Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saturday PM Stuff

I kind of wondered actually where Jon Stewart was going with this for awhile - funny for a bit - but he absolutely nails it in the last minute and a half (or, as Hillary Clinton said in response, "Bill could walk on water, and they'd complain that he doesn't know how to swim")...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
William Jefferson Airplane
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

...and I guess I have to catch up on my indie rock clips a bit, so here's one.

Saturday AM Stuff

I think K.O. is pushing it here by comparing the "teabaggers" to Hamas and Hezbollah (God help us if that comparison ever becomes true, though I don't think those obstructing health care reform know where that line is), and I was glad to see Jonathan Alter politely chide him for it, but after watching this, I'll admit that it does make you wonder...

...though Frank Schaeffer has made up his mind here, which is scary given that he has a particular insight into these life forms.

And by the way, click here to see the next stops in what is, sadly, turning into a PA freak show.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Stuff

Sorry I'm late with this, but Pap talks here about "The Family," uncovered by author Jeff Sharlet (think Ensign, Sanford and Coburn for starters, though they're just the tip of the proverbial iceberg)...

..."Worst Persons" (O'Reilly gets the nod for defending Lou Dobbs on immigration, despite being slapped with the proverbial wet noodle by Bernard Goldberg - and what else can you say when Geraldo Rivera emerges as the voice of reason; Roger Ailes (the bad one) also gets a citation for thinking that muzzling his own commentators constitutes quality journalism...of course, that assumes that either he or his commentators have the faintest concept of quality journalism to begin with; but Glenn Beck gets the nod for more historical revisionism of how Bushco supposedly didn't demonize those who opposed it...and K.O. left out Karl Rove's typically despicable remark about Democrats providing tea and sympathy to the 9/11 terrorists)...

...and I think this is a neat little tune, even if the band needs a new name (and I think I saw a guy in drag near the end - Oh noes! Looks like I need to be deprogrammed by that guy the Wall Street Journal wrote about yesterday; commentary here by Wayne Besen)...

...and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the photograph of The Beatles crossing Abbey Road for the album cover tomorrow, here's a rather interesting out take of "You Never Give Me Your Money" (I learned from 'XPN's Michaela Majoun this morning that, for the LP - remember them? - the pic included a cigarette dangling from Paul McCartney's hand, but that was air-brushed out for the CD re-release).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (8/7/09)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.

Food-safety regulation. Voting 283-142, the House passed a bill expanding the Food and Drug Administration's authority over firms that handle raw and processed foods, including certain farms. The bill (HR 2749) would require hundreds of thousands of domestic and foreign facilities to pay $500 annual registration fees to the FDA, subject them to inspections, and require measures to prevent contamination.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: 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.).

Not voting: John Adler (D., N.J.).
Included in the language for this bill is an earmark for the International Food Protection Training Institute, which, as noted here…

…is a non-profit organization established to deliver career-spanning certified food protection training to all State, local, tribal and territorial food protection professionals to assure competency and equivalency in meeting established U.S. federal food safety standards.
And let’s not forget that, as noted here…

Charting the phases of the FDA's decline lays bare the responsibility borne by movement conservatism. The first phase was the two terms of the Reagan presidency, when the FDA's staff declined by 30 percent. After a reprieve from 1988 to 1994, when more moderate presidents and a Democratic Congress provided ample boosts in the agency's budget and staffing, the FDA's garroting resumed with a vengeance in the wake of the 1994 Republican landslide that catapulted Gingrich to the House Speaker's chair. He led a highly effective jihad against the agency, pushing to privatize many of its activities. The onslaught continued under George W. Bush and the Republican Congress. From 1994 to 2007, according to (Peter Barton Hutt, who served as FDA chief counsel during the Nixon and Ford administrations), the agency's appropriated personnel declined from 9,167 to 7,856, while its funding increased by only two-thirds of the amount that would have been needed to keep up with inflation.
And just to be fair, I should point out that “The Big Dog,” who just flew over to North Korea to ensure the freedom of Euna Lee and Laura Ling, doesn’t get a pass here either (with Dubya thoroughly culpable also, as well as Pancake Joe for another awful vote here).

All of this marks an effort to ensure some basic effectiveness by the FDA once more, now that we’re governed by adults again.

2010 military appropriations. Voting 400-30, the House approved $636.3 billion in military appropriations for fiscal 2010, including $128.2 billion for war in Iraq and Afghanistan and $29.9 billion for service members' health care. The bill (HR 3326) funds a 3.4 percent military pay raise; bars the military's use of torture and prohibits permanent U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, while omitting the administration's request for funds to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The bill grants the administration's request to cap production of F-22 Raptor fighter jets at 187 planes but funds other large weapons programs targeted by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, such as a new VH-71 presidential helicopter fleet, an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and production of more C-17 cargo jets.

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.

Executive compensation. Voting 237-185, the House passed a bill (HR 3269) giving federal regulators power to curb the payment of lucrative executive bonuses by financial institutions. The bill also requires public corporations to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on executive compensation, including "golden parachute" packages, and stipulates that corporate directors who set executive-compensation levels cannot be employed by the company.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, and Smith.
So the next time you hear about more Wall Street financial decadence and possible criminal activity, remember how the “party line” Repugs opposed trying to stop it.

Highway Trust Fund. Voting 363-68, the House passed a bill (HR 3357) shifting $7 billion from general revenues to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent for the next few months. Supported by the federal gasoline tax, the fund pays for congressionally approved road projects, but it is running low as Americans drive less. The bill also expands Federal Housing Administration lending authority and authorizes federal unemployment funds to borrow from the Treasury to meet U.S. and state obligations to pay jobless benefits.

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.
Just let our roads break down, make sure nobody can get an FHA mortgage if they qualify and let anyone collecting an unemployment benefit in PA do without when the money runs out – boy, PA-16’s waste of space truly hit a trifecta here!

"Cash for Clunkers." Voting 316-109, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 3435) to appropriate an additional $2 billion for the new "Cash for Clunkers" program. Under the program, consumers trade their car or truck for government vouchers worth $3,500 to $4,500 to be applied to the purchase of a new domestic or foreign vehicle having better fuel efficiency. The program exhausted its original $1 billion appropriation in one week.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Dent.
For a program that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Man Tan) said that President Obama couldn’t “handle” here, it’s kind of bewildering to me that every one of our local GOP House members except Charlie Dent decided to support it (a comment on Boehner’s “leadership” perhaps?).


Highway Trust Fund. Voting 79-17, the Senate sent President Obama a bill (HR 3357, above) that would allocate billions of dollars in Treasury funds to keeping the Highway Trust Fund and federal and state unemployment funds solvent.

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.).

Energy, water appropriations. Voting 85-9, the Senate passed a bill (HR 3183) to appropriate $34.3 billion for energy, water, and nuclear programs in fiscal 2010. In part, the bill would provide $6.5 billion for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile; $5.4 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers; $4.9 billion for the Department of Energy's scientific research; $2.2 billion for developing renewable energy and energy efficiencies; $1.1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation; and $160 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Not voting: Menendez.
Just to let you know, Claire McCaskill of Missouri was the only Dem to vote against the energy bill; she also went through some gyrations here on “Cash for Clunkers,” saying she would approve it if it came from existing stimulus funds.

Well, as noted here, she ended up voting against it, even though her same-state Repug peer Kit Bond voted Yes (getting ahead of myself a bit for next week, I realize).

Maybe it’s because Bond isn’t spending too much damn time “tweeting” (?) and she is (R U 4 RL, mckskl??!!).

GM, Chrysler ownership. Voting 38-59, the Senate defeated a plan to require the Treasury to distribute the government's stock in General Motors and Chrysler Corp. to U.S. taxpayers. The amendment to HR 3183 (above) also sought to bar the Treasury from investing any more Troubled Asset Relief Corp. (TARP) funds in the automakers, both of which recently emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reduced in size and under new management.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting no: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
This week, the Senate debated appropriations bills and Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. The House is in recess until the week of Sept. 7.

Friday Mashup (8/7/09)

  • Gosh, what do you know? It looks like those dastardly Dems have been revealed for the troublemakers they truly are. Horrors!

    Well, so says John McCormack of The Weekly Standard here. And do you want a sample of their fire-breathing rhetoric? Maybe the faint of heart out there should avert their eyes, lest they be overcome – here it is…

    I wanted to send you an urgent invitation to an important Town Hall with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on Thursday morning. She'll be talking to constituents and gathering feedback -- this is an ideal opportunity to make sure your support of health insurance reform is seen and heard at exactly the right time to make a huge difference.

    Our congressional representatives are back home this month, and they're facing more and more pressure from special interests on health insurance reform. It's critical that we get out there and show them where we stand.
    Aren’t you just quaking in your shoes at this moment, my fellow prisoners?

    Our representatives are under attack by Washington insiders, insurance companies, and well-financed special interests who don't go a day without spreading lies and stirring up fear. We need to show that we're sick and tired of it, and that we're ready for real change, this year.

    Please come to the Town Hall, and make sure that the most powerful voices in this debate are those calling for real reform, not angrily clamoring for the status quo.
    Pardon me while I splash myself with some cold water – I need to be revived from such a scary verbal onslaught! And the flyer attached to the Email says “Thank you” on one side, and “Standing Together for Health Insurance Reform” on the other. How brazen can you get!

    (OK, snark mode off…)

    Oh, and McCormack accuses the Democrats here of “astroturfing,” which is really a stretch to say the least because, as Source Watch tells us here…

    Unlike genuine grassroots activism which tends to be money-poor but people-rich, astroturf campaigns are typically people-poor but cash-rich. Funded heavily by corporate largesse, they use sophisticated computer databases, telephone banks and hired organizers to rope less-informed activists into sending letters to their elected officials or engaging in other actions that create the appearance of grassroots support for their client's cause.
    And as any Dem will tell you, our party is hardly “rich” (at least on a local level).

    I suppose, though, that we Dems are mere pikers when it comes to “astroturfing” for real (unlike the Repugs and Dick Armey, pictured above, head of "FreedomWorks"), as BarbinMD of The Daily Kos reminds us here (gee, encouraging our opposition to commit suicide and hanging people we don’t like in effigy? Sounds like our side has to “get with the program” a bit).

    (Ok, snark mode off again…)

  • And while journeying through the Weekly Standard (those hip waders sure came in handy), I found this link to the AEI’s blog (yes, they have one), from which they tell us the following…

    In January, 75 percent of (young people) approved of the job Obama was doing as president. That’s now 58 percent, a 17 percentage point drop (according to the latest Gallup poll).
    I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I will tell you that all I could find was a link to this Gallup poll dated August 3rd (presumably the latest), and there’s no mention of am age breakdown concerning those polled (and of course, AEI pundit Karlyn Bowman doesn’t provide a link in her post – also, a Quinnipiac poll has Obama at 50 percent, but they don’t bother to tell us how many of those polled were Dems, Repugs or Independent).

    As for Newsweek, they tell us the following (here)…

    Gallup just announced that the President's job approval has slipped to 58%, an all time low for him in Gallup's daily tracking poll. Obama's approval rating has averaged at 63% since he took office, peaking at 69% early in his presidency. He's only dipped below 60% on three other occasions this year. The drop seems to be attributable to respondents identifying as Republican or Independent. Around 92% of Democrats approve of how Obama is doing the job.

    Although this latest number is slightly lower than Obama's average, it is still high by historical standards.
    I believe that Obama’s approval rating at this point is slightly higher than that of Bill Clinton at this point of his first term (noted here more or less, with more independent support for Clinton), just to provide some perspective (and all the Big Dog had to deal with from his predecessor “Poppy” Bush was an economic downtown, significant though it was, as opposed to the near collapse handed to Obama by Poppy’s foul progeny, to say nothing of two wars as well).

    I readily acknowledge that snapshots of data like this don’t really tell us a whole hell of a lot, and that trends are what matter. And with that in mind, I should tell you that my informal poll has informed me of a 100 percent probability of ongoing corporate media stupidity.

    Update: I would consider this to be at least slightly more reliable data.

  • Also, a year ago yesterday, our government declared that Army scientist Bruce Ivins was solely responsible for the anthrax attacks that killed five and rattled the nation in 2001 (Ivins had committed suicide on July 29.)

    As noted here however, Dem Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey (whose district includes the postal facilities that were used to mail some of the letters containing anthrax bacteria) has been pushing for a “broader inquiry” into the case, thus trying to keep this issue on the media radar, if you will.

    Keep up the good work, congressman (the “good Rush,” if you will).

  • And finally, this Sunday marks the 35th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s resignation from office over the Watergate scandal. And to consider just how long (and dark) a shadow Nixon continues to cast over our politics, I give you the following from Paul Krugman’s column today in the New York Times…

    …the driving force behind the town hall mobs (trying to stifle the health care debate) is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.

    And cynical political operators are exploiting that anxiety to further the economic interests of their backers.

    Does this sound familiar? It should: it’s a strategy that has played a central role in American politics ever since Richard Nixon realized that he could advance Republican fortunes by appealing to the racial fears of working-class whites.
    It’s almost ironic beyond words to consider this given that Nixon, in what I believe was his courageous farewell speech (believe it or not), said the following…

    Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.
    I wonder how much our discourse would be heightened if the mobs trying to shut down the health care forums and/or scream about Obama’s birth certificate would actually read Nixon’s words instead, realizing that the price paid by our 37th president is one they will all pay in one form or another if they continue on their current path.
  • Thursday, August 06, 2009

    Thursday Stuff

    I couldn't quite finish what I was working on today, but I did manage to post here.

    And congratulations to newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (here); this is dedicated to the "No" voters...

    And good for Rick Sanchez here (and yes, Rick Scott is, in fact, a gutteral weasel)...

    ..."Worst Persons" with K.O., who has really been turning over some pretty putrid Blackwater rocks lately, by the way (oh, excuse me - I mean "Xe": first, Lou Dobbs continues to cling to this fantasy that it's the Dems engaged in "thuggery" to promote Obama, even though I don't see any of them disrupting town hall meetings and spewing RNC-approved talking points...God, not only is this man disintegrating before our eyes, but so are his ratings; actually, the Obama smear ties into Flush Limbore's tired, sick bloviation about Obama being akin to Hitler - yeah, when No. 44 declares an illegal war and does everything in his power to shred the Constitution, let me know, OK?; but Arthur Laffer, he of the "Laffer Curve," which supposedly gave economic cover to the supply-side neocons...and we know how beautifully their plan turned out, right?...forgets that Medicare and Medicaid are actually run by our government...I can understand a "teabagger" not knowing that - those people count with their fingers and toes - but this guy is supposed to be an esteemed academic...supposed to be)...

    Visit for

    Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

    ...and in tribute to John Hughes, I present this (somehow, I'm sure we won't forget him...from "The Breakfast Club" of course).

    Wednesday, August 05, 2009

    Wednesday Stuff

    I once was amused by "Mouthpiece Theater" and actually embedded a Milbank/Cillizza vid, but I quickly realized that I wasn't drinking enough and mended my ways (h/t Atrios)...

    ...and yep, I don't know how the hell we're supposed to reason with people who hang other politicians they disagree with in effigy - more here...

    ...and this tells us what we can do about it...

    ...and if you're as sick of Arlen Specter's double talk as I am (on display here), click here to do something about that also (last three vids courtesy of The Daily Kos)...

    ..."Still Bushed" (I have a feeling this segment might go on for the rest of our lives...K.O. tells us the pathetic story of Rachel Paulose, a Bushco U.S. Attorney whose sole apparent qualification was that she is a friend of Monica Goodling, a grad of Pat Robertson's law school - please - in charge of hiring for the Justice Department; at least eight former Dubya staffers are running for office and running also, as far as they can, from their previous employer; and finally, we learn of how our government bribed foreign nationals to provide false witness against Mohammed Jawad, a GITMO detainee who, thus far, has been successful in prosecuting his case, very much unlike the Bushco savages who, as we know, have no apparent familiarity with the rule of law)...

    ...and as a tribute to screenwriter Budd Schulberg, here is probably the most famous scene from his most famous screenplay.

    A Word On Wolfie's "All Wet" Tribute To Cory Aquino

    (And I also posted here.)

    PNAC member and former head of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz tells us the following on the pages of the Murdoch Street Journal here today…

    Corazon Aquino, who died of cancer Saturday at the age of 76, will be remembered as the surprisingly tough “housewife” who forced a dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, to leave office after his attempt to steal an election. But she also deserves to be remembered as the leader of the first “People Power” revolution. Her success strengthened U.S. confidence in what was then a new policy of promoting peaceful democratic change, a policy that remains relevant today.
    It’s particularly grotesque for someone like Wolfowitz to speak of peace, given that, as Wikipedia noted above, he called for attacking Iraq after 9/11 with the following feeble justification…

    ...even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.[4][18]
    And as quoted in Paul Reynolds' BBC News report, David Rothkopf stated:

    Their [The Project for the New American Century's] signal enterprise was the invasion of Iraq and their failure to produce results is clear. Precisely the opposite has happened. The US use of force has been seen as doing wrong and as inflaming a region that has been less than susceptible to democracy. Their plan has fallen on hard times. There were flaws in the conception and horrendously bad execution. The neo-cons have been undone by their own ideas and the incompetence of the Bush administration.[24]
    Paul Wolfowitz talking about peace has about as much credibility as Kim Jong-Il discussing diplomacy. However, I know this really isn’t news.

    What I would like to also point out from Wolfowitz’s column today is the following…

    President Aquino’s record in office was less distinguished than her record as leader of the opposition. The country today is still a long way from the success that could be expected of a population that is so energetic, hard working and generally well educated.
    Maybe part of the reason why the Philippines is a “long way” from success is because of the World Bank, which Wolfowitz headed from March 2005 until June 2007, when he had to resign under a cloud of scandal over favors doled out to Shaha Riza, his Arab girlfriend.

    As noted here, the World Bank funded the Magdalena Water Project in the Philippines; we also learn the following…

    The municipality of Magdalena in the province of Laguna was among the first to avail of the World Bank loan under the (Local Government Unit Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project). In 1998, the World Bank, through the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), granted the municipality of Magdalena a P24.22 million loan. When the project was completed in June 2001 the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippine National Standards for Drinking Water (PNSDW) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), conducted several water tests. All tests concluded the water from Magdalena’s newly constructed water system is unsafe for drinking.

    Despite the proof provided by these tests, the local mayor announced on March 2, 2002 that the water from Magdalena water system was 100 percent potable. The announcement was made without a certificate of water potability. In addition, in the September 2002, the World Bank issued the newsletter In Touch, claiming that “clean, safe water” is now available 24 hours a day for folks in Magdalena.
    “But you can’t blame Wolfowitz for that,” I hear some cry out there, since the project predated his World Bank presidency.

    OK, but according to this, there was still a problem in 2006, to the point where “(A) municipal-wide coalition now leads the campaign against the World Bank-funded water project. Among their demands are safe, drinking water and an alternative water system directly controlled by the communities.”

    (I haven’t been able to find any information more current on this than 2006, by the way; there is a project with a similar name underway in Colombia, but I know of no other recent news about the Philippine project.)

    Also, as noted here (from June)…

    “International financial institutions like the World Bank can help highly-indebted countries like the Philippines by starting to act like a development institution rather than a commercial bank and by canceling loans it is claiming from us,” continued (Freedom from Debt Coalition) secretary-general Milo) Tanchuling.

    The FDC said if the (World Bank) would indeed start the process of debt cancellation, it can also start with auditing its own loan-financed projects. The group said one loan that should be audited is the loan for the Second Social Expenditure Management Program (SEMP2) and the Small Coconut Farms Development Project (SCFDP).

    The SEMP2 was funded by a $100-million World Bank loan, around $40 million of which was earmarked for the procurement of 17.5 million Social Studies textbooks and teachers’ manuals for public elementary and high schools.

    “The project allegedly underwent a rigged bidding process involving a monopoly and was reported to have produced at least 600,000 defective textbooks,” said the FDC.

    The FDC said the Philippines is scheduled to pay a total of $11.46 million or P540 million, both for interest and principal, for the SCFDP loan this year. The loan will be paid until September 15, 2010.

    With the country’s debt totaling P4.229 trillion as of March this year, and with the deficit soaring 556.2 percent year-on-year from January to May, the economy will be in a more precarious situation should government increase its deficit further, according to the group.
    Perhaps instead of showering accolades on its recently deceased former leader, maybe Wolfie could really do the country a favor instead and petition the organization he used to run for the sake of relieving the Philippine financial burden.

    If it helps, maybe he should consider the Judeo-Christian concept of penance, and chalk it up to an act of atonement for his Iraq warmongering (though by no means could this gesture settle Wolfie's score by itself).

    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    More Mullane/Courier Times Health Care Hilarity

    Yep, it’s time for more “piling on” of our U.S. House Rep over health care courtesy of Bucks County’s official conservative house organ (here, a follow up to this post)…

    Maybe Congressman Murphy gets it now: People want to be heard before health care reform is decided. Whether it's to ask questions, make a statement or hear what Murphy thinks, citizens want face time with their congressman.

    That's pretty clear - or should be - after hundreds of worried citizens showed up at two meetings Saturday formulated to handle just a trickle of constituents one on one. The so-called "Congressman on Your Corner" meetings at a Morrisville restaurant and a Levittown supermarket initially were by invitation-only - automated calls to local voters. But a reference to the meetings appeared in this space Thursday in a letter from Murphy Communications Director Kate Hansen. With the meetings out of the bag, so to speak, the expected small gatherings grew large - and boisterous.
    So Patrick Murphy is being baselessly accused here of secrecy on this issue?

    Memo to the Courier Times editorial board: you people are nothing but partisan hammerheads.

    So to speak.

    Fortunately, the New York Times published this report today, telling us in part the following…

    Senator Arlen Specter and the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, were heckled and booed in Philadelphia on Sunday.

    In Austin on Saturday, a throng of protesters enveloped Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas, at a supermarket where he was trying to meet constituents. They carried signs that said “No Socialized Health Care” and chanted “Just say no!”

    And in Morrisville, Pa., Representative Patrick J. Murphy, a Democrat, expected 25 people at a “Congressman on Your Corner” event on Saturday. Instead he was met by a boisterous crowd of about 150 and a barrage of questions on health care.

    The protests, organized by loose-knit coalition of conservative voters and advocacy groups, were a raucous start to what is expected to be weeks of political and ideological clashes over the health care overhaul President Obama is trying to push through Congress.

    The conservative groups, including FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, are harnessing social networking Web sites to organize their supporters in much the same way Mr. Obama did during his election campaign. Democrats said they expected supporters of the health care overhaul to mobilize against Republican events later in the month.
    And as Think Progress notes here, the two groups noted above organized the “tea parties” that have taken place throughout Obama’s presidency thus far, and likely will continue into the future (with the “teabaggers” providing comic relief, if nothing else – hopefully nothing more sinister or potentially illegal than that).

    And “hundreds of worried citizens” – that’s way too damn funny, Courier Times editorial board. You want to learn more about what these “worried citizens” are up to? Read this excerpt from the NY Times story telling us more about the Doggett protest…

    In Texas, Shirley Markley of Austin said she received an e-mail message from a friend about Mr. Doggett’s meeting on health care and immediately wanted to attend. Once a liberal Democrat, Ms. Markley said, she voted for Senator John McCain for president last year and worries that Mr. Obama’s overhaul will lead to socialized medicine.

    When she arrived at the store, she said, a large crowd had already surrounded Mr. Doggett. “People were shouting and booing his answers,” she said. “He said, ‘A few angry people won’t change my mind.’ ”

    Eventually, Mr. Doggett cut the meeting short and headed for his car. “He jumped in and fled,” Ms. Markley said with a laugh. “It was like he was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. It was a beautiful thing.”
    Does this sound like someone who “want(s) to be heard before health care reform is decided,” as the Courier Times editorial tells us?

    And since it’s Tuesday, you can count on J.D. Mullane to join in the fun (here)...

    Murphy had notes, but they didn't make points clear. He struggled. He reminded me of a rookie reporter who has digested a mountain of information on a big, complicated story, but has gotten lost in the trifles, and has forgotten to explain, beyond platitudes, why it matters.

    The people in the room wanted straight answers to straight questions.

    Will seniors be "counseled" into early graves?

    How much will national health care cost, and how do we pay for it?

    Does the bill keep malpractice lawyers from suing doctors?

    Does Murphy support a "public option," that is, government-controlled health insurance?
    Wow, J.D., for someone who supposedly has read the entire 1,018-page draft of the House bill (linked in the prior post above), you should have been able to answer these questions in your column (oh, silly me, I forgot – as you’ve said in so many words before, since you’re a columnist, you believe you can write anything you want).

    I will actually agree with the Courier Times on one point, though; a heavily organized and scripted “Town Hall” meeting is a good idea. However, it should include a visible police presence to prevent disruptions from “worried citizens” who have no interest in any constructive activity whatsoever.

    Update 1: It looks like more "worried citizens" were well behaved here (and here is yet another reason for a public option).

    Update 2 8/5/09: This Letter to the Editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer tells us about another "worried citizen"...

    I attended the health-care town hall at the Constitution Center ("Passions high at health meeting, " Monday) hoping to actually hear intelligent discussion of a complex and serious issue. By chance, I ended up seated in a nest of right-wing fanatics. They ruined the event for everybody there, which I am sure was their intention.

    I managed to hold on to my sense of humor until the 70-plus-year-old lady seated next to me lurched to her feet, face twisted in fury, and screamed at the top of her lungs, "Excommunicate her!" This was no doubt directed at Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius, who has been subjected to a campaign by conservatives in her home state of Kansas to have her cast out of her church because of a lack of sufficient vigor in her opposition to abortion.

    Excommunicate her?! Wow. These people are straight out of the 13th century. But what was really going through my mind, as my mouth dropped open: What in heaven's name would this woman's grandchildren (or perhaps great-grandchildren) think to see her behave so badly in public? It's hard to see how people with these attitudes could ever play a meaningful role in setting policy.

    Keith H. Cox

    Update 3 8/5/09: Here's more on the "worried citizens" disrupting meetings on health care reform.

    Monday, August 03, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    Posting is very questionable for tomorrow, by the way.

    For those who don't know, K.O. returned with a bang tonight with this "Special Comment," possibly his longest, on the health care legislation. I don't know what else to say about it except that we should hear every word without any amplification on my part.

    ...and RIP, Billy Lee Riley.

    An Obama Encore Of Dubya’s “Faith-Based Fraud”?

    (And I also posted here.)

    The New York Times offered a review yesterday of the legacy of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, a project (of course) brought to us by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, telling us the following…

    Despite the legislative stalemate, the Bush administration mounted an extraordinary array of executive orders, rule changes and organizational innovations to push its program. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives spawned satellite offices in all cabinet-level departments, plus several quasi-governmental agencies, to increase the opportunities for religious groups to win a role in providing a range of social services.

    (“Taking Stock: The Bush Faith-Based Initiative and What Lies Ahead,” a project of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York) claims that the effort was remarkably successful in overcoming “the ‘culture of resistance’ that had existed in the federal government toward faith-based organizations’ participation in social service contracts.” The effort spilled over to 36 states, most with Democratic governors, and more than 100 cities that eventually created religion-based offices or liaisons to religious communities.

    Beyond that change in culture, what did the Bush initiative accomplish? Because financing flowed through so many different programs, “Taking Stock” concludes, “the full extent of public funding for faith-based social services is largely unknown.” The report suggests that administration officials were highly imaginative in attributing expenditures to the initiative, and in any case those expenditures fell far below the sums promised by the president.

    Sadly, there is also little resolution of a central question behind the whole effort: Are religious organizations really more effective in providing social services than government or secular agencies? Or, more precisely, when are they better, when not, and why?
    I’m not sure that question can ever be answered completely, and I’m really not going to try doing that here, but I just want to provide some more details.

    First of all (as noted here), any sentient being should have realized that this administration was in trouble from the get-go given that, as noted here, Bush 43 didn’t really have much of an understanding of what the “have nots” have dealt with in this country, and in his state in particular…

    There was a telling episode in 1999 when the Department of Agriculture came out with its annual statistics on hunger, showing that once again Texas was near the top. Texas is a perennial leader in hunger because we have 43 counties in South Texas (and some in East Texas) that are like Third World countries. If our border region were a state, it would be first in poverty, first in the percentage of schoolchildren living in poverty, first in the percentage of adults without a high school diploma, 51st in income per capita, and so on.

    When the 1999 hunger stats were announced, Bush (then governor, of course) threw a tantrum. He thought it was some malign Clinton plot to make his state look bad because he was running for president. "I saw the report that children in Texas are going hungry. Where?" he demanded. "No children are going to go hungry in this state. You'd think the governor would have heard if there are pockets of hunger in Texas." You would, wouldn't you? That is the point at which ignorance becomes inexcusable. In five years, Bush had never spent time with people in the colonias, South Texas' shantytowns; he had never been to a session with Valley Interfaith, a consortium of border churches and schools and the best community organization in the state. There is no excuse for a governor to be unaware of this huge reality of Texas.
    But if Dubya’s faith-based efforts ended up largely going splat (I mean, in terms of doing practical good as opposed to achieving largely political ends), it wasn’t for lack of trying; as noted here, “Holy Joe” Lieberman and Former Senator Man-On-Dog tried to put the matter “Front and center” just in time for the 2002 congressional elections…

    The issue of funding religious charities appeals to conservatives who have long sought to lower the church-state wall and overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 1962 ban on prayer in public schools. Social-service agencies that invoke religion as a way of getting inside the minds of troubled individuals are more effective than those that don't, they argue.

    But several prominent religious conservatives, including Christian Coalition founder and former president Pat Robertson, opposed the House legislation because they believed it would open federal coffers to non-traditional religions such as the Nation of Islam and the Church of Scientology.

    Opposing the measure are most Democrats, who view a high wall of church-state separation as an essential feature of American democracy. But it has won favor within a key Democratic constituency: racial minorities -- particularly African Americans. Many among them see religiously oriented social-service agencies as a positive force in leading troubled individuals away from crime, drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy and a host of other social ills.
    And if these programs have been successful in that regard, fine. My chief issue with the “faith-based” activities of the prior administration has been the emphasis on proselytizing and activities for political as opposed to spiritual gain (though this often resulted in underfunding agencies of government that, I would argue, were better equipped to do the job to begin with).

    And Bill Berkowitz told us the following from 2005 (here)…

    Despite Congress' failure to pass substantive faith-based legislation, the Bush Administration has been steadily advancing the ball. It established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and Centers and Taskforces for Faith-based and Community Initiatives in 10 federal agencies and the Corporation for National and Community Service. It has handed out more than $ 3 billion in grants to a passel of faith-based organizations. It has issued executive orders making it easier for religious organizations to compete for grants, has held numerous training sessions to help religious groups get government grants, and the president has regularly taken to the "bully pulpit" to push the initiative forward.

    Now, Bush and his Congressional allies are attempting to institutionalize his faith-based initiative through broad-ranging legislation.

    Because Bush's Faith-Based Initiative was established through Executive Orders, the White House Office could be eliminated should a future administration decide to rescind those orders. To obviate this possibility, on March 2, Representative Mark Green (R-WI), introduced H.R. 1054, The Tools for Community Initiatives Act. Green's bill "would make the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives... and ten similar federal agency offices a permanent part of the federal government," according to the Web site of OMB Watch.

    The bill would "establish the offices and outlines their responsibilities. It does not include portions of current regulations that address how religious groups handle federal grants. Instead, these issues are included in a non-binding 'Sense of Congress' section, which does not address the issue of hiring on the basis of religion for federally funded jobs."

    The provisions of H.R. 1054 would exist "until Congress acted to eliminate them."
    As noted here, though, the bill was referred to a House subcommittee that year, but no further action transpired.

    And in 2007, the Freedom from Religion Foundation brought suit over the faith-based funding from Dubya’s White House, though the Supremes ultimately ruled here that “taxpayers do not have the right to challenge the constitutionality of expenditures by the executive branch of the government” (another 5-4 decision courtesy of the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR).

    Finally, this tells us that President Obama has “rebranded” the “Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives” as the “Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships.” Being the filthy, unkempt liberal blogger that I am, I’m naturally skeptical of government intervention in matters of personal belief. But for now, I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to President Obama and see how he manages this function that his predecessor bungled so badly.

    As long as Congress oversees every stinking dime that this “new” office gets.