Saturday, April 04, 2009

Saturday Stuff

Two from Rachel Maddow that I couldn't quite get to last night: first has to do with the two women journalists detained in North Korea (here, and what a wonderful Bushco legacy, being lectured on human rights by one of the most oppressive regimes on earth)...

...and Repug North Carolina Senator Richard Burr's cowardly "hold" on the nomination of Tammy Duckworth for assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs (more here - I thought "the world's greatest deliberative body" got rid of this stuff, but apparently not...and somewhere, I'm sure Evan Bayh is trying to work out a "compromise").

A Saturday Sports Note

From here (class)...

PHILADELPHIA — Pat Burrell wondered how Phillies fans would observe his return to Citizens Bank Park Friday.


With a little help from the Phils, who warmed up the crowd with a striking and at times emotional video tribute, Burrell turned the page on nine years with the Phillies he vowed never to forget.

Burrell went 1-for-3 with an RBI single, a walk, a stolen base and two tips of the cap in his new role as designated hitter to spot the Tampa Bay Rays the lead in the otherwise meaningless exhibition game.

The Phils rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to claim a 3-2 victory, minor league prospect Jason Donald plating Eric Bruntlett with a bases-loaded single with nobody out. Drama always seems to mark this rivalry although you pretty much can predict the result.

That said, the night belonged to Burrell.

The Phils dispensed letter-sized prints of Burrell slugging the seventh-inning double high off the wall to spark a rally against the Rays in Game 5 of the World Series.

After the video, an emotional Burrell popped out of the dugout to wave his cap to the Phillies’ faithful, who gave him a standing ovation.
And just for the record, the Phillies play Tampa Bay again for real in June, but it's for three road games.

Now, I would ask that you compare and contrast with this from March 2008 (no class)...

The 76ers are talkin' about Allen Iverson once more.

Here he comes, 15 months after he was kicked out of Philadelphia over irreconcilable differences, A.I., The Answer, the MVP, the hip-hop hoops icon -- call him what you want -- is back in the city he once owned like few others ever have in its deep, rich sports history (with his then-new team, the Denver Nuggets).


The Sixers will not honor Iverson with a video tribute or plan to acknowledge his return in any form other than the standard announcing of his name when starting lineups are introduced.

"There will be plenty of time for accolades for Allen Iverson when he retires," (Sixers owner Ed "Freedom's Watch") Snider said.
To be fair, Snider was complimentary towards Iverson in the article, but it was still crappy not to even go to the trouble of giving Iverson a tribute the way the Phillies did with Burrell (would the Phillies have done this for Burrell had they not won the World Series? A fair question, and I don't know the answer.)

And speaking of the Sixers, the record this year of the fired Maurice Cheeks was 9-14 (122-137 overall). Replacement coach Tony DiLeo's record is 31-21, which is OK. And the team locked up a playoff berth today, so good for them.

Are they good enough to get out of the Eastern Conference of the NBA (as opposed to the Phillies, who of course won it all last year)? Next question...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Stuff

Yeah, to be sure, Brown is sucking up to Obama, but here's the deal; he's VERY unpopular "across the pond," and he's trying to revive his political hopes by latching onto our Number 44 - and even though I'm sure Sanchez will find a way to sneak in a plug for Flush Limbore in the not-too-distant future, kudos to him for now (h/t The Daily Kos)...

...and here's a little number to take us on outta here - maybe more stuff over the weekend, but we'll see.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (4/3/09)

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 (not a lot going on).


Public lands conservation. Voting 285-140, the House sent President Obama a bill (HR 146) that would conserve tens of millions of acres of public land, mostly in the West. The bill would protect 2.1 million acres in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia as wilderness; add 26 million acres to the National Landscape Conservation System; preserve 2,800 miles of federal trails and add three units to the National Park System.

A yes vote was to send the bill to Obama.

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.).
This week’s particularly stupid No vote by Joe Pitts, ladies and gentlemen.

Fighting wildfires. Voting 412-3, the House passed a bill (HR 1404) that would establish a dedicated fund within the normal appropriations process for paying the costs of fighting catastrophic wildfires. The bill awaits Senate action.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Federal-state contracts. Voting 148-272, the House refused give the U.S. Forest Service permanent authority to sign contracts with states to prevent forest fires. Backers said the amendment to HR 1404 (above) would reduce the risk of catastrophic fires, while opponents said such contracts would undermine federal workers' rights and U.S. policies in areas such as timbering and environmental protection.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Dent and Pitts.

Voting no: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
For what it’s worth, this was introduced by Repug Bob Goodlatte of Virginia (nice try, Charlie and Joe, you asshats).


Americorps expansion. Voting 79-19, the Senate passed a bill (HR 1388) that would more than triple the ranks of AmeriCorps, Volunteers in Service to America, and the National Civilian Community Corps - to 225,000 participants by 2014 - while expanding their missions to areas such as health care and clean energy.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Acorn dispute. Voting 53-43, the Senate tabled (killed) an amendment to prohibit funding under HR 1388 (above) for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). A nongovernmental organization, ACORN works mainly in poor communities on issues such as foreclosures, Gulf Coast recovery, immigration, voter registration, and raising the minimum wage. Critics accuse ACORN of fraudulent voter-registration activity.

A yes vote was to kill the amendment.

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

Voting no: Specter.
This amendment was sponsored by Diaper Dave Vitter (who, as noted here, despises all things ACORN). Thus, our Repug senator further attempts to burnish his right-wing “cred” against the challenge of wingnut Pat Toomey, as he did here on the Employee Free Choice Act.

As always, screw you, Arlen.

This week, the House and Senate took up Obama's budget, along with their own budget blueprints for fiscal 2010 and later years. Congress began a two-week Easter-Passover recess at week's end.

Trying To Avoid A Census Crisis

This CNN story tells us the following (and I also posted here)…

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A report that the Obama administration will name an advocate of statistical sampling as the next census director has set off a fusillade of Republican criticism even though that choice has not been formally announced.

The Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon that the White House intends to nominate University of Michigan Prof. Robert M. Groves as the census director. Groves worked for the Census Bureau during the last census in 1990, and recommended at that time that the national head count be statistically adjusted to compensate for a possible undercount of millions of Americans.
By the way, the two House Repugs caterwauling the loudest over this are Darrell Issa (apparently having grown bored with insisting on more transparency from Michelle Obama, as noted here) and Patrick McHenry (taking a break from endangering and harassing our military serving in Iraq, as noted here).

And call me just another filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but let’s see now…if Groves ran the census for 1990, then the work for that would have taken place in the prior decade of the ‘80s, and I don’t recall any Democratic presidential administrations during that time.

Actually, I think the Repugs are concerned because the census (which I’m sure will be managed correctly now that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History and his bunch are no longer in charge) is likely to reveal, and thus enshrine, information such as the following from this 2007 New York Times editorial, written before the Lehman failure last year, the moment the recession kicked in for good…

Sputtering under the weight of the credit crisis and the associated drop in the housing market, the economic expansion that started in 2001 looks like it might enter history books with the dubious distinction of being the only sustained expansion on record in which the incomes of typical American households never reached the peak of the previous cycle. It seems that ordinary working families are going to have to wait — at the very minimum — until the next cycle to make up the losses they suffered in this one. There’s no guarantee they will.

The gains against poverty last year were remarkably narrow. The poverty rate declined among the elderly, but it remained unchanged for people under 65. Analyzed by race, only Hispanics saw poverty decline on average while other groups experienced no gains.

The fortunes of middle-class, working Americans also appear less upbeat on closer consideration of the data. Indeed, earnings of men and women working full time actually fell more than 1 percent last year.

This suggests that when household incomes rose, it was because more members of the household went to work, not because anybody got a bigger paycheck. The median income of working-age households, those headed by somebody younger than 65, remained more than 2 percent lower than in 2001, the year of the recession.

Over all, the new data on incomes and poverty mesh consistently with the pattern of the last five years, in which the spoils of the nation’s economic growth have flowed almost exclusively to the wealthy and the extremely wealthy, leaving little for everybody else.
Also, I thought this post from a man named Morley Winograd, who was hired by then-VP Al Gore to oversee the 2000 census, made some interesting points; the Repugs favored a “straight enumeration” (which included tricks such as double-counting families with two homes or college students with two residences, who trended Republican) versus a “sample supplemented census” (noted in the CNN story, which used survey sampling techniques to validate not just the overall count but the individual demographic sub-groups that the census’s enumeration process would identify).

And as you may have guessed, the Repugs don’t like “sampling” because it might ensure a more accurate account of minorities who would tend to vote Democratic. In fact, they disliked it so much that…

Republicans sued the Census Bureau in federal court, demanding that only the actual count of residents as provided in the Constitution be used for any congressional redistricting by the states. The Federal Appeals court dismissed the Republican lawsuit as none of the Court’s business. Foreshadowing the outcome of Gore v. Bush in 2000, the Supreme Court surprisingly took up the case and overturned the Appeals court ruling. As a result, all subsequent redistricting efforts have used only the enumeration count from the 2000 census. On the other hand, formulas used to allocate federal funds based on population characteristics were unaffected by the ruling and could have used the sampling process, had it not met an untimely and unnecessary death.

As soon as George W. Bush was elected and the incredibly professional Director of the Census Bureau, Ken Prewitt, was removed from office, the Commerce Department’s new partisan Secretary, Donald Evans, determined that the sample that had been prepared over the strong objections of congressional Republicans was not usable.

When Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House, he decided, in his own paranoid way, that Bill Clinton and the Democrats would use their executive authority to produce a biased census whose over-count of minorities would shift, in his opinion, 24 House seats from the Republicans to the Democrats after the 2000 census. Of course, it was ludicrous to think such an outcome would occur, since legislative boundaries are drawn by the party in power in each state. Whatever numbers the census produces in our decennial exercise can be manipulated to produce any outcome each state’s ruling party desires, as U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and his Texas Republican cronies proved a few years ago. Nevertheless, Gingrich was determined to use the Congressional appropriations process to undercut any attempt by the Democrats to overstate minority populations in the several states.
So as you can see, the census has been and will remain a big political football, thus generating much umbrage primarily from the party out of power for years to come (and by the way, here’s a clarification about Judd Gregg that gets snuck into the end of the CNN story – no end to the tricks of our dear corporate media cousins).

Update 4/5/09: I thought this was interesting.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wednesday Stuff

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

Yep, I would say this is the treatment that Glenn Beck deserves, the self-appointed spokesperson for every right-wing crybaby in this country (along with Joe The Plumber, Rick Santorum, Christine Flowers, Kevin Ferris, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, assorted letter and Guest Opinion writers to the Bucks County Courier Times, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, etc., etc.)...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The 10/31 Project
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

...and I wish this were an April Fools joke, but alas...

Update 4/3/09: Kudos to MoveOn for this (h/t The Daily Kos).

...and to his great credit, filmmaker Robert Greenwald makes a hell of a lot of sense on Afghanistan (more here)...

...and here's a song for the day by "The King" (I'll get back to the alternative/indie rock stuff, I promise).

A “Filibuster Fable” from The Old Gray Lady

I came across this intriguing little story in the New York Times today concerning the nomination hearings for some Obama Administration appointees, including David F. Hamilton, Obama’s first selection for a federal appeals court seat, and Dawn Johnsen, nominated to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.

What got my attention in particular was this item concerning (you guessed it) methods of Repug obstruction…

But so far, facing a solid Democratic majority in the Senate, they have been able to do little beyond briefly delaying confirmation. Now they are weighing whether to use the filibuster — a threat of extended debate, the tool many Republican senators regularly denounced when it was used by Democrats to block some Republican nominees. These are certainly different times.
I would like Times writer Neil A. Lewis to click here and take a really good look at the chart. He will learn that Republican filibusters (or the threat thereof) skyrocketed in the 110th Congress (hence the importance of achieving “the magical number of 60” in passing legislation, with that being the vote total that would bar a filibuster, a fact very well known by Senate Repugs including John Cornyn of Texas). So basically, the Repugs haven’t been “weighing” whether to use the filibuster or not; they’ve actually been using it!

And speaking of “Big Bad John” (please), he had the following to say about Johnsen, as the story tells us…

(Cornyn) said Ms. Johnsen lacked the “requisite seriousness” to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

A committee Democrat, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, said he was astonished by the attacks. After the “long, dark days of degradation” of the office, Mr. Whitehouse said, it is hypocritical of Republicans who were then silent to complain now about partisanship.

“Now suddenly they come forward with concerns,” he said. “Where were you when those incompetent, ideological opinions were being issued?”
I don’t know a lot about Whitehouse, but I like what I’ve seen on him concerning abuses in the Bushco Justice Department in particular.

And how funny is it to hear Cornyn talk about “requisite seriousness” when he has promised to wage “World War IIII” to keep Al Franken out of the Senate, as noted here?

Here’s why the Repugs are so upset with Johnsen (and I’d like to watch her kick the crap out of any Repug who calls her a “liberal ideologue” – I’ll bet she could do it)…

Ms. Johnsen, a law professor at Indiana University, was an unsparing critic of memorandums, written by lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush administration, that said the president could largely ignore international treaties and Congress in fighting terrorists and that critics have portrayed as allowing torture in interrogation.

The broad reading of presidential authority was “outlandish,” and the constitutional arguments were “shockingly flawed,” Ms. Johnsen has written. While her language was harsh, the memos have largely been withdrawn, and among lawyers a consensus agreeing with her views has emerged.
And Johnsen also earned the scorn of right-wing bloviators for…

…a footnote in a brief she filed 20 years ago when she was a lawyer with the National Abortion Rights Action League. The footnote said forcing a woman to bear a child when she had no desire to do so was “disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude.”

Conservative blogs asserted that she had equated pregnancy with slavery, and the argument was taken up by Republicans at her confirmation hearing on Feb. 25. Mr. Specter suggested that she had said abortion rights should be protected by the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. Ms. Johnsen replied that the footnote had made a suggestion of an analogy and that it had mentioned the amendment, but that she had never “believed the 13th Amendment had any role” in the abortion issue.
This post from HuffPo’s David Latt provides a more detailed analysis of Johnsen’s thorough criticisms; Senate Democrats would be well advised to do all they can to confirm her without any further delay.

Obama Thwarts MacDonald - Spotted Owl Won't "Buy The Farm"

(Get it, MacDonald’s Farm…heh, and I also posted stuff here that may or may not be of interest, though the new “Hit And Run” ad is pretty good.)

This tells us that the Department of the Interior of the Obama Administration…

...has told a federal court that it will not defend the Bush administration's decision to cut back protections for the northern spotted owl.

The action could affect logging in western Oregon.

Interior Department lawyers said in the motion that the decision was based on an inspector general's report finding there was political interference in owl protections by a former deputy assistant interior secretary.
And who exactly would that former deputy assistant interior secretary be? Why, it would be Julie MacDonald. As noted here…

...MacDonald used her political power to rig countless life or death decisions for imperiled American wildlife under the Endangered Species Act. Species like the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, California red-legged frog, and the Canada lynx are all likely a little closer to extinction as a result of MacDonald's decisions while at the Interior Department. While at the Interior Department MacDonald regularly decided in favor of large landowners, development interests, and corporate polluters at the expense of America's wildlife.

Julie MacDonald resigned in May (2007) after a scathing report from the Interior Department's Inspector General revealed that she had ridden roughshod over numerous decisions by agency scientists concerning endangered species protections. The report found she had violated ethics rules, edited scientific decisions on endangered species issues and passed internal agency documents to outside parties hostile to wildlife protection. Of particular concern is her involvement with a 2003 decision to remove the Sacramento split-tail from the endangered species list, a fish found on property she and her husband own in California.
As noted here concerning the split-tail decision…

MacDonald’s financial disclosure statement shows that she earns as much as $1 million per year from her ownership of the 80-acre active farm. Federal law bars federal employees from participating in decisions on matters in which they have a personal financial interest.

The Sacramento Splittail, a small fish found only in California’s Central Valley, depends on floodplain habitat and has been described by the Fish and Wildlife Service as facing “potential threats from habitat loss.”

Today, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, wrote to Interior Secretary Kempthorne requesting a full accounting of MacDonald’s role in the Sacramento Splittail decision, an explanation of her apparent conflict of interest, and a thorough review of the science underlying the decision to remove the Sacramento Splittail from the threatened species list.

“It looks like another Bush Administration official was protecting her own bottom line instead of protecting the public interest,” said Miller, a senior member and former chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and a long-time proponent of the Endangered Species Act and Bay-Delta fish and wildlife issues. “We are going to fully investigate this matter and determine whether public policy was improperly altered because of personal conflicts of interest.
And this tells us of MacDonald’s attempt to scuttle the Northwest Forest Plan, which was instituted in 1993 by President Clinton to “(settle) a lawsuit over the northern spotted owl by setting aside habitat for the owl. But it did not protect all of the remaining old-growth trees and it did not protect anything permanently. It was an administrative solution, vulnerable to the kind of underhanded, undermining tactics so typical of the Bush administration.”

Indeed – as the Alternet story tells us…

Once the DC oversight committee (consisting of high-ranking officials from the departments of Agriculture and Interior, including MacDonald) got involved in the spotted owl plan, scientific principles became a lost cause. The first thing that happened, according to (Dominick DellaSala, a scientist with the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy), was an instruction to "flip and switch" the presentation of threats to the spotted owl. Instead of emphasizing the need to protect the owl's habitat, the recovery plan was to emphasize the threat of competition from an invasive species, the barred owl.

The barred owl is a recent transplant from the East Coast that is out-competing spotted owls in some areas. These interlopers are clearly a threat to spotted owls; the solution is not to reduce the protected habitat, but rather to increase it. Doug Heiken of the conservation group Oregon Wild put it this way: "If the in-laws move in with you, you don't make the house smaller; you make it bigger."

As DellaSala describes it, the process went from bad to worse with repeated memos coming down from DC, instructing the recovery committee to produce an alternative "less focused on habitat preservation," and above all, to sever all connections between the new recovery plan and the current recovery plan in place, which is the Northwest Forest Plan.
And as today’s NPR story tells us…

Withdrawal of the Bush administration measures on the spotted owl measures would make it difficult for the federal Bureau of Land Management to go ahead with plans to boost logging in western Oregon.
And by the way, I haven’t heard anything yet from Obama Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar on this, but if you wish to contact him and encourage stronger protections for the spotted owl and old-growth forests, click here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Stuff

As noted here, this is what you're paying for when you advertise on "The Orally Factor"...

...oh, but if we all clap real hard and maybe spread some pixie dust, then numbers will magically appear tomorrow!!!...

..."Still Bushed" (another miserable failure in Afghanistan/Pakistan of course, giving millions while the Taliban and al Qaeda were becoming even better "buds," with Obama a change that they notice after only two months; Dubya's EEOC violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by denying overtime to its employees and providing time off instead - oh goody; and this is a real capper - "President" Hamid Karzai of Pakistan institutes a law observing Shia doctrine that basically legalizes married rape, making divorce easier for men than for women and gives men preferential inheritance rights...heckuva job, Hamid, you sick beast)...

...and as a "tribute" to Karzai for that last item, I came oh so close to embedding "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails, which I think captures what he and the Taliban must be all about, but I just couldn't do it, so this is my substitute, proving once more that cartoon monkeys endowed with the ability of human speech are superior to Afghan terrorists.

A One-Stop Source For The Pundit "Tuesday Stupids"

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an editorial today criticizing members of Philadelphia City Council for receiving (as noted here)…

    …their lucrative pension perk known as DROP.

    "I'm entitled to it," Council President Anna Verna said of the nearly $600,000 check she's in line to receive through the DROP program. That's on top of Verna's annual pension of about $130,000.

    Councilwoman Marian Tasco also argued that her DROP payment of almost $500,000 is her money. She says Council members are being unfairly maligned for taking what is owed to them.

    Here's where Verna, Tasco, and others on Council are not only wrong, but also extremely tone-deaf.

    For starters, the DROP program was intended for city employees - not elected officials. Voters are supposed to decide when to "retire" an elected official, so there's no need for them to have the pension incentive.

    Second, the DROP payment is supposed to come after you retire. But Councilwoman Joan Krajewski exploited a loophole that must be fixed before other elected officials slither through. After winning reelection last November, Krajewski retired for one day, collected her roughly $275,000 DROP check, and then was sworn in for another four-year term. This sleazy move in no way passes the smell test - even though former City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. blessed the maneuver.
    I am the last person who will claim that Philadelphia City Council is a model of moral or civic rectitude, and I have to admit that this was a good “rock” to turn over for the Inky, if you will, but until and unless CEO Brian Tierney and the rest of his merry management cohorts at Philadelphia Newspapers figure out how they’re going to give back the six-figure bonuses they received as noted here (h/t Atrios) while the Inquirer and Daily News face bankruptcy, then I don’t think they have the right to criticize anyone for financial transactions that don’t pass the “smell test.”

  • And Charles Babington of the AP is back; you know, the guy who filed his fictitious “analysis” of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last August, as noted here (Greg Mitchell wrote a great take-down which I cannot locate online at the moment, which proved, among other things, that Babington could not possibly have written his entire column after the speech concluded, which is representative of more than a little bit, IMHO).

    This time, Babington tells us the following about Obama’s recent announcement concerning the automakers (here)…

    WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is dealing with the beleaguered auto industry more sternly than he has with bailed-out banks and insurers as he takes the nation another step into uncharted government regulation of industry.

    The decision could leave a lasting mark on his presidency, for good or for bad, in ways reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's battle with air traffic controllers or Harry Truman's showdown with striking steelworkers.
    I’ll admit that I don’t have a crystal ball, and neither does Babington. As I noted briefly yesterday, I don’t know how much more the UAW is supposed to give back, and judging from the early prognostications of former GM CEO Rick Wagoner’s replacement here, I also don’t know at this moment how GM is going to avoid bankruptcy (Chrysler certainly faces that if it doesn’t agree to the Fiat takeover…thank you, Bob Nardelli). But from what I read, I don’t know of any other way around what Obama is proposing.

    However, the comparison Babington makes to Truman here is specious at best. As Wikipedia tells us here, there was a good bit of economic upheaval in this country after World War II during Truman’s administration, because labor/management issues had largely remained dormant while fighting the war, and they sprung back with a vengeance. Also, no sooner had we started to reap the benefit of the prosperity earned by leading the fight against nation states bent on world domination than we ended up fighting another war in Korea (with steel being critical for both military and civilian uses of course).

    Truman referred the matter of the impasse in the steel industry to his Wage Stabilization Board (noted here), though apparently they were not able to resolve it either, leading Truman to call upon his Secretary of Commerce, Charles W. Sawyer, to take over the nation’s steel mills to ensure production, a move which was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a major separation-of-powers decision. I know of no one who managed to lose their jobs as a result of these actions (not saying it didn’t happen, just saying I can’t find information on it).

    And if Babington’s comparison to Truman is questionable, his comparison to Reagan (who was shot 28 years ago yesterday, by the way) is utterly ridiculous.

    Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers in 1981 based on a 1955 law disallowing strikes by government workers was the proverbial “green flag” given to industry to no longer honor a right to strike by their employees. As this NPR link tells us, the strike broke PATCO, the air traffic controllers union, and though the new union was formed in October of that year, it wasn’t certified to allow bargaining until 1987, and it took President Clinton to end the prohibition on rehiring any air-traffic controller who went on strike (to date, the FAA has rehired about 850 PATCO strikers); Clinton did that in 1993.

    How Obama can be compared to the most antagonistically anti-union president this country had seen until Dubya came along is a question Babington should be asked “with extreme prejudice” by his superiors.

  • Finally, I have a few words, as it were, for William Safire of the New York Times.

    See, the Times gives this guy his little perch in the Sunday Magazine from which he can pontificate about the subtleties and nuances of the English language, which is fine. And as noted here from a couple of days ago, he compared the concept of bipartisanship to sex (an interesting notion).

    And I thought that was OK, until I read this…

    “The White House Misfires on Limbaugh” was The Wall Street Journal’s headline over a column by the former Bush “guru” Karl Rove, who is now enjoying the delights of being on the kicking rather than the receiving team. After the new press secretary, Robert Gibbs, took the opportunity to change the subject of economic distress by zapping a controversy-loving media critic, Rove wrote in defense of the conservative commentator: “Presidents throughout history have kept lists of political foes. But the Obama White House is the first I am aware of to pick targets based on polls. Even Richard Nixon didn’t focus-group his enemies list.” The Journal’s embedded subhead punched up the column’s message: “Aren’t there more important things to do than create an enemies list?”
    And of course, Rove’s claim and the rather bald-face insinuation that the Obama White House compiles an “enemies list” went thoroughly unchallenged by Safire.

    This is typical for a guy who, as David Corn notes here, wrote an utterly specious column in February 2004 claiming an Iraq-al Qaeda link (gosh, remember when that was all the rage, as the Bushco spinmeisters seemed to crank out new “evidence” of that every week, with none of it actually standing up of course?) and also wrote a series of columns accusing several French companies of helping Iraq obtain rocket fuel components (wrong again, though this played well during the era of “freedom fries” and “freedom toast”).

    Actually, I must confess myself to an interest in the use and meaning of words (big surprise, I know), so I actually share a bit of that with Safire, though of course I don’t have his pedigree. So, I’d like for him to thoroughly examine the meaning and derivation of the following word in his next column.

  • Sadly, No "Deficit" In Broder Crackpot History

    (And I also posted over here.)

    This is a couple of days old from The Dean Of Beltway Journalism, but it definitely merits a mention; David S. Broder is chiding Obama and the Democratic congress for their budget deficits, which are significant I’ll grant you, though not as big a threat to this country as the current recession (and again, Obama was handed $1.3 trillion in red ink, so what’s he going to do to try and get us out of this? Pinch pennies instead?).

    However, this excerpt from Broder is truly wankerific…

    There are plenty of people in Congress for whom the CBO report (that projected $9.3 trillion added to the debt) was no surprise, and some of them have proposed a solution that would confront this reality. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Judd Gregg, its ranking Republican, have offered a bill to create a bipartisan commission to examine every aspect of the budget -- taxes, defense and domestic spending, and, especially, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Congress would be required to vote promptly, up or down, on its recommendations, or come up with an alternative that would achieve at least as much in savings.

    In the House, Democrat Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Republican Frank Wolf of Virginia have been pressing a similar proposal but have been regularly thwarted.

    The roadblock in chief is Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House. She has made it clear that her main goal is to protect Social Security and Medicare from any significant reforms. Pelosi has not forgotten how Democrats benefited from the 2005-06 fight against Bush's effort to change Social Security. Her party, which had lost elections in 2000, 2002 and 2004, found its voice and its rallying cry to "Save Social Security," and Pelosi is not about to allow any bipartisan commission to take that issue away from her control.
    Oh, please; the following came from this Think Progress post, which noted that Former President Reality Avoidance claimed “the push for Social Security privatization” as his biggest domestic achievement – words fail me on occasions like this, I must admit (and that's quite a trick for somebody like me)…

    It seems odd that Bush cited an unsuccessful effort as his biggest domestic policy achievement, but understandable given that he doesn’t have much else to consider. But not only was Bush’s drive to privatize Social Security an utter failure, the concept is also widely unpopular with the American public and if enacted, it would have had disastrous consequences for Americans’ retirement funds.

    A recent Center for American Progress Action Fund report found that if a worker had retired on October 1, 2008 after 35 years of contributions to private retirement accounts, that retiree would have lost nearly $30,000 in retirement funds because of the downturn in the stock market over the last two years.

    Part of the reason Bush’s push failed was that very few people actually believed he was trying to reform Social Security and instead thought he was trying to dismantle it. Even back in 2005, despite a lack of support for privatization, the Bush administration was insisting that their efforts were a “great success.”

    Indeed, a recent CNN poll found that 62 percent of Americans oppose privatizing any part their Social Security taxes.
    I would tend to agree with Sen. Kent Conrad who claimed that the projected deficit in President Obama’s budget is “unsustainable.” However, let’s get this done it in whatever form it takes (after Congress hammers it out, passes it and sends it to Obama’s desk) to help rebuild our economy first, OK? And then, after we turn things around economically (God willing), we can start looking for ways to rework the numbers.

    And then Broder can go back to doing what he does best, which is sliming Democratic politicians (here – if you want to go after Harry Reid, there’s plenty of ammunition from the “reality based community” instead) and writing about “the state of the Clintons’ marriage” (here).

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    I don't care what your political party is; how the hell can you expect MORE concessions from the UAW? And by the way, plenty of non-rich people go to Martha's Vineyard (a tangential point, I know - and it should be noted that Rick Wagoner walked away with $20 mil)...

    ...and I thought this was a really nice tribute to film composer Maurice Jarre.

    Getting "Faced" With Dubya

    Even though he’s officially gone from public office (as many of us wish for him to disappear altogether and live a hermit-like existence), the legacy of Dubya continues to live on, as it does in this article in the WaPo today by Dan Froomkin (h/t Atrios).

    And it’s worth it to revisit the following, as Froomkin notes (registration required)…

    In a June 6, 2002, address, Bush called (Abu) Zubaida al Qaeda's "chief of operations" and said that "[f]rom him and from hundreds of others, we are learning more about how the terrorists plan and operate, information crucial in anticipating and preventing future attacks."

    At a Republican fundraiser on October 14, 2002, Bush called Zubaida "one of the top three leaders in the organization."

    But according to Suskind, even as Bush was publicly proclaiming Zubaida's malevolence, he was privately being briefed about doubts within the intelligence community regarding Zubaida's significance -- and mental stability. Suskind quotes the following exchange between Bush and then-CIA director George Tenet:

    "'I said he was important,' Bush said to Tenet at one of their daily meetings. 'You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?'

    "'No Sir, Mr. President.'"
    "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?"

    And this played out very nearly six months before the start of the war (and yes, I know it isn’t front-page news to point out that, in place of an intelligent adult who would question the reliability of his case for war as a result of an exchange like this, we had Dubya and his “certainty,” which, given his warped world view, required that he blast full steam ahead anyway).

    Froomkin continues…

    And on the Guardian Web site today, Brent Mickum, an attorney who represents Zubaida, writes: "For many years, Abu Zubaydah's name has been synonymous with the war on terror because of repeated false statements made by the Bush administration, the majority of which were known to be false when uttered....

    "[T]he man described by President Bush and others within his administration as a 'top operative', the 'number three person' in al-Qaida, and al-Qaida's 'chief of operations' was never even a member of al-Qaida, much less an individual who was among its 'inner circle'."
    Oh, and one more thing – it should be noted that the Authorization to Use Military Force against Iraq (basically, Congress’s signoff on Dubya’s Mesopotamian Disaster) passed on October 16th, two days after the Republican fundraiser.

    Very nearly in the same timeframe that Commander Codpiece professed to being worried about “losing face.”

    And by the way, I think that’s a rather curious worry from Bush 43, because it implies that he understands how awful the consequences of his actions could be; I’ve often considered him to be nothing but a delusional narcissist, but perhaps I was – gulp! – wrong here.

    As Wikipedia tells us here…

    Notice that directly lying does not cause a loss of face. For example, if a flight is cancelled by an airline, then they may lie that it is merely delayed. Inability to arrange the trip would cause a loss of face, while lying that it is delayed would help to save face. So-called "polite lies" are acceptable.
    So, maybe if he’d admitted that his so-called “case for war” in Iraq was a house of cards and thus put a halt to it (realizing Hans Blix was right after all), he’d thought he would “lose face,” as opposed to constantly changing his rationale for the war (9/11, fighting them there so we don’t fight them here, bringing them democracy, etc., etc., etc.), which could have been a version of a “polite lie.”

    And as long as we’re talking about Zubaida (the supposed Number Three of al Qaeda in Iraq, who, again, mysteriously had nothing to do with them), this tells us of the multiple times we’ve taken out those who were thought to be the “number two” in Iraq (as well as Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was supposedly killed in an airstrike in January 2006 here, before he reappeared to taunt Dubya later that year here and also call Barack Obama a “house Negro” here).

    Finally, speaking of our current president, here is more on how he plans to end the Iraq war from earlier this month (doesn’t entirely meet with my approval, but then again, I’m not “sitting in the big chair,” and I have a feeling that his Afghanistan policy is still a work in progress). It’s grounded in practicality, I’ll admit, and I have a feeling it’s the best way we can extricate ourselves from the loathsome tangle created by former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History (more here from December 2002).

    And if Obama is successful, I don’t give a damn if he loses “face” over it or not.

    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    Sunday Stuff

    Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, believe it or not; here is some of the reporting from 1979 (from the "And That's The Way It Is" guy)...

    ...and here's one of the songs inspired by the accident...

    ...and posting is questionable for the whole week, blah blah blah - this is a recording, I know...