Thursday Mashup (9/25/14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As Meteor Blades of Daily Kos notes here

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

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

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

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

    Continuing (from Jindal)…

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

    In response (here)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jindal yet again (here)…

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

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

  • Further, did you know that (here)…

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

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

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

    There’s just one problem, as noted here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We also learn the following from the CDC link…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Friday Mashup (6/13/14)

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

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

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

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

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

    And Sabato follows up with the following…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But wait, there’s more…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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


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