Tuesday Mashup (9/16/14)

September 16, 2014
  • I give you the following bit of unreality from thehill.com (here)…

    Congressional Republicans have a simple mantra as they take a brief break from the campaign trail and return to Washington: Do no harm.

    Really?? “Do no harm??”

    In response, I give you this, including the following…

    The dereliction of duty by Congressional Republicans is solely responsible for this Congress’ being the most unproductive in American history. While the Republican Congressional majority perfected the art of doing nothing, millions of Americans had their lives and families negatively impacted or otherwise put at risk by their indifference or inaction. What I would suggest is that rather than attending the farcical Republican PR exercise on Benghazi, an issue which most Americans hold little or no interest, House Democrats instead hold competing hearings addressing the failures of the Republican caucus, the colossal waste of taxpayer resources caused by their intransigence and their failure to legislate, and the consequences of these failures to the country and its citizens.

    The Daily Kos post outlines six areas where the U.S. House Repugs have indeed “done harm,” if you will:

  • Their continued, idiotic fighting over the Affordable Care Law
  • Last year’s near-ruinous government shut down
  • Failure to act on job-creating legislation
  • Failure to act on immigration reform
  • Failure to extend unemployment benefits
  • Maintaining “austerity” and the disastrous “sequester” (more here)
  • And on top of that, I would add the following:

  • Voting 109 times against environmental protection (here)
  • Opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act (here)
  • Opposing common-sense gun control (here)
  • And I KNOW this list is incomplete, but this is what I have for now.

    And in keeping with this sorry theme, I give you this from U.S. House Rep Mark Pocan (here)…

    …Pocan (D-WI) seems to have found Speaker Boehner’s hubris hard to swallow today.

    On the heels of Boehner’s announcement that the Republican Party will be doing what it always does when a Democrat is in office — sue and try to impeach (after obstruction and ginning up scandals) — Pocan laughed in Boehner’s face with a statement denouncing the Speaker for his historically lazy House that tried to shut the government down just last year.

    “With Speaker Boehner and the Tea Party at the helm, this Congress has failed to act on vital legislation to help improve the lives of Americans. The same Speaker who allowed the government to shut down last October, now intends to sue the President of the United States for acting while Congress has not, instead voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act 54 times and turning the tragedy in Benghazi into a manufactured scandal.

    “In fact, the least productive Congress in modern history – the so-called ‘Do-nothing Congress’ of 1948 – passed 350 bills in their first year; this Congress passed fewer than 100 bills in its first year. It is ironic the Speaker would sue the President for doing his job while the House of Representatives fails to do its job.

    I don’t know who Scott Wong of The Hill is (the person responsible for this garbage column), but I would say that he needs to get out of his Beltway media bubble and talk to some real people; it would probably be most enlightening.

  • Next, as a follow-up to an earlier movie-critiquing post by Armond White at Irrational Spew Online, I give you this from Kevin Williamson (quoting fellow Spew writer David Kahane, who said the following about Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”: “Vincent Vega, the unbeliever, dies unredeemed in Butch Coolidge’s bathroom, while Jules, who accepts the reality of miracles, grants absolution…and is thus saved.”)…

    It is unlikely that Mr. Tarantino set out to make something conservative any more than did the people who write Allstate commercials. Propagandistic entertainment, from the left or the right, generally fails as it approaches specificity: Consider that raft of dopey anti-war movies a few years back that nobody went to see…

    Um, nothis tells us that “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the “big daddy” of the anti-Iraq war movie genre, if you will, was the highest grossing documentary of all time ($222 million worldwide). Also, this tells us that Oliver Stone’s “W” grossed $22 million worldwide (more of a biopic than a polemic, I believe), and the documentary “Inside Job” grossed $8 million here (again, not “anti-war” per se, but respectable for a documentary with a definite “advocacy” point of view which I believe is entirely appropriate).

    At least Williamson is talking about something here which isn’t likely to do anyone any personal harm; I can’t say the same for this, though.

  • Further, it seems that our commonwealth’s illustrious governor, Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, is “all in” on the issue of pension reform (here)…

    Public workers’ pension costs are a “Pac-Man” that will consume an ever-greater share of the state budget unless changes are made – and his Democratic opponent continues to duck that issue, Gov. Corbett said Wednesday.

    “If I don’t get reelected for four more years, there will be nothing done about this, because Mr. [Tom] Wolf says there is not a pension problem,” Corbett said.

    If he wins a second term, Corbett said, he would call a special session of the legislature early next year to force action on pensions, including for municipal workers. He said Scranton is distressed because of unaffordable pension obligations and predicted some school districts in Pennsylvania will come “doggone close to bankruptcy” without a solution.

    In response, I give you the following from here (hat tip to Diane Ravitch’s blog)…

    – The governor’s claim that passing pension “reform” will reduce local property taxes is incredibly misleading.

    – …no matter how deeply Gov. Corbett cuts benefits for future workers, it will not provide any near-term budgetary savings for the state or school districts.

    – Gov. Corbett cut education funding by $1 billion in his first year, and those cuts now total $3 billion over his tenure. His state funding cuts have left school districts with few options but to increase local property taxes, increase class sizes, layoff teachers and other school employees and cut course offerings.

    – Pension costs are less than 6% of the state’s entire operating budget.

    – More than half of today’s pension payment goes towards paying old debt, not to current pension costs.

    – In 2010, an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the House and Senate approved Act 120 – a pension reform roadmap.

    – Act 120 cut new employee benefits by 20%; thereby, reducing the cost to the state by 60% (or $33 billion), and charted the course for addressing the debt.

    – Act 120 put in place predictable, moderated payments before the governor assumed office, yet he imprudently decided to cut education funding and business taxes – making it difficult for the state and school districts to make these payments.

    – None of the state’s pension debt is associated with the retirement benefits for new school and state employees hired since the Act 120 reforms took effect in 2011.

    – As we learned last year with Gov. Corbett’s pension proposal, the costs associated with closing the state’s current defined benefit plan FAR exceed any savings realized from switching to a 401(k)-style plan – costing the state upwards of $40 billion.

    – There are NO short-term savings for the state or school districts.

    – Any long-term savings touted by the plan’s supporters are decades away. Also, any savings will be significantly reduced or eliminated when the plan is paired with Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal to shortchange the pension obligations for the next 4 years.

    The .pdf from Joe Markosek, Democratic Chairman of the PA House Appropriations Committee, contains a lot of interesting detail and context comparing Corbett’s proposals with those of the Democrats, including former Governor Ed Rendell. If you want to learn more about the issue of pension reform in our beloved commonwealth, I would ask that you review it (and to help Corbett’s opponent in this election, click here).

    Tom Corbett remains an incredibly unpopular politician (more here) for very good reasons. And if he thinks he’ll be saved by propagandizing on the issue of pension reform, then he’s more out of touch than I ever imagined.

  • Continuing, I give you this from The Weakly Standard…

    Democratic senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana lists her parents’ New Orleans address as her primary residence for voting purposes. But it’s clear she and her husband consider their primary residence to be their multimillion-dollar home on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. These revelations have provided fodder for Landrieu’s political opponents (the Louisiana Democrat is up for reelection this year), with one conservative super PAC releasing an ad suggesting the Democrat is more representative of the District of Columbia than Louisiana. Landrieu faces a tough reelection battle this November.

    Oh yeah, that’s right – Landrieu is indeed running for re-election against Repug Bill Cassidy, who recently said here that that supposedly awful Harry Reid runs the U.S. Senate “like a plantation” (cue the theme from “Ol’ Man River”).

    I’ll tell you what; if the “other side” chooses to ignore Landrieu on this supposed issue, then I’ll overlook Kansas Repug Senator Pat Roberts, who dealt with a very similar matter here (and who is apparently trailing Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman here; kind of worrisome for Roberts that he should be polling as low as 34 percent this close to election day, but that’s his problem).

  • Moving on, I have to admit that it has been a looong time since I came across the Ph.D.-level wankery I encountered recently from Wayne Allyn Root of Fix Noise here – what follows is a brief excerpt.

    NR_Cruise_0916
    (And if you can guess that it’s yet another “bash Obama”-fest, then you win complimentary tickets to another conservative cruise, whether you want them or not)…

    Let’s start with national security. Security experts are warning a terrorist attack on America soil appears imminent. Only days ago, the federal government put out a bulletin warning about that same threat.

    The “warning” came from Judicial Watch – more about them is here

    Continuing…

    Where would the terrorists come from? Our Southern border with Mexico is wide open for anyone to walk across. Our border is under siege. Obama has no strategy to stop or even slow the invasion of America by either terrorists, or desperate poor masses expecting billions of dollars in welfare from cradle to grave. Just the cost of educating the new illegal immigrant children in this school year is over $700 million.

    America is already bankrupt and almost $18 trillion in debt. Where will the money come from?

    In terms of our border with Mexico (and elsewhere), I would ask that you consider the following (from here)…

    Imagine the once thin borderline of the American past as an ever-thickening band, now extending 100 miles inland around the United States — along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border, and both coasts — and you will be able to visualize how vast the (Customs and Border Protection, or CBP)’s jurisdiction has become. This “border” region now covers places where two-thirds of the U.S. population (197.4 million people) live. The ACLU has come to call it a “constitution-free zone.” The “border” has by now devoured the full states of Maine and Florida and much of Michigan.

    The zone first came into existence thanks to a series of laws passed by Congress in the 1940s and 1950s at a time when the Border Patrol was just an afterthought with a miniscule budget and only 1,100 agents. Today, Customs and Border Protection has more than 60,000 employees and is by far the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country. According to author and constitutional attorney John Whitehead, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), created in 2002, is efficiently and ruthlessly building “a standing army on American soil.”

    Long ago, President James Madison warned that “a standing military force, with an overgrown Executive, will not long be safe companions to liberty.” With its 240,000 employees and $61 billion budget, the DHS, Whitehead points out, is militarizing police units, stockpiling ammunition, spying on activists, and building detention centers, among many other things. CBP is the uniformed and most visible component of this “standing army.” It practically has its own air force and navy, an Office of Air and Marine equipped with 280 sea vessels, 250 aircraft, and 1,200 agents.

    And in terms of the supposed cost of educating immigrant kids, this puts it closer to $615 million; I still don’t know how the cost can be calculated since we don’t have a handle of how many kids are likely to try and become citizens (and Michael Moore refutes the lie that we’re “broke” here; also, I thought this was a good response to the $18 trillion claim…namely, that it overwhelmingly came from the debt run up by Republican presidents).

    I honestly lack the time, the patience, and the calories to do a point-by-point rebuttal of Root’s hysterical propaganda. I’m sure, though, that it was highly satisfying to his audience of bottom feeders who ingest this and other nonsense from the network that also routinely gives us stuff like this.

  • Finally, I should note that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was scheduled to speak at Yale last night; as Eric Owens of The Daily Tucker tells us here, she is a “Somali-born American activist.”

    Of course, since we’re talking about Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page here, you KNOW there has to be an opportunity to try and gin up some phony outrage – three, two, one…

    Yale’s chaplain, Sharon Kugler, is among the critics of the visit.

    In a statement provided to Inside Higher Ed, Kugler lashed out at Hirsi Ali, calling her a “hateful” and “disparaging” person.

    “We understand and affirm Yale’s commitment to free expression within an educational context,” Kugler said in the statement. “We are deeply concerned, however, by Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s long record of disparaging, and arguably hateful, comments about Muslims and Islam.”

    I would say so; as Media Matters notes here

    Hirsi Ali is not moderate in her views of Islam — once referring to the religion as “a destructive nihilistic cult of death” in a 2007 interview with The London Evening Standard. The New York Times reports that Hirsi Ali has also “advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that ‘violence is inherent in Islam’ and that ‘Islam is the new fascism’.” In a 2007 Reason interview, she also called for Islam to be militarily crushed and suggested the Constitution should be amended to permit oppression of U.S. Muslims.

    Hirsi Ali has similarly used her position at AEI to push for antagonistic relations between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries, even criticizing President Obama for not “associating Islam with extremism.” In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, How to Win the Clash of Civilizations, Hirsi Ali highlighted her views that Islam “is at war with America” and wrote that Western civilization “needs to be actively defended” against Islam.

    If Hirsi Ali had specified that she was talking about Islamic extremism, then I would have no problem with her. However, I think it’s reprehensible to denigrate an entire religion because a relatively small percentage of crazies carry out inhuman actions and claim to be followers of that religion.

    And just for good measure, Owens concocts the following drivel (simply precious)…

    Kugler does not appear to have objected when noted kiteboarding enthusiast John Kerry spoke at Yale, or when noted adulterer Bill Clinton spoke at Yale, or when television journalist Barbara Walters, who tried to help a former aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad find employment in the United States, spoke at the school.

    I for one can continue to rest easy knowing that The Daily Tucker is ever-vigilant to the potential threat posed to this country by that massive horde of kiteboarding, dictator-friendly serial adulterers out there. Carry on, citizens!


  • Friday Mashup (6/6/14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Too Tired For Date Night

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

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

    Money Can’t Buy You Love

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

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

    What It Means To Be A Man/Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Check, please…

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

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

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

    My guess is that Oklahoma deserves him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Thursday Mashup (9/16/10)

    September 16, 2010

  • 1) This story has been buzzing around a bit; it’s at philly.com, but I also came across it here…

    The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response has embarrassed Pennsylvania’s Governor. Governor Ed Rendell apologized Tuesday to groups whose peaceful protests or events, from an animal rights demonstration to a gay and lesbian festival, were the subject of regular anti-terrorism bulletins being distributed by his homeland security director. Rendell said that the information was useless to law enforcement agencies and that distributing it was tantamount to trampling on constitutional rights. Bulletins also went to members of Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry because of several acts of vandalism at drilling sites.

    A Philadelphia rally organized by a nonprofit group to support Rendell’s push for higher spending on public schools even made a bulletin, as did a protest at a couple of Rendell news conferences in recent weeks as he pressed for a tax on the natural gas industry.

    “This is ludicrous. This is absolutely ludicrous,” Rendell said. “And I apologize to any of the groups who had this information disseminated about their activities. They have the right to protest.”

    Basically, as the ACLU tells us here via Daily Kos, PA’s Homeland Security Director James Powers authorized the ITRR to spy – and quite probably harass in the process – opponents of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale (with ITRR granted a contract for this type of surveillance by the state…one of the questions quite rightly posed by Rendell when he found out about this was why PA was contracting with the ITRR, when the PA State Police is capable of this type of investigation and response from law enforcement…if need be…also).

    I’ve done a little bit of poking around and I found out the following here about PA Homeland Security Director Powers; as you can read, he spent 30 years in U.S. Army Special Forces, attaining the rank of colonel. It’s highly possible that he circulated with some big names in the defense biz (which would figure since, as noted here, he was following the U.S. DoD Training Manual, which treats protests of the type over the Marcellus Shale drilling as “low-level terrorism”).

    Kudos to Rendell for putting the brakes on this as soon as he heard about it; also, I think you can be safe in assuming that there will be more forthcoming on this story.

  • Update 9/18/10: More here via Atrios…

    Update 9/26/10: I would say that this is a good reason to protest drilling in the Marcellus Shale (dear God).

  • 2) Also, Michael Smerconish of the Philadelphia Daily News had what I thought was a somewhat interesting observation on the whole Pastor Terry Jones/Almost Burning the Quran thing (here – a lot of this is a rehash from last week’s column by Christine Flowers, by the way, but at the time, I was on Jones-Mania-Overload if you will, so I didn’t bother to say anything)…

    Politicians can’t treat fringe players like they are world leaders. This story was energized by the likes of Gen. David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama. The more they talked, the more credibility the object of their ire got from the media.

    OK, but Smerky then tells us the following a little later…

    Let’s be clear. Petraeus was right. So were Gibbs, Clinton and Holder. The president was right, too, especially in his assessment of the event as a stunt.

    But by engaging the instigator – even though they were condemning his actions – Petraeus, Gibbs, Clinton, Holder and Obama created the impression that he was a serious person.

    The result? Round-the-clock media attention, which in turn fueled international outrage toward the U.S. And even though the organizer didn’t actually end up burning any Qurans, the attention he received was enough to inspire copycats.

    Ummm…so Gen. David Petraeus was right to call attention to that nut because his actions could pose harm to our troops (noted here), but Petraeus was wrong because he contributed to “round-the-clock media attention” also?

    Well then, I suppose it’s up to everybody to just ignore religious or pseudo-religious figures who incite passion in an attempt to garner publicity for themselves. OK.

    Just remember, though, that that includes this guy also.

  • 3) Finally, I give you the following from the campaign of Patrick Murphy for U.S. Congress:

    We knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time.

    Big Oil has officially put me on their list.

    This week the corporate front group Americans for Prosperity bought TV and radio ads attacking me.

    Americans for Prosperity is the comically named corporate front group for the oil industry. They have the distinction of being the primary corporate sponsors for those “grassroots” Tea Party rallies. Now they have decided to back my opponent, and it’s no wonder why.

    Americans for Prosperity uses their vast corporate resources to advance their radical agenda. This was the group that fought so that oil companies like BP could drill wherever they wanted to, however they wanted to. Then when things went wrong, they fought to make sure that BP could carry on like nothing ever happened. These are my opponent’s new best friends.

    My opponent has sold his campaign to the far-right. Americans for Prosperity is just one of many groups he has courted by simply molding his beliefs to fit with theirs. He has been rewarded for his “flexibility.”

    All my opponent had to do was deny the existence of global warming, turn his back on working families, and pledge his allegiance to corporate tax breaks instead of investing in American jobs. This time his reward was $22,000 in character attacks against me.

    Now we know who is in my opponent’s corner. Now we know whose interests he fights for – BP and Big Oil, not us.

    Well, I want you to know that while my opponent knows he can count on his friends from Big Oil, I know I can count on you. I need your help to fight back against Mike’s pile of corporate cash.

    Please, contribute $25, $50 or even $100 today, and help me reach my goal of $22,001 so we can show these corporate interests that we are NOT backing down.

    Together, we can show my opponent and his Big Oil buddies that the people own this seat now – and it’s not for sale.

    Thank you as always for your incredible friendship and support.

    God, this is so disgustingly typical of Mikey.

    He couldn’t even win the PA-08 seat to begin with in 2004 without some truly foul campaigning against Ginny Schrader, trying to link her to Hezbollah (and worse, as noted here, a particularly rank stunt since Schrader’s husband was a Jew).

    He couldn’t even defend the seat in 2006 without trying to slime Patrick Murphy’s military service with the assistance of Young Philadelphia Republican Kevin Kelly (here).

    And now, having lost the seat, he can’t compete for it once more without more odious campaign garbage as noted above (and in all three instances, he’s tried to disavow any knowledge of what went on or make sure he has an “out” for himself).

    Let’s help Patrick however our means may allow and send Mikey packing for good by clicking here (and don’t strain too much listening for a response of protest from the teabaggers, who profess to oppose politics as usual…if the issue has anything to do with Mikey, you can rely on hearing nothing but the sound of crickets).


  • More Wingnut Wrangling Over The Miranda “Bogeyman”

    February 10, 2010

    This is almost too stupid for words, but I believe it needs to be addressed.

    Via Irrational Spew Online, Byron York over at The Washington Examiner sayeth the following (here, in the matter of whether or not reading the Miranda rights to the Christmas pants bomber supposedly caused him to go quiet, which John Podesta recently commented on here)…

    …(Obama) and his administration are still trying to justify their actions in the Detroit case. “They’re changing their story constantly to try to defend their tactics,” says a knowledgeable source on Capitol Hill.

    For example, we know that the FBI interrogated Abdulmutallab for just 50 minutes before Attorney General Eric Holder decided to advise the suspect of his Miranda rights to remain silent and to have a court-appointed attorney. After that, Abdulmutallab shut up.

    Republicans hit the administration hard on that point, especially when the White House made the unbelievable claim that agents had gotten every last bit of valuable information from Abdulmutallab in that brief talk. In response to GOP criticism, administration officials leaked the story that Abdulmutallab actually stopped talking before being read his Miranda rights, meaning Holder’s decision was not to blame for cutting off the brief flow of intelligence.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong, say knowledgeable sources on Capitol Hill. “It is totally false that he had stopped cooperating and then they made the decision to Mirandize him,” says one GOP source. “They made the decision, and then they weren’t trying to question him any more.”

    (By the way, one would assume this is a news report from the way it’s structured, but it’s actually editorial commentary, and it should be labeled as such.)

    In response, John Brennan, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said the following here…

    The Republicans have been trying to score political points on “terrorism” by, among other things, suggesting that the FBI, which has obtained information from the Christmas bomber without torture, should not have been allowed to question him.

    Brennan calls them out:

    Politics should never get in the way of national security. But too many in Washington are now misrepresenting the facts to score political points, instead of coming together to keep us safe.

    Immediately after the failed Christmas Day attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was thoroughly interrogated and provided important information. Senior counterterrorism officials from the White House, the intelligence community and the military were all actively discussing this case before he was Mirandized and supported the decision to charge him in criminal court.

    And York actually mentions Brennan in his column, but check out how York spins what Brennan has to say…

    Brennan said he called four top GOP lawmakers — Sens. Mitch McConnell and Christopher Bond and Reps. John Boehner and Peter Hoekstra — on Christmas night, just hours after Abdulmutallab tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Brennan said he told the Republicans that the FBI had a suspect in custody; from that, Brennan claimed, the lawmakers should have inferred that Abdulmutallab would be read his Miranda rights.

    “None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point,” Brennan said. “They didn’t say, ‘Is he going into military custody? Is he going to be Mirandized?'”

    Within hours of Brennan’s TV appearance, all four GOP lawmakers denied the story. “Brennan never told me of any plans to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber,” said Bond. “It never came up,” said Hoekstra. Spokesman for McConnell and Boehner denied it, too.

    GOP lawmakers don’t expect to hear that charge again.

    Well, of course they’re not going to “hear the charge” if they don’t even bother to ask the question about it, are they?

    I would tend to agree with the analysis of Matt Yglesias on this, who said the following from here…

    The underlying issue here, as I’ve been saying, is that conservatives think that any constraint on the state security apparatus is too much. They believe, contrary to all of the evidence, that the rule-bound criminal justice system can’t or doesn’t function and that things would be better if we scrapped all the rules. And, indeed, in the civilian context they’ve worked steadily and systematically over a period of decades to weaken the constitutional protections as much as possible, and bring us as close as possible to their dream scenario of limitless state-sponsored violence. The desire to push certain categories of people (non-citizens) or certain categories of suspects (terrorists) out of the constitutionally protected realm is just part-and-parcel of that broad-based assault on the idea of a rule-bound justice system.

    And leave it to Holy Joe Lieberman and three of his Repug pals in the Senate who, as noted here…

    …are pushing legislation that would require civilian authorities to consult with intelligence leaders when taking an accused terrorist into custody.

    “[This] legislation would not deprive the President of any investigative tool,” Sen. Lieberman’s Web site claims. “It would not preclude a decision to charge a foreign terrorist in our military tribunal system or in our civilian criminal justice system.”

    In a response, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, fired back: “It is extremely disturbing that members of the U.S. Congress are essentially calling for Obama administration officials to discard the Constitution when a terrorist suspect is apprehended – as if the Constitution should be applied on a case by case basis.”

    And as noted here, as long as York and his ideological pals are so upset by our intelligence officials adhering to the rule of law, they should be reminded that Obama’s predecessor also “Mirandized” terrorism suspects also.

    But of course, we know this doesn’t comport with the wingnut worldview, if for no other reason than because it never worked for Jack Bauer on “24,” as we know.

    Update 2/12/10: More from mcjoan of The Daily Kos here…


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