Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Stuff

Despite all of the Palin nonsense, this was the story of the day; I don't know if Michael Isikoff mentioned this later or not, but one of the reasons why the 9/11 suspects are be tried in civilian courts is that at least two Supreme Court rulings told the Bush gang that that's where they should be tried (here and here - I can't think of a word to describe how bizarre it is that the Repugs are cackling in disapproval here even though no one has been convicted after all of this time)...

...and I would say that this is welcome news, so here's one of his hits for the occasion (not sure about the pics - maybe for the tour when this was recoreded; and to think, Bushco actually had him on a no-fly list).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (11/13/09)

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 (another slow week).


Extended jobless benefits. Voting 403-12, the House sent President Obama a bill (HR 3548) that would provide 20 more weeks of jobless checks for those whose allotments have expired or soon will expire and who live in states with at least 8.5 percent unemployment. The bill provides 14 additional weeks of benefits for the long-term jobless in all other states. The $2.4 billion cost would be offset by payroll-tax increases on employers. Jobless checks average $300 per week.

The bill also extends for five months an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers that is set to expire Nov. 30 and increases income limits for eligibility from $150,000 to $225,000 for couples and from $75,000 to $150,000 for individuals. The bill creates a $6,500 credit for some homebuyers who already own homes.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), 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.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Not voting: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.) and Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.).
You know this is a no-brainer when even Joe Pitts votes Yes (maybe trying to lay low after sponsoring that horrible amendment with Stupak - ???).

Update 11/14/09: And speaking of Stupak, this tells us that he signed onto the "forcible rape" amendment sponsored by PA-16's waste of protoplasm (Atrios said Stupak is a monster, and he's right, but Stupak only signed on after the fact; Pitts is the one who authored this to begin with - the man is mentally ill.)

Credit-card rules. Voting 331-92, the House passed a bill (HR 3639) giving credit-card firms a tighter deadline for starting pro-consumer policies enacted by Congress in May. Under the bill, changes originally required to be in place by Feb. 22, 2010, would be advanced to Dec. 1. The rationale is that the sooner the rules take effect, the easier it will be for cardholders to cope with recession.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Castle and Pitts.

Not voting: Gerlach and Murphy.
I seriously hope the people working for Beau Biden are keeping track of some of these dumb votes by Castle (I smell a 30-second attack ad, people!).

Chemical-plant security. Voting 230-193, the House passed a bill (HR 2868) to permanently extend chemical-plant security requirements that otherwise would expire in October 2010.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, and Smith.

Not voting: Murphy.
Based on this, I believe the Repugs had a problem with the whistleblower protection in the bill and the fact that states could implement their own security standards if they were stricter than the federal government (uh, and which is the “states rights” party again?).

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers opposed it. From that point on, the job of our congressional Repug delegation was pretty much done here.


Jobless benefits, tax breaks. Voting 98-0, the Senate sent the House a bill (HR 3548, above) that would provide at least 14 more weeks of jobless checks to the long-term unemployed in all states and 20 more weeks to people in states with unemployment rates of at least 8.5 percent.

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.).

Justice Department budget. Voting 71-28, the Senate sent to conference with the House a bill (HR 2847) appropriating $64.4 billion for the fiscal 2010 budgets of the Justice and Commerce Departments, NASA, and several other agencies. The bill represents a 12 percent spending increase over 2009.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
The House is in recess this week (I believe), and the Senate debated the 2010 military-construction budget over the last few days.

Friday Mashup (11/13/09)

  • Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich informs us of the following over at the AEI blog (here)…

    In an interview with CNBC in January, the president promised the stimulus bill would keep unemployment at 8 percent and new jobs would be created. Yet since the passage of the $787 billion stimulus in February, America hasn’t reduced unemployment. In fact, we have lost 3.2 million jobs.

    President Obama argues that although jobs have been lost, the stimulus has “saved or created” one million jobs. But what is going to happen when the stimulus money dries up? Those jobs will be lost. In effect, the stimulus bill will have lost over four million jobs. This is inexcusable.
    As Media Matters tells us here, the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job losses that began in 2007 are slowing, albeit very gradually (necessitating the need for some kind of stimulus for job creation IMHO, but that’s a bit off-topic for here). So as usual, Gingrich is misreading the data here.

    So what would Gingrich consider to be an effective job creation measure (or two)?

    Well, Think Progress tells us here that he wants to cut the corporate tax rate from about 35 to 12 percent, eliminate the estate and gains taxes (of course), and implement a two-year, 50 percent payroll tax reduction (basically, as TP tells us, “Gingrich’s plan amounts to throwing money to mainly the well-off and hoping that it will have some positive effects. That’s not what is needed to get the country out of its economic rut.”)

    Aw, c’mon Newt! You can do better than that. How about putting people to work building that spaced-based air traffic control system of yours, as noted here (and the answer to the question is no – I’m never going to let Gingrich forget that dunderheaded idea).

  • Also, David Brooks has appointed himself as the one-man publicity service for South Dakota Repug U.S. Senator John Thune (here), telling us the following…

    Republicans are still going to have to do root-and-branch renovation if they hope to provide compelling answers to issues like middle-class economic anxiety. But in the meantime, people like Thune offer Republicans a way to connect fiscal discipline with traditional small-town values, a way to tap into rising populism in a manner that is optimistic, uplifting and nice.
    Oh, I’m sure it was “optimistic, uplifting and nice” of Thune to tell us here that “government jobs don’t stimulate the economy,” although CBO director Douglas Elmendorf begged to differ there.

    And I’m sure it was also “optimistic, uplifting and nice” of Thune to write language into a transportation bill expanding the pot of federal loan money for small railroads, enabling a former client (Thune was a lobbyist before he was a senator) to apply for $2.5 billion in government financing for its project. The loan (had) yet to be approved; Mr. Thune said he was trying to promote economic development in his home state.

    And was it “optimistic, uplifting and nice” for Thune, who benefited from the antics of Jeff Gannon during Thune’s 2004 campaign, to say that a gay Supreme Court justice would be “a bridge too far”?

    Seriously, BoBo, this is embarrassing. You were right about Sarah Palin here (more on her in a minute), even if you kept your mouth shut for too long (worked out well for the election, though). But trying to re-establish your right-wing “bona fides” now by paying homage to a weasel like Thune only makes you look like more of a shill than you are already.

  • Update 11/14/09: And I'll let you, dear reader, decide whether or not Thune's vote here was “optimistic, uplifting and nice.”

    Update 12/2/09: More from "Looney Tune Thune" here...

  • And finally, have I got some Grade A wankery today, my fellow prisoners.

    Matthew Continetti, in the midst of some full-on Palin puffery at the Murdoch Street Journal here, inflicts the following upon us…

    …other Republican politicians have profited when they exposed received wisdom about them as false. In 1980, Democrats portrayed Ronald Reagan as a dim-witted ideologue bent on starting a nuclear war.

    Then Reagan debated President Jimmy Carter. The public watched as a conservative pragmatist with a puckish wit unmanned a self-important, humorless liberal. Suddenly, Reagan was no longer the "dangerous" choice. He won handily.

    Could Ms. Palin follow Reagan's example?
    Uh, I don’t think so, though I’ll admit anything is possible, given that the country will be trying to recover from the damage inflicted upon it by another Republican president who was nothing but a pretender for years to come (and I don’t want to say anything about Palin, since any publicity, good or bad, will be spun by our media in her favor anyway).

    But the real “takeaway” for me is the Reagan-Carter stuff; in his 1984 run for the presidency, Walter Mondale ended up not doing too many things the right way (he faced long odds from the start, though), but he absolutely nailed The Gipper once in one of the debates, as follows (here)…

    MONDALE: … Now, Mr. President, you said: ''There you go again.'' Right. Remember the last time you said that?

    REAGAN: Um hmm.

    MONDALE: You said it when President Carter said that you were going (to) cut Medicare. And you said: ''Oh, no, there you go again, Mr. President.'' And what did you do right after the election? You went out and tried to cut $20 billion out of Medicare. And so when you say, ''There you go again,'' people remember this, you know. And people will remember that you signed the biggest tax increase in the history of California, and the biggest tax increase in the history of the United States. And what are you going to do? You've got (a) $260 billion deficit. You can't wash it away. You won't slow defense spending; you refuse to do that.
    (I'll never forget how befuddled Reagan looked at that moment; didn't happen often though, I'll admit, until Iran-Contra, that is.)

    And as Paul Krugman reminds us here…

    For many middle- and low-income families, this tax increase (from the Social Security Reform Act of 1983) more than undid any gains from Mr. Reagan's income tax cuts. In 1980, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, middle-income families with children paid 8.2 percent of their income in income taxes, and 9.5 percent in payroll taxes. By 1988 the income tax share was down to 6.6 percent — but the payroll tax share was up to 11.8 percent, and the combined burden was up, not down.
    Given all of this, I’ll trade an amiable dunce with a “puckish wit” for a “humorless liberal” any day of the week.
  • Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Thursday Stuff

    God, I don't know how Stephen Colbert manages to do this and keep a straight face - cracks me up...

    The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
    Grover the Hill
    Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

    ...and I sincerely hope Bishop Thomas J.Tobin watches this segment to learn about the moral imperative of reforming our broken health care system in this country; he could learn a thing or two from the Rev. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance here...

    ..."Worst Persons" (Glenn Beck invokes Jews of 1931 or 1934 - which one? - Berlin to compare, supposedly, with us in this country now, giving Keith an excuse to show off his German language skills; Lou Dobbs tells us that he was forced out by pressure from CNN - including "pressure" such as the time that pellet accidentally hit the siding of his house, which, coincidentally, is near a hunting area, and he called the cops thinking someone was shooting at him - which would be logical (the "forced out" part, I mean) if it weren't for the fact that he resigned...hopefully Keith will now have to retire that impression that was starting to get on my nerves; but Colorado Republican State Senator Dave Schultheis gets the prize for saying Obama is "flying the U.S. plane into the ground - let's roll," or words to that effect - this man must be brain-damaged)...

    ...and I haven't made up my mind on this one, but the kids seem to like it, so here it is.

    Thursday Mashup (11/12/09)

    (And I also posted here.)

  • Seriously, people, I wish this man would just go away, but somehow, I don’t think we’re going to be so lucky based on this…

    DALLAS — Nearly 10 months after leaving office, former President George W. Bush plans to emerge from self-imposed political hibernation on Thursday as he starts a new public policy institute to promote some of the domestic and international priorities of his presidency.

    In a speech at Southern Methodist University, home of his future library and museum, the former president will kick off the new George W. Bush Institute as a forum for study and advocacy in four main areas: education, global health, human freedom and economic growth. Advisers said he hoped his institute would be more focused on producing results than many research organizations are.
    The “results” never achieved by his nightmare of a presidency, of course, on “education, global health (last I checked, the U.S. was “global”), human freedom and economic growth.”

    And we also learn the following…

    “The president has been working with these ideas for a long time now,” said James K. Glassman, a former top State Department official now serving as the institute’s founding executive director. “He wanted to do something very different from other former presidents, and that is to create a research institute that’s independent, nonpartisan and scholarly and that will have an impact on the real world.”
    Oh, I’m sure it will be “very different from other former presidents” all right (and by the way, to get an idea of how brainless Glassman is, click here and read the hilarious comments to his book predicting that the Dow would hit 36,000).

    The story tells us, though, that the Bushes still want to keep a “low profile.”

    If this is “low,” then personally, I’d prefer “microscopic” (I can dream, can’t I?).

  • Also, with the recent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was waiting for a member of the right-wing echo chamber to pay undue homage once more to The Sainted Ronnie R, and John Fund of the Murdoch Street Journal did so today here (a couple of days late, though, which is startling, to tell the truth)…

    A few blocks from where the Wall stood is the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which commemorates the more than 1,000 people who died trying to cross the deadly East German border. A group of important Berliners gathered over the weekend to inaugurate a new exhibit on the Gipper and his famous efforts to end the division of Berlin.

    The collection tells a fascinating story of just how focused Ronald Reagan was on tearing down the Wall. He first visited Berlin in November 1978, and spent many minutes surveying the wall's "death strip" from the penthouse offices of the conservative Axel Springer publishing house that stood right on the border between the two cities. "You could tell from the set of his jaw and his look," recalls former aide Peter Hannaford, "that he was very, very determined that this was something that had to go."
    And as we know, when Ronnie said something “had to go,” like reasonable tax rates for his rich pals at our expense, any notion of sane environmental stewardship under the odious James Watt, economic fairness due to the “trickle down” madness of Budget Director David Stockman, and compliance with Congressional laws in the Iran-Contra fiasco…well, gosh darn it, it “went,” didn’t it?

    However, I’d like to interject the following (here)…

    …the growing consensus among historians is that Reagan’s contributions, while positive, weren’t the definitive factor that America-centric commentators make them out to be. Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state under Bill Clinton, has insisted that attributing the end of the Cold War to Ronald Reagan is like attributing the sunrise to the rooster’s cackle.
    Ooooh – snap!

    As far as I’m concerned, Reagan deserved credit for legitimate efforts at arms control near the end of his presidency, attempting to manage this country’s finances like a reasonably sane adult by combining tax increases with cuts (which still ballooned the deficit, however, but at least he was open to the idea of “revenue enhancement” of this type, unlike his “son,” the third president after him), and refurbishing the Statue of Liberty (and putting on a nice fireworks show to go with it).

    And that’s about it.

  • The Moonie Times waxed indignant here about the Fort Hood tragedy…

    Time after time, public murder sprees occur in "gun-free zones" - public places where citizens are not legally able to carry guns. The list is long, including massacres at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School along with many less deadly attacks. Last week's slaughter at Fort Hood Army base in Texas was no different - except that one man bears responsibility for the ugly reality that the men and women charged with defending America were deliberately left defenseless when a terrorist opened fire.

    Among President Clinton's first acts upon taking office in 1993 was to disarm U.S. soldiers on military bases. In March 1993, the Army imposed regulations forbidding military personnel from carrying their personal firearms and making it almost impossible for commanders to issue firearms to soldiers in the U.S. for personal protection. For the most part, only military police regularly carry firearms on base, and their presence is stretched thin by high demand for MPs in war zones.
    Um, let’s see, war zones – as I recall when Clinton was president, we had limited conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, (cue the reflex right-wing umbrage over the “Black Hawk Down” incident – not a great moment, I’ll admit, but at least the episode was resolved under Clinton, albeit unsatisfactorily, unlike what would happen under Number 43 where conflicts still blazed when he left office) and Bosnia (still a tense stalemate there also). So there was no “high demand for MPs in war zones,” as I recall. And this of course meant that there were no shortages of MPs for our bases.

    But somehow, the shortage is the fault of Bill Clinton anyway…??

    Yes, I’m giving waay too much credence to this bunch, I know, particularly when this seems to be today’s excuse for the Foot Hood violence (with Smerky, among others, beating the “political correctness” story line to death here in an attempt to burnish his right-wing cred once more).

    However, I thought Handgun Control Inc. made a good point (linking to this ABC News report)…

    Sources tell ABC News that in August 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan walked into the Guns Galore gun store in Killeen, Texas, and legally purchased the FN Herstal tactical pistol that authorities believe was used to massacre soldiers at Fort Hood.

    An FBI background check under the National Instant Background Check System was done when Hasan purchased the pistol -- but that information was never shared with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, which was aware that Hasan had repeatedly contacted a radical imam suspected of having ties to al Qaeda.

    The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force ran down intelligence leads relating to Hasan late last year but closed the inquiry sometime in early 2009.
    So basically, instead of arming everybody to the teeth, we should concentrate on better information-sharing between our intelligence services instead. And here is the first question I would ask of “Guns Galore”; how come you didn’t think it was a problem that a member of the Fort Hood base bought a weapon that was prohibited for use at that base (again, some information-sharing and reporting would have done a lot more to save lives than giving everyone assault weapons to shoot the “bad guys”).

    With an admittedly perverse fascination, I should tell you that I’m awaiting the next wingnut excuse for the massacre while the legitimate investigation proceeds (all that is missing here are conspiracies involving ACORN or Ward Churchill…or both).

  • And finally, this New York Times story today tells us the following…

    Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island was to meet Thursday with Thomas J. Tobin, the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence, and perhaps start healing a bitter rift over whether health care legislation now before Congress should restrict abortion coverage.

    Instead, they postponed the meeting, and Bishop Tobin stepped up his public rebuke of Mr. Kennedy, accusing him Wednesday of “false advertising” for describing himself as a Catholic and saying he should not receive holy communion because he supports using taxpayer money for abortions.

    “If you freely choose to be a Catholic, it means you believe certain things, you do certain things,” Bishop Tobin said on WPRO, a Providence radio station. “If you cannot do all that in conscience, then you should perhaps feel free to go somewhere else.”
    (Count to ten and breathe, Doomsy…)

    I don’t know about your church, Bishop Tobin, but I must tell you that there’s a whole lot of empty pew space on Sunday where people used to be in my church. And that’s really sad, because I’m glad I belong to my church and I can share in activities with other parishioners.

    A lot of the empty pew space has to do with the economy, I’m sure. But I’m also sure that a lot of it has to do with the Church’s idiotic intransigence on “values” issues, most notably this one.

    For example, on health care reform, a perfectly good compromise on abortion was worked out by Dem U.S. House Rep Lois Capps, whereby abortions would be paid for by subscriber premiums instead of taxpayer funds. However, that still wasn’t enough for the church and pro-life groups, who stated that, in their opinion, any premium payment delivered to a health care plan that is part of an exchange automatically became “public” funds (I should remind you that this country isn’t a wholly-Catholic theocracy).

    So now, we have this horrible Stupak-Pitts amendment (cheered on by the church, of course – we received another threat from the pulpit to support it last Sunday, and I’m glad it was near the end of mass, because I would have walked out if it had come any earlier), which, for all intents and purposes, not only forbids abortion at all on any plan in an exchange, but basically makes it just about not financially worthwhile for a carrier to provide abortion services on a plan whether it’s in an exchange or not (and last I checked, Roe v. Wade was still the law of the land, despite Bushco’s best efforts).

    And now, Bishop Tobin, you tell Rep. Kennedy (and by implication, all Catholics who disagree with you), that we “should perhaps feel free to go somewhere else”?

    Let me ask you a question, Bishop Tobin. You know about the “safe environment” program, don’t you?

    You know, all the “hoops” that we as Catholics now have to “jump through” metaphorically (fingerprints, classes, registration with local agencies, etc.) because the Church couldn’t properly ensure the safety of our kids for decades? And which I will make the time and pay the financial cost to participate in as soon as I am able?

    Do you know why I and others do stuff like this? It’s because our faith is that important to us, that’s why (to say nothing of our kids, of course).

    And now, you come along, telling a Catholic to basically leave because he doesn’t see your point of view?

    You’d better watch what you say, or else those pew spaces will only get bigger (to say nothing of the church’s attendant loss of revenue).

    And one day, one of those spaces might be where I used to sit.
  • Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Wednesday Stuff

    Once more, the dangerous derangement of Tom Coburn is on display for all to see in this report of how our veterans and their families and friends are being screwed over by Coburn's "hold" on legislation that provides funding to care for our heroes ("hold" this, you lunatic - and yes, we know what happened to John Edwards, but he was the first person I can recall who spoke out about homeless veterans, and he was met by the predictable outcry, most notably from Fix Noise's premier falafel-abusing talking head here)...

    ...and I thought this was an appropriate song for the occasion, which of course includes Remembrance Day for our friends across the pond ("Dad" is military slang for Baghdad, just as a reminder).

    Wednesday Mashup Part 2 (11/10/09)

    (Part One is over here.)

  • The New York Times informs us here that the infamous Second Circuit Court of Appeals under Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs (pictured) has done it again…

    Two courts, one in Italy and one in the United States, ruled recently on the Bush administration’s practice of extraordinary rendition, which is the kidnapping of people and sending them to other countries for interrogation — and torture. The Italian court got it right. The American court got it miserably wrong.

    In Italy, a judge ruled that a station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency and 22 other Americans broke the law in the 2003 abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, a Muslim cleric who ended up in Egypt, where he said he was tortured.

    Two days earlier, a federal appeals court in Manhattan brushed off a lawsuit by Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was seized in an American airport by federal agents acting on bad information from Canadian officials. He was held incommunicado and harshly interrogated before being sent to Syria, where he was tortured. He spent almost a year in a grave-size underground cell before the Syrians let him go.

    The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided that none of that entitled Mr. Arar to a day in court.

    Written by (Jacobs), the 59-page majority opinion held that no civil damages remedy exists for the horrors visited on Mr. Arar. To “decide how to implement extraordinary rendition,” he wrote, is “for the elected members of Congress — and not for us as judges.” Allowing suits against policy makers for rendition and torture would “affect diplomacy, foreign policy and the security of the nation,” Judge Jacobs said.

    One of the dissenters, Judge Guido Calabresi, said that “when the history of this distinguished court is written, today’s majority decision will be viewed with dismay.”

    The damage to Mr. Arar, America’s reputation and the rule of law is already quite plain. The Supreme Court should reverse this ruling.
    Given, though, that we’re talking about the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR, I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope for that either (and this tells us how the Second Circuit upheld a ruling in 2006 dismissing a claim against Saudi Arabia, a Saudi charity, four princes and a Saudi banker of providing material support to al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks).

    The prior post also tells us that the Jacobs court was guilty of “a bad reading of federal law” when they let gun manufacturers off the hook in response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s lawsuit, and they also let former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman “skate” as well, ruling that she could not be held liable for assuring residents near Ground Zero that the air was safe to breathe (overturning a verdict against Whitman issued by U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts, who stated that Whitman’s actions “shocked the conscience”).

    Oh, and did I point out that Jacobs also ruled that Medicaid funds could be denied to disabled people?

    As noted here, though, Jacobs actually did have good words to say on behalf of Judge Sonia Sotomayor prior to her Supreme Court confirmation.

    Would that he showed a speck of the generosity or understanding towards those seeking a hearing before him that he shows to his peers.

  • Update 11/13/09: Sadly, the beat goes on - another judicial miscarriage.

  • Also, former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm recently opined as follows (here)…

    A new CNN/Opinion Research Poll of 1,018 adult Americans finds those who are very or somewhat confident about the Democrat administration's plans waning, while those lacking confidence are increasing in numbers.
    Nice one, Malcolm, you scumbag (the "ic" always matters).


    …steady delays in manufacturing the (H1N1) vaccine and the federal government's distribution have continued. Deliveries of millions of doses have gone way beyond the original schedule. So late are deliveries that some medical experts say an epidemic will be well underway or over before all the doses become available in late December.

    GOP Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, never a fan of big new government programs, has called this year's H1N1 swine flu preparations a "total failure." His belief seems to be spreading like a virus as well, with several polls showing a majority of Americans now have no intention of getting the doses, even if and when they become available.

    Now, the new CNN Poll, taken Oct. 30-Nov. 1 with a margin of error of +/-3 points, finds those Americans who are very confident that the Obama White House can prevent a pandemic has fallen from a meager 15% around Labor Day to a worse 11% now. Those feeling "somewhat confident" has dropped from 44% to 40%.

    Meanwhile, the percentage of those lacking any confidence has jumped from 40% to 49%.
    I must tell you that I’ve just about had it with Ron Paul.

    And I don’t care if he’s a doctor or not. In the final analysis, he’s a bought-and-paid-for Repug who has been screaming about “socialized medzin’” just as loudly as anyone else in his party for just as long (here).

    And he claimed on that Alex Jones show (I'll let you find the link) that Obama is supposedly keeping his daughters from getting the H1N1 vaccine (uh, really?).

    Actually, I already pointed out here that the issues with vaccine preparation in this country aren't Obama’s fault; as noted in the third item above (in an unusually lucid moment for Dana Milbank of the WaPo), the present shortage is “the result of years of failure to build adequate vaccine-manufacturing capacity in the United States. Too little work on new vaccine technologies means producers of flu shots still rely on the ancient method of making inoculations with chicken eggs.”

    But beyond that, I want to add the following that I didn’t add last time (here)…

    At a time of heightened national anxieties following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and other targets, US authorities raised the spectre of biological attack using the smallpox virus (though there was no evidence that such an attack was imminent, or even feasible). Bush announced a programme to vaccinate 10 million ‘frontline’ public service workers, including police and health staff, with the smallpox vaccine (which had not been used since smallpox had been declared extinct 30 years earlier). But few believed that smallpox was a real threat and, though the politicians succeeded in bullying the public health authorities into endorsing the programme, fewer than 40,000 of the eligible staff came forward to have the vaccine and within a year the whole campaign sputtered out.

    According to journalist Arthur Allen in his authoritative study of vaccination and anti-vaccination campaigns in the US, in the smallpox scare ‘the Bush administration had seemingly distorted the truth and manipulated public fears to achieve its goals’ (4). As an advocate of the benefits of immunisation, Allen regretted the effect of the smallpox bioterrorism vaccine programme in undermining public trust for health authorities and in damaging the reputation of vaccination. He noted that this episode contributed to a shift in popular attitudes towards immunisation from the prevailing enthusiasm of the postwar years (resulting from the success of vaccination against polio, smallpox and other diseases) to the more ambivalent climate that now prevails (as a result of the vaccine/autism and other scares).
    So if people are hesitant about getting their vaccinations (and there’s no reason for that, by the way; some school districts mandate up-to-date vaccinations), we can thank the husband of Malcolm’s benefactor for inflicting some unnecessary panic.

  • And finally, aside from Veterans Day, this day marks another remembrance for anyone living in the Philadelphia area in particular; fifteen years ago, Eddie Polec, all of 16 years old, was beaten to death on the steps of St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church.

    It’s hard for me to find the words to properly communicate what this act did to this city in particular. I guess phrases like “shocks the conscience,” “riveting,” “setting off torrents of rage” all seem to fit. After the emotions subsided, though (and it took a long time for that to happen), I suppose all that was left was almost unfathomable sadness.

    As this New York Times report tells us…

    …the police say, as many as two dozen Abington (Pa) youths armed with baseball bats piled into cars, drove into the Fox Chase neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia and confronted a group of teen-agers who ran off.

    The Abington youths then cornered (Polec) in front of the church where he had once been an altar boy. He fell or was knocked to the pavement. Then, while some of the attackers pulled him to his feet, others clubbed him to death with a bat, fracturing his skull seven times.

    The Philadelphia police arrested three suspects on Tuesday, and said they expected to make at least two more arrests soon. Thomas Crook, 18, Bou Khathavong, 17, and Nicholas Pinero, 17, were charged with murder and are being held without bail.

    The police said the attack appeared to have been provoked by an accusation by a young woman from Abington who said she had argued with some teen-agers at a McDonald's in Fox Chase and was then raped. The police said that the young woman had not been raped, but the young men from Abington nonetheless planned revenge for days before they drove to the same McDonald's the night of Nov. 11.

    Mr. Polec, whom the police said was not involved in the earlier incident, was standing in the parking lot with some friends when the Abington teen-agers pulled up and chased them to the front of St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church. Several of Mr. Polec's friends were injured in the melee.
    And as noted here in a post about police and emergency personnel acting with the haste and pre-emption that, tragically, were missing in the Polec case, “(The Polec story) pained a family, neighborhood, city and nation in 1994. It prompted an overhaul of the Philadelphia 911 system – including removing civilian dispatchers and replacing them with trained officers.”

    Another memory of this terrible event was the aftermath and the trial of the three defendants, in which the Polec family (led by father John) showed a measure of calm and reserve that seemed to be incomprehensible at the time (I can particularly recall some questioning by the father of the criminals responsible for the death of his son, which I believe took place in court…despite much Googling, I’ve only been able to obtain some sketchy information on all of this, so I can’t confirm that).

    I also have a bit of a personal remembrance I’d like to share on this. John Polec worked as a computer programmer at The Vanguard Group for years, a place where I toiled as well, and I ended up working on a development team with a member of the family, as skilled a programmer in her own right and as nice of a person as you could imagine. A co-worker at that time brought up the family connection, and after I said to him that he must be mistaken, he pointed out to me a tattoo on her ankle with Eddie’s name and the year of his birth and death. I never asked her about it because I didn’t know what I could possibly say that wouldn’t reopen a wound; my guess is that most people lose themselves in their jobs to forget about bad stuff in general. So I kept my mouth shut and discussed other stuff.

    I suppose the point of mentioning this at all is to say that Eddie Polec’s memory and that of his courageous family has not been forgotten. For anyone living in the Philadelphia area at the time of his death, I’m sure the attack remains as incomprehensible an act now as it was then, a tragic reminder of what happens when conscience-less young men with hormones raging imagine indestructibility, looking for any excuse to set themselves upon another human being like savage animals.

    May God bless and keep the Polec family now and always.
  • A Salute To Our Veterans

    I thought this was a really nice tribute from the Joe Sestak for U.S. Senate campaign.

    Update: This, in a word, is inexcusable.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    The straight-up racism and sexism of the New York Post is on full display here, people...

    ..."Worst Persons" (the beat goes on for Rupert The Pirate, caught lying about Obama references to Hitler and Stalin on Fix Noise -aaarrrgghhh, me hearties!; Repug U.S. Congresswoman Sue Myrick gets the silver for writing a forward to a book about rounding up scary Muslims - Gaubatz? I thought that's what the wingnuts did every day...heh; but Bill Orally gets the nod for speaking out against "the public sector" to the point where he has to be corrected by the fossilized Homo sapien known as Brit Hume - maybe Brit should change his name to "Gaubatz" just to make things interesting)...

    ...and why is it appropriate to follow Billo with a cartoon; Happy 40th Birthday to Sesame Street! (and God bless Lena Horne, still with us at 92)...

    ...and happy 62nd birthday to Greg Lake, here with ELP back in the time of bell-bottom jeans and leisure suits, though the highlight is the percussion tutorial by Carl Palmer...and yeah, I didn't get the "bell" thing either - I vaguely recall that this concert was broadcast on ABC, and I guess they're the ones who had a problem with the line in the song about "seven virgins and a mule"...funny.

    More Asinine Armey Analysis From "The Old Gray Lady"

    Michael Sokolove wrote the following profile of Dick Armey in the New York Times magazine on Sunday, in which we learned the following…

    The (Washington) march on Sept. 12 was largely organized by FreedomWorks (the non-profit “Astroturf” group of which Armey is co-chairman) which secured the permits and opened the podium to a range of speakers — including those from the like-minded but separate Tea Party movement.
    Eric Boehlert of Media Matters had a good response to that and other excerpts here (and as noted here, I’m sure the statement from Sokolove that Armey’s group is somehow separate from the “teabaggers” is news to Joe Conason, among others - Wikipedia does tell us that the "Tea Party Patriots" are officially separate from Freedom Works, however).


    Armey told me that he had doubts from the beginning about the Iraq war and now regards it as a mistake.
    That’s interesting, because while in Congress, Armey voted for the Authorization to Use Military Force (noted here, though to be fair, a lot of other members of Congress on both sides of the aisle did also).


    To Armey, the Constitution is not a “living document” — a phrase he mocks at rallies, to laughs and great applause — and is in fact so straightforward and speaks so directly to this era that it’s reasonable to wonder why we need the nine justices of the Supreme Court to interpret it.
    I can’t think of a word to describe my disgust over the fact that Armey actually served in Congress at any point whatsoever if he actually felt such disregard for the constitutional separation of powers.

    And if you don’t feel repulsed by Armey over that, I’m sure you will over this (here)…

    In 1998, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a reporter asked him what he would do if he were in President Bill Clinton's position. He replied "If I were in the President's place I would not have gotten a chance to resign. I would be lying in a pool of my own blood, hearing Mrs. Armey standing over me saying, 'How do I reload this damn thing?'"[5] Several of his former female economics students went public with stories of his sexually harassing them — harassment allegedly so severe that at least one student transferred to another school. He would later divorce his wife and marry one of his students.[6]
    And finally, I give you this from Sokolove’s article…

    If Armey’s views seem disconnected from how many Americans experience health care, one reason could be that Armey himself has very little recent personal exposure to the system. Like many American men, he avoids doctors and said he has not seen one in many years. “I’ve been very fortunate, very healthy,” he said, “so why change up what I’ve been doing?” He equates medical care with unpleasantness. “What happens to old folks, and I’m 69, is they get prodded and poked and picked on. They run a camera up your behind. If these things are medically necessary, I will adhere to them. But don’t make me go through them for your comfort. Medicine is supposed to be for my safety, not yours.”
    If Armey chooses to put off colorectal screenings to prevent detection of cancer, that’s his right, even though he’s a damn fool when it comes to his health (to say nothing of his politics either, of course) since he’s in a higher-risk age group. However, this story tells us that colorectal cancer rates have ticked upward for groups beneath the age of 50, generally considered the cutoff for procedures to detect colorectal cancer.

    This merely proves that Armey knows as little about enabling better health care outcomes as he does about economics (he referred to the stimulus as "fiscal child abuse"), as noted here.

    Update 11/20/09: Too funny.

    The “Rump” Runs Wild In A Fort Hood “Frolic”

    (And I also posted here.)

    Did you know that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused shooter in the Fort Hood rampage in which 13 people were killed and at least 30 wounded, allegedly committed his horrific acts of violence in an example of “the chickens of the left coming home to roost”?

    And I mean, that must be true, since David Horowitz wrote it, right? And by the way, a great big raspberry goes out to New York Times “Opinionator” Eric Etheridge for linking to Horowitz yesterday and giving him more credibility than Horowitz will ever deserve (here).

    I guess this is what it takes for the right’s point man on filing nuisance college lawsuits claiming “bias” (here) to remain relevant, since the ruling cabal for which he plied his dark art is no longer in power.

    And if you bother to take the time to read Horowitz’s online literary equivalent of flatulence (here), you will also see a post titled, “Obama’s Ft. Hood Reaction is Far Worse than the Left’s Smear of Bush’s ‘Pet Goat’ Moment.”

    So this is what passes for informed dialogue by apologists for the party out of power, my fellow prisoners: some sick tit-for-tat game in which 12 pointless deaths supposedly trump nearly 3,000 other innocent lives.

    And using more elegant language but still communicating the disgusting notion that anyone whatsoever sought to provide “a national rush to therapy” for Hasan, David Brooks, citing no evidence whatsoever, said here that “It wasn’t the reaction of a morally or politically serious nation.”

    Shockingly, though, I have to admit that Brooks could be right about this country not being “politically serious.” After all, we still bother to give assclowns like Brooks the time of day, don’t we?

    I could go on with this, but you get the idea (here and here are two more equally ridiculous examples).

    Now while it is true that Hasan did have a correspondence with the radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (noted here), the following is also true (from here)…

    A preliminary review of the computer of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused shooter in Thursday's rampage at Fort Hood in which 13 people were killed, has revealed no evidence of any connection to terror groups or conspirators, according to law enforcement officials.
    I know decency towards those with whom they disagree is way too much to ask of Horowitz, O’Reilly, Hannity and the rest of that crowd. Apparently, though, respectful silence to commemorate the dead prior to another round of bloviation is too much to ask also.

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    Just to remind us all, the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago today...

    ...and I thought this was an appropriate selection, recorded a few weeks before the wall actually fell (SRV left us way too damn soon).

    Sunday, November 08, 2009

    The House Closes The Deal On Health Care Reform

    Yes, the road will get rockier still in the Senate, but for now, congratulations! (here).

    And by the way, I hope every one of the 64 "Democrats" who voted for the Bart Stupak pro-sepsis amendment (Stupak is pictured above) loses next year when running for re-election (here - I don't know the math on whether or not the Dems would still control the House or not, but I'm sick of trying to accommodate these far as I'm concerned, they're Republicans already). And the fact that the Stupak amendment was co-sponsored by Joe Pitts tells you all you need to know.

    Also, a personal thanks to Patrick Murphy for voting nay on Stupak-Pitts. The howls of outrage will be constant on the Op-Ed page of the Courier Times, but you did the right thing.

    And how ridiculous is it that, after pulling that stunt with the baby yesterday, Repug John Shadegg of Arizona voted "present" on Stupak-Pitts. Some "courage of your convictions" there, huh?

    (Finally, posting is questionable for tomorrow).