31 January 2009

Fact Checking the Stimulus

Politifact has been on top of the "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," which means they're maintaining a record of the distortions and falsehoods begin flung about by politicians and commentators.

The worst of the flingers appears to be Rep. Eric Cantor. Recently he has asserted that the package includes money for "a $300,000 sculpture garden." Not true. He's also insisted that the package allocates more money for returfing the National Mall than for small business. Again, not true:
The House bill states that the money [$200 million] would be used for "construction, improvements, repair or replacement of facilities related to…the National Mall."

Although the bill doesn't contain specific numbers, a "discussion draft" of the package considered by the House provides a little more detail. It says the "many" projects that would be funded in the Mall project include "repair of the Jefferson Memorial’s collapsing Tidal Basin walls and the replacement of mall turf."

In order to make his equation work, Cantor assumes all of $200 million is for the new turf. It's not.
Indeed. And in contrast to the $200 million to repair and protect the National Mall's monuments and its turf, and $880 million in programs for, and direct assistance to, small businesses. I'd also like ot note that Politifact reveals that Cantor has been misrepresenting the Congressional Budget Office's data on the stimulus' effect.

It's true that some of the proposals included in the House version of the stimulus package were out of whack--for example, money for contraceptive services [President Obama asked for the removal of this allocation] and STD education. This is not to negate the importance of shoring up family planning services and health programs, but this isn't the time and place for it. Priorities, you know?

Aside: Oregon Rep. Pete DeFazio (a very nice man) suggests that the way out of our problems is to minimize tax relief. Yup. The stimulus package contains too many tax reductions:

The $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals included in the federal legislation drew criticism from DeFazio.

Giving money back to taxpayers does little to stimulate the economy and just pushes the nation further into debt, he said.

He would have preferred to see tax loopholes that benefit big corporations closed. (Register-Guard)

Well, I'm all for "giving money back to the taxpayers," but, considering how many businesses are suffering right now--and Exxon is not representative--and laying off employees, those tax loopholes might be beneficial for the time being. When we hit recovery, then we can talk about closing those loopholes (and they do need to be closed).

30 January 2009

Michael Steele: RNC Chair

The Republican National Committee has just elected as party chair the former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele. Steele won the 6th round of balloting against South Carolina's Katon Dawson (the tally: 91-77). Change has come to the RNC.

(Here's a US News & World Report piece, "Ten Things You Didn't Know About Michael Steele" from April of last year).

Update: The racists are well and truly freaking out over this. From Ben Smith:
One immediate consequence of Steele's ascent, though: Real hysteria on the racist fringe of the Republican Party, where David Duke (still around!) branded Steele a "black racist" and his fellow Republicans "traitors."
There is a serious question of whether this could push real committed racists, a small, but real and voting, minority, away from the GOP. Hard to see them returning to what's now the party of Barack Obama.
Duke also calls Steele "Obama junior" and complains that the GOP has turned its back on its "base states."

29 January 2009

GOP Seeping Sexism

Posting and running: two points from today’s news:

1. President Obama today signs into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which “focuses on pay and other workplace discrimination against women” (AP). Republicans have long opposed this legislation, in part because it would “benefit trial lawyers.” Last week, several Republicans (all four female GOP Senators and Arlen Specter) chose to cross the aisle and vote with the Democratic majority in support of the bill (The Hill). The majority of Republicans continued to oppose the Ledbetter Act.

2. In an exchange on Hardball, Dick Armey tells Salon’s editor-in-chief Joan Walsh:

“I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife, ‘cause I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you every day” (qtd. in Calderone).

Take from this what you will.

27 January 2009

One Election Night Thug Pleads Guilty

Brian Carranza decided to hurt some random people on 04 November--right after Barack Obama was elected president. Carranza pleaded guilty today. From The New York Times:

Mr. Carranza, who is white, and two friends — another white man and a Hispanic man — had been accused of beating a Liberian immigrant teenager, pushing a black man to the ground and driving their car over a white man they thought was black.

The last victim was in a coma for several days but survived.

The two other suspects, Ralph Nicoletti and Michael Contreras, both 18, remained free on bail after pleading not guilty.
There you go.

26 January 2009

Looks Like Class Action Time is Comin'

That plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America? the one in Blakely, Georgia? The one that produced Lord knows how many tons of salmonella-laced peanut butter? The one responsible for more than 500 people falling ill and eight people dying? Turns it it's not such a clean place, and it hasn't been for a while. Apparently the plant,
"has a history of sanitation lapses and was cited repeatedly in 2006 and 2007 for having dirty surfaces and grease residue and dirt buildup throughout the plant, according to health inspection reports. Inspection reports from 2008 found the plant repeatedly in violation of cleanliness standards" (NYT).
If you want some queasy details on what health inspectors found in 2007, and 2008, head for this New York Times article. One thing to wonder about: if the place consistently violated health codes, why the heck did Georgia, which "performs inspections on behalf of the FDA,"allow it to continue processing foods?

I smell a lawsuit in the works. . . .

Update: A class action lawsuit is most certainly in the works, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear of criminal action as well. According to Newsday, the Peanut Corporation of America "received tests from private labs revealing salmonella contamination in 2007, but then got further sampling showing the facility to be salmonella-free"Further, a federal inspection team "identified approximately 12 instances in 2007 and 2008 where the firm identified some type of salmonella ... in environmental samples," even so, "PCA still sent peanut butter and paste to unwitting customers." So the Peanut Corporation of America (which, by the way, has a second plant in Texas that continues to produce and ship peanut butter products) was aware of salmonella contamination two years ago, "did nothing to improve its manufacturing and sanitation practices after salmonella was found in its plant" (MSNBC), and continued to distribute their products for public consumption.

23 January 2009

Time to Update the NRCC website.

Caught this at Balloon Juice:

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s website proudly asserts on an "issues" page:

NRCC Home > Issues > Economy


Thanks to Republican economic policies, the U.S. economy is robust and job creation is strong.

Republican tax cuts are creating jobs and continuing to strengthen the economy, yet there is still more to do so that every American who wants a job can find one.

One of the key items on the NRCC’s agenda: “[e]ncourage investment and expansion by restraining federal spending and reducing regulation.” Yup. That’s what we need—less regulation, especially for those financial institutions.

Seriously, there's no mention of our current economic uncertainty, and no comment on the consistent reports of layoffs across the nation. You’d think the people in charge of advancing the Republican cause would at least try to avoid a variation on “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”

Update: It looks as though the NRCC’s webmaster has now updated the site's "Issues" category by cleaning it out (if you go to “Issues” from the NRCC homepage, you get an empty screen).

Sibley: Supreme Court Confers & Denies

Simply an update for those who recall Montgomery Blair Sibley's association with Larry Sinclair (Sibley acted as Sinclair's attorney in the "three bloggers" case, etc. Sibley also made a notorious kilt-wearing appearance at Sinclair's National Press Club 'do).

The Washington D C Bar suspended Sibley back in late spring 2008 (while Sibley was working with Sinclair). In May, Sibley applied to the Supreme Court "for stay pending the filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari" (USSC). (Despite his suspension, Sibley continued work as an attorney, by the way).

On 09 December, Chief Justice Roberts denied Sibley's application. Sibley quickly refiled the application and submitted it to Justice Clarence Thomas, who referred it to the court.

The Supreme Court met in conference on 16 January, and yesterday, 21 January, the Supreme Court turned Sibley down. you can review all of the details at the USSC site.

22 January 2009

UFL Text Message: “The Monkey Got Out of the Cage”

Via the University of Florida's emergency text message system, an anonymous person sent the message, "the monkey got out of the cage" to the entire UFL community at 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 January. People who received the text (and a few others) assumed that the message intended to disparage President Obama.

Police have found the fella who did it, a “former mobile campus” employee, who claims that:

the message was in no way meant to be racial in nature. In fact, [UPD Lt. Darren] Baxley said, the man told investigators he is an Obama supporter and voted for Obama in the November election. The man said he was “showing off” to two friends that he still had access to the Mobile Campus text messaging system and did not mean to send the message he had typed, Baxley said.

Why the man still was able to send a message as a former employee remained unclear, Baxley said. (UFL News)

If the former employee found a way to continue sending messages via the UFL system, one he should have been locked out of, this might explain the “monkey got out of the cage” aspect. I hope that this is the case (as opposed to some ugly dig at the new president).

More here.

20 January 2009

The President of These United States of America

The President of The United States of America.

Pretty Classy, No?

The evening before Barack Obama's inauguration, he chose to spend his time celebrating his rival for the presidency. That's right--not making secret deals with Jihadists, not phoning Chavez or Ahmadinejad. Nor was he frantically trying to hide his Indonesian/Kenyan/Pakistani/Venusian passport. Instead, the President-Elect spent his evening hugging John McCain, addressing him as"an American hero," and saying ""John is not known to bite his tongue and if I'm screwing up, he's going to let me know. And that's how it should be" (Reuters).

15 January 2009

Nazi-Naming Parents Lose Children

You might just remember a story from last month that revealed a young New Jersey couple's frustrations with a local bakery. The bakery refused to create a birthday cake inscribed with their son's name--Adolf Hitler Campbell. The parents have encumbered the poor lad's sisters with similarly Nazi-inspired names. Anyway, New Jersey has removed the boy and his sisters from the parents. A spokesperson for the state has denied that their children would be put into care simply because of their names; otherwise, there's no information explaining the children's removal. the various parties will duke it out Thursday, 15 January.

14 January 2009

13 January 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Papers Online

In a pretty significant moment for historians in general, Morehouse College will place its hefty collection of Dr. King's work (from 1944-1968) online. According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, the King collection includes:
many of King’s speeches and personal writings from 1946 to 1968.
About 7,000 pieces are handwritten by King, including an early draft of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and nearly 100 sermons, some of which never have been published.
All will be available for examination.
[Collection Director Clayborne]Carson, interviewed by telephone Monday, said he is especially excited about the outlines, drafts and finished manuscripts of sermons that give insight into King the preacher.
“The religious documents are the ones that have not been available to scholars,” he said. (AJC)
(aside: At this moment, the College's Robert W. Woodruff Library continues to "arrange and organize" King's materials. I'm guessing it will be open to all fairly soon).

12 January 2009

GWB to GOP: Open your Minds

A followup to a post on Alex Massie's critique of the GOP's adulation of Reagan, which results, he argues, in a narrowing definition of who is or isn't "a Republican," I offer George W. Bush's take on the GOP's "tent":

"It's very important for our party not to narrow its focus, not to become so inward looking that we drive people away from a philosophy that is compassionate and decent," the departing president said in an interview broadcast Sunday, nine days before his term ends. "My call for our party is to be open-minded."

[Following Democratic gains in Congress in 2006 and 2008, and Barack Obama's election] Republican leaders are re-examining both their message and their messengers. Bush said the party need not change its basic tenets such low taxes and a strong defense. But he warned that there ought not be any "litmus tests as to whether or not you can be a Republican."

"We should be open-minded about big issues like immigration reform, because if we're viewed as anti-somebody — in other words, if the party is viewed as anti-immigrant, then another fellow may say, `Well, if they're against the immigrant, they may be against me.' We've got to be a party for a better future." (AP)

The message that might not appeal to many Republicans, if only because Bush leaves office with record-breaking disapproval ratings. But his suggestions are worth considering. The 2006 and 2008 GOP defeats were not due merely to the president: the party's message has well and truly broken down.

Aside: Unfortunately, this encouragement to "open your minds" seems focused on immigration reform, which is a significant issue, but it's only one of many.

11 January 2009

Motown Turns Fifty.

Yes, Motown turns fifty, and we all get to feel really old. Anyway, to celebrate Motown's demi-centenniel, NPR's All Things Considered has music critic (and former Detroit Free Press journalist) Gary Graff run down six lamentably overlooked singles from Gordy's label.

Graff's list includes some great trivia. For example, one of the tracks he includes, "Does your Mama Know About Me," by Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, features a young Tommy Chong on guitar. Yes, that Tommy Chong. Moreover, Graff claims that Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers "discovered" the Jackson Five, thereby deflating the Motown myth of Diana Ross's role in bringing the Jacksons to Detroit).

10 January 2009

A Misremembered Reagan, A Misplaced Party?

Remember the Republican presidential primaries? Remember the candidates espousing differing variations on Reagan worship, defining him as the be-all-and-end-all of Republican politicians? the same thing happened at a recent debate between candidates for the RNC leadership. Alex Massie has some advice for those who wish to recapture GOP glory: knock it off. Too many people are wistful for an imaginary Ronald Reagan and not the real President Reagan, a man who recognized the nation’s diversity in thought and population, who understood that the GOP needed to have a “wide tent” in order to maintain appeal, and who “was a vastly more adaptable President than current conservative folklore might have you believe.” (Massie). Folks have forgotten this Reagan, and, as Massie writes,

the Idea of Reagan has overtaken the Reaganite reality. Consequently Republicans seem to have misconstrued the premises upon which they based their decision to sanctify Reagan in the first-place. The god they worship is not the god who actually existed. The apparent simplicity of the GOP mantra - strong national defence, tax cuts and, er, that's it - becomes a liability when the party faces an intelligent, charismatic, adaptable opponent who seems better prepared to meet the complex challenges of a complex world right now, not the challenges that faced the United States nearly 30 years ago.

Unlike Reagan himself, too many in the GOP see no reason to adapt to the times. Too many cling to the imaginary Reagan and brook little, or no, dissent. They disdain “widening the tent” and commit themselves to the tenets of the now-defunct “Reagan Revolution.” They condemn moderate Republicans as the reason for their losses in Congress.

If it continues thus, they’ll have a longer time in the wilderness than they hope.

07 January 2009

Ron Asheton, 1948-2009

Ron Asheton, guitarist for The Stooges, the man who drove "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (among other awesome tracks) has died at the age of 60.
(the late Mr Asheton sportin' his specs above right & below left)

06 January 2009

Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General?

Yup. Looks like CNN's own health correspondent is being considered for the position. Watch the conspiracy theories kick into high gear over this one (never mind how highly qualified the man is, the CNN connection is bound to prompt conniption fits amongst some of the population).

02 January 2009

Sibley & the Supremes

A brief update on Montgomery Blair Sibley, the "colorful" attorney who partnered with Larry Sinclair for most of last year (including the NPC spectacle), and who worked with the late Deborah Palfrey.

You might recall that last spring the DC Bar suspended Mr. Sibley for a three year period; Mr. Sibley then applied to the Supreme Court "for stay pending the filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari" in May. The Supremes decided against him on December 9th. Sibley has refiled, and the Supreme Court will conference on the matter on January 16.

Why I Love Henry Rollins. . .

Not that I actually need another reason to celebrate Henry Rollins, but this pretty much sums it up. During a spoken word performance this past spring, someone decided to cut out before the show ended; the attempt to escape didn’t go unnoticed by Rollins:

When a man with long, white hair left early, Rollins called him out. The guy started running out of the theater as Rollins yelled, “Run hippie.”

The event took place in an area pretty notorious for its 60s remainders, by the way.

You Thought Obama Would Do What?

A catalog of misplaced hopes.

01 January 2009

New Year's Day

And a grand welcome to 2009.

Rather than reference an old (old?) U2 song, here's a little something by John Clare:

"The Old Year"
The Old Year's gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he'd a neighbour's face,
In this he's known by none.

All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they're here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall--
A guest to every heart's desire,
And now he's nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year's Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.