There has been much scratching of the head and grumbling over the Occupy Wall Street and its several copycat manifestations around the country, including Occupy Philly, which gathering began at City Hall this morning.
"But what do they want?" cry the reporters and pundits. "But what is their message?" "But how is this helpful?" It's as if the media, and, to be fair, a good swath of the public, have let out a collective j'accuse to the tune of: "Justify yourselves!"
But Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Philly owe no such justification — and shouldn't apologize for not having sound-bite-ready answers.
The right to assemble peacefully is, of course, just that: a right, not a privilege. The mere act of making good on a constitutional guarantee doesn't require an explanation. To pose an extreme hypothetical: One day, I paint "Things Suck" on a sign and take it to City Hall for the world to see. Useful? Maybe not, but that's my business.
Today's entry in Dumbest Column Ever goes to Fatimah Ali, of the Daily News, who believes Ed Rendell is about to run for vice president with Hillary Clinton, because Hillary and Obama have a super-secret deal where he steps down and she runs in 2012, or something.
Read the whole thing for yourself, before the DN's editors happen to come to their senses and pull this embarrassing dreck off the Internet. Here's a taste (it really speaks for itself):
IT'S JUST a hunch, but for months I've been wondering whether Ed Rendell is gearing up to run for office again.
The last time I had thoughts about Pennsylvania's governor setting his sights on higher office, he'd just been elected mayor, but had already aimed his sights toward the governor's mansion, having lost the race once before. This time, I'm wondering if he might be eyeing Washington - as Hillary Clinton's running mate. That's of course, if Bill Clinton doesn't join her on a ticket instead.
Let me explain.
Anyone who's spent any time observing Pennsylvania's governor knows how ambitious he is. He's also plenty cozy with the Clintons (and we know how ambitious they are). We've been seeing a lot of Rendell on TV recently - more than you'd normally expect from a governor who'll leave office in a few months. And, despite what she's said about never running for president again, never's a very long time, and I've never believed for a moment that Hillary Clinton's eye isn't still fixed on the White House.
I'm not the only journalist who believes she's still gunning to return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson shared similar thoughts over the weekend when MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews asked his Sunday roundtable of political reporters about President Obama's ability to "recoup the magic he had when he ran for president but has continued to lose since he's been in office." (My bet's that Obama will get a second wind like he did when his numbers plunged during his campaign.)
Most of Matthews' guests were adamant that they think its unlikely Obama won't run for a second term because it will take at least eight years to clean up the mess that President Bush left behind.
But Gerson doesn't count Clinton out of making a second presidential run. (As far-fetched as it seems, I've often wondered if Obama had cut a deal with Secretary of State Clinton that, if things didn't go well during his administration, he'd back her instead of running again himself.)
And on it goes from there, and no, it doesn't get any more cogent or grounded in facts or analysis. Which leaves you wondering: Exactly which DN editor said, "Sure, Fatimah, I'll run your pointless speculation. And hey, here's a check."
(Editor's note: We get lots of e-mail. Some of it is about stuff we've written, which is cool. Some of it is general bitching about the city, which is fine, too. But then there's the rest: chain e-mails, press releases, solicitations, ruminations on Obama's secret socialist plans, letters imploring us to find Jesus, etc. Good stuff all, but sometimes it's hard to find a place for it in the paper, what with the diminishing page counts and all. And that's a goddamn shame. So, without further ado, allow us to present Non Sequitur, letters to the editor about whatever. This letter, presented exactly as it hit our inbox, comes from Gary, who really just wants to save your soul from forthcoming calamity. Enjoy!)
By God's mercy,
I and a few other individuals have been holding a 20 foot âJudgment Day May 21, 2011â sign for the past week here in Philadelphia at 15th street, across from City hall by the Clothespin. Reception has been going well. we will be there today 3p-7p
We are not part of a church or any religious group. However, we believe God will begin to destroy this world in just 8 months. For more information, please send some of your reporters to take pictures of this controversial message. We are open to discuss why may 21 2011 is the beginning of the end, and will even be open to debate with any church why this date is true.
If you are interested, you can contact us at 215.XXX.XXXX
(Editor's note: We get lots of e-mail. Some of it is about stuff we've written, which is cool. Some of it is general bitching about the city, which is fine, too. But then there's the rest: chain e-mails, press releases, solicitations, ruminations on Obama's secret socialist plans, letters imploring us to find Jesus, etc. Good stuff all, but sometimes it's hard to find a place for it in the paper, what with the diminishing page counts and all. And that's a goddamn shame. So, without further ado, allow us to present the first-ever Clog addition Non Sequitur, letters to the editor about whatever. This letter, presented exactly as it hit our inbox, comes from Randy R., a hero and a gentleman from Washington Square. Enjoy!)
Green light at the corner of 7th and Market. Morning rush hour. A delivery truck is in front of my car. But it can't make the right turn onto Market Street because a horde of pedestrians is passing through the crosswalk. As usual, they're taking their sweet time, as if this is a lazy morning stroll in the park. They keep coming, like a disinterested herd of bison, with no regard for the line of traffic waiting on them. The light is now yellow. The truck can't move, which means I can't movenor can the ever-increasing trail of cars behind me. I'm watching the faces of every one of these pedestrians. Not one offers even a cursory glance at the mounting vehicular logjam to which they're contributing. The light goes red. The truck bolts around the corner. I'm still on 7th Street. One green lightone vehicle through. In my frustration, I honk my hornnot at the truck driver, but at the oblivious mass thatalong with Philadelphia's perpetual constructi on and its medieval prohibition on right-on-redhelps create the city's daily congestion.
A police officer sipping his coffee at the corner as he watches the entire sequence walks around to the driver's side of my car. Signaling me to lower the window, he then chews me out in a tone just shy of a yell. I tell him that I was honking at the pedestrians exhibiting not the slightest ounce of urgency in crossing the street and holding up an entire line of traffic. âPedestrians have the right of way!â he snaps. Sure they do. But we motorists also have to get to workand it would be the decent thing to do, as well as beneficial to the city's ubiquitous traffic problem, if pedestrians would hustle as half a dozen or more automobiles sit paralyzed in their path. The police officer continues angrily that I'm guilty of âunauthorized use of a car horn.â Apart from the rather sizeable gray area concerning how, from whom, and, most critically, how long it takes a driver to obtain authorization to honk the car horn in relation to its timely use, I muse to myself that this entire problem could be eradicated if, instead of reprimanding motorists at the mercy of pedestrian sloth, the officer could suggest to the street-crossers that they make an effort not to render intersection turns nigh unto impossible.
I walked many a mile as a full-time pedestrian in Philadelphia, so I've seen life in the slow lane from both sides. And when I was hoofing it to work, or any destination on the far side of an intersection, I generally operated under the imperative that insouciance and asphalt don't mixbut that apparently made me an anomaly: a 2005 study from Portland State University reported that the average walking speed for pedestrians under sixty years of agethe vast majority of people on whom I was waiting at the green lightwas 4.85 ft/sec, which means that they should traverse the 64-foot-wide Market Street in approximately 13.2 seconds. I twice timed myself crossing the same street and found that, using my considerate they're-waiting-on-me stride, I made it from curb to curb in 11 seconds. Now, an improvement of 2.2 seconds doesn't seem like a lot, but when extrapolated across every pedestrian who leaves the each side of the street at a different point in time at each intersection, and then repeated at each succeeding intersection encountered, the data clearly indicate that the average pedestrian doesn't give a rat's ass about clogging traffic.
Which is why I suggest that pedestrians should have 11 seconds to cross Market Street before they're fair game. (Narrower streets would require accordingly less time.) Many of we city dwellers have twenty- or thirty-mile drives to the office, and these lethargic slugs make an all-consuming ordeal out of merely getting to the expressways. Let's see if they can put a little courteous oomph in their step when a three-thousand-pound vehicle that's already waited the majority of a green-red cycle is bearing down on them like a Brunswick on a baby split in the tenth frame. That seems just and equitable to me.
We could examine the psychology behind why most pedestrians show apathy in the face of idling traffic: Is it pure indolence? A sense of entitlement to the green light? The culture of insensitivity that has obliterated the Golden Rule? But I never really cared why the chicken crossed the roadas long as he did it quickly and got the hell out of my way.
Notice that trend. Not only is the law on the side of justice, but a recent CNN poll, for the first time ever, showed that a majority believe gays should have a constitutional right to marry (with the question phrased differently, 49 percent favored gay marriage itself).
Mark my words: Within a generation, those who want to deny marriage, adoption and anti-discrimination rights and military service to people solely on the basis of their sexual orientation will be regarded the way we regard George Wallace and Strom Thurmond and their segregationist ilk today.
As I wrote in my master's thesis on the subject (download, read and dissect the entire, 147-page thing here, if you're so inclined/really bored; ignore any typos, please):
Relatedly, gay rights activists might also take comfort in the fact that demographics appear to be working heavily in their favor: Among those under 50 years of age, and especially among those between 18 and 30, we see high support for gay rights and gay marriage. Through attrition, as the older and more traditionally oriented generations die and exit the voter pool, the increasing support for (and affect toward) homosexuals shown in the data looks only to continue increasing, thus making it entirely likely that, unless anti-gay rights activists can convince future generations that gay marriage will infringe upon societal cohesion, state gay marriage policies may become the norm, rather than outliers, in the foreseeable future. Even since 2004, when Republicans championed an anti-gay marriage amendment to the US Constitution, we have seen the saliency of this issue appear to dissipate: opposition to gay rights was not a central plank of John McCain's platform; and while court decisions regarding gay marriage in California brought an outcry from religious conservatives and an ultimately successful effort to overturn the court's ruling, it did not manifest in another full-throated bid to amend the US Constitution. Similarly, recent Democratic proposals to abolish âDon't Ask, Don't Tellâ and the federal Defense of Marriage Act have not been the clarion call of conservative opposition, the way they might have been a few short years ago.
It's a shame our supposedly liberal president is so decidedly on the wrong side of history or at least, too politically timid to admit otherwise.
On Monday, the Washington Post ran a glowing, page one profile of US Rep Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who has offered what he terms a "roadmap" to financial sustainability. It paints him as one of the few serious GOP voices on budget issues (since, let's face it, legitimate policy formulation is not exactly their forte of late).
Ryan is running a campaign of a different sort, one his party has so far refused to adopt: He is determined to persuade colleagues to get serious about eliminating the national debt, even if it means openly broaching overhauls of Medicare and Social Security.
His ideas are provocative, to say the least. They include putting Medicare and Medicaid recipients in private insurance plans that could cost the government less but potentially offer fewer benefits; gradually raising the retirement age to 70; and reducing future Social Security benefits for wealthy retirees.
Ryan has not helped to make it easy for his leaders. He is a loyal Republican, but he is also perhaps the GOP's leading intellectual in Congress and occasionally seems to forget that he is a politician himself.
Wow. So the WaPo has drunk the Ryan Kool-Aid, huh? And hey, on the one hand, can you blame them? It's not like the modern GOP you know, the one currently debating the 14th Amendment and responding in Pavlovian form to whatever pops up on Glenn Beck's Chalkboard of Doom is packed with particularly bright lights these days. And the Congressional Budget Office has made the press's job easy: After all, Ryan's roadmap would, supposedly, cut the deficit in half in 10 years. That's something we can all get behind, no?
Sure. If you read the top lines. If, however, you're a Nobel Laureate economist, say, Paul Krugman, you're a bit more likely to poke around the fine print.
One thing that has been overwhelmingly obvious in the discussion of Paul Ryan's roadmap is that lots of people who should know better including, alas, reporters at the Washington Post don't know how to read a CBO report. They think you can just skim it and get the gist; and people like Mr. Ryan have taken advantage of that misconception.
As it turns out, those CBO numbers, like all CBO numbers, are based on the assumptions of the House representative who is requesting the CBO's analysis. So, the CBO, for all of the worthwhile stuff it does, can sometimes be a garbage-in-garbage-out kind of place, especially when the rep seeking data feeds in spectacularly misleading data. Ahem, Mr. Ryan.
Well, the Ryan plan as described is a combination of tax cuts and cuts in entitlement spending. So where does this show in the CBO estimate? On the tax side, we immediately see that the CBO finds no effect revenue with the Ryan plan is the same as without it.
In other words, Ryan plans a massive overhaul of US tax policy, with steep, across the board decreases in income tax rates, but wants CBO to assume that this would have, you know, absolutely no impact on incoming government revenues. The CBO obliged, because that's its job, although it did note, in its own way, the unlikelihood of Ryan's pipe dream coming true:
The proposal would make significant changes to the tax system. However, as specified by your staff, for this analysis total federal tax revenues are assumed to equal those under CBO's alternative fiscal scenario (which is one interpretation of what it would mean to continue current fiscal policy) until they reach 19 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2030, and to remain at that share of GDP thereafter.
Even under those assumptions, which, you know, are either willfully ignorant or intentionally deceptive, the Ryan plan doesn't work unless there is an absolute freeze of non-defense discretionary spending at 2009 levels for at least the next decade. And, of course, this sounds nice and all, except it's insane. As Krugman points out:
OK, that's an old, familiar scam it was used to inflate surplus projections back in 2001 to justify the Bush tax cuts. Keeping nominal spending constant means deep cuts in real per capita terms about 25 percent over a decade. That's not going to happen: nondefense discretionary spending is already at a low point as a share of GDP, and unless someone can detail how such massive further cuts are possible, they're just blowing smoke.
If this is the GOP's âleading intellectual,â as the Post declares, then the opposition party may be more FUBAR than we could possibly imagine.
Our very own Dwayne Booth who cartoons and sometimes writes under the name Mr. Fish, of course has a new post up on Truthdig, recounting a 2008 interview with provocateur extraordinaire Noam Chomsky, who is, in Mr. Fish's words, "all by himself, The Beatles of smart guys." (Chomsky is also a Philly native, for what it's worth.) It's a worthwhile, if lengthy read, and a bit unlike any interview with Chomsky I've seen elsewhere. A taste:
MF: Was that more about some form of academic freedom than artistic freedom? Are they more or less the same thing?
NC: There are always attacks on academic freedom, but I think it's better protected now than it has been in the past. There is repression and [there are] bad things that happen, but if you look over time it's nothing like what it's been in the past. I mean, take surveillance, let's say, bad thing. What was in the '60s? The FBI was all over the place, the Army had surveillance systems, the CIA had surveillance, way more than what it is now. Now you can do things with electronic surveillance, OK, big deal. I was active in the resistance and took for granted that the phone was probably tapped, but it never constrained us. If you had to do something that you didn't want the FBI to hear, you did it privately. Everybody knew that whatever group you were in was infiltrated, and you could usually guess who the infiltrators were, but if you wanted to do something serious, say help a deserter, you did it with an affinity group. If you think about repression, as bad as it may be today, it doesn't even come close to COINTELPRO. That was running through four administrationsmainly Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, where it was stoppedand it went all the way to political assassination. Is that happening now?
MF: Depends on who you ask, I guess.
NC: And [Woodrow] Wilson's Red Scare made it all look tame. So, sure, bad things are happening, but we shouldn't exaggerate. There have been a lot of gains.
MF: Still, and getting back to my point about the mollification of the artistic community, there seems to be fewer and fewer expectations that an artist will or even should engage in world politics.
NC: Expectations from whom?
MF: From the public, the dominant culture, the government, certainly.
NC: The corporate media aren't going to encourage them to be subversive, but has that ever been the case for art?
MF: No, but the amount of discouragement from the private sector seems new. At one time, it wasn't so outlandish for a person to say that he or she wanted to become a painter or a novelist or a playwrightit was a lifestyle, in fact, that suggested its own spiritual reward, and politics was traditionally considered to be part of the lifestyle, usually dissent.
NC: But that's a different kind of change. The freelance intellectuals, whatever they were, the writers and artists, over the years have drifted towards institutions, so now instead of being a [full-time] novelist you'll be a novelist on the side and teaching creative writing at the university. That wasn't an option in the '40s and '50s.
MF: And that's the loss, the sidelining of passion, of truth-seeking.
NC: Well, it's an institutional change. To some people it may have restrictive consequences, maybe impose internal conditions on the work they do, but it certainly doesn't have to.
You remember back on June 30, when Gov. Ed Rendell and the state legislature congratulated themselves on their ability to put together a budget, you know, on time? The celebration was a bit premature: There were a few missing, minor details including a yet-to-be-determined natural gas drilling severance tax and $850 million in promised federal Medicaid money, without which, Rendell had said, he would have had to slash all kinds of state funds: there would be service cuts, 22,000 state layoffs, dramatic cuts to domestic violence programs, homelessness programs, child welfare programs, and on and on. The bloodletting would have been severe, no doubt about it.
Here's the good news: This morning, the US Senate took a break from, well, not doing much of anything, thanks to perpetual Republican obstinacy, to pass an emergency funding bill allocating billions to fund much-needed Medicaid reimbursements to states*. So, for the most part, it seems, the Commonwealth is solvent. That's a plus.
Here's what's fucked up about this thing, however: The vote this morning was not actually on the funding which was, I should note, completely and 100 percent offset by spending cuts, including future cuts to the country's food stamps program, because God knows poor people have it too easy these days, and added absolutely nothing to the deficit it was to end the Republican filibuster. Yes, the Republicans tried to filibuster as in, not even allowing to come up for a vote a completely paid-for spending bill that had $16 billion in Medicaid funding (less than the $24 billion the Dems wanted) and $10 billion to prevent massive teacher layoffs.
This is, perhaps, the very least the government could do to aid the national economy. The fucking least. It basically keeps states afloat, at a time when tax revenues are down and welfare expenditures are necessarily up. See, the national government, for better or worse, has the ability to deficit-spend. State governments, by and large, do not. They need federal resources to counteract the shit-storm left over from the Great Recession.
And yet, this morning, 38 Senate Republicans all but two of them, the Maine sisters decided that this totally deficit-neutral bill shouldn't even be allowed to come up for a vote, because â¦ well, just fucking because. (They hate teachers and poor people? Who the fuck knows.) Never mind that these same born-again deficit peacocks fell all over themselves to vote for Bush's unfunded wars, Bush's unfunded Medicare expansion, Bush's unfunded fucking tax cuts for billionaires, etc., and even to this day want demand that we extend the deficit-exploding tax cuts even though supply-side economic theories have been proven wrong again and again and again and will be more than happy to vote the Department of Defense whatever largesse its contractors demand.
This is what I mean when I say that Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, Jim DeMint, and the rest of their loathsome ilk are simply not fit to govern. That America is even considering even toying with the idea of thinking about returning these clowns to power speaks volumes about the unsophistication and gullibility of the American electorate.
*Correction: I'd earlier said this bill extended $87 billion to states. Rather, that was what Congress had allocated before. Instead, the total price tag is about $26 billion, and $16 billion or so of that is headed to Medicaid, the rest to teachers. As The Hill explains:
Congress approved $87 billion in emergency Medicaid funding to help states weather the economic downturn that's squeezed local budgets nationwide. The provision increased Medicaid's Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) which represents Washington's share of the state-federal program by at least 6.2 percent for all states.
That extra funding expires at the end of 2010 halfway through the budget year of most states, prompting Democrats to push for an extension.
Their original plan to keep the 6.2 percent increase through June 2011 went nowhere in the face of Senate budget hawks. Instead, Democratic leaders adopted a plan, long-supported by Collins, to scale out the extra funding over the six months.
The measure that passed Wednesday provides a 3.2 percent FMAP bump for the first quarter of next year, and a 1.2 percent hike in the second quarter.
Update: Nancy Pelosi has apparently ordered Congress back in session to pass the bill. Good on her.
MyfoxPhilly has done it again, delivering to the public this scoop:
And this shocking video of the alleged "drinking" (it looks empty to me):
Now I don't have any babies of my own, but I did used to live with one, and she loved beer bottles: picking them up, putting her mouth on them, banging them on stuff they're just satisfyingly shaped or something.
I think this whole baby beer bottle thing is being overblown, and I offer the following pictures, but a small subset of the results from my "baby beer bottle" Google search, as proof:
Meanwhile, send us your beer baby pictures! We'll publish them here let's call it a contest!
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