Thursday Mashup (9/25/14)

September 25, 2014
  • Might as well start with the defining issue of the moment – I give you the following from Irrational Spew Online (here)…

    Since he ordered military action in Libya in 2011, President Obama has argued as a matter of routine that Article II of the U.S. Constitution confers such considerable power upon the commander-in-chief that, in most instances at least, Congress’s role in foreign affairs is limited to that of advice bureau. The political ironies of this development are sufficiently rich to stand without much comment. (Imagine, if you will, trying to explain to an average voter in 2008 that by his second term the Democratic candidate for president would have adopted wholesale an interpretation of the Constitution that was championed by the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and John Yoo.) Less obvious, however, is what this means for America and her future. The bottom line: It’s not good.

    (I can just see the perfectly-coiffed Charles Cooke arguing with his oh-so-genteel British accent on “Real Time” about how that nasty Barack Obama has suddenly turned into “Torture” Yoo. Nice try, wingnut.)

    In response, I give you the following (here)…

    To judge the legality of war against ISIS, the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State, we need to be clear about two issues. The first is whether the president can put troops in harm’s way on his own authority. While the Constitution vests in Congress the power to “declare war,” presidents have launched military attacks on their own for many decades. Obama used military force in Libya in 2011; Bill Clinton, in Serbia in 1999; George H.W. Bush, in Panama in 1989; and Ronald Reagan, in Grenada in 1983. In all these cases, and many more (including the Korean War), Congress did not give its consent.

    The White House has not relied on Article II to justify the war on ISIS. This theory is too closely associated with the Bush administration, which used it to justify surveillance and torture that violated statutes. The Obama administration instead pointed to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which gives the president authority to act “against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” The administration has also cited the 2003 AUMF that authorized the president to go to war to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq,” then governed by Saddam Hussein.

    The White House’s defenders argue that the 2001 AUMF gives Obama the authority he needs to fight ISIS because, while ISIS broke from al-Qaida in 2012, it is nonetheless composed of former al-Qaida members (at least in part), who have (or so it is argued by the administration) continuously conducted and sought to conduct attacks against the United States and its citizens and interests.

    Is war with ISIS the right thing to do right now? I don’t have a clue. I’m just some filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, not the President of the United States (God forbid).

    And no, don’t start with this “Well, if this were Dubya, you’d be screaming your head off” business. As usual, Obama is left to clean up a mess which ultimately extends to Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, for good or ill. When Obama starts a war of choice for no good reason and leaves it to his successor to clean up, then talk to me, OK?

    Besides, Congress, in its infinite cowardice, passed the hopelessly-open-ended Authorization to Use Military Force and doesn’t have the spine to try and do anything about that, particularly in an election year. Giving a chief executive that much power without a fixed target or duration is a recipe for bad news – Obama has the precedent, so why shouldn’t he use it if he thinks he has to?

    I know all of this stuff is evolving, and I guess I am too, but this is where I’m at on this issue, for better or worse.

  • Continuing with the “crazy” – Repug U.S. Sen. John Cornyn propagandizes as follows here

    Despite all the challenges facing our country, my colleagues in the majority continue to prioritize political stunts and show votes over serious legislating. Indeed, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. has allowed so few amendments that one of his fellow Senate Democrats recently told Politico, “I got more substance on the floor of the House in the minority than I have as a member of the Senate majority.”

    Actually, if Cornyn wants to blame anyone for alleged negligence in governance, he should look no further than his same-state, same-party counterpart (here)…

    WASHINGTON – In case you weren’t glued to C-Span2 for the last hour, here’s what you missed.

    The Senate voted 67-31 to quash a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz that would have blocked the Senate from lifting the federal debt ceiling. Cruz voted against cloture, naturally. But the top GOP leaders, fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, sided with Democrats to cut off the filibuster.

    The measure raising the federal credit line through March 2015 sailed through the House on Tuesday, after Speaker John Boehner decided that it would be better to let Democrats own it (only 28 Republicans voted aye) than to dig in, insist on budget concessions, and force a stalemate that would spook world markets and risk a default.

    Cruz announced the same day that he wouldn’t let the Senate raise the debt ceiling via a simple 51-vote majority. The filibuster threat pushed the threshold to 60.

    As GOP strategist John Feehery pointed out, Democrats control 55 votes, so without Cruz’s maneuver, they would have been fully responsible, politically, for raising the debt ceiling. Instead, Cruz put GOP leadership on the spot.

    Cornyn and McConnell – both facing tea party challengers for reelection – took the heat, and voted for cloture.

    Apparently, no senator wanted to be tarred as the one to put the vote over the top, though. At the end, a number of Republicans switched their votes simultaneously, giving political cover to each other and their party leaders. Among the switchers: Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

    The procedural vote was the key. The debt limit itself sailed through on a predictable party-line vote, 55-43.

    Everybody got that? Cornyn (who at the time was facing a Tea Party challenge from the otherwise laughable Steve Stockman) wanted to crow about how he’s supposedly holding the line on spending, but he and Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao also wanted the political cover to make that claim while, in reality, they (in a shocking moment of sensibility) actually voted to raise the debt ceiling.

    And Cornyn blames Harry Reid for not being “serious about solving the problems at hand”…

    Here are more “lowlights” of what Cornyn and fellow Repugs have wrought in the U.S. Senate…

  • They blocked a minimum wage hike here.
  • They obstructed on jobless benefits here.
  • They also obstructed on veterans’ benefits here.
  • They also killed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loans bill (which would have actually reduced the deficit, bringing in $72 billion in new revenues by implementing the so-called Buffet Rule, an added surcharge tax on millionaires to ensure that they pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes, as noted here).
  • Cornyn, in his column, also said that “our colleagues in the House of Representatives have sent over scores and scores of bills on job creation, taxes, health care, immigration, and other issues, only to have Senator Reid declare them dead on arrival.”

    Um, no – on the issue of job creation, Steve Benen tells us here that…

    …of the remaining 40 “jobs bills” on the list, very few can credibly be described as actual jobs bills.

    For example, the first 14 bills on the list of 40 – more than a third of the overall list – are giveaways to the oil and gas industries. The bills expand drilling, expand fracking, expand pipelines, expand mining, expands coal-ash projects, and “protect” coal plants. How many jobs would this collection of energy bills actually create? The heralded list from the Speaker’s office didn’t say, but the total would likely be pretty modest.

    Boehner can prove me wrong by getting an independent score on the collection of bills, but I have a hunch if all of these bills were combined into one package, they still wouldn’t produce as many jobs as extended unemployment benefits. Besides, the point of these bills is to help polluters, ExxonMobil, and energy companies. We can debate such efforts on the merits, but to consider every giveaway to Big Oil a “jobs bill” is hard to take seriously.

    OK, but that’s 14 out of 40. What about the rest of the list? Several of the “jobs bills” attack the Affordable Care Act, and there’s simply no evidence that taking health care benefits away from millions of American families will create jobs.

    The list of “jobs bills” includes the Farm Bill. The list of “jobs bills” includes Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint. The list of “jobs bills” includes a pointless measure intended to stop President Obama from allowing state experimentation with welfare reform.

    The list of “jobs bills” includes a measure to increase federal spending “transparency.” The list of “jobs bills” includes a framework on cybersecurity.

    I hate to break this to Speaker Boehner, but a lot of these measures aren’t what any sensible person would call a proper “jobs bill.” They may or may not have merit on their own, and they may or may not require some modicum of new hiring, but legitimate legislative efforts to create lots of jobs – such as the American Jobs Act, unveiled in 2011 and killed by congressional Republicans soon after – aim higher.

    Indeed, independent analysts determined the American Jobs Act would have created over 1 million U.S. jobs in just one year. Can the same be said for Boehner’s misleading list of 40? Common sense suggests otherwise, though we can’t say for sure since the Speaker’s office hasn’t sought an independent analysis.

    And by the way, who can forget Cornyn’s singularly rancid defense of the wretched Patriot Act here?

  • Next, it’s time for the latest adventures with Louisiana Repug Gov. Bobby (“Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal here

    Like many liberals, President Obama believes in making energy less affordable, and more scarce, for the American people. That’s why, even as crude oil production has skyrocketed on private lands—rising 61% in just the last four years—it has fallen on publicly-owned property in the same time span. The administration is deliberately squandering the opportunities that affordable energy can bring by refusing to develop all the energy resources owned by the American people.

    This column is meant to publicize Jindal’s 47-page proposal on energy with the understated title of “Organizing Around Abundance: Making America an Energy Superpower.”

    As Meteor Blades of Daily Kos notes here

    …Jindal’s plan is pretty much the standard right-wing blueprint: a minor manifesto filled with the same ideas that the string-pullers in the fossil-fuel industry have been promoting for decades: support for more drilling (including fracking) of oil and gas, more digging of coal, chopping of environmental regulations, opening up more federal land to drillers and diggers, building more nuclear power plants, finishing the Keystone XL pipeline and ending the ban on exporting crude oil.

    There’s also a complaint about the “activist” Supreme Court majority, which ruled 5-4 in 2007 that the Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

    The Jindal plan does offer some lip service to renewable energy. But mostly this section is just boilerplate about the rapid, no-longer-can-be-ignored growth of renewable installations. The rest of the section is an argument against the tax incentives designed to ramp up the generating of electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and hydro sources. Though hardly original, the governor proposes that the still toddling renewables industries compete on a “level playing field” with the mature fossil fuel industry. In other words, not level competition at all.

    Also, as noted here on the whole drilling on “publicly-owned property” thing, the feds have the right to own and drill on states’ lands, and any claim to revert back to the states wouldn’t stand up in court; besides, what we’re talking about basically here is more $$ for corporations vs. taxpayers, and 71 percent of those polled oppose it.

    Continuing (from Jindal)…

    If we develop our untapped energy resources, our nation could see a new burst of economic growth and prosperity. One study, noting the benefits of unconventional oil and gas exploration, found that this fracking revolution created 2.1 million jobs in 2012—and could create another 1.8 million jobs between now and 2025.

    In response (here)…

    A study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 21st Century Energy Institute says the extraction of “unconventional” shale oil and gas through horizontal hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – has meant a job boom even in states that don’t actually have shale deposits, with 1.7 million jobs already created and a total of 3.5 million projected by 2035.

    The study was released in two phases in October and December, and a third phase is forthcoming.
    Skeptics with environmental and citizens groups have questioned the numbers and also the benefits that these jobs actually provide to local communities. Many industry jobs are not filled by local residents, and a boom town effect, including escalating cost of living and other social problems, has been documented in places where an extraction industry rapidly arises.

    They also say the study doesn’t account for the economic impacts of possible environmental problems and copious water use, or impacts on other industries and quality of life.

    “We’re definitely seeing some local jobs – anyone with a CDL and a dump truck can get work hauling gravel or pipes or produced water,” said Paul Feezel, a resident of Carroll County, Ohio, the epicenter of the state’s fracking boom.

    “There’s definitely more money floating around in the community, people buying new cars and agricultural equipment,” he said. “I’m told churches are seeing higher donations because people are tithing part of their signing bonus. But when you see the rigs and even the welders on the pipeline jobs, the license plates are all out-of-state.”

    (More on fracking is coming up a bit later, by the way, including one increased “cost of living” measurement.)

    Jindal yet again (here)…

    Most importantly, our plan to promote energy abundance stands in direct contrast to the Obama administration’s tired policies of energy scarcity and sluggish growth.

    In response, I think the headline here says it all, and it isn’t necessarily something I support…even though parts of Florida are gorgeous, I think they would deserve any of the environmental ruin this might cause (that’s what you get when you either vote for Republicans or don’t even bother to vote, period).

  • Further, did you know that (here)…

    Over 90 percent of funding for a diesel reduction program paid for by the stimulus law was misspent, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG).

    An audit analyzing $26.3 million in funding to non-profit organizations and state governments meant to reduce truck emissions and create jobs found that the program had “significant financial management issues.”

    OMIGOD, it looks like that Kenyan Marxist Socialist in the White House is at it again!

    There’s just one problem, as noted here

    Only six projects out of the 160 so-called “Diesel Emission Reduction Act” stimulus projects awarded by the EPA were reviewed by the inspector general. The entire grant program cost taxpayers about $294 million, but the IG only looked at a $26 million share of it.

    You know, it’s pretty sad for Fix Noise that they need to be fact-checked by the formerly Moonie Times, but I guess that’s where we are all right.

    Why does this matter? Well, in part because of the following from March 2009 (here)…

    EPA March 20 announced the availability of $20 million under the stimulus law for its Clean Diesel Emerging Technologies Program, $156 million for the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, and $30 million for the agency’s SmartWay Clean Diesel Finance Program. Guidance documents for the programs now encourage applicants to quantitatively project annual GHG reductions in funding requests, along with traditional measures including cuts in nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and fine particulate matter. In a press release, EPA said grantees will use the funding to implement projects that will cut thousands of tons of diesel emissions and “reduce premature deaths, asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, lost work days, and many other health impacts every year.”

    More on the awards for the $20 million Clean Diesel refinance program can be found from here.

    Oh, and remember that Cornyn guy I mentioned earlier? Well, as it turns out, both he and former Repug Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison wrote two letters “asking for consideration of grants for clean diesel projects in San Antonio and Houston,” that came from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, even though each voted against the so-called “stimulus” twice (both the ARRA and the “stimulus” are the same thing, it should be pointed out), as noted here.

    Also, this tells us that about $1 million in stimulus funds were allocated for clean diesel projects in Ohio, this tells us that about $1.7 was allocated for clean diesel projects in South Dakota, this tells us about stimulus funds used for clean diesel projects in Connecticut, and this tells us about clean diesel projects underway in Michigan.

    So it looks like the administration of Number 44 is helping the states to make inroads on the issue of toxic emissions from vehicles contributing to the pollution affecting our climate. Too bad that Obama can’t do anything about pundit pollution too.

  • Continuing, it looks like someone named Casey Given at The Daily Tucker says that liberals are, in fact, anti-science after all because we oppose fracking for natural gas (here)…

    A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is casting serious doubt on one of the environmental movement’s favorite talking points — namely, that fracking contaminates drinking water. The report, conducted by five professors from renowned universities such as Duke, Dartmouth, and Stanford, concluded that a number of water contaminations near fracking sites were most likely caused by well leaks — not fracking itself.

    Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for short, is a well stimulation technique that has been standard practice in the energy industry for over sixty years. The way it works is drillers pump a mixture of mostly water onto rocks deep below the earth’s surface to release trapped oil and gas.

    To begin, if fracking is supposed to be so damn wonderful, how come former VP “Deadeye Dick” Cheney obtained an exemption for the practice from the Safe Water Drinking Act in 2005, as noted here – more here?

    But not to worry… Given says that, because it has been supposedly proven that well casings are the culprit for groundwater contamination, can we stop picking on fracking? In response, I believe the well casings have to be leaking something other than, say, air or untreated water, or else none of this would matter (sounds to me that, by that logic, if you’re still bleeding from a gunshot wound but you’re bandaged, it’s the bandage’s fault that you’re still bleeding instead of the bullet’s fault, if you will).

    I’ll tell you what, though; I’ll humor Given and grant him his point about fracking. Well then, what does he say about the study noted here, in which scientists tells us that injecting fracking wastewater underground is causing earthquakes?

    Given also tells us that the fracking is great because it means that, in North Dakota (for example), the minimum wage is about $15 an hour. What good does that do when the rent on a one-bedroom apartment goes for about $1K a month (here)?

  • Finally (and in what is becoming a regular feature here I guess), I give you the following from Kevin Williamson (here, on the subject of rape on college campuses)…

    The subject is a maddening one. President Obama repeated the endlessly reiterated but thoroughly debunked claim that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in her college years. The actual rate is sort of an interesting problem, the information being so inconsistent and contradictory that one almost suspects that it is so by design.

    Much of the scholarly literature estimates that the actual rate is more like a tenth of that one-in-five rate, 2.16 percent, or 21.6 per 1,000 to use the conventional formulation. But that number is problematic, too, as are most of the numbers related to sexual assault, as the National Institute of Justice, the DoJ’s research arm, documents. For example, two surveys conducted practically in tandem produced victimization rates of 0.16 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively – i.e., the latter estimate was eleven times the former. The NIJ blames defective wording on survey questions.

    As noted here, “the NIJ is notable among U.S. governmental research organizations because it is headed by a political appointee of the President rather than by a scientist or a member of the civil service.” To me, it’s more than a little off to rely on an NIJ study into this subject because I think it demands a scientific analysis.

    Fortunately, a scientific analysis was conducted into this subject by the CDC. And that is where the “one in five” number came from, as noted here (more is here).

    We also learn the following from the CDC link…

    Rape, and other forms of sexual violence, is preventable. Recognizing this, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. This landmark legislation established the Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) program at CDC. The goal of the RPE program is to strengthen sexual violence prevention efforts at the local, state, and national level. It operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and six U.S. territories.

    And concerning the VAWA, I think the following should be noted from here

    …with Ray Rice in the news and the anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) upon us, it’s worth taking a minute to think about the connection between our everyday lives and what Congress can, and should, do to improve them.

    VAWA protects women from domestic violence. Period. It gives prosecutors stronger tools to crack down on domestic abuse and expands victims’ services for women. Since it became law two decades ago, VAWA has impacted the lives of millions of women and children around the country. It has protected women from abuse, provided support for women and children to escape violent situations, and improved the ability of law enforcement to handle this complicated issue. It has made a real difference.

    Which is why it mattered that House Republicans blocked VAWA reauthorization for 500 days. It mattered that House Republicans refused to strengthen the law and voted down an additional $4 million that would have bolstered prevention and prosecution programs.

    And it matters that Republican candidates like Representative Steve Southerland (FL-02) are now claiming to support VAWA in their re-election campaigns even though they voted against it in Congress.

    It matters to the women who need these protections. It matters to the women who call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help, which saw an 84 percent increase in calls after the Ray Rice incident hit the news (and which is, by the way, funded partially by VAWA).

    Of course, now that he’s running for re-election, Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao (here) is distancing himself from VAWA opposition any way possible (one way to respond is to click here).

    To me, both the CDC study and the issue of renewal of the VAWA is part of a larger mosaic, if you will, having to do with enlightened gender relations and mutual respect (I haven’t had a lot to say on this, aside from pointing out the absurdity of Janay Rice being more mad at the media on this than she is at her husband, and I’m not trying to criticize her by saying that, because I don’t think I have much of a right to pontificate). If we did a better job of accomplishing those two objectives, then there would be no need to quantify and study all the many ways that we fall short.

    And as noted from here, we still have a long way to go.

    Update 9/26/14: Well, it looks like the proverbial stopped clock was right one of two times here (h/t Atrios).

    Update 9/30/14: Update 9/30/14: Why do I have a feeling that Williamson is going to go the way of Robert Weissberg and John Derbyshire based on garbage like this?

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    Tuesday Mashup (9/16/14)

    September 16, 2014
  • I give you the following bit of unreality from thehill.com (here)…

    Congressional Republicans have a simple mantra as they take a brief break from the campaign trail and return to Washington: Do no harm.

    Really?? “Do no harm??”

    In response, I give you this, including the following…

    The dereliction of duty by Congressional Republicans is solely responsible for this Congress’ being the most unproductive in American history. While the Republican Congressional majority perfected the art of doing nothing, millions of Americans had their lives and families negatively impacted or otherwise put at risk by their indifference or inaction. What I would suggest is that rather than attending the farcical Republican PR exercise on Benghazi, an issue which most Americans hold little or no interest, House Democrats instead hold competing hearings addressing the failures of the Republican caucus, the colossal waste of taxpayer resources caused by their intransigence and their failure to legislate, and the consequences of these failures to the country and its citizens.

    The Daily Kos post outlines six areas where the U.S. House Repugs have indeed “done harm,” if you will:

  • Their continued, idiotic fighting over the Affordable Care Law
  • Last year’s near-ruinous government shut down
  • Failure to act on job-creating legislation
  • Failure to act on immigration reform
  • Failure to extend unemployment benefits
  • Maintaining “austerity” and the disastrous “sequester” (more here)
  • And on top of that, I would add the following:

  • Voting 109 times against environmental protection (here)
  • Opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act (here)
  • Opposing common-sense gun control (here)
  • And I KNOW this list is incomplete, but this is what I have for now.

    And in keeping with this sorry theme, I give you this from U.S. House Rep Mark Pocan (here)…

    …Pocan (D-WI) seems to have found Speaker Boehner’s hubris hard to swallow today.

    On the heels of Boehner’s announcement that the Republican Party will be doing what it always does when a Democrat is in office — sue and try to impeach (after obstruction and ginning up scandals) — Pocan laughed in Boehner’s face with a statement denouncing the Speaker for his historically lazy House that tried to shut the government down just last year.

    “With Speaker Boehner and the Tea Party at the helm, this Congress has failed to act on vital legislation to help improve the lives of Americans. The same Speaker who allowed the government to shut down last October, now intends to sue the President of the United States for acting while Congress has not, instead voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act 54 times and turning the tragedy in Benghazi into a manufactured scandal.

    “In fact, the least productive Congress in modern history – the so-called ‘Do-nothing Congress’ of 1948 – passed 350 bills in their first year; this Congress passed fewer than 100 bills in its first year. It is ironic the Speaker would sue the President for doing his job while the House of Representatives fails to do its job.

    I don’t know who Scott Wong of The Hill is (the person responsible for this garbage column), but I would say that he needs to get out of his Beltway media bubble and talk to some real people; it would probably be most enlightening.

  • Next, as a follow-up to an earlier movie-critiquing post by Armond White at Irrational Spew Online, I give you this from Kevin Williamson (quoting fellow Spew writer David Kahane, who said the following about Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”: “Vincent Vega, the unbeliever, dies unredeemed in Butch Coolidge’s bathroom, while Jules, who accepts the reality of miracles, grants absolution…and is thus saved.”)…

    It is unlikely that Mr. Tarantino set out to make something conservative any more than did the people who write Allstate commercials. Propagandistic entertainment, from the left or the right, generally fails as it approaches specificity: Consider that raft of dopey anti-war movies a few years back that nobody went to see…

    Um, nothis tells us that “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the “big daddy” of the anti-Iraq war movie genre, if you will, was the highest grossing documentary of all time ($222 million worldwide). Also, this tells us that Oliver Stone’s “W” grossed $22 million worldwide (more of a biopic than a polemic, I believe), and the documentary “Inside Job” grossed $8 million here (again, not “anti-war” per se, but respectable for a documentary with a definite “advocacy” point of view which I believe is entirely appropriate).

    At least Williamson is talking about something here which isn’t likely to do anyone any personal harm; I can’t say the same for this, though.

  • Further, it seems that our commonwealth’s illustrious governor, Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, is “all in” on the issue of pension reform (here)…

    Public workers’ pension costs are a “Pac-Man” that will consume an ever-greater share of the state budget unless changes are made – and his Democratic opponent continues to duck that issue, Gov. Corbett said Wednesday.

    “If I don’t get reelected for four more years, there will be nothing done about this, because Mr. [Tom] Wolf says there is not a pension problem,” Corbett said.

    If he wins a second term, Corbett said, he would call a special session of the legislature early next year to force action on pensions, including for municipal workers. He said Scranton is distressed because of unaffordable pension obligations and predicted some school districts in Pennsylvania will come “doggone close to bankruptcy” without a solution.

    In response, I give you the following from here (hat tip to Diane Ravitch’s blog)…

    – The governor’s claim that passing pension “reform” will reduce local property taxes is incredibly misleading.

    – …no matter how deeply Gov. Corbett cuts benefits for future workers, it will not provide any near-term budgetary savings for the state or school districts.

    – Gov. Corbett cut education funding by $1 billion in his first year, and those cuts now total $3 billion over his tenure. His state funding cuts have left school districts with few options but to increase local property taxes, increase class sizes, layoff teachers and other school employees and cut course offerings.

    – Pension costs are less than 6% of the state’s entire operating budget.

    – More than half of today’s pension payment goes towards paying old debt, not to current pension costs.

    – In 2010, an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the House and Senate approved Act 120 – a pension reform roadmap.

    – Act 120 cut new employee benefits by 20%; thereby, reducing the cost to the state by 60% (or $33 billion), and charted the course for addressing the debt.

    – Act 120 put in place predictable, moderated payments before the governor assumed office, yet he imprudently decided to cut education funding and business taxes – making it difficult for the state and school districts to make these payments.

    – None of the state’s pension debt is associated with the retirement benefits for new school and state employees hired since the Act 120 reforms took effect in 2011.

    – As we learned last year with Gov. Corbett’s pension proposal, the costs associated with closing the state’s current defined benefit plan FAR exceed any savings realized from switching to a 401(k)-style plan – costing the state upwards of $40 billion.

    – There are NO short-term savings for the state or school districts.

    – Any long-term savings touted by the plan’s supporters are decades away. Also, any savings will be significantly reduced or eliminated when the plan is paired with Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal to shortchange the pension obligations for the next 4 years.

    The .pdf from Joe Markosek, Democratic Chairman of the PA House Appropriations Committee, contains a lot of interesting detail and context comparing Corbett’s proposals with those of the Democrats, including former Governor Ed Rendell. If you want to learn more about the issue of pension reform in our beloved commonwealth, I would ask that you review it (and to help Corbett’s opponent in this election, click here).

    Tom Corbett remains an incredibly unpopular politician (more here) for very good reasons. And if he thinks he’ll be saved by propagandizing on the issue of pension reform, then he’s more out of touch than I ever imagined.

  • Continuing, I give you this from The Weakly Standard…

    Democratic senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana lists her parents’ New Orleans address as her primary residence for voting purposes. But it’s clear she and her husband consider their primary residence to be their multimillion-dollar home on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. These revelations have provided fodder for Landrieu’s political opponents (the Louisiana Democrat is up for reelection this year), with one conservative super PAC releasing an ad suggesting the Democrat is more representative of the District of Columbia than Louisiana. Landrieu faces a tough reelection battle this November.

    Oh yeah, that’s right – Landrieu is indeed running for re-election against Repug Bill Cassidy, who recently said here that that supposedly awful Harry Reid runs the U.S. Senate “like a plantation” (cue the theme from “Ol’ Man River”).

    I’ll tell you what; if the “other side” chooses to ignore Landrieu on this supposed issue, then I’ll overlook Kansas Repug Senator Pat Roberts, who dealt with a very similar matter here (and who is apparently trailing Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman here; kind of worrisome for Roberts that he should be polling as low as 34 percent this close to election day, but that’s his problem).

  • Moving on, I have to admit that it has been a looong time since I came across the Ph.D.-level wankery I encountered recently from Wayne Allyn Root of Fix Noise here – what follows is a brief excerpt.

    NR_Cruise_0916
    (And if you can guess that it’s yet another “bash Obama”-fest, then you win complimentary tickets to another conservative cruise, whether you want them or not)…

    Let’s start with national security. Security experts are warning a terrorist attack on America soil appears imminent. Only days ago, the federal government put out a bulletin warning about that same threat.

    The “warning” came from Judicial Watch – more about them is here

    Continuing…

    Where would the terrorists come from? Our Southern border with Mexico is wide open for anyone to walk across. Our border is under siege. Obama has no strategy to stop or even slow the invasion of America by either terrorists, or desperate poor masses expecting billions of dollars in welfare from cradle to grave. Just the cost of educating the new illegal immigrant children in this school year is over $700 million.

    America is already bankrupt and almost $18 trillion in debt. Where will the money come from?

    In terms of our border with Mexico (and elsewhere), I would ask that you consider the following (from here)…

    Imagine the once thin borderline of the American past as an ever-thickening band, now extending 100 miles inland around the United States — along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border, and both coasts — and you will be able to visualize how vast the (Customs and Border Protection, or CBP)’s jurisdiction has become. This “border” region now covers places where two-thirds of the U.S. population (197.4 million people) live. The ACLU has come to call it a “constitution-free zone.” The “border” has by now devoured the full states of Maine and Florida and much of Michigan.

    The zone first came into existence thanks to a series of laws passed by Congress in the 1940s and 1950s at a time when the Border Patrol was just an afterthought with a miniscule budget and only 1,100 agents. Today, Customs and Border Protection has more than 60,000 employees and is by far the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country. According to author and constitutional attorney John Whitehead, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), created in 2002, is efficiently and ruthlessly building “a standing army on American soil.”

    Long ago, President James Madison warned that “a standing military force, with an overgrown Executive, will not long be safe companions to liberty.” With its 240,000 employees and $61 billion budget, the DHS, Whitehead points out, is militarizing police units, stockpiling ammunition, spying on activists, and building detention centers, among many other things. CBP is the uniformed and most visible component of this “standing army.” It practically has its own air force and navy, an Office of Air and Marine equipped with 280 sea vessels, 250 aircraft, and 1,200 agents.

    And in terms of the supposed cost of educating immigrant kids, this puts it closer to $615 million; I still don’t know how the cost can be calculated since we don’t have a handle of how many kids are likely to try and become citizens (and Michael Moore refutes the lie that we’re “broke” here; also, I thought this was a good response to the $18 trillion claim…namely, that it overwhelmingly came from the debt run up by Republican presidents).

    I honestly lack the time, the patience, and the calories to do a point-by-point rebuttal of Root’s hysterical propaganda. I’m sure, though, that it was highly satisfying to his audience of bottom feeders who ingest this and other nonsense from the network that also routinely gives us stuff like this.

  • Finally, I should note that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was scheduled to speak at Yale last night; as Eric Owens of The Daily Tucker tells us here, she is a “Somali-born American activist.”

    Of course, since we’re talking about Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page here, you KNOW there has to be an opportunity to try and gin up some phony outrage – three, two, one…

    Yale’s chaplain, Sharon Kugler, is among the critics of the visit.

    In a statement provided to Inside Higher Ed, Kugler lashed out at Hirsi Ali, calling her a “hateful” and “disparaging” person.

    “We understand and affirm Yale’s commitment to free expression within an educational context,” Kugler said in the statement. “We are deeply concerned, however, by Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s long record of disparaging, and arguably hateful, comments about Muslims and Islam.”

    I would say so; as Media Matters notes here

    Hirsi Ali is not moderate in her views of Islam — once referring to the religion as “a destructive nihilistic cult of death” in a 2007 interview with The London Evening Standard. The New York Times reports that Hirsi Ali has also “advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that ‘violence is inherent in Islam’ and that ‘Islam is the new fascism’.” In a 2007 Reason interview, she also called for Islam to be militarily crushed and suggested the Constitution should be amended to permit oppression of U.S. Muslims.

    Hirsi Ali has similarly used her position at AEI to push for antagonistic relations between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries, even criticizing President Obama for not “associating Islam with extremism.” In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, How to Win the Clash of Civilizations, Hirsi Ali highlighted her views that Islam “is at war with America” and wrote that Western civilization “needs to be actively defended” against Islam.

    If Hirsi Ali had specified that she was talking about Islamic extremism, then I would have no problem with her. However, I think it’s reprehensible to denigrate an entire religion because a relatively small percentage of crazies carry out inhuman actions and claim to be followers of that religion.

    And just for good measure, Owens concocts the following drivel (simply precious)…

    Kugler does not appear to have objected when noted kiteboarding enthusiast John Kerry spoke at Yale, or when noted adulterer Bill Clinton spoke at Yale, or when television journalist Barbara Walters, who tried to help a former aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad find employment in the United States, spoke at the school.

    I for one can continue to rest easy knowing that The Daily Tucker is ever-vigilant to the potential threat posed to this country by that massive horde of kiteboarding, dictator-friendly serial adulterers out there. Carry on, citizens!


  • Thursday Mashup (9/4/14)

    September 4, 2014
  • Since we have a new terrorist threat in the Middle East, that means that it’s time for our corporate media to return to the same babbling idiots for more non-solutions, including Pete Hegseth (here)…

    As any war fighter knows, the enemy always gets a vote on the battlefield. Just because we quit the Iraq war in 2011, doesn’t mean our enemies did.

    Case in point: the rise ISIS — now a self-declared Islamic State — in Iraq and Syria. Last week, it shook the collective American consciousness with its beheading of U.S. journalist and New Hampshire native, James Foley. But that was merely the latest demonstration of their brutal, systematic — and growing — radical Islamic movement.

    While the situation is complex, and blame shared, it is now clear that President Obama’s single-minded rush to remove all U.S. forces from Iraq — while simultaneously botching our (non)-policy in Syria — created the power vacuum these barbaric Islamists have rushed to fill.

    You know, it’s really tedious to keep mentioning over and over and over again that our troops were withdrawn from Mesopotamia at the end of 2011 because of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated under Obama’s ruinous predecessor, which I still believe was the right thing to do (here). And speaking of Number 43, let’s not forget for a second his role in the murderous fiasco in which we currently find ourselves, as noted here.

    And by the way, though Hegseth served for 9 months in Iraq (which is 9 months more than I did, I’ll admit), I don’t know how he can be proclaimed a military genius of sorts since he apparently was supposed to serve for 4 years in ROTC, as noted here

    Naming your Iraqi interpreter “John Kerry” is funny – for you – in Iraq. Reporting that fact to the Family Research Council is not, perhaps, in the best tradition of a non-partisan military. And suggesting in your hometown paper that Senator Durbin “handed our enemies a propaganda victory” is quite clearly inappropriate.

    It is unclear to me how Mr. Hegseth had time to complete…active duty required by his ROTC scholarship. And yet this person had the gall to argue with General Wesley Clark – 34-year veteran who won the Silver Star for Valor for commanding his unit after being shot 4 times – that the Webb amendment would give too much time off to soldiers and ruin unit cohesion. This he knew from his “firsthand experiences” Of course Pete switched units after just a few of his NINE MONTHS in Iraq, so obviously, well, he has no idea that the hell he’s talking about.

    I also give you the following from Hegseth:

  • Here, Hegseth was upset that a BENGHAZI!! suspect wouldn’t be tortured; he also claimed that there was somehow a timing factor involved to help the not-yet-officially-announced presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton (uh huh, sure…).
  • Here, Hegseth also tells us pretty much that he has a problem with women in combat.
  • Hegseth also said here that he believed that “Redskin” was meant as a term of respect (uh, no).
  • This tells us (among other details) that Hegseth’s group, Concerned Veterans for America, has ties to Chuckie and Dave Koch (figures – first bullet).
  • I’ve tried to take it easy actually on Pete Hegseth in the past in deference to his military service. However, I believe that the trail of ooze he has created as a result of his smarmy activities in politics and punditry have made it impossible for me to do that any longer.

  • And keeping with the subject of MOAR WAARRR, I give you the following from Anne Applebaum of the WaPo (here – h/t Atrios)…

    Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.

    In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?

    OK, so Applebaum says that we should prepare for war with Russia because September 2014 really is just like September 1939, dammit! Because one day 75 years in the future some pundit from another galaxy will visit what remains of Earth, find all our hashtags, blog posts and Instagram messages and wonder how we could have been so reckless to not rise up and thwart our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin and his global designs when we had the chance. Am I right?

    It’s interesting to me that Applebaum would have such misty water-colored memories of Poland now, though she didn’t feel that way about the Poles a few years ago, accusing “Allied governments” including that country of “cowardice” when Russia faced off with the country of Georgia a few years ago, as noted here (maybe a little “sock puppetry” on Applebaum’s part on behalf of her husband, who at the time was a Polish foreign minister?).

    (But to answer the question…yes, actually; the thought of war anywhere IS “a hysterical idea.”)

  • Next, in light of the story about the merger between Burger King and Tim Horton’s of Canada as part of BK’s “inversion” scheme, “Chuckles” Krauthammer (also of Jeff Bezos, Inc., where it’s best to keep employees completely in the dark, apparently) has the perfect solution (here)…

    What is maddening is that the problem is so easily solved: tax reform that lowers the accursed corporate rate. Democrats and Republicans agree on this. After the announcement of the latest inversion, Burger King buying Tim Hortons and then moving to Canada, the president himself issued a statement conceding that corporate tax reform — lower the rates, eliminate loopholes — is the best solution to the inversion problem.

    It’s also politically doable. Tax reform has unique bipartisan appeal. Conservatives like it because lowering rates stimulates the economy and eliminating loopholes curbs tax-driven economic decisions that grossly misallocate capital.

    The appeal to liberals is economic fairness. By eliminating loopholes, tax reform levels the playing field. Today, the more powerful companies can afford the expensive lobbyists who create the loopholes and the expensive lawyers who exploit them.

    Of course, even Krauthammer admits that, though the nominal corporate rate is about 35 percent, the effective rate (which any halfway decent corporate accountant should be able to obtain) is about 13 percent.

    I’ll tell you what, though – I’ll go Krauthammer one better; as noted here, Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich proposes that we eliminate the corporate income tax but set capital gains taxes at the same rate as ordinary income.

    As Reich explains…

    “In many cases, depending on the structure of the market, a significant share of the actual burden of paying the corporate income tax is often borne instead by employees in the form of lower wages, or consumers in the form of higher prices.”

    Is such an idea a panacea? No. But if this is the best way to take away “inversion” incentives for “U.S.” corporations while making corporate “persons” behave in a decent manner (in a move which is bound to be economically stimulative, by the way), then at the very least, I think it should be crafted into legislation for a congressional vote.

    I just have one request; please don’t use this as yet another excuse to try to take away the federal home mortgage interest deduction or deductions for state and local taxes again, OK?

    And as long as I’m mentioning the paper formerly run by Katharine Graham, I think this needs to be pointed out as well, unfortunately.

  • Further, it looks like we got us another “big gumint” Obama conspiracy on our hands, and Michael Bastasch of The Daily Tucker is ON IT, PEOPLE!!! (here)…

    Republicans are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of preparing to take control over vast swaths of land under the guise of protecting the country’s water resources. Lawmakers warn this could erode private property rights.

    The EPA has consistently denied they are trying to use the Clean Water Act to expand their regulatory reach, but Republicans say they have a smoking gun that shows the agency is up to something.

    Their proof? The EPA paid private contractors to assemble detailed maps of waterways and wetlands in all 50 states. The EPA maps were made in 2013, shortly after the agency proposed expanding its authority under the Clean Water Act. The maps were kept secret by the agency, but were obtained by Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

    And if you guessed that Repug U.S. House Texas moron (redundant?) Lamar Smith is involved, then you win a free barrel of toxic sludge…

    “These maps show the EPA’s plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country,”(Smith), the science committee’s chairman, wrote in a letter to the EPA demanding more answers on why they have a detailed map of U.S. waterways.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. Determining Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 21, 2014. The public comment period will be open for 182 days and will close on Monday, October 20, 2014.

    And by the way, the rule definition was requested by a rather lengthy list of individuals and agencies, including Repug Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, the New York City DEP, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Clean Water Action, and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), among many, many others.

    So, as nearly as I can determine, the maps were created in concert with the rule definition (40 CFR Parts 110, 112, 116, 117, 122, 230, 232, 300, 302, and 401) published in the Federal Register to clarify recent Supreme Court decisions. That would make sense because that’s the best way to determine the practical impact of the rule (which, as noted above, is still open for public comment – if Smith doesn’t like it, he is more than welcome to voice his opposition).

    But of course, Smith isn’t really so concerned with encouraging a dialogue on science and the environment as he is on trying to muzzle it, as noted here, so I don’t expect an intelligent response from him about the rule or much of anything else, really.

    Couric_Sawyer_Head
    (And keep it classy as always, Tucker, OK?)

  • Continuing, it looks like Louisiana Gov. Bobby (“Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal is desperately trying to remain relevant once more, as noted here

    (Jindal) filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in federal court Wednesday, claiming that the Department of Education has illegally manipulated grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the controversial Common Core standards.

    In the suit, Jindal argues that the Education Department’s $4.3 billion grant program “effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum” in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The suit asks a judge to declare the department’s actions unconstitutional and to keep it from disqualifying states from receiving Race to the Top funds based on a refusal to use Common Core or to participate in one of two state testing consortia tied to the department’s grant program.

    Well, the Teahadists should be amused anyway. As for the actual grownups, though, I give you the following from here

    Louisiana adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and worked toward full implementation by 2014-15. The initiative was on the right track, with Mr. Jindal’s staunch support. The Common Core standards “will raise expectations for every child,” he said in 2012.

    Late last year, as Common Core critics emerged, Mr. Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, began raising “concerns.” “Let’s face it,” he said last month. “Centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education.” Last week, he completed his reversal on the heels of a fundraising visit to South Carolina, saying he wants state officials to develop “Louisiana standards and Louisiana tests for Louisiana students.”

    How are those Louisiana standards working out so far? Louisiana’s fourth-graders rank 49th among the states in math proficiency. Eighth-graders rank 48th. Meanwhile, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., began raising standards in 2010 and now lead the country in reading and math score gains. In 1993, Massachusetts reformed its school system, placing rigorous standards front and center. It is now first in many education rankings.

    So apparently, Jindal didn’t have either the foresight/imagination/basic intelligence/all of the above to realize that Common Core needed modifications at the very least for Louisiana. But since he also saw that he could gain some kind of political traction by switching sides, he decided to adopt his current cowardly position.

    Also, I think the following should be noted about Common Core from here

    Question 1. Where do you think the drive for Common Core standards is coming from?

    Alfie Kohn: I don’t think we have to speculate; the answer is pretty clear: While some educational theorists have long favored national standards — and got nowhere with the idea in the ’90s — the current successful push has come principally from corporate executives, politicians, and testing companies. This time they managed to foster the illusion that because the federal government, per se, isn’t mandating it, they’re not really “national” but just “core” standards, even though all but four states have signed on. It’s rather like the effort to reframe vouchers as “choice.” They’ve also been very shrewd this time about co-opting the education organizations by soliciting their counsel. These groups are so desperate for a “seat at the table” of power that they’ve agreed to confine the discussion to the content of the standards rather than asking whether the whole idea makes sense for children.

    If your question is read more broadly — not just “Who are the players?” but “What’s the ideological underpinning?” — then all you have to do is look at the rhetoric on the Core Standards website, read the defenses published elsewhere, listen to the speeches: This move toward even greater top-down control and uniformity is almost always justified in terms of “competing in the global economy.” It’s not about doing well, but about beating others. And it’s not about intellectual depth and passion for learning, but about dollars and cents.

    And I also give you this

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan dismissed Jindal’s move as purely political.

    “Gov. Jindal was a passionate supporter before he was against it. So this, from that situation, is about politics. It’s not about education,” Duncan said in an interview on CBS This Morning.

    And if you want to find out how well this is really playing with the folks back home, as it were, then I think you should read this.

  • On we go – I took particular interest in this item

    Temple University has become the latest focal point for groups concerned about the spreading wave of campus anti-Semitism and academic-based Holocaust minimizing.

    Temple student Daniel Vessal, a fellow with CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), was drawn into a verbal exchange with anti-Israel activists at the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) table during an official college event on August 20, 2014. Vessal, in his junior year at the Temple University Fox School of Business, studying Management Information Systems and Entrepreneurship, was allegedly called a “kike,” “Zionist pig,” and “baby killer.” He was slapped so hard at the SJP table that he was sent to the hospital. A police investigation and legal action are underway. The assaultive SJP supporter has purportedly apologized, according to a published SJP statement, which states: “I’m sorry for what I did. I admit I lost my temper.”

    With lightning speed, 14 Jewish organizations reacted to the assault, releasing a joint public letter of protest to Temple University. The letter complained:

    A university campus should be the setting for thoughtful discussion and intellectual debate. Such an atmosphere should be encouraged by all responsible student groups. Unfortunately, Students for Justice in Palestine is not such a group. It has a proven track record of intimidation, harassment, and incitement merging into anti-Semitism against Israel and its supporters on campus.

    The swift-response joint letter was spearheaded by StandWithUs, which has become the nation’s pre-eminent campus pro-Israel advocacy group. Additional signatories included Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hasbara Fellowships, Proclaiming Justice to The Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, The Lawfare Project, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

    I do not begrudge any of the Jewish organizations in their response to the alleged attack on Daniel Vessal. There is no place for abusive language and real or implied violence in something that should resemble informed dialogue.

    However, I take personal offense at anyone who would consider my alma mater to be an “anti-Semetic hotspot” (yes, I saw the words of Adjunct Professor Alessio Lerro about how the Jews are allegedly using the Holocaust for political advantage – in the course of vigorous debate, you’re going to hear indefensible language I’ll admit; I have no problem acknowledging that our universities are more or less laboratories of free thought, or should be, even sometimes coming from organizations as the thoroughly disreputable group noted here).

    HuffPo writer Edwin Black does tell us that “More than 137,000 individual donations were made to Temple between 2010 and 2012 alone, according to university records examined. The university’s benefactors include many major gifts from Jewish donors and foundations arising from or controlled by Jewish individuals.” That’s the journalistically responsible thing to note in a piece like this.

    I would add that Temple is also home to The Myer & Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish Life as part of Temple’s College of Liberal Arts, which was founded in May 1990 (here). As the center’s website tells us: “Its mission is simple: Inspiring Inquiry. In collaboration with institutions in Philadelphia and beyond, the Feinstein Center invites the public to join conversations about Jewish culture, politics, history, and identity across time and space.”

    And as noted from here

    Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also acknowledged rising tensions on campuses and in communities.

    “It’s an unfortunate byproduct of a conflict that has gone on too long and should be stopped immediately,” he said. “But no overseas conflict can justify any form of anti-Semitism or intolerant action or speech.”

    If charges arise from this incident at Temple, then so be it. Otherwise, let’s put the intolerant generalizations aside, shall we?

  • Finally, I have to tell you that I came across this truly hilarious item from Hunter at Daily Kos; he’s taking to task a writer at Irrational Spew Online named Armond White who came up with a list of the 20 films that “destroyed art, social unity, and spiritual confidence,” as far as White is concerned.

    Number 20 is Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”; of course, forget for a moment that we’re talking about a towering cinematic achievement about passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, definitely original in that the story proceeds through dialogue and various other plot lines without much in the way of what you would call “action.”

    Also on White’s list is “Wall-E,” which is also not surprising since it features characters imitating American behavior in many ways who have been basically exiled into outer space because the planet they once inhabited is now thoroughly despoiled, though there is a bit of environmental hope at the end. And, as you might have expected, “The Dark Knight” made the list because it “undermine(s) heroism, overturn(s) social mores, and embrace(s) anarchy.”

    (I thought the “Batman” movies by Christopher Nolan were a bit of a nod to the “one percent” since they present their wheeling and dealing as important to the survival of Gotham City, though there are also “Occupy”-related themes, particularly in the last one, where the villain Bane uses them to give Gotham the illusion of hope while the city lives in terror, cut off from everyone else. Basically, I think that’s what makes those movies great art; you can look at them from a couple of different mindsets and create different impressions, with not one better or worse than another.)

    As you might have expected, though, Number One on White’s list is “Good Night and Good Luck” about the faceoff between CBS news legend Edward R. Murrow and communist-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy. I’m not going to get into the history of that encounter here; if you want to read more, feel free to click here.

    In the article about the program “See It Now,” where Murrow stood up to McCarthy and allowed the Wisconsin senator an opportunity for rebuttal, we learn that the broadcast did a good job of cutting McCarthy down to size, as it were. What isn’t as readily obvious is the aftermath to Murrow, the program, and the network. CBS ended up losing sponsors in droves (including Alcoa), the program was cut from an hour to a half-hour, and it was moved from prime time to Sunday afternoons. And oh yeah, the loss of sponsors also led to layoffs in the news division, and Murrow’s “cred” within the corporation was irreparably damaged as a result (all of this is portrayed in the movie).

    The moral? If somehow you are remunerated or rewarded for telling the truth in the face of great opposition, especially of the corporate variety, count your blessings, because that probably won’t happen. A clear conscience and the ability to look yourself in the mirror, though highly satisfying, is probably the only positive outcome you will get.


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