Tuesday Mashup (6/18/13)

  • I give you the following hilarity from The Daily Tucker (here)…

    The House of Representatives voted late (on 6/7) to prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from using taxpayer dollars to buy and stockpile ammunition until they provide a “comprehensive report” to Congress on its ammunition usage, purchase history and contracting practices.

    “Prior to committing taxpayer dollars for ammunition contracts, we must ensure that government agencies justify the necessity and cost to both Congress and the American people,” said Representative Mark Meadows (R.-N.C.), the amendment’s author.

    The House approved the amendment to H.R. 2217, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2014, by a 234-192 vote. Notably, eighteen democrats supported the amendment and only thirteen republicans opposed. Meadows cited concerns over the current practices and purchases of the Department as justification for the proposal.

    As noted here, though…

    Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) said the amendment was unnecessary based on his talks with DHS officials. Carter said the department has since admitted that its ammunition needs are not as great as first reported, and said the department is pursuing a bulk purchase to keep the costs down.


    And just for the record, Mikey the Beloved voted for this idiocy, as noted here. In addition, here are the 18 “Democrats” who went along with it also (a pox on their respective houses):

    Bill Foster (IL-11)
    Brian Higgins (NY-26)
    Charles Rangel (NY-13)
    Collin Peterson (MN-7)
    Daniel Maffei (NY-24)
    Derek Kilmer (WA-6)
    Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
    Jared Polis (CO-2)
    Jim Matheson (UT-4)
    John Garamendi (CA-3)
    Juan Vargas (CA-51)
    Kurt Schrader (OR-5)
    Mike McIntyre (NC-7)
    Nick Rahall (WV-3)
    Pete DeFazio (OR-4)
    Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
    Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2)
    William Owens (NY-21)

    (I’m surprised to see Rangel and DeFazio on that list, since I definitely thought they knew better.)

    By the way, did you know that the notion that DHS is buying up all the ammo is so nutty that it has even been debunked by the NRA (here)? So where did it come from, then? Why, Alex Jones of course (here). I guess stuff like this plays in Meadows’ district, he having won the seat formerly held by the less-than-useless Heath Shuler in a contest against conservadem Hayden Rogers (here).

    And just as a reminder, this tells us that Meadows was one of the U.S. House Repugs who voted against disaster relief funding for the victims of Hurricane Sandy (nice guy).

  • Next, I saw this at CNN recently, and I think it deserves more attention than it received, so…

    The nation benefits when top scientists…contribute their efforts to the federal agencies. But civil service scientists are at a significant competitive disadvantage, thanks to new travel restrictions.

    At first glance, it might sound like a good idea to keep government employees and contractors from traveling to distant cities to meet with colleagues. After all, budgets are tight and travel costs money. Stories about excessive spending at government conferences involving the IRS and GSA have rightly angered taxpayers who have had to tighten their own belts.

    But the Astronomical Society conference is strictly business and the downside of missing it is considerable: The government loses touch, government scientists fall behind and we all lose an opportunity to forge ahead. For NASA, which funds about 300,000 jobs at more than a dozen NASA centers and facilities, its cap of 50 civil service scientists and contractors (or even100, possible only with a waiver) at an American Astronomical Society meeting is very low.

    Science careers are attractive in many ways, but across the country, sequestration is devastating budgets for research. In many disciplines, 10 proposals for new research projects are rejected for every one that is funded. This turns serious scientific progress into a scattershot lottery and discourages students from pursuing the kind of research careers that fuel our economy in the long term.

    Young people are attracted to science through astronomy. Students come to our talks, star parties and classes. Fascination about black holes and dark energy motivates them to study critical subjects like physics, mathematics and computing. Astronomy research experiences for undergraduates — funded by the National Science Foundation, among others — are an effective way to retain students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, majors.

    STEM disciplines are critical for the future of our nation. The skills for astronomy are used in many other fields of science, not to mention areas like data mining and computing that are at the heart of modern businesses.

    As a follow-up, it should be noted that Crazy Tom Coburn sponsored amendments basically barring the National Science Foundation from conducting political science research (and before you cheer that, note the fact that this affects basically “any and all research in any and all disciplines funded by the NSF” as noted in a linked story from The Huffington Post). The Daily Kos post also tells us that Lamar Smith, GOP chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, falsely charged that scientists hid data that supposedly contradicted the science on man-made climate change (wonder if that came from Glenn Beck or Jones, or both?).

    And as noted here, Smith has pushed a bill requiring that the “NSF submit to the committee the technical peer review discussions conducted among NSF scientists who decide on grant awards” (great, just what we need – politicians deciding what scientific development projects should be funded; I might be OK with that if everyone in Congress had the background of, say, Rush Holt, who is a legitimate scientist also, but that is hardly the case).

    Oh, and as noted in the prior Daily Kos post, who did Smith appoint as chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight? Only the guy responsible for this. And as noted here, both Smith and Broun are charter members of the Tea Party caucus.

    I’ll let the following excerpt from here sum things up a bit…

    The National Laboratories aren’t just crucial to America’s scientific infrastructure. They are also powerful engines of economic development. Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow has calculated that over the past half century, more than half of the growth in our nation’s GDP has been rooted in scientific discoveries — the kinds of fundamental, mission-driven research that we do at the labs. This early-stage research has led to extraordinary real-world benefits, from nuclear power plants to compact fluorescent bulbs to blood cholesterol tests. Because the United States has historically valued scientific inspiration, our government has provided creative scientists and engineers with the support, facilities, and time they need to turn brilliant ideas into real-world solutions.

    Basing funding decisions solely on short-term fiscal goals risks the heart of America’s scientific enterprise and long-term economic growth — diminishing our world leadership in science, technology and in the creation of cutting-edge jobs.

    Sequestration won’t have an immediate, visible impact on American research. Laboratories will continue to open their doors, and scientists and engineers will go to work. But as we choke off our ability to pursue promising new ideas, we begin a slow but inexorable slide to stagnation. We can’t afford to lose a generation of new ideas and forfeit our national future.

    So just remember to “thank” a Teahadist if you ever encounter one of these individuals for our continually depressed economy and employment opportunities, to say nothing of strangling funding for technologies such as those I’ve just noted that could lead to job growth and return us to a measure of middle-class prosperity once again. Heckuva job!

    Update 7/9/13: And here is more on how the sequester supposedly isn’t hurting anyone (here too).

    Update 8/16/13: Ditto here.

  • Continuing (and sticking with the theme of science a bit), I came across this item recently from The Weakly Standard…

    Mention Ronald Reagan to an avowed environmentalist, and you’ll generally elicit a groan. In the conventional telling, the Gipper appointed right-wing extremists to key environmental positions and proceeded to give timber companies and energy interests a free hand to despoil nature. Had Congress not stopped him, the tale goes, all of the environmental progress of the 1970s would have been swept away in the 1980s.

    This tale fits certain historical narratives, and Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, arguably helped promote it by allowing his own appointees, some of them drawn from the ranks of professional environmentalists, to criticize the Reagan administration and its policies.

    Reagan’s actual environmental record is quite a bit more nuanced. It’s true he did not follow the command-and-control regulatory approach favored by his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, or even fellow California Republican Richard Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed both the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. But the approach Reagan did take—endeavoring to protect nature without expanding government or hurting the economy—may offer a blueprint, particularly in these times of sharp partisan division, for a conservation agenda that small government conservatives, libertarians, and conservationists alike can embrace.

    By standards of typical wingnuttia, I have to say that there’s a measure of truth in a lot of what Eli Lehrer points out here, particularly on cap and trade and the so-called Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone-layer-depleting, climate change-promoting chlorofluorocarbons, as noted here.

    However, it would be disingenuous to talk about Number 40 on the subject of the environment and not also point out that as good as Reagan was on the stuff noted above, he was awful when it came to exporting health-endangering pesticides that were banned in the U.S., as noted here.

    Lehrer also tells us the following:

    A similar approach was applied in the 1985 farm bill, which required farmers receiving federal subsidies to comply with various conservation standards before they could cultivate erosion-prone soils and forbade the use of federal money to drain wetlands. These standards, currently under fire as Congress considers a huge new farm bill, have saved money while avoiding hundreds of millions of tons of soil erosion and protecting millions of acres of wetlands.

    Does Lehrer mean the 1985 farm bill that Reagan vetoed, which provided badly needed credit to farmers, a veto lowlighted by The Sainted One’s statement that “we should keep the grain and export the farmers” (here)?

    I believe what follows, though, is a more representative sampling of what passed for environmental policy under Reagan (from here, written after his death in 2004)…

    The list of rollbacks attempted by (James Watt and Anne Gorsuch, the leaders Reagan selected to head the Department of Interior and the U.S. EPA, respectively) is as sweeping as those of the current administration. Gorsuch tried to gut the Clean Air Act with proposals to weaken pollution standards “on everything from automobiles to furniture manufacturers — efforts which took Congress two years to defeat,” according to (Phil Clapp, president of National Environmental Trust). Moves to weaken the Clean Water Act were equally aggressive, crescendoing (sic) in 1987 when Reagan vetoed a strong reauthorization of the act only to have his veto overwhelmingly overridden by Congress. Assaults on Superfund were so hideous that Rita Lavelle, director of the program, was thrown in jail for lying to Congress under oath about corruption in her agency division.

    The gutting of funds for environmental protection was another part of Reagan’s legacy. “EPA budget cuts during Reagan’s first term were worse than they are today,” said Frank O’Donnell, director of Clean Air Trust, who reported on environmental policy for The Washington Monthly during the Reagan era. “The administration tried to cut EPA funding by more than 25 percent in its first budget proposal,” he said. And massive cuts to Carter-era renewable-energy programs “set solar back a decade,” said Clapp.

    Topping it all off were efforts to slash the EPA enforcement program: “The enforcement slowdown was staggering,” said a staffer at the House Energy and Commerce Committee who helped investigate the Reagan administration’s enforcement of environmental laws during the early ’80s. “In the first year of the Reagan administration, there was a 79 percent decline in the number of enforcement cases filed from regional offices to EPA headquarters, and a 69 percent decline in the number of cases filed from the EPA to the Department of Justice.”

    And when it comes to Reagan and science, let’s not forget about his episode with the solar panels his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, installed on the White House, mentioned above and also noted here (I don’t want to even imagine how much further along this country would be in clean energy development were it not for that sorry episode in particular; Reagan “almost single-handedly ruined American leadership” in that industry, as noted here).

    What else could we have expected, though, from a guy who once said that 80 percent of the hydrocarbon pollution on earth came from vegetation (uh, no – and as far as signing the strictest air pollution laws in the U.S., as the Reagan hagiographers would have us believe, the credit for that goes to Ronnie’s predecessor as CA governor, Pat Brown, both of which are noted here).

  • Finally (and returning to the Teahadists), I give you the following (here)…

    The bipartisan immigration reform proposal currently under consideration in the Senate should have been introduced in the House first, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Monday.

    “It’s a good thing that for an … immigration bill to pass, it’s gotta pass the House. This is the more difficult hurdle, so let’s start there,” Johnson said in an interview on radio station 1130 WISN. “It could’ve guided the Senate’s actions.”

    That might be the most cowardly anti-immigration argument that I’ve ever heard (sniff, sniff – “the House should have come out with theirs first – WAAAHHH!”).

    I guess Johnson needs a lesson in Congressional procedure. As noted here, the House does indeed have its own version of an immigration bill (which, of course, doesn’t provide a path to legal citizenship for undocumented workers, unless a judge approves it – peachy). If both bills pass (fairly certain despite Johnson in the Senate I think, as well as “Calgary” Cruz, but highly problematic in the U.S. “House of Tea”), then they’ll be worked into a single bill via a House-Senate committee. If the new, merged bill from the committee passes both bodies of Congress, it will go to Number 44 for either his signature or his veto.

    It’s more than a little pathetic to me that Johnson needs to be told this, to say nothing of the fact that dunderheaded voters in Wisconsin voted him into office in the first place (though we have nothing to brag about in PA with “No Corporate Tax” Toomey, despite his recent good work on guns).

    All of this is typical Beltway kabuki in the end, though. No less a Republican Party “elder” than Huckleberry Graham (and what does that tells us about their current state?) has pointed out that it doesn’t matter who his party runs in 2016 if immigration fails (here). Which is a very real possibility.

    That would be a terrible tragedy on personal, human terms, to say nothing of a totally low political farce.

    Update: Your daily dose of fail from “Orange Man” here

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    2 Responses to Tuesday Mashup (6/18/13)

    1. […] as noted here). Also, to give you an idea of how supposedly enlightened Smith is on these matters, this (second bullet) tells us how he falsely charged that scientists hid data that supposedly […]

    2. […] for McIntyre, this “Democrat” voted with the Repugs here for that typically idiotic bill to prevent DHS from using taxpayer dollars to buy and stockpile […]

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