Wednesday Mashup (3/31/10)

March 31, 2010

  • 1) Jim Hightower tells us here of Joseph Casias, a 29-year-old former employee of a Walmart store in Battle Creek, Michigan (one with an exemplary record, and “former” is the key word here of course).

    What happened? Well, five months ago, Casias developed a cancer that invaded his sinuses and brain, leading to what you might expect: a severe level of chronic pain, as Hightower tells us. However, Casias was able to do his job by using “a controlled dose of marijuana that his doctor prescribed to alleviate pain, a prescription that is perfectly legal under Michigan’s medical marijuana law.”

    Hightower continues…

    By carefully scheduling his daily dosage, Casias never came to work under the influence, and he never took the medicine on the job, so Walmart saw nothing but an employee performing well.

    Until last November. In a routine drug screening by the company, Casias tested positive for pot. He showed his state medical marijuana permit to the corporate cogs, but instead of using common sense or showing a smidgeon of human compassion, the managers mindlessly clicked into Program 420g, Section 21-mj (or some such) of corporate-code — and summarily cashiered Casias.

    Get Sick. Smoke Pot. Feel Better. Get Fired. Wal-Mart.

    Ugh…

    Well, here’s something to put in the “elections have consequences” file from last October…

    MONDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) — The Obama administration has decided it will no longer prosecute medical marijuana users or suppliers, provided they obey the laws of states that allow use of the drug for medicinal purposes.

    The new guidelines, which were to be sent in a Justice Department memo to federal prosecutors on Monday, are designed to give priorities to U.S. Attorneys who are pursuing drug offenders.

    “As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” the memo states.

    During his campaign, President Barack Obama promised to change the government’s policy on the use of medical marijuana in those states that allow it. The administration of President George W. Bush had opposed the use of marijuana as medicine.

    “This is a huge victory for medical marijuana patients,” Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, a nationwide medical marijuana advocacy organization, said in a prepared statement.

    And as noted here from last May, The Supremes upheld California’s medical marijuana law and said the feds did not have the right to supersede it, a departure from a 2005 ruling in which they claimed that the feds could do so.

    To me, it looks like our politicians and – reluctantly, perhaps – our courts are recognizing that this country has grown more amenable to legalizing pot over time, as reflected in this poll.

    And if those smiley-faced bastards refuse to do so…well, there’s always BJs and Costco, people.

  • 2) Also, since this week marks Holy Week in the Christian calendar as well as Passover in the Jewish calendar, I suppose it’s time for some wingnut site to post something about Obama and religion, and clownhall.com dutifully obliges here (and the line about “a different messiah than Obama” is just way too damn funny)…

    More than a full year after taking office and a handful of church appearances, President Barack Obama has announced that he and his family will not regularly attend a church here in Washington.

    …In the meantime, he’ll have to rely on the “spiritual guidance” of advisor Jim Wallis, who preaches wealth redistribution as “biblical justice.”

    Ordinarily, I could care less about whether or not politicians go to church, but I need to link once more to this article by Amy Sullivan to remind us all (as if we could’ve forgotten, I guess) of how Obama’s predecessor used his faith as a justification for every horrific decision he ever made (oh, and by the way, he never joined a Washington congregation either…and I’m not sure why the argument that both Dubya and The Sainted Ronnie R made – that they basically created too much of an intrusion by their presence – is good enough for those two, but not Obama).

    And another thing, according to Sullivan…

    Okay, Bush’s defenders say, but even if he did go to church, it’s tough for a president to be really involved with a congregation. He is, after all, running the free world. But, then again, he has spent almost 500 days on vacation over the past four years. You’d think some of that time could have been devoted to planning the next church social or sitting in on mission board meetings. Jimmy Carter found time to teach Sunday School at a local Baptist church while he was president.

    On the Sunday that I joined (Foundry Methodist Church), I was seated in the pew just in front of Bill and Chelsea Clinton. I spent the service listening to the president sing too loudly and slightly off-key (just like my own dad) with his daughter elbowing him (just like me). I turned around at the sound of scribbling during the sermon to see him jotting notes in his Bible. And when it came time for communion, I was powerfully affected. All of us–president, senator, student, welfare mom–drank from the same cup, shared the same sacrament. “His blood, shed for you,” was the sentiment offered to each of us. Shed for me, shed for the president, shed for any who would come forward. For the first time, I understood the humanizing (in every sense) and equalizing aspects of the act of communion.

    However, I honestly don’t believe Jessup actually cares about spirituality here (and based on this, I don’t think she cares a whole lot for legal due process either).

  • 3) And hey look, kids, The Weakly Standard is holding a contest (here)…

    Lots of great submissions to the haiku contest. The judges inform me that they’re also willing to accept haikus about politics in general, not just the EU or its haiku-loving president. So email wws [at] weeklystandard.com with your best haiku on Obama, the Democrats, or anything else and you may be the lucky winner of a year-long subscription to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

    ZOMG! A year-long subscription to The Weakly Standard? Why, that sounds like as much fun as a case of dry heaves after an Ipecac cocktail (…or, maybe not).

    And Haiku also? Gee, I wonder if any of these would qualify…

    Ah, Wingnuttia
    Truth mangled and read by drones
    God, I need a drink

    Teabaggers all hate
    Our President from “Kenya”
    Sarah Palin too

    Call our media
    Time to rouse the “sheeple” for
    Bill Kristol’s new war

    Here comes “Gramps” McCain
    Talks to the kids who will vote
    “You Get Off My Lawn!”

    Report on issues?
    So this country is informed?
    You must be crazy!

    Well, perhaps not.

  • 4) Finally, five years ago today, Terri Schiavo died; for the benefit of the handful of people on this earth who don’t know who she was, this HuffPo post provides a reminder, as well as background on issues surrounding end-of-life care (it’s hypocritical for me to remind people of the importance of a living will since I don’t have one either, but we all should).

    Also, this post linking to the story of the passing of Keith Olbermann’s dad earlier this month also contains commentary and information that we should consider when dealing with end-of-life planning issues.

    Lastly, though the Schiavo story was a human and legal tragedy first and foremost, there was most definitely a political component to it. Along with Hurricane Katrina and the drip-drip-drip of the Iraq catastrophe, it numbered the days of the ruinous conservative rule in this country, as Bill Frist, Mel Martinez, Jeb Bush and way too many others sought some kind of electoral advantage over it. It showed just how far the Repugs are capable of overreaching when they believe they have the upper hand, no matter how cringingly awful their excesses turned out to be (and for what it’s worth, it was one of the main reasons I started blogging, because I felt like I had to do something in response).

    The Schiavo story is a cautionary lesson for those who dream of a Republican electoral resurgence later this year. Don’t think it could never happen again if they were in charge once more.


  • Tuesday Mashup (3/30/10)

    March 30, 2010

  • 1) I must tell you that I came across something that was utterly hilarious in the Op-Ed section of the Bucks County Courier Times today.

    Editorial Page Editor Guy Petroziello published a letter in which he wrote that the paper could not publish letters in favor of health care reform and thanking U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy who voted for the law because Petroziello believed that the letters were orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee, and “we cannot publish letters that are part of an organized campaign” (he also pointed out that the paper’s editorial submission policy, as stated in the Op-Ed section, does not allow publishing of thank you notes; he made it sound as if he was making an exception to the policy by publishing any thank-you letters to Murphy at all).

    Which begs the question – is Petroziello actually naïve enough to believe that anti-Murphy letters actually aren’t part of an organized campaign also?

    Check out PA Water Cooler or (especially) BucksRight every so often, Guy. Right-wing social networking is very much alive in this state and can easily lend itself to letter-writing campaigns also. Besides, when you get about a hundred letters all complaining about a “Patrick Murphy/Pelosi/Reid” axis, “Obama-care,” “taking over one-sixth of our economy,” “trillion-dollar tax hike” and (in particular) “tort reform to lower health care costs,” as well as everyone complaining that Patrick Murphy didn’t hold an in-person town hall so the teabaggers could stage their antics, then I definitely do not believe that you are talking an organic phenomenon, however much you may believe to the contrary. And those letters apparently run into no obstacles at all before they are printed.

    Also, in the right-wingnuttia department, J.D. Mullane (in between recycling columns as to whether or not college is “necessary”) opined as follows on the subject of someone at a Burger King who, it is alleged, recently viewed porn on a PC provided at one of their eateries (the company’s defense is that it blocks porn sites and the individual was reading an E-mail attachment, or something)…

    What’s the big deal, when even former Sen. John Edwards has a sex tape – and he could have been president of the United States.

    I’m the last person who is going to defend the lies and stupidity of John Edwards, but as noted here, his mistress Rielle Hunter acknowledged that she created the tape (I don’t know if Edwards ever consented to the recording, for the record, not that it really matters much I suppose). And as nearly as I can tell, the tape traveled in one way or another between Hunter and former Edwards campaign staffer (and tell-all book author) Andrew Young. To my knowledge, Edwards never “had” the tape.

    If you’re going to shamelessly demagogue as you attack Dems, J.D., at least go to the trouble of getting your facts straight.

  • 2) And if that isn’t enough yuks for you, Pantload Media’s Helen Smith tells us here how Jeff Goldstein and others of the right-wing world of bizarro reality should deal with “the Left’s disrespect and lack of empathy.”

    This is what Goldstein said when Ben Domenech, co-founder of the blog Red State, was nailed in 2006 on allegations of plagiarism after Domenech was given a forum for his diatribes at the Washington Post…

    Ben has owned up to his mistakes. He has, as I anticipated he would, taken that most difficult first step to rehabilitating his credibility. Now it’s time for other folks to do the same: Molly Ivins; Larry Tribe; Stephen Ambrose; Dan Rather; Jason Leopold; Joe Biden; Micah Wright; Ward Churchill; Eason Jordan; CNN’s agreement with Saddam’s Iraq; Joe Wilson; Steve Erlanger—we’re looking at you.

    And of course, Goldstein provided no citations for his charges (and as Atrios points out, historian Stephen Ambrose died in 2002).

    I report, you decide.

  • 3) And finally, N. Gregory Mankiw appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times and told us the following (here)…

    When I was chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, I spoke openly about the need to reform regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I did not know when or how these government-sponsored enterprises would come crashing down, but I thought they posed undue risks for the economy and for taxpayers.

    I was not alone in that judgment. While working on the issue, I consulted privately with an economist who had held a high-ranking position in the Clinton administration. He shared precisely my concerns, as did Alan Greenspan, who was then the Fed chairman.

    I would say that this exchange between Greenspan and Henry Waxman, then head of the House Oversight Committee speaks volumes (deflating Greenspan’s “magical thinking” on the markets).

    Continuing with Mankiw…

    Why was nothing done (about reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)? Many members of Congress were worried less about financial fragility than about expanding access to homeownership. Moreover, lobbyists from these companies assured Congress that there was no real problem, while the sheer complexity of these institutions made it hard for legislators to appreciate the enormity of the risks.

    I recount this story not because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the main cause of the recent financial crisis — they were only one element — but because it shows the kind of problem we’ll encounter on a larger scale as we reform oversight of the financial system.

    I have to reluctantly point out that Mankiw is correct when he says that he warned of risks to so-called government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs (here, primarily Fannie and Freddie…of course, Mankiw cheered the deficit and offshoring at the same time also, but those are subjects for another day). The problem, as noted in this Wikipedia article about Congressman Barney Frank, is as follows…

    In 2003, while the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal, in response to accounting scandals, for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Department. The proposal, supported by the head of Fannie Mae, reflected the administration’s belief that Congress “neither has the tools, nor the stature” for adequate oversight. Frank stated, “These two entities…are not facing any kind of financial crisis…. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”[50] Conservative groups criticized Frank for campaign contributions totaling $42,350 between 1989 and 2008. They claim the donations from Fannie and Freddie influenced his support of their lending programs, and say that Frank did not play a strong enough role in reforming the institutions in the years leading up to the Economic crisis of 2008.[51] In 2006 a Fannie Mae representative stated in SEC filings that they “did not participate in large amounts of these non-traditional mortgages in 2004 and 2005.” [52]In response to criticism from conservatives, Frank said, “In 2004, it was Bush who started to push Fannie and Freddie into subprime mortgages, because they were boasting about how they were expanding homeownership for low-income people. And I said at the time, ‘Hey—(a) this is going to jeopardize their profitability, but (b) it’s going to put people in homes they can’t afford, and they’re gonna lose them.’” [10]

    So Bushco, including Mankiw, wanted to further remove Fannie and Freddie from visibility by sticking them in Treasury away from congressional oversight because they were supposedly in trouble, and pushed them towards higher risk home mortgages at the same time to make sure they would be in trouble.

    And here is something else to consider (from Wikipedia)…

    Frank further stated that “during twelve years of Republican rule no reform was adopted regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007, a few months after I became the Chairman, the House passed a strong reform bill; we sought to get the [Bush] administration’s approval to include it in the economic stimulus legislation in January 2008; and finally got it passed and onto President Bush’s desk in July 2008. Moreover, “we were able to adopt it in nineteen months, and we could have done it much quicker if the [Bush] administration had cooperated.”[54]

    Also, I thought this post was amusing, in which Mankiw claimed that people with “good genes” make lots of money and pass their intelligence off to their kids who then get high SAT scores.

    And if they’re really lucky, they get a column in the Sunday Times from which they can create partisan mythology about once or twice a month.


  • DeMint Brings “DeStupid” Against Obama

    March 29, 2010

    South Carolina’s Repug U.S. Senatorial mistake tells us the following from The Hill today (here)…

    A day after the Senate adjourned for Easter recess President Obama said he was going to appoint 15 of his nominees during the break, depriving the Senate the opportunity to vet and vote on any of them.

    Wrong – as Think Progress tells us here (quoting White House Communications Director Jen Psaki)…

    Many of these fifteen individuals have enjoyed broad bipartisan support, but have found their confirmation votes delayed for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications. … Because of political posturing, these fifteen appointees have waited an average of 214 days for Senate confirmation. […]

    To put this in perspective, at this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month.

    And DeMint went onto the Bob Schieffer program “Faze The Nation” yesterday to trot out the same old whine about the Senate being denied an opportunity “to vet and vote on any of them,” to which TP says in response…

    Despite what DeMint is saying, the problem is that Republicans were preventing (Craig) Becker (nominated for the NLRB) from receiving an up-or-down vote. Becker, in fact, has never received such a vote, thanks to a GOP filibuster (which was joined by Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln). In February, the motion to file cloture on his nomination was defeated by a 33-52 vote (with 15 senators missing the vote), eight short of the 60 needed to proceed to debate and a final vote. Even if all of the non-voting members had voted no, Becker still would have received the approval of a majority of the Senate.

    There’s a similar story for many of other Obama’s nominees, including Erroll Southers, the man Obama chose to lead the Transportation Security Administration. DeMint led the opposition to Southers — in an attempt “to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union” — who eventually chose to withdraw from consideration because of the delays.

    More on Southers in a minute; the Hill article by DeMint includes him in a list of President Obama’s “Top 10 Failed Nominees and Appointees,” including the following (I’ll just look at 5 from the list for now):

    White House “Green Jobs” czar Van Jones resigned after he it was discovered he signed a statement in support of a 9/11 “Truther” group.

    Which, last I checked, was perfectly legal behavior (free speech and all that, you know).

    Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) withdrew his nomination to become Health and Human Services Secretary after it was discovered he failed to properly pay his taxes.

    Concerning Daschle, DeMint is actually correct, but the following should be noted (here)…

    WASHINGTON — President Obama’s pick for health and human services secretary, Tom Daschle, failed to pay more than $128,000 in taxes, partly for free use of a car and driver that had been provided to him by a prominent businessman and Democratic fund-raiser, administration officials said Friday.

    Mr. Daschle, concluding that he owed the taxes, filed amended returns and paid more than $140,000 in back taxes and interest on Jan. 2, the officials said.

    After over a year of ridiculous partisan warfare with the Repugs, though, I wonder if Obama would have been as quick to accept Daschle’s resignation now as he was soon after he was inaugurated, when he was still all “hopey, changey” and like that.

    DeMint also mentions Bill Richardson, who “withdrew his nomination to become Commerce Secretary because of an ongoing investigation into whether he doled out government contracts in exchange for campaign money” (as Wikipedia tells us here, “In August 2009, federal prosecutors dropped the pending investigation against the governor”).

    Now, about Southers; here is DeMint…

    (He was) Obama’s nominee to serve as director of the Travel Security Administration, (but he) withdrew after refusing to answer questions about collective bargaining and false testimony he presented to Congress.

    From HuffPo (here)…

    Southers said he couldn’t give DeMint a definitive answer on the collective bargaining issue because it wasn’t a yes or no question (the type of answer DeMint demanded), and required access to information he wouldn’t have had until he was confirmed.

    And finally from DeMint…

    Maj. Gen. Robert A. Harding, Obama’s second nominee to service as director of the Travel Security Administration, withdrew his name after it was discovered he received “service disabled veteran” status for sleep apnea.

    Call me crazy, but based on this, it looks like sleep apnea could be a legitimate service disability (I would imagine that it would be difficult to, say, navigate a tank if you’re dozing off due to such a condition).

    This is all typical for DeMint and his childish little games, though, also in evidence here in which he opposed the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act in 2007 after an agreement had supposedly been reached on it between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao.

    As usual for a Repug, DeMint isn’t interested here in the whole “advice and consent” thing the Senate is supposed to perform here as opposed to trying to score cheap political points (which I’m sure will comfort DeMint’s equally clueless legion of teabagger followers).

    Of course, having looked like a first-class rube over the passing of health care in the wake of DeMint’s call to stop it because “It will break (Obama) – It will be his Waterloo,” I suppose DeMint has to do something to try and remain relevant somehow.


    Nope, Scott Brown’s Not Crazy – He’s Just A Scumbag

    March 27, 2010

    Oh, right – conjuring up imaginary enemies is straight out of the Repug playbook all right; try representing your constituents instead, Senator Teabag.


    Is “Senator Teabag” Already Losing It?

    March 26, 2010

    Someone want to convince this guy that Rachel Maddow actually ISN’T running for his seat, though I think she did a good job of that here?

    But then again, problems with women seem to be part of his portfolio, if you will (such as denying contraception to rape victims, as noted in this ad).


    Thursday Mashup (3/25/10)

    March 25, 2010


    Timothy Egan of the New York Times opined as follows here…

    Unfairly or not, the defining images of opposition to health care reform may end up being those rage-filled partisans with spittle on their lips. Whether the outbursts came from inside Congress — the “baby killer” shout of Rep. Randy Neugebauer, and his colleagues who cheered on hecklers — or outside, where protesters hurled vile names against elected representatives, they are powerful and lasting scenes of a democracy gasping for dignity.

    Now, ask yourself a question: can you imagine Ronald Reagan anywhere in those pictures? Or anywhere in those politics? Reagan was all about sunny optimism, and at times bipartisan bonhomie. In him, the American people saw their better half.

    I would expect to read something like that at the Fix Noise site; it’s a shame Egan apparently never read Paul Krugman, who once said the following here…

    The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

    When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.

    Like Ronald Reagan, President (George W.) Bush began his term in office with big tax cuts for the rich and promises that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class. Like Reagan, he also began his term with an economic slump, then claimed that the recovery from that slump proved the success of his policies.

    And like Reaganomics — but more quickly — Bushonomics has ended in grief.

    Also, it should be noted (as has been by Will Bunch, among others) that the ‘60s Reagan with his slicked-back hair, perpetual snarl (shown above) and venomous language (who said in this 1964 speech campaigning for Repug presidential candidate Barry Goldwater that, “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”) is a far cry from the sunny, doddering dunce that we saw inhabit An Oval Office while James Watt waged war on the environment, our Marine barracks blew up in Beirut, and Ollie North and his secretary Fawn Hall did all they could to cover up Iran-Contra while Attorney General Ed Meese shredded the evidence.

    Malcolm
    Also, I give you the latest comedy stylings from former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm (here)…

    “Instead of embracing an opportunity to enter a new era,” Obama said…, “Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist.”

    As recently as last summer at a Caribbean summit, Obama and Raul Castro talked separately of opening discussions on a wide range of issues including human rights. The country’s semi-retired revolutionary leader, brother Fidel Castro, had warm words when Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the autumn.

    But then in December the Cuban icon said Obama’s warm smile could not be trusted.

    Today, about seven months out from November’s midterm elections, Obama responded (denouncing Cuba on human rights).

    The lack of response to Obama overtures from Iran have not prompted similar White House outbursts.

    What a shame that Malcolm didn’t bother to use that Google thingie to find out the following (here, from last June)…

    (Iran’s) election result has disconcerted Western powers trying to induce the world’s fifth-biggest oil exporter to curb its nuclear programme.

    U.S. President Barack Obama had urged Iran’s leadership “to unclench its fist” for a new start in ties.

    So not only did Obama criticize Iran over its fraudulent election last year, he did so using the very same language as he did yesterday.

    I guess, though, that this is only mildly dishonest for Malcolm, as opposed to his more extreme dishonesty on display here.

    Malcolm
    Finally, it seems that Repug U.S. House Rep Darrell Issa of California wants a special prosecutor to look into the possibility that the White House offered PA Dem Senatorial candidate (and current U.S. House Rep) Joe Sestak a job so he would drop out of the PA Dem primary against Snarlin’ Arlen Specter (here).

    I’ll tell you what, Issa. You drop this idiotic, partisan waste of time and taxpayer dollars in a cheap effort to grab headlines and I’ll stop calling for you to testify under oath about what it was exactly that you said and discussed with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2007 (here) on the same trip where Dem House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with him and was ridiculed all over the place for it (and for good measure, Joe Pitts should get the same treatment for doing the same thing).


    A Message To Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao

    March 25, 2010

    And here is more McConnell wankery on the Senate’s use of reconciliation (fine when he did it, in other words, but baaad when used to pass health care reform).


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