Toomey and Trump, Forever and Ever, Amen (update)

February 6, 2020

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Now that U.S. Senate Republicans (with the notable exception of Mitt Romney) have voted to allow Our Treasonous, Tiny-Handed Orange Pretender to get away with soiling the Constitution and act not unlike a tin pot dictator (here), which is all he ever was and ever will be, leave it to his sycophants to try and gloss over their ignominy in Dear Leader’s service.

Which brings us to this screed from “No Corporate Tax” Pat Toomey (R-Mistake) of PA (here)…

“Do these actions rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors necessary to justify the most obviously anti-democratic act the Senate can engage in — overturning an election by convicting the president?” In 1999, then-Sen. Joe Biden answered his own question by voting against removing President Bill Clinton from office.

It is this constitutionally grounded framework — articulated well by Biden — that guided my review of President Donald Trump’s impeachment and, ultimately, my decision to oppose his removal.

House Democrats’ impeachment articles allege that President Trump briefly paused aid, and withheld a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president, to pressure Ukraine into investigating two publicly reported corruption matters. The first matter was possible Ukrainian interference in our 2016 election. The second was Biden’s role in firing the controversial Ukrainian prosecutor investigating a company on whose board Biden’s son sat. When House Democrats demanded witnesses and documents concerning the president’s conduct, he invoked constitutional rights and resisted their demands.

The phrase “briefly paused” concerning the first matter is typically deceptive of course, because it implies that Trump would have released the aid anyway, and there is no indication that that would have happened; actually, all indications are that Trump would have continued sitting on it as long as possible.

And regarding the second matter, I give you this

The release adds new documentation to the timeline of events in which Trump ordered the delay of military aid to Ukraine to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, allegations that are central to the impeachment trial.

Also, as noted here

“Public reporting shows how senior Ukrainian officials interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in favor of Secretary Clinton and in opposition to then-candidate Trump,” Republicans wrote in a memo of “key points” distributed Tuesday ahead of the House impeachment inquiry’s first open hearings this week.

But behind closed doors, many of the witnesses who recently testified to House investigators balked at any such comparison to Russia’s efforts.

“We’re talking about a completely different scale of interference,” Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, a National Security Council expert on Ukraine, testified.

At the Kremlin’s direction, Russia’s intelligence services waged a pro-Trump disinformation campaign on social media and secretly stole tens of thousands of private emails from the Democratic National Committee, the U.S. intelligence community concluded.

That government-backed campaign was a “deep” and “insidious effort to undermine a foreign country’s elections,” Vindman said. In fact, last year the Justice Department indicted 25 Russian operatives for their alleged roles in election interference during the 2016 campaign – none has been taken into custody yet.

“What a couple of actors in Ukraine might do in order to tip the scales in one direction or another is very different,” Vindman noted.

Oh, and given this, the wingnuts absolutely had to find a way to try and destroy Lt. Col. Vindman (with help from #MoscowMarsha, as noted here). And as far as the Biden/Burisma allegations are concerned, I give you this.

Returning to Toomey…

The president’s actions were not “perfect.” Some were inappropriate. But the question before the Senate is not whether his actions were perfect. It is whether they constitute impeachable offenses that justify removing a sitting president from office for the first time and forbidding him from seeking office again.

Let’s consider the case against President Trump: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. On obstruction, House Democrats allege the president lacked “lawful cause or excuse” to resist their subpoenas. This ignores that his resistance was based on constitutionally grounded legal defenses and immunities that are consistent with long-standing positions taken by administrations of both parties.

As far as Trump’s grounds for resisting subpoenas are concerned, I give you this.

Returning to Toomey…

Instead of negotiating a resolution or litigating in court, House Democrats rushed to impeach. But as House Democrats noted during the Clinton impeachment, a president’s defense of his legal and constitutional rights and responsibilities is not an impeachable offense.

I will grant Toomey a bit of a point on the timing of the impeachment inquiry and trial. However, the following should be noted here (namely, that the Democrats felt the timing was right for the impeachment given this year’s elections).

And I would be willing to go along with Toomey a bit if it weren’t for the fact that the U.S. Senate under #MidnightMitch has done NOTHING to improve the security of our election infrastructure in time for the fall (here).

Returning to Toomey…

House Democrats separately allege President Trump abused his power by conditioning a White House meeting, and the release of aid, on Ukraine agreeing to pursue corruption investigations. Their case rests entirely on the faulty claim that the only possible motive for his actions was his personal political gain. In fact, there are also legitimate national interests for seeking investigations into apparent corruption, especially when taxpayer dollars are involved.

Actually, the supposedly “faulty” claim rests on the testimony of Lt. Col. Vindman and Ambassadors Gordon Sondland and Bill Taylor, as noted here.

Returning to Toomey…

Here is what ultimately occurred: President Trump met with Ukraine’s president and the aid was released after a brief pause. These actions happened without Ukraine announcing or conducting investigations.

That’s right, but it happened only because of the whistle blower who filed the complaint against Trump, as noted here (the person that odious mongrel Rand Paul recently announced as noted here).

Returning to Toomey…

The idea that President Trump committed an impeachable offense by meeting with Ukraine’s president at the United Nations in New York instead of Washington, D.C. is absurd. Moreover, the pause in aid did not hinder Ukraine’s ability to combat Russia. In fact, as witnesses in the House stated, U.S. policy supporting Ukraine is stronger under President Trump than under President Barack Obama.

On the matter of Trump and Obama on military aid to Ukraine is concerned, I give you this. And as far as any further equivalency between Trump and Obama on Ukraine is concerned, I also give you this.

Returning to Toomey…

Even if House Democrats’ presumptions about President Trump’s motives are true, additional witnesses in the Senate, beyond the 17 who testified in the House, are unnecessary because the president’s actions do not rise to the level of removing him from office.

So, as far as Toomey is concerned, we have a “trial” that doesn’t need witnesses or testimony because he’s already made up his mind.

If you or I ever end up in a court of law, dear reader, I sincerely hope Toomey is a juror in our case, because he will no doubt attempt to bar witnesses or testimony against us also and thus work on our behalf for acquittal (snark mode off).

Toomey once more…

Nor do they warrant the societal upheaval that would result from his removal from office and the ballot months before an election. Our country is already far too divided, and this would only make matters worse.

As far as the “vox populi” stuff on Trump’s impeachment is concerned, it looks like 2/3rds of those polled wanted witnesses as his trial as noted here, though I will grant that you could go either way on the question of Trump’s removal. And besides, I’m old enough to remember the Clinton impeachment circus, and I don’t recall any concerns about “societal upheaval” at that time vs. now.

Returning to Toomey…

As Biden also stated during President Clinton’s trial, “the Constitution sets the bar for impeachment very high.” A president can only be impeached and removed for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” While there’s debate about the precise meaning of “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” it’s clear that impeachable conduct must be comparable to the serious offenses of treason and bribery.

Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a blow job. I don’t see any comparison between that and treason and bribery.

Toomey once more…

The Constitution sets the impeachment bar so high for good reasons. Removing a president from office, and forbidding him from seeking future office, overturns the results of the last election and denies Americans the right to vote for him in the next one. The Senate’s impeachment power essentially allows 67 senators to substitute their judgment for the judgment of millions of Americans.

Toomey really should give up this argument of raw numbers supporting Trump’s removal from office vs. opposing it, if for no other reason than this (another “vox populi” item – this too…as noted here, Mango Mussolini was acquitted, but not exonerated).

Toomey again…

The framework Biden articulated in 1999 for judging an impeachment was right then, and it is right now. President Trump’s conduct does not meet the very high bar required to justify overturning the election, removing him from office, and kicking him off the ballot in an election that has already begun. In November, the American people will decide for themselves whether President Trump should stay in office. In our democratic system, that’s the way it should be.

In response, I thought this Op-Ed from the Inquirer made some excellent points, including the following…

Sen. Toomey attempted to justify his vote by claiming that the president was simply invoking his constitutional rights in blocking testimony. His explanation ignores the fact that the witnesses have been blocked by an unprecedented and legally dubious blanket decree of absolute immunity that has already been resoundingly rejected by a federal judge. No defendant in America has the right to blatantly order witnesses not to testify in court, yet Sen. Toomey’s action sets a different standard for defendants who belong to one’s own political party.

To know Sen. Toomey’s true motivations, look no further than his own words: “We don’t need to drag this out any longer. … We should move as quickly as we can to get this thing over with.” His rationale for his vote to acquit is cut from the same self-serving cloth. The senator makes sweeping conclusions about the president’s other possible motives for withholding aid as witnesses with direct knowledge of such facts sit muzzled on the sidelines. The senator harps upon the potential damage to the country wrought by removing a president without stopping for even a moment to address the potential long-term damage done to our democracy by the president’s conduct.

Sen. Toomey’s collective responses are not those of a representative of the people looking to do impartial justice or seek the truth. They are the words of someone who voluntarily chose to put himself and his party above the people of Pennsylvania and his solemn duty to the Constitution.

I think it’s safe to say, based on this and Toomey’s votes, that he will also be bound to Generalissimo Trump by a “cord of steel,” as noted below. And that is exactly what Toomey deserves.

Update 2/8/20: Yeah, this sure was predicatable, wasn’t it?


More Deep (?) Thoughts On the 2016 Election (updates)

November 12, 2016

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(Which has ultimately led to the behavior shown in this pic, by the way – this ties into a bit of what I got into here.)

I saw this item from Hillary Clinton, and I thought I needed to respond.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is right to say that the despicable actions of FBI Director James Comey contributed to her loss to Donald Trump (ugh) in the presidential election. But I think the following needs to be pointed out also.

I previously decried low-information voters who don’t pay attention to this stuff like they should, and I said they were partly to blame. I stand by that, with some caveats particular to Hillary Clinton that I’ll try to discuss, for what it’s worth. I also said that it’s pointless to engage in a circular firing squad on this stuff, but I’m going to break my own rule on that a bit.

With everything having settled in a bit, here is my number one reason why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election:

She didn’t close the deal with the voters of this country on how she would manage the economy on their behalf.

The irony of this, to me, is utterly stupefying, because that is pretty much how her husband won election, particularly in 1992. And when it comes to voting psychology in this country, voters ALWAYS vote first and foremost on the economy.

Memorize this and burn it into your collective brains once and for all, Democratsvoters vote first and foremost based on the economy. Every time (I would put a bit of an asterisk on that next to 2004, though, since the Repugs beat 9/11 to death for political purposes and the economy hadn’t tanked yet).

The economy was teed up as THE political issue for Obama in 2008 since it was going all to hell, and the McCain/Palin team kept missing the proverbial boat on that issue over and over, particularly concerning the auto industry. So Obama almost couldn’t help but wrap his campaign around that. And in 2012, he had a record of success with the stimulus to run on (versus Willard Mitt Romney, who the Obama campaign had painted as a thoroughly out-of-touch elitist, which to me was an accurate portrayal). That year, Obama also had the power of incumbency on his side, and it’s hard to overestimate how important that is.

The Clinton team had none of these advantages. And they didn’t campaign as if they realized that. And that created the tiniest bit of an opening for that moron Gary Johnson and that nothing Jill Stein to jump in and claim that mantle instead (even Trump himself, laughably trying to act like he actually gives a damn about workers’ wages and that he actually knows something about creating jobs when he had experienced multiple business bankruptcies; of all of the corporate media stupidity during the campaign, the failure to point that out over and over was probably their biggest blunder).

Returning to the prior presidency of Bill Clinton (and why in God’s name didn’t Hillary remind voters of that era of economic success??), Hillary could have brought back the 1993 Bill Clinton budget that did a lot towards kick-starting a pretty solid era of job and wage growth. More than that, she could have reminded voters that it passed without a single Republican vote, and she could have tied that into a message about electing down-ballot Democrats to Congress!

(For the life of me, I will NEVER understand why Democrats seem to run away from their past record of success, but Hillary and her campaign did that. She did a really good job of portraying Donald Trump as the utterly narcissistic, intellectually lazy sexual predator that we all knew he was, but again, as her supporters, we knew that. She definitely didn’t appear to understand what it took to win over independents, who are the people that, for better or worse, decide our elections…something particularly galling given the fact that she probably had an army of people in her campaign who were supposed to know that in their sleep! Of course, the “Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party” knows better, I firmly believe – I’m sure that theory will be put to the test before too much longer.)

Or how about this – after defeating Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, she could have said “I’m Bernie Now,” and brought EVERYONE from the Sanders campaign on board and thrown out this band of DNC Beltway sycophants who seem to do absolutely NOTHING but lose elections! And she could have run her campaign accordingly (“go to the left,” as Kyle Kulinksi, among others, pointed out).

OK, enough of this exercise. We are where we are. Let’s take some down time for ourselves to try and regain our sanity and our strength. Because we’re going to need it.

Starting next January 21st, it’s probably going to be Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride every day. We just have to hang on for dear life and keep fighting in hope of a better future, eventually.

Update 11/13/16: I respect Joan Walsh a lot, and she’s right in a lot of what she has to say here about how our corporate media favored President Big Orange Cheetoh over HRC (and I suppose it’s just part of the cycle that the Dems have to try to make nice with this monstrosity who is now president – though I definitely would offer this in response).

However, I believe the Clinton team should have foreseen that they would get this kind of treatment from the news networks with initials for names. Was it fair? Of course not. But it was good for ratings, which is all they cared about, and EVER WILL care about.

But when faced with that, the Clinton team should have made THEIR OWN media. There were some very well done videos that they produced, but I couldn’t find anything approximating an “elevator pitch” on the economy. And yes, I looked.

There’s no shortage whatsoever of social media at our disposal – in addition to videos, there’s also Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter of course, other blogs sympathetic to the cause, etc. If you don’t like what the corporate media is doing, you make your own damn media! God knows the wingnuts don’t have any trouble propagating their garbage (always angers me that they have no problem getting out their lousy messages across scores of simpatico blogs and other sites and we have so much of a damn issue with getting out our good ones).

Besides, you generate enough of your own buzz, then the “news” networks WILL BE FORCED TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOU, if for no other reason that they’ll have potentially a ripe new audience for their advertisers.

Also, Walsh is sadly correct about those who purport to be on our side who demonized HRC regardless of what she did, and that was no help either of course (you reading this, Jimmy Dore?).

Update 11/14/16: I know I’m beating this to death and I swore I wouldn’t do that, and I apologize, but here is another observation from last Tuesday’s electoral hellscape, and it is this:

Hillary Clinton spent way, WAAAY too much time beating up on “Donald Drumpf.” The irony is that that fired up the Democratic base, but again, it did absolutely nothing for independents.

Yes, Trump deserved all of that invective and more. But here’s the thing: the person at the top of the ticket is supposed to leave it up to his or her surrogates to do that while the nominee for prez articulates the “vision thing,” as it was once called (I wish I has a nickel for every time I saw Bill Burton go at it with “Maniac Megyn” Kelly when Obama ran in ‘08, but that was his job).

Yes, our corporate media blocked out anything Clinton did on that time and time again. And yes, it was a scummy and lowdown thing to do. But you know what? That would have happened for ANY Democratic presidential nominee.

The media has been pulling this garbage for years. Back when we had Comcast Cable, I can recall an otherwise pretty solid news guy named Arthur Fennell who used to give us campaign updates on Bush and Kerry, and EVERY SINGLE TIME John Kerry gave a speech, Fennell would talk over what Kerry was saying to give his “spin” on what was going on and we never heard Kerry say a word. Now I think Fennell was just following orders, as it were, but it was still a dirty trick.

There are a bunch of solid presidential candidates I can recall who didn’t win because they were lousy campaigners. Is that fair? Of course not, especially considering the consequences. But I believe HRC thought the power of her personal narrative, as it were, would be good enough to win. It wasn’t.

Update 11/15/16: There aren’t too many people out there as far as I’m concerned who I would call studious observers of exactly what kind of electoral devastation took place a week ago, but I would say that Kurt Eichenwald is definitely one of those people, and I think he administers a dose of reality here (I had a feeling the Repugs had some “oppo” stuff on Sanders they would use if they had to, and believe me when I tell you that the stuff Eichenwald tells us is eye-opening…not saying it should have turned the election or how much of it is actually true, but to say it would have been a shot of hate-filled adrenaline to the wingnutosphere is a huge understatement).


Tuesday Mashup (4/15/14)

April 15, 2014

equal pay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So how does Stephens put it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Awww…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Continuing…

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

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

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

    And as noted from here

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

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

  • Kathleen_Sebelius_official_portrait

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

  • Friday Mashup (2/14/14)

    February 14, 2014
  • This story hits me where I live.

    If it had not been for the winter weather, I very well may have been involved in this disaster in the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I chose not to travel that route today).

    What matters most, of course, is immediate medical attention to the victims, which is currently underway of course. What matters beyond that is somehow allowing everyone trapped on the highway to get out as safely as possible (with their vehicles intact, or, short of that, with their vehicles salvaged somehow). And then, the roadway needs to be cleaned up to the fullest extent possible, of course.

    But at some future point, when everyone involved is OK (hopefully), I want SOMEBODY to ask this question (preferably a politician – put them to work doing something constructive):

    Why the hell is there STILL no light rail, mass transit alternative from Bucks County near the New Jersey/Trenton area to the western PA suburbs and Chester County in particular?

    Yes, I know – NIMBY. But as far as I’m concerned, that was never a good enough explanation. And it DEFINITELY isn’t a good enough explanation in light of this massive chain accident today.

    Commuter trains run near where we live (the R-3 West Trenton line in particular). It’s no big deal – you barely hear them (can’t say the same for the CSX freight trains, which are a whole other story). And they are clean, relatively speaking. There’s no reason why at least one commuter line cannot run from Bucks through Montgomery to Chester County (or even beyond). No, I don’t have any recent data on this, but I don’t know of a circumstance where a mass transit alternative was offered versus negotiating a congested thoroughfare, and that alternative was ignored.

    The time has long since passed for this discussion to be settled once and for all. If anything positive whatsoever can come of this horror today, then let this be it.

    Update 2/15/14: I apologize for being a bit unclear about something – when I’m talking about mass transit from Bucks to Chester counties, I mean that for both directions.

  • And as noted herewow, so Smerky has graduated to the higher (?) ranks of the pundit class now that he has been absorbed by “The Most Trusted Name in News.”

    I think this calls for a brief retrospective of some of his “highlights”:

  • As noted here, he once complained that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels felt that he had to drop out of consideration for the 2012 Repug presidential nomination because of too much scrutiny of Daniels’ personal life, even though our intrepid Philadelphia Inquirer columnist had no qualms about going after former Dem presidential candidate John Edwards.
  • He came out in defense of saner schedules and more rest for air traffic controllers, which is good, without noting of course that the Teahadists in the U.S. House sought to cut the budget of the FAA (here – third bullet).
  • He criticized the de facto discrimination against the jobless in hiring, though he basically said that there’s nothing that the federal government should be able to do about it (here – typical).
  • He once heckled Roger Waters of Pink Floyd for supporting the Palestinians here, and was actually quite proud of his behavior (Smerky, I mean).
  • He tried to mythologize The Sainted Ronnie R here (third bullet), criticizing Obama for criticizing the Supremes over Citizens United, saying Ronnie didn’t do that on Roe v. Wade (no, not much – he just created that stupid “Mexico City” policy to go with his criticism, that’s all).
  • He compared Arianna Huffington to a hooker outing a john here (nice).
  • I will admit that Smerky is cagey enough to know he has to take a page, as it were, from the book of someone like Joe Scarborough, who pretends to be sensible amidst spouting his full-on wingnuttery, particularly over the Clintons.

    So I guess congratulations are in order to Smerky for playing the typical corporate media game and ensconcing himself to an undeserved position of influence (though I guess he also deserves points for honesty based on this).

    And once again, I am compelled to ask the question…this is CNN?

  • Next (and speaking of wingnuttery), you can always rely on more bilious right-wing propaganda from Cal Thomas, and he delivers more of it here (from clownhall.com)…

    In 1976, Jimmy Carter promised never to lie to us, a promise that rested on a perception of his own virtue. Given his sad record, the country might have willingly exchanged veracity for competence.

    Interesting that Thomas would say that now even though he once complimented Carter on the former president’s “worship experience” here (and as noted here, he has a rather infamous track record at proclaiming “doom and gloom” over alleged “values” issue anyway).

  • Further, I give you the following from Repug U.S. House Rep Ted Poe via Fix Noise here

    (The) NSA argues that its employees only carry out the actions necessary to find terrorists and protect our country. They have even claimed that terrorist attacks have been prevented as a result of their actions.

    If this is true, those success stories should be made public. At a Judiciary Committee hearing last week, I asked Deputy Attorney General James Cole how many criminal cases have been filed as a result of this massive spying operation.

    His answer? Maybe one. And he wasn’t even 100% sure of that.

    That’s right, the NSA has launched one of the largest data collection programs in U.S. history that monitors who we call, how long we talk to them, who they called, and where our calls were made from, all in order to “maybe” catch one bad guy.

    In any event, the ends do not justify the means. NSA has trampled on the Fourth Amendment rights of millions of Americans.

    It’s funny in a way that Poe mentions the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution when you consider the following; as noted here, the USA Patriot Act…

    violates the Fourth Amendment, which says the government cannot conduct a search without obtaining a warrant and showing probable cause to believe that the person has committed or will commit a crime.

    Violates the Fourth Amendment by failing to provide notice – even after the fact – to persons whose privacy has been compromised. Notice is also a key element of due process, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

    Under the Patriot Act PR/TT orders issued by a judge are no longer valid only in that judge’s jurisdiction, but can be made valid anywhere in the United States. This “nationwide service” further marginalizes the role of the judiciary, because a judge cannot meaningfully monitor the extent to which his or her order is being used. In addition, this provision authorizes the equivalent of a blank warrant: the court issues the order, and the law enforcement agent fills in the places to be searched. That is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment’s explicit requirement that warrants be written “particularly describing the place to be searched.”

    And who voted to renew the Patriot Act three years ago? Why, Ted Poe, as noted here (other idiocy with Poe can be found here…he’s #39 on the list – Poe also opposed the census here; second bullet).

  • Continuing, I came across the following item that made my jaw drop (here)…

    Ask this question to almost anyone, and the resounding answer will be something like: “Yes! It is the American Way. ‘One person, one vote’ is the cornerstone of democracy.”

    True, but interesting in light of this from yet another elitist scumbag (but I digress)…

    Just how deep this sentiment runs can be seen in the recent protests against policies requiring all voters to first produce a photo ID. The protesters seem to feel that any restriction on the unimpeded access to voting undermines our very democracy.

    I support voter ID laws. Without them, a single person could theoretically cast many votes during one Election Day by going to different polling stations; the fraud potential is enormous. If there are people too poor to procure an ID, the small amount of money needed for this purpose should be provided, either by government or private charities.

    Even by the admittedly lame standards of The Daily Tucker, the stoo-pid with this one was thick enough that it could be cut only with a hack saw.

    The author of this column is someone named D.B. Ganz, who apparently wrote something called Uncommon Sense and is published at a site called The Blaze. Since he shows no apparent knowledge of how one votes in this country based on his commentary, please allow me to provide the following information.

    I reside in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (not news I guess considering what I said earlier about the Turnpike), so when I registered to vote, I did so at the Bucks County Court House in Doylestown. Of course, I could have picked up a voter registration application elsewhere or even online, completed it, and mailed it in (or pressed a button and sent it into cyberspace). On the application, it is necessary to enter your basic demographic information, including your address.

    I honestly don’t remember how I found out where my polling location was; I could easily have accessed the Board of Elections link from buckscounty.org and done a bit of searching to find out where it is, or I could have called someone (maybe we were notified by mail?). What matters is that, when I found out where my polling location was (and I go to vote on Election Day or Primary Day), I notify a worker and they check my information to see if I am in their book. I sign the book on the line next to my name and demographic information after checking my info; of course, they now ask me for a voter ID, which they don’t enforce yet (I can provide a driver’s license, so it’s no big deal, even though I object to voter ID in principle of course).

    Here is my point (took awhile to get there, I know) – I cannot just vote anywhere I want! I have to vote in the area where I live and where I am registered to do so (to prevent to supposed rampant “voter fraud” that the Repugs profess to hate). So that proves that Ganz doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    I actually grew a little curious about Ganz, so I read up on him and found another column where he said that supporting health care reform was “short sighted and cruel,” or something. Which I thought was a really curious observation, seeing that Ganz is, “a long-time student of ancient Jewish texts, primarily the Talmud,” and Israel has universal health care with an individual mandate, as noted here.

  • Finally, and in observance of the recent 205th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, former Bushie Glenn Hubbard tells us the following here

    What would a mobility-enhancing agenda for today propose? A dynamic economy requires support for innovation, market expansion, and entrepreneurial risk-taking. “I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable,” Lincoln said. Higher federal spending on basic research, trade-promotion authority, and business-tax reform to reduce marginal tax rates on income from business investments are important.

    Republicans should not be timid here. Lincoln was not: He expanded land ownership (the Homestead Act of 1862), access to higher education (the Morrill Act of 1862, with support for land-grant colleges across the states), and the scale and scope of commerce and trade (the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, which supported the transcontinental railroad).

    Lincoln’s crusade for economic development was a lifetime political agenda. Just as the opportunity agenda he championed is much bolder than many conservatives appear willing to propose today, he was much less mired in emphasizing inequality than today’s Left. “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good,” he said. “[But] while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

    Fair enough (aside from the “ooga booga” nonsense about “today’s Left”), but let’s let the following also be known about our 16th president – as noted here, Lincoln definitely fought income inequality, particularly when it profited the banks (though he was once a lawyer for railroad companies also, which wasn’t in any way illegal I realize). And in opposition, Hubbard has called for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit – that’s nice, but that, along with food stamps, housing allowances, heating assistance and Medicaid, have turned into welfare for corporations, subsidized by the taxpayers of course, as noted here.

    And on the subject of labor and capital, please allow me to quote President Lincoln once more (here)…

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

    I would also like to point out the following about Lincoln (from “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, pg. 104)…

    Lincoln’s abhorrence to hurting another was born of more than simple compassion. He possessed extraordinary empathy – the gift or curse of putting himself in the place of another, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires. The philosopher Adam Smith described this faculty: “By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation…we enter as it were into his body and become in some measure him.” This capacity Smith saw as “the source of our fellow-feeling for the misery of others…by changing places in fancy with the sufferer…we come either to conceive or to be affected by what he feels.” In a world environed by cruelty and injustice, Lincoln’s remarkable empathy was inevitably a source of pain. His sensibilities were not only acute, they were raw. “With his wealth of sympathy, his conscience, and his unflinching sense of justice, he was predestined to sorrow,” observed Helen Nicolay, whose father would become Lincoln’s private secretary.

    Though Lincoln’s empathy was at the root of his melancholy, it would prove an enormous asset to his political career. “His crowning gift of political diagnosis,” suggested Nicolay, “was due to his sympathy…which gave him the power to forecast with uncanny accuracy what his opponents were likely to do.” She described how, after listening to his colleagues talk at a Whig Party caucus, Lincoln would cast off his shawl, rise from his chair, and say: “From your talk, I gather the Democrats will do so and so…I should do so and so to checkmate them.” He proceeded to outline all “the moves for days ahead; making them all so plain that his listeners wondered why they had not seen it that way themselves.” Such capacity to intuit the inner feelings and intentions of others would be manifest throughout his career.

    And based on this signature moment from Hubbard, I would say that he has a thing or two to learn in the empathy department.


  • Friday Mashup (1/17/14)

    January 17, 2014
  • In an otherwise sensible column, Andrew Taylor of the AP inflicts the following here –and of course, since we’re talking about a “villager” like Taylor, the topic MUST be about our supposedly “crushing” debt burden (wrong) and how we’ll have to CUTUCUTCUTCUTCUTCUTCUT so others will have to feel the pain that Taylor won’t have to worry about ever feeling himself on this…

    Excluded are the giant benefit programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps that run on autopilot and are increasingly driving the government deeper into debt.

    Even though the programs that Taylor mentions only account for about 45 percent of federal spending, as noted here.

    And I realize that “run on autopilot” is wingnut code, to say nothing of the fact that it’s wrong anyway since funding legislation still has to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the president; how else can these programs be administered?

    Oh, and as far as supposedly teetering on the edge of a debt apocalypse (or something), I give you Professor Krugman here.

    This type of wankery isn’t unusual for Taylor, who once claimed that President Obama suffered a “slide” in support in 2010 here without providing any, you know, actual data to support that claim.

  • Next (and sticking with financial matters), I give you yet another bad conservative idea on how to supposedly get our federal fiscal house in order (here)…

    After Congress managed in 1986 to largely accomplish the herculean task of tax reform by eliminating the many deductions, exemptions, and credits, those special tax provisions, like desserts, ultimately proved too tempting, betraying erstwhile commitments to diets and good policy alike. The reform was largely undone over time.

    Even the vaunted ‘86 reform left a few things untouched, some habits just proving too difficult to shed. If certainties are limited to death and taxes, a sub-certainty comes in the form of the mortgage interest deduction (MID), which is like the smoking addiction of the tax code.

    We don’t know exactly what will emerge from tax reform discussions, but supposedly everything is on the table (or chopping block, depending on how you see it). Except the MID of course. Defended as a way to encourage homeownership, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a worse way to accomplish this goal.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh)…

    I’m sick of reading conservatives attack the home mortgage interest deduction. As noted here (quoting a story from Bloomberg News, prior to the 2012 presidential election)…

    Lots of middle class people would be hit hard by that. There is a real political issue here. Give up a mortgage tax deduction (the biggest loophole for the middle class) in order to give trillions of dollars of tax cuts to the rich. It also would make the real estate market much worse because home ownership is subsidized by that deduction.

    I think Romney would lose the suburbs if people understood. Of course, he’ll deny. He wants big tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and he has a “secret plan” to end the war, I mean to balance the budget.

    Nixon beat George Romney in 1968 primaries, so Mitt became Dick Nixon, just as George Bush II modeled Ronnie Reagan rather than his father. I am tired of Republican “daddy” issues.

    There isn’t a lot that I, as a middle-class homeowner, benefit from when it comes to tax policy and our federal government (except for declining-over-time amounts that we have to pay, which isn’t insignificant I know), but the mortgage interest deduction is definitely one of those benefits (along with deducting state and local taxes; I don’t have a link at the moment, but I’ve seen the idea of getting rid of those deductions floated from conservatives too).

    There’s a reason why Willard Mitt Romney and Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv didn’t touch this with the proverbial ten foot pole. And that’s because they knew that it was a “third rail.”

    However, under the guise of supposedly encouraging “big ideas” or something, I’m sure this will get regurgitated over and over and over, which is why we must be ever vigilant when that happens.

  • Further, it looks like the wingnuts want Rachel Maddow to apologize here for a story saying that a Koch Brothers-affiliated group supported Florida’s totally ridiculous welfare-recipient-drug-testing law; see, the argument is that, because Maddow’s parent employer MSNBC (Microsoft, really) and Comcast, for example, donated to something called the State Policy Network, which counts among its members the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability, then the group is affiliated with Microsoft and Comcast also (hey, if the shoe fits)…

    Well, if this State Policy Network/Florida Foundation for Government Accountability takes money from the Kochs (which doesn’t seem to be in dispute), then what’s the problem with saying that they’re Koch-affiliated?

    Besides, maybe if the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability (which is to say, of course, Charles and David Koch) want to keep a lower profile on this issue (apparently not having the courage of their rotten convictions) then maybe instead of trying to persecute a cable TV personality, they could instead cease and desist from traveling to Georgia, for example, to tell that state how supposedly wonderful Florida’s welfare-recipient-drug-testing law supposedly is (noted here).

  • Continuing, I give you the latest in climate science denialism from Jack Kelly (here)…

    There were more record lows than highs in the United States last year, for the first time since 1993. For the 17th consecutive year, global temperatures were lower than in 1998. Arctic sea ice expanded by about 50 percent, confounding predictions the Arctic would be ice-free by the summer of 2013.

    Oh brother – as noted here in response…

    The Met Office in Britain recently pointed out that there are all sorts of reasons why sea ice extent can bounce around from year to year:

    — temperatures naturally vary from one year to the next ;
    — the amount of cloud can affect the amount of surface melting;
    — summer storms can also break up ice, which can accelerate the melting process;
    — settled conditions can be more conducive to ice forming;
    — winds may act to spread out the ice or push it together.

    Those variables can help explain why sea ice didn’t decline in 2013 as much as it did last year: “In 2012 we saw a record low which was storm which swept through the region in summer, but this year’s weather conditions appear to have been less conducive to ice loss,” noted Ann Keen, a sea ice scientist at the Met Office.

    Since things can vary a fair bit year to year, the Met Office advises looking at longer-term trends. And those are easy to see. There was less Arctic ice, on average, in the 2000s than there was in the 1990s. And there was less ice, on average, in the 1990s than there was in the 1980s.

    Clearly the ice is disappearing. Since 1979, Arctic sea-ice extent has been shrinking by about 4 percent per decade, with summer lows getting about 11 percent smaller each decade. And the volume of Arctic sea ice — which is trickier to measure — also keeps tumbling downward.

    And as long as we’re talking about Kelly, allow me to note that we’re coming up on the ninth anniversary of Kelly’s claim that the Iraq War was “all but won” in February 2005 here (proving among other things, that, like the forces affecting our temperatures, Kelly is an expert at generating hot air and apparently not much else).

  • Finally, this tells us that Repug U.S. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma will end his term early due to his battle with prostate cancer. I wish him well with this health issue, but before anyone gets carried away with too many hosannas to this guy, I think we should remember the following:

    On the positive side, he said that liberals were honest about the deficit, or something, here (true). He also wanted $1 trillion in defense cuts for the next 10 years (here).

    On the negative side, he said that President Obama wanted more people to be dependent on government because Obama supposedly was (here). He also said here that Obama was “perilously close” to impeachment, without providing evidence of course (here).

    Oh, and there’s also the matter of Coburn’s role in the scheme to pay off the mistress of his now-disgraced fellow Repug Senate colleague John Ensign, which Coburn originally denied, though it came to light later (here).

    He also scuttled a budget deal with Dick Durbin because he wanted an additional $130 billion in Medicare cuts (here). Coburn also made sure that $2 billion was removed from funding health care for first responders (here).

    As noted here

    This bastard voted YES for tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. He voted YES to exempt them from the estate tax. He voted YES to give these same rich people additional benefits in the form of capital gains tax cuts. Yet, somehow he had the balls to vote NO on taking care of the 9-11 responders who risked everything to respond to the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil on the grounds that it’s too expensive. How can he possibly rationalize this?

    He also helped to block federal flood insurance here, along with an extension of unemployment benefits here (past is prologue, I guess). And he also told a woman distraught at a town hall over her husband’s brain injury that expecting help from the government was “an inaccurate statement,” or something here (nice guy…and of course, Coburn’s sheep-like minions in attendance applauded – somebody elects these fools, people).

    Tom Coburn made his name as someone who supposedly was a prudent fiscal conservative, but who was in fact a heartless shill on behalf of the “pay no price, bear no burden” one percent of this country, with the accompanying media hagiography provided for him by all-too-willing Beltway corporate media stenographers (as well as Number 44 himself, who didn’t do us any favors on Coburn either).

    He merely reinforced, and did his best to accelerate actually, the already ruinous right-wing political realignment and economic inequality of this country. And I’d be hard-pressed to come up a worse possible epitaph than that.


  • Friday Mashup (11/15/13)

    November 15, 2013
  • I’ve been a bit delinquent in linking to sites where you can provide assistance in some way to the victims of the horrific events in the Philippines recently, and I apologize for that:

    Here is a link to the Red Cross (blood donations, supplies, etc.).

    Here is a link to Oxfam America (financial contributions will assist with providing food, clean water, medicine, and shelter).

    Here is a link to World Vision (same as above).

  • Next (and turning to the kids in this country), this tells us that Dem U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Dem U.S. House Rep George Miller and Repug U.S. House Rep Richard Hanna support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act – more follows…

    According to a draft, the bill would expand early childhood education from birth to age five over a decade. It would give states funding to expand preschool to all four-year-olds in low-income families who earn below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, or about $47,000 for a family of four, based on the number of children that would be served. States would also have to qualify by meeting quality standards and by already providing state-funded Kindergarten. The states would start out having to match 10 percent of the federal money and then increase that match to an equal share by the 10th year, although the match would be reduced for those that serve half or more of their eligible four-year-olds. If a state achieves universal access to preschool for four-year-olds, it could then start working on serving three-year-olds so long as that access remains for the older children.

    The bill doesn’t just address preschool, but also high-quality childcare for infants and young children. States could set aside 15 percent of the money for high-quality education and care for infants and toddlers. It would authorize a new partnership between Early Head Start and those who offer childcare to improve the quality of the care while changing the block grant that supports childcare so that it can raise the quality and ease eligibility. The Department of Health and Human Services would also convert Head Start programs that currently serve low-income four-year-olds into programs to serve three-year-olds and younger.

    The Think Progress post also tells us that the U.S. is 21st in the world when it comes to the percentage of GDP it spends on preschool, even though “the benefits of access to high-quality learning at a young age have been well documented,” as Think Progress points out.

    More on the bill can be found from here (a link to Congressman Miller’s web site).


    So what say you on this, Mikey the Beloved?

    Well, this links to the Education page of Fitzpatrick’s web site, where we learn that he supports tying student loan interest rates to the market, he also supports the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, which is commendable– and of course, NO LABELS NO LABELS NO LABELS BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    If he comes out in favor of the Miller/Hanna legislation, I’ll update this post accordingly.

  • Continuing, I give you the following from Doug Schoen of Fix Noise…

    It’s official: ObamaCare is a failure.

    Data released by the administration shows that only 100,000 Americans have signed up while the administration has been touting a 500,000-person enrollment goal for October.

    Reuters is reporting that ObamaCare has only reached three percent of its enrollment target for 2014 in 12 states.

    “Hold me accountable for the debacle. I am responsible,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House committee. And while I appreciate Secretary Sebelius’s willingness to take responsibility, we’re past the point where blame and pointing fingers will do us any good.

    We need a fresh start with health care. Going back to square one is the only way we’re going to make any progress. We still have an opportunity, albeit a waning one, to make this right.

    (By the way, I apologize for not being able to link back to Fix Noise on this. For some reason, the page this appeared on is no longer valid. A real head-scratcher, that.)

    And all of this from an operation that has not shown an iota of objectivity on this issue (and Schoen is very definitely a part of that regime).

    I think that more context is needed on this matter, and Think Progress provides some here (I realize that I’m echoing a lot of what they’ve posted recently – I see a lot of other good sites, but I don’t see anyone else doing their type of reporting on this stuff).

    To me, the most important takeaway from Igor Volsky’s post is that the enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Law reflect pretty much those of Commonwealth Care in 2007 (the coverage instituted in Massachusetts by then-Governor Willard Mitt Romney) and Medicare Part D under Dubya.

    (By the way, Schoen actually has a bit of a point in highlighting what President Clinton said about the Affordable Care Act numbers. I don’t mean that to second what Schoen says in any way, but only to respectfully add in response that The Big Dog should shut his trap on this, particularly since his commendable expansion of children’s health insurance in 1997 followed a similar enrollment pattern also.)

    It should also be noted from here that those in need of medical coverage still view the Affordable Care Law favorably, and as noted here, the Kaiser Family Foundation (the only people who should be trusted when it comes to measuring public response on this as far as I’m concerned) tells us that, based on their data, approval of health care reform is “inching upward,” and non-Republicans basically aren’t excited by all of the breathless “reporting” out there when it comes to web site glitches and what not.

    Oh, and just as a reminder, this tells us how much of a “Democrat” Doug Schoen really is.

  • Further (and sticking with the health care law), I give you this from The Hill…

    A House bill that would allow insurance companies the option of offering old healthcare plans is gaining dozens of co-sponsors ahead of a vote this week.

    Sixty-eight House members signed on to the bill Tuesday alone, giving the measure sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) a total of 156 co-sponsors.

    Nearly all of the sponsors so far are Republicans, but two Democrats have joined the Keep Your Health Plan Act: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). Both are top 2014 targets for the GOP; each Democrat represents a district easily won by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

    This is a really difficult issue, made so in no small part because of our utterly brain-dead corporate media which refuses to do its job of educating and informing us, though I admit this matter is pretty convoluted at times. So I, in my admittedly imperfect manner, will try to do so here.

    (And by the way, to prove my point, the news networks with initials for names could provide some historical context to similar legislation as Igor Volsky at Think Progress did previously. Short of that, they could also point out that it’s ridiculous to hold Obama responsible for the machinations of private insurers, though admittedly he was a bit mush-mouthed on the whole question of whether or not we would keep our health care plans or have to look for coverage on an exchange; one again, those who seek to undermine him have found some new, creative way to do so and give the majority of the country the old “middle finger raised on high” in the process.)

    To begin, this tells us that there are two competing bills out there when it comes to people keeping their health insurance coverage. The bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, while imperfect, represents a workable “bridge,” I think, to help with the transition. However, the Upton bill supported by Barrow and McIntyre is yet another back-door attempt to undermine the law by making “grandfathered” coverage permanent (here).

    This is a typical move for Barrow and McIntyre, by the way; as noted here, they opposed the Affordable Care Law from the beginning (also noted here). And Barrow actually benefitted from campaign funds from the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce in the 2010 election cycle, when 21 incumbent Dems were defeated in U.S. House races because our media fell in love with the racist-sign-and-funny-hat crowd and the Repugs claimed that they would be better at managing the economy (here).

    As for McIntyre, this “Democrat” voted with the Repugs here for that typically idiotic bill to prevent DHS from using taxpayer dollars to buy and stockpile ammunition until they provide a “comprehensive report” to Congress on its ammunition usage, purchase history and contracting practices (authored by Teahadist Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who, more than anyone else, is to blame for the government shutdown…he authored that letter to Obama saying he, and 79 of his playmates, would block a continuing resolution to keep the government going unless “Obamacare” was defunded – by the way, the DHS bill was a paean to the Teahadists who were worried that that danged li-bu-ruul Obama was going to use that agency to seize all of the ammunition instead of taking their guns away – yep, crazy is as crazy does).

    Oh, and speaking of the shut down, McIntyre was one of the U.S. House Dems who sponsored government “a la carte” during the shutdown, along with Barrow, on at least one related vote here (way to fold like card tables, people…maybe the reason why your seats are “weakly held” is because you lack the courage of what are supposed to be your convictions).

    And this tells us how Barrow and McIntyre voted to cut renewable energy funding (by the way, this Daily Kos post to me is shocking because Mikey the Beloved actually does something good here, and that is to support the Army Corps of Engineers in changing current guidance on how the federal government defines waters subject to the Clean Water Act, and yes, this is a good thing in this context…of course, Mikey probably knew the bill wouldn’t pass in this House, so it’s not as if he’ll ever have to pay a price for it, and can instead try to burnish some imaginary “centrist” cred here).

    Also, Barrow and McIntyre both voted in favor of H 368 Section 2 to defund the government, as noted here.

    I realize that, were we to lose John Barrow and Mike McIntyre, it would be a harder road for the Dems to eventually retake the House. But with votes like these, I cannot possibly imagine why we should spend any money whatsoever or contribute anything else to help them in their upcoming campaigns (and as usual, what Digby sez here – h/t Atrios).

  • Buckyballs

  • Finally, I came across an Op-Ed in the Murdoch Street Journal written by former Bushie Nancy Nord about the so-called “Buckyballs” case – I can’t link to it unless I subscribe (too funny), so I went to Nord’s blog instead to read more about it (here)…

    A number of manufacturers make small powerful magnet desk toys and manipulatives. Buckyballs had the largest share of that market. Even though Buckyballs were not intended for or primarily sold to children, when reports of ingestion started coming in, the company making them, Maxfield and Oberton, stepped up with an aggressive safety education program to warn against the danger of children swallowing powerful magnets.

    Even though that education program was fully discussed with and encouraged by the agency, the CPSC then demanded a recall and decided to sue the company when it disagreed with its demand—all before the safety education program could be fully put into place. A principle tenet of the agency’s case is that warnings were not sufficient to protect the public. Yet, the only evidence it has to support that contention is its speculative conclusions, since the aggressive safety campaign envisioned by the industry was prematurely shut down by the agency.

    “Aggressive safety campaign envisioned by the industry”? As noted here, Craig Zucker, the head of Maxfield and Oberton (the company that made Buckyballs) apparently had at least one opportunity to get this product off the market in 2010; despite that, he still wasn’t able, apparently, to market this product or package it in a way that protected kids, enough to prevent the choking and digestion problems like the ones encountered this year.

    And as I read more about this, I found out that this case has become sort of a lightning rod for the wingnuts, who of course perpetually hate any “big gumint regulation” of any kind (here, though I admit that there is a bit of a twist noted below)…

    Over the last three weeks, more than 2,200 people have placed orders for $10-to-$40 sets of magnetic stacking balls, rising to the call of a saucy and irreverent social media campaign against a government regulatory agency.

    The money from the sales of the so-called Liberty Balls goes to a legal-defense fund. At the crux of the battle is an arcane legal tussle that has caught the attention of a number of mainstream business organizations and free-market legal groups.

    It involves an effort by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall Buckyballs, sets of tiny, powerfully magnetic stacking balls that the magazines Rolling Stone and People once ranked on their hot products lists.

    Last year, the commission declared the balls a swallowing hazard to young children and filed an administrative action against the company that made the product, demanding it recall all Buckyballs, and a related product called Buckycubes, and refund consumers their money. The company, Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, challenged the action, saying labels on the packaging clearly warned that the product was unsafe for children.

    But the fuss now has less to do with safety. After Maxfield & Oberton went out of business last December, citing the financial toll of the recall battle, lawyers for the product safety agency took the highly unusual step of adding the chief executive of the dissolved firm, Craig Zucker, as a respondent in the recall action, arguing that he controlled the company’s activities. Mr. Zucker and his lawyers say the move could ultimately make him personally responsible for the estimated recall costs of $57 million.

    While the “responsible corporate officer” doctrine (also known as the Park doctrine) has been used frequently in criminal cases, allowing for prosecutions of individual company officers in cases asserting corporate wrongdoing, experts say its use is virtually unheard-of in an administrative action where no violations of law or regulations are claimed.

    So the reason why Zucker is manufacturing his so called “Liberty Balls” (akin to “Freedom Fries” or “Freedom Toast” from back in the day, apparently) is to raise money for his legal defense over what appears to be a highly unusual action by the CPSC, naming him as a respondent in the recall of his dangerous product.

    The Times also tells us the following…

    Conservative legal groups like Cause of Action, a nonprofit that targets what it considers governmental overreach, have been watching the proceedings with interest and weighing taking some action.

    “This really punishes entrepreneurship and establishes a bad precedent for businesses working to create products for consumers,” said Daniel Z. Epstein, the group’s executive director. “It undermines the business community’s ability to rely upon the corporate form.”

    Mr. Epstein once worked for a foundation run by Charles G. Koch, who, with his brother David, has funded numerous conservative and antigovernment or antiregulatory causes. He would not disclose the donors behind Cause of Action. The Washington Legal Foundation, which promotes pro-business and free-market positions, has weighed in with a background paper titled “C.P.S.C.’s Misuse of R.C.O. Doctrine Bodes Ill for C.E.O.’s and Consumers.”

    So of course the Koch Brothers have found a way to worm themselves into this mess.

    Anyone have any idea why the CPSC would do such a thing? I would guess that the following provides a hint (here)…

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission, stymied in attempts to get a manufacturer to foot the bill, persuaded several prominent retailers to voluntarily join the agency in a recall of Buckyballs, the super-magnet desk toys which have seriously damaged the intestines of children who swallow them.

    The CPSC sought the cooperation of retailers after the manufacturer of Buckyballs abruptly dissolved the company late last year. The agency tried unsuccessfully to get the former CEO of Buckyballs to pay for the recall, and has sued the corporate parent, Maxfield & Oberton, in an administrative complaint.

    To me, it sounds like the CPSC was actually being pretty damn vigilant, taking action to get a dangerous product off the market while the owner of that product apparently didn’t want to be bothered with aiding in that effort (and again, there had been a recall three years earlier, so Zucker should have been aware that there could still be a problem…and yes, I know we’re not really talking about a toy per se, but we’re still talking about something that is a danger to the public).

    And speaking of that, while we’re supposed to be preoccupied with shareholder return or possibly damaging this country’s entrepreneurial spirit or whatever, it might be a good idea to consider the damage these “Buckyballs” have caused (from here)…

    9 year old girl was playing with an antique/toy lamp that used buckyball magnets as the string to pull the light on, took some of the magnets and placed in her mouth, accidentally swallowed about 5-7 of them. Patient underwent multiple exposures to radiation via XRays, anesthesia, and an endoscopy in an attempt to retrieve them. Magnets were in small intestine by the time endoscopy was performed, required more XRays to follow magnets around the bowel. Fortunate for the child, they passed without incident.

    The doctor stated that her 2 years old patient swallow 62 rare earth magnets and suffered intestinal perforation. The doctor stated it’s believed that the incident happened while the child was playing with the magnets without supervision.

    The doctor stated that the 62 magnets were removed from his intestines and stomach. The child was currently admitted at the intensive care unit and will be in the hospital for approximately 5-7 days. The doctor stated that soon after his release from the hospital the child would have to follow up with the pediatric surgeon as well as with his regular pediatrician.

    Ingestion of 4 bucky ball magnets. Patient presented to the emergency department with abdominal pain and distension, decreased oral intake and vomiting. The magnets were removed from the colon endoscopically.

    Caller states that he is a physician and attended twelve year old boy who put thirty 5mm magnetic balls into his urethra and into his bladder.

    Physicians attempted to remove the Bucky balls using a cystoscope for greater than one hour but this was unsuccessful with only three being removed and a one and a half hour surgery was performed by cutting into his stomach to his bladder for removal of the remaining twenty seven balls.

    Child was in Yale New Haven Hospital overnight then returned home.

    Caller wanted to report this action so that CPSC would have knowledge of other ways that magnetic balls can be dangerous for young people.

    I actually found myself becoming enraged as I read about this, I have to admit; I know I’ve got a mile or two on the odometer, as the saying goes, but I can remember a time when we would say or do anything and spare no expense to protect our kids from danger of any kind, and the hell with how much somebody responsible for that danger has to pay or what punishment they have to undergo (I’ve got two words to say in response to the “punish(ing) entrepreneurship” crap, and they’re not Happy Birthday).

    And how utterly typical, by the way, for Nancy Nord to leap to Zucker’s defense.

    And that is because Nord was possibly the very worst head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission who has ever held the office (as I know I’ve said before, in addition to Iraq, 9/11, tilting the Supreme Court in favor of corporations into remote posterity and its other horrendous judicial appointments, Bushco’s worst legacy is the fact that they managed to install some of the very worst human beings imaginable as heads of federal agencies…see Norton, Gale; Kempthorne, Dirk; Chertoff, Michael; Brown, Michael; Doan, Lurita, Chao, Elaine, and Nord, along with too many others).

    As noted here

  • Nord blew off a hearing on defective toys because the hearing also would have included the testimony of child safety advocates (and Nord’s CPSC didn’t decide to test products until an incident was reported, and they negotiated every word of a recall alert with the manufacturer of a defective product).
  • Her CSPC was clearly understaffed and underfunded, where a “fox running the hen house” mentality ran rampant (oh, and she actually opposed a bill that would have increased the funding of her agency).
  • She also blew off pool safety alerts, and this tells you about Nord’s far-less-than-stellar response on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (or CPSIA) of 2008.
  • So go ahead and tell me how much the Consumer Products Safety Commission is supposedly guilty of regulatory overreach in the “Buckyballs” case, and how we’re unjustly attacking poor Craig Zucker, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to aid in the recent recall when it was found out just how dangerous his product really was.

    Actually, Zucker could do me a little favor if he wanted to (I’m sure he doesn’t), and I would take it easy on him from that point forward.

    He could actually pay a visit to the child who had to have his stomach cut open to his bladder to remove Zucker’s stinking product.


  • Tuesday Mashup (10/29/13)

    October 29, 2013
  • Last week, Philadelphia’s supposed “newspaper of record” ran a front-page story on “No Corporate Tax” Pat Toomey…

    I had no objection to reopening the government. My main objection was combining that with several hundred billion dollars of additional debt that’s piled onto our already excessive levels of debt with no reforms whatsoever,” Toomey told The Inquirer. “Nothing that curbs the spending.”

    Gosh, how nice of “No Corporate Tax” Pat not to have an “objection” to “reopening the government” – here is a partial list of everyone who was screwed over by the calamitous antics of Toomey’s political party.

    And as far as Obama and reducing the debt is concerned, I give you this and this.

    Continuing…

    Toomey had sought to distance himself from the GOP’s most strident voices in the latest fight, saying he disagreed with threatening a shutdown to “defund” Obamacare. He called that “a bad idea” that could not succeed with President Obama still in the White House.

    But when the deal to reopen the government after 16 days included plans to increase borrowing authority without finding savings elsewhere, he said it was more than he could stomach.

    I read that last phrase in particular in disbelief because it totally disregards the impact of the ruinous “sequester” – as noted from here

    In fact, Democrats have agreed to the sequester funding levels, not the funding levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act, the law that supposedly set priorities for spending limits. The Tea-Publican economic terrorists have already won. Democrats have agreed to the Ryan budget spending levels that American voters overwhelmingly rejected in the 2012 election.

    Indeed – as the graph from the linked article indicates, the Senate “continuing resolution” funding request (taking the sequester into account) was $72 billion below the proposed budget for 2014. How much more in the way of “funding savings” does Toomey expect us to cough up by emptying our pockets and looking under the seat cushions (as it were)?

    The rest of the article is right-wing political insider crap and really deserves no further comment, so I won’t provide any.

    Update 10/31/13: Wonder what Toomey has to say about this (cue the sound of crickets).

  • Next, former Bushie Peter Schaumber haz a sad over Richard Griffin’s nomination to the NLRB (here)…

    For the second time in a year and a half, a powerful official may be appointed to the National Labor Relations Board without the Senate scrutiny his nomination requires.

    President Obama’s controversial nomination of Richard Griffin, Jr. for general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board was voted out of committee without a hearing, and the full Senate will vote on Griffin without a meaningful debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) set a cloture vote limiting debate for October 28. The Senate’s Democratic leadership has shown again that it is willing to dispense with a necessary element of the democratic process to serve the interests of Big Labor.

    Maybe the lack of “Senate scrutiny” is due to the fact that Griffin’s nomination, as well as that of Sharon Block to the NLRB, was filibustered, as noted here (third bullet)…

    When Obama took office, the NLRB only had two members. In April 2009, Obama nominated three people to serve on the NLRB – Mark Pearce (D), Craig Becker (D) and Brian Hayes (R). Yet Senate Republicans’ silent filibusters were effective in preventing a Senate vote on these nominees.

    In March 2010, Obama recess appointed Becker and Pearce to the board. In June, the Senate confirmed Pearce and Hayes, but continued to block Becker.

    When Becker’s recess appointment expired on Jan. 3, 2012, the NLRB didn’t have a quorum to make decisions. Confronted with Senate Republicans intent on undermining the NLRB’s authority, Obama made three recess appointments – Sharon Block (D), Richard Griffin (D) and Terence Flynn (R) – to guarantee a fully functioning board. These members joined Pearce and Hayes, who left the board in December 2012.

    Oh, and if you think the party of Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao was gumming up the Senate to a fare thee well already, get a load of this case on the docket of The Supremes, which could enable the Repugs to wreak even more havoc (and as the Media Matters post tells us, the ruling of unconstitutionality by the D.C. Circuit Court on the recess appointments by the Obama Administration of Block and Griffin was “extreme” and “contradictory to settled executive branch practice” according to the Constitutionality Law Center).

    Fortunately, based on this, it looks like two other competent Democrats got through all the ridiculous obstruction by the Senate minority party and were named to the NLRB.

    And Peter Schaumber, Peter Schaumber…why does that name ring a bell?

    Oh yeah – this tells us the following from April of last year…

    WASHINGTON — A top labor adviser to GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stepped down from his volunteer role with the campaign not long before he was publicly implicated in a federal ethics investigation, according to a Romney campaign aide.

    The inspector general of the National Labor Relations Board has asked federal investigators to examine whether Peter Schaumber, a former NLRB board member and erstwhile Romney adviser, may have been involved in violations of the Hatch Act, the federal law that prohibits civil servants from engaging in partisan politics.

    The Hatch Act request stems from an earlier investigation by the labor board’s inspector general that found that NLRB board member Terence Flynn had allegedly violated the agency’s ethical code by sharing sensitive information with outsiders, including Schaumber, while serving as counsel last year. Flynn was notified Dec. 5 that he was being investigated. According to the aide, Schaumber left the campaign in December. The NLRB investigation first became public in March and now appears to be widening.

    In fact, the former campaign of Willard Mitt even scrubbed all mention of Schaumber from its web site last year (here).

    Tee hee hee…

  • Continuing, I give you the following from Debra Saunders (here)…

    During the Obama years, a potent mythology has taken root in Democratic circles. In this narrative, Democrats are victims, martyrs even, whereas Republicans are wily tricksters.

    Last year, there was a hyped-up fable about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. President Barack Obama told “60 Minutes,” “When I first came into office, the head of the Senate Republicans said, ‘My No. 1 priority is making sure President Obama’s a one-term president.'” Sen. Dianne Feinstein even told the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board she heard McConnell speaking to that effect on the Senate’s opening day.

    The thing is that the quote in question first appeared nearly two years later — in an October 2010 interview with the National Journal’s Major Garrett.

    And guess what? Saunders is absolutely right.

    That being said, I think the following should be noted from here

    WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

    The event — which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured — serves as the prologue of Robert Draper’s much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.”

    According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

    For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.

    “If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

    The conversation got only more specific from there, Draper reports. Kyl suggested going after incoming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for failing to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes while at the International Monetary Fund. Gingrich noted that House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) had a similar tax problem. McCarthy chimed in to declare “there’s a web” before arguing that Republicans could put pressure on any Democrat who accepted campaign money from Rangel to give it back.

    So basically, GOP obstruction of this president began on the very day he was inaugurated. Imagine the howls of outrage had a similar meeting been held by the Democratic congressional leadership the night of January 21, 2001.

    To use a parlance you’re sure to understand, wingnuts, you “built this.” Have the courage and basic human decency to own up to it, OK?

  • Further, I have some health-care-related items for discussion, beginning with this one

    Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan says the troubled Obamacare rollout could potentially vindicate the tea party for the government shutdown.

    “During three and a half years, from 1942 to ’45, the United States government built, with the help of the industrialists, got hundreds of thousands of aircraft, 1600 ships. We armed the United States — 12 million men, Russia, the British Empire — destroyed two of the greatest empires on earth,” Buchanan told “On The Record” host Greta Van Susteren on Thursday. “And you mean to tell me these folks in that amount of time, and with $500 million can’t create a website?

    Oh, yes, Obamacare website, Obamacare website, Obamacare website…yes, it’s bad, but cut them some slack, OK? I mean, it’s not as if hugely popular federal government entitlements (which I supposed the Affordable Care Law is, to an extent) haven’t had trouble during the roll out phase before (here – and by the way, we also can’t seem to be able to build a commuter tunnel from New Jersey to NYC either – here…hopefully voters in the Garden State will remember this before they rush off to give Governor Bully four more years in about a week…and to do something to prevent that, click here).

    And potentially “vindicate” the Teahadists for the government shut down, huh? Well, this tells us what this country thinks of those wheezing old white, middle-aged-and-older crybabies, and this tells us that the Affordable Care Law, while still trying to win approval despite everything currently going on, is gaining traction to a degree, despite Republican efforts to kill it in its infancy.

    Turning to Indiana, this also from The Daily Tucker tells us the following…

    Obamacare will cause 11,000 low-income residents of Indiana to lose their existing health coverage.

    Oh brother… in fact, it was known in September that, under Repug Governor Mike Pence, the 11,000 or so residents would be moved from the state exchange and have to enroll because, as the Journal-Gazette tells us here, “the income eligibility threshold (will) drop significantly, from up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level to up to 100 percent.”

    And get a load of this…

    The Obama administration demanded that an Indiana health insurance program for the poor alter its eligibility requirements and recommended that booted patients seek out Obamacare plans instead.

    I don’t know how accurate “demanded” is, but what I do know is that, like every other Repug governor I can think of, Pence turned up his nose at Medicaid expansion (in essence, free money) to cover the cost of enrolling everyone in his state who was eligible under existing guidelines. So of course the guidelines had to be modified, booting off about 11,000 “Hoosiers” (and here is more Pence nonsense on this issue).

    gwb_13-george-w-bush
    And just when you thought we were done with this guy, along comes Dr. Marc Siegel (who?), who inflicts the following from here

    From Benghazi to the health of former President George W. Bush, wild unsubstantiated assertions by the news media take the place of real reporting. Fox News is left to set the record straight, yet frequently it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

    OK, I’ll stop. Continuing…

    The stent placement in President Bush’s coronary artery is the latest example of the world of Fox News versus wild speculation.

    The subsequent media firestorm and unsubstantiated August debate over whether Bush’s heart procedure was needed has culminated in yet another round of anti-journalistic speculation this week more than two months after the fact.

    I had attempted back then to report the facts about the severity of President Bush’s lesion, and the appropriateness of his treatment by his team of doctors in Dallas, led by Dr. Tony Das, who inserted the potentially lifesaving stent.

    My source for the real medical facts back in August was the president’s senior spokesperson, Freddy Ford.

    President Bush, typically unselfish, was not responding to criticism with anything personal or political but was concerned for the reputation of his doctors who he felt were being falsely maligned.

    Um…the dookey’s getting pretty deep quickly, so I’d better respond with this by Steven M. Greer, M.D…

    A recent short article in an obscure Washington, DC wonky journal triggered national media when it asserted that President George W. Bush’s (43rd President) coronary artery disease was far more dangerous than originally reported in August. NBC Nightly news picked up the story along with numerous other national outlets. The headline was “President Bush had a 95% blockage of the artery”.

    When President Bush first received a coronary stent in August, after a routine “Executive Physical” exam at the Texas Cooper Clinic found coronary artery disease, the national TV and print news (and this author) widely reported that the stent was unnecessary and did little to reduce his chance of future heart attack. A Washington Post Op-Ed went on to use the Bush case as an example of expensive ineffective therapy in the American healthcare system. A contrarian view came from Fox News’ Dr. Marc Siegel in his USA Today Op-Ed.

    On October 15th, in response to the NBC, Dr. Siegel appeared on afternoon Fox News to scream to the world that “We got this story first” and send the message, “Told you so. The Bush stent was critical to saving his life and the doctors in Texas were Super Heroes”. During his segment, Dr. Siegel insinuated that he is very close with President Bush and that President Bush personally informed him of the details of his coronary artery lesion, location, etc.

    Dr. Siegel’s behavior seemed so erratic and manic that the credibility of his comments were in question. We emailed him to clarify a few points, and he promptly replied by telephone. What ensued was a bizarre series of calls.

    I’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to read the rest of Dr. Greer’s post about his communication with Dr. Siegel (yep, it’s pretty unusual, all right).

    Not being a medical professional, I don’t have the first clue as to whether or not George W. Bush actually needed a stent or not to correct his heart issue. And despite the ruin he oversaw while he occupied space in An Oval Office, I don’t wish ill on him. I don’t wish anything particularly good for him, either. I wish he would continue to just go away and stay away.

    I wanted to take a moment and comment on this, though, because this stuff is about as serious as it gets. A decision about this type of a procedure should be made after careful consultation with the appropriately degreed medical professional (I know, duuuh!). And unless time is of the essence (which it often is with a heart-related blockage), a second opinion is a good idea. There are tradeoffs to this type of a procedure, and they should be discussed along with the benefits (and preferably not with someone who doubles as a pundit for Fix Noise).

  • Finally (for folk in Bucks County, PA, Lower Makefield in particular), I just wanted to point out that a week from today is Election Day (that would be November 5th). Click here to support Deb Wachspress and Josh Waldorf for the Pennsbury School Board (this is our chance to boot Simon Campbell, people – what more do I need to say?), and click here to support John Lewis and Mark Moffa for Lower Makefield Supervisors.

    Because…

    Every_Election_Matters


  • Thursday Mashup (10/10/13)

    October 10, 2013
  • Cal Thomas of Fix Noise decided to weigh in recently on the supposed virtues of five different Republican governors across this country (here); I thought it best to offer excerpts of his commentary followed by my response…

    (Oh, and never forget that, according to the Foxies, it’s not a “shut down,” but a “slim down” – I’m sure the parents and kids dependent on food services and immunizations, as well as low-income people who need help with their utilities, to say nothing of our veterans on active duty wondering if their spouses can obtain day care for their kids, among many others, don’t look at it that way.)

    Here are the excerpts from Thomas’s column…

    Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) who wants you to know that his state’s GDP has grown by $36 billion since 2008, nearly twice the national rate. That puts Louisiana eighth best in the country and third best in the South.

    …Jindal (also) says his state has become a “national leader” in charter schools with 80 percent of New Orleans students enrolled in them.

    Actually, as noted here, the majority of the schools cited in a report that Jindal presented on “Meet the Press” received C, D, and F grades (with many F grades showing as “No Action” instead).

    Jindal also said here that racism is the fault of minorities for supposedly not being “American” enough here; also, this presents more “cold light of day” stuff in response to Jindal’s supposed successes, including his support of tax cuts for the wealthy and tax hikes for everyone else (of course) and his refusal to provide health care for his state’s poorest citizens.

    Back to Thomas…

    John Kasich (Ohio) closed an $8 billion shortfall without raising taxes and cut taxes by $3 billion. He eliminated the “death tax,” modernized Medicaid, eliminated the bureaucratic Department of Development and created a private, nonprofit corporation — JobsOhio — to “respond to job creators’ needs at their pace instead of at ‘the speed of statute.’”

    It should also be noted from here that Kasich, along with “Goodhair” Perry of Texas, denied $731 million in unemployment funds for their states (and under Kasich’s supposed “jobs” program, unemployment actually went up; no word on whether or not these events took place “at the speed of statute”).

    Oh, and did you know that, according to here, Ohio is 47th in private-sector job creation?

    Back to Thomas…

    Susana Martinez (New Mexico) boosted funding for education and Medicaid without raising taxes; cooperated with a Democratic legislature, passing the New Mexico Jobs Package, which reduced the tax rate on businesses from 7.6 percent to 5.9 percent; moved the state from 38th in the nation in export growth three years ago to first today; turned a structural deficit into a surplus and enacted comprehensive tax reform.

    Martinez also vetoed a minimum wage increase (here) and cut in half the budget for the only agency in the entire state devoted to recruiting businesses for jobs (here).

    And as noted from here, Martinez overstepped her authority when she fired two members and the executive director of Public Employee Labor Relations Board, as ruled by the state supreme court. She also vetoed a business tax increase that the state’s businesses actually lobbied for to shore up the state’s unemployment compensation fund (so much for “comprehensive tax reform”).

    Back to Thomas…

    Nikki Haley (South Carolina) pushed through tax reform on small businesses, which she claims, resulted in South Carolina having the fastest growing manufacturing sector on the East Coast and creating 38,000 new jobs, which have contributed $9 billion in new investment.

    Of the five governors on this supposedly “got it right” list, Haley may be the most hilarious citation of them all (unintentionally so, I realize).

    As noted here, South Carolina is basically #35 in job growth (they were 46th in August 2012, so I guess that’s some progress…don’t know whether they still have the third-highest youth unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent). Also, this tells us how unemployed residents of her state took to sending Haley postcards as a gesture not to forget about them while she traveled all over the country on behalf of Willard Mitt Romney.

    Haley’s response (one of them, anyway)? As noted here, she ordered state workers to act “cheerful” on the phone (uh huh).

    And here are some more numbers telling you the awful story of a state whose residents apparently have decided to give Not Your Father’s Republican Party every single thing they want…

    Here in SC unionization is actually illegal. As you all can see, SC is a vibrant, thriving, beacon of hope for all states to look up to:

    –41st in age 25 and over with High School diploma
    –1st in the country in mobile homes as a % of total housing
    –42nd in disposable personal income
    –9th in families below poverty
    –9th in individuals below poverty
    –38th in median family income

    And back to Thomas one last time…

    Scott Walker (Wisconsin) reversed a $3.6 billion deficit he inherited and turned it into a surplus. He provided nearly $1 billion in tax relief for families and businesses that sparked a two-year job growth, which he says is the best in the state under any governor in 10 years.

    Yes indeed, what would a list like this be without Hosni Mubarak Walker? For starters, this is what Politifact said about Walker’s “two-year job growth” claim (too funny – actually, as noted here, Wisconsin was 11th in job creation before Walker took over, but now they’re 38th). And if the state was really generating jobs, then why would Walker be so desperate that he’s blaming the stuff in Syria for its puny growth (here)?

    Also, if Walker is supposed to be so smart with the money, how come Wisconsin keeps increasing its long-term borrowing (here – this and a lot more stuff on the guy who, more than anyone else, embodies the Koch Brothers method of “governance” can be found here).

    And while we’re on the subject of Republican governors, this tells us (returning to the BLS link) that, at best, the land of “Governor Bully” is 41st in the country when it comes to unemployment (50 is the worst).

    However, you wouldn’t know that from this bit of fluffery from Matt Katz of The Philadelphia Inquirer here

    WAYNE, N.J. – In the first debate between candidates who disagree on just about everything, Gov. Christie on Tuesday presented a positive view of an economically strong New Jersey recovering from Hurricane Sandy while his challenger, State Sen. Barbara Buono, described a state struggling under “Romney-style” economics and far-right social conservatism.

    The one-hour debate at William Paterson University, aired live on CBS3, began with a heavy focus on gay marriage, which Buono, a Democrat, supports and the Republican governor opposes, before moving on to property taxes, the minimum wage, and the Affordable Care Act.

    Buono sought to frame Christie as a governor committed to running for president – an assertion that Christie didn’t exactly deny – while Christie described Buono as a tax-and-spend partisan in the mold of former Gov. Jon S. Corzine. On that issue, Buono did not respond to Christie’s challenge to walk back one of the 154 tax and fee increases she voted for as an assemblywoman and later as a state senator.

    Buono is down as much as 33 points in polls and suffering from a severe cash disadvantage, so the debate was seen as her best opportunity to introduce herself to voters and land punches on the popular incumbent. Although she dropped a few zingers, Christie didn’t commit gaffes, and the debate lacked the sound bites that can go viral via social media.

    Yes, I know the odds are long here, but there’s no percentage at all if we do nothing; to do what you can to help Barbara Buono and Milly Silva, please click here.

  • Next, it looks like former Bushie Ari Ari Bobari is leaving CNN (awwww) to spend more time propagandizing and spewing bilious garbage with his family, or something (here – and don’t you know that “Tiger Beat on the Potomac” is ON IT, PEOPLE??!!).

    Well, given this career change/detour/whatever, I thought that it was a good time to look back on some of his most notorious lowlights:

  • Here, he told a mother whose son died in his former boss’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Iraq that “there are going to be a lot more mothers” like you (nice guy – Ari being a member of “Freedom’s Watch,” a bunch of Iraq war cheerleaders including Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers).
  • He once called for the late Helen Thomas to be fired for supposedly hateful comments, though when it comes to Flush Limbore and Glenn Beck, silence is golden, as the song goes (here).
  • He also falsely claimed that Obama had a proposal to eliminate charitable deductions here, for which he wasn’t called out by Wolf Blitzer (shocking, I know).
  • And did you know that Fleischer secretly worked to undermine the relationship that the Susan G. Komen foundation once had with Planned Parenthood, as noted here?
  • Despite all of this, I’m sure Ari will never want for clients, as noted here when golfer Tiger Woods hired Fleischer to help “repair” his image, though they quickly parted ways because Fleischer’s reputation was so bad that it harmed Woods’ rehabilitation (here…God, worse than a philandering husband? Nice one, Ari!).

    And how thoughtful of Ari to provide this bit of idiocy to make this post even more timely.

  • Continuing, I give you more nonsense from Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page that appeared on 10/08 (here)…

    After meeting with Wall Street executives to discuss the impending debt ceiling crisis last week, President Obama appeared on CNBC. He said that not lifting the debt ceiling would lead to catastrophic results. The White House appears determined to drum up fear to achieve their goal of increasing the limit without concessions. Inciting panic in the financial sector only benefits the White House in their apparent pursuit of general hysteria.

    It seems, however, that the financial sector chose not to play along.

    DJIA_1008
    What appears above is a snapshot of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from last Tuesday (lather, rinse, repeat…).

  • Further, we have Mikey the Beloved trying to burnish his imaginary “centrist” bona fides by supporting “one-at-a-time” legislation to fund particular areas of government that he likes (here). How decent of him.

    However, as noted by Kevin Strouse, running for the Dem nomination to challenge Fitzpatrick next year (from here)…

    Strouse, a former Army Ranger and CIA officer, said that the bills are piecemeal solutions and that veterans in particular should not be used as leverage. He highlighted the work the Veterans Benefits Administration has done to attack the 12-month backlog of claims submitted by veteran soldiers. The continued shutdown threatens to erase the office’s efforts to process the paperwork, Strouse said.

    Also, I’ll let you in on the little “con” that Mikey and his pals are trying to pull; the language they use is “well, we’ll vote for a ‘clean’ CR to fund the government when the bill is brought to the floor for a vote”…but our wet noodle PA-08 rep won’t support such a vote.

    If you’re as fed up with this crap as I am, then click here to support Kevin Strouse, which would be a step in the right direction; our goal is to retire Mikey to private live once and for all in 2014 (…and getting mocked by the Taliban, as noted here – every time I think we can’t sink lower on this, we do).

  • Finally, I came across this item from clownhall.com and Dennis Prager…

    Rejection of the old is a reason the left has contempt for the Bible. To progressives, the idea of having 2,000 and 3,000-year-old texts guide a person’s behavior today is ludicrous.

    The wingnuts really do make it too easy sometimes; I give you the following verses from here (yes, the holy book of my faith does inform my opinions and, I think, provides the appropriate context for political developments – I hope that the Bible informs my actions too, but I guess that’s debatable)…

    Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 82:3-4).

    My response is here.

    Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse (Proverbs 19:1).

    My response is here.

    The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern (though I guess the above quote would fit also – Proverbs 29:7).

    My response is here.

    Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

    My response is here.

    And finally, from here

    For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:26).

    My response is here (and here).


    Let us pray.


  • Thursday Mashup (8/8/13)

    August 8, 2013

    rbby_92

  • Gosh, it looks like RNC Chair Reince Priebus has his proverbial shorts in a knot here, all right…

    The Republican National Committee is threatening not to partner with NBC and CNN on future presidential debates unless they halt production of recently announced programs about Hillary Clinton, according to letters RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sent to network heads.

    NBC announced in July that the network would air a four-hour miniseries about the former first lady called “Hillary,” and CNN Films is producing a documentary about her as well.

    In letters addressed to NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt and CNN President Jeff Zucker on Aug. 5, Priebus warned that RNC members intend to vote on a resolution at their party-wide meeting later this month to shut out the networks from partnering with the party on Republican primary debates if they do not cancel the programs.

    “Out of a sense of fairness and decency and in the interest of the political process and your company’s reputation, I call on you to cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production,” Priebus wrote. “If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.”

    Somehow I don’t think Priebus knows the meanings of the words “fairness” and “decency,” but that’s a secondary point (and I actually hope the two networks tell him where to go – I realize the ad revenue rules their world and they don’t want to miss out, but all of those debates should be run by the League of Women Voters anyway).

    But to refresh Priebus’s memory in the “political ad masquerading as an unbiased production” department, here and here are prior posts from 2006 concerning the “Path to 9/11” non-documentary that aired on the Disney/ABC/RNC network, full of all kinds of questionable assertions about that dreaded day that (surprise, surprise!) aired two months before the 2006 midterm elections (fortunately, based on the electoral outcome, the strategy backfired).

    And I thought the following was interesting (from here)…

    …I also wonder if Priebus might have motivations of his own for getting some RNC debates off networks. Given that the Republican Party seems no closer than it was in 2012 to reaching a decisive break between its radical and moderate wings, if I were Priebus, I might want to keep that debate between them as far away from mass audiences as possible. Given how far moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney have had to run to the right during their primary campaigns, one of the things that debates do is generate a vast trove of high-quality clips of things that the eventual nominee will eventually have to try to explain away in a shortened general election season. If I were Priebus, I’d want as few of those debates as possible, and I’d want them to happen further from the public eye so my eventual candidate has less baggage that can eventually be hung around her or his neck.

    So we’ll see if our corporate media goes weak in the knees when confronted with the “Ooga Booga! Li-Bu-Ruul Bias!” charge once again (though, based on this, I think the GOP needs a dose of “physician, heal thyself” if they’re so concerned with women voters, among other demographics that they’re losing badly).

    On a related note, I have to tell you that this is a real head-scratcher as far as I’m concerned (h/t Atrios). Normally I definitely side up with David Brock and Media Matters, and I’m sure the NBC miniseries will be nothing but trash TV (and I don’t know how CNN can say they’ll create a “documentary” on HRC without involvement of the news division), but rightly or wrongly, here is where I come down on this.

    First, this furor assumes that cable TV will hold sway over the outcome of the 2016 presidential election (assuming Hillary runs – wink, wink), and to be honest, I don’t know how you can say that. No, I don’t have viewing demographic numbers in front of me at the moment, but I think the very fact that the two cables in question are even contemplating these productions gives you an idea of how hard-up they are ratings-wise (relative to Fox, of course, which is a whole other discussion). And I want to emphasize that I’m talking about holding sway over the general election; from what I read last year, the ratings for the 2,347,618 Republican primary debates actually weren’t bad – if Priebus and Brock have leverage here, this is it (i.e., CNN and NBC wouldn’t want to lose out).

    Second, can you really honestly say that there are that many people without an opinion on the Clintons one way or the other at this point (people likely to be swayed by these two productions, which I’m sure will be heavy on the “entertainment” and very light on the facts and historical context)? So basically, I don’t care if CNN and NBC go ahead with these productions; I have a feeling that there will be salacious stuff with no basis in reality (I can see it now…the closet door of the darkened room pops open while Bill and Gennifer Flowers are engaged in carnal acts, and Hillary, holding a gun, shoots Vince Foster, who was trying to talk Bill out of it…fade to black), but there will probably also be complimentary stuff too. As I said earlier, my beef with Priebus is that he’s alleging preferential treatment from the networks, when he definitely benefitted from some of that in the “Path to 9/11” mess.

    A final observation: how big of a dope is Reince Priebus anyway to end up doing something that ends up playing into the hands of David Brock and Media Matters (and as noted here, just when I was about to post this, Priebus said something else that would qualify as “gobsmacked,” I guess – what a maroon).

    (Last but not least, I think this is full of great observations from kos).

    Update 8/9/13: And I would say that this sums up most of what I’ve been saying for the last eight years or so.

  • Next, I give you the following pro-fracking commercial that recently appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer (here)…

    The Marcellus Shale formation – the second-largest natural-gas field in the world – has been a blessing for Pennsylvania’s workers and our economy.

    Almost a quarter-million people in Pennsylvania work to produce natural gas from the Marcellus Shale or in related industries. Thanks to the growth of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, the Marcellus has been responsible for more than 150,000 new hires in the past three years – almost three-quarters of them state residents. The average salary in core fracking industries is more than $90,000 a year. In 2010 alone, oil and gas development utilizing fracking contributed more than $11 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy.

    Fracking is safe and environmentally friendly. In Pennsylvania, more than a dozen state and federal regulatory agencies oversee all aspects of fracking, from well development to pipeline construction. Properly constructed wells leave a very small environmental imprint, and about 99.5 percent of the solution used to free natural gas from shale formations is just water and sand.

    Pennsylvania leads the country in developing safe, effective fracking technologies and policies – and other states are starting to follow suit.

    If fracking is so “safe” and “environmentally friendly,” then how come the fracking companies, after paying out large settlements to people whose properties have been ruined by fracking, make those folks sign gag orders, extending not just to the parents, but to their kids also, as noted here? (An update is here.) Or, as noted from here, “these gag orders are the reason [drillers] can give testimony to Congress and say there are no documented cases of contamination,” said Earthworks organizer Sharon Wilson.

    And as noted from here, Pennsylvania is 33rd in the nation in employment; that’s OK, but nothing to brag about as far as I’m concerned.


    The writer of this column, Kevin Colosimo, serves as a managing partner at Burleson LLP in Pittsburgh, and is a trustee at large for the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation in Kentucky (I sincerely hope that he is based in Pittsburgh and not Kentucky, since the former is smack in the middle of the Marcellus Shale but the latter isn’t, as you can see from the gray area in the map above – it would be pretty low down for him to be praising something that has no chance of blowing up in his face, an expression you can actually take literally when talking about fracking).

  • Continuing, It’s time to find out what our wet noodle PA-08 rep is up to (from his web site here)…

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) ignited a bipartisan push Thursday (8/1) with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) to ensure our nation’s veterans play a critical role in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure with the introduction of the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act.

    “Our fighting men and women are the most highly skilled workforce in history,” said Fitzpatrick, “We must leverage their unprecedented skills to get our economy moving once again.”

    “Rebuilding our nation’s transportation infrastructure is one of my top priorities and is absolutely essential to growing our economy and creating jobs,” said Bustos, “The brave veterans who served us so honorably deserve our full support and that starts with making sure they have good-paying jobs here at home.”

    “With the unemployment rate for returning veterans remaining far too high, it is common sense that they should have access to the contracting preferences available for transportation projects,” Bustos continued.

    This is more distracting feel-good pabulum that is yet another feint to burnish Mikey’s alleged “moderate” bona fides while his utterly lunatic U.S. House “leadership” fiddles as our country burns.

    And that is because, as noted here, Dem U.S. House Rep Rosa DeLauro introduced the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2013 on June 27th, but no vote was scheduled (there was no other activity of any kind, apparently). On top of that, the Water Infrastructure Resiliency Act was introduced by Dem U.S. House Rep Lois Capps on February 15th here (same story).

    “Oh, there you go again, telling us that it’s only the Dems who are doing the right thing. How typical!”

    Well, guess what? As noted here, Republican U.S. House Rep Tom Marino of PA also introduced the Energy Infrastructure Improvement Act, and that is currently in the same limbo as the other two bills (the people who have signed on as cosponsors automatically makes me suspicious about the bill’s intent, but it is no less worthy of a vote than the other two). So the utter, craven failure of the House Speaker and Majority Leader cuts both ways.

    With that in mind, this tells us why the federal government should have a role in infrastructure projects, along with the attendant benefits (for example, does anything think we actually would have our highway transportation system from coast to coast if it had been left up totally to the states?). And this tells us how the Repugs have blocked transportation infrastructure projects, thus hindering our recovery (though they have no trouble with funding infrastructure in places like Afghanistan, as noted here).

    Mikey and Cheri Bustos can introduce all of the bills giving the military preference on infrastructure jobs that they want (which is fine by me and commendable, actually), but it won’t matter if there’s no infrastructure funding forthcoming from this wretched Congress.

    Besides, on the subject of the military, I never found out why Mikey voted against a combat pay increase (here) or a guarantee to pay our military in the event of a government shut down (here).

    With all this in mind, if you really want to do right by someone from our military, click here.

    Update 8/16/13: And it looks like Mikey wants to ultimately phase out credits for wind here, which, as far as I’m concerned, is a dumb idea (would the cost savings make that much of a difference?). Wonder if he’d dare do the same thing for Big Oil, as noted here? Do I even need to ask (seeing as he once voted to cut funding of clean energy here)?

  • Further, it’s time to bring “teh stupid” with Fix Noise here

    Vague terrorist threats shutting down nineteen of our embassies, Russian strongman Putin thumbing his nose at President Obama, Iran jerking our chain – the U.S. hasn’t looked this cowardly on the world stage since the Jimmy Carter administration.

    Here at home, too, we’ve gone back to the Carter future; unemployment is high, Keynesian economics are all the rage, our professorial president is increasingly whiny and ineffectual; all that’s missing is a cardigan sweater and that infernal violin.

    I know you know what’s coming – wait for it anyway (and here is food for thought on the whole “Keynesian” stuff)…

    President George W. Bush is widely scorned these days for attempting to export democracy to the peoples of other lands; Mr. Obama, like Carter before him, has sought kindness and justice from the likes of Hugo Chavez and Bashar-Al-Assad. Which is more naïve?

    Naivete is costly. Both the Carter and Obama administrations have been distinguished by the rare murder of an ambassador.

    So was the administration of Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History; this tells us that U.S. Ambassador David Foy was murdered in Pakistan in 2006 (and if you want to real the real story of what happened under Number 43 on this score, click here).

    This Liz Peek person also tells us that Carter didn’t win an agreement on Pershing missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet SS-20 missiles; in response, the following should be noted from here

    (In 1979) Presidents Carter and Brezhnev (sic – Brezhnev was the Soviet Premier) sign SALT II treaty, setting ceiling of 2,400 strategic missiles and bombers on each side, to be reduced to 2,250 by 1981. After Soviets in- vade Afghanistan, US withdraws SALT II from Senate, but both governments say they will abide by provisions. In December NATO decides to deploy 572 US Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe starting in late 1983 to counter threat from Soviet SS-20s targeted on European cities.

    And here is another choice item from Peek…

    Who today believes that ObamaCare is the best possible answer to reining in the cost of healthcare?

    I do, for one, based on this (#1 just for starters).

    Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh).

  • RS_Media_Friendly_0802

  • Finally, I have to tell you that I’ve been quietly fuming for the last week or so about this pic from The Philadelphia Inquirer over the Rolling Stone story on Dzhokhar Tsarnev and his brother and their alleged involvement in the Boston Marathon bombing (sticking with terrorism).

    Yes, I get the fact that Tsarnev the younger was photographed with a background that would normally be reserved for a rock star that is popular at the moment. However, the cover makes it clear that the magazine quite rightly considers him to be a “monster” (how that constitutes “too friendly” for the tastes of the Inquirer is something I cannot fathom).

    Also I wonder how many of the people who screamed about the magazine’s cover actually took the time to read the story by Janet Reitman? Like just about everything else I’ve ever read in Rolling Stone, it was thoroughly researched and written very well. The story takes you inside the life of this kid, including his family, friends, and lifestyle (I was surprised by how plentiful pot apparently is on college campuses, if the Cambridge area is any indication – I didn’t know parts of the first “Harold and Kumar” movie were a documentary; yes, I’ve been out of that loop for a long time). In addition, while I respect the fact that Tsarnev and his family faced great financial difficulty, I cannot imagine how two parents could emigrate back to Russia two years ago (though they were separated for a time) and leave their four kids at the mercy of whatever fate befell them in this country, including Dzhokhar, his older brother (who really did call the shots) and his two sisters, who ended up in arranged marriages and apparently disappeared (and yes, I know this is partly a cultural issue, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s no excuse on the part of the parents).

    It’s hard to say what exactly led to the Tsarnev Brothers’ murderous and terroristic behavior – whether or not their impulse for violence existed all along, how much of their radicalism was fostered by the disintegration of their family and older brother Tamerlan’s burning desire for jihad (Tamerlan was a Golden Gloves boxer), et cetera. But this to me is a hallmark of good reporting; the story makes you think about it enough to try and connect those dots on your own.

    Does the story make me feel sorry for either of the Tsarnevs? Hell no! The older brother got what he deserved as far as I’m concerned, and at a minimum, I hope the younger one rots in prison (the story tells us that Dhzokhar apparently had a pretty casual attitude while the carnage went on and the manhunt ended up shutting down the city of Boston – let’s give him the rest of his life to think about his behavior, unless he ends up getting a date with a needle).

    It’s easy to bash Rolling Stone as some kind of a nutty, left-wing-hippie publication. That of course is utterly wrong (and I thought the paper has done a good job trying to defuse the cover controversy). It’s obviously a lot harder to give it credit for crafting exemplary journalism. What a pity.

    Update: And I guess it would be a good idea to link to the Rolling Stone piece too, wouldn’t it (here).


  • Friday Mashup (6/21/13)

    June 21, 2013
  • I give you The Daily Tucker here

    Republican lawmakers renewed their push to scrap the federal estate tax this week, saying the move would create jobs and keep family businesses afloat.

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune and Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady officially re-introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act. The bill would immediately eliminate the estate tax and repeal the generation-skipping transfer tax.

    When I say that the Repugs keep coming back over and over and over with their bad ideas regardless of how truly bad they are, no matter how many times they keep going up in smoke (on the oft-chance that maybe, just maybe, this time will be different, and sometimes it is), this is exactly what I mean (and by the way, when the Repugs talk about a “family business,” here is the standard they use).

    For, as noted here from a couple of years ago…

    Estates larger than $5 million potentially owe estate tax in 2011. Only about 1 in 800 deaths will result in a taxable estate; 99.9 percent of deaths trigger no estate tax. The estate tax will raise over $10 billion from 3,300 deaths in 2011. [Tax Policy Center, accessed 6/29/11]

    (Preliminary estimates from the Tax Policy Center) indicate that the proposed estate tax would hit only 50 “Small Farms And Businesses,” defined as “[e]states for which farms and business assets comprise at least half of gross estate and total $5 million or less.” For these estates, the average tax rate is estimated to be 7.4 percent. For all estates affected by the tax, the average tax rate is estimated to be 14.4 percent.

    This tells us the following from last November…

    In short, only 20 new small farm and business estates would be affected by President Obama’s proposal (to increase the estate tax). The same report notes the effective tax rate is far lower than the headline 45 percent rate due to “special provisions targeted to farm and business estates.” Taking such provisions into account yields an estimated effective tax rate of 11.6 percent, which is lower than the current capital gains rate.

    And just for emphasis, Think Progress tells us the following from here (repeating some of the previously linked info)…

    Only the very richest households in the country ever have to pay the estate tax, since, (as of Nov. 2011), an estate must be worth more than $5 million (or $10 million for a couple) to pay any estate tax at all.…more than half of the estate tax (was) paid by the richest 0.1 percent of households.

    Oh, but Thune tells us that Repug econ guru Douglas Holtz-Eakin says that repealing the estate tax would create 1.5 million jobs, even though the study behind that claim was called “seriously flawed” by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (here).

    Gee, that doesn’t sound “optimistic, uplifting and nice” as BoBo once noted about “pretty boy” Thune (second bullet from here).

  • Next, I give you another metaphorical piñata that the Repugs like to whack at from time to time (here)…

    A sort of domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps was created in 1993 to place adult Americans in community service with nonprofit and public agencies, especially in environmental protection, health, education and public safety. President Clinton declared that AmeriCorps is “living proof” that “if we hold hands and believe we’re going into the future together, we can change anything we want to change.” President George W. Bush was a big supporter, too.

    Yeah, Dubya was such a “big supporter” that he just about wrecked the program; as noted here from a 2003 Slate article…

    The maiming of AmeriCorps infuriates its supporters. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., (co-authors of another national service bill) have criticized the president for backing away from AmeriCorps when continued support became inconvenient. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry recently trotted out his own plan for a massive increase in national service, suggesting AmeriCorps’ promise and failings could become a campaign issue in 2004. But if AmeriCorps can’t make itself accountable to Congress, national service may go the way of Lyndon Johnson’s “community-action”-minded War on Poverty and Richard Nixon’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, a jobs program abused by the states and killed off by Ronald Reagan. The graveyard of American social policy is abundant with similar decentralized programs that were killed off by horror stories of incompetence and mismanagement.

    Continuing…

    But the halo on AmeriCorps exists primarily because few people have examined what the corps and its members are really up to. The grandiose achievements of AmeriCorps have always been a statistical illusion, full of impressive-looking numbers of people and causes served, and yet—as the Government Accountability Office has pointed out—often missing evidence of real accomplishment.

    Consider the following recent activities:

    • In April, AmeriCorps recruits in Tuscumbia, Mo., released 70 blue balloons outside the county courthouse to draw attention to the plight of abused children.
    • In March, Providence, R.I., AmeriCorps members at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence hosted a hip hop/poetry competition.
    • Members of a Nevada AmeriCorps program busy themselves these days by encouraging local residents to drink tap water and watch out for bears (“bear awareness”).
    • AmeriCorps members in Austin, Texas, hosted a trivia night in April at a local bar called Cheer Up Charlie’s to whip up enthusiasm for public service.

    There’s a lot of other anecdotal stuff listed here where James Bovard of the Murdoch Street Journal doesn’t bother to cite his sources, so I won’t try and do more of his homework for him – don’t know how much is actual fact vs. urban legend (he mentions something about puppet shows too).

    Continuing…

    During the Clinton era, scandals erupted after AmeriCorps bankrolled the left-wing community-organizing group Acorn and projects that engaged in blatant political campaigning. Federal law bans using tax dollars for advocacy. In 2011, a report prepared by auditors in the office of the inspector general with oversight of AmeriCorps criticized its management for policies that “leave no meaningful recourse against a sponsor that misuses [AmeriCorps] personnel.”

    I couldn’t find any citation from a reputable news organization for the Clinton/AmeriCorps/ACORN stuff, and again, Bovard didn’t provide one himself. And I’m mystified by the inclusion of the other quote, since it really isn’t a reflection of AmeriCorps as an organization or any AmeriCorps workers.

    Oh, and speaking of Number 42, when he wanted to build support for AmeriCorps when it faced a budget cut from congressional Republicans (sound familiar?), who did he go to for help? Why, none other than one-time Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney, who offered his support as noted here.

    Continuing…

    For most of Mr. Obama’s first term and until last year, AmeriCorps went unsupervised by a permanent inspector general at its oversight agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service. In June 2009, the administration fired IG Gerald Walpin after Mr. Walpin refused to back down from a report condemning a prominent Obama supporter, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in AmeriCorps grants for his St. HOPE Academy. Mr. Walpin also stirred hostility with a report showing that the AmeriCorps role in one of its largest programs—the Teaching Fellows program at the City University of New York—failed to produce any positive results.

    There were other issues going on with Walpin, by the way, as noted here, namely that Walpin and his staff “did not include” or “disclose” relevant information regarding the case to (the office of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Lawrence Brown); that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after being advised “under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation”; and that Walpin’s “actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter.”

    Continuing…

    When it comes to measuring results, however, the program has always relied on Soviet-style accounting—adding up labor inputs and proclaiming victory. The Government Accountability Office criticized AmeriCorps in 2000 for this reason and rapped the organization again in 2010 for using performance measures that “do not demonstrate results” and are “poorly aligned” with stated goals. The GAO warned that the self-reported data from grant recipients was unverified and unreliable.

    Believe it or not, there’s a bit of truth to the “Soviet-style accounting” charge (only a bit, though). As noted here from the 2003 Slate article…

    The lack of basic information about how many members AmeriCorps had can be blamed on the agency’s decentralized management system and grant-giving authority. This was by design. Clinton had devolved control to state commissions, whose directors are appointed by governors, in order to win the program support from the governors. With cash rolling out to the states in massive annual increases, what was not to like? (Leslie Lenkowsky, named to run AmeriCorps under Dubya) favored such decentralization and wanted to devolve management still further. In a Weekly Standard article published a few months before he was named to run the corporation, Lenkowsky argued that AmeriCorps should be “voucherized,” with payments going directly to grantees rather than to the organizations that doled out the grants. He noted that this scheme might “dismay the auditors” but shrugged that worry off. Once in office, Lenkowsky never implemented his voucher scheme but remained faithfully indifferent to accounting concerns.

    AmeriCorps has garnered its share of wingnut umbrage over the years, including here, from Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes, of course, about how AmeriCorps is really a front for a civilian national security force, an army of Obama community organizers, or something. Prior to that, Pam Geller said that Obama is recruiting an army of 8-year-olds through AmeriCorps here. And Beck, prior to that, claimed that a NY law allowing convicts to work for non-profits had a tie to AmeriCorps (and ACORN!!!, of course) here.

    Here is my question, though: if AmeriCorps is supposedly so awful, then why did “Moon Unit” Bachmann allow her son to go to work for Teach for America (TFA), which is part of AmeriCorps, as noted here (and a commendable action by her son, truth be told).

    And as noted from here (towards the end of the .pdf), AmeriCorps is responsible for the following (from 1994-1996 alone)…

    Education

    • Taught 381,592 students in Head Start, kindergarten, and grades one to 12.
    • Tutored, mentored, or counseled 212,239 students in grades one to 12.
    • Organized speakers, presentations, field trips, or service-learning activities for 672,981 students.
    • Recruited, trained, or placed 145,168 peer tutors and community volunteers.
    • Developed curricula, assembled library collections, or provided instructional materials for 717,640 students.
    • Performed educational case management or conducted home visits for 138,151 students and their families.
    • Taught parenting skills workshops, GED classes, or job counseling workshops for 58,363 parents.

    Health and Human Needs

    • Constructed, rehabilitated, or renovated 1,485 low-income houses and provided housing assistance for an additional 22,843 people. Completed 60 new homeless shelters benefiting 1,422 people and placed an additional 18,687 homeless people in permanent or transitional housing.
    • Organized or packed 3,302,961 pounds of food and clothing, benefiting 591,769 recently homeless people.
    • Organized or staffed community health fairs attended by 1,505,773 people.
    • Provided child care for 42,926 children and their families.
    • Immunized 30,724 children and 4,833 adults.
    • Screened, counseled, or provided health information and services to 1,384,612 children and adults.
    • Recruited and coordinated 64,881 volunteers in support of these health and human needs projects.

    Environmental and Neighborhood Restoration

    • Rehabilitated or repaired 315 community buildings and 1,838 miles of park trails and roads.
    • Planted 22,455 trees in urban areas or rural towns and 80,727 acres of trees in parklands.
    • Restored or conserved 3,061 miles of rivers, beaches, and fish habitats and 90,729 acres or public lands and fowl habitat.
    • Repaired 266 dams or other flood-control systems and responded to 494 forest fires and search-and-rescue missions.

    Public Safety

    • Organized 887 neighborhood watches, recruited 9,511 child or senior escorts, and started 282 community policing programs.
    • Organized or conducted after-school sports and violence-avoidance activities for 93,169 students.
    • Conducted 3,371 conflict mediation and resolution programs.
    • Provided career development and community integration services for 5,346 adjudicated youth and 906 adults on probation.
    • Counseled 29,352 individuals about substance abuse and 74,421 individuals about victims’ rights or child abuse prevention.
    • Worked with 851 community groups to establish better relations and improve communication across racial and ethnic lines.

    I would say that that’s just a little more substantial than whining over puppet shows.

  • Finally, in their never-ending search for a person of color to bolster the claim that they aren’t just a party of elderly, disgruntled white people who are good at not much more than creating a lot of noise for no good reason, it appears that what was once called the “party of Lincoln” has settled on somebody else as the “flavor of the month.”

    And that person’s name is Elbert Guillory (and if your immediate reaction is “who?,” then you win a free commemorate crying towel used by John Boehner and Glenn Beck).

    The Daily Tucker explains here

    Elbert Guillory, an African-American state senator from Louisiana, recently became a Republican. And one week later, he released a video explaining his move — and urging others to join him in “abandoning the government plantation and the party of disappointment.”

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Guillory is a guy who believes it’s important that he announce to the entire world that he, formerly a Democrat, is now a Republican. Yawn.

    As noted here from last month…

    During debate Wednesday on a bill to expand Medicaid coverage in Louisiana, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson said fellow lawmakers had told her they based their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, on the race of the president and not on policy.

    “The accusations of racism this week certainly helped push me over the edge. I thought that they were over the edge,” Guillory said in an interview Friday. “It just showed me just how far out of tune I was, I am, with the Democrat Party.”

    “Democrat” Party – bless Guillory’s pointed little newly Republican head. And by the way, suppose what Karen Carter Peterson said was actually true?

    Basically, Guillory has been, at best, a “lite” version of an actual Democrat for some time – as noted from here

    (Louisiana Gov. Bobby “Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal’s proposal—through Guillory’s bills—to move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution pension plan (for state retirees) was a virtual clone of the “Defined-Contribution Retirement Act” model bill as drafted by ALEC at its New Orleans national convention last August, Guillory’s claims in his email to LouisianaVoice notwithstanding.

    But that was just one of the bills proposed by ALEC.

    A copy of ALEC’s complete proposed retirement reform legislation was obtained by Common Cause of Washington, D.C., which filed Freedom of Information Act requests for ALEC records.

    The ALEC proposals and those of Guillory in the Senate and Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) in the House are nearly identical in most aspects.

    So, all things considered, it’s a little difficult to buy into Guillory’s braggadocio about his committee’s “hard work, no buyout by ALEC.” Nor do we agree that a “serious fiscal problem” was addressed in a “careful, responsible manner.”

    There’s a lot more in the Louisiana Voice post about Guillory, including his attempt to basically create two different categories of state workers: one for policemen, firemen and teachers (male pronoun meant to be all-inclusive, by the way), and the other category for every other type of state worker who supposedly doesn’t face “hazards” on the job.

    I suppose every politician out there is an opportunist of one type or another. The standard I use, though, is how often his or her interests end up coinciding with my own. And far from some newly-minted voice of sanity for the rapidly-declining-by-their-own-hand major political party in this country, Guillory appears to be nothing but someone peddling the same old snake oil in a slightly new bottle.

    Keep trying, Repugs (and I know you will).


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