Friday Mashup (8/22/14)

August 22, 2014
  • I give you the following from Fix Noise “Democrat” Doug Schoen here

    In November, Thomas Foley, a businessman and former ambassador to Ireland, will take on Connecticut Democrat Governor Dannel Malloy in a re-match of the 2010 battle for governor that Foley lost by about 6,500 votes.

    Foley had an easy time in his Republican primary last week, defeating State Senate minority leader John McKinney by over ten points. But taking on the sitting governor will be a difficult task.

    As I’ve discussed in previous pieces on this summer’s primaries, we are in – and have been in – for some major upsets. Chief evidence of this remains Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat as well as Hawaii Democrat Governor Neil Abercrombie’s loss just last week.

    Both Cantor and Abercrombie lost because they alienated core constituencies in their respective parties. For Abercrombie, it was “Liberals, moderates, retirees, teachers, the rich, the poor,” etc., as Daily Kos diarist Skaje points out here. For Cantor, it was teabagging wingnuts who opposed anything having to do with immigration reform (and who, as far as I’m concerned, are partly responsible for this).

    Basically, it looks like Malloy has to give Foley some kind of an opportunity to make inroads against him, and Schoen’s claim that Malloy is supposedly “politicizing” the gun issue by signing onto the common sense reforms that came out of the Sandy Hook massacre doesn’t really count as far as I’m concerned (I was pleasantly surprised to read Schoen wisely dismiss a garbage poll on the contest from Real Clear Politics, one claiming that Foley had a 7-point lead; Schoen said the race is closer to a toss-up, which, given the fact that we haven’t hit the post-Labor Day “sprint” yet in our elections, is probably right – public opinion doesn’t appear to have completely settled one way or the other yet).

    As for Foley, though, I think we should keep the following in mind:

  • He once said to unemployed Connecticut factory workers here that “it’s your fault that the plant is closing” (good one).
  • As noted here, Foley is still working on his “urban strategy” to go against Malloy in places like Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.
  • And as noted here, Foley has claimed that he can balance budgets by cutting spending without raising taxes (yes, this is a recording), but when it comes to specifics, cue the sound of crickets.
  • Tom Foley looks like another Romney-esque “one percenter” who seems to believe that he merits political office merely by the force of his resume. Hopefully that matter will be settled once and for all after Election Day in a few months.

  • Next, I guess it’s really true that Number 44 wants to be impeached – at least, according to Repug U.S. House Rep Mick Mulvaney here

    “Believe me, let’s make one thing perfectly clear,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina in a radio interview with WQSC 1340 last week. “The only people who want impeachment more than the right wing of the Republican Party is the entire Democrat Party.”

    “Democrat” Party, huh? Bless Mulvaney’s pointed little head…

    “Oh, they’re desperate for impeachment. They would love to be able to talk about impeachment and immigration between now and the November elections. Instead of talking about jobs, and the economy, and health care. They are desperate to change the dialogue, which is exactly why you heard the president starting to talk about his amnesty cause (sic) he’s begging to be impeached.”

    Well, isn’t that just special from Mulvaney? Oh, and by the way, I’d like to point out the following:

  • Mulvaney was one of 67 U.S. House Republicans who voted against relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, as noted here (of course).
  • He said that claims that global warming is, at least, in part man-made are “baseless” here (again, of course).
  • He said in January 2011 that he didn’t “know” what the consequences would be if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, even though a report from the Congressional Research Service laid it out pretty clearly here.
  • And I think this is some overly-artful language from Mulvaney on the question of immigration reform (from here):

    “There are really two good arguments against immigration reform that have nothing to do with immigration,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.). “One is that the president can’t be trusted to enforce all sides of a compromise. … The other one is this tactical question about whether it’s a good idea to do before the election, and I don’t know if that is a settled issue yet.”

    Translated: Republicans can’t do anything on immigration because of that baaad Kenyan Muslim Socialist and because it’s too close to an election and we don’t want to piss off our base.

    And on the question of who really wants Obama to be impeached, I believe this provides some much-needed clarity on the subject.

  • Further, “No Corporate Tax” Pat Toomey is back to demonize as only he can (here)…

    Medical need is usually a leading factor for prioritization on the lung transplant waiting list. By that criterion, (12-year-old Sarah Murnaghan) would have likely ranked near the top of the donor list for a new lung. But a federal policy prevented children under age 12 from being considered for a mature lung until all adult candidates in the region were ruled out. This made the likelihood of Sarah receiving a life-saving transplant remote, due to the short supply of child donors.

    Sarah’s family took the fight to social media, to the Department of Health and Human Services, and to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. They asked that children under 12 be considered for adult lung transplants – using the same criteria for adult consideration – if doctors substantiated that an adult transplant would be viable.

    As Sarah herself said, “I’m not going for easy, I’m going for possible.”

    After speaking with Sarah’s mother, Janet, I took Sarah’s cause to then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. I asked the secretary to use her authority to make medical need and suitability, rather than age, the primary criteria in determining how organ donations are prioritized. I asked her to free the transplantation network to help children who needed lung transplants.

    My request was not honored.

    Toomey’s editorial goes on to tell us that the Murnaghan family filed a lawsuit to prevent implementation of the policy that prevented their daughter from receiving an adult lung transplant. The judge ruled in favor of the Murnaghans, and she received a first lung transplant that apparently did not go well, but the second transplant was successful, to the point where she “is now breathing on her own and riding her bike with her brothers and sister. She’s proof that adult organs fitted to size can work in children.”

    Only a ghoul would not take heart at this story, and be glad that Sarah Murnaghan received her successful lung transplant. However, I think the following should be noted from here

    …there’s a lot to think about here, not just the poignancy of a 10-year-old’s struggle. Current transplant policies are set up to ensure fairness — as much as possible in a system with too many patients and too few donors. While some political pundits savaged Sebelius as a one-person “death panel,” they ignore the fact that the transplant rules are designed to be democratic, based on need — to keep the rich and politically connected from cutting into line. The 12-year-old dividing line was enacted not to punish kids, but to help them — to make sure adults don’t dip into the severely limited pool of organs that become available from the deaths of children.

    The Murnaghans’ lawsuit could be viewed as cutting in line, too, except that it raises a question of bias, of eligible children being denied adult organs. In such cases, they argue, children should be rated by the other factors that go into eligibility — severity and nature of the need, length of time on a waiting list, etc.

    The numbers explain why a uniform, transparent system is morally and ethically essential. In Pennsylvania, 14 children and 148 adults are now on the list to receive lungs. Ten of those children and 42 adults have been waiting for more than a year for a call. Lungs are one of the most difficult organs to transplant — especially in children, and pediatric donations are rare. As long as demand outpaces supply, one person’s good fortune will be disappointment for others.

    So, far from criticizing one-time HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Toomey should acknowledge that she was only following established procedures based on need.

    But of course why should Toomey actually give credit to anyone having anything to do with the Affordable Care Law? As noted here, he once complained that his wife supposedly faced difficulties in signing up via an exchange, though Toomey neglected to mention in a radio address that she was eventually able to do so.

    If he didn’t deviate from the wingnut script on this then, why should he do so now?

  • Continuing (and sticking with PA politicians and health care issues), it looks like Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett signed a bill into law called the “Down’s Syndrome Education Act,” (originally sponsored by state senator Randy Vulakovich…guess which party?) which mandates that health care providers recite a script to parents who receive the sad news that their son or daughter will be born with Down’s Syndrome (to be fair, Down’s kids are very loving and creative in their way, but it’s definitely an added burden to parents to take care of them, and it’s silly to pretend that that’s not the case – more here).

    Also, I think the following should be noted from here

    According to the text of the legislation, the materials will include “up-to-date, evidence-based information about Down syndrome,” including “physical, developmental, educational and psychosocial outcomes,” life expectancy, and “any other information the department deems necessary.”

    The bill was signed into law July 18, and will take effect 60 days after that date.

    RH Reality Check asked the Pennsylvania Department of Health for the script materials, but a department spokesperson said the materials don’t yet exist. “The bill was signed on July 18 so their research into the matter has just begun,” the spokesperson told RH Reality Check.

    RH Reality Check also asked which organizations have provided information that will be used to develop the script, but that remains unclear. An early version of the bill lists the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Early Intervention, though those organizations were either removed or crossed out in the final version of the legislation.

    By signing a law mandating that doctors read a script that doesn’t yet exist, there is no way to assess if the materials are biased, or comply with scientific consensus—which is not always the case when it comes to government-mandated physician scripts, especially when the targeted patients are pregnant women.

    So a bill (titled “Chloe’s Law,” in reference to an 11-year-old girl whose father advocated for the policy) was signed into law by Corbett mandating what doctors are supposed to tell their patients in the event that they’re going to be parents of a Down’s child…but the script isn’t ready yet? Really??

    Continuing with rhrealitycheck…

    The Pennsylvania Medical Society, a professional association of doctors in the state, opposes the legislation. Their concerns aren’t just the content of the script; they don’t believe the government should be mandating that physicians read specific materials to patients at all.

    Though a disproportionate number of these bills apply only to doctors when they are treating pregnant women, states have gagged or coerced physician communications in recent years for other politicized public health issues. In 2012, Pennsylvania passed what’s been called the “doctor’s gag rule” in regard to chemicals involved in fracking, the process of extracting natural gas that many experts believe is dangerous. Since 2011, many states have passed laws making it illegal for physicians to ask patients about gun ownership or gun storage, against the “clear recommendation” of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Still, a disproportionate number of these types of bills implemented around the country do apply only to doctors treating pregnant women. The most well-known example is medically unnecessary forced ultrasound examinations.

    Such policies have been called “misinformed consent” laws when they require doctors to relay medically inaccurate information to patients. According to the Guttmacher Institute, five states mandate that doctors relay “medically inaccurate claims of a link between induced abortion and breast cancer.” Seven states falsely assert that women experience only negative emotional responses after having an abortion.

    All told, 32 states mandate counseling designed to dissuade a pregnant women from having an abortion.

    One thing I will say in Corbett’s defense is that an extra $40 million was added to the budget for the Department of Public Welfare for people with intellectual disabilities (and Down’s certainly qualifies), so there is a bit of “walking the walk” as opposed to just “talking the talk” going on here. I don’t know, though, whether or not this is part of Corbett’s “Healthy PA” initiative, which is taking a detour and depriving PA residents of the benefits of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Law (as noted by the author here). Also, this extra $40 million is, I guess, supposed to make up for Corbett’s shortfall of related funding in non-election years, as noted here. However, one would have to be truly naive (and perhaps a bit jaded too I guess) not to see this legislation as a bit of a sop to the “pro-life” crowd (hence the fact that it was linked to the National Catholic Register).

    However, if you’re as fed up with Corbett’s antics on this and other issues as I am, then please click here to do something about it.

    Another thing I want to point out – the link above to the Register article is dated July 21st. I saw the story on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 19th.

    When it comes to News For Republicans brought to you by Philadelphia’s Conservative Newspaper of Record, I would say that they need to work on the whole “timeliness” thing.

  • Finally, in case you were wondering how long it would take for the wingnuts to politicize the horrible, cowardly murder of reporter James Foley at the hands of these ISIS butchers – well, three, two, one (here)…

    Will the videotaped execution of James Foley shock America out of our dangerous flirtation with isolationism?

    The gruesome beheading of the 40-year-old photojournalist should scream out a warning to any who still doubt: This isn’t just some war out there. It’s about us.

    “I bet they’re asleep in New York; I bet they’re asleep all over America,” says Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine in “Casablanca” as he finally abandons his own neutrality in World War II.

    Oh brother…

    Yes, Rick Blaine does indeed say that in “Casablanca,” but he does so in a remorseful, drunken stupor in the presence of piano player Sam (Dooley Wilson) after long-lost love Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) visits (noted here). The moment is anything but a display of what some might call “American exceptionalism.”

    I consider Rachel Maddow far smarter than I will ever be on this stuff, and she recently pointed out that we should remember that life forms such as these ISIS characters use murder as a tactic. They want us to jump back into that area of the world “both feet first,” if you will, with an increased military presence, so we can utterly bankrupt ourselves when it comes to our military and economic assets, to say nothing of the invaluable treasure of the men and women in our armed forces, risking life and limb at every moment.

    Am I saying not to fight back? Of course not. I’m only saying that we should do it with intelligence, mindful of the rule of law and the international cooperation so completely necessary to defeat entities such as these ISIS mongrels.

    gwb_13-george-w-bush
    After all, I sincerely hope that we haven’t already forgotten what happened the last time we united behind a president who decided to “go with his gut” on the issue of terrorism as well as other matters. Have we?


  • Monday Mashup (8/11/14)

    August 11, 2014
  • I guess it wasn’t possible to avoid David Horowitz forever (here)…

    Earlier this year, congressman and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan released a proposed budget for 2015. It contains an impressive list of cuts projecting a $5.1 trillion savings over ten years. It is also the height of political stupidity and an example of everything that cripples Republicans in their battles with the left.

    If you are going to make budget cuts, you do it. You don’t telegraph it. Paul Ryan can’t even make budget cuts unless Republicans win the White House and he has just made it harder for them to do it.

    For starters, Ryan’s list of cuts includes the subsidy to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and likely reductions in funding to the Legal Services Corporation. These cuts (and there are many more) may be reasonable from an accounting point of view. Politically, however, what they mean is that the tens of millions of fans of public radio and television will see Ryan and the Republicans as mortal enemies, and so will the poor who benefit from Legal Services, and also their advocates and more importantly all those middle class Americans who have a charitable attitude towards the less fortunate. Republicans should hope that no one hears of Paul Ryan’s plan.

    Of course Republicans will be thrilled by all these proposed cuts. But everyone who understands the importance of fiscal responsibility is probably already a Republican.

    Oh brother – as noted from here

    1981-1989: With full support from congressional Republicans, Reagan begins the worst annual deficits the nation has seen since WWII.

    2001-2009: With full support from congressional Republicans, Bush begins running enormous deficits again as a way of pumping the economy back up from the dot-com crash. Bush hits the accelerator hard enough to double the gross debt that had already been quadrupled during the Reagan-Bush I years. Most of the new annual deficits that add to the debt are due to the Bush Tax Cuts, two wars, and the expansion of government. Bush manages to break the United States for the first time since the Great Depression just as Reagan broke the Soviet Union … by drawing it into military spending that it obviously could not actually afford.

    Also, I know this is “water wet, sky blue” stuff at this point, but this reminds us just how awful Ryan’s budgets truly are; being a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, I’m inclined to lump them all together since they pretty much do the same thing, and that is to stick it to the “47 percent” out there, those dastardly “takers” if you will, and starve the federal government so all it can do is generate tax cuts and military spending (no wonder Horowitz wants those cuts to be put in place without anyone knowing about them first).

    There are lots of other ways to respond to Horowitz, and I guess we can begin by pointing out the following:

  • He accused Media Matters for America of “ignoring the actual facts,” which is truly hilarious given how veracity-challenged Horowitz is (here).
  • He once said here that the Fort Hood killings are the “chickens of the Left” coming home to roost (here).
  • He also said that President Obama sought a “rapprochement with the Islamist regime” of Iran, among other dreck, here (also alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al Qaeda were allies, when in fact, quite the opposite is true…fifth bullet).
  • In addition, Horowitz cooked up a completely unsubstantiated story about how a college student supposedly failed an exam because he wouldn’t answer a question about why Dubya is a war criminal (I give you The Rude Pundit here, definitely NSFW).
  • In his Daily Tucker screed, Horowitz also says (trafficking in usual violent wingnut imagery) that “Republicans need to punch Democrats in the mouth by using a moral language to describe the atrocities they have committed against minorities and the poor. But they are probably too polite to do so.”

    Actually, inasmuch as those few sane Republicans left have any political smarts at all, they know that the ultra-right fringe as exemplified by Horowitz will drag down their electoral hopes now and always, so they’re trying to distance themselves any way possible (of course, it would be better if they did so for the good of the country they claim to represent, but I guess I’ll take what we can get at this point).

  • Next, I have a bit of an update to some prior Bushco-related posts, as noted from here

    Colombian families whose relatives were massacred by paramilitaries cannot sue the Chiquita Brands fruit company in federal court, the 11th Circuit United States Court of Appeals ruled last week. The victims charged that Chiquita was responsible for the deaths by funding a right-wing paramilitary group.

    A panel of judges decided the victims did not have standing in U.S. court, even though the North Carolina-based banana giant pled guilty to U.S. criminal charges in 2007. The victims were claiming potentially billions of dollars in damages from the company.

    The ruling was a big victory for the banana giant — and for the rights of American companies to finance international terrorism.

    In a general statement sent to ThinkProgress, a Chiquita spokesman said, “Chiquita has long maintained that these cases do not belong in the U.S. courts and that the claims should be dismissed. We are gratified that the U.S. Court of Appeals has now agreed with us.”

    As for the families whose loved ones were murdered, Chiquita says it has “great sympathy for the Colombians who suffered at the hands of these Colombian armed groups” but asserts “the responsibility for the violent crimes committed in that country belongs to the perpetrators, not the innocent people and companies they extorted.”

    As Think Progress tells us, “Chiquita made at least 100 payments — $1.7 million in total — to the United Auto-Defense Forces of Colombia (or AUC, a paramilitary group responsible for the most heinous human rights atrocities committed over the course of Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict) between 1997 and 2004. In the decade prior to that, the company had maintained a similar arrangement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the nominally leftist rebel group chased out of the region by the combined (and coordinated) efforts of the AUC and Colombian military.”

    Also…

    Between 1997 and 2004, 3,778 people were murdered in Uraba, with an additional 60,000 forced into what is now the second-largest internally displaced population in the world. Between 1991 and 2006, 668 unionists were killed from the main banana-workers union alone, according to the National Union School.

    If the testimony of several former high-level paramilitaries can be believed, Chiquita played an integral role in the formation of Uraba’s so-called Quintuple Alliance, a sprawling conspiracy made up of politicians and public servants, large landowners and business interests, military officials, paramilitaries, and narcotraffickers. This would at least partly explain why, in 2001, some 3,400 AK-47 assault rifles sent to the AUC from Nicaraguan trafficking partners were unloaded by a Chiquita subsidiary on a Chiquita dock, the same dock where a company official had recently paid $30,000 in bribe money to Colombian customs officials.

    In its 2007 settlement with the Justice Department, Chiquita assured it never received “any actual security services or actual security equipment in exchange for the [AUC] payments.” Instead, the company says it paid the AUC out of concern for its employees — something it was not generally inclined to express through things like wage increases, favorable labor conditions, or a pesticide-free work environment, according to former members of the banana-workers union.

    I commented on this some time ago here because former Bushco DHS Head Mike (“City of Louisiana”) Chertoff once knew that Chiquita’s payments to the AUC were illegal, but pretty much “kicked the can” because a friend, Roderick Hills of the Chiquita board, was involved (Hills and Chertoff were law school colleagues). And as noted from here, former Bushco Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez played down anti-labor violence in Colombia.

    And while there has been some halting progress in the area of human rights abuses, Colombia is still a horrifically dangerous country (here); they have a refugee crisis that has led children to our southwest border (here – maybe something that we should remember the next time we hear idiocy such as this). And while I lay a lot of the blame at the feet of Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, Number 44 definitely doesn’t get a pass either.

  • Further, NRO’s James Sherk tells us that the Obama NLRB has declared war on the franchise model for corporations, or something (here)…

    Would you like to own a small business someday? If so, sorry — the Service Employees International Union would rather you didn’t. The SEIU has convinced the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to eviscerate the franchising model that many small-business owners rely on.

    Under the current model, these small-business owners pay for the right to use a corporate brand. The franchising corporation researches appealing products. It also does marketing to promote the brand. In return, the local franchisees agree to produce those products to fit certain price and quality specifications. The local franchisee handles all the hiring and employment.

    This division of labor cuts the risks of starting a small business, because the franchisee can focus on running the business without having to develop a market niche from scratch. A franchisee opening a new restaurant, for example, doesn’t need to market a new menu. The corporate brand has already done the work. The franchisor similarly does not have to operate thousands of local restaurants remotely.

    Many businesses, from Burger King to Jiffy Lube to the Hair Cuttery, use franchising. It enables many Americans to run small businesses that would otherwise never get off the ground.

    However, unions hate this business model. They find it much easier to organize big businesses than small ones.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    According to the US Department of Labor, fewer than 2 percent of food service workers are unionized. It shows. Employees…are at a major disadvantage when demanding better pay and working conditions. Average wages in the sector have stagnated at just above the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, for two decades. About 13 percent of fast-food workers have employer-sponsored health benefits, compared with 59 percent of the workforce as a whole. Whether through traditional unions or some other vehicle, one of the quickest ways to improve the lot of most restaurant employees would be for them to band together.

    Larger unions often have trouble making inroads into restaurants because of the small-scale nature of the business, with its mom-and-pop eateries and franchised fast-food outlets. Fortunately, less conventional advocates for workers are filling the gap.

    One promising example is New York-based Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which recently expanded its efforts to Boston. The advocacy group is probably best known for a $5.25 million settlement it helped win against celebrity chef Mario Batali in 2012 after servers at several of Batali’s famed restaurants alleged their employer had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, in part by pocketing gratuities. Beyond its workplace justice campaigns, however, ROC-United offers its 10,000 nationwide members benefits such as free job training and an affordable health plan. In Boston, this work should complement local immigrant worker centers, which already help collect unpaid wages, connect employees to enforcement agencies, and provide multilingual education on workers’ rights.

    And in a case of a restaurant in these parts that took gratuities from the staff that they shouldn’t have, I give you this; a shame because we like the place, but that doesn’t give them the right to break the law.

    So yeah, maybe the NLRB ruling on franchises makes it easier for workers to organize. And the problem is?

    As noted from here

    McDonald’s has even warned some franchisees that they were paying their workers too much.

    If McDonald’s thinks it’s the company’s business to correct when workers are being paid too well, shouldn’t it be held responsibly when they’re not paid enough, or are fired illegally? It seems that the NLRB agrees. McDonald’s is, of course, challenging that.

    Yeah, and Mickey D’s is also “challenging” by firing workers who have tried to organize, as noted here.

    Think Progress continues…

    The justification for targeting McDonald’s corporate is based on a computer system the company installs in its stores to monitor labor costs. “Managers at McDonald’s look at something they call the ‘labor number’ on the computer throughout the day,” said Jason Hughes, who has worked at a McDonald’s location in Fremont, CA, for the past two years. “The labor number is how much the store spends on workers versus how much money the store brings in, and I often hear managers worry that ‘labor is too high,’” Hughes said on a call with reporters Thursday afternoon.

    “I knew I wouldn’t be making a lot of money,” said Hughes, “but I thought that a well-known company like McDonald’s would treat me fairly, or at least follow the law. We brought this lawsuit because neither of those things happened.”

    The use of the “labor number” monitoring computers is crucial to these class-action suits’ effort to hold the corporate center of McDonald’s accountable for wage law violations at its stores. According to attorneys who explained the suits to reporters, those computer systems are installed in franchise and corporate-owned McDonald’s locations alike, and they are systematically used to keep workers in unpaid limbo, which violates federal wage and hour laws. “When that labor cost reaches a certain percentage,” Michigan attorney Ed James said, “the franchisees take people off the clock to get it down below that number, then get people to clock back in.” There are about 1,500 workers in Michigan who will be eligible to join the two suits there should it be granted class-action status, according to James.

    Wage theft is rampant in low-wage occupations, and laws against it are difficult to enforce. In California, even workers who successfully prove they were not paid for hours worked and win a judgment in their favor hardly ever see any back pay, because companies simply close down and rebrand rather than pay what they owe.

    And it’s not as if the fast food industry, among other franchisees, enjoys tax breaks already (and why is that, exactly?) as noted here.

    Raising the federal minimum wage would go a long way towards getting rid of the types of abuses carried out by the “golden arches” and their fellow corporate “persons” against their workforces. In addition to simple economic decency and fairness, it’s also good business (here). But don’t expect that there’s a snow ball’s chance in hell that that will ever happen with this Congress (and the lesson is to go out and help elect Democrats to change that, as well as protecting the ones we already have, in case anyone hasn’t figured that out by now).

  • Continuing, Cal Thomas of Fix Noise inflicts the following here

    STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, England – William Shakespeare is not known for his economic expertise, but the advice he gives through Polonius in “Hamlet” may be the best counsel ever offered for individuals and governments.

    After years of debt (90.6 percent of GDP in 2013) and deficit spending, Britain’s ruling Conservative Party is crowing about the latest economic figures that show the country has outpaced the developed world in its economic recovery. Reuters reports that the International Monetary Fund recently upgraded Britain’s projected economic growth this year to 3.2 percent, leading “the world’s big rich economies.” According to UK’s Office for National Statistics, Britain has recovered all of the ground lost during the recession.

    Well, that’s nice, even though our supposedly glorious private sector economy did that very thing two years earlier under Number 44, as noted here, and I don’t think a 0.8 GDP increase is much of anything to crow about (here – and by the way, even though Thomas doesn’t mention the quote for some reason, this is what he’s talking about with the Polonius//Hamlet thing).

    But if Thomas really wants to talk about how The Bard viewed income inequality, he should note the following (here):

    “So distribution should undo excess, and each man have enough.”
    [King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1]

    And when it comes to Thomas and money matters, I give you the following bit of hilarity from here (and speaking of McDonnell…).

  • Finally, it looks like longtime Repug dirty trickster Roger Stone is back to hawk a book timed for the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s registration from office, which we recently observed, as noted here.

    And who is Stone blaming in his book as the supposed mastermind of Watergate? Why, former White House counsel John Dean, of course (removing my tongue from my cheek)…

    Dean began the cover-up shortly after the 1972 election by telling Nixon he had concluded that the White House had nothing to do with the break-in. Nixon would announce this in a press conference.

    Actually, I would argue that the cover-up began on August 1, 1972, when a $25,000 cashier’s check earmarked for the Nixon re-election campaign was found in the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars. As the Watergate timeline article also tells us, further investigation revealed that, in the months leading up to their arrests, more thousands had passed through their bank and credit card accounts, supporting the burglars’ travel, living expenses, and purchases. Several donations (totaling $89,000) were made by individuals who thought they were making private donations to the President’s re-election committee. The donations were made in the form of cashier’s, certified, and personal checks, and all were made payable only to the Committee to Re-Elect the President. However, through a complicated fiduciary set-up, the money actually went into an account owned by a Miami company run by Watergate burglar Bernard Barker. On the backs of these checks was the official endorsement by the person who had the authority to do so, Committee Bookkeeper and Treasurer, Hugh Sloan. Thus a direct connection between the Watergate break-in and the Committee to Re-Elect the President had been established.

    And John Dean didn’t have a damn thing to do with any of that.

    To be fair, though, I suppose there is a bit of a “tit for tat” nature to this, because Dean has also recently published a book called “Nixon’s Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It” based on 1,000 hours of tapes that only he has had transcribed, or so Stone claims. Stone says that Dean should also submit transcripts of the tape “for independent review,” whatever that may mean.

    Stone’s argument seems to be that Dean needs to “come clean” on his alleged activities on March 13,16, 17, 20 and 21st, 1973. I’m not sure why Stone believes that is necessary when the House Judiciary Committee record tells us the following (there’s a lot going on here, and I’ll try to summarize at the end):

    On March 13, 1973 the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in executive session to ask John Dean to testify in the (hearings to confirm L. Patrick Gray as head of the FBI) concerning his contacts with the FBI during the investigation of the Watergate break-in.

    On March 14, 1973 Dean wrote to Senator James 0. Eastland, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and, citing the doctrine of executive privilege, formally refused to testify in the Senate confirmation hearing on the nomination of Gray to be Director of the FBI. On the same day the President met with Dean and White House Special Counsel Richard Moore in his Executive Office Building Office from 9:43 to 10:50 a.m. and from 12:47 to 1:30 p.m. They discussed a press conference scheduled for the next day and making Dean a test case in the courts on executive privilege.

    On March 15, 1973 the President held a press conference. He stated he would adhere to his decision not to allow Dean to testify before the Congress even if it meant defeat of Gray’s nomination as Director of the FBI, because there was “a double privilege, the lawyer-client relationship, as well as the Presidential privilege.” He also stated that he would not be willing to have Dean sit down informally and let Senators question him, but Dean would provide all pertinent information.

    On or about March 16, 1973 E. Howard Hunt (ringleader of the Watergate burglars) met with Paul O’Brien, an attorney for (the Committee to Re-Elect the President). Hunt informed O’Brien that commitments had not been met, that he had done “seamy things” for the White House, and that unless he received $130,000 he might review his options. On March 16, 1973 Hunt also met with Colson’s lawyer, David Shapiro (Charles Colson was Nixon’s special counsel). According to Colson, Hunt requested of Shapiro that Colson act as Hunt’s liaison with the White House, but was told that that was impossible.

    On March 17, 1973 the President met with John Dean in the Oval Office from 1:25 to 2:10 p.m. (On April 11, 1974 the Committee on the Judiciary subpoenaed the President to produce the tape recording of the March 17 meeting. The President has refused to produce that tape but has furnished an edited partial transcript of the meeting. After having listened to the tape recording of the March 17, 1973 meeting, the President on June 4, 1973 discussed with Press Secretary Ron Ziegler his recollections of that March 17 meeting. A tape recording of the June 4 discussion has been furnished to the Committee. The evidence regarding the content of the March 17 meeting presently possessed by the Committee also includes a summary of the March 17 meeting furnished, in June 1973, to SSC Minority Counsel Fred Thompson by White House Special Counsel (Fred) Buzhardt and the SSC testimony of John Dean.)

    In his discussion with Ziegler on June 4, 1973 the President told Ziegler the following regarding the March 17 meeting: Up to March 17, 1973 the President had no discussion with Dean on the basic conception of Watergate, but on the 17th there began a discussion of the substance of Watergate. Dean told the President that Dean had been over this like a blanket. Dean said that (Jeb Magruder, Deputy Director of CRP) was good, but that if he sees himself sinking he’ll drag everything with him. He said no one in the White House had prior knowledge of Watergate, except possibly (Haldeman aide Gordon) Strachan. There was a discussion of whether (White House Chief of Staff H. R.) Haldeman or Strachan had pushed on Watergate and whether anyone in the White House was involved. The President said that Magruder put the heat on, and (Hugh)Sloan (treasurer of the Committee to Re-Elect) starts pissing on Haldeman. The President said that “we’ve got to cut that off. We can’t have that go to Haldeman.” The President said that looking to the future there were problems and that Magruder could bring it right to Haldeman, and that could bring it to the White House, to the President. The President said that “We’ve got to cut that back. That ought to be cut out.” There was also a discussion of the (Daniel) Ellsberg break-in.

    On March 19, 1973 Paul O’Brien met with John Dean in the EOB and conveyed a message from E. Howard Hunt that if money for living and for attorneys’ fees were not forthcoming, Hunt might have to reconsider his options and might have some very seamy things to say about Ehrlichman.

    On March 20, 1973 (Nixon Assistant for Domestic Affairs) John Ehrlichman met with John Dean at the White House. They discussed Howard Hunt’s request for money, the possibility that Hunt would reveal activities of the Plumbers’ operations if the money were not forthcoming, and plans for Dean to discuss the matter with (Attorney General John) Mitchell. According to Dean, Dean discussed the matter with Mitchell by telephone later that evening, but Mitchell did not indicate whether Hunt would be paid. On the afternoon of March 20, 1973 Ehrlichman had a telephone conversation with (White House lawyer) Egil Krogh and told him Hunt was asking for a large amount of money. They discussed the possibility that Hunt might publicly reveal the Plumbers’ operations. Krogh has testified that Ehrlichman stated that Hunt might blow the lid off and that Mitchell was responsible for the care and feeding of Howard Hunt.

    On March 20, 1973 Dean had a conversation with Richard Moore, Special Counsel to the President. Dean told Moore that Hunt was demanding a large sum of money before his sentencing on March 23, and that if this payment were not made, Hunt was threatening to say things that would be very serious for the White House. After this conversation, Dean and Moore met with the President from 1:42 to 2:31 p.m. According to information furnished to the Senate Select Committee by Special Counsel Buzhardt, the President and Moore agreed that a statement should be released immediately after the sentencing of the defendants. According to Moore, following this meeting he told Dean that Dean should tell the President what he knew.

    According to Dean, Dean told Moore that Dean did not think the President understood all of the facts involved in the Watergate and particularly the implication of those facts and that Dean felt he had to lay those facts and implications out for the President.

    On March 20, 1973 John Dean had an evening telephone conversation with the President during which he arranged a meeting with the President for the next morning. According to the edited transcript of this conversation made public by the White House, Dean requested a meeting with the President to go over soft spots and potential problem areas. Dean said that his prior conversation with the President had been “sort of bits and pieces” and that he wanted to paint the whole picture for the President. The President agreed to such a meeting, and the President also instructed Dean to try to write a general statement like one that would state categorically that based on Dean’s investigation Haldeman, Colson and others were not involved in the Watergate matter.

    On the afternoon of March 21, 1973 Dean met with Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman and Dean have testified that the participants at the meeting speculated about John Mitchell’s role in the Watergate affair, and wondered whether Mitchell’s not coming forward was the cause of the beating everyone was taking on the subject of Watergate. Dean and Haldeman have testified that in the late afternoon of March 21, just before their second meeting with the President on that day, Dean told Haldeman that perhaps the solution to the whole thing was to draw the wagons around the White House. According to Haldeman, Dean also said that they should let all the chips fall where they may, because that would not hurt anybody at the White House since no one there had a problem.

    OK, so it sounds to me like, more than anything else, the White House (including Dean of course) was trying to find a way to get Howard Hunt to shut up. And it sounds like that meant trying to get the Committee to Re-Elect and the White House on the same page concerning the Watergate break-in. They were also trying to keep the Senate at arms length so questions wouldn’t come up during the confirmation hearing for L. Patrick Gray. It also sounds to me like John Dean was busy more with trying to get all of this stuff coordinated between the White House and the Committee to Re-Elect in a way that would shield the White House as much as possible (though, in one of the March 21 meetings with Nixon, Dean used the phrase “cancer on the presidency”).

    So my conclusion is as follows: if Dean was supposedly the Watergate “mastermind” as Stone alleges, then Dean was pretty crummy at the job.

    I would argue, though, that Stone has, as best, only a casual relationship with historical scholarship anyway, seeing as how he also produced the following book last year supposedly proving that Lyndon Johnson murdered JFK (here). And I would also that Stone is hardly an impartial observer on the subject of Nixon, seeing as how Stone has a tattoo of our 37th president’s face on his back, as noted here (Stone also acknowledged a certain sexual proclivity in Jeffrey Toobin’s 2008 New Yorker article, describing himself as “a libertarian and a libertine”…just sayin’). And as noted from here (#2), Stone denied having anything to do with the Willie Horton ad that Lee Atwater ran against Michael Dukakis on behalf of Poppy Bush in 1988, and Stone also denied having anything whatsoever to do with the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” that halted the Miami Dade vote recount in Florida in November 2000 (I guess this is typical for a guy who says, “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack”…more on Stone is here, and I guess the answer to the Media Matters question is yes).

    Stone also says that Dean proposed Operation Gemstone – actually, according to Wikipedia, it was proposed by Liddy, though Dean was in attendance to hear about it along with Mitchell and Magruder.

    The Watergate break-in and the downfall of Richard Nixon’s presidency, I’m sure, will be written about, studied and analyzed for many years to come because of its cautionary lessons concerning governance and the abuse of presidential power. No doubt many works of scholarship will be added to that body of knowledge for study by future generations (and probably this too).

    And I have a feeling that anything concocted by Roger Stone will not add to that in any way, shape or form.

    Update 8/19/14: From here

    Dean also slammed author Roger Stone, whose book, Nixon’s Secrets: The Rise, Fall, and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate, and the Pardon, questions Dean’s account of the scandal, seeks to defend Nixon, and claims Deep Throat, the secret informant for The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, wasn’t FBI Associate Director Mark Felt — despite the fact that Woodward and Bernstein confirmed his identity in 2005.

    Stone is one of several former Nixon aides who have been defending the disgraced president in recent media appearances. A “professional dirty trickster” with a history of virulent misogyny, Stone believes Nixon should not have been impeached for Watergate. He wrote three op-eds for FoxNews.com in the last few months in which he attacked Dean and other Nixon critics, plugged his book, and claimed that “Nixon was bad but Obama is worse.”

    “This is typical of the alternative universe out there. That is pure bullshit, why would Woodward say it if it is someone else?” Dean said about Stone’s Deep Throat claim. “I don’t care to know anything about Stone. From everything I’ve been told about him I’m not sure you want to put in print.”

    Uh, yep.


  • 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…


  • Thursday Mashup (7/17/14)

    July 17, 2014
  • As the family and I were about to embark on our vacation (more later on that), I found out that Richard Mellon Scaife had died.

    For the uninitiated (maybe one or two of you out there), I should point out that Scaife founded The Arkansas Project. As noted from here

    The Arkansas Project was created and funded with the sole objective of digging up, and if necessary fabricating, any information that could be used to defame the Clintons and those around them. Over the course of several years, Scaife allocated approximately 2.4 million dollars to the [American] Spectator for sole use in its “investigative” efforts to defame and humiliate Clinton… efforts which resulted in the “revelation” (“fabrication” is perhaps more accurate in most cases) of tabloidesque stories such as the “Troopergate” and Whitewater scandals, Paula Jones’ allegations of sexual harassment, and the legitimization and continuation of conspiracy theories about the death of Deputy White House Counsel and close Clinton friend Vince Foster, among others…

    The “investigative” efforts of those involved in the Arkansas Project eventually led, albeit indirectly, to Clinton’s impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky scandal…

    Over the next thirty years, Scaife alone would contribute $200 million to conservative causes (“The Right’s Big Moneyman”). This growth and expansion of conservative journalism and conservative think tanks, which together formed a cohesive social and political movement, continued throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, bolstered by the Presidency of Ronald Reagan.

    Indeed – as noted from here

    Scaife’s money has established or supported “activist think tanks that have created and marketed conservative ideas from welfare reform to enhanced missile defense; public interest law firms that have won important court cases on affirmative action, property rights and how to conduct the national census; organizations and publications that have nurtured conservatism on American campuses; academic institutions that have employed and promoted the work of conservative intellectuals; watchdog groups that have critiqued and harassed media organizations, and many more.”

    By the way, as the first Daily Kos post points out (the one where Scaife announces his illness and, yet again, creates an opportunity to smear his targets – “oh, woe is me – oppressed by liberals again even though I’m gravely ill”), Scaife’s political donations actually extended back to the Nixon Administration, and Newt Gingrich credited Scaife’s involvement in GOPAC as the main reason for Gingrich’s political ascendancy.

    Ritchie-and-Richard-Mellon-Scaife
    More on Scaife’s family history (basically, the story of how he accumulated his financial largesse) is here. Also, this tells us some of the seamy details of Scaife’s divorce; normally I would leave stuff like that alone, but as long as he punished the Clintons over personal details that, as far as I’m concerned, we never needed to know, I don’t know why Scaife shouldn’t receive the same treatment.

    Before there was Fix Noise and the plethora of conservative web sites out there (to say nothing of right-wing talk radio), there was Richard Mellon Scaife, along with the Birchers, the Klan, John Podhoretz and Commentary Magazine, and of course William F. Buckley and the National Review, along with Paul Weyrich (and I suppose I’m forgetting other infamous right-wing notables). Scaife did his very best to maintain the conservative outrage machine that, once marginalized, now permeates what passes for our political dialogue, enforcing its narratives over just about every policy discussion that takes place affecting this country; the entirely predictable outcome is that we never seem to be able to resolve a critical problem of any type whatsoever (this book documents Scaife’s attacks on the Clintons better than I ever could).

    I don’t know the disposition of Scaife’s remains. However, if he received a burial, then I think the resulting toxicity of the location would necessitate that it be designated as a Superfund cleanup site.

  • Next, I give you the latest from the utterly cretinous Mark Meadows, U.S. House Repug from North Carolina, here

    It was only a matter of time before the new unity government between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, proved to be a deadly agreement for both Palestinians and Israelis.

    I saw the writing on the wall as soon as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) chose to embrace the terrorist group, effectively ending hopes of a peace agreement between the PLO and Israel.

    Really? Then I wonder why Meadows didn’t have anything to say (nothing I could track down anyway) when President Obama’s wretched predecessor did the same thing here?

    Oh, you dumb libtard, I hear some of you cry…yeah, GWB supported the unity government, but he withheld funding for the PLO.

    OK, all well and good. But riddle me this – name for me one president who has had to deal with this type of nonsense from a U.S. Congress related to funding in that area of the world (here)…

    The House Appropriations Committee (recently) approved a 2015 foreign operations bill that bars aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) from some $440 million in proposed funding.

    The Senate’s version of its 2015 foreign operations bill, which includes similar language barring funding to the PA, was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 19.

    Unlike previous years, when the House banned funding for a government over which Hamas “exercises undue influence,” this year’s language targets any type of power-sharing government “that results from an agreement with Hamas.”

    It also imposes strict conditions under which Obama can waive the funding ban. According to language approved last week, Obama must not only certify that the new government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and commits to honor previous agreements, but that it acknowledges Israel as “a Jewish state.”

    Also…

    A much more restrictive bill, introduced in April by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., failed to attract sufficient support by Senate colleagues.

    Labeled the “Stand With Israel Act,” the bill aimed to rescind the president’s right to waive funding for any type of Palestinian unity government.

    Congressional action on the funding halt comes at a time of unprecedented coordination between the PA’s Fatah-commanded security force (PSF) and thousands of Israeli ground troops maneuvering through the West Bank in search of three victims of an alleged Hamas kidnapping.

    Israeli security officials have urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fervently opposed to the Hamas-led government, to refrain from diplomatic or other action that could trigger collapse of ongoing coordination with the PSF.

    Similarly, supporters of Israel who champion a two-state peace deal between Israel and the PA warn that a precipitous halt in US funding will undermine PA President Mahmoud Abbas and ultimately harm Israeli security interests.

    “Funding for the PA’s security services is in Israel’s national security interests,” said Ori Nir, spokesman for the Washington-based Americans for Peace Now public policy organization.

    In a (sic) interview Wednesday, Nir warned that pulling the plug on US aid would harm Israel as much as the PA.

    “Israeli military commanders in the West Bank will tell you just how valuable their security coordination with the PA is. Many deaths of innocent Israelis have been avoided due to this coordination, as has the eruption of mass Palestinian violence,” said Nir, an Arabic-speaking former Israeli journalist who specialized in Palestinian affairs.

    He noted that Abbas has vehemently condemned the June 12 abduction and vowed to uphold security coordination with Israel, which he described as a “sacred” top priority for the new consensus government.

    And as I’m sure many of us know by now, the three Israelis abducted were found dead; it should not be necessary to point out what an indefensible criminal act that is.

    But returning to Washington, D.C. for a minute – according to that supposedly brilliant Republican Party intellectual Rand Paul (try not to laugh too hard), Obama is supposed to agree to an absurdist scheme like this that would limit his own presidential power and could possibly exacerbate an already bad situation, in an area of the world that knows almost nothing but bad situations anymore.

    I defy you to give me an example of a president who has ever had to deal with these types of restrictions from a U.S. Congress on a foreign policy issue.

    If the Repugs on Capitol Hill ever decide to get their act together in this conflict, then I have no problem with them deciding to withhold funding to the new “unity” government. But when that doesn’t turn out to be the quick fix that the wingnuts crave (on this or any issue), then don’t run kicking and screaming to sympathetic media about how that alleged Kenyan Muslim Socialist on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue hates anything having to do with the state of Israel (which, let’s not forget, awarded Obama this – and to read about more lowlights with Meadows, click here).

  • Further, I give you the following from The Daily Tucker (here)…

    The president of a Washington state company cited as an example of the Export-Import Bank’s usefulness came out against its re-authorization Tuesday.

    Edmund Schweitzer III, founder and president of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, expressed this opinion in a letter to the editor of the Spokesman-Review.

    “Some Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories customers have used the Ex-Im Bank for financing, at their choosing. SEL does not depend on it, nor encourage it,” he writes. “If the Ex-Im Bank were to disappear, I believe buyers and sellers would find attractive commercial options unencumbered by politics and special interests.”

    I don’t know anything about how businesses operate in Washington State, but when it comes to reauthorizing the export-import bank, Kevin Strouse, Dem candidate for the PA-08 U.S. House seat currently held by Mikey the Beloved, had this to say…

    Bristol, PA — (On 7/10/14) (Strouse), former Army Ranger and Democratic candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, called on Congressman Fitzpatrick to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to bring export-import bank reauthorization to the floor for a vote.

    This letter, supported by the Chamber of Commerce, urges House Leadership to reauthorize the federally backed export-import bank, which was founded in 1934 to help American businesses finance foreign sales. The bank has a long history of bipartisan support as a common sense tool for supporting American business and creating jobs. If Congress fails to act by September 30th, the bank’s charter will expire.

    Kevin Strouse remarked that reauthorizing the bank is a common sense solution for economic growth in the 8th District. “Congressman Fitzpatrick and his Tea Party allies have created such a culture of dysfunction in Washington that they won’t even allow their Republican Congress to pass a historically bipartisan, pro-business measure. We need new leaders in Washington who can put an end to this senseless dysfunction and work towards common sense solutions to help spur economic opportunity and create jobs for the middle class,” said Strouse.

    Strouse continued, “There are 23 businesses in the 8th District directly impacted by this issue–failure to immediately act to reauthorize the export-import bank would be only the latest example of Congressman Fitzpatrick and this Republican Congress allowing their self-interested dysfunction to hurt Pennsylvania’s economy and jobs…”

    Sounds like common sense to me, as opposed to the idiocy routinely inflicted by Mikey and his pals in Congress (to help Kevin, click here).

  • Continuing (and staying with PA politics on the state level this time), I came across this item from the Philadelphia Inquirer…

    High-powered Democrats have asked political novice Steve Cickay to withdraw from what is viewed as a pivotal Bucks County state Senate race, according to sources familiar with the discussions, and give way to Shaughnessy Naughton – who lost in the May primary in her bid for a congressional seat.

    Leading party operatives, including former Gov. Ed Rendell and State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Philadelphia), believe Naughton’s name recognition and her ability to appeal to female voters make her a stronger candidate to take on two-term incumbent Chuck McIlhinney, the sources said.

    Naughton, 35, also could use whatever leftover campaign funds she stockpiled during her congressional run for a state Senate bid, two election-law experts said, potentially giving her more resources to challenge McIlhinney than Cickay, who has struggled with fund-raising.

    The race could be crucial for state Democrats, who are eager to wrangle control of the Senate from Republicans but have a limited number of winnable seats statewide, political experts say.

    So far, Cickay, 59, has shown little desire to leave the race, saying he’s gotten a positive response while campaigning.

    “I start something, I finish it,” he said in an interview. “I feel an obligation to these people that voted for me. . . . I feel I owe it to them to finish.”

    (Before I comment on the substance of this story, I’d like to point out something to the supposed “webmaster” at philly.com. I saw this story in the hardcopy edition of the paper, and I tried multiple search combinations using keywords from this article, both at Google’s main page and also at the philly.com site, and the only way I managed to come across the link to the story was from another post by a local aggregator. Basically, I don’t know how philly.com’s search algorithms are constructed, but in my admittedly imperfect opinion, I would say that they need work.)

    OK, now to the story…I didn’t include the excerpt above pointing out that Shaughnessy Naughton reported about $158,000 in cash on hand as of April 30th from her recent PA-08 primary contest won by Kevin Strouse. I also didn’t note that Cickay had only $1,717 in cash on hand as of June 9, according to campaign records, compared with more than $150,000 for McIlhinney.

    So yeah, it’s entirely possible that, if Cickay stays in the race and keeps Naughton out, he could get completely wiped out by McIlhinney in the general election (and Ed Rendell supported Naughton in the PA-08 Dem primary a little while ago, just for the record).

    But while I begrudge nothing to Naughton, who has the right to seek any elective office she chooses, I want to say something in defense of Steve Cickay.

    I realize the Inquirer isn’t in the business of giving a plug to another newspaper, one that is a rival in a portion of its coverage area, so I don’t expect them to note how prominent a voice Cickay is on the Op-Ed page of the Bucks County Courier Times. In the midst of the interminable flotsam of wingnuttery that frequents that section, Cickay is a tireless voice on behalf of the environment, the middle class, and the economy overall, as well as women, LGBT individuals, the poor, the sick, and the elderly; Steve’s commentary is a welcome reprieve from the avalanche of duuuh! that all too often fills up editorial column space in that paper. And you know his words carry an impact based on the parade of mischaracterizations and insults from the great unwashed in response to his thoughtful commentary.

    As much as I don’t like the Repugs, sometimes I honestly think they’ve learned the lesson that all politics are ultimately local, as opposed to the Democrats on occasions such as this one. And I’m sure Naughton could put up a real scrap against McIlhinney, but Steve Cickay has been doing that all along, and I think it’s wrong to just tell him to go away because of paltry funding numbers.

    If you’re so inclined to help Steve as much as your means allows (an uphill fight to be sure), please click here.

  • Finally, I just want to take a minute and report that your humble narrator and the family spent last week at Martha’s Vineyard (we were sent there to scout locations for the Obamas – joke). The weather was perfect, and it was a welcome respite that we all needed. We were able to frequent the Net Result for lobsters at Vineyard Haven, the Art Cliff Diner (same location) as well as Nancy’s and Coup de Ville in Oak Bluffs; we also took jaunts to Menemsha, Edgartown, and Chillmark. We were saddened a bit to hear about the beach erosion at Squibnocket and the encroachment upon the shoreline at Aquinnah, which has put the light house in jeopardy (if you can help with the effort to save it, click here…I should note that Aquinnah is the Wampanoag Indian geographic reference for Gay Head – the Wampanoags settled there long ago; you can come up with your own scatological references if you wish).

    And to answer your question, no, I’m definitely not rich. It just made sense for us to spend the money we would probably have spent on a Jersey shore rental on a location we already know, and one that is surrounded by water and everything else we were looking for in the way of a summer break (also, speaking of the Vineyard, we recently observed the 15th anniversary of the tragic plane crash in that area that took the life of John Kennedy, Jr., his wife and her sister).

    The reason why I’m telling you this is because, in addition to the connector bridge from 95 to 195 East outside of Providence, RI (when we last made the trip in ’08, that area was nothing but construction full of closed lanes and cattle chutes – now, the transition from 95 onto the bridge and 195 is effortless), there was something else we noticed during our travels that was new.

    wind_turbine
    And that was these things that dotted the landscape across Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including the Vineyard. And they actually aren’t eyesores.

    As noted here, Connecticut has committed to 23 percent of its total energy portfolio from renewable sources (including wind) by 2020. Also, this tells us that Rhode Island and Massachusetts are “on the leading edge of offshore wind energy development.”

    I’ll admit that I’m a bit torn on this issue, because I don’t support the so-called Cape Wind project to install 133 wind turbines in the middle of Nantucket Sound (more here). Yes, I get it that that’s the highest concentration of wind in the area, but I honestly think more work needs to be done to estimate what would be a cataclysmic impact to the Sound’s ecosystem.

    I wondered, though, what would possibly be a driving force behind the embrace of wind power in those three states (although, technically, Massachusetts is a commonwealth, similar to PA in that regard). And it occurred to me that all three are run by Democratic governors: Dannel Malloy in Connecticut, Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island, and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts.

    So just remember, people – if you want renewable energy, vote for Democrats, gubernatorial candidates in particular (including this guy).

    One final comment about the trip; this isn’t meant as a knock on any public radio station in our area, but absolutely none of them compare with WMVY, which has a terrific song mix (I could count on one hand the songs I head multiple times during the week) and engaging personalities; hell, I could even tolerate the commercials. It was truly a pleasure to listen to the station during the week, just as it was six years ago, particularly since they were off the air for a time but managed to return unbroken, as it were, as noted here. Well done!


  • Friday Mashup (6/13/14)

    June 13, 2014
  • This story tells us the following (about the recent idiocy in North Carolina Virginia where Phillip Puckett, a thoroughly compromised Dem in the state senate, agreed to resign for a plumb patronage job that he since has chosen not to accept, and let the Repugs take over that body, denying Medicaid expansion in that state)…

    Puckett’s resignation leads the way for him to get a job as deputy director of the state tobacco commission and for his daughter to be confirmed for a state judgeship. Depending on how you look at it, it’s politics at its worst — or best.

    “Republicans I’ve talked to are chortling,” Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Business Insider. “They think it’s one of the cleverest things they’ve done.”

    “And yet,” he added, “one of them asked me, ‘Do you think Democrats would not have done the same thing if they had the opportunity?’ And of course they would have. It’s yet another reason people hate politicians.”

    Perhaps, but is there a recent example of such an occurrence? You know, engaging in political nonsense that could prevent nearly 400,00 people in the state of North Carolina from receiving health care (here)? And let’s see how many Repugs are “chortling” in light of this.

    And Sabato follows up with the following…

    “This is really about Obamacare,” Sabato said of the dispute. “Forget about Medicaid.”

    I realize that it’s Sabato’s job to comment on the “horse race” political stuff and not necessarily the wonky material about, you know, actual policy and legislation that makes a difference in people’s lives, but if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on this issue (and he obviously doesn’t), then he should shut up.

    You see, the people affected by the treachery orchestrated by Puckett and the North Carolina Repugs are (again) primarily the poor in his state who are due to receive the benefits of “Obamacare” through Medicaid expansion. Arguing that the two are separate in this case is disingenuous at best and outright lying at worst.

    This is par for the ridiculous course when it comes to Sabato, though; as noted here, he once said that the Swift Boat liars who impugned John Kerry ten years ago (remember that one?) were telling the truth; he also said that it would be “a national disgrace” to continue “the Clinton/Bush dynasty” (another idiotic construct as far as I’m concerned; things were a hell of a lot better for me and everyone I know under Bill than under either of the Bushes); and he also said (in the post I linked to previously) that the Democrats are the “mommy” party while the Repugs are the “daddy” party.

  • Next, I give you some truly ripe stuff from Larry Kudlow (here)…

    The Democrats want a minimum-wage hike. That may sound great on the surface, but it’s actually a big job loser for the lowest-skilled and poorest among us. President Obama and his EPA have launched a war on coal, which will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs if implemented. And then there’s Obamacare, which the CBO estimates will cost at least 2.5 million jobs.

    I don’t know how Kudlow can make that claim about the minimum wage with any degree of seriousness whatsoever (much more on that is available from here).

    And as far as coal goes, I also don’t know how Kudlow can seriously make the claim that Obama has “launched a war on coal,” considering that his administration encourages coal burning by aggressively issuing permits to mine coal on federal land, especially the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, as noted here.

    But wait, there’s more…

    With coal demand at home expected to fall by 20 per cent due to new regulations, and competitive pressure from low-priced natural gas, coal companies are now pushing to increase exports to Asia. … Three new coal-export ports are being proposed for the Pacific coast: two in Washington state and one in Oregon. They could eventually ship up to 100 million tons of coal per year—an amountequivalent to the total volume of coal the U.S. will export this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). …

    Environmentalists warn that emissions from that volume of coal would dwarf the savings from Obama’s new power plant rule.

    Since 2009, the Obama administration has sold leases for more than two billion tons of coal in the Powder River Basin for rates as low as $1 per ton, drawing the wrath of critics, including some in Congress, who say too much coal is being leased too cheaply. (Coal from the Powder River Basin is worth about $13 per ton.)

    As it reviews its long-term plans for the leases, which could eventually put another 10 billion tons of coal up for auction, the administration has so far resisted calls to include carbon emissions abroad in its decision-making.

    In addition, it looks like Kudlow is trying to propagandize once more about how the Affordable Care Law is a supposed job killer, when in reality (here)…

    The reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs “stems almost entirely” from Americans deciding to work less or not at all in order to retain their eligibility for the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicaid coverage or government health insurance subsidies, the CBO analysis concludes.

    More on that is here; basically, we’re talking about a reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs. Or, to give you an example close to home, maybe Mrs. Doomsy could continue to work on-call for about 20 hours or so a week if she qualified for “Obamacare” instead of having to work a minimum of 32 hours a week for her employer to get health insurance by that way instead (that’s partly a hypothetical and partly reality too, for the record).

    (Oh, and by the way, as you go to the polls later this year, please remember which political party was responsible for a near-catastrophic government shut down last year, and also remember who was one of the shut down’s biggest cheerleaders.)

  • Further, James Jay Carafano waxes hysterical as follows (here)…

    Iraq is a shambles. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda off-shoot that now controls nearly a third of the nation, continues to run amok.

    It’s way past time for the White House to get its head in the game. The disaster unfolding in Iraq and Syria could very quickly spiral into a much, much bigger problem. And some problems are so big that even our president can’t spin his way out.

    At the top of the list of what the administration should be worrying about—and preparing to deal with—is the potential for an endless three-way civil war in Iraq. With Sunni, Shia and Kurds fighting one another, it would look something like the civil war in Syria—on steroids.

    Of course, back during the supposedly glorious days of Iraq War II, no one could have predicted that the quagmire in Mesopotamia would turn out to be favorable to Iran. Right?

    In response, I give you James Jay Carafano in 2010 (here)…

    Here is what we know for sure. 1) Given the state of Iraq in 2006, the country is in a much better place today that any reasonable observer then dared hope. 2) Iraq is better off than it was in the age of Saddam. Now the country has a future, and it rests in the hands of its people. Bonus: The world is rid one of its most dangerous and bloodthirsty thugs. Yes, it was a heavy price. Freedom rarely comes cheap. 3) The surge worked. The surge never promised a land of “milk and honey.” It just promised to break the cycle of continuous, unrelenting violence, to give the new Iraqi political process a chance, and to allow the Iraqis time to build the capacity for their own security. It did that. 4) Things didn’t turn out the way Bush planned. But the vision — a free Iraq without Saddam — was achieved. Remember, things didn’t turn out the way FDR planned either. He said all the troops would be out of Europe in two years.

    By the way, Carafano wrote the above column on August 19th, the day that Obama announced that all combat operations would end by August 31st, with the full withdrawal scheduled for December 2011 (here). And after that, the attacks started to ramp up again.

    Here is my point – if Carafano said that “this is the way history works” in 2010, acting like he was OK with what Obama was doing, then wasn’t Carafano just as wrong then as he thinks Obama is now (and personally, I think Obama was correct, as opposed to Carafano)?

  • Continuing, I came across this real whopper from Dr. Ben Carson (here – page 2)…

    Over the past year, I have learned a great deal about the press in America. It is not uniformly unfair with nefarious agendas, but a significant portion is. One of the best ways to determine which news organizations are objective and which have an agenda is to keep a scorecard that lists both electronic and print media. When evaluating a story, check off whether it is concentrating on factual reporting or demonization. If there is controversy, determine whether both points of view are considered. If major stories of a political nature are ignored or barely mentioned, that should raise suspicions about objectivity.

    You know what? I think Carson is actually onto something here. So, following up on his idea of a “score card,” I came up with the following…

    Story Demonization Factual Reporting
    Here Carson compares gay men and women to bestiality supporters. Bestiality is abhorrent to the gay community and just about every other life form that I know of (duuuh!).
    Here The VA scandal is “A gift from God” according to Carson. The VA scandal is a national bipartisan tragedy, owing primarily to the huge burden of treating our military personnel fighting two wars begun under the prior administration (not a criticism of our military in any way, of course – not their problem that Bushco was a gang of thugs who were asleep on 9/11).
    Here Carson compared the Affordable Care Law to “slavery.” Over 8 million (and counting) citizens of this country now have access to health care, many of whom had no access before.
    Here Carson once said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was right to call America “godless.” Why should we take seriously supposed lessons in morality from a thug who annexed Crimea away from Ukraine (you can go in many other directions here, I’ll admit).
    Here Carson invokes Lenin (no, not the Beatle) in attacking the Affordable Care Law. Sigh – is this really necessary anymore?

    Of course, if you want to do any research about Carson on your own, dear reader (trying to determine “factual reporting” vs. “demonization” without a visual aid, even the one as primitive as I provided), you can always just click here.

  • Update 6/14/14: Turning to Philadelphia-area stuff, it looks like a SEPTA transit strike is underway. I’m not totally familiar with all of the issues, though it apparently involves pension contributions and cost-of-living increases for transit workers (have to read more about it, as they say). It also looks like our illustrious governor, Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, is going to ask Obama to appoint an executive-level commission, or something, to look into the matter, meaning that the striking workers will have to return to their jobs for a minimum of 240 days.

    I’m noting this particularly because of the following (here)…

    Bucks County Commissioner Charles H. Martin, who serves on SEPTA’s board of directors, said he was not aware of any plans by Bucks officials to handle potential traffic headaches.

    “Frankly, I don’t know what we could do,” he said.

    He said most people employed by the county and working in the county seat of Doylestown already drive to work, and would be unaffected by a Regional Rail strike.

    I know this may be hard for Mr. “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” to comprehend, but not all of the residents of Bucks County work in Doylestown (facepalm).

    Here’s a thought – why not try to encourage businesses to arrange staggered shifts for their employees or set up/encourage telecommuting or flex time options? Do anything you can to try and alleviate further traffic problems that may result from the strike!

    God, what a maroon (Update 6/16/14 – Hopefully, though, the strike won’t be an issue based in part on this)…

  • Finally (and returning to Fix Noise), I give you the following here

    This week, the president is speaking and acting on the issue of student loans for higher education. He appears to truly believe that a college education is important and is taking executive action to help students pay for their education. This seems like a straightforward feel-good issue…except there is a painful irony hiding behind the president’s words and actions.

    A closer look at the president’s Department of Education, sadly, reveals an elitist streak when it comes to higher education. At the same time that the president is speaking grandly about helping students pay for college, his education department is moving forward on a regulation that would severely limit the opportunity for college for a certain type of student — those attending non-traditional, private-sector colleges.

    There’s a hell of a lot of “red meat” and “dog whistle” language in what I suppose is a column that’s primarily an editorial as opposed to actual news (Number 44 is “elitist” and “classist,” etc., whatever the hell that means).

    I suppose this Jean Card person from Fox is responding to this news story (including the following)…

    The Obama administration is proposing to tighten oversight of for-profit colleges through new rules that seek to limit how much debt students can amass in career-training programs.

    The proposal, announced Friday, is the administration’s second try at regulations setting standards for what colleges must do to ensure that graduates of career programs get “gainful employment.”

    The first gainful employment initiative, debated from 2009 to 2011, spawned a huge campaign by for-profit colleges to block new regulation. The colleges, supported by many congressional Republicans and some Democrats, said then that they had been unfairly targeted and that the initiative would hurt low-income students.

    Obama administration officials said they were trying to protect those students from low-quality programs that would saddle them with too much debt.

    The Education Department issued a rule in 2011 that set standards for loan-repayment rates and the ratio of graduates’ debt to income. Programs that failed the tests could be disqualified from participation in the federal student aid, which would essentially shut them down. But in 2012, a federal judge blocked major provisions of that rule, forcing the department to start over.

    The new proposal jettisons the repayment-rate metric. Instead, it would require that the estimated loan payments of typical graduates not exceed 20 percent of discretionary income or 8 percent of total annual income.

    If someone has a principled disagreement with what Obama is trying to do here, then I honestly get that. I do support the president on this, I wish to emphasize, because I don’t see anyone else out there lifting a finger to try in rein in student debt.

    More information on this is available from here, including the following…

    A year ago, President Obama set a national goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. But because of the high costs of college, about two-thirds of graduates take out loans with an average student debt of over $23,000. This debt is particularly burdensome for graduates who choose to enter lower-paying public service careers, suffer setbacks such as unemployment or serious illness, or fail to complete their degree.

    To ensure that Americans can afford their student loan payments, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act gives student borrowers new choices in how they repay their loans. The initiative was developed by the Middle Class Task Force chaired by Vice President Biden, and it will expand the income-based repayment plan for federal student loans that was put in place last summer. More than 1.2 million borrowers are projected to qualify and take part in the expanded IBR program.

    Under this new law, students enrolling in 2014 or later can choose to:

    Limit Payments to 10 Percent of Income: Borrowers choosing the income-based repayment plan will pay no more than 10 percent of their income above a basic living allowance, reduced from 15 percent under current law. The basic living allowance varies with family size and is set at 150 percent of the poverty line, currently equaling about $16,500 for a single individual and $33,000 for a family of four.

    ◦More than 1 million borrowers would be eligible to reduce their monthly payments.

    ◦The payment will be reduced by more than $110 per month for a single borrower who earns $30,000 a year and owes $20,000 in college loans, based on 2009 figures.

    Forgive Any Remaining Debt after 20 Years, or after 10 Years for Those in Public Service: Borrowers who take responsibility for their loans and make their monthly payments will see their remaining balance forgiven after 20 years of payments, reduced from 25 years in current law.

    ◦Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years.

    Fully Funded by Student Loan Reforms: These new initiatives are funded by ending the current subsidies given to financial institutions that make guaranteed federal student loans. Starting July 1, all new loans will be direct loans delivered and collected by private companies under performance-based contracts with the Department of Education. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, ending these wasteful subsidies will free up nearly $68 billion for college affordability and deficit reduction over the next 11 years.

    And by the way, let’s not forget that the ridiculous practice of paying subsidies to financial institutions for basically nothing as part of the student loan process was ended by congressional Democrats in March 2010, with nary a single Republican voting in support (here).

    Oh, and speaking of the “respectful opposition,” this tells us that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao did what he does best, and that was to launch yet another filibuster, this time of the student loan legislation sponsored by Dem Senator Elizabeth Warren (“come back louder” indeed).

    And things are no better in the House, of course; I give you the following…

    Congressman Fitzpatrick votes to protect the ultra-wealthy and votes against making college more affordable for America’s students and families

    Today, Congressman Fitzpatrick voted with Republicans to block H.R. 4582 “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act,” the House version of Senator Warren’s companion bill that would allow students to refinance their loans at much lower rates than they are currently paying today.

    Congressman Fitzpatrick’s Republican budget charges students $40 billion more in loan interest, in order to pay for more tax breaks for those who need help the least, like special interests and the wealthiest Americans. Today’s vote was the latest in a record that clearly places the interests of banks above those of students.

    “Once again, Congressman Fitzpatrick gave us a clear view of his priorities when he voted with the Republicans against a bill that would lower the cost of education for students. Congressman Fitzpatrick has no problem standing up for tax breaks for the bankers and special interests he is supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee–but when it comes to helping Bucks County students and their families pay for college, Fitzpatrick turns his back on them” Strouse said.

    Strouse added, “Congressman Fitzpatrick continues to vote to protect the interests of wealthy bankers, while ignoring the needs of the middle-class. If America is going to succeed in a 21st century economy, we need to have the best-educated, best-trained workforce possible, and Congressman Fitzpatrick voting against making college more affordable for students in Pennsylvania’s 8th District is exactly the kind of representation we do not need in Washington.”

    ###

    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 Strouse in his campaign against Mikey the Beloved (and stand up on this among many other important issues), please click here.


  • Friday Mashup (5/23/14)

    May 23, 2014

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  • This from Fix Noise tells us the following…

    Four years have passed since President Obama visited Kansas City’s main airport, rolled up his shirt sleeves and admonished the skeptics who said Smith Electric Vehicles was unlikely to make good on its promises to build 510 experimental electric-powered trucks and buses suitable for commercial use.

    “Come see what’s going on at Smith Electric,” the president said, inspecting a table full of bright green truck batteries in what was once a maintenance hangar for TWA. “I think they’re going to be hard-pressed to tell you that you’re not better off than you would be if we hadn’t made the investments in this plant.”

    The skeptics turned out to be right.

    Despite $32 million in federal stimulus funds and status as one of Obama’s favorite “green” companies, the firm has halted production, having built just 439 of the promised 510 vehicles.

    Gee, “just” 439 out of 510? That happens to be “just” 86 percent, for those of you playing along at home (and the story also tells us that production of the vehicles may resume this summer…money is slow in the pipeline these days, and that’s definitely affecting manufacturing, among other industries).

    I’m not going to say much about the “follow the money” stuff in the linked Washington Examiner story (from Fox), alleging that Smith “stiffed” the “Missouri University of Science and Technology, the state government, and a local electrical supply company, as well as its landlord, the Kansas City city government.” Also adding to the complicated financial picture is the fact that Smith is apparently an American subsidiary of a British firm. The Examiner article alleges impropriety, but upon a couple of reviews, I think there’s no “there” there (sounds to me like some financial stuff that would be normal for a lot of other established firms…I’m open to an opposing point of view on that one).

    I mainly want to point out that how the wingnuts have been attacking the Obama Energy Department and their loans to electric car manufacturers for a little while now, including here where the number of companies that applied for loans versus the number that actually received DOE loans was flipped on purpose (all part and parcel from this playbook).

    gwb_13-george-w-bush
    Actually, this issue gives me an excuse to plug this great documentary from a few years ago, telling us that, among other things, we were on track for electric cars in this country before a certain President With The Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History sent us on a merry goose chase in search of hydrogen cars (more on him later; of course, hybrid vehicles are flourishing now also – good news on that front).

  • Next, I give you more corporate media “SKY IS FALLING!!!” wankery from Matt Bai here (opining in part about a perhaps-inevitable Hillary Clinton presidential run)…

    The truth is that, leaving aside all this bravado about happy demographics and the disunion of Republicans, Democrats are scared out of their minds right now. The House is solidly out of reach. The Senate is slipping away. And the White House could be close behind, especially if Clinton doesn’t run, and if Republicans can rally around a credible candidate.

    I’ll admit that the odds are long on the Dems retaking the House, but I think it’s premature at best to say that such a goal is “out of reach,” partly for the reason noted here.

    And as far as the Senate “slipping away,” this tells us that, among other things, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan and former Dubya confidant/Repug lobbyist Ed Gillespie in Virginia aren’t faring too well (and while Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao has pulled out close races before, he’s not currently in a comfortable spot with Dem candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes – the slime is already at work, of course…I Googled Grimes and the first hit I got was a site proclaiming her a liberal, naturally, as well as “Obama’s Nominee for Kentucky”…OOOGA BOOGA, WINGNUTS! Blow that dog whistle a little louder, OK?).

    In addition, I give you the following from kos here

    Republicans are acting as if they’ve already won control of the next Senate, and the media appears happy to play along.

    But despite tens of millions of dollars in attack ads and the right wing’s religious certainty that ObamaCare will ride them to victory, a race-by-race look reveals that Democrats aren’t only competitive in this November’s Senate elections — they’re steadily improving.

    The math is simple: Republicans need to win six seats to take control of the Senate, and are prohibitive favorites in two Democratic-held seats: South Dakota and West Virginia. That means they have to win four of the six competitive Democratic seats — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana and North Carolina — while holding on to two endangered GOP seats in Georgia and Kentucky.

    On the macro level, Republicans are banking that discontent over the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s unpopularity will prove the keys to the majority. In both cases, the trends aren’t in the GOP’s favor.

    In Gallup polling, Obama’s unpopularity peaked in mid-February, with a 41 percent job approval rating and 54 percent disapproval rating. Early this week, that number was 45 percent approval to 49 percent disapproval, a 9-point shift.

    Similarly, the stunning early ObamaCare success — 8 million signups on the exchange and still counting — has already led to improving poll numbers across the board, like the ABC/Washington Post poll showing support of the law at 49 percent to 48 percent against. In November, the numbers were 40/57.

    I think those numbers are also borne out by this.

    And speaking of Senatorial races, it looks like “Wall Street Scott” Brown isn’t faring too well either (here, engaging in more trickery), despite Bai’s efforts to inflate his candidacy here – second bullet.

  • Further, I give you the latest right-wing propaganda on the Affordable Care Law (here, on the subject of so-called “risk corridors”)…

    The Obama administration has quietly adjusted key provisions of its signature healthcare law to potentially make billions of additional taxpayer dollars available to the insurance industry if companies providing coverage through the Affordable Care Act lose money.

    The move was buried in hundreds of pages of new regulations issued late last week. It comes as part of an intensive administration effort to hold down premium increases for next year, a top priority for the White House as the rates will be announced ahead of this fall’s congressional elections.

    Administration officials for months have denied charges by opponents that they plan a “bailout” for insurance companies providing coverage under the healthcare law.

    They continue to argue that most insurers shouldn’t need to substantially increase premiums because safeguards in the healthcare law will protect them over the next several years.

    I’m automatically suspicious of this story because there are no links to source material that confirms this accusation. Even if it were true, though, I think the following should also be noted (here)…

    The distortion that risk corridors are an insurance company bailout is a frequent theme (not just on Fox but in conservative media generally), but this latest narrative is especially misleading. What the Fox hosts failed to acknowledge is that the estimated $5.5 billion payment doesn’t come from taxpayers, but from the insurance companies themselves. The risk corridor provision transfers money from insurance companies with healthier risk pools to companies with less healthy risk pools with higher than anticipated costs.

    While the federal government may be required to subsidize some of the payment in extreme circumstances, White House officials expect that the entire risk corridor cost over the next year will be borne by the insurance companies themselves.

    And as long as we’re talking about risk corridors, this reminds us that those in the Affordable Care Law are temporary. On the other hand, those in the Medicare Part D scam under Number 43 are permanent (Heaven forbid that conservatives don’t applaud the intrusion into this supposedly sacrosanct, glorious-private-sector concoction…no such complaints about the “corridors” from 2006, of course).

  • Continuing (and in consideration of the upcoming holiday), I give you this from a few days ago…

    With the Department of Veterans Affairs coming under attack, meanwhile down in Texas, on the ranch of the former president, another way was being shown to support our vets. This past week former President George W. Bush brought together wounded veterans and active soldiers to honor them with a mountain bike ride. The message was clear – even when you leave active duty, we will still care for you.

    This from the individual who was taking up space in An Oval Office when the Walter Reed Hospital VA scandal was taking place, and of course the Foxies had precious little to say about it as opposed to the braying they’re doing right now, as noted here.

    (Also, this Fox screed was concocted by Dr. Marc Siegel, who last wrote about “typically unselfish” Number 43 here and the questions surrounding Dubya’s stent procedure – fourth bullet.)

    And as long as I’m talking about Siegel’s piece, I give you another excerpt…

    “Some of the people riding mountain bikes here have PTS (post-traumatic stress),” Bush said. “Mountain biking is helping them get back to as normal a life as possible. And that’s not a VA function, its a private sector function.”

    God, what a baboon – helping our vets isn’t just a “private sector” function – it’s a “function” for everyone whether they’re in public life or not!

    The scandal (yes, Repugs, a legitimate one – at long last, your dreams have come true!) of what is taking place with our veterans and providing the care they need is a bipartisan one, I’ll admit (well, maybe their dreams haven’t come true after all). And I don’t know if Gen. Eric Shinseki should resign as head of the VA or not. If he does, I hope it will not be just in response to a typical attack of conservative umbrage and, at the very least, an administrator at least as competent as Shinseki will be able to transition into the job relatively smoothly (that will make a big difference in how quickly our veterans receive care also, which should of course be the most important consideration). All I’m saying is that we should have a little perspective.

    You want to go after Shinseki? Fine. But let’s remember that the reason so many veterans require care is because of two wars that weren’t started on Obama’s watch (and, in the case of Dubya’s Not So Excellent Adventure in Iraq, this should have been an anticipated consequence of “the surge,” again, before Obama was sworn in).

    And you want to talk about a VA scandal and a certain president? Let’s not forget the following:

  • This tells us about Daniel Cooper of the Bush VA and how he thought his Bible study was more important than taking care of our wounded heroes (along with Dubya’s remark about battle being “romantic”).
  • This tells us how Cooper’s one-time boss Jim Nicholson approved $3.8 million in bonuses for VA executives even though the VA had underestimated the number of Iraq war vets who were expected to seek medical treatment in 2005 by nearly 80,000.
  • And among other things, this (a column from 2007 by Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), tells us that, for years under Dubya, PTSD was misdiagnosed as a “personality disorder” (the column has to do with the nomination of Lt. Gen. James Peake, M.D., to head the VA after Nicholson’s departure).
  • So there’s a lot more all of us can do to pay better attention to our veterans who have sacrificed (and in many cases, continue to sacrifice) for us. And sure, if Obama’s wretched predecessor wants to host a bike run or a golf tournament for them (which still sticks in my craw because of this, and this), then I have to admit that he deserves a bit of credit too, even though he was overwhelmingly responsible for the wars they had to fight that led to the death and injury of our personnel.

    american-flag
    And as long as I’m on this topic, I have a request – people, can you please fly your damn flags on Monday?

    Update: Uh, yep.

  • unemployment-line_000

  • Finally (and speaking of people suffering), according to The Daily Tucker (cherry picking from a Harris poll), nearly 47 percent of unemployed Americans have given up looking for work due to the still-moribund (for just about everyone, anyone I know at least) economy, as noted here.

    In response, this tells you that “Man Tan” Boehner has pissed away just about $5 billion in economic gains due to refusing to renew an extension to unemployment benefits.

    Are you disgusted by that? Good. Click here.


  • Monday Mashup (5/19/14)

    May 19, 2014

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  • This from about 10 days ago tells us about the 7 U.S. House Republicans named to the BENGHAZI!!! Clown Show Committee.

    So, in no particular order, allow me to introduce them to you…

    Susan Brooks (IN – 05)

    Brooks seems to be a little smarter than some of the other numbskulls here; she’s been operating “below the radar” as far as I can see. All I could find was this item where she criticized the U.S. Senate Dems for supposedly not passing a budget, a popular talking point at the time echoed by Mikey the Beloved among others (more on him later)…in response, I give you this (and by the way…).

    Jim Jordan (OH – 04)

    Supported the shut down? Check. Supported the sequester? Check.

    However, that doesn’t come close to telling Jordan’s story. As head of the Republican Study Committee, he has marshaled forces to oppose anything that looks even remotely like GOP compromise or deal-making with Number 44, being a perpetual thorn in the side of “Man Tan” Boehner, to the point where Jordan even scuttled the deal on the sequester and forced last year’s aforementioned government shut down (which was definitely the electoral “gift that keeps on giving” for the Dems, and even prevented a deal in which President Hopey Changey would have given away the proverbial store). All of this is noted in Tim Dickinson’s excellent Rolling Stone article here.

    Mike Pompeo (KS – 04)

    I already discussed Pompeo here, pointing out that, among other things, he’s utterly bought and paid for by Chuck and Dave Koch.

    Martha Roby (AL – 02)

    I predict (for whatever it’s worth) that, of the 7 Republicans participating in this farce, Roby will be the one who ends up with the most TV “face time” of the bunch and ends up getting talked about the most on the cable “news” channels.

    That’s because, with the departure of “Moon Unit” Bachmann, the Teahadists are looking for a new “lightning rod” to congregate around and practice their faux indignation every chance they get. And had Marsha Blackburn been named to this cluster instead, then she would have solidified her own wingnut bona fides. But she wasn’t.

    And Roby brings her own brand of “crazy, to wit…

  • She didn’t push back against a “birther” calling Obama a “communist despot” here.
  • “Stockholm Syndrome” Roby voted against the Violence Against Women Act here.
  • She introduced bill to eliminate overtime pay here.
  • And as we all know, more gun laws won’t solve the problem (here – removing my tongue from my cheek).
  • Update 10/22/14: Not sure how I forgot about this from Roby, but I did somehow (bullet #4).

    Peter Roskam (IL – 06)

    This guy might end up getting more face time than he deserves too…

  • Here, he basically lied about whether or not he knew former House Speaker Tom DeLay, aka, The Bugman (not a crime I realize, but I think it sends a message).
  • As of 2008, he’s received over $100 grand in oil money and has fought against clean energy, of course (here).
  • Roskam was under investigation for a $750,000 (!) trip to Taiwan in 2011 (also noted here that he failed to report about $103,000 in fundraising expenditures in ’05).
  • Here, Roskam co-introduced a bill to block federal funding of universities “engaging in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars.” (um, let me see here, where is that dictionary? “Free speech”…what exactly is that definition again?). And yes, Dan Lipinski definitely should know better.
  • Lynn Westmoreland (GA – 03)

  • Here, Dem U.S. House Rep John Lewis recently called on Westmoreland to step down since Westmoreland is in charge of the political strategy wing of the party, and Lewis sees a conflict of interest (with all due respect to Rep. Lewis, is there anything involved with this nonsense that isn’t all about “political strategy”?).
  • Here, Westmoreland sponsored a bill to post the Ten Commandments without actually knowing what they are (just say “oops,” and get out, you dweeb).
  • He was perfectly happy over setting up “faux” Democratic candidate web sites, which is a really chicken way to support your own party here.
  • He said a shutdown would be worth it because the government is full of “gangrene” here (real nice).
  • Westmoreland also said that NSA spying foiled 54 terrorist plots here (of course, Westmoreland supposedly couldn’t produce anything to verify that since it’s “classified” – why does this sound like the dinner scene with Angela Lansbury and James Gregory with the ketchup bottle in “The Manchurian Candidate”?).
  • And last but certainly least, I give you the chairman…

    Trey Gowdy (SC – 04)

  • I guess it’s inevitable that I point this out (though Gowdy gets accidental honesty points here).
  • And let’s not forget how Gowdy and company are using BENGHAZI!!! to raise money, despite their faux protestations to the contrary (here).
  • And lest anyone wonder about whether or not they’ll be beating this proverbial dead horse for 2016, I give you this (here).
  • Also, Gowdy is apparently known for theatrics, as noted here (perfect for the Repugs).
  • In conclusion, in the question of whether or not the House should proceed with this, I give you career ambassador Thomas Pickering here (a welcome voice of sanity).

  • Next, I know I mentioned the sequester previously concerning Jim Jordan, but do you know that, according to Tom Coburn and the GAO, the sequester resulted in exactly one layoff (here)?

    Notice there’s no discussion of the difference between a layoff and a furlough, to say nothing of a cut in services needed by millions of people in this country (this provides more information, and a rather lengthy list of agencies that would have been impacted by a prolonged shut down is here…not surprised that the wingnuts are trying to deflect blame on the shutdown considering this).

  • Further, I need to catch up on the latest with our wet noodle PA-08 U.S. House Rep (here)…

    The numbers are eye-popping.

    Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick, R-8, used them and some close-to-home examples Monday afternoon to drive home the importance of reducing the national debt to 150 eighth-graders at Council Rock’s Newtown Middle School.

    The students of social studies teacher Joe Fabrizio are looking at debt and other issues as part of their studies in American history class.

    The federal government debt is $17.5 trillion — which the congressman said is about $55,000 for every one of the 315 million people who live in the United States. The thought of passing on that debt to future generations is very troubling, he told students at the Newtown Township School.

    “Spending money today and then handing it off is like going down to the Goodnoe Ice Cream Bar here in Newtown, buying a bunch of ice cream, and then handing the bill to the person next to you and walking out,” Fitzpatrick said. “You deserve to inherit a country with debt that, if not gone, is manageable and a future that is bright.”

    Gosh, how courageous of Mikey to trumpet his conservative “cred” before a bunch of eighth graders. Talk about the “line of fire”…

    In response, this tells us that the Treasury Department of the Obama Administration will pay down a portion of the national debt this quarter for the first time in six years.

    And for the eleventy zillionth time, the main issue is JOBS! not debt. And Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein wrote a column here last November about the trade deficit, which is the one that truly matters, since easing it would both increase employment ultimately and reduce the budget deficit.

    Also, Mikey recently informed us that he supports something called HR 4438, the American Research and Competitiveness Act, which (shockingly) was also supported by 62 House Democrats. The problem is that this makes a research and development tax credit for business permanent without the “offset” in spending that Mikey’s same-party pals clamor for when we’re talking about SNAP, an unemployment benefits extension, Medicare doctor’s reimbursements, the sequester overall, etc. (here and here).

    One more thing…apparently (based on what I found at his web site), Fitzpatrick wrote a letter to Speaker “Man Tan” Boehner and Dem Leader Nancy Pelosi saying we should have a BENGHAZI!!! committee (again, stunning bravery to side so definitively with the overall consensus). Given that, I wonder if Mikey was one of the 206 Repug U.S. House reps who asked to be on the committee?

    And what does that tell you about who he truly thinks he represents if the answer is Yes?

  • Finally, it needs to be emphasized that tomorrow is primary day in PA, and that means that, if you live in our beloved commonwealth, you need to vote early and often for Allyson Schwartz, running against the crowded Dem field of Tom Wolf, Rob McCord, and Katie McGinty (and running uphill, apparently, which makes it even more critical that Schwartz receive our support). Also, if you live in PA-13, Daylin Leach deserves your support in the primary for Schwartz’s seat.

    Turning to PA-08, I’ve supported Kevin Strouse in the Dem primary all along, for what it’s worth, because I believe that he’s the best Democrat to go up against Mikey the Beloved in the fall.

    I’m not going to tell you that I’ve spent equal amounts of time reading up on both Kevin and his primary opponent Shaughnessy Naughton. I do find much in common with many of their positions, though, which is good. However, it concerns me that Naughton, as nearly as I can tell, was the first to question whether or not Strouse is beholden to gas drilling interests in PA, as well as bringing up family campaign donations that, even if they were somehow illegal (and who knows?), are relatively piddling sums regardless (10 grand here, 10 grand there…). This forced Strouse to play defense kind of late in the game.

    Is there anything inherently wrong with that? No. Politics ain’t beanbag, as somebody said. But let’s just say that it creates a perception for yours truly (along with endorsements for Naughton by the Philadelphia Inquirer – which, as far as I’m concerned, only cares about who they view as the weaker Dem winning the nod to make it easier for Mikey to win another term – and corpora-Dem Ed “Fix The Debt” Rendell…and yes, I would have the same concerns if Strouse received those endorsements).

    To be perfectly honest with you, neither one has thus far run in a way that I would consider to be the way a progressive Democrat should run his or her campaign (again, Leach fits that template to a “T” as far as I’m concerned). Hopefully the winner will do something about that in the general election.

    But I’m sticking with Kevin Strouse since I believe that he’ll do a better job of fighting for the causes that matter (economy/infrastructure, environment, common sense legislation from the U.S. House, etc.). And I hope you do also (to do what you can to help, click here).


  • 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.


  • Friday Mashup (4/25/14)

    April 25, 2014
  • Someone named Amber Barno at The Daily Tucker rails as follows here (about a favorite wingnut target)…

    (On 4/16) the New York Times made the audacious choice to publish an article linking military veterans to white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

    Frazier Glenn Miller shot and killed three people at Jewish Community Centers near Kansas City, Missouri earlier this week. He was a former KKK leader and also a former Master Sergeant in the Army who was forced to retire for circulating racist material. That information seemed to be enough for Kathleen Belew, the author of the article, to draw a distinction between veterans, the ‘radical right,’ and their tendency to become an danger to society, and apparently enough for the New York Times to publish it.

    The title of the piece, “Veterans and White Supremacy” and the entire slanderous article are almost as offensive as the picture that accompanied it. It displays a row of soldiers saluting, the way they would to an American flag, while one ‘soldier’ in the middle is posed doing a Nazi salute. It is despicable. It is reckless and it only further contributes to stereotypes that veterans must overcome each and everyday in the civilian world.

    Before I say a word about this, I should note from her bio that Ms. Barno, military advisor for Concerned Veterans for America, is an “Army veteran and former Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.” She deserves my thanks for her service, and she has it.

    With that out of the way, let me add that the “slanderous” and “offensive” article (that I read and consider reasonable, by the way) does indeed contain a graphic like the one Barno cites. However, I believe the graphic makes it plain to a reasonably intelligent adult that a comparatively small percentage of our veterans become homegrown terrorists, and it isn’t anywhere near as incriminating as she suggests.

    And Concerned Veterans for America…why exactly does that ring a bell?

    Oh, I remember now. It’s because the person in charge of CV of A is Pete Hegseth, who used to head up something called Vets for Freedom, which was a PR factory doing its best to influence public opinion to make sure we kept our military in Iraq and Afghanistan (and as Crooks and Liars notes here, this “veterans” group claimed to support deficit reduction, which to me is a strange issue for a veterans group to be associated with – ahhh, can you smell the Astroturf?).

    And as you might expect, CV is A is tied to the shadowy, “dark money” network of Charles and David Koch (here).

    Barno is right to claim that our returning heroes face a variety of issues that demand our attention, though I don’t think she adds much to that discussion here by climbing on a favorite conservative “hobby horse,” if you will (the old gray lady, that is), and giving it a ride for no good reason.

    And speaking of veterans, former U.S. Army Ranger and Democratic candidate in the PA-08 primary Kevin Strouse wrote an Op-Ed that recently appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times (here). In it, he protested yet another ridiculous Paul Ryan budget that voucherizes Medicare (again), cuts Pell Grants (again), cuts SNAP assistance including food stamps (again), and refuses once more to invest in infrastructure spending (I’m paraphrasing because the Guest Opinion is now behind the paper’s utterly laughable pay wall…and to be fair, his primary opponent Shaughnessy Naughton wrote the following here).


    (And as long as I’m on the subject, I’d like to hear something besides roaring silence on the issue of Paul Ryan and his horrendous budgets from the Roman Catholic Church, notwithstanding symbolic yet still important comments on this subject from Pope Francis. I know the Church in the US is primarily “in bed” with the Republican Party, but I just wish they weren’t so damn obvious about it.)

    I think this merits support of Kevin Strouse from filthy, unkempt liberal blogger types such as yours truly, and if you agree, please click here.

    Update 6/18/14: Another inglorious moment involving Hegseth is here (BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI!!!).

  • Next (and continuing with faith matters), I give you this from someone at Fix Noise named Jay Sekulow…

    The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Clemson University a “letter of complaint” detailing (Clemson football coach Dabo) Swinney’s alleged constitutional violations, including such atrocities as the team’s volunteer chaplain writing Bible verses on a whiteboard and the team making available bus transportation to players who wish to attend church.

    In a reasonable constitutional world, this complaint would be ignored by the media and discarded by the university. After all, there’s no evidence that Clemson or Coach Swinney did anything other than expose players to the coach’s religious point of view, a point of view he’s constitutionally entitled to hold and express.

    Players were not compelled to attend church or Bible study, and the university is not paying the volunteer chaplain. So, how could any of these actions “establish” a religion within the meaning of the Establishment Clause (sic).

    In response, I give you the following from here

    Responding to what it says was a complaint sent to it by a member of the public, the FFRF had one of its five staff attorneys investigate the program via open records requests over the constitutionally protected separation between church and state.

    It uncovered a host of issues, from Swinney directly hiring the team chaplain (even Clemson policy says the players should choose), to coaches participating in testimonials and bible studies, to buses being organized to transport the entire team to “Church Day” at a local Baptist Church.

    The letter, in great detail, cites various university policies and case law that are violated by these actions. It’s a thorough letter. And it goes after Swinney, who it claims as a public employee is barred from participating in any official capacity in the religious activities of his players or underlings.

    As a thumbnail, the FFRF says a coach should never discuss religion with a player, let alone stop practice for prayer sessions or sponsor after-hour testimonials. Should a player come to him seeking religious guidance, he should encourage him to seek out the innumerable faith-based groups on a major college campus. Clemson boasts 41 of them, ranging from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to groups and congregations for Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Jews and others. There is even the Secular Student Alliance of Clemson for atheists, agnostics and others.

    “The religious counseling should be outside the athletic department,” (the FFRF’s Annie Laurie) Gaylor said.

    I’ll grant you that there are bigger issues out there to address, and if Swinney is as devout as he appears to be, then he should be commended. However, I also think that he shouldn’t be allowed to proselytize on the job if public money is involved.

    And I think this is all amusing coming from Sekulow anyway, who has no issue with Swinney carrying on as he does, yet somehow was still one of the loudest voices against the so-called “ground zero mosque,” as noted here (Sekulow also supports Hobby Lobby over the so-called “contraception mandate” of the Affordable Care Law, as noted here, basically arguing that religious freedom is conditional for people Sekulow likes, but should be guaranteed regardless for corporations – riiiiight).

  • Further (and returning to The Daily Tucker), I give you this from someone named Mytheos Holt, claiming that …

    The economist Robert Samuelson has pointed out repeatedly that Social Security, far from being insurance against the dangers of old age, which merely gives recipients back what they already paid in. It is, in fact, nothing but “middle class welfare.” Quoting Samuelson:

    Benefits shift; they’re not strictly proportionate to wages but are skewed to favor low-wage earners – a value judgment reflecting who most deserves help; and they aren’t paid from workers’ own “contributions.” But we ignored these realities and encouraged people to think they “earned” benefits and that Social Security is distinct from the larger budget. Politicians, pundits, think-tank experts and journalists engaged in this charade to spare Social Security’s 54 million recipients the discomfort of understanding they’re on welfare.

    Let’s see, “middle-class welfare,” “generational theft” – yep, the dog whistles are at the ready…also, the article claims that lifting the payroll tax cap won’t do anything to keep Social Security solvent (uh, no).

    Here is a more in-depth response from Dean Baker (who knows a thing or two about this stuff), including the following…

    Robert Samuelson is once again calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, ostensibly in the name of generational fairness. Samuelson makes the now common argument that a hugely disproportionate share of government spending goes to these programs that primarily serve the elderly. Of course, using Samuelson logic we should also complain that a hugely disproportionate share of government expenditures go the very wealthy.

    The reason that the wealthy get a disproportionate share of government expenditures is that they bought government bonds which pay interest. The reason that the elderly get a disproportionate share of government benefits is that they paid Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes that were intended to support these programs.

    Samuelson goes on to complain that Social Security has become a “middle-age retirement system,” citing Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute. Samuelson apparently is not familiar with data on life expectancy that shows that workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution have seen relatively small gains in longevity over the last three decades. He is apparently also unfamiliar with Steurele’s calculations on the rate of return that retirees get on their Social Security benefits. For many middle income retirees in the baby boom cohorts it will be less than 1.0 percent and in some cases less than zero, according to Steuerle.

    What is remarkable about Samuelson’s piece is that there is absolutely zero effort to consider any real issues of generational equity in a piece that is ostensibly devoted to the topic. For example, there is no discussion of the fact that the current generation of near retirees experienced an unprecedented period of wage stagnation over their working lifetime. The median hourly wage in 2010 is less than 10 percent higher than it was in 1973.

    By contrast, the Social Security trustees project that average hourly wages will rise by more than 40 percent over the next three decades. While it is possible that income inequality will continue to increase so that these gains again go overwhelmingly to the top, there is no precedent in U.S. history for the level of inequality that this would imply.

    Yes, all of this is obvious. Yes, what we need to do is expand the Social Security entitlement, not do everything we can to kill it. But we need to drive this home every way we can as often as possible (and to help with that, click here).

  • Continuing, I give you the following unintentional bit of hilarity from Irrational Spew Online (here, with the understated claim that, by advocating for renewable energy sources, Chris Hayes, of MSNBC and The Nation, wants to kill 5.7 billion people)…

    There are many more moderate suggestions than Hayes’s on the carbon-cap continuum. But his goofy idea makes clear that all of these involve some diminution in human life: less health, less longevity, fewer opportunities to pursue happiness. At some level that translates into fewer people — a consummation many warmists might devoutly wish, though few would admit that. (As green panics go, overpopulation is long over; global warming is merely on its way out.)

    Hayes is right to equate the battle against fossil fuels with one of history’s greatest moral struggles. He’s just wrong to think he’s on the side of humanity.

    I don’t think Hayes or anyone else who questions our energy consumption should be criticized for it, for the reasons noted here (basically, ignoring other environmental “multipliers” associated with our energy consumption is a rather pin-headed argument to make, and if fewer of those multipliers come from renewables, then what else is there to think about?).

    And overpopulation, as a global threat, is “long over”? Really?

    (Actually, I have a feeling that NRO’s Tim Cavanaugh was referring to this…i.e., 6.8 billion people living as a result of fossil fuels, 1 billion not…don’t have any data to argue with him on that).

    And if Cavanaugh doesn’t want to believe me on the importance of renewables vs. fossil fuels, fine. Read the following from here

    The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is the nation’s largest energy user. In recent years, DoD has launched several initiatives to reduce its fossil Fuel use by improving energy efficiency (i.e., reducing wasted energy) and shifting to renewable energy such as biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar to meet operational and installation needs. Energy efficiency and renewable energy can benefit mission effectiveness, the environment, and the bottom line, as outlined in the following excerpt from a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding between DoD and the Department of Energy (DOE):

    Energy efficiency can serve as a force multiplier, increasing the range and endurance of forces in the field while reducing the number of combat forces diverted to protect energy supply lines, as well as reducing long-term energy costs. DoD is also increasing its use of renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand to improve energy security and operational effectiveness, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in support of U.S. climate change initiatives, and protect the DoD from energy price fluctuations. Solving military challenges through innovation has the potential to yield spin-off technologies that benefit the civilian community as well.

    Which brings me, in a roundabout way I’ll admit, to Hayes’s recent post here. As the moderator of “All In,” I get it that he has the right to have conservatives on his show. But the problem is that all these people do is pollute the information blood stream, if you will, leaving it up to little fish like me in the great, big bloggy ocean, if you will, to speak truth to stoo-pid – mixing my metaphors I guess.

    And I’m not talking about this idiotic “conservative vs. liberal” parlor game that has masqueraded for intelligent political discourse in this country for the last 30 years or so. I’m talking about verifiable truth and reality. When Jennifer Stefano starts foaming at the mouth because she thinks Hayes is trying to talk down to her or something, and Paul Wolfowitz basically tries to argue that liberals are too scared to stand up to terrorists or whatever, guess what? The fact that these people tend to be conservative is irrelevant. What matters is that they are wrong. I would also argue that they know that they are wrong and continue to argue anyway, pushing their talking points regardless. And as far as I’m concerned, when people like Stefano or Wolfowitz do that, then they lose the right to engage in a discussion on a nationally televised program featuring news analysis and political commentary.

    Note to Hayes: See what happens when you try to play fair and square with the wingnuts?

  • Finally, I absolutely have to say something about this item from last week…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Election-year memo to Democratic candidates: Don’t talk about the economic recovery. It’s a political loser.

    So say Democratic strategists in a blunt declaration that such talk skips over “how much trouble people are in, and doesn’t convince them that policymakers really understand or are even focusing on the problems they continue to face.”

    In addition, Stan Greenberg, James Carville and others wrote that in head-to-head polling tests the mere mention of the word “recovery” is trumped by a Republican assertion that the Obama administration has had six years to get the economy moving and its policies haven’t worked.

    Coincidentally or not, Democrats have largely shelved the “R” word.

    God, this makes me want to vomit.

    If the “polling” on the issue of the economy supposedly doesn’t work, then try making the case that the U.S. House Republican “leadership” doesn’t know a damn thing about managing our economy. Worse, they have a vested interest in continued economic hardship since they think that is a winner of an issue for them politically. However, just because that is so doesn’t mean that you roll up your tent, refuse to make a fight, and walk away.

    Because, as noted from here

    As it turns out, (Speaker John) Boehner has decided that every time House Republicans pass a bill that advances House Republican priorities, the party gets to label that a “jobs bill.” The GOP approved more oil drilling? That’s a “jobs bill.” The GOP voted to take away health care benefits from millions of Americans? That’s a “jobs bill,” too. The GOP disapproves of clean-air regulations? “Jobs bill.” The GOP wants more “transparency” in federal spending? “Jobs bill.” Republicans cut food stamps? “Jobs bill.”

    I’m not exaggerating in the slightest; this is all from the list of “jobs bills” the Speaker of the House has pulled together and presented to the public. How many actual jobs would be created if these bills became law? No one knows because Republicans never submitted them for independent economic scrutiny, but GOP leaders are confident the answer is, at a minimum, some.

    How reassuring.

    It’s why the parties so often seem to be talking past one another. For congressional Democrats, jobs bills have to relate to job creation in a meaningful way, then be scored by independent economists to determine how many jobs are likely to be created by the proposed legislation. For congressional Republicans, jobs bills happen to be whatever bills the GOP likes – even anti-abortion bills.

    And as noted here, the following actual jobs-related bills were passed by the House with at-or-near-100-percent opposition from Boehner, Eric Cantor, and his same-party playmates (including Mikey the Beloved, of course)…

  • The American Clean Energy and Security Act
  • The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act
  • Jobs for Main Street Act
  • Small Business Jobs and Credit Act
  • The America COMPETES Act
  • This has led to 49 straight months of private sector job growth (here). And the results would be better if the House decided to get serious on immigration reform (here) and raising the federal minimum wage (here – granted, job growth might be negligible, but it would represent progress, and it would help millions stay in their jobs as opposed to losing them).

    And about Stan Greenberg in particular, I believe the following should be noted from here

    “The Republican focus on Obamacare is backfiring,” says (Greenberg), a top Democratic pollster, who conducted the survey (which found an increasing approval rating for health care reform) with a GOP counterpart. “They’re on the wrong side of the issue.”

    The surprising resurrection of Obamacare is poised to have broad political ramifications come November. During the darkest days of the healthcare.gov rollout last fall, Republicans made what seemed a safe bet that the unpopularity of the law would help deliver another midterm-election romp, just as it did in 2010. The GOP electoral strategy has been supported by millions from the Koch-backed Super PAC Americans for Prosperity, which has been bombarding key Senate swing states with anti-Obama¬care TV ads intended to destroy vulnerable Democratic incumbents like Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina. But so far the impact of these kinds of ads has been modest, registering with voters as both old hat and “overreach,” says Greenberg, the Democratic pollster.

    Public opinion on Obamacare is now shifting. A Pew poll in March found that a 71 percent supermajority either supports Obamacare or wants politicians to “make the law work as well as possible,” compared to just 19 percent of the electorate that wants to see the law fail.

    Though Ted Cruz and the #fullrepeal crowd may still excite the GOP’s Tea Party base, their message is no longer a clear winner among independents in the general election. The House leadership is taking notice. After more than four dozen votes attempting to repeal or roll back Obamacare, the House GOP is scrambling to come up with a policy it could market as a replacement. In a startling admission, GOP House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy acknowledged that the GOP’s old playbook isn’t cutting it anymore. “The country has changed since Obamacare has come in,” he told the Washington Post. “We understand that.”

    House Republicans have learned the hard way that even nibbling around the edges of Obamacare can backfire. In February, the GOP pushed a bill to tweak the mandate that businesses offer health care to all employees working more than 30 hours. Switching to the GOP’s preferred 40-hour standard, it turns out, would add $74 billion to the deficit by 2024 and cause nearly 1 million Americans to lose coverage. That’s the kind of move that would play right into Democratic hands. Says Greenberg, “Democrats do very well when they hit back at Republicans on what people lose.”

    Until recently, Greenberg had been advising Democrats to move beyond Obamacare and turn to bread-and-butter issues like jobs and the minimum wage. “The strongest attack on Republicans,” he says, “is that they’re obsessed with Obamacare instead of critical issues like dealing with the economy.” But his new poll has Greenberg rethinking that counsel. “Until now, this is an issue where the intensity has been on the other side,” he says. But defending Obamacare, he adds, has emerged as “a values argument for our base.” Greenberg now believes Democrats “ought to lean much more strongly” to campaign on the virtues of Obamacare as a means of boosting progressive turnout. “Not apologizing for Obamacare and embracing it actually wins the argument nationally,” he says. “And it produces much more engagement of Democratic voters. That’s a critical thing in off-year elections.”

    So instead of walking around on eggshells, as it were, run an ad leading off with “Obamacare” and tout its successes (kind of like this), then point out that the same people who were wrong about that were entrusted with helping Obama to manage the economy, and they’ve failed on that score too.

    Sure, talk about women’s issues in the workplace (which ultimately are family issues anyway). But give voters a reason to vote for you by pointing out how different you are from the opposition, or else you’ll lose.

    And one more thing – don’t accept political commentary from the AP’s David Espo as gospel (here).


  • Tuesday Mashup (4/15/14)

    April 15, 2014

    equal pay

  • I know my “A” list “betters” have already pilloried Beltway media stenographer Ruth Marcus who said here in Jeff Bezos Daily that the Senate Dems’ language on equal pay for women is “revolting,” but I feel compelled to “pile on” anyway.

    And that is because what is really revolting is the fact that congressional Republicans have blocked the legislation Marcus ridicules three times now, including the occasion noted here from June 2012 (as the story notes, the equal pay issue sprung from the Lilly Ledbetter Law, passed and signed by Obama to correct yet another awful Supreme Court decision, this one limiting workers’ rights to sue for alleged pay discrimination – no word from Marcus on whether or not she thinks any of that is “revolting” also).

    With all of this in mind, I think it’s time to revisit the following lowlights from Marcus:

  • As noted here, Marcus also criticized Mary Cheney for supporting marriage equality (actually, opposing her sister Liz’s opposition to same, and yes, I know this puts me in the utterly weird position of actually defending a member of the family of Dick Cheney).
  • Marcus also said here once said that “80 percent of people with employer-sponsored health insurance would be unaffected” by a 2007 health care proposal from Dubya that would have led to smaller Social Security payouts for workers who participated.
  • She also sprang to the defense of former Bushie “Abu” Gonzales here.
  • Here, “Glenzilla” took Marcus to task in a discussion about NSA leaker Edward Snowden (yep, Greenwald is definitely someone who gives it to you straight, whether you like it or not).
  • Marcus had a problem here with recess appointments under Obama, but not under Dubya since her husband benefitted from it.
  • A whole bunch of stuff on Marcus can be accessed from here (some duplicate items I’ll admit).
  • It’s pretty disheartening to be a Dem when you don’t see your candidates mixing it up with the Repugs they claim to be running against, instead opting for some “sensible centrist” BS campaign that inevitably loses elections. And that is just fine with Marcus and her effete brethren, tut-tutting over that nasty rabble who dares to hold her to account while she hob-knobs with the “smart set” and politely asks to pass the sweet and sour shrimp.

  • And speaking of corporate media wankery, I give you this prize from Matt Bai (in the matter of “Wall Street Scott” Brown taking his act on the road to New Hampshire)…

    Constituency-shopping now isn’t only viable for a glamorous candidate like Hillary Clinton, an Arkansan by way of Illinois who followed RFK’s path to a Senate seat from New York. In a sense, most of our leading politicians now are carpetbaggers of one kind or another. Barack Obama is from Hawaii or Illinois or even Kansas, depending on how you look at it. Mitt Romney was a Massachusetts governor with a political base in Utah. The Bushes are from Maine and Texas and Florida.

    Yes, but not a one of them tried to flip from one Congressional seat to another representing constituencies from completely separate states, did they?

    Oh, and let’s not forget how Bai also once claimed that we lefties “demand…partisan government,” or something, here.

  • Next, it looks like Murdoch Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens is in a particularly crabby mood today, lashing out at Republicans and Democrats alike and basically arguing that Rand Paul should win the Repug presidential nomination (God, how can we seriously be talking about that already?) “because maybe what the GOP needs is another humbling landslide defeat” (here).

    See, our Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) scribe is mad at Paul (the junior senator from a state with eight electoral votes, as Stephens puts it) because the “ophthalmologist” criticized “Deadeye Dick” Cheney and the rest of Bushco for waging war in Mesopotamia to make scads and scads of dough for Halliburton (I think you can chalk this up to the broken clock that is right no more than twice a day).

    So how does Stephens put it?

    …It’s the signature question of every conspiracy theorist with an unhinged mind. Cheney. Halliburton. Big Oil. The military-industrial complex. Neocons. 9/11. Soldiers electrocuted in the shower. It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

    Is Stephens seriously trying to argue that the documented incidents of our soldiers electrocuted in showers in Iraq and Afghanistan (I must have slept through the scathing congressional hearings that took place over that one…right?) are instead the work of “every conspiracy theorist with an unhinged mind?”

    As repugnant as that false equivalency is, it is totally in character for Stephens, given his prior commentary on Iraq as noted here.

  • Further, this story seemed to come and go about the U.S. potentially allowing international control over domain names that used to be under our purview, but I thought it rated a mention (especially since that moonbat Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was caterwauling about it in the House)…

    The “domain name system” is sort of like the phone book for the Internet—it’s the tool your computer used to convert the URL “Time.com” into the unique code of numbers and letters that are the actual address for this website—and it has historically been owned by the United States but administered through the international nonprofit ICANN. The Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters Act (a name excruciatingly eked out of the DOTCOM Act acronym) would, if passed into law, prevent the Obama Administration from going through with its plan to permanently turn control of the Internet’s domain name system over to an international authority comprised of various Internet stakeholders. Under the DOTCOM Act, that handover would be delayed at least until the completion of a government study into the implications of such a move.

    I honestly don’t know enough about this issue to comment much one way or the other, but here is my question – how come there are so many congressional representatives on both sides who are apparently up in arms over a real or imagined threat to the Internet from non-U.S. “actors,” but these same folks apparently have no issue with the telcos running completely roughshod over any attempts to maintain a free and open internet in this country via Net Neutrality?

    Yes, I know the answer (ka-ching!), but I need to ask anyway.

  • Continuing, I haven’t bothered to find out what “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction” (as James Wolcott calls him) has been up to for a little while now, so I give you the latest from a certain V.D. Hanson here (looks like it’s more indignation over supposed liberal persecution)…

    What if you supported equality for all Americans regardless of their sexual preference, but — like presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 and about half the country today — opposed making gay marriage legal?

    If you were the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, you would be forced to resign your position.

    Awww…

    The departure of Brendan Eich, as far as I’m concerned, was nothing more than the free market, so beloved by Hanson and his playmates, at work. And that would be the same free market that dispatched Martin Bashir from his job as an MSNBC commentator, even though he apologized for an inference about Sarah Palin that was admittedly sickening (matched only by Palin’s original comments about slavery).

    abughraibhood
    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about a supposed liberal “inquisition,” let’s not forget that this image (the closest thing to an honest-to-goodness, for real inquisition that I can recall) can be traced back to the foul, fetid Bushco reign, with that gang being comprised of anything but liberals.

    Besides, if Hanson honestly cared about free speech in the workplace, then he might want to read this column from Slate’s Jamelle Bouie on the subject, particularly the following…

    …let’s grant that…Eich’s forced resignation is an attack on speech, and that this is an ugly bout of bullying against someone who hasn’t expressed his views in the context of his job. If that’s true, then Eich is just the highest profile victim of a status quo that threatens countless workers.

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act might protect workers from discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin, but almost everything else is fair game for private employers who want to get rid of workers. Not only can you be fired for your political views—for sporting the wrong bumper sticker on your car, for instance—or for being “sexually irresistible” to your boss, but in most states (29, to be precise), you can be fired for your sexual orientation or gender identification, no questions asked.

    In any case, there’s nothing conservatives can do about Eich’s resignation. But they can join with labor activists and others to push for greater worker protections, like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. For as much as employer flexibility is important to a dynamic economy, it’s also true that no one should fear firing for the people they love, the identity they claim, or the donations they make.

    Simply put, if conservatives are frustrated by the treatment of Eich for his role in Proposition 8, then they should be outraged by the treatment of ordinary people at the hands of the people who employ them.

    More on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is here, which has been introduced in congressional sessions for just about 20 years and has been stalled every time (the latest version has passed the Senate and is currently stuck in the U.S. House…shocking, I know).

    Update 4/16/14: And as long as I included that pic, here is an update.

  • On we go – this from The Daily Tucker tells us the following…

    Senate Republicans warn that President Obama’s new focus on agricultural methane emissions could mean a tax on livestock emissions — including cow flatulence.

    South Dakota Sen. John Thune and fellow GOP senators sent a letter to Obama administration officials urging them not to regulate livestock emissions as part of the president’s crusade against global warming.

    Obama’s “Climate Action Plan” would require the dairy industry to reduce methane emissions by 25 percent by 2020. The Agriculture Department, Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency are set to put together a “Biogas” roadmap to reduce methane emissions.

    Republicans argue that Obama’s methane reduction plan could lead to “heavy-handed” regulations that would “have detrimental implications on livestock operations across the country.”

    The EPA is currently barred from regulating methane emissions from livestock production through an “annual appropriations rider” that expires every year. But this does not mean the EPA will not try again, warn Republicans.

    Of course, EPA head Gina McCarthy (as the piece tells us) said that the EPA has no plan to try and regulate methane emissions from “cow flatulence.” Which is a shame, actually.

    And that is because, as noted here, “cow flatulence and indigestion is really no joke: measuring and reducing methane emissions from all of the world’s livestock is a serious area of study.”

    Continuing…

    …there is general agreement that livestock farming worldwide is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, producing 80 million metric tons of methane a year, or about 28% of global methane emissions from human-related activities.

    Meanwhile, researchers at the University of New Hampshire had to defend their $700,000 Department of Agriculture grant to study reducing emissions from cow burps at organic dairy farms, when it wound up on Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s list of the most wasteful government programs.

    Researchers in Argentina don’t think cow farts are a laughing matter either. They have strapped plastic tanks to cows’ backs in order to trap and measure the amount of methane each animal produces (a 1200-pound cow produced 800 to 1000 liters of emissions each day). With about 55 million head of cattle grazing on grasslands in its beef industry, Argentina has a significant stake in understanding this source of its greenhouse gases (which could be as high as 30 percent of its total emissions).

    And as noted from here

    Most of the planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution in the United States comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Methane accounts for just 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution — but the gas is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on future global warming.

    So go ahead and keep making your “Apocalypse Cow” jokes, wingnuts, while our planet slowly melts, our waters dry up and we all choke to death on our own fumes. Heckuva job!

  • Kathleen_Sebelius_official_portrait

  • Finally, I just wanted to say thanks to departing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who probably will get only a speck of the credit she is due for helping to ensure that the Affordable Care Act became law; millions of Americans have benefitted and will benefit by obtaining health coverage when they would have otherwise been denied, in no small part because of her efforts (I thought this was a well-done appreciation – this also).

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