Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Stuff

Still pondering this "Pap Attack" about everyone's favorite right-wing radio idiot (lots of competition there)...

...and apparently, these guys just killed at "South By Southwest"; don't ask me what on earth is going on at the end, though.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Stuff

This is called "taking your opponent's opposition to the Obama administration's recovery plan and hanging it around his neck for maximum effect"; well done (h/t The Daily Kos)...

...OK, so Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin is harrumphing over Obama's "Special Olympics" gaffe on Leno (for which he apologized after the show was taped and before it aired), yet she turns away stimulus money that could be used, in part, for funding of special education???...

...and K.O. tries to bring order to all of this chaos and more with the help of Seth MacFarlane of "The Family Guy" (I didn't know he did Stewie's voice also)...

...and here's an upbeat little ditty to close out the week.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (3/20/09)

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 (our U.S. House Rep from PA's 16th congressional district had another terrible week, and one of our senators has some 'splainin' to do, IMHO).


Public lands conservation. Voting 282-144, the House failed to reach a two-thirds majority for passing a bill (S 22) that would conserve tens of millions of acres of public land, mostly in the West.

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.).
You would think that, given the beauty of Lancaster County in his district, conservation is one issue where Pancake Joe would actually have a clue. Silly me.

Water and sewer programs. Voting 317-101, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 1262) authorizing $13.8 billion over five years in grants and loans to help communities build and maintain sewage-treatment systems and $1.8 billion in federal funding over five years for programs to control sewage overflows. The bill also provides Great Lakes cleanup funds.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, Murphy, LoBiondo, Schwartz and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.

Not voting: Sestak.
At this point, finding myself so utterly shocked over the fact that, apparently, Pitts is pro-sewage (I mean, seriously, what else would explain that vote?), I navigated to his web site to find out what else Pitts has had to say on “water issues.” And, to his credit (surprise, surprise), he actually has a section of the “Issues” portion of his web site devoted to “Water Resources.”

And here is what you will find…

As you can see, Pitts has had nothing to announce on the matter of “water resources” since OCTOBER 2000! And don’t bother to click on the “Conservation” link to find more information because the link is broken.

I honestly don’t know how many other ways I can describe what an embarrassment this man truly is.

Davis-Bacon act. Voting 140-284, the House refused to strip HR 1262 (above) of its requirement that the Davis-Bacon Act be applied to the bill. Davis-Bacon requires that workers on federally funded projects be paid at prevailing, or union-equivalent, wage levels for the particular region.

A yes vote was to remove Davis-Bacon rules from the bill.

Voting yes: Dent and Pitts.

Voting no: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz and Smith.

Not voting: Sestak.
I guess the surprise here isn’t so much that Charlie Dent and Pitts voted no (I mean, OF COURSE Repugs have to oppose prevailing wage law – what, you think they’re “socialists” or something?). If there’s news at all, it’s that Castle, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Smith (and Holden) voted yes.

And by the way, guess who introduced this amendment? As noted here, it was Connie Mack The Fourth (what, was he in a Purple Haze or something…OK, I won’t go there again).


David Ogden confirmation. The Senate confirmed, 65-28, David W. Ogden as deputy attorney general. As the second-ranking official in the Department of Justice, Ogden will be responsible for the department's day-to-day management.

A yes vote was to confirm Ogden.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Bob Casey (D., Pa.).
I have to tell you that I cannot imagine what is going on with Bob Casey Jr. at the moment.

First he voted to deny the District of Columbia government authority to enact laws restricting private ownership or use of firearms (here); then he voted to withhold U.S. contributions to the U.N. Population Fund unless Obama certifies that none of the money would reach countries or groups that coerce abortions or require involuntary sterilizations here (yes, I know about his “pro life” bona fides, but had the amendment gone through, it would have hurt programs to help young girls suffering from forced marriages or genital mutilation); next, he ends up linked to Evan Bayh’s ridiculous Blue Dog Senate Double Super Secret Club Of Moderates That I Try To Form Every Single Goddamn Session But Which Is A Particularly Bad Idea Now nonsense (here); and NOW, he ends up being THE ONLY DEMOCRATIC SENATOR to buy into this GOP scheme against a guy who, while he defended a firefighter who possessed a copy of Playboy (problem?), the guy who defended the firefighter also said the following (from here)…

"Child pornography is abhorrent,”…"Issues of children and families have always been of great importance to me."
I’ve tried to think of a delicate way to phrase what I’m about to say next, but I’m sorry that I cannot, so here it is…

Senator Casey, pull your head out of your ass and start voting like a GODDAMN DEMOCRAT!, OK?

$410 billion budget. Voting 62-35, the Senate ended GOP delay of a $410 billion appropriations bill (HR 1105) to fund agencies that have been on stopgap budgets since October. Later sent to President Obama on a non-record vote, the bill raises spending by 8 percent over comparable 2008 levels, with major increases in areas such as Securities and Exchange Commission regulation, K-12 education, health-care access, scientific research, renewable energy and energy efficiency, clean air and water, workforce retraining, and food and drug safety, while cutting many Bush administration initiatives. The bill eases restrictions on Americans' travel to Cuba and contains 8,570 Democratic and Republican earmarks totaling $7.7 billion.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted yes.
Well done, earmarks and all (time was short on this one).

Congressional pay raises. The Senate upheld, 52-45, existing rules by which members of Congress automatically receive a cost-of-living raise each January unless both chambers vote to deny it. This tabled (killed) an amendment to HR 1105 (above) requiring debate and votes on congressional pay raises. Members received a $4,700 raise in January 2009, increasing their salaries to $174,000. The underlying bill would freeze pay at that level until January 2011.

A yes vote was to keep congressional pay raises on autopilot.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Specter.
This is usually the portion of our program where I say “As always, screw you, Arlen,” but not today; kudos to Specter for trying to shed some light on this, and shame on the other five who want to keep this in the dark.

This week, the House took up a bill on volunteerism and national service, while the Senate (maybe) debated bills to preserve Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites and protect certain public lands in their natural state (maybe Casey and Snarlin’ Arlen could find some extra bucks for this).

Another Obama First: Getting To Know The “SCO”

(And also posted over here.)

This tells us another way that President Obama has distanced himself from his eminently forgettable predecessor…

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States said Thursday that a top US diplomat will travel to Moscow for a meeting this month on Afghanistan sponsored by the Shanghai group and he could meet Iranian delegates there.

Iran usually sends an observer to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional grouping set up in 1996 as an alternative to NATO that would allow Russia and China to counter US influence in Asia.

"Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Patrick Moon is planning to attend this Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference in Moscow on the 27th of March," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

"It's a conference about Afghanistan and its neighbors," the spokesman told the daily news media briefing in Washington.
As Wikipedia confirms here, the group was indeed formed in 1996 as the “Shanghai Five,” but after Uzbekistan was added in 2001, the group reformed as the “SCO,” if you will, that year, perhaps thinking that the “Shanghai Five” sounded too much like the title of a martial arts movie (seriously, though, this is a formidable group – this prior post tells us the following…

According to the SCO Charter and the Declaration on the Establishment of the SCO, the main purposes of SCO are: strengthening mutual trust and good-neighborliness and friendship among member states; developing their effective cooperation in political affairs, the economy and trade, science and technology, culture, education, energy, transportation, environmental protection and other fields; working together to maintain regional peace, security and stability; and promoting the creation of a new international political and economic order featuring democracy, justice and rationality.

Though the declaration on the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization contained a statement that it "is not an alliance directed against other States and regions and it adheres to the principle of openness", most observers believe that one of the original purposes of the SCO was to serve as a counterbalance to the United States and in particular to avoid conflicts that would allow the United States to intervene in areas near both Russia and China. Many observers also believe that the organization was formed as a direct response to the threat of missile defense systems by the United States, after the United States reversed course in its nuclear policy and began promoting National Missile Defense.
Yep, or should I say “Da!” – as noted here, the formation of the SCO was considered to be "a great success of President Vladimir Putin in foreign policy” according to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Gazette); basically, our old buddy Vlad saw this as a way to get back at Dubya’s militarism (hence the prior wording about "rationality" - wonder if “43” saw this coming when he famously said that he “looked into Putin’s soul” here? Also, Wikipedia tells us that the U.S. applied to attend an SCO meeting with “observer” status in 2005, but was denied).

It’s still way too early to tell how the current foreign policy overtures of the Obama Administration are going to play out (including this greeting to Iran), but he deserves the same chance we afforded the prior individual who took up space in An Oval Office. And as Jack Cafferty said here, “at least I don't go to bed at night worried that I'll wake up in the morning to find out we're about to invade someone.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Stuff

I had a feeling we were headed towards "Special Comment" territory, and we're there now (if any member of the Obama Administration is unprepared to do what K.O. is talking about here, they should quit or be fired)...

...and David Shuster joins in on the fun; let's see what kind of hijinks that zany Repug congressional "leadership" is up to...

...yes, time to rock harder...

...and I tried to watch this movie one night after I came home from work, but I was either too tired or too drunk or something - I'll have to try again soon; a shame, because it stars four of my favorite actors, including Richardson...God, she was a dish.

“Fostering” The End Of The (Maybe) Baby “Boomlet”?

Note: This post is going to zig-zag a bit, but for a good reason (and I also posted here on a timely matter also related to a birth of a child).

You probably don’t remember this post, which tried to refute the claim from conservatives that they were “begattin’,” you might say, faster than liberals (kind of a silly notion, but such is what passes for “informed discourse” on occasion).

Well, I don’t think anyone is going to be encouraging such activity again any time soon, given this story, which tells us that unwed birth rates in this country have reached an all-time high (though, as the story tells us, the economic slump will probably bring an end to the “boomlet,” if comparisons to the Great Depression hold up here also)…

The statistics are based on a review of most 2007 birth certificates by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers also showed:

• Nearly 72 percent of the births to black women were out of wedlock. Mothers were unmarried in about 51 percent of Hispanic births and 28 percent of non-Hispanic white births.

• Cesarean section deliveries continue to rise, now accounting for almost a third of all births. Health officials say that rate is much higher than is medically necessary. About 34 percent of births to black women were by C-section, more than any other racial group. But geographically, the percentages were highest in Puerto Rico, at 49 percent, and New Jersey, at 38 percent.

• The pre-term birth rate, for infants delivered at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy, declined slightly. It had been generally increasing since the early 1980s. Experts said they aren't sure why it went down.

• Among the states, Utah continued to have the highest birth rate and Vermont the lowest.
Now I realize that I’m starting to venture into territory with this where I don’t usually go, because I think I have better things to do than to get all hung up on “culture wars” stuff (and I have a feeling that you’d rather reason about more interesting subjects, though I could be wrong). Also, it’s really not my intention here to say much the “Octomom,” as noted here, because I think her situation is an anomaly – I hope so anyway; I’d hate to think there are many more medical practitioners out there as incompetent as her fertility doctor.

However, my concern here is the kids born out of wedlock who end up in foster care; if a woman has the means to give birth to a child and support that child herself, that’s none of my business regardless of what I may personally think about the absence of a father (I should note that I haven’t been able to find statistics on the ages of women who give birth to children who end up in foster care, but as I read about this, it seems that the majority of women are in their teens or twenties, though I don’t have any citations on that – if anyone has better information on that, please let me know).

And on the topic of foster care, here is a post by a man who apparently grew up in a foster care network and ended up supporting Barack Obama because of his commitment to children’s advocacy and related issues. Also (and I can’t believe I’m doing this), here is a link to a column by Mona Charen of NRO, of all people, who makes an argument for the Obamas “getting in front” on parenting issues, which they’ve already done as nearly as I can tell (I really wish I could disagree with Charen here, but shockingly, I think she makes some sense, though somehow I don’t think divorce is automatically a sentence to “skid row” for a child – not preferable of course, but not necessarily the end either…also, I could do without the hosanna to Jack Kemp, but I guess that comes with the territory).

Finally (closer to home), this editorial in the Bucks County Courier Times today tells us how County Commissioner Diane Marseglia and Dem State Rep Joe Galloway are trying to “push the bolder of Sisyphus,” if you will, on the matter of foster children’s issues, running into resistance from fellow commissioners Jim Cawley and Charley (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin (lots of luck with that one, and kudos for your efforts).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday Stuff

Hey, Evan Bayh, I've got a name for your group - how about calling it, "The Usual Gang Of Idiots" (apologies to the late Mr. Gaines and his cohorts - and by the way, Mr. Casey, Jr., if you sign onto this, expect to be hounded frequently by yours truly)...

...and this is just awful - my deepest sympathies to the Neeson/Richardson/Redgrave family and friends.

AIG Outrage And A Silly Repug (S)Mack-Down

(Sorry, people – this is the best I can do without Photoshop.)

This story from HuffPo brings us the following from U.S. House Repug Connie Mack The Fourth of Florida…

"I've had serious concerns about Secretary Geithner from the moment he was nominated. In the months since, he has shown us time and again why he was the wrong choice for this critical post.

"This week's news on the AIG bonus scandal is but the latest fiasco under his watch and he has lost the confidence of the American people.

"Quite simply, the Timothy Geithner experience has been a disaster. The Treasury Department is in disarray. Taxpayer dollars are being wasted. America's economy hangs in the balance. America needs and deserves a Treasury Secretary who can truly lead us forward.

"Timothy Geithner should either resign or be fired for the good of the country, and President Obama should nominate a new Treasury Secretary with the experience and leadership skills America deserves."
Far be it for me to defend Treasury Secretary Geithner or his pal Larry Summers (I mean, are these guys going to set a new record for the Guinness book when it comes to shoveling good money after bad? As I asked yesterday, what the $#@! happened to the original TARP – you know, the one where we get the toxic assets off the books first and THEN see what happens?), but if Connie Mack The Fourth wants little Timmeh outta here, then I guess he’s gonna have to Wait Until Tomorrow (Besides, what about these people? Aren’t they guilty of building Castles Made Of Sand too? And I mean, in addition to Dubya and Paulson, Shelby, Cantor, McConnell, etc.).

So, all of this made me a bit curious about Connie Mack The Fourth, so I did a little digging and found out that, like every other House Repug, he opposed the stimulus, even though the governor of Florida, Repug Charlie Crist, actually has a brain and a sense of responsibility to the point where he supported it (here), even though Mack sayeth as follows…

“The people of Southwest Florida, and indeed the nation, want to see a plan that will get our economy moving, not a plan that is chock-full of spending for pork and special interests.”
As “Creative Loafing” (love the title) notes, though…

It is especially hilarious to hear Mack call for more unfettered growth, since he represents one of the worst cases of overbuilding and speculation without proper growth management down in Lehigh Acres. The New York Times wrote of the place: “In Lehigh Acres, homes are selling at 80 percent off their peak prices. Only two years after there were more jobs than people to work them, fast-food restaurants are laying people off or closing. Crime is up, school enrollment is down, and one in four residents received food stamps in December, nearly a fourfold increase since 2006.”

But Mack depends on those landowners and developers for his campaign cash, and since he’s mulling a U.S. Senate run, he wants to push his “conservative” credentials against the president’s stimulus plan. Since when did being a conservative equate to being a land-rush huckster?
When, indeed?

And by the way, this contains more interesting reading on Mack The Fourth, including the details of a $10 million earmark inserted into a 2005 transportation bill; see, Mack officially didn’t know about the earmark since it was inserted by Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (yes, that Don Young, who is seeing his patronage House Burning Down) on behalf of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and real estate developer Daniel Aronoff’s Landon Companies, who…

“…had paid Potomac partners, a lobbying firm, $140,000 since 2005 and $580,000 since 2003, respectively. Aronoff helped organize a fundraiser honoring Young, but Mack was involved in hosting it. Earlier that day both congressmen attended a town hall meeting on the FGCU campus. Topics for the event according to a notice included a study commissioned by FGCU that recommended the construction of an interchange at Coconut Road and I-75 in addition to a high-tech command and control center that would be located on the FGCU campus. Minutes from the meeting stated that Young was invited to the university by Mack.”
Nice, cozy little setup Mack and Young had here; Ain’t No Telling what these guys would have gotten away with, huh?

Oh, and by the way, Mack is married to (The Wind Cries) Mary Bono, for the record (when it comes to keeping Repug patronage in the family, “the beat goes on,” I guess).

(OK, no more music references…)

So, yeah, there are legitimate questions that must be asked about who exactly knew of the bonuses to be awarded to AIG and who signed off on them, and I realize that the issues are tricky because, as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs among others has pointed out, the contracts were signed in April 2008 before Lehman Brothers fell in September (though not before Bear Stearns merged with J.P. Morgan in March).

But when it comes to faux populist outrage from characters like Mack The Fourth (as noted above, he’s positioning himself for a Senate run at Mel Martinez’s seat, since Mack The Third served there), it’s the same old song (don’t know if that was a Hendrix cover or not – he wasn’t real big on Motown, as I recall).

(And right after I pressed Enter on this, I saw that Darrell Issa joined the party; Issa is a world-class scumwaffle, whereas Mack The Fourth is only a piker.)

Update: Not good, Timmeh (and despite Jed L.'s thorough post, it doesn't look good for Dodd either - Update 3/19: Upon further consideration, though, Dodd deserves credit for trying to limit the amount of the bonuses, as noted here; it would have been a slippery legal slope to try and remove them altogether, as much as I hate to admit that).

Update 3/20/09: Terrific question from Jed L. here...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Stuff

Another questionable posting day tomorrow, by the way...

Since the lapdog media coverage of Dubya has continued after his exit on 1/20/09, including their fluffery over his speech in Calgary today (the AP story today by Rob Gillies carried the headline, "Bush Won't Criticize Obama After His Departure," implying that there's something to criticize Obama for, and also implying that Dubya should do so also since his lunatic former veep did as well), this is being presented as a counterbalance (the "reality point of view" once more - this was good also)...

...and "Still Bushed" (I just about can't think of a word to describe how repugnant it is that this guy won't even mention Iraq in the profile of himself for his Fabulous Freedom Library; and Afghanistan isn't mentioned either, nor is the fact that 42 percent of those polled now think that THAT war was a bad idea also - hope that idiot Bret Stephens at the Murdoch Street Journal hears about this; and this is what K.O. was referring to in the interview with Jim Moore - yep, the Red Cross said we tortured...I'd call that "game, set, and match," people)...

...yep, this is something we can do, all right...

...and I'd featured this from the Wordpress site; I thought it was appropriate for this special day.

Class Warfare 101 With Andrew Ross Sorkin

The guy who brought us this piece of fiction about an autoworker at GM making $70 an hour told us here in the New York Times today that we should let those criminals at AIG receive bonuses from TARP funds (some of whom have left) with impunity, because…

If government officials were to break the contracts, they would be “breaking a bond,” (compensation consultant Pearl) Meyer says. “They are raising a whole new question about the trust and commitment organizations have to their employees.” (The auto industry unions are facing a similar issue — but the big difference is that there is a negotiation; no one is unilaterally tearing up contracts.)

But what about the commitment to taxpayers? Here is the second, perhaps more sobering thought: A.I.G. built this bomb, and it may be the only outfit that really knows how to defuse it.

A.I.G. employees concocted complex derivatives that then wormed their way through the global financial system. If they leave — the buzz on Wall Street is that some have, and more are ready to — they might simply turn around and trade against A.I.G.’s book. Why not? They know how bad it is. They built it.

So as unpalatable as it seems, taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats, if only to prevent them from turning against the company. In the end, we may actually be better off if they can figure out how to unwind these tricky investments.
I’m sorry, but given the degree of disaster wrought by these supposed financial geniuses, I’m really not disposed to entertain language that basically is a blackmail threat to us.

More than anything else, I read stuff like this and I wonder what the #@!$ happened to the original TARP (the “beta” version, I guess) that was committed to removing the toxic assets first and THEN determining how the funds should be doled out to the affected companies, either in their original form or in their “nationalized” version (oooh, sorry I know that’s a baaad “N” word, if you will).

But as you consider what Sorkin says, I would ask that you also read this, in which Sorkin communicates a very different perspective towards a GM assembler named Kandy O’Neill…

When you read a line like that (about how difficult it is to be an auto assembly line worker) you might sympathize with her, but then you realize that nothing can be accomplished without bankruptcy. Ms. O’Neill: your company is asking the taxpayers — many of whom don’t have health care coverage — to pay your salary and health insurance.
And that’s a problem for Sorkin (providing some temporary funding for someone like O’Neill, who has done nothing wrong), but apparently he has no issue with “asking the taxpayers” to foot the bill for a bunch of white-collar criminals, “as unpalatable as it seems” (and in his story today, Sorkin tells us that “if A.I.G. had spiraled into bankruptcy, its employees would have had to get in line with other unsecured creditors,” though he apparently has no issue if autoworkers had to endure the same fate).

At this moment, I have two words for Andrew Ross Sorkin, and they’re not “happy birthday” (I’ll give you a hint: Jon Stewart uttered them at the end of his eight-and-a-half-minute takedown of CNBC last week).

And thanks go out to Sorkin also, again, for the $70-an-hour automaker myth (wonder what the hourly rates are for the AIGers who took their bonuses after receiving TARP funds including salary and bennies?) because he didn’t bother to point out that the wages for labor costs “make up only about 10 percent of the cost of a vehicle,” as Sorkin’s Times’ colleague David Leonhardt points out here (and as far as Sorkin preaching bankruptcy as a solution to the automakers goes, Leonhardt makes the following good point)…

Actually, it's rather interesting that Toyota and Honda aren't screaming bloody murder about the U.S. government's attempts to force the Detroit Three's to reduce their costs to levels more comparable to the transplants since that would take away the transplants' comparative advantage.

Could it be that it's so important to the Japanese and German car makers with factories in the U.S. that the Detroit Three remain viable, since they all get their parts from many of the same suppliers, that the Japanese companies are willing to risk more competition in the future than have to contend with Detroit Three bankruptcies today?
Also, as far as recovering AIG’s bonuses is concerned, I thought this Daily Kos post about an idea by a freshman Dem House rep named Gary Peters was the best I’ve heard so far…

“It is beyond outrageous that the very people who brought AIG to its knees and helped create the current financial crisis are scheduled to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses while tax dollars keep their company afloat,” said Rep. Peters, a Member of the House Financial Services Committee. “These bonuses are in effect a raid on taxpayer dollars. The legislation I’m proposing will get taxpayers their money back. Congress must act swiftly on this matter to show AIG, other companies receiving federal support and taxpayers that we mean business when we say that tax dollars are not to be used to enrich company executives.”

Congressman Peters’ bill would create a 60 percent surtax on bonuses over $10,000 to any company in which the U.S. government has a 79 percent or greater equity stake in the company. Currently, AIG is the only company that meets this threshold. The 60 percent surtax would be added to the normal income tax rate, meaning that bonuses received this year by AIG executives paying the top 35 percent tax rate would be taxed at 95 percent. The remaining 5 percent would likely be paid in state and local taxes, so taxpayers would fully recover any AIG bonuses paid in 2009.
Another thing...I’ve never traded in financial securities, but I worked with people who did, and I know there are codes of compliance and standards of conduct that must be observed in order for someone to maintain their license or licenses. In addition, companies have their own internal codes of compliance in these matters; while I don’t know that anyone at AIG violated such codes (did they even exist?), at the every least, those codes should be strengthened to accommodate the malfeasance of those employed at the company that has brought us to this present sorry state.

And I got sort of a chuckle through clenched teeth, if you will, over this in Sorkin’s story from today…

(New York Attorney General Andrew) Cuomo wants to know who A.I.G.’s lucky employees are, and how they have been doing at their jobs. So here is a suggestion for him. Get the list, and give those big earners at A.I.G. a not-so-subtle nudge: Perhaps they will “volunteer” to give some of their bonuses back or watch their names hit the newspapers. But in the meantime, despite how offensive and painful it might be, let’s honor the contracts.
Here’s my idea instead; get the list and tell them to give back their bonuses or they’ll be prosecuted (“volunteer” my ass; I’d love to go after them now, but I think it’s unclear whether or not they’ve actually broken the law…yet).

And then name who they are anyway (and a hat tip goes out to Atrios for this – he’s right; this congress doesn’t have much of a record of success with “sternly worded letters”).

Update: I would say that, when Dana Perino is pleading your case for you, you're in trouble (and doesn't she have an interesting definition of "middle class"?).

Benny’s Bungle Over A Condom Conundrum

I promise I don’t enjoy posting over this stuff, but I feel like I have to (and I also posted over here).

This story tells us the following…

Pope Benedict XVI said on his way to Africa Tuesday that condoms were not the answer in the continent's fight against HIV, his first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.

"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

The pope said that a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.
Oh God (not trying to be funny) – is this stuff ever going to stop with this man?

Yes, I’m extremely aware of Church doctrine on this issue, but to align himself with the propaganda that condom use actually encourages AIDS by promoting “a false sense of security” is a willful ignorance that almost defies description.

And get a load of this explanation…

Describing the current crisis as the consequence of "a deficit of ethics in economic structures," the pope said: "It is here that the church can make a contribution."
“A deficit of ethics in economic structures”?

Your Holiness, you are no longer presiding as a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen. Your “flock,” if you will, is the REAL WORLD.

In response, this story tells us the following…

Father Valeriano Paitoni, working in São Paulo, Brazil, summarized this perspective: “AIDS is a world epidemic, a public-health problem that must be confronted with scientific advances and methods that have proven effective,” he said. “Rejecting condom use is to oppose the fight for life.”

Bishop Kevin Dowling of South Africa has also been imploring the Vatican to view condom use as curtailing the transmission of death rather than precluding the transmission of life. In South Africa, 5.3 million people are infected with HIV and 25 percent of all pregnant women test positive for the virus.

Bishop Dowling prays that the Holy Spirit will intervene to change minds in Rome. He believes Pope Benedict XVI’s view on the use of condoms would change, “if his visits to poor countries were done in such a way that he could sit in a shack and see a young mother dying of AIDS with her baby.”
Amen to that.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Stuff

Steve Forbes says that Barack Obama and the Dems are guilty of a "scheme" in passing the stimulus; that's hilarious coming from the guy who wants to pass the "flat tax," which is so regressive that it would do more damage to the "small businesses" Forbes pretends to support than Madoff ever could on top of what he's already done if he were allowed to walk (if you take Fix Noise seriously, you're stupid; sorry, I don't know how else to say it)...

...and I can hardly wait to see what kind of a welcome our friends in the "Great White North" have prepared for Former President Brainless...

...and here's an important product recall notice from The Onion News Network...

...and somehow, with everything going on, I forgot to pay tribute to this guy - I thought this was appropriate (no, not Ron Silver).

More “Freedom” Fairy Tales From Dubya

(And by the way, I also posted here.)

In yesterday’s New York Times, writer James Traub profiled Dubya’s “legacy project,” or whatever it’s being called this week, on the grounds of Southern Methodist University (a background video follows with Keith Olbermann and Jim Moore of HuffPo from last Friday – spares me from having to go over all the details again).

I thought Traub’s report was pretty good, and he basically captured all of the angst arising from this attempt by the Bushies to rewrite history, but I just wanted to point out a couple of excerpts…

THE BUSH CENTER is still four years from completion, but the institute is to begin operating from temporary quarters off-campus by the end of the year. Bush’s friends and associates say that he is eager to invite the dissidents whom he made a point of meeting throughout his presidency — Natan Sharansky, the Russian activist Garry Kasparov and other such figures from China, Venezuela or the Middle East.
Well, Dubya may have met with Kasparov, but that doesn’t mean that they were pals; this tells us how the Russian chess champion “dressed down” Dubya and the G8 nations for “giving President Vladimir Putin a platform to present himself as a leader of the free world,” as the Reuters story tells us.


Elliott Abrams, who had a controversial tenure in the Reagan administration and who led the democracy-promotion bureau in Bush’s National Security Council, says that Bush “met with more democracy activists and dissidents than any other president.”
I don’t have any evidence to disprove that, but given that Iran-Contra crook Abrams is a world-class liar, I would be skeptical of such a claim. And even if it were true, it didn’t do former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History any good here; the story notes that, in addition to Russia, the “pro-Democracy” movement has taken a real hit in Venezuela, Lebanon, Palestine of course, and the rest of the Arab world (our response to the Hamas victory in Palestine was to withhold aid, exacerbating their already horrific poverty, as the story tells us).

Continuing with Traub's story...

KAREN HUGHES, President Bush’s longtime aide and confidante, told me that Bush started kicking around ideas for some kind of think tank soon after he was re-elected in November 2004. “We knew it would focus on freedom and responsibility,” she said, for Bush saw these as his twin themes, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks persuaded him that weak and authoritarian states, like Afghanistan, posed a grave threat to American security.
I thought that observation was interesting, even if – again – I don’t entirely take it at face value (the sincerity, I mean...and as I read online, I have every reason to believe that Richard Clarke would take strong exception to that characterization).

And what Hughes said got me wondering to the point where I searched back through those particularly awful post-9/11 days to find out when the former Bushco cabal decided to take Afghanistan seriously; I mean, to hear her tell it, it sounds like Bush made the connection between Afghanistan and 9/11 fairly quickly.

Well then, did he say that in public?

He didn’t connect Afghanistan to 9/11 here (in remarks upon arrival at Barksdale Air Force Base…I’ll grant that the initial shock hadn’t subsided). He didn’t connect the country here in his weekly radio address that Saturday the 15th (you mean to tell me that, with all of our surveillance, we somehow didn’t know by then? And yes, I know this is old ground, but Hughes “dusted it all up” here).

There was also no mention of Afghanistan in the Authorization to Use Military Force here (as far as I’m concerned, Congress was partly to blame for that too). There was also no mention in a meeting with President Megawati of Indonesia here in an appearance soon after the attacks (there was a softball question about Iraq though, the very first one asked).

But there was finally a mention of Afghanistan on September 20th here, in which the U.S. Agency for International Development stated the following…

Even before the events of September 11, relations between the international community and the Taliban were growing increasingly uncertain.
So, in a memo dated nine days after the attacks, it is implied that Afghanistan, which housed the Taliban then as now, was at the very least a “player” of some scope in the 9/11 attacks (which means that Hughes is admitting the truth here, and makes comments like this from then-SecDef Rummy all the more inexplicable about "no decent targets" in Afghanistan…yes, I remember how evil these people truly are).

This, yet again, is an example of our now-removed executive cabal trying to have it both ways on the subject of its response to the most horrific failure on its watch, telling us now that 9/11 persuaded Dubya of the immediate threat of Afghanistan, even though we know full well that, in response to the attacks, the majority of our military capability was brought to bear against a wholly other country that was blameless for the events of that fateful day.

And based on this, it seems that the online presence of Dubya’s Fabulous Freedom Foundation, or whatever it’s called, is every bit as secretive (by accident, I know) as the answer to the question of when it was exactly that Bush 43 believed that Afghanistan “posed a grave threat to American security” (grave enough anyway to merit a mention in the hopefully unsuccessful fundraising efforts for this sham of a legacy project).

Update: I've done some more ruminating over Hughes' quote about Afghanistan and "weak and authoritarian states," for what it's worth, and I think what I should have emphasized much more strongly is that I don't think it occurred to Hughes what a damning commentary that was on her former boss, seeing as how it took very nearly 3,000 American lives to demonstrate to him something so utterly obvious to much of the world about the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Stuff

Oh yes, Bill Orally has found me out; I'm indeed part of "the Godless left-wing conspiracy" - I AM SO BUSTED (seriously though, Falafel Boy, can't you come up with a more threatening guy to lead our cabal than John Podesta, probably the ultimate policy wonk, and I mean that as a compliment?)...

...and here's the proof.

Update 3/18/09: Speaking of Billo, I haven't checked out all of this yet, but it looks pretty good (h/t The Daily Kos).

More Inky/Obama “Damning With Faint Praise” On Iraq

The following editorial appeared in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, including this excerpt…

President Obama's first 50 days in office ended with doubled-barreled shotgun blasts from conservatives, who accused him of not only reneging on his pledge to be bipartisan, but - horror of horrors - taking the United States down the primrose path to socialism.

Ooooh, scary stuff. Of course, neither charge is true.

First of all, any nation that provides Medicaid, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and a host of other equally valuable programs that redistribute tax dollars has already walked more than a few steps down the lane to socialism. Whether it's called that or not.

As for being bipartisan, what else but bipartisan would you call a president who has drawn the ire of many in his own party for pushing an Iraq withdrawal plan that's not much different from his Republican predecessor's and an education plan that has cringing teachers unions buying bottles of aspirin?
“An Iraq withdrawal plan not much different from his Republican predecessor,” huh?

This story tells us that Dubya proposed “(the) withdraw (of) about 8,000 combat and support troops by February (2009)” (the MSNBC story was dated last September; given that Dubya was done regardless on 1/20/09, how could he have expected to meet a February deadline – and wouldn’t it have been nice for the AP to ask that question when they wrote this story?). This story, though, tells us that Obama will withdraw 12,000 troops over the next six months (still leaving about 128,000 in Iraq).

I will admit that the troop strength Obama has proposed for Afghanistan is worrisome in its Dubya-esque numbers, but as noted here, Obama has proposed keeping 50,000 troops in Iraq by August 2010 (removing 92,000 by then), with the balance scheduled to leave in 2011. And that’s the difference between our current president and our former one; did Dubya propose any such timeline for the departure of our forces?

Do you even need to ask? Particularly given the fact that, under the foul, fetid Bushco reign, I read more stories like this than I ever want to read again (a bi-partisan congressional failure to act taking its cue from an utterly intransigent executive branch)?

In short, I never read anywhere that Dubya ever intended to remove our troop presence from Iraq at any point in the future. Obama, though, has already gone on record that he will do so.

But the Inquirer considers Obama’s withdrawal plan to be “not much different from his Republican predecessor.”

I’ll tell you what, Inky – try asking these people whether there’s “not much difference,” OK?