Friday Mashup (2/14/14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Tuesday Mashup (1/28/14)

    January 28, 2014
  • I have to admit that I was a bit – how shall I put it? – nonplussed by the following concerning the recent Davos gathering (the recent “big story” is the alleged hardship of the “one percent,” and Philadelphia’s conservative newspaper of record is ON IT, PEOPLE!)…

    Some of the richest and most powerful people in the world were asked by Wharton researchers to assess a set of risks likely to disrupt life as we know it — risks that could bring the downfall of governments and destroy economies.

    Of more than two dozen catastrophic scenarios, the group of global titans said these were their biggest concerns:

    1) Income inequality, which threatens social and political stability as well as economic development.
    2) Increasing numbers of extreme weather events which cause massive damage to property, infrastructure and the environment.
    3) Chronic unemployment, which coincides with a rising skills gap and high underemployment, especially among the young.
    4) Climate change, specifically the failure of government and industry to take action to protect threatened people and businesses.
    5) The escalation of large-scale cyber-attacks.

    In response to #1, I give you this (and this).

    As far as #2 goes (which goes with #4 as far as I’m concerned), I give you this (lots of talk with no commitment to anything, of course).

    And as far as Davos and its supposed laser-focus on unemployment (#3), I give you this (it will take smart, targeted government spending, people, which is what it has taken all along – we did this under FDR and we did this under Bill Clinton…yes, I know this is a broken record).

    Oh, and as far as cyber security is concerned (#5), I’ll let the Davos geniuses figure that out on their own, since it apparently hits their pocketbooks more directly than the other items on the list (at least this post-Davos item was positive, though).

  • Next, it looks like the Repugs are having their retreat this week to figure out some new “branding” trick to try and confuse the American sheeple, to say nothing of our corporate media of course (here – made to order for “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” of course)…

    House Republicans will hear from legendary college football coach Lou Holtz, GOP message maven Frank Luntz, conservative journalists and pollsters and education experts at their annual retreat in Maryland this week.

    The House Republican Conference will also hear Rachel Campos Duffy — wife of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) — talk about “reaching every corner of America.”

    Of course they’ll hear from Frank Luntz (let’s see, maybe, instead of the “Tea Party,” we can have a “grass roots” gathering called the “Patriot Party,” with Rick Santelli yelling out the alarm as he once did here.)

    As far as Rachel Campos Duffy is concerned, she’s the wife of a guy who once said he “struggled” on his congressional salary of about $174 grand (and he spent more than $106 grand on personal use automobiles, both noted here). Her husband also got heat here (rightly so) for his vote to end Medicare (“voucherizing” it, despite what he said to a constituent) and continue tax cuts for the rich. And he also favored “immigration reform” without a path to citizenship here.

    And Lou Holtz? He’s a climate change denier, of course (here). He also was such a good sport when Alabama blew out Notre Dame a little over a year ago here (umm, maybe the “Fighting Irish” couldn’t “run the ball” because Alabama was kicking their collective butt…hard to do that when you’re losing). Besides, I thought he didn’t want anything to do with politics any more, having been quite rightly burned for endorsing former Repug Senator and race-baiter Jesse Helms here.

    I’m sure it doesn’t need to be pointed out yet again that this is nothing but more “kabuki” from the Beltway media-political-industrial complex. The party in power in the U.S. House has had over three years to come up with a plan to create actual jobs with a decent living wage and grow the economy for real. They haven’t. They can’t.

    And they never will.

  • Further, get a load of this from “Pastor” Gerson on the Affordable Care Law

    But even judged on the terms of (David) Remnick’s praise (of The New Yorker, who recently wrote an article about Number 44), Obama is in deep, second-term trouble. The president who embraces complexity is now besieged by complexity on every front. The U.S. health-care system has not responded as planned to the joystick manipulations of the Affordable Care Act. On the evidence of the article, Obama and his closest advisers are in denial about the structural failures of the program — the stingy coverage, narrow provider networks, high deductibles and adverse-selection spirals already underway in several states.

    How can the coverage be “stingy” when it includes an expansion of Medicaid to cover those who weren’t covered before (here, with the only obstacle being Republican governors who won’t allow Medicaid expansion, or, in the case of our own “Space Cadet” Tom Corbett, doing so with ridiculous strings attached such as proof of looking for employment)? And as noted here concerning “narrow provider networks”…

    About a third of insurance companies opted out of participating in the exchanges in states where they were already doing business, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Co. About half of states — which include about a third of the non-elderly insured population — will see a “material decline” in competitors, says McKinsey, while the other half of states will have about the same or more insurance choices on the exchanges.

    I read this as follows: as more enroll on the exchanges, more health care insurance providers will decide to offer plans on the exchanges. The carriers will go where the customers are, one of the things Gerson and his ilk are loathe to acknowledge, of course.

    As far as “high deductibles” goes, I give you the story of lifelong Arkansas Republican Butch Matthews here, who, after doing some actual fact-checking and research, discovered that “his local Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) provider confirmed that he would be able to buy a far better plan than his current policy while saving at least $13,000 per year (by enrolling on an exchange).”

    And I’ll be honest – I don’t know exactly what an “adverse selection spiral” is; if and when Gerson ever decides to explain it, I’ll update this post accordingly (and for what it’s worth, here is a link to Remnick’s article in The New Yorker).

    As noted here, though, I think it’s safe to say that Gerson isn’t exactly an impartial observer on this issue anyway.

  • Continuing (and sticking with health care reform), I give you the latest fear mongering from (who else?) Fix Noise (here)…

    Tom Gialanella, 56, was shocked to find out he qualified for Medicaid under ObamaCare. The Bothell, Wash., resident had been able to retire early years ago, owns his home outright in a pricey Seattle suburb and is living off his investments.

    He wanted no part of the government’s so-called free health care. “It’s supposed to be a safety net program. It’s not supposed to be for someone who has assets who can pay the bill,” he said.

    And after reading the fine print, Gialanella had another reason to flee Medicaid — the potential death debt.

    Cue the scary-sounding music (and leave it to the Foxies to fund somebody whose exceptional life circumstances dovetails perfectly into their “big gumint is baaaad” narrative).

    In response, I believe the following should be emphasized from here

    The Seattle Times published an article on Dec. 15, under the headline “Expanded Medicaid’s fine print holds surprise: ‘payback’ from estate after death,” that said: “If you’re 55 or over, Medicaid can come back after you’re dead and bill your estate for ordinary health-care expenses.” The Times is right that the state of Washington has this power, but it was not in the “fine print” of the Affordable Care Act (as the story itself makes clear).

    All states have had the option since Medicaid began in 1965 to recover some Medicaid costs from recipients after they die, as the Department of Health and Human Services explains in a2005 policy brief. In 1965, it was optional and states could only recoup Medicaid costs spent on those 65 years or older. That changed in 1993, when Congress passed an omnibus budget bill that required states to recover the expense of long-term care and related costs for deceased Medicaid recipients 55 or older. The 1993 federal law also gave states the option to recover all other Medicaid expenses.

    The Affordable Care Act did nothing to change existing federal law. It did, however, expand the number of people who are eligible for Medicaid, so there will be more people on Medicaid between the ages of 55 and 65, and, therefore, potentially more estates on the hook for Medicaid expenses after the beneficiary dies.

    Is this a problem? I suppose, but let’s address it constructively through legislation (yeah, good luck with that with those jokers in charge of the House) instead of fear mongering for a change, OK?

    And of course, this Dan Springer character, being a good little wingnut, tried to gin up more SOLYNDRA! nonsense here.

  • Finally, I just wanted to point out that we recently observed the 50th anniversary of the report from the U.S. Surgeon General linking cigarette smoking to cancer (and as noted here, cigarette smoking has also been linked to other ailments of varying degrees, including liver cancer, erectile dysfunction, and other bad stuff). The good news, though, is that (as noted here) about 8 million lives have been saved by prevention efforts.

    Like many other people I’m sure, this issue hits home. My dad smoked until his last days; I’ll never forget the look of anxiety on his face when he wondered whether or not I’d purchased his carton of Tareyton’s while I was out running other errands so he could break open a pack and light one up on the front porch (during the days near the end when it was dangerous for him to drive anymore because of a variety of ailments and my mom said he couldn’t light up in the house any more, partly because it got ridiculous having to redo the paint and wallpaper every few years from the stains of cigarette smoke).

    Yes, I probably should not have caved and tried to stand up to him on this, but I could tell that, though he was able to kick other bad habits, he would not have been able to do it with this one. And yes, nobody points a gun at anyone and tells them to smoke; there is an element of choice. But I don’t think that absolves us of trying to reach out to people if we think they can be reached on this subject (not as a would-be “reformer,” but as an interested and caring observer).

    And last year, we went through something like this with another beloved family member. My mother-in-law had been suffering with adenocarcinoma for the last year or so, but it got progressively worse as the cancer metastasized (unlike my dad, she had given up smoking years ago, though she had smoked for many years prior to that). It went from her lung to her liver and spread all over the place. There were multiple rounds of chemo and radiation which definitely bought time, but made her physically sicker in the bargain.

    The decline was gradual – first periodic hospital visits for procedures, then shorter stays, then longer stays and more procedures, then trying to do physical therapy to the point where she could endure more treatments, then finally to the point where she couldn’t even go through PT anymore, to the point where she finally couldn’t come home from the rehabilitation facility and slipped into a coma.

    It was truly hard to find anything positive in this experience, but one thing I can say without reservation is that she received fine care from Vitas at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia. We remain ever grateful to the staff for their constant attention to Mom during her final days.

    The day we said goodbye at Vitas (prior to the viewing and the funeral), we tried our best to console one another and go on with our lives in as normal a manner as we could. We drove off in separate cars, and as I left the parking lot, I saw a line of what appeared to be thin, twenty-something young women who (I assume) were done their shift at the hospital, standing in line in mid-afternoon waiting for what I guess was the 20 bus running up Roosevelt Boulevard.

    And at least four of them were smoking.

    If only you knew, I thought to myself, as I turned at the light and headed for home.


  • Friday Mashup (11/15/13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    So what say you on this, Mikey the Beloved?

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

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

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

    It’s official: ObamaCare is a failure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Buckyballs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Times also tells us the following…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As noted here

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

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

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


  • Friday Mashup (9/27/13)

    September 27, 2013
  • I give you the latest in faux indignation from clownhall.com (here)…

    In the case of Obamacare, Members of Congress of both parties did not want to give up their superior health insurance for the system they imposed on the rest of us. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, saw this for the hypocrisy it is and proposed an amendment to the bill that forced members and their staff to do just that. It made the final cut in the bill because to oppose it would be to admit before passage the system progressives sought to force on Americans was inferior to what existed.

    Now that it’s the law, well, that’s a different story. Congress, with significant pressure from President Obama, forced the Office of Personnel Management to “reinterpret” the law to allow significant subsidies (our money) to be paid to them and their staff to cover the cost of premiums. If you’re in a similar income bracket and situation in the private sector you can’t get the deal they gave themselves.

    As noted here from Factcheck.org, the so-called “special subsidy” for the health care law “.. Is Simply A Premium Contribution” The Federal Government Has “Long Made To The Health Insurance Policies Of Its Workers.”

    And “Democrat-controlled Senate “ – bless Derek Hunter’s pointed little wingnut head.

    And get a load of this…

    Once the president started to delay, change and ignore parts of his own law, Republicans should have gone straight to court to force Democrats to implement the law as written or repeal it.

    Ummm – I wonder if this nematode knows that the Affordable Care Act was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court, including the individual mandate? Or that the whole damn thing came from the Heritage Foundation via Willard Mitt Romney anyway?

    Yes, I know – lather, rinse, repeat…

    It gets better…

    When Rush Limbaugh made his Sandra Fluke joke the left mobilized and to this day remain in combat mode. They harass him and his sponsors constantly. Rush apologized, but that wasn’t good enough.

    I’m not even going to make the effort to defend Flush Limbore, who is indefensible on so many levels.

    A joke? Try 46 personal attacks on Fluke, as noted here (and he deserves every bit of the fallout noted here).

    Besides, “the professional left,” or whatever we’re called these days, has nothing on the Teahadists, who hate the Affordable Care Act so much that they even turned on one of their own in Congress, who sponsored a dozen bills to repeal it (here).

    When Republican candidates no one had ever heard of made stupid comments about rape, every Republican was made to answer for them. Democrats had three prominent perverts in the news in San Diego and New York in the last month, people who did abhorrent things – not just say them – and it took weeks for any Democrat to be asked to simply distance themselves from them.

    Bob Filner is out as mayor of San Diego, and Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner both lost their elections. So what logical reason is there for still talking about them?

    Hunter then engages in some truly hilarious guilt by association concerning health care reform and someone named Allan Brauer of the Sacramento, CA “Democrat” Party, lamenting that “were conservatives to treat Allan Brauer the way progressives treat their political opponents, every time he engaged in any political discourse this (and his other comments) would be trotted out like a scarlet letter to discredit him” (I’ll admit that Brauer’s behavior was pretty unconscionable, but for what it’s worth, at least he apologized, as noted here; he had a point about Cruz, but he took it way too far).

    Maybe if conservatives did a little better job of self-policing (despite Hunter’s bleating about every Repug quite rightly having to answer for “legitimate rape” Akin and his pals), then there wouldn’t be a need to call them out, even though Brauer definitely took it to extremes, like I said; an example is Sherri Goforth, the aide to Repug U.S. House Rep Diane Black, who, as noted here, sent an Email depicting Barack Obama as two eyes peering out of a black background (and I am not aware of any apology from Goforth for that disgusting mailer).

  • Next, I have to confess that I’d never seen the phrase “big abortion” used before, until now anyway – I guess it shouldn’t be surprising in the least that it came from Marjorie Dannenfelser (here)…

    The Washington Post got just one thing right in its (recent) editorial: the results of Virginia’s November 5th election will have widespread implications for the fate of abortion facilities – and women – across the Commonwealth. The next occupant of the governor’s mansion will be responsible for enforcing the abortion facility health and safety standards enacted by the General Assembly and the Board of Health last year.

    The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has already vowed to unilaterally help existing abortion clinics skirt the regulations. It is this unwavering loyalty to the abortion industry – which has likewise fought tooth and nail against being regulated – instead of the health and safety of women that should give every Virginian pause.

    I think it’s actually grotesque for Dannenfelser to basically say that the abortion restrictions in the “Virginia is for Lovers” state are intended for “the health and safety of women.”

    As noted here (from November 2011)…

    The regulations, commissioned by the state legislature and written by the Virginia Department of Health, are largely unrelated to patient health and safety. They would treat abortion clinics as if they are hospitals if the clinics provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month and would enforce architectural design standards that will be almost impossible for most clinics to meet.

    For instance, a clinic must have 5-foot-wide hallways, 8-foot-wide areas outside of procedure rooms, specific numbers of toilets and types of sinks and all of the latest requirements for air circulation flow and electrical wiring. Each clinic must also have a parking spot for every bed, despite the fact that first-trimester abortions don’t require an overnight stay. Further, Department of Health employees will be allowed to enter an abortion facility at any time without notice or identification.

    Virginia Board of Health member Jim Edmundson tried to introduce a number of amendments…that would lessen the severity of the clinic restrictions and give some facilities a chance to comply. However, all but one of the amendments were rejected without a vote. For instance, he tried to distinguish between first-trimester surgical abortions and first-trimester medication abortions, so that the regulations would only apply to surgical procedures, but the amendment was not even seconded.

    “The board is not even seconding proposed amendments being offered,” said Patrick Hurd, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeast Virginia, who observed the comment and voting process in Richmond on Thursday. “They’re so intimidated by the presence of the attorney general, they’re not even allowing these things to come up for a vote.”

    The attorney general being Ken Cuccinelli, the guy currently losing to Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race…

    “(As of November 2011), none of our facilities would be in compliance with these regulations,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, which has five clinics in the state that provide abortions.

    The point of the regulation changes was to outlaw abortion clinics from practicing in Virginia, period, endangering the health of women seeking a perfectly legal medical procedure.

    Which is exactly what Dannenfelser and her minions want.

    And as noted here, Dannenfelser defended the odious Roy Blunt Amendment, in which the Missouri Repug U.S. Senator tried to “grant employers significant discretion in deciding what kind of health care they want to provide workers” (translated, that means employers could refuse to provide coverage for anything whatsoever to do with those dreaded, icky lady parts). Dannefelser also claimed that Planned Parenthood generated about $300 million in “profit,” which was properly debunked by Politifact (this and a lot more stuff on Dannenfelser can be accessed from here).

  • Continuing, it looks like former CIA head and General David Petraeus was the subject of recent protests when he spoke at City College of New York.

    For the wingnut perspective, I give you this from Fix Noise…

    FOX’s Jesse Watters confronted S. Sandor John, a professor of Latin American studies, about encouraging the student body to pester General Petraeus.

    John said “Students and faculty […] are not okay with a death squad organizer and somebody who organized drone attacks.”

    Jesse also spoke with CUNY students who supported Petraeus’ presence on campus, calling the General a “great professor”

    I don’t know what’s funnier – the fact that the Foxies don’t even bother to acknowledge the charges against Petraeus (here and here), or that Jesse Watters is actually given the imprimatur of respectability (here).

    Meanwhile, I think I should make note of the reality perspective from the same event (here)…

    A new video was just released of police brutalizing one of the City University of New York (CUNY) students protesting a fundraiser featuring former CIA Director and CUNY Macaulay Honors College adjunct professor David Petraeus.

    That video – taken from a new angle than the ones previously released and first featured here on The Dissenter – shows about a dozen police officers swarming a student, slamming him against the hood of a car and holding him there.

    Once pinned down, the video shows a white-shirted officer punch him in the head a couple times and another officer punch him in the head from another angle. He also had his head held in place from the back of neck with a nightstick when pinned down on the ground after being pulled from the car. [*Note: This takes place 5:50 into the embedded video segment.]

    The brutal blows were met with screams and shouts from students, no defense to policemen on a mission.

    Six students eventually were arrested, now known as the “CUNY 6.” They face charges of disorderly conduct, riot, resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration and will have a date in court on October 16.

    And though this is an important story, it really isn’t one with major import on foreign or domestic policy (not saying it shouldn’t be, though).

    Here is my point; if Fix Noise sanitized something like this, which will probably end up as little more than a blip on the media radar, imagine how they “report” national or international stories of actual consequence.

  • Further, “Pastor” Gerson at the WaPo goes there on Francis and teh gay here (mentioning the Pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who knew “the power of a dramatic gesture”)…

    So Francis observed: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.”

    This teaching — to always consider the person — was disorienting from the beginning. The outsiders get invited to the party. The prodigal is given the place of honor. The pious complain about their shocking treatment. The gatekeepers find the gate shut to them. It is subversive to all respectable religious order, which is precisely the point. With Francis, the argument gains a new hearing.

    (Oh, and typical for Gerson, he snuck in a dig earlier in his column about “progressive“ churches on “a panting, unsuccessful search for relevance” – as is usually the case, you’re left wondering what he said for a second or two before you realize just how insulting it really was).

    Gerson really shouldn’t say anything about the gays, though, given his de facto endorsement of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria (here). Basically, Gerson piled on then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 for the latter’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, when in fact Gerson was (still is?) a member of…

    ..the Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. (Gerson’s) congregation and the nearby Truro Church, (which) played the key role in leading 11 Virginia parishes out of the Episcopal Church after the Church consecrated Gene Robinson, an openly gay man as bishop in 2003. Most of these parishes joined the Church of Nigeria, which Akinola leads.

    Yep, I would say that you could classify this under “the power of a dramatic gesture” also; besides, let’s not be in a rush to throw plaudits at the still-new Pope on the question of human sexuality, particularly in light of this.

  • Finally (and returning to the health care law), I give you the following from Mikey The Beloved’s stenographer in chief, Gary Weckselblatt of the Bucks County Courier Times (here)…

    Democrats and Republicans each reside within their own truth.

    That was never more evident than the recent GOP House vote to fund all government operations, with the notable exception of President Barack Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act.

    Moments after the 230-189 vote for the Continuing Resolution — only two Democrats and one Republican switched sides — the political spin machines worked to churn raw cream into sweet butter over an impending government shutdown.

    The headline on press releases from Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, Middletown, and Patrick Meehan, R-7, Drexel Hill, said the vote meant government would continue running.

    For Democrats such as Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, D-13, Jenkintown, however, a government shutdown and the nation’s default were looming.

    One vote and the two parties’ opinions are as divergent as Oscar and Felix.

    I’ve had to endure some truly awful columns from Gary Weckselblatt over the years, but this may actually be the worst of all. It is the ultimate embodiment of the “both sides are just as bad” narrative. This might as well be called “The Health Care Reform Issue Is Too Confusing For Me To Understand, So Instead, I’m Just Going To Give Up And Write Nothing But Snark.”

    I’ll tell you what – here is an actual news story with actual reporting, something Weckselblatt is apparently incapable of crafting, even though it’s supposed to be his job (more is also here and here)…

    The House of Representatives passed a 2014 continuing resolution Friday with a vote of 230 to 189. The $986.3 billion stopgap bill would fund the government until Dec. 15, preventing a government shutdown, but it’s expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate, as it also defunds the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    It was the 42nd vote the GOP has taken to repeal the new health care law. The Senate is expected to restore funding and return the bill to the House. If lawmakers cannot agree on a funding measure by Sept. 30, there will be a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

    So yes, the Republicans in the House passed the continuing resolution to fund the government, stripping out the funding for the Affordable Care Act in the process. So they are technically correct in saying that they passed the CR over to the Senate.

    Now that it’s there, the bill will have the funding for the Act reinserted into it when the filibuster of “Calgary” Cruz eventually ends with the conclusion of the “filibuster” by “Calgary” Cruz (which, ostensibly, is the reason for his filibuster antics, though in reality the point is to gin up more phony outrage, to say nothing of dollars from campaign contributors, for his 2016 presidential run). And when the funding is reinserted, the bill will be sent back to the House, where it likely will fail to pass.

    So Schwartz’s remark is based on that eventuality (smartly moving a step or two ahead of things –she’s such a bright lady that she should run for governor :-)). And guess who now shares that view?

    Boehner_Time_Shutdown_0926
    Oh, and a budget deal has to be approved by September 30th, the end of the government calendar year, or else we really will have a default for real (though Treasury has said October 17th, I believe). Of course, Obama could just reconsider doing this (yes, I know it’s a trick, but if it keeps the government running)…

    Also, if you want to know the polling on this issue, just look at this – it’s been pretty consistent for awhile now (the hell with Terry Madonna – yes, there are a lot opposed, but a lot are in favor also…what matters are the trends). And though this is a bit funny, it’s also a bit pathetic too (approval for the ACA rose 8 points among Repugs when it wasn’t called “Obamacare”).

    This is all a consequence of the truly lazy “reporting” on this issue, as noted here, and embodied by Weckselblatt – he really should stop stealing from his employer with this crap and click here at long last (i.e., take my advice and apply at Pottery Barn – probably looking for seasonal hires about now).

    And as I was about to put the wraps on this post, I came across this item (h/t Atrios) from Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly, opining on a similar column by Ron Fournier, who is an old hand at manufacturing the old “equivalency” narrative. I was struck by this excerpt in particular…

    At the risk of getting maudlin about it all, I’d say we all lose when respected journalists look at something like Boehner’s debt limit bill and see it as no worse than the President saying we ought to pay our bills and keep that separate from our differences over spending and taxing. The Equivalency Formula makes it impossible to see clown clothes, and thus encourages clowns to cut capers even more.

    And to take the circus metaphor to its logical conclusion, the calliope will keep playing, along with the parade of jugglers and fire-eaters while the acrobats swing high above, until one day, the show closes, the cleanup begins, the ring shuts down and the pitched tents are rolled up and put away for good, and we have nothing left.


  • Friday Mashup (9/20/13)

    September 20, 2013

  • Stop the presses! It looks like the Repugs FINALLY have their “alternative” to the Affordable Care Act (here)…

    Conservatives representing nearly three-quarters of the House Republican conference unveiled their proposed replacement for President Obama’s healthcare law Wednesday, delivering on a long-delayed GOP promise.

    The bill from the Republican Study Committee would fully repeal the 2010 law and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines.

    Ummm – well, in response, I give you mcjoan here

    To be fair, they include all the other non-reform reforms they’ve been rehashing for years—tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, high-risk pools—all the things that don’t actually don’t do anything to address the real problem in our health care system: the increasing, systemic cost of health care. But they don’t include any provision for lower-income people to purchase affordable insurance. They don’t include any of the popular Obamacare provisions, like young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plan or an end to lifetime limits on what insurance will pay.

    So what they’ve really got is tax cuts, as usual. But at least this time they’ll be for the middle class, too. So, progress?

    Because, when it comes to tax cuts (noted by Joan), never forget the following (and here is more wingnut mythology on this subject).

  • Next, did you know that Mikey the Beloved favored reinstituting a 21st-century version of Glass-Steagall (the Depression-era legislation insuring federal bank deposits and separating commercial and investment banking) in 2011 (here)?

    Of course, since we’re now in 2013…

    More than two-and-a-half years later, Fitzpatrick, vice chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, won’t commit to putting Glass-Steagall back in place.

    The Depression-era act was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to insure bank deposits while Glass-Steagall put up a firewall between commercial and investment banks.

    “I support building a wall to protect taxpayers and protect banking customers, I absolutely support that,” Fitzpatrick said.

    But first he wants the administration to implement The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which includes the Volcker Rule, proposed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, to prohibit banks from risking institutional money in certain speculative investments.

    More Mikey flim-flam BS (and of course, I’m sure Mikey’s newfound ambivalence has not one thing to do with the fact that this legislation was first championed by Dem U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts)…

    As noted here and here, Mikey’s fellow Repug U.S. House brethren want to do away with both Dodd-Frank and the Volcker Rule. But of course, President Hopey Changey is supposed to ride to the rescue and save this country from Mikey and his same-party playmates in the House, right?

    And I’m sure Mikey would be cheering President Obama on every step of the way.

    Sure he would (and as a point of reference, this tells us who was right and who was wrong about repealing Glass-Steagall in 1999…it was a bipartisan failure – opposing it may have been Byron Dorgan’s finest moment).

    And in other financial news related to Congress, it looks like “Man Tan” Boehner and his caucus in the House wants to play chicken with our economy again over the debt ceiling here, even though, as noted here, he said on five different occasions that he wouldn’t do that.

    Oh, and did you know that Number 44 was responsible for this country’s decline in median income, among other downward numbers, according to something called CNS News here?

    Meanwhile, in the world of reality, it should be noted that median income in this country (for the rest of the 99 percent “rabble,” most definitely including your humble narrator) has been declining for at least the last 10 years (here – more on this is here).

  • Continuing, we have Repug U.S. Senator John Thune propagandizing as follows here

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune is calling for the Senate to end the Obama administration’s controversial green vehicle loan program in the wake of news that the Department of Energy is selling off the $168 million loan it gave to financially troubled Fisker Automotive.

    “The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said Thune in a statement. “From Fisker and Vehicle Production Group, to the Chinese-owned A123, this administration should not be making questionable investments with the American people’s hard-earned money.”

    I wonder how many people know that the Fisker loan, as well as the loan program itself, stems from the ruinous reign of Obama’s predecessor (here)? And as noted here, Obama supposedly knew that Fisker was missing milestones in 2010, though neither of the docs mentioned in the AP story cited by Media Matters (and probably released to the AP by the Repugs) confirmed that.

    This is a bit of a rehash, I’ll admit; I already pointed out here, in a response to a WaPo column by that dim bulb Charles Lane, that it’s wrong to blame the Obama Administration for the Fisker loan (and besides, when you’re talking about federal loans to startups, some will pay off and some will go bust; what matters is the percentage of the former as opposed to the latter).

    And on the subject of “questionable” money decisions, this tells us that Thune, being a good little Repug from the Karl Rove/Grover Norquist template, sought to repeal the “death tax,” even though it mostly affected 0.1 percent of the households in this country. Also, Thune argued for more defense spending here, which, given how much we outspend the rest of the world, is beyond laughable.

  • Finally, this tells us the following…

    College freshmen that haven’t decided on a major may want to consider a degree in sales and marketing, medicine, health-care research and renewable energy to increase their odds of getting hired upon graduation.

    According to newly-released data from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, jobs in these fields will be in high demand come 2018. What’s more, the firm finds that students who concentrate on math, science, engineering and technology will have the largest array of job options post-graduation.

    Concentrating on math, science and technology positions will help college grads secure work because these skills cover a vast array of positions in our jobs economy, says John Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

    “When you get into fields that run across every type of company, it gives you such flexibility in your career,” Challenger says. “So many jobs today require people to have so much communication, through companies’ programs and policies, so that is very important as well.”

    I have no factual information to argue with this claims, but I would say that some context is missing here.

    Let’s start with this item, telling us that employers, five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers that ushered in this era of economic calamity, are STILL pushing to increase H-1B visas for foreign, temporary workers. That’s one prong of the pitchfork, if you will, stabbing U.S. workers (both new and experienced) in the metaphorical “gut.”

    The other is offshoring, which really hasn’t been reined in much by Number 44 (here), partly because he has supported trade deals that make the problem worse (here), including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as noted here (an update is here).

    I know this isn’t an original observation, but it needs to be shouted from the mountaintops; we have a jobs crisis in this country!


    And with all due respect to our young men and women entering college (who, along with their parents, may benefit from reading this), whether or not you choose to major in a STEM-related curriculum or not won’t mean a damn thing until we start investing in this country once more and do everything we possibly can to resolve it.


  • Friday Mashup (9/6/13)

    September 7, 2013

  • I give you the following from the Bucks County Courier Times earlier in the week:

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick used the national Republican Weekly Address on Saturday to criticize President Barack Obama’s policies for health care and energy.

    “Nearly five years into the Obama presidency, the workers who drive our economy see nothing but roadblocks coming out of Washington,” Fitzpatrick said in the Labor Day weekend speech.

    The 8th District Republican, who recorded the talk Thursday in Philadelphia, has been critical of Obama’s Affordable Care Act in visits to several area chambers of commerce in recent months.

    No word on whether or not Mikey the Beloved has spoken to actual non-Chamber of Commerce residents of PA-08 for their feedback on the Affordable Care Act, by the way (I’ll address his comment about the ACA and the alleged increase in premiums shortly…and in the matter of the Keystone XL pipeline which Mikey also supports, I give you the following from here and here).

    I wonder if it’s supposed to be a bit of a backhanded compliment to Mikey that he was asked to give the Repug response to Obama’s weekly address on what probably is the day when people are least likely to pay attention to it because it’s the last unofficial weekend of summer (and by the way, to respond to “roadblock Mikey” properly, click here).

  • And keeping with the theme of the health care law, I give you the following from here (looks like The Weakly Standard needs a copy editor)…

    A local report from Green Bay, Wisconsin says that health care premiuns (sic) could increase up to 125 percent because of Obamacare:

    Half a million Wisconsinites will soon have to open up their pocket books for health care coverage,” says a local anchor. “And new estimates show, it may be costly. … The state’s office of the commissioner of insurance released estimates of how premium rates for individuals will be changing under the Affordable Care Act.”

    In response, I give you the following from here

    (A Rand Corporation) Analysis suggests that comparisons of average premiums with and without the Affordable Care Act may overstate the potential for premium increases. Sweeping statements about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on premiums should be interpreted very carefully because the law has complex effects that differ depending on individuals’ age and smoking status, the actuarial value of the plan chose, individuals” eligibility for federal tax credits, and state implementation decisions. Once we adjust for age, actuarial value, and tobacco use, nongroup premiums are estimated to remain unchanged at the national level and in many states. Further, after accounting for tax credits, average out-of-pocket premium spending in the nongroup market is estimated to decline or remain unchanged in all states considered and in in the nation overall. [RAND Corporation, Accessed 9/4/13]

    In addition, this may be the most definitive post I’ve seen yet on supposed rate increases under HCR (with further “food for thought” here).

  • Next, I know I’m a little late with this Labor Day-related commentary also based on this from The Philadelphia Inquirer, but here it is anyway…

    Organized labor is so powerful in Philadelphia that people in this town might not realize unions are in real trouble nationally. Labor Day is a good time to reflect on that reality.

    Just a few days ago, union picketers made the local TV news by blasting the amplified sound of a baby’s recorded cries during daily protests of nonunion work at a hotel, disturbing guests and a Center City neighborhood. Weeks earlier, a strike at the Pennsylvania Convention Center threatened a major convention.

    Meanwhile, the political clout of labor leaders such as electricians boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty can be calculated by the number of Philadelphia officials who all but genuflect in the presence of a man who controls a significant source of campaign contributions.

    Far be it for me to leap to the defense of “Johnny Doc,” but to say that the Inky is “painting with a broad brush” here is an understatement (a bit surprised that the Inky didn’t also blame the Teamsters for blowing up the inflatable rat that they often do in an effort to shame companies that hire non-union workers; as far as I’m concerned, that’s free speech and I have no problem with it).

    I would only point out once more the contributions of the union movement to workers of all sectors of our economy, some of which are noted here. And I would say that the video noted here shows pretty well that the decline in union membership and the rise of income inequality pretty much go hand in hand.

    The Inquirer points out that the downward trend in union membership began in 1983, which is two years after perhaps the most catastrophic anti-union event perpetrated by our government, and that was the firing of the air traffic controllers as part of the showdown with PATCO (their union at the time) by The Sainted Ronnie R, as noted here, the reverberations of which we are still feeling today.

  • Continuing, I give you some genuine hilarity from Erick (“Son of Erick”) Erickson of Fix Noise here, in response to Number 44 on Syria…

    George W. Bush, getting congressional approval for military operations seven days after the September 11th attack was not bending the arc of history, but John Harwood will probably spend the next week of reporting telling us all exactly how arc bending Barack Obama is.

    Sooo…is “Son of Erick” actually beating on John Harwood for supposedly carrying the water, as they say, of President Obama? And not doing the same for Former President Nutball? Really???

    As noted here, Harwood said the following about Number 43…

    …the 9/11 attacks gave (Bush) enough standing eventually to take the nation to war against Iraq.

    Oh, and as noted here, Harwood also once criticized Obama when Number 44 decided to “move…out from behind speechmaking lecterns.” And as far as Harwood supposedly sucking up to Obama goes, I also give you this.

    And is Erickson referring to the same Harwood who once claimed that Dubya was “doggedly advancing conservative goals on taxes and national security” here? Oh, but according to “Son of Erick,” Harwood should have claimed that Dubya was “bending the arc of history,” or something.

    And as we know, Erickson is always a model for prudence and discretion in his “reporting” of the news stories that touch our lives on a daily basis. Right?

    Gosh, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Erickson is taking hallucinogenic drugs (and no, I won’t stop linking to that until Harwood apologizes, something I’m sure he’ll never do).

  • Further, I give you the following from former Repug U.S. House Rep Pete Hoekstra, also on the Syria crisis (here)…

    Why did partisanship disrupt our foreign policy unity? Was it due to political opportunism or genuine policy differences?

    We may never know.

    Actually, I think we know right now – as noted here, Hoekstra and Former PA Senator Man-On-Dog tried to circulate a discredited claim about Saddam Hussein’s WMD. Also, as noted here, Hoekstra opined in April 2009 that the reaction of the Obama Administration to the ”enhanced interrogation” methods of our prior ruling cabal “are demonstrating how little President Barack Obama and some Democratic members of Congress understand the dire threats to our nation,” which was particularly stupid on Hoekstra’s part because all Obama wanted to do basically was to “turn the page.”

    (By the way, the same prior post from yours truly notes the truly wretched “sock puppetry” of Hoekstra in the matter of feeding the bogus claim to Time’s Joe Klein that the version of the FISA bill from the Democrats required warrants for every foreign terrorist’s call and that the bill thus gave the same rights to foreign terrorists as American citizens…yes, the Dems eventually caved on FISA, to their shame, but that doesn’t make the Hoekstra/Klein episode any less galling.)

    As noted here, Rachel Maddow basically said that everyone from Bushco should just go away when it comes to opining on Syria, since they were so catastrophically wrong on Iraq (I would argue that that extends to all other foreign policy issues also). Based on this bit of wankery from Hoekstra, I think that goes for him too.

  • Finally, I should note that BP ran a full-page ad in the Murdoch Street Journal on Thursday with quotes from Tom Donahue of the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers whining about how BP has already paid $10 billion in damages and blaming those dastardly trial lawyers once again – typical.

    In response, I give you the following:

  • This tells us a bit about the lawsuits currently pending against BP, including Florida joining a four-state suit.
  • This tells us that, maybe and just perhaps, the reason why those dastardly trial lawyers are involved is because BP is suing the EPA (so I guess the government isn’t entitled to represent itself?).
  • This basically tells us that accusing settlement victims of “taking money they don’t deserve” isn’t exactly going to “win hearts and minds” either (and the Journal ad cites the “U.S.” Chamber, but doesn’t note that BP is a member).
  • This tells us that the gulf oil spill’s settlement administrator has said that BP’s claims of fraud are “spurious” and “unfounded.”
  • Oh, and by the way, BP wants to “halt the Deepwater Horizon claims process” altogether, as noted here.


    That makes them the scum of the earth as far as I’m concerned.


  • Friday Mashup (8/2/13)

    August 2, 2013
  • The theme today is “Right-Wing Idiocy on Health Care Reform”- as noted here from The Daily Tucker…

    Republicans on Capitol Hill say the Obama administration is trying to regulate or prevent small companies from providing self-funded insurance for their employees because self-funded insurance plans could be the “Achilles heel” for Obamacare implementation.

    The majority of U.S. employers now offer self-funded insurance plans, in which companies finance employee health plans from their own funds. Many of the companies purchase stop-loss insurance plans from insurance providers. These companies would therefore avoid many Obamacare regulations when the law takes full effect in 2014. The practice of self-funded insurance, which was outright banned in early drafts of Obamacare, represents the “Achilles heel” for Obamacare implementation, according to insiders.

    What a laughable attempt at attribution – and those same “insiders” tell us the following…

    Phyllis Borzi, the Obama administration’s assistant secretary for employee benefits security in the Department of Labor, is a well-known opponent of stop-loss insurance and is suspected of making behind-the-scenes moves to prevent small companies from providing it…

    I would say that that’s a pretty defamatory accusation and could be a real problem if it were actually true; I’d be inclined to believe, though, that Patrick Howley of The Daily Tucker doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about (“according to insiders,” naturally).

    If the Obama Administration hates “stop/loss” insurance so much, then how come the following is true (from an article by Matthew Buettgens and Linda J. Blumberg of The Urban Institute dated November 2012 – sorry, but I’m unable to link to a URL or a .pdf)…

    The Affordable Care Act changes the small-group insurance market substantially beginning in 2014, but most changes do not apply to self-insured plans. This exemption provides an opening for small employers with healthier workers to avoid broader sharing of health care risk, isolating higher-cost groups in the fully insured market. Private stop-loss or reinsurance plans can mediate the risk of self-insurance for small employers, facilitating the decision to self-insure. We simulate small-employer coverage decisions under the law and find that low-risk stop-loss policies lead to higher premiums in the fully insured small-group market. Average single premiums would be up to 25 percent higher, if stop-loss insurance with no additional risk to employers than fully insuring is allowed—an option available in most states absent further government action. Regulation of stop-loss at the federal or state level can, however, prevent such adverse selection and increase stability in small-group insurance coverage.

    So it looks like “stop/loss” in insurance could be further regulated, but Number 44 isn’t trying to go that route.

    Oh, and by the way, I checked the CAP article by John Podesta mentioned by Howley, and I learned the following (here)…

    There are two types of stop-loss insurance: specific, or individual, stop-loss insurance, which protects an employer from a single, unusually high claim from any one employee; and aggregate stop-loss insurance, which limits the total amount the employer must pay each year for all employee health-care claims. In both types, the point at which stop-loss coverage begins is called the “attachment point.” Lower attachment points minimize the employer’s financial risk, and if they are particularly low, they blur the line between self-insured plans and self-funded plans entirely. A self-insured plan with a specific attachment point of $5,000, for example, functions in the same way as a plan with a $5,000 deductible.

    Insurers may also structure stop-loss policies to protect employers from unpredictably high claims that might cause cash-flow issues. Stop-loss policies that limit liability exposure in a single month, for example, or provide immediate reimbursement for claims above the attachment point eliminate this risk.

    Little data exist, however, about the use of stop-loss policies. One survey found that nearly 60 percent of all self-insured firms also have stop-loss insurance. Even less data are available on the type of stop-loss policies and the level of attachment points purchased by self-insured employers. Although survey data suggest that the average individual attachment point for businesses with 5,000 employees or more is about $340,000, similar data for smaller firms are unreliable due to a much smaller sample size.

    The Affordable Care Act requires a study on self-insurance policies used by employers in the large-group market. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, and Department of the Treasury also issued a joint request for information about the use of stop-loss insurance in 2012, asking specifically about stop-loss policies with low attachment points. This data collection and analysis is ongoing.

    So, though it could potentially represent an “Achilles Heel” of sorts to HCR if “stop-loss” policies started popping up all over the place, I would consider that to be highly unlikely, if for no other reason than the fact that large companies would have to start shelling out more and more money to cover their employees just to get out of coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

    And as far as small businesses are concerned – well, if all the employees are comparatively young and fit with minimal health care needs aside from preventive care, you’re may be fine with a stop-loss plan. However (again, from CAP)…

    …once the group’s health status declines, self-funding becomes far more risky and expensive. Stop-loss plans, for example, can raise premiums or refuse to renew coverage once a group becomes less healthy or more expensive to cover. In this case small employers could either drop coverage or return to the fully insured small-group market, adding its less healthy employees to that risk pool.

    And I think the following should also be noted from here (the .pdf should open the viewer, but it’s fussy)…

    Self-insured employers have an increasing cost to control: that of high-dollar medical claims. Just how much healthcare reform will impact those claims is still up to debate. According to an Aon report1, healthcare reform so far has had a .08% to 1.5% impact, depending on the size of the group. That percentage can continue to increase as more provisions go into effect.

    So basically, nobody really has any idea how much self-insured plans will be affected by the Affordable Care Act.

    But then again, to expect anything close to serious journalism from Patrick Howley based on this (in which Howley tried to egg on antiwar protestors at the Smithsonian Institution to make them look bad, something typical of James O’Keefe) is a delusional notion anyway.

  • Next, Scott Gottlieb recently opined as follows at the Murdoch Street Journal (here, on the subject of the expansion of the 340B program as part of health care reform – he explains, somewhat)…

    Under 340B, eligible hospitals are allowed to buy drugs from drug companies at forced discounts of 25% to 50%. The hospitals can then bill government and private insurers for the full cost of the drugs, pocketing the spread. The arrangement gives 340B-qualified hospitals a big incentive to search for patients and prescribe lots of drugs. The costlier the drugs, the bigger the spread. So expensive cancer drugs are especially appealing.

    The original legislation creating 340B envisioned that only about 90 hospitals that care for a “disproportionate share” of indigent patients would qualify. But remember, this is a well-intentioned government program handing out money, with the usual result: By 2011, 1,675 hospitals, or a third of all hospitals in the country, were 340B-qualified.

    Call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but could the expansion actually be due to the fact that more and more hospitals are seeing more and more indigent cases?

    To quote Steve Martin, “Naaaaahhhhh!”

    Of course this has to be another Obama “scandal” where insurers and drug companies are seeing a financial hit, with more and more hospitals “pocketing the spread.” How silly of me not to realize it! All Hail Rush, Sean Hannity and Falafel Bill! And by the way, BENGHAZI!!!

    OK, I’ll stop (and I love the demagoguery about “a well-intentioned government program handing out money,” of course).

    Gottlieb also laments the likelihood that more patients will be treated at hospitals or outpatient facilities than doctor’s offices. Well, suppose we’re talking about a population with easier access to the former than the latter? Or are they invisible as far as the Journal is concerned?

    And this excerpt was a bit of a head-scratcher also…

    Even flourishing hospitals like the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University Health System feed off the subsidies. In 2011, Duke bought $54.8 million in drugs from the discount program and sold them to patients for $131.8 million, for a profit of $76.9 million—a substantial portion of the health system’s 2011 operating profit of $190 million. Only one in 20 patients served by Duke’s 340B pharmacy is uninsured. The rest have their prescription costs covered by Medicare, Medicaid or commercial insurers.

    Now ObamaCare is encouraging even wider 340B abuses.

    Sooo…as far as Gottlieb is concerned, it’s “abuse” for a population of probably poor and elderly individuals to qualify for the 340B drug discount if they already are covered under Medicare or Medicaid? Has Gottlieb tried to price drugs lately for people living on fixed incomes?

    And I’m sorry, but as far as I’m concerned, the “operating profit” of a medical institution is secondary to me versus how effective they are at providing patient care.

    Also…

    The regulatory loosening has led to a proliferation of abuse. The Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency that (nominally) oversees the program, recently audited 340B-eligible hospitals. The agency found “adverse findings” (like discounted drugs diverted or dispensed to ineligible patients) with almost half of the 34 institutions the agency examined.

    Didn’t Gottlieb say earlier that, as of 2011, 1,675 hospitals were covered under 340B? So, out of that total, the HSA reported on 34 institutions (and let’s say that “almost half” of 34 is 16, of the total institutions that were examined; those were the ones with “adverse findings”).

    So what percentage of 1,675 is 34? Well, that would be 0.020 percent (maybe not much of a sample, but then again, not much of a reason to carry on about alleged wrongdoing either).

    But of course Gottlieb is no stranger to propagandizing on this issue (this link takes us to a post where he claimed that the individual market for health care would be eliminated outside of the health care exchanges – if I were Politifact, I would rate that as a “pants on fire” claim).


  • Finally, I’ve been meaning to follow up on this item concerning our wet noodle U.S. House rep, so I guess I’d better get to it…

    I expected (The American College of Physicians) Leadership Day to be inspiring, empowering, and a way for me to share my thoughts on health reform with our lawmakers. However, the meeting with my Congressman this past June exceeded all of my expectations. Not only was I able to advocate for patients and physicians, but I also discovered an incredible opportunity in my hometown of Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

    As a constituent of the 8th district of Pennsylvania, I am represented by Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick. On Leadership Day, other members of the Pennsylvania delegation and I were able to speak to the Congressman directly about key ACP issues. Currently, I am a fourth-year medical student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and am planning to pursue a career in primary care. I told Congressman Fitzpatrick about my passion for public health, community health, and working in underserved communities, and how important it was to expand federal health programs and GME funding for primary care programs. The Congressman was thoughtful and listened—and then asked if I knew about the BCHIP clinic. BCHIP, or the Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership, is the largest free clinic serving uninsured, low-income adults in Bucks County, PA. Founded in 1993 and located in Bensalem, PA, it is locally driven and provides care to over 2,000 adults every year. I was immediately interested in learning more. And then, Congressman Fitzpatrick suggested that we visit the clinic together so I could get a closer look at community health in my own community.

    The article is generally complimentary towards Fitzpatrick, and that’s fine. Any means of providing care to people who otherwise wouldn’t get it is a worthy goal.

    However, here is my concern – suppose you run into complications?

    Because, as a friend of mine pointed out, if you have, say, cancer, you may get a referral to a specialist at a clinic, but that may not necessarily lead to care (suppose the referral doesn’t take your insurance? Suppose you don’t have insurance?). Suppose further that the clinic cannot perform a colonoscopy? And suppose even further that the clinic cannot provide OB/GYN care for women, including pre-natal care and/or pap screens?

    Nope…as good as the free clinic is, it often isn’t a “one-stop shop” for health care, nor can it be that in all cases. In the event of the circumstances I noted above, Planned Parenthood (which Mikey and his pals want to defund) would be needed, as well as the legally mandated provisions of the Affordable Care Act (same thing).

    And with all this in mind, I give you the following from here (based on this story)…

    Congressman Fitzpatrick has established his opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare and he has spoken consistently against “government control” of health care. In his letter printed June 17 he bemoaned the “army of bureaucrats implementing regulations” under (HHS) Secretary (Kathleen) Sebelius for not being bound by the Hippocratic Oath. He said if they were, “regulations would not exist denying a 10-year-old child a life saving operation.” Fact is, the role of the Department of Health and Human Services is to protect the citizens from harm, all 350 million of us.

    Secretary Sebelius, a politically appointed bureaucrat, was asked by Sen. Pat Toomey, a politician, not a doctor, to alter the transplant rules in a singular independent act. It would defy years of scientific and medical findings and regulations created by medical experts, scientists, doctors, surgeons, and ethicists.

    Fitzpatrick denied that asking Sebelius to alter the regulations was asking for interference when, in my view, that is exactly what it was. He is attempting to connect those “regulations” to Sebelius and eventually the ACA. In a June 17th letter to the newspaper, he condemned a federal bureaucrat for not making a medical decision while saying a federal agency should not be evaluating patients, which is contradictory. At a town hall meeting, he seemed to reserve the right to tell millions of people that if they need a doctor go find a free clinic or charity, when he told a questioner without insurance to do just that.

    Those regulations are not hers to alter; they are hers to administer. There is a deliberate and complicated process in procuring organs and selecting candidates that seeks to ensure fairness. Sadly, because of a finite supply of organs when a patient gets a transplant another will die waiting and that includes mothers and fathers of 10 year old children.

    Fitzpatrick knows the facts, but used the 10 year old child to attack the ACA by saying Sebelius’ action “is an indication of government takeover of healthcare and the ACA exacerbates the situation”. There it is, his real agenda, the continued attack on the ACA.

    It’s nice that Mikey has advocated on behalf of free clinics so those who might not otherwise obtain any care at all would receive it. But his continued intransigence and opposition to the Affordable Care Act is beyond a joke at this point. And using the life-endangering circumstances of a 10-year-old girl in furtherance of this unholy goal is a new low, even for him.


    A Repug “40” Fraud On Health Care Reform

    July 31, 2013

    Life_HCR_0731
    (Image from Public Citizen/Flickr)

    As noted here from last Friday…

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans plan a 40th attempt at repealing Obamacare (this) week, with legislation that would block the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing any portion of the health care reform law.

    House Republicans have scheduled a vote next Friday on Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013.

    “Public distrust continues of agency that has dozens of powers under Obamacare, and whose actions President Obama has called outrageous,” said Doug Heye, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “As an ever increasing number of Americans — including labor unions and moderate Democrats — worry that Obamacare has become a nightmare, it is critical to prevent the IRS from implementing any portion of the law.”

    Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) issued statements Friday afternoon blasting Republicans for the anticipated vote.

    “It is only fitting that Republicans would waste the last week at work this summer voting for the 40th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act and continue their record of no jobs bills, no budget agreement, and no solutions for the middle class,” said Pelosi.

    “Every day wasted on yet another repeal bill that will never be taken up by the Senate, much less survive a presidential veto, is another day that could have been spent advancing legislation to create jobs for the middle class, negotiating a balanced and bipartisan approach to deficits that can end the painful budget sequester, or debating a path forward on immigration reform,” added Hoyer.

    Yep, that about says it as far as I’m concerned.

    I should point out that, when I first became aware of the full extent of the stupidity in the U.S. House on this issue (scheduling repeal votes when, as noted in the Ezra Klein clip from here, health care reform is a “done deal”), they had only scheduled 31 repeal votes. And in response, I put together a series of posts from here focusing on 31 Republican U.S. House members who opposed health care reform (including our own Mikey the Beloved at #2 – I also mentioned then-Dem-reps Mike Ross and Dan Boren).

    Well, since we’re now up to a 40th scheduled vote, I would say that it’s time to feature 9 more Republicans in the U.S. House, and in no particular order, here they are…

    #32 – Blake Farenthold (TX – 27)

    • Here, he compared the unemployed to drug addicts (nice).
    • Here, he opposed funding food stamps (as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) even though he received millions in farm subsidies (and he definitely had company on this one).
    • And of course, as noted here, he wouldn’t be a good little Repug unless he was a member of the anti-science climate denier caucus.
    • He was also a little too slow, to say the least, about realizing that budget cuts hurt the economy here.
    • As noted here, his sister harbored a murder suspect (usually I leave civilians out of this stuff, but this is beyond the pale).

    Update 8/12/13: This is yet another reason to vote Farenthold and his pals out of office as far as I’m concerned.

    #33 – Diane Black (TN – 06)

    • Here, she introduced legislation that basically bars federal government funding on Planned Parenthood (oh brother – yeah, like that would stand up to a court challenge).
    • Here, she introduced legislation barring gays from adopting children (“Let’s see now, ‘Christian compassion,’ ‘Christian compassion’…I know they talk about it in the Bible somewhere, but I can’t find it!”).
    • Here, she said that she “children with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses should not have to be covered under their parent’s plan by insurance companies. Her reasoning is that insurance companies would lose too much money” (wonder if she owns any stock?).
    • Oh, and remember the supposedly humorous Email sent from Black’s aide Sherri Goforth (as in “Go forth and be stupid,” I guess) depicting President Obama as two eyes appearing against a black background (here)? And Goforth was merely “reprimanded” by Black in response, apparently.

    #34 – Raul Labrador (ID – 01)

    I give you Labrador on immigration (here)…

    “The people that came here illegally knowingly — I don’t think they should have a path to citizenship,” he said on NPR, according to Talking Points Memo. “If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship.”

    “Normalize your status”? What does that even mean? And as the story tells us, only about 10 percent of this country actually sides with Labrador.

    Of course, Labrador is quick to blame Obama on immigration, as noted here – “A speech is not a bill?” Bills are supposed to come from Congress, not the White House, you moron.

    And as noted from here, Labrador says that the Dems want to cover undocumented workers in health care reform, which is patently untrue…

    This month, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) blamed a standoff over health-care benefits for his decision to drop out of bipartisan talks with seven colleagues who were negotiating a House alternative to the Senate immigration proposal. That has forced House leaders to proceed with a series of smaller-scale proposals next week in lieu of a sweeping agreement.“

    When I joined the group, I was told that the aliens would have to pay for their own health care,” Labrador told Fox News. “Now that has changed. And I can’t agree to all of the exceptions.”

    Frustrated Democrats argue that Republicans are picking a fight where one does not exist. In both chambers, Democrats say, they have agreed that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for public benefits – including health-care subsidies and Medicaid – as they embark on a path to permanent legal status, which would take at least 10 years under the Senate plan.“

    We have said since day one that undocumented people will not have access to subsidies in the Affordable Care Act,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last month. “Any thought that we want to do something different than that is simply not true. It is a bottom line. No need to even discuss it.”

    But of course, according to Labrador, the failure to pass immigration reform is the fault of the Demsuh huh.

    Update 8/26/13: Yeah, how dare those pesky civil rights workers get all “negative” (here)! Gosh, why can’t they sing and dance while facing voter ID obstruction and disenfranchisement?

    #35 – Tom Cotton (AR – 04)

    • Here, he said that he didn’t think women were qualified to serve in the military (nice – it should be pointed out, though, that Cotton actually did serve, unlike most other Repugs).
    • Here, he said that Iraq was involved in 9/11 (ah, a golden oldie…oh, and when it comes to evaluating Number 43 and “Deadeye Dick,” Cotton believes 9/11 shouldn’t be included, as noted here).

    The Arkansas Times link also tells us that he, like many others in his party, voted against relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and he’s a darling of the Club for Growth, no matter how that affects his congressional district…figures.

    Cotton is a bit of a rising GOP star, though – he’s being prompted to challenge conservadem Mark Pryor for Pryor’s U.S. Senate seat (and apparently, based on this, he’s in…yep, no problem with ambition here, having not even finished his first term in the House after winning the seat vacated by Mike Ross).

    And like a whole bunch of House Repugs (including Mikey the Beloved), Cotton voted to separate SNAP funding from the farm bill (here). Oh, and Cotton wants to punish not only those who violate economic sanctions against Iran (OK), but their family members too, as noted here (um, and why?).

    Update 8/1/13: And I’m sure the Pryor campaign will have fun with this also.

    Update 8/9/13: Why do I have a feeling that the fun is just beginning with this guy (here)?

    #36 – Tim Huelskamp (KS – 01)

    What a prize this guy is, if I do say so…

    As far as Huelskamp is concerned, you’re not allowed to discuss gun control (particularly in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook carnage) because you would be advocating a “political agenda” (here).

    He also said here that he would file a constitutional amendment to try and restore DOMA, despite the fact that it was overruled by John Roberts and The Supremes (but just remember, it’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” as far as Huelskamp, Cantor and Boehner are concerned). And in keeping with that, he spread more BS here about how kids supposedly do better in dysfunctional hetero families than functional same-sex ones (to the point where even Fluffyhead called him on it).

    Basically, Huelskamp is such a Teahadist not job unwilling to compromise that he’s been removed by fellow Republicans from committee assignments (voted against the Violence Against Women Act, also voted against Sandy relief – of course…here).

    But how do his constituents feel, I wonder…

    “We hear criticisms that [Huelskamp] won’t get along, but that’s not what we elected him for. We elected him to vote for principle,” said Paula Carr, a 64-year-old who sells and repairs lawn and garden equipment. “Compromise is why we’re in the condition we’re in now — too much compromise over the last 30 years.’’

    With all due respect to Ms. Carr, the main reason for the “too much comprise” over the last 30 years is because you’ve had the proverbial rug pulled out from under you by Republican politicians selling you “values voter” snake oil while income inequality has gotten worse and worse and worse. And at the risk of sounding like a snotty liberal, I should point out that it was up to you to overcome what I’m sure is your longstanding dislike of people with my political opinion and study the issues that truly matter with an open mind. And apparently, you failed to do so, to the point where you have sent a numbskull like Huelskamp to Washington, where he can do damage not just to your district but the whole country (and that quote means that you’re just as oblivious to that now as before).

    Oh, and don’t count on Huelskamp to help with immigration reform either, since he thinks that appealing to Hispanics is “very discouraging” (here).

    Take a bow, you voters in KS – 01…heckuva job!

    Update 10/09/13: What a pathetic little slug (here).

    Update 1/29/14: Yep, Huelskamp is just another “one trick pony” – when all else fails, just attack that gol-danged “li-bu-ruul media” (here – and as far as BENGHAZI! is concerned, as I’ve said at least half a dozen times, I don’t recall any outcry at all when our ambassador David Foy was murdered in Pakistan in 2006).

    #37 – Jim Bridenstine (OK – 01)

    • Bridenstine said here that the Supreme Court doesn’t get to decide which laws are constitutional, or something, in response to a question about the Affordable Care Act (Marbury v. Madison, jackass).
    • He called President Obama “an incompetent, vengeful liar with no moral compass” on the floor of the U.S. House (here – yeah, just keep blaming us libs for how uncivil we were to Dubya; as usual, conservatives look in the mirror and see everyone’s reflection but their own).
    • He demanded that Obama apologize to Oklahoma here for allocating funding for climate change research here (um, aren’t you just the slightest bit curious about what caused the Moore tornado, congressman?).
    • And of course, being a typical Teahadist, Bridenstine is afraid “Man Tan” Boehner will “cave on taxes” because of the sequester, as noted here (maybe, instead of “taxes,” Bridenstine should worry about this instead; fat chance, I know).


    (From the Chattanooga Times Free Press)

    #38 – Scott DesJarlais (TN – 04)

    I wish it could be said that all nine Repugs in this post are truly facing electoral problems for next year, but except for DesJarlais, I don’t think that’s apparent at the moment (love to be wrong). I guess the “line in the sand” for the Teahadists is when you betray them on “values” issues, as opposed to issues that actually impact their lives such as the sequester, jobs, health care, the environment, etc. (what a joke).

    With that in mind, I give you this…

    • He was fined $500 for having affairs with patients here (he’s an OB-GYN, I believe).
    • Here, he apparently pressured one patient who was his mistress into getting an abortion (nice guy).
    • Here, he supported his ex-wife’s decision to have two abortions prior to their marriage (as far as I’m concerned, that should be kept in the family, but don’t parade yourself as a “family values” Republican if you have these skeletons in your proverbial closet, OK?).
    • Also according to Politico (above link), DesJarlais “lavished gifts” on one patient he had an affair with, including an expensive watch and plane tickets.

    When even the chairman of the state’s Republican Party says that he doesn’t expect DesJarlais to be re-elected next year…well, I guess the “fat lady,” as they say, is getting ready.

    Update 1/31/14: Gee, aren’t those pesky unintended consequences a real bitch, as noted here? Ha and ha…

    Poe_0731

    #39 – Ted Poe (TX – 02)

    Going further down the rabbit hole as they say, people…

    • Here, Poe quoted the KKK Grand Wizard on the U.S. House floor (lovely).
    • Here, he held a health care “town hall” in a funeral home (interesting messaging…oh, riiight“death panels”; I get it now).
    • Poe said here that the U.S. gave aid to Cuba and Venezuela (uh, no).
    • Here, he tried to rally the nation against the supposedly grave danger faced by incandescent light bulbs (pretty sad when you’re a “sock puppet” for Erick “Son of Eric” Erickson).

    And speaking of Poe, the video from here with him along with Steve King and Louie Gohmert is kind of silly, but fun (and it speaks truth to stoo-pid).

    And last but perhaps least…

    #40 – Stephen Fincher (TN – 08)

    • Here, Fincher basically says that if you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat (Welcome to Gulag USA, despite the fact that Fincher gets huge farm subsidies, as noted here).
    • This tells us that, like many others in his party, he voted against relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
    • Here, he introduced a bill requiring drug testing of 20 percent of welfare recipients and applicants (of course, if Fincher were interested in doing anything besides trying to score cheap political points, he might look a little further south to see if it actually does any good, as noted here).
    • Also, based on this, it looks like he doesn’t know how to file a campaign disclosure statement properly (i.e., he “claimed to have almost no assets at the start of his campaign, and has since filed multiple inconsistent financial disclosure forms, revealing significantly greater assets.”).
    • He probably should also get a new press secretary too while he’s at it (here – some truly obnoxious “tweets” from someone named Elizabeth Lauten…nothing wrong with her having an opinion even though I most certainly don’t agree, but…and call me old fashioned, I know…aren’t government employees supposed to be non-political?).

    I think that brings us up to date, and I sincerely hope that I don’t have to revisit this topic (though, knowing this bunch, I have a feeling I will – sigh).

    Update 8/29/13: I didn’t know what to do with this item exactly, so I decided to tack it onto the end here; even though the racism on display is positively enraging, I think it demonstrates pretty well the complete and total failure of just about all of our corporate media to educate this country on the urgent issue of how the Affordable Care Act addresses our health care needs.


    Friday Mashup (7/12/13)

    July 12, 2013
  • I give you the latest screeching from The Daily Tucker here

    Republicans on Capitol Hill are becoming frustrated with Democratic attempts to block legislation to reform the IRS with funding cuts and other punitive measures. Republicans insist that the IRS should be “punished,” while Democrats fear a new precedent that could lead to budget cuts in other agencies.

    “There’s fear that [the IRS scandal] is becoming politicized,” a Republican insider on Capitol Hill told The Daily Caller. “There’s hope that at least one of the House investigations will go somewhere, but there’s still doubt” that Democrats will manage to block IRS-related legislation.

    Wow, another Repug Party congressional fiasco becoming “politicized”! Fetch the smelling salts; I may faint!

    Actually, I think the appropriate response is this – tell me something in Washington that isn’t politicized. When we can’t even get a food stamp budget passed (as noted from here), then we’re truly in strange, uncharted waters, people.

    And I think an even more appropriate response is here, including the following:

    As part of their aversion to taxation, and the Internal Revenue Service, House Republicans are planning on slashing $3 billion from the IRS’s already pathetically underfunded budget, and besides just hating the concept of taxation, there are several likely reasons for starving one of the most critical departments in government. For one thing, Republicans have made no secret (that) underfunding the IRS is punitive for what they cite as “inappropriate actions” over the phony scandal when IRS employees performed their due diligence in scrutinizing political groups filing applications for 501(C)(3) “social welfare” tax exempt status to conceal dark money donors in political campaigns. In fact, slashing the IRS funding is part of a series of GOP bills to punish the IRS that includes withholding 10% of the agency’s enforcement budget until they stop investigating conservative political groups’ applications according to a so-called “taxpayer watchdog” group.

    Cutting the IRS budget, especially enforcement and collections, is starving the government of much needed revenue, especially when Republicans are in a debt and deficit cutting frenzy. In 2006 alone, the IRS was so pathetically underfunded, and understaffed, they left $385 billion in owed and uncollected taxes primarily from corporations and the rich. The Republicans’ deliberate underfunding serves more than just punishing the agency for doing its job policing phony “social welfare” applications and thwarting the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, they are letting their wealthy contributors off the hook for taxes they owe. Plus, as a value-added benefit, starving the government of funds is part and parcel of their oath to lobbyist Grover Norquist to assist him in cutting “government down to size where he can drown it in a bathtub.” What better way to underfund the government than neutering the agency responsible for executing House Republicans’ oath to “lay and collect taxes… to pay the debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States?”

    Yes, the so-called “Star Trek” spoof was idiotic (here), but trust me – I’ve worked in our glorious private sector long enough to see much worse examples of companies wasting their money in the name of “employee engagement.”

    Nobody likes to pay taxes, but if we’re going to have “nice things” at all, then that’s what we have to do. And as noted here, federal taxes remain at a record low level for middle-income families. That’s not the problem. This is.

    Trying to slam the IRS like this is nothing but a typically disingenuous way to try and score political points. Talk to me about how we’re going to try and address the rampant wage inequality in this country instead, or don’t waste my time.

  • Next, I give you the latest from the right-wing outrage factory (here)…

    Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) delivered the GOP’s weekly address (last) Saturday, hammering at Senate Democrats over last week’s increase in student loan rates.

    Jenkins drew upon Independence Day, highlighting the American belief of ensuring “our children are free to live a better life.” She said that Monday’s doubling of interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent went against that principle, urging Democrats to pass bipartisan reform.

    “Today these essentials of the American Dream are at risk,” Jenkins said. “Last week, I spoke with hundreds of college students who are concerned they won’t have the same opportunities their parents had. They find it hard to see beyond paying off their education, stretching to afford rent, and finding a job in this tough economy.”

    Back in late May, the House passed a bill that would switch the student loan rates system to a market-based platform, out of the hands of Congress. The Smarter Solutions for Students Act makes subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans reset every year, based on 10-year Treasury notes, plus 2.5 percent. Reuters noted in its May report that Senate Democrats were instead in favor of keeping rates of 3.4 percent for two additional years, and the White House was ready to veto the House plan on the premise that students would face uncertainty.

    So, just to recap: The Senate Dems favored keeping the Stafford student loan rate fixed at 3.4 percent, but the Senate Republicans (under the guise of the Orwellian-sounding Smarter Solutions for Students Act) favored having the loans reset upward every year. Everybody got that?

    In fact, U.S. Senate Democrat Elizabeth Warren had an even better idea (from here)…

    Last month, I introduced the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act. The idea is simple: For one year, we should give students that same low 0.75% interest rate the big banks get.

    Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have introduced legislation to keep interest rates at their current 3.4% level for two years. Neither is a long-term fix. Instead, both are designed to give us some breathing room to keep rates from doubling while we tackle the problem of rising college costs and a trillion dollars in student loan debt outstanding.

    (And to tell those idiots in the Senate what you think of them for voting against holding the line on student loan interest rates, click here.)

    Update: And speaking of Warren, kudos to her for this also.

    Meanwhile, in the House where Jenkins resides, her “leader” John Boehner came up with a “variable rate” student loan scheme (here) where a student’s rate would be reset every year, so that the loan rate the student paid as a freshman would likely increase each year until they graduated (kind of mirroring the nonsense in the Senate).

    Simply put, here is what’s going on: The Democrats in Congress favor “direct” student loans which pretty much remove the banks as the middle men, with the students receiving loans directly from their colleges (hence the name). This is in opposition to the utter nonsense of our longstanding system of student loans, whereby the banks collected big fees for “servicing” loans (basically doing nothing) at the expense of the borrowers, turning them into debt slaves before they had the opportunity to earn a paycheck in their field of study (a system the Repugs in Congress very much want to institute once more).

    Such words and actions as those of Rep. Jenkins are not surprising in any way, given that the House Speaker of her party once told bankers “Know that I have all of you in my two trusted hands” here (before the Dems in Congress cleaned up this mess when they were returned to power in 2006; if that were still the case, we most definitely would not be contemplating returning to this insanity once more).

  • Continuing, it looks like we have more wingnut harrumphing over the recent decision to delay implementing the so-called “employer mandate” portion of “Obamacare” until 2015 (here), which is particularly ridiculous given that the delay was praised by business leaders here.

    All of which makes Repug U.S. House Rep Tom Marino look like even more of a joke than he already is (here).

  • Further, let’s return to Tucker Carlson’s crayon scribble page for this item

    Roger Stone – the colorful GOP operative who takes credit for tipping off the feds to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute habit – is feeling giddy.

    “It’s like Christmas in July,” Stone said by phone Monday.

    Spitzer, the disgraced Democrat who left office after his fondness for call girls came to light, announced over the weekend that he’s jumping back into politics and running for New York City comptroller.

    Stone says he’ll make sure Spitzer’s past is thoroughly discussed in the campaign.

    “He’s never addressed the crimes he has committed,” Stone said. “He’s going to be called out on each one of them. His record as attorney general will be reexamined.”

    Fair enough, but while we’re turning over all of these rocks, I personally want to hear the part again about how Spitzer faced prosecution from our prior ruling cabal under the Mann Act, a relic of our racist past federalizing crimes of vice that, up until the time it was instituted, had been left to local authorities for prosecution (yet another revolting contradiction from the “states’ rights” party), as noted here.

    Also, Roger Stone is a lot seamier of a character on the national stage than someone to be regarded as a “colorful” political operative. As noted from here:

    Stone is a legendary bottom-feeder (as noted here – second item), having visited X-rated sex clubs with his wife in Florida and “plac(ing) ads and pictures in racy publications and a website seeking sexual partners for himself and his second wife…he (also enjoyed) frequenting ‘Miami Velvet’ a swingers club in Miami.” Stone denied the report (of course).

    Stone also denied having anything to do with the Willie Horton ad that Lee Atwater ran against Michael Dukakis on behalf of Poppy Bush in 1988, and Stone also denied having anything whatsoever to do with the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” that halted the Miami Dade vote recount in Florida in November 2000 (I guess this is typical for a guy who says, “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack”).

    Also, Stone chaired a 1995 presidential bid by Sen. Arlen Specter (then a Repug, of course – he admitted that much anyway), and in 2004, Stone was responsible for distributing “Kerry/Specter” signs in a successful effort to defeat Dem Joe Hoeffel, who was challenging Specter for his Senate seat at the time (interesting company Arlen keeps, isn’t it?).

    Oh, and remember the godawful Citizens United ruling? Well, Stone originally founded the group in 2008 under the name “Citizens United Not Timid” against Hillary Clinton (I’ll let you, dear reader, determine the meaning of the acronym).

    More on Stone is here in Jeffrey Toobin’s fine New Yorker column.

    I don’t give a damn if Eliot Spitzer wins election as New York City comptroller or not. And I don’t care if he runs for office against Kanye West, Amanda Bynes or Honey Boo Boo. As long as he chooses to involve himself in another political campaign in response, let’s just be clear about who (or, more precisely, what) Roger Stone actually is, OK?

  • JW_0712

  • Finally, I have to depart from the usual fare once more and say a few words about a friend of mine.

    To start with an incredibly obvious remark, I should point out that, when you put your opinion out there the way I do (whether in printed form through “dead tree” media or online like this), you often are going to “travel with the herd” if you’re saying stuff that your audience wants to hear (and maybe get some decent traffic, though you really need to be on Twitter the way things are now, and I’m just not able to deal with that for news/political stuff), or, if you’re saying something against the prevailing wisdom, your comments are going to be few and far between (and your site traffic will reflect that). I’ve tried to aim for the middle, and I guess I’ve been successful some times and missed the boat, the water and the whole damn ocean at other times.

    (And by the way, that’s not a complaint. I don’t comment on other sites for a lot of reasons, mainly because surfing other sites interferes with my for-profit activities. I’ve always said that I’m a little fish in the great big bloggy ocean out there, or whatever other comparison you want to use. If I’m not active at other sites, then it’s really unrealistic to expect everyone in the world to be active here.)

    So my point (finally), is that, when I get comments, I remember them. And there was a time when a guy named John Wible of Bucks County, Pa was a pretty frequent commenter at the Blogger site that I link to over in the right column (the whole Blogger vs. WordPress thing is another long, boring story from ’08 that I’ll save for another time).

    I knew of John’s writing in the Bucks County Courier Times for about the last five or six years I guess – I once remarked how good it was at the Blogger site and he started leaving comments, which I appreciate (John was the anonymous commenter on this post pertaining to the Bucks GOP shenanigans with moving the polling location from the Creekside Apartments in Bensalem, PA – infamously referred to as a “Democrat poll” by an unnamed bottom-feeder of our county government – to some place nearby with difficult access at best for an elder population of, yes, primarily registered Democrats…it also helped that we were pretty much of one mind politically, as I’m sure you can guess).

    Leaving site comments the way he did led to an informal Email correspondence and a phone call from time to time to talk about politics and to find out how he was doing (I knew he had some kind of a gradually worsening heart/pulmonary condition that may have been tied to smoking, though I don’t know that for certain and don’t claim to speak with authority on that subject). I told him that I could definitely appreciate being in a position where you were getting called any one of a variety of names from those who took issue with what you had to say (to give you a taste of how lopsided the Courier Times is in favor of Republicans in general, the paper’s editorial page editor, Guy Petroziello, once referred to John in print as a “flaming liberal” – I responded to Petroziello and said that I’ll await the paper’s print publication of the term “flaming conservative” when referring to an editorial page writer…of course I received no response).

    I knew that John’s hospitalizations were becoming more frequent over the last year or so, and I’d heard from a mutual friend that he wanted to spend more time with his family and get away from all the political back-and-forth stuff given the state of his health. I more than understood, and for that reason I left him to himself, even though I missed the occasional phone calls where he would greet me with “hey, buddy” before we started chewing the fat over which conservative numbskull was given column space in that day’s edition of the Courier Times.

    On Sunday the 7th I received an Email telling me that a message appeared on his Facebook page saying that John had passed due to pneumonia (here). I’ll allow our mutual acquaintance to offer the following tribute:

    My friend was a profoundly kind man, with a good heart, he loved his family and loved people, he loved to make people laugh. He shared my political ideology and was kind to send me an e mail when he read my letters to the editor. We shared phone numbers but never got to speak. I regret that. I promise in his honor to keep writing to the editor and annoying him with my opinions until I too earn the badge of honor..”flaming liberal”. Be at peace my friend, I pray for his family as they need to be comforted and for surely my friend John Wible is in heaven long ago.

    I never met John Wible face to face, but I believe that I’m a better person because I knew him through his words and the down-to-earth, common-sense manner in which we communicated and by the topics we discussed. Our family of course extends our deepest sympathies to John’s family and friends.

    We’re the poorer for his loss, but at times like this, I think we can derive strength from knowing that he traveled with us and can draw on happy memories for solace, enabling us to keep up the fight.

    Which we most certainly will do – may we all be “flaming liberals” one day too.


  • Wednesday Mashup (6/26/13)

    June 26, 2013

  • Yes, we’re still dealing with the fallout from the latest travesty brought to us by the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR (and by the way, it’s great that the DOMA was ruled unconstitutional, as noted here, but once again, Anthony Kennedy of the Supremes proved why, rightly or wrongly, he’s the most important man in America, or at worst a close second behind Number 44).

    As Think Progress points out here

    (Yesterday), the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Section 4 is the formula which determines which jurisdictions are subject to “preclearance” under the law, meaning that new voting laws in those jurisdictions must be reviewed by the Justice Department or a federal court before they can take effect. Although today’s opinion ostensibly would permit Congress to revive the preclearance regime by enacting a new formula that complies with today’s decision, that would require a functioning Congress — so the likely impact of today’s decision is that many areas that were unable to enact voter suppression laws under the Voting Rights Act will now be able to put those laws into effect.

    More on this sorry development is here.

    Of course, the seamy underbelly of wingnuttia has cause to rejoice, and the once-mighty Journal of Rupert The Pirate does so here

    …as Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court, “history did not end in 1965.” In the 48 years since, those Southern barriers to voting have disappeared.

    Really? From here

    The jurisdictions that needed pre-clearance under a 1975 revision had a history of discriminating against certain minorities. They include a handful of Southern states, where African Americans faced discrimination, and a number of counties and cities in other states where minorities faced hurdles in voting rights, including two counties in South Dakota, five counties in Florida and three boroughs of New York City.

    And true to form, this tells us that, in “the land of the yellow rose,” a voter ID law and a redistricting map that discriminated against black and Latino residents (and likely would have failed the “preclearance” requirement of the Act) is now advancing through the state legislature (and this tells us that the same thing is happening in South Carolina concerning a voter ID law with the same background as the one in Texas).

    And in Alabama (here)…

    The state currently has at least one major voting law — a requirement that voters produce a photo ID at the polls — awaiting preclearance. The Star’s attempts to reach officials in Chapman’s office for comment on that matter were unsuccessful.

    Local officials are still unsure exactly what the ruling means for Calhoun County. County administrator Ken Joiner said he needed to consult with county attorney Tom Sowa for more insight on the matter. Attempts to reach Sowa were not successful Tuesday.

    Joiner said he didn’t have an estimate of how much money the county spent per year on preclearance for changes to the voting process.

    “There’s no way to tell,” he said. “You’d have to look at all the time spent on it, personnel-wise. But it does cost money, and it’s not a small amount.”

    And concerning Mississippi and North Carolina, I give you the following (here, and this tells us of similar developments in the “illegal to be brown” state of Repug Governor Jan Brewer).

    But before what was once called the “party of Lincoln” give themselves too many “high fives,” they might want to consider this

    The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act will make it easier for Republicans to hold and expand their power in those mainly Southern states. That will, in turn, make it easier for them to hold the House. It will also intensify the Southern captivity of the GOP, thereby making it harder for Republicans to broaden their appeal and win back the White House.

    Heckuva job, conservatives!

    SCOTUS_Outdated_0625
    And on a related note, please tell me once more that The Daily Tucker is both a “news” and “opinion” site and not just completely the latter, OK?

    Update 6/27/13: I forgot about Arkansas and Virginia, which are noted from here.

  • Next, OMIGOD! It’s OBAMACARE – RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!! (here)…

    As the Obamacare “train wreck” unfolds we continue to learn of the unintended, unnecessary, and burdensome consequences of a law passed without a single bipartisan vote in Congress.

    Despite the President’s promise of lower health care costs, premiums are rising for families and estimates show that because of Obamacare, over 7 million Americans will lose their employer provided insurance.

    In response, allow me to point out the following from here

    When one hears a title of a story like “Seven million will lose insurance under Obama health law”, the rule thumb is to first panic. Should not Obamacare have ensured that that would not occur? When one further dives into the story and realize that it means seven million will lose insurance provided by their employers and not insurability, it presents an excellent segue to discuss America’s healthcare insurance payment system abyss.

    It is likely more people will eventually lose their job-based insurance simply because companies may realize it is not only about the cost of the premiums they pay for their employees, but the inefficiencies of renegotiating healthcare insurance contracts yearly. They can get rid of their healthcare infrastructure (employees, space, and other overhead), pay a fixed “penalty” and have their employees all join an exchange.

    Basically, as the Kaiser Foundation tells us here, we’re talking about a likely decrease of 7 million in coverage over the next 10 years (Kaiser also tells us that 27 million are likely to gain coverage). And this appears to be true mainly because of the “fiscal cliff” deal towards the end of last year and also because more states didn’t opt for Medicaid expansion, including our illustrious commonwealth of PA under Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, as noted here.

    So yeah, this is pretty much rank propaganda from U.S. House Teahadists Larry Buchson (who proposed cutting the U.S. foreign aid budget to keep Navy fighter pilots in the air here), Trey Radel (who suggested impeaching President Obama over executive orders on gun violence here), and Phil Roe (who voted against funding for victims of Hurricane Sandy here).

    The model of employer-based health care served this country pretty well for a long time, but it’s a dinosaur. All the Affordable Care Law is doing is hastening the process of extinction, which will happen one way or the other.

    Update 6/27/13: And speaking of Corbett and health care (here)…

    Update 7/9/13: Corbett continues to be an utter embarrassment on this issue (here).

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

    …over 50 non-profits across the country have launched National Employee Freedom Week, a national campaign which runs June 23-29 focusing on educating employees about all of their rights in the workplace.

    Writer Priya Abraham of the Commonwealth Foundation here in PA tells us in her column about Rob Brough and John Cress, two teachers who have apparently tried to cut ties with their union, to no avail (I don’t know the particulars of their case, and I haven’t been able to find out anything else about it, so I can’t really comment on it).

    What I can point out, though, is that the Commonwealth Foundation (as blogger Ben Waxman tells us here)…

    …is not a “government watchdog group.” It is the Pennsylvania version of the Heritage Foundation– a constant source of right-wing propaganda and misinformation. In the last few months, they have led the opposition to funding for mass transit, expanding healthcare coverage, and legislation designed to protect the rights of workers to organize. All of these positions can be found by looking at their website. Frankly, identifying an organization like the Commonwealth Foundation as simply a “government watchdog group” is bad journalism at best and completely disingenuous at worst.

    Oh, and the Commonwealth Foundation is also responsible for a monstrosity called “Project Goliath,” as noted here.

    And as noted here, Abraham and the Commonwealth Foundation are acting totally in concert with the interests of a host of right-wing organizations attempting to curtail workers’ rights in this country, including Americans for Prosperity (you can just draw a line right back to the Koch Brothers on that one) and the Heritage Foundation, among others.

    And as noted from here

    …every union member already has the freedom to leave his or her union, and keep in mind no one has to join a union to get a job—that’s the law.

    So what’s behind this latest stunt from the same folks who have pushed bills in state legislatures around the country to weaken workers’ rights and silence their voices in the political process?

    It’s pretty simple. Having fewer workers in unions really only benefits profit-driven CEOs and corporations. When workers have less of a say in their workplace, out-of-touch CEOs and corporations can cut costs and increase the bottom line by making employees work more hours for less pay and by offshoring jobs altogether. It’s a power grab by the same people who ship our jobs overseas and offshore their profits to avoid paying taxes—shifting the burden to the rest of us.

    Again, I don’t know what’s up with Brough and Cress, but somehow I have a feeling that their circumstance is yet another exception that the Repugs and their like-minded brethren are trying to turn into a rule (see Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen,” among others).

  • Finally (and speaking of women), it looks like Cal Thomas at Fix Noise has the supposed solution to the Repugs and their electoral woes (here)…

    Republicans should place themselves on the side of giving more information to women, empowering them by making it law that they view a sonogram of their baby before they have an abortion. That could possibly lead to fewer abortions, the goal of pro-lifers, and likely make ineffective legislative measures unnecessary.

    OWWWW!!! THE STUPID!!! IT BURNS US!!!!

    So forcing women undergoing an abortion to view a sonogram of their fetus is “empowering”? Really???

    It should also be noted that Thomas is playing some word games here, and I need to clarify that a bit. I am definitely not a medical professional, so I checked to find out whether or not Thomas was really talking about a sonogram or an ultrasound procedure. As nearly as I can determine, they’re both the same thing; the ultrasound apparently has to take place (which can reveal a fetal heartbeat) to produce a sonogram (the hardcopy output of the result of the procedure, which does not of course reveal a heartbeat).

    So basically, we’re talking about an invasive procedure regardless. And to find out what happened when Scott Walker-istan tried to mandate an ultrasound prior to an abortion, read this. And to find out when Virginia tried to do the same thing, read this. And to find out what happened when our just-mentioned PA guv Tom “Just Look The Other Way” Corbett tried the same thing, read this.

    If Cal Thomas and Republicans as a political party really believe that they can legislate on the matter of the quality of women’s health care with impunity, then they will electorally “crash and burn” more severely than they can ever imagine, and it will be completely deserved.


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