For The “Faithful,” A Walk On The “Wilde” Side

October 26, 2015

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For personal reasons, I should note that your humble narrator happened to be in the vicinity of Huntingdon Valley/Lower Moreland PA outside of Philadelphia last Saturday evening at around 4:30-4:45. Being Catholic, I looked for evening services and remembered that I was in the vicinity of St. Albert’s Parish, so that’s where I went.

I hadn’t been inside the church for a long time, and I didn’t realize that it had been remodeled; I would guess that about a third of the pews had been removed and the altar had been lowered and reconfigured a bit. I couldn’t immediately located the tabernacle, but after a minute or so, I realized that it had also been lowered and set off slightly to the right of the church (facing towards the congregation – always surprised when it isn’t centered and elevated on the altar a bit since I think that should be the focal point of everything; guess I’m just a purist that way).

So I enter the church and settle myself a bit, and the service begins in the usual way. I find out that the celebrant is Msgr. Joseph Duncan, the pastor, and the mass would be co-celebrated by Rev. Denis Wilde of Priests for Life (we’re reminded that October is Respect Life month, which actually was the first sign of trouble).

The Liturgy of the Word portion of the Mass proceeds through the readings and to the Gospel (read by Wilde, Mark 10:51 I believe), and then he starts with the homily.

And, my fellow prisoners, I must tell you that I have never heard such intolerant, hateful garbage in my life.

Wilde spoke briefly about the Gospel reading, and of course latched onto the theme of blindness to blow all of the typical conservative dog whistles (“abortion on demand,” “culture of death” – sorry I can’t paraphrase all of them properly, but it was the most ferocious right-wing verbal assault that I’d ever heard and I don’t recall every word as I’d like). And Wilde is a polished practitioner at this sort of thing, going on for nearly 40 minutes and sounding syrupy smooth for most of his rant, though he chose to yell at us at the very end, presumably to exhort us into action (this nonsense may work for those Teahadist fools or “values voter” morons, but at the time, it did nothing for me but make me more pissed off than I already was).

As I debated whether or not I should get up from my spot in the middle of the pew, excuse myself and leave, I basically rubbed my hands together because I found myself so enraged that I didn’t know what else to do with them. I was far away from the altar so that rushing to the pulpit and wringing Wilde’s neck wasn’t an option (I wouldn’t have done that in church anyway of course, despite how awful Wilde was).

To me, though, the whole “respect life” thing is cover for the Church anyway. What they really care about (and the reason for Wilde’s appearance) is Election Day on November 3rd; we’re going to be voting for PA Supreme Court judges, among other contests. The court currently has a 3-2 Republican majority over the two Democratic judges, and Wilde and his fellow “pro-life” zealots want to keep, and possibly build on, their Republican majority, since they have had much more success on the state level than the federal level in trying to carry out their anti-woman (and anti-family, I would argue) agenda.

So what exactly can we do about this? Well, if you live in PA, you can support Dems David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty for the PA Supreme Court (more here and here).

Of course, since we’re talking about the Catholic Church, they can’t literally tell people to vote Republican or that would endanger their non-profit tax status. So they use code language, which Wilde did artfully, such as telling people not to vote “checkbook union” (not too much of a stretch to realize what political party THAT was aimed at – when I heard that, I REALLY DID want to run up to the altar and punch Wilde in the face…I didn’t of course partly because I knew I was in God’s house, and I also would be arrested).

Oh, and did I mention that on every occasion where Wilde uttered the phrase “a woman’s right to choose” (which he did about four times), he laughed? Also, he said at one point that 48 million unborn children had been killed through abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973 (choosing to forget, of course, the fact that abortions had been performed pretty much since the beginning of recorded time), and at another point in his rant, he said that 58 million had been killed…he should get his propaganda straight the next time he demagogues in public like this (and knowing someone like Wilde, I can just about tell you that there WILL BE a next time).

All of this made me curious about Wilde, so I did some searching online for both him and Priests for Life. You soon find that this group has filed innumerable lawsuits, particularly against the Affordable Care Law, to the point that, were you inclined to donate to the group (which I definitely am NOT), you probably would be paying for court costs and legal fees as opposed to anything that would be more germane to what should be the spiritual mission of this organization. And to me, this point was driven home by the fact that, as noted here, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York broke with Priests for Life and the group’s head, Fr. Frank Pavone, because the group would not submit to a forensic audit.

As for what you might call Wilde’s own “body of work,” he was once arrested with several others while protesting outside of the White House here, basically for refusing to obey an order to disperse while protesting the so-called contraception mandate of the already-noted Affordable Care Law. And what was Wilde’s response?

”Occupy Wall Street protesters have been occupying federal property for months, but when we kneel in prayer, the police are called in and we are arrested,” Father Wilde said.

Well, my guess is that the Occupy protesters were ordered to disperse and actually obeyed the law, unlike you apparently.

Also, as noted here (tied in a bit with the number of unborn supposedly killed by abortion since 1973, the number that got mixed up), Wilde tried to equate his pro-life efforts with the civil rights battles fought by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is a familiar refrain for these individuals (and of course echoed by at least one Republican Party presidential candidate, as noted here). I should also note that Wilde compared the death of Terri Schiavo to 9/11 here (in a quote from the article, Wilde used the phrase “the womb is the most dangerous place to live,” which he also used in his homily).

Another legislative priority for Priest for Life is the so-called “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which has passed the U.S. House, though it is currently blocked in the U.S. Senate (and which President Obama has, quite rightly as far as I’m concerned, promised to veto). Basically, the bill is a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks. And as noted from here

Compassionate choices appear at a minimum in the House’s 20-week legislation, which contains no exceptions for women’s health or fetal abnormalities.

During floor debate last month, Democrat Louise Slaughter, of New York, called the bill “disgustingly cruel” and Democrat Jackie Speier, of California, talked about how it felt to “carry around a dead fetus for two days” while waiting to obtain an abortion.

And while the legislation has exceptions for rape and incest victims, women who have been sexually assaulted must get counseling – not from an abortion provider – within 48 hours of obtaining an abortion. (Two doctor’s visits can mean increased cost and days off from work, prohibitive mandates for many women.) Minor rape victims must report their assault to the police, and there is no exception for adult incest victims.

“There is no science or medicine behind 20 week bans – just politics,” Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards said in a statement. “The vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester – but that doesn’t mean it’s the only time a woman might need an abortion.”

As Richards pointed out in an interview with Democracy Now, abortions after 20 weeks are extremely rare: “This is usually a situation where you have a very much-wanted pregnancy go wrong and where doctors and women and their families need the best medical care possible.”

All of this amplifies (as far as I’m concerned) the belief that, as Sister Joan Chittister O.S.B. tells us here

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

And that is something that Wilde, for all of his snake-oil-salesman-cleverness, will never choose to understand.

Try laughing at that, you disgusting fraud (oh, and by the way, after this episode, I’ll never enter St. Albert’s Parish again).

Update 10/29/15: Uh, yep.

Update 4/1/16: And I’m sure Wilde thinks this is perfectly acceptable too.


Friday Mashup (10/17/14)

October 17, 2014

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  • By the time you read this, the sickening little demonstration noted here will be over (due to take place around midday today) – more follows…

    The video opens with the black-and-white footage of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s stirring clarion call for equal rights at the 1963 March on Washington.

    It quickly goes full color, and cuts to gruesome close-ups of the bloody remnants of abortions. It is fair to say that what is shown is disturbing.

    On Friday, the images will be displayed on a 10- by 12-foot screen set high on Independence Mall, the heart of Philadelphia’s tourism zone, as the antiabortion group Created Equal brings its high-tech assault on the practice to Philadelphia.

    The video, on a continuous loop, will be played from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to Mark Harrington, Created Equal’s national director.

    “It seems fitting to me that we are launching this campaign in the very place where our nation’s founders penned those words, created equal,” Harrington said. “We are still battling for equal rights. In this case, it is the pre-born who are being discriminated against.”

    I know there are individuals out there who profess to be “pro-life” and who indeed “walk the walk” as opposed to just “talking the talk,” and who have adopted babies, taken in single mothers in desperate situations, staged prayer vigils away from clinics and not interfered with the medically-related activity taking place (and of course not shouted epithets at anyone, thrown blood, tried to wreck cars, or any of that other stupidity, to say nothing of not writing ridiculous garbage in newspapers or calling into talk radio demonizing mothers seeking medical help). To me, those people deserve respect.

    However, most of these individuals in my experience (such as it is) are cut from the same disgusting cloth as Mark Harrington (pictured). And I think it’s particularly vile for Harrington and his ilk to even imagine that his escapades have anything whatsoever to do with the struggle for civil rights in this country.

    There is no good reason whatsoever for Harrington to engage in an activity like this (showing fetuses in the most grotesque situations imaginable, and probably some situations we can’t imagine), trying to force these images down the metaphorical throats of anyone visiting Independence Mall (including very young children, I’m sure), once of the more scenic places in the city (and the weather is nice today, so it should be busy), other than self-promotion.

    And yes, I have a particular axe to grind here because I can still vividly remember the seemingly never-ending pictures of fetuses in jars in the Catholic Standard and Times newspaper after the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973, a time when I was still quite young and impressionable. As I’ve said, the images had an impact, but probably not the one the Church intended.

    Harrington has pulled this stunt before, by the way, including Turlington Plaza at the University of Florida (generating this response, including the following)…

    This has nothing to do with being pro-choice, pro-life or pro-anything. Regardless of anyone’s beliefs about abortion — and we all have an opinion there — does anyone feel it is acceptable to make students with abortion experiences feel uncomfortable on their own campus? No matter what the message, presentation is everything. In my opinion, a less-hostile open dialogue would be a more productive model of outreach. There must be another viable medium that doesn’t feel like an ambush. If I were considering abortion, or simply on the fence about my beliefs, these seemingly extremist people are not the ones I would consult.

    Created Equal executive director Mark Harrington says his platform targets “the mushy middle,” people who have no strong stance at either end of the abortion debate spectrum.

    I don’t believe such an audience exists on a university campus. If you do exist, on-the-fence folks, here’s my message to you: engage in civil, fact-based conversations with multiple people from both sides of the issue. Sharing beliefs and creating an open dialogue about social issues is a fundamental aspect of university life. One beauty of our campus is that it fosters constant exposure to new belief systems. No one here is naïve enough to want protection from opposing views. I imagine we all value them greatly. But this sideshow? It’s all a sensational stunt, an exhibition of the outlandish that serves only to needle young women into feeling guilty.

    To the members of Created Equal, thank you for voicing your beliefs and exercising your right to free speech. However, is it too much to ask that women with abortion history or those considering it presently have a peaceful walk across their campus without being confronted by grisly photos of fetuses on coins? Is there not enough humanity in your movement to recognize the benefits of a different approach? Judging from the pamphlets that were available at the exhibit, I know you have other media at your disposal.

    Regardless of my abortion views — which have probably become apparent anyway — it’s important to note these images are not from the typical procedure. Traveling pro-life groups are notorious for using photos of late-term abortions carried out for emergency reasons. Those interested should visit http://www.thisismyabortion.com/ for a glimpse of reality.

    Uh, yep.

  • Next, I don’t want to spend too much time on the waste of protoplasm that is Erick (“Son of Erick”) Erickson, but he concocted the following nonsense here (in a column trying to equate ISIS with the cases of Ebola in this country)…

    The Syrian rebels were too rag-tag and weak to take on ISIS, according to President Obama. But within a week of saying that, he announced to the world that his plan in Syria was to arm those rag-tag rebels and have them do our bidding against ISIS.

    Um…regardless of what you may think of the strategy of arming Syrian rebels against ISIS (not a good option as far as I’m concerned, but preferable to U.S. “boots on the ground”), doesn’t what Erickson describe above seem like a logical course of events? Where is the “there” there?

    It gets better…

    The president also told the American public that Ebola would never come to the United States.

    Not according to factcheck.org, which tells us the following (here)…

    Sen. John McCain claimed on a Sunday talk show that “we were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States.” Not exactly. U.S. health officials, early in the outbreak, said it was highly unlikely, but we could not find any instances of them saying it would never happen.

    This item from Fix Noise shill Jeanine Pirro doesn’t have anything to do with the Erickson column, but it does have something to do with ISIS, so allow me to add it here; namely, Pirro’s claim that Obama released Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, supposed head of this bunch of murderers, in 2009, which is categorically false. And as for Ebola, I guess what you would call of “clearing house” of debunked Ebola-related BS is here. And in conclusion on ISIS, I think this is definitely food for thought also.

  • Further (and sticking with Number 44), it looks like “liberal” Richard Cohen is at it again (here)…

    Tell me something: What do you think would happen if the United States concludes that Iran has been cheating and delaying and is about to pop a fully functional nuclear weapons program? Would President Obama respond by joining Israel to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities to smithereens, or would he stall and equivocate? My bet is the latter and also, just to double down, what I bet the Iranians are betting. They have taken the measure of Obama. He lacks menace.

    Menace is essential in a world leader if he (or she) is going to be feared as well as admired. Obama falls into the admired category — the leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize with mere good intentions, a guy who had a new attitude toward Russia (a reset) and Iran (an approach) and China (a pivot) and, of course, to the Muslim world — an appreciation from a president who had broken the mold. We know him now as someone miscast: a rational man in an irrational world.

    I must tell you that I read over this a few times and thought “do I really want to say something about this idiot” (Cohen, I mean)? Isn’t life already too short?

    And then I thought to myself, sure, why not?

    For one thing, comments like this betray more of Cohen’s mindset than that of the world he supposedly knows something about. Because he apparently craves the “certainty” of a leader who, though perhaps catastrophically wrong, would act as if his thought processes are populated by fevered dreams of something called American Exceptionalism (I know you know who I’m talking about). And if this leader takes us into yet another catastrophic misadventure in the Middle East for no good reason…well, that means that Israel won’t be fighting alone now, will it?

    Call me just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but maybe the reason we have an irrational world (I agree with Cohen on that much) is because we have too many irrational people in charge! And wouldn’t it be nice if we did a better job of recognizing people who actually have their scruples and act like intelligent adults in the face of onslaughts from all over the world (not saying to never question them, but just to try and support them when we believe it is necessary)?

    Given that, then surely Cohen would have noted long ago that Obama is “a rational man in an irrational world” and tried to make sure that his criticisms had at least some basis in reality, right?

    Well…

  • Here, he condemned the White House visit by the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan for five years, as “utterly repellent,” even though Cohen acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture are unclear.
  • Here, he embraced the “leading from behind” smear of President Obama (straight out of Drudge, Breitbart, and the like).
  • Here (as he does in his most current column), he makes a misguided push for a strike on Iran.
  • Here, he criticized Obama’s body language and supposed inability to “emote.”
  • Here, he wrote that Europe’s supposed view of Obama is that he’s an “accidental” president, among other nonsense.
  • (By the way, lots of other Cohen-related idiocy can be read from here.)

    Yes, I realize this is part of the whole pundit game about finding ways to be talked about. However, I honestly believe that Cohen thinks he’s right that our president should act in the manner and style deployed here (and no, I haven’t forgotten what led up to that). All to display “menace,” no doubt.

    How pitiably sad for Cohen not to realize that, were Obama to do such a thing, the rest of the world would surely laugh in his face.

  • Continuing (and speaking of pitiably sad), I give you former Ken Blackwell here on the matter of “biosimilar” drugs (more here…and this gives us a refresher on why Blackwell is such a miscreant – hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years)…

    Now, it is up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement the biosimilar approval process. But millions of dollars have been spent on a lobbying effort from Obama’s crony capitalist friends on K Street to protect the interests of biologic drug markers. Initially, they were given a 12-year data exclusivity clause in the Obamacare law. But now, they are fighting through a questionable grassroots campaign, with the goal of distracting the FDA.

    These special interests are demanding unnecessary distinct naming rules for the ingredients in generic drugs, even though Obamacare does not allow for it. Americans with life- threatening diseases do not deserve to suffer thanks to these complicated and underhanded tricks by those in the pockets of Big Pharma.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    I hate to break the news to Blackwell, but both parties are in the hands of “Big Pharma,” as noted here.

    More to the point, this tells us that the 12-to-14-year window Blackwell criticizes “drew applause from CVS Caremark, whose EVP specialty pharmacy services, Dave Golding, participated in an FTC roundtable event on the issue” (the Generic Pharmaceutical Association agreed with Number 44 on this also).

    Not surprisingly, though, naming conventions for generics provoked this letter from 28 members of Congress who opposed the move; I believe the FDA recommendation on that was voluntary, by the way – hard to sift through some of the bureaucratic-ese (and the 28 who signed the letter are the same motley crew of usual conservative suspects, by the way). However, for anyone criticizing naming conventions for generics (which would bring them to parity with name brands, by the way) I have two words; Accutane and Sulindac (read from this link about the misery suffered by those who took these poisons).

    And from here

    “Regulation of these formularies is going to be a huge thing moving forward,” said Paul A. Calvo, a director in the biotechnology group at Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox. “I think as soon as the public heard there is very limited oversight in these areas, they went nuts.”

    Understandable as far as I’m concerned; background on formularies (basically, lists of prescribed medications for particular illnesses for insurance purposes) can be accessed from here.

    Oh, and speaking of “nuts” (and having to do with bioresearch a bit), I give you this.

  • Finally, I give you this from the Kevin Strouse campaign…

    Contact: Will Block, will@kevinstrouse.com, 610-400-3163
    For Immediate Release: Monday, October 13th, 2014

    Takeaway from Mike Fitzpatrick’s New TV Ad: Veterans Are Tired of Fitzpatrick’s Failures and Deception

    Fitzpatrick Voted Against Reducing the Veterans Disability Claims Backlog

    Bristol, PA – Last week, Fitzpatrick for Congress released its first ad of the general election. Unfortunately, the ad misleads voters about Fitzpatrick’s failed record on veterans’ issues. The facts show that Congressman Fitzpatrick has stood in the way of reducing the veterans disability claims backlog, and has voted against veterans’ interests on multiple occasions.

    The ad shows a doctor walking alongside a disabled veteran in a wheelchair. The exact footage used in the ad is available for purchase on http://www.istockphoto.com as “Man in wheelchair walking with doctor – Stock Video.”

    Strouse campaign spokesman Will Block commented, “This year, we saw Congressman Fitzpatrick jump onto a bandwagon with his colleagues to put a bandaid on a problem that he helped create in the first place. Disabled veterans are real heroes with real stories who deserve a Congressman that will fight for the care that they deserve — not some stock footage that can be purchased online. The fact that Fitzpatrick suddenly cares about the disability backlog, especially when he’s running against a combat veteran, is exactly what’s wrong with politics.”

    Fitzpatrick’s ad claims that he worked with a whistleblower this year to uncover the claims backlog at the Philadelphia Veterans Benefits Administration office. Well, the backlog is nothing new, and the Congressman knows it. In fact, in 2013 he voted against a motion which would have provided funding to hire more adjudicators to cut through the disability claims backlog.

    Block continued, “Fitzpatrick’s anti-veteran record speaks for itself. It’s especially egregious for Fitzpatrick to claim to be working to end the disability claims backlog after voting in 2013 against a measure to do exactly that. These issues at the VA are nothing new — unfortunately, they only seem to matter to Congressman Fitzpatrick in an election year.”

    BACKGROUND:

    Stock Footage Used in Fitzpatrick’s TV Ad: [www.istockphoto.com, Man in wheelchair walking with doctor – Stock Video]

    Fitzpatrick’s TV Ad…aired on 10/8/14:

    Fitzpatrick voted against quicker disability claims processing:

    In 2013, Fitzpatrick voted against a motion to recommit with instructions that would help reduce the backlog of disability claims for veterans. The amendment would add $9.2 million in funding (double the funds in the underlying appropriations bill) to hire an additional 94 claims processors to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. The amendment failed 198-227. [MTR on H.R. 2216, Vote #192, 6/04/13]

    Fitzpatrick voted to block the “Veterans Backlog Reduction Act”, which would
    direct the secretary to pay provisional benefits for claims that are still processing: [New York Times, 5/30/14; Vote #180, 5/23/13]

    “From The New York Times: Republican House candidates could also find themselves under pressure to explain their past votes against proposals for more money for veterans programs. Democrats were pointing to a procedural vote in May 2013, when House Republicans opposed a Democratic measure called the Veterans Backlog Reduction Act.”

    ###

    Kevin Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Middletown, Pa., with his wife, Amy, and two young children, Walter and Charlotte. He is currently Program Director of Teach2Serve, a non-profit that teaches social entrepreneurship to regional high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To help with the Kevin Strouse campaign in the closing days, please click here.


  • 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?


  • 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.


  • Friday Mashup (7/25/14)

    July 25, 2014
  • Lots to get to here…

    Things have been a bit quiet on the “gun front” lately (good news because it means fewer people than normal are dying as a result – hopefully it will stay that way), though this item recently appeared, including the following…

    Beretta U.S.A. announced Tuesday that company concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move its weapons making out of the state to Tennessee.

    The well-known gun maker said it will move to a new production facility it is building in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin that is set to open in mid-2015.

    Beretta general manager Jeff Cooper said that a sweeping gun-control measure that was passed last year initially contained provisions that would have prohibited the Italian gun maker from being able to produce, store or even import into Maryland the products that the company sells around the world. While the legislation was changed to remove some of those provisions, Cooper said the possibility that such restrictions could be reinstated left the company worried about maintaining a firearm-making factory in Maryland.

    So Beretta decided to move their operations from Maryland to Tennessee supposedly because of those gol-darned liberals and their danged gun laws, even though the Maryland legislation was changed to try and mollify Beretta.

    However, I think we need to note something else (from a related story here)…

    Beretta said they will not begin the transition process of moving production to Gallatin until sometime in 2015. The company added it had no plans to relocate its office, administrative or executive support functions from the Maryland facility.

    Really? I wonder why not? I mean, if you’re gonna “talk the talk” about moving all the jobs, then why not actually, y’know, move all of the jobs.

    Could it possibly be because, as noted here, the state minimum wage for Maryland is $7.25 an hour, but for Tennessee…well, there is no state minimum wage?

    Maybe Tennessee deserves Beretta, and I don’t mean that as a compliment; here, the reviewer of Beretta’s Cx4 Storm, which apparently can substitute as a semiautomatic pistol, concluded that “it is basically a weapon designed to kill and maim people in a quick, efficient manner…In the hands of even an unskilled shooter, it can still accomplish that purpose quite effectively.”

    Terrific.

  • Next, someone named Abby Johnson (must…resist…Blazing Saddles…snark) at The Daily Tucker tells us the following here

    Johnson, who left the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas in 2010, released a budget statement for the 2010 fiscal year she said shows that the clinic was expected to perform at least 1,135 abortions that year.

    Johnson’s group, And Then There Were None, released a photograph a few weeks ago of a Colorado clinic receiving an award for having performed more abortions in the first half of the 2013 fiscal year than they had in the second half of the 2012 fiscal year.

    Even though, as noted here according to the law, no federal funds are allowed to be used for abortions (so basically, if there had been an audit, that Planned Parenthood office would have lost its federal funding).

    I find Johnson’s claims hard to believe, particularly when you consider the following (here)…

    (Johnson), a former Planned Parenthood employee turned antiabortion activist, gave a workshop at Heartbeat International’s 2012 conference titled “Competing With the Abortion Industry.” According to audio of the event, Johnson told participants, ”We want to look professional. We want to look businesslike. And yeah, we do kind of want to look medical.” She discouraged them from foregrounding their religious affiliation, so as to better trick women: “We want to appear neutral on the outside. The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic. Those are the best clients that could ever walk in your door or call your center, the ones that think you provide abortions.”

    Before she engages in any more deception on matters related to women’s health care, I honestly think Johnson ought to get straight on the whole “not bearing false witness” thing in accordance with the faith she claims she’s trying to practice. Particularly since, despite her best efforts and those of her fellow wingnuts, Roe v. Wade still happens to be the law of the land.

  • Further, Rich Lowry blames Number 44 as follows (here)…

    According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of immigrants younger than 18 who were deported or turned away from ports of entry declined from 8,143 in 2008 to 1,669 last year. There were 95 minors deported from the entire interior of the country last year.

    Of course, far be it for Lowry to note the effects of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 which, as noted below, was passed and signed into law by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History (here).

    In 2008, in the lame-duck session of a presidential year when the party’s president and nominee were both immigration reformers, Congress easily passed the (Act – Wilberforce was a British parliamentarian who led the slavery abolition movement). No one in the House or Senate opposed a law intended to rescue children from exploitative pimps—legislation that allowed young people to attain “special immigrant juvenile status.” The Obama administration is citing this as the reason why deportations have plunged, and asked Congress to fix it.

    Oh yeah, like that will happen with Boehner and company, who never imagined a “scandal” they didn’t like concerning this president.

    Oh, and I know I’m going out of order a bit, but Lowry inflicts the following also…

    The first rule in a crisis for any executive is put on his windbreaker and boots and get out on the ground. President George W. Bush didn’t do it soon enough after Hurricane Katrina and, politically, could never make up for it, no matter how many times he visited New Orleans subsequently. Obama’s bizarre resistance to visiting the border on his fundraising swing out West fueled talk of the influx as Obama’s “Katrina moment.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

    To begin, I don’t know if it matters one bit whether or not President Obama goes to the border; as noted here, he described such a move as “cheap theater,” which I think is absolutely correct. Besides, as noted here, many of Obama’s most vocal critics on this haven’t been to the border either, including “Man Tan” Boehner, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy) and the thoroughly odious Ron Johnson (R-WI). You can also lump “Calgary” Cruz into the mix, along with Reps “Smokey Joe” Barton and Jeb Hensarling, all of Texas, which is particularly ridiculous (more on Hensarling shortly).

    Also, I really think the wingnuts should give the “Obama/Katrina” thing a rest, particularly when you consider the following from here; I believe the only tragedies and/or foibles that our corporate media haven’t declared to be an “Obama/Katrina” moment would be the Chicago Fire, the Kennedy assassination (either one), the Challenger shuttle disaster, and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (you can Google it, the event and/or the song – apparently, everything else is fair game).

  • Continuing (and speaking of Hensarling), I give you the following from here (where he and his pals try out a lot of new right-wing talking points about Dodd-Frank)…

    Thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage rule, Dodd-Frank makes it harder for low and moderate-income Americans to buy a home. According to a Federal Reserve study, roughly one third of African-American and Hispanic borrowers would not be able to obtain a mortgage based solely on the CFPB’s debt-to-income requirements.

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

    Dodd-Frank tried to (put in place) new consumer protection rules requiring banks to verify a borrower’s ability to repay a loan before extending it. At Wednesday’s hearing, much of the GOP criticism focused on false allegations about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage regulation, or QM.

    “You don’t protect consumers by taking away or limiting products, like the CFPB does through the Qualified Mortgage rule,” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) said.

    The QM rule doesn’t ban anything. It’s a basic test of whether a loan is designed to line a lender’s pockets by ripping off a borrower. And it gives banks special perks for meeting the CFPB’s high-quality loan standards, protecting them from predatory lending lawsuits. In practice, that means limiting the amount lenders charge in points and fees to 3 percent of the loan value, banning balloon loans with a big lump sum due at the end of the mortgage…

    Hensarling was particularly vocal about the Dodd-Frank law’s effect on minority borrowers, claiming a Federal Reserve study shows that “about one-third of blacks and Hispanics would not be able to obtain a mortgage,” based on the rule’s requirement that monthly borrower debts not exceed 43 percent of monthly income.

    That’s true, according to the Fed’s 2010 data. It’s also generally considered bad personal finance to have that much of your income tied up with debt payments.

    Also, this tells us more about the CFPB’s mortgage rules modifications. And as far as debt-to-income requirements, I give you the following from here

    Lenders will have to verify borrowers’ income, assets and debt before signing them up for home loans. Such common-sense practices anchored the mortgage market for decades but were cast aside in the lead-up to the meltdown as banks relaxed standards to churn out more lucrative loans. The result was millions of homeowners who were unable to manage their mortgages once the market tanked.

    And…

    In response, the CFPB has created a category of home loans that offer lenders broad legal protections against borrower lawsuits, provided they adhere to certain criteria. These “qualified mortgages” limit upfront fees and bar risky features such as no-interest periods that can leave homeowners stuck with unsustainable loans.

    Hensarling also propagandizes as follows…

    Dodd-Frank’s Volcker rule makes U.S. capital markets less competitive against other international financial centers. It’s more expensive for U.S. companies to raise working capital and harder for Americans saving for retirement or their children’s college educations.

    In response, this tells us more about the supposedly dreaded “Volcker rule”…

    A federal regulation that prohibits banks from conducting certain investment activities with their own accounts, and limits their ownership of and relationship with hedge funds and private equity funds, also called covered funds. The Volcker Rule’s purpose is to prevent banks from making certain types of speculative investments that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Here is more from Hensarling…

    Dodd-Frank created the Financial Stability Oversight Council and gave it the power to designate certain large businesses as “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” (SIFIs). Now insurance companies that pose no discernible systemic risk to the economy are being subjected to unnecessary regulation that dries up capital for infrastructure projects, and harms investors and policy-holders.

    In response (here)…

    AIG and GE Capital chose not to fight the (Financial Stability Oversight Council’s) efforts to bring them under tougher regulatory scrutiny (by declaring them SIFIs).

    “AIG did not contest this designation and welcomes it,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

    Russell Wilkerson, a spokesman for GE Capital, which is the financial services arm of General Electric, said the company had been prepared for the council’s decision.

    “We have strong capital and liquidity positions, and we are already supervised by the Fed,” he said.

    The oversight group does not name companies under consideration for this designation until it makes a final decision, but AIG and GE Capital had previously disclosed that the council had proposed declaring them systemically risky.

    Prudential Financial had also disclosed that the council had proposed designating it as systemically risky, but the company last week said it would contest the proposal by asking for a hearing before the regulatory group.

    I think we’ve figured out at this point that Hensarling and his pals are doing everything they can to try and scuttle financial reform, which is perfectly in lack of character for a guy who believes in fairy tales about how those alleged deadbeats with credit card balances are hurting the “bottom line” of the lending institutions – actually, as the poster notes here, the opposite is true.

    Hensarling, by the way, is chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. And do you know who else serves on that committee?


    Why, our own Mikey the Beloved, of course – with that in mind, I give you this from the Kevin Strouse campaign (running to unseat Mikey in PA-08)…

    Four Years After Authorization of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Congressman Fitzpatrick Continues to Advocate for Banks, the Ultra-Wealthy and Special Interests Instead of People

    Kevin Strouse exposes Congressman Fitzpatrick’s self-interested votes to protect the big banks and special interests that support his campaign, putting 8th district consumers at risk.

    Bristol, PA – Yesterday (7/21) marked the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act becoming law. The act, which was passed in response to the financial crisis caused by irresponsible banks and self-interested politicians, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to enforce laws and ensure that the financial industry works for all Americans – not just big banks. Democratic Congressional candidate Kevin Strouse called out Congressman Fitzpatrick for his relentless attempts to weaken this law which was designed to regulate many of the big banks and payday lenders who donate large sums to Fitzpatrick’s re-election campaigns.

    In 2011 Congressman Fitzpatrick voted to eliminate the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. On yet another occasion, he voted in 2012 to expand loopholes and exemptions covering derivatives.

    Strouse commented, “It’s disappointing that my opponent has taken every opportunity he could to vote to weaken an agency whose sole mission is to protect consumers. Unfortunately, Congressman Fitzpatrick has proven himself to be another self-interested Washington insider who will tirelessly defend the big banks and special interests that he’s supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, and then willingly turn his back on his middle class constituents.”

    Despite Representative Fitzpatrick’s self-interested votes, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made a real difference in peoples’ lives. To date, more than 15 million consumers have received $4.6 Billion in relief and refunds due to actions taken by the CFPB.

    Strouse continued, “The people of Bucks and Montgomery counties are simply asking for a fair shot to experience economic opportunity that works for everyone in this country, and voters this fall will have a choice between electing a representative who will work to support middle-class families in the 8th District, or remaining left behind by Congressman Fitzpatrick and the dysfunctional Republican Congress.”

    BACKGROUND:

    Fitzpatrick voted to limit the effectiveness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). [2011, HR 1315, Vote #261]

    • The legislation would limit the effectiveness of the CFPB, a bureau created by the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill, which “has the authority to regulate financial markets in ways meant to improve consumer protection”. The CFPB, which had a single director, would instead have a five-member board. This legislation would also change the two-thirds majority vote by the Financial Stability Oversight Council to override a CFPB decision to just a simple majority. [The Hill, 7/21/11; Washington Post, 7/22/11]
    • Philadelphia Inquirer: Fitzpatrick voted to “Muzzle” the CFPB… [Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/27/11].

    Fitzpatrick Voted to Expand Loopholes, Exemptions in Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill [HR 3336, Vote #180, 4/25/12]

    • In 2012, Fitzpatrick voted to expand loopholes and exemptions covering derivatives in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. According to CQ, the bill “would exempt certain financial institutions regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from classification as swap dealers under Dodd-Frank. The law included a similar exemption for depository institutions and supporters say the change would allow farm credit institutions that are not designated as depository institutions to offer swaps to protect customer loans from sudden interest rate fluctuations.” [CQ, 4/25/12]

    15 million consumers will receive $4.6 billion in relief due to actions taken by the CFPB. Source here.

    ###

    Kevin Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Middletown, Pa., with his wife, Amy, and two young children, Walter and Charlotte. He is currently Program Director of Teach2Serve, a non-profit that teaches social entrepreneurship to local high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To support Kevin, click here.

    Ryan Good Deed
    Also related to financial stuff, it looks like none other than Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv is back with some supposedly glorious plan to lift everyone out of poverty with not one dime of new spending or (Heaven forbid!) a revenue increase of any type whatsoever, as his mouthpiece Reihan Salam tells us here

    …Loved by the right and loathed by the left, Ryan has been the architect of the most consequential Republican domestic policy initiatives of the Obama era. In spirit if not in name, Ryan spent much of President Obama’s first term as the leader of the opposition, rallying Republicans against Obamacare and in favor of long-term spending reductions. His controversial calls for entitlement and tax reform as chairman of the House Budget Committee were singled out by the president for over-the-top denunciation. In the spring of 2012, well before Ryan was named the Republican vice-presidential nominee, the president went so far as to characterize the Wisconsin congressman’s budget proposal as “thinly-veiled Social Darwinism.”

    Yeah, well, that’s probably because it is “thinly veiled social Darwinism” (here).

    So what exactly is Ryan’s supposedly wonderful new plan? Why, to consolidate stuff like SNAP and Section 8 housing funds into a block grant for states, where there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that the funds will EVER be used inappropriately once federal oversight is removed. And of course, there will be NO PROBLEM with people who need housing funds but not food assistance losing out because the latter need will be over allocated by a state instead of the former one. Am I right (more here)?

    Somehow I have a feeling that, if Hensarling, Mikey and their buddies were serious about balancing the books, they would not have cut the IRS enforcement budget by 25 percent (here). They also would not have recently passed “a whopping $287 billion business tax cut measure with no effort to pay for or offset that amount” (here).

    And as former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett points out here

    As far as tax reform is concerned, the problem for Republicans is they don’t actually believe in the “reform” part of tax reform. That would be the part that eliminates unjustified tax cuts and loopholes to pay for statutory rate reductions. In their heart of hearts, Republicans only believe in tax cuts, especially for big corporations and the ultra-wealthy. They, like the right wing novelist Ayn Rand, believe that only the wealthy create wealth. Average workers are greedy parasites, especially when they have the temerity to join a union and, like Oliver Twist, ask for “more.” The Republican establishment pulled out all the stops recently to kill the unionization of an auto plant in Tennessee lest workers get too uppity.

    Hmm, Tennessee huh? The same state where Beretta decided to move the majority of its workforce, as noted earlier. I guess it’s just a coincidence that Tennessee is also, apparently, virulently anti-union, huh?

    I know better minds than mine have said this before, as I have also, but it needs to be repeated again. The Party of Reagan wants to take from the “have less” crowd and give to the “have more” crowd any way possible, and they don’t give a damn about balancing the budget or growing the economy. When it comes to their supposed fiscal stewardship, here endeth the lesson.

  • Finally, I don’t have anything particularly brilliant to say about this item, but I’m compelled to speak up anyway…

    Many Pennsylvania drivers have long-awaited the increasing of the maximum speed limit. That day is coming next week.

    The speed limit will be raised to 70 mph on a 100-mile stretch of toll road in the south-central part of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced Friday.

    The 70 mph zone will be on the Turnpike mainline (Interstate 76) between the Blue Mountain Interchange (Exit 201) and the Morgantown Interchange (Exit 298) starting Wednesday.

    Turnpike officials are planning a news conference for next week to detail future speed-limit changes across the Turnpike’s 550-mile system.

    “Our studies have shown that the design of our system in this area can safely accommodate the higher speed limit,” Pa. Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said in a news release.

    “But motorists must remember that it is their responsibly to drive safely and sensibly according to the traffic and weather conditions — especially when the pavement is slick from precipitation or when visibility is limited.”

    State police say they’re planning strict enforcement of the 70 mph limit.

    I drive the PA Turnpike a lot, but I must confess that this isn’t really the best news as far as I’m concerned. Unless this is the proverbial Trojan Horse in the sense that the state police are dressing this up as a very attractive carrot, when in reality they plan to turn it into a cash-raising stick via higher fines for speeding offenses, which is another story.

    I drive the stretch from Downingtown to Trevose/Bensalem, Pa. a lot (don’t ask me the exit numbers; I committed the old ones to memory and can’t remember the news ones), and though there has been a bit of a break with traffic volume for the summer vacations, I envision this stretch of road turning into even more of a demolition derby when most of the drivers come back if a speed limit of 70 is ever put into place.

    Yes, I’m frequently around 70 myself, and mainly I’m just keeping up with traffic flow. But in time, the “unofficial” speed will tick upward, probably closer to 80. And again, on that stretch of the turnpike, that is too damn fast of a speed to maintain, particularly when you consider this (first bullet). I am also old enough to recall when discussions about raising the speed limit also discussed whether or not that led to energy savings; no sign of that here that I can tell.

    My motivation behind saying this is simple; I’m trying to keep people alive, including myself. And if that means I’m forced to drive, say, 5 to 10 miles slower on my route than I would if I were approaching, say, Harrisburg, then that’s a small price to pay as far as I’m concerned.

    Oh, and something else – as long as I’m discussing the PA Turnpike, can we please speed it up a bit with building the I-95 connector near Bristol? Also, replacing the rest stop where the Street Road EZ Pass ramp is now located would be a good idea too. Can you please make it so?

    Hugs…


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