Many of my Philly Weekly readers may not know that I'm a non-custodial father to a wonderful little boy, who is currently visiting. I don't get too much time with my son, who spends most of his time with his mom in Montreal (it's a long story), and when he's here I go into full-scale daddy mode. I get about five minutes a day to read the news, and then it's back to Hot Wheels cars, Uno games, and trips to the beach. But there are a few items that bear mentioning.
In light of the latest unemployment figures, there are more persistent questions coming at the administration. Did Obama and his team get it right last winter when they put together their $787 billion stimulus package, or did they undershoot? If they made a mistake, what should they do now?
The guys at the Post must be too busy selling access to lobbyiststo do their homework, because that statement is not even close to accurate. As the AP reported in February, it was the Senate that insisted on a $787 billion stimulus. Obama asked for more than a BILLIONS more. And guess who was the driving force behind the cuts?
Scaling back the bill to levels lower than either the $838 billion Senate measure or the original $820 billion House-passed measure caused grumbles among liberal Democrats, who described the cutbacks as a concession to the moderates, particularly Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who are under pressure from conservative Republicans to hold down spending.
Sen. Specter gave Vice President Biden a 17-page list of demands, including his opposition to increasing Pell grants for college students. This from the guy who voted for the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and the no-strings-attached bailout. Where was his sense of financial responsibility then?
Predictably, the too-small stimulus fell short, leading to layoffs and job cuts. Here in Pennsylvania, we know exactly who to thank: Sen. Specter, everyone's favorite brand-new pretend Democrat.
Or rather, we would if someone besides me had the stones to call Specter out as the fraud he is. It sure as hell isn't going to be the Inquirer, since they just gave him a column to blather on about ANOTHER of his failures: his "leadership" as chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
The bungled radiation treatment of close to a hundred veterans with prostate cancer over a six-year period at Philadelphia's Veterans Affairs Medical Center falls far short of the government's promise to veterans. Ninety-two of the 116 veterans who received a kind of radiation treatment for prostate cancer there got inadequate or misdirected doses, which may have damaged adjacent tissues and organs, such as the bladder, peritoneum, and rectum. In many cases, the victims did not know they had received substandard treatment until months or even years later....
All of the safeguards of quality care were missing. There was no peer review, no government or agency oversight, and not even a definition of what constituted a reportable "medical event" - which might have alerted authorities to the problems sooner. The bottom line is that problems with the procedure, known as permanent implant prostate brachytherapy, went undetected for more than six years.
Actually, there IS government oversight of the VA system: that lies with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. And guess who was chair of that committee six years ago, when all of this went down?
That's right: Arlen Specter, who has been a fixture on Veterans' Affairs for decades. Shouldn't the guy who chaired that committee from 1997-2001 and from 2003-2005 have some idea what's going with the VA?
Over at my blog, I wrote extensively about Senator Specter's failure to exercise oversight when the Walter Reed scandal hit:
For the third day in a row, I called Senator Specter’s office to find out exactly how it came to be that a fixture on the Veterans Affairs Committee since 1981 could be wholly ignorant of how our soldiers are being treated at Walter Reed Hospital. And for the third day in a row, I was told that the Senator is “now aware” of the problems, and my concerns would be expressed.
Well pardon me, but that’s just a load of malarkey. He’s “now aware”? Salon was reporting on conditions in Walter Reed two years ago, and Specter is only “now aware”? Is that anywhere close to acceptable?
In any other job in the world this kind of negligence would get you fired. Senator Specter takes home $165,200 each year from the Senate: shouldn’t he be aware of the populations he’s representing on Committee?....
Maybe it’s not his fault. After all,the Senator has been fighting cancer, and has spoken up for medical marijuana. Those bong hits can really do a number on your short term memory…
So it's precious to see Arlen gettin' all uppity with the VA about the prostate cancer scandal, and whining about "oversight", "timely peer review", and "responsible government agencies", none of which were exactly high priorities for the Republican regime of 2000-2008. Hey Arlen, you know what we REALLY owe our veterans? A senator who gives enough of a rat's ass about doing his job to ask the important questions BEFORE our veterans wind up with "damaged adjacent tissues and organs, such as the bladder, peritoneum, and rectum."
Finally, a brief comment on the disgusting story from Huntingdon Valley and the Valley Club swimming club, where it appears that "Sixty-five campers, kindergartners through seventh graders who are African American and Hispanic" had their membership to a private swimming club refunded because the kids "would change the complexion . . . and the atmosphere of the club." Did I mention that Huntingdon Valley is "is one of those suburbs populated by refugees of the “white flight” of the 60’s and 70’s", as All Spin Zone's Steve Reynolds puts it?
When I read the article, my initial reaction was that I wanted to eat piles of greasy food, swallow a few Ex-Lax, hop the fence late at night and unload a good grogan into the Valley Club pool, since shit and assholes go together so well.
When I moved to Philadelphia in 1999, my one contact here advised me to move to West Philly, where the rents were cheap and the apartments were huge. Yet, as I spoke to landlords and rental agencies about where I planned to look, all I got were warnings of impending doom. "You don't want to move out THERE. It's too dangerous." "You don't want to live around THOSE people."
When I bought my house on Kingsessing Avenue, where Southwest Philly meets so-called "University City", it was the same thing. A plumber I'd hired to check the pipes instead gave me window advice. "Get bars on your windows, because once THEY know you're here, THEY will come." Who, the giant radioactive ants? Because you can't mean the black people who have always been such wonderful neighbors the past 6 years. Or the kids my son plays with when he visits, who come in every color of the rainbow. It can't be the people who united to save our libraries and are fighting to save our pools. Who do you MEAN, Mr. Plumber, and why are you so clearly uncomfortable when I begin asking what you're talking about?
It's just shameful, the kind of attitude and belief I'd expect from an ignoramus. So on behalf of all people of good will who live in the modern world, this is what I have to say to the Valley Club:
Stop embarrassing white people, crackers!
And on that note, it's time to head down the shore with my little guy. See y'all next week!
Cut and run
Questions About Renaissance Schools
Are PA Democrats Blowing It?
Ed Rendell's Giant Sucking Sound
Ante Up on the S.S. United States?
Time to Plan Your Urban Garden
Is Arlen Specter Even Trying?
Arlen Specter's Phony Justice