Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Note About Wisconsin

(I was going to add this as a comment to a prior post, but it got too long, so I thought I would just post about this separately.)

As I've been watching all of this play out in Wisconsin along with most of the rest of the country, I'm getting a pretty good understanding of the who, what, when and how of this story. Yes, it's the top 7 conservative organizations that contributed to the 2010 campaign to get all of these horrible Republicans elected so they could wage economic war on labor unions as a result of the catastrophic Citizens United Supreme Court decision. That answers the "who" part of this story. Either capitalizing on existing economic crises or creating new ones as Walker did by rewarding his business pals to create the deficit that he's using as an excuse to eliminate public sector employee bargaining rights...well, that gives us an understanding of the "what" piece, in terms of the strategy. "When" is right now and for the foreseeable future, and the "how" kind of ties into the "what," including the Koch Brothers and their pals pulling the puppet strings of those moronic teabaggers whose brains have been turned to mush by Fix Noise and conservative-friendly media in general including right-wing talk radio.

But what I don't get about this is the "why." Yes, I understand that it's about making money ultimately and about consolidating political and economic power into the more-and-more concentrated hands of the "pay no price, bear no burden" investor class. But for a long time, I never understood the urgency about this.

And then I saw a news story earlier today about how Governor Jerry Brown was more than happy to take any federal funds that Rick Scott of Florida, Walker, Kasich in Ohio or Governor Bully in New Jersey (and probably Corbett in PA, given enough time) were refusing for rail infrastructure projects.

That would be Jerry Brown of California, people.

You remember how Karl Rove and his pals spent millions to get Carly Fiorina elected to the U.S. Senate over Barbara Boxer in that state, as well as Meg Whitman over Brown? And you remember that they both lost?

And do you remember the reason why they both lost?

In a word, Latinos.

Latinos have organized into a powerful voting bloc as we know. And the complexion of this country is getting more brown by the day, to the point where all of those zany teabaggers with their racist signs and funny hats (to say nothing of Karl and his pals) are going to be the minority sooner than they’d like to admit.

And before that happens, they want to make sure they have every possible judicial, legislative, and economic benefit that they can possibly get.

So basically, if we deny the Repugs now, their advantage will eventually diminish over time, since Latinos will overwhelmingly vote Democratic. The shadows, if you will, are longer for them than they are for us.

That doesn’t give the rest of us an excuse to sit on the sidelines, though. The Republicans want now what they have wanted for at least 50 years, and that is the destruction of the middle class, to the point where all of us will have to organize just to survive, whether we like it or not.

However, organizing to achieve basic economic and political rights is something Latinos know about very well. And when you do, it’s a lot easier to understand who opposes you and who supports you.

Those lines have been drawn as clearly as possible in Wisconsin. So when we find those lines drawn in our own state, city or county, we shouldn’t act surprised. Just do in response what Latinos do, and relearn the lesson that too many of us have forgotten, which has a lot to do with how we ended up in this mess to begin with.

Update 2/20/11: Oh, and in response to this utterly lame New York Times account of how Walker's goal is merely "shrinking" collective bargaining rights (of course, no mention of the fact that leaders of the respective unions are willing to negotiate if Walker takes his idiotic demand off the table), I give you this.

Saturday Stuff

"Bake sales versus billionaires" - yep, that about nails it here, people (and as usual, our corporate media totally misses the story, by design I'm sure)...

Update 2/20/11: I think this is a timely (for tomorrow's holiday) and fascinating bit of history for the occasion.

...and these guys were mentioned in the Sunday New York Times magazine; so far, this is the only video of theirs that I can find without naughty words.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Stuff

Ed Schultz gives us a taste of how serious the stakes are in Wisconsin right now here (and Rachel Maddow's reporting on this over the past week, connecting the dots, has been fantastic - I can't put up the videos because of MSNBC's awful upload non-capability, so just click here and search for yourself).

Oh, and one more thing..."Club for Growth"? Attacks on unions orchestrated by "hedge fund managers"? Any of this ringing a bell, all of you PA morons who voted for Pat Toomey last November?...

...and I was wondering how long it would be before someone took the pompous bombast of Chris Smith and stuck it right in his metaphorical ear, but Dem House Rep Jackie Speier of California did it here - kudos to her for her courage, and pox on Smith and others of his foul ilk, including a certain waste of DNA from PA-16...

...and here's something mellow and a bit edgy for the long (for us all, I hope) weekend.

Friday Mashup (2/18/11)

  • Crazy Tom Coburn of Oklahoma imparts the following to us today at the WaPo (here, on the economy of course)…

    “…in the coming budget debate, everything has to be on the table. There can be no sacred cows and pet priorities.”
    Sweet Jeebus, that’s way too damn funny (though in a “gallows humor” kind of way, I’ll admit). As noted here…

    This bastard voted YES for tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. He voted YES to exempt them from the estate tax. He voted YES to give these same rich people additional benefits in the form of capital gains tax cuts. Yet, somehow he had the balls to vote NO on taking care of the 9-11 responders who risked everything to respond to the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil on the grounds that it's too expensive. How can he possibly rationalize this?
    Oh, and as the post notes, the 9/11 First Responders fund will be available for only five years. Nice.

    And it’s interesting to me that the 1st Republic 14th Star poster mentioned Alan Grayson, referencing his “die quickly” quote about the Republicans and those without health care, particularly because of this.

  • Next, I give you last week’s Area Votes in Congress here, and I’d like to highlight two in particular (and I already gave Mikey The Beloved credit for voting against the Patriot Act renewal…the first was by the House)…

    Food, water, toys. Voting 178-242, the House defeated a Democratic bid to ensure that committee reviews conducted under HJ Res 72 uphold regulations that keep children's toys safe and protect the nation's drinking-water and food supply. There was no debate on the motion.

    A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    So the Repugs are against upholding regulations to keep our food and water safe along with children’s toys (and I’m sure the Bucks County Courier Times will write a clarification to this shortly saying “oh, this was another ‘gotcha’ move by the Dems to make the Repugs look bad” or something, kind of like the way they leapt to Saint Mikey’s defense this week over his vote that basically supported offshoring our jobs, with the paper saying “oh, it was just a procedural vote to table the measure” or something…I cannot for the life of me recall such clarifications over votes by Patrick Murphy).

    Now for the second (turning to the Senate)…

    Airport body scans. The Senate voted, 96-1, to make it a federal crime to publicly distribute body-scan images from security checkpoints at airports, federal courthouses, and certain other public buildings. The amendment was attached to a Federal Aviation Administration bill (S 223) that remained in debate. It follows the recent posting of thousands of full-body images on the Internet. Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) cast the negative vote.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).

    Not voting: Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).
    I don’t call Coburn crazy for nothing, people.

  • In addition, this from Fix Noise tells us how the House Repugs have “lobotomized” the EPA (cute). In response, allow me to point out the following from here…

    Rapid irreversible melting of one third to two thirds of earth's permafrost, will add huge amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, accelerating warming, reports the National Ice and Snow Data Center (NSIDC). Permafrost melt lakes portend the destabilization of the Arctic's landscapes and ecosystems and emissions of greenhouse gases CO2 and CH4.
    I will, however, that Fix Noise as a group are subject matters on this topic (the effects of lobotomies, I mean).

  • Also, speaking of the Bucks County Courier Times, the paper gave a Thumbs Down citation to County Commissioner Charley “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” Martin for the following (here)…

    To county Commissioner Chairman Charley Martin for promoting his unproven and inexperienced Republican colleague, Robert Loughery, to vice chairman on Loughery's first day on the job.

    Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia had sought the post. But the lone Democrat was rejected when Martin broke a tie vote and awarded the job to Loughery, who was appointed to the board and not elected. Ellis-Marseglia not only is much more experienced, she is the board's top vote-getter.

    Oh well, just another in a long line of partisan decisions that have long emanated from Doylestown.
    Kind of makes you wonder why the paper just went along with the decisions of some judges behind closed doors to give the commissioner job to one of Martin’s pals instead of calling for a special election, but what’s done is done.

  • Finally, I haven’t checked up on The Doughy Pantload for a little while, but as noted here, not much has changed (I suppose he’s commenting on the recent uprisings in Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Iran also)…

    Liberals, who were once naively optimistic about democracy promotion, turned dour when President Bush became naively optimistic about it.
    In response I’d like to share the following; kind of a tie-in to President’s Day which we’ll observe on Monday.

    I give you FDR on democracy (here - an ever-timely reminder)…

    The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group...
    (By the way, he said this at a time when actual fascism was in power in Italy, as opposed to the phony kind Goldberg alleged in his book.)

    I also give you Harry Truman on the same topic (here)…

    Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice.
    Next, I give you JFK (and how true these words are particularly now)…

    The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.
    Also, here is Lyndon Johnson on democracy (again, how true)…

    We preach the virtues of democracy abroad. We must practice its duties here at home. Voting is the first duty of democracy.
    Here is what Jimmy Carter once said on this subject...

    The experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself- always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested by adversity.
    And finally, Bill Clinton on democracy (here)…

    "Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right in America."
    If you think there’s anything like naïve optimism at work here, let me know, OK?
  • Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Thursday Stuff

    Rachel Maddow connects the dots beautifully here on the Repugs and their (and I hesitate to say this, but it fits pretty well here) "war" on public employees (she should get an Emmy or a Cable ACE award or something for this, but she won't - I came across some pundit over the last few days wondering what it would take to stage pro-democracy uprisings in this country; I think we have our answer...a shame that most of Wisconsin apparently slept last November on Election Day, but they're making up for it now - here is an update)...

    ...and in another context, I think this tune works (sorry, no video - posting questionable again for tomorrow).

    Thursday Mashup (2/17/11)

  • I know we just can’t get enough of more bogus polling analysis from former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm, and he delivers again here…

    President Obama's done a lot of talking recently about Winning the Future. Trouble is, he's not. Politically.

    At this moment -- 57% of the way through a first term with only 628 days left until the 2012 presidential election -- the Democrat can only tie any conceivable Republican candidate (according to a new Gallup poll).
    Oh, and did you know that Obama’s support among 18-to-34-year-old voters has “evaporated” from 63 to 51 percent?

    In response, Media Matters tells us the following here…

    The question didn't assess Obama's standing vis-a-vis "any conceivable Republican candidate" -- it assessed his standing versus a generic Republican candidate about whom respondents know nothing. That's pretty much the opposite of "any conceivable Republican candidate."
    Though I will acknowledge that whoever emerges from the Repug field with the presidential nomination will have their party’s support locked up I’m sure based on this.

  • Next, as noted here, Dem U.S. House Rep Betty McCollum of Minnesota wants to cut the Army’s budget for NASCAR sponsorship (awwww).

    Well, considering that all of our services achieved 100 percent of their recruiting goals last year (with the Marine Corps Reserve hitting 125 percent), except for the Army National Guard (which achieved 95 percent) as noted here, as a taxpayer, I have no problem with saving some greenbacks on this (let some corporate sponsors pick up the tab – if they’re advertising at NASCAR events, somehow I’m sure they can afford to pony up some extra bucks).

  • Update 2/18/11: Like flatulence after indigestion - nice (h/t Daily Kos)

  • In addition, “Z on TV” is back to dump on MSNBC again, telling us here, among other things, that “all of MSNBC prime time is sinking in the ratings.”

    I have no reliable data on the recent ratings of “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell, but if he’s having a tough time, I’m not surprised. To be fair, he has to fill the shoes of the network’s marquee performer who has since departed, and he also has to build up his own audience brand loyalty at the same time (that’s why I thought Ed Schultz would have been a better fit for the 8-9 slot, since he has a longer history of attracting and keeping a media audience and he seems to take to the role of a pit bull for the left, if you will, more naturally, though O’Donnell is no slouch when it comes to generating controversy either).

    But are Rachel Maddow’s ratings “sinking”? Not according to these recent data, (and yes, that is grammatically correct) which shows her winning the 9-10 slot over Piers Morgan of CNN (and for Zurawik to compare Maddow or anyone else to Fix Noise, ratings wise, is typically disingenuous since they usually win those prime time slots anyway, sadly enough).

    Also, this Daily Kos post tells us that Current TV, Keith Olbermann’s new home, is in a very similar position viewership-wise to MSNBC prior to the first episode of “Countdown” in 2003 (so much for Keith being “newly marginalized by his move to Current TV”).

    Zurawik is a typically loathsome corporate media shill who worships at the altar of his “betters,” particularly a certain 44th-president-baiting Fix Noise bully and loudmouth (as noted, with other stuff, from the third bullet here).

  • Finally, James Taranto of the Murdoch Street Journal opined here about the brutality that CBS News correspondent Lara Logan suffered recently in Egypt (I really wanted to avoid saying anything about this, but as usual, the wingnuts somersaulted over the line of decency – I hope all goes well for Logan, and I hope those responsible for anything she suffered are drawn and quartered and/or fed to the buzzards).

    Taranto is actually fair to a point here, criticizing not only someone named Nir Rosen, about whom I know nothing, but his ideological fellow travelers also for taking their commentary on this to extremes (though I didn’t see anything about this, this, this, this, this or this...the final link includes some of the prior ones). Towards the end of his post, though, Taranto manages to equate Logan’s ordeal with criticism of Sarah Palin, as well as Bill Maher’s recent joke about Elisabeth Hasselbeck in which he mentioned Logan.

    I put up the video of Lawrence O’Donnell’s interview with Maher here in which this was noted, and I can assure you that, had Maher or the rest of us known the true nature of Logan’s ordeal, no one would have been joking over it. And it is typically despicable for Taranto or anyone else to suggest otherwise.
  • Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Wednesday Stuff

    And oh yeah, it looks like Scalia and Thomas of The Supremes haven't been too forthcoming on the whole financial disclosure thing concerning all of their little parties with their "pay no price, bear no burden" pals...

    ...and it looks like it was nothing but a non-stop "laff riot" with those zany CPAC-ers ("Stop, You're Killing Me!" - yeah, I wish...and yes, that's only a joke)...

    ...and I more or less had this song on my mind in response to this story - once more, PROG ROCK LIVES!...

    ...and I'm feeling a little generous, so here's another tune (don't know about posting tomorrow either - we'll see).

    Wednesday Mashup (2/16/11) (updates)

  • Oh yes, isn’t it just awful that those baad autoworkers at “Government” Motors received bonuses while still taking taxpayer dough (here – of course, nary a peep has been heard from wingnut media over this).

  • Next, even on the exceedingly rare occasion when our Repug PA-08 U.S. House Rep “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick actually does something right, he still acts like a total wanker about it (here)…

    On Monday night, Fitzpatrick voted against the Patriot Act, one of 27 Republicans to do so. After a 275-144 vote, the bill now goes to the Senate.

    He said amendments that protect the civil liberties of individuals are no longer in the bill, which he voted for in 2005.

    Specifically, he said, he opposes roving wiretaps that permit the federal government to listen in as someone moves from place to place. If a citizen, for example, visits a relative, that relative would then be wiretapped. Should they then go to a friend's home, that person's residence would then be bugged.

    He said he's also against the FBI getting a "business records provision" that would allow the agency to find out, for example, what books an individual has checked out of a library over a 10-year period. "I'm for the Patriot Act, but only if the civil liberties of individuals under the Constitution are honored," he said.
    The only difference between the Patriot Act that Fitzpatrick voted for in 2005 and the one which he voted against renewing now is that the illegal activity carried out by the telecoms in the original bill that he supported in ’05 was legalized by a Democratic congress, to its eternal shame and disgrace, here. Of course, he can now blame the opposition party for what had been taking place all along anyway (as noted here, the Patriot Act basically shreds the Bill of Rights and beyond, no matter which party is in charge of the House). And yes, this is a trap that the House Dems who were once in charge should have anticipated (and all of this sudden supposed interest in civil liberties by Mikey is just a sop to the teabaggers anyway).

    And for good measure, Mikey also inflicts the following…

    As vice chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, Fitzpatrick said his goal is to "remove the taxpayer as the backstop" for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Fannie Mae has been subsidized to the tune of $1.5 billion a week, Fitzpatrick said, adding that the cost is closing in on $200 billion. In addition, he said taxpayers have spent $160 million defending the companies' top executives in lawsuits.

    He said his committee is looking into getting back those attorney fees.
    Wow, I'm sure that will kick-start the moribund jobless picture, won't it?


    While he said he's for seeing "first time homebuyers get their piece of the American dream," he also said, "We can't keep pushing people into homes they can't afford."

    He criticized the Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act for doing just that. CRA encouraged banks to help get low-income borrowers into homes.

    "The federal government forced them to do it," he said of risky loans. "Who's surprised it came crashing down? + It's highly fixable because we know how we got there.
    First of all, criticizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the meltdown is typically absurd, as noted here. And if you don’t want to believe me, believe Dean Baker, who tells us from the link that Fannie and Freddie were “trailing the exuberance of the private sector” in their admittedly unwise deals.

    Second, as noted here, the Community Reinvestment Act “did not contribute to the economic crisis in any substantive way” according to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke.

    I don’t call Fitzpatrick “Mikey The Liar” for nothing, people (of course, Heaven forbid that Mikey’s designated stenographer Gary Weckselblatt would perform some simple Google searches and find out this stuff - can’t have anything interfering with the narrative, after all - though finding a way to take a shot at Jimmy Carter also was an unusually creative touch for a change, though I don't know between he and Mikey who came up with that one).

  • In addition, it’s nice to know that “Governor Bully” is preoccupied with “serious” issues like this one (notice I didn’t say “weighty”…the wingnut umbrage will begin momentarily). He can’t have anything besmirching the good name of the Garden State, I know.

    I guess, as far as he’s concerned, this is a nice diversion from the fact that he blew about $400 million in education funding (here), killed one of this country’s largest public works projects (and he wasn't involved with the alternative noted here), and took a vacation to Disney World while he state dug out of an epic snowstorm (here), but somehow was able to pony up the dough for the Atlantic City casinos (here).

    The soap opera goes on.

  • Update: And of course he peddles this dookey in front of the AEI, who were probably orgasmic over it.

    Update 2/17/11: Uh, yep (h/t Atrios)...

  • Also, we have former Bushco flak Marc Thiessen bloviating as follows (here, concerning the recent events in Egypt)…

    When the protests first erupted, ordinary Egyptians appeared to hope - almost to expect - that once they rose up to demand their freedom, America could not help but stand with them. Instead, they heard President Obama's handpicked envoy, Frank Wisner, declare that Hosni Mubarak "must stay in office" to oversee the changes he had ordered. They heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declare the United States backed "the transition process announced by the Egyptian government" (which then consisted of Mubarak staying in power until September). And they waited in vain for Obama himself to speak out clearly and align America with the democratic revolution they had set in motion. Soon their hopes gave way to disappointment and eventually anger. Demonstrators began carrying signs that declared "Shame on you Obama!" and showed Mubarak depicted as Obama in his iconic "hope" image - with a caption that read "No You Can't."
    Boy, that’s weak even for Thiessen – here is the post that he links to, in which there’s no mention made of the possibility that the imagery of the Mubarak poster is meant as a criticism of Obama (if anything, it looks like it's meant as an imitation). And of course, Thiessen provides no link to the alleged “Shame on you Obama!” posters.

    Actually, as noted here, Obama was trying to help get Mubarak out with a "peaceful transfer of power" and new rules on presidential elections, so much so that Deputy Minister for Galilee and Negev Development Ayoub Kara of the Israeli government told Repug presidential nominee Mike Huckabee (yes, I’m serious) that he was “disappointed by Obama’s turning his back” on Mubarak.

    On top of that (and speaking of neocons), Elliott Abrams says here (as you might expect) that it’s important for Obama to imitate Former President Nutball in all of this (or something – so then, as far as Thiessen is concerned, is he admitting that Dubya had it wrong too?).

  • Finally, in the midst of all of the justified outrage over the latest from House Speaker John (“So Be It”) Boehner, it’s easy to forget that he said “everything is on the table” here when it comes to entitlement spending (of course, as I’ve said before, he can pretend to be a spendthrift now that the Repugs got their stinking tax cuts last year in the lame duck session – and you’d better damn believe that they’ll be back for more, unemployment be damned…also, it’s nice to see Boehner’s “firm hand” at work in control of the spoiled children composing the House majority here).

    I thought Rachel Maddow had a nice feature on some of the comical budgeting of the House Repugs here (she had another good feature on Boehner last night - I'll try to track down the video).

  • Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Tuesday Stuff

    (Hopefully back to posting tomorrow...)

    A particularly appropriate question given this revolting development (South Dakota keeps voting against this stuff, Repug politicians keep introducing these horrific bills - lather, rinse, repeat; to support the ad, click here)...

    ...and "so be it," Orange Man (here)? And oh please, some wingnut remind me once more how awful Nancy Pelosi is - tell me when the spaceship lands...

    Update 2/21/11: And of course, Boehner's cruel and ridiculous remark was dutifully ignored by our corporate media stenographers (as noted here, among other observations...h/t Atrios).

    ...and take a bow, all you idiot voters who bought the typical Repug crap on this issue last November (and I'm not going to waste a second of my life trying to source any of this nonsense)...

    Update 2/16/11: More here and here...

    ...and yes, I know this is a commercial for the Democratic Party - tough (my response to "news" at practically any corporate media site anywhere telling us the latest about Palin and the teabaggers, no matter how mundane)...

    ...and RIP Kenneth Mars, one of the greatest comic character actors who ever lived...

    ...and I'll grant you that I never liked the newly-elected House Repug majority anyway, but I still think this song is apropos.

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Monday Stuff

    RIP George Shearing...

    ...and once more, when it's time for no-holds-barred, bring-the-hammer-down, speaking-truth-to-power editorializing - well, that means it's time for Jon Stewart...

    ...and this tune comes from the days when performers wrote something called "protest songs" (you can Google it), and this is a cover of a seminal Bob Dylan anthem performed by Steve Earle (introduced by the late Howard Zinn - fits Rummy to a "t"...the mike feedback gets better at about 2:30)...

    ...and oh yeah, before I forget, Happy Valentine's Day (carrying on the tradition).

    Monday Mashup (2/14/11)

  • Oh, and by the way, before people start losing their minds over stories like this, read this and pay particular attention to the paths of the red and blue lines in the chart over the rest of this decade, OK?

    Yes, Obama knows about the bloody debt already (and for the two trillionth time, it’s about jobs anyway as opposed to everything else). Can we all just get a grip and try acting like adults?

  • Also, I thought ProPublica had a good interview here with former PA DEP Secretary John Hanger, who served under former Governor Ed Rendell – what follows are some excerpts…

    Q: One of the recurring issues around the growth of gas drilling is that, even if laws are in place, they need to be enforced. Does Pennsylvania have enough inspectors to oversee the industry as it continues to grow?

    It does as of this moment, but I've been saying for two years that's a question that has to be asked and answered every year. As the industry grows, the answer I think will be no, if we stay with the current staffing. We hired in 2009. We hired in 2010. And if we were still in charge of the department, we would probably end up hiring again in 2011, depending on what's going on with the industry.

    Q: Can that realistically be done?

    Of course it can be done. If needed, and I'm not prepared to say today that it's needed, the state or a governor needs to make this a top priority and then it can happen. That's what we did. We raised the fee. ...You could raise the fee, you could restructure the fee, and you could tax the industry, how about that idea?

    [Former Governor Ed Rendell and Hanger tried unsuccessfully to persuade the state legislature to levy a tax on natural gas extraction.] It's absolutely vital that this industry pay a reasonable drilling tax. That's why every other state has assessed a drilling tax. It's because there are actually winners and losers.
    Are you feeling all warm and fuzzy about ripping the Marcellus Shale wide open after reading that last sentence? Neither am I...

    Q: Does Pennsylvania have the laws it needs to make sure the drilling industry takes (the path of developing a “culture of safety”)?

    I think there are a couple of areas where further work needs to be done, at a minimum. One is the bonding law [which requires that drillers post bonds to cover the cost of plugging and reclaiming wells that are no longer producing]. The bonding rate in Pennsylvania is scandalously low: It's ridiculous.

    [Also], it would make good environmental and economic sense to have a spacing and pooling rule on the books. The details need to get worked out, but essentially, what it would do is say that wells cannot be closer than X. I've thrown out somewhere between one and two miles apart... And that gas can in fact be pooled as long as any gas used from an unwilling mineral owner is compensated for it at certainly the fair market value. [Because a single well can often drain gas from several properties, “pooling” laws sometimes allow drillers to extract that gas over the objection of some of the landowners.] Most other states have some provision like that.
    So basically, the short answer to the "culture of safety" question is no. I also felt that Hanger dodged the question of who should be responsible for ensuring the environmental safety of fracking chemicals, assuming it is possible to provide that assurance (and I kept telling myself as I read this that Hanger was someone who I honestly believe was in our corner on a lot of this stuff, though at times I wondered).

    Hanger’s successor at the PA Department of Environmental Protection in the Tom Corbett administration is Judge Michael Krancer; as noted here, he has been a judge on the PA environmental hearing board for the past ten years. At this point, I would say that Judge Krancer is entitled to the benefit of the doubt in his new role, and of course we wish him luck (he’ll need it, as will we all).

  • Update 3/3/11: Here comes that sinking feeling again (here - h/t Atrios).

  • Next, I think this is an appropriate time to revisit a certain Repug PA-08 U.S. House rep on the issue of jobs; as noted here from a few months ago, “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick opposed tax cuts for supposed job creation in 2005, but made noises like he supported them last year (oh, and if you read through all of the post from last October, try not to laugh too hard when you read Mikey complain about how his predecessor attended a Nancy Pelosi fundraiser, given Mikey’s own issues with such activities last month before he was sworn in…oh, excuse me, I mean to say that Mikey hosted a “reception” with a suggested dollar contribution on the invitation).

    Well, given Mikey’s supposed commitment to job creation, you would think his plate would be full of meetings with leaders of startup businesses, groundbreaking ceremonies, announcements of seed funding, other related public works projects, etc.

    Well, you would think that would be the case. However, you would be wrong.

    As noted here under the heading of “Economy and Jobs” from Fitzpatrick’s congressional web site, there is a clip story of a meeting in which he announces “a small business advisory panel.”

    And that’s it (and this gives you an idea of what Fitzpatrick has to exceed, given that his predecessor brought approximately 3,000 jobs to Bucks County).

    This is typical for the galling inaction thus far from the Repugs on this topic, though; as noted here, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said that President Obama was “paying lip service to job creation,” when in fact, as noted here (telling you how much Barbour actually cares about the jobless...not!), he rejected $50 million in unemployment funds for his state through the stimulus, a boneheaded move that was overridden by that state’s legislature.

  • Finally, Peter Baker of the New York Times interviewed former Bushco Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for the latter’s book, as noted here (you would think someone as despicable as Rummy would take the hint, but of course his mirror, if you will, reflects everyone but himself – MoDo actually had a great takedown on him yesterday here).

    As to the matter of Rumsfeld supposedly deferring to the military too much (which he states in the Baker interview), I think the following should be noted from here…

    Rumsfeld has the nerve to blame others for his many mistakes. "In retrospect, there may have been times when more troops could have helped." But he insists that if senior military officers had reservations about the size of the invading force, they never informed him (according to the Post review).

    In reality, Rumsfeld rejected a plan presented to him by General Tommy Franks, the head of Central Command, and his operations director, Air Force Major General Victor "Gene" Renuart, that called for more troops at the time. "Let's put together a group that can just think outside the box completely," ordered Rumsfeld then. "Certainly, we have traditional military planning, but let's take away the constraints a little bit and think about what might be a way to solve the problem."

    Outside the box turned out to be easy: Rumsfeld outsourced the dirty, dull and dangerous stuff to Halliburton and Blackwater and paid them handsome profits on the multibillion dollar contracts. His compatriots at the state department dispatched 11 "idealistic volunteers … in their twenties or early thirties [who] had no foreign service experience to run the country". At the same time, Rumsfeld failed to provide working equipment to the soldiers, who were facing an increasingly hostile population.

    Then, Iraq turned out to be a powder keg. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in a civil war that ripped the country apart. Thousands of US soldiers, too, were killed by roadside bombs. In December 2004, when Thomas Wilson, a low-ranking soldier from the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld: "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armour our vehicles?" Rumsfeld replied: "You go to war with the army you have."
    And on the question of Rumsfeld’s resignation, which eventually occurred waay too long after the fact…

    In May 2004, right after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the Economist – hardly a radical rag – ran an editorial titled "Resign, Rumsfeld", adding "responsibility for errors and indiscipline needs to be taken at the top." Nor was it just the "armchair generals" who reached this conclusion. In September 2006, three retired military officers – Major General John Batiste, Major General Paul Eaton and Colonel Thomas X Hammes, all of whom served in senior positions during the invasion and occupation of Iraq, called for Rumsfeld to resign.

    What the citizens of the US, Iraq and, indeed, the world needed from this man today was an apology, at the very least. Plain and simple. In his 1995 memoir of the US war in Vietnam, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, Robert McNamara, another former US secretary of defence, admitted that he and his senior colleagues were "wrong, terribly wrong" to pursue the war as they did.

    If only Donald Rumsfeld would do the same.
    Indeed, and Peter Baker of the Times says Rummy was “unhappy at times” with former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, but everything was “handled professionally”? I guess that’s about the kind of whitewash you can expect from Rummy, who, as noted here, said Powell “did not, in my view, do a good job of managing the people under him,” and who said the following about Rice (not that I’m a rush to defend her either, I want to emphasize)…

    "She'd never served in a senior administration position," he said. "She'd been an academic. And, you know, a lot of academics like to have meetings. And they like to bridge differences and get people all to be happy."
    Oh, and I’m sure Rummy was looking for a little payback at Powell, who once referred to the operation of Douglas Feith, Rummy’s right-hand man, as “the Gestapo” (here), probably in response to Feith's characterization of the State Department under Powell as the "Department of Nice" here (hinted at a bit in Rummy's criticism).

    (And as long as we’re discussing Rummy, I couldn’t help but recall this golden oldie…”we don’t have an exit strategy, we have a victory strategy” indeed – actually, of course, they had neither, to say nothing of Rummy’s continued pleasure over the absence of Saddam Hussein to try and cover up untidy stuff like thisand on and on and on…).

    Also, Baker had this to say about Rummy’s old boss yesterday (here)…

    President Bush, after all, made “ending tyranny in our world” the centerpiece of his second inaugural address, and, although he pursued it selectively, he considers it one of his signature legacies. The very notion of democracy promotion became so associated with him, and with the war in Iraq, that Democrats believed that it was now discredited. Never mind that Republican and Democratic presidents, from Woodrow Wilson to Ronald Reagan, had championed liberty overseas; by the time Mr. Bush left office it had become a polarizing concept.
    I’ve read this paragraph multiple times, and I must tell you that I don’t know what the hell Baker is talking about.

    I mean, I know that Dubya literally talked about tyranny in his second Inaugural address; as noted here, though, he would tell an audience later that year that “God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq,” and our corporate media reported that with an absolutely straight face (imagine what would happen if a Democratic president were to utter words like that).

    But as Pratap Chatterjee of the Guardian noted in his column earlier (written before Hosni Mubarak was forced out in Egypt)…

    Today, as the crowds surge forward in Cairo in a valiant attempt to topple dictators in the Middle East, they are not quoting Donald Rumsfeld, or his boss George Bush, or recalling the removal of Saddam Hussein. Rather, in their desperate plea to be heard, they are chanting slogans against both Mubarak and the US, whom they blame for the denial of democracy as well as torture in Egypt's prisons – and in Abu Ghraib.
    Saying Dubya “pursued selectively” the goal of “ending tyranny in our world” is more than a disgusting corporate media euphemism. It is an utter lie.

    And to associate him with any prior president in an attempt to validate that lie is an obscenity.