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?


  • 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…


  • Friday Mashup (5/9/14)

    May 9, 2014
  • This from clownhall.com tells us the following (with the understated headline of “Guns Don’t Cause Gang Violence – Democrats Do”)…

    Between Friday night, and Sunday evening, 28 people had been shot in Rahm Emanuel’s gun control utopia (Chicago). Which, unbelievably, shows an improvement over the previous weekend, which tacked on more than 40 gunshot victims to the city’s climbing statistics. And, heck, with the CPD’s recent scandal surrounding how they classify various crimes, it almost makes you wonder if these numbers are more “ballpark” figures than actual stats.

    I mean, heck, (gun control) hasn’t exactly worked out that well so far, but why not double down? Right? The fact is, the failure of Liberalism has brought the city to its current state of deterioration. The Chicago model of unconstitutional restrictions on keeping and bearing arms has done little more than add fuel to the fire. Politicians, meanwhile, have been more than happy to ignore the easily identifiable, but politically tricky, origins of gang violence, and criminal activity.

    Yeah, well, this is part and parcel of the wingnut caterwauling on guns I realize. However, did you know that the state of Illinois recently passed a concealed carry law, as noted here?

    Well then, isn’t the Michael Schaus post proof, then, that concealed carry leads to more crime?

    And as noted here, the NRA is pushing for a national concealed carry law that would override other more sensible state laws (the party of “state’s rights” strikes again, considering how “simpatico” the NRA is with the “party of Lincoln”). Which is all part and parcel of this (and by the way, Politifact strikes again on the whole “half true” thing – the U.S. has the highest gun casualty rate among “other affluent nations on a per capita basis,” so that settles it as far as I’m concerned).

  • Next, “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction” is back to inflict the following (here)…

    The qualifications of a Tommy “Dude” Vietor or Ben Rhodes that placed them in the Situation Room during Obama-administration crises were not years of distinguished public service, military service, prior elected office, a string of impressive publications, an academic career, previous diplomatic postings, or any of the usual criteria that have placed others at the nerve center of America in times of crisis. Their trajectory was based on yeoman partisan PR work, and largely on being young, hip, and well-connected politically. I don’t think either of these operatives has a particular worldview or competency that would promote the interests of the United States. But they do talk well, know the right people, and are hip. Again, they have no real expertise or even ideology other than that.

    (The “Dude” reference, for the uninitiated, has to do with Vietor pretty much laughing off more BENGHAZI!!! idiocy from Bret Baier of Fix Noise, which I think was definitely the correct response.)

    So a certain V.D. Hanson is criticizing Vietor and Rhodes because of their ascent in the Obama Administration from a background of “yeoman partisan PR work.”

    Well then, let’s take a look at Obama’s ruinous predecessor, as long as Hanson has opened that “can of worms”:

  • Longtime Bushie Karen Hughes was a “communications strategist” who, as a member of the White House Iraq Group, helped to sell Number 43’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Iraq (here).
  • And speaking of the quagmire in Mesopotamia, former PR flak Dan Bartlett once said that his boss “never had a ‘stay the course’ strategy” here (liar).
  • When it comes to PR and marketing, though, I don’t think either Hughes or Bartlett can top Andrew Card, who rose to Chief of Staff and notoriously said here that “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August” in response to the question of why Bushco started beating the drums for war in Iraq in earnest in September 2002.
  • Given this, I would say that, when it comes to “yeoman partisan PR work,” Vietor and Rhodes are chumps by comparison (and speaking of Iraq, more “fun” with Hanson is here).

  • Further, I think it’s time to take a look at some true revisionist wingnuttery on The Sainted Ronnie R, first from Michael Barone here

    Second-term presidents over the last generation have tried, with varying results, to achieve breakthroughs. Ronald Reagan, after cutting tax rates in his first term, called for further cuts combined with elimination of tax preferences that had encrusted the tax code.

    House Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski and Senate Finance chairman Bob Packwood — a Democrat and a Republican — achieved a historic breakthrough with the tax-reform legislation of 1986, thanks in part to intensive coaching from Treasury Secretary James Baker.

    See, the point of Barone’s screed is that Obama isn’t being “bipartisan” enough for his liking, with Barone’s definition of “bipartisan” being, apparently, to get beaten up and let the Republicans do whatever they want (Barone lists other examples of supposed “bipartisanship” that got things done in Washington).

    I guess that, living in the world of reality, it may not be necessary to point out at every opportunity to you, dear reader, that Number 40 raised taxes a dozen times, as noted here. However, since the other side is constantly trying to form reality to their twisted worldview, I believe that I must engage in this exercise.

    And sticking with the decade in which Reagan took up space in An Oval Office, this post from The Daily Tucker discusses a TV program called “The Americans,” which I guess has to do with Soviet-era spies living in this country.

    So what is this show about, exactly…

    In one recent scene, for example, KGB agent Elizabeth goes off on a standard 80s liberal spiel about the Nicaragua war, complete with hypocritical sympathy for Catholic nuns and dissident journalists.

    Well OK then – it looks like this Will Rahn person isn’t a big fan of ‘80s-era political activism in particular.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    I first confronted this pattern while covering Reagan’s hard-line policies toward Central America. The lies started just weeks after Reagan’s 1980 election, when four American churchwomen were raped and murdered by government security forces in rightist-ruled El Salvador.

    On the night of Dec. 2, 1980, two of the women, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, drove a white mini-van to the international airport outside San Salvador. There, they picked up Ita Ford and Maura Clarke who had attended a conference in Nicaragua.

    Leaving the airport, the van turned onto the road that heads into the capital city. At a roadblock, a squad of soldiers stopped the van and took the women into custody. After a phone call apparently to a superior officer, the sergeant in charge said the orders were to kill the women. The soldiers raped them first and then executed the women with high-powered rifles.

    The atrocity was only one of hundreds committed each month by the Salvadoran security forces in a “dirty war” against leftists and their suspected supporters, a conflict that was more mass murder than a war, a butchery that would eventually claim some 70,000 lives. The Dec. 2 atrocity stood out only because Americans were the victims.

    The proper response from U.S. officials would have seemed obvious: to join U.S. Ambassador Robert White in denouncing the brutal rape and murder of four American citizens. But the incoming Reagan foreign policy team didn’t see it that way; Reagan was on the side of the rightist Salvadoran military.

    So, the rape-murder was treated like a public relations problem, best handled by shifting blame onto the victims. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s choice for United Nations ambassador, depicted the victims as “not just nuns. The nuns were political activists – on behalf of the [leftist opposition] Frente.”

    Kirkpatrick’s implication was that it wasn’t all that bad to rape and murder “political activists.”

    And as far as the “Fourth Estate” is concerned (here)…

    To conceal the truth about the war crimes of Central America, Reagan also authorized a systematic program of distorting information and intimidating American journalists.

    Called “public diplomacy” or “perception management,” the project was run by a CIA propaganda veteran, Walter Raymond Jr., who was assigned to the National Security Council staff. The explicit goal of the operation was to manage U.S. “perceptions” of the wars in Central America.

    The project’s key operatives developed propaganda “themes,” selected “hot buttons” to excite the American people, cultivated pliable journalists who would cooperate and bullied reporters who wouldn’t go along.

    The best-known attacks were directed against New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing Salvadoran army massacres of civilians, including the slaughter of more than 800 men, women and children in El Mozote in December 1981.

    But Bonner was not alone. Reagan’s operatives pressured scores of reporters and their editors in an ultimately successful campaign to minimize information about these human rights crimes reaching the American people. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

    The tamed reporters, in turn, gave the administration a far freer hand to pursue its anticommunist operations throughout Central America.

    Despite the tens of thousands of civilian deaths and now-corroborated accounts of massacres and genocide, not a single senior military officer in Central America was held accountable for the bloodshed.

    The U.S. officials who sponsored and encouraged these war crimes not only escaped any legal judgment, but remained highly respected figures in Washington. Reagan has been honored as few recent presidents have.

    The journalists who played along by playing down the atrocities — the likes of Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer — saw their careers skyrocket, while those who told the truth suffered severe consequences.

    And given the BENGHAZI!!! fever currently sweeping the “leadership” of the U.S. House, I think this is a timely article.

  • Continuing, it looks like VA head Eric Shinseki (who, once again, is a huge improvement over his Bushco counterpart) is in hot water, as noted here

    (Reuters) – Two Republican senators on Tuesday joined veterans groups in calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid claims that up to 40 people died while waiting for treatment in the U.S. veterans’ healthcare system.

    Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, said the Veterans Affairs Department needed a “true transformation … from top to bottom.”

    “I ask the secretary to submit his resignation and I ask President (Barack) Obama to accept that resignation,” Moran said on the Senate floor.

    Assistant Senate Republican leader John Cornyn said: “The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our veterans deserve.”

    As noted here, Cornyn voted against a bill to provide $12 billion in medical, educational and job-training benefits for our veterans returning from the wars (to be fair, Moran voted Yes as noted here).

    However, it’s not as if the Kansas senator doesn’t have his own baggage in these matters. He gave conditional-at-best support here to the military sexual assault bill sponsored by Dem Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Moran also voted against the Veterans with Disabilities Act (here), despite the request from former Kansas Sen. (and WWII-disabled vet, of course) Bob Dole that Moran and everyone else in the U.S. Senate support it.

    The Reuters story also tells us the following…

    The American Legion, the biggest U.S. veterans’ group, and Concerned Veterans for America called on Monday for Shinseki, a former Army general twice wounded in Vietnam, to step down.

    I’m not going to take issue with The American Legion, but Concerned Veterans for America…hmmm…

    Oh yeah – as noted here, that’s another “dark money” front group for Chuck and Dave Koch (kind of like “Concerned Women of America” who are apparently trying to torpedo a women’s history museum sponsored by Dem Carolyn Maloney and Repug Marsha Blackburn (!), as noted here, with “Moon Unit” Bachmann opposing it even though the plan is for her to be featured in an exhibit – way too funny).

    Returning to the main topic, I don’t know if Gen. Shinseki should resign as head of the VA or not. However, I think it’s more than a bit hypocritical to blame only him for trying to clean up a mess originated by our prior ruling cabal (which he, among a very select few – and more’s the pity on that – actually stood up to, as noted here).

  • Finally (and speaking of war), I give you former Bushco U.N. rep John “Blow ‘Em Up” Bolton (here, with what you might call some “crackpot history” in concert with his claim that President Obama’s recent far east tour didn’t go well since Obama looked tired, or something)…

    In 1932, Secretary of State Henry Stimson declared his “non-recognition” doctrine regarding Japanese aggression in China and subsequent annexations. Although politically symbolic, Stimson’s high-collared moralisms did nothing to deter further Japanese expansionism.

    Years later, when President Roosevelt finally imposed sanctions that could actually inhibit Japan’s military, the increasing likelihood of war against the Nazis was apparent. Pearl Harbor followed, but one can ask if stronger U.S. Asia policies in the 1930’s might have caused a different result.

    Yes, “one” can ask indeed if “one” were a total moron, I suppose. As noted from here

    In 1933, President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt proposed a Congressional measure that would have granted him the right to consult with other nations to place pressure on aggressors in international conflicts. The bill ran into strong opposition from the leading isolationists in Congress, including progressive politicians such as Senators Hiram Johnson of California, William Borah of Idaho, and Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. In 1935, controversy over U.S. participation in the World Court elicited similar opposition. As tensions rose in Europe over Nazi Germany’s aggressive maneuvers, Congress pushed through a series of Neutrality Acts, which served to prevent American ships and citizens from becoming entangled in outside conflicts. Roosevelt lamented the restrictive nature of the acts, but because he still required Congressional support for his domestic New Deal policies, he reluctantly acquiesced.

    The isolationists were a diverse group, including progressives and conservatives, business owners and peace activists, but because they faced no consistent, organized opposition from internationalists, their ideology triumphed time and again. Roosevelt appeared to accept the strength of the isolationist elements in Congress until 1937. In that year, as the situation in Europe continued to grow worse and the Second Sino-Japanese War began in Asia, the President gave a speech in which he likened international aggression to a disease that other nations must work to “quarantine.” At that time, however, Americans were still not prepared to risk their lives and livelihoods for peace abroad. Even the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 did not suddenly diffuse popular desire to avoid international entanglements. Instead, public opinion shifted from favoring complete neutrality to supporting limited U.S. aid to the Allies short of actual intervention in the war. The surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 served to convince the majority of Americans that the United States should enter the war on the side of the Allies.

    And as noted from here

    By 1940, the (Second Sino-Japanese) war descended into stalemate. The Japanese seemed unable to force victory, nor the Chinese to evict the Japanese from the territory they had conquered. But western intervention in the form of economic sanctions (most importantly oil) against Japan would transform the nature of the war. It was in response to these sanctions that Japan decided to attack America at Pearl Harbor, and so initiate World War II in the Far East.

    OK, so, to review:

  • Sanctions against Japan were probably necessary in hindsight, but to try and make the argument that Roosevelt sought them too late and Pearl Harbor might have been prevented is ridiculous. If anything, if sanctions had been imposed earlier, an attack might have happened earlier (again, not saying that sanctions were wrong) when we would have been less adequately prepared to fight it than we were.
  • As the article states above, there was not enough of a “push back” against the isolationist sentiment Roosevelt faced across the political spectrum at home after World War I. And he needed those same senators opposing military action to support the New Deal.
  • I’m not a bit surprised, however, to find out that Bolton knows nothing about that period of history, given that he finished his column with the following (again, using this totally inaccurate reading to justify another attack on Number 44)…

    In December, 1937, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of all people observed that, “It is always best and safest to count on nothing from the Americans but words.”

    5_fig002
    And the fact that Bolton would say that without a single word of acknowledgment of the price this country paid to defeat the Axis Powers in World War II (particularly repugnant as we approach Memorial Day) tells you how callow and ignorant he truly is.


  • A Repug “40” Fraud On Health Care Reform

    July 31, 2013

    Life_HCR_0731
    (Image from Public Citizen/Flickr)

    As noted here from last Friday…

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans plan a 40th attempt at repealing Obamacare (this) week, with legislation that would block the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing any portion of the health care reform law.

    House Republicans have scheduled a vote next Friday on Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013.

    “Public distrust continues of agency that has dozens of powers under Obamacare, and whose actions President Obama has called outrageous,” said Doug Heye, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “As an ever increasing number of Americans — including labor unions and moderate Democrats — worry that Obamacare has become a nightmare, it is critical to prevent the IRS from implementing any portion of the law.”

    Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) issued statements Friday afternoon blasting Republicans for the anticipated vote.

    “It is only fitting that Republicans would waste the last week at work this summer voting for the 40th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act and continue their record of no jobs bills, no budget agreement, and no solutions for the middle class,” said Pelosi.

    “Every day wasted on yet another repeal bill that will never be taken up by the Senate, much less survive a presidential veto, is another day that could have been spent advancing legislation to create jobs for the middle class, negotiating a balanced and bipartisan approach to deficits that can end the painful budget sequester, or debating a path forward on immigration reform,” added Hoyer.

    Yep, that about says it as far as I’m concerned.

    I should point out that, when I first became aware of the full extent of the stupidity in the U.S. House on this issue (scheduling repeal votes when, as noted in the Ezra Klein clip from here, health care reform is a “done deal”), they had only scheduled 31 repeal votes. And in response, I put together a series of posts from here focusing on 31 Republican U.S. House members who opposed health care reform (including our own Mikey the Beloved at #2 – I also mentioned then-Dem-reps Mike Ross and Dan Boren).

    Well, since we’re now up to a 40th scheduled vote, I would say that it’s time to feature 9 more Republicans in the U.S. House, and in no particular order, here they are…

    #32 – Blake Farenthold (TX – 27)

    • Here, he compared the unemployed to drug addicts (nice).
    • Here, he opposed funding food stamps (as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) even though he received millions in farm subsidies (and he definitely had company on this one).
    • And of course, as noted here, he wouldn’t be a good little Repug unless he was a member of the anti-science climate denier caucus.
    • He was also a little too slow, to say the least, about realizing that budget cuts hurt the economy here.
    • As noted here, his sister harbored a murder suspect (usually I leave civilians out of this stuff, but this is beyond the pale).

    Update 8/12/13: This is yet another reason to vote Farenthold and his pals out of office as far as I’m concerned.

    #33 – Diane Black (TN – 06)

    • Here, she introduced legislation that basically bars federal government funding on Planned Parenthood (oh brother – yeah, like that would stand up to a court challenge).
    • Here, she introduced legislation barring gays from adopting children (“Let’s see now, ‘Christian compassion,’ ‘Christian compassion’…I know they talk about it in the Bible somewhere, but I can’t find it!”).
    • Here, she said that she “children with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses should not have to be covered under their parent’s plan by insurance companies. Her reasoning is that insurance companies would lose too much money” (wonder if she owns any stock?).
    • Oh, and remember the supposedly humorous Email sent from Black’s aide Sherri Goforth (as in “Go forth and be stupid,” I guess) depicting President Obama as two eyes appearing against a black background (here)? And Goforth was merely “reprimanded” by Black in response, apparently.

    #34 – Raul Labrador (ID – 01)

    I give you Labrador on immigration (here)…

    “The people that came here illegally knowingly — I don’t think they should have a path to citizenship,” he said on NPR, according to Talking Points Memo. “If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship.”

    “Normalize your status”? What does that even mean? And as the story tells us, only about 10 percent of this country actually sides with Labrador.

    Of course, Labrador is quick to blame Obama on immigration, as noted here – “A speech is not a bill?” Bills are supposed to come from Congress, not the White House, you moron.

    And as noted from here, Labrador says that the Dems want to cover undocumented workers in health care reform, which is patently untrue…

    This month, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) blamed a standoff over health-care benefits for his decision to drop out of bipartisan talks with seven colleagues who were negotiating a House alternative to the Senate immigration proposal. That has forced House leaders to proceed with a series of smaller-scale proposals next week in lieu of a sweeping agreement.“

    When I joined the group, I was told that the aliens would have to pay for their own health care,” Labrador told Fox News. “Now that has changed. And I can’t agree to all of the exceptions.”

    Frustrated Democrats argue that Republicans are picking a fight where one does not exist. In both chambers, Democrats say, they have agreed that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for public benefits – including health-care subsidies and Medicaid – as they embark on a path to permanent legal status, which would take at least 10 years under the Senate plan.“

    We have said since day one that undocumented people will not have access to subsidies in the Affordable Care Act,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last month. “Any thought that we want to do something different than that is simply not true. It is a bottom line. No need to even discuss it.”

    But of course, according to Labrador, the failure to pass immigration reform is the fault of the Demsuh huh.

    Update 8/26/13: Yeah, how dare those pesky civil rights workers get all “negative” (here)! Gosh, why can’t they sing and dance while facing voter ID obstruction and disenfranchisement?

    #35 – Tom Cotton (AR – 04)

    • Here, he said that he didn’t think women were qualified to serve in the military (nice – it should be pointed out, though, that Cotton actually did serve, unlike most other Repugs).
    • Here, he said that Iraq was involved in 9/11 (ah, a golden oldie…oh, and when it comes to evaluating Number 43 and “Deadeye Dick,” Cotton believes 9/11 shouldn’t be included, as noted here).

    The Arkansas Times link also tells us that he, like many others in his party, voted against relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and he’s a darling of the Club for Growth, no matter how that affects his congressional district…figures.

    Cotton is a bit of a rising GOP star, though – he’s being prompted to challenge conservadem Mark Pryor for Pryor’s U.S. Senate seat (and apparently, based on this, he’s in…yep, no problem with ambition here, having not even finished his first term in the House after winning the seat vacated by Mike Ross).

    And like a whole bunch of House Repugs (including Mikey the Beloved), Cotton voted to separate SNAP funding from the farm bill (here). Oh, and Cotton wants to punish not only those who violate economic sanctions against Iran (OK), but their family members too, as noted here (um, and why?).

    Update 8/1/13: And I’m sure the Pryor campaign will have fun with this also.

    Update 8/9/13: Why do I have a feeling that the fun is just beginning with this guy (here)?

    #36 – Tim Huelskamp (KS – 01)

    What a prize this guy is, if I do say so…

    As far as Huelskamp is concerned, you’re not allowed to discuss gun control (particularly in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook carnage) because you would be advocating a “political agenda” (here).

    He also said here that he would file a constitutional amendment to try and restore DOMA, despite the fact that it was overruled by John Roberts and The Supremes (but just remember, it’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” as far as Huelskamp, Cantor and Boehner are concerned). And in keeping with that, he spread more BS here about how kids supposedly do better in dysfunctional hetero families than functional same-sex ones (to the point where even Fluffyhead called him on it).

    Basically, Huelskamp is such a Teahadist not job unwilling to compromise that he’s been removed by fellow Republicans from committee assignments (voted against the Violence Against Women Act, also voted against Sandy relief – of course…here).

    But how do his constituents feel, I wonder…

    “We hear criticisms that [Huelskamp] won’t get along, but that’s not what we elected him for. We elected him to vote for principle,” said Paula Carr, a 64-year-old who sells and repairs lawn and garden equipment. “Compromise is why we’re in the condition we’re in now — too much compromise over the last 30 years.’’

    With all due respect to Ms. Carr, the main reason for the “too much comprise” over the last 30 years is because you’ve had the proverbial rug pulled out from under you by Republican politicians selling you “values voter” snake oil while income inequality has gotten worse and worse and worse. And at the risk of sounding like a snotty liberal, I should point out that it was up to you to overcome what I’m sure is your longstanding dislike of people with my political opinion and study the issues that truly matter with an open mind. And apparently, you failed to do so, to the point where you have sent a numbskull like Huelskamp to Washington, where he can do damage not just to your district but the whole country (and that quote means that you’re just as oblivious to that now as before).

    Oh, and don’t count on Huelskamp to help with immigration reform either, since he thinks that appealing to Hispanics is “very discouraging” (here).

    Take a bow, you voters in KS – 01…heckuva job!

    Update 10/09/13: What a pathetic little slug (here).

    Update 1/29/14: Yep, Huelskamp is just another “one trick pony” – when all else fails, just attack that gol-danged “li-bu-ruul media” (here – and as far as BENGHAZI! is concerned, as I’ve said at least half a dozen times, I don’t recall any outcry at all when our ambassador David Foy was murdered in Pakistan in 2006).

    #37 – Jim Bridenstine (OK – 01)

    • Bridenstine said here that the Supreme Court doesn’t get to decide which laws are constitutional, or something, in response to a question about the Affordable Care Act (Marbury v. Madison, jackass).
    • He called President Obama “an incompetent, vengeful liar with no moral compass” on the floor of the U.S. House (here – yeah, just keep blaming us libs for how uncivil we were to Dubya; as usual, conservatives look in the mirror and see everyone’s reflection but their own).
    • He demanded that Obama apologize to Oklahoma here for allocating funding for climate change research here (um, aren’t you just the slightest bit curious about what caused the Moore tornado, congressman?).
    • And of course, being a typical Teahadist, Bridenstine is afraid “Man Tan” Boehner will “cave on taxes” because of the sequester, as noted here (maybe, instead of “taxes,” Bridenstine should worry about this instead; fat chance, I know).


    (From the Chattanooga Times Free Press)

    #38 – Scott DesJarlais (TN – 04)

    I wish it could be said that all nine Repugs in this post are truly facing electoral problems for next year, but except for DesJarlais, I don’t think that’s apparent at the moment (love to be wrong). I guess the “line in the sand” for the Teahadists is when you betray them on “values” issues, as opposed to issues that actually impact their lives such as the sequester, jobs, health care, the environment, etc. (what a joke).

    With that in mind, I give you this…

    • He was fined $500 for having affairs with patients here (he’s an OB-GYN, I believe).
    • Here, he apparently pressured one patient who was his mistress into getting an abortion (nice guy).
    • Here, he supported his ex-wife’s decision to have two abortions prior to their marriage (as far as I’m concerned, that should be kept in the family, but don’t parade yourself as a “family values” Republican if you have these skeletons in your proverbial closet, OK?).
    • Also according to Politico (above link), DesJarlais “lavished gifts” on one patient he had an affair with, including an expensive watch and plane tickets.

    When even the chairman of the state’s Republican Party says that he doesn’t expect DesJarlais to be re-elected next year…well, I guess the “fat lady,” as they say, is getting ready.

    Update 1/31/14: Gee, aren’t those pesky unintended consequences a real bitch, as noted here? Ha and ha…

    Poe_0731

    #39 – Ted Poe (TX – 02)

    Going further down the rabbit hole as they say, people…

    • Here, Poe quoted the KKK Grand Wizard on the U.S. House floor (lovely).
    • Here, he held a health care “town hall” in a funeral home (interesting messaging…oh, riiight“death panels”; I get it now).
    • Poe said here that the U.S. gave aid to Cuba and Venezuela (uh, no).
    • Here, he tried to rally the nation against the supposedly grave danger faced by incandescent light bulbs (pretty sad when you’re a “sock puppet” for Erick “Son of Eric” Erickson).

    And speaking of Poe, the video from here with him along with Steve King and Louie Gohmert is kind of silly, but fun (and it speaks truth to stoo-pid).

    And last but perhaps least…

    #40 – Stephen Fincher (TN – 08)

    • Here, Fincher basically says that if you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat (Welcome to Gulag USA, despite the fact that Fincher gets huge farm subsidies, as noted here).
    • This tells us that, like many others in his party, he voted against relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
    • Here, he introduced a bill requiring drug testing of 20 percent of welfare recipients and applicants (of course, if Fincher were interested in doing anything besides trying to score cheap political points, he might look a little further south to see if it actually does any good, as noted here).
    • Also, based on this, it looks like he doesn’t know how to file a campaign disclosure statement properly (i.e., he “claimed to have almost no assets at the start of his campaign, and has since filed multiple inconsistent financial disclosure forms, revealing significantly greater assets.”).
    • He probably should also get a new press secretary too while he’s at it (here – some truly obnoxious “tweets” from someone named Elizabeth Lauten…nothing wrong with her having an opinion even though I most certainly don’t agree, but…and call me old fashioned, I know…aren’t government employees supposed to be non-political?).

    I think that brings us up to date, and I sincerely hope that I don’t have to revisit this topic (though, knowing this bunch, I have a feeling I will – sigh).

    Update 8/29/13: I didn’t know what to do with this item exactly, so I decided to tack it onto the end here; even though the racism on display is positively enraging, I think it demonstrates pretty well the complete and total failure of just about all of our corporate media to educate this country on the urgent issue of how the Affordable Care Act addresses our health care needs.


    Spy The Beloved Country – 2013 Edition

    June 19, 2013


    Still catching up on some stuff a bit – the following appeared last week in the Murdoch Street Journal (here)…

    Once again, the tanks-have-rolled left and the black-helicopters right have joined together in howls of protest. They were set off by last week’s revelations that the U.S. government has been collecting data that disclose the fact, but not the content, of electronic communications within the country, as well as some content data outside the U.S. that does not focus on American citizens. Once again, the outrage of the left-right coalition is misdirected.

    Libertarian Republicans and liberal—progressive, if you prefer—Democrats see the specter of George Orwell’s “1984” in what they claim is pervasive and unlawful government spying. These same groups summoned “1984” in 2001 after passage of the Patriot Act, in 2008 after renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and many times in between and since.

    Oh, by the way, the author of this “trust your leaders,” feel-good pabulum on behalf of the “one percent” is Michael Mukasey, former Bushco attorney general. And for Mukasey to blame liberals for invoking “1984” is darkly humorous when you consider that he once said the following from here

    “I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.’ You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.”

    (The end of this post contains a link to a prior post from yours truly where Mukasey definitely supports the Patriot Act, by the way.)

    Continuing…

    Regrettably, those best positioned to defend such surveillance programs are least likely to do so out of obvious security concerns. Without getting into detail here, intelligence agencies, with court authorization, have been collecting data in an effort that is neither pervasive nor unlawful. As to the data culled within the U.S., the purpose is to permit analysts to map relationships between and among Islamist fanatics.

    For example, it would be helpful to know who communicated with the Tsarnaev brothers, who those people were in touch with, and whether there are overlapping circles that would reveal others bent on killing and maiming Americans—sort of a terrorist Venn diagram. Once these relationships are disclosed, information can be developed that would allow a court to give permission to monitor the content of communications.

    In response, this tells us the following (#2 on the list)…

    NSA Deputy Director John Inglis said that 22 NSA officials are authorized to approve requests to query an agency database that contains the cellphone metadata of American citizens. (Metadata includes the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls, the date and time the calls took place, and their duration.) Deputy AG Cole also said that all queries of this database must be documented and can be subject to audits. Cole also said that the NSA does not have to get separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approval for each query; instead, the agency merely has to file a monthly report with the court on how many times the database was queried, and how many of those searches targeted the phone records of Americans.

    This, to me, is another holdover from the rancid Bushco regime. There appears to be, more or less, retroactive judicial review going on here. If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is going to be notified after surveillance has taken place, what the hell is the point of having “judicial review” at all?

    And yes, I know this utterly awful state of affairs was codified into law by a Democratic congress in 2008, one of the most cowardly acts I have ever seen.

    Continuing…

    As to monitoring content abroad, the utility is obvious. At least one conspiracy—headed by Najibullah Zazi and intended to maim and kill New York City subway riders—was disclosed through such monitoring and headed off. Zazi, arrested in 2009, pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

    An opposing point of view on that claim is here, by the way.

    Continuing…

    Because intelligence does not arrive in orderly chronological ranks, and getting useful data is an incremental process that often requires matching information gathered in the past with more current data, storing the information is essential. But, say the critics, information in the hands of “the government” can be misused—just look at the IRS. The IRS, as it happens, has a history of misusing information for political purposes.

    That’s absolutely right, and Mukasey would know, having worked for the administration that was responsible for this.

    Continuing…

    To be sure, there have been transgressions within intelligence agencies, but these have involved the pursuit of an intelligence mission, not a political objective.

    Not according to William Binney, former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program (here), noted from here.

    Continuing…

    Consider also that in a post-9/11 world all of those agencies live in dread of a similar attack. That ghastly prospect itself provides incentive for analysts to focus on the intelligence task at hand and not on political or recreational use of information.

    Translated from Mukasey: Don’t question the NSA spying program, or else the terrorists have already won.

    Continuing…

    Some wallow in the idea that they are being watched, their civil liberties endangered, simply because a handful of electrons they generated were among the vast billions being reviewed in a high-stakes antiterrorism effort. Of course, many are motivated politically or ideologically to oppose robust intelligence-gathering aimed at fending off Islamist terrorism. Criticism from that quarter can be left to lie where it fell.

    Speaking of “endangered civil liberties” (from the Source Watch post noted above)…

    As a judge, in October 2001 Mukasey “dismissed concerns by a 21-year old Jordanian immigrant that he had been beaten while in U.S. custody, leaving bruises that were hidden beneath his orange prison jumpsuit.”[9] “‘As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me,’ said Judge Mukasey.”[10]

    Continuing…

    Nor do these programs violate the law. Start with the Constitution. The applicable provisions lie in two clauses in the Fourth Amendment. The first bars “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The second provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” established by affidavit, and it requires that warrants describe with particularity what or who is to be seized, and from where.

    Notice that the first clause does not forbid warrantless searches, only unreasonable ones.

    Wow, talk about some legalese hair-splitting! In Mukasey’s legally compromised (IMHO) worldview, a “warrantless” search actually isn’t “unreasonable.”

    Continuing…

    And the second simply creates a warrant requirement that is read, with some exceptions, to bar evidence at trial if it is obtained without a valid warrant. The first clause has been read to protect the content of communications in which the speaker has a reasonable expectation of privacy—telephone conversations being an obvious example. It does not protect the fact of communications.

    As far as the “fact” of communications is concerned (here)…

    The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

    At least some of the phone calls and emails were pulled from among the hundreds of millions stored by telecommunications companies as part of an NSA surveillance program. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Thursday night publicly acknowledged what he called “a sensitive intelligence collection program” after its existence was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper.

    Yes, it’s commendable that the mistaken intercepts were reported and the data destroyed (or so the story says), but suppose that didn’t happen? Suppose that, in the data mining process, it was falsely recorded that yours truly called an overseas number to book some travel arrangement (not likely, I’ll admit), but the phone number was transposed by accident, and instead, it was interpreted that I called someone with links to the Muslim Brotherhood instead? What about the “fact” of that communication?

    There’s other stuff I could get into on what Mukasey said, but I think this sums things up. To me, the real takeaway comes from here (turning to Mother Jones once again)…

    The problem is that this kind of indefinite data collection makes abuse far more likely in the future. Someday there will be a different president in the White House, there will be a different head of NSA, and there will be different professionals running the program. What will they do with all that data the next time something happens that makes America crazy for a few years? I don’t know, but I do know that if they don’t have the data in the first place they can’t abuse it.

    the future is what we should be talking about. Even if NSA’s programs haven’t been abused yet, that doesn’t mean they’re okay. Likewise, even if they haven’t produced any great benefits yet, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid and useless. It’s the future that matters.

    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about Mukasey, let’s not forget this little episode, where Dem Congressman Jim Moran said that anyone opposing a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed was “un-American” (worse), but Mukasey responded by saying that Moran should seek counseling from Maj. Nidal Hassan (worst!) – also, here is the link to the post on the Patriot Act I noted above, pointing out that Mukasey supported Section 215 of the Act, which basically invalidates the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

    Despite the whole “nothing to see here, move along” narrative Mukasey is trying to inflict here, I should note that this tells us that a majority of those polled want those knuckleheads in Congress (and I’m thinking mainly, but not totally, of the House when I say that) to do their jobs and hold hearings on the whole surveillance issue (which should have taken place during Bushco, but better late than never I know…and I know doing that in the House is problematic because of the likely Repug grandstanding, but it still needs to happen). I mean, I think that would be the prudent thing to do so if, say, one day, I’m driving to work and I see or hear a drone flying overhead, at least I’ll have some idea of who sent it there and what’s going on with the damn thing (and hopefully that explanation will be the truth).

    The people of this country want answers on this issue in particular. And they deserve them, including me.


    Wednesday Mashup (5/1/13)

    May 1, 2013
  • Let’s start with a Bucks County item, and we need to take a brief trip back in time first.

    As noted here from last month, the Pennsbury Education Association (the union representing the Pennsbury school district employees) requested that the arbiter involved in the negotiations with the PEA and the school board not release the latest proposal figures in the ongoing negotiations.

    Because…

    Revised salary demands from the Pennsbury Education Association were posted on the district’s website…and that has union officials up in arms.

    The figures are part of a report for a state-appointed fact-finder to consider in April, said PEA spokeswoman Lucy Walter.

    “They should have remained confidential so that (fact-finder Lawrence) Coburn could do his work without external interference,” Walter said Wednesday night. “It is a shame that the Pennsbury Board of (School) Directors are so afraid of a fact-finding process that they would seek to sabotage it before it begins.”

    The teachers union asked for the fact-finder March 19 to try to break the long-standing labor dispute with the Pennsbury school board.

    So the PEA asks the fact finder to try and resolve the dispute, which of course the Pennsbury school board didn’t do. And to compound the problem, the board violates the confidentiality of the negotiations.

    So now you’re caught up for this item from a couple of days ago, which tells us the following…

    A fact-finder recommends no pay raises for the first three years of a five-year deal between Pennsbury and its teachers union and raises of less than 1 percent for some teachers the other two years.

    The 20-page recommendation by Lawrence Coburn, the state-appointed fact-finder, aims to end the long-running contract impasse between the district’s school board and the Pennsbury Education Association. He issued the report to the two sides on Monday.

    So basically, the school board refuses to take the initiative and get a mediator, then, when the PEA actually gets that done (and it looks like they’re going to get a “haircut” for their trouble), the board violates the spirit of the negotiations by posting the full fact-finder report online.

    If you guessed that this is another Simon Campbell production, then you win a complimentary “Don’t Tread On Me” decal tattooed on your forehead…

    Campbell defended his posting of the fact-finder report in a press release issued Tuesday morning.

    “This unelected, unaccountable government bureaucrat has no authority to tell any elected official that he or she must not discuss the expenditure of public money with the public prior to casting a contract vote on May 9, 2013,” he said.

    Campbell added in the release: “My personal counsel stands ready to file suit in federal court against opinion-finder Coburn, the unelected, unaccountable regulatory body known as the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, and the teachers union if any such persons believe they have authority that supersedes the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

    Gee, just a bit of a dog whistle to the Teahadists, wouldn’t you say?…

    Board President Allan Weisel, on behalf of the entire governing body, responded to Campbell’s actions.

    “(The board) disavows and regrets the release of the attorney-client privileged communication, confidential district documents and the fact-finder’s report,” Weisel said in a statement posted on Pennsbury’s website. “This release was the action of an individual board member. The school board is committed to abiding by the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in this matter.”

    And in a related matter, this Guest Opinion in today’s Courier Times tells us the following…

    PTO President Amy Waters recently wrote Campbell an email detailing some concerns Edgewood parents have with the changes proposed at their school. He replied with vitriol and condescension, vowing to oppose the PTO’s suggestions simply because the group was too “good at generating noise.” Campbell sounded more like a playground bully rather than a thoughtful leader when he told Waters: “The more aggressive you are in seeking self-interest, the less likely you are to influence me.”

    Campbell has minimized the worries faced by the families who will be required to endure these significant changes. “I have moved several times with my family, including from Switzerland to place a second grader and kindergartner in Pennsbury while in temporary housing,” Campbell wrote. “They survived. We didn’t make a big song and dance about it. We just got on with it.”

    This is no time for superior attitudes or personal attacks. Parents are upset, and rightly so. We need the Pennsbury School Board to approach this difficult problem with a more reasoned, empathetic approach. Simon Campbell should apologize to the Edgewood parents and every other family that will be affected by this redistricting plan. And I hope everybody in the Pennsbury School District will go to the polls on May 21, Primary Election Day, to bring about some much-needed change on the Pennsbury School Board.

    (Full disclosure: I know the author of this fine column and her family…great people.)

    Not that I’m some kind of a genius prognosticator by any means, but I told you here that stuff like this would happen when Campbell and his minions took over the Pennsbury school board (here – last bullet).

    Simon wants a strike, people. And the way things are going, he may very well get it.

    Update 5/10/13: And this is another Campbell disgrace.

  • Moving on to foreign policy stuff, I should bring you this item from Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) columnist Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal here (on the subject of Obama, Syria, and our “friends” in Israel, with Stephens imagining that Number 44 will do absolutely nothing)…

    …As the Assad regime realizes it can use these weapons without international penalty, it will unleash them again. Sooner or later it will figure out that the more widely it uses them, the quicker it can kill enemies at home and deter enemies abroad. A twofer. The administration will go from arguing that it’s too soon to intervene in Syria, to arguing that it’s too late.

    What Israel gets from this is a chemical-weapons free-fire zone on its Syrian border, along with the growing likelihood that the weapons will reach Hezbollah’s hands along its Lebanese border. On the plus side, Israel also gets an arms deal from the administration. But the deal consists of selling Israel stuff it already has or doesn’t particularly need, like aerial tankers and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, while withholding stuff it doesn’t have and dearly needs, like large bunker-busters and the means of delivering them.

    Umm, I hate to break the news to Stephens, but as noted here from September 2011…

    Newsweek is reporting that Israel has received 55 US-made GBU-28 bunker-busting bombs, citing it as evidence that the US-Israeli military relationship is deeper than ever, despite the bad chemistry between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu. The other fruit of that relationship, the journalist Eli Lake reports, is an intriguing cooperative venture between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours to set up a radar array to give early warning of an impending Iranian missile attack.

    But of course, such wankery on Obama just comes with the territory as far as Stephens is concerned, as noted here.

  • gwb_13-george-w-bush

  • Finally for today, I give you the following from Fred Barnes at The Weakly Standard (here…a little late with this bit of Dubya revisionism, I realize)…

    Bush and Obama are both polarizing figures, but for different reasons. Bush’s policies, particularly on Iraq and terrorism, divided Republicans and Democrats sharply. But Obama goes a step further, constantly slamming Republicans and impugning their motives. Obama personally polarizes. Bush didn’t attack Democrats from the White House.

    Truly people, it is to laugh. To begin, I give you this from November 2007…

    WASHINGTON – With Congress and the White House engaged in a long-running feud over war funds, President George W. Bush criticized Democrats on Saturday for holding up money he requested for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Bush is seeking $196 billion for the wars for the fiscal year beginning October 1. Democrats who control Congress want to attach a troop pullout plan to the funding bill for the war but lack enough votes to pass the measure in the Senate.

    The White House has warned that Bush would veto any bill with such conditions.

    In his weekly radio address, Bush said Congress was “failing to meet its responsibilities to our troops.”

    “For months, Congress has delayed action on supplemental war funding because some in Congress want to make a political statement about the war,” he said, criticizing Democrats for leaving for their Thanksgiving break without approving the war funds.

    A bill passed this week by the House of Representatives would have given Bush about a quarter of the $196 billion he wants for the wars while setting a goal that all U.S. combat soldiers withdraw from Iraq by December 15, 2008.

    Republicans stopped the measure in the Senate.

    And this from February ’08…

    …Mr. Bush reserved his harshest comments for Mr. Obama’s recent statement that he would be willing to meet the new leader of Cuba, Raúl Castro, “without preconditions.” Mr. Obama has made reviving American diplomacy a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda, saying he believes it is “important for the United States not just to talk to its friends but also to talk to its enemies.”

    But Mr. Bush has refused to meet with foreign adversaries like Kim Jong-il of North Korea and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. And at the news conference, he let loose with a spirited monologue when asked what would be lost by doing so.

    “What’s lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs?” Mr. Bush said in reference to Mr. Castro, his voice growing louder as he paced about behind the lectern. “What’s lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners.”

    Mr. Bush went on: “I’m not suggesting there’s never a time to talk, but I’m suggesting now is not the time — not to talk with Raúl Castro. He’s nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island, and imprison people because of their beliefs.”

    And this from May of that year…

    In a lengthy speech intended to promote the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, the president invoked the emotionally volatile imagery of World War II to make the case that talking to extremists was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis.

    “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush said. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

    The Obama campaign issued an angry response to Mr. Bush’s statement. In an e-mail statement to reporters, the senator denounced Mr. Bush for using the 60th anniversary of Israel to “launch a false political attack,” adding, “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.”

    And here is another instance in which Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History criticized Democrats as Nazi appeasers, or something, on the matter of terrorism, which is funny when you realize on whose watch Osama bin Laden was killed and on whose watch OBL got away (one of the many good reasons to see Dubya leave is that he took that idiotic, baiting language with him).

    And by the way, Bush actually said this in February 2004 (too artful, courtesy of his head speechwriter and now WaPo pundit Michael Gerson, to attack Dems by name, but everybody knew who he and Dubya were talking about – the reception was hosted by The Mittster, by the way)…

    Some of our opponents are skeptical that the war on terror is really a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime — a problem to be solved with law enforcement and indictments. Our nation followed that approach after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. The matter was handled in the courts, and thought to be settled. But the terrorists were still training in Afghanistan, plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers.

    …and this may be the ultimate “white is black, up is down” quote…

    It’s the President’s job to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations.

    I rest my case.


  • Thursday Mashup (1/24/13)

    January 24, 2013

  • The Bucks County Courier Times decided to give column space to Mikey the Beloved recently; I’m sure you can guess what happened next (here).

    He leads off as follows…

    Each morning, like so many parents across Bucks and Montgomery counties, when I drive my children to school and drop them off, I expect them to spend their day in a safe environment where their biggest concern is a test they have that day.

    OK, we have a problem right away…

    As a member of the U.S. Congress, Mikey spends most of his time during business hours in Washington, D.C. Does he honestly expect us to believe that he is also dropping off his kids each morning also? What, does he have some kind of private air transportation that takes him from Bucks County to the Capitol each morning too?

    Mikey then fills us this column almost entirely with platitudes and self-referential nonsense, as well as stuff he could have easily lifted from other news accounts, before he gets to the following…

    I am focused on effective responses. I am currently working on legislation to strengthen the national background check system and close the loopholes to ensure that dangerous people will not be able to purchase any firearm in any state.

    In addition to the legislation I am currently working to introduce, I have expressed my willingness to examine the president’s proposals and work with him on achieving common-sense reforms that will truly make our communities safer.

    As usual, Mikey is desperately short on specifics, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, for now.

    However, he also tells us the following…

    The president’s solution is to ban every citizen from being able to purchase some guns. I believe a more effective approach will be to ban some citizens from being able to purchase any guns. A study by our own University of Pennsylvania commissioned by the United States Department of Justice, the same type of study President Obama has vowed to fund, has concluded that the firearm controls of the 1990s were not effective.

    I can’t find the study Fitzpatrick is referring to – I’m not alleging that he’s lying, I’m just saying I can’t find it (would have been nice if it had been linked to the Courier Times column, but as I’ve pointed out, we’re talking about the fourth estate freak show here). I couldn’t find the study at Fitzpatrick’s U.S. House web site either.

    I will cede Mikey’s point a bit by saying that it has been hard to quantify the benefits of the 1994 ban (pointed out by David Corn here), but I will say that there is a body of evidence out there that at least can raise some questions one way or the other, as noted here (besides, as noted here, one reason why we don’t have the most reliable data on this is because the NRA fights our efforts to obtain it…nothing but the sound of crickets from Mikey on that one).

    And as far as I’m concerned, the “takeaway” from this is the graph of “Guns per 100 people” in various countries, with a lot of other give-and-take stuff, but to me, what matters is just how many guns there are in this country per citizen, which definitely doesn’t make me happy (“U-S-A! U-S-A!”).

    Yep, this is pretty much nothing but another piece of PR fluff from Mikey’s press service. No doubt he’ll be back with more in about a month or so, so stay tuned.

  • Next, I give you the following from what purports to be an actual news story (here)…

    Obama secured a $787 billion stimulus package, an auto-industry bailout, new Wall Street regulations and health-care legislation that, for the first time, promised insurance coverage for nearly all Americans.

    But the political cost of moving that agenda was steep. The partisanship he had pledged to end only deepened, and many of the independent voters decisive in his election abandoned him.

    In his news conference last week, Obama blamed his reputation for aloofness in Washington on the partisan divide he once pledged to mend.

    Republicans, he said, believe it is politically dangerous to be seen with him given the antipathy many in their deep-red districts feel toward him.

    Even his supporters say he should attempt to change that, using those Republicans who supported the final fiscal cliff deal as an initial call sheet that could also include GOP governors and business leaders and others who may offer help.

    …many supporters say Obama, preoccupied with reelection, has withdrawn from the world over the past year at a dangerous time and must step back in quickly.

    Are you starting to smell the same journalistic trick that I do here, people? Lots of anonymous attribution in support of utterly wankerific talking points?

    It’s Obama’s fault that he failed to “end…partisanship” (as if anyone could do that in Washington, D.C.).

    It’s Obama’s fault that he has a “reputation for aloofness” to the point where Republicans “believe it is politically dangerous to be seen with him,” which “even his supporters” say he should “change” (as if Obama is supposed to be concerned about how his governance affects the electability of Republicans).

    It’s Obama’s fault that “many supporters say” he has “withdrawn from the world” (which, to me, is a pretty serious insinuation that he lacks the capacity for governance, which is not just wrong, but calumnious).

    The author of this steaming pile of dookey, by the way, is Scott Wilson (and of course, since we’re talking about the WaPo as part of Corporate Media Central, the Repugs aren’t criticized at all for their antics… there’s a reminder later that Obama was a community organizer, which is true. He was also a U.S. Senator, which doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as it should).

    And as it turns out, Wilson is a serial offender – here, he took a quote and turned it inside out to give the impression that Obama doesn’t like people (please), and here, he definitely sanitized the wingnuttery also.

    And as noted here

    Additionally, in a May 6 Washington Post article, staff writers Scott Wilson and Robert Barnes wrote that “[a]s White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put it, Obama is looking for ‘somebody who understands how being a judge affects Americans’ everyday lives.’ Congressional conservatives have reacted anxiously to that qualification, fearing that it means a nominee who is more interested in making the law than in interpreting it.” But the Post did not note Obama’s statements indicating that he supports a nominee who “honors our constitutional traditions” and “respects … the appropriate limits of the judicial role.”

    Looks like Wilson and his pals at the Post (and elsewhere) try to provide the openings in the “mainstream” reporting that the wingnuts can enlarge exponentially to propagate their right-wing BS (just thought I should point that out, that’s all).

  • Continuing, it looks like “Blow ‘Em Up” Bolton is at it again (here)…

    The US and Western response to date has been disjointed and with decidedly mixed results. If President Obama doesn’t soon jettison his ideological blinders about the threat of international terrorism, we could see a series of further attacks — not unlike the 1990s series that culminated in the 9/11 strikes.

    It’s typically disingenuous and cowardly (to say nothing of inaccurate) for Bolton to assume some linkage between the Clinton Administration and the ruinous one that followed on the 9/11 attacks…perhaps in terms of facing a threat from the same foe, but that’s all (and speaking of the Clintons, I’m sure there’s no apology in sight from Bolton for this).

    Oh, and while arguing that Obama is allegedly soft on al Qaeda, or something (pretty funny when you consider who got bin Laden in comparison with Bolton’s former boss), Bolton also downplayed the fact that Obama got Anwar al-Awlaki (yes, it’s a slippery slope since Awlaki was an American citizen, but it’s typically preposterous for Bolton to argue that Obama is supposedly soft on al Qaeda and omit this… also particularly disingenuous since Bolton gave Obama credit for it here – of course, Bolton contorted himself to try and find a way to give Dubya props too).

    Here is more on Bolton, including the targets he wanted to go after following Dubya’s pre-emptive war in Iraq (as I once said about Charles Krauthammer, Bolton is awfully generous with the blood of other people’s kids). Also, Bolton makes it sound like a question as to whether or not the Taliban is really in charge in Afghanistan, even though the headline here says it all about the potential for the Taliban to rule in at least parts of Afghanistan as part of a possibly brokered peace deal (regarding Bolton’s claim that Obama’s policies have led to a Taliban resurgence – I don’t think they’ve had to “resurge,” or something, since they’ve been players all along since Bolton’s boss outsourced the Afghan war to Pakistan in the prior decade).

    We all know what a “true believer” Bolton is, people. I just think we need to remind ourselves of that fact from time to time (and let us not forget that, as noted from the article in The Nation, Bolton would have been in a position to actually create further chaos in the world once more instead of mere propaganda had we – gulp! – sworn in Willard Mitt Romney recently instead of President Obama for a second term).

  • Finally, in a thoroughly logical career progression, this tells us that former Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, allegedly a Democrat, will now become a lobbyist for the insurance industry…

    Nelson is joining a public affairs firm and becoming the chief of an insurance commissioners’ group.

    The former senator has been named CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). He will be the group’s chief spokesman and primary advocate in Washington. NAIC is made up of state insurance regulators and helps coordinate their oversight across the country.

    And for the occasion, I thought I’d bring you a sample of what you might call Ben Nelson’s Greatest Hits…

  • This tell us that Nelson was the only Dem senator to vote against confirming Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
  • Along with Max Baucus, Jon Tester and Mark Warner, he voted to block tax legislation that would have punished U.S. firms that export jobs here.
  • Here, Nelson engaged in typically pointless obstruction that delayed jobless benefits.
  • Nelson also blocked financial reform legislation here.
  • Here, he was offered a job within the Dubya White House in order to step aside so it would be easier for Mike Johanns to get elected instead, which ultimately happened anyway (can’t remember too many Democrats so “graced” by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History; the story is a response to the alleged job offer from the Obama Administration to “Admiral Joe” Sestak…I honestly don’t remember what that supposed scandal was all about).
  • It should also be pointed out that Nelson actually has a background in insurance, particularly with NAIC, who are guilty of the following as noted here

    The NAIC’s resolution urged Congress and the White House to gut the only real consumer pricer (sp) protection in the Affordable Care Act. That protection, the “medical loss ratio” rule, requires insurers to spend 80% to 85% of their premium income on health care, and limit overhead, commissions and profit to 15% to 20%. The idea is to get insurers to operate more efficiently and cut bloat to keep premiums down. It’s already working–for instance in Connecticut, where regulators report major insurers filing for premium reductions, not increases.

    Such relief will be over if Congress or the White House do what the NAIC asked–to remove broker sales commissions of a few percent up to 20% of the premium from the overhead percentage. Premiums would shoot up, profits would grow and consumers would pay.

    Consumer advocates are counting on the White House and Congress (at least the Senate) to reject the fake arguments and arm-twisting of the industry, and listen to actual consumers.

    Yep, it sounds like the would-be beneficiary of the “cornhusker kickback,” had it ever come to pass in final legislation for the Affordable Care Act, will be right at home.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh).


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