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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Onorato: for the water

If there's one local race where I'm seeing people voting the issues rather than the party, it's the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race.

The choice is simple:  Tom Corbett has received massive contributions from natural gas businesses, and has taken a stand against a "severance tax" - a tax paid by drillers on extracted natural gas.  Taxes are bad, right?  In this case, the tax would help finance the inevitable repairs to environmental damage necessitated by drilling activities. Without that tax...well, the scars from this area's coal mining days still cover the state.  Neither the coal industry nor the respective state or federal agencies have taken any significant action in the past few decades to get the remnants of the coal industry, the culm banks and polluted streams and creeks and the rest of the residual mess cleaned up.

Onorato...does not.

More coherent argument here:

 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jonathan Alter: Why the Midterms Matter

If you're thinking of not voting this Tuesday, or if you're uncertain of how to vote, Jonathan Alter would like to have a word with you.


I was trapped in Washington, D.C. during the big government shutdown in 1995.  Do you have any idea how boring Washington, D.C. is without access to the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Portrait Gallery, or the Freer Gallery?  If the Republicans gain control of the House and/or the Senate again, you can expect a government shutdown at the very least.  Plus two years of total gridlock.  Remember how the Republicans in Congress decided that there was nothing more important than dedicating all national resources into hunting for anything they could get on President Clinton?  How they started from an investigation into a real estate deal and ended up impeaching him for lying about a sexual dalliance?

And remember how Osama bin Laden took advantage of that distraction to lay the groundwork for the September 11, 2001 attacks?

Yeah.  We've got all that to look forward to again. 

Unless YOU do something about it.


VOTE NOVEMBER 2nd

Friday, October 29, 2010

Winding down?

I was scheduled for two days of overtime in these four days off.  I worked one of them, but the second was cancelled.

I worked out early on that if I were to have one day of overtime each rotation I would be earning an income equal to what I was making in my salaried position prior to February 27, 2007.  After working several consecutive sixty-hour weeks recently, I realized that if I were to do that on a continuous basis - which would involve one or two days of overtime each rotation, depending on the week - I would warn about 20% more than I had been making on salary.  Of course, maintaining that pace would have also probably killed me.  (It's come pretty close several times.)

But now it looks like we may be hitting a slowdown.  And the deadline for my permanent layoff is looming, sometime between December 13 and December 26.  At least without all this damned lucrative overtime, I'll have time to start my job search.

It's funny.  You would think that with the economy the way it is, and the jobs situation the way it is, the most radicalized anti-government people making the loudest noise would be working-class stiffs facing layoffs.  But from a sampling of people I know, the opposite is true:  the most anti-Obama, anti-general welfare noises are coming from people with very secure jobs - people who are employed by, or are contractors for, the U.S. government, particularly the Department of Defense.  Except for the most radical, loudest mouth of all:  he works in road construction.  Which is the one sector of the economy that has benefited the most from the much-hated (by him) government stimulus program.

Speaking of that:  There is a road project that has been going on near my house for over a year.  There are numerous highway programs along my commute that have been going on for about that long.  I don't remember single projects taking this long in the past.  Is it maybe just a little bit possible that these construction contractors are strrrreeettttttcccching things out as much as possible, as long as the phat stimulus money is pouring in?

Of course, soon these projects along my commute won't be an issue for me any more.  Until I get myself a new commute.

VOTE NOVEMBER 2nd

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Some further thoughts on Bill Clinton's visit

I truly was surprised by the lack of traffic in and around Nanticoke the day of Bill Clinton's visit.  I expected the situation would be more like when I went to see Hillary Clinton's appearance at Scranton High School in March of 2008.  But the turnout was just a fraction of what she had.  I'm wondering if some people were discouraged by the recommendation that they line up three hours ahead of time.

I was also disappointed by the general behavior of many people in the crowd.  Some kids spent the whole time texting - at least I think they were texting, they might have been playing video games.  Many people spent a good amount of the time the President was speaking talking on their cell phones.*  What about?

Also, it seems pretty obvious, but...dozens of people didn't turn off their cell phones during the presentations.  Phones rang throughout the evening, and people took calls while the President was speaking.  Is such rudeness standard, or something peculiar to Nanticoke?

I don't know if Bill Clinton composed his own speech or has speechwriters to do that for him.  But his speech wasn't one that I would have composed if I were trying to deliver a persuasive speech to a bunch of blue-collar folks and retirees from a hardscrabble coal town like Nanticoke.  It focused on policies and issues, not on short, punchy, easily-digested exhortations.  And it didn't end with a final rallying of the troops, a final stirring call to get out and vote for Paul Kanjorski next Tuesday (which was the point, after all) and for everyone to encourage their friends and neighbors to go out and vote.  Unfortunately, I think President Clinton lost a significant portion of the crowd by the end of his speech.

And then there were the hecklers.

It's a free country, yes, despite the best efforts of Bush and Cheney.  We have Freedom of Speech.  It's a wonderful thing.

But we also live in a civil society, where if someone doesn't like your behavior in public they cannot simply seek a Second Amendment solution to the problem of your continued existence.  There are rules of behavior and conduct in public.  Protests are important and necessary things, and the expression of political dissent is certainly protected speech.

But acting like a complete asshole towards a public figure whom the vast majority of the people around you have come to hear speak is not a good way to win friends and influence people.

Once upon a time I would have blamed Professional Wrestling, where screaming matches with opponents during press conferences became standard fare at least as far back as the 1970's.  But this behavior came to characterize the standard approach to political discourse taken by the opponents of Health Care Reform in the summer of 2009.  Procedural delays by Republicans and certain lily-livered Democrats had postponed the vote on Health Care Reform until after the Congressional summer recess, when members of Congress would return to their home districts and address important issues with their constituents.  This was the outcome the opponents of Health Care Reform had been trying to bring about the whole while, and it gave them the opportunity to release their forces to express outrage (some real, some feigned, depending on whether the person expressing the outrage was a dupe or a plant) that anyone would dare try to bring about health care reform.  Hadn't the Republicans put a stop to such nonsense once already, during the Clinton administration?  Hadn't they steadfastly refused to let any such reform to creep through in the intervening years, no matter how badly and obviously it was needed?  Treason!  TYRANNY!!!

And the same day that President Clinton was appearing in Nanticoke, some Rand Paul supporters stomped on the head of a woman in Kentucky who didn't share their political views.

If you've engaged in political discussions in the last year or so, if you've followed the comments even on some of the posts on this site, you may have noticed that the tone from some parts of the "Right" has gotten more extreme.   More threatening, more belligerent.  Crazier, really.

But that's what passes for political discourse these days, at least from one end of the spectrum, and I fear it will only get worse.  I don't know if these hecklers were locals or if they were professional belligerents who had made a pilgrimage to Nanticoke with the express purpose of shouting down President Clinton.  But it was annoying and embarrassing.  And if the folks on the other end of the political spectrum ever choose to adopt these same tactics - well, President G.W. Bush would be well advised to continue to maintain a low profile.  There are tens of millions of people who would like to share a piece of their minds with him.


Further reading:
http://thepennsylvaniaprogressive.com/diary/2827/clintonkanjorski
Dems’ go-to guy makes pitch The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA



*I was at an REM concert some years back where many people spent the entire concert talking on the phone - not recording the concert onto their phones, or holding up their phones so the person on the other end could hear. Just having conversations. I guess they considered it the height of coolness to be able to say that they went to an REM concert but spent the entire time talking on the phone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bill Clinton visits Nanticoke, October 26, 2010

I had overtime this Monday.  I wanted it, had signed up for it, was grateful for it - but after I found out that Bill Clinton would be coming to Nanticoke the next day to speak at a school less than two blocks from where I am currently sitting, I really, really hoped the overtime would be cancelled.

It wasn't.

So now I faced the prospect of a night of work followed by - what?  Would Clinton groupies and CNN trucks be occupying all the on-street parking spaces?  Would Secret Service agents stop me and demand to know what I was doing coming home at 7:00 in the morning?  Would the streets around my house be blocked off for security reasons?

And what sort of sleep would I be able to get?  The event was scheduled to begin at 4:00, and people were advised to start lining up at 1:00.  I figured I would come home, take a shower, get dressed, and then doze in a chair for a few hours before moseying over to line up at the school, maybe meeting a friend along the way, maybe making a few phone calls while I waited.

I came home from work Tuesday morning to find things exactly as they would be on any other weekday in October.

Nothing unusual here.

I went through the usual morning routine:  fed all the cats (indoor and outdoor), gave Homer his medicine (he still has congestion), and then went online for a bit.  Wile there I saw this message from Gort regarding the day's festivities:

You don't have to wait in line just go to the press entrance at 3 :30. They will have a table for Bloggers.

Well.  That was interesting.  Bloggers would be allowed press access?  Cool.

I found myself falling asleep at the computer and realized that if I took a shower now I would probably wake myself up and not get very efficient sleep afterwards.  I called my friend and advised him of the situation regarding press access for bloggers, and then made plans to go to sleep immediately, get up at 11:15 and meet him at 12:00.

I overslept, of course.  I slept from 9:30 to 11:30, got up, and took a shower.  My friend walked to meet me at my mom's house at noon, and then we hung out there for a bit,  watching the local noon news followed by CNN.  Around 1:00 my friend and I headed out to stand in line.  I had decided to wait in line with the other civilians, and decide at 3:30 whether or not to go for the special press access.

I felt bad for my mom.  She would have liked to go to the event, but there was no way she would be able to stand in line for that many hours, or even walk from her house to the school gym where the event was being held.  I suggested that maybe she could drive up to my cousin's house, park there, and watch President Clinton arrive by helicopter.  (I was assuming he wouldn't be subjected to the pothole-filled streets of Nanticoke and the construction-snarled highways leading to it.)

My friend and I stopped at my cousin's house - really my cousin's mom's house, since my cousin moved after she got married two years ago - to visit with my aunt, my cousin, and her baby.  We advised my aunt of the situation with my mom.  I called my mom and let her know that access to the street in front of my aunt's house was now closed off, so she would need to find somewhere else to park, and walk a little more.

We continued on to the school.  Despite the lateness of the hour - now closer to 2:00 than 1:00 - the line was surprisingly short.  We guesstimated that there were only about 100 to 125 people ahead of us.

Some of the crowd ahead.

Time wore on.  I discovered that the ringtone on my cell phone - the old-fashioned bell ring of a rotary phone - is not even remotely an unusual choice, as I kept on trying to answer rings on other people's phones.  I wasn't able to get through on my phone call, but I did talk to my mom, who was now debating whether or not to go to see the presentation after all.  The line behind us didn't really stretch out that far, so it seemed to me that even if she were to join the line at the end, she would almost certainly be able to get in.


But the reality was, line-jumping and place-holding and friend-joining were all very common in the line, and I didn't think anyone would object too loudly to a little old lady joining her son fairly far up in the line.  My cousin drove my mother to within fifty feet of where I was standing, and she walked to join us with the aid of her cane.

I have very little to say about security.  I have heard that the Secret Service had a presence in the city in the days preceding the event, but their presence at the actual event was subtle to the point of invisibility.  No snipers on the roof, no strip-searches as we entered.  As far as I could tell, with the exception of the dark-suited men who turned up in my final photographs, nothing.

Shortly after my mom arrived, just around 3:30, I spotted Gort and Mrs. Gort arriving in the company of an unfamiliar woman.  They were making a beeline for the entrance, so I ditched my friend and my mother (as I had warned them I would)  I headed with the Gorts to the press table to sign in and pick up my fancy "PRESS" lanyard.

I left my mom in the company of these young ladies, Carol and Shirley from Exeter.  They knew of Gort's blog and Dave Yonki's blog and even Joe Valenti's Pittston Politics, but had never heard of Another Monkey.  Until now.

I approached the press table, identified myself, dropped the names I had been advised to drop, and received my press lanyard.  And like that I was in...the taper's section.*


I circulated among the Working Press like a caged tiger - literally, because we were in a fenced-off section in the back of the room.  But we had risers which would allow us to take photos over the crowd.  Gort and I were soon joined by blogger Steve Urbanski, who writes the Northeastern Pennsylvania politics column for examiner.com, and I believe I spotted at least one other blogger there.


One of the first groups to be allowed to enter were the elderly and handicapped, and my mom made her way in with them to a seat on the floor very near to the front of the room.  My friend, positioned as he was fairly far up in line, also took a seat near the front.  The bleachers on one side of the gym and the floor of the gym itself filled up with what we estimated to be at least seven hundred people, including the standing crowd directly in front of the press section. I staked out a position that had a fairly decent line of sight to the podium in the front of the room. 


I attempted a self-portrait showing me with my PRESS lanyard, but my arms were a few feet too short to make that work.  Note the stickers:  as a blogger, I don't have to maintain an appearance of objectivity.  Note also the lovely photobombing incident.

Time continued to pass as the crowd was entertained first by recorded music and then by the school band.  At around 5:15 the National Anthem was played, and then the head of the School Board took the podium to declare that the games had officially begun.


Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Todd Eachus was first up.


Next came Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato.  In person he looks remarkably young, younger even than his relatively young forty-nine years.  He had made a point of coming to the press enclosure prior to the festivities and shaking hands with each of us.  He spoke for about five minutes, at the end of which Paul Kanjorski and Bill Clinton took the stage.


Representative Kanjorski spoke next.  Veteran Congressman Kanjorski is in a difficult battle, facing not only a Republican opponent but also a wave of anti-incumbency fervor.  As President Clinton would later note, the country is angry right now, and rightly so.  But decisions made based on and guided by anger are rarely the correct ones.


After ten minutes, Paul Kanjorski turned over the podium to the guest of honor, President Bill Clinton.**

It was remarkable and heartwarming and nostalgic to listen to President Clinton.  All sorts of memories came flooding back...including, after a while, the terms "policy wonk" and the acronym MEGO - "my eyes glaze over," referring to the reactions of some folks to hearing a President actually talk about policy and issues when what they really want to hear is jingoistic cheerleading.


And talk he did, about policy and issues and the good, solid reasons to vote for Paul Kanjorski over his opponent, or any Democratic candidate against their Republican challenger.

The crowd applauded, and cheered, and responded enthusiastically to each of the President's statements.  But it seemed that through the cheers there were one or two voices shouting out, just on the edge of coherency.  Well, there are always people at these events who want to turn the attention to themselves.  But...

But what is a picnic without ants?  Or flies, or hornets, or unnoticed piles of dog poop hidden in the grass right where you've spread your blanket?

It soon became clear that these weren't just particularly rowdy members of the crowd.  The frequency of shouts increased, until every statement, every sentence, every rhetorical question, every phrase and clause and momentary pause was punctuated by a shouted comment or retort or response from what were obviously a pair of voices in the bleachers near the front of the room.  One male voice, one female voice.


Finally even the President had had enough.  He stopped his speech and offered the hecklers a deal:  you let me finish what I have to say, and then afterwards anyone who wants to can stick around and listen to what you have to say.  It was an offer that the hecklers obviously felt they could refuse, because they continued with unmitigated gusto - perhaps now emboldened by the fact that they had had their efforts recognized and acknowledged by their target.

(In the end there was no "Don't taze me, bro," no Secret Service takedown, no Rand Paul-style headstomping.  After the couple continued their belligerent shouting, a group of people wearing matching T-shirts approached them and escorted them out of the building.)

The President's remarks went on for about forty-five minutes.  At the conclusion he removed his jacket, stepped off the stage, and, accompanied by Representative Kanjorski and several dark-suited dour-faced men, waded into the crowd to shake hands and sign autographs.

My mom got to shake his hand.  (He called her "honey.")  My friend who I had ditched earlier in the evening got to shake his hand.  Many, many people got to shake President Clinton's hand.  But not me.


However, as a blogger, a member of the press, I did get to stand on the risers and get some nifty photographs.


Further reading:
http://thepennsylvaniaprogressive.com/diary/2827/clintonkanjorski
Dems’ go-to guy makes pitch The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA



*I am not a Deadhead, and have never been a Deadhead, but I know enough Deadheads to have picked up some Grateful Dead lore.  In the early days, bootlegging of Grateful Dead performances was widespread, and the band realized that excellent live recordings of their performances were circulating among their fan base and increasing their popularity.  So they made a deal:  taping would be allowed, but in designated "taper's sections", which offered the same sound quality as the rest of the venue but often had obstructed views.  So you could record the show in peace without disturbing other fans, but you might not get to see it very well.

**If I recall my Strunk & White correctly, the proper title for a former President of the United States is "President."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I saw the Big Dog

In the past thirty-four hours I've been on the road for over two hours, at work for twelve, and slept for two.  I've been grocery shopping with my mom, received my very first press credentials, stood in line for what seemed like forever, and saw Bill Clinton in person.

Right now I'm really tired, and I don't want to rush this.  So details will have to wait until tomorrow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

One more night

Working overtime tonight.  Maybe I'll get a few hours of sleep after I get home before it's time to line up to see Bill Clinton.  At least three hours on my feet in line after being on my feet all night - yeah, this will end well.

I don't know if my mom will get to see him.  She, like most senior citizens, probably won't be able to stand in line for three hours, and I doubt there will be ample seating inside the venue either.  Maybe if we can secure a wheelchair sometime between now and then, she'll at least have a place to sit while we wait.  Since much of Nanticoke's population consists of senior citizens, I'm thinking that a lot of them will be unable to attend this historic event.  Which is too bad.  Some of them may also find it difficult to make the effort to get out and vote on Election Day.

Traffic has faked me out every night since I started leaving for work twenty minutes earlier - there have been no traffic jams whatsoever.  But I've only done that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  We'll see what the traffic situation looks like today.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bill Clinton is coming to Nanticoke!

Bill Clinton will be coming to Nanticoke this coming Tuesday, October 26.  He's reportedly scheduled to speak at 4:00, and anyone who would like to see him (tickets are not required) is advised to start lining up by 1:00.  If I know Bill Clinton (and, hey, do I know him or what?), he won't show up much before 6:00, so pack your medication and avoid excessive fluid intake.

Clinton’s local visit to boost Kanjorski | The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA

You would think as a member of the Luzerne County Democratic Committee I would have some sort of inside track on this.  But it turns out that for the first time (as far as I know) since being elected to that position by a single vote (not cast by me), I missed a meeting - for the very good reason that I was at work that night.

Clinton to visit Nanticoke to stump for Kanjorski The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA

On the one hand, it is a bit disconcerting that the Democratic Party has seen it necessary to send the Campaigner-In-Chief himself to Paul Kanjorski's hometown to stir up support for him.  On the other hand, it is impressive that Paul Kanjorski is seen as sufficiently important to warrant a special appearance by the Big Dog.  In any event, this is to my knowledge the first time any President, current or former, has passed through Nanticoke's city limits.*

Tragically, I suspect that Nanticoke's finest business, Sanitary Bakery, will be off-limits to President Clinton, if Chelsea has anything to say about it.


*It is possible that Richard Nixon threw up a bit while flying over Nanticoke after his 1972 post-Agnes visit to Wilkes-Barre.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Water and Power

As the story of natural gas extraction in Northeastern Pennsylvania unfolds, the thing to keep in mind is that it isn't primarily about natural gas.  The issue here is water.  Water wells being contaminated and rendered unusable.  Creeks and streams being contaminated by chemical spills or sucked dry so the water can be used for hydraulic fracturing - "fracking."  Methane bubbles appearing in the Susquehanna shortly after nearby gas extraction operations commenced.  Planned drill sites next to the Huntsville Reservoir, the source of water for hundreds of thousands of local residents.

And, as in the classic Jack Nicholson movie Chinatown, the issue is also one of power.  In this case the water isn't the source of power - to the drillers, water is a secondary thing, as is the gas itself.  The primary concern for them is money.  Money to be made, money to be spent.  Money is power.  Money is influence.  Money will buy you what you need.

Gas companies are pouring tons of money into the upcoming elections.  Their sponsored candidates are doing well in the money race.  And the politicians already in office who have received generous bribes payoffs contributions from the gas companies have already given their corporate masters a return on their investment.  As of now, Pennsylvania will have no tax on natural gas extracted.

Gort42: No tax on Drillers

This is a critically important situation locally, but it is progressing at a pace that seems both ponderously slow and completely inevitable.  People on the periphery of the situation take the attitude of spectators at an ongoing disaster; people on the inside are either being paid off to maintain their silence or give their support, or are the demonized victims accused of standing in the way of progress.  Government agencies are either underfunded to the point of impotency or are in collusion with the money-spewing companies they are supposed to be regulating.

The inevitable conclusion to these events seems to be a region devastated, left with a patchwork quilt of contaminated groundwater, poisoned creeks and streams, and an irreparably damaged river.  Perhaps the natural beauty of this area will appear to remain, but it will simply be a top-dressing for a toxic mess underneath - like the neatly landscaped terrain atop a landfill.

This isn't just a local issue.  What happens in Northeastern Pennsylvania doesn't stay in Northeastern Pennsylvania, especially in things involving water.  The Susquehanna winds through this area, meets up with the Western Branch, and heads south to Harrisburg and then on to the Chesapeake.  Contaminated water in NEPA means a contaminated Chesapeake Bay.  Will the folks who rely on that body of water be willing to lose it for the sake of some shady financial transactions going on hundreds of miles to the north?

Read further:

Susquehanna River Sentinel
No Frack Mountain
Fracking Underground
FRACKED
Protect the Endless Mountains of Northern PA
The Frack Country Blues
Northeast PA Green
Faces of Frackland

Friday, October 22, 2010

Traffic

Traffic congestion has become insane on my daily commute.  You don't really notice traffic engineering until you see it done badly.  An area along my commute - Montage Mountain, if you're familiar with the area - has seen tremendous development in recent years:  office parks, a shopping mall, as well as the already-existing movie theater, baseball stadium, and ski resort.  Each afternoon that particular area suddenly disgorges thousands of vehicles onto Interstate 81, just a mile or so before a construction zone.  A sudden increase in traffic, three lanes becoming two, and the added slowdown of a construction zone all combine to produce a miles-long region where traffic crawls between zero and twenty miles per hour, until the Central Scranton Expressway exit taps off a significant number of cars.  Add in random and semi-random factors - movie end times, holiday shopping - and you have a variable, unpredictable mess.

The upshot of this is that I must now leave the house at least 75 minutes before the start of work to ensure that I can complete my thirty-six mile commute in time.  And even then there are no guarantees.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

End of an exhausting three days off

Three days of running and I'm tired.

I accomplished about half of what I wanted to do today.  I put up a new post on Hot Notes, the blog for transitioning workers from my current workplace.  This doesn't actually involve any writing on my part, just a copy, paste, and reformat of existing content. I mowed the lawn.  I had to go on an emergency grocery run for my mom, who realized as she was baking a cake that she  had forgotten some critical ingredients during our shopping trip yesterday.  I didn't get my advance ticket to the Sideshow Gathering, but I did find out where Marc's Tattooing on Route 309 is located.  I also didn't start on the visitors' guide for the Gathering, but I did scout out some places of interest - and got lost many, many times.

I never made any pie, neither apple nor pumpkin.  I made my phone call but wound up talking to a machine.  I met my friends for dinner, and was forced to clean out the car before I could do that. I didn't get  to buy the thing I was looking to buy, but it turns out I didn't need it anyway.  After dinner a friend and I stopped in a nearby Big Lots! and I was able to pick up the candelabra-base fluorescent bulbs that I couldn't locate at Sam's Club yesterday

I got to my house and installed some new random on-off timers and the new candelabra bulb in my Homer Simpson bedside lamp.  Then I came back here to give Homer the cat (no relation to Homer Simpson) his medicine and write up this post.  Now I just have to haul out the garbage and the recycling, maybe toss in another load of laundry, and then get to bed.  Tomorrow begins another four or five or six-day stretch of work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So much to write that I'm not writing

I spent the day - Tuesday - out with my mom, taking her shopping all over the place.  This was the first time I've done that in a while, and may be the last time I get to  do  it for a while.
 
Meant to call someone last (Monday) night, but this was interrupted by a phone call from another friend.  By the time I got off the phone and did some things that needed doing, it was past the time that polite and civilized folks make phone calls.  Meant to do it again today, but was interrupted again, this time by a long-delayed letter that needed writing.  By the time I looked up, it was after midnight.
 
There's stuff going on.  Politics.  Elections coming up.  Water issues.  Hydraulic Despotism isn't just a topic for Frank Herbert science-fiction series, or for a cover story on last week's Newsweek.  It's real and it's here.  Cabot Energy, the natural gas driller who has legally accepted responsibility for contaminating water wells in Dimock, is now trying to weasel out of its obligations to set things right.  And now, with all the spontaneity of a spontaneous pro-government demonstration in China, residents with lucrative contracts with Cabot have started a petition drive demanding that the government stop being so darned mean to poor little Cabot.
 
But I can't do any of that justice right now.
 
Last night - well, Monday night - I stepped out to haul garbage from my mom's house to my house.  Nanticoke has a four-bag limit.  With all those cats, my mom generates more than this.  With me making only special guest appearances at my house, I generate somewhat less than this.  So each Monday evening that I'm not working I will bag up some garbage, load it onto a tarp, roll down my windows, and haul it across town to  my house.  As I stepped out of the house last night I heard something very strange:  nothing at all.  No traffic in town.  No traffic on route 29, a mile across a ravine from us.  No planes flying to Avoca.  No construction.  No air conditioners or pool pumps or blowers for those big inflatable holiday decorations.  No cats fighting or neighbors arguing.  For a space of more than a minute, nothing at all.
 
That last paragraph was supposed to be a post in itself, called "The Sound of Silence."  But when I have no time to write about things that need writing about, can I justify writing such a post?  No.  But didn't I just write it as a side note to this post?  Yes.  Confusing, isn't it?
 
Tomorrow - later today - I plan to update another blog I've committed to writing, and start working on a visitors' guide for the upcoming Sideshow Gathering, and take a stab at mowing the lawn, and upgrade my lamp timers at the house, and clean my car, and buy some things I need, and get discounted advance tickets to the Gathering ($10 instead of the $15 price at the door), and make that phone call I failed to make yesterday and today, and meet some friends for dinner.
 
And then on Thursday, it's back to work for another four or five or six days.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Fog of Work

Umm, hi.  Remember me?

I've just gone more than a week without blogging.  That's something of a record for me.  In the past I've only missed blogging for that much time because I've been in another country with limited access to the internet.  But not this time.

Work is winding down.  According to the official notice I received earlier this week, at some point on or between December 13 and December 26 my current employment, like that of many of my co-workers, will be terminated.  But in the meantime, there's overtime to be had.  Overtime is valuable.  I'm trying to get at least two days of overtime out of every four days off, though I've only managed that once.  To increase my chances of getting one or two days of overtime, I'm actually selecting days in three-day groups, with choices ranked first, second, and third, and the maximum number of days requested specified.  Unfortunately, this means that the days that I work overtime are not necessarily continuous with the days that I am normally scheduled to work, resulting in alternating days of work and not-work.  So instead of four-days-on four-days-off, or five-on three-off, or six-on two-off, work is dissolving into a cloud of days, like a fight scene in a cartoon.  It is hard enough to remember if I'm supposed to be off or working on any  given day.  This has made it difficult to dedicate any time at all to blogging.  In fact, this is the first time in several days I've actually been online.

That's not the only reason for this hiatus, though it is the major one.  But I've been doing some thinking about my life, about the priorities I've established and the commitments I've made.  I've realized that I've been neglecting some of those commitments, and that maybe some of my priorities have been out of whack.  Which is not to say that blogging has been responsible for either of these problems.  But upon coming to this realization, a cloud of guilt settled over every other commitment and priority in my life.  So I've got that going for me, too.

I have three consecutive days off now, counting today.  I should really be sleeping right now, or mowing the lawn or raking leaves or conducting a job search, but instead I've chosen to catch up with my long-neglected online life.  This post is a part of that.  In a few minutes I will head for bed, to sleep for who knows how long.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Anger is an energy

Midterm elections are coming up in a few weeks, and there's no denying that anger is going to play a role.  Though so far, a lot of this anger only seems to be coming from one end of the political spectrum.

I'm not going to get into the reasons for this anger, stated or real.  Partly because if you've bought into the anger you really don't need someone else telling you why you're angry, and if you haven't bought into it, there's plenty of information out there about it already.  And partly because writing about right-wing anger will just make me...angry.

Back in college I attended a lecture held by a professional writer - that is, a guy who one or more times in the past had received actual money in exchange for something he wrote.  It was a mostly unmemorable and unremarkable lecture.  Only one thing has stuck with me:  he gave a warning about writing pornography.  Writing pornography can be very easy, seductively so.  And it can pay very well.  But he warned that once you go down that path, you may find it very difficult to write anything else.

Anger can be like that.  It feels empowering at first, as though by putting on this cloak of flames you actually gain extra strength.  But soon anger becomes all-consuming:  it feeds on itself, and demands greater and greater levels of anger to sustain the same feeling of empowerment, until in the end anger is all you've got left.

I've called on people to get angry before.  Maybe that was wrong.  Maybe that was exactly right.  Maybe if more people had gotten angry then, the problems that are causing so much anger now would never have come into existence.  More likely, the right-wing pundits who are fanning the flames of anger now would simply have found other things to manufacture anger around.

I tried my hand at angry writing once, nearly five and a half years ago.  Right after the start of the second disastrous George W. Bush administration.  Right after the time when the electorate should have heaved the idiot Bush and the criminal scumbag Cheney and all of their cronies and co-conspirators and fellow criminals and their entire Rubberstamp Republican Congress out of office, but instead decided to hand them the keys to the car once again, perhaps hoping that they wouldn't simply drive the country into a wall or off a cliff this time.  The election of 2004 was a huge error made by many of the same people who are so full of anger today.  But back then they weren't angry, I was.  And so I created the Angry Political Blog.  I was amazed I was able to get the site name, but I did.  Now I had it, and it was mine, and nobody else's.  I was going to use it as a place to vent my anger, to rage at the political stupidity I had witnessed and was witnessing.

I wrote one post.

And then I felt the anger gripping me.  I found myself wanting to rip into those who had made the stupid decisions that had led us to this point - literally as well as in writing.  I found it difficult to write anything else.  I telegraphed out a few other posts for Another Monkey while I struggled with what to rant about first on Angry Political Blog.

And then I made the decision to set aside that anger and go on doing what I had been doing all the while.

Maybe that was a mistake.  Maybe if I had run with it I could have made more of a difference.  Perhaps not.  The Republican stranglehold on Congress would be broken in the midterm election in 2006.  And with Barack Obama's election in 2008, the long, difficult work of undoing the damage caused by the George W. Bush administration could start.  It wouldn't be fast, and it wouldn't be easy.  Some of us might have hoped otherwise - even I had hoped for a "sea change," a revolution in attitude catalyzed by the election of Barack Obama.

That didn't happen.  Instead of a bottom-up change, we're seeing incremental top-down change.  It's taking a lot longer than anyone would have wished, with the exception of and largely due to the efforts of Congressional Republicans, who have fought against any meaningful change every step of the way - since any dramatic improvements to the economy, employment, or any other measurable metric of national health would benefit the majority Democrats more than the minority Republicans.  And now the same individuals who have fought against recovery - remember Rush Limbaugh and "I hope he fails" when asked about his hopes for the Obama presidency? - are using the slowness of the recovery as a talking point for increasing voter anger.

Angry right-wing voters are going to go to the polls in November.  Everyone else should be scared - and maybe they should be angry, too.  We fought hard to get to this point, to break the dreamed-of "Permanent Republican Majority" and replace it with a truly American dream.  We fought hard to get rid of the idiots who set this country on a course for disaster, and replace them with people who might actually have a chance of getting us out of this mess.  But the Republicans screwed the national pooch hard, hard enough that it couldn't be unscrewed in a little more than a year and a half.  And because of that, we are now in danger of having Congressional leadership handed back to those very same Republican idiots, or their even more extreme successors who associate themselves with the "Tea Party."  Are you willing to let that happen?


TITLE REFERENCE:  "Rise" by Public Image Ltd.



That wild-eyed young fellow in that video is John Lydon.  You may remember him as Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols.  This video is from 1986.

Big dangerous day

Last night was the last night of this rotation, and the end of another sixty-hour calendar week of work.  I go back on Monday night for overtime and then work a regular rotation of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights for my last week of what you could call "easy sixty" - the following four calendar weeks will only have three workdays each, so I will have to work two overtime days in the same calendar week to get in sixty hours (and earn seventy hours of pay.)

I would have loved to go right to sleep when I got home, but that wasn't in the cards.  I absolutely needed to get out my insurance paperwork today, and before I could do that I needed to get one item notarized.  I finished filling out all the necessary forms, scanned everything and saved it as image files, made some pancakes, and started to look for Notaries Public who were open on a Saturday.

It's not that easy.  Some didn't answer their phones, and some didn't seem to have phones.  Ditto for the local post offices, but I was fairly confident that the Wilkes-Barre post office would be open into the afternoon.

I was going through the phone book and my eyes fell on one familiar location.  I looked at the address.  It wasn't nearby, but it was close to the comic book store, and I was planning on going there anyway.  I called them, and they would be open for another hour-and-a-half.  Just enough time for me to get ready, hit an ATM for some cash, and get myself up there.  And then go to the comic book store.

All with no sleep.

The pancakes helped, as did three or four mugs of coffee and a shower.  My car stalled once along the way, as the World's Longest Traffic Light finally changed from red to green with me at the start of a parade, but for all I know that might have been my fault - I may have accidentally knocked the car into neutral or something.  I made it to the notary with fifteen minutes to spare.

Along the way I listened to a new radio station.  92.1 FM has variously played easy listening, classic rock, oldies, and Christmas Carols in the past, but on the way back from taking Homer to the vet in Allentown, while scanning stations for something that wasn't playing solid crap or solid commercials, I stumbled across its new format: easy listening classic oldies alternative.

http://www.radiofm921.com/

I have to admit, I feel like a hypocrite listening to this station.  I can't stand the thought of alternative as a nostalgia act.  If this were a college radio station, I might be complaining that they're ignoring current bands and modern music, like "Bloodbuzz Ohio" by The National, in favor of playing stuff from the 90's.  But they do play some more recent songs by bands like Paramore and Finger Eleven.  Oddly, for just listening for a few hours, I've heard a lot of repeated songs - I'm listening right now on the online stream to "Dammit" by Blink 182, which I just heard this afternoon.  (Excuse me for a minute, they're now playing "Cherub Rock" by Smashing Pumpkins.)  On top of everything else, the station appears to be a robot station playing a satellite feed with no DJ's or other local presence beyond the occasional commercial.

After getting my stuff notarized and adding some oil to my engine just for luck (it goes through about a quart a month, but what do you expect from a fourteen year old car that still gets better than 40 miles to the gallon?), I made my way along Wyoming Avenue past the site of the Battle of Wyoming and into West Pittston and finally to the comic book store.  There was a sale going on there, but I couldn't rouse myself to spend any more money than what I had already committed to with my pull list. Then I remembered something else:  I needed a haircut.  Fortunately, Sam (the comic book guy)'s wife Rose has an attached beauty shop in the back, and she also does haircuts.  So I turned a twofer into a threefer, and got three things accomplished in one trip.

Having zinged east through the Wyoming Valley to do all this, I then zanged back west towards Nanticoke to get to the Wilkes-Barre post office to mail my packet of forms, receipts, and bills.  This went off without incident.  I then decided that while I was out already, I may as well make a few more stops at a Home Depot (which does not sell any sort of home security stuff, by the way) and a pet supply store to get cat food.  (All, still, without sleep.)

I somehow managed to do all this and get home without crashing my car or running anyone over.  It was a stupid and dangerous thing to do.

I slept from 4:00 to 10:00 and have been up since.  (Now they're playing "Six Underground" by Sneaker Pimps for the second time today - I heard it as I pulled away from the post office at about 2:00.  Ah, well, I am sort of in love with Kelli Ali, so that's a good thing.)  Tomorrow I'll go to church in the morning, then give blood, pick up some groceries for next week's rotation of work, and then do some stuff with the things I picked up from Home Depot.  And then start the cycle all over again.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I note the passing of time

Time passes differently for me than it does for most people...I think.

I work twelve-hour night shifts.  Four days out of every eight, with overtime when I can get it.  On days when I am working, I effectively "do not exist."  There is very little That I can do outside of working, commuting, eating, sleeping, and getting ready for work.  For people who work "normal" eight- or nine-hour days* the afternoon provides plenty of opportunities to go shopping, mow the lawn, do projects around the house, and so on.**  But for me, and for other people on my schedule, all our "afternoons" have to be crammed into our days off, which are also the equivalent of other people's "weekends."  Overtime, of course, takes away from these available days.

The odd thing is, my perception of time tends to leapfrog over working days.  Work is work, a thing I do for money in a windowless, brightly-lit room.  Any day is very like another, even though every day brings its own weird problems.  But on the outside world the grass grows, the leaves change, the rain and snow fall.  People have birthdays, anniversaries.  Holidays march along.  I switch into work mode one day and four or five or six days later I switch out of it and see that the world has moved along.

My house was robbed nearly two months ago.  That may seem like a long time ago to you, but to me only two weeks or so seem to have passed.  Temperatures have gone in that time from too hot to paint outside to too cold to paint outside, which means my porch will probably have to wait until next year to get painted.  When I had security consultants stop by in August to review my situation, I felt ridiculous for still having my decorated Christmas tree up in a corner of a room; now, with less than two months to go until I would normally put it up, it seems ridiculous to take it down.

I don't feel like I'm getting older, but I know I must be, because I see everyone around me getting older, and I see entropy having its way with the things around me.  I see longer-term changes, too, in society, in the economy, in the environment, things that other people might not notice as they are absorbed in their own day-to-day business.***  The first gray hairs started to appear in my moustache in Spring 2006, during my last visit to Ireland. (When I was having dinner with my sister and a friend of hers the day of my return, my sister tried to discretely inform me that I had something on my moustache, under my nose; I had to tell her that those were gray hairs, not nasal discharge.)  Now my goatee is streaked with silver, giving me a distinguished look that may be either beneficial or detrimental during my upcoming job search.

Time has passed even as I have written this.  And now it is time for me to wrap this up, as I have places to go and things to do.



*Note to any readers in France:  yes, this is considered "normal" around these parts.
**But you are not able to go to the bank or post office.  These things are reserved for the unemployed.
***In a discussion of the current terror threat in Europe, I heard a CNN anchor say to an expert who had just referred to "Mumbai-style attacks" that many people might not recall the terrorist attack in Mumbai in late 2008.  Really?  Is that even possible?

TITLE REFERENCE:  Line from "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" by Talking Heads, from their 1983 album Speaking in Tongues.  1983, twenty-seven years ago...

Broken habit

Once upon a time I used to write a blog post every day.  Sometimes more than one.  Sometimes I would cheat a bit and pre- or post-date the post by a few hours.  Occasionally I would miss a day.

My dog died and I kept on posting.  My father died and I kept on posting.

My house was robbed and I got knocked off track.

Part of that was a deliberate decision.  I was probably oversharing things about my schedule, giving too much information about when I would be at work and when I would be away, information that potential burglars might, in theory, find useful.  (Ironically, my house was robbed on a day when I was not working, near the end of a longish stretch when I had been laid off and had been spending an until-then unprecedented amount of time at the house photographing the Saturn-Mars-Venus trio.)

Part of that is a direct consequence of the robbery.  Even though my homeowner's insurance - which will probably have a higher premium next year, thanks to the robbery - will cover the cost of the window and the copper pipes and (I think) the more than 10,000 gallons of water that flowed into a floor drain, there is still the matter of a $500 deductible.  Add in the cost of having a security system installed (which was done last week, after a lengthy audition process), and the monthly monitoring of the system, and the extra little alarms and locks and other security devices I've installed around the house, and it becomes clear that the collateral costs of responding to this robbery exceed the cost of replacing the stolen pipes themselves.  (As for how much the scumbags who robbed my house got for the pipes they stole, I probably spent that much on my first trip to Lowe's for alarms and locks and wire mesh and lag screws - and I've made several more trips since then.)

But all this requires money.  And for the last few weeks, I have had a marvelous moneymaking opportunity opened to me.  It's called "overtime."

Here's how it works.  My company laid off a huge number of my fellow employees back in August, including a bunch of people who did what I do.  Things were slow, so they also temporarily laid off a lot of us who weren't permanently laid off for the first few weeks of August.  (That was when my house was robbed.)  But then things got busier sometime in September, and they now needed more employees than they had to get the work done.  (There's also the matter of filling in for employees on sick leave and vacation.)  So since that time overtime has been available.

Overtime will pay time-and-a-half for every hour that you work over 40 in a calendar week.  Say you're working a 36-hour week, which happens four weeks out of every eight when you work a four-day-on, four day off twelve-hour day (or night) schedule*.   Your fourth day of work - your first day of overtime worked within the same calendar week as those three days of a 36-hour week - will pay straight time for the first four hours, and then time and a half for the next eight, giving you fifty-two hours of pay for forty-eight hours of work.  (This is also the starting point for any four-day week; your last day is paid at time-and-a-half after the first four hours.)  The second overtime day (or first, if you started with a four-day week) within the same calendar week is pure overtime, an additional eighteen hours of pay for twelve hours worked, for a total of seventy hours of pay for sixty hours of work. Your sixth day worked in the same calendar week will get you eighty-eight hours of pay for seventy-two hours worked, and your seventh day (if you can manage to get it) will pay one hundred and six hours in exchange for a mere eighty-four hours of your life.

I need the money, so I'm taking as much overtime as I can get and can handle.  This past week that was two days.  Maybe at some point in the future I'll try for three.  Of course, every penny I'm earning is already spoken for, courtesy of the robbery and my response to it and veterinarian's bills and accumulating credit card debt.  And in the very near future I'm looking at being permanently laid off.  I should be conducting a job search now, and actually got a job suggestion from a local politician back at the Blogger/Politician Mixer a few weeks ago, but I've been too busy with overtime and house-related stuff to do anything like that.

Or even to blog. 

I miss blogging.  I miss doing my daily posts.  I miss keeping up with all of my fellow-bloggers, and I just realized that even though I have read everyone's current posts, there are many other posts from the recent past that  I haven't caught up with.

My house now has a monitored security system, so that's one set of stresses that have been slightly alleviated.  Homer, I believe, is on the mend.  And whether I like it or want it or need it or not, overtime will not last forever.  (Nor will my job.)  Someday I may get back into the habit of doing a post a day.  Someday soon, I hope.



*Rotations that begin on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday are 36-hour weeks - these three rotations actually cover four calendar weeks with three twelve-hour days each.  It doesn't sound right, but try working it out for yourself on a calendar and you'll see that it's true.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Republican Election Strategies

The other day at work I noticed a small stack of photocopied items sitting on a counter where I needed to pick something up.  Being a compulsive reader I began to scan the message to see what it was about.  It started out:

Can this be really true???>

I checked this out and it is true. There will be a 1% transaction tax on any financial transaction with the exception of purchase and sale of stock.
If we make a $500 ATM withdrawal, we will pay $5 tax, and $300 on a $30,000 car purchase.
"You can take one, if you want," the person at the counter said. "I don't know who left them there."

"I'll check it out on Snopes and see if it's true," I said.

Now, one of my pet peeves with forwarded junk like this is when the message says something like "I checked this out on snopes" and then when you ask the person who forwarded it to you if they had actually checked it out on Snopes they'll reply, "Oh, no, I just copied that text from the e-mail I got."  In this case the message is in an anonymous photocopy that looks like it was edited from an e-mail.  Very old-school, really, from back in the days when photocopies and faxes were the preferred methods of spreading disinformation.

The message continued:
I checked this out on Truth or Fiction and it is true.  The bill is HR-4646 introduced by US Rep Peter deFazio D-Oregon and US Senator Tom Harkin D-Iowa.  It is now in committee and will probably not be brought out until after the Nov. elections.  Suggest that you pass this along and also to  your state senator and representative and US Congressman and Senators.
OK, at this point a red flag should pop up - two red flags, really.  First, I've never heard of "Truth or Fiction", so having someone anonymously claim "I checked this out on Truth or Fiction" doesn't carry any weight with me, though the site itself is something that can be investigated.  Secondly, why would "US Senator Tom Harkin D-Iowa" be introducing House Resolution 4646?  As Homer Simpson once said, "You call this a bicameral Congress?"

The message goes on:
One percent transaction tax is proposed President Obama's finance team

is recommending a transaction tax.  His plan is to sneak it in after the November election to keep it under the radar.  This is a 1% tax on all transactions at any financial institution.
Waitaminute.  Now this tax is being proposed by President Obama's finance team?  Are "US Rep Peter deFazio D-Oregon and US Senator Tom Harkin D-Iowa" on this team?    And what happened to the exemption for purchase and sale of stock?  Why does this seem to be a rephrasing of the first two paragraphs?  And what's with the wonky paragraph breaks and sentence structure, like this was sloppily edited together?
Banks, Credit Unions, etc.  Any deposit you make, or move around within your account, i.e. transfer to, will have a 1% tax charged.  If your pay check or your social Security or whatever is direct deposit, 1% tax charged.  If you hand carry a check in to deposit, 1% tax charged.  If you take cash in to deposit, 1% tax charged.  This is from the man who promised that if you make under $250,000 per year, you you will not see one penny of new tax.  Keep your eyes and ears open, and you will be amazed at what you learn.
Now this is President Obama personally proposing this bill?  This piece of legislation is very dynamic:  it has morphed several times in one photocopied page. 

Some will say aw it's just 1%...remember once the tax is there they can raise it at will.
So this goes from "informational" to "paranoid anti-Obama anti-government screed."  But is any of it true?

Well, some.  But not much.

I googled "HR 4646 snopes" to see what I got.  And what I got was this:


Unfortunately, snopes.com makes its text uncopyable, so you'll have to actually click through to see what they have to say.  (And you should.)  But to summarize:

TRUE:
1.  There is a bill called HR-4646.
2.  It does function as described in the third and fourth sentences of the photocopy.  (From "There will be a 1% transaction tax..." to "...$300 on a $30,000 car purchase.")
3.  It is now in committee and will probably not be brought out until after the November elections.

FALSE:
Well, pretty much everything else.

This bill was not introduced by "US Rep Peter deFazio D-Oregon" and, in a weird show of cross-chamber cooperation,  "US Senator Tom Harkin D-Iowa."  It was in fact proposed by US Rep Chaka Fattah, D-Pennsylvania, representing Pennsylvania's 2nd congressional district.  According to Wikipedia, "The district includes North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, and a small part of Northeast Philadelphia and Cheltenham Township in Montgomery County." deFazio and Harkin were not even co-sponsors - which in the case of Harkin would have been technically impossible, anyway.  The bill has no co-sponsors.

This bill didn't come from President Obama's finance team, nor is it "from the man who promised that if you make under $250,000 per year, you you will not see one penny of new tax."  It was from a guy named Chaka Fattah.  What was he thinking?  I don't know.  Ask him.

The bill isn't being held up in committee until "after the November election to keep it under the radar."  It was immediately sent to committee to die.

Now, misinformation gets spread all the time.  Things get mixed up, Facts get confused.  That's not the case here.  It is very, very hard to make an honest mistake with such specificity.  What we're seeing here is a deliberate series of lies designed to slander Peter deFazio, Tom Harkin, and Barack Obama and his finance team.  Add to the lies an appeal to paranoia and fear and you have...well, a typical Republican election strategy.

And that's what this is all about.  Midterm elections are in a few weeks.  Control of the Senate and the House of Representatives are at stake.  Democrats control both the Senate and the House by slim margins.  Enough voters outraged over the information, the lies contained in this e-mail may give Republicans the edge they need to tip the balance in their favor.   How many people who read this will bother to do any research at all on this?  And how many people will assume that this is true because random forwarded e-mails and photocopies left lying around are always true?

By the way, the site "Truth or Fiction" actually does exist.  I didn't review the whole site, but what I saw did not fill me with confidence.

Here's what they had to say:

http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/d/debt-free-America-act.htm

Summary of the eRumor:

This is a forwarded email that says President Obama's finance team is planning to impose a 1% tax on all transactions conducted in financial institutions and that they plan to sneak it in after the November election.



The Truth:

There is a Congressional House Bill, HR-4646, the Debt Free America Act that was introduced in Congress on February 23, 2010, but we have not found any evidence that the bill is being snuck in by any finance team members as the eRumor alleges.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic Congressional Representative Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and says that it is to "establish a fee on transactions which would eliminate the national debt and replace the income tax on individuals." Fattah has a description of the bill along with a press release posted on his Congressional web site. Fattah is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, not President Obama's finance team.


The Thomas Library is the official site where legislative bills are posted and progress can be monitored. The bill can easily be found and currently the Thomas Library site shows that the Debt Free America Act is in the House committee and then will be referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committees on the Budget, Rules, and Appropriations. Click here for the Thomas Library for text and status of the bill.


This is a single sponsor bill and speculators doubt its passage.


The Debt Free America Act HR-4646 can also be found at the Govtrack US site, a civic project that tracks legislative activity. Click for Govtrack.us information on HR-4646.

OK.  That matches what snopes.com had to say.  The bill has nothing to do with President Obama, nothing to do with his finance team, and is not expected to pass.  So why do I have a sense of unease when I view this site?  Well, the bottom line - or, more accurately, the top line:

A Proposed 1% Tax On All Financial Institution Transaction-Mostly Truth!

How is it possible to review this rumor, discredit its most sensational bits, and then conclude that it is "Mostly Truth?"  I don't think the "Truth or Fiction" site is necessarily that clear-headed when it comes to drawing conclusions.

Just remember the next-to-last thing this anonymous, lie-filled photocopy had to say:
Keep your eyes and ears open, and you will be amazed at what you learn.
Amen to that.  And don't believe every random e-mail or anonymous photocopy you come across.