Friday Mashup (9/27/13)

September 27, 2013
  • I give you the latest in faux indignation from clownhall.com (here)…

    In the case of Obamacare, Members of Congress of both parties did not want to give up their superior health insurance for the system they imposed on the rest of us. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, saw this for the hypocrisy it is and proposed an amendment to the bill that forced members and their staff to do just that. It made the final cut in the bill because to oppose it would be to admit before passage the system progressives sought to force on Americans was inferior to what existed.

    Now that it’s the law, well, that’s a different story. Congress, with significant pressure from President Obama, forced the Office of Personnel Management to “reinterpret” the law to allow significant subsidies (our money) to be paid to them and their staff to cover the cost of premiums. If you’re in a similar income bracket and situation in the private sector you can’t get the deal they gave themselves.

    As noted here from Factcheck.org, the so-called “special subsidy” for the health care law “.. Is Simply A Premium Contribution” The Federal Government Has “Long Made To The Health Insurance Policies Of Its Workers.”

    And “Democrat-controlled Senate “ – bless Derek Hunter’s pointed little wingnut head.

    And get a load of this…

    Once the president started to delay, change and ignore parts of his own law, Republicans should have gone straight to court to force Democrats to implement the law as written or repeal it.

    Ummm – I wonder if this nematode knows that the Affordable Care Act was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court, including the individual mandate? Or that the whole damn thing came from the Heritage Foundation via Willard Mitt Romney anyway?

    Yes, I know – lather, rinse, repeat…

    It gets better…

    When Rush Limbaugh made his Sandra Fluke joke the left mobilized and to this day remain in combat mode. They harass him and his sponsors constantly. Rush apologized, but that wasn’t good enough.

    I’m not even going to make the effort to defend Flush Limbore, who is indefensible on so many levels.

    A joke? Try 46 personal attacks on Fluke, as noted here (and he deserves every bit of the fallout noted here).

    Besides, “the professional left,” or whatever we’re called these days, has nothing on the Teahadists, who hate the Affordable Care Act so much that they even turned on one of their own in Congress, who sponsored a dozen bills to repeal it (here).

    When Republican candidates no one had ever heard of made stupid comments about rape, every Republican was made to answer for them. Democrats had three prominent perverts in the news in San Diego and New York in the last month, people who did abhorrent things – not just say them – and it took weeks for any Democrat to be asked to simply distance themselves from them.

    Bob Filner is out as mayor of San Diego, and Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner both lost their elections. So what logical reason is there for still talking about them?

    Hunter then engages in some truly hilarious guilt by association concerning health care reform and someone named Allan Brauer of the Sacramento, CA “Democrat” Party, lamenting that “were conservatives to treat Allan Brauer the way progressives treat their political opponents, every time he engaged in any political discourse this (and his other comments) would be trotted out like a scarlet letter to discredit him” (I’ll admit that Brauer’s behavior was pretty unconscionable, but for what it’s worth, at least he apologized, as noted here; he had a point about Cruz, but he took it way too far).

    Maybe if conservatives did a little better job of self-policing (despite Hunter’s bleating about every Repug quite rightly having to answer for “legitimate rape” Akin and his pals), then there wouldn’t be a need to call them out, even though Brauer definitely took it to extremes, like I said; an example is Sherri Goforth, the aide to Repug U.S. House Rep Diane Black, who, as noted here, sent an Email depicting Barack Obama as two eyes peering out of a black background (and I am not aware of any apology from Goforth for that disgusting mailer).

  • Next, I have to confess that I’d never seen the phrase “big abortion” used before, until now anyway – I guess it shouldn’t be surprising in the least that it came from Marjorie Dannenfelser (here)…

    The Washington Post got just one thing right in its (recent) editorial: the results of Virginia’s November 5th election will have widespread implications for the fate of abortion facilities – and women – across the Commonwealth. The next occupant of the governor’s mansion will be responsible for enforcing the abortion facility health and safety standards enacted by the General Assembly and the Board of Health last year.

    The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has already vowed to unilaterally help existing abortion clinics skirt the regulations. It is this unwavering loyalty to the abortion industry – which has likewise fought tooth and nail against being regulated – instead of the health and safety of women that should give every Virginian pause.

    I think it’s actually grotesque for Dannenfelser to basically say that the abortion restrictions in the “Virginia is for Lovers” state are intended for “the health and safety of women.”

    As noted here (from November 2011)…

    The regulations, commissioned by the state legislature and written by the Virginia Department of Health, are largely unrelated to patient health and safety. They would treat abortion clinics as if they are hospitals if the clinics provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month and would enforce architectural design standards that will be almost impossible for most clinics to meet.

    For instance, a clinic must have 5-foot-wide hallways, 8-foot-wide areas outside of procedure rooms, specific numbers of toilets and types of sinks and all of the latest requirements for air circulation flow and electrical wiring. Each clinic must also have a parking spot for every bed, despite the fact that first-trimester abortions don’t require an overnight stay. Further, Department of Health employees will be allowed to enter an abortion facility at any time without notice or identification.

    Virginia Board of Health member Jim Edmundson tried to introduce a number of amendments…that would lessen the severity of the clinic restrictions and give some facilities a chance to comply. However, all but one of the amendments were rejected without a vote. For instance, he tried to distinguish between first-trimester surgical abortions and first-trimester medication abortions, so that the regulations would only apply to surgical procedures, but the amendment was not even seconded.

    “The board is not even seconding proposed amendments being offered,” said Patrick Hurd, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeast Virginia, who observed the comment and voting process in Richmond on Thursday. “They’re so intimidated by the presence of the attorney general, they’re not even allowing these things to come up for a vote.”

    The attorney general being Ken Cuccinelli, the guy currently losing to Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race…

    “(As of November 2011), none of our facilities would be in compliance with these regulations,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, which has five clinics in the state that provide abortions.

    The point of the regulation changes was to outlaw abortion clinics from practicing in Virginia, period, endangering the health of women seeking a perfectly legal medical procedure.

    Which is exactly what Dannenfelser and her minions want.

    And as noted here, Dannenfelser defended the odious Roy Blunt Amendment, in which the Missouri Repug U.S. Senator tried to “grant employers significant discretion in deciding what kind of health care they want to provide workers” (translated, that means employers could refuse to provide coverage for anything whatsoever to do with those dreaded, icky lady parts). Dannefelser also claimed that Planned Parenthood generated about $300 million in “profit,” which was properly debunked by Politifact (this and a lot more stuff on Dannenfelser can be accessed from here).

  • Continuing, it looks like former CIA head and General David Petraeus was the subject of recent protests when he spoke at City College of New York.

    For the wingnut perspective, I give you this from Fix Noise…

    FOX’s Jesse Watters confronted S. Sandor John, a professor of Latin American studies, about encouraging the student body to pester General Petraeus.

    John said “Students and faculty […] are not okay with a death squad organizer and somebody who organized drone attacks.”

    Jesse also spoke with CUNY students who supported Petraeus’ presence on campus, calling the General a “great professor”

    I don’t know what’s funnier – the fact that the Foxies don’t even bother to acknowledge the charges against Petraeus (here and here), or that Jesse Watters is actually given the imprimatur of respectability (here).

    Meanwhile, I think I should make note of the reality perspective from the same event (here)…

    A new video was just released of police brutalizing one of the City University of New York (CUNY) students protesting a fundraiser featuring former CIA Director and CUNY Macaulay Honors College adjunct professor David Petraeus.

    That video – taken from a new angle than the ones previously released and first featured here on The Dissenter – shows about a dozen police officers swarming a student, slamming him against the hood of a car and holding him there.

    Once pinned down, the video shows a white-shirted officer punch him in the head a couple times and another officer punch him in the head from another angle. He also had his head held in place from the back of neck with a nightstick when pinned down on the ground after being pulled from the car. [*Note: This takes place 5:50 into the embedded video segment.]

    The brutal blows were met with screams and shouts from students, no defense to policemen on a mission.

    Six students eventually were arrested, now known as the “CUNY 6.” They face charges of disorderly conduct, riot, resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration and will have a date in court on October 16.

    And though this is an important story, it really isn’t one with major import on foreign or domestic policy (not saying it shouldn’t be, though).

    Here is my point; if Fix Noise sanitized something like this, which will probably end up as little more than a blip on the media radar, imagine how they “report” national or international stories of actual consequence.

  • Further, “Pastor” Gerson at the WaPo goes there on Francis and teh gay here (mentioning the Pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who knew “the power of a dramatic gesture”)…

    So Francis observed: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.”

    This teaching — to always consider the person — was disorienting from the beginning. The outsiders get invited to the party. The prodigal is given the place of honor. The pious complain about their shocking treatment. The gatekeepers find the gate shut to them. It is subversive to all respectable religious order, which is precisely the point. With Francis, the argument gains a new hearing.

    (Oh, and typical for Gerson, he snuck in a dig earlier in his column about “progressive“ churches on “a panting, unsuccessful search for relevance” – as is usually the case, you’re left wondering what he said for a second or two before you realize just how insulting it really was).

    Gerson really shouldn’t say anything about the gays, though, given his de facto endorsement of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria (here). Basically, Gerson piled on then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 for the latter’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, when in fact Gerson was (still is?) a member of…

    ..the Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. (Gerson’s) congregation and the nearby Truro Church, (which) played the key role in leading 11 Virginia parishes out of the Episcopal Church after the Church consecrated Gene Robinson, an openly gay man as bishop in 2003. Most of these parishes joined the Church of Nigeria, which Akinola leads.

    Yep, I would say that you could classify this under “the power of a dramatic gesture” also; besides, let’s not be in a rush to throw plaudits at the still-new Pope on the question of human sexuality, particularly in light of this.

  • Finally (and returning to the health care law), I give you the following from Mikey The Beloved’s stenographer in chief, Gary Weckselblatt of the Bucks County Courier Times (here)…

    Democrats and Republicans each reside within their own truth.

    That was never more evident than the recent GOP House vote to fund all government operations, with the notable exception of President Barack Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act.

    Moments after the 230-189 vote for the Continuing Resolution — only two Democrats and one Republican switched sides — the political spin machines worked to churn raw cream into sweet butter over an impending government shutdown.

    The headline on press releases from Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, Middletown, and Patrick Meehan, R-7, Drexel Hill, said the vote meant government would continue running.

    For Democrats such as Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, D-13, Jenkintown, however, a government shutdown and the nation’s default were looming.

    One vote and the two parties’ opinions are as divergent as Oscar and Felix.

    I’ve had to endure some truly awful columns from Gary Weckselblatt over the years, but this may actually be the worst of all. It is the ultimate embodiment of the “both sides are just as bad” narrative. This might as well be called “The Health Care Reform Issue Is Too Confusing For Me To Understand, So Instead, I’m Just Going To Give Up And Write Nothing But Snark.”

    I’ll tell you what – here is an actual news story with actual reporting, something Weckselblatt is apparently incapable of crafting, even though it’s supposed to be his job (more is also here and here)…

    The House of Representatives passed a 2014 continuing resolution Friday with a vote of 230 to 189. The $986.3 billion stopgap bill would fund the government until Dec. 15, preventing a government shutdown, but it’s expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate, as it also defunds the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    It was the 42nd vote the GOP has taken to repeal the new health care law. The Senate is expected to restore funding and return the bill to the House. If lawmakers cannot agree on a funding measure by Sept. 30, there will be a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

    So yes, the Republicans in the House passed the continuing resolution to fund the government, stripping out the funding for the Affordable Care Act in the process. So they are technically correct in saying that they passed the CR over to the Senate.

    Now that it’s there, the bill will have the funding for the Act reinserted into it when the filibuster of “Calgary” Cruz eventually ends with the conclusion of the “filibuster” by “Calgary” Cruz (which, ostensibly, is the reason for his filibuster antics, though in reality the point is to gin up more phony outrage, to say nothing of dollars from campaign contributors, for his 2016 presidential run). And when the funding is reinserted, the bill will be sent back to the House, where it likely will fail to pass.

    So Schwartz’s remark is based on that eventuality (smartly moving a step or two ahead of things –she’s such a bright lady that she should run for governor :-)). And guess who now shares that view?

    Boehner_Time_Shutdown_0926
    Oh, and a budget deal has to be approved by September 30th, the end of the government calendar year, or else we really will have a default for real (though Treasury has said October 17th, I believe). Of course, Obama could just reconsider doing this (yes, I know it’s a trick, but if it keeps the government running)…

    Also, if you want to know the polling on this issue, just look at this – it’s been pretty consistent for awhile now (the hell with Terry Madonna – yes, there are a lot opposed, but a lot are in favor also…what matters are the trends). And though this is a bit funny, it’s also a bit pathetic too (approval for the ACA rose 8 points among Repugs when it wasn’t called “Obamacare”).

    This is all a consequence of the truly lazy “reporting” on this issue, as noted here, and embodied by Weckselblatt – he really should stop stealing from his employer with this crap and click here at long last (i.e., take my advice and apply at Pottery Barn – probably looking for seasonal hires about now).

    And as I was about to put the wraps on this post, I came across this item (h/t Atrios) from Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly, opining on a similar column by Ron Fournier, who is an old hand at manufacturing the old “equivalency” narrative. I was struck by this excerpt in particular…

    At the risk of getting maudlin about it all, I’d say we all lose when respected journalists look at something like Boehner’s debt limit bill and see it as no worse than the President saying we ought to pay our bills and keep that separate from our differences over spending and taxing. The Equivalency Formula makes it impossible to see clown clothes, and thus encourages clowns to cut capers even more.

    And to take the circus metaphor to its logical conclusion, the calliope will keep playing, along with the parade of jugglers and fire-eaters while the acrobats swing high above, until one day, the show closes, the cleanup begins, the ring shuts down and the pitched tents are rolled up and put away for good, and we have nothing left.

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    Friday Mashup (9/20/13)

    September 20, 2013

  • Stop the presses! It looks like the Repugs FINALLY have their “alternative” to the Affordable Care Act (here)…

    Conservatives representing nearly three-quarters of the House Republican conference unveiled their proposed replacement for President Obama’s healthcare law Wednesday, delivering on a long-delayed GOP promise.

    The bill from the Republican Study Committee would fully repeal the 2010 law and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines.

    Ummm – well, in response, I give you mcjoan here

    To be fair, they include all the other non-reform reforms they’ve been rehashing for years—tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, high-risk pools—all the things that don’t actually don’t do anything to address the real problem in our health care system: the increasing, systemic cost of health care. But they don’t include any provision for lower-income people to purchase affordable insurance. They don’t include any of the popular Obamacare provisions, like young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plan or an end to lifetime limits on what insurance will pay.

    So what they’ve really got is tax cuts, as usual. But at least this time they’ll be for the middle class, too. So, progress?

    Because, when it comes to tax cuts (noted by Joan), never forget the following (and here is more wingnut mythology on this subject).

  • Next, did you know that Mikey the Beloved favored reinstituting a 21st-century version of Glass-Steagall (the Depression-era legislation insuring federal bank deposits and separating commercial and investment banking) in 2011 (here)?

    Of course, since we’re now in 2013…

    More than two-and-a-half years later, Fitzpatrick, vice chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, won’t commit to putting Glass-Steagall back in place.

    The Depression-era act was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to insure bank deposits while Glass-Steagall put up a firewall between commercial and investment banks.

    “I support building a wall to protect taxpayers and protect banking customers, I absolutely support that,” Fitzpatrick said.

    But first he wants the administration to implement The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which includes the Volcker Rule, proposed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, to prohibit banks from risking institutional money in certain speculative investments.

    More Mikey flim-flam BS (and of course, I’m sure Mikey’s newfound ambivalence has not one thing to do with the fact that this legislation was first championed by Dem U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts)…

    As noted here and here, Mikey’s fellow Repug U.S. House brethren want to do away with both Dodd-Frank and the Volcker Rule. But of course, President Hopey Changey is supposed to ride to the rescue and save this country from Mikey and his same-party playmates in the House, right?

    And I’m sure Mikey would be cheering President Obama on every step of the way.

    Sure he would (and as a point of reference, this tells us who was right and who was wrong about repealing Glass-Steagall in 1999…it was a bipartisan failure – opposing it may have been Byron Dorgan’s finest moment).

    And in other financial news related to Congress, it looks like “Man Tan” Boehner and his caucus in the House wants to play chicken with our economy again over the debt ceiling here, even though, as noted here, he said on five different occasions that he wouldn’t do that.

    Oh, and did you know that Number 44 was responsible for this country’s decline in median income, among other downward numbers, according to something called CNS News here?

    Meanwhile, in the world of reality, it should be noted that median income in this country (for the rest of the 99 percent “rabble,” most definitely including your humble narrator) has been declining for at least the last 10 years (here – more on this is here).

  • Continuing, we have Repug U.S. Senator John Thune propagandizing as follows here

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune is calling for the Senate to end the Obama administration’s controversial green vehicle loan program in the wake of news that the Department of Energy is selling off the $168 million loan it gave to financially troubled Fisker Automotive.

    “The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said Thune in a statement. “From Fisker and Vehicle Production Group, to the Chinese-owned A123, this administration should not be making questionable investments with the American people’s hard-earned money.”

    I wonder how many people know that the Fisker loan, as well as the loan program itself, stems from the ruinous reign of Obama’s predecessor (here)? And as noted here, Obama supposedly knew that Fisker was missing milestones in 2010, though neither of the docs mentioned in the AP story cited by Media Matters (and probably released to the AP by the Repugs) confirmed that.

    This is a bit of a rehash, I’ll admit; I already pointed out here, in a response to a WaPo column by that dim bulb Charles Lane, that it’s wrong to blame the Obama Administration for the Fisker loan (and besides, when you’re talking about federal loans to startups, some will pay off and some will go bust; what matters is the percentage of the former as opposed to the latter).

    And on the subject of “questionable” money decisions, this tells us that Thune, being a good little Repug from the Karl Rove/Grover Norquist template, sought to repeal the “death tax,” even though it mostly affected 0.1 percent of the households in this country. Also, Thune argued for more defense spending here, which, given how much we outspend the rest of the world, is beyond laughable.

  • Finally, this tells us the following…

    College freshmen that haven’t decided on a major may want to consider a degree in sales and marketing, medicine, health-care research and renewable energy to increase their odds of getting hired upon graduation.

    According to newly-released data from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, jobs in these fields will be in high demand come 2018. What’s more, the firm finds that students who concentrate on math, science, engineering and technology will have the largest array of job options post-graduation.

    Concentrating on math, science and technology positions will help college grads secure work because these skills cover a vast array of positions in our jobs economy, says John Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

    “When you get into fields that run across every type of company, it gives you such flexibility in your career,” Challenger says. “So many jobs today require people to have so much communication, through companies’ programs and policies, so that is very important as well.”

    I have no factual information to argue with this claims, but I would say that some context is missing here.

    Let’s start with this item, telling us that employers, five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers that ushered in this era of economic calamity, are STILL pushing to increase H-1B visas for foreign, temporary workers. That’s one prong of the pitchfork, if you will, stabbing U.S. workers (both new and experienced) in the metaphorical “gut.”

    The other is offshoring, which really hasn’t been reined in much by Number 44 (here), partly because he has supported trade deals that make the problem worse (here), including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as noted here (an update is here).

    I know this isn’t an original observation, but it needs to be shouted from the mountaintops; we have a jobs crisis in this country!


    And with all due respect to our young men and women entering college (who, along with their parents, may benefit from reading this), whether or not you choose to major in a STEM-related curriculum or not won’t mean a damn thing until we start investing in this country once more and do everything we possibly can to resolve it.


  • Friday Mashup (9/13/13)

    September 13, 2013
  • I give you the following recent column on the whole Syria thing, including this excerpt…

    Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said Monday that Congress would not be debating the use of U.S. military force against Syria if President Obama hadn’t drawn a “red line.”

    “I have no doubt that if the president had not drawn his red line we would not be having this discussion,” Coats said on the Senate floor. “It is the credibility issue that has brought us to this pass and it’s a credibility issue that is [Obama’s] own making.”

    Dan Coats has no room whatsoever to try and talk down to anyone on foreign policy issues (or most anything else when you get right down to it).

    As noted from here concerning the run-up to Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia (at which time Coats was our ambassador to Germany, giving that country the “old Europe” treatment a la Rummy I suppose)…

    “The German Government still says it will not support a war. But its leaders say that war may no longer be avoidable. And the US is twisting their arms hard. The US Ambassador to Berlin, Daniel Coats, has made clear this is a crucial test of Germany’s loyalty to the NATO alliance. The government’s stance has raised “serious doubts” about Germany’s reliability, Mr. Coats said.

    (And on unrelated matters, I think it’s interesting to note that Dubya chose Coats to try and “shepherd,” more or less, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, which of course failed. Also, Coats was one of 46 Senators to oppose the expansion of background checks for gun buyers, both of which are noted here.)

    I also came across this article on Syria and its chemical weapons stockpiles, which of course are indefensible; that being said, it should be noted that, in addition to Syria, Israel and Egypt also didn’t sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (interesting background at the very least); only 8 out of 193 countries are not party to the convention.

    Also, in the matter of Syria, I was wondering what that Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) foreign affairs columnist at the Murdoch Street Journal, none other than Bret Stephens, had to say on the matter (here).

    There’s a lot I could respond to, but partly because I’ve covered this stuff repeatedly in the past along with many others, I’ll stick to a couple of items (and yes, this stuff is completely predictable)…

    In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration’s evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The “dossier” consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as “we assess with high confidence” and “we have a body of information,” and “we have identified one hundred videos.”

    By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (here)…

    It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that “there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared,” that his inspectors had found “indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized,” and that Iraq had “circumvented the restrictions” on the import of missile parts.

    You mean the same Hans Blix who told CNN here that Bushco “chose to ignore” the fact that the case for the Iraq war was “rapidly falling apart”?

    The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn’t shock Democrats that the White House’s “trust us” approach isn’t winning converts. When you’ve spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don’t be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.

    That’s a truly hilarious comment to think about as you read this.

    I’ll tell you what – here is the Media Matters post where I got the CNN link; I’ll let them take a well-earned last shot at “foul sauce” Stephens on this issue.

    Update 1/2/14: A new year, but the same old Stephens wankery here (h/t Atrios)…

  • Next (and sticking with foreign policy), we also recently observed the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, a tragedy that has been politicized beyond all possible reason; here is another example…

    Gregory Hicks is no stranger to regular readers. The State Department official, who was second-in-command to murdered Amb. Chris Stevens in Libya, was one of the star witnesses during the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this past spring. Visibly frustrated by the lack of accountability over last year’s deadly attacks, Hicks appeared on ABC News to share his story. America Rising collected the highlights of his interview with George Stephanopolous, including Hicks’ assertion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assigned Stevens to man the under-protected diplomatic post, despite documented security risks. He also reiterated that he personally and “immediately” informed State brass that the raid was an act of terrorism:

    And yet the White House deliberately trotted out and stuck to false talking points about the nature and cause of the attack for weeks. Internal emails have revealed that the counter-factual narrative was concocted by members of the State Department’s “building leadership,” who wanted to avoid political criticism for their security failures. Two of the players most responsible for perpetrating this fallacious storyline have been rewarded by President Obama with promotions. Hicks also says that he’s been “shunted aside” because of his truth-telling:

    O-kaaaayyyyy

    Meanwhile, from the world of reality, I give you this

    Hicks was not punished for speaking out. (Host of “This Week With George”) Stephanopoulos read from a State Department letter which explained that “The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way” and his departure from Libya “was entirely unrelated to any statements” he made about Benghazi.

    In fact, Hicks’ claim about being punished contradicts his previous testimony about not returning to his assignment in Libya. During his testimony at a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing, Hicks explained that “my family really didn’t want me to go back. … So I voluntarily curtailed” returning to Libya.

    I think the real tragedy of BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI!!! is the fact that we really should have an intelligent investigation into exactly what happened, as opposed to an exercise in trying to score political points. Maybe we could have done a better job of providing an adequate level of embassy security, but if the State Department is going to take a hit, then so should the wretched “leadership” in the U.S. House, which didn’t provide adequate funding for security to begin with, as noted here.

  • Continuing, I thought this was an interesting little historical item…

    A commission looking into the death of former United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold has recommended that the UN reopen its investigation.

    Mr Hammarskjold’s plane was travelling to Congo on a peace mission in 1961 when it crashed in Zambia.
    A UN investigation in 1962 failed to find the cause of the mysterious crash.

    The commission said there were significant new findings, and that the US National Security Agency might hold crucial evidence.

    In a statement, the UN thanked the commission and said the UN secretariat would study its findings closely.

    And as noted here

    In Congo, one issue was who should control the southern province of Katanga, rich in copper, uranium and tin. Belgium, the ex-colonial power, backed a secessionist movement led by Moise Tshombe, as did the UK and US who had mining interests in the region.

    But Mr Hammarskjold from the start backed Congo’s elected central authorities – the Soviet-backed government of prime minister Patrice Lumumba, and later, after Mr Lumumba was deposed and murdered, Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula.

    Mr Hammarskjold wanted to pursue a negotiated solution between Mr Tshombe and the central government, a goal that became even more urgent after UN peacekeepers found themselves outgunned during an aggressive operation to drive foreign mercenaries from Katanga.

    Mr Tshombe was waiting to talk to him in Ndola on the night he died.

    Some 30 years after the crash, in 1992, two men who had served as UN representatives in Katanga just before and just after Hammarskjold’s death – Conor Cruise O’Brien and George Ivan Smith – wrote a letter to the Guardian claiming to have evidence that the plane was shot down accidentally, by mercenaries. In their view, a warning shot intended to divert the plane to alternative talks with industrialists in Katanga, in fact hit the plane and caused it to crash.

    In 1998 South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Desmond Tutu, published eight letters that suggested CIA, MI5 and South African intelligence were involved in sabotage of the aircraft. British officials responded that these were likely to be Soviet forgeries.

    In 2005, the head of UN military information in Congo in 1961, Bjorn Egge, told the Aftenposten newspaper he had noticed a round hole in Hammarskjold’s forehead when he saw the body in the mortuary. It could have been a bullet hole, he said, and it had been mysteriously airbrushed out of official photographs.

    Over the past four years, Swedish aid worker Goran Bjorkdahl has carried out extensive research and British academic Susan Williams published a book on Thursday – Who Killed Hammarskjold? Both conclude that it is likely the plane was brought down.

    So it’s possible that there was some kind of a conspiracy between the U.S. and the UK (and Belgium) to get their hands on the copper, uranium, and tin, and to keep it out of the hands of the then-Soviet Union, and Hammarskjold was in the way (though he had also planned to meet apparently with Tshombe, who was backed by the three countries not including the U.S.S.R. Curious, as is the Ace of Spades card supposedly found in Hammarskjold’s collar when you consider this).

  • Further, I have to say that I honestly don’t understand the right-wing attack on anything whatsoever related to clean or renewable energy, unless of course you just want to chalk it up to funding from oil-based energy interests and nothing more, and I’m sure there’s more than a bit of truth to that.

    I’m thinking of all of this, though, in response to this item

    After only about one month of production, the Obama-backed maker of batteries for the Chevy Volt will delay production again.

    Oh, of course, how stupid of me not to realize that an attack on anything whatsoever to do with clean energy is also an attack on that Kenyan Marxist Socialist pre-zee-dint of ours.

    Continuing…

    Autoblog rep0orts that the South Korea-based LG Chem plant in Holland, Michigan that started making Chevy Volt batteries about one month ago — about a year behind schedule — will pause work for six weeks until the Environmental Protection Agency confirms the registration status of an “unspecified, low-volume ingredient” used in their battery production.

    “We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved,” LG Chem said in a statement. “We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly. In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately six weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA.”

    The Daily Tucker also tells us the following…

    An Energy Department audit found that LG Chem’s workers were paid $842,000 to essentially do nothing, as some played video games, watched movies or played cards. Other workers even took the time to volunteer at charities.

    Of course, far be it for Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page to tell us that we’re talking about 400 workers here, according to this linked story.

    Sooo, while I’m no math whiz, I should point out that $842,000 divided by about 400 workers comes out to about $2,100. And while I’m not a fan of sloth on the job or not doing what you’re paid to do, I should note that that amount probably reflects a small portion of their actual salaries (like to see comparable figures for businesses that actually don’t take government funds).

    Meanwhile, it looks now that the Chevy Volt has set a monthly sales record (here), so I’m sure there’ll be a need for more batteries (as I said, though, attacking hybrids like this is something the wingnutosphere is inclined to do anyway, as noted here).

  • Finally, I didn’t want the week to end without some commentary on the elections in Colorado recently, where state senate head John Morse and state senator Angela Giron were ousted.

    Michael Sargent, Exec. Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, put it this way…

    There’s a reason why Republicans chose recalls instead of waiting for next year’s election: Hand-picked targets, odd timing, and extremely low turnout – made lower by 100-year-old recall rules that gutted early voting – created ideal conditions for the GOP, and because of it, they won two seats they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Right wing groups also ran hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of attack ads, but with help from thousands of grassroots Democrats…we fought back hard. You left it all on the field; so did Sens. Morse and Giron, and so did we.

    I think that’s largely true, particularly in the case of Morse, who lost by only 343 votes. You can’t tell me he would’ve lost a similar campaign in a regular election cycle with early voting (not so sure about Giron, but I probably have to do more research on that).

    For more on this, a Daily Kos post is here, a Media Matters post is here, and an article from The Hill is here. I think these are the following “takeaways”:

  • As Media Matters points out, even though Morse and Giron both lost, their positions on common-sense gun laws remain hugely popular in this country.
  • As the article from The Hill tells us, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz blamed the Republican wins on “voter suppression, pure and simple” (I think that’s most of the argument, but not all of it).
  • As the Daily Kos post tells us, it’s going to be awfully hard for any Democrat to win any election where the turnout rate is 21 percent (and yes, the suppression tactics had a lot to do with that, I’ll admit; the post also tells us that, maybe next time, our side should take some money spent on TV ads and put it into a stronger “ground game” instead).
  • We know that, as the Republican Party gets pulled more and more to the right, their chances of winning the White House get exponentially harder also, a problem totally of their own making (though we can never assume anything – I thought Dubya had no chance against Al Gore in 2000, and he mostly didn’t, but we know what happened). However, the other side of that coin, as it were, is that, in perpetually energizing their base, they remain revved up for the off-year and special elections (even though Dems have won their share of the latter).

    I see a bit of that in the results from Colorado. And I definitely see that in the campaigns in my locality, including Kevin Strouse running for the U.S. House against Mikey the Beloved (here), Allyson Schwartz (assuming she’s the Dem nominee) running against Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett for PA guv (here), and John Lewis and Mark Moffa running for Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County supervisors (here).

    (Oh, and by the way, I have a request for the Strouse campaign; try writing a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed of some type for the Bucks County Courier Times introducing yourself. That rag published that editorial weeks ago saying that they didn’t trust you, or something, and I never saw a response from the campaign. And stop sending me so many Emails about John Boehner – he isn’t the PA-08 rep!).

    We know that all elections are ultimately local, and the Repugs do too. And we need more involvement in the off-year contests if we’re going to effect change for real in this country, whether it’s on any of the vital issues we face.

    I don’t want to hear anyone else ask the question “why can’t we have common-sense gun laws?,” or “why can’t we have more of a commitment in this country to clean energy?,” or “why can’t we have serious infrastructure investment and job creation.” We saw the reason why earlier this week.

    We have to have an answer for the off-year election base energy of the other side, and it doesn’t matter what election we’re talking about. Unless we do, nothing will substantially change.

    That being said, I should note that I think this is pretty cool – this, from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, is a map of everyone in this country who donated on behalf of Morse and Giron.

    There’s still much to do, but that’s a good start.


  • Friday Mashup (9/6/13)

    September 7, 2013

  • I give you the following from the Bucks County Courier Times earlier in the week:

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick used the national Republican Weekly Address on Saturday to criticize President Barack Obama’s policies for health care and energy.

    “Nearly five years into the Obama presidency, the workers who drive our economy see nothing but roadblocks coming out of Washington,” Fitzpatrick said in the Labor Day weekend speech.

    The 8th District Republican, who recorded the talk Thursday in Philadelphia, has been critical of Obama’s Affordable Care Act in visits to several area chambers of commerce in recent months.

    No word on whether or not Mikey the Beloved has spoken to actual non-Chamber of Commerce residents of PA-08 for their feedback on the Affordable Care Act, by the way (I’ll address his comment about the ACA and the alleged increase in premiums shortly…and in the matter of the Keystone XL pipeline which Mikey also supports, I give you the following from here and here).

    I wonder if it’s supposed to be a bit of a backhanded compliment to Mikey that he was asked to give the Repug response to Obama’s weekly address on what probably is the day when people are least likely to pay attention to it because it’s the last unofficial weekend of summer (and by the way, to respond to “roadblock Mikey” properly, click here).

  • And keeping with the theme of the health care law, I give you the following from here (looks like The Weakly Standard needs a copy editor)…

    A local report from Green Bay, Wisconsin says that health care premiuns (sic) could increase up to 125 percent because of Obamacare:

    Half a million Wisconsinites will soon have to open up their pocket books for health care coverage,” says a local anchor. “And new estimates show, it may be costly. … The state’s office of the commissioner of insurance released estimates of how premium rates for individuals will be changing under the Affordable Care Act.”

    In response, I give you the following from here

    (A Rand Corporation) Analysis suggests that comparisons of average premiums with and without the Affordable Care Act may overstate the potential for premium increases. Sweeping statements about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on premiums should be interpreted very carefully because the law has complex effects that differ depending on individuals’ age and smoking status, the actuarial value of the plan chose, individuals” eligibility for federal tax credits, and state implementation decisions. Once we adjust for age, actuarial value, and tobacco use, nongroup premiums are estimated to remain unchanged at the national level and in many states. Further, after accounting for tax credits, average out-of-pocket premium spending in the nongroup market is estimated to decline or remain unchanged in all states considered and in in the nation overall. [RAND Corporation, Accessed 9/4/13]

    In addition, this may be the most definitive post I’ve seen yet on supposed rate increases under HCR (with further “food for thought” here).

  • Next, I know I’m a little late with this Labor Day-related commentary also based on this from The Philadelphia Inquirer, but here it is anyway…

    Organized labor is so powerful in Philadelphia that people in this town might not realize unions are in real trouble nationally. Labor Day is a good time to reflect on that reality.

    Just a few days ago, union picketers made the local TV news by blasting the amplified sound of a baby’s recorded cries during daily protests of nonunion work at a hotel, disturbing guests and a Center City neighborhood. Weeks earlier, a strike at the Pennsylvania Convention Center threatened a major convention.

    Meanwhile, the political clout of labor leaders such as electricians boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty can be calculated by the number of Philadelphia officials who all but genuflect in the presence of a man who controls a significant source of campaign contributions.

    Far be it for me to leap to the defense of “Johnny Doc,” but to say that the Inky is “painting with a broad brush” here is an understatement (a bit surprised that the Inky didn’t also blame the Teamsters for blowing up the inflatable rat that they often do in an effort to shame companies that hire non-union workers; as far as I’m concerned, that’s free speech and I have no problem with it).

    I would only point out once more the contributions of the union movement to workers of all sectors of our economy, some of which are noted here. And I would say that the video noted here shows pretty well that the decline in union membership and the rise of income inequality pretty much go hand in hand.

    The Inquirer points out that the downward trend in union membership began in 1983, which is two years after perhaps the most catastrophic anti-union event perpetrated by our government, and that was the firing of the air traffic controllers as part of the showdown with PATCO (their union at the time) by The Sainted Ronnie R, as noted here, the reverberations of which we are still feeling today.

  • Continuing, I give you some genuine hilarity from Erick (“Son of Erick”) Erickson of Fix Noise here, in response to Number 44 on Syria…

    George W. Bush, getting congressional approval for military operations seven days after the September 11th attack was not bending the arc of history, but John Harwood will probably spend the next week of reporting telling us all exactly how arc bending Barack Obama is.

    Sooo…is “Son of Erick” actually beating on John Harwood for supposedly carrying the water, as they say, of President Obama? And not doing the same for Former President Nutball? Really???

    As noted here, Harwood said the following about Number 43…

    …the 9/11 attacks gave (Bush) enough standing eventually to take the nation to war against Iraq.

    Oh, and as noted here, Harwood also once criticized Obama when Number 44 decided to “move…out from behind speechmaking lecterns.” And as far as Harwood supposedly sucking up to Obama goes, I also give you this.

    And is Erickson referring to the same Harwood who once claimed that Dubya was “doggedly advancing conservative goals on taxes and national security” here? Oh, but according to “Son of Erick,” Harwood should have claimed that Dubya was “bending the arc of history,” or something.

    And as we know, Erickson is always a model for prudence and discretion in his “reporting” of the news stories that touch our lives on a daily basis. Right?

    Gosh, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Erickson is taking hallucinogenic drugs (and no, I won’t stop linking to that until Harwood apologizes, something I’m sure he’ll never do).

  • Further, I give you the following from former Repug U.S. House Rep Pete Hoekstra, also on the Syria crisis (here)…

    Why did partisanship disrupt our foreign policy unity? Was it due to political opportunism or genuine policy differences?

    We may never know.

    Actually, I think we know right now – as noted here, Hoekstra and Former PA Senator Man-On-Dog tried to circulate a discredited claim about Saddam Hussein’s WMD. Also, as noted here, Hoekstra opined in April 2009 that the reaction of the Obama Administration to the ”enhanced interrogation” methods of our prior ruling cabal “are demonstrating how little President Barack Obama and some Democratic members of Congress understand the dire threats to our nation,” which was particularly stupid on Hoekstra’s part because all Obama wanted to do basically was to “turn the page.”

    (By the way, the same prior post from yours truly notes the truly wretched “sock puppetry” of Hoekstra in the matter of feeding the bogus claim to Time’s Joe Klein that the version of the FISA bill from the Democrats required warrants for every foreign terrorist’s call and that the bill thus gave the same rights to foreign terrorists as American citizens…yes, the Dems eventually caved on FISA, to their shame, but that doesn’t make the Hoekstra/Klein episode any less galling.)

    As noted here, Rachel Maddow basically said that everyone from Bushco should just go away when it comes to opining on Syria, since they were so catastrophically wrong on Iraq (I would argue that that extends to all other foreign policy issues also). Based on this bit of wankery from Hoekstra, I think that goes for him too.

  • Finally, I should note that BP ran a full-page ad in the Murdoch Street Journal on Thursday with quotes from Tom Donahue of the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers whining about how BP has already paid $10 billion in damages and blaming those dastardly trial lawyers once again – typical.

    In response, I give you the following:

  • This tells us a bit about the lawsuits currently pending against BP, including Florida joining a four-state suit.
  • This tells us that, maybe and just perhaps, the reason why those dastardly trial lawyers are involved is because BP is suing the EPA (so I guess the government isn’t entitled to represent itself?).
  • This basically tells us that accusing settlement victims of “taking money they don’t deserve” isn’t exactly going to “win hearts and minds” either (and the Journal ad cites the “U.S.” Chamber, but doesn’t note that BP is a member).
  • This tells us that the gulf oil spill’s settlement administrator has said that BP’s claims of fraud are “spurious” and “unfounded.”
  • Oh, and by the way, BP wants to “halt the Deepwater Horizon claims process” altogether, as noted here.


    That makes them the scum of the earth as far as I’m concerned.


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