Friday Mashup (5/25/12)

May 25, 2012
  • To begin, I give you the comic stylings of Mann Coulter, on how that Kenyan Muslim socialist wealth redistributor in the White House is supposedly such a spendthrift (here)…

    …Obama didn’t come in and live with the budget Bush had approved. He immediately signed off on enormous spending programs that had been specifically rejected by Bush. This included a $410 billion spending bill that Bush had refused to sign before he left office. Obama signed it on March 10, 2009. Bush had been chopping brush in Texas for two months at that point. Marketwatch’s Nutting says that’s Bush’s spending.

    Obama also spent the second half of the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (TARP). These were discretionary funds meant to prevent a market meltdown after Lehman Brothers collapsed. By the end of 2008, it was clear the panic had passed, and Bush announced that he wouldn’t need to spend the second half of the TARP money.

    I realize that there are probably too many layers of stoo-pid to cut through here, but let’s just focus on the patently absurd claim that “the (financial) panic had passed…by the end of 2008.”

    As noted here

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The U.S. economy suffered its biggest slowdown in 26 years in the last three months of 2008, according to the government’s first reading about the fourth quarter released Friday.

    Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s economic activity, fell at an annual rate of 3.8% in the fourth quarter, adjusted for inflation.

    That’s the largest drop in GDP since the first quarter of 1982, when the economy suffered a 6.4% decline.

    More to the point, I’m not going to play this game about Obama and spending, since he didn’t create the deficit to begin with (yes, he added to it, but you have to spend to invest and demand has to come from somewhere). I would only ask that you consider the following from here, and I would also ask that you keep all of this in mind assuming those wretched George W. Bush tax cuts finally die once and for all in 2013 and “Taxmageddon” (ugh) kicks in next year with spending cuts negotiated with that fraud U.S. House “leadership,” which, in all probability, will sink us into recession officially once again (thank you, o zany Teahadists).

    (Oh, and for the record, here is the chart Coulter is talking about…when you find that supposed $410 billion dollar spending bill Obama signed off on instead of Dubya, let me know, OK?)

  • Next, one of my pet causes resurfaced in the news yesterday (here)…

    WASHINGTON — Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican, joked that he was witnessing “sort of a Lazarus moment.” On that score, at least, Mr. Corker got no quarrel from his Democratic colleagues.

    Thirty years after it was signed in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the United Nations treaty that governs the world’s oceans is undergoing one of its periodic resurrections in Congress. A Senate committee on Wednesday summoned three top national security officials to make yet another plea for the agreement, in the face of narrow, but stubborn, opposition.

    The Senate has never ratified the treaty, despite the support of Republican and Democratic presidents, the Pentagon, environmental advocates, the oil and gas industry — virtually anyone who deals “with oceans on a daily basis,” in the words of Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the Republican who recently lost a primary, who is a supporter.

    So long has the “Law of the Sea” treaty been stalled on Capitol Hill that its opponents — a handful of conservative Republicans who view it as an infringement on American sovereignty — have taken to calling it “LOST, ” an uncharitable, if apt, acronym.

    Memo to Mark Landler and The Old Grey Lady – the correct acronym is UNCLOS, as in “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.” And nice job not to use the correct acronym anywhere in the story and thus propagate another wingnut talking point (tell me once again how liberal the New York Times supposedly is…by the way, the story tells us that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified at the invitation of Sen. John Kerry, head of the Foreign Relations Committee).

    I’ve been posting to one degree or another about this topic for the last five years because, as noted here (from October 2007)…

    The Law of the Sea Convention was concluded in 1982 and went into force in 1994. President Reagan opposed U.S. participation because of one provision dealing with deep seabed mining. That provision was amended in 1994 to satisfy U.S. concerns and signed by President Clinton, but the Senate ignored it.

    (In 2004), the Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously in favor of the treaty but the full Senate, then in Republican hands, did not take it up.

    The treaty recognizes sovereign rights over a country’s continental shelf out to 200 nautical miles and beyond if the country can provide evidence to substantiate its claims. It gives Arctic countries 10 years after they ratify the treaty to prove their claims under the polar ice cap. The United States, with its Alaskan coast, is the only Arctic nation not party to the treaty.

    Also (as noted here)…

    …unless the United States joins up, it could very well lose out in what is shaping up as a mad scramble to lay claim to what are believed to be immense deposits of oil, gas and other resources under the Arctic ice — deposits that are becoming more and more accessible as the earth warms and the ice melts.

    So who exactly is standing in the way of ratifying UNCLOS in the Senate (besides perpetual climate denier Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, I mean)?

    The Times tells us…

    Senator James Risch of Idaho said it would oblige the United States to adhere to international agreements to stem greenhouse gas emissions. “That’s got Kyoto written all over it,” he said, referring to the climate change treaty rejected by the United States.

    Mr. Risch seemed particularly rankled by Mrs. Clinton’s contention that the treaty’s opponents were driven by “ideology and mythology,” not facts. “I hope you weren’t scoffing at us,” he said. “I’m one of those that fall into that category.”

    Which is totally not surprising since Risch is one of the “44 Congressional Darlings of the Koch Brothers” Caucus; as noted here, Risch isn’t even in the top tier of recipients – he’s from the second-level “gang of eight” that received about $87 grand total (and don’t you know that “No Corporate Tax” Pat Toomey is on that list too).

    The political gamesmanship on this issue (which plays into both our military and economic well-being, to say nothing of the future survival of this planet) is something more representative of a third-world, pseudo Marxist-Leninist tribal backwater than a country that is supposedly the leader of industrialized nations. And the fact that it has gone on now for 30 years with no end in sight is so absurd as to be beyond parody.

    Update 7/18/12: OWWWW, TEH STUPID!!! IT BURNS US!!!

  • Finally, I give you the following hilarity from Michelle Malkin (here, in the matter of the resignation of Gregory Jaczko as the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission)…

    (Nevada Dem Senator Harry) Reid connived to install Jaczko at the NRC to carry on their shared crusade against the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste facility in Nye County, Nevada. Despite assurances that he would recuse himself, Jaczko proceeded to meddle aggressively in the issue. After the Obama administration named Jaczko chairman of the safety panel in 2009, all hell broke loose — and then some.

    Oh, and by the way, Jaczko was named to the NRC in 2005. Now who would have been president back then?


    Hmmm, let me think…

    Continuing…

    Out of fear that researchers would confirm positive safety data, Jaczko ordered NRC staff to halt a technical evaluation of Yucca Mountain. Then he used the lack of data to order a complete work stoppage on the long-obstructed project. Last summer, the NRC inspector general determined that Jaczko “strategically withheld” information from the rest of the panel, manipulated agendas, and “was not forthcoming about his intent” to shut down Yucca by any means necessary.

    Let us not forget that any actions by any government official that runs contrary to the wishes of Malkin and her ilk automatically constitutes a conspiracy of one type or another (And any proof of “positive safety data,” by the way? What on earth does that phrase even mean?).

    Continuing…

    (Jaczko) kept the panel in the dark on other matters, too. After the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, Jaczko ordered his staff to hoard safety findings and keep them from other commissioners while he made unilateral policy decisions against their will.

    In the course of his investigation, the NRC inspector general heard from numerous commission staffers about Jaczko’s “unprofessional behavior” and outbursts of anger that created an “intimidating workplace environment.” The report said Jaczko told investigators he “regretted” his temper tantrums.

    Last fall, the entire commission sent an extraordinary letter to the White House expressing “grave concerns” about Jaczko the Jerk’s continued boorishness. “We believe that his actions and behavior are causing serious damage to this institution and are creating a chilled work environment at the NRC,” wrote NRC commissioners George Apostolakis and William D. Magwood IV (Democrats) and William C. Ostendorff and Kristine L. Svinicki (Republicans). Commission staff detailed how Jaczko’s “shaking angry” rage fests caused at least one woman to cry, and prompted Svinicki to have a staffer accompany her whenever she was in Jaczko’s presence.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    In the wake of the (nuclear accident in Japan), Jaczko sought recommendations for US nuclear safety. The Near-Term Task Force (NTTF) Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident produced a collection of basic (and, as discussed here, rather weak) recommendations last summer. Chairman Jaczko tried to start the process of turning those recommendations into rules–a process that could stretch beyond five years–but met objections from each of the other four commissioners. Jaczko also wanted lessons learned from Fukushima included in construction and licensing permits granted to four AP1000 reactors (two to be built in Georgia, two in South Carolina), but the chairman was outvoted four-to-one by his fellow NRC members.

    Doesn’t sound to me like Jaczko “kept the (NRC) panel in the dark” and “made unilateral policy decisions against their will” (of course, Malkin’s lies fall under the heading of “sky is blue and water is wet”…what would be newsworthy would be if she were actually telling the truth).

    Continuing…

    (Another) (and most often referenced) complaint fired at Jaczko was that he had created a “hostile work environment,” especially for women. Though Svinicki, the only woman on the commission, lamented Jaczko’s tone, the specific “charge” (if it can be called that) was brought by Commissioner William Magwood. Magwood said there were female staffers that Jaczko had brought to tears, though none of those women personally came forward (because, it was said last year, they did not want to relive the humiliation).

    The story gained extra prominence when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY; Kentucky, by the way, home to a nuclear waste nightmare called Paducah) attempted to use this alleged incident to disrupt the rising narrative of the Republican “war on women.” McConnell and others from his side of the aisle took to the microphones to denounce the administration’s treatment of whistleblowers and praise the apparently brave and much put-upon Svinicki.

    In what seems to be a rare case where the public’s relative lack of interest in nuclear regulation can be called a positive, McConnell’s gambit failed. . .

    . . . at least in derailing the “War on Women” story. (It also probably owes much to the GOP actually continuing its war on women.)

    But when it came to serving the nuclear industry, McConnell’s contribution to the ouster of Jaczko will likely be rewarded. . . with industry contributions of the monetary kind.

    (The nuclear industry, it should be noted, was not a fan of Jaczko because of his emphasis on safety, particularly in light of the Fukushima accident. Something else that should be noted is that President Obama nominated Svinicki, a Republican, to the commission for a second term this year over the objections of Harry Reid and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.)

    Was Jaczko a tyrant on the job? Probably, maybe…I don’t care (unless he was doing anything illegal, which is another story). What I do care about is that someone takes his place as NRC head who isn’t a craven industry shill and who would actually pay attention to safety considerations (such a person would no doubt also earn Malkin’s enmity, a life form who, as noted here, knows a thing or two herself about meltdowns).

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    Tuesday Mashup (5/22/12)

    May 22, 2012
  • I neglected to point out the following recently (until now) by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating in Gallup Poll History, on the pages of the Murdoch Street Journal (of course – here)…

    Some in both parties in Washington look at the risks inherent in democratic change—particularly in the Middle East and North Africa—and find the dangers too great. America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability.


    Like this guy, jackass? Nice job to blow him off (along with just about all else from your wretched presidency) and leave for Number 44 to clean up.

    Apparently, some in our corporate media will go to any lengths in an effort to “rebrand” our 43rd president as some kind of a statesman or a visionary on foreign policy.

    Part of me wishes there were a punch line to that remark, but the joke is so unbelievable that I can’t think of anything to top it.

  • Next, the Moustache of Understanding returned to form in the New York Times Sunday (here)…

    Microsoft still does more than 80 percent of its research work in America. But that is becoming harder and harder to sustain when deadlock on Capitol Hill prevents it from acquiring sufficient (H1B) visas for the knowledge workers it needs that America’s universities are not producing enough of. The number of filled jobs at Microsoft went up this year from 40,000 to 40,500 at its campus outside Seattle, yet its list of unfilled jobs went from 4,000 to almost 5,000. Eventually, it will have no choice but to shift more research to other countries.

    Naah, it’s not because our august captains of industry are rapacious, unrepentant pirates who plead for tax cuts while the middle class that built the products that made them rich are forced to settle for ever-smaller pieces of the proverbial financial pie. Don’t you see? They “have no choice” but to do the whole “engulf and devour” thing elsewhere instead.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    D.C. is filled with mills that produce bogus studies to provide Congress with rose-colored glasses that deprive reality. Some studies spin H-1B workers as “entrepreneurs.” Others make absurd job claims, such as that each H-1B worker creates six additional jobs (Do the math here: With around 100,000 H-1B visas a year, that would make H-1B the single largest job creation factor in the economy.)

    In fact, the opposite is true. The largest users of H-1B visas are foreign offshoring companies. They use H-1B visas to provide on-site support for projected moved to other countries. In that model, each H-1B worker here is a proxy for even more jobs lost.

    In spite of a long parade of damning audits on the H-1B program, Congress has done nothing to clean up the mess. Deliberate loopholes in the law allow employers to replace Americans with lower-paid H-1B workers. Working in the computer industry, I have witnessed employers openly replacing hundreds of Americans with cheaper worker on H-1B visas.

    H-1B supporters rarely forget to remind the public that the statute requires H-1B workers to be paid “the prevailing wage.” They invariably forget that, 20,000 words later, the statute redefines the term “prevailing wage” in such a manner that an employer can legally pay a software engineer in Edison, N.J., $34,133 a year less than the median wage.

    How is it possible that Americans can be fired in their own country, be replaced with foreign workers, and Congress does nothing for decades? H-1Bs, bailouts to Wall Street, and subsidies to politically connected business are all symptoms of the same problem: a government that is controlled by special interests that are antithetical to those of the American people.

    And on top of that, this post from 2008 tells us of a recruiter who pretty much debunked the entire mythology that there aren’t enough “knowledge workers” in this country to fill the available jobs (God forbid that employers haven’t fine-tuned their resume-screening software, or you’re out of luck, Mr. or Ms. Unemployed American Worker).

    Rest assured, though, that apologists like Friedman will always return twice a week on the pages of The Old Gray Lady to reinforce the status quo (and possibly get in a plug for the economic “virtues” of China also, along with the wonders of the Internet, of course).

  • Finally, I give you BoBo, trying to sanitize the business exploits of Willard Mitt Romney on the matter of GST Steel (here)…

    Private equity firms like Bain acquire bad companies and often replace management, compel executives to own more stock in their own company and reform company operations.

    Most of the time they succeed. Research from around the world clearly confirms that companies that have been acquired by private equity firms are more productive than comparable firms.

    This process involves a great deal of churn and creative destruction. It does not, on net, lead to fewer jobs. A giant study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard, the University of Maryland and the Census Bureau found that when private equity firms acquire a company, jobs are lost in old operations. Jobs are created in new, promising operations. The overall effect on employment is modest.

    In response, I would suggest that you read the following from here (Bain bought a controlling interest in GST for $8 million, sold $120 million worth of bonds, and then paid themselves a $36 million dividend…they repeated this trick with another steel mill, combined both as “GS Industries” and ended up about $378 million in debt between the two)…

    During all of this they constantly cut both the workforce and safety standards of both plants while failing to invest even minimal money into the plants upkeep much less towards making any capital improvements. Finally in 2001 “GS Industries” now over $500 million in debt declared bankruptcy and closed the plants.

    It then became apparent that Bain had also declined to adequately fund the workers pension plans, employees suddenly out of work were now faced with the additional loss of promised severance pay, health insurance, and life insurance. In 2002 the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation had to commit $44 million to make up the shortfall towards funding only the basic pension payments. The workers never did receive their promised insurance benefits…

    So in this instance Romney and Bain not only cost over 750 workers their jobs and forced two previously fairly healthy businesses into bankruptcy. They also managed to line their pockets with millions of dollars while doing so and before forcing a government agency to step in and pay $44 million towards their bad pension debt.

    If this is Mitt Romney’s idea of how to “create jobs and restart the economy” I don’t think I want anything to do with it.

    And by the way, let us not forget this priceless little moment concerning the presumptive Repug nominee and our not-completely-still-moribund economy

    I would be curious to see what would happen if the New York Times was ever acquired by a private equity firm similar to Bain. I would hope that a lot of the paper’s talented news professionals wouldn’t have to worry about their jobs, but, as the process of “creative destruction” unfolded, I would like to know how “modest” the effect would be on BoBo’s future employment.


  • Looks Like Pancake Joe “Don’t Know Much About History”

    May 16, 2012


    Some more tongue-in-cheek foreign policy recommendations for Repug U.S. House Rep Joe Pitts (MISTAKE-PA16), based on this:

  • Encourage that foreign-country-apologizing-to President Obama to immediately begin negotiation with Emperor Napoleon of France so the U.S. can get moving on that whole “Louisiana Purchase” deal (I mean, who wants a bunch of frogs chowing down on their “Freedom Toast” right in our backyard, and I don’t mean the “ribbit at midnight on the bayou” kind).
  • Tell Congress to order our president to send U.S. troops to the Philippines, where they will be “greeted as liberators” (Pitts apparently has it on good information from Theodore Roosevelt that the insurgency there is in its “last throes”).
  • Issue a public statement of support for the pro-Democracy movement in Hungary, and, in a nod to the eternal leader of the Republican Party, encourage East German leader Erich Honecker to “tear down this wall.”
  • Send a congratulatory wireless telegram to aviator Charles Lindbergh upon completion of his trans-Atlantic flight.
  • Want to retire Pitts once and for all, at long last? Click here.


    Cheesed Off Over A Right-Wing Blogger Whine

    May 11, 2012

    (Get it, “whine” and cheese…never mind.)

    So it looks like someone named Naomi Schaefer Riley is all in a snit over her firing from the Chronicle of Higher Education, because…well, as noted here

    …last week, on the Chronicle’s “Brainstorm” blog (where I was paid to be a regular contributor), I suggested that the dissertation topics of the graduate students mentioned were obscure at best and “a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap,” at worst.

    For instance, the author of a dissertation on the history of black midwifery began her research, she told the Chronicle, because she “noticed that nonwhite women’s experiences were largely absent from natural-birth literature.” Another graduate student blamed the housing crisis in America on institutional racism. And a third argued that conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas and John McWhorter have “played one of the most-significant roles in the assault on the civil-rights legacy that benefited them.”

    Scores of critics on the site complained that I had not read the dissertations in full before daring to write about them—an absurd standard for a 500-word blog post. A number of the dissertations aren’t even available. Which didn’t seem to stop the Chronicle reporter, though. And 6,500 academics signed a petition online demanding that I be fired.

    (By the way, about the “Chronicle Reporter,” it should be noted that Schaefer Riley wrote her post in response to a story appearing previously in the CHE called “Black Studies: ‘Swaggering Into the Future,'” in which the reporter described how “young black-studies scholars . . . are less consumed than their predecessors with the need to validate the field or explain why they are pursuing doctorates in their discipline.” Of course, the reporter didn’t name names of critics of the “black studies” program, so Schaefer Riley, being a good little wingnut-ette, felt the urge to speak up right away, thus bringing all of this upon herself when all she had to do was keep her mouth shut.)

    In response, I think the following should be noted from here…

    Schaefer Riley admits that she hadn’t read these dissertations, but she had no compunctions about assailing the work of three grad students by name.

    Note that academics read the Chronicle the way that New York media types read Gawker. Being called a disgrace to your discipline in the CHE is a crushing blow for a young scholar. I mean, consider the source, but still….

    Schaefer Riley’s main self-defense is that she made the same arguments in a book she wrote before the Chronicle hired her.

    She scoffs at the idea that she should have read these dissertations before attacking the students by name. Her disregard for the facts justifies the Chronicle’s decision to fire her all by itself.

    Schaefer Riley is trying to paint herself as a victim of political correctness. She’s no such thing. The Chronicle fired her for impugning the reputations of scholars with no evidence. She proudly declared herself guilty as charged in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. QED.

    The question is not why she got fired, but why the Chronicle picked her up in the first place.

    I really have tried to avoid blogger hissy fits particularly in the world of academia, but as I read about all of this, all I could think of was the witch hunt against Melissa McEwan and Amanda Marcotte (orchestrated by the perpetually odious Bill Donahue of the Catholic League), two bloggers of my political stripe who went to work for John Edwards when he ran for president, which as noted here, led to Marcotte’s resignation before she had the opportunity to do anything whatsoever on behalf of the campaign. Where were all the cries from the wingnuts about “political correctness” then?

    As Lindsay Beyerstein noted in her criticism of Schaefer Reilly, all of this dustup will no doubt win the latter a cushy gig at the Heritage Foundation anyway (or perhaps a job at Fix Noise, assuming that Schaefer Reilly has a bottle of peroxide handy and has no trouble squeezing into a form-fitting dress with a plunging neckline, and showing plenty of leg for Rupert, Roger and the boys also).


    Time To “Beam” Newt Outta Here

    May 6, 2012


    This was too stoo-pid to ignore; I give you Fix Noise pundit James P. Pinkerton here…

    The Washington Post wrote recently that Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign “will go down in the annals as just another unsuccessful enterprise, along with so many other presidential wannabes whose bright expectations crash into the reality that it was not their time and perhaps was never to be.”

    Well, okay, but there’s another side to Gingrich: He has always been one of the most intellectually interesting, and politically questing, figures on the national stage. And so if there’s a little bit of Don Quixote in Gingrich, there’s also a lot of Captain James T. Kirk; he really did want to boldly go where no politician had gone before. Indeed, we might say that progress depends on Captain Kirks, or their non-fiction equivalents.

    Red Alert! Picking up reading of a life form in deep space! Looks like another flatulent bloviation from The Planet Murdoch. Arm the photon torpedoes! Set phasers to utterly destroy!

    In response, I’d like to point out the following…

    Captain Kirk would plunge headlong into an unknown world, fight interstellar bad guys with the help of the reincarnated Abraham Lincoln (remember that episode?), fall in love with the alien, let the “red shirt” get killed, forge a treaty, intervention or some agreement with that episode’s antagonists, and end up snatching their dilithium crystals before he and the Enterprise escaped (at warp speed, of course).

    Newt Gingrich, based on his military record (or lack of one), would run away from an unknown world, quote Abraham Lincoln as if the “modern” Republican Party bore any resemblance to the one to which our 16th president belonged (here), stay away from any “alien” romantic entanglements (at this point in his life anyway, lest he earn “The Wrath of Calista,” Gingrich being a “good Catholic” and all that…as noted here, though, Baby Newton Leroy has definitely been “Lost In Space”), concoct a “red card” immigration plan (to bring in all the “undocumented” workers employers would allow, depressing wages further, and leaving “red card” workers no recourse if they were fired…here), ridicule peace agreements (or embargoes anyway), and possibly, in a moment of stress, eat the dilithium crystals.

    And believe it or not, Pinkerton’s column gets worse, sneaking in some idiotic comparison between Kirk and JFK (ah, so, via a fictional spaceman, Gingrich supposedly shares some leadership qualities with our 35th president).

    In response, I’d like to note the following from here

    A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today – and in fact we have forgotten.

    Hard to argue with that, sadly (would have been nice for Pinkerton to read up on that before he concocted that idiotic screed).


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