Report Card for “Bri-Fi,” 2018

September 10, 2018

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As we know, the mid-term elections are fast approaching, so I thought now was as good a time as any to take a look at what our Wet Noodle 2.0 U.S. House Rep for PA-01 was up to (I’m referring to Brian Fitzpatrick of course).

To begin, it should be noted that Bri-Fi sought to burnish his “pro-life” bona fides by voting for a 20-week abortion ban (that and other votes are noted here – fortunately, as noted here, the ban was rejected by the U.S. Senate in January).

As noted here, though…

Nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks, but when they are needed later in pregnancy, it’s often in very complex circumstances. For example, severe fetal anomalies and serious risks to the woman’s health — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

20-week bans are also highly unpopular throughout the country. 61% of all voters say abortion should be legal after 20 weeks. Plus, Democrats (78%), Republicans (62%), and Independents (71%) say this is the wrong issue for lawmakers to be spending time on.

Fitzpatrick also voted for a permanent ban on federal funds for abortions or health coverage that includes abortions (which is pointless because federal funding for abortions is already banned under the Hyde Amendment, named after a serial philanderer in Congress – more here).

When it comes to civil liberties, Fitzpatrick also voted to reauthorize warrantless spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); Republicans managed to make it worse in the process according to some fourth amendment advocates (a group which should include everyone I realize).

As noted here

“Not only does the (reauthorized) bill say you have our blessing to collect communications that contain a target’s email address, it also endorses collecting communications that merely contain a reference to the target,” says Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “So literally if you and I sent an email to each other that had the word ISIS in it, if you and I send an email that talks about ISIS, under this bill the government is authorized to collect it.” (Assuming ISIS is a group that the NSA is specifically targeting.)

The bill does impose a warrant requirement upon the FBI, but the way it’s written appears to weaken privacy protections rather than strengthen them, says Goitein. Under the legislation, FBI agents need a warrant to search the Section 702 database when a criminal investigation has already been opened, but not when national security is involved. That means the FBI can query the database on nothing more than a tip. “It incentivizes doing searches earlier and earlier, when it’s less and less justified,” says Goitein.

Fitzpatrick also voted along with Generalissimo Trump (which he has done about 83 percent of the time according to Nate Silver) in the matter of disciplining VA whistleblowers (here).

Also, as noted here

The U.S. Government Accountability Office’s report says VA whistleblowers are far more likely than their colleagues to face discipline or removal after reporting misconduct.

The number of VA workers fired is up under President Trump. But congressional Democrats and the VA’s union cite VA data showing that the vast majority of those fired in the first five months of 2018 were low-level food service, laundry and custodial staff the majority of whom are veterans. In that same period, only 15 out of 1,096 employees fired were supervisors.

This report comes as the VA’s own inspector general has publicly clashed recently with the VA leadership over access to documents and information about whistleblower adjudication.

A recent NPR investigation showed a pattern of often vicious whistleblower retaliation at the VA in central Alabama and sidelining of whistleblowers in Indiana.

There’s also a news report this week that the VA, under Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke, is aggressively reassigning or forcing out VA staff members thought to be disloyal to President Trump and his agenda for the agency.

I realize that we’ve had VA issues with both Democratic and Republican presidents (probably the result of too many damn wars and too many of our heroes getting maimed in our country’s service and putting a strain on available resources), but I don’t know of anyone being forced out for being “disloyal” to President Obama.

And speaking of Number 44, Fitzpatrick repeatedly attacked Obama-era rules, including a rule blocking states from defunding Planned Parenthood (here) as well as another rule requiring employers to keep better record of workplace injuries (here). He also voted to overturn a rule prohibiting labor law violators from eligibility for federal contracts, allowing these companies to underpay their workers once more and evade safety regulations (here).

Fitzpatrick also voted to overturn an Obama rule banning drug testing jobless applying for unemployment. As noted here

As things have long stood, states only had the authority to institute drug tests for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash welfare program. Thus far, 13 states have instituted such regimes. But what their experience has proven year after year is that the tests, while costly to administer, turn up very few positive test results. Out of about 250,000 applicants and recipients among these states in 2016, just 369 tested positive; in four states, exactly zero people tested positive for illegal drug use. In the states with positive results, they ranged from a low of 0.07 percent of all applicants to a high of 2.14 percent, rates far below the nearly 10 percent drug use rate among the general population.

Meanwhile, states collectively spent $1.6 million on drug testing, on top of the nearly $2 million spent during the previous two years, despite the apparent ineffectiveness of these programs. That’s money that could instead be used to expand welfare benefits or even drug treatment programs.

Another vote from Fitzpatrick to overturn Internet privacy rules allowed internet service providers, or ISPs, to sell “financial and medical information. Social Security numbers, web browsing history, mobile app usage (and) even the content of your emails and online chats,” according to Sam Gustin of the web site Motherboard (vote is here).

Fitzpatrick also voted to end federal checks preventing more than 167,000 veterans deemed “mentally incompetent” from keeping or purchasing firearms (H.R. 1181). This is part and parcel of Bri-Fi’s utterly craven voting recording in near-total fealty to the NRA. As noted here:

  • In February 2017, Fitzpatrick voted to block the Social Security Administration from sharing information with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System on people with mental disorders in order to prevent them from purchasing firearms.
  • In November, 2017 Fitzpatrick voted twice to block the establishment of a select committee on gun violence prevention.
  • In December 2017, Fitzpatrick said he supports concealed carry reciprocity which would force states like Pennsylvania to defer to the concealed carry weapon laws of more pro-gun states like Texas.
  • In February 2018, Fitzpatrick voted to kill consideration of legislation on gun regulations.
  • In March 2018, Fitzpatrick voted to block three bills to close gun safety loopholes including the gun show, internet sale, and classified ad background check loopholes to prevent the sale of guns without a completed background check.
  • Fitzpatrick also voted to prohibit Department of Justice (DOJ) settlements requiring parties to donate monies to outside groups. This may seem a bit obscure, but as a result, the following should be noted from here

    The decision (to distribute settlement funds only to those directly harmed by wrongdoing) by the Justice Department throws into question an upcoming $12 million settlement against Harley-Davidson. As part of the settlement, the motorcycle manufacturer agreed to stop selling illegal after-market devices that increase the air pollution emitted by the motorcycles.

    Harley-Davidson had agreed to donate $3 million to a project to reduce air pollution, the Justice Department said in August. With Sessions’s decision Monday, that settlement’s fate is now up in the air.

    Also, Fitzpatrick voted to get rid of financial protection regulations, otherwise known as the Dodd-Frank Act, put in place to increase financial stability and consumer protections in the wake of the 2008 recession. As Gregg Gelzinis of the Center for American Progress notes here

    The CHOICE Act also allows banks of any size to opt out of a suite of crucial regulations—such as stress testing, living wills, risk-based capital requirements, liquidity requirements and more—if they maintain a leverage ratio of 10 percent. And it repeals the Volcker Rule’s ban on risky proprietary trading bets. A 10 percent leverage ratio is not nearly enough capital to justify such drastic deregulation.

    Furthermore, the CHOICE Act shreds the authority and resources of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the council of financial regulators tasked with looking at risks across the financial system. FSOC would no longer have the power to address dangers that emerge outside of the traditional banking sector, putting taxpayers at risk. The bill also eliminates the Office of Financial Research, which provides data-driven research support to FSOC to help identify emerging risks.

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    And speaking of money matters, Fitzpatrick also voted for his party’s so-called tax reform bill last December, which adds about $1 trillion to the deficit (which, of course, Republicans only care about when they’re trying to utterly gut the social safety net). The non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that after the tax plan has taken full effect in 2027, 80 percent of the benefits would go to the top 1 percent of earners in this country. When it comes to tax cuts, the top 1 percent will get an average cut of $1,022,120, while the middle 20 percent will get an average cut of $420, eviscerating any notion that the middle class are the key beneficiaries of the Republicans’ “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.”

    As noted here

    Should Trump-state Senate Democrats who voted against the tax bill, like Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), and Jon Tester (Montana), really fear electoral backlash?

    Absolutely not, according to our analysis. In fact, they should highlight their opposition to Trump’s tax bill even in these red states.

    Most polling about the bill has been national, and it suggests broad unpopularity. Our analysis of exclusive national data to model state support for the tax bill suggests that Democrats have little to fear from the GOP law and should embrace progressive policies to mobilize opposition.

    Update 10/5/18: For the record, here is Fitzpatrick’s vote from December, and here is a recent vote to make the tax cuts for the rich permanent – heckuva job!

    And for anyone out there who may have bought into the “trickle down” lie still after all this time, I give you the following (here)…

    In the first six months after the Trump tax cuts were passed, corporate investment in equipment declined, America’s projected long-term deficit swelled by nearly $2 trillion, and wages for the vast majority of American workers fell on an inflation-adjusted basis.

    And there is no sign that reality will start comporting with the GOP’s predictions any time soon. As the Washington Post’s Heather Long notes, Morgan Stanley reported last month that America’s businesses are planning less future capital spending now than they were a few months ago. And that finding is bolstered by a recent survey of 393 businesses from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the audit firm RSM, which found that only 38 percent of those firms plan to increase investment over the next three years.

    Instead of channeling their profits into productive investment, S&P 500 companies are on pace to plow a record-setting $800 billion into buying back their own stocks. The point of such “stock buybacks” is to increase a firm’s share price (and thus, in many cases, the performance-based pay of its CEO) by reducing the supply of shares on the market.

    Oh, and for good measure, it should be noted that, according to Nate Silver, Fitzpatrick voted no to impeachment resolutions against Trump at least twice (I realize this isn’t shocking given that they’re in the same party, but it should be pointed out for the record).

    By himself, as far as I’m concerned, Brian Fitzpatrick hasn’t done nearly enough to merit another two years in the U.S. Congress. Worse, he’s part of a majority that has done nothing whatsoever to rein in a calamitously unqualified individual currently taking up space in An Oval Office.

    Given that, I see absolutely no alternative than to vote for Scott Wallace for Congress from PA-01 on November 6th.

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    Life In These United States, Donald J. Trump Edition (updates)

    January 28, 2017

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    So President Big Orange Cheetoh has been in office barely a week, and there are so many horrors and outrages that it’s practically impossible to catalogue them all:

    • Issued an executive order to underfund (and ultimately destroy) “Obamacare”? Check.
    • Issued an executive order to approve the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines? Check (see above…and by the way, is anyone out there besides me going to be impolite enough to point out that, last I checked, Trump was still an investor in Trans Energy, the company behind DAPL?).
    • Pull back $5 million of already-paid-for advertising encouraging people to sign up for health care through the Affordable Care Law by 1/31? Check (here is an update – good!).
    • Floated Supreme Court nominees who are almost certain to roll back provisions on worker safety, economic justice, minority rights, environmental protection and women’s reproductive health? Check.
    • Supported an alleged plan to rebuild our infrastructure which is nothing but a giveaway to the plutocrats who supported his campaign (here) and now comprise almost his entire gaggle of cabinet position nominees, including this soulless shill? Check.

    And oh yeah, he threw a hissy fit about the actual size of the crowd at his inauguration, even asking a Park Service official to find a picture of an allegedly larger crowd (here), gave a political speech at a hallowed location at the CIA which was nothing but an insult to the memories of those who have given their lives in service to our country (here), confused visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May with a porn star (here), lied about alleged shooting victims at Former President Obama’s farewell speech (here), squelched reporting by government agencies funded by our tax dollars (here), told U.S. taxpayers that we’re supposed to go along with paying for that stinking, idiotic wall of his on the Mexican border (here), and NOW (as noted here), he signed an executive order banning Muslims from entering this country. And I know this list of all of his ridiculous antics is incomplete.

    And here is my question to anyone who supported this tiny brained, hateful egomaniac – why is this surprising to you in any way whatsoever?

    Oh, maybe it’s because you’re FINALLY focusing on “Donald Drumpf” since we’re no longer in a political campaign and that supposedly godawful Hillary Clinton isn’t in the news anymore. Maybe it’s because you’re FINALLY realizing that you’ve been played for a sap by our usual corporate media suspects and you’ve fallen for the “fake news” garbage from Breitbart, Infowars and other purveyors of this utter slime.

    You’re also apparently shocked, shocked I tell you that Trump is acting like a thoroughly ignorant, narcissistic, misogynistic clown as president. Again, what the hell else can you expect when he acted like nothing but a thoroughly ignorant, narcissistic, misogynistic clown as a presidential candidate?

    Gee, welcome back to reality, huh?

    Sucks, doesn’t it?

    And by the way, don’t think this means that I’m now head over heels with the toadies in the DNC political/media/industrial complex who do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for us except lose elections. While the marches last weekend and recently in Philadelphia were absolutely awesome, that did not take place at the behest of the clueless knuckleheads I just mentioned, not in any way whatsoever. Instead, team “D” seems to be preoccupied with this ABSOLUTELY INTERMINABLE contest between former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Dem U.S. House Rep Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and (I believe he’s still a candidate) former DNC head and presidential candidate Howard Dean (personally I prefer Keith Ellison) to head the Democratic National Committee.

    Note to the Democrats: I stopped giving a shit about this weeks ago. Just name Keith Ellison (or, if not, provide a damn good reason why) and be done with it, OK?

    Update 2/19/17: And in a related story, as they say, kudos to Laurence Lewis at Daily Kos for this.

    Update 2/22/17: Oh, for God’s sake, ENOUGH ALREADY! (here).

    Also, speaking only for myself, I’ve been inundated with requests to contact Sens. Bob Casey and “No Corporate Tax” Pat Toomey (as well as Repug U.S. House Rep Brian “No, I’m Not Really My Brother Mike, But Just Pretend That I Am And It Will Be Fine, Honest” Fitzpatrick) in response to just about every single bilious development concerning the tiny-handed man-child now taking up space in An Oval Office. And I’ll actually act on some of those requests, but don’t expect me to take the bait and spend the majority of my time calling/petitioning/whatever every single time “Fergus Laing” says, does, or tweets anything stupid.

    The election is over. And sorry if this sounds self-serving, but it’s not like I didn’t warn you (here).

    Update 1 1/28/17: I don’t know about you, but we regularly deal with people who, by all accounts, are good neighbors and friends and people who are really good at their jobs. And oh yeah, they’re Trumpsters too. But when Mrs. Doomsy and I describe these people, we end up having to add the inevitable suffix of “But (he or she) is a good person” or “But (he or she) is a good worker.”

    And then I take a look at my phone to see what’s going on, and this is the first thing that pops up (tied to what I linked to above).

    You know what? I don’t give a crap about any “P.S.” remarks about these human beings any more, these utterly soulless, craven life forms who, when cornered, retreat to the inevitable fallback of “Oh yeah? Well, liberals this and minorities and welfare cheats that and unwed minority mothers this and Section 8 housing that and Clintons this and Ted Kennedy that, blah blah blah.”

    I’m sick of that garbage. The actions of this monstrous fraud in the White House are going to impact this country for generations. And aside from what Sen. Chris Murphy said here (which is entirely correct), it’s also going to hasten the “brain drain” in this country that we can ill afford (and by the way…).

    Wingnuts, you “built this.” At least have something like the courage and/or intestinal fortitude to own it yourselves.

    Update 2 1/28/17: Uh, yep…

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    More AETNA Health Care Hijinks

    August 19, 2016

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    Let me tell you why I hate AETNA and believe that a dick move like this is totally in character for them.

    I made a job change last year, and I ended up having a gap between the expiration of my coverage from my prior employer and the beginning of coverage from my new employer; the gap period was a month. And I blame my prior employer; when I’d done this in the past, a long time ago I’ll admit, my prior employer would pick up my coverage for that month plus the next month – the excuse I got was that I’d given notice before the 15th of the departing month, so by the end of that month I was on my own.

    So I contacted the PA Exchange to inquire into coverage. And do you know what happened? I told the person at the exchange (the “navigator,” I think) what I was looking for in the way of coverage, who would be covered, the duration of coverage, etc. And the navigator connected me right away with AETNA, and I was told that a major medical plan would give me what I needed, and they gave me a quote. So the navigator connected me to someone from AETNA who got the process started.

    Well, it took a few days to process. A few days turned into a week. And a few more days. And another week, with repeated calls from yours truly all the while to AETNA Customer Service; you would think that, as opposed to inquiring into the state of what year I would actually be receiving my insurance cards, I was asking about whether or not I could purchase the Hope Diamond at Walmart.

    So, after about 2 ½ weeks (with my family and I on pins and needles over coverage and having to reschedule appointments like crazy while this was going on…and what about people with lousy or even NO coverage having to try and deal with this, I thought to myself), I called AETNA again and somehow landed with the billing department, which ended up being fortuitous. The very helpful person I spoke with said that all I needed was the Group Number, ID Number and RX Number (I’m pretty sure that was it), and I could make my own insurance and prescription cards to present to our pharmacy and health care providers. So that’s what I did, and everything ended up processing OK.

    Oh, and I FINALLY received my AETNA insurance cards with about five days to go in the lapsed month where I needed coverage.

    So, to sum up, the PA health care exchange worked like clockwork (for the benefit of you wingnuts out there tempted to yell, “See, that gol’ danged Obama and his big gumint health care takeover did it again!”). However, AETNA moved slower than shit through a straw.

    In my experience with employer-based coverage, AETNA is absolutely fine. However, based on this, you’re absolutely hosed if you have to deal with them yourself.

    And to me, that speaks volumes about how screwed up our health care is in this country and why letting bad corporate actors like AETNA pursue a merger to become nothing but a bigger and even worse corporate actor is the very last thing we should consider.

    Update 8/21/16: Curiouser and curiouser (here)…


    The Repugs’ Deadly Game Of “Hidin’ Zika” (Updates)

    August 4, 2016

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    Huffpo tells us the following from here

    WASHINGTON ― Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell delivered a letter to key lawmakers on Wednesday that explained exactly how their underfunded response to the Zika virus is screwing Americans over.

    President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion in February to deal with the impending outbreak of Zika in the United States. Congress finally began working on the request in May, with the Senate passing a bipartisan compromise that was about $800 million short.

    The bill got tanked in a partisan squabble last month after Republicans decided to add in contraception restrictions, a pro-Confederate flag provision, extra cuts to Obamacare, and a measure to exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act, even though those pesticides don’t target Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

    They then departed for a seven-week break while sending a sternly worded letter to Obama, saying he should take aggressive action to battle Zika using the $589 million the administration transferred from other programs, taken primarily from the ongoing Ebola response. GOP lawmakers have also complained recently that the money is not being spent quickly enough, with nearly two-thirds still available.

    Wednesday, Burwell detailed how that money is being spent, and how key programs actually will run dry this month if Congress does not act.

    “Now that the United States is in the height of mosquito season and with the progress in developing a Zika vaccine, the need for additional resources is critical,” she wrote to the top members of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate. “Without additional funding as requested in the President’s request for an emergency supplemental, our nation’s ability to effectively respond to Zika will be impaired.”

    Yeah, I think that about says it. And because of political nonsense from the “party of Lincoln” (here)…

    Another apparently locally grown Zika virus case has been added to the list in Florida, state health officials said Tuesday, raising the number to 15 — all of them in the Miami area.

    “Active transmission” of the mosquito-borne virus, which causes microcephaly and other birth defects, is still going on in a 1-square-mile area of the Wynwood arts neighborhood north of downtown Miami, said health officials, who advised pregnant women to stay away.

    Overall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 351 Zika cases in Florida, 336 of them involving people who traveled to the state from elsewhere, the state Health Department said.

    “We’re not seeing the number of mosquitoes come down as rapidly as we would have liked,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told The Associated Press.

    The difficulty controlling the mosquitoes is “a reflection of the fact that, in this country, we really dismantled the mosquito monitoring and control infrastructure over the past few decades,” Frieden said.

    “We have blind spots where we don’t know where the mosquito populations are and what the susceptibility is to different insecticides,” he said.

    And how exactly did we get to this point? I think this post from the American Mosquito Control Association (yes, there actually is such a group, luckily for us) from some years ago clarifies things a bit…

    A recent (2013) AMCA nationwide survey found for 22 out of 25 (88%) state public health departments that responded that the current level of (Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grants from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD)) funding compared to peak funding several years ago is no longer adequate to support their state’s non-human arbovirus testing efforts in the lab, significantly jeopardizing their state’s ability to cope with arbovirus diseases. Furthermore, this funding shortfall cannot support arbovirus surveillance-and-monitoring activities in the field, where 100% of all respondents felt such information was critical for conducting mosquito control operations.

    Any economic savings provided by eliminating this funding will be insignificant compared to the potential healthcare costs to be incurred and, more importantly, the loss of life – both human and animal – if populations of mosquitoes that spread WNV and other exotic diseases are not monitored and suppressed in a timely manner.

    I would tend to agree (by the way, the post was written in response to the outbreak of West Nile Virus, though you can just as easily apply it to Zika also – basically, we’ve been behind the proverbial curve on this for a little while as far as I’m concerned).

    This is part and parcel of underfunding the CDC by congressional Republicans, as noted here; their cheapskate approach to funding for disease prevention helped give rise to an Ebola crisis in West Africa, as well as “the serious emerging viral infections in the US like Enterovirus-D68, chikungunya and dengue, as well as overseas MERS and bird flus, and natural disasters,” as documented in the 2014 post.

    To return to Zika, though, for a minute, I just want to emphasize that, for the sake of trying to rob money for women’s contraception through (wait for it…) Planned Parenthood, ignore a bipartisan resolution banning Confederate flrags at U.S. cemeteries, and exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act, we are currently in a position where at least one area of this country has to be quarantined from a Zika outbreak, and more are likely to follow.

    And by the way, I’ve wondered how all of the “pro-lifers” out there are reacting to Zika. With that in mind, Dana Milbank of the WaPo penned this recent column in which he told us the following (Florida Repug U.S. House Rep Vern Buchanan stands out as a commendable exception, though)…

    ..there’s quiet from the antiabortion lobby. Groups I checked with haven’t taken a position on the Zika response, other than a few that have said laws against abortion should not be loosened in Latin American countries because of the virus.

    National Right to Life published an argument in March questioning whether Zika causes birth defects and citing a study that said only 1 percent of babies born to mothers with the infection have the brain condition called microcephaly. “Abortion advocates would have had us believe the risk of microcephaly was much higher,” it said.

    Typical for those disgusting hypocrites (of course, as noted here, all the evidence they would need about that already existed “south of the border”)…

    But Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Post editorial board meeting Tuesday that “I can almost guarantee you” that the rate of birth defects is higher than 1 percent; another study puts it as high as 29 percent.

    You know what? I think it’s time for a little “shock therapy” for those NRL cretins; get a load of this (here)…

    At least 12 babies in the United States have already been born with the heartbreaking brain damage caused by the Zika virus. And with that number expected to multiply, public health and pediatric specialists are scrambling as they have rarely done to prepare for the lifelong implications of each case.

    For children born with the worst of the brain defects caused by Zika, there will never be any miracle stories. No “the doctors said she would never walk, but … ” scenarios. These children will never walk. Never talk. Never laugh. Never play with a toy. Never feed themselves. Never even know that they are loved. They will only cry, and never be comforted.

    They heard ophthalmologist Camila Ventura of Brazil, the epicenter of Zika in the Americas, describe how extremely irritable, even inconsolable, the newborns with microcephaly are.

    “The babies cannot stop crying,” she said.

    The parents of these children face not only day after day after day of bleak despair, but also crushing financial burdens.

    Many of Zika’s littlest victims, diagnosed with microcephaly and other serious birth defects that might not immediately be apparent, could require care estimated at more than $10 million through adulthood.

    “National Right to Life,” huh? Whose “life,” I wonder?

    At least one voice of sanity on this is here (kudos to Dem VP Nominee Tim Kaine).

    And by the way, if this isn’t a reason to vote out the Republicans in Congress responsible for this funding mess, among others (and elect Democrats like this guy), then I don’t know what is.

    Update: Do you think this is “yuge”? I do.

    Update 1 8/5/16: This amplifies some of what I’ve pointed out, but it definitely bears repeating.

    Update 2 8/5/16: And of course, Heaven forbid that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao would pull his thumb out and do something (here).

    Update 8/6/16: And I had a feeling that this wasn’t helping one bit either.

    Update 8/7/16: This garbage must play well in “the Sunshine State” because, last I checked, Rubio was still leading in the polls (more here).

    Update 8/9/16: And I would say that this is the loudest voice yet.

    Update 8/11/12: At least that “Kenyan Muslim Socialist” gets it (here – h/t Daily Kos).


    Our Trip To London

    July 9, 2016

    Usually when the Doomsy clan is able to take a vacation, we retreat to our blue-state paradise up north. This year, though, we were able to take a hop across the pond, as it were, to London (this happened the week after the Brexit vote on June 23rd).

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    Winston Churchill, of course

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    To begin, I should point out how great a tourist city London is. There’s history, fine dining, shows (saw Les Miz at the Queen’s Theater…outstanding), walking, shopping, clean and affordable mass transit via train or the “tube,”…basically, you’d be hard pressed to go looking for something and not find it. Granted it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

    Also, there was great Wimbledon coverage on the BBC channels (focusing on Andy Murray in particular as well as other British players, which is to be expected) as well as Euro 2016 football; everyone was bummed that England had lost to Iceland, but Wales’s victory over Belgium was definitely a cause for celebration, even though the team subsequently lost to Portugal. Also, our visit was timed for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in World War I; the coverage was well-produced and truly touching to experience. And because of the way the British and EU markets responded to Brexit, the dollar was stronger against the pound, though not by as much as reported, really; what you could call a correction took place in a matter of days.

    Another thing – yours truly had a bit of a health issue come up, and I was seen at St. Thomas’s Hospital near our hotel, and they did a great job of handling my issue promptly and sending me over to a facility on Marsh Street near Waterloo Station for a follow-up. From there it was just a matter of spending about 8 pounds 6 at the Boots chemist for the med that I needed. So, as far as I’m concerned, no complaints about NHS.

    (Oh, and by the way, in case anyone is wondering how seriously the Brits handle the issue of climate change, just take a look at this sign at an office on Whitehall.)

    Climate Change

    The big question to me, though, was how the pro-Brexit campaign won out. And, if you can take into consideration what you might call the “cab driver point of view,” as The Moustache of Understanding could call it (here), then the pro-Brexit camp won on that front decisively. Every “black cab” driver we spoke with trotted out the same information about the UK contributing $350 million pounds a week to the EU (more here), as well as how Britain’s resources are straining under the weight of an influx of immigrants (of course, the benefits of open immigration were typically ignored by the pro-Brexit folks). Of course, these folks listen to similar conservative talk radio in their country as the type we’re inflicted with here, but I don’t say that to demean London’s cabbies; we “cabbed” it about 6 or 7 times at least, and each one of the drivers was polite, knowledgeable, and most of all, knew how to navigate their routes in expert fashion.

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    I also wondered how the pro-Brexit people could have won given the shocking murder of British MP Jo Cox, who of course favored remaining in the EU (on balance, London’s businesses wanted to stay to benefit from the free flow of labor, but the surrounding areas around the city wanted to leave).

    And to find the answer, I think you need to consider how truly ineffectual Jeremy Corbyn has been as head of the Labour Party in the British Parliament; he tried a maneuver to make Hillary Benn the fall guy for the Brexit vote, and the strategy failed, leading to resignations of Labour’s “shadow” cabinet (these are the folks who WOULD be in charge if the Labour party were running things – basically, despite David Cameron’s protestations, I think Corbyn is the best “friend” Cameron could ask for). I realize that the British media tends to be conservative as it is in this country, but still, Corbyn looks and acts like a political casualty at this point and is reported as such, which, as far as I’m concerned, is totally deserved.

    As I’ve tried to catch up on the coverage in this country over Brexit since we returned a few days ago, I haven’t seen an account in this country of how Tory MP Michael Gove utterly gutted Boris Johnson, Gove’s alleged “bud,” in the contest to succeed Cameron as PM. Believe me when I tell you that there was coverage of this all over the place in the British media (and by the way, when searching for a foreign language TV station in Britain, all I can say is that, if you can’t find one for your language and nationality, then your language and nationality doesn’t exist). One example of this is TV commentator Andrew Marr (who the Sunday morning talking heads could learn from when it comes to getting in people’s faces), who called Gove all kinds of names right to his face while Gove barely blinked an eye (though, if you’re truly looking for Brexit villains, I nominate this guy and this guy…naughty word appears if you click on second link).

    The supreme irony of all of this as far as I’m concerned, though, is that the next British PM is likely to be Tory (of course) Theresa May, who actually voted in favor of staying in the EU.

    A couple of final observations: 1) The teenaged one asked one of the armed police guards at Royal Whitehall Barracks what kind of weaponry the guards carry just out of curiosity (M7 rifles, I believe), and one of the guards gave some kind of an indication that our son might be some kind of a gun nut. He isn’t, and I’m not slamming the guard, but I’m only pointing out how, unfortunately, we’ve created this perception around the world that we’re nuts on this issue because of all of the mass shootings.

    Trump_RtRoXIX

    And 2) The Brits are not shy at all in pointing out their dislike of this guy.


    PA’s Teahadist “Eminence Grise” Strikes Again (Updates)

    February 26, 2016

    scott-wagner-07ce8b1343841526

    The Bucks County Courier Times recently gave column space to State Senator Scott Wagner, with predictable results (here)…

    More money — $3.6 billion to be exact. That is the amount of additional tax revenue Gov. Wolf wants from you to fund his tax and spend budget. To that I ask, “How dare he?”

    Although his budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly was lacking specifics of his 2016-2017 budget proposal, the reality is that Gov. Wolf is continuing the tax and spend theme presented last year.

    During his speech, the governor painted a doom and gloom picture as a means to convince the people of Pennsylvania — or maybe himself — that massive tax increases are needed to address the commonwealth’s fiscal problems. He even reflected back on his time as a business owner stating, “You have to take a clear-eyed look at how the problem arose, and then you have to solve it. And fast. Or you won’t be in business very long.”

    Besides failing to identify the real problem, Wolf’s only solution is to raise your taxes. Again, how dare he? How dare the governor ask for more money from the people of Pennsylvania without taking basic steps to control costs?

    How dare Gov. Wolf ask you to give him more money without:

    Doing anything to reform the pension system that is driving costs — and property taxes — through the roof?

    Actually, Wolf introduced the pension reform clamored for by Wagner and other Repugs last August, as noted here. But of course, that was shot down by the Repug-controlled General Assembly, including Wagner of course.

    And let’s not forget about how public employee pensions prop up local economies (so, if you start cutting, get ready to anticipate the ripple effects, as noted here).

    Oh, and Wolf’s budget includes property tax reform, as noted here (with York, the county “represented” by Wagner, poised to do well under the plan – that is, of course, if Wagner would actually support it).

    Continuing with Wagner…

    Reforming our archaic liquor distribution system to maximize not only consumer convenience but also revenue to the state?

    Actually, Wolf took a step in that direction by proposing a private manager, but of course, it isn’t outright privatization, so the Repugs and Wagner opposed it (here).

    Continuing with Wagner…

    Implementing a real hiring and wage freeze on state workers?

    In reality, Wolf ordered a hiring freeze last December, as noted here, even though a state meteorologist managed to get in before the freeze took effect (Wagner made a crack about that here, but as noted here, that’s actually a good idea; I’m sure this Jeff Jumper person could make much more money in the private sector). Of course, state government agencies managed to hire about 3,132 workers anyway; I don’t see how Wolf could be blamed for that.

    Continuing with Wagner…

    Asking for more concessions from state employees that enjoy pay and benefits unmatched in the private sector?

    As noted here for 2012 (the most recent year that I could find data for), on average, a public-sector employee’s salary can range from about $38,000 to about $66,000, with PA workers in the mid-range of that on average; I don’t know how “unmatched” the benefits are, but the pay certainly isn’t.

    Of course, demagoguery on the subject of public employees is typical for Wagner who, as noted here, made his fortune in waste disposal and trucking before he won a special election in 2014 and entered public life. And soon after that, he referred to public sector unions as “kind of like Hitler and Stalin and Putin”…nice.

    Continuing with Wagner…

    Asking for concessions from the money managers that get paid hundreds of millions of dollars to manage the state pension funds?

    This may come as a shock, but Wagner is actually right about that. And Wolf agrees with him and has proposed firing the higher-fee managers and replacing them with lower-fee ones, particularly since the funds of the lower-fee managers have outperformed their counterparts (here).

    Continuing with Wagner…

    Using savings from innovations and efficiency to shrink the looming budget deficit?

    I don’t know what that means, and somehow I don’t think Wagner does either.

    At this point, I think I’ll stop critiquing the rest of what Wagner said, particularly since he repeats himself like crazy for the rest of his Guest Opinion (besides, at this point, we already know that Wagner is a pro when it comes to regurgitating talking points from the Commonwealth Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and other Teahadist-affiliated groups).

    Instead, I’ll provide more information on Wagner, who, as noted here, is a big-time advocate of charter schools (as noted here, Wagner once tried to guess at how well-funded he thought public schools were in his district by flying over them and observing from a helicopter). And as noted above, in addition to direct loans, he also tried some back-door means to fund charters through gaming revenue, which proceeded to totally piss off the school districts where the charters were located (here).

    And another thing – let’s not forget how well-versed Wagner is when it comes to the eliminationist rhetoric supposedly employed by Wolf (re., the “garbage” reference Wolf used to refer to the Repug General Assembly proposal last December), with Wagner claiming that he and his same-party pals “had their foot on Wolf’s throat, and (we) let him up” here.

    Also, even though the Courier Times has the right to print an opinion of this type no matter how wacky it is, what does it tell you about how far out on the fringe Wagner resides on this issue given that the paper cheered on Governor Wolf when he rejected the GOP’s sham attempt at a budget (here)? This came after a budget more in line with what Wolf has promised passed the PA Senate 43-7, as noted here (and guess who was one of the 7 “No” votes, as noted here?).

    As far as I’m concerned, Scott Wagner is more responsible than anyone else in Harrisburg for our current budget impasse for all of the reasons noted previously. And kids, those living in poverty, families, minorities, and working men and women in this state (including those previously-mentioned public sector workers he despises, including policemen, firemen, nurses and teachers among many others) have all suffered and will continue to suffer as a result.

    Update 1 3/5/16: Given what Wagner said above, I think it’s important to note the following (from here – h/t Atrios)…

    My own state has a budget hole that the legislature is going to blow open worse next year as they expand tax cuts for energy producers, and up north in Pennslyvania (sic), Gov. Wolf is trying to clean up Corbett’s mess but Republicans are having a god damned siezure (sic) over raising the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.4 percent. You read that right. from .0307 to .034. Meaning for every hundred dollars of taxable income, your income tax rises from $3.07 to $3.40. For the median income in PA, that is basically 150 bucks a year.

    So when Wagner says “How dare he?” about Wolf, it has to do a tax raise that is, on average, about $150 a year.

    I just want to make sure we all understand that.

    Update 2 3/5/16: Another response is here.

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    Update 3/30/17: So Teahadist Wagner (who of course has announced that he’ll challenge PA Dem Gov. Tom Wolf) believe that climate change is taking place because of “warm bodies” (here)? Truly, it is to laugh (though the consequences definitely aren’t funny of course).


    Monday Mashup (10/13/14)

    October 13, 2014
  • In the latest TERRA! TERRA! TERRA! news, I give you the following from Joshua Katz here

    America’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, revealed the name last week of a top secret, very small Al Qaeda cell operating inside Syria called the Khorasan Group. The revelation by Clapper was the latest in a series of seemingly authorized disclosures of highly sensitive national security information by the Executive Branch.

    Khorasan Group isn’t a name that trips off the tongue. It isn’t sexy. It wasn’t appearing in newspapers and on websites every day. It wasn’t being talked about in Washington — until now. That’s because its name and organization were classified information. The fact that you had, in all likelihood, never heard of Al Qaeda’s Khorasan Group demonstrates the importance of the security placed around any information about this group and confusion in the White House about Al Qaeda.

    As a former Operations Officer for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an Army Ranger, I have risked my own life to provide this level of secure intelligence to our president and other policy makers.

    Katz deserves our thanks and gratitude for his service, but if he’s going to criticize anyone for revealing what a supposedly secret bunch this outfit is (I know there’s nothing funny about terrorism, but the name of this gang sounds like a bunch of people making slipcovers), maybe he ought to blame some of his fellow wingnut media loudmouths too for saying that the group was made up (here); maybe if they’d kept their mouths shut, Clapper wound not have had to say anything (though, based on this, I wonder if this is a smokescreen too).

    Here’s my point to Katz and anyone else who blames Number 44 over this; make up your minds on what the narrative is supposed to be as far as you’re concerned. Either blame the Obama Administration for hyping a new terror threat that wasn’t there OR blame them for revealing sensitive information about these life forms. You can’t do both.

  • Next, I give you the following from WaPo conservative quota hire Jennifer Rubin (here), on Teahadist U.S. Senate embarrassment Mike Lee of Utah…

    (Lee) extolled Abraham Lincoln as the first great anti-poverty president. (“[I]n America’s original war on poverty, government did not give the poor other people’s money. It gave them access to other people. In Lincoln’s era that meant dredging rivers, building canals, and cutting roads. It meant the Homestead Act and land-grant universities. These public goods weren’t designed to make poverty more tolerable – but to make it more temporary. They reduced the time it took to get products to market, increased access to banks and land, and increased the speed at which knowledge could be developed and shared.”

    What Rubin describes above sounds an awful lot to me like spending on infrastructure, and as noted here, Lee introduced a bill to pretty much eliminate federal transportation funding (it even has an acronym that spells TEA – blow that dog whistle a little louder, why dontcha?).

    Lee is also leading a repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act (a perennial target for the Teahadists), the federal law that requires government contractors to pay workers the local prevailing wage (the Act is named for two Republicans, it should be noted, and it was signed into law by Herbert Hoover, a Republican president; I guess that’s typical for a guy who once said that child labor laws were “unconstitutional” here).

    Turning back to the “values” political red meat that the Teahadists love, Lee had no problem with the Supremes as “unelected, politically unaccountable judges” when they decided Hobby Lobby, but that’s what he thinks of them now that they’ve decided to allow rulings on marriage equality to stand (here).

    Oh, and speaking of our 16th president, he also said the following (noted here, tied to labor and the economy in general)…

    “While we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

    And as a commenter here noted (again, quoting Lincoln)…

    “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.
    Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.
    Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

    So what do Lee and the Teahadists have to say about that?

    Cue the sound of crickets (and I don’t think we should need any motivation to vote for Dems in November, but in case we do, Rubin provides it here).

  • Further, someone from The Daily Tucker is (of course) in favor of genetically modified organisms (or GMOs for short) in our food, as noted here (more background is here)…

    I have to admit that I don’t have a ready comeback in response to the data presented in the Daily Tucker post, but I would only present the anti-GMO point of view here, including data on the money spent by food companies to lobby against GMO labeling in California and Washington state, where much of our food is manufactured and/or processed (additional data on the problems already being caused by genetically modified foods is presented here – and if GMOs are supposed to be so damn safe, then please explain this).

    (By the way, to their credit, ice cream makers Ben and Jerry decided to leave GMOs behind, as noted here).

    Another thing…as noted here, there is a correlation between the pro-GMO forces and the climate change deniers and the “anti-vaxers,” which I found to be a bit interesting.

    To conclude on this topic, I give you the following from this Jerry Rogers person at The Daily Tucker…

    Over four dozen pieces of legislation have been introduced in nearly 30 states to require GMO labeling. Three states actually have labeling requirements on the books. These states and the others that will follow suit will end up disrupting the nation’s entire food chain, from farming to supply to retail. Americans will suffer with higher food prices and fewer choices, but for other parts of the world stuck in poverty, the impact will be a devastating loss of human life. The stakes are high.

    Proof? Anywhere in sight??

    The politics of GMOs need to catch up with the science. There is legislation that may be a good first step in doing just that. Introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), the bill would preempt state laws and create national standards for food labeling under the sole authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Putting the issue of labeling under FDA authority will take it out of the hands of the anti-GMO activists. This simple act could reset the national debate over GMOs.

    I’m not totally surprised to read that when you consider this. However, how ridiculous is it that the pro-GMO people want to see federal regulation as opposed to a “patchwork” of state laws, when they favor the states over the feds on practically everything else?

  • Continuing, it looks like someone from The Daily Tucker is back to screech about the ACA (here)…

    Republican attorneys general have been administering the right medicine against this law since it was enacted. Just this week, a federal judge in Oklahoma agreed with Attorney General Scott Pruitt and declared unlawful certain regulations written by the IRS to implement the bloated statute.

    I don’t know what the difference between a “bloated” and a “non-bloated” statute is, and I don’t think this Jessica Medeiros-Garrison person does either. What I do know is that Pruitt and other wing nut AGs for their respective states are basing their opposition to the ACA on some bogus claim that subsidies for Medicaid expansion can only be used for states with state-established health care exchanges, not federal ones, which Media Matters called “a counter intuitive claim that has been widely discredited” here.

    Oh, and it should be noted that the federal judge who ruled in Pruitt’s favor, Ronald A. White, was appointed by George W. Bush (big surprise, I know – here). And as noted here, “to date, nine federal judges have considered this question of whether much of the law should be defunded. Only three — all of whom are Republicans — have agreed that it should be.”

    While doing some assorted Googling for this item, I came across the following on Jessica Medeiros-Garrison here (a lawyer based in Alabama for the record), and it turns out that she was in the middle of a messy divorce from her husband Lee Garrison a year ago; neither one of these individuals embody what I would call exemplary moral character (I merely present a link to the details here; it’s up to you, dear reader, to do the rest if you so choose).

  • Moving on, I give you some of the lowest of the low-hanging fruit here from someone named Michael Schaus who concocted something called “10 Things Liberals Believe That Government Does Well” (he added his categories with snarky little comments, so I think it’s only fair that I should be allowed to reply):

    1. Protecting our freedom

    So who do you think is going to train, feed, house, and maintain all other responsibility for the world’s largest (and most expensive) military (here) – the state of Alabama?

    2. Giving away land to common people

    As noted from here

    The federal government owns 655 million acres of land in the U.S., 29% of the total 2.3 billion acres. It administers its public lands through four agencies: the National Park Service (NPS), which runs the National Park System; the Forest Service (FS), which manages the National Forests; theBureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages public lands; and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which administers the National Wildlife Refuge System. National Monuments are assigned a managing agency at the time of their designation by the President. The Forest Service operates out of the Department of Agriculture, while the other three agencies are in the Department of the Interior.

    So yeah, I would say that the Feds do a good job in this area too.

    3. Educating everyone

    This provides a list of U.S. Department of Education funding as of August 25th of this year (if anyone out there is inclined to sift through all of these numbers and other data, have at it). And despite the Repugs’ war on public education in this country, students from overseas still flock to our universities, so I think the federal government does deserve at least a partial amount of credit for that, seeing as how the federal government subsidizes student loans and all.

    4. Helping us retiring (sic) with dignity

    As noted from here (under “Highlights”)…

    At the end of 2013, the (Operations of the Old Age Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance programs) were providing benefit payments to about 58 million people: 41 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 11 million disabled workers and dependents of disabled workers. During the year, an estimated 163 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes. Total expenditures in 2013 were $823 billion. Total income was $855 billion, which consisted of $752 billion in non-interest income and $103 billion in interest earnings. Asset reserves held in special issue U.S. Treasury securities grew from $2,732 billion at the beginning of the year to $2,764 billion at the end of the year.

    Not too shabby as far as I’m concerned…

    5. Improving public health

    As noted from here

    New York, NY, June 16, 2014—Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall among 11 industrialized countries on measures of health system quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and healthy lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. The other countries included in the study were Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand Norway, Sweden Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. While there is room for improvement in every country, the U.S. stands out for having the highest costs and lowest performance—the U.S. spent $8,508 per person on health care in 2011, compared with $3,406 in the United Kingdom, which ranked first overall.

    The United States’ ranking is dragged down substantially by deficiencies in access to primary care and inequities and inefficiencies in our health care system according to Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally, 2014 Update, by Karen Davis, of the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Kristof Stremikis, of the Pacific Business Group on Health, and Commonwealth Fund researchers Cathy Schoen and David Squires. However, provisions in the Affordable Care Act that have already extended coverage to millions of people in the United States can improve the country’s standing in some areas—particularly access to affordable and timely primary care.

    To hear this Michael Schaus guy, though, “Obamacare” is the reason for our health care ills in this country, not our supposedly glorious private sector (and I think it needs to be pointed out once again that, notwithstanding Medicare/Medicaid and the VA, there is no government-sponsored alternative).

    6. Building our transportation network

    Oh yeah, what is that supposedly awful federal government supposed to do about that?

    Try this for starters (as well as the fact that the best the U.S. House Repugs could do is come up with some lame stopgap measure to keep the Federal Highway Trust Fund solvent, as noted here). So, that supposedly awful Kenyan Muslim socialist responded with this.

    7. Investing in communications

    This Schaus guy has a bit of a point here, but read this McClatchy article to learn about how Motorola pulled all kinds of tricks to try and establish dominance in the broadband market (once again, our glorious private sector at work – and I’m pretty sure Motorola has a lot of corporate “person” company here). So maybe our government would spend these funds more efficiently if it weren’t for the fact that the fund recipients are busy trying to gouge their customers and/or competitors.

    8. Building our energy supply

    Why is that supposed to be the job of the federal government when we give out all kinds of tax breaks to the oil biz, as noted here (though we should be doing the same thing for renewables, but of course we’re not, as noted here.)

    9. Inventing the future (NASA)

    Actually, I think we’ve done OK in NASA funding, all things considered (and fortunately, they still have the resources to do ground-breaking research such as this, which of course should be a “hair on fire” moment for anyone in a political capacity who cares about the future of this planet).

    10. Defeating totalitarianism

    See #1.

    Of course, what else can we expect from Schaus, who (as noted here) used developments in so-called “smart” gun technology to baselessly claim that it was a confiscation scheme on the part of former Obama AG Eric Holder?

  • I also wanted to comment on this story

    Republican Gov. Tom Corbett said Monday (10/6) he supports a bill designed to prevent offenders from causing their victims “mental anguish,” a proposal launched after a Vermont college chose as its commencement speaker a man convicted of killing a police officer.

    Corbett spoke at a Capitol event a day after Mumia Abu-Jamal gave a recorded address to about 20 graduates at Goddard College in Plainfield.

    “Nobody has the right to continually taunt the victims of their violent crimes in the public square,” Corbett said.

    He called the college’s choice of Abu-Jamal “unconscionable.”

    The bill that advanced out of a House committee on Monday would allow a victim to go to court for an injunction against “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effects of the crime on the victim.”

    OK, to begin with, I think allowing Abu-Jamal to give a recorded address to the Goddard graduates was a dumb idea. I don’t care if he’s a graduate of the school or not; someone should have stepped in and disallowed it. As far as I’m concerned, a line needs to be drawn somewhere, and I think doing so right at the feet of a convicted murderer of a Philadelphia police officer is a pretty darn good place (kind of makes me wonder what’s going on with that school anyway, since apparently they don’t give out grades…yeah, that will REALLY prepare graduates for the workforce).

    However, this legislation is equally stupid, if not more so. How exactly does the author of this bill propose to establish the cause of “mental anguish”? Survivor flashbacks to the occurrence of the crime? An inadvertent mention of the crime from a passer-by in the form of an offhand remark? Having to watch an hour of Brian Kilmeade on Fox TV?

    (OK, I’ll stop.)

    Also, what exactly constitutes “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effects of crime on the victim”? By that standard, a candlelight vigil could prompt painful remembrances and thus be subject to penalty under this bill.

    As I said, I’ll definitely grant the point that allowing Abu-Jamal yet another platform for his thoroughly undeserved celebrity is stupid. But concocting some bill that doesn’t pass the legal smell test falls under the heading of two wrongs trying to make a right.

  • Finally, as noted here, it turns out Mikey the Beloved in PA-08 has spent about $200 grand on “franking” for campaign ads telling us how wonderful he supposedly is (including online at Twitter and Google), which apparently is not illegal in any way; as the article tells us, there is a franking limit for Senate campaigns, but not U.S. House ones (and why exactly is that, I wonder?).

    However, even though he’s running online ads, he still doesn’t advertise his Town Hall meetings (has he even had any during this campaign?). And it also doesn’t take into consideration his recent refusal to accept an invitation to a candidate’s forum hosted by the Lin-Park Civic Association and the Bucks County NAACP, even though he was notified about the forum five different times in August and September (his Dem opponent Kevin Strouse had no problem saying Yes).

    With that in mind, I give you the following from the Strouse campaign…

    Bristol, PA – Congressman Fitzpatrick, who missed 35% of his House Financial Services Committee hearings, is misleading his constituents with counter-terrorism theater and grandstanding on issues of national security. Fitzpatrick continues to mislead his constituents despite the fact that the Congressman’s Isolate ISIS Act is a duplicative effort that does nothing to further target ISIS’s financing.

    Executive Order 13324, signed by President Bush in 2001, provides the necessary framework for the Treasury department to sanction terrorist funding. Perhaps if the Congressman showed up to his committee hearings he would understand the mechanisms that have been in place for over 13 years to target terrorist network financing and levy sanctions against complicit groups and individuals.

    Strouse commented, “It’s extremely disappointing that Congressman Fitzpatrick would politicize national security problems that he clearly doesn’t understand. I fought terrorism as an Army Ranger in Iraq and as a CIA officer, so it’s time to set the record straight for the 8th District: Treasury already has the necessary authority to target ISIS’s funding, and has been doing so for quite some time. The issue that we ought to be addressing is that training the Syrian rebels will take much longer than Congressman Fitzpatrick and his colleagues have indicated.”

    The Congressional authorization to train Syrian rebels expires in December. Strouse has previously pointed out how short-sighted this short term authorization is, and has emphasized on multiple occasions that adequately training an army takes longer than 90 days.

    As early as 2008, Treasury was targeting the predecessor to ISIS. In February 2008, pursuant to Executive Order 13324, treasury took action against al Qaida in Iraq (AQI), which is the predecessor to ISIS. Instead of grandstanding on issues that are already addressed under current law, Congressman Fitzpatrick and his colleagues should be addressing the soon to expire authorization to train moderate rebel troops.

    Time is short until the election, so if you are able to help the Kevin Strouse campaign in any capacity at all, please click here.


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