Saturday, August 01, 2009

Saturday Stuff

I think this is a terrific commentary on the Obama “Birthers” by Bill Maher (h/t HuffPo)…

…and I really like this song even though I barely hear it on the radio, so here it is.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Food For Thought On Another Dem Corporate Media Slam

I swear, half the time I just happen to find this stuff, people; this tells us the following…

Various sources within the Buzz are reporting that Michelle Obama's "organic" garden has been besieged by icky goo in the ground. As a result, the veggies aren't quite what the first lady had in mind. According to Daily Finance, the National Park Service tested the soil in the vegetable patch and found "highly elevated levels of lead" due to sewage used as fertilizer.

So the question is: Who to blame? While dumping sewage into the ground sounds like a crime worthy of Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons," the actual perpetrators were none other than the Clintons. Yep, back when Bill and Hillary were living it up in the White House, their gardening team used "sewage sludge for fertilizer." The fiends!
This Mother Jones story provides more detail…

Given that the White House vegetable garden isn't close to buildings that would shed lead-based paint, a combination of sludge and old exhaust particles from lead-based gasoline is more likely to blame for its lead problem. Sludge can legally contain up to 300 parts per million of lead, which is well above the 93 parts per million found in the White House garden. The EPA says that soil with more than 56 parts per million of lead might not provide "adequate protection of terrestrial ecosystems," but doesn't suggest worrying about anything below 400 parts per million as a threat to human health. However, some soil scientists advise against feeding children produce grown on soil with more than 100 ppm of lead. That's cutting it pretty close for Obama's daughters. The Clintons' "very clean poo" might have been too good to be true.

UPDATE: The blog Obama Foodorama interviewed lead experts who pointed out that 93 ppm is not an unusual level of lead in urban soils. That level is still well above natural levels and the EPA's own 56 ppm "ecological soil screening level"---hence my reasonable assertion that the garden is "contaminated with lead"--but the contamination could also be the product of old exhaust from lead-based fuel. Of course, it won't be possible to know the background lead level on the South Lawn unless someone sampled it before sludge was applied (a White House spokesman did not return a phone call). Given that lead levels in sludge can legally be way higher than what was found on the Obama garden, I still believe sludge could be a factor in the 93 ppm, but how much of a factor will be hard to say.
And by the way, the story also tells us that the sludge had been used on the White House garden “starting in the late 1980s and continuing for at least a decade” (and I’m sure this will lead to further study, and we’ll just see how that plays out).

Also, it should be noted that at least the Clintons actually tried (and the Obamas are trying) to “grow their own,” as opposed to the individuals who preceded our current president.

As Think Progress notes here, Laura Bush was “adamant” that organics be used at the White House as opposed to “inorganics,” which was a bit hypocritical when you consider the following…

  • In April 2004, Bush’s USDA issued legally binding guidances allowing the use of antibiotics on organic dairy cows and synthetic pesticides on organic farms.

  • Another 2004 guidance narrowed the scope of the federal organic certification program to crops and livestock, meaning that national organic standards would “not be developed for fish, nutritional supplements, pet food, fertilizers, cosmetics, and personal-care products.”

  • Though then-Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman reportedly “rescinded the directives” after activist uproar, the vice chairman of the National Organic Standards Board told the Chicago Reader that the USDA “sticks to their interpretations, only now they are no longer posted.”

  • In June 2007, the USDA greenlighted a proposal “allowing 38 new non-organic ingredients in products bearing the ‘USDA Organic’ seal, despite more than 10,000 e-mails and letters from concerned consumers and farmers.”

  • This past September, the USDA “abruptly halted a government program that tests the levels of pesticides in fruits, vegetables and field crops, arguing that the $8 million-a-year program is too expensive.”
  • Also, on the subject of food, the Obama Administration has issued more stringent food safety rules “to stop salmonella and E.coli contamination in U.S. food processing plants and created a new deputy food commissioner post to coordinate safety,” as noted here.

    Friday Stuff

    I know I've been behind with the videos a bit; I had a feeling early on that July was going to be a nutty posting month, and I was right, for what it's worth.

    In the meantime, here is a brief tribute to former Philippine president Corazon Aquino, who died today at 76 (I'm sure neither I nor the rest of the world will understand how her husband, former Senator Benigno Aquino, could have supposedly been "protected" by 1,200 armed guards, yet somehow the proverbial "lone gunman" managed to kill him on a Manila airport tarmac when he deplaned in 1983 - yep, about fifteen seconds of David Gregory is all I can stand of him)...

    ...and yeah, I would say that "the old gray lady" has some splainin' to do also - and isn't it nice to have a non-politicized Medal of Freedom again?...

    ...and after this interview by Ed Schultz, I hereby apologize for all of my past references to "Jello Jay" Rockefeller (based on their support of these ridiculous "co-ops," probably "Jello Casey Jr." and "Jello Arlen" would be more appropriate)...

    ...and let's kick start what hopefully will be a slammin' weekend, people.

    Where The Rubber Meets The Road (7/31/09)

    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 also posted here).


    Housing, transportation budgets. Voting 256-168, the House passed an appropriations bill (HR 3288) that provides $68.8 billion in discretionary spending and $123.1 billion in total spending for transportation, housing, and urban development programs in fiscal 2010.

    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.), Chaka Fattah (D., 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: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
    This is a bit off-topic, but I should note that Patrick Murphy will be appearing tomorrow at 1 PM at Concerto Fusion in Morrisville, PA, and at the Acme on New Falls Road in Levittown, PA as part of his “Congressman In Your Corner” events (the 78th and 79th he’s hosted since taking office according to Murphy Communications Director Kate Hansen).

    As Hansen also tells us today in the Bucks County Courier Times, Murphy has “(stood) with fellow prosecutors from the National District Attorney’s Association, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Mike Arcuri, and former head of the Republican Party Sen. Mel Martinez to introduce the IMPROVE Act, which would help reduce the $60 billion in taxpayer money lost to Medicaid fraud every year.”

    So come on out to say hello to Patrick tomorrow (and good luck dodging the rain drops).

    Public housing. Voting 152-276, the House refused to kill the HOPE VI public-housing program, which provides grants to communities for replacing rundown projects with mixed-income housing and support services for residents. Critics said the program is duplicative and has a multiyear backlog of unspent funds, while defenders argued against reducing the supply of housing for the poor. The amendment to HR 3288 (above) sought to eliminate the program's $250 million budget for 2010.

    A yes vote was to kill the program.

    Voting yes: Pitts.

    Voting no: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.
    What a shame that Pancake Joe didn’t bother to talk to one of his fellow congressional Repugs on this before he cast yet another ridiculous No vote, because if he had, he would have learned the following (here)…

    Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, Missouri Republican, said he would advocate for the new program because it expands on the successful Hope VI initiative he has championed since its creation in 1992.

    He said in an interview that the idea is "to see if we can do something in a coordinated effective effort to end the cycle of poverty and distress … and empower the local residents to have more control over their life."

    Mr. Bond cited projects in St. Louis and also on Capitol Hill that are now model communities.
    But I guess there must be no such thing as “poverty and distress” in PA-16, then.

    O, how lucky.

    Pay as you go. Voting 265-166, the House passed a bill (HR 2920) putting Congress' pay-as-you-go budget rules into permanent law and giving presidents power to sequester funds when Congress breaks those rules. The bill awaits Senate action.

    Under "pay-go," Congress is required to offset tax cuts or increases in mandatory spending beyond baseline levels with matching revenue hikes or spending cuts. The bill exempts politically popular measures such as Alternative Minimum Tax relief, the Bush administration's middle-class and estate-tax cuts, and Medicare payments to doctors.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

    Voting no: Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, and Smith.
    I don’t remember any damn “middle class tax cut” from Dubya – we received about a $400 check not too long after he took over in ’01 I believe, but that was all I saw that made much of an impact.

    And yep, I would call this a definite Yes vote for someone who may or may not be aspiring to the U.S. Senate (talking about Mike Castle here). Otherwise, it’s just party-line stuff as usual.

    Health, education spending. Voting 264-153, the House passed a bill (HR 3293) that provides $160.7 billion in discretionary spending and $567 billion in mandatory spending for health, education, and labor programs in fiscal 2010. The bill ranks second to the Pentagon budget as the largest of the appropriations bills that will fund the $3.6 trillion federal budget next fiscal year.

    The bill ends a 21-year ban on funding needle-exchange programs to curb the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

    Voting no: Pitts.
    As noted here…

    NEPs are an inexpensive public health intervention, especially when compared with the social costs of treating individuals with HIV or hepatitis-related chronic liver disease. The costs of preventing one case of HIV is estimated between $4,000 and $12,000 via NEPs. The medical cost of treating a person infected with HIV is about $200,000. Emergency room usage is lower among intravenous drug users if a NEP is in place. HCV-related liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer, are estimated to cause more fatalities in 2010 than AIDS. Infected mothers can transmit the virus to infants before or during birth, or through breast feeding. One-thousand five-hundred intravenous drug users in Baltimore had entered an NEP as of the year 2000. The rate of HIV infection in Baltimore decreased by 70 percent between 1992 and 2000. The single use of sterile syringes is one of the most effective methods to limit the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis B and C and reduce disease transmission among drug users, their sexual partners and their children.

    NEPs are more than a needle exchange program. Studies have shown that NEPs save lives, reduce suffering and lower the economic cost to society due to intravenous use of illegal drugs. If NEPs are associated with other services such as substance abuse treatment, then it is more likely that the ferocious cycle of drug abuse can be broken.
    This is a welcome development for many reasons, one of which is that the Obama Administration disappointed needle-exchange advocates here by proposing to continue the funding ban that was instituted in 1989 as a rider to the Health and Human Services appropriations budget and renewed every year since. I have a feeling, though, that he believed the ban should have been removed through congressional legislation instead of through a presidential directive, given that he has spoken favorably in the past of needle exchange programs.

    And I guess no one is using intravenous drugs illegally or suffering from blood-borne diseases in PA-16.

    Once more, o, how lucky.


    2010 military budget. Voting 87-7, the Senate authorized a $680 billion military budget for fiscal 2010, including $130 billion for war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill (S 1390) sets a 3.4 percent military pay raise, increases active-duty personnel by 40,200 troops to 1.41 million, and caps procurement of F-22 Raptor fighter jets at 187 planes.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

    Concealed handguns. Voting 58-39, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes for advancing a measure setting federal rules for concealed handguns. The amendment to S 1390 (above) sought to require the 48 states (all but Wisconsin and Illinois) that issue concealed-handgun permits to honor the permits of other states, even ones based on less-strict qualifications. The amendment was backed by the National Rifle Association and opposed by Handgun Control Inc.

    A yes vote was to advance the amendment.

    Voting yes: Casey.

    Voting no: Carper, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
    This is a pathetic, insulting vote by Bob Casey, which goes hand-in-hand with his “co-op” copout on a public health care plan. As I’ve said before, he has become every bit the “corpocrat” I feared he would be after he defeated Chuck Pennacchio for the Democratic Party Senatorial nomination in 2006.

    I posted about this earlier here – this vote is disturbing on many levels, mainly because it was way too damn close (and once more, I stand by everything I said here).

    This week, the House debated 2010 appropriations and, possibly, health-care bills. The Senate schedule was unannounced.

    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    More Mullane “End Of Life” Health Care Hackery (updates)

    (And I also posted here; I'm sure it will generate more wingnut umbrage, but oh well.)

    Bucks County Courier Times propagandist J.D. Mullane has been spewing it fast and furiously for the last few days on the health care legislation in the House (I’ll try to wade through all this).

    On Tuesday, he told us the following (here)…

    Could it be the government would limit medical treatment for the old and sick as a means to control health care costs?

    Seems that way to me, after reading the thousand-page health care bill under review by the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Seems that way to the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, too, an organization formed in 1943 to oppose government-run health care.
    Actually, the AAPS is a lot more than that; as noted here, the…

    …AAPS is generally recognized as politically conservative,[4][5][6] though it describes itself as "non-partisan".[7] The organization opposes mandatory vaccination,[8] universal health care[9] and government intervention in healthcare.[10] The AAPS has characterized the effects of the Social Security Act of 1965, which established Medicare and Medicaid, as "evil" and "immoral",[11] and encouraged member physicians to refuse to accept or participate in Medicare and Medicaid.[12][13]
    Somehow I don’t think “conservative” and “oppos(ing) government-run health care” really describe how reactionary and backward this group truly is.

    (One more thing – here is a link to the bill Mullane is referring to.)


    An agitated octogenarian (upset over Mullane’s baseless accusation that the health care legislation ultimately would withhold treatment to contain costs) called Monday to say I'm "spouting nonsense."

    "How would you know what they mean? Are you an expert on the thing?" he asked.

    Not an "expert," I assured, but I did pay particular attention to section 1233 of the bill, which I call the "Angel of Death" clause.
    I’ll get back to that a bit later, but continuing with Mullane for now…

    The octogenarian, however, admitted he hadn't read the bill, but said he doesn't have to because he reads The New York Times, among other fine newspapers, to get his information.

    For the octogenarian, Medicare (which he reminded me at least three times is "socialized medicine") works fine for him. He insisted it will work for the rest of the country.

    We veered on a tangent, and I asked why should I - as the father of three little kids and with lots of bills to pay - have to pay for his medical care? During his working years, I asked, why didn't he anticipate what he would need in retirement and set it aside?

    "You just can't work. You have to live," he said.

    So do I. But I digress.
    In his typically insipid way, Mullane is extolling the supposed virtues of health care retirement accounts, sponsored by Dubya of course; this tells us the following, just to refresh our memories…

  • The idea behind health savings accounts is that Americans have too much insurance. You read that right. Those who came up with the idea believe Americans are overinsured, something that very few working families would likely agree with.

  • Despite the rhetoric, HSAs will do nothing to control skyrocketing health care costs or reduce the number of uninsured. In fact, they will just make matters worse for those who have health coverage.

  • By shifting the costs to workers, HSAs provide cover to employers to reduce or even eliminate health benefits. It will undermine employer-based health plans, where two-thirds of Americans get their coverage.

  • HSAs will drive the wealthy and healthy away from health care insurance, driving up the costs for those who need insurance the most. Seniors and those who need health care coverage will see their premiums skyrocket.

  • HSAs are brought to you by the same people who brought you the Medicare prescription drug disaster, and it will have the same consequences. It's a boon to the profit-driven drug companies and insurance industry. It's complicated, fragmented and costly.
  • So what of Mullane today (here)? Well, in the guise of addressing reader comments, he pretty much rehashes much of Tuesday’s column and, for good measure, tells us that the House health care bill (with Obama’s blessing, as J.D. sees it) is just another step closer to the type of health care practiced in Oregon (with a particularly astute commenter noting that the state’s “Right To Die With Dignity Act” was approved by a popular referendum.)

    Also, on the matter of Section 1233, a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) recently communicated the following to Mullane directly; I’ll let you know if he receives an answer…

    I know people are "pulling the plug" daily in hospitals all over the country for one medical reason or other. I myself, as a sufferer of Severe Emphysema, will face this situation as I will eventually end up in a hospital on a ventilator. My family already knows not to sustain my life that way as I have already expressed my wishes, something I fear many people, ill or not, don't do but probably should. I read the section you refer to as an attempt to get information from physicians to patients regarding end of life situations, perhaps a living will in the event they find themselves in a situation similar to mine.

    I read that section twice and haven't found why you refer to it as the "Angel of Death clause.", can you enlighten me?

    You also take to task the octogenarian by writing; "..I asked why should I---as the father of three little kids with lots of bills to pay---have to pay for his medical care?"

    I ask you; who pays for those who don't have insurance, using, instead of a primary care physician for the flu at the cost of perhaps $140.00, go to emergency rooms as the untreated flu develops into pneumonia requiring an 8 day hospitalization at a cost of perhaps $15,000? You're already paying for people without insurance through higher insurance premiums and deductibles for you and your employer. Remember the infamous $15.00 aspirin a hospital patient received?
    As noted above, Mullane claims that he has read the entire bill, which totals 1,018 pages. Though I doubt it, I have no evidence to indicate that Mullane is lying, so I must take him at his word (though of course he cannot prove conclusively that the plan seeks to prevent the elderly from receiving treatment for cost reasons – and as we know, that would never happen in our wonderful, private, for-profit health care system, as noted above).

    However, I find it a strange coincidence, to say the least, that Mullane devotes his columns only to Section 1233, which, as noted here, has been the subject of partisan mythology also by Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post and former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey here, about which the site stated the following…

    For our ruling on this one, there's really no gray area here. McCaughey incorrectly states that the bill would require Medicare patients to have these counseling sessions and she is suggesting that the government is somehow trying to interfere with a very personal decision. And her claim that the sessions would "tell [seniors] how to end their life sooner" is an outright distortion. Rather, the sessions are an option for elderly patients who want to learn more about living wills, health care proxies and other forms of end-of-life planning. McCaughey isn't just wrong, she's spreading a ridiculous falsehood.
    (And by the way, here is a Balloon Juice post exploding other conservative lies on this subject, such as Medicare and Medicaid’s costs supposedly outpacing those of private insurance – they’re not – and Obama’s supposed pursuit of a British-modeled, “single-payer” system – unfortunately, this isn’t true either.)

    Finally, I know personally of an individual whose name I also won’t mention whose son lost his job, didn’t meet the qualifications for COBRA (which, even if you qualify, is still vastly more expensive than employer-paid insurance), but was turned down for insurance on his own because of a pre-existing condition. Take a guess as to what the condition was:

    Acid reflux.

    To me, if that isn’t an excuse for a genuinely robust public option, than I don’t know what is.

    One more thing…in the past, I’ve said that both Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Specter support a public option, which, as I’ve subsequently found out, isn’t really true. What they support are the much-weaker “co-ops” that cannot compete effectively.

    While Casey will not pay any penalty for that I realize, I hope at least that, somewhere out there, Joe Sestak is taking careful notes.

    Update 1: I'm sure Mullane will spin this as more "big government" intrusion, though it sounds pretty good to me (h/t Atrios).

    Update 2: Despite the relentlessly negative corporate media drum beat on this story, we can take some solace from these numbers.

    Update 3 7/31/09: Just when I felt "up," Nate Silver brings me back down again here (food for thought, though - sigh).

    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    Tuesday Mashup (7/28/09)

    (And I also posted here – yes, I know I’ve been doing a lot of these lately, but I just haven’t found a larger overall topic to post about, which actually requires less work than these “mashup” ones, to tell you the truth...also, no posting for tomorrow.)

  • I came across this editorial/Guest Opinion in the Bucks County Courier Times today concerning Walter Cronkite, recycling some truly noxious wingnut umbrage about what is perceived to be his role in the Vietnam War…

    …to use his own words, was Walter Cronkite an honorable journalist who did the best he could?

    No. What may have resulted from forgivable misimpressions due to the "fog of war" long ago crystallized into obdurate lies. Cronkite never clarified the record, never admitted that the Tet offensive - the Vietcong's surprise holiday attack on cities across South Vietnam - resulted in a military and political fiasco for North Vietnam.

    This was becoming apparent even before the dust had settled in 1968, as we learn in Peter Braestrup's indispensable "The Big Story", one of the signal historical works of the 20th century, which meticulously analyzes the media's failure to assess Tet correctly as a defeat for North Vietnam. Even Leftist journalist Frances Fitzgerald in her Pulitzer Prize-winning "Fire in the Lake" reported that Tet had "seriously depleted" Vietcong forces and "wiped out" many of their "most experienced cadres." Her conclusion: "By all the indices available to the American military, the Tet offensive was a major defeat for the enemy."

    And the enemy agreed. In a 1995 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bui Tin, a member of the North Vietnamese general staff who in 1975 personally received the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam, called North Vietnam's losses in Tet "staggering." Communist forces in the South, he explained, "were nearly wiped out by all the fighting in 1968. It took us until 1971 to re-establish our presence... If the American forces had not begun to withdraw under Nixon in 1969," he added, "they could have punished us severely." And who knows? If Cronkite had not used Tet to nudge for negotiations, maybe American forces would not have begun to withdraw.
    (By the way, for some reason, it is often the practice of to publish people’s online commentaries under the byline of Editorial Page Editor Guy Petroziello. I’ve never understood why; this is at best a borderline unethical practice.)

    Update: Here is where the Cronkite piece originated (no surprise - Diana West is a long-time right-wing propagandist on the pages of the Courier Times, but this may just be the most odious screed she's ever written...I wondered for awhile whether or not I should have dumped on Buckley when he died - all true stuff - but now, I'm glad I did).

    If someone firmly believes still that Cronkite played a pivotal role in our defeat in Vietnam after all this time, then I don’t see how I or anyone else will be able to change his or her mind. However, I will only point out the following in response (from here)…

    Beginning in June 1965, with the U.S. decision to send ground forces to Vietnam, until February 1966, the polls showed a high and steady support for the President’s performance…In February 1966, this changed abruptly to a 50-50 split. By June 1966, this had declined to 42 percent excellent or good and 58 percent fair or poor. In July, after increased bombing of North Vietnam, it rebounded to 54 percent excellent or good and 46 percent fair or poor, but by September it had dropped again to 42 percent excellent or good and 58 percent fair or poor, and the downward trend continued for the remainder of Johnson’s presidency.

    In early June 1966, declining public support for the war and confidence in the President’s handling of it were noted with concern by (then-Johnson aide Bill) Moyers in a memorandum to the President. He reported that conversations with Harris, Gallup and other polling professionals “confirm one thing: that our standing is down and likely to drop further.” There was unanimous agreement, he said, that the major issue was Vietnam, followed by the cost of living. “There is general agreement among all of these men with Lou Harris’ comment this morning; ‘the people are in a foul mood over Vietnam’
    And this is about a year and a half before Tet in January of 1968, it should be noted.

    Also, while it’s true that Tet was a major defeat for the North Vietnamese, the following is arguable at best (from phillyburbs)…

    Bui Tin said North Vietnamese commander Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap told him Tet was "a military defeat though we had gained the planned political advantages when Johnson agreed to negotiate and did not run for re-election."
    As tells us here…

    Most forms of this claim state that General Giap made his pronouncement about the effectiveness of American anti-war activism during the Vietnam War era either in his 1976 book How We Won The War or in an unspecified 1985 memoir. But Ed Moise, a professor of history at Clemson University specializing in modern China and Vietnam, noted in a review of the former book that no such statement appeared within
    For those who want to argue about whether or not Giap and Tin acknowledged the antiwar effort as a reason for our withdrawal, I’m sure those so inclined would likely do so until doomsday if they could. However, what I want to emphasize is that Cronkite’s reporting confirmed what most of this country had suspected all along; it’s not as if the legendary newsman, by himself, initiated a tidal wave of public opposition.

  • This appeared yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer from Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak (in homage to the “Bush Dogs”)…

    There is an important thread that connects the failed stimulus bill and current efforts to reform health care: the federal deficit.
    Oh really?

    This Op-Ed from Vice President Joe Biden in the New York Times recently tells us the following…

    The single largest part of the Recovery Act — more than one-third of it — is tax cuts: 95 percent of working Americans have seen their taxes go down as a result of the act. The second-largest part — just under a third — is direct relief to state governments and individuals. The money is allowing state governments to avoid laying off teachers (14,000 in New York City alone), firefighters and police officers and preventing states’ budget gaps from growing wider.

    And those hardest hit by the recession are getting extended unemployment insurance, health coverage and other help to get through these tough times. The bottom line is that two-thirds of the Recovery Act doesn’t finance “programs,” but goes directly to tax cuts, state governments and families in need, without red tape or delays.

    As for the final third, the act is financing the largest investment in roads since the creation of the Interstate highway system; construction projects at military bases, ports, bridges and tunnels; long overdue Superfund cleanups; the creation of clean energy jobs of the future; improvements in badly outdated rural water systems; upgrades to overtaxed mass transit and rail systems; and much more. These investments create jobs today — and support economic growth for years to come. Far from being a negative, the wide array of these investments is needed given the incredible diversity of the American economy.

    Projects are being chosen without earmarks or political consideration, and many contracts have come in under budget. More than 30,000 projects have been approved, and thousands are already posted on — providing a high level of transparency and accountability. Taxpayers should know that we have not hesitated to reject proposals that have failed to meet our merit-based standards.
    And as the Times tells us here today…

    Rather than waiting for big projects to be planned and awarded to construction companies, or for tax cuts to trickle through the economy, state officials (in Linden, TN) hit upon a New Deal model of trying to put people directly to work as quickly as possible.

    They are using welfare money from the stimulus package to subsidize 300 new jobs across Perry County, with employers ranging from the state Transportation Department to the milkshake place near the high school.

    As a result, the June unemployment rate, which does not yet include all the new jobs, dropped to 22.1 percent.

    “If I could have done a W.P.A. out there, I would have done a W.P.A. out there,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, referring to the Works Progress Administration, which employed millions during the Great Depression.
    In the future, Mackowiak should bother to ask those in this country whose jobs have been saved or who have been hired because of the “stim” whether or not they care if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the official name) is “deficit-neutral” or not before he tells us that it isn’t any good.

  • I came across this online column from Connie Schultz at, in which she tells us…

    Certainly, we are concerned about job stability. But veteran journalists are equally troubled by the online threat to standards we hold dear.

    If anyone had told me five years ago that newspapers would allow anonymous comments and that we would have to respond to them, I would have invited them to come for a walk with me to the land of grown-ups. Now I regularly address authors of online comments by their made-up names and pretend this doesn't feel like junior high school all over again.

    The so-called citizen journalism of most blogs is an affront to those of us who believe reporting and attribution must precede publication. Fact checking is tedious; it often derails juicy rumor and deflates many a story. And no matter how it turns out, every story is attached to our names. That should matter to anyone who cares about accountability.
    This was already addressed by Dark Syde at The Daily Kos here, so I will defer to that person’s sound judgment.

    However, Schultz also said the following…

    One of the greatest challenges for print journalists now is to respond to change while staying rooted in the values that brought us to this profession. We feel more vulnerable because we are, but troubled times can soften edges and open hearts to the suffering around us.

    We are a country of hurt right now. Home foreclosures, lost jobs, closed businesses — these are hard stories but are the biggest stories of our time.

    Journalists have never been better prepared to tell them.
    So try doing it instead of telling us how honorable you supposedly are for suddenly realizing this plainly obvious fact!

    Actually, though, I think Schultz should merely try a bit of slightly imaginative keyword searching on Google, Bing, Ask or whatever other engine she chooses first with terms such as “recession, economy, jobs, blogs, 2008, 2009” or any combination or variation thereof to find some truly high-quality “citizen journalism” on this subject that she so ridicules (including some excellent blogs both at news sites and independent outlets – Calculated Risk comes immediately to mind, among others).

    After I read Schultz, I did some searching to find information that I believe communicates what is wrong with the news business (which, unfortunately, diverts attention from some of the truly outstanding reporting available both in print and online), and I found this from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, which tells us the following…

  • The financial crisis—a complex and multilayered story—proved a difficult one for the media to track. Journalists were slow to pick up on the broader implications of what emerged as a housing markets crunch in late 2007. Even though coverage intensified somewhat in early 2008, the press again drifted away from the economic story in the days just before the big September collapse. But after Lehman Brothers failed, coverage exploded, filling about a quarter of the newshole (26%) during the last three months of the year. The roller coaster trajectory of coverage in 2008 reflected press problems in anticipating the meltdown and its proclivity to frantically “flood the zone” once the dimensions of the crisis became obvious.

  • Though the presidential election and unfolding economic crisis certainly were major events, the narrowness of the year’s news agenda also strikes us as a function of the current state and characteristics of the news industry. Shrinking reporting resources, a diminishing commitment to overseas coverage, a debate-driven cable and radio talk culture that amplifies the biggest story or two, and a lack of follow-up coverage in a faster-moving media culture all appeared to conspire to help create the very top-heavy news menu in 2008. Even with the election behind us, there may not be much reason to believe that basic pattern will change in the foreseeable future.
  • I am not unsympathetic to the plight of news organizations that (ridiculously, I always believed) were forced to become “cost centers” instead of “loss leaders” about 30 years ago. However, I believe it is the job of blogs to, among other things, fill in the gaps of context, if you will, that are missing from much of what passes for corporate media reporting.

    It would be nice of Schultz to acknowledge that (oh, and the next time you talk about blogs, at least show the professionalism of mentioning one or two or more of them as if you are knowledgeable on the subject – she and others would thus have a much more credible argument).

  • Finally, I came across the following column from Ronnie Polaneczky of The Daily News this morning, in which she tells us the following…

    EVERYBODY says that the flap over the Harvard professor, the Cambridge cop and the president of the United States is about race.

    I'll grant you this, it's about color, all right. Not black and white. Pink and blue.

    Because every woman knows that if the professor, the cop or the president in this incident were female, we'd have been talking about something important last week, like health-care reform.

    A female professor would've done what Gates should have done: Thanked the officer for his trouble after proving that the home was her proper residence, and then kindly asked him to leave, because "I'm a little cranky after an 18- hour flight from China. I need some rest."

    I'm guessing a female officer would've walked away no matter how loud the professor got because she'd have understood that it can be irritating to have a cop in your living room.

    And - ask Hillary or even Michelle - I'll bet a female president would've rolled her eyes and said, "Boys will be boys."

    I'm thinking, in this instance, that even the president believes this incident was probably hormonally, not racially, instigated.

    How do I know?

    He's invited Gates and Crowley to the White House this week to discuss things - over a beer. That's what men do after they realize that testosterone got the better of them. They buzz on brews, maybe shake hands and try to move on.

    Most women don't get why the silly ritual is even necessary.

    It's a guy thing, ladies. You wouldn't understand.
    The only point I will acknowledge here is that the Gates story indeed took our attention away from other (I would argue) more important matters, and yes, health care legislation may very well top the list.

    However, before we chalk this all up to nothing more than Men Behaving Badly, I would ask that you read here about a young girl named Megan Meier.

    As Wikipedia tells us here, Meier was…

    …an American teenager from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri who committed suicide by hanging at the age of 13 years, 11 months.[3] Her suicide was attributed to cyber-bullying through the social networking website MySpace. The account through which the bullying took place purportedly belonged to a 16-year-old male named "Josh Evans." However, Lori Drew, the mother of a former friend of Meier, later admitted creating the MySpace account with her daughter and Ashley Grills, Lori Drew's 18 year old employee.[4] Several people contributed to running the faked account, including Drew.[5][6]

    Witnesses testified that the women intended to use Meier’s e-mails with "Josh" to get information about her and later humiliate her, in retribution for her allegedly spreading gossip about Drew's daughter.[7][8]

    A federal grand jury indicted Lori Drew on May 15, 2008, on three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress, and one count of criminal conspiracy.[9] Drew was found guilty on three lesser charges (reduced from felonies to misdemeanors by the jury) on November 26, 2008. The jury was deadlocked on the fourth felony charge of criminal conspiracy.[10][11]
    So the mother of a girl who believed her daughter was the subject of rumors spread by Meier decided to get even by harassing Meier online to the point of suicide.

    Now let’s suppose, for example, that the two individuals here were male. Let’s suppose further that, instead of bullying, they got into a fight over it (perhaps to the point where the police were called).

    Well then, that’s preferable to driving an impressionable young girl crazy to the point where she kills herself, isn’t it?

    Apples and oranges? Perhaps. But this is what happens when we start ascribing gender-based characteristics to confrontations such as the Gates/Sgt. Crowley dustup (more simply put, you cannot make generalizations based on what is perceived to be gender-based behavior).

    I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised to read something like this from Polaneczky, who is genuinely a pro and has produced a lot of good work. Stu Bykofsky? Uh, yep – something like this is right up his alley, as they say.

    I knew that President Obama said that Crowley acted “stupidly,” a term he said was “stupid” himself (though I disagree).

    However, I didn’t know that the stupidity was contagious.
  • Tuesday AM Stuff

    Kudos to Repug Arizona U.S. House Rep Trent Franks here (with Lawrence O'Donnell sitting in for K.O.)...

    Update 8/24/09: Yeah, I would say somebody "got to" Franks here...just a bit.

    ...and you know it's bad when even Dubya knows that sending U.S. troops to apprehend alleged terrorists is a bad idea...

    ...also, it looks like Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin landed on her feet all right, dontcha know...

    ...and here's something nice and easy to begin the day.

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    Monday Mashup (7/27/09)

    (And I also posted here.)

  • Concerning the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Christian Science Monitor tells us the following (from here - and by the way, I didn't know that average earnings of about $31K for Cambridge, MA qualified it as a "liberal bastion")…

    …last week, Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested after one of his neighbors called police saying that two black men were trying to break into Professor Gate’s house.
    As CNN tells us here today…

    The woman who made the 911 call that led to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. never referred to black suspects when she called authorities for what she thought was a potential break-in.

    Police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, released the 911 phone call Monday. In the call, Lucia Whalen reports seeing "two larger men, one looked kind of Hispanic, but I'm not really sure, and the other one entered, and I didn't see what he looked like at all."
    I really don’t want to waste a lot of people’s time by rehashing this story again (I’m sure that, if Gates and Sgt. Crowley could get a “do-over” here, it would be a whole different story), but I believe that it was important to note that.

  • We also learn the following from John Harwood of the New York Times today (here)…

    In this uncertain moment for the party of Lincoln, behold the jaunty, robust specimen of Republican centrism.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California strides into a conference room in his Sacramento office with a smile, having wrestled down his state’s mammoth budget deficit in a compromise with a Democratic-controlled Legislature.

    Public service “brings me joy” just as Hollywood stardom did, he declares, walking a visitor toward the outdoor tent where he shares stogies with fellow politicians in the search for common ground. As sour as the nation feels toward most incumbents, tourists still crane to glimpse the Austrian émigré who first gained fame as a champion bodybuilder.
    How anyone can claim to feel “joy” over the budget wrangling of the state of Kaa-Lee-Four-Nee-Aah is something I cannot imagine (whether they be a “centrist” or otherwise).

    As noted here…

    Wayne Clark, president of the California Mental Health Directors Association, said cuts in funding for county mental health services would ''inevitably result in increased high-cost inpatient hospitalizations and ... more people unnecessarily ending up in jails and prisons.''

    Paula Campbell, president of the California School Boards Association, said cuts in school funding would lead to ''increased class sizes, cuts to key education programs, additional layoffs for teachers, librarians, counselors and administrators, and a shorter school year.''

    Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said he was relieved that the new budget-balancing package didn't include tax increases, but he was concerned there could be new pressures to boost taxes if state revenues fall short again.

    The budget package approved by the Legislature in February included more than $12 billion in higher income and sales taxes, and other levies, but those increases will expire in 2011.

    The February plan also included a series of tax breaks for the film industry and other businesses.

    Supporters said the breaks would help stimulate the economy, but the California Budget Project, a nonprofit organization that analyzes state fiscal policies, predicted the breaks would cost the state treasury at least $2.5 billion over five years, potentially putting additional pressure on future budgets.
    Yep, go ahead and cut funding for schools, jails and mental health treatment, but you’d damn well better not better mess with Hollywood! I mean, the world is waiting breathlessly for the next “Herbie, The Love Bug” Sequel – am I right?

    And from here - hat tips to Atrios for both links...

    One of the key elements of the new California budget is to have the state use money that is normally allocated to cities. This is a crushing blow to the finances of many cities.

    "Some of my cities are in good shape, some are teetering on the edge," [State Sen. Bob Huff, R- Diamond Bar] said. "It's not fair for the state to outsource its miseries to the local level."
    If this is “centrism,” then I’ll take “socialism” faster than the “Governator” can crunch his biceps.

  • And finally, I give you Harwood’s Times colleague Adam Nagourney (here)…

    WASHINGTON — The decision by Senate Democratic leaders last week to devote more time to winning Republican support for a health care overhaul has allowed President Obama to keep alive the possibility of bipartisanship on one of the most contentious issues on his agenda.
    Oh yes, forget instead about whether or not whatever comes from Congress has a public plan or single payer option (and I thought this was an interesting post on the subject)…

    In addition, the go-it-alone course could cost Mr. Obama and, more important, Congressional Democrats political cover should the health care plan prove ineffective, unpopular or excessively costly before the 2010 or 2012 elections.

    It could also set a polarizing pattern for the remaining three years of Mr. Obama’s first term, complicating his efforts to get through an ambitious agenda by forcing him to rely only on Democrats for votes.
    Oy vay – as Matt Yglesias points out here (concerning another legislative centerpiece from the Obama Administration)…

    Personally, I’m more interested in a good bill than a bipartisan one. But the atmospherics of bipartisanship are important to the press. But the quality has been defined in a way that makes it essentially impossible to achieve. Normally, a bill that unites the base of one party with moderates in both parties counts as “bipartisan.” And that’s exactly what the (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – i.e., the stimulus) did. There just happen to be very very very few moderate Republicans. But that’s not Barack Obama’s fault.
    Nagourney actually admits some of this later on in his column (a disingenuous act to concoct a straw man he can so readily torch himself).

    And as kos points out here, “(Daily Kos blogger Jed Lewison) points out, it is in fact possible to have a Democratic-only bill, but (Dem Sen. Kent) Conrad is carrying water for the GOP and the insurance lobbyists that have purchased his office” (and as Jed/kos also note, “reconciliation” would require only 50 votes, despite the screeching of outrage from the Repugs and their media minions such as Nagourney – and speaking of chicken Senate Dems on health care, I pointed out earlier that Bob Casey of PA claimed to support a public option, when in fact he supports a “co-op” that would never be able to compete with private carriers…Specter claims to support a public option also, but that’s what he says today).

    And as HuffPo’s Robert Creamer notes here…

    It's no surprise then that in the current debate, the advocates of (“bi-partisanship”) have made it clear that, to them, "bi-partisanship" means one thing: Americans should be denied the choice of a public health insurance option like Medicare. Their problem is that while a public health insurance option may not have bi-partisan support in Congress, it has big time bi-partisan support among the voters.
    But it doesn’t have “bi-partisan” support among the Villager punditry, including Nagourney, who would rather see a “bi-partisan” health care bill that does nothing except preserve the sorry status quo (thus giving them an excuse to recycle the same talking points once more), as opposed to a some baad, Democratic “partisan” bill that actually manages to hold down costs, allow for greater health care coverage for those without it, encourage competition, and provide something approximating universal coverage for the first time in our history (which is only right after all, seeing as how we spend more on health care on a per capita basis than any other country in the world).