Friday, July 31, 2009

Blue Dog Tricks

Remember this the next time you find yourself in a voting booth. From WaPo:
A look at career contribution patterns also shows that typical Blue Dogs receive significantly more money -- about 25 percent -- from the health-care and insurance sectors than other Democrats, putting them closer to Republicans in attracting industry support.

Most of the major corporations and trade groups in those sectors are regular contributors to the Blue Dog PAC. They include drugmakers such as Pfizer and Novartis; insurers such as WellPoint and Northwestern Mutual Life; and industry organizations such as America's Health Insurance Plans. The American Medical Association also has been one of the top contributors to individual Blue Dog members over the past 20 years.
* * *
"The Blue Dogs are carrying water for the industry instead of their constituents," said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, a liberal pro-reform group. "In effect, the Blue Dogs and the Republicans are taking positions that are closer all the time and further away from what most Americans want."

'That's What I Lack About the South'

It's embarrassing to live in a part of the country with so many dumb, brainless people.

Mural Mania!

A commentator on this blog -- yes, we do have one or two -- sent along some good news about the George Snow Hill mural in Milton. You can read it here.

Soon after the large oil painting was rescued from the Milton fire, we mentioned that we had last seen this terrific WPA mural -- a tremendous example of WPA public art and perhaps George Snow Hill's best work -- "in a setting more appropriate for a feed store than a museum." Well, a few months ago we managed to track it down again.

It had been removed to the floor of an antique shop in Milton. We found it half-hidden behind a nightmarish collection of stuffed bunnies, rubber duckies and hideous candle holders.

All we can say is, thank goodness for bad taste! One never knows... It was always possible that among the hundreds of customers who browse through that antique shop every week, someone might have figured out what they were looking at it and suckered a temp into selling it for a dollar or two.

Click on the photo below to get a full view of the now-former exhibition place for "Pulpwood Logging," George Snow Hill's classic 1941 mural.

Moolah for the Masses


The Cash for Clunkers economic stimulus program -- just about the only "bailout" program aimed directly at helping the average citizen -- has worked so well it has run out of money in less than ten days. Only $1 billion was allocated by Congress. The program started July 24 and today it's all gone.

Meanwhile, $12.2 trillion dollars have been allocated by the Bush and Obama administrations to Wall Street banks. A hell of a lot of that went into million-dollar bonuses for the wealthy yahoos who put us on the brink of ruin in the first place. The banks spent tens of millions more on lobbyists hired to buy more congressmen so federal regulations won't be toughened to protect consumers. And, still, no one is lending much.

We've been told from the beginning that this is the most severe recession since the Great Depression. As we see it, the main difference in the government's response, then and now, is this: FDR's New Deal program was designed mainly to help the little guy get on his feet. George Bush's program, which Obama has left essentially in place, was aimed at helping the rich get richer.

There is a good side to all of this. When Economics graduate students of the next generation start looking around for a dissertation topic, maybe they can compare the effectiveness of stimulus programs directly aimed at average Americans versus stimulus programs that shovel buckets of money into the pockets of Wall Street bankers and lobbyists.

"Which was more effective in helping the economy?"
might be the subtitle, if future economists can write clearly. What do you think the answer will be?

7-31 pm

The good news update: This morning, the Obama administration persuaded one-half of Congress to add $2 billion to the "Cash for Clunkers" program. The House of Representatives vote was 316-109. We'll get you the names of those 109 Wall Street buddies as soon as we can.

The bad news downbeat: In the U.S. Senate, which hasn't acted yet, Democrats are likely to seek a "bipartisan" solution to the surprise exhaustion of stimulus money for average Americans. If they follow the pattern established by health reform legislation, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will turn the whole thing over to three right-wing Republicans so they can hand it all over directly to the auto insurance industry.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sanctimonious Stimulus Money

It's good to see the Southern Baptist Convention filing frivolous, tardy motions to horn in on cases which have been already decided. In these tough times, it means more attorney's fee awards for the ACLU. We can't think of a better use for the SBC's collection plate revenues.

The Baptists' motion [pdf warning], among other glaring faults, displays a woeful lack of historiography. As part of the argument in favor of forcing their religious views into the Santa Rosa public school system, they claim "the Bible is undisputedly [sic] the only source for various historical facts, and is probably the sole source for the early history of the Jewish people."

"Probably?" "Only source?" Oh, my. Liberty University Law School, wherever that may be, needs a new history professor.

As for how Southern Baptists may be "irreparably harmed" by the federal court consent decree entered many months ago, among other equally weightless claims, they claim "if students prior to competition choose to pray voluntarily, school employees must disrespect this act by not closing their eyes, bowing their heads or even folding their hands... ."

It's utter nonsense, of course, and any real lawyer would know it. The motion merely buys time for Pace high school's principal Frank Lay and his confederates to continue flipping off the federal court and treating its orders with contempt. In the end, though, it'll cost them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dog Fight

Hendrik Hertzberg over at The New Yorker is passing along a great idea from former New Yorker editor Tina Brown: "Sic the Big Dog on the Blue Dogs."

You know who would win. At odds of roughly 1 to 21, the Big Dog wouldn't even have to break a sweat.

The Third Party

Headline at the Huffington Post:

And you probably thought we were a two-party system.

Fool's Errand for Obama

Harold Meyerson, on why looking for bipartisanship on health reform is like searching for a mare's nest:
[B]ipartisanship ain't what it used to be, and for one fundamental reason: Republicans ain't what they used to be. It's true that there was considerable Republican congressional support, back in the day, for Social Security and Medicare. But in the '30s, there were progressive Republicans who stood to the left of the Democrats. Nebraska Republican George Norris, who for decades called for establishing public power companies to compete with price-gouging private companies, was the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority. In the '60s, Rockefeller Republicans supported civil rights legislation and Medicare. Today, no such Republicans exist.
That's about right. There are no more Mark Hatfield's, Ed Brooke's, Henry Cabot Lodge's, Arthur Vanderberg's, or George Norris'. Since they don't exist anymore, striving for "bipartisanship" is a fool's errand.

It's imperative for President Obama to whip the Blue Dog Democrats back in line; perhaps, as Prof. Julian Zelizer suggests, borrowing tactics from Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and LBJ. Especially from LBJ's "Treatment" -- "supplication, accusation, cajolery, exuberance, scorn, tears, complaint, the hint of threat."

Especially, the threat. Such as, "Max Baucus, how'd you like me to campaign all over Montana for you? I'll remind everyone how you supported a public option health plan when you were campaigning, and then betrayed your constiuents by siding with the Insurance Industry lobby when you went back to Washington."

If Obama really wants effective health care reform, he can make it happen. He simply has to give up on those old Chicago community organizer 'dreams of his father'.

No one should care if what's left of the Republican party is "alienated."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Searching for an Ark

The troubled Northwest Florida Zoo apparently is opting for a voters' referendum in hopes of establishing a special tax district -- more or less like the "MSBU" with which beach residents are familiar. If voters approve paying a few bucks a year, it would take the Zoo off life support and guarantee the future of an important cultural and educational attraction for the greater Pensacola area.

'Good luck with that,' the News Journal says today. We understand the newspaper's skepticism. As we have noted before, the Zoo is a jewel for its size. School children throughout the area frequent it. It's a unique cultural asset that elevates all of Northwest Florida. It's also a major tourist attraction.

But its survival has long been in doubt; partly, perhaps, for reasons attributable to past mismanagement and bad luck, but mostly because of a failure of community. The greater Pensacola area chronically suffers from three major drawbacks, as we see it. Two of them are a dismal cultural landscape and a callous, miserly voting electorate that sees every public expenditure, except for warships and guns, as a personal threat to their bourgeois life style.

These drawbacks feed on each other. The more numerous the "me-first, me-only" voters, the bleaker the cultural and educational landscape. The bleaker the landscape, the fewer well-educated, unselfish families who want to take pride in their community will reside, or stay, here.

Going to the voters, as the News Journal fears, is a gamble. If the referendum loses, the Zoo will disappear. It's that simple. Still, there is something to be said for squarely putting the matter up for a vote. The Zoo also cannot much longer continue a day to day existence, like a beggar hoping for regular handouts.

If the voters do their worst, as the News Journal expects, at least the issue will be settled: Pensacola really would be exposed as a torpid, soulless town where good ideas go to die. But if the entire community, for once, can join together and guarantee permanent sustaining support for the Zoo, it would redound to everyone's benefit -- now and for future generations.

Which brings us to the third major drawback in Pensacola: indifferent, often self-interested community leadership. In other cities we've lived in, the rich look for ways to share their good fortune with the community. In Pensacola, too often as it seems to us, the rich just look to get richer. If there isn't a buck in it for them, most of those who claim to be "civic leaders" turn away.

We needn't always look to the elite for community spirit, of course. Pensacola probably has more houses of worship per capita than anywhere this side of Muslimania. So, why not start with the churches? Imagine all the ministers, priests, rabbis, and such, ecumenically agreeing among themselves to lead the schools, civic organizations, business community, and regular folk in a campaign to rescue the Northwest Florida Zoo.

There is precedent for this, of course:
Then God said to Noah, "Go forth from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you. Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh -- birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth -- that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth."
Are our many churches, synagogues, and temples up to the challenge?

minor edit
7/28 pm

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fox News: Fairly Unbalanced

Fox News watchers will be needing a Remedial Geography class if this keeps up.

Wall Street Front Running

Question: Does Wall Street front running with high-speed computers differ from the familiar delayed-broadcast horse race fraud? Or, the famous Breeder's Cup fraud, for that matter?

Answer: Yes, of course. If you do it at the race track, you'll go to jail. If Wall Street does it with computers, the brokers will get rich while you get screwed:
[I]nvesting, trading and speculating is doomed to have the same outcome for the majority of market participants as playing roulette with 35 instances of 00, a much lower fun coefficient and no ability to be comped for your room in light of significant trading losses.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Beach Tax Rumor

There is no truth to the rumor that Judge Crater has been spending the last year drafting a beach tax opinion for Escambia County Circuit Court Judge T. Michael Jones.

The News Filter

We're always being told that professional journalists are needed because, you see, they're trained to separate the wheat from the chaff, to recognize the real news from the distractions, the dubious, and the downy. They analyze, sort, rank, and filter the news for us so we'll know what's really important; so we won't be diverted by side-shows and insubstantial stories.

So, why is it that after Wednesday's lengthy presidential presser followed by a Q-and-A on the need for a national health care plan with a public option, and then a day-long visit by President Obama to the Cleveland Clinic, on Thursday, to showcase how medicine should be practiced, we're seeing almost nothing but wrongful arrest reporting about a privileged Harvard professor who threw a tantrum when a Cambridge cop stupidly mistreated him in his own home and served him with a misdemeanor citation?

Police misconduct happens every day in America. So, too, do citizen tantrums. But a national health care plan? We haven't had one of those in, um... ah.... forever.

So, where are the professional journalists, the precious news editors and reporters? Why have all our newspapers buried the health care story behind and below big, black headlines and lengthy screeds about Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Sgt. James Crowley, and the finer points about Cambridge city ordinances?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know. America has a race problem. True. And, the Thin Blue Line has a lot of stupid, venal, and racist in it, too. What's more, innocent citizens sometimes may get overwrought when they become ensnared in our dysfunctional legal system. Ya think?

But don't suppose for a moment the professional news filters are doing their job by flopping all over this story like a wool blanket, instead of the health care issue. If you really want news about America's justice system, instead of national health care, here is the real scoop:
Wrongly arrest a black men who happens to be a Harvard professor, release him without filing charges, and the national press corps asks the president to comment. Wrongly imprison for years on end a black man who happens to be working class and without celebrity, and the national press corps continues to utterly ignore a criminal justice system that routinely convicts innocent people. * * * [T]he news we get on these matters reflects a value system that is seriously flawed, and ... news consumers bear blame for too.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Meet Another Republican in the Flesh

Tennessee state senator Paul Stanley:
  • Conservative.
  • Republican.
  • Married.
  • Father of two.
  • Sunday school teacher.
  • Day school board advisor.
  • Abstinence advocate.
  • Divorced wife beater.
  • Serial adulterer.
  • Kinky "provocative positions, poses" photo-taker.
  • Blackmail victim.
Here's the problem: Republican "Christian" moral harpies are becoming such a parody of themselves that it's hard to satirize them. They do it to themselves.

Satire Quiz

Bouphia has the quiz -- Which one of these ideas is satire?

If you get it wrong, come back here and we'll sell you satire insurance.

Florida Embarrassed Again

Our latest nutcase: Dr. David McKalip. Neurosurgeon. American Medical Association delegate from Florida. Republican. Tea Party activist. Health Care Reform opponent. Racist.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Health Care Test

This about sums it up:
[I]f this country cannot pass a bill which insures that every citizen has access to medical care, which every developed country has managed to do (and got done many many years ago), there is something very fundamentally and structurally wrong with this country.

Such an event, in my mind, would confirm that we live with a completely corrupt and dysfunctional form of government. Forty nine states, each with bicameral legislative bodies, some of which have distinguished themselves recently with unabashed levels of incompetency and cluelessness. Then, graft a federal government over that, which is also bicameral, the non-representative portion of it being filled with officials who are certifiable morons and/or who are bought and sold like whores by wealthy contributors.

We have, for once, an intelligent and coherent president. Only Congress and the lobbyists who fill their troughs with dough stand in the way. If we can't pass a decent health care reform bill, then this nation really is terminal.

Monday, July 20, 2009


How do we know his name is "Lou Dobbs"? It's only hearsay coming from him, right? Show us some real proof, Mr. Whatever Your Name is.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Humdinger Homicide

The thing is, if Escambia County sheriff David Morgan believes that the tragic double murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings "rivals a movie script," and he's really planning "to share this story with Escambia County and the nation," then he might not want to seem so, well, exuberant as to call the killings a "humdinger."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Recycling the Poo Pile

Just got back from an East Coast financial capital only to learn they're doing it all over again! Atrios: "The alchemy continues...turning shitpile into gold!"

No wonder the economy seems to run in cycles of boom and bust. No one on Wall Street learns anything -- except the taxpayers can always be counted on to come to the rescue.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rock Solid History

It's surprising, and a little disappointing, to find that Plymouth Rock is sunken several feet below ground level behind an iron fence and beneath a stone masonry canopy.

If something hadn't been done, however, it would be sand by now. Tourists simply aren't to be trusted:
The Rock as it exists today is estimated to be only about 1/3 to 1/2 of its original size - the top half has been dragged around town, broken, chipped away at by 18th and 19th century souvenir hunters.
The laugh's on them, nevertheless. Plymouth Rock, it seems, may be nothing more than the delusion of a 95-year old man, some 121 years after the Pilgrims landed.

What's that? you say. Next, you'll be telling us the Puritans weren't really in favor of freedom of religion.

That's right. They weren't.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Births of a Nation

Q: Where are these homes?

(Hint: The only place where two presidential birthplaces can be seen on the same street.)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cape Cod Hail

Be glad you're on Pensacola Beach. They're having quarter-sized hail on Cape Cod.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mass Transit Culture

One of the unintended consequences about a really good mass transit system, like the T in Boston, is that almost everyone who uses it becomes a reader. We snagged the above photo off the web because we didn't think to bring a camera with us today, but it sort of illustrates the point. Take it from us, though: in every subway and commuter train car we rode in today, eight out ten passengers had a full-length book with them. The moment they entered and selected a seat, they opened the book and resumed reading.

One serious-looking woman in a corner wasn't reading. She was writing in a spiral notebook the entire time. We asked her what she was working on and she replied, "My novel."

It seems she gets in two pages in the morning on the way to work, and two more at night on the way home.

Beantown Blues

Bostonians tell us it has rained every day, so it seems to them, for an entire month. "Here it is July, a guy on the T said today, "and we haven't even had June yet."

"Where's our summer?" a woman standing nearby grumbled.

The forecast for the next five days? Cool and rainy, every day.