Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mark Herring’s Wishy-Washy Stance

The GOP has made a market in the deficit this past year. Borrowing is simply bad business that passes the buck to our children, and they won’t have anything of it. Except of course, when they do like borrowing. Such as Gov. McDonnell’s plan for transportation.  He borrows money that gets us some of what we need for the next three years but saddles taxpayers with debt for the next 20. Debt that will come from funds that would have gone to education and social services. McDonnell looks like he solved the problem. He forecloses any other transportation funding for years to come because the GOP will say we’ve already dealt with it. In the election this year, the GOP will appear to be heroes and likely consolidate further its hold on the House and probably take over the Senate.

And we have legislators like Mark Herring saying on the one hand he doesn’t like borrowing, but on the other hand transportation needs are great, so he lays the groundwork in this video to capitulate to the GOP view of things, proving once again Dems don’t know how to play politics and that they have absolutely no principles that ground them. Voters will see them as weak and again ignore them at the polls.


No Snow Plowing in NYC is a Snow Job

Even those of us who don’t live in New York City and have enough snow problems of our own have heard the story: City sanitation workers in the Big Apple supposedly were ordered to slow down plowing after the December 26 blizzard as retribution to the mayor for job reductions.

The charge was made by a single city councilman, a union hating Tea Party nut.  And I’m not talking about being a Tea party nut but a Tea Partier who is a nut in other ways.

For many New Yorkers, it was the first they had heard of Mr. Halloran, 39, a lawyer from Whitestone who has had a colorful first year in office.

During his 2009 campaign, his faith was briefly an issue. He is an adherent of Theodism, a neo-pagan faith that draws from pre-Christian tribal religions of northern Europe, and he led a branch in the New York area.

The city is investigating and the New York Times has the story that there seems to be little evidence that it’s true.

But an even better read is Ryan Chittum of CJR’s The Audit deconstructing how the mainstream media, especially CNN, the Washington Times and of course, FOX News used the story to enhance the “labor unions are killing America” meme. Chittum does a great job.

Investments = Spending, So?

Political Wire has this quote of the day:

"When the President talks in his speech about investment, the American people need to understand that translates into spending."
— Sen. John Thune (R-SD), quoted by KFSY-TV.

And I hope his answer is an emphatic:

Yes, it means spending. The deficit is a problem and I’m proposing ways to reduce it. But a much greater problem in America is jobs—good jobs now and in the future. We need to invest in infrastructure that puts people to work right away.  It’s not make work; it’s much needed work as we’re falling behind the rest of the world in the sophistication and reliability of our roads, bridges, electrical grids and water and sewer systems. We need to invest in education so that the next generation is trained for jobs of the 21st century.

Mr. Thune’s Republican solution is to cut spending and depend on the private sector. Is the private sector going to build roads and bridges? Of course not. For the last 30 years, we’ve seen nothing but trickle down schemes by Republicans that have left us less competitive in the world with declining incomes and disappearing futures for the middle class. The American people aren’t buying Republicans’ slight of hand that takes money from the middle class and gives it to the wealthiest 1% in this country.

But my guess is that at best we’ll only get the first part of this answer. After all, he wants a “civil” tone. To Obama and the rest of the country that translates to meek.

Turkey Creek, Mississippi: Saved By the Birds

Jon Stewart’s skewering of the many Nazi accusations and hypocrisy on Fox News will probably get the lion’s share of today’s attention in the blogosphere.  But Wyatt Cenac’s piece of the people, descendants of slaves, in Turkey Creek, Miss. and the patronizing Audubon Society is hilarious.

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Recognizing Service

Retired General Stanley McChrystal has penned a piece in Newsweek that my daughter, who is serving in the National Civilian Community Corps cited by McChrystal, sent me. He isn’t speaking of military service but that of people, I’m proud to say like our younger daughter, who is so committed to service. Some excerpts:

We have let the concept of service become dangerously narrow, often associated only with the military. This allows most Americans to avoid the sense of responsibility essential for us to care for our nation—and for each other. We expect and demand less of ourselves than we should.

And now it is time to fix it.

“Service member” should not apply only to those in uniform, but to us all.


…We live in a nation of rights, and jealously defend them.

Thomas Jefferson drew upon the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment’s finest minds to articulate the concept of “inalienable rights” in defining the essential freedoms guaranteed to Americans in the new republic.

Those rights are sacred. We fought a war to make the Declaration’s statement of rights a reality, and have sacrificed since to defend them.

But as important as those inalienable rights are, there are also inalienable responsibilities that we must accept and fulfill. Those responsibilities are wider than are often perceived or accepted. Just as we have allowed the term “service member” to apply solely to the military, we have allowed the obligations of citizenship to narrow.

Even the most basic responsibilities of being an American are considered optional by many. In the seeming anonymity of modern life, the concept of community responsibility has weakened, yet is needed more than ever.


…Critics sometimes point to the costs associated with service programs and argue that national service is an inefficient disruption of capitalist markets, producing a Soviet-style mismatch of talent to task and undermotivated workers. They argue that for young people, the program would represent a time-wasting delay of entry into our society and economy.

But perhaps those critics have never read accounts of workers who built the Hoover Dam or Panama Canal, or listened to service members of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” describe their feeling of contribution—and the effect it has had on their lives.

Poised, Passionate, Articulate and Left

At a time when Democratic leaders from Richmond to Washington and beyond are inarticulate, cowed and flustered, we have Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders. After seeing this performance, I may have to reassess my opinion of him. Until last night when I saw him on “The Last Word,” I thought he too often sounds a little too angry.  He still looks angry, which would hurt him as a spokesman, but his passionate and clear speaking was a breath of fresh air. My daughter commented on his cogency while we we watched him.

I’m not sure who can match him.

By the way, he plans to introduce a bill similar to Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” because he wants to have that debate.

Speaking of the “Roadmap,” listen to Rachel Maddow skewering Ryan and his coupon program to replace Medicare. It starts at about 4:00.

Bath Salts

Be forewarned: I am writing about something I know nothing about. (And how’s that unusual, you snark.) But I’ll freely admit, I know nothing about bath salts.

Apparently, they are, shall we say, all the rage.  Literally.

I may have tried bath salts once, but I’m not sure. If I did, it was because someone else in the bath tub suggested it. In which case, of course, she could have suggested we pour dirty motor oil in the tub, and I would have acceded.

But I seem to remember them as unremarkable. If they are supposed to relax one, well, I couldn’t relax, certainly not if someone else was in the tub.

Nonetheless, bath salts are now the latest designer drug, with names, such as “Ivory Wave,” “White Lightning” and “Hurricane Charlie.”

I think this is an AP story. The Washington Post identified it as an AP story, but the Fox News site claims the AP “contributed to this article,” though it seems essentially the same article as in The Post.

The offending drugs are called mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone. Let’s just classify them under the family “Raging Ragu,” but they are labeled “bath salts.”

One man, Neil Brown, of Fulton, Miss., got high off the bath salts and then slashed his face and stomach. He survived, but authorities said other people have not been so lucky.

…In southern Louisiana, the family of a 21-year-old man says he cut his throat and ended his life with a gunshot. Authorities are investigating whether a man charged with capital murder in the December death of a Tippah County, Miss., sheriff’s deputy was under the influence of the bath salts.

Several states have or are considering outlawing it. Mentioned in the article were Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky. No offense to anyone who lives there, but when those states are in the vanguard of anything, it’s time the rest of us pay attention.

But after reading this article, I have some questions never explained by the AP reporter or the Fox News propagandist.

If these are legitimate bath salts, why is it necessary to have something in the salts that is impossible to pronounce, not to mention, you know, deadly? That should be a warning to everyone. Or perhaps a condition of purchase: You have to pronounce methylenedioxypyrovalerone—and spell it. You can even look at the label while you try to spell it. I’d lose my place in such a word.

If these are not chemicals that are in legitimate bath salts, how did the drug dealers let drug users know that this handy method of self-destruction was available in your local convenience store? Did they run promotions with 7-Eleven: “Buy a day old hot dog but forget about it with bath salts.”

And why is it so easy to develop a new drug that can be so destructive and yet the FDA, DEA, and law enforcement are powerless to ban it? The article suggests it could take years for the DEA to outlaw it. (Apparently, the states can just pass a law, an action that understandably is not something we can any faith that the U.S. Congress could do.)

So there you have it: bath salts.

And if you are now a little leery of any type of bath salts, motor oil works just as well—unless you drink it.


The New York Times’ Matt Bai thinks President Obama needs to connect more directly with voters than he has, though he doesn’t expect him to tweet.

Perhaps, though, the president’s team is over-thinking the challenge, putting too much emphasis on how to use the trendiest applications or on how to interact with voters, when what really matters is creating an authentic narrative. One of the most pervasive activities on the Internet, after all, is the basic conveyance of personal experiences by way of the written word — a tendency to share stories widely in e-mails or on blogs, rather than talking one on one to a friend on the phone. In the online age, we are all diarists.

Mr. Obama is probably the most talented writer to occupy the office in the television age; his political career was made possible, in large part, by the candid memoir he wrote as a younger man. So it is hard to understand why the president hasn’t tried to use that talent the way Mr. Kennedy capitalized on his personal charm.

You can easily imagine Mr. Obama sitting in front of a keyboard at the end of a long day, briefly reflecting on the oddity of a personal encounter or on the meaning of some overlooked event, or perhaps describing what it is like to stand in the well of Congress and deliver the State of the Union address. It could be that in order to expand the reach and persuasiveness of the modern presidency, Mr. Obama simply needs to be his online self — not so much a blogger as a memoirist-in-chief, walking us through history in real time.

Blogging, as much as i love it, is not a presidential habit I’d like to see. Yes, Obama is a somewhat talented writer. But he really needs to transform himself into a talented extemporaneous—and humorous—speaker. In this age of biting hyperbole—”Nazi socialist,” anyone?—he would do well to put the GOP down with humor. Lord knows the GOP gives him plenty of opportunity to point out their hypocrisy. He should take some questions at a couple of photo opp each week and be prepared to deliver a couple of prepared (to seem off the cuff) bon mots to the press corps. Engaging the press (and at the same time delivering a few biting comments about them) would make him seem less aloof. He just doesn’t seem to have the confidence to do it, however, as his advisors have convinced him to be overly cautious. Or that is his nature.

Still, an “authentic narrative” would be nice.

Texting While Walking Lady Wants to Sue

Even my fellow progressives must admit that this is exhibit A in the evidence that tort reform is needed. This lawyer and his client, the lady who fell in the mall fountain while texting, should pay a huge fine for bring this to a court, if indeed that’s what they do.

Her lawyer said he will investigate and hold all parties responsible for this accountable.

Sir, she’s sitting next to you.

Strong Support for Healthcare Reform

My headline is not one you’re likely to see in mainstream media headlines.  Not because it’s false; actually, it’s true. But the mainstream media wants a couple of things:

  1. Continued access to Republican sources; ergo,
  2. MSM will continue to report GOP talking points, even when they know they are not true.

A recent poll by The Washington Post and its reporting makes the case. Here’s the headline: More Americans oppose health-care law, but few want a total repeal.

More than what, you ask?  More than ever? More than the last poll? More than support it?

Actually, the simple answer is the third option. Simple, but incorrect, as interpreted by most people. And no where in the article does it explain what the headline means.

Republicans are forever saying that “the American people don’t support this healthcare bill,” or words to that effect.  They then say that’s why they want to repeal it.

As The Post reports, few really want repeal, but you will forever see the GOP make that false claim, false but duly noted by the press.

But to the question of support for the healthcare bill, The Post’s Jon Cohen buries the lede in the penultimate paragraph.

Another factor in the debate is that a quarter of those who oppose the health-care law say the legislation is faulty because it did not go far enough, not because it pushed change too far.

So if you add the number together from The Post’s poll, 45% support the bill, and about 2513% of those who opposed it (13% overall) wish it went further, meaning 58%, a sizable majority (a landslide in electoral politics), either like the current healthcare overhaul or wish it would go further, and in all likelihood that means arguably not in the direction the GOP would take it.

Yesterday’s poll by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press confirms this interpretation.

The public continues to be divided over what it wants to see done with the health care law – 37% favor its repeal, while nearly as many (35%) want the law expanded, and 20% would leave it as it is.

Which again gives us 55% of Americans wanting the law as is or expanded.

Complicating my view are the results from two other polls this week.  A CNN poll doesn’t ask the question about whether opposition is because the law doesn’t go far enough, and its topline support/oppose is the same as the other polls, a slight plurality opposed.  But when forced to choose to either keep it all or repeal it all, 50% say repeal it all with 42% say keep it all.  One would think that if a majority liked the law or wanted it to go further, the “don’t repeal” group would be closer to 55%, not 42%.

But I think another question, asked in this week’s  CBS/New York Times poll, puts the entire debate into perspective. When asked if any of the provisions that have already taken effect (keep children on policy until age 26 or that children can not be rejected for insurance if they have a preexisting condition), apply to the respondent, we learn only 13% have benefited from the law yet. Once people start seeing the benefits to themselves, support could grow.

Another key issue is this from the CNN/NY Times poll:

Those who support repeal were asked whether they would continue to do so if it meant that insurance companies were no longer required to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions; 52% said they would, but 35% said in that case, the law should not be repealed.

Someone (the Press? the Dems? Both?) have not done a good job of explaining the bill.

A critical question is this” Should it be the media’s responsibility to explain the bill. That depends on what one think the media’s role should be. If it is to simply report what is happening or whether it is to find the truth. I believe it is the latter and cite the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, an organization to which, admittedly, not all journalists belong.

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.

…Journalists should:

Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible. [emphasis added]