Friday Mashup (7/12/13)

  • I give you the latest screeching from The Daily Tucker here

    Republicans on Capitol Hill are becoming frustrated with Democratic attempts to block legislation to reform the IRS with funding cuts and other punitive measures. Republicans insist that the IRS should be “punished,” while Democrats fear a new precedent that could lead to budget cuts in other agencies.

    “There’s fear that [the IRS scandal] is becoming politicized,” a Republican insider on Capitol Hill told The Daily Caller. “There’s hope that at least one of the House investigations will go somewhere, but there’s still doubt” that Democrats will manage to block IRS-related legislation.

    Wow, another Repug Party congressional fiasco becoming “politicized”! Fetch the smelling salts; I may faint!

    Actually, I think the appropriate response is this – tell me something in Washington that isn’t politicized. When we can’t even get a food stamp budget passed (as noted from here), then we’re truly in strange, uncharted waters, people.

    And I think an even more appropriate response is here, including the following:

    As part of their aversion to taxation, and the Internal Revenue Service, House Republicans are planning on slashing $3 billion from the IRS’s already pathetically underfunded budget, and besides just hating the concept of taxation, there are several likely reasons for starving one of the most critical departments in government. For one thing, Republicans have made no secret (that) underfunding the IRS is punitive for what they cite as “inappropriate actions” over the phony scandal when IRS employees performed their due diligence in scrutinizing political groups filing applications for 501(C)(3) “social welfare” tax exempt status to conceal dark money donors in political campaigns. In fact, slashing the IRS funding is part of a series of GOP bills to punish the IRS that includes withholding 10% of the agency’s enforcement budget until they stop investigating conservative political groups’ applications according to a so-called “taxpayer watchdog” group.

    Cutting the IRS budget, especially enforcement and collections, is starving the government of much needed revenue, especially when Republicans are in a debt and deficit cutting frenzy. In 2006 alone, the IRS was so pathetically underfunded, and understaffed, they left $385 billion in owed and uncollected taxes primarily from corporations and the rich. The Republicans’ deliberate underfunding serves more than just punishing the agency for doing its job policing phony “social welfare” applications and thwarting the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, they are letting their wealthy contributors off the hook for taxes they owe. Plus, as a value-added benefit, starving the government of funds is part and parcel of their oath to lobbyist Grover Norquist to assist him in cutting “government down to size where he can drown it in a bathtub.” What better way to underfund the government than neutering the agency responsible for executing House Republicans’ oath to “lay and collect taxes… to pay the debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States?”

    Yes, the so-called “Star Trek” spoof was idiotic (here), but trust me – I’ve worked in our glorious private sector long enough to see much worse examples of companies wasting their money in the name of “employee engagement.”

    Nobody likes to pay taxes, but if we’re going to have “nice things” at all, then that’s what we have to do. And as noted here, federal taxes remain at a record low level for middle-income families. That’s not the problem. This is.

    Trying to slam the IRS like this is nothing but a typically disingenuous way to try and score political points. Talk to me about how we’re going to try and address the rampant wage inequality in this country instead, or don’t waste my time.

  • Next, I give you the latest from the right-wing outrage factory (here)…

    Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) delivered the GOP’s weekly address (last) Saturday, hammering at Senate Democrats over last week’s increase in student loan rates.

    Jenkins drew upon Independence Day, highlighting the American belief of ensuring “our children are free to live a better life.” She said that Monday’s doubling of interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent went against that principle, urging Democrats to pass bipartisan reform.

    “Today these essentials of the American Dream are at risk,” Jenkins said. “Last week, I spoke with hundreds of college students who are concerned they won’t have the same opportunities their parents had. They find it hard to see beyond paying off their education, stretching to afford rent, and finding a job in this tough economy.”

    Back in late May, the House passed a bill that would switch the student loan rates system to a market-based platform, out of the hands of Congress. The Smarter Solutions for Students Act makes subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans reset every year, based on 10-year Treasury notes, plus 2.5 percent. Reuters noted in its May report that Senate Democrats were instead in favor of keeping rates of 3.4 percent for two additional years, and the White House was ready to veto the House plan on the premise that students would face uncertainty.

    So, just to recap: The Senate Dems favored keeping the Stafford student loan rate fixed at 3.4 percent, but the Senate Republicans (under the guise of the Orwellian-sounding Smarter Solutions for Students Act) favored having the loans reset upward every year. Everybody got that?

    In fact, U.S. Senate Democrat Elizabeth Warren had an even better idea (from here)…

    Last month, I introduced the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act. The idea is simple: For one year, we should give students that same low 0.75% interest rate the big banks get.

    Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have introduced legislation to keep interest rates at their current 3.4% level for two years. Neither is a long-term fix. Instead, both are designed to give us some breathing room to keep rates from doubling while we tackle the problem of rising college costs and a trillion dollars in student loan debt outstanding.

    (And to tell those idiots in the Senate what you think of them for voting against holding the line on student loan interest rates, click here.)

    Update: And speaking of Warren, kudos to her for this also.

    Meanwhile, in the House where Jenkins resides, her “leader” John Boehner came up with a “variable rate” student loan scheme (here) where a student’s rate would be reset every year, so that the loan rate the student paid as a freshman would likely increase each year until they graduated (kind of mirroring the nonsense in the Senate).

    Simply put, here is what’s going on: The Democrats in Congress favor “direct” student loans which pretty much remove the banks as the middle men, with the students receiving loans directly from their colleges (hence the name). This is in opposition to the utter nonsense of our longstanding system of student loans, whereby the banks collected big fees for “servicing” loans (basically doing nothing) at the expense of the borrowers, turning them into debt slaves before they had the opportunity to earn a paycheck in their field of study (a system the Repugs in Congress very much want to institute once more).

    Such words and actions as those of Rep. Jenkins are not surprising in any way, given that the House Speaker of her party once told bankers “Know that I have all of you in my two trusted hands” here (before the Dems in Congress cleaned up this mess when they were returned to power in 2006; if that were still the case, we most definitely would not be contemplating returning to this insanity once more).

  • Continuing, it looks like we have more wingnut harrumphing over the recent decision to delay implementing the so-called “employer mandate” portion of “Obamacare” until 2015 (here), which is particularly ridiculous given that the delay was praised by business leaders here.

    All of which makes Repug U.S. House Rep Tom Marino look like even more of a joke than he already is (here).

  • Further, let’s return to Tucker Carlson’s crayon scribble page for this item

    Roger Stone – the colorful GOP operative who takes credit for tipping off the feds to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute habit – is feeling giddy.

    “It’s like Christmas in July,” Stone said by phone Monday.

    Spitzer, the disgraced Democrat who left office after his fondness for call girls came to light, announced over the weekend that he’s jumping back into politics and running for New York City comptroller.

    Stone says he’ll make sure Spitzer’s past is thoroughly discussed in the campaign.

    “He’s never addressed the crimes he has committed,” Stone said. “He’s going to be called out on each one of them. His record as attorney general will be reexamined.”

    Fair enough, but while we’re turning over all of these rocks, I personally want to hear the part again about how Spitzer faced prosecution from our prior ruling cabal under the Mann Act, a relic of our racist past federalizing crimes of vice that, up until the time it was instituted, had been left to local authorities for prosecution (yet another revolting contradiction from the “states’ rights” party), as noted here.

    Also, Roger Stone is a lot seamier of a character on the national stage than someone to be regarded as a “colorful” political operative. As noted from here:

    Stone is a legendary bottom-feeder (as noted here – second item), having visited X-rated sex clubs with his wife in Florida and “plac(ing) ads and pictures in racy publications and a website seeking sexual partners for himself and his second wife…he (also enjoyed) frequenting ‘Miami Velvet’ a swingers club in Miami.” Stone denied the report (of course).

    Stone also denied having anything to do with the Willie Horton ad that Lee Atwater ran against Michael Dukakis on behalf of Poppy Bush in 1988, and Stone also denied having anything whatsoever to do with the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” that halted the Miami Dade vote recount in Florida in November 2000 (I guess this is typical for a guy who says, “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack”).

    Also, Stone chaired a 1995 presidential bid by Sen. Arlen Specter (then a Repug, of course – he admitted that much anyway), and in 2004, Stone was responsible for distributing “Kerry/Specter” signs in a successful effort to defeat Dem Joe Hoeffel, who was challenging Specter for his Senate seat at the time (interesting company Arlen keeps, isn’t it?).

    Oh, and remember the godawful Citizens United ruling? Well, Stone originally founded the group in 2008 under the name “Citizens United Not Timid” against Hillary Clinton (I’ll let you, dear reader, determine the meaning of the acronym).

    More on Stone is here in Jeffrey Toobin’s fine New Yorker column.

    I don’t give a damn if Eliot Spitzer wins election as New York City comptroller or not. And I don’t care if he runs for office against Kanye West, Amanda Bynes or Honey Boo Boo. As long as he chooses to involve himself in another political campaign in response, let’s just be clear about who (or, more precisely, what) Roger Stone actually is, OK?

  • JW_0712

  • Finally, I have to depart from the usual fare once more and say a few words about a friend of mine.

    To start with an incredibly obvious remark, I should point out that, when you put your opinion out there the way I do (whether in printed form through “dead tree” media or online like this), you often are going to “travel with the herd” if you’re saying stuff that your audience wants to hear (and maybe get some decent traffic, though you really need to be on Twitter the way things are now, and I’m just not able to deal with that for news/political stuff), or, if you’re saying something against the prevailing wisdom, your comments are going to be few and far between (and your site traffic will reflect that). I’ve tried to aim for the middle, and I guess I’ve been successful some times and missed the boat, the water and the whole damn ocean at other times.

    (And by the way, that’s not a complaint. I don’t comment on other sites for a lot of reasons, mainly because surfing other sites interferes with my for-profit activities. I’ve always said that I’m a little fish in the great big bloggy ocean out there, or whatever other comparison you want to use. If I’m not active at other sites, then it’s really unrealistic to expect everyone in the world to be active here.)

    So my point (finally), is that, when I get comments, I remember them. And there was a time when a guy named John Wible of Bucks County, Pa was a pretty frequent commenter at the Blogger site that I link to over in the right column (the whole Blogger vs. WordPress thing is another long, boring story from ’08 that I’ll save for another time).

    I knew of John’s writing in the Bucks County Courier Times for about the last five or six years I guess – I once remarked how good it was at the Blogger site and he started leaving comments, which I appreciate (John was the anonymous commenter on this post pertaining to the Bucks GOP shenanigans with moving the polling location from the Creekside Apartments in Bensalem, PA – infamously referred to as a “Democrat poll” by an unnamed bottom-feeder of our county government – to some place nearby with difficult access at best for an elder population of, yes, primarily registered Democrats…it also helped that we were pretty much of one mind politically, as I’m sure you can guess).

    Leaving site comments the way he did led to an informal Email correspondence and a phone call from time to time to talk about politics and to find out how he was doing (I knew he had some kind of a gradually worsening heart/pulmonary condition that may have been tied to smoking, though I don’t know that for certain and don’t claim to speak with authority on that subject). I told him that I could definitely appreciate being in a position where you were getting called any one of a variety of names from those who took issue with what you had to say (to give you a taste of how lopsided the Courier Times is in favor of Republicans in general, the paper’s editorial page editor, Guy Petroziello, once referred to John in print as a “flaming liberal” – I responded to Petroziello and said that I’ll await the paper’s print publication of the term “flaming conservative” when referring to an editorial page writer…of course I received no response).

    I knew that John’s hospitalizations were becoming more frequent over the last year or so, and I’d heard from a mutual friend that he wanted to spend more time with his family and get away from all the political back-and-forth stuff given the state of his health. I more than understood, and for that reason I left him to himself, even though I missed the occasional phone calls where he would greet me with “hey, buddy” before we started chewing the fat over which conservative numbskull was given column space in that day’s edition of the Courier Times.

    On Sunday the 7th I received an Email telling me that a message appeared on his Facebook page saying that John had passed due to pneumonia (here). I’ll allow our mutual acquaintance to offer the following tribute:

    My friend was a profoundly kind man, with a good heart, he loved his family and loved people, he loved to make people laugh. He shared my political ideology and was kind to send me an e mail when he read my letters to the editor. We shared phone numbers but never got to speak. I regret that. I promise in his honor to keep writing to the editor and annoying him with my opinions until I too earn the badge of honor..”flaming liberal”. Be at peace my friend, I pray for his family as they need to be comforted and for surely my friend John Wible is in heaven long ago.

    I never met John Wible face to face, but I believe that I’m a better person because I knew him through his words and the down-to-earth, common-sense manner in which we communicated and by the topics we discussed. Our family of course extends our deepest sympathies to John’s family and friends.

    We’re the poorer for his loss, but at times like this, I think we can derive strength from knowing that he traveled with us and can draw on happy memories for solace, enabling us to keep up the fight.

    Which we most certainly will do – may we all be “flaming liberals” one day too.

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    2 Responses to Friday Mashup (7/12/13)

    1. Jeff Wible says:

      Thank you for your kind words about my father, John Wible. He truly cared as much for his fellow man as he did for himself. He gladly helped others without regard for thanks or praise and expected the same of his sons. All that he ever wanted was equal opportunity & rights for all. He is a man that I’m proud to call my Dad. I only hope when my time on earth is done, I can measure up to be half the man that he was.

      We will miss him dearly. Thanks again.

    2. doomsy says:

      You’re welcome, Jeff – thanks for the good words.

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