Wednesday Mashup (8/14/13)

August 14, 2013
  • Looks like it’s time to rally around the supposedly oh-so-put-upon American Legislative Exchange Council, as the Murdoch Street Journal tells us here

    The campaign to suppress political speech has found its next tactic, using outrage over Trayvon Martin’s killing in Florida as a hammer. (Last) Wednesday, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin sent a letter to corporate and nonprofit supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, asking them to disclose their positions on stand-your-ground legislation that ALEC supported in Florida in 2005.

    ALEC is a group of state legislators from around the country that promotes center-right reform ideas, mostly on economic issues. It has had success spreading those ideas, which has made it a target of liberal activists trying to cut off its funding.

    Like the Repugs did successfully to ACORN, a left-wing advocacy organization which no longer exists, let’s not forget.

    Enter Mr. Durbin. “Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation in 2005 and the present day,” Mr. Durbin writes in the letter to groups and companies that have donated to ALEC.

    Since support for ALEC doesn’t “necessarily mean” that it endorses every position taken by the organization, Mr. Durbin continues, he is “seeking clarification” on whether companies that have “funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.” Oh, and by the way, the letter concludes, he intends to make the responses public at a Congressional hearing in September.

    Translation: If your company engages in political debate or supports conservative groups, he will tie your name to controversies or force you to publicly disclaim positions taken by groups you support. Mr. Durbin knows that if he can drive a wedge between ALEC and its corporate donors, it will help cripple the group’s influence on issues like tax policy and education and remove a significant voice for conservative reform in the states, including Illinois.

    “Conservative reform” being code for gutting clean air and water laws, trying to abolish public school education, disenfranchising poor and minority voters, et cetera…

    The plan also sends up a flare for Mr. Durbin’s allies at agitprop outfits like MoveOn.org, which will then target for public abuse and perhaps boycott the companies whose names Mr. Durbin exposes.

    By the way, isn’t it interesting how the Journal refers to ALEC as a group that “promotes center-right reform ideas” and MoveOn.org is an “agitprop outfit.”

    The strategy was used against Target retail stores in 2010, when MoveOn pushed a boycott because Target donated to a group that in turn donated to a GOP candidate for Minnesota Governor.

    MoveOn “targeted” Target, if you will, because the company did indeed donate $150,000 to a Minnesota politician who opposes gay marriage, but decided not to give a matching amount to pro-gay candidates for balance (here).

    Did Target have a right to do that? Yes. Did MoveOn.org have a right to push its boycott in response? Again, yes.

    To me, it just sounds like democracy in action (which is messy at times, for a reason). Of course, leave it to the Journal to view it as a lefty conspiracy, or something.

    ALEC was targeted last year when former White House aide Van Jones accused the group and its donors of racism during the election-year fight over voter ID laws. Through letters and media smear campaigns…

    Proof?

    …the group succeeded in getting such non-profiles in courage as Coca-Cola, Mars and Kraft to stop donating to ALEC. One result is that ALEC closed its task forces that dealt with non-economic issues.

    That was an effort to minimize the political fallout for members and donors around issues that weren’t ALEC’s core mission, but now Democrats are back for more.

    Oh, so the Journal knows what ALEC’s “core mission” is? Oh, right – “center/right reform ideas”…uh huh. And apparently, that includes widespread lobbying while claiming tax-exempt status, as noted here.

    Mr. Durbin knows that companies making hamburgers or allergy drugs don’t care about stand-your-ground laws. His goal is to scare them with reputational damage by mentioning them in the same breath as Trayvon Martin. This is how the modern left—via the IRS, the Federal Election Commission and now in Congress—tries to stifle political debate.

    Ha and ha (and I would say that writing an editorial like this without noting that the Journal is itself a member of ALEC is an attempt to “stifle political debate” also, as noted here – and of course, lefties were targeted by the IRS too, a fact the Journal choose to ignore).

    Oh, and assuming a bill is ever signed into law containing language directly from an “agitprop outfit” like MoveOn.org (this Michigan “right to work” bill received that treatment, including language that came directly from ALEC), I’m sure the Journal will let me know – yeah, right.

    Update 8/15/13: More here

  • Next, I have a feeling that the other Bush brother is getting a little antsy about all the big media love doled out to fellow Repugs (and potential 2016 presidential candidates) Rand “Fake Ophthalmologist” Paul and Ted “Calgary” Cruz (to say nothing of Governor Bully, of course), and I guess the former FAL guv thought he had to make a splash somehow (here)…

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Wednesday criticized actor Matt Damon, a vocal public-school advocate, for sending his children to private school.

    Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools. Choice ok for Damon, why not everyone else? http://t.co/yHrTbakeIW

    — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 6, 2013

    “I’ll take ‘Desperately Trying To Remain Relevant Somehow’ for 100, Alex!”

    There are a few directions you can go with this, but for now, I’d like to point out the following (here, in which the Daily Kos diarist notes that the “research” in support of school choice is largely bankrolled by the Walton Family, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the usual coterie of right-wing propagandists)…

    School choice may, in fact, hold some promises for reforming education since “choice” is central to human agency and empowerment. But the school choice movement and its advocates are the least likely avenues for us ever realizing what school choice has to offer because the advocates are primarily driven by ideology and funding coming from sources that have intentions that have little to do with universal public education for free and empowered people.

    And the growing evidence that corporate charter schools as the latest choice mechanism are causing harm–in terms of segregation and stratification of student populations–is cause for alarm for all people along the spectrum of school reform and school choice. [5]

    If a school choice advocate sticks to the talking-points script and will not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that out-of-school factors determine student outcomes, that evidence is mounting that choice stratifies schools, and that evidence on how school is delivered (public, private, charter) is mixed and similar among all types of schooling, then that advocate isn’t worth our time and isn’t contributing to a vibrant and open debate that could help move us toward school reform that benefits each student and our larger society.

    And on top of that, this tells us the following…

    Charter school trends vary substantially across different regions of the country. Latinos are under-enrolled in charter schools in some Western states where they comprise the largest share of students. At the same time, a dozen states (including those with high concentrations of Latino students like Arizona and Texas) report that a majority of Latino charter students attend intensely segregated minority schools. Patterns in the West and in a few areas in the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country, also suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools. Finally, in the industrial Midwest, more students enroll in charter schools compared to other regions, and midwestern charter programs display high concentrations of black students.

    Since Brown v. Board of Education, public schools have been compelled to address this disparity. That public schools have been inconsistent in this mission is a conclusion that is not in dispute.

    Charter schools on the other hand, — especially those operated by national Charter Management Organizations like KIPP and National Heritage Academies — tend to reinforce geographic racial patterns in their marketing appeals. On their websites and in their printed materials, these charter chains invariably promote their abilities to educate “underserved” communities and “close achievement gaps,” even though there is no evidence that charters in general are any better at this than traditional public schools. In fact, many of them are worse.

    But beyond all of that, this tells us, among other things, that Jeb Bush is criticizing actor Matt Damon for doing something Bush did himself (oh, and last I checked, Matt Damon isn’t a potential candidate for any government office whatsoever).

    However, I’ll let a professed Jeb Bush supporter get the last word here…

    MS_Kelly_J_Bush_0813
    Actually, no, he isn’t.

  • Continuing, it looks like John Lott is all up in arms (pun intended) over keeping the identity of gun owners a secret (here). Funny, but I didn’t see NRA members being so shy when it came to showing off their hardware at a Starbucks in Newtown, CT recently, as noted here (the place where the Sandy Hook school carnage took place last year, for the benefit of anyone who has somehow forgotten that – to the credit of the Starbucks store, it closed early on Friday, but it should not have had to do that).

    (I suddenly realized that, in accordance with the ALEC editorial earlier, the Murdoch Street Journal would probably try to accuse me now of suppressing the legitimate free speech of the NRA…I have a two-word response, and it isn’t “happy birthday,” or “lock n’ load.”)

    I wonder if Lott is trying to hide the identity of gun owners also because, as determined in a 1994 study noted here, male gun owners were 2 ½ times more likely than non-gun owners to be arrested for non-traffic offenses? And by the way, as noted from the same HuffPo link, a 2012 survey found that most guns used in mass shootings were legally purchased – just an FYI.

    Honestly, though, I think Lott and his pals have nothing to worry about (just whipping up phony outrage as usual). From what I’ve read, Gawker and the New York Journal News took so much flak for publishing the names of New York gun owners that I think the chilling effect of that alone would be enough to prevent anyone else from doing it.

  • Further, I give you Mark Hemingway of The Weakly Standard (here)…

    On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity.

    But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable.

    After Corkins takes a suspiciously long time rummaging through his bag to produce identification, Johnson cannily stands up and walks around the desk to get a closer look at what Corkins is doing. Corkins bolts upright, gun in hand. Without the slightest hesitation, Johnson rushes Corkins, who fires twice. A bullet shatters Johnson’s left forearm. “And I just couldn’t hear anything, my arm just kind of blew back. So at that point I was thinking: ‘I have to get this gun,’ ” Johnson told The Weekly Standard. “That was my sole focus—I have to get this gun—this guy’s gonna kill me and kill everybody here.”

    From there, Johnson somehow manages to push Corkins across the lobby and pin him against the wall with his bad arm. “I just started punching him as hard as I could, until I could feel his grip loosen,” recalled Johnson. Eventually he takes the gun from Corkins with his wounded arm. Before long, Corkins is subdued on the ground. Corkins now admits that it was his intention to shoot everyone in the building. There’s no question Johnson saved a lot of lives.

    Leo Johnson’s actions were heroic, absolutely, and Hemingway’s piece tells us about all of Johnson’s difficulty with rehabilitation and medical bills, as well as caring for his elderly mother and very elderly grandmother (and yes, Corkins is just another cowardly idiot with a gun).

    But if you think all of this is just a setup to take a shot at us lefties, then you win a commemorative Mexican terrorist doll with the face of Repug U.S. House Rep Louie Gohmert (the commemorative model with the face of Steve King has “calves the size of cantaloupes”).

    Continuing…

    There’s a lot that should be said about Johnson’s heroism, starting with the fact that it hasn’t been widely recognized. Over the last few years, thanks to events such as the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the George Zimmerman trial, the media have been subjecting us all to a constant and unavoidable national debate about the nexus of politics and violence. This has been unusually perplexing because the media persist in having this debate even when no connection between politics and violence exists.

    Obama_Baby_Teabagger

    Obama_White_Slavery

    Taxpayer_Obama_Oven


    Really?

    The Family Research Council shooting is one of the few inarguable examples of politically motivated violence in recent years, yet looking back a year later, the incident has garnered comparatively little attention. Corkins openly admits he selected the Family Research Council because the Christian organization is one of the leading opponents of gay marriage in the country. He had Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack because the CEO of the fast-food chain was under fire for publicly supporting a biblical definition of marriage. Corkins said he planned to “smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in [the] faces” of his victims as a political statement. And in case that didn’t make his motivations transparent, right before Corkins shot Leo Johnson, he told him, “I don’t like your politics.”

    Later in the column, Hemingway blames the Southern Poverty Law Center (as if they had anything to do with Corkins and his criminal behavior) for designating the Family Research Council as a “hate group” (with Leo Johnson basically wondering why anyone would do such a thing – making that designation against the FRC, I mean).

    I’ll tell you why – as noted here

    The SPLC gave the Family Research Council the designation due to anti-gay speech from its leaders, which the SPLC says includes calls for gay men and lesbians to be imprisoned.

    Labeling the Family Research Council a hate group puts one of Washington’s most powerful social issues advocates into the company of groups like the Nation of Islam and the now mostly defunct Aryan Nations in the eyes of the SPLC, which tracks 932 active hate groups in the U.S.

    Groups are labeled hate groups by the SPLC — which made a name for itself by using civil lawsuits to severely weaken the KKK and other white supremacist groups — when they “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” according to the group’s website.

    The main offender in the eyes of the SPLC is Peter Sprigg, the FRC’s senior researcher and vocal opponent of the gay rights movement. In May, Sprigg told me that an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would lead to more American servicemen receiving unwelcome same-sex fellatio in their sleep, part of a long line of reasoning from Sprigg suggesting that gay men are more likely to be sex offenders than anyone else.

    SPLC Research Director Heidi Beirich told me the FRC is part of a growing list of what the SPLC calls anti-gay groups masking themselves under the guise of conservatism or Christianity.

    “What this really is is a wholesale defamation attack on gays and lesbians,” Beirich said. “Some of the stuff is just as crude if you compare it to, say, the Klan’s racism. But a lot of it’s a little more sophisticated and they try to make it more scientific even though what they’re pushing are falsehoods.”

    I wish Leo Johnson all the best in his recovery, and he is of course entitled to his opinion no matter how much I may disagree. But to use the horrible attack he endured as an excuse to whitewash the FRC’s bigotry is a whole other level of repulsive that I didn’t think I could ever imagine from the wingnutosphere until now.

  • Finally, it looks like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina (do I need to mention the party?) is shocked, shocked I tell you! to hear Dem Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid tell us that Republicans don’t like Obama because he’s an African American (here)…


    Yeah, don’t you hate it when somebody makes up stuff like that?

    “Instead of engaging in serious debate about the failed policies of this administration – from the ever-increasing burdens created by the national health care reform plan to the tax and spend approach to economic recovery, along with countless others – Democrats are once again trying to hide behind a smokescreen,” the Republican said.

    Added Scott: “Our country deserves more from those in Washington. I hope Senator Reid will realize the offensive nature of his remarks and apologize to those who disagree with the President’s policies because of one thing – they are hurting hardworking American families.”

    (Just as a reminder, this tells us once again that the “jobs” plan from congressional Republicans won’t create actual, y’know, jobs.)

    And when it comes to “hurting hardworking American families,” Scott has a pretty good (which is to say, bad) track record, as noted here

  • Scott attempted to prevent the families of striking workers from receiving food stamps (including kids).
  • He also tried to hurt the NLRB’s ability to go after law-breaking employers.
  • In addition, he also authored a bill that would have stripped the National Labor Relations Board of its ability to penalize companies that illegally move jobs in retaliation for workers exercising their legal rights.
  • Scott also supported a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that determined that immigrant, Native American and LGBT women should be afforded no protections at all, as noted here.
  • Oh, and Scott also helped slash South Carolina’s HIV/AIDS budget and defended billions in subsidies to Big Oil. He also floated the idea of impeaching Obama over the 2011 debt ceiling nonsense (which led to the sequester, let’s not forget, in which “Man Tan” Boehner said he got “98 percent” of everything he wanted). And while he sat on the Charleston (SC) County Council, he wanted to spend an unlimited amount of money to display the Ten Commandments outside of a government building (all of this awfulness is noted here).

    In conclusion, I’d like to point out that I think Harry Reid is wrong. Scott and his pals don’t oppose Obama because he’s black.

    It’s merely because he’s a Democrat.


  • Friday Mashup (6/21/13)

    June 21, 2013
  • I give you The Daily Tucker here

    Republican lawmakers renewed their push to scrap the federal estate tax this week, saying the move would create jobs and keep family businesses afloat.

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune and Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady officially re-introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act. The bill would immediately eliminate the estate tax and repeal the generation-skipping transfer tax.

    When I say that the Repugs keep coming back over and over and over with their bad ideas regardless of how truly bad they are, no matter how many times they keep going up in smoke (on the oft-chance that maybe, just maybe, this time will be different, and sometimes it is), this is exactly what I mean (and by the way, when the Repugs talk about a “family business,” here is the standard they use).

    For, as noted here from a couple of years ago…

    Estates larger than $5 million potentially owe estate tax in 2011. Only about 1 in 800 deaths will result in a taxable estate; 99.9 percent of deaths trigger no estate tax. The estate tax will raise over $10 billion from 3,300 deaths in 2011. [Tax Policy Center, accessed 6/29/11]

    (Preliminary estimates from the Tax Policy Center) indicate that the proposed estate tax would hit only 50 “Small Farms And Businesses,” defined as “[e]states for which farms and business assets comprise at least half of gross estate and total $5 million or less.” For these estates, the average tax rate is estimated to be 7.4 percent. For all estates affected by the tax, the average tax rate is estimated to be 14.4 percent.

    This tells us the following from last November…

    In short, only 20 new small farm and business estates would be affected by President Obama’s proposal (to increase the estate tax). The same report notes the effective tax rate is far lower than the headline 45 percent rate due to “special provisions targeted to farm and business estates.” Taking such provisions into account yields an estimated effective tax rate of 11.6 percent, which is lower than the current capital gains rate.

    And just for emphasis, Think Progress tells us the following from here (repeating some of the previously linked info)…

    Only the very richest households in the country ever have to pay the estate tax, since, (as of Nov. 2011), an estate must be worth more than $5 million (or $10 million for a couple) to pay any estate tax at all.…more than half of the estate tax (was) paid by the richest 0.1 percent of households.

    Oh, but Thune tells us that Repug econ guru Douglas Holtz-Eakin says that repealing the estate tax would create 1.5 million jobs, even though the study behind that claim was called “seriously flawed” by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (here).

    Gee, that doesn’t sound “optimistic, uplifting and nice” as BoBo once noted about “pretty boy” Thune (second bullet from here).

  • Next, I give you another metaphorical piñata that the Repugs like to whack at from time to time (here)…

    A sort of domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps was created in 1993 to place adult Americans in community service with nonprofit and public agencies, especially in environmental protection, health, education and public safety. President Clinton declared that AmeriCorps is “living proof” that “if we hold hands and believe we’re going into the future together, we can change anything we want to change.” President George W. Bush was a big supporter, too.

    Yeah, Dubya was such a “big supporter” that he just about wrecked the program; as noted here from a 2003 Slate article…

    The maiming of AmeriCorps infuriates its supporters. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., (co-authors of another national service bill) have criticized the president for backing away from AmeriCorps when continued support became inconvenient. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry recently trotted out his own plan for a massive increase in national service, suggesting AmeriCorps’ promise and failings could become a campaign issue in 2004. But if AmeriCorps can’t make itself accountable to Congress, national service may go the way of Lyndon Johnson’s “community-action”-minded War on Poverty and Richard Nixon’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, a jobs program abused by the states and killed off by Ronald Reagan. The graveyard of American social policy is abundant with similar decentralized programs that were killed off by horror stories of incompetence and mismanagement.

    Continuing…

    But the halo on AmeriCorps exists primarily because few people have examined what the corps and its members are really up to. The grandiose achievements of AmeriCorps have always been a statistical illusion, full of impressive-looking numbers of people and causes served, and yet—as the Government Accountability Office has pointed out—often missing evidence of real accomplishment.

    Consider the following recent activities:

    • In April, AmeriCorps recruits in Tuscumbia, Mo., released 70 blue balloons outside the county courthouse to draw attention to the plight of abused children.
    • In March, Providence, R.I., AmeriCorps members at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence hosted a hip hop/poetry competition.
    • Members of a Nevada AmeriCorps program busy themselves these days by encouraging local residents to drink tap water and watch out for bears (“bear awareness”).
    • AmeriCorps members in Austin, Texas, hosted a trivia night in April at a local bar called Cheer Up Charlie’s to whip up enthusiasm for public service.

    There’s a lot of other anecdotal stuff listed here where James Bovard of the Murdoch Street Journal doesn’t bother to cite his sources, so I won’t try and do more of his homework for him – don’t know how much is actual fact vs. urban legend (he mentions something about puppet shows too).

    Continuing…

    During the Clinton era, scandals erupted after AmeriCorps bankrolled the left-wing community-organizing group Acorn and projects that engaged in blatant political campaigning. Federal law bans using tax dollars for advocacy. In 2011, a report prepared by auditors in the office of the inspector general with oversight of AmeriCorps criticized its management for policies that “leave no meaningful recourse against a sponsor that misuses [AmeriCorps] personnel.”

    I couldn’t find any citation from a reputable news organization for the Clinton/AmeriCorps/ACORN stuff, and again, Bovard didn’t provide one himself. And I’m mystified by the inclusion of the other quote, since it really isn’t a reflection of AmeriCorps as an organization or any AmeriCorps workers.

    Oh, and speaking of Number 42, when he wanted to build support for AmeriCorps when it faced a budget cut from congressional Republicans (sound familiar?), who did he go to for help? Why, none other than one-time Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney, who offered his support as noted here.

    Continuing…

    For most of Mr. Obama’s first term and until last year, AmeriCorps went unsupervised by a permanent inspector general at its oversight agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service. In June 2009, the administration fired IG Gerald Walpin after Mr. Walpin refused to back down from a report condemning a prominent Obama supporter, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in AmeriCorps grants for his St. HOPE Academy. Mr. Walpin also stirred hostility with a report showing that the AmeriCorps role in one of its largest programs—the Teaching Fellows program at the City University of New York—failed to produce any positive results.

    There were other issues going on with Walpin, by the way, as noted here, namely that Walpin and his staff “did not include” or “disclose” relevant information regarding the case to (the office of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Lawrence Brown); that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after being advised “under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation”; and that Walpin’s “actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter.”

    Continuing…

    When it comes to measuring results, however, the program has always relied on Soviet-style accounting—adding up labor inputs and proclaiming victory. The Government Accountability Office criticized AmeriCorps in 2000 for this reason and rapped the organization again in 2010 for using performance measures that “do not demonstrate results” and are “poorly aligned” with stated goals. The GAO warned that the self-reported data from grant recipients was unverified and unreliable.

    Believe it or not, there’s a bit of truth to the “Soviet-style accounting” charge (only a bit, though). As noted here from the 2003 Slate article…

    The lack of basic information about how many members AmeriCorps had can be blamed on the agency’s decentralized management system and grant-giving authority. This was by design. Clinton had devolved control to state commissions, whose directors are appointed by governors, in order to win the program support from the governors. With cash rolling out to the states in massive annual increases, what was not to like? (Leslie Lenkowsky, named to run AmeriCorps under Dubya) favored such decentralization and wanted to devolve management still further. In a Weekly Standard article published a few months before he was named to run the corporation, Lenkowsky argued that AmeriCorps should be “voucherized,” with payments going directly to grantees rather than to the organizations that doled out the grants. He noted that this scheme might “dismay the auditors” but shrugged that worry off. Once in office, Lenkowsky never implemented his voucher scheme but remained faithfully indifferent to accounting concerns.

    AmeriCorps has garnered its share of wingnut umbrage over the years, including here, from Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes, of course, about how AmeriCorps is really a front for a civilian national security force, an army of Obama community organizers, or something. Prior to that, Pam Geller said that Obama is recruiting an army of 8-year-olds through AmeriCorps here. And Beck, prior to that, claimed that a NY law allowing convicts to work for non-profits had a tie to AmeriCorps (and ACORN!!!, of course) here.

    Here is my question, though: if AmeriCorps is supposedly so awful, then why did “Moon Unit” Bachmann allow her son to go to work for Teach for America (TFA), which is part of AmeriCorps, as noted here (and a commendable action by her son, truth be told).

    And as noted from here (towards the end of the .pdf), AmeriCorps is responsible for the following (from 1994-1996 alone)…

    Education

    • Taught 381,592 students in Head Start, kindergarten, and grades one to 12.
    • Tutored, mentored, or counseled 212,239 students in grades one to 12.
    • Organized speakers, presentations, field trips, or service-learning activities for 672,981 students.
    • Recruited, trained, or placed 145,168 peer tutors and community volunteers.
    • Developed curricula, assembled library collections, or provided instructional materials for 717,640 students.
    • Performed educational case management or conducted home visits for 138,151 students and their families.
    • Taught parenting skills workshops, GED classes, or job counseling workshops for 58,363 parents.

    Health and Human Needs

    • Constructed, rehabilitated, or renovated 1,485 low-income houses and provided housing assistance for an additional 22,843 people. Completed 60 new homeless shelters benefiting 1,422 people and placed an additional 18,687 homeless people in permanent or transitional housing.
    • Organized or packed 3,302,961 pounds of food and clothing, benefiting 591,769 recently homeless people.
    • Organized or staffed community health fairs attended by 1,505,773 people.
    • Provided child care for 42,926 children and their families.
    • Immunized 30,724 children and 4,833 adults.
    • Screened, counseled, or provided health information and services to 1,384,612 children and adults.
    • Recruited and coordinated 64,881 volunteers in support of these health and human needs projects.

    Environmental and Neighborhood Restoration

    • Rehabilitated or repaired 315 community buildings and 1,838 miles of park trails and roads.
    • Planted 22,455 trees in urban areas or rural towns and 80,727 acres of trees in parklands.
    • Restored or conserved 3,061 miles of rivers, beaches, and fish habitats and 90,729 acres or public lands and fowl habitat.
    • Repaired 266 dams or other flood-control systems and responded to 494 forest fires and search-and-rescue missions.

    Public Safety

    • Organized 887 neighborhood watches, recruited 9,511 child or senior escorts, and started 282 community policing programs.
    • Organized or conducted after-school sports and violence-avoidance activities for 93,169 students.
    • Conducted 3,371 conflict mediation and resolution programs.
    • Provided career development and community integration services for 5,346 adjudicated youth and 906 adults on probation.
    • Counseled 29,352 individuals about substance abuse and 74,421 individuals about victims’ rights or child abuse prevention.
    • Worked with 851 community groups to establish better relations and improve communication across racial and ethnic lines.

    I would say that that’s just a little more substantial than whining over puppet shows.

  • Finally, in their never-ending search for a person of color to bolster the claim that they aren’t just a party of elderly, disgruntled white people who are good at not much more than creating a lot of noise for no good reason, it appears that what was once called the “party of Lincoln” has settled on somebody else as the “flavor of the month.”

    And that person’s name is Elbert Guillory (and if your immediate reaction is “who?,” then you win a free commemorate crying towel used by John Boehner and Glenn Beck).

    The Daily Tucker explains here

    Elbert Guillory, an African-American state senator from Louisiana, recently became a Republican. And one week later, he released a video explaining his move — and urging others to join him in “abandoning the government plantation and the party of disappointment.”

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Guillory is a guy who believes it’s important that he announce to the entire world that he, formerly a Democrat, is now a Republican. Yawn.

    As noted here from last month…

    During debate Wednesday on a bill to expand Medicaid coverage in Louisiana, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson said fellow lawmakers had told her they based their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, on the race of the president and not on policy.

    “The accusations of racism this week certainly helped push me over the edge. I thought that they were over the edge,” Guillory said in an interview Friday. “It just showed me just how far out of tune I was, I am, with the Democrat Party.”

    “Democrat” Party – bless Guillory’s pointed little newly Republican head. And by the way, suppose what Karen Carter Peterson said was actually true?

    Basically, Guillory has been, at best, a “lite” version of an actual Democrat for some time – as noted from here

    (Louisiana Gov. Bobby “Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal’s proposal—through Guillory’s bills—to move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution pension plan (for state retirees) was a virtual clone of the “Defined-Contribution Retirement Act” model bill as drafted by ALEC at its New Orleans national convention last August, Guillory’s claims in his email to LouisianaVoice notwithstanding.

    But that was just one of the bills proposed by ALEC.

    A copy of ALEC’s complete proposed retirement reform legislation was obtained by Common Cause of Washington, D.C., which filed Freedom of Information Act requests for ALEC records.

    The ALEC proposals and those of Guillory in the Senate and Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) in the House are nearly identical in most aspects.

    So, all things considered, it’s a little difficult to buy into Guillory’s braggadocio about his committee’s “hard work, no buyout by ALEC.” Nor do we agree that a “serious fiscal problem” was addressed in a “careful, responsible manner.”

    There’s a lot more in the Louisiana Voice post about Guillory, including his attempt to basically create two different categories of state workers: one for policemen, firemen and teachers (male pronoun meant to be all-inclusive, by the way), and the other category for every other type of state worker who supposedly doesn’t face “hazards” on the job.

    I suppose every politician out there is an opportunist of one type or another. The standard I use, though, is how often his or her interests end up coinciding with my own. And far from some newly-minted voice of sanity for the rapidly-declining-by-their-own-hand major political party in this country, Guillory appears to be nothing but someone peddling the same old snake oil in a slightly new bottle.

    Keep trying, Repugs (and I know you will).


  • Friday Mashup (9/14/12)

    September 14, 2012

  • Really, Foxies? Our embassies are being “overrun” (here)?

    Not according to this

    KHARTOUM/TUNIS (Reuters) – Fury about a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad tore across the Middle East on Friday with protesters attacking U.S. embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to bolster security at its missions.

    The obscure California-made film triggered an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya’s city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

    In Tunis, at least five people were wounded by police gunfire near the U.S. embassy, and a Reuters reporter said a big fire had erupted within the embassy compound. Protesters had earlier leapt over the compound wall.

    Witnesses said Sudanese police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters to stop them approaching the U.S. embassy outside Khartoum, but some jumped over the wall. A Reuters reporter heard gunfire from the scene.

    In a related story, I thought this was a highly interesting development concerning the former “sugar daddy” of one-time Repug presidential hopeful Former Senator Man-On-Dog (somehow I have a feeling that Not Your Father’s Republican Party has a hand, however small it may be, in all of this anti-Muslim propaganda that has currently inflamed an area that is highly flammable already – fits in too nicely with the whole “October Surprise” mentality)…I think this is worthwhile reading on this subject also (Update: More good stuff from C&L here…worthy of a donation, I’d say).

  • And yes, we are indeed in the “silly season” when Frank Bruni of the New York Times can write about the recent Democratic National Convention and concoct the following (here)…

    AT their party’s ebullient convention last week, the Democratic politicians with an eye on the 2016 presidential contest were out in full force and almost in full stride, never mind that 2012 has yet to be settled.

    Martin O’Malley, the Maryland governor, popped up here, there and everywhere. Mark Warner, the Virginia senator, was nearly as ubiquitous. And Joe Biden made the fiery most of a prime speaking slot just before President Obama’s.

    But all of them knew that their efforts would probably be for naught and their aspirations in vain if a certain someone who was then half a world away decided to reach — again — for the White House. Like a poltergeist in a pantsuit, Hillary Clinton haunted Charlotte.

    I give you Clinton Derangement Syndrome on display, my fellow prisoners.

    And speaking of the Times (a bit late to clean out my “in” bin, I’ll admit), The Moustache of Understanding gives us a description of what constitutes a “hard working day” for our corporate media (here, singing the praises once more over how wonderful “globalization” allegedly is)…

    Technology and globalization are wiping out lower-skilled jobs faster, while steadily raising the skill level required for new jobs. More than ever now, lifelong learning is the key to getting into, and staying in, the middle class.

    There is a quote attributed to the futurist Alvin Toffler that captures this new reality: In the future “illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn.” Any form of standing still is deadly.

    I covered the Republican convention, and I was impressed in watching my Times colleagues at how much their jobs have changed. Here’s what a reporter does in a typical day: report, file for the Web edition, file for The International Herald Tribune, tweet, update for the Web edition, report more, track other people’s tweets, do a Web-video spot and then write the story for the print paper. You want to be a Times reporter today? That’s your day. You have to work harder and smarter and develop new skills faster.

    I’m sorry, but with all due respect to the many hard-working news professionals of the Times, Friedman really should shut his jowling yap over the supposedly heroic efforts of his fourth-estate brethren.

    Particularly when you consider this

    According to a recent survey from Millennial Branding and Payscale, Millenials really are most likely to be employed in service industry jobs. So, all those jokes about post-graduation latte pouring and t-shirt folding haven’t been in vain. And while it might be comforting to think of these jobs as necessary way stations on the path to an upwardly mobile future – especially if you’re someone who holds one – there’s mounting evidence that the American labor market may never return to its pre-recession composition. The future is already here and it brings with it low-wage temporary or contract work as a way of life.

    I know of at least one college graduate with a BA in education who can’t find work in our school district, so she waits tables at an Applebee’s instead. A friend of mine works for a company where someone with an MBA in finance was just hired as an executive assistant (her most visible job within the company appears to be filling up Outlook meeting calendars for the owner). Many of the folks living in the development of Le Manse Doomsy are never home because they’re either working at least two jobs or longer hours at one, or both.

    We have an employment crisis in this country. And we have had one for some time. And we’ll still have one whether or not President Obama is returned for another term or (God help us) Former Governor Etch-A-Sketch, Weather Vane Willard Mitt and Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv take over this fall.

    So you’ll forgive me if I tell you that I don’t give a crap about what an allegedly hard time Tom Friedman’s fellow journos have it at The Times, what with having to labor under the oppressive yolk of “tweeting,” filming Web videos, reading other “tweets” and filing news reports with an occasional update before it’s time for happy hour.

    And all the while, Obama’s American Jobs Act continues to sit in the U.S. House for a year and counting (here), having been stalled by “Man Tan” Boehner and that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor.

  • Next, I have a little “compare and contrast” from a couple of days ago in the matter of Obama HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; first, I give you Jake Tapper of ABC News (here)…

    President Obama was notified today by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that one of his key Cabinet officials violated the Hatch Act, the law that restricts the political activity of anyone employed or holding office in the Executive Branch except for the President and Vice President.

    Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel concluded that Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius violated the Hatch Act when she served as the Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker at the February 25, 2012 gala for the pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    The event was billed as official travel, and she appeared at the event in an official capacity, but in her remarks – which departed from her official text – she advocated for the election of Lt. Governor Walter Dalton in his primary and general election race for governor, and for the re-election of President Obama, saying, “one of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come together here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the president, but we make sure that in November he continues to be president for another four years.”

    After media inquiries following those remarks, the Department of Health and Human Services “retroactively reclassified the event as political,” the OSC report states, and reimbursed the federal government for the costs of her travel.

    When asked about her remarks in an interview with OSC investigators, the report says Sebelius “expressed regret for the statements” regarding Dalton “since there were ‘other primary opponents who were close by.’” She said her “‘shout out’ came across ‘as an endorsement.’” She allowed that her comments about President Obama were “a mistake” and an example of her again going “off script.” “I clearly made a mistake,” Sebelius said. “I was not intending to use an official capacity to do a political event.”

    Lerner did not recommend that any action be taken against Sebelius.

    On the same day concerning the same story, the Daily Tucker screeched as follows (here)…

    The Federal Times (a Gannett publication, I think) suggests that Sebelius may be fired for her illegal activity. “The finding could possibly cost Sebelius her job,” the outlet reported. “Although OSC did not recommend any specific punishment, and said Obama will decide how to punish her, Hatch Act violators are usually fired.”

    Dan Epstein, the president of good-government group Cause of Action, told The Daily Caller that since Sebelius is a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, she isn’t entitled to a review from the Merit Systems Protection Board — one that that could reduce her penalty if she were a career staffer.

    “Sebelius doesn’t get (Merit Systems Protection Board – I guess Tucker doesn’t have any copy/style editors) Review so there’s no ability for the MSPB to lower the penalty to a suspension and the Board isn’t entitled to review,” Epstein said. “If Sebelius wasn’t a cabinet member or a PAS (Presidentially Appointed and Senate Confirmed) OSC would proceed by filing a complaint with the MSPB.”

    “Thus the point is that by Close of Business on September 12, 2012, the President has been informed of a Hatch Act violation and yet has decided not to fire Sebelius,” Epstein added. “The President has therefore decided to overlook the improper political activities of his appointees when in their official capacities. He has effectively said it is okay to politicize the executive branch.”

    WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Oh, give me a freaking break! Sebelius was probably jet lagged or something and forgot where she was. Grow up!

    And I don’t know what the hell Cause of Action is (I hardly think it’s a “good government group”), but this tells us that Epstein recently alleged that there are 174 “secret” ACORN (!!!!!) organizations (cue the scary sounding background music – of course, in the world of reality, we know that ACORN no longer exists).

    Besides, as noted here, I’ll “see” Tucker Sebelius’s mistake and “raise” him Lurita Doan of the Bushco GSA, who actually oversaw Hatch Act violations, though she was too busy playing stupid in front of the House Oversight Committee under Dem Henry Waxman to be nailed without a subpoena.

    Update 9/18/12: Leave it to The Daily Tucker to double down on the stoo-pid here.

  • Continuing, I give you this choice nugget from Repug U.S. House Rep Joe (“You Lie!”) Wilson of South Carolina (from here, attacking President Obama on foreign policy…again)…

    President Ronald Reagan’s national security approach of providing peace through strength kept the United States and our allies safe for decades.

    I know the bar is already set pretty low for Wilson, but I think it’s particularly disgusting for him to invoke the memory of The Sainted Ronnie R a mere two days after we observed the anniversary of the worst foreign-based attack in our history, made possible in no small part because Number 40 decided to arm the mujahedeen in Afghanistan (including bin Laden) against the former Soviet Union (here).

  • Finally, it looks like Repug senators John Thune and Kelly Ayotte, among other culprits, are all aghast over President Obama supposedly not “leading” in the matter of increasing defense spending in his proposed budget (here).

    In response, this tells us the following from last May…

    The White House today reacted to news that representations of President Obama’s budget had been voted down by the House and Senate by decrying the introduction of the amendments, by Republicans, as “gimmicks.”

    “Gimmicks are not solutions,” White House press secretary Jay Carney emailed to ABC News. “The American people overwhelmingly support a balanced approach to our long-term budget challenges. That’s the approach the President supports. The sooner Republicans drop their intransigence and join the American people in supporting a balanced approach, the sooner Congress will be able to come together and reach a compromise.”

    I guess the Repugs figure that we’ll just forget about their playing political games at the behest of their campaign contributors as opposed to practicing actual governance for the benefit of the people they were ostensibly elected to represent.

    It would be truly depressing if it turned out that they were right.


  • How Fix Noise Destroyed ACORN

    April 8, 2010

    This isn’t quite all of Rachel Maddow’s recent expose on how the tapes filmed by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles of their ACORN business was selectively edited by Fix Noise and trumpeted as reality non-stop until the organization shut down due to lack of funding, but it’s just about all of it.

    You’d have to be a stone-cold moron to take Fix Noise seriously, people (and as I watched this, I recalled that quote from Winston Churchill about the lie being halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its pants).

    One more thing – one of the knuckleheads who supported that Congressional resolution honoring O’Keefe and Giles was this guy.)


    A Lesson In Phony Outrage

    April 4, 2010

    Rachel Maddow forgot the brouhaha about supposedly bringing back the Fairness Doctrine or passing the Freedom of Choice Act, but otherwise, she’s spot-on here.


    Time For “Fix-Noise-Backed” Propaganda

    March 2, 2010


    This headline from Fox “News” screams that an “ACORN-Backed Prosecutor” cleared ACORN in Brooklyn of any wrongdoing when two workers for the organization supposedly gave information to James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles on how to “flout the law” (and by the way, in the matter of the “pimp costume” James O’Keefe supposedly wore during his dumb little sting operation, the following should be noted once more from here).

    Here is a link to the Reuters story on Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who dismissed the charges against ACORN. There is nothing in this story to indicate that Hynes is an “ACORN-Backed Prosecutor.”

    As Atrios says, our discourse is ruled by fools.


    Wednesday Mashup (9/30/09)

    September 30, 2009

    Obama_Crist

  • So it looks like Repug Florida Governor Charlie Crist, running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat soon to be vacated by Mel Martinez, is trying to play to the base by claiming that President Obama will fall victim to a “Carter-esque loss” in 2012 here (recalling the loss President Carter suffered to Reagan in 1980).

    Putting aside Crist’s ridiculous attempt at political prognostication for a moment, I would say that his pronouncement (funny when you consider how Crist smartly supported Obama on the “stim” earlier this year, pictured above) has a lot more to do with this than anything else.

    This is how the Republican Party treats anyone showing any impulse for moderation whatsoever. And this is why their only possibility of electoral success lies with Democratic cowardice in the face of positions of popular support, to say nothing of failing to make the case for party causes not enjoying that support (and sadly, either prospect is always a possibility).

  • kaganohanlon31

  • Here is some spin from this New York Times article today about President Obama and his supposed communication problem with Afghanistan U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal by Times reporter Peter Baker…

    Questions about Mr. Obama’s relationship with General McChrystal have percolated for weeks, following reports that the administration delayed his troop request and kept him from testifying before Congress. “Someone has to explain what the strategy is,” said Frederick W. Kagan, a military expert at the American Enterprise Institute. “I think it’s important for the American people to hear from the commander.”

    And just as a reminder, here is “military expert” Kagan pronouncing that the Iraq civil war is over, recounted in this March 2008 post from Glenn Greenwald, even though Patrick Cockburn of The Independent reported that “a new civil war is threatening to explode in Iraq as American-backed Iraqi government forces fight Shia militiamen for control of Basra and parts of Baghdad” at very nearly the exact same time.

    So basically, I don’t think Kagan can speak with any credibility on anything related to matters of war.

    But Baker’s piece actually gets more interesting…

    Some supporters of the war said Mr. Obama had made a mistake not to consult more directly with his commander.

    “I don’t think I can defend him for being out of touch with his commander,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution (in the pic above, O’Hanlon is on the right and Kagan is at the left). “He has other people who advise him. But there’s no one else with the feel on the ground that McChrystal has.”

    See how having fewer meetings with McChrystal than Dubya did with his military people running Iraq translates to Obama being “out of touch with his commander,” according to O’Hanlon.

    Yep, that’s the same Michael O’Hanlon who (as noted here) advocated for the Iraq “surge” in the pages of the Times despite the fact that seven active duty force members wrote an Op-Ed that also appeared in the Times at about that same time saying that the surge wasn’t working.

    As Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones tells us…

    What O’Hanlon refuses to recognize is that the surge was designed to slow violence in Iraq only in service of political ends. Going on the offensive against the insurgents is fine, but it’s only an important development if Iraqi politicians seize the opening and make progress towards a reconciled nation and a functioning government. They haven’t done that. They haven’t even come close.

    Without political progress, the surge (and the military success O’Hanlon believes it is having) is just another swing in the cycle of war. We’re doing better now, but the insurgents will return with new and different tactics in a few months.

    And as Stein also notes, we lost more troops in Iraq during June-July-August of 2007 than at any other same-month period of time during the war, despite O’Hanlon’s surge cheerleading.

    On second thought, though, I suppose O’Hanlon is a subject matter expert when it comes to being “out of touch.” I hope that is the only reason why the Times would be interested in his otherwise worthless opinion.

  • 091509PimpandHo3wf

  • Finally, here is some true Fix Noise comedy on the matter of the ACORN controversy…

    The courts should vindicate the First Amendment rights of the reporters and media outlets involved in breaking the ACORN scandal wide open.

    The intrepid duo of independent reporters James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles (pictured above), working undercover, caught ACORN workers in Baltimore and other locations across the country on tape, talking about these workers’ willingness to help the undercover pair engage in tax fraud, housing fraud, prostitution, and even smuggling in underage girls from abroad to be prostitutes in a brothel that would be obtained with ACORN’s help.

    “Intrepid duo” – tee hee hee (here)…

    Well anyway, given the legitimate news story about questions surrounding the contracting of Sarah Palin’s house on Lake Lucille and the concurrently contracted Wasilla Sports Complex (here), I think the above description can be edited as follows…

    The courts should vindicate the First Amendment rights of the reporters and media outlets involved in breaking the story of alleged favors involving the construction of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s house on a two-acre site along scenic Lake Lucille in Wasilla, assessed at $532,500 (3,500 square feet with four bedrooms and four baths), wide open.

    The intrepid duo of independent reporters Wayne Barrett of The Village Voice and Huffington Post blogger Shannyn Moore reported that Palin steered contracts for the 2003 construction of the Wasilla Sports Complex before leaving office as Wasilla mayor the previous fall, in return for work building her home about the same time.

    And Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin and her team of barracudas can huff and puff all they want, but the last time I checked, the truth was always a sound defense regarding a question of libel.

    And the only ones who are alleged to have broken any laws here are “journalists” O’Keefe and Giles, as noted here.


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