Saturday, October 09, 2010

Saturday Stuff

Yep, she's gotta be a teabagger (h/t Daily Kos - and check out this great article on the subject by Matt Taibbi, by the way)...

...and this song fits this bunch as far as I'm concerned (on another level, I name is hardly apropos).

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Stuff

(I know posting was majorly messed up this week - don't know if it will be more consistent next week, but I hope so...hope to get to some more items soon. I did manage to post here, though.)

I'm glad to see the Patrick Murphy campaign go after Mikey Fitzpatrick for the stuff he pulled as a one-time Bucks County Commissioner - takes a self-entitled sense of privilege to a new level...

...and John Lennon would have been 70 tomorrow - I'll admit that it's hard to find "faith in the future, out of the now" during times like these, but we must.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Thursday Mashup (10/7/10)

  • Today marks the fourth anniversary of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya; as the San Diego Tribune tells us here, four men were tried in her murder, and a fifth, the accused shooter Rustam Makhmudov, managed to obtain a foreign passport and left Russia in 2008 despite being on a national wanted list (he was not placed on a European wanted list until recently, according to The Moscow Times here...also, a prior post on this subject is here).

    The trial of the four – Pavel Ryguzov, former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, and Ibragim and Dhzabrail Makhmudov – was held in a court closed to the public in November 2008 because the jurors feared that media coverage would end up identifying them and thus leading to danger (though Politkovskaya’s family and friends wanted a public trial). All four defendants were acquitted in February 2009, though, as the Moscow Times tells us, there is renewed interest in the case because of a possible link between Khadzhikurbanov and the gun factory that, according to police, made the murder weapon

    Anyone who has followed this case with any interest whatsoever knows that getting one’s hopes up for something approximating justice is a problematic exercise. However, all we can do is remain vigilant in the hope that justice may indeed one day come.

    And one reason why I care about this story is that, in an age of utterly co-opted corporate media punditry, where those practitioners are famously indulged by their puppet masters, I happen to think that a journalist should not be murdered execution style in the dark stairwell corner of her apartment building for the simple yet courageous act of telling the truth.

  • Next, The Hill tells us the following (here)…

    Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts.

    The finding suggests that people likely to have a big say in who controls the House in the next Congress believe that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has failed to keep her 2006 promise to “drain the swamp” of congressional corruption.
    Another big, sloppy wet kiss goes out to those news organizations with initials for names on this one for falling down on the job yet again; as noted here…

    Significant changes were made by Congress to the current lobbying laws, and to internal House and Senate rules on ethics and procedures, by the passage of S. 1, 110th Congress (P.L. 110-81, 121 Stat. 735, September 14, 2007) and the adoption of H.Res. 6, 110th Congress. In the face of mounting public and congressional concern over allegations and convictions of certain lobbyists and public officials in a burgeoning "lobbying and gift" scandal, and with recognition of legitimate concerns over undue influence and access of certain special interests to public officials, Congress has adopted stricter rules, regulations, and laws attempting to address these issues.

    The statutory and internal congressional rule changes which have been adopted address five general areas of reform: (1) broader and more detailed disclosures of lobbying activities by paid lobbyists, and more disclosures concerning the intersection of the activities of professional lobbyists with government policy makers; (2) more extensive restrictions on the offering and receipt of gifts and favors for Members of Congress and their staff, including gifts of transportation and travel expenses; (3) new restrictions addressing the so-called "revolving door," that is, post-government-employment "lobbying" activities by former high-level government officials on behalf of private interests; (4) reform of the government pension provisions with regard to Members of Congress found guilty of abusing the public trust; and (5) greater transparency in the internal legislative process in the House and Senate, including "earmark" disclosures and accountability.
    And for anyone holding out hope that this good work wouldn’t be hindered or demolished outright by a potential Repug U.S. House takeover, I give you this.

  • Finally, I had to chuckle, though derisively so, upon seeing this cartoon by Michael Ramirez equating Presidents Obama and Carter with the teeth in Obama’s smile replaced by solar panels (based on this story).

    With that in mind, I ask that you consider the following (from here)…

    (In 1979) Carter said, "I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000." But then came the Iran/Contra October Surprise, when the Reagan/Bush campaign allegedly promised the oil-rich mullahs of Iran that they'd sell them missiles and other weapons if only they'd keep our hostages until after the 1980 Carter/Reagan presidential election campaign was over. The result was that Carter, who had been leading in the polls over Reagan/Bush, steadily dropped in popularity as the hostage crisis dragged out, and lost the election. The hostages were released the very minute that Reagan put his hand on the Bible to take his oath of office. The hostages freed, the Reagan/Bush administration quickly began illegally delivering missiles to Iran.

    And Ronald Reagan's first official acts of office included removing Jimmy Carter's solar panels from the roof of the White House, and reversing most of Carter's conservation and alternative energy policies.

    Today (in 2005), despite the best efforts of the Bushies, the bin Ladens, and the rest of the oil industry, Carter's few surviving initiatives have borne fruit.

    It is now more economical to build power generating stations using wind than using coal, oil, gas, or nuclear. When amortized over the life of a typical mortgage, installing solar power in a house in most parts of the US is cheaper than drawing power from the grid.
    And this tells us more of how The Sainted Ronnie R waged his particular jihad against solar power, including the following…

    It was the winter of 1981 and the country was just beginning to feel the sharp edges of the Reagan revolution. Denis Hayes, head of the fledgling Solar Energy Research Institute, was walking through the halls of the Department of Energy when an acquaintance came up to him and said, "Has Frank lowered the boom on you yet?" The Frank in question was an acting assistant secretary, but the boom, it turned out, was falling from the top. President Reagan had once been General Electric's most camera-ready tout, and his administration viewed alternative energy with open scorn. "They're going to kill your study," the gray-suited informant warned Hayes, before slipping down the corridor.

    The study, a yearlong investigation by some of the nation's leading scientists, provided a convincing blueprint for a solar future. It showed that alternative energy could easily meet 28 percent of the nation's power needs by 2000. The only thing that solar and wind and other nonpolluting energy sources needed was a push, the study concluded -- the same research funding and tax credits provided to other energy industries, and a government committed to lead the way to reduced reliance on fossil fuels. But the messenger in the corridor signaled that the solar future would only be won with a little guerrilla warfare. Hayes phoned a colleague at his office in Golden, Colorado, and told him to make 100 copies of the study and circulate them around the country. Energy Secretary Jim Edwards killed the study, all right, but not before it had been published in the Congressional Record.

    It was a bold gesture, but not enough to alter the outcome. The quashed study proved to be the beginning of the end. The budget for the solar institute -- which President Jimmy Carter had created to spearhead solar innovation -- was slashed from $124 million in 1980 to $59 million in 1982. Scientists who had left tenured university jobs to work under Hayes were given two weeks notice and no severance pay. The squelching of the institute -- later partly re-funded and renamed the National Renewable Energy Laboratory -- marked the start of Reagan's campaign against solar power. By the end of 1985, when Congress and the administration allowed tax credits for solar homes to lapse, the dream of a solar era had faded. The solar water heater President Carter had installed on the White House roof in 1979 was dismantled and junked. Solar water heating went from a billion-dollar industry to peanuts overnight; thousands of sun-minded businesses went bankrupt. "It died. It's dead," says Peter Barnes, whose San Francisco solar- installation business had 35 employees at its peak. "First the money dried up, then the spirit dried up," says Jim Benson, another solar activist of the day.
    (By the way, it came as an utter shock to me that, as noted here, there actually was a solar panel initiative under Former President Highest Disapproval Rating in Gallup Poll History.)

    And going back to 2005, Thom Hartmann reminds us of the following (from his previous article)…

    "Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth," (Carter) said, a point that is still true. "We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan and Sweden." Carter directly challenged the fossil fuel and automobile industries. "One choice," he said, "is to continue doing what we have been doing before. We can drift along for a few more years. "Our consumption of oil would keep going up every year. Our cars would continue to be too large and inefficient. Three-quarters of them would continue to carry only one person -- the driver -- while our public transportation system continues to decline. We can delay insulating our houses, and they will continue to lose about 50 percent of their heat in waste. "We can continue using scarce oil and natural gas to generate electricity, and continue wasting two-thirds of their fuel value in the process."

    But that would be unpatriotic, anti-American, and essentially wrong. Who but a traitor sold out to special interests, or an idiot, would countenance such insanity?
    Either a traitor or an editorial cartoonist lampooning visionary Democratic presidents, I guess.
  • Wednesday, October 06, 2010

    Wednesday Stuff

    Which Mike do I like? Neither, of course (and to do more, click here)...

    ...and this goes out to Roy Halladay of the Phillies for his no-hitter tonight in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds (and some real class here by Orlando Cabrera of the Reds, by the way...gee, if Doc was supposedly getting so much help from the umpire, why did that keep your team from HITTING THE DAMN BALL ANYWAY?).

    Typical of a Dusty Baker team - if you can't win, then either whine about it or start a fight.

    Update 10/7/10: Joey Votto is not only one of the game's most feared hitters, but he's also a total class act (here).

    Wednesday Mashup (10/6/10)

  • I give you the following from Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich here…

    "This year, the House Republican's Pledge to America has set the stage for a powerful, symbolic closing argument for candidates seeking to unseat the left-wing, big spending, job killing Democrats: paychecks versus food stamps," Gingrich wrote in a memo.

    The potential 2012 presidential candidate outlined the job losses suffered during the past four years while Democrats controlled Congress and have had President Obama in the White House the past two. He contrasted that with the jobs created during the 1990s, when Republicans controlled Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton was in the White House.
    It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic (I don’t know how much credit Gingrich and the congressional Repugs deserve for the prosperity this country experienced in the ‘90s versus that properly owed to President Clinton, but I know that, at a minimum, Gingrich was responsible for this – and God help us if his party ever gets the chance to try it again).

    Meanwhile, the New York Times tells us the following here…

    A decade ago, New York City officials were so reluctant to give out food stamps, they made people register one day and return the next just to get an application. The welfare commissioner said the program caused dependency and the poor were “better off” without it.

    Now the city urges the needy to seek aid (in languages from Albanian to Yiddish). Neighborhood groups recruit clients at churches and grocery stores, with materials that all but proclaim a civic duty to apply — to “help New York farmers, grocers, and businesses.” There is even a program on Rikers Island to enroll inmates leaving the jail.

    “Applying for food stamps is easier than ever,” city posters say.

    The same is true nationwide. After a U-turn in the politics of poverty, food stamps, a program once scorned as “welfare,” enjoys broad new support. Following deep cuts in the 1990s, Congress reversed course to expand eligibility, cut red tape and burnish the program’s image, with a special effort to enroll the working poor. These changes, combined with soaring unemployment, have pushed enrollment to record highs, with one in eight Americans now getting aid.

    “I’ve seen a remarkable shift,” said Senator Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican and prominent food stamp supporter. “People now see that it’s necessary to have a strong food stamp program.”
    And by the way, Newt, I’m still waiting for details on that space-based air traffic control system you opined about here.

  • Next, Darrell Issa is back with more demagoguery (here)…

    While millions of Americans struggle to find work, the federal civilian workforce has prospered. Federal employees’ salaries and benefits have spiked over the past decade. In fact, their compensation advantage over workers in the private sector has grown since 2000 from about $24,000 to almost $51,000.
    In response, I give you Media Matters here…

    Why is this a misleading comparison? For starters, as USA Today explained in its article: "Public employee unions say the compensation gap reflects the increasingly high level of skill and education required for most federal jobs and the government contracting out lower-paid jobs to the private sector in recent years." The article further quotes Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, as saying, "The data are not useful for a direct public-private pay comparison."

    Back in March, in response to a similar USA Today analysis, then-White House OMB director Peter Orszag explained why accounting for these differences in skill level and education between the federal and private workforces is crucial in comparing compensation. Orszag stated that "when education and age are held constant, the entire difference in average pay between the federal and private sectors disappears"...
    Also, as noted here, government workers (or those depending on government funding) are pretty much captives of the whims of our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., particularly an almost-retired U.S. senator who pulled his little stunt with the approval of his Repug would-be successor (though private sector employees are subject to the whims of their employers as well of course).

    And by the way, if there is any Dem out there who could still be wondering whether or not they are going to vote for their party on November 2nd (and why in God’s name would you have a doubt about that at this point?), I hereby present Exhibit A regarding what a Republican-run-once-more U.S. House would do as opposed to trying to solve the critical problems this country currently faces.

  • Finally, I give you another installment of “This Day In Mikey Fitzpatrick History,” more or less here (and it’s a real whopper).

    As you can see, on October 7, 2006, our former U.S. House rep did his best impression of a cigar store Indian while Air Force Major (and Young Philadelphia Republican) Kevin Kelly and Army Capt. Richard Barbato maligned Patrick Murphy’s military service.

    Putting aside the fact that this was an utterly scurrilous attack (and thoroughly predictable given Mikey’s attempt to tar the husband of former Dem opponent Ginny Schrader in 2004 by associating him, a Jew, with Hezbollah), it defied basic logic. And that is because Kelly served in the Air Force and saw duty in Iraq from January to May of 2006; he claimed Murphy “did not see front-line duty.” How Kelly could be qualified to make an observation like that is a mystery, since Murphy served in the Army in Iraq from 2003 to 2004.

    Also, soon after this theatrical garbage played out, a huge billboard endorsing Mikey’s re-election appeared as if by magic in the vicinity of Shady Brook Farm in these parts, a very visible location stuck amidst Route 332, I-95 and the main highway in Lower Makefield Township (that’s the place where the recent teabagger Bund rally took place the Friday before last).

    This is all the more reason to support the re-election of our congressman by clicking here.
  • Tuesday, October 05, 2010

    Tuesday Stuff

    To help Jack Conway, click here...

    ..and to help Admiral Joe, click here...

    ...and to help Alex Sink against Rick Scott for governor of Florida, click here...

    ...and yeah, maybe Russ Feingold shouldn't have used the NFL clips (here), but it's not as if the wingnuts are innocent either - how many times did they rip off popular songs without the artist's permission (Jackson Browne, Don Henley, David Byrne)...

    ...and speaking of songs, I think we all need to think about what is discussed here now and again.

    Tuesday Mashup Part Two (10/5/10)

    (Part One is here.)

  • Over at the AEI blog, Marc Thiessen tells us the following (here)…

    …a new crop of senators may soon be arriving who have pledged on the campaign trail to forswear earmarks. They range from Tea Party-backed candidates such as Ken Buck, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee and Joe Miller to establishment candidates such as Mark Kirk, Dan Coats, Carly Fiorina and Kelly Ayotte.
    As the Philadelphia Inquirer tells us here…

    Republican Pat Toomey crusaded against earmarks for most of his three terms in the U.S. House, and not long ago took a live pig to Independence Mall as he challenged his Senate-race opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak, to swear off the funding that lawmakers direct to their pet projects.

    But in his first term representing the Lehigh Valley's 15th District, Toomey won at least $9 million in earmarks, including $3 million for a private company that became for a time his largest single source of campaign contributions.

    Air Products & Chemicals Inc., a major corporation based in Allentown, was awarded the money in October 1999 to develop a ceramic-based technology to generate sterile compressed oxygen for use by the military on the battlefield, in planes, and on ships.

    All told, Toomey got at least three earmarks that year, according to news releases archived on his old congressional website. He served in Congress from 1999 to 2005.

    Besides Air Products, he secured $1 million for a freight-transfer center that Bethlehem Steel Corp. was building as part of the redevelopment of its defunct Bethlehem mill. He also won $5 million for Navy research on double-hulled shipbuilding at Lehigh University.
    Of course, Toomey has now found “religion” on earmarks. How con-vee-nient.

    Meanwhile, this tells us the following about Admiral Joe’s earmark issue…

    The Morning Call reported Saturday that Sestak gave the Thomas Paine Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates for keeping religion out of government, a $350,000 earmark to develop a prototype for an offshore wind turbine. Although the organization does not appear to have any history developing wind technology, its owner, Drew Devitt, also owns a for-profit energy company, New Way Energy LLC.

    The paper reported that Devitt acknowledged the money would go to him — his home address is listed on the earmark request — and could be used for commercial application.

    “One of the things Obama did for 2010 was to eliminate for-profit filing for line items, so obviously New Way wasn’t qualified,” Devitt told the Call. “But Thomas Paine wasn’t for-profit, so it was eligible to file for a line item.”

    The U.S. House this year barred delivering earmarks for for-profit companies. A Sestak spokesman said the congressman was unaware Devitt also ran a for-profit wind-turbine business.

    It’s the second time earmarks have tripped up Sestak in the general election. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in July that Sestak had received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from companies that received earmarks despite pledging not to accept donations from companies that received the federal money.
    And get a load of this from Toomey…

    “Congressman Sestak, please tell Pennsylvanians why it’s okay to break House rules to fund a wind turbine project for an atheist group with our tax dollars,” (Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik) said.
    Trying to keep religion out of government makes the Thomas Paine Foundation an “atheist” organization? I can only imagine how hard a time Toomey is having trying to hide his wingnuttery under the guise of a “fiscal conservative” with telling little slips of the tongue like that.

    As I’ve said before, I basically don’t care about earmarks as long as they’re disclosed. And I’d be a lot more concerned about the leverage a corporate player like Air Products could bring to bear on a Senator Toomey than a “green” startup outfit like New Way Energy could utilize against a Senator Sestak (and why exactly is it a bad thing to provide seed funding for a company making wind turbines?).

    Please click here to help the Sestak campaign (and click here for another reason to oppose “No-Tax Pat”).

  • Also, former Buscho flak and 2004 presidential election disenfranchiser Ken Blackwell tells us the following about Repugs Sean Bielat running against Barney Frank in Massachusetts and Charles Lollar running against Steny Hoyer in Maryland (here).

    And of course, the column by Blackwell contains all kinds of stuff like, “oh, isn’t Barney Frank mean because he once mouthed off to the teabagger holding up the picture of Obama as Hitler,” and of course Bielat plays right along.

    Funny thing, though – apparently, both Frank and Bielat support, at the very least, marijuana decriminalization and quite possibly legalization (here). Personally, I favor the former but not the latter, though either position puts Bielat squarely at odds with the GOP establishment in the person of former Reagan confidant (and probable Iran-Contra justice obstructer) Ed Meese, as noted in this recent Philadelphia Inquirer Op-Ed (here, worth it for the comments if nothing else).

    (By the way, please don’t read too much into this. Bielat is somewhat interesting, also for this, but by no means am I trying to imply that Barney Frank should not be re-elected, and resoundingly so.)

    If Bielat is more of a legitimate libertarian specimen for a Repug, however, then Charles Lollar is a typical full-mooner, “values” wingnut (as noted here – he also definitely speaks “teabagger-ese,” as noted here).

    I have to admit that I have a hard time working up support for Steny Hoyer for reasons such as this, but when push comes to shove, I’d rather be governed by adults.

  • Finally, I’d like to kick off a little feature that I may or may not be able to keep going depending on my posting availability (and by the way, it may be on-again, off-again for a little while, I’m just not sure yet) called “This Day In Mikey Fitzpatrick History” (well, more or less).

    As noted here on 10/6/06, our former PA-08 U.S. House rep called for “a hard investigation of the facts” (as opposed to an easy one?) into the matter of former Repug U.S. House Rep Mark Foley and “inappropriate” Emails and instant messages to 16-year-old male congressional pages (as opposed to calling for people to resign, namely former Speaker Dennis Hastert, though he eventually did so anyway). Mikey also submitted something called the Railroad Security and Public Awareness Act of 2005 in an attempt to allegedly safeguard rail traffic, which was promptly quashed by the House Repug party leadership

    And as if anyone had any doubt, Mikey is being helped by the Bucks County Courier Times editorial board, which recently published the following disclaimer in response to a Guest Opinion written by Patrick Murphy criticizing Fitzpatrick’s CAFTA vote (here) and another letter in a similar vein…

    "Fitzpatrick said he told opponents he would take their concerns into consideration, but that the vote had as much to do with security for young Central American democracies as trade."
    Oh, please – if you want to learn for real about how “free” trade agreements help “secure democracies,” check this out, particularly the following…

    Just as the flawed economic argument for CAFTA is that it will help American and Central American firms compete better against the Chinese manufacturing juggernaut, this security argument posits that, with the small increase in trade predicted by the U.S. International Trade Commission , we can stop further Chinese political/military inroads in Latin America, as well as curb the influence of in-place leftist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, both sets of arguments rely on faulty economic assumptions and projections, as well as ignore the realities of the respective Central American economic and political situations, not to mention those of China. The way to deal with China is to do so directly, and not to pretend that by linking up with six impoverished surrogates, the majority under IMF controls, the United States is going to stop Chinese advances across the board.
    The bottom line is this; assuming a “free” trade agreement actually addresses human rights concerns of workers trying to organize as well as environmental issues, they don’t mean a damn thing unless you address unfair Chinese trade practices, including the purposeful devaluation of their currency (and that’s a bipartisan criticism, by the way).

    Also (under the heading of Fitzpatrick media apologists), J.D. Mullane tells us here that Fitzpatrick has claimed that we’re “14 trillion” in debt due to Democratic governance (and Heaven forbid that Mullane would call Mikey on such an utter lie).

    Fitzpatrick probably got that number from former Bushco economic advisor N. Gregory Mankiw here, who said we would be in debt by that much by 2019 (as noted here, Mankiw favored the exporting of jobs that drove up the deficit even though Mankiw should also have known about the coming wave of Social Security payouts due to retiring baby boomers, which is noted here).

    Meanwhile, we learn the following from the Courier Times today (here)…

    Representatives from four small businesses lined up to endorse incumbent Bucks County Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-8, on Monday - and four of the five businessmen are Republicans.

    Joining Murphy at a press conference at Iron Horse Excavating Inc. in Falls were Iron Horse co-owners Troy Brennan and Chris Byelich; James Horan, CEO of Y-Carbon in Bristol Township; Luis Folgar, an engineer from Paramount Industries in Middletown; and Tom McCarthy, owner of TJM Electronics in Bristol Township.

    Byelich is the only Democrat, but all said they're convinced that their business and other small businesses would do better under Murphy than his Republican opponent, former Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick.

    With Murphy's support, Y-Carbon received a $150,000 federal grant to grow its business. And Brennan said Iron Horse has grown from about eight to 25 employees since 2005 because of the federal stimulus program and other incentives supported by Murphy.

    "We've grown every year," said Brennan. "Patrick knows that investing in new technology will lead to new manufacturing jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. His support helped our company move to Bristol and create new jobs in advanced manufacturing."
    To help re-elect our congressman, click here.
  • Monday, October 04, 2010

    Monday Stuff

    Probably no posting today, by the way…

    You want “bipartisanship” for real? Check this out (and for more, click here)…

    …and Janis Joplin died 40 years ago today (I once heard about a biopic in the works starring Renee Zellweger – that would be interesting...and yes, that was "Mama" Cass Elliot wearing the shades, someone else who would "check out" early).

    Sunday, October 03, 2010

    Sunday Stuff

    (I also posted a few videos here.)

    Maybe not Beck/Palin/teabagger numbers, but still a nice turnout (Jim Dean of DFA said there were about 200,000)...

    ...and I didn't know somebody made a video out of this song from a little while back (h/t Balloon Juice).