Posted: May 14, 2015 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Amtrak crash, Brandon Bostian, Ed Rendell, GOP Congress, infrastructure investment, John Cassidy, positive train control, Robert Goggin
The Amtrak crash in Philadelphia is the top story this morning, as more details come out. Yesterday we learned that the train was going 106 mph when it derailed on a curve. We now know the identity of the engineer, and he claims he doesn’t remember anything about what happened.
NBC News: Amtrak Engineer Doesn’t Remember Train Crash, Lawyer Says.
The engineer who was at the controls when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday, killing seven people, does not remember what happened when the speeding train slammed into a curve and jumped off the tracks, his attorney said in an interview Wednesday.
“He remembers driving the train, he remembers going to that area generally, has absolutely no recollection of the incident or anything unusual,” attorney Robert Goggin, who said he represents Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian, 32, of Forest Hills, Queens, told ABC’s “Nightline.”
“The next thing he recalls is being thrown around, coming to, finding his bag, getting his cell phone and dialing 911,” Goggin told the news program. Goggin said Bostian was injured in the crash and had 14 staples placed in his head and suffered a knee injury. “What he looked was exhausted,” Goggin told ABC.
Bostian was released from the hospital Wednesday. Philadelphia police said Wednesday night that he had been interviewed and had given a blood sample. Goggin said he also turned over his cell phone.
The train was traveling at 106 mph as it entered a curve where the speed limit is just 50 mph, Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said Wednesday. The entire train — a locomotive and seven passenger cars — derailed immediately, he said. There were approximately 243 people on board.
The crash could very likely have been prevented. The Associated Press reports via Minneapolis Star Tribune: Long-sought safety technology might have prevented deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.
Seven years ago, Congress gave Amtrak and freight and commuter railroads until the end of this year to install the technology, called positive train control, on their trains and tracks. But few, if any, railroads are expected to meet the deadline. Now lawmakers are proposing to give railroads another five to seven years to get the task done.
The technology uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train position. It can automatically brake to prevent derailments due to excessive speed, collisions with other trains, trains entering track where maintenance is being done or going the wrong way because of a switching mistake. It’s all aimed at preventing human error, which is responsible for about 40 percent of train accidents.
A preliminary review of the Amtrak train’s event data recorder, or “black box,” shows it was traveling at 106 mph in an 80 mph zone just before it entered a curve where the speed limit is 50 mph, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday. The train’s engineer applied maximum braking power seconds before the crash, but it was too late.
“We feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” Sumwalt told reporters….
Not counting Tuesday’s derailment, the NTSB has investigated 29 passenger and freight train accidents that officials say could have been prevented by positive train control since 2004. Sixty-eight people died and more than 1,100 were injured in those crashes. The board has been urging installation of the technology, or its precursors, for 45 years.
You read that right. The technology has been available in some form for 45 years and still hasn’t been installed! Why? You guessed it, I’m sure. It’s incredibly expensive, and Congress doesn’t want to use taxpayer money to help pay for it. In fact, a bill was has been approved by the Senate transportation committee that would give the railroads until 2020 to finish the installation.
At least three of the bill’s key sponsors — Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. — have each received more than $100,000 in contributions to their campaigns and political committees from the rail industry over the course of their careers in Congress, according to the political money-tracking website OpenSecrets.org.
The three senators said in statements or through their aides that reports by government agencies show railroads need more time. One of the hurdles is getting all the railroads to agree on systems that will work on everyone’s tracks despite differing policies and operations. Such interoperability is necessary because freight railroads frequently operate on each other’s tracks. Commuter railroads and Amtrak also often operate on freight rail tracks.
Amtrak has been one of the more aggressive railroads in installing the technology. Three years ago, Amtrak announced it expected to finish installing positive train control throughout its busy Northeast Corridor by the end of 2012. While positive train control is in operation in much of the corridor between New York and Boston and on some other Amtrak lines in the Midwest, other portions still lack the technology.
How did the Republican Congress respond to a terrible train crash that killed at least 7 people and injured 200? The House wants to cut funding for Amtrak.
Politico: House panel votes to cut Amtrak budget hours after deadly crash.
House Republicans voted Wednesday to chop about a fifth of Amtrak’s budget, less than a day after a deadly train crash that Democrats pointed to as a prime example of the dangers of shortchanging the nation’s transportation needs.
They also rebuffed Democrats’ attempts to provide money for an advanced speed-control technology that federal investigators later said would have prevented the crash.
“Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters Wednesday evening. Sumwalt, who is leading the crash probe, spoke hours after the House Appropriations Committee voted down a Democratic amendment that would have offered $825 million for the technology known as positive train control.
The amendment was part of hours of action on a GOP-backed $55 billion transportation and housing bill that Democrats attacked as an example of badly misplaced priorities. New York Rep. Steve Israel directly tied the crash to Congress’ spending decisions, saying people expect lawmakers to look out for their safety — and “last night, we failed them.”
“It’s not just our trains,” Israel said during a contentious markup Wednesday, which occurred as the wreckage from the seven-fatality derailment in Philadelphia was dominating the news channels. “It is our bridges that are failing. It is our highways that are congested and riddled with potholes. It is our runways, our airports. … We are divesting from America.”
Republicans said the cuts are necessary to stay under the spending caps that President Barack Obama and Congress agreed to four years ago.
Imagine if Republicans didn’t block all efforts to improve the country’s infrastructure? Former PA Gov. Ed Rendell had a few choice words for the House Republicans.
Talking Points Memo: Rendell Blasts GOP ‘SOBs’ Who Didn’t Have ‘Decency’ To Delay Amtrak Vote.
Rendell told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that the House Appropriations Committee debate over transportation funding was “pathetic.”
“Here, less than 12 hours after seven people died, these SOBs, and that’s all I can call them, these SOBs didn’t even have the decency to table the vote,” he said.
Hayes, who said he was playing devil’s advocate, pressed Rendell, asking why the accident should influence a vote on the budget.
Rendell said that Republicans’ “policy is terrible.”
“This country used to have the world’s best infrastructure,” he continued.
Rendell then recalled testifying about transportation funding in Congress while he was governor of Pennsylvania.
“Senator Shelby said, ‘Well governor, you’re asking us to subsidize Amtrak.’ I said, ‘Senator, there isn’t a rail system in the world that isn’t subsidized,'” Rendell said. “What are these guys smoking?”
John Cassidy argues at the The New Yorker: After the Amtrak Crash, It’s Time to Get Serious About Transportation Infrastructure.
We don’t know yet what caused Tuesday night’s train derailment in Philadelphia, which killed at least seven people and injured scores more. On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said that the train was travelling at more than a hundred miles an hour, on a sharp turn where the speed limit was just fifty miles an hour. But even if human error was responsible for what happened, the crash also highlights the fact that some stretches of the track that Amtrak uses are unsuitable for high-speed travel, and they are also not equipped with the modern technology necessary to enable automatic override systems, which can slow down speeding trains. (According to Reuters and the Times, the train that derailed did have an automatic safety system installed, but it didn’t work on the track where the derailment took place.)
One thing we do know for sure is that, for decades now, the United States has been allowing its public infrastructure to decay. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a report saying that it would take roughly $3.6 trillion worth of repairs and retrofitting merely to return the nation’s roads, railways, and airports to a safe and durable state. For example, about one in nine bridges in the U.S. were structurally deficient, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
And that’s just transportation infrastructure. Many of America’s schools, sewage systems, and parks could do with an upgrade, too. A couple of years ago, a survey by the World Economic Forum ranked the United States twenty-fifth globally in overall quality of infrastructure, behind such nations as Spain, Oman, and South Korea. That’s hardly surprising. In my neighborhood in Brooklyn, where townhouses are now selling for millions of dollars, the sewers, which were built more than a century ago, sometimes back up after a heavy rainstorm.
It’s no mystery why much of our public infrastructure is overloaded and crumbling. America is a growing country, and investment in infrastructure has failed to keep up with expanding needs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in the nineteen-fifties and sixties we spent close to five per cent of G.D.P. on new transport and water projects, and on maintaining existing systems. European nations still spend about that much today, while China and other rapidly developing Asian countries spend close to twice as much. In the United States, however, spending on infrastructure is only about half of what it used to be, relative to G.D.P.
This situation is a direct product of politics. As entitlement spending has grown and pressure to cut the federal budget has increased, infrastructure spending has been tightened. The squeeze was relaxed for a few years as a result of President Obama’s stimulus program, but it’s now back in effect. Take the federal Highway Trust Fund, which historically has paid for about a third of public-transportation projects around the country. It is almost always operating in the red, largely because the gasoline tax that finances the fund hasn’t been raised since 1993. Over the next ten years, it is facing a financial shortfall of about a hundred and seventy billion dollars, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but Republicans in Congress are blocking efforts to raise more revenues.
I’m not sure why Cassidy threw in the part about “entitlement spending.” He’s a Brit. Does he know that Social Security is not part of the Federal budget? If the government spent money on infrastructure, it would create jobs and more people would be paying income taxes as well as paying into Social Security and Medicare. Increasing the cap on Social Security taxes so that wealthier people paid their fair share would help too.
But I digress. He’s right that we should be improving our infrastructure. Other countries manage to build and support fantastic high-speed trains.
We’re all feeling discouraged by what Republicans have done and are trying to do to our country. But we can’t allow them to achieve their destructive goals. Let’s make every effort to elect a Democratic president and Democratic Congress next year. Don’t let the bastards get you down!
So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and enjoy your Thursday.
Posted: June 26, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, Barack Obama, children, Mitt Romney, U.S. Politics, Voter Ignorance | Tags: Bain Capital, black bears, Carol Aichele, Chateaux at Silver Lake, child prostitution, college students, Cory Booker, Ed Rendell, FBI, Henrietta Kay Dickerson, human trafficking, Innocence Lost, John Kerry, Michael Milken, Mike Turzai, moose, Operation Cross Country VI, outsourcing, Pennsylvania, prostitution rings, Voter ID laws, wildlife
I just had to share this news about wildlife encroaching on Boston’s western suburbs: Black bear and moose sighted in Needham and Wellesley
It was a wild Monday in the suburbs west of Boston, with reports of a black bear ambling down by the Charles River in Needham and sightings of a 600-pound moose racing through backyards and across streets in Wellesley.
Isn’t that exciting?
The suburban sightings follow a rash of similar wildlife reports across the state – coyotes, of course, and more recently, black bears. One particularly adventurous bear spent weeks roaming Cape Cod, romping through cranberry bogs and backyards and spawning bear-themed T-shirts before being tranquilized in Wellfleet.
A bear was spotted in a few yards around Norwood Saturday night, according to local police. And State Environmental Police investigated reports of a black bear in the woods along Route 109 in Dedham Sunday morning. Officers did not locate the bear, and officials speculated it had moved on.
According to the article, the bear population in Massachusetts has increased since it was estimated at 3,000 in 2005 and bears have started to move into the eastern part of the state. It’s mating season now, so the bears are out searching for mates and looking to establish their own territories.
As for the moose:
While authorities combed Wellesley backyards Monday afternoon, people puttered around in their cars hollering out the latest updates on the moose’s location from the police scanners. Groups on foot swapped backyard-sighting stories, and shared pictures on cell phones. They gathered with cameras at the ready to watch as authorities blocked off a home on Lexington Road to search its woody backyard for the wild interloper.
Police searched for hours but were unable to locate the moose.
An FBI Sting Operation Worth Applauding
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the FBI broke up prostitution rings across the U.S., freeing 79 underage prostitutes and arresting 105 pimps “as part of the…Innocence Lost National Initiative entitled ‘Operation Cross Country VI.'”
Seventy-nine teenagers held against their will and forced into prostitution were rescued at hotels, truck stops and storefronts in a three-day sweep of sex-trafficking rings across the United States, law enforcement officials said on Monday.
The FBI said 104 alleged pimps were arrested during sting operations in 57 U.S. cities including Atlanta, Sacramento, and Toledo, Ohio. The operation lasted between Thursday and Saturday and involved state and local authorities as well as the FBI.
The teenagers, aged from 13 to 17 years old, were being held in custody until they could be placed with child welfare organizations. They were all U.S. citizens and included 77 girls and two boys, the FBI said.
One of the minors recovered in the sweep reported being involved in prostitution from the age of 11, according to Kevin Perkins, acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.
He said the cases were not “one-off” incidents, but evidence of “criminal enterprises” that lure minors in, often through social media, hold them against their will through threats to them or their families, and then traffic them through different U.S. cities.
CNN has more from Perkins:
“Many times the children that are taken in in these types of criminal activities are children that are dissaffected, they are from broken homes, they may be on the street themselves — they are really looking for a meal, they are looking for shelter, they are looking for someone to take care of them, and that’s really the first approach that’s made,” said Perkins.
“Once the child has been taken out of harm’s way, then really the story just begins at that point,” said Perkins. “That’s where the real work starts, where we have to call upon the community, various social welfare agencies, our own office of victim assistance has to work with each child on an individual basis to see what their requirements are.
“This is a very difficult task. These children are very damaged — very harmed, and they need a great deal of help — it’s really taxing the social welfare agencies and it’s something that, going forward, we need to pay particular attention to.”
Unfortunately many of these children may still end up back on the streets. Still, it’s a worthwhile effort, IMHO.
Mitt Romney Updates
ABC News The Note managed to get some details about Romney’s ultra-secret weekend millionaire/billionare donor retreat in Park City, Utah.
Chateaux at Silver Lake
FRIDAY AFTERNOON: As attendees entered the Chateaux at Silver Lake, the host hotel, throughout the sunny afternoon, they were handed a Vineyard Vines tan canvas tote bag with navy piping and the words “Believe in America” stitched on the side. Inside the bag was a blue baseball hat with “Romney” written over a circular American flag and a thick white binder, detailing the weekend’s schedule from policy discussions to social events, along with a list of Romney’s upcoming events and Romney for president pins.
In addition to the Romney swag, there was also a typed note from Romney’s National Finance Chairman Spencer Zwick addressed to the attendees by their first names. “Welcome to the first Romney Victory Leadership Retreat! We are very glad you were able to join us for this special weekend. Thank you for the continued support and leadership. On to victory!,” the card read.
Some were even personalized with a handwritten note from Zwick expressing appreciation to the donor and his or her family, signed with his initials “SZ.”
Golf carts whipped attendees around the complex and to discussions on healthcare, Israel, the state of the race, and the financial services industry that were conducted both Friday and Saturday.
There’s lots more at the link.
Despite the complaints of corporate Democrats like Cory Booker and Ed Rendell, the Obama campaign has continued to hammer Mitt Romney over his history as a corporate raider. And over the weekend, there were three in-depth articles on Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Today James Downie highlighted those pieces at the WaPo: Mitt Romney, Bain Capital and a ‘profit-first’ presidency
The first, from Friday’s Post, described how Romney’s Bain was an early supporter of companies that outsourced American jobs. “While Bain was not the largest player in the outsourcing field,” The Post reported, “the private equity firm was involved early on, at a time when the departure of jobs from the United States was beginning to accelerate and new companies were emerging as handmaidens to this outflow of employment.” That outsourcing damaged American job creation was no matter; Bain made its profit.
The second, in Saturday’s New York Times, outlined how, again and again, Romney’s Bain reaped revenue from companies even as they were failing. “At least seven [of the 40 U.S.-based companies that Bain held a majority stake in while Romney was active at Bain] eventually filed for bankruptcy while Bain remained involved, or shortly afterward . . . In some instances, hundreds of employees lost their jobs. In most of those cases, however, records and interviews suggest that Bain and its executives still found a way to make money.” In several of the bankruptcies, companies made their situation worse by borrowing more to return money to Bain and its investors. And even when both outside investors and the companies themselves failed to do well, “lucrative fees helped insulate Bain and its executives.” Again, Bain made its profit.
The third, and perhaps most damning article, came from Sunday’s Boston Globe, depicting Romney’s work with disgraced junk-bond king Michael Milken. In 1988, Romney was searching for money to finance a heavily-leveraged buyout of two small department store chains. “At the time of the deal, it was widely known that Milken and his company were under federal investigation” for insider trading and stock manipulation. Despite this, Romney and his partners, after personally meeting with Milken, went ahead with the deal. With financing from Milken’s shady business, Romney and Bain were able to make a $10 billion investment, not long before Milken was sentenced to 22 months in prison. Bain eventually profited to the tune of $175 million (although the merged department stores later went bankrupt, shortly after dumping its Bain-appointed chief executive). Sure, an important chunk of the financing may have come from questionable sources, but Bain made its profit.
I included the Boston Globe article in my Sunday morning roundup. If you haven’t read it yet, please do.
Meanwhile, the Romney campaign has been taking the John Kerry approach–ignoring the attacks on Romney’s primary claim to presidential qualifications, just as Kerry long ignored the attacks on him by the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.” That didn’t work out so well for Kerry.
Today, President Obama mocked Romney’s response to the outsourcing story at a campaign event in New Hampshire.
The president noted that Romney’s campaign had pushed back against the Post’s scoop by complaining it didn’t sufficiently distinguish between “outsourcing” and “offshoring,” only the latter of which expressly involves shipping jobs overseas.
“You cannot make this stuff up!” Obama said. “What Gov. Romney and his advisers don’t seem to understand is this: If you’re a worker whose job went overseas, you don’t need somebody trying to explain to you the difference between outsourcing and offshoring, you need someone who’s going to wake up every day and fight for American jobs and investment here in the United States.”
Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law
Pennsylvania is one of the many Republican-controlled states that have instituted voter ID laws. Usually the claim is that these laws will prevent the massive amount of voter fraud that Republicans claim is happening (of course, there’s no evidence whatsoever for this claim). But recently a Pennsylvania Republican state legislator actually told the truth.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suggested that the House’s end game in passing the Voter ID law was to benefit the GOP politically.
“We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years,” said Turzai in a speech to committee members Saturday. He mentioned the law among a laundry list of accomplishments made by the GOP-run legislature.
“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
The statement drew a loud round of applause from the audience. It also struck a nerve among critics, who called it an admission that they passed the bill to make it harder for Democrats to vote — and not to prevent voter fraud as the legislators claimed.
The Pennsylvania voter ID law is particularly complex and strict in its requirements. Most onerous is the requirement that the ID must include a specific date of expiration.
As this article in The Nation explains, most employment and student ID’s do not have expiration dates listed. Even the Republican Secretary of State Carol Aichele did not know that her employee ID would not be accepted for voting!
Back in April, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele visited the editorial board of the Erie Times-News newspaper to speak with them about the new photo voter ID bill Governor Tom Corbett had just signed into law….Aichele’s Erie visit was part of a state tour to educate voters about what they’d need for compliance with law and for the ability to exercise their right to vote. One of the IDs acceptable for voting is a state employee photo identification card. However, the law also says that IDs must have a current expiration date for voter eligibility, and the state employee cards do not. Aichele seemed to overlook this paradox in her education drive.
“Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele showed her state photo ID, which is not acceptable for voting because it doesn’t have an expiration date,” wrote the editorial board after she showed hers to them. It must have been humiliating for the secretary who was promoting the new law to find that her own example didn’t hold muster. It’s bad enough mandating that voters have ID cards, but to add the additional restriction that the ID needs an expiration date makes it even more obtrusive. The editorial says that 10 percent of Pennsylvanians, or 88,000, do not have a valid photo ID—though that number is contested and is thought to be much larger.
The law will make voting difficult for many senior citizens.
Take the example of Henrietta Kay Dickerson, 75, of Pittsburgh, a black woman who was born in Louisiana. She came to Pennsylvania as an infant and grew up her whole life in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the historical black neighborhood immortalized in the plays of August Wilson. In May last year her state ID expired. She went to the state’s department of transportation where she was refused a free voter ID card, even after she paid the $13.50 fee, according to her account in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project against the state, which says the law violates voting rights granted by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Pennsylvania’s many college students could also have difficulties if they don’t research the law’s requirements and follow them exactly. Most college IDs do not have dates of expiration.
I’m going to end here, because this post is getting way too long! I’ll turn the floor over to you now–what are your reading recommendations for today?
Posted: August 15, 2011 Filed under: Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton: Her Campaign for All of Us | Tags: Ed Rendell, Hillary Clinton: A Campaign for All of Us
Okay, so I just couldn’t resist Ed Rendell’s speculation on the possibility of a Hillary Clinton run for the Presidency. He’s bullish on 2016.
“I think, and this is just my thinking, that if she leaves after the president’s first term is over and she leaves and she teaches, does something like that, and rests, I think the possibility of being president and being the first woman president in history would probably be too much for her to resist,” Rendell told POLITICO.
“Her life is public service, that’s all she cares about, and I dont think she’s ready to retire,” he added.
Rendell was quoted in Monday’s New York PostOne as saying, “It’s going to be Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
One of the more fun quotes was about persistent Hillary hold-outs.
Rendell told POLITICO that what he meant was that Clinton would decide whether to make another run for the White House only after she leaves the State Department. That means she wouldn’t run until at least 2016 because Clinton has said she will stay in office until President Barack Obama’s first term is over.
Clinton has said in many recent interviews that she is looking forward to returning to private life when Obama’s first term is complete and that Secretary of State will be her last public job.
Rendell said there is a core group of 2008 Hillary Clinton supporters — they call themselves “The Last of the Mohicans” — who continue to urge her to run for president again.
Anyway, it’s a fun read and much more inspiring than any of the crap coming out of the 2012 race. We can dream, can’t we?
Posted: April 26, 2011 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Libya, MENA, Middle East, morning reads, racism, Republican politics, Republican presidential politics, Syria, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics, Yemen | Tags: Barack Obama, baseball, Civil War, Confederate flag, Donald Trump, Ed Rendell, fire ants, football, Franklin Graham, Gaddafi, Haley Barbour, Jimmy Carter, Libya, Missouri flooding, Misurata, Rahm Emanuel, Syria, Yemen
Well, we dodged a bullet yesterday when Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour announced that he won’t be running for president in 2012. Whew! I really didn’t want a president who would decorate the Oval Office with Confederate Civil War memorabilia, did you? Newsweek, January 2010:
The Republican governor of Mississippi keeps a large portrait of the University Greys, the Confederate rifle company that suffered 100 percent casualties at Gettysburg, on a wall not far from a Stars and Bars Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis.
Not to mention a guy who praised the segregationist Southern “citizens councils” in an interview with the Weekly Standard. And the fact that Barbour talks like he has a mouthful of marbles doesn’t help either.
We won't have him to kick around anymore
Politico has an analysis of why Barbour “pulled the plug,” which basically boils down to he really didn’t want to go through the aggravation. The story ends this way:
There were also nagging concerns among GOP insiders about the prospect of nominating a deep-South governor with an accent matching his Delta roots to take on the country’s first black president.
Barry Wynn, a former South Carolina Republican chairman, put it politely after hearing Barbour speak in the state earlier this month: “There’s a perception that he might be more of a regional candidate.”
Gee, no kidding. Like I said, we dodged a bullet. But there are plenty of other creepy Republicans out there to take his place. In fact Ron Paul is getting ready to announce another campaign for president.
Speaking of creepy Republicans, Donald Trump claimed today that President Obama’s birth certificate is “missing.”
When asked from whom he received the information, Trump said he didn’t want to say and that he feels bad about the situation.
“I’d love for him to produce his birth certificate so that you can fight one-on-one,” Trump said in an interview set to air Monday. “If you look at what he’s doing to fuel prices, you can do a great fight one-on-one, you don’t need this issue.”
CNN’s Gary Tuchman also interviewed the former director of the Hawaii Department of Health, who said she has seen the original birth certificate in the vault at the Department of Health.
Trump supporter Franklin Graham, son of Billy, is also on the birther bandwagon.
Meanwhile, multiple media outlets are talking about Trump’s generous campaign contributions–to Democrats. In fact, Trump recently donated $50,000 to Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for Chicago Mayor. From CNN:
Shortly before announcing interest in pursuing the GOP presidential bid, Republican Donald Trump gave $50,000, his largest campaign contribution in Illinois, to Democrat Rahm Emanuel, who was running for mayor, in December 2010….
Rahm’s brother Ari, who is co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, represents a majority of Hollywood’s celebrity elite, including Trump….
Records from the Illinois State Board of Elections show that Trump has made various sizable donations to Democratic causes in Illinois.
From Salon’s War Room:
When [Ed] Rendell entered Pennsylvania’s 2002 gubernatorial race, Trump committed himself to the former Democratic National Committee chairman’s cause. Between December 2001 and Election Day ’02, Trump personally gave $27,000 to Ed Rendell’s gubernatorial campaign. He also chipped in $5,000 more at the end of 2003, when Rendell was finishing up his first year in office.
Mind you, Rendell’s victory in 2002 was by no means a foregone conclusion. He faced a serious threat in the May Democratic primary from Robert Casey, then the state’s treasurer and the son of a former governor. The sharpest ideological difference between the two men may have been on abortion: Rendell was pro-choice, while Casey was pro-life (like his father, who was denied a speaking slot at the 1992 Democratic convention in part because of it). During the primary campaign, Trump provided Rendell with $6,000. Rendell ended up beating Casey by 13 points.
Trump is supposedly the one of the biggest contributors to Charlie Rangel ever, yet he is supposedly running as a Republican.
And then we have our current president, who is a Republican who ran as a Democrat in 2008. I posted this in comments on the morning thread yesterday, but I can resist doing it again. It’s so funny to see former Obama supporter (why?) Eric Alterman comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter.
Stylistically speaking, Barack Obama could hardly be further from Jimmy Carter if he really had been born in Kenya. Carter was a born-again Baptist who was raised on his father’s peanut plantation and supported George Wallace on the road to the Georgia state house. Barack Obama—well, you know the story. But the two men have a great deal in common in their approach to the presidency, and not one of these similarities is good news for the Democrats or even for America. Both men rule without regard to the concerns of the base of their party. Both held themselves to be above politics when it came to making tough decisions. Both were possessed with superhuman self-confidence when it came to their own political judgment mixed with contempt for what they understood to be the petty concerns of pundits and party leaders. And worst of all, one fears, neither one appeared willing to change course no matter how many storm clouds loomed on the horizon.
Ask yourself if the following story does not sound like another president we could name The gregarious Massachusetts pol, House Speaker Tip O’Neill, could hardly have been more eager to work with a Democratic president after eight years of Nixon and Ford. But when they first met, and O’Neill attempted to advise Carter about which members of Congress might need some special pleading, or even the assorted political favor or two with regard to certain issues, to O’Neill’s open-jawed amazement, Carter replied, “No, I’ll describe the problem in a rational way to the American people. I’m sure they’ll realize I’m right.” The red-nosed Irishman later said he “could have slugged” Carter over this lethal combination of arrogance and naivety, but it would soon become Carter’s calling card.
In some bad news for the radical right, the Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to Obamacare before it wends its way through the federal courts.
And in some good news for football fans, a district court has decided that
The NFL’s lockout is harming players and fans and is not in the public interest, District Judge Susan Nelson said in a ruling on Monday that granted the players’ request for an injunction to halt the work stoppage.
Nelson’s order to end the six-week lockout, imposed last month after a breakdown in talks over a new collective deal, is to be appealed by the NFL.
In an 89-page statement, the judge also accepted that the players dissolution of their union was valid and allowed them to act as individuals rather than be constricted by labor bargaining rules.
The Minnesota judge said in the absence of a collective bargaining process, which ended on March 11, antitrust policies come to the fore.
The plaintiffs in the case, led quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, argued they were suffering harm as a result of a lockout that stops them from reporting to work.
Here’s some more analysis of the decision at USA Today. I realize that I’m one of the few sports fans here at Sky Dancing, so I won’t burden you unduly. But I just want to say that the Red Sox have won five games in a row and are now only one game under .500–after starting the season with a string of pathetic losses. I know at least Pat Johnson will join me in cheering that news.
Daknikat wrote yesterday about the terrible flooding that was expected in Missouri. Well, it’s happening.
Gov. Jay Nixon activated the Missouri National Guard on Monday in response to the flooding of the Black River near Poplar Bluff, Mo. The executive order came just three days after the governor declared a state of emergency from the tornado that tore through St. Louis last Friday.
“Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner has mobilized 200 citizen soldiers and airmen to report initially to the Poplar Bluff area to assist with flood relief there,” said Maj. Tammy Spicer, public affairs officer for the Missouri National Guard.
More from the Houston Chronicle: Residents flee as river overflows Missouri levee.
Thunder roared and tornado warning sirens blared, and all emergency workers in the southeast Missouri town of Poplar Bluff could do Monday was hope the saturated levee holding back the Black River would survive yet another downpour.
Murky water flowed over the levee at more than three dozen spots and crept toward homes in the flood plain. Some had already flooded. If the levee broke — and forecasters said it was in imminent danger of doing so — some 7,000 residents in and around Poplar Bluff would be displaced.
One thousand homes were evacuated earlier in the day. Sandbagging wasn’t an option, Police Chief Danny Whitely said. There were too many trouble spots, and it was too dangerous to put people on the levee. Police went door-to-door encouraging people to get out. Some scurried to collect belongings, others chose to stay. Two men had to be rescued by boat.
“Basically all we can do now is wait, just wait,” Whitely said.
A Roosevelt would probably have created jobs by having people repair the nation’s rotting infrastructure. But, instead we got Barack “Hoover” Obama and the levees keep on failing.
Things are getting worse and worse in Syria, where there has been a brutal crackdown on protesters over the past several days. From CNN: Deadly attack on protesters raises questions about Syria’s stability
With reports emerging Monday that at least one high-ranking Syrian military commander refused to participate in a bloody, predawn raid that left dozens dead in the southern border city of Daraa — the heart of Syria’s weekslong civil unrest, questions are being raised about possible cracks in President Bashar al-Assad’s hold over the military.
The crackdown on anti-government protesters by Syrian forces escalated in recent days as demonstrators, emboldened by weeks of protests, called for the ouster of al-Assad. The crackdown culminated with the raid in Daraa where thousands of troops reportedly stormed the city and opened fire on demonstrators. It was an attack reminiscent of the brutal rule of al-Assad’s father, who once ordered the military to crush a revolt that resulted in the deaths of thousands.
“I think he’s clearly going toward the security solution, which is where he could be following in the steps of his father,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
I’ve been hearing all day that Yemen’s president Saleh was renigging on his promise to step down soon, but Al Jazeera reports that there is an agreement between the government and opposition forces.
Yemen’s opposition has agreed to take part in a transitional government under a Gulf-negotiated peace plan for embattled leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step aside in a month in exchange for immunity for him and his family.
A spokesman for an opposition coalition said on Monday that his group had received assurances in order to accept the deal.
“We have given our final accord to the [Gulf] initiative after having received assurances from our brothers and American and European friends on our objections to certain clauses in the plan,” Mohammed Qahtan said.
But not all protesters are going along.
many pro-democracy protesters, who are not members of the coalition that agreed to the peace talks, appear to be unconvinced by the Gulf-proposed deal and have called for fresh demonstrations, as security forces continued their crackdown.
In Libya, the fighting continues to be centered in the city of Misurata.
The battle for Misurata, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past two months, has become the focal point of the armed rebellion against Gaddafi since fighting elsewhere is deadlocked.
Images of civilians being killed and wounded by Gaddafi’s heavy weapons, have spurred calls for more forceful international intervention to stop the bloodshed.
NATO’s mandate from the UN is to try to protect civilians in Libya, split into a rebel-run east and a western area that remains largely under Gaddafi’s control.
While the international coalition’s air attacks have delivered heavy blows to his army, they have not halted attacks on Misurata, Libya’s third largest city, with a population of 300,000.
When I was a kid, I was fascinated by insects. I loved to read books about ants, spiders, and other such creepy-crawly critters. Truthfully, I still find them interesting. Here’s a story about fire ants and how they cooperate to protect the group in an emergency.
When flood waters threaten their underground nests, fire ants order an immediate evacuation. They make their way to the surface and grab hold of one another, making a living raft that can sail for months.
The extraordinary survival tactic, which can involve entire colonies of more than a hundred thousand ants, has been captured on film by US engineers who used the footage to help unravel how the insects co-operate to overcome nature’s dangers.
Time-lapse film of the ants in action reveals that pockets of air get trapped between them and around their bodies, helping them breathe if the raft is pushed under the water.
In normal circumstances the ants lock legs, and sometimes mandibles, to form a floating mat that sits on top of the water through a combination of surface tension and buoyancy.
“Even the ones at the bottom remain dry and able to breath because they are not actually under the water,” said Nathan Mlot, a PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
If only we humans would get together and cooperate like that!
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?
Posted: December 7, 2010 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Barack Obama, Dan Rather, Ed Rendell, Herbert Hoover, Norman Solomon, Robert Kuttner
Barack Obama communes with the ghost of Herbert Hoover
I just have one question this morning. Does President Obama read? If he does, there is no way he could miss the fact that he has blown his chance for a second term. Back in January, he told Diane Sawyer:
“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,”
Sorry Barack, you’re not even going to be a mediocre one-term president. You’re working on being Herbert Hoover II. You’re destroying the country, and a lot of people are waking up to that reality and beginning to ask how on earth we can get rid of you. Some cases in point:
Norman Solomon, Huffpo:
For the Obama presidency, moral collapse has taken on the appearance of craven clockwork, establishing a concentric pattern — doing immense damage to economic security at home while ratcheting up warfare overseas.
By the end of the weekend, a deal was just about wrapped up between the president and Republican congressional leaders to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
On the spin-cycle agenda this month is yet more reframing of the president’s foggy doubletalk about Afghanistan. Strip away the carefully crafted verbiage and the picture is stark — with plans for a huge U.S. war effort in that country for many years to come.
At the end of a year with massive U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan, parallels with the Johnson administration’s unhinged Vietnam War are hard to miss. Conjectures about an inside-the-Democratic-Party challenge to Obama’s re-nomination are now moving from shadowy whispers to open discourse.
Clarence B. Jones, Scholar in Residence, Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University (H/T Wonk the Vote) Time to Think the Unthinkable: A Democratic Primary Challenge To Obama’s Reelection You need to read the whole thing, but here’s just a sample:
It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States. But, regrettably, I believe that the time has come to do this.
It is time for Progressives to stop “whining” and arguing among themselves about whether President Obama will or will not do this or that. Obama is no different than any other President, nominated by his national party. He was elected with the hard work and 24/7 commitment of persons who believed and enlisted in his campaign for “Hope” and “Change.”
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist nor have a PhD in political science and sociology to see clearly that Obama has abandoned much of the base that elected him. He has done this because he no longer respects, fears or believes those persons who elected him have any alternative, but to accept what he does, whether they like it or not.
It is time for those persons who constituted the “Movement” that enabled Senator Barack Obama to be elected to “break their silence”; to indicate that they no longer will sit on their hands, and only let off verbal steam and ineffective sound and fury, and “hope” for the best.
Robert Kuttner, who once hope Barack Obama would be the next FDR:
Let’s stop pretending. Barack Obama is a disaster as a crisis president. He has taken an economic collapse that was the result of Republican ideology and Republican policies, and made it the Democrats’ fault. And the more that he is pummeled, the more he bends over.
So what can we do about it?
the choices boil down to these:
*Let Obama continue to undermine the economy, the real Democratic Party, and the New Deal-Great Society legacy.
*Do a ton of grass roots organizing to put pressure on the administration to change course and in the meantime to back real progressive leaders. The one time in recent memory that something like this worked was in the successful campaign to have Elizabeth Warren appointed interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The trouble is that the Warren appointment was something of a one-off. Though progressive pressure can produce an occasional decent appointment, it is not capable of compelling Obama to grow a spine.
*Run a progressive candidate against Obama in the 2012 primary. At a recent meeting of the Democracy Alliance, most of whose private donors and trade union backers were big Obama supporters, the two White House emissaries were ripped apart. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka was severe in his criticism of the White House failure to promote a real jobs and recovery program. Co-panelist Austan Goolsbee appeared weak and ineffectual, like his President.*
Yet if we are to be spared an awful decade, both economically and politically, either Obama needs to grow a backbone; or some other Democrat could well challenge him in 2012. Either course will require the progressive community to stop crying in our beer and to get out and organize.
Politics Daily: Dan Rather is predicting a primary challenge to Obama.
Former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather is predicting that if the Bush tax cuts are extended for two years (as now appears likely) President Obama will face a tough primary challenge from the left.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Company,” Rather said:
“This is a political nightmare for Barack Obama as president. The more-left portion of his party hates this with a passion. And politically, within his own party, if this goes through, Barack Obama will be in a position to have his shirttail on fire, his back to the wall, and the bill collector at the door. Which is metaphorically a way of saying he’s almost guaranteed — if this goes through — to have a serious challenge in a Democratic primary for president in 2012.”
Rather went on to add that “the perception of [Obama] is that he won’t fight for anything.” He also noted: “Many of the heavy contributors to the Democratic Party are beyond shock about this happening, and are saying to themselves, ‘This guy . . . has about four to six months to turn the perception of him and the party around or we’ve got to start thinking about somebody else in 2012.’ “
Wrong, Dan. We have about two months to find someone to run against this guy now or we’re doomed.
I did find one prominent Democrat who thinks the talk about primarying Obama is a bunch of hooey, good old Ed Rendell.
Outgoing Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told Salon in an interview this afternoon that he does not think “there’s any chance of a serious contender mounting an effort against the president.”
Rendell offered two reasons for his belief: First, any primary challenge would be “too hard to do — it costs too much money.”
And, second, Rendell believes that Obama has checked off enough boxes on the progressive scorecard to keep any challenge from the left at bay.
“Has he achieved everything that he wanted to achieve — or that [the progressive base] would have wanted him to achieve? No. But given the state of the filibuster rule in the Senate, I think he’s done well in moving the ball forward in a lot of areas, areas he doesn’t get credit for,” Rendell said, rattling off a list of Obama’s accomplishments: not only the healthcare bill, but also the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, credit card reform, student loan reform, and the extension of insurance to low-income children in the S-CHIP program.
Hey Ed, what could be more expensive than keeping Obama? He’s already given away the store. God only know what he’ll cave on next. The country is going down the tubes and you want to keep this tool in office?
That’s what I’ve got for today. What are you reading this morning?