Archive: February, 2010
Keep this in mind if/when you're watching the healthcare summit, and/or the coming budget debates. Conservatives give lip service to cutting costs, lowering taxes, etc.When it comes time to actually choose what to cut, however, the support evaporates (except for "foreign aid," which is an insanely tiny proportion of the federal budget, and "welfare programs").
At last weeks Conservative Political Action Conference, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called on the attendees to imitate the wife of Tiger Woods: "We should take a page out of her playbook and take a nine iron and smash the window out of big government in this country."
But theres a problem for Pawlenty and the activists who cheered him: Rank-and-file conservatives actually like big government.
In 2008, the American National Election Study asked a national sample whether federal spending on 12 different programs should be increased, decreased or kept about the same.
As the graph above illustrates, the respondents who identified themselves as "conservative" or "extremely conservative" had little appetite for specific spending cuts.
Very few conservatives said they favored reducing (or cutting out altogether) spending on any program. The least popular program proved to be childcare -- with a grand total of 20 percent of conservatives saying theyd slash it. The most popular is highways; only 6 percent want to cut spending there. Even bugaboos like welfare and foreign aid fare well, attracting the ire of only 15 percent of conservatives. Amazingly, the survey found that, on average, 54 percent of them actually wanted to increase spending.
The Inky has an interesting new twist on Webcamgate today (h/t to the Clog commenters for hipping me; I hadn't read the paper this morning).
The vice chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission could scarcely contain his scorn.
Before the commission was yet another appeal from a Philadelphia-area family, again seeking a break on unpaid electric and gas bills that by last year were closing in on $30,000.
This family lived in a $986,000 house on the Main Line. The breadwinner, until recently, had earned well more than $100,000 per year. Yet he and his wife were in hock to creditors, ranging from Uncle Sam to their former synagogue - and had regularly been stiffing Peco Energy for five years, breaking payment plan after payment plan.
"Our procedures," the commission's Tyrone J. Christy wrote in a Dec. 17 motion, "were not meant to allow customers living in $986,000 houses, with incomes in excess of $100,000 per year, to run up arrearages approaching $30,000."
The debtors in question were insurance broker Michael Robbins and his wife, Holly, who now find themselves in the national spotlight after suing the Lower Merion School District, saying it allegedly spied on their child at home via a Web cam on a school-issued laptop.
What's more, it seems the reason Blake's computer may have been considered stolen and hence, why the district may have snapped a picture of Blake, at home, popping Mike and Ikes or whatever the hell he was doing is because the debt-ridden family declined to pay the $55 insurance fee that allows students to take their Macbooks home.
The Robbins' attorney, Mark Haltzman, says these are questions newspapers shouldn't be asking.
"I absolutely advised them, because I know the low level that newspaper people will go to for a story," Haltzman said yesterday, "even if it has nothing to do with the merits of the case."
"Why does that matter?" Haltzman said when asked about the debts this week. "This is typical of any time someone stands up for their rights. Everyone tried to find a way to bring them down."
Even so, it was the apparent failure to pay a fee - a $55 insurance payment to permit the Robbinses' son Blake to take his laptop home from Harriton High School - that might have prompted the district to activate the Web cam.
Right. Because you get to accuse school officials of spying on their children in their homes their bedrooms, even and no one's going to question your motives.
Doesn't make the school district's policy choices correct, but at least the pieces are starting to fall in place.
Lara Coleman here with your morning fix:
A convicted murderer of two armored-car guards was sentenced to life in prison instead of a slot on death row.
Willy not free, attacks! An Orca whale at Seaworld killed its trainer today.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport is the easiest airport to maneuver through, say travelers. Of course, this is because no one wants to go to Detroit, for any reason, ever, the end.
Dismal news for college ladies: apparently one in five of us will be the victim of sexual assault, thanks to a new study.
Public schools are closed again! By this rate, well soon have the equivalent of year round school plus some.
President Obamas healthcare summit begins. The Republicans will obviously negotiate in good faith.
The Eagles release Brian Westbrook.
A weird, weird poll out of Franklin & Marshall tonight: According to f&m, less than three months out from the May primary, three of our Democratic gubernatorial candidates are tied at 6 percent each. Seriously.
Oh, and no one's really paying attention to any of the other races either:
2010 Senate: Democratic Primary
33% Specter, 16% Sestak (chart)
2010 Senate: General Election
33% Specter, 29% Toomey
25% Toomey, 22% Sestak
So, let me get this right: In a choice between Specter, who's been this state's senator since, you know, forever, and Toomey, the former congressman/Club for Growth corporate whore who nearly knocked off Specter six years ago hardly an unknown character the winner is "I don't know"? Or that, in the relatively high profile race involving a longtime Repub who switched parties and a Navy admiral who pissed off his own party to challenge him, more than 51 percent of the electorate hasn't the slightest clue who they'll support less than 90 days from Election Day? Or that, in the freaking race for the freaking governor of the freaking commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the most any Democrat can muster is 6 freaking percent (in a poll, I should mention, with a 4.5 percent margin of error)?
Either this poll is all kinds of screwy, or Pennsylvania's voters are just ridiculously (and dangerously) uninterested and politically illiterate. If it's the latter, it doesn't bode well for our little experiment in democracy.
I didn't make Harriton High assistant principal Lindy Matkso's press conference/statement reading this morning, on account of the endless, degenerating hours of meetings that consume my Wednesdays, but from the Inky's account, it seems Matsko who, according to the lawsuit filed by Blake Robbins last week, allegedly obtained a picture of Robbins supposedly involved in some sort of illicit act (later, we heard it was pill-popping, or maybe candy-eating) from the Webcam of the laptop the district issues students simply, and vehemently, denied any wrongdoing, adding that she would never spy on students or punish them for stuff they did off school grounds. She took no questions.
In a voice that swelled and quavered with apparent anger, Harriton High School Assistant Vice Principal Lindy Matsko this morning decried the "many falsehoods and misperceptions" about her role in the Lower Merion school's webcam tumult sparked by a student's lawsuit.
"At no time have I ever monitored a student via a laptop webcam," said Matsko, who is in her 25th year working for Lower Merion School District, "nor have I ever authorized the monitoring of a student via a laptop webcam, either at school or in the home. And I never would."
Matsko, who was speaking for the first time since the suit was filed last week, did not take questions after the six-minute statement she delivered in the Center City office of her attorney, Dennis Abramson.
She said she has been the recipient of "numerous" mean and threatening emails.
Reading from a sheet of paper that shook in her hands, Matsko said allegations she participated in monitoring Harriton sophomore Blake Robbins in his home via the camera of his school-issued MacBook were "offensive, abhorrent and outrageous," her volume rising after every word.
OK, I understand that she can't answer questions. There is, indeed, a federal lawsuit. But her statement, like the one the school district itself issued Feb. 18, the day the lawsuit went public, raises more questions than it answers: Clearly, the school district had a system that allowed it to remotely activate a Webcam and snap a picture. The district has said it used such a device 42 times in 14 months, to catch laptop thieves. The district has also said that it made a mistake by not alerting parents about their ability to do so.
And at some point, Blake Robbins found out about this. He says it was when Matsko tried to punish him for allegedly popping pills at home, which he says were candies. According to the district, the only way it would have used its remote activated doohickey was if Blake's computer was reported stolen. That leaves, to my mind, three possibilities: 1.) Robbins' computer was reported stolen by someone, although the lawsuit says the computer in question was his, and the district has never alleged otherwise. 2.) There is no picture of Robbins, he made the whole thing up, and he and his family and their lawyers uncovered this Webcam thing through some other means, though one would presume that school district would have mentioned something about this in the last week. 3.) Robbins' computer wasn't reported stolen, the district took his picture anyway, and everything alleged in the lawsuit is basically true.
Am I missing something? I mean, I think the district needs to answer one question (among a great many, but for starters): Did it, in fact, have a picture of Blake engaged in some sort of wrongdoing, no matter how that image was obtained?
Matsko may well be scapegoated here; I don't mean to imply that she did something shady, because I really have no idea what's going on. I mean, seriously: No school official could be cavalier or dumb enough to think they could spy on kids and no one would ever be the wiser, right? I doubt it. But these stories aren't adding up. If the school district can come out and say that Blake Robbins is lying, why hasn't it done so? In lawsuits, people categorically deny charges all the time; it's not unusual or improper.
That leads me to believe there's an element of truth in what he's saying.
Anybody seeing this tale spin a different way? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
It looks as though the Army Corps of Engineers may may finally begin deepening the Delaware River this Friday, for realsies.
As we told you before, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and four other environmental groups filed an appeal earlier this month with the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the deepening project; in response, the Army Corps agreed to not begin deepening until Feb. 26. The environmental groups then filed a stay-pending appeal to keep the deepening project from moving forward whatsoever before the court could consider their original appeal in full.
Well, Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum just informed the Clog that the court did not issue the groups a stay-pending appeal. Translation: It's a go for the Army Corps.
This says nothing about the outcome of the appeal, but still. Coupled with the fact that the Army Corps awarded the deepening contract for "Reach C' an 11-mile segment of the 100-mile-long project to Norfolk Dredging Co. yesterday at 5 p.m., and that the Army Corps said it would only hold off from deepening until Feb. 26, this means deepening is kinda definitely gonna start on Friday. But only kinda definitely. As Ed Voigt, the Philadelphia Army Corps' chief of public and legislative affairs, put it in all its vague glory yesterday:
No actual, physical channel deepening work will begin before this Friday, Feb. 26, per our recent commitment to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Also, we will not commence actual deepening work until the project sponsor completes the purchase of all Emission Reduction Credits (ERC's) needed for Clean Air Act conformity. (We anticipate that will also be wrapped up by the end of this week.) If we have the ERC's by then and the 3rd Circuit does not direct us otherwise, deepening could let me repeat, COULD begin as early as this Friday.
This means that, theoretically, the Army Corps could deepen "Reach C" only to later be told by the court that it couldn't finish the rest of the project. We'll keep you posted.
In addition to crowning Meal Ticket's Felicia D'Ambrosio the brainiest beer drinker in Philly, Philadelphia Weekly gave a shout-out to three of City Paper's contributors in their "Better Than Best" issue: Brian James Kirk, Christopher Wink and Sean Blanda, aka the dudes behind Technically Philly. Sez PW, which named them the "Best Self-Promoters on the New Media Scene" (a euphemism, perhaps, for "Biggest Twitter Sluts"):
The guysSean Blanda, Brian James Kirk and Chris Winkare certainly good at getting their names out there: The trio appeared last spring at BarCamp Philly, a gathering of veteran journalists, to explain the virtues of their approach. And if that approach appears to be a combination of web links, brief stories and occasional interviews that skim the surface of the local scenewell, whos to say that isnt the future of media?
Technically Philly, coincidentally, is celebrating its first b-day at 7:30 p.m. tonight, at the University of the Arts (211 S. Broad St., Terra Building, Room 1107). It's free, but you need to RSVP.
Having serious issues with shaving my neck and crazy razor burn. I used one of the best razors and a really good shave gel. Plus only shave normally right after a shower when my skin is soft. I use a really good after shave lotion but it seems not to be enough.
Lara Coleman here with your morning fix:
SecDef Robert Gates tells Congress that women in the Navy will now be allowed to serve on submarines.
The first batch of about 150 full-body airport scanners will be installed in Boston next week; three machines go up immediately, the rest will come by June. Note to travelers: If you wear funny underpants, you'll make the TSA workers giggle.
The Women's Medical Society, an abortion clinic in West Philadelphia, has been raided and shut down due to unsanitary conditions, including aborted fetuses displayed in jars. Gross. Also, way to give the fundies something to get all charged up about.
Scientists announced that they discovered a new species of dinosaur discovered in Utah. Scientists believe that the bones belong to a new type of sauropod the largest animals that have ever lived.
Mayor Nutter is considering a trash fee; last year, he sought a $5 per week charge. Itss unclear what he'll want this go-round.
A new French anti-smoking ad depicts an older man pushing down the head of a teenage girl, who is smoking a cigarette. The slogan reads "To smoke is to be a slave to tobacco." Controversy ensues.
Three Google executives in Milan, Italy have been convicted of privacy violations for letting a video of an autistic boy who is being abused to be posted on the Internet. They received a suspended six-month sentence. To date, no one has gone to jail for the atrocity that is Google Buzz.
More snow on Thursday.
In an attempt to stop a nationwide drinking problem, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has upped the price of cheap vodka to 89 rubles, or roughly $3 for a half-liter, nearly double of what it cost last year. In related news, every single Russian is now broke.
We kid. Stereotypes are not funny.
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