Friday Mashup (4/25/14)

  • Someone named Amber Barno at The Daily Tucker rails as follows here (about a favorite wingnut target)…

    (On 4/16) the New York Times made the audacious choice to publish an article linking military veterans to white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

    Frazier Glenn Miller shot and killed three people at Jewish Community Centers near Kansas City, Missouri earlier this week. He was a former KKK leader and also a former Master Sergeant in the Army who was forced to retire for circulating racist material. That information seemed to be enough for Kathleen Belew, the author of the article, to draw a distinction between veterans, the ‘radical right,’ and their tendency to become an danger to society, and apparently enough for the New York Times to publish it.

    The title of the piece, “Veterans and White Supremacy” and the entire slanderous article are almost as offensive as the picture that accompanied it. It displays a row of soldiers saluting, the way they would to an American flag, while one ‘soldier’ in the middle is posed doing a Nazi salute. It is despicable. It is reckless and it only further contributes to stereotypes that veterans must overcome each and everyday in the civilian world.

    Before I say a word about this, I should note from her bio that Ms. Barno, military advisor for Concerned Veterans for America, is an “Army veteran and former Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.” She deserves my thanks for her service, and she has it.

    With that out of the way, let me add that the “slanderous” and “offensive” article (that I read and consider reasonable, by the way) does indeed contain a graphic like the one Barno cites. However, I believe the graphic makes it plain to a reasonably intelligent adult that a comparatively small percentage of our veterans become homegrown terrorists, and it isn’t anywhere near as incriminating as she suggests.

    And Concerned Veterans for America…why exactly does that ring a bell?

    Oh, I remember now. It’s because the person in charge of CV of A is Pete Hegseth, who used to head up something called Vets for Freedom, which was a PR factory doing its best to influence public opinion to make sure we kept our military in Iraq and Afghanistan (and as Crooks and Liars notes here, this “veterans” group claimed to support deficit reduction, which to me is a strange issue for a veterans group to be associated with – ahhh, can you smell the Astroturf?).

    And as you might expect, CV is A is tied to the shadowy, “dark money” network of Charles and David Koch (here).

    Barno is right to claim that our returning heroes face a variety of issues that demand our attention, though I don’t think she adds much to that discussion here by climbing on a favorite conservative “hobby horse,” if you will (the old gray lady, that is), and giving it a ride for no good reason.

    And speaking of veterans, former U.S. Army Ranger and Democratic candidate in the PA-08 primary Kevin Strouse wrote an Op-Ed that recently appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times (here). In it, he protested yet another ridiculous Paul Ryan budget that voucherizes Medicare (again), cuts Pell Grants (again), cuts SNAP assistance including food stamps (again), and refuses once more to invest in infrastructure spending (I’m paraphrasing because the Guest Opinion is now behind the paper’s utterly laughable pay wall…and to be fair, his primary opponent Shaughnessy Naughton wrote the following here).


    (And as long as I’m on the subject, I’d like to hear something besides roaring silence on the issue of Paul Ryan and his horrendous budgets from the Roman Catholic Church, notwithstanding symbolic yet still important comments on this subject from Pope Francis. I know the Church in the US is primarily “in bed” with the Republican Party, but I just wish they weren’t so damn obvious about it.)

    I think this merits support of Kevin Strouse from filthy, unkempt liberal blogger types such as yours truly, and if you agree, please click here.

    Update 6/18/14: Another inglorious moment involving Hegseth is here (BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI!!!).

  • Next (and continuing with faith matters), I give you this from someone at Fix Noise named Jay Sekulow…

    The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Clemson University a “letter of complaint” detailing (Clemson football coach Dabo) Swinney’s alleged constitutional violations, including such atrocities as the team’s volunteer chaplain writing Bible verses on a whiteboard and the team making available bus transportation to players who wish to attend church.

    In a reasonable constitutional world, this complaint would be ignored by the media and discarded by the university. After all, there’s no evidence that Clemson or Coach Swinney did anything other than expose players to the coach’s religious point of view, a point of view he’s constitutionally entitled to hold and express.

    Players were not compelled to attend church or Bible study, and the university is not paying the volunteer chaplain. So, how could any of these actions “establish” a religion within the meaning of the Establishment Clause (sic).

    In response, I give you the following from here

    Responding to what it says was a complaint sent to it by a member of the public, the FFRF had one of its five staff attorneys investigate the program via open records requests over the constitutionally protected separation between church and state.

    It uncovered a host of issues, from Swinney directly hiring the team chaplain (even Clemson policy says the players should choose), to coaches participating in testimonials and bible studies, to buses being organized to transport the entire team to “Church Day” at a local Baptist Church.

    The letter, in great detail, cites various university policies and case law that are violated by these actions. It’s a thorough letter. And it goes after Swinney, who it claims as a public employee is barred from participating in any official capacity in the religious activities of his players or underlings.

    As a thumbnail, the FFRF says a coach should never discuss religion with a player, let alone stop practice for prayer sessions or sponsor after-hour testimonials. Should a player come to him seeking religious guidance, he should encourage him to seek out the innumerable faith-based groups on a major college campus. Clemson boasts 41 of them, ranging from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to groups and congregations for Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Jews and others. There is even the Secular Student Alliance of Clemson for atheists, agnostics and others.

    “The religious counseling should be outside the athletic department,” (the FFRF’s Annie Laurie) Gaylor said.

    I’ll grant you that there are bigger issues out there to address, and if Swinney is as devout as he appears to be, then he should be commended. However, I also think that he shouldn’t be allowed to proselytize on the job if public money is involved.

    And I think this is all amusing coming from Sekulow anyway, who has no issue with Swinney carrying on as he does, yet somehow was still one of the loudest voices against the so-called “ground zero mosque,” as noted here (Sekulow also supports Hobby Lobby over the so-called “contraception mandate” of the Affordable Care Law, as noted here, basically arguing that religious freedom is conditional for people Sekulow likes, but should be guaranteed regardless for corporations – riiiiight).

  • Further (and returning to The Daily Tucker), I give you this from someone named Mytheos Holt, claiming that …

    The economist Robert Samuelson has pointed out repeatedly that Social Security, far from being insurance against the dangers of old age, which merely gives recipients back what they already paid in. It is, in fact, nothing but “middle class welfare.” Quoting Samuelson:

    Benefits shift; they’re not strictly proportionate to wages but are skewed to favor low-wage earners – a value judgment reflecting who most deserves help; and they aren’t paid from workers’ own “contributions.” But we ignored these realities and encouraged people to think they “earned” benefits and that Social Security is distinct from the larger budget. Politicians, pundits, think-tank experts and journalists engaged in this charade to spare Social Security’s 54 million recipients the discomfort of understanding they’re on welfare.

    Let’s see, “middle-class welfare,” “generational theft” – yep, the dog whistles are at the ready…also, the article claims that lifting the payroll tax cap won’t do anything to keep Social Security solvent (uh, no).

    Here is a more in-depth response from Dean Baker (who knows a thing or two about this stuff), including the following…

    Robert Samuelson is once again calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, ostensibly in the name of generational fairness. Samuelson makes the now common argument that a hugely disproportionate share of government spending goes to these programs that primarily serve the elderly. Of course, using Samuelson logic we should also complain that a hugely disproportionate share of government expenditures go the very wealthy.

    The reason that the wealthy get a disproportionate share of government expenditures is that they bought government bonds which pay interest. The reason that the elderly get a disproportionate share of government benefits is that they paid Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes that were intended to support these programs.

    Samuelson goes on to complain that Social Security has become a “middle-age retirement system,” citing Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute. Samuelson apparently is not familiar with data on life expectancy that shows that workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution have seen relatively small gains in longevity over the last three decades. He is apparently also unfamiliar with Steurele’s calculations on the rate of return that retirees get on their Social Security benefits. For many middle income retirees in the baby boom cohorts it will be less than 1.0 percent and in some cases less than zero, according to Steuerle.

    What is remarkable about Samuelson’s piece is that there is absolutely zero effort to consider any real issues of generational equity in a piece that is ostensibly devoted to the topic. For example, there is no discussion of the fact that the current generation of near retirees experienced an unprecedented period of wage stagnation over their working lifetime. The median hourly wage in 2010 is less than 10 percent higher than it was in 1973.

    By contrast, the Social Security trustees project that average hourly wages will rise by more than 40 percent over the next three decades. While it is possible that income inequality will continue to increase so that these gains again go overwhelmingly to the top, there is no precedent in U.S. history for the level of inequality that this would imply.

    Yes, all of this is obvious. Yes, what we need to do is expand the Social Security entitlement, not do everything we can to kill it. But we need to drive this home every way we can as often as possible (and to help with that, click here).

  • Continuing, I give you the following unintentional bit of hilarity from Irrational Spew Online (here, with the understated claim that, by advocating for renewable energy sources, Chris Hayes, of MSNBC and The Nation, wants to kill 5.7 billion people)…

    There are many more moderate suggestions than Hayes’s on the carbon-cap continuum. But his goofy idea makes clear that all of these involve some diminution in human life: less health, less longevity, fewer opportunities to pursue happiness. At some level that translates into fewer people — a consummation many warmists might devoutly wish, though few would admit that. (As green panics go, overpopulation is long over; global warming is merely on its way out.)

    Hayes is right to equate the battle against fossil fuels with one of history’s greatest moral struggles. He’s just wrong to think he’s on the side of humanity.

    I don’t think Hayes or anyone else who questions our energy consumption should be criticized for it, for the reasons noted here (basically, ignoring other environmental “multipliers” associated with our energy consumption is a rather pin-headed argument to make, and if fewer of those multipliers come from renewables, then what else is there to think about?).

    And overpopulation, as a global threat, is “long over”? Really?

    (Actually, I have a feeling that NRO’s Tim Cavanaugh was referring to this…i.e., 6.8 billion people living as a result of fossil fuels, 1 billion not…don’t have any data to argue with him on that).

    And if Cavanaugh doesn’t want to believe me on the importance of renewables vs. fossil fuels, fine. Read the following from here

    The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is the nation’s largest energy user. In recent years, DoD has launched several initiatives to reduce its fossil Fuel use by improving energy efficiency (i.e., reducing wasted energy) and shifting to renewable energy such as biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar to meet operational and installation needs. Energy efficiency and renewable energy can benefit mission effectiveness, the environment, and the bottom line, as outlined in the following excerpt from a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding between DoD and the Department of Energy (DOE):

    Energy efficiency can serve as a force multiplier, increasing the range and endurance of forces in the field while reducing the number of combat forces diverted to protect energy supply lines, as well as reducing long-term energy costs. DoD is also increasing its use of renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand to improve energy security and operational effectiveness, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in support of U.S. climate change initiatives, and protect the DoD from energy price fluctuations. Solving military challenges through innovation has the potential to yield spin-off technologies that benefit the civilian community as well.

    Which brings me, in a roundabout way I’ll admit, to Hayes’s recent post here. As the moderator of “All In,” I get it that he has the right to have conservatives on his show. But the problem is that all these people do is pollute the information blood stream, if you will, leaving it up to little fish like me in the great, big bloggy ocean, if you will, to speak truth to stoo-pid – mixing my metaphors I guess.

    And I’m not talking about this idiotic “conservative vs. liberal” parlor game that has masqueraded for intelligent political discourse in this country for the last 30 years or so. I’m talking about verifiable truth and reality. When Jennifer Stefano starts foaming at the mouth because she thinks Hayes is trying to talk down to her or something, and Paul Wolfowitz basically tries to argue that liberals are too scared to stand up to terrorists or whatever, guess what? The fact that these people tend to be conservative is irrelevant. What matters is that they are wrong. I would also argue that they know that they are wrong and continue to argue anyway, pushing their talking points regardless. And as far as I’m concerned, when people like Stefano or Wolfowitz do that, then they lose the right to engage in a discussion on a nationally televised program featuring news analysis and political commentary.

    Note to Hayes: See what happens when you try to play fair and square with the wingnuts?

  • Finally, I absolutely have to say something about this item from last week…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Election-year memo to Democratic candidates: Don’t talk about the economic recovery. It’s a political loser.

    So say Democratic strategists in a blunt declaration that such talk skips over “how much trouble people are in, and doesn’t convince them that policymakers really understand or are even focusing on the problems they continue to face.”

    In addition, Stan Greenberg, James Carville and others wrote that in head-to-head polling tests the mere mention of the word “recovery” is trumped by a Republican assertion that the Obama administration has had six years to get the economy moving and its policies haven’t worked.

    Coincidentally or not, Democrats have largely shelved the “R” word.

    God, this makes me want to vomit.

    If the “polling” on the issue of the economy supposedly doesn’t work, then try making the case that the U.S. House Republican “leadership” doesn’t know a damn thing about managing our economy. Worse, they have a vested interest in continued economic hardship since they think that is a winner of an issue for them politically. However, just because that is so doesn’t mean that you roll up your tent, refuse to make a fight, and walk away.

    Because, as noted from here

    As it turns out, (Speaker John) Boehner has decided that every time House Republicans pass a bill that advances House Republican priorities, the party gets to label that a “jobs bill.” The GOP approved more oil drilling? That’s a “jobs bill.” The GOP voted to take away health care benefits from millions of Americans? That’s a “jobs bill,” too. The GOP disapproves of clean-air regulations? “Jobs bill.” The GOP wants more “transparency” in federal spending? “Jobs bill.” Republicans cut food stamps? “Jobs bill.”

    I’m not exaggerating in the slightest; this is all from the list of “jobs bills” the Speaker of the House has pulled together and presented to the public. How many actual jobs would be created if these bills became law? No one knows because Republicans never submitted them for independent economic scrutiny, but GOP leaders are confident the answer is, at a minimum, some.

    How reassuring.

    It’s why the parties so often seem to be talking past one another. For congressional Democrats, jobs bills have to relate to job creation in a meaningful way, then be scored by independent economists to determine how many jobs are likely to be created by the proposed legislation. For congressional Republicans, jobs bills happen to be whatever bills the GOP likes – even anti-abortion bills.

    And as noted here, the following actual jobs-related bills were passed by the House with at-or-near-100-percent opposition from Boehner, Eric Cantor, and his same-party playmates (including Mikey the Beloved, of course)…

  • The American Clean Energy and Security Act
  • The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act
  • Jobs for Main Street Act
  • Small Business Jobs and Credit Act
  • The America COMPETES Act
  • This has led to 49 straight months of private sector job growth (here). And the results would be better if the House decided to get serious on immigration reform (here) and raising the federal minimum wage (here – granted, job growth might be negligible, but it would represent progress, and it would help millions stay in their jobs as opposed to losing them).

    And about Stan Greenberg in particular, I believe the following should be noted from here

    “The Republican focus on Obamacare is backfiring,” says (Greenberg), a top Democratic pollster, who conducted the survey (which found an increasing approval rating for health care reform) with a GOP counterpart. “They’re on the wrong side of the issue.”

    The surprising resurrection of Obamacare is poised to have broad political ramifications come November. During the darkest days of the healthcare.gov rollout last fall, Republicans made what seemed a safe bet that the unpopularity of the law would help deliver another midterm-election romp, just as it did in 2010. The GOP electoral strategy has been supported by millions from the Koch-backed Super PAC Americans for Prosperity, which has been bombarding key Senate swing states with anti-Obama¬care TV ads intended to destroy vulnerable Democratic incumbents like Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina. But so far the impact of these kinds of ads has been modest, registering with voters as both old hat and “overreach,” says Greenberg, the Democratic pollster.

    Public opinion on Obamacare is now shifting. A Pew poll in March found that a 71 percent supermajority either supports Obamacare or wants politicians to “make the law work as well as possible,” compared to just 19 percent of the electorate that wants to see the law fail.

    Though Ted Cruz and the #fullrepeal crowd may still excite the GOP’s Tea Party base, their message is no longer a clear winner among independents in the general election. The House leadership is taking notice. After more than four dozen votes attempting to repeal or roll back Obamacare, the House GOP is scrambling to come up with a policy it could market as a replacement. In a startling admission, GOP House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy acknowledged that the GOP’s old playbook isn’t cutting it anymore. “The country has changed since Obamacare has come in,” he told the Washington Post. “We understand that.”

    House Republicans have learned the hard way that even nibbling around the edges of Obamacare can backfire. In February, the GOP pushed a bill to tweak the mandate that businesses offer health care to all employees working more than 30 hours. Switching to the GOP’s preferred 40-hour standard, it turns out, would add $74 billion to the deficit by 2024 and cause nearly 1 million Americans to lose coverage. That’s the kind of move that would play right into Democratic hands. Says Greenberg, “Democrats do very well when they hit back at Republicans on what people lose.”

    Until recently, Greenberg had been advising Democrats to move beyond Obamacare and turn to bread-and-butter issues like jobs and the minimum wage. “The strongest attack on Republicans,” he says, “is that they’re obsessed with Obamacare instead of critical issues like dealing with the economy.” But his new poll has Greenberg rethinking that counsel. “Until now, this is an issue where the intensity has been on the other side,” he says. But defending Obamacare, he adds, has emerged as “a values argument for our base.” Greenberg now believes Democrats “ought to lean much more strongly” to campaign on the virtues of Obamacare as a means of boosting progressive turnout. “Not apologizing for Obamacare and embracing it actually wins the argument nationally,” he says. “And it produces much more engagement of Democratic voters. That’s a critical thing in off-year elections.”

    So instead of walking around on eggshells, as it were, run an ad leading off with “Obamacare” and tout its successes (kind of like this), then point out that the same people who were wrong about that were entrusted with helping Obama to manage the economy, and they’ve failed on that score too.

    Sure, talk about women’s issues in the workplace (which ultimately are family issues anyway). But give voters a reason to vote for you by pointing out how different you are from the opposition, or else you’ll lose.

    And one more thing – don’t accept political commentary from the AP’s David Espo as gospel (here).

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