In Sunday's rant we introduced a little piece of imagery that seemed to resonate with some of you. In describing the weekend Republican shindig in Memphis, we mused that the sight of a Republican listening to the blues on Beale Street - the home of the blues - would be an odd sight indeed.We were thinking about that image while stuck in traffic this afternoon and began to wonder exactly what a Republican bluesman would look like. Here's the picture we painted in our head: * Name: Blind Boy Bob (aka, "The Ragin' Cajun CFO"). * Hometown: Stamford, CT. * Age: 63. * Size: 5' 11' tall and approximately 256 pounds. Dresses right. * Race: White, but very tanned and leathery. * Hair: Silver with a huge bald spot showing the distinct impressions of hair plugs. * General Appearance: Dark Brooks Brothers suit with fashionably slight fraying at the cuffs. Power tie bearing a stain from a spill of Quinta do Noval 2003 Vintage Port that occurred after the braised lamb shanks at Le Cirque. American flag lapel pin on his right lapel and an RNC elephant pin on the left. New York Stock Exchange Member tie tack encrusted in delicate diamonds. Well worn black, but very shiny wingtip shoes. Brown Borsalino Como hat with a badly broken brim. Wayfarer sunglasses attached to a gold chain around his neck. * Bling: Mammoth Yale Law School class ring on his right ring finger. Left ring finger bears a light spot from wedding ring recently taken by his 46 year-old ex-wife in a divorce settlement. * Instrument: Very old and scratched Gibson Western classic guitar named "Bunny" after his childhood sweetheart. Wears specially designed pewter finger picks to cover his daily manicure. When playing numbers requiring a bottleneck, he uses the neck from a bottle of 1970 Lafleur wine, specially reworked by his personal glass artisan at the Lennox crystal works. * Travel Arrangements: Rides to gigs in a standard Greyhound bus, but buys out all the seats because the other passengers are always, "smelly" and has the interior steam cleaned before he will enter it. * Sample Set List: 1. "The Crash Came Early One Mornin' and I Was Caught Sellin' Short" 2. The "I Been Indicted Blues" 3. "I Swung My Club, But I Missed My Putt (One Mornin' at St. Andrews)" 4. "Drivin' Mizz Titleist" 5. "Them Income Tax-Captial Gains-Piss Me Off Blues" 6. The "Let 'Em Eat Cake, But Not Before I Get My Piece Rag" 7. "Don't Worry 'Bout Them Lil' People Blues" 8. "My Ex-Wife's a Bitch Rag" 9. "She Popped My Cork, But The Champaign Was Flat" 10. "The Cost Cuttin' Cuss From Crawford (Texas Swing Mix)"Yeah, that'll about do it.Tech Tags: humor politics republicans blues+music omnipotent+poobah
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In a wildly misleading front-page story that the Right will love, the Nation’s Newspaper kicks off with this eye-catching lead, “A sweeping expansion of social programs since 2000 has sparked a record increase in the number of Americans receiving federal government benefits such as college aid, food stamps, and health care.” A sweeping expansion? Has conservatism really been compassionate after all?
Er, nope. But unfortunately, it isn’t until the next-to-last paragraph of the story when Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is offered an opportunity to offer a succinct dose of sanity: “the growth in the number of people in many programs is due to a rise in the poverty rate from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 12.7 percent in 2004, the most recent year” for which data is available. So here’s a much more accurate lead: “Enrollments in programs like Medicaid and food stamps have mainly gone up significantly because the economy has stunk for Americans at the bottom of the income ladder over the past five years.”
[POSTSCRIPT]: I see Jonah Goldberg cited the USA Today article as authoritatively demonstrating that Bush isn't a true blue conservative.
Nonetheless, the front page says the three major reasons for higher enrollments in benefit programs are: 1) Expanded eligibility criteria (like dropping the value of a food stamp applicant’s car), 2) Increased participation (“The government has made applying for benefits easier, prompting more eligible people to get them”) and 3) The 1996 welfare reform act (left unexplained is why a bill enacted four years before the beginning of the time frame studied has anything to do with changes from 2000 to 2005).
To the extent any of those factors are valid at all, they have had a marginal impact. There’s been no “sweeping expansion” of any social program since Bush took office, except for the Medicare drug bill (which didn’t take effect until after the paper’s 2000-5 time frame). Medicaid enrollments have mainly gone up because more people have fallen below the eligibility thresholds while losing health insurance at work--most states have cut back their eligibility requirements rather than make them more generous. Food stamp enrollments have mainly gone up because, again, more people have fallen below the eligibility thresholds --though some administrative changes have helped modestly.
The whole story is basically a mess. For example, the front page graph shows enrollment in 25 “federal aid” programs is up 17 percent, increasing from 263 million to 307 million. That’s quite something, considering that there are only 300 million U.S. citizens. Oh, right, there is a note in agate type to the effect that some people participate in multiple programs. But what then is the logic behind combining numbers for age-dependent universal programs like Social Security and Medicare, to which recipients have paid dedicated taxes, with means-tested safety net programs? And if one person falling into poverty can add three, four, or five to the enrollment count of safety net programs, disproportionate
ly elevating percentage increases, how are readers supposed to begin to make sense of what that number means?
The story concludes by quoting Minnesota Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht, saying that the number of people in “such programs” should not be growing when unemployment is near a record low. “The food stamp program just grows and grows and grows…It’s probably time to revisit food stamps.” USA Today just gave a nice boost to his bogus cause.
Thersites at Vichy Dems has some great analysis about this AP article, which reports that Feingold's Censure Resolution has been referred to Arlen Specter's Senate Judiciary Committee for a vote. And Thersites also reports, based on this Raw Story article, that numerous Democrats are anonymously and rather petulantly attacking Feingold for having introduced the resolution -- the single most important and courageous act I can recall from a Senator in a long time -- because they are afraid (as always) that Republicans will use it to attack them as weak on national security and depict them as being best friends with The Terrorists.
If these Democrats are afraid of a 34% dying Presidency, what aren't they afraid of? The good news is that Feingold seems as willing to stand up to these frightened Democrats as he is to take a stand in defense of our country's principles from the Bush Administration's relentless assault on those principles:
"I look forward to a full hearing, debate and vote in committee on this important matter," Feingold, D-Wis., said in a statement. "If the committee fails to consider the resolution expeditiously, I will ask that there be a vote in the full Senate" . . . .
Feingold, defending his censure plan today on Fox News, said: "I?m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president?s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide?too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they?ll say we?d better just focus on domestic issues?[Democrats shouldn?t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question administration, you?re helping the terrorists."
Just got off the phone after about 15 minutes with a staffer in Kennedy?s office (in Boston.) Mon dieu. Very frustrating. And this is Kennedy.
Hit absolutely the wall. Kennedy won?t support or oppose, wants a Congressional investigation. Yes, sure, facts are not in dispute, but the Senator will not take a position on the censure resolution until the investigation is complete. Yes, sure, law not really in dispute. But the Senator will not take a position on the censure resolution until the investigation is complete. Yes, sure, FBI has dropped all pretenses in monitoring political groups within the US. But the Senator is not going to issue a statement in support.
Yes, it makes it difficult for people who are outspoken to stand alone. Yes it makes the party look fractured on an important issue. But the Senator is not going to issue a statement until investigations are complete. No, of course we understand the investigations are going to be run by Republican Senators. But the Senator is not going to issue a statement until investigations are complete.
Sadly, after carefully stressing the words "the Senator", the staffer kept saying, "I think you can tell where I stand." And I could. What a mess.
In honor of the launch of our sister site, TPMmuckraker, I wanted to call attention to a piece in the new issue of The Atlantic Monthly. As part of the 150 th anniversary celebration, the magazine is publishing excerpts from notable articles that have appeared there over the years. One of these, "Story of a Great Monopoly" by Henry Demarest Lloyd, was first published in the magazine in 1881. By means of introduction, the editors explain:
This was one of the earliest pieces of progressive muckraking to be published in a national, well-respected magazine—and the first exposé of the Standard Oil Trust to be taken seriously. The issue in which the article appeared sold out seven printings, and it helped bring antitrust legislation to the forefront of national debate, auguring the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
Over at TPMmucraker, we’re going to have our own set of links to great muckrakers/
muckraking stories in history. I myself have always been fascinated by Ida Tarbell and her History of the Standard Oil Company, and OUP’s blog has a good round-up of the Top Ten Congressional Lobbying Scandals in US History. But we’d like to know what makes your list...
I cannot begin to explain how much this is NOT done. When you are a governmental attorney, you must hold yourself to a higher standard in terms of ethics and maneuvering, precisely because you have a quasi-judicial position in terms of charging decisions and in terms of having the power of the state's investigative capacity behind you.The rules are that you do not, under any circumstances,
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Ehud Olmert, acting Prime Minister of Israel and the head of the new Ariel Sharon-created Kadima party, just scored big in Israel with the mostly bloodless seizure in Jericho of six Palestinian prisoners who were allegedly involved in the murder...
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