Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Stuff

"Worst Persons (Not Really)" from yesterday (it seems the camouflage-dressed dance troupe Club Envy was running late for a NYC performance at BET studios, so they ditched their cars and ran through the Lincoln Tunnel to get to the show, snarling traffic in the process and accidentally summoning the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force with guns drawn...God, didn't anybody have a cell phone to call the show and let them know what was going on? And I think the producers of the show should get a huzzah for telling the kids not to bother for being late...yes, it was bad planning, but give them a bloody break; Tom DeLay's attorney gets the runner-up for trying to argue that there's no connection between the "bug man" and the guy in his PAC with whom he allegedly laundered the $$, when a calendar day introduced into evidence shows there was a meeting between the two - to quote the immortal and fictional Max Bialystock, "just say 'oops' and get out"; but Dubya takes top "honors" for his claim in "Decision Points" about how sick he supposedly was over not finding Iraq's WMD, though he was apparently not "sick" enough over it to try and make that disgusting "joke" over missing them at that glitzy Washington dinner that are 4,287 reasons why 43 should be ridiculed for all time over that, among his other myriad screwups)...

...and I'm pretty sure the first music video I ever put up here was "Blue Sky Mine," so I'm definitely overdue for another tune by Midnight Oil (and yep, the vocal and the video are a bit off, but it's still a great performance).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Stuff

God, this made my week...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Manchurian Lunatic
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

...and if you want proof that Gov. "Goodhair" Perry of Texas (of course) is a stone cold moron, here it is...

...and here is a good report from Rachel Maddow on what the Repugs are trying to do to the START treaty, particularly Jon Kyl (and kudos to Sen. Richard Lugar for doing the right thing, and here also)...

...and I guess this is something to think about as we head into the weekend.

Friday Mashup (11/19/10)

(Maybe posting early to the middle of next week, but highly questionable aside from that, by the way…)

  • Oh, so if Democrats make remarks about Christie’s weight (here), that’s out of bounds, but as always (from The Daily Tucker above), IOKIYAR?

  • Next, the following appeared today in the Bucks County Courier Times (here)…

    Despite the conventional wisdom, money is not the determining factor in who wins an election.

    Republican Mike Fitzpatrick proved that earlier this month and Americans for Campaign Reform seconded the notion Thursday after an analysis of the 2010 midterms, the first since the Supreme Court issued its landmark Citizens United v. FEC ruling that permitted unlimited corporate- and union-funded electioneering ads.

    "The lesson here is simple: money matters, but only to a point," Daniel Weeks, president of Americans for Campaign Reform, stated in a press release. "While candidates who lack sufficient funding may as well stay home, those who cross a competitive threshold of around $1.5 million to run for House will do just fine even when they are outspent by their opponent or independent groups."

    The Fitzpatrick-Patrick Murphy race in the 8th Congressional District illustrates the point.
    OK, to begin, let’s dispense with the utterly laughable notion that the horrific Citizens United ruling by the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR benefited Democrats more than Republicans, which would be easy to deduce from Courier Times writer Gary Weckselblatt’s typically biased reporting (add this to his attack on Patrick Murphy in covering the Shir Ami debate and his unquestioning acceptance of Mike Fitzpatrick’s $2 grand-a-year COLAs over a period of 10 years while Mikey was a Bucks County Commissioner).

    As noted here, the activist-Court travesty that was the Citizens United ruling led to the unencumbered flow of campaign donations provided by the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce almost exclusively on behalf of the Repugs (except for “Democrats” Dan Boren, Mike Ross, John Barrow, and Jim Matheson), including $170 grand spent against Murphy.

    I’m also waiting to hear an answer from Weckselblatt’s employer on the question of whether or not the “U.S.” Chamber paid for any of those disgusting full-page ads the paper ran on behalf of Fitzpatrick every day for two weeks until the election, with a big blue ball in the front-page banner telling people where to go to look for the full-page ad (assuming the typically Courier Times reader is too dumb to find a full-page ad in their own newspaper). These ads appeared in lieu of an actual Guest Opinion from Fitzpatrick in the closing days of the campaign telling us what he planned to do if he were elected.

    And of course, any reference to the Ciervo-Fitzpatrick voter fraud letter has disappeared from the paper altogether, going along with no mention at the web site of Republican DA David Heckler and the Republican County Board of Elections (as noted yesterday).

    Once more, mission accomplished (and believe it or not, looking back on the election, I was actually OK with the majority of what J.D. Mullane wrote; he dumped on Murphy to be sure, but he also blasted Fitzpatrick a few times, and that’s all I can ask).

    (By the way, that comment about Mullane pertains to his newspaper columns. His wretched blog is a wholly other matter.)

  • Also, in the “pot, meet kettle” department, I give you this (from here)…

    One of the former U.S. attorneys who was targeted in a report by the Department of Justice for overspending on travel expenses soon is demanding correction and an apology from the agency.

    Mary Beth Buchanan, the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for the western district of Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2009, told The Daily Caller in a phone interview that there were several inaccuracies in the DOJ report that described her of overspending about $4,200 in taxpayer money on hotel expenses.

    While Buchanan did not dispute the numbers in the report, which also targeted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, she said it failed to accurately represent the travel procedures her office followed during her tenure. Instead, said Buchanan, the report seemed to be written in a way “to give the appearance to suggest that [Buchanan’s] office was engaged in conduct that was excessive and abusive.”
    In response, please allow me to provide the following calm and reasoned observation…


    (Oh, and since we’re talking about The Daily Tucker, this “news story” ends with ad hominem attacks against chief investigator and report author Maura Lee, with “several former DOJ employees” saying that Lee has a “troubled history” – yep, go smear someone with as broad a brush as possible, right Tucker?)

    I have news for Buchanan, and anyone else who isn’t familiar with her sordid story - she was engaged in conduct that was excessive and abusive!

    This prior post tells us, among other things, about the inquisition her office carried out against Allegheny, Pa. coroner (and Democratic Party hi-roller, which of course is a crime in and of itself as far as loyal Bushie Buchanan was concerned) Dr. Cyril Wecht. The post gets into the whole smorgasbord of malfeasance by Buchanan’s office, also noting the following…

    Wecht's lawyers asked the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to remove U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab from the case, claiming the judge showed bias, in part, by issuing a series of one-way rulings after secret communication with prosecutors and for keeping the defense attorneys from questioning the lead FBI agent in the case about his disciplinary file.
    (The Wecht case was such a stinking dead dog that Buchanan was even told to give it up by Repug “made man” and former PA Guv Dick Thornburgh, by the way.)

    The post also tells us that Buchanan also wasted our taxpayer dollars in pursuit of charges against that hardened offender and threat to society Tommy Chong (the worst Chong is liable to do is blow a puff of marijuana smoke in your face).

    Which I suppose is apropos, given that Buchanan’s career in public life is (hopefully) now “up in smoke” for good.

  • Finally, this Pro Publica story tells us the following (sticking with the “Keystone State”)…

    On Nov. 9, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Halliburton had refused to give the agency a complete list of the chemicals it uses for gas drilling, resulting in a subpoena for the energy giant. But the battle to keep much of this information confidential is one that Halliburton is winning in Pennsylvania.

    Halliburton did not respond to requests for comment on this article, but a company spokeswoman told [1] that the EPA had approached Halliburton with "unreasonable demands" and that the company was working to supply the agency with the information it needs to complete its study of the relationship between water contamination and the controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing [2], or fracking. Of the nine companies the EPA asked to supply the information, only Halliburton -- the largest North American provider of hydraulic fracturing services -- refused.

    Halliburton has worked hard to keep the contents of its fracking fluids secret, but the campaign has become more difficult as environmental advocates and researchers push for full disclosure. But in Pennsylvania, a state that is undergoing a natural gas drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale rock formation, regulators appear willing to accept Halliburton's argument that it should be allowed to keep details about its chemicals secret in order to maintain its competitive advantage.

    Fracking shoots millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals underground at high pressures to break rock and release natural gas. The process is currently exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act as a result of assurances by the Bush-era EPA that fracking posed no harm to water supplies. In October 2009, after receiving reports of contamination near fracking sites and complaints that the agency's position was based on outdated and incomplete information, Congress ordered the EPA to conduct a comprehensive study [3] of the technique.

    The EPA said earlier this year that the study would examine a broad scope of activities [4] associated with fracking, and that drilling companies would have to provide information about their chemicals so the effects of those activities could be tracked over time.

    "There's just so much we don't know about the effects of fracking," said Gwen Lachelt, oil and gas accountability project director for the Colorado-based advocacy group Earthworks. "We deserve to have that question answered, and that can't be done without full public disclosure."
    And this Daily Kos post tells us how we got to this point (think more Bush-Cheney treachery)…

    The Republican-fashioned Energy Policy Act of 2005 created an exemption to the Safe Drink Water Act for fluids injected underground as part of the hydraulic fracturing process. The exclusions listed in section 322 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 include:

    i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and

    (ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.”

    Although the House conducted hearings in 2009 about hydraulic fracturing and there has been discussion of removing the Halliburton loophole, no action was taken. However, the House did authorize the EPA to conduct a formal study of hydraulic fracturing.
    Oh, but Halliburton did do the following recently (here)…

    Halliburton Co. made a big show (last Monday) announcing a new website where it will disclose the chemicals that make up its hydraulic fracturing fluids. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which subpoenaed Halliburton last week for similar information, is less than impressed, and still wants Halliburton to respond to its summons. Environmentalists also said Halliburton’s disclosures don’t go far enough.

    Yesterday, Halliburton announced it will publicly disclose detailed information on its website about the chemicals used in its fracturing fluids. According to a report in The New York Times, the website lists both benign chemical, as well as dangerous ingredients, such as the petroleum distillate called naptha, which is used in cleaners, car wax and paint thinner. There are also several chemicals, sometimes considered hazardous, used in household cleansers and others used in agriculture as microbiocide agents.

    For now, Halliburton said its disclosure is limited to fluids used in drilling activities taking place in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale, but that it is “committed to continuing to provide hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure information for every US state in which Halliburton’s fracture stimulation services are in use.”

    Halliburton’s announcement comes about a week after the EPA issued the oil-field services company a subpoena, after Halliburton failed to provide it with information on its fracking fluids.
    So, in response to an EPA subpoena to disclose the chemicals it plans to use that could potentially ruin our water, Halliburton unveiled its shiny new web site with information that is incomplete at best.

    I guess this is what’s to be expected from a company that, in all likelihood, ended up electrocuting our troops in their showers in Iraq because the wiring wasn’t properly grounded (here) or attacked one of its employees after she was gang-raped by her coworkers (here).

    Fortunately, there is something we can do in response – click here to sign a petition opposing drilling in the Marcellus Shale (it isn’t much, I know, but it’s something).
  • Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Thursday Stuff

    Once again, I know he's on the way out, but I don't care (and FINALLY a Dem gets with it and refers to the "Obama tax cut" the way he or she is supposed to!)...

    ...and happy 60th birthday to Graham Parker, singing a song about the 2010 election as it turned out.

    Thursday Mashup (11/18/10)

  • Geez, what a bunch of wingnut harrumphing over the verdict in the terrorism trial of Ahmed Ghailani (here)…

    Twenty years. That could well be the sentence handed down to Ahmed Ghailani after a New York City jury decided that the Al Qaeda member on trial for the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya should be acquitted on 284 of 285 counts.

    The bombings, massive coordinated explosions that killed 224 people (including 12 Americans) and wounded over 4,000 were carried out by Al Qaeda because of U.S. involvement in the first Gulf War and continued involvement in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

    President Obama, crack crimefighter Eric Holder and leading members of the fading Democratic party all crowed -- prior to the trial -- that Ghailani's case would serve to show the world that civilian trials are just the ticket for fighting terrorists. Seriously.

    So what happened? First, it was decided by folks involved to take the death penalty out of consideration --so even if Ghailani had been found to be guilty of all 285 counts, including 224 counts of murder, he couldn't have received the death penalty. This was simply a nod to reality... no New York jury has had the guts to hand down a death penalty since Captain Hudson sailed up the river and decided Manhattan would be a perfect safe haven for liberals. -- My history's a little weak so don't quote me on that one. Point being, the chances of securing a death penalty verdict in Manhattan rest somewhere between nada and bupkus.
    Umm, looks like not only FoxPAC’s Mike Baker’s history is weak, but I would say that he needs brushing up on his current events too.

    As emptywheel tells us here…

    There will be a lot of incredulity about the fact that Ghailani was not found guilty of the other charges. In particular, people will suggest that had Hussein Abebe been permitted to testify that he had sold the explosive to Ghailani used in the attack, then he would have been found guilty on all charges.

    But aside from second-guessing the trial result, there’s a problem with that: Judge Lewis Kaplan strongly suggested that he refused to let Abebe testify not just because prosecutors wouldn’t have found him if it weren’t for the torture-induced confession of Ghailani, but also because Abebe himself was coerced to give the testimony he did. Which means we couldn’t know whether his testimony had been shaded to reflect what those coercing him to testify wanted him to say.
    And as another fdl post from the same page tells us, Judge Kaplan said that the government couldn’t use Abebe as a witness in a military commission either.

    Torture is not only morally reprehensible and utterly wrong, but it’s also a really stupid thing to do if what you’re trying to obtain is a criminal conviction in a court of law.

  • Continuing with an item within our beloved commonwealth, I checked here to find out if Bucks County, PA District Attorney (and Republican) David Heckler was investigating the letter by former State Rep candidate Rob Ciervo in which he enlists the help of newly-elected…ugh…U.S. House Rep Mike Fitzpatrick in instructing Bucks residents on committing voter fraud (the letter can be accessed from here). Nothing but the sound of crickets, as they say.

    Likewise, I found the same thing when I visited the web site of Bucks County’s (Republican) Board of Elections here.

    Looks like “mission accomplished.”

    By the way, one of Congressman Patrick Murphy’s departing acts has been to contact the VA to make sure that Iraq war veterans serving as part of Operation New Dawn receive the full range of benefits to which they should be entitled and remain unaffected even though the name of the campaign has changed from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    Note to Mikey Fitzpatrick: I don’t think you realize just how big the shoes are that you have to now try and fill. I and many others will be watching. And you’d better not mess it up, or I personally will remind you of that as much as I possibly can.

  • Also, it looks like the incoming Congressional U.S. House Republican majority wants to defund NPR over the Juan Williams fiasco (here).

    This brings to mind the phrase “same as it ever was” (here…also, Jed L. had a good comeback on all of that nonsense here).

    And NPR is full of “Nazis and propagandists” according to Roger Ailes here, huh? Gee Rog, don’t you think you’re being a little tough on Matthew Continetti?

  • Next, we have Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao (here)…

    One thing we’ll need to do before we leave this year is fund the government. Because Democrats didn’t pass a single appropriations bill this year.

    So now they’ll try to mop up in the 11th hour with an Omnibus spending bill that covers all of it. This is one more sign they aren’t learning many lessons from the election.

    If this election showed us anything, it’s that Americans don’t want Congress passing massive trillion dollars bills that have been thrown together behind closed doors.

    They want us to do business differently.

    So I won’t be supporting an Omnibus spending bill.
    As noted here from about six years ago, the Repugs had only passed 4 of 13 spending bills and were getting ready to submit their own omnibus bill to cover remaining spending and fund the government for 2005.

    So, as it is with just about everything else, when it comes to passing omnibus appropriations bills to make up for the rest of the prior year, IOKIYAR.

  • Continuing, it looks like Irving’s Boy has too much time on his hands again (here, on the matter of President’s Obama’s awarding of the Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta)…

    The only discordant note (in the award ceremony)? This moment in President Obama’s remarks: "Now, I'm going to go off-script here for a second and just say I really like this guy."

    He should have stayed on script. Sgt. Giunta was being honored by the president, on behalf of the nation, for an act of extraordinary heroism. Who cares whether Barack Obama “really like[s] this guy” or not? Does the grace of being liked by Barack Obama add one iota to Sgt. Giunta’s luster? Obama seems incapable of understanding that, when he acts formally as president of the United States, it’s really not about him, and that intruding himself into a ceremony like this diminishes him. Fortunately, Obama’s graceless interjection could not diminish what Sgt. Giunta did.
    I think Kristol must wake up and see that we’re on standard time again and blame Obama for the darkness, or that the rooster crows too loud.

    Tell you what – if you don’t try to use Obama’s quote as an excuse to blame him when all he was doing was indicating friendship, then I won’t mention Obama’s predecessor’s preoccupation with idiotic nicknames, as noted here, OK?

  • Finally (and speaking of the president once more), Fix Noise devoted two entire paragraphs here to tell us that the White House made “significant improvements to federally funded partnerships between the government and religious-based and neighborhood organizations.”

    (Actually, I don’t think they cared so much about the story as they did about showing the pic of Obama looking like he’d just eaten a plate of bad clams.)

    Fortunately, HuffPo provides a bit more depth here…

    WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday (Nov. 17) that reforms the White House's faith-based office in a bid to improve transparency and clarify rules for religious groups that receive federal grants.

    The nine-page order reflects numerous recommendations made more than six months ago by a blue-ribbon advisory council charged with streamlining and reforming the office created under former President George W. Bush.

    "The recommendations that they've put forth make really concrete and tangible improvements to the government's relationship with faith-based organizations," said Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

    The executive order, however, does not address controversial questions of whether grant recipients can hire and fire based on religion. Administration officials have said those questions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
    And that’s a shame, because the White House pledged to ban faith-based job discrimination here; to learn more about why that’s important, please read this Pandagon post about Alicia Pedreira, who had the misfortune of living a life as a lesbian in Kentucky while working at a home for vulnerable children, a job from which she was fired because she was photographed wearing a T-shirt saying “Isle of Lesbos,” which is an actual Greek island, for the geographically challenged of us.

    I give the Obama Administration credit for metaphorically putting rouge and eyeliner along with lipstick on the proverbial pig here. However, when you’re done, it’s still going to walk on all fours and oink just as loud as if you’d never bothered to do anything.
  • Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Wednesday Stuff

    (I knew I'd have at least one non-posting day this week, and today turned out to be it - not sure about tomorrow yet; here's hoping.)

    In the meantime, I just have to say the following - c'mon, Repugs, get in the spirit (here)! Maybe this will help...

    ...and yep, Senator "Country First," you really have no idea...

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    It Gets Worse PSA
    Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

    ...and man, that sure is one smart, CGI-generated talking bear (h/t Daily Kos)...

    ...and this goes out to all of those "moderate" Dem and independent voters who are going to have a colossal case of buyers remorse from their actions on 11/2/10 sooner than they want to admit.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Tuesday PM Stuff

    I don't care if he lost on November 2nd or not; the Dems should study this film clip well and follow Alan Grayson's lead (he should wear the "good riddance" he earned from corporate media harlequin MoDo here as a badge of honor).

    The "Taliban Dan" ad, even though he made a good point, was still going too far. However, considering how endangered Dems in "swing" districts were anyway (to say nothing of having to compete with the relentless garbage TV ads from the "U.S." Chamber of Commerce), he very well may have lost anyway....

    ...and given that Deadeye Dick poked his head out of his hole today in the "shovel ready" remark, I think it's fair to give this another shot (don't know who sings it - tempted to say either Liz Phair or Suzi Quatro, but I'm not sure).

    Tuesday Mashup (11/16/10)

  • Marc Thiessen bloviates as follows (here)…

    His boxes are not yet unpacked, and he has not even set foot in his new Senate office, but already Republican Sen.-elect Mike Lee of Utah is shaking things up on Capitol Hill. On Friday night, Lee sent an e-mail to Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander formally requesting that when Republican senators vote on a proposal Tuesday to unilaterally give up earmarks in the 112th Congress, they hold a public, recorded vote instead of a secret ballot.

    This is a bold move for a soon-to-be freshman senator. How Republican leaders handle Lee's request may mean the difference between success and failure for the earmark ban - and it will tell Americans a great deal about whether the GOP establishment has learned the lessons of the 2010 elections that swept conservative insurgents like Lee into office.
    Yes, when earmarks actually constitute about 0.01 percent of the federal budget, it truly is a waste of time to get so exercised about them (as I’ve said many times before, I don’t care about earmarks as long as they’re disclosed).

    And also concerning Lee, I give you the following (here)…

    Last Friday, a group of recently-elected Republican lawmakers gathered in Baltimore for a retreat sponsored by FreedomWorks, a tea party astroturf group run by corporate lobbyists. ThinkProgress traveled to the event, and spoke to several of the new members about their views on the vote to raise the debt ceiling, a necessary legislative item to prevent the United States government from defaulting on its debt entirely, which would cause a global economic tailspin.

    Rep.-elect Andy Harris (R-MD) told us that he would absolutely vote against raising the debt ceiling. Harris — who made headlines this morning after he staged a tantrum upon learning that he had to wait a few weeks before being fully enrolled in taxpayer-subsidized health care for federal employees (and of course, Harris opposed HCR: my note) — explained that he would have the government default as “an important message to send to the American people.” Similarly, Sen.-elect Mike Lee (R-UT) reiterated that he would have the government default on its debt to show that Republicans won’t “slip into the same mindset” of the past:
    Funny, but as I recall, the Repugs took the heat primarily for the government shut down of the 1990s, and rightly so. So, if Lee were to help do this again, he most definitely would “slip into the same mindset” of the past.

    Which, on the one hand, would be bad for the country, though, on the other hand, it would make it more obvious than it already is that these charlatans have no desire to practice actual governance.

  • Also, on the matter of the budget, I realized a bit after the fact that one of Ross Douthat’s idiotic observations yesterday about the “catfood commission” that I didn’t respond to (from here) was this…

    Needless to say, none of the liberal lawmakers attacking the Simpson-Bowles proposals offered alternative blueprints for restoring America’s solvency. The Democratic Party has plans for many things, but a balanced budget isn’t one of them.
    Too funny - fortunately, John Feehery jogged my memory a bit here…

    …the class of 1994 came in with a conservative sensibility in reaction to the first two years of Bill Clinton, and that group similarly smashed the seniority system, audited the House’s books for the first time in history, professionalized the management of the institution, balanced the budget for the first time in three decades, passed welfare reform and ushered in a long period of Republican dominance.
    On the matter of the Repugs supposedly balancing the budget with no help from a certain 42nd president, I give you the following (from here, and again, harking back to the government shutdown)…

    (In 1994) the GOP gained 54 seats in the House of Representatives and eight in the Senate, giving it control of both chambers for the first time in 40 years.

    House Republicans wasted no time in setting about to adopt, in a mere 100 days, the Contract with America they had campaigned on.

    Under Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich, the House passed legislation to reform welfare and cut taxes and spending – except for defence expenditures. In all, it voted to abolish 280 programs and eliminate the departments of Education, Energy and Commerce, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. That agenda stalled in the Senate.

    The real fireworks came, however, when Congress presented Mr. Clinton with a budget resolution that included a $245-billion (U.S.) tax cut and $270-billion cut to Medicare, the federal health plan for seniors.

    The standoff lasted for weeks as each side engaged in a game of chicken. Mr. Clinton finally vetoed the budget bill in November of 1995. Republicans’ refusal to authorize spending led to a six-day shutdown of the federal government that month. There was a second three-week stoppage over the Christmas holidays.

    The public blamed the gridlock on Mr. Gingrich and the GOP. Mr. Clinton accused them of wanting to slash Medicare for the elderly in order to pay for a tax cut for the rich, and the charge stuck.

    Though Mr. Clinton scored political points, and his own re-election in 1996, Republicans ultimately could claim to have won a policy victory. When all the wrangling was over, Mr. Clinton agreed to a Republican resolution that called for a balanced budget within seven years. In the end, a booming economy enabled him to balance the books in less than half that amount of time.
    And what of the individuals who, more than anybody else, blew the budget all to hell after Clinton left office? See below.

  • This story tells us the following…

    At (a) groundbreaking ceremony in Dallas for the George W. Bush Presidential Center today, former Vice President Dick Cheney said "history is beginning to come around" to a more positive view of former President George W. Bush. Cheney said that Mr. Bush, whose approval rating upon leaving office was just 22 percent, always understood that "judgments are a little more measured" with the passage of time.
    Yeah, “Big Time,” dream on.

    Cheney, who (unlike Mr. Bush) has been a vocal critic of President Obama, also took a shot at the current administration. Speaking of his expectation that construction would move quickly on the presidential center following the groundbreaking, Cheney quipped that "this may be the only shovel ready project in America." The reference was to the Obama-supported stimulus package that Republicans have criticized as ineffective.
    Read this, you parasite – it tells us that, due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, your home state of Wyoming (and why in God’s name they haven’t utterly disowned you is something I cannot imagine) received $17.5 million in stimulus funds to keep teachers on the job.

    And speaking of joking about “shovel-ready projects,” I give you the following from here…

    As President Bush and Vice President Cheney helped push thousands of new coalbed methane wells, with their associated grids of new roads, pipelines, power lines and compressor stations, “(Republican Governor Jim) Geringer’s Environmental Quality Council (another state agency) was very active weakening environmental regulations,” says Dan Heilig, director of the state’s leading environmental group, the Wyoming Outdoor Council. This included loosening restrictions on how much arsenic and barium are allowed in water discharged from methane wells, Heilig says.

    Even ranchers who opposed methane development on their land couldn’t get through to Gov. Geringer, environmentalists say. “Conservative Republican ranchers couldn’t get a meeting with Geringer,” says Jill Morrison, an organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

    “Geringer just did not want to have a dialogue about it. Anyone who was having trouble (with methane) was locked out of his administration. He had his marching orders (for state agencies) to facilitate (drilling), and that’s what they did.”
    And as a result (here)…

    The federal government is warning residents in a small Wyoming town with extensive natural gas development not to drink their water, and to use fans and ventilation when showering or washing clothes in order to avoid the risk of an explosion.

    The announcement accompanied results from a second round of testing and analysis in the town of Pavillion by Superfund investigators for the Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers found benzene, metals, naphthalene, phenols and methane in wells and in groundwater. They also confirmed the presence of other compounds that they had tentatively identified last summer and that may be linked to drilling activities.

    "Last week it became clear to us that the information that we had gathered" "was going to potentially result in a hazard -- result in a recommendation to some of you that you not continue to drink your water," Martin Hestmark, deputy assistant regional administrator for ecosystems protection and remediation with the EPA in Denver, told a crowd of about 100 gathered at a community center in Pavillion Tuesday night. "We understand the gravity of that."

    Representatives of the EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which made the health recommendation, said they had not determined the cause of the contamination and said it was too early to tell whether gas drilling was to blame. In addition to contaminants related to oil and gas, the agency detected pesticides in some wells, and significant levels of nitrates in one sample -- signs that agricultural pollution could be partly to blame. The EPA's final report on Pavillion's water is expected early next year.
    Oh, and by the way, Deadeye Dick, your pal Harry Whittington says hi.
  • Tuesday AM Stuff

    K.O. responds to a fresh round of criticism, this time from Ted Koppel in a recent WaPo column (even when publicity is bad, it's still publicity)...

    ...and here's to the Philadelphia Eagles, who set some kind of a record for offensive points last night on "Monday Night Football" (I actually have been kind of ambivalent about Donavan McNabb, but I'm glad to see them put the hurt on Mike Shanahan, who's a total jerk as far as I'm concerned - I know this is kind of a dippy song with no video, but it's the best I can do at the moment).

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Monday Mashup (11/15/10)

    (Posting is questionable for tomorrow, by the way.)

  • I give you Michael Smerconish of the Philadelphia Inquirer here, who recently attended the Roger Waters production of “The Wall” and appeared to be enthralled…

    The first time (he saw the show), I was a high school senior who trekked in a van to the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island with a girlfriend and her two brothers. I'd bought the tickets from a wiry looking scalper named "Mike" outside a defunct restaurant on Old York Road in Willow Grove. The New York show was a hot ticket, even in Philadelphia.

    I wanted to see what the New York Times' John Rockwell deemed "the most lavish stage show in the history of rock 'n' roll" - especially after my parents had denied me permission to go to the Spectrum three years prior, when Waters was touring in support of the album Animals.

    Another reviewer at the time of the release of The Wall wrote: "A general consensus of opinion is that at first listening, the album sounds strange or weird, but listen to it again and you'll probably like it." That was me, writing for my high school newspaper, The Chatterbux, during my senior year at C.B. West in Doylestown. I guess I was right. Only Michael Jackson's Thriller and the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 were bigger sellers in the United States than The Wall.

    Years later, it wasn't my parents from whom I needed permission. Last Monday, I left the house only after my wife and I had eaten dinner with our three sons. What was a van three decades ago was now a sedan in which I picked up a friend who likewise scored a pass on the home front. Headed down the Schuylkill, we both commented that it'd be fine if there were no encore because we each had to work early the next morning.
    I’m glad it was an enjoyable experience for him. Apparently, he felt no need to heckle Waters as he did so childishly here.

  • Next, Ross Douthat of the New York Times tells us the following today (from here, on the “catfood commission” report)…

    Liberals defended this (negative) knee-jerk response on the grounds that the commissioners’ vision, ostensibly bipartisan, was actually tilted toward Republican priorities. And it’s true that Bowles and Simpson proposed more spending cuts than tax increases over all. But most of the programs and tax breaks that they suggested trimming — from farm subsidies to Defense Department bloat and the home-mortgage tax deduction — represent the American welfare state at its absolute worst.
    In response, I give you the following (here)…

    As we’ve reported, the deduction for owner-occupied homes is estimated to cost the government some $100 billion a year, making it the largest government subsidy for housing and one of the most expensive tax deductions. Mark Zandi, a well-known economist, has suggested that the housing industry push to limit it.

    But the bulk of Americans want the deduction to stick around, according to a nationwide survey of likely voters commissioned by the National Association of Home Builders. (We can’t say there’s much surprise there.) The survey released Wednesday found that 79% of respondents - both owners and renters - believe the federal government should provide tax incentives to promote homeownership.
    So basically, the home mortgage deduction costs the government about a hundred billion a year, and extending Dubya’s tax cuts for ten more years could cost about $3.9 trillion.

    There are a lot of reasons why I think the Bowles/Simpson commission report represents a colossal waste of money and effort, but one of them is that it has now given fresh cover to another round of bashing that supposed dastardly home mortgage interest deduction. If the debt were the seashore, the money from the home mortgage deduction would be nothing more than a sandcastle at best.

    There isn’t a lot that Mrs. Doomsy and I get in the way of a direct financial benefit from our government, but that is one item that helps us at tax time, and I’m going to fight like hell to make sure we keep it.

    Continuing with Douthat…

    (Bowles and Simpson) went out of their way to avoid balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.
    If that were actually true, then why did Paul Krugman say the following (here)…

    There were rumors beforehand that the commission would recommend a rise in the retirement age, and sure enough, that’s what Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson do. They want the age at which Social Security becomes available to rise along with average life expectancy. Is that reasonable?

    The answer is no, for a number of reasons — including the point that working until you’re 69, which may sound doable for people with desk jobs, is a lot harder for the many Americans who still do physical labor.

    But beyond that, the proposal seemingly ignores a crucial point: while average life expectancy is indeed rising, it’s doing so mainly for high earners, precisely the people who need Social Security least. Life expectancy in the bottom half of the income distribution has barely inched up over the past three decades. So the Bowles-Simpson proposal is basically saying that janitors should be forced to work longer because these days corporate lawyers live to a ripe old age.
    Douthat really goes off the deep end here, though…

    But pondering what Nancy Pelosi and her compatriots are rejecting gives us a pretty good sense of what they’re for. It’s a world where the government perpetually warps the real estate and health care marketplaces, subsidizing McMansions and gold-plated insurance plans to the tune of billions every year.
    First, the real estate market was “warped,” as Douthat puts it, when the Repugs were in charge, inflating the housing market (though they had help from the Democrats who, I would argue, greased the regulatory skids to allow it to happen; still, I think this speaks volumes about which political party is more complicit).

    Second, I honestly don’t know how Douthat can seriously claim that the Democrats are the ones catering to the “pay no price, bear no burden” crowd here particularly on health care reform, since Bowles-Simpson didn’t address it, as Dean Baker notes here. Baker also tells us the following…

    Simpson and Bowles apparently never considered a Wall Street financial speculation tax (FST) as a tool for generating revenue. This is an obvious policy-tool that even the IMF is now advocating, in recognition of the enormous amount of waste and rents in the financial sector. Through an FST, it is possible to raise large amounts of revenue, easily more than $100 billion a year, with very little impact to real economic activity. The refusal to consider this source of revenue is striking since at least one member of the commission has been a vocal advocate of financial speculation taxes. It is also worth noting that Mr. Bowles is a director of Morgan Stanley, one of the Wall Street banks that would be seriously impacted by such a tax.
    And on the matter of Social Security…

    …it is striking that the Co-Chairs felt the need to address Social Security, even though it was not part of their mandate. The commission's mandate was to deal with the country's fiscal problems. Since Social Security is legally prohibited from ever spending more than it has collected in taxes, it cannot under the law contribute to the deficit. Their proposal would cut benefits for tens of millions of middle class workers who are overwhelmingly dependent on Social Security for their retirement income.
    Douthat then (rather haughtily, I think) concludes with this…

    The alternative sketched by Bowles and Simpson last week has its weaknesses, but it has this great virtue: It treats Americans not as clients but as citizens, and not as children but as adults.
    And as long as those adults are straight, mind you (here...and I'll be watching to see the House Repugs start churning out the jobs they promised in light of this, by the way).

  • Finally, I don’t suppose you could talk about the inflation of the housing bubble or any other calamity from earlier in this decade without invoking Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History; as part of his “Oh Dear God Haven’t We Endured This Idiot For Too Long Already” media tour to promote his book and his Fabulous Freedom Institute (or whatever…and all immediately after the November election), he tells us the following from here.

    Jeb Bush joined his brother for part of the CNN interview, saying he never publicly disagreed with George W. Bush when he was president and is "not going to start now."

    Alluding to the hyperpartisanship in Washington, the former Florida governor said there's still room for civility in politics.

    "I don't think you can be against everything, just because someone has a D (for Democrat) by their name and you have an R (for Republican) by your name," Jeb Bush said.

    George W. Bush said that he was mindful not to get involved in "name calling" as president, adding that he wasn't bothered when he was targeted. Bush said, too, that he didn't support Republicans challenging Democrats' patriotism just because they disagreed with them.

    "I don't remember doing that personally, and that was uncalled for if that was the case," he said. "Patriotic people disagreed with my decisions."
    In response, I give you the following from here…

    Only a liberal senator from Massachusetts would say that a 49 percent increase in funding for education was not enough.
    That line was uttered by Number 43 in an October 2004 debate with John Kerry, who of course was the Democratic nominee for president that year. And as noted here, as a result of Dubya’s “49 percent increase,” 3,000 teachers were laid off in Ohio due to a federal budget shortfall of $614 million.

    And don’t try telling me that “liberal” wasn’t meant as an insult (surprised he forgot to refer to Kerry as a member of the “Democrat” Party...and this was worth a yuk or two, I must say).
  • Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Sunday Stuff

    Yes I know, blah blah blah, Keith Olbermann suspended, blah blah, reinstated, blah blah - even though all of this is a few news cycles old by now, I still think it bears repeating (meant to do this Friday, technical difficulties)...

    ...and a belated happy 65th birthday to Neil Young - I guess we'll hear the song about the ranch another time.