Pat Toomey’s Greatest Hits

July 18, 2016

Pat_Toomey

Well well, it looks like PA’s U.S. senatorial mistake is running for re-election, for the benefit of anyone who didn’t know that.

What has he been up to over the last six years? Well, let’s consider the following:

  • Remember the deadly Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia in May of last year? Well, as noted here, Toomey…

    …has campaigned (for years) to delay a multibillion-dollar railroad safety technology, calling it an “exorbitantly expensive unfunded mandate.”

    But safety officials say the technology would have prevented last week’s deadly train crash in Philadelphia. And Democrats argue that the railroads were starved of the money necessary to finish it.

    Interviewed two days after the crash, Toomey abandoned some of his budget-cutting bombast of years past. He’s dropped his sponsorship of legislation that would postpone the safety system rollout for several more years. And he says the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority that he was trying to protect from unnecessary spending no longer needs a delay.

    Asked whether he thinks there should be any further delay in the positive train control system rollout, Toomey replied: “No.”

    Of course, 8 people were killed and over 200 people were injured (here), which, I suppose as far as Toomey is concerned, is a small price to pay to maintain his Teahadist bona fides.

  • Also, as noted from here

    After voting for sending our military to war in Iraq, Toomey voted against every – every – single Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations bill up to last December – as well as voting against the $21 billion standalone Veterans Health and Benefits Bill that would have helped at-risk veterans.

    Toomey voted against the standalone Veterans Jobs Act three years ago that would have helped returning Iraq and Afghanistan warriors find jobs at a time when their unemployment rate was higher than the unemployment rate of civilian Pennsylvanians. Toomey voted against the act even after it included a provision he requested for a jobs website.

    He has voted to defund Veterans Business Outreach Centers, which provide veterans with services that help them open businesses such as training, counseling, mentoring and referrals for eligible veterans who own a business or who want to start a small business. He’s voted against funding for the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which helps veterans go back to school so they can learn new skills and get jobs.

    But of course, that doesn’t prevent Toomey from saying the following on his web site (here)…

    Senator Toomey is proud of our men and women in uniform who are currently serving to protect the United States. The son of a former U.S. Marine and representing a state with one of the largest veteran populations in the country, he is also acutely aware of the nation’s commitment to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom. He understands how important it is that we continue to provide quality medical care and other benefits to veterans, both to those who served a generation ago, and to those just returning from fighting in the war against terrorism.

    What a dick.

  • In addition, I’m sure no one doubts that Toomey is allegedly “pro life,” but did you know that Toomey invested in Yorktown University, a for-profit college that “pushes an extreme, anti-woman ideology and preys on vulnerable students, including veterans”?

    As noted from here

    Yorktown has long been criticized for lacking appropriate accreditation, offering courses of questionable academic value, and preying on veterans who receive government tuition assistance. The revelation of Toomey’s involvement with the shady business venture comes as he throws his support behind Donald Trump, who is currently under investigation for defrauding students with his Trump University business scheme.

    “Sen. Toomey has voted to ban abortion and block access to basic health care for Pennsylvania families, so it’s unsurprising that he’s been secretly profiting from a school that teaches nostalgia for the Dark Ages,” said James Owens, states communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Sen. Toomey has fought against Pennsylvania families in Washington and now we learn he’s personally profiting from a Trump-style scam university that takes advantage of hardworking students. Sen. Toomey may be trying to hide his allegiance to Donald Trump, but it’s pretty apparent they both have no problem disrespecting women and the families they support while scamming hardworking Americans, including our veterans, who are just trying to get ahead.”

    Sen. Toomey has pushed legislation that would drive taxpayer dollars to disreputable educational institutions like this scam-university in which he is invested, despite findings that such institutions provide substandard academic quality while shackling students with debt. Yorktown University pushes a radical conservative agenda and describes pop music, modern art, and the modern discipline of psychology as “signs of serious cultural disturbance.” It pedaled a course that referred to the Enlightenment—the burst of discovery and knowledge that created the intellectual framework for the Declaration of Independence—as a “failed moral revolution.” Toomey’s investment in Yorktown has supported “professors” like Lawrence Roberge, who taught fanatical, anti-woman conspiracy theories such as the debunked claim that tetanus vaccines cause abortions. The revelations about Sen. Toomey’s shady educational deals comes amid the scandal surrounding Trump University, the scam university that Donald Trump is accused of using to defraud students.

    And oh yes, as long as we’re talking about the all-but-named Republican nominee for president, I should note how Toomey is trying to have it both ways; as noted here, Toomey felt that he had some kind of a right to lecture Trump on being a uniter, not a divider, or something (remember that one?), but when asked if he would support Trump for president, Toomey couldn’t even be bothered with mentioning the name of “Fergus Laing.”

  • Let’s see now…when it comes to filibustering President Obama’s nominees, Toomey opposed CIA director John Brennan (here – not going to shed tears much for that, though), Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (the last 3 here – Murthy must’ve offended the NRA by calling for treating gun violence as a public health issue as well as for a ban on assault weapons), and Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland (here).
  • Continuing, the following should be noted from here (harking back somewhat to the Amtrak accident):

    Sen. Toomey Personally Introduced Budgets That Would Require “Massive New Cuts” to Transportation and Infrastructure Funding. CBPP reported that Toomey’s FY 2012 budget “cuts funding for nondefense discretionary programs by nearly $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years…In 2021, it would impose a 30 percent cut in this category – which includes transportation and infrastructure.” Toomey’s FY 2013 budget would “make massive new cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, which funds everything from veterans’ health care to medical and scientific research, highways.”[CBPP, 5/25/11, 5/09/12]

    Sen. Toomey Repeatedly Supported House Republican Budgets That Threatened “Severe Cuts” to Transportation Infrastructure. Between 2011 and 2013, Toomey voted for the House Republican budget proposals. CBPP reported that the FY 2014 and 2013 budgets would threaten “severe cuts” for road and bridge planning, construction and rehabilitation. CBPP stated, “Cutting federal support for these projects would shift costs to states and localities, which would have to choose between raising more revenue or reducing their transportation investments and absorbing the indirect cost to their economies and quality of life.” ThinkProgress reported that Ryan’s FY 2012 budget “would strip more than $1.4 trillion from public investments in education, infrastructure.” [CBPP, 3/27/13, 12/05/12; ThinkProgress, 4/17/11; SCR 8, Vote #46, 3/21/13; HCR 112, Vote #98, 5/16/12; HCR 34, Vote #77, 5/25/11]

    Just Last Year – Sen. Toomey Voted for “Big Cuts” to Transportation Infrastructure. In 2015, Toomey voted for the Senate Republican budget proposal. CBPP reported that the budget would cut transportation and infrastructure funding by $123 billion, or 22 percent, over 10 years. CBPP reported that the budget would “result in significantly smaller highway and transit programs at a time when many urge more investment in infrastructure.” [CBPP, 3/27/15; SCR 11, Vote #171, 5/05/15]

    As noted here, though, this is in line with budgetary practices by Toomey that were considered to be harsher than Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv in the U.S. House here.

  • Toomey also introduced an amendment which would increase the threshold for bank examinations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from $10 billion to $50 billion. Since most banks don’t meet that asset threshold, 99 percent of all banks in the nation would have no federal regulator ensuring that they followed consumer financial protection laws. Of course, this is typical for Toomey, who has done all he can to derail the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as noted here.
  • Toomey abstained from voting for an amendment which would have reversed the $125 million cut in Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) funding to help retrain workers laid off by unfair foreign trade practices (S Amdt. 633 to HR 2832 – here).
  • Toomey also voted against the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution; the Plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030, including avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, according to the EPA (yes, I know the Supreme Court basically put all of this on hold, but that doesn’t change Toomey’s awful vote as far as I’m concerned – here).
  • Oh, and did I note that, according to an analysis from Buzzfeed News, Toomey missed 80 percent of Senate Budget Committee Hearings (to which Toomey belongs) since 2013 (here)?
  • And lest I forget, I should note that Toomey was one of 47 U.S. Senators who signed a letter telling Iran to ignore the nuclear deal negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry; speaking only for myself, I believe these 47 lowlifes are guilty of treason (here).
  • We have a golden opportunity to send Pat Toomey packing this year; let’s not waste it (to support Toomey’s Democratic opponent Katie McGinty, click here).

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    Friday Mashup (10/17/14)

    October 17, 2014

    mark-bio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Uh, yep.

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

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

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

    It gets better…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Well…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

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

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

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

    And from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fitzpatrick Voted Against Reducing the Veterans Disability Claims Backlog

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

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

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

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

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

    BACKGROUND:

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

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

    Fitzpatrick voted against quicker disability claims processing:

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

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

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

    ###

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

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


  • Thursday Mashup (9/25/14)

    September 25, 2014
  • Might as well start with the defining issue of the moment – I give you the following from Irrational Spew Online (here)…

    Since he ordered military action in Libya in 2011, President Obama has argued as a matter of routine that Article II of the U.S. Constitution confers such considerable power upon the commander-in-chief that, in most instances at least, Congress’s role in foreign affairs is limited to that of advice bureau. The political ironies of this development are sufficiently rich to stand without much comment. (Imagine, if you will, trying to explain to an average voter in 2008 that by his second term the Democratic candidate for president would have adopted wholesale an interpretation of the Constitution that was championed by the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and John Yoo.) Less obvious, however, is what this means for America and her future. The bottom line: It’s not good.

    (I can just see the perfectly-coiffed Charles Cooke arguing with his oh-so-genteel British accent on “Real Time” about how that nasty Barack Obama has suddenly turned into “Torture” Yoo. Nice try, wingnut.)

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

    To judge the legality of war against ISIS, the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State, we need to be clear about two issues. The first is whether the president can put troops in harm’s way on his own authority. While the Constitution vests in Congress the power to “declare war,” presidents have launched military attacks on their own for many decades. Obama used military force in Libya in 2011; Bill Clinton, in Serbia in 1999; George H.W. Bush, in Panama in 1989; and Ronald Reagan, in Grenada in 1983. In all these cases, and many more (including the Korean War), Congress did not give its consent.

    The White House has not relied on Article II to justify the war on ISIS. This theory is too closely associated with the Bush administration, which used it to justify surveillance and torture that violated statutes. The Obama administration instead pointed to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which gives the president authority to act “against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” The administration has also cited the 2003 AUMF that authorized the president to go to war to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq,” then governed by Saddam Hussein.

    The White House’s defenders argue that the 2001 AUMF gives Obama the authority he needs to fight ISIS because, while ISIS broke from al-Qaida in 2012, it is nonetheless composed of former al-Qaida members (at least in part), who have (or so it is argued by the administration) continuously conducted and sought to conduct attacks against the United States and its citizens and interests.

    Is war with ISIS the right thing to do right now? I don’t have a clue. I’m just some filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, not the President of the United States (God forbid).

    And no, don’t start with this “Well, if this were Dubya, you’d be screaming your head off” business. As usual, Obama is left to clean up a mess which ultimately extends to Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, for good or ill. When Obama starts a war of choice for no good reason and leaves it to his successor to clean up, then talk to me, OK?

    Besides, Congress, in its infinite cowardice, passed the hopelessly-open-ended Authorization to Use Military Force and doesn’t have the spine to try and do anything about that, particularly in an election year. Giving a chief executive that much power without a fixed target or duration is a recipe for bad news – Obama has the precedent, so why shouldn’t he use it if he thinks he has to?

    I know all of this stuff is evolving, and I guess I am too, but this is where I’m at on this issue, for better or worse.

  • Continuing with the “crazy” – Repug U.S. Sen. John Cornyn propagandizes as follows here

    Despite all the challenges facing our country, my colleagues in the majority continue to prioritize political stunts and show votes over serious legislating. Indeed, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. has allowed so few amendments that one of his fellow Senate Democrats recently told Politico, “I got more substance on the floor of the House in the minority than I have as a member of the Senate majority.”

    Actually, if Cornyn wants to blame anyone for alleged negligence in governance, he should look no further than his same-state, same-party counterpart (here)…

    WASHINGTON – In case you weren’t glued to C-Span2 for the last hour, here’s what you missed.

    The Senate voted 67-31 to quash a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz that would have blocked the Senate from lifting the federal debt ceiling. Cruz voted against cloture, naturally. But the top GOP leaders, fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, sided with Democrats to cut off the filibuster.

    The measure raising the federal credit line through March 2015 sailed through the House on Tuesday, after Speaker John Boehner decided that it would be better to let Democrats own it (only 28 Republicans voted aye) than to dig in, insist on budget concessions, and force a stalemate that would spook world markets and risk a default.

    Cruz announced the same day that he wouldn’t let the Senate raise the debt ceiling via a simple 51-vote majority. The filibuster threat pushed the threshold to 60.

    As GOP strategist John Feehery pointed out, Democrats control 55 votes, so without Cruz’s maneuver, they would have been fully responsible, politically, for raising the debt ceiling. Instead, Cruz put GOP leadership on the spot.

    Cornyn and McConnell – both facing tea party challengers for reelection – took the heat, and voted for cloture.

    Apparently, no senator wanted to be tarred as the one to put the vote over the top, though. At the end, a number of Republicans switched their votes simultaneously, giving political cover to each other and their party leaders. Among the switchers: Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

    The procedural vote was the key. The debt limit itself sailed through on a predictable party-line vote, 55-43.

    Everybody got that? Cornyn (who at the time was facing a Tea Party challenge from the otherwise laughable Steve Stockman) wanted to crow about how he’s supposedly holding the line on spending, but he and Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao also wanted the political cover to make that claim while, in reality, they (in a shocking moment of sensibility) actually voted to raise the debt ceiling.

    And Cornyn blames Harry Reid for not being “serious about solving the problems at hand”…

    Here are more “lowlights” of what Cornyn and fellow Repugs have wrought in the U.S. Senate…

  • They blocked a minimum wage hike here.
  • They obstructed on jobless benefits here.
  • They also obstructed on veterans’ benefits here.
  • They also killed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loans bill (which would have actually reduced the deficit, bringing in $72 billion in new revenues by implementing the so-called Buffet Rule, an added surcharge tax on millionaires to ensure that they pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes, as noted here).
  • Cornyn, in his column, also said that “our colleagues in the House of Representatives have sent over scores and scores of bills on job creation, taxes, health care, immigration, and other issues, only to have Senator Reid declare them dead on arrival.”

    Um, no – on the issue of job creation, Steve Benen tells us here that…

    …of the remaining 40 “jobs bills” on the list, very few can credibly be described as actual jobs bills.

    For example, the first 14 bills on the list of 40 – more than a third of the overall list – are giveaways to the oil and gas industries. The bills expand drilling, expand fracking, expand pipelines, expand mining, expands coal-ash projects, and “protect” coal plants. How many jobs would this collection of energy bills actually create? The heralded list from the Speaker’s office didn’t say, but the total would likely be pretty modest.

    Boehner can prove me wrong by getting an independent score on the collection of bills, but I have a hunch if all of these bills were combined into one package, they still wouldn’t produce as many jobs as extended unemployment benefits. Besides, the point of these bills is to help polluters, ExxonMobil, and energy companies. We can debate such efforts on the merits, but to consider every giveaway to Big Oil a “jobs bill” is hard to take seriously.

    OK, but that’s 14 out of 40. What about the rest of the list? Several of the “jobs bills” attack the Affordable Care Act, and there’s simply no evidence that taking health care benefits away from millions of American families will create jobs.

    The list of “jobs bills” includes the Farm Bill. The list of “jobs bills” includes Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint. The list of “jobs bills” includes a pointless measure intended to stop President Obama from allowing state experimentation with welfare reform.

    The list of “jobs bills” includes a measure to increase federal spending “transparency.” The list of “jobs bills” includes a framework on cybersecurity.

    I hate to break this to Speaker Boehner, but a lot of these measures aren’t what any sensible person would call a proper “jobs bill.” They may or may not have merit on their own, and they may or may not require some modicum of new hiring, but legitimate legislative efforts to create lots of jobs – such as the American Jobs Act, unveiled in 2011 and killed by congressional Republicans soon after – aim higher.

    Indeed, independent analysts determined the American Jobs Act would have created over 1 million U.S. jobs in just one year. Can the same be said for Boehner’s misleading list of 40? Common sense suggests otherwise, though we can’t say for sure since the Speaker’s office hasn’t sought an independent analysis.

    And by the way, who can forget Cornyn’s singularly rancid defense of the wretched Patriot Act here?

  • Next, it’s time for the latest adventures with Louisiana Repug Gov. Bobby (“Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal here

    Like many liberals, President Obama believes in making energy less affordable, and more scarce, for the American people. That’s why, even as crude oil production has skyrocketed on private lands—rising 61% in just the last four years—it has fallen on publicly-owned property in the same time span. The administration is deliberately squandering the opportunities that affordable energy can bring by refusing to develop all the energy resources owned by the American people.

    This column is meant to publicize Jindal’s 47-page proposal on energy with the understated title of “Organizing Around Abundance: Making America an Energy Superpower.”

    As Meteor Blades of Daily Kos notes here

    …Jindal’s plan is pretty much the standard right-wing blueprint: a minor manifesto filled with the same ideas that the string-pullers in the fossil-fuel industry have been promoting for decades: support for more drilling (including fracking) of oil and gas, more digging of coal, chopping of environmental regulations, opening up more federal land to drillers and diggers, building more nuclear power plants, finishing the Keystone XL pipeline and ending the ban on exporting crude oil.

    There’s also a complaint about the “activist” Supreme Court majority, which ruled 5-4 in 2007 that the Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

    The Jindal plan does offer some lip service to renewable energy. But mostly this section is just boilerplate about the rapid, no-longer-can-be-ignored growth of renewable installations. The rest of the section is an argument against the tax incentives designed to ramp up the generating of electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and hydro sources. Though hardly original, the governor proposes that the still toddling renewables industries compete on a “level playing field” with the mature fossil fuel industry. In other words, not level competition at all.

    Also, as noted here on the whole drilling on “publicly-owned property” thing, the feds have the right to own and drill on states’ lands, and any claim to revert back to the states wouldn’t stand up in court; besides, what we’re talking about basically here is more $$ for corporations vs. taxpayers, and 71 percent of those polled oppose it.

    Continuing (from Jindal)…

    If we develop our untapped energy resources, our nation could see a new burst of economic growth and prosperity. One study, noting the benefits of unconventional oil and gas exploration, found that this fracking revolution created 2.1 million jobs in 2012—and could create another 1.8 million jobs between now and 2025.

    In response (here)…

    A study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 21st Century Energy Institute says the extraction of “unconventional” shale oil and gas through horizontal hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – has meant a job boom even in states that don’t actually have shale deposits, with 1.7 million jobs already created and a total of 3.5 million projected by 2035.

    The study was released in two phases in October and December, and a third phase is forthcoming.
    Skeptics with environmental and citizens groups have questioned the numbers and also the benefits that these jobs actually provide to local communities. Many industry jobs are not filled by local residents, and a boom town effect, including escalating cost of living and other social problems, has been documented in places where an extraction industry rapidly arises.

    They also say the study doesn’t account for the economic impacts of possible environmental problems and copious water use, or impacts on other industries and quality of life.

    “We’re definitely seeing some local jobs – anyone with a CDL and a dump truck can get work hauling gravel or pipes or produced water,” said Paul Feezel, a resident of Carroll County, Ohio, the epicenter of the state’s fracking boom.

    “There’s definitely more money floating around in the community, people buying new cars and agricultural equipment,” he said. “I’m told churches are seeing higher donations because people are tithing part of their signing bonus. But when you see the rigs and even the welders on the pipeline jobs, the license plates are all out-of-state.”

    (More on fracking is coming up a bit later, by the way, including one increased “cost of living” measurement.)

    Jindal yet again (here)…

    Most importantly, our plan to promote energy abundance stands in direct contrast to the Obama administration’s tired policies of energy scarcity and sluggish growth.

    In response, I think the headline here says it all, and it isn’t necessarily something I support…even though parts of Florida are gorgeous, I think they would deserve any of the environmental ruin this might cause (that’s what you get when you either vote for Republicans or don’t even bother to vote, period).

  • Further, did you know that (here)…

    Over 90 percent of funding for a diesel reduction program paid for by the stimulus law was misspent, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG).

    An audit analyzing $26.3 million in funding to non-profit organizations and state governments meant to reduce truck emissions and create jobs found that the program had “significant financial management issues.”

    OMIGOD, it looks like that Kenyan Marxist Socialist in the White House is at it again!

    There’s just one problem, as noted here

    Only six projects out of the 160 so-called “Diesel Emission Reduction Act” stimulus projects awarded by the EPA were reviewed by the inspector general. The entire grant program cost taxpayers about $294 million, but the IG only looked at a $26 million share of it.

    You know, it’s pretty sad for Fix Noise that they need to be fact-checked by the formerly Moonie Times, but I guess that’s where we are all right.

    Why does this matter? Well, in part because of the following from March 2009 (here)…

    EPA March 20 announced the availability of $20 million under the stimulus law for its Clean Diesel Emerging Technologies Program, $156 million for the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, and $30 million for the agency’s SmartWay Clean Diesel Finance Program. Guidance documents for the programs now encourage applicants to quantitatively project annual GHG reductions in funding requests, along with traditional measures including cuts in nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and fine particulate matter. In a press release, EPA said grantees will use the funding to implement projects that will cut thousands of tons of diesel emissions and “reduce premature deaths, asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, lost work days, and many other health impacts every year.”

    More on the awards for the $20 million Clean Diesel refinance program can be found from here.

    Oh, and remember that Cornyn guy I mentioned earlier? Well, as it turns out, both he and former Repug Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison wrote two letters “asking for consideration of grants for clean diesel projects in San Antonio and Houston,” that came from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, even though each voted against the so-called “stimulus” twice (both the ARRA and the “stimulus” are the same thing, it should be pointed out), as noted here.

    Also, this tells us that about $1 million in stimulus funds were allocated for clean diesel projects in Ohio, this tells us that about $1.7 was allocated for clean diesel projects in South Dakota, this tells us about stimulus funds used for clean diesel projects in Connecticut, and this tells us about clean diesel projects underway in Michigan.

    So it looks like the administration of Number 44 is helping the states to make inroads on the issue of toxic emissions from vehicles contributing to the pollution affecting our climate. Too bad that Obama can’t do anything about pundit pollution too.

  • Continuing, it looks like someone named Casey Given at The Daily Tucker says that liberals are, in fact, anti-science after all because we oppose fracking for natural gas (here)…

    A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is casting serious doubt on one of the environmental movement’s favorite talking points — namely, that fracking contaminates drinking water. The report, conducted by five professors from renowned universities such as Duke, Dartmouth, and Stanford, concluded that a number of water contaminations near fracking sites were most likely caused by well leaks — not fracking itself.

    Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for short, is a well stimulation technique that has been standard practice in the energy industry for over sixty years. The way it works is drillers pump a mixture of mostly water onto rocks deep below the earth’s surface to release trapped oil and gas.

    To begin, if fracking is supposed to be so damn wonderful, how come former VP “Deadeye Dick” Cheney obtained an exemption for the practice from the Safe Water Drinking Act in 2005, as noted here – more here?

    But not to worry… Given says that, because it has been supposedly proven that well casings are the culprit for groundwater contamination, can we stop picking on fracking? In response, I believe the well casings have to be leaking something other than, say, air or untreated water, or else none of this would matter (sounds to me that, by that logic, if you’re still bleeding from a gunshot wound but you’re bandaged, it’s the bandage’s fault that you’re still bleeding instead of the bullet’s fault, if you will).

    I’ll tell you what, though; I’ll humor Given and grant him his point about fracking. Well then, what does he say about the study noted here, in which scientists tells us that injecting fracking wastewater underground is causing earthquakes?

    Given also tells us that the fracking is great because it means that, in North Dakota (for example), the minimum wage is about $15 an hour. What good does that do when the rent on a one-bedroom apartment goes for about $1K a month (here)?

  • Finally (and in what is becoming a regular feature here I guess), I give you the following from Kevin Williamson (here, on the subject of rape on college campuses)…

    The subject is a maddening one. President Obama repeated the endlessly reiterated but thoroughly debunked claim that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in her college years. The actual rate is sort of an interesting problem, the information being so inconsistent and contradictory that one almost suspects that it is so by design.

    Much of the scholarly literature estimates that the actual rate is more like a tenth of that one-in-five rate, 2.16 percent, or 21.6 per 1,000 to use the conventional formulation. But that number is problematic, too, as are most of the numbers related to sexual assault, as the National Institute of Justice, the DoJ’s research arm, documents. For example, two surveys conducted practically in tandem produced victimization rates of 0.16 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively – i.e., the latter estimate was eleven times the former. The NIJ blames defective wording on survey questions.

    As noted here, “the NIJ is notable among U.S. governmental research organizations because it is headed by a political appointee of the President rather than by a scientist or a member of the civil service.” To me, it’s more than a little off to rely on an NIJ study into this subject because I think it demands a scientific analysis.

    Fortunately, a scientific analysis was conducted into this subject by the CDC. And that is where the “one in five” number came from, as noted here (more is here).

    We also learn the following from the CDC link…

    Rape, and other forms of sexual violence, is preventable. Recognizing this, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. This landmark legislation established the Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) program at CDC. The goal of the RPE program is to strengthen sexual violence prevention efforts at the local, state, and national level. It operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and six U.S. territories.

    And concerning the VAWA, I think the following should be noted from here

    …with Ray Rice in the news and the anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) upon us, it’s worth taking a minute to think about the connection between our everyday lives and what Congress can, and should, do to improve them.

    VAWA protects women from domestic violence. Period. It gives prosecutors stronger tools to crack down on domestic abuse and expands victims’ services for women. Since it became law two decades ago, VAWA has impacted the lives of millions of women and children around the country. It has protected women from abuse, provided support for women and children to escape violent situations, and improved the ability of law enforcement to handle this complicated issue. It has made a real difference.

    Which is why it mattered that House Republicans blocked VAWA reauthorization for 500 days. It mattered that House Republicans refused to strengthen the law and voted down an additional $4 million that would have bolstered prevention and prosecution programs.

    And it matters that Republican candidates like Representative Steve Southerland (FL-02) are now claiming to support VAWA in their re-election campaigns even though they voted against it in Congress.

    It matters to the women who need these protections. It matters to the women who call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help, which saw an 84 percent increase in calls after the Ray Rice incident hit the news (and which is, by the way, funded partially by VAWA).

    Of course, now that he’s running for re-election, Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao (here) is distancing himself from VAWA opposition any way possible (one way to respond is to click here).

    To me, both the CDC study and the issue of renewal of the VAWA is part of a larger mosaic, if you will, having to do with enlightened gender relations and mutual respect (I haven’t had a lot to say on this, aside from pointing out the absurdity of Janay Rice being more mad at the media on this than she is at her husband, and I’m not trying to criticize her by saying that, because I don’t think I have much of a right to pontificate). If we did a better job of accomplishing those two objectives, then there would be no need to quantify and study all the many ways that we fall short.

    And as noted from here, we still have a long way to go.

    Update 9/26/14: Well, it looks like the proverbial stopped clock was right one of two times here (h/t Atrios).

    Update 9/30/14: Update 9/30/14: Why do I have a feeling that Williamson is going to go the way of Robert Weissberg and John Derbyshire based on garbage like this?


  • Thursday Mashup (9/4/14)

    September 4, 2014
  • Since we have a new terrorist threat in the Middle East, that means that it’s time for our corporate media to return to the same babbling idiots for more non-solutions, including Pete Hegseth (here)…

    As any war fighter knows, the enemy always gets a vote on the battlefield. Just because we quit the Iraq war in 2011, doesn’t mean our enemies did.

    Case in point: the rise ISIS — now a self-declared Islamic State — in Iraq and Syria. Last week, it shook the collective American consciousness with its beheading of U.S. journalist and New Hampshire native, James Foley. But that was merely the latest demonstration of their brutal, systematic — and growing — radical Islamic movement.

    While the situation is complex, and blame shared, it is now clear that President Obama’s single-minded rush to remove all U.S. forces from Iraq — while simultaneously botching our (non)-policy in Syria — created the power vacuum these barbaric Islamists have rushed to fill.

    You know, it’s really tedious to keep mentioning over and over and over again that our troops were withdrawn from Mesopotamia at the end of 2011 because of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated under Obama’s ruinous predecessor, which I still believe was the right thing to do (here). And speaking of Number 43, let’s not forget for a second his role in the murderous fiasco in which we currently find ourselves, as noted here.

    And by the way, though Hegseth served for 9 months in Iraq (which is 9 months more than I did, I’ll admit), I don’t know how he can be proclaimed a military genius of sorts since he apparently was supposed to serve for 4 years in ROTC, as noted here

    Naming your Iraqi interpreter “John Kerry” is funny – for you – in Iraq. Reporting that fact to the Family Research Council is not, perhaps, in the best tradition of a non-partisan military. And suggesting in your hometown paper that Senator Durbin “handed our enemies a propaganda victory” is quite clearly inappropriate.

    It is unclear to me how Mr. Hegseth had time to complete…active duty required by his ROTC scholarship. And yet this person had the gall to argue with General Wesley Clark – 34-year veteran who won the Silver Star for Valor for commanding his unit after being shot 4 times – that the Webb amendment would give too much time off to soldiers and ruin unit cohesion. This he knew from his “firsthand experiences” Of course Pete switched units after just a few of his NINE MONTHS in Iraq, so obviously, well, he has no idea that the hell he’s talking about.

    I also give you the following from Hegseth:

  • Here, Hegseth was upset that a BENGHAZI!! suspect wouldn’t be tortured; he also claimed that there was somehow a timing factor involved to help the not-yet-officially-announced presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton (uh huh, sure…).
  • Here, Hegseth also tells us pretty much that he has a problem with women in combat.
  • Hegseth also said here that he believed that “Redskin” was meant as a term of respect (uh, no).
  • This tells us (among other details) that Hegseth’s group, Concerned Veterans for America, has ties to Chuckie and Dave Koch (figures – first bullet).
  • I’ve tried to take it easy actually on Pete Hegseth in the past in deference to his military service. However, I believe that the trail of ooze he has created as a result of his smarmy activities in politics and punditry have made it impossible for me to do that any longer.

  • And keeping with the subject of MOAR WAARRR, I give you the following from Anne Applebaum of the WaPo (here – h/t Atrios)…

    Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.

    In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?

    OK, so Applebaum says that we should prepare for war with Russia because September 2014 really is just like September 1939, dammit! Because one day 75 years in the future some pundit from another galaxy will visit what remains of Earth, find all our hashtags, blog posts and Instagram messages and wonder how we could have been so reckless to not rise up and thwart our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin and his global designs when we had the chance. Am I right?

    It’s interesting to me that Applebaum would have such misty water-colored memories of Poland now, though she didn’t feel that way about the Poles a few years ago, accusing “Allied governments” including that country of “cowardice” when Russia faced off with the country of Georgia a few years ago, as noted here (maybe a little “sock puppetry” on Applebaum’s part on behalf of her husband, who at the time was a Polish foreign minister?).

    (But to answer the question…yes, actually; the thought of war anywhere IS “a hysterical idea.”)

  • Next, in light of the story about the merger between Burger King and Tim Horton’s of Canada as part of BK’s “inversion” scheme, “Chuckles” Krauthammer (also of Jeff Bezos, Inc., where it’s best to keep employees completely in the dark, apparently) has the perfect solution (here)…

    What is maddening is that the problem is so easily solved: tax reform that lowers the accursed corporate rate. Democrats and Republicans agree on this. After the announcement of the latest inversion, Burger King buying Tim Hortons and then moving to Canada, the president himself issued a statement conceding that corporate tax reform — lower the rates, eliminate loopholes — is the best solution to the inversion problem.

    It’s also politically doable. Tax reform has unique bipartisan appeal. Conservatives like it because lowering rates stimulates the economy and eliminating loopholes curbs tax-driven economic decisions that grossly misallocate capital.

    The appeal to liberals is economic fairness. By eliminating loopholes, tax reform levels the playing field. Today, the more powerful companies can afford the expensive lobbyists who create the loopholes and the expensive lawyers who exploit them.

    Of course, even Krauthammer admits that, though the nominal corporate rate is about 35 percent, the effective rate (which any halfway decent corporate accountant should be able to obtain) is about 13 percent.

    I’ll tell you what, though – I’ll go Krauthammer one better; as noted here, Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich proposes that we eliminate the corporate income tax but set capital gains taxes at the same rate as ordinary income.

    As Reich explains…

    “In many cases, depending on the structure of the market, a significant share of the actual burden of paying the corporate income tax is often borne instead by employees in the form of lower wages, or consumers in the form of higher prices.”

    Is such an idea a panacea? No. But if this is the best way to take away “inversion” incentives for “U.S.” corporations while making corporate “persons” behave in a decent manner (in a move which is bound to be economically stimulative, by the way), then at the very least, I think it should be crafted into legislation for a congressional vote.

    I just have one request; please don’t use this as yet another excuse to try to take away the federal home mortgage interest deduction or deductions for state and local taxes again, OK?

    And as long as I’m mentioning the paper formerly run by Katharine Graham, I think this needs to be pointed out as well, unfortunately.

  • Further, it looks like we got us another “big gumint” Obama conspiracy on our hands, and Michael Bastasch of The Daily Tucker is ON IT, PEOPLE!!! (here)…

    Republicans are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of preparing to take control over vast swaths of land under the guise of protecting the country’s water resources. Lawmakers warn this could erode private property rights.

    The EPA has consistently denied they are trying to use the Clean Water Act to expand their regulatory reach, but Republicans say they have a smoking gun that shows the agency is up to something.

    Their proof? The EPA paid private contractors to assemble detailed maps of waterways and wetlands in all 50 states. The EPA maps were made in 2013, shortly after the agency proposed expanding its authority under the Clean Water Act. The maps were kept secret by the agency, but were obtained by Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

    And if you guessed that Repug U.S. House Texas moron (redundant?) Lamar Smith is involved, then you win a free barrel of toxic sludge…

    “These maps show the EPA’s plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country,”(Smith), the science committee’s chairman, wrote in a letter to the EPA demanding more answers on why they have a detailed map of U.S. waterways.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. Determining Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 21, 2014. The public comment period will be open for 182 days and will close on Monday, October 20, 2014.

    And by the way, the rule definition was requested by a rather lengthy list of individuals and agencies, including Repug Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, the New York City DEP, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Clean Water Action, and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), among many, many others.

    So, as nearly as I can determine, the maps were created in concert with the rule definition (40 CFR Parts 110, 112, 116, 117, 122, 230, 232, 300, 302, and 401) published in the Federal Register to clarify recent Supreme Court decisions. That would make sense because that’s the best way to determine the practical impact of the rule (which, as noted above, is still open for public comment – if Smith doesn’t like it, he is more than welcome to voice his opposition).

    But of course, Smith isn’t really so concerned with encouraging a dialogue on science and the environment as he is on trying to muzzle it, as noted here, so I don’t expect an intelligent response from him about the rule or much of anything else, really.

    Couric_Sawyer_Head
    (And keep it classy as always, Tucker, OK?)

  • Continuing, it looks like Louisiana Gov. Bobby (“Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal is desperately trying to remain relevant once more, as noted here

    (Jindal) filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in federal court Wednesday, claiming that the Department of Education has illegally manipulated grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the controversial Common Core standards.

    In the suit, Jindal argues that the Education Department’s $4.3 billion grant program “effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum” in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The suit asks a judge to declare the department’s actions unconstitutional and to keep it from disqualifying states from receiving Race to the Top funds based on a refusal to use Common Core or to participate in one of two state testing consortia tied to the department’s grant program.

    Well, the Teahadists should be amused anyway. As for the actual grownups, though, I give you the following from here

    Louisiana adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and worked toward full implementation by 2014-15. The initiative was on the right track, with Mr. Jindal’s staunch support. The Common Core standards “will raise expectations for every child,” he said in 2012.

    Late last year, as Common Core critics emerged, Mr. Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, began raising “concerns.” “Let’s face it,” he said last month. “Centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education.” Last week, he completed his reversal on the heels of a fundraising visit to South Carolina, saying he wants state officials to develop “Louisiana standards and Louisiana tests for Louisiana students.”

    How are those Louisiana standards working out so far? Louisiana’s fourth-graders rank 49th among the states in math proficiency. Eighth-graders rank 48th. Meanwhile, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., began raising standards in 2010 and now lead the country in reading and math score gains. In 1993, Massachusetts reformed its school system, placing rigorous standards front and center. It is now first in many education rankings.

    So apparently, Jindal didn’t have either the foresight/imagination/basic intelligence/all of the above to realize that Common Core needed modifications at the very least for Louisiana. But since he also saw that he could gain some kind of political traction by switching sides, he decided to adopt his current cowardly position.

    Also, I think the following should be noted about Common Core from here

    Question 1. Where do you think the drive for Common Core standards is coming from?

    Alfie Kohn: I don’t think we have to speculate; the answer is pretty clear: While some educational theorists have long favored national standards — and got nowhere with the idea in the ’90s — the current successful push has come principally from corporate executives, politicians, and testing companies. This time they managed to foster the illusion that because the federal government, per se, isn’t mandating it, they’re not really “national” but just “core” standards, even though all but four states have signed on. It’s rather like the effort to reframe vouchers as “choice.” They’ve also been very shrewd this time about co-opting the education organizations by soliciting their counsel. These groups are so desperate for a “seat at the table” of power that they’ve agreed to confine the discussion to the content of the standards rather than asking whether the whole idea makes sense for children.

    If your question is read more broadly — not just “Who are the players?” but “What’s the ideological underpinning?” — then all you have to do is look at the rhetoric on the Core Standards website, read the defenses published elsewhere, listen to the speeches: This move toward even greater top-down control and uniformity is almost always justified in terms of “competing in the global economy.” It’s not about doing well, but about beating others. And it’s not about intellectual depth and passion for learning, but about dollars and cents.

    And I also give you this

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan dismissed Jindal’s move as purely political.

    “Gov. Jindal was a passionate supporter before he was against it. So this, from that situation, is about politics. It’s not about education,” Duncan said in an interview on CBS This Morning.

    And if you want to find out how well this is really playing with the folks back home, as it were, then I think you should read this.

  • On we go – I took particular interest in this item

    Temple University has become the latest focal point for groups concerned about the spreading wave of campus anti-Semitism and academic-based Holocaust minimizing.

    Temple student Daniel Vessal, a fellow with CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), was drawn into a verbal exchange with anti-Israel activists at the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) table during an official college event on August 20, 2014. Vessal, in his junior year at the Temple University Fox School of Business, studying Management Information Systems and Entrepreneurship, was allegedly called a “kike,” “Zionist pig,” and “baby killer.” He was slapped so hard at the SJP table that he was sent to the hospital. A police investigation and legal action are underway. The assaultive SJP supporter has purportedly apologized, according to a published SJP statement, which states: “I’m sorry for what I did. I admit I lost my temper.”

    With lightning speed, 14 Jewish organizations reacted to the assault, releasing a joint public letter of protest to Temple University. The letter complained:

    A university campus should be the setting for thoughtful discussion and intellectual debate. Such an atmosphere should be encouraged by all responsible student groups. Unfortunately, Students for Justice in Palestine is not such a group. It has a proven track record of intimidation, harassment, and incitement merging into anti-Semitism against Israel and its supporters on campus.

    The swift-response joint letter was spearheaded by StandWithUs, which has become the nation’s pre-eminent campus pro-Israel advocacy group. Additional signatories included Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hasbara Fellowships, Proclaiming Justice to The Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, The Lawfare Project, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

    I do not begrudge any of the Jewish organizations in their response to the alleged attack on Daniel Vessal. There is no place for abusive language and real or implied violence in something that should resemble informed dialogue.

    However, I take personal offense at anyone who would consider my alma mater to be an “anti-Semetic hotspot” (yes, I saw the words of Adjunct Professor Alessio Lerro about how the Jews are allegedly using the Holocaust for political advantage – in the course of vigorous debate, you’re going to hear indefensible language I’ll admit; I have no problem acknowledging that our universities are more or less laboratories of free thought, or should be, even sometimes coming from organizations as the thoroughly disreputable group noted here).

    HuffPo writer Edwin Black does tell us that “More than 137,000 individual donations were made to Temple between 2010 and 2012 alone, according to university records examined. The university’s benefactors include many major gifts from Jewish donors and foundations arising from or controlled by Jewish individuals.” That’s the journalistically responsible thing to note in a piece like this.

    I would add that Temple is also home to The Myer & Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish Life as part of Temple’s College of Liberal Arts, which was founded in May 1990 (here). As the center’s website tells us: “Its mission is simple: Inspiring Inquiry. In collaboration with institutions in Philadelphia and beyond, the Feinstein Center invites the public to join conversations about Jewish culture, politics, history, and identity across time and space.”

    And as noted from here

    Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also acknowledged rising tensions on campuses and in communities.

    “It’s an unfortunate byproduct of a conflict that has gone on too long and should be stopped immediately,” he said. “But no overseas conflict can justify any form of anti-Semitism or intolerant action or speech.”

    If charges arise from this incident at Temple, then so be it. Otherwise, let’s put the intolerant generalizations aside, shall we?

  • Finally, I have to tell you that I came across this truly hilarious item from Hunter at Daily Kos; he’s taking to task a writer at Irrational Spew Online named Armond White who came up with a list of the 20 films that “destroyed art, social unity, and spiritual confidence,” as far as White is concerned.

    Number 20 is Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”; of course, forget for a moment that we’re talking about a towering cinematic achievement about passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, definitely original in that the story proceeds through dialogue and various other plot lines without much in the way of what you would call “action.”

    Also on White’s list is “Wall-E,” which is also not surprising since it features characters imitating American behavior in many ways who have been basically exiled into outer space because the planet they once inhabited is now thoroughly despoiled, though there is a bit of environmental hope at the end. And, as you might have expected, “The Dark Knight” made the list because it “undermine(s) heroism, overturn(s) social mores, and embrace(s) anarchy.”

    (I thought the “Batman” movies by Christopher Nolan were a bit of a nod to the “one percent” since they present their wheeling and dealing as important to the survival of Gotham City, though there are also “Occupy”-related themes, particularly in the last one, where the villain Bane uses them to give Gotham the illusion of hope while the city lives in terror, cut off from everyone else. Basically, I think that’s what makes those movies great art; you can look at them from a couple of different mindsets and create different impressions, with not one better or worse than another.)

    As you might have expected, though, Number One on White’s list is “Good Night and Good Luck” about the faceoff between CBS news legend Edward R. Murrow and communist-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy. I’m not going to get into the history of that encounter here; if you want to read more, feel free to click here.

    In the article about the program “See It Now,” where Murrow stood up to McCarthy and allowed the Wisconsin senator an opportunity for rebuttal, we learn that the broadcast did a good job of cutting McCarthy down to size, as it were. What isn’t as readily obvious is the aftermath to Murrow, the program, and the network. CBS ended up losing sponsors in droves (including Alcoa), the program was cut from an hour to a half-hour, and it was moved from prime time to Sunday afternoons. And oh yeah, the loss of sponsors also led to layoffs in the news division, and Murrow’s “cred” within the corporation was irreparably damaged as a result (all of this is portrayed in the movie).

    The moral? If somehow you are remunerated or rewarded for telling the truth in the face of great opposition, especially of the corporate variety, count your blessings, because that probably won’t happen. A clear conscience and the ability to look yourself in the mirror, though highly satisfying, is probably the only positive outcome you will get.


  • 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 (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 (6/6/14)

    June 6, 2014
  • Time to clean out my “in” bin a bit here – this item from The Daily Tucker tells us the following…

    Adam Carolla says the political left is forcing him to define himself as a conservative.

    The actor and comedian recently spoke to The Daily Caller in an extensive interview about politics, Hollywood and his new book, “President Me: The America That’s in My Head.” TheDC (sic) will be featuring segments from the interview over the next couple weeks.

    “I never define myself as a conservative, but I’m becoming defined as a conservative,” he told TheDC. “I’m now conservative because I wouldn’t want to be what the alternative is, which is scary to me.”

    “I always thought of myself as just a liberal guy,” Carolla said. But after working with and observing Dr. Drew Pinsky, Carolla says he started spreading what he thought was a simple, apolitical message.

    “I just started saying, ‘focus on your family, take care of your kids,’” Carolla explained. “And then all of a sudden, I become Ted Nugent like overnight.”

    (Oh, and after he made this proclamation, Carolla also apparently said here that rich people are “better than poor people. They just are…” That’s BRILLIANT! Now why on earth didn’t I think of that?)

    If there’s one thing that never ceases to bubble up the detritus from the seemingly bottomless well of my disgust, it’s a claim from a self-described conservative that he or she had no choice but to change their political allegiance and/or worldview in general because of the alleged excesses of “the professional left,” or whatever the wingnutosphere is calling filthy, unkempt liberal blogger types such as yours truly this week.

    And that is particularly true in the case of Carolla, who is responsible for the following:

  • Here, he said that the Occupy protestors were “self-entitled and coddled by their mothers” (I’d like to see Carolla say that to Scott Olsen, noted here).
  • Said that California was “Eden” run into the ground by “Democrat snakes” here (lovely).
  • Said our government is bought and paid for by “trial lawyers” all because he’s in a fight with a patent troll, as noted here (if he were interested in being fair, which he isn’t, he really would single out both sides).
  • It looks like somebody called out Carolla here (good for this person…I think the basic disagreement is that Carolla said that blacks and Latinos don’t have strong father figures, or something – you can “paint with a broad brush” that way concerning whites too…I think the person making the criticism was too strident, but when people like Carolla spread around inflammatory stuff, yeah, those on the receiving end will get pissed).
  • Oh, but when he’s hawking a book, Carolla acts like, well, I’m a Democrat some ways but a Republican other ways…bullshit – you just want all the $$ you can get regardless of who it’s from; try being honest enough to admit that (here).
  • In another lifetime, I can recall having a good laugh or two from “The Man Show,” with Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel. And that was because I knew it was tongue in cheek, though I guess that, based on the lack of intelligence Carolla displays here (including some comments about women comediennes), perhaps he thought it was a documentary.

  • Next, I should point out that we recently observed the 30th anniversary of the formation of former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese’s pornography commission, noted by Marvin Olasky here, who also tells us the following (here)…

    Witherspoon Institute conference research (proceedings published as “The Social Costs of Pornography”) showed that two-thirds of 18-to-34-year-old men visit porn sites regularly. (My hunch is that many of them go to church less often in part because they marry less often, and they marry less often in part because they access pornography more often.) Many men find it harder to relate to real women. Most divorces involve one partner compulsively using pornography.

    I should tell you that Olasky really isn’t interested in a fair critique of the Meese Commission here, but really just wants to trot out tired right-wing straw man arguments such as those in the prior paragraph, along with criticizing those admittedly ribald, anything-goes-at-times 1960s, of course (and for some real, honest-to-goodness science on this subject, the author of this column tells us that, no, there isn’t any actual, causal evidence linking pornography and divorce rates…surprise, surprise I know).

    As for the Meese Commission itself, though, I think it’s instructive to review the following (noted here from 1986)…

    WASHINGTON — A federal commission on pornography formally released its long-awaited report yesterday, urging Congress to enact tough anti-pornography laws and calling on citizens to picket stores that sell sexually explicit films and magazines.

    The report, based on a year-long study by 11 commission members hand- picked by Attorney General Edwin Meese 3d, calls for a sweeping federal, state and local crackdown on the $8 billion-a-year pornography industry.

    It specifically asserts that pornography can provoke violent sex offenses – a finding that has been challenged by civil libertarians and one that the commission itself concedes it cannot prove.

    …the report was denounced…by ACLU attorney Barry Lynn, who has consistently been the panel’s sharpest critic. The ACLU has long opposed the commission, saying President Reagan created it to appease conservative supporters, that it was stacked with anti-pornography members and that its proposals smacked of censorship.

    “All that this government study proves is that if you give a biased pro- censorship commission a half-million tax dollars and a year, they will write a lopsided, pro-censorship report,” Lynn said yesterday.

    He characterized the report as “little more than prudishness and moralizing masquerading behind social science jargon” and predicted it would spawn numerous court battles because conservative religious groups will use it to “drive the country back to the sexual dark ages.”

    Meese defended the $500,000 cost of the commission study as money well spent.

    So what did the Meese Commission concoct with their half-a-million-dollar budget? I give you the following from here

    The Commission’s proposals for dealing with porn are hair-raising. They want stepped-up enforcement of existing obscenity laws; increased cooperation between local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel and the IRS; and a computerized national database. They want forfeiture statutes, so that any proceeds from production of pornography can be confiscated. They want Congress to enact a statute that the distribution of obscene material “affects” interstate commerce. This would eliminate the necessity to prove transportation in interstate commerce in obscenity cases. According to the Commission, hiring individuals to participate in commercial sexual performances should be made an unfair labor practice. Transmission of obscene matter over cable TV and telephone lines should be proscribed. Obscenity should be made a predicate act for a group to be investigated under the frighteningly powerful Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and states should enact their own versions of RICO. All state legislatures should adopt the lower standard of proof of obscenity found in Miller v. California. [11] Pandering laws should be used against porn producers. Conditions within adult bookstores should be investigated and health violations prosecuted. Peep show booths should not be allowed to have doors or holes in the walls between the booths. Use of performers under the age of twenty-one should be forbidden by act of Congress, and producers, retailers, and distributors of sexually explicit material should be required to maintain records containing consent forms and proof of performers’ ages. [12]

    It was only by a very narrow margin that the Commission did not vote to recommend legislation that would have made vibrators and dildos obscene.

    And there are people out there who claim that the Democrats are the party of “big gumint”…

    Olasky tries to be clever in his clownhall.com piece by re-imagining the Ogden Nash poem “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” to try and prove his point (don’t ask). He fails miserably, but I have to confess that I can do no better, mainly because, for the life of me, I can’t think of a word that rhymes with Olasky.

  • Further, it looks like it’s time for more right-wing outrage aimed at Number 44 (here)…

    President Barack Obama’s new report on fatherless kids doesn’t include a single mention of the words “marriage” or “married.”

    The report admits that fatherlessness almost doubles the failure rate among African-American and Latino kids, yet it calls for government to arrange substitute fathers for huge numbers of fatherless boys and girls instead of binding fathers to their kids via marriage.

    “The President is calling on Americans interested in getting involved in My Brother’s Keeper to sign up as long-term mentors to young people,” according to the White House press statement that accompanies the report, which is titled “Opportunity for All: My Brother’s Keeper.”

    “This effort will engage Americans from all walks of life to sign up to develop sustained and direct mentoring relationships that will play vital roles in the lives of young people,” it declares.

    The White House’s focus on substitute fathers will likely widen economic gaps, which have widened to record levels under his administration. Wealthier Americans — including many outspoken liberals such as Obama and his wife — tend to follow the traditional “life script” of education first, then marriage, then childrearing, even as they promote family “diversity” for others.

    And yeah, the dookey gets pretty thick from that point on, in an article that Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page ostensibly passes off as “news.”

    By the way, did you know that My Brother’s Keeper is funded “through an extensive partnership with local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media,” as noted here? However, Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History “can waste money on a pro marriage initiative intended to boost the economic levels of poor people, who are disproportionally Black and Latino” with nary a complaint from Munro and his ideological fellow travelers, apparently.

    Also, I think the notion that the Obamas apparently don’t know or care about anything in the realm of living a responsible family life, particularly when you factor in raising kids (two daughters, of course), is too hilarious for words. As proof, I give you the following excerpts from here

    Too Tired For Date Night

    “Our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joys…Saturdays at soccer games, Sundays at grandma’s house…and a date night for Barack and me was either dinner or a movie, because as an exhausted mom, I couldn’t stay awake for both.”

    Tell it like it is, Michelle. A working mother sometimes doesn’t have it in her for an Olive Garden date and a romantic comedy.

    Money Can’t Buy You Love

    “You see, Barack and I were both raised by families who didn’t have much in the way of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable – their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves.”

    It takes a lot more than fancy presents to convey love to your kiddies!

    What It Means To Be A Man/Father

    “You see, for my dad, that’s what it meant to be a man.

    Like so many of us, that was the measure of his success in life – being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to support his family.”

    Translation: men who stick around and take care of their families? Thumbs up.

    Oh yeah, that definitely reflects the “Democrat Party’s post-1960s collective hostility to independent families,” doesn’t it?

    But of course, Neil Munro is a card-carrying anti-Obama propagandist from way back, as noted here.

  • Continuing, it looks like, based on last Tuesday’s primary elections, the Teahadists have a new hero, and that would be Mike Turner, running for the U.S. House from Oklahoma (natch – here)…

    I was first elected to the statehouse in 2012. A political outsider and underdog, I swore off lobbyist and PAC dollars from day one and instead did things the old fashioned way – handshakes and shoe leather. I’m proud to say that I visited over 13,000 homes in my district, listening and learning , en route to becoming the only challenger to defeat an Oklahoma legislative incumbent that cycle.

    That was despite my moderate opponent who’d been in office for eight years starting the campaign with a six-figure war chest. We won because the citizens of our district wanted principled leadership.
    Since that time , I’ve kept on fighting as a bold, next-generation conservative.

    I said ‘No’ to the state House budget in 2013 because we just couldn’t afford it. We need to be stopping big government in its tracks, cutting taxes, and unleashing the economic engine instead of expanding all the things that have slowed us down in the first place.

    Check, please…

    Sure, it’s easy to “(swear) off lobbyist and PAC dollars” when you’re basically loaded, as noted here (either trucking or something called “Supercuts,” which I believe is a hair salon – and I’ll overlook the “eye booger” stuff…like, ewwwwww).

    And did you know that, in his efforts to punish Teh Gay, Turner tried to ban ALL marriages in his state (here)? Also, he protested a planned visit by Attorney General Eric Holder to the point where Holder decided to cancel (here), which I would say is a fairly petulant act for a public official.

    Yeah, Turner looks like a dyed-in-the-wool wingnut, apparently even criticizing Repug governor Mary Fallin for not being conservative enough, or something (apparently Turner helped shoot down, so to speak, a rare Fallin veto), despite this.

    My guess is that Oklahoma deserves him.

  • Finally, our wet noodle PA-08 U.S. House Rep recently weighed in on the pages of his PR machine (otherwise known as the Bucks County Courier Times) stating, in light of the recent revelations concerning the VA and veterans who died while awaiting care, that “funding isn’t the issue at the VA – mismanagement is” (here).

    Actually, the real issue is noted as follows by Joe Conason here

    Anyone paying attention knows by now that those secret waiting lists at VA facilities — which may have led to the premature deaths of scores of injured veterans — are a direct consequence of policy decisions made in the White House years before President Barack Obama got there. The misguided invasion of Iraq — carried out with insufficient numbers of troops shielded by insufficient armor — led directly to thousands of new cases of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other physical and mental disabilities requiring speedy treatment.

    A substantial portion of the estimated $3 trillion price of that war is represented by the cost of decent care for veterans. But even as the war raged on, the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress repeatedly refused to appropriate sufficient funding for veterans’ health care. This financial stinginess toward vets was consistent with Bush’s refusal to take any steps to pay for his expensive war (and decision to protect his skewed tax cuts instead).

    As Alec MacGillis pointed out this week in the New Republic, legislators who voted for war while opposing expansion of the VA are hypocrites, particularly when they claim to care about veterans. So are the Republican governors who refuse to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which keeps hundreds of thousands of impoverished vets from getting health care.

    Breaking down the voting record, year after year, the pattern along party lines is clear: Republicans regularly propose cuts in VA funding and oppose increases sponsored by Democrats — a pattern that extends back to the first years of the Iraq and Afghan conflicts and continues to this day. As recently as February, Senate Republicans filibustered a Democratic bill that would have added $20 billion in VA funding over the next decade and would have built at least 26 new VA health care facilities. The Republicans killed that bill because Democratic leaders refused to add an amendment on Iran sanctions — designed to scuttle the ongoing nuclear negotiations — and because they just don’t want to spend more money on vets.

    In his Courier Times column (now behind the paper’s ridiculous pay wall), Mikey tells us that duplicate payments are an issue the VA has to deal with, particularly in its Philadelphia office, which is true; I have no contrary information on that anyway (he also pointed that out in this New York Times story from two years ago, which kind of makes me wonder why this wasn’t addressed earlier; not necessarily blaming the House and its Repug Party “leadership” on that one alone – just an observation).

    Fitzpatrick also tells us that he supports something called HR 4031, which would lead to a quicker firing of VA employees. I’m not in a rush to get rid of anyone working at the VA, particularly in this still-wretched economy (about which Mikey and his pals really have done nothing), and also because of the following (noted in the Wikipedia article)…

    One alleged unintended consequence might be “any change that would single out VA employees for punishment or discharge could have a chilling effect on VA’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality employees.”[7] Their statement also indicated that they feared anyone fired could sue, leading to “lengthy litigation.”

    And how exactly would that lead to faster processing of veterans’ claims so that they could receive treatment earlier?

    Another piece of legislation Mikey supports is HR 2590, sponsored by Chris Gibson, which “amend(s) the Wounded Warrior Act to establish a specific timeline for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to achieve integrated electronic health records…”

    That’s nice, but wasn’t a bill like this introduced last year before it died in a House committee (noted here, and by a Republican no less)? Oh, but there wasn’t a scandal all over the place back then to make the Obama Administration look bad back then, was there?

    And when it comes to gathering some perspective on this issue, I give you the following from here

    Carl Blake of the Paralyzed Veterans of America suggested the Senate panel go undercover. “If the (Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, including the thoroughly odious Richard Burr) wants to get the truth about the quality of VA health care, spend a day walking around in a major VA medical facility,” he said. “We can guarantee that you will likely hear complaints about how long it took to be seen, but rare is the complaint about the actual quality of care … It is no secret that wait times for appointments for specialty care in the private sector tend to be extremely long.” The public, he says, has gotten a distorted view of the quality of VA care at various field hearings where a handful of those with poor experiences have taken center stage.

    As far as I’m concerned, you can safely file this in the fairly huge Fitzpatrick file of virtually meaningless legislative gestures that are subsequently forgotten after the news cycle moves onto something else. However, if you want real leadership on this and other issues, I strongly urge you to support an honest-to-goodness veteran running for the PA-08 congressional seat, Dem Kevin Strouse by name, by clicking here.


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