Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday Stuff

By the way, let's not forget that this weekend marks the 70th anniversary of acclaimed contralto Marian Anderson's performance at the Lincoln Memorial (more here)...

...and again, haven't done the birthday thing for a little while, but Joss Stone hit 22 today, so...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday AM Stuff

As you endure watching this, please keep this Obama approval number in mind (about 59-60 percent according to Gallup - more here)...

..and yep, you just go "full-steam ahead" with your little "teabag" party, wingnuts (as kos points out, at least you won't be shooting anybody)...

...oh, and Karl? Before you call Biden a "liar" and a "blowhard" here, maybe you ought to pay attention to Chuck Todd first (more here - thanks to The Daily Kos for the first three videos - and by the way, I never did get an answer to this question)...

...and Mrs. Doomsy thinks these guys sound like Coldplay, but I think they're OK (I hope they don't get sued now that I've said that).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (4/9/09)

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 (and I thought I'd provide extra reading material for the long weekend, seeing as how posting will be highly questionable from tomorrow into early next week - just that kind of a guy).


Tobacco regulation. Voting 298-112, the House on Thursday sent the Senate a bill (HR 1256) to begin federal regulation of tobacco products. The bill empowers the Food and Drug Administration to regulate cigarette content, require disclosure of product ingredients, ban cigarette marketing to children, and require more prominent health warnings. The bill would preempt state tobacco laws.

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.).
So, in addition to the other constituencies he supports and opposes, Joe Pitts is pro-carcinogen, pro-Joe Camel, anti-kids and anti-disclosure of cancer-causing cigarette additives. Peachy.

Executive compensation. Voting 247-171, the House on Wednesday sent the Senate a bill (HR 1664) limiting executive compensation at firms receiving the largest bailouts under the Troubled Assets Relief Program. The bill would repeal authority for AIG bonuses that Democrats put into this year's stimulus law.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Sestak, Smith, and Pitts.
Kind of odd to see Democratic-sponsored legislation aimed at undoing the work of other Democrats (inasmuch as Geithner and Summers are “Democrats,” that is). And Admiral Joe ends up keeping rather unusual company on this one.

AmeriCorps expansion. Voting 275-149, the House on Tuesday sent President Obama a bill (HR 1388) that would more than triple the ranks of AmeriCorps, Volunteers in Service to America, and National Civilian Community Corps - to 225,000 participants by 2014 - while expanding their missions.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Dent, Gerlach, and Pitts.
This recent Murdoch Street Journal editorial tells us that AmeriCorps has received support from Senators Ted Kennedy (no surprise) and Orrin Hatch (yes surprise), as well as that noted “liberal” John McCain, all of whom have been instrumental in their support (of course, the Journal writer points out with pride that the latest reauthorization means that AmeriCorps volunteers won’t be able to engage in voter registration or union organizing activities - heaven forbid that one of Rupert The Pirate’s publications fails to point that out).

Still, despite the Repug “transfusion,” if you will, that does not leave AmeriCorps free from wingnut derision, as noted in the very last sentence here.

Federal budget. Voting 233-196, the House on Thursday approved a five-year Democratic budget (H Con Res 85) that for 2010 projects $3.55 trillion in spending, a $1.2 trillion deficit, $284 billion in interest payments on the national debt, and $130 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over five years, it embraces President Obama's major initiatives in areas such as health care, renewable energy, and education, and extends his middle-class tax cuts if means are found to pay for them. The budget allows Bush-era tax cuts for high-income payers to expire after 2010.

The budget sets "reconciliation" procedures under which Senate Democrats would need 51 rather than 60 votes to pass administration proposals such as overhauling health care and education programs. The Senate (below) excluded reconciliation from its budget plan.

A yes vote was to adopt the Democrats' budget.

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

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, and Smith.
Just typical Repug obstruction, nothing else to see here…let’s move along (and I’ll have something to say about one of our Senators on this shortly).

GOP budget alternative. Voting 137-293, the House on Thursday defeated a Republican alternative to the Democratic budget plan (HJ Res 85, above) that differed, in part, by permanently extending the full range of Bush-era tax cuts, freezing most non-defense discretionary spending for five years, and repealing the stimulus bill except for its jobless benefits.

A yes vote backed the Republican budget.

Voting yes: Dent and Pitts.

Voting no: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.
Pretty funny when most of the Repugs don’t even vote for their own crock of a budget “alternative” – ha, ha, ha…


Federal budget. Voting 55-43, the Senate on Friday approved a five-year Democratic budget (S Con Res 13) that, for 2010, projects $3.5 trillion in spending and a $1.2 trillion deficit. In a key difference with the House Democrats' plan (above), it rules out the use of "reconciliation" for advancing key administration proposals.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
As always, screw you, Arlen (maybe you’ll overcome this primary lead by Pat Toomey, and maybe you won’t – we’ll see).

By the way, speaking of our state’s Repug U.S. senator, this column from Specter appeared today in Philadelphia’s newspaper conservative house organ of record, and in it he offers the “(creation of) a National Criminal Justice Commission to undertake a comprehensive 18-month review of the criminal justice system” as a cosponsor to a bill sponsored by Dem Senator Jim Webb of Virginia (curious for Specter to pursue a “moderate” course like this, particularly given his 14-point deficit to Toomey).

I doubt if Specter has read this fine recent article in The New Yorker about solitary confinement (maybe Webb has) by correspondent Atul Gawande, but I think it is food for thought since we’re talking about the Webb/Specter bill here; extended excerpts follow…

Prolonged isolation was used sparingly, if at all, by most American prisons for almost a century. Our first supermax—our first institution specifically designed for mass solitary confinement—was not established until 1983, in Marion, Illinois. In 1995, a federal court reviewing California’s first supermax admitted that the conditions “hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable for those with normal resilience.” But it did not rule them to be unconstitutionally cruel or unusual, except in cases of mental illness. The prison’s supermax conditions, the court stated, did not pose “a sufficiently high risk to all inmates of incurring a serious mental illness.” In other words, there could be no legal objection to its routine use, given that the isolation didn’t make everyone crazy. The ruling seemed to fit the public mood. By the end of the nineteen-nineties, some sixty supermax institutions had opened across the country. And new solitary-confinement units were established within nearly all of our ordinary maximum-security prisons.

The number of prisoners in these facilities has since risen to extraordinary levels. America now holds at least twenty-five thousand inmates in isolation in supermax prisons. An additional fifty to eighty thousand are kept in restrictive segregation units, many of them in isolation, too, although the government does not release these figures. By 1999, the practice had grown to the point that Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Virginia kept between five and eight per cent of their prison population in isolation, and, by 2003, New York had joined them as well. Mississippi alone held eighteen hundred prisoners in supermax—twelve per cent of its prisoners over all. At the same time, other states had just a tiny fraction of their inmates in solitary confinement. In 1999, for example, Indiana had eighty-five supermax beds; Georgia had only ten. Neither of these two states can be described as being soft on crime.

Is there an alternative? Consider what other countries do. Britain, for example, has had its share of serial killers, homicidal rapists, and prisoners who have taken hostages and repeatedly assaulted staff. The British also fought a seemingly unending war in Northern Ireland, which brought them hundreds of Irish Republican Army prisoners committed to violent resistance. The authorities resorted to a harshly punitive approach to control, including, in the mid-seventies, extensive use of solitary confinement. But the violence in prisons remained unchanged, the costs were phenomenal (in the United States, they reach more than fifty thousand dollars a year per inmate), and the public outcry became intolerable. British authorities therefore looked for another approach.

Beginning in the nineteen-eighties, they gradually adopted a strategy that focussed on preventing prison violence rather than on delivering an ever more brutal series of punishments for it. The approach starts with the simple observation that prisoners who are unmanageable in one setting often behave perfectly reasonably in another. This suggested that violence might, to a critical extent, be a function of the conditions of incarceration. The British noticed that problem prisoners were usually people for whom avoiding humiliation and saving face were fundamental and instinctive. When conditions maximized humiliation and confrontation, every interaction escalated into a trial of strength. Violence became a predictable consequence.

So the British decided to give their most dangerous prisoners more control, rather than less. They reduced isolation and offered them opportunities for work, education, and special programming to increase social ties and skills. The prisoners were housed in small, stable units of fewer than ten people in individual cells, to avoid conditions of social chaos and unpredictability. In these reformed “Close Supervision Centres,” prisoners could receive mental-health treatment and earn rights for more exercise, more phone calls, “contact visits,” and even access to cooking facilities. They were allowed to air grievances. And the government set up an independent body of inspectors to track the results and enable adjustments based on the data.

The results have been impressive. The use of long-term isolation in England is now negligible. In all of England, there are now fewer prisoners in “extreme custody” than there are in the state of Maine. And the other countries of Europe have, with a similar focus on small units and violence prevention, achieved a similar outcome.
If nothing else, I hope Gawande’s article serves as a starting point for a serious discussion on the merits of solitary confinement and whether or not it serves any rehabilitative purpose whatsoever.

Reconciliation ban. The Senate on Wednesday voted, 67-31, to prohibit the use of "reconciliation" in S Con Res 13 (above) to advance Obama's cap-and-trade proposal for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Republicans said reconciliation would deny them a chance to filibuster a proposal they see as a crippling tax on key industries.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Casey and Specter.

Voting no: Carper, Kaufman, Lautenberg and Menendez.
As Ezra Klein tells us here…

The reconciliation process…limits debate to 20 hours and bypasses the filibuster altogether (only 50 votes are needed for bill passage, whereas 60 are needed to break the filibuster). It was instituted to ensure that minority obstruction couldn't block important business like passing a budget or reducing the deficit. But it was misused. At least, Robert Byrd thought so. He saw all manner of "extraneous" amendments and legislation sneaking beneath the radar of the reconciliation process.

…the reconciliation process has been used for plenty that did not reduce deficits. Both of President Bush's tax-cut plans traveled through the process. And the very senators who speak reverentially of the filibuster now, voted for reconciliation then. Judd Gregg, in fact, voted for reconciliation every time it was used in the Bush era.

And even if reconciliation had only ever been used to cut the deficit, an observer might wonder what renders deficit reduction so much more pressing than, say, ending the punishing human cost of the health-care crisis, or saving the planet from catastrophic climate change. Why should cutting programs be exempt from the Senate rules but not saving lives?
So (echoing Klein a bit), by voting against “reconciliation” here as an option, Specter and Bob Casey are saying that it’s more important to observe the sometimes-absurdly-arcane rules of Senate governance than it is to do something about the fact that our planet is melting due to global warming.

And gee, Bob, if you’re going to oppose reconciliation on the climate crisis today, what’s to prevent you from opposing it again tomorrow on the Employee Free Choice Act or the Obama/Sebelius health care initiative?

At this moment, I really can’t find the words to communicate my disgust with Bob Casey. He has become every bit the centrist/corporatist/DLC-Third Way/accommodationist flunky I feared he would be when he defeated Chuck Pennacchio in the Democratic Senatorial primary three years ago.

Note: As of last Sunday, Congress is in recess until the week of April 20.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wednesday Stuff

"Best Persons" with K.O., including Ebert's open letter to Bill Orally (here it is, but sorry Roger, nothing "admirable" about Krauthammer - stay well, dude, and the person telling Coleman to give up at long last was Ramesh Ponnuru, by the way)...

...and I don't know about you, but I'm diggin' this new tune from Incubus (thanks to YouTuber Christi0v for the way cool vid).

Five Ultra-Quick Wednesday Hits

Don’t blink…

  • Thumbs Up here to Dem U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan for his spot-on prediction of our economic meltdown over credit default swaps way back in 1994 (here) as well as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley fiasco (here – I just posted about Dodd I know, but maybe Dorgan should be Finance Committee chairman instead)

  • Thumbs Down to Our Man Arlen Specter for saying the following about Flush Limbore: “I like him” here

  • Thumbs Up to Patrick Murphy for taking the House congressional lead in trying to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” here (h/t Atrios – can’t wait for the howls of outrage from the Bucks County Courier Times over this one)

  • Update 4/11/09: Nice work for Patrick to take the lead in legislation creating the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail - a 685-mile path crossing eight states from Newport, R.I., to Yorktown, Va., as noted here (President Obama recently signed the bill into law).

  • Thumbs Down to pretend Bush Dog Democrat (redundant?) Dan Boren of Oklahoma for accusing Obama of “being weak on defense” here (hey brainiac, the defense budget was prepared by Robert Gates, the Republican Secretary of Defense, OK? - I'm not unsympathetic to the possible loss of DoD jobs here, but it's time to be realistic)

  • Thumbs Up to President Obama for being the first president to attend a White House Seder (here)
  • And by the way, Happy Passover to everyone observing the holiday.

    In Defense Of Chris Dodd

    (And I also posted over here.)

    I have to say that, like many of you I’m sure, I’ve been watching the deterioration of Chris Dodd’s political fortunes with more than a bit of alarm. And I’ve been reluctant to say anything, that is, until I read this post from Megan McArdle of The Atlantic.

    I’m sure McArdle is a pretty bright individual, but I really have to wonder why she would write a post sourcing an editorial in the Augusta (GA) Chronicle attacking Dodd over the bonuses paid to executives of AIG (the editorial is fundamentally wrong for reasons I will note shortly). Another clue as to the partisan nature of the Chronicle editorial is the fact that it praises South Carolina Repug Gov. Mark Sanford for “(doing) his best to wean his state off the cocaine of federal money. He knows it's corrupting. He knows it will mask the state's needs rather than fill them. He knows we are stealing from our children.”

    Gosh, what noble rhetoric from the Chronicle. Would that I and others had heard it while Dubya and his “ship of fools,” otherwise known as the 108th and 109th Congresses, were busy passing and signing budgets into law that left us awash in red ink (and no, I’m not going to go off on another rant defending the stimulus; at this point, if people still don’t get the concept, they never will).

    And I guess what has me a little ticked off is the decidedly lukewarm response to the news of Dodd’s current electoral trouble from progressives generally, helped also by Dodd himself, I realize; I wish he’d written an Op-Ed months ago explaining this Countrywide mortgage deal once and for all in response to the caterwauling from the right-wing echo chamber, chiefly the Murdoch Street Journal – I posted about this awhile ago here; it all appears to be nothing but a tempest in the proverbial teapot.

    Something else in McArdle’s post today that I took issue with is the following claim…

    …the more damning case (against Dodd) is that the Senate Banking Committee was basically non-functional in the early part of the crisis, because Dodd was running for president. Even if early action could have saved us money and pain later--and that's a big if--I recently heard a plausible case made that such action was made impossible by his presidential campaign. But somehow, no one finds that offensive, or even notable.
    Well, Dodd ended his presidential campaign in January 2008 after he was shut out in the Iowa caucuses (making his purchase of property there all the more mystifying to your humble narrator), but the collapse of Lehman Brothers (the moment that our economic slide really started to accelerate) didn’t take place until September of that year, and the first TARP funds weren’t released until the following month. Besides, with Dubya still on board and fellow Repug Richard Shelby at Dodd’s side on the Senate Finance Committee, I’m not sure what else Dodd could have been expected to accomplish.

    However, we know the real reason why Dodd is in trouble, and that’s because the “kick me” sign, as it were, has been pinned on his back for the AIG bonuses paid out with TARP funds.

    Yeah, well, therein hangs a tale; as noted here by My Left Nutmeg (excerpting Glenn Greenwald)…

    It was Dodd who did everything possible -- including writing and advocating for an amendment -- which would have applied the limitations on executive compensation to all bailout-receiving firms, including AIG, and applied it to all future bonus payments without regard to when those payments were promised. But it was Tim Geithner and Larry Summers who openly criticized Dodd's proposal at the time and insisted that those limitations should apply only to future compensation contracts, not ones that already existed. The exemption for already existing compensation agreements -- the exact provision that is now protecting the AIG bonus payments -- was inserted at the White House's insistence and over Dodd's objections. [...]

    The point was -- and is -- that Dodd was pressured to put that carve-out in at the insistence of Treasury officials (whose opposition meant that Dodd's choices were the limited compensation restriction favored by Geithner/Summers or no limits at all), and Dodd did so only after arguing in public against it. To blame Dodd for provisions that the White House demanded is dishonest in the extreme...
    So what has been the effect of this Dodd sellout by Geithner and Summers? Basically, according to this Quinnipiac poll, Dodd would lose big in a head-to-head matchup with presumptive Repug Senate candidate Rob Simmons (with pollster Douglas Schwartz telling us that “a 33 percent job approval rating is unheard of for a 30-year incumbent”).

    Well, to me, this spells trouble, even though the election is due to take place a year and a half from now (basically, Dodd is losing to “anybody not named Chris Dodd” at this point). And it would be nice if some lefty political sites such as this one would be a little less inclined to pump up silly “scandals” involving Dodd in a cheap attempt to drive up their hit count (that is, unless they want to contribute to the “drip, drip, drip” of negative commentary that could ultimately drown him in November 2010).

    After all, let’s not forget that Dodd tried to fix the fatally flawed FISA bill that was signed into law last year here (and speaking of FISA, I would call this a decidedly alarming development, and a little beyond "trying to sweep something under the rug" – nice try by Obama’s people to pull this off while press coverage is focused on the POTUS overseas).

    Also, as noted here, Dodd mixed it up with Billo the Clown over The Daily Kos, and he also signed on here as a cosponsor to an amendment sponsored by fellow Dem Russ Feingold in 2007 to redeploy our troops out of Iraq in 90 days (we know what happened to that one, of course).

    So basically, Dodd is a friend of progressives as far as I’m concerned. And I was always taught that you try to help out a friend when that person is in trouble.

    And a lukewarm blog post by anyone with unjustified innuendo of wrongdoing doesn’t even come close to doing that.

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    Good for Joe here (go howl at the moon...Dick)...

    ...yep, this is good news, but I have a feeling the biggest battles have yet to come (EFCA, trying to overcome that traitor Blanche Lincoln and her Senate Repug buddies, along with health care - we'll see; hat tips for these two videos to The Daily Kos)...

    ...and you're very welcome, K.O. (referring to this video, which I inexplicably missed last night - anyway, here's "Worst Persons," with Sean Inanity chastising Obama for the latter's entirely correct pronouncement that we're engaged in a struggle against radical Islam, not Muslims in general...duh; and what a charming T-shirt some apparently single-brain-celled life forms in Kentucky concocted, no doubt hoping to goose-step their way to fame and fortune; and I don't know about you, but I just hope and pray that, the next time something terrible happens in this country - and I hate to sound like I'm giving comfort to a thought like that, but it's just about statistically inevitable given the amount of guns in this country, the level of hate and the economy - the person who does it doesn't stand up and shout "I LOVE GLENN BECK" before he blows his brains out, hopefully taking no one else with him...if that happens, at the very least, it will be time to retire this talking point cipher and gutter snipe one and for all, to a place where a camera and/or microphone can nary be found, or even a computer)...

    ...and I thought this was interesting about the jazz sax player Bud Shank who just left us, and that is the fact that perhaps his most memorable contribution to music (at least in terms of hearing it on the radio) was this solo on an instrument he didn't play as much as the sax (the flute) in a musical idiom aside from jazz where he was most famous (namely, '60s-era by YouTuber UMG with the last note cut off) - crazy world.

    On The Economy, Our Pain Is J.D.’s Gain

    (Also, I posted over here.)

    I have to admit that the two most recent columns by Bucks County’s big mouth pundit J.D. Mullane (last Sunday and today) have been absolutely startling, definitely “Exhibits A and B” for not having to pay online if you’re a non-subscriber to the paper (actually, for reasons I will note shortly, I think the paper should pay us if we happen to ingest any of Mullane’s drivel).

    He told us the following on Sunday (here)…

    Unemployment has bolted to 8.5 percent, the highest in 25 years. From January through March, 2 million jobs have been lost. It’s grim.

    So why did I have to wait 45 minutes for a table at a restaurant the other night?

    The eatery’s parking lot was packed. So was the bar, where people crowded two deep to pay $6 a drink.

    A couple easily drops $100 on dinner at a chain restaurant like that, which made me wonder: Where’s the recession?

    If millions are unemployed and the president says it is the worst economy since the Great Depression, where is it?

    …(Last week), I conducted a search for the worst economy since the Great Depression — let’s call it the “Great Recession.” I figured it would be evident in places where middle class people are most likely to spend discretionary cash, since that kind of spending stops in tough times.

    I did not find soup lines, suffering or struggle.

    Not at Dunkin’ Donuts, where a steady line of cars clogged the drive-thru for $2 coffees.

    Not at a Wal-Mart, where a woman was waiting to purchase a $54 Sunbeam bread-making machine with “12 baking functions.”
    J.D. goes on to tell us that he conducted further “research” at Game Stop in the Oxford Valley Mall and Best Buys, presumably on Commerce Drive in Fairless Hills, PA. And as a result, here is his “analysis”…

    We go to Dunkin’ Donuts rather than Starbucks. We eat at a chain restaurant, rather than a chic place downtown. We buy off-brand water, not name-brand.

    Hard times. They ain’t what they used to be.
    And in response today to those who wonder what universe Mullane inhabits that somehow renders him unable to see the reality faced by an ever-growing number of people in this country, he tells us this

    Oh, there's "suffering" - especially for those who spent the good years maxing out their credit cards, tapping the equity in their house to buy unneeded goodies, and trading in perfectly good cars to buy new ones because, well, because.
    I really don’t know what else there is to say in response to such appalling literary smegma except to provide this excerpt from some actual reporting on Sunday from business writer Jane M. Von Bergen of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who tells us the following (from here)…

    Seventy-two truck drivers and warehouse workers at the USF Holland truck terminal in the city's Tacony section are losing their jobs. The terminal closed Friday.

    In Blue Bell, a Montgomery County suburb where homes cost upwards of $800,000, three out of 10 neighbors in adjoining culs-de-sac are laid off.

    In West Philadelphia's 5700 block of Spruce Street, in one of the city's zip codes hardest hit by unemployment, the block captain worries about prospects for the young men on his street - bleak, when unemployment among African American male teenagers stands at nearly 40 percent.

    "I can't offer nothing to these kids," said Thommie Hampton. "You can't get a job."

    In Cheltenham Township, a business-process manager laid off in January for the second time in two years struggles to reinvent himself - again - as his middle-class lifestyle slips away.

    In Mount Ephraim, a young woman who graduated from Rutgers University in Camden last year is still looking for a librarian or government-research job this year. "It's pretty disheartening to apply for so many positions and get rejected," said Stephanie Kurek, 26. Older workers, willing to take pay cuts to stay employed, are competing with her for entry-level positions, she said.

    If there is anything that these tales tell us, it is that misery is everywhere in the Delaware Valley. It crosses all geographic lines, all economic lines, all gender lines, all race lines, all age lines.

    All these people, the unemployed executives in Blue Bell, the unemployed teenagers in West Philadelphia, the lawyers, the doctors, the truck drivers, and the managers have their own difficult and individual stories.

    But collectively, their loss is our loss.
    Every now and then the Inky reverts to its past form, as it does so admirably here (and God, does have some hideous trolls).

    And I know J.D. wouldn’t get caught dead reading that bad liburuul paper The New York Times, but they told us the following also on Sunday (here)…

    On Friday (4/3), reality bit back with the news that the unemployment rate spiked in March, to 8.5 percent, a 25-year high. The government’s report also showed that employers had shed 663,000 more jobs in March. Nearly two million jobs have vanished this year — 5.1 million since the recession began in December 2007. The ranks of the unemployed now stand at 13.2 million.

    There is no longer any doubt that the current recession will be the longest yet in America since World War II. The previous record-holders — the contractions of the early 1970s and the early 1980s — each lasted for 16 months. As of now, the economy already has been in decline for 16 straight months.

    The questions now are how much longer the recession will be and how much worse it will get. Measured by the labor market, the answer to both questions is “a lot.” That is because employers will continue to cut jobs as long as the economy is weakening and will resume hiring only once they are sure a recovery is under way. In this recession, the traditional paths to recovery are especially blocked. Economic rebounds — especially from steep declines — are generally led by recovery in the housing market. This time, housing is unlikely to provide the spark. By prudent estimates, housing sales and prices will not begin to turn up appreciably until 2010 at the earliest.
    And I’ll go Mullane even better than that – if he wanted to find a clue, all he had to do was read the same Sunday issue of the very paper in which his column appeared; his fellow writer Jo Ciavaglia tells us this (here)…

    To get perspective into how bad the U.S economic crisis is, ask someone who works in mental health.

    Suicide call volume has doubled, according to one local emergency hot line. Bucks County's largest short-term psychiatric unit is seeing a significant upswing in involuntary mental health commitments - eight since Wednesday alone.

    A New Jersey behavior health center is seeing notably large increases in first-time psychiatric hospitalizations, particularly among nontraditional patients.

    Demand for outpatient mental health treatment also is increasing, but so are requests for copay waivers and other financial assistance, local providers say.

    The growing demand for mental health services also is outpacing the limited resources of providers. Most Bucks County mental health agencies the county contracts with are in danger of running out of money for uninsured patients before the fiscal year ends, a county official said.

    "We can feel the tempo. People are incredibly nervous, anxious and upset. We get calls about rents, mortgages and even food," said Lenore Sherman, executive director of Contact Greater Philadelphia, a crisis hot line. "People are obviously in chaotic shape, so worried over the situation."
    I have to admit that citing this stuff really isn’t that difficult – there is plentiful evidence to support the fact that Mullane doesn’t know what he’s talking about; shooting his arguments full of holes is about as satisfying as kicking the crutch out from underneath the arm of Tiny Tim (and by the way, I conducted a bit of “research” myself at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Fairless Hills, PA on Sunday, and except for a couple of other families, it basically was a ghost town).

    So I attempted to find out how food banks and social service agencies in Bucks County are being affected by the economic conditions, calling some numbers from this list (I am currently awaiting “call backs” from the Penndel Food Pantry and the Emergency Relief Association in Levittown; I will call again if I don’t hear from anyone – part of the issue with tracking these people down is that these agencies are usually based in a church or community center during “off hours” in the evening when the need for their services is the greatest).

    I have to admit that I was unsuccessful for the most part, though I did speak to a lady named Stephanie Sides of the Family Service Association of Bucks County. She told me that, in addition to running a food pantry, the association partners with the Bucks County Opportunity Council to help lower-income residents of the county achieve self-sufficiency. She said that the demand for food seems to “ebb and flow” more centered on the holidays, though the number of people seeking food has increased in recent months (she was careful not to draw a direct link to the economic conditions).

    In addition, she mentioned that the association runs a teen center near One Oxford Valley (the office building next to the mall, for local-area folk) on Thursday and Friday evenings; the center is located near the FedEX and UPS mail stops. The center allows the teens (14-21) to socialize with one another and seek counseling, and it’s difficult to keep up with the demand for food (always a need for microwaveable dishes such as Raman noodles, turkey dishes, etc., as well as snacks such as crackers and chips).

    As I say, I have some calls outstanding on this in an attempt to gauge the impact of the recession, for which you can blame solely those who made bad purchasing choices, according to Mullane. If I find out anything else, I’ll let you know.

    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    Touching tribute on "Countdown" tonight to Keith's mom, by the way - our sympathies...

    And it sounds like the wingnuts were in winning form again with their little "tea party" (kind of scary when a bunch of terminal adolescents get together for no good reason, I suppose)...

    ...and oh yes, didn't I tell you that, on the side, I'm a "reprogrammer" for the Obamabot "reeducation" facility in Bucks County, PA? Uh huh (nice touch on the black helicopter)...

    ...something else to consider when you hear about how charging an online fee to non-subscribers is the answer to problems in the media industry...

    ...I thought this had kind of a nice ring to it (not much happening in the video - kind of morose like the weather in these parts at the moment).

    My Tribute To The AP

    (And I also posted here.)

    So the AP tells us from here that it and “its member newspapers will take legal action against Web sites that use their articles without legal permission,” huh?

    Wow, you mean that the AP would actually seek to punish individuals such as your humble narrator who tries to access some of that service’s glorious content....

    …from Ron Fournier (here)

    …from (former correspondent) John Solomon (

    …from Jennifer Loven and Fournier again (

    …from David Espo (

    …from Sam Hananel (
    here, with clarification by Media Matters here)

    …from Hope Yen (

    …from Amy Lorentzen (

    …from Andrew Taylor (

    …from Phillip Elliott (

    …from Liz Sidoti (

    ….from Elliott, Calvin Woodward and (wait for it…) Nedra Pickler (

    ….and from (drum roll, please) the one and only Charles Babington (
    The AP really “wants a piece o’ me,” as it were?

    Well, considering that the news service has produced such sterling content as that which I have cited above, I have only this to say in response:

    Bring it on, meat!

    Update 4/16/09: I forgot about this choice item from Ben Feller.

    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    Sunday Stuff

    The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and John Oliver have some fun concerning the media fawning over the Obamas' recent visit to the Queen...

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
    The Poisonous Queen
    Daily Show Full EpisodesEconomic CrisisPolitical Humor

    ...and boy, that Repug PA State Senator Mike Folmer is a real "rocket scientist," isn't he? With the EFCA, both "card check" and the secret ballot would still be legal, but the employee would call the shots, not the employer (h/t Michael Morrill at Keystone Progress)...

    ...actually, though, Cantor and the House Repug "leadership" did offer this, which is way beyond a bad joke (more on Cantor here)...

    Update 4/7/09: Oh yeah, Cantor and the Repugs sure will overtake Obama and the Dems with stuff like this.

    ...and oh yeah, time to rock harder.