Thursday, December 30, 2010

DAVE: Brett Favre's "fine" of $50K for not cooperating with the NFL's sexual harassment investigation is equivalent to someone making $50K paying a fine of $156.25. Little more than a speeding ticket.

JIM: It's a joke.
Have you heard about these new musical wonders? You can now buy little tiny slotRadio or slotMusic cards with music already on them to play in the microSD slots on your mp3 player or smart phone. They are essentially tiny CDs to be played on our portable music devices. Amazing. Just amazing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

These are the types of crimes that happen when people are really hurting because of the economy. They are unthinkable, petty crimes, but they suggest just how far some people will go in tough times.

Man accused of taking items from Christmas crash victim's casket
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
By Emily Gibb, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The family of a 17-year-old killed in a vehicle crash on Christmas Day accused a man of stealing items from the boy's casket during a memorial service on Monday evening.

The family of Bradley McCombs Jr., of Clymer, Indiana County, told state police that Jody Bennett, 38, of Pine Township, Indiana County, took a Game Boy, three games and a Game Boy light from the open casket during the public visitation at the Rairigh Funeral Home in Montgomery, Indiana County.

Police said Mr. Bennett fled after Bradley's family members confronted him.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I hate UPMC.

Rumors from Mr. Blondie . . .

JIM: My brother-in-law is a Penn State season ticket holder. He told me the other day that he heard a rumor that Paterno has had several mini-strokes and may have intestinal cancer. Rumor is that their bowl game will be his last game and that the university has chartered planes to take the entire faculty to the game.

I say I'll believe it when I see it. It's more likely JoePa has seen all the attention Brett Favre gets and figures he can milk this end of career thing too.

DAVE: I guess we'll all find out on January 1st.
Having worked in and around the field of education for most of my life, I can tell you that the general opinion of most of these for-profit schools is that they're just a scam, giving out worthless degrees for the price of lifelong student loan payments and little job prospects. The University of Phoenix is supposedly legitimate, but Pittsburgh-based EDMC (who does employ many people locally) is a scam. That, I know personally.

For-profit schools challenged on recruiting of veterans
Monday, December 27, 2010
By Daniel Malloy, Post-Gazette Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A wide-ranging examination of for-profit colleges by the U.S. Senate has homed in on how the schools recruit and educate veterans -- a lucrative source of federal funds for Downtown-based Education Management Corp.

From August 2009 to July 2010, EDMC -- which runs the Art Institutes, Argosy University, South University and Brown Mackie College -- took in about $60.5 million from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. According to data compiled by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, EDMC was the third largest recipient of such funds in that span, behind Apollo Group Inc. -- which runs the University of Phoenix -- and ITT Technical Institute.

The HELP Committee, led by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been holding hearings on the practices of for-profit schools -- exposing aggressive and sometimes fraudulent recruiting tactics, and the high debt loads and failure rates of their students.

The for-profit industry argues that it has been unfairly maligned with a focus on a few bad apples and that the colleges fill an important niche for non-traditional and low-income students.

With a Dec. 8 report and a hearing likely in the coming weeks when Congress reconvenes, Mr. Harkin has turned his attention to the explosion in federal funds flowing to these schools to educate veterans. The spark was the 2008 passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which gives most service members who served since Sept. 11, 2001, up to 36 months of tuition payments -- and help for their spouses as well.

The GI Bill funding is even more enticing to schools because it doesn't count against the Department of Education requirement that schools receive no more than 90 percent of their funding from federal grants or loans.

As a result, military money going to for-profit schools spiked dramatically. At EDMC, funding from the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration climbed from $2.04 million in fiscal 2009 to $52.4 million in fiscal 2010, according to data compiled by the HELP committee. Including the GI Bill money, 86.2 percent of EDMC's revenue comes from federal sources.

"We, in good faith, passed legislation to make it easier for present GIs and their families to get educational benefits, and now what we're finding out is for-profit schools are seeing this as a new source of profits for them," Mr. Harkin said in an interview. "And so they've gone after them and using the same kind of deceptive advertising and high-pressure tactics that they're using in other places."

Two former admissions officers at EDMC in Pittsburgh told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the company formed new teams to recruit veterans once the Post-9/11 GI bill became law.

"The official hype was, it was all patriotic: 'We're going to look after our veterans, and we're going to take special care of them because they have special needs,' " said Kathleen Bittel, who testified about the company's recruiting practices at a HELP committee hearing in September.

"I think the key was because they were going on the GI Bill. It takes a different process, so what they were looking to do was create a group of experts who knew just how to deal with that."

EDMC spokeswoman Jacquelyn Muller downplayed any effort at military recruitment.

"If we are conducting outreach to that specific segment, it is a very small percentage of our efforts," she said.

"We participate in the program, but it's important to note that the veterans who enroll in our schools do so because they've chosen our school for one reason or another. And I think that the quality and the flexibility of our programs is a reflection of our sincere commitment to military students."

EDMC and other for-profits have mounted a hefty public relations and lobbying effort against any potential legislation arising from Mr. Harkin's probe, as well as the Department of Education's efforts to restrict funding to the colleges.

The department has proposed to deny federal funding to schools with graduates facing high proportions of debt related to their salaries. The so-called "gainful employment" rule has been the subject of a severe backlash from the industry and its allies in Congress, including a television advertising campaign.

EDMC and other companies formed a lobby group called the Coalition for Educational Success, and retained Lanny Davis, former White House counsel to President Bill Clinton, as an advocate. In an interview, Mr. Davis complained that the Department of Education and Mr. Harkin have a double standard when it comes to for-profit schools, as low graduation rates and high debt are a problem everywhere.

"[Mr. Harkin] generally believes there's something wrong with the profit motive associated with higher education," Mr. Davis said.

"If that's the case, how much money is put into recruiting by Big 10 football coaches? There is excessive and sometimes fraudulent activity to recruit students, whether it's the profit motive or the athletics motive. ...

"If I am a for-profit school and I have a record of scamming students and actually not finding them jobs, I'm going to lose my customers. If I am a community college, I don't care because I have a captive audience" of taxpayer-subsidized students.

But Mr. Harkin and others remain troubled at the tales of students who are given the hard sell on coming to the school by admissions officers who are paid based on how many students they get to sign up -- with each new student assigned a point value. Former students and admissions officers at EDMC spoke of a high-pressure culture to get students in the door, with little in the way of support in finding a job once they left.

"We talk to those students so fast they don't even know what they're signing up for," said Monte Banks, a former EDMC admissions officer who said he was encouraged to hound "leads" at all hours from his cell phone.

Lynn Stein attended the Art Institute in Pittsburgh to study photojournalism, and when she graduated -- saddled with $80,000 of debt from there -- she said the only thing her career services counselor did was pass along job opportunities that clearly had been copied and pasted from Craigslist. When Ms. Stein confronted the counselor about it, she said the counselor asked Ms. Stein to recommend other job websites that would be good to check.

"These for-profit schools just have to start being more like schools, so they can provide support services for low-income kids and others who maybe don't have a history of much education," Mr. Harkin said.

"But that costs money and that interferes with their bottom line. But that's what they've got to do. They've got to become more like a college."

Monday, December 27, 2010

The drug war on the poor: America doesn't have a drug problem, it has a poverty problem
Sociologist BRUCE WESTERN explains
Sunday, December 26, 2010

America's drug policy aims to reduce illicit drug use by arresting and incarcerating dealers and, to a lesser extent, users. Whatever its merits (and there are some), the policy is deeply flawed because it is unjust. It applies only to the disadvantaged. It reflects massive deficits in the areas of treatment, education and employment.

Drugs are intensively criminalized among the poor but largely unregulated among the rich. The pot, coke and ecstasy that enliven college dorms, soothe the middle-class time bind and ignite the octane of capitalism on Wall Street are unimpeded by the street sweep, the prison cell and the parole-mandated urine tests that are routine in poor neighborhoods.

The drug war is nitro to the ghetto's glycerin. In neighborhoods of mass unemployment, family breakdown and untreated addiction, punitive drug policy (and its sibling, the war on crime) has outlawed large tracts of everyday life. By 2008 one in nine black men younger than 35 was in prison or jail. Among black male dropouts in their mid-30s, an astonishing 60 percent have served time in state or federal prison.

The reach of the penal system extends beyond the prison population to families and communities. There are now 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. There are 1.2 million African-American children with incarcerated parents (one in nine), and more than half of those parents were convicted of a drug or other nonviolent offense.

In the absence of any serious effort to improve economic opportunity, particularly among young men with little schooling, drug control has become our surrogate social policy.

For all the billions spent on draconian criminalization, addiction remains a scourge of the disadvantaged in inner cities and small towns, drugs are still plentiful and the drug trade remains a ready but risky source of casual employment for men and women with little education and no legitimate prospects.

Though drugs are at the center of an array of serious social problems in low-income communities, things are made worse by a dysfunctional policy in which arrest, imprisonment and a criminal record have become a normal part of life.

The most important lesson policy makers can take from this historic failure of social engineering is that the drug problem depends only a little on the narcotics themselves, and overwhelmingly on the social and economic context in which they are traded and taken.

Addiction exacts a toll not because the latest drug is more addictive or more potent than its predecessors but because there is too little treatment, few family or community supports and acute economic insecurity in low-income households.

The drug trade -- with all its volatility and violence -- is not a mainstay of economic life because of the ghetto-fabulous drug culture and its promise of conspicuous wealth. It succeeds because there is no work for men and women who dropped out of school, who have never held a legitimate job and who read at an eighth-grade level. America doesn't have a drug problem. It has a poverty problem.

Change, however, is in the air. The states are broke and are trying to cut their correctional populations. Parole and probation reforms are successfully reducing re-imprisonment for drug and other violations. Libertarians on the right and left are finding common ground on decriminalization. Hard times, it seems, are forcing reform on a profligate policy.

But policy reform -- as salutary as it often is, and like the drug war before it -- risks mistaking symptom for cause. If we only decriminalize, eliminate mandatory minimums and divert to community supervision rather than re-incarcerate, then untreated addiction will remain ruinous and illegal opportunities will continue to offer more than going straight.

Our best research shows that criminal justice reform must be buttressed by drug treatment, education and employment. These measures complement one another.

A less punitive drug control regime acknowledges relapse as a likely stage on the road to recovery. Keeping people out of prison can carry a steep social cost unless they're meaningfully occupied. In this context, school and work are as important for the stability and routine they provide as for the opportunities they expand.

The drug war made an enemy of the poor. A successful ceasefire must do more than lift the burden of criminal punishment. It must begin to restore order and predictability to economic and family life, reducing vulnerability not just to drugs but to the myriad insecurities that characterize American poverty.

Bruce Western is a professor of sociology at Harvard University. His latest book is "Punishment and Inequality in America." Copyright (C) 2010 The Nation -- distributed by Agence Global.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's an interesting and complex issue . . .

Two approaches to drilling
N.Y. has moratorium, while Pa. lets drillers work while it writes regs
Sunday, December 26, 2010
By Sean D. Hamill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When Dan Fitzsimmons drives just across the border into Pennsylvania, he looks longingly at the Marcellus Shale natural gas wells drilled there.

"You know how frustrating it is?" said Mr. Fitzsimmons, 55, a disabled former roofer who lives on his family's 185-acre farm in Conklin, a southern New York community. "My son lives in Dimock [Pa.] where you see people redoing their homes, farmers buying new tractors, all because of money they're making from gas leases. And here, where it's such a destitute area, we're being penalized for the state's inaction."

While New York has had an effective moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling for the past two years while it studied the industry and developed new permitting procedures, Pennsylvania has allowed it to continue while it tried to update its regulations as it went.

"Pennsylvania has done it piecemeal, and New York is trying to do it with one big rifle shot," said Chris Tucker, a spokesman for the industry group Energy In Depth, based in Washington, D.C.

But as different as the methods have been as both states attempt to figure out how to regulate this new gold rush a mile below the surface, the states have shared more than just a 300-mile-long border.

New York decided how to proceed, in part, by its view of what has happened just over the border in Pennsylvania, said Peter Grannis, New York's Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner until October, when he was fired after complaining about deep cuts to his department.

"Theirs was a work in progress," Mr. Grannis said of Pennsylvania's decision to allow Marcellus Shale drilling while the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection drew up new regulations, "while ours was intended to be a final product."

Pennsylvania DEP instituted new drilling regulations earlier this year that it insisted were among the best in the country, and is still working on one more major set of changes concerning the construction of well sites.

But in the two years that New York has been reviewing its permitting procedures, Mr. Grannis said the various drilling accidents and problems that occurred in Pennsylvania -- most significantly the methane gas migration troubles in Dimock -- made his department's job that much harder.

"The missteps in Pennsylvania had repercussions for the process we were going through," said Mr. Grannis, who now works for an environmental advocacy group, Environmental Advocates of New York. "The assumption was that the problems they were having in Pennsylvania were going to be the norm up here."

Southern New York state is the northern edge of the "sweet spot" of the massive and valuable Marcellus Shale formation. The biggest part of the sweet spot of the formation stretches across Pennsylvania, located about a mile below ground, but not as deep -- perhaps 4,000 to 5,000 feet -- in New York.

The hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, uses the relatively new horizontal drilling technique and the old fracking technology of water mixed with sand and chemicals to break apart the shale, freeing up the abundant natural gas trapped in the rock.

A year ago Mr. Grannis' department issued an 800-page draft report of proposed changes to the state's permitting process for such drilling. It was obvious to those in the industry that what was happening with incidents in Pennsylvania was altering how New York's draft was written.

"You could tell New York was looking at Pennsylvania trying to take away any contentious issues -- like with open pits," said John Holko, president of Lenape Resources, an oil and gas operator in New York that works in both states.

Part of New York's proposed permitting requirements include one that the recovered fracking water be kept in tanks, not open pits as Pennsylvania allows, which have been the subject of numerous violations.

New York said then that a final report, with additional changes, would come only after it reviewed comments from more than 14,000 people or organizations from public hearings and written submissions.

Officially, said New York DEC spokesman Yancey Roy, "we're on no timeline to finish this; it will be done when it's ready."

Two weeks ago, outgoing-Gov. David Paterson issued a moratorium on the horizontal hydraulic fracturing process used in Marcellus Shale drilling until June.

It's not clear if Andrew Cuomo, the governor-elect who will replace Mr. Paterson, will uphold the moratorium when he assumes office in January. There has been heavy lobbying on Mr. Cuomo since his election to either scrap the entire review process and start over, or let it run its course.

If Mr. Cuomo allows it to continue, and upholds the moratorium, that could mean the new permitting process will be completed sometime over the summer, which would allow drilling in New York to finally begin -- a heartening possibility to New York landowners like Mr. Fitzsimmons.

Whenever that happens, many experts expect the policies New York puts in place to have an impact on Pennsylvania regulations.

"If New York does it right and shows that it works, and Pennsylvania continues to experience a wide range of environmental problems as it has, you'd think Pennsylvania would adopt some of what New York has done," said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group based in New York City that has studied both state's policies.

Pennsylvania DEP spokesman Michael Smith said while he doesn't know what the new administration under Gov.-elect Tom Corbett will do, the plan was to always keep an eye out for how to improve the state's regulations.

"We're constantly evaluating our regulations to make sure it keeps pace with improvements in new technology," he said.

At this point, Mr. Fitzsimmons just wants to see something in place soon that won't scare away the gas companies.

He harbors hopes of leasing out his mineral rights for a nice upfront payment and annual royalties he expects will add up to the millions of dollars and will help him turn the old family farm into a winery. He already has a name in mind: Merry Meadows Winery.

As for the plans?

"It's all in my mind, along with the [wine] recipes," he said. "People just don't realize what all of this gas development could bring."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vick's Puppy
Written by Rob Rogers
Friday, December 24, 2010 08:39 AM

Michael Vick said he wants a puppy for Christmas. No, I am not making this up. The judge said no, but there is talk about letting him have one in the future. Vick says having one will be good for his rehabilitation. I think the canines might disagree.

From Dave: When asked whether he or Tom Brady should be the NFL MVP, Vick hesitated briefly before answering that it should be himself. Now, I don't like Tom Brady. But if asked the same question, he would never offer himself as the answer. From watching multiple interviews with Michael Vick, I do not think that he is very smart, and personally, I find him to be a little ghetto. But there is no argument that he is having an amazing year. According to Vick himself, he did not put in the off-field time and effort when he was with the Atlanta Falcons to be the best quarterback that he could be. Probably because he was too busy running a dog-fighting operation that included torturing and murdering dogs, the numbers of which we still don't know and frankly, probably don't want to know. This man has been given a new lease on life, and to his credit, he appears to have risen to the challenges of that and made an incredible comeback as an NFL quarterback. But you don't send a man to prison for almost two years for extreme cruelty to dogs, and then let him have a dog as a family pet just because he is a better quarterback now than he was before he was sent to prison. PRISON.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Broadcaster Pat Robertson questions harsh pot laws
Associated Press
Dec 23, 9:32 PM EST

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his "700 Club" audience that harsh penalties for marijuana possession are costly for the nation and damaging to young people, but a spokesman said Thursday he was not calling for decriminalizing pot.

Robertson, 80, made the comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network in the context of faith-based approaches to treating offenders, the spokesman said.

"Dr. Robertson unequivocally stated that he is against the use of illegal drugs," Chris Roslan wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The comments, however, were widely interpreted on several websites as an endorsement by the Christian Coalition founder of legalizing marijuana. They were celebrated by NORML, a group that advocates legalization of the drug.

On its website, NORML posted a link to Robertson's comments under the headline: "Holy Hemp! Pat Robertson Supports Ending Cannabis Prohibition In An Effort To Get 'Smart On Crime.'"

During the Dec. 16 CBN broadcast from Virginia Beach, Robertson and his co-host discussed what they called the success of religious-based programs to help people with addictions to drugs, including alcohol.

Robertson then lamented long prison terms for people who have "taken a couple puffs of marijuana."

He added, "We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes and that's one of 'em."

Robertson said mandatory drug sentences are promoted by candidates for political office who want to appear tough on crime, compelling judges to sentence offenders to long prison terms.

While Robertson said, "I'm not exactly for the use of drugs," he added that criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot is "costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people. Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That's not a good thing."

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, said Robertson is among a growing number of libertarians and "right-of-center" public figures who agree the nation's drug laws treat marijuana possession too harshly.

"We don't care how people arrive at the conclusion that prohibition is a failure," he said. "They're acknowledging there are alternatives to lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key solutions."

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Robertson's comments on marijuana are important because of his audience.

"The people who are listening to him may roll their eyes when the Democrats say this, but when Pat Robertson says this he has credibility in the faith community."

The Drug Policy Alliance advocates for lighter drug punishments.

Roslan said Robertson advocated a review of the "severity" of existing laws and the millions spent on incarceration "when there are better approaches available."

Robertson regularly stirs controversy on the "700 Club," which began broadcasting in 1966 and now claims 1 million viewers daily.

In January, Robertson said one day after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake that the island nation was "cursed" and has called Islam a "religion of hate."



Christian Broadcasting Network:


Monday, December 20, 2010

Today I leave for a few days in Florida with Sidney. And my parents. My sister and her family will arrive after I leave, so our visits will not overlap. We all agree that this arrangement will make the holiday the most enjoyable for everyone. During my sister's visit, Sidney is not going to get the attention that he might normally get from my mother, so I am going to lavish attention and play time on him during my visit in the hopes that it will wear him out. Yeah, right. Not this crazy dachshund. He doesn't know what being worn out even means. But I am planning on having great fun with him.

I love dogs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Even if it did happen on the Saturday before Christmas, it's still a big deal. And long overdue, in my opinion . . .

Senate votes to overturn military gay ban
Associated Press
Dec 18, 3:39 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a landmark for gay rights, the Senate on Saturday voted to let gays serve openly in the military, giving President Barack Obama the chance to fulfill a campaign promise and repeal the 17-year policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."

Obama was expected to sign it next week, although the change wouldn't take immediate effect. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' fighting ability. After that, there's a 60-day waiting period for the military.

"It is time to close this chapter in our history," Obama said in a statement after a test vote cleared the way for final action. "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed."

The Senate vote was 65-31. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, on Wednesday.

Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.

More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.

Rounding up a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was a historic victory for Obama, who made repeal a campaign promise in 2008. It also was a political triumph for congressional Democrats who struggled in the final hours of the postelection session to overcome GOP objections on several legislative priorities before Republicans regain control of the House in January.

"As Barry Goldwater said, 'You don't have to be straight to shoot straight,'" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referring to the late GOP senator from Arizona.

Sen. John McCain, Obama's GOP rival in 2008, led the opposition. The Arizona Republican acknowledged he didn't have the votes to stop the bill and he blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.

"They will do what is asked of them," McCain said of service members. "But don't think there won't be a great cost."

In the end, six GOP senators broke with their party on the procedural vote to let the bill move ahead and swung behind repeal after a recent Pentagon study concluded the ban could be lifted without hurting the ability of troops to fight. On the final vote for passage, eight Republicans joined the majority Democrats.

Advocacy groups who lobbied hard for repeal hailed the vote as a significant step forward in gay rights. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the issue the "defining civil rights initiative of this decade."

Supporters of repeal filled the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor, ready to protest had the bill failed.

"This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

The Pentagon study found that two-thirds of service members didn't think changing the law would have much of an effect. But of those who did predict negative consequences, a majority were assigned to combat arms units. Nearly 60 percent of the Marine Corps and Army combat units, such as infantry and special operations, said in the survey they thought repealing the law would hurt their units' ability to fight.

The Pentagon's uniformed chiefs are divided on whether this resistance might pose serious problems.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos has said he thinks lifting the ban during wartime could cost lives.

"I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction," he told reporters this week. "I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda (Naval Medical Center) with no legs be the result of any type of distraction."

Adm. Mike Mullen and Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively, have said the fear of disruption is overblown. They note the Pentagon's finding that 92 percent of troops who believe they have served with a gay person saw no effect on their units' morale or effectiveness. Among Marines in combat roles who said they have served alongside a gay person, 84 percent said there was no impact.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Do any of my vast and loyal readership remember when the GOP hired Michael Steele, a black republican, to run the Republican National Committee in what appeared to be a knee jerk reaction to the newly elected President Obama? Well, perhaps you've heard that Chairman Steele has run the RNC into the ground, choosing to live a lavish lifestyle with the organization funds, rather than focusing his attention on all the donations he would likely have gotten from all of the Southern republicans who like black people so much. Even FOX News has been going after this guy, and he works for them. Or, wait. Does FOX work for him? Well, anyway, they both play for the same team, and he screwed them out of a bunch of money. That's probably the last man of color we will see in the GOP's leadership (John Boehner's orange tan doesn't count). If I were him, I would keep my ears opened in the night for the sound of approaching horses carrying men in sheets.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Email from Howard Dean . . .

I have known Bernie Sanders for more than 20 years. I have often worked with him in Vermont, but when he took to the floor of the Senate last week to stand up and denounce the extension of the Bush tax cuts for billionaires in an unconventional nine-hour filibuster, I'd never been more honored to call him my friend and my Senator.

Bernie is a progressive hero. He has spent his entire life fighting for the poor and the middle class, just as he is now in this tax cut fight.

Make no mistake about it; this tax cut deal that President Obama struck with Republicans may be good short-term politics, but it's not the best course for the country. It's not fiscally responsible in addressing the deficit, the biggest long-term threat to America. There is no shared pain in this agreement. Instead, this is the easy way out for everybody.

Bernie Sanders didn't back down against long odds -- he had the backbone to stand up and fight for what's right. Washington needs more bold leadership like Bernie's. Let's make sure that every Democrat in Washington gets the message: when you stand up and fight, we'll have your back.

This isn't just about tax cuts for the rich either. The deal includes borrowing $120 billion from China and other sources in order to make up a shortfall in revenue for the Social Security Trust Fund caused by the additional payroll tax cut.

We all know Republicans are chomping at the bit to destroy Social Security. Cutting funding will only embolden them to step up their attacks to cut benefits, raise the retirement age, and privatize the program entirely.

Social Security is a cornerstone of the American middle class yet Republicans, who will control the House of Representatives in 2011, want to destroy it. This payroll tax cut sets us up to make it that much harder to stop them. So while most in Washington are ignoring the real damage this bill could cause in the years to come, Bernie has made it a central part of his opposition.

Today, we can send a message even Washington will understand by supporting a progressive hero for standing up for America.

Bernie stood up for us. Let's make sure everyone in Washington knows we have his back.


Gov. Howard Dean, M.D.
Founder, Democracy for America

DAVE: So, Dean is in opposition to Obama?

DAD: So it would appear.

DAVE: Is this a sign that there may be a democratic challenger to Obama in 2012?

DAD: Who knows. In politics a year is a decade.

DAVE: Well, remember where you heard it first.

DAD: You are not the first person to raise that possibility.

DAVE: Damn. Who was?

DAD: I do not know exactly who, but someone in the media. I have seen it mentioned in some op-eds in the Sarasota paper and heard talk of it on TV. Hillary may be starting some of the talk.

DAVE: Interesting. I have not seen or heard one word to that effect here in Pittsburgh. I thought I was really on to something for a moment. Oh, well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DAD: A follow up to our discussion of Obama's tax deal with the Republicans and the Democrats' reaction: Last week in the Senate Senator Mary Landreau, Democrat of Louisiana, pounded her fist on her desk and vowed that she would not support the deal because she was "morally outraged" that the President would agree to extend tax cuts for the wealthy. This is the same Senator Landreau who, in 2001, voted in favor of those tax cuts when they were first proposed by George W. Bush. Either she has a short memory or hopes that the voters have a short memory.

DAVE: That letter to the editor that I sent you suggested that the tax cuts for everyone be allowed to expire. That's a viewpoint that I had not previously heard.

DAD: The idea of tax cuts for everyone expiring is now the position of the most liberal Democrats so that they can blame the Republicans when everyone gets angry about their taxes going up on January 1. Obama, however, wants to give tax breaks to those making under $250,000 (the middle and working classes). The Republicans are holding those folks hostage to get tax breaks for the wealthy. While the tax cuts for the lower group may get through the House of Representatives in the lame duck session, they would have no chance once the Republicans gain control in January. The Senate Republicans can block the limited tax cuts even now with the filibuster threat. So the only chance of getting tax cuts for the middle and working classes so that there will be no gap after January 1 is to pass Obama's compromise.

DAVE: I understand the many benefits to the non-wealthy of the tax cuts, but it really would be better for the deficit and long-term growth and stability if the tax cuts expired. As you have said many times, to not have raised taxes during the Bush wars was lunacy. Well, maybe now we have to pay for those wars. My fear is that no matter which route the government takes, it will not be enough to stimulate the economy. These are all short-term "wishful thinking" strategies that both parties are using to get re-elected.

DAD: You are right, David. [From Dave: my mother and father are among the handful of people on this planet who call me "David."] But the middle name of the Tea Party and of the GOP is "lunacy." The people who appeared to be most angry about the ballooning deficit and who vowed to attack it are the very people who put us in this situation in the first place. There are only three ways to balance the budget and pay off the debt: (1) raise taxes; (2) cut expenditures; or (3) a combination of the first two. The Republicans who say they want to eliminate the deficit have said they absolutely refuse to raise taxes. That leaves only one choice: cut expenditures. To achieve their goal you would have to heavily cut defense spending (unlikely), cut aid to the poor (which they are only too willing to do), cut medicare (they would love to eliminate it entirely, but senior citizens won't allow that to happen), cut social security (that is highly unlikely as well). The Republicans, who say they want to cut spending to attack the deficit, have named the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee beginning in January. That is the committee that oversees all government spending. I do not remember the man's name, but he is from Kentucky and he is known around Capitol Hill as the King of Pork. He has obtained millions of dollars for an airport in his hometown (which has flights in and out only two days a week). He has obtained millions of dollars for a "charitable" organization run by his daughter. Finally, he has initiated more earmarks than anyone else in the House. Good luck on his being a good fiscal watchdog.

DAD: Since I wrote to you about the Kentucky congressman who is known as the "King of Pork" I have learned his name: Hal Rogers. So far this year he has secured 52 earmarks worth $92,900,000 for his district, which is known on Capitol Hill as "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." The charitable organization run by his daughter is the Cheetah Conservation Fund, which is focused on saving Cheetahs in the wild, mostly in Africa. A nice resume for a fiscal watchdog!

From Dave: FYI.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Two perspectives on Bill Clinton . . .

DAVE: What you do think about the fact that Bill Clinton is starting to hang around the White House more than usual? Is Obama bringing in the big guns?

DAD: I think Obama already has too much Clinton influence in his administration. In addition to Hillary as Secretary of State, he has Larry Summers as his chief economic advisor and Timothy Geithner, a Summers protege, as Secretary of the Treasury. I blame Summers's influence for the fact that the bank bailout was not handled properly (no ban on executive bonuses or shareholder dividends) and on the weakness of the stimulus package (too heavy on tax cuts, not enough on spending). If I had wanted Bill Clinton back in the White House, I would have voted for Hillary rather than Obama. But Bill is still very popular among the Democratic base.

AND . . .

DAVE: Have you happened to notice who Obama's new best friend is? Good old Bill Clinton.

MICHELLE: And why not?!?! I’d be his best friend too.

Obama wants all of his Democratic dissenters to remember how things were in the good old days of Clinton prosperity.

Friday, December 10, 2010

This one's for Mr. Blondie . . .

Pitchers and catchers report on February 13, 2011.
DAVE: I've noticed the emergency snow route signs popping up around the East End, and I was waiting to hear how they were going to work until I read the story in today's [Thursday] PG online. I may have mentioned to you at some point that I lived in Toronto from 1985-1987. That's 25 years ago. And when I lived there, emergency snow route signs and snow removal were already an everyday part of life in winter. I realize that Toronto has more experience dealing with snow, but that was still 25 years ago. The one criticism that I have of the signs, however, is that they fail to say what should be obvious, but in Pittsburgh, sometimes you have to spell it out, literally: NO PARKING.

BP: I know – they aren’t cooperating with information or responding to questions from Council.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

As most of my vast and loyal readership know, I have never been married, and I have no children. However, I have recently been talking to my friend Sarah about the goings on with her four-year-old son. And she was telling me about this idea that she had stolen from a seven-year-old girl. And I wanted to share it with my readership, because I thought it was such a great idea. Maybe this is already out there and being done by children by the millions, and I'm just finding out about it now. But here it goes. Sarah's son is too young to read or write. So, in order to prepare a wish list for his annual visit with Santa Claus, she had him cut toys out from the Toys-R-Us holiday catalog (which is really quite enormous) and make a collage of the cut-outs on a piece of construction paper to take to Santa. I thought it was brilliant.

Post number 900 . . .

You know, it has never occurred to me that Oprah Winfrey and her best friend Gayle are gay. NEVER. And frankly, I don't care. Why Barbara Walters would even ask Oprah to talk about that in their upcoming interview truly baffles me. Is that a big rumor out there to which Oprah feels compelled to respond? If it were me, I would just tell the public to spend their time worrying about something more important. There are certainly plenty of other issues from which to choose.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just in case you had forgotten about the bed bug issue, I have it on good authority that the Courtyard by Marriott across the street from Shadyside Hospital recently had bed bugs. Now, that's not that far away from where I live. I really don't want to deal with bed bugs. I really don't. I've never had a bug problem of any kind. I heard from my mother that my niece recently brought lice home from her daycare and infested my sister's entire house. But I have never had anything like that. When I was an adolescent, I had athlete's foot once at summer camp, and once I had jock itch. But that's it for me. I hate fucking bugs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DAVE: If Brady had taken that hit to his nose, not only would there have been a penalty, but Brady would have been ushered out of the stadium and off to a hospital to consult with a plastic surgeon right away. In his UGG boots. Ben is a tough guy. I give him a lot of credit for that.

MICHELLE: Another reason to hate Brady! Ugh!!!! I concur though - Ben is tough. He is constantly getting shellacked, but he never throws his offensive line under the bus like another cry-baby QB did a few years ago.

DAVE: My old high school friends made fun of Ben throughout the Buffalo game, and kept calling him a drama queen, just like the yinzers do. There are plenty of things to find wrong with Ben. His toughness, to me, is never in question. In my opinion, he is the toughest quarterback in the NFL.

I've been using the word shellacked lately. Even in defeat, Obama made the word cool.

Monday, December 6, 2010

DAVE: So, a while back you sent me a Pennsylvania parody of the song California Gurls by this Katy Perry person ( For the first time ever, just the other night, I actually saw her perform the actual song. Is she a hot little number among the younger crowd?

JIM: Yes, very much so. I think.

DAVE: I'll google her just to sneak a peek.

Now, for a more serious question. I really want you to answer this question honestly. Do you wish that John McCain was the President right now, instead of Obama?

JIM: That is honestly a question that I have never pondered. No, I don't think that I do.

Friday, December 3, 2010

DAVE: Well, if you thought my previous comments were insightful, let's see what you think of this. I think that the country is in the process of creating another divide between the north and the south, as a direct result of a black man having been elected President. I believe that this divide could eventually lead to civil unrest and violence.

DAD: I believe that the divide between the north and the south has never really healed; it has been there ever since Reconstruction. The election of a black man to the presidency has sharpened it. The animosity of the whites toward blacks is, in my opinion, the sole reason that the solid south has gone from democrat to republican. The southerners were so upset with the passage of the civil rights act under LBJ that they harkened to Nixon's "southern strategy." The "southern strategy" was nothing more than a code phrase for "Come with us and we will protect you from the n-----s." The same bigots who ran the south before (and called themselves democrats) are still running the south (but now calling themselves republicans). As for the unrest and violence, I believe things will cool down if the republicans are successful in their aim of limiting Obama to one term. This country is already violent and the Supreme Court has made sure that there can be no controls on weapons. If Obama gets another term, we could see things disrupt.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who will give the United States of America a bailout . . . ?

DAVE: This story was in today's [Wednesday] PG online. And the other day there was a story about how the prices for houses in Pittsburgh continue to drop.

Also, I see that it's virtually inevitable that Social Security is going to be cut. Considering that 43% of the U.S. population has less than $10,000 saved for retirement, government-run pensions are gone or in severe jeopardy, and many jobs don't even pay enough for families to save any money, there is going to come a time in this country when the majority of the population is going to have no money and be completely dependent on the government to save them. That's not going to be a good time, certainly exponentially worse than anything that we've experienced in recent years, and yet nobody is doing anything about it. I suppose the theory is that by cutting the deficit, we are saving future generations from bearing that burden, but future generations won't have any money anyway. I don't get the impression that anybody really knows what they're doing.

DAD: Interesting and revealing article. I wonder if Mayor Luke is aware of the situation. Also, your commentary is very interesting and insightful.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hot Item
Written by Rob Rogers

Get ready to see millions of frantic shoppers pushing and shoving each other to be the first to get one of a limited number of hot items this holiday season. No, I am not talking about Black Friday. I am talking about people looking for work.