploded so quickly that no one ever had time to reassemble the parts and figure out where the malfunction was. But whether the igniter was impeachment or the budget shutdown, everyone agrees that it was probably as much an issue of temperament as of circumstance. Gingrich is a historian and a futurist; he’s comfortable looking backward or ahead, but he doesn’t actually do all that well with the present. Possessed of a chaotic mind that moves from one obsession to the next, Gingrich flailed from objective to objective, while his missteps came to dominate the news.
There’s some truth in that, of course; people got sick of the impeachment circus, and Clinton hung the government shutdown due to the budget fiasco clearly around the collective necks of Gingrich, Dole and the congressional Repug “leadership.”

But I would argue that something else was in play here, not explained away so quickly by “blank looks and tortured shrugs.”

When someone’s approval rating falls to 11 percent, that’s pretty damn dramatic. And I think it was a reflection of the fact that people saw Gingrich and Dole in opposition to Clinton and realized that it was no contest in terms of who was trying to practice governance and who was engaged in “the politics of personal destruction” (even more amazing on Clinton’s part considering that all the stuff with Monica Whatsername was playing out at that time also).

And I would guess that it wasn’t much of a surprise, given the fact that Gingrich was forced into a spotlight and actually had to deliver something of consequence to the vast majority of this country, to find out that someone as egotistical as this “idea factory,” as Paul Ryan called him, forced terms of divorce on his first wife while she was recovering from surgery (that and a whole trove of other stuff is noted here, and it’s all sourced, including deferments which kept him out of military service during the Vietnam War).

Oh, and speaking of Gingrich’s ideas, Bai reports the following with an utterly straight face, as it were…

At our first meeting in November, Gingrich laid out for me his latest preoccupation, which, surprisingly, had nothing to do with stimulus or banking. “One of the projects I’m going to launch — we don’t have a name for it yet — is an air-traffic modernization project,” Gingrich told me excitedly. “You can do a space-based air-traffic-control system with half the current number of air-traffic controllers, increase the amount of air traffic in the northeast by 40 percent, allow point-to-point flights without the controllers having to have highways in the sky, and reduce the amount of aviation fuel by 10 percent. So it’s better for the environment, better for the economy. You have far fewer delays in New York, and by the way, you cut the number of unionized air-traffic controllers by 7,000.
Always paying homage to “The Gipper,” aren’t they (re, the air traffic controllers thing...and speaking of which, I’m making my way through Will Bunch’s excellent book on Reagan here; it isn’t all negative, by the way – Reagan is actually portrayed sympathetically at times, and rightfully so as explained by Bunch – I’ll try to post about it when I’m done).

“Our thematic is going to be — you’re going to love this — that if you have an air-traffic delay that’s not caused by weather, take the extra time at the airport and call your two senators and your congressman and demand they pass the modernization act,” Gingrich enthused. “Now, notice what I’m doing,” he said, leaning back and smiling. “I’m offering you a better value.”
And I’m sure the first contract for Newt’s wonderful new sky-based operation is going to be awarded to Spacely Sprockets (uh oh, George is walking Astro on the treadmill again; “Jane, how do you stop this crazy thing??!!”).

I honestly don’t know what to say about this bit of wingnut whimsy that I didn’t vent about already here, but I suppose all I can add is that it’s easy for the Repugs to come up with plans that are “in orbit,” since they have not a clue about how to resolve anything on the ground.

And I don’t know where on earth Gingrich got his statistic about “reducing aviation fuel by 10 percent,” but I should point out that it’s particularly amusing for him to pretend that he’s energy conscious given the fact that he fought funding of emerging technologies when he was speaker, as noted here.

Continuing, Bai tries to portray Gingrich as a peacemaker of sorts (please) by contrasting him as follows…

As a broad generalization, most of those talking the loudest about retrenchment and confrontation are in the activist wing of the party; they’re the death-before-taxes conservatives or the picket-abortion-clinics conservatives or the online conservatives who incline, like their liberal counterparts, toward ideological purity.
Uh, yeah Matt, I’d call that just a bit of a “generalization” (yes, there are those on the left who are strident about their causes, including your humble narrator on occasion, but the difference is that we are interested in trying to build a consensus, as opposed to those who are ideologically opposed to us; I’m not going to say another word about them, but merely link back here and let their words and actions speak for themselves – try finding rhetoric like that at the next Yearly Kos or progressive gathering…hell, there are “Drinking Liberally” locations all over the place; try visiting one some time and do some actual reporting on it.)

I got a sense of what this kind of combative approach might sound like when I called Grover Norquist, the anti-tax zealot who convenes a weekly meeting of influential Republican operatives. Norquist was fuming that Obama, who had pledged not to raise taxes on anyone but the wealthy, had just signed a children’s health care bill that included a tax on cigarettes.

“He’s a liar,” Norquist said of the president. “He knew he was lying the whole time. Shame on him. He can no longer look us in the eye and say he won the election fair and square.” This seemed a little strong to me — it wasn’t as if Obama had just dumped nine million stolen votes out of a suitcase onto his desk — but Norquist was getting himself worked up now. “Rich people like him can afford an extra 61 cents,” he went on. “Poor people can’t. And he does not care.”
As noted here, Grover Norquist laundered money from a casino-operating Indian tribe to Ralph Reed, founder of the Christian Coalition. He also compared the estate tax to the Holocaust. He also said we would have “bigger, safer cars” if the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards didn’t exist. He also said that a “carbon tax” (already enacted by Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway, Italy, The United Kingdom and New Zealand) was “nonsense” (and I’m sure you’re already aware of Norquist’s quote about drowning government in a bathtub, right?).

Basically, Grover Norquist has no moral standing to criticize anyone, particularly when he pretends to care about “poor” people.

To conclude (I’m going to wrap this up because the subject matter is starting to make me ill, and I sincerely hope I’m not inflicting that on anyone reading this), please let me communicate how genuinely tired I am of reading about how Gingrich is supposed to be some kind of a “savior” for the Republican Party. Some degree of literary success is not going to translate into any kind of electoral victory for him again; the majority of the voters of this country has already sized this guy up and decided that they want no part of what he’s selling. And notwithstanding this idiotic “will he, won’t he run again” fan dance, I suspect Gingrich knows that too (not enough to prevent this, though).

In a way, though, it would be fun if he didn’t. I’d never run out of posting material again.

Update 3/6/09: Guess our dear corporate media will just let this charade continue...

Update 3/13/09: Had to go "digging into the vault" for this one - can't wait to see what Newt blames liberals for this week (what a creep).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tuesday Stuff

ZOMG!!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!! (h/t everybody in the world who put this up first)...

...and if you want to see something REALLY scary (I mean, wassup with that bouncing thing of his?)...

...Jonathan Turley sizes up the latest revelations from Torture Yoo tonight on "Countdown" (Turley is referring to this guy, by the way)...

...and I thought this was a nice look at Senator Umbrage McCain's self-righteous display over those dreaded earmarks (boo-hiss!...the Bucks County Courier Times will join in the outrage shortly, I'm sure)...

...and I've tried to come up with a vid to capture what's on my mind concerning this story (h/t Atrios) of the Philadelphia Daily News apparently being "rebranded" as the Inquirer, and after some pondering, I settled on this in "tribute" to the paper that brings us Kevin Ferris, Smerky (who's been tolerable lately) and former Senator Man-On-Dog...haven't felt like devoting the time or calories in debunking their continually tired arguments lately - this whompin' tune is a bit out of context, but close enough; glad no jobs will be lost, apparently...

...and I know I haven't done the birthday thing in a long time, but Happy 59th to Shirley M. MacLeod (alias Re Styles) of The Tubes, singing "Prime Time" here with Fee Waybill (with a great bonus tune...those zany Germans).

Tuesday Newt Nonsense From "The Old Gray Lady"

It was really stunning, I must admit, to read the profile of Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich by Matt Bai in the New York Times Magazine last Sunday.

I suppose it is news that Gingrich’s self-serving tome “Real Change” spent 11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. And I guess it’s an accomplishment that he was able to con some of our more gullible brethren (a million, more or less) into signing a petition to “drill here, drill now, pay less” (of course, domestic drilling for oil would only have a marginal effect on prices, one which would not be realized for years if it were realized at all, as noted here).

However, since we’re talking about Newt, trivialities like facts should not apply, I realize (with the entire Republican Party pretty much “through the looking glass” anyway), particularly concerning the following proposal from a guy identified by Repug Congressman Paul Ryan (a man with his own issues, as noted here near the bottom) as an “idea factory”…

“(Gingrich) will have 10 ideas in an hour (Ryan said). Six of them will be brilliant, two of them are in the stratosphere and two of them I’ll just flat-out disagree with. And then you’ll get 10 more ideas in the next hour.”

A lot of (Gingrich’s) e-mail messages are deeply wonkish, written in single-sentence paragraphs without punctuation or capital letters. It’s almost as if you can see Gingrich twittering away at a Starbucks while doing calculations on a wrinkled napkin. On Thanksgiving Day, for instance, in an e-mail message one recipient shared with me, Gingrich fired off a riff on an idea by Louie Gohmert, a Republican congressman from Texas, who had suggested that, instead of a stimulus bill, the party propose a payroll-tax holiday. “FICA and personal income tax combined are about $160 billion a month (you might want to check my math),” Gingrich wrote to a group of Congressional allies. “So if Pelosi proposes a $700 billion stimulus spending package in January, we could propose a 4-month tax holiday as the alternative.” In a separate e-mail message to his own aides, he wrote: “Think of no personal or corporate income tax and no fica tax for a year as a stimulus package. Am I nuts in rome or is the contrast startling.”
I don’t know about “the contrast in Rome” (???), Newt baby, but yeah; you’re nuts – as noted here…

…As with any tax holiday, the benefits expire after a brief time…and thus will most likely fail to change personal incentives to either spend or save. The government loses revenue (which will have to be made up somewhere…because we all know that spending will not be reduced by the same amount of the tax break…and that means more borrowing now, higher taxes later, or both at some point).
And Ryan isn’t the only member of the supposed “next generation” of conservatives influenced by Gingrich, as Bai tells us…

A few days after the inauguration, I met Eric Cantor at a bench outside the House chamber, and we walked — jogged, actually — across the street to the Rayburn Building, where the Ways and Means Committee was marking up the Democratic stimulus bill. Cantor is just two years younger than Obama, and you can see how he might emerge in the years ahead as the president’s generational opposite, in the same way that Gingrich and Bill Clinton often seemed to bring out in each other their long-dormant high school personas.
Kind of a silly bit of revealing pop psychology by Bai there; it seems that most politics to our corporate media is a matter of reliving some kind of long-gone trauma of dorkiness, if you will, projected by the correspondent onto the figures in question; in this case, Clinton is just “too cool for school” as far as Bai is concerned, so in the process of elevating Gingrich to the level of a president for comparison’s sake, Bai is implying that Gingrich is Clinton’s equal intellectually and in other ways, which is A) ludicrous, and B) has nothing to do with the factual content of the story (the “actual reporting” about which Bai is supposedly proficient, or else he wouldn’t be writing for the New York Times Sunday Magazine in the first place).


Where Obama sweeps through a room, effortless and aloof, the wiry Cantor emits a kind of nerdy intensity, like an actuary who really loves his work. Cantor says “frankly” a lot, usually just before he says something that’s highly calibrated.

I asked Cantor whether Gingrich was giving him useful advice for how to navigate the current moment.

“Every day, every day,” he told me. “You want specifics?”

I nodded.

“Well, generally, he is very quick to see the historic election of President Obama and the potential for his support to last, and what that means for Congress, and how we compare the success of Barack Obama to, frankly, the difficulties that Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid are having with the American public right now,” Cantor said. “You know, Congressional Democrats are nowhere near where this president is right now in terms of public opinion.”

Cantor listed some of the more extreme liberal forces — he mentioned Code Pink, the women’s antiwar group, and the “radical environmental movement,” which were about the most provocative examples he could come up with off the top of his head — that seemed, in his view, to hold sway among Democrats in Congress but whom Obama, with his centrist outlook, might need to defy. “If you watch where he’s going, since he’s been elected he’s sort of rejected some of the campaign rhetoric and said we have to deliberate, we have to be thoughtful,” Cantor went on. “He understands the burdens of the office and at the same time understands that this is a center-right country. We’re closer to that, frankly, than the majority in the House.”
Uh…somehow I doubt seriously that President Obama has a “Code Pink” strategy in his foreign policy pronouncements (oy).

Also, Cantor says that Obama understands that this is a “center-right” country; it’s pretty dumb for Cantor to resurrect that supposed argument since he’s bound to lose it based on this (and speaking of dumb ideas, Gingrich didn't tell Cantor to steal Aerosmith’s song in making a promotional video for the House Republicans, as noted here, did he?).

And in Bai’s story, Gingrich is allowed to circulate the rather spectacular lie that he “(doesn’t) actually build oppositions” (I’ll merely link to this and let you, dear reader, discover how laughable that is – have to scroll down a bit).

Bai also tells us the following concerning the stimulus…

House Democrats, however, still recalling the way Republicans treated them during their years in the minority, designed their bill as if all the Republicans had just been carted away to Guantánamo Bay. Whatever actual resolve Republicans may have had to work across party lines seemed to dissolve overnight, and they reverted to the more familiar stance of reflexive opposition.
That’s a rather interesting interpretation, given that, as noted here, Obama said the following....

"Now, in fact, when we announced the bill, you remember -- this is only about, what, two weeks ago (mid January)? When we announced the framework -- and we were complimented by Republicans, saying, boy, this is a balanced package, we're pleasantly surprised. And suddenly, what was a balanced package needs to be put out of balance?"
Bai also tells us that…

In the end, House Republican leaders demanded that their members vote unanimously against the bill, and in the Senate, even after the package was trimmed in a concession to centrists from both parties, only the remaining dinosaurs from the party’s Northeastern establishment crossed the aisle.
At this point, allow me to point out the following (and I’m not just saying this because he voted for the stimulus)…

As anyone who has even casually read this site knows, I don’t like Arlen Specter. For all of the times that he’s voted in what I consider to be good conscience, he has more than negated that with his awful party line support of Bushco and its minions.

However, classifying him as a “dinosaur” is inaccurate and, further, a cheap shot. If he weren’t as formidable as he is, I wouldn’t spend so much time following what he does and commenting on it.

So (I ask rhetorically), did Newt and his pals lick their collective wounds over the passage of the stimulus? Need I even ask?...

The night after lodging their protest against the bill on the House floor, Republican congressmen arrived at a retreat in Virginia feeling jubilant for the first time since before the presidential campaign. Waiting for them there was the evening’s keynote speaker — Gingrich, of course. Having seen his engage-and-divide strategy founder almost immediately when it came to the stimulus, Gingrich seemed to have changed his mind about Obama and resorted to his more instinctual, more confrontational cast. No longer did he talk of Obama as the kind of centrist guy you could get your arms around. In the coming days, in fact, he would deride the president’s “left-wing policies” while at the same time accuse him of “Nixonian” abuses of power.

On this night, Gingrich congratulated his troops on standing united and inspired them with stories about Charles de Gaulle’s heroism and George Washington at Valley Forge, as well as the football legends Joe Paterno and Vince Lombardi.
On second thought, maybe Newt gave Cantor the idea for the Aerosmith song after all...

Now was the time for Republicans to rediscover their principles, Gingrich told the congressmen. At one point, he likened himself, lightheartedly, to Moses. He’d help them cross the Red Sea once again, Gingrich vowed, but only if they promised, this time, to stay on the other side.
No shame at all with these people (kind of reminded me of this moment when, while the Iraq insurgency started to take its lethal shape, Rummy’s functionary – one of them – Steve Herbits got Newt together with Paul Wolfowitz at a swanky Washington-area restaurant to figure out what to do, and all Newt and Wolfie did was, “quot(e) poetry, studies, historians, Greeks, the moderns,” according to Bob Woodward in “State of Denial,” and basically come up with nothing of any substance; Gingrich’s congratulating the House Repugs over the stimulus stonewalling also reminded me of this, when the former speaker predicted that the 1993 Clinton budget “would lead to a recession”).

I’ll have more to say about Bai’s story later.

Monday (Late) Stuff

Probably no posting today (same here), so...

"Worst Persons" on "Countdown" from last night (John Ziegler, the person who perpetrated the supposed latest "ambush" interview of Just Plan Folks Sarah Palin Dontcha Know...and please keep in mind that Ziegler asked not a single question but merely let her ramble on...takes issue with conservatives belittling other conservatives - yep, "circular firing squads" sure are fun; Mary Matalin fluffs Bobby ("Don't Call Me Piyush") Jindal, which is none of my business I realize, but the problem is that she's completely and utterly dead wrong on the facts; but Bill O'Reilly takes it for something truly reprehensible, and that is the fact that he will be the keynote speaker at an event on behalf of the "It Happened To Alexa" Foundation, a group that provides support services for rape victims - the problem, as noted here, is that O'Reilly once claimed that Shawn Hornbeck, who was kidnapped and repeatedly raped, "enjoyed his captivity"...a lot of times, it's funny to cite O'Reilly over his idiocy, but not now)...

...and again, to quote Atrios, "insert crappy music video here."

Monday, March 02, 2009

An End To Color-Coded Chaos?

(I also posted over here.)

This story in yesterday’s Parade Magazine tells us…

President Obama once referred to the Homeland Security Advisory System as “the color-coded politics of fear,” and now his administration is taking a close look at the five-tiered public-alert system.

…President Obama says that the Homeland Security Advisory System should “focus on keeping us safe when information specific to a particular sector or geographic region is received,” according to White House spokesman Nick Shapiro. He adds that the President “will not tolerate politicization of such a system.” In one of her first acts as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano launched a department-wide review of current policies and programs “to outline her priorities and determine where changes may need to be made,” says DHS spokesman Sean Smith.
And I’ll bet you didn’t know that this whole color-coded business was actually referred to as the Homeland Security Alert System (or HSAS - I didn't anyway), which (as the New York Times notes here) was confusing to the majority of this country back in August 2003 (with confusion, of course, being the M.O. for the Bushco cabal back then, accompanied soon afterwards by fear assuaged only by The Dear Leader), although…

Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said that agency officials had not seen the Congressional report but that they continued to believe the color-coded alerts were valuable.

''The color-coded system indicates the U.S. intelligence community's best assessment of the collective threat against this nation,'' Mr. Roehrkasse said, adding that the department was trying to provide more detailed threat information to the public and had begun ''a process of working with our state partners, mayors and private sector partners, inviting them to provide feedback on how the system is working for them.''
Hmm, Brian Roehrkasse…why does that name sound familiar?

Oh, I know now; it’s because he spread lies and distortions every chance he could while working for a variety of Bushco agencies, including the Office of Public Affairs at the Department of Transportation, DHS, and (perhaps most infamously) the Justice Department – his tenure there is duly noted here by Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine.

The August 2003 Times story also tells us that Dem Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey said that “The system may be doing more harm than good. If the Department of Homeland Security doesn't revamp this system, Congress may have to do it for them.”

And apparently, the Repug 109th Congress tried to do that (shocking, I know); this tells us that majority party Rep. Christopher Cox of California sponsored H.R. 1817, the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (more here - Cox was the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security), which (among other things) would have ensured better information-sharing on what constituted one type of alert versus another (the bill passed out of the House but died in the Senate – for such a detailed piece of legislation, it’s surprising that it was put together by a guy who went on to become a pretty sucky SEC chairman).

(I should also note that HSAS was instituted by the first Homeland Security Secretary, former PA governor Tom Ridge, who – surprise, surprise! – told us how it was abused by his “betters” here; the system also prompted this thoroughly comic response from Cox’s Dem successor as Homeland Security Chairman, Bennie Thompson by name, to a rather stunning moment of idiocy from Ridge’s successor Mike “City Of Louisiana” Chertoff.)

Actually, how about this – maybe our politicians should, from time to time, remind us all to be vigilant and alert to any possible occurrences or activities that seem out of character in our homes, neighborhoods, or workplaces involving our family, friends or neighbors, and contact law enforcement the first time we witness anything of that nature, OK? Not intruding on anyone’s space or anything like that, but just using common sense.

Whether it’s a “yellow,” “blue” or “red” day, the threats remain constant regardless. As does our duty to act as intelligent adults (and thus serve as an example for any nitwit politician looking to abuse our fears and cultivate our stupidity…a lot fewer of them now than before last November 4th, though).