Tuesday Mashup (2/12/13)

February 12, 2013
  • It looks like VA Repug governor Bob McDonnell was in these parts recently telling the party faithful that the “pity party” is over (here).

    So what does he propose as a “solution” to his party’s recent electoral woes?

    It’s time for Republicans to stop coming across as sour-faced free-market scolds, he said. Conservative principles are not the problem, he said; history has shown small government and free markets to be the world’s best engines for human freedom. The problem? Tone. It’s time for Republicans to be “happy warriors,” he said.

    Yeah, it’s the tone, that’s all.

    Maybe McDonnell should sing and dance while trying to cheat Virginia public employees out of “Obamacare” coverage (here). Either that, or he could sponsor a karaoke night to publicize legislation that, in essence, makes discrimination by university student groups in his state legal (here).

    Or how about a happy hour announcing plans to pay for road construction in VA by taxing the poor (here)? Or an all-night bowling marathon to announce restrictive new anti-abortion regulations that McDonnell certified, as noted here?

    McDonnell and his pals think that all they need to do is dump more perfume on the proverbial pig, and that will be good enough to start reversing his party’s sorry electoral trend. Fine – he should go with that (and as usual on this matter and many others also, I trust the sage words of Professor Krugman, as noted here).

  • Next, I give you the following (here)…

    Subsidies for wind power could lead to the shutdown of nuclear power plants, warned Exelon Corp. CEO Christopher Crane.

    “What worries me is if we continue to build an excessive amount of wind and subsidize wind, the unintended consequence could be that it leads to shutting down plants,” Crane told the Chicago Tribune, adding that states which have subsidized wind power might see jobs disappear if nuclear plants shut down.

    A report by the NorthBridge group found that this “negative pricing” of electricity from wind subsidies means less investment will go into conventional power generation which imperils the reliability of the electrical system.

    This is about what we can expect from Crane; as noted here, the nuke industry has been doing all it can to fight the so-called “production tax credit” that funds wind energy development, stupidly pitting one source of energy development against another (the Think Progress post also tells us that the “study” by the NorthBridge Group, an economic and strategic consulting firm upon which Crane’s alarmism is based, has been described as “deeply flawed” by TP Guest Blogger Richard W. Caperton for the reasons he cites).

    Also, this tells us the following about the phenomenon of “negative pricing”…

    Michael Goggin, (the American Wind Energy Association’s) manager of transmission policy, said negative prices in the wholesale electricity market are rare and occur because there is not sufficient transmission. But the problem, he said, is isolated to certain regions and will be alleviated in the coming months and years as new power lines are built to connect customers to pockets of wind power in Texas and Minnesota and throughout the Midwest.

    Goggin also said wind energy is inexpensive, regardless of the tax incentives, because wind power has no fuel cost and has extremely low variable costs for operation and maintenance. The PTC, he said, has very little effect on real-time electricity prices. Electricity prices have also been going “negative” for decades because nuclear reactors exceed power demand at night, he said.

    “Claims that the wind energy production tax credit is causing negative prices are misguided, as negative prices are extremely rare and would occur anyway even if the [production tax credit] did not exist,” Goggin wrote in a blog post this week.

    And as you might expect, TP tells us that Congressional Repugs Lamar Alexander and Mike Pompeo are working with Crane and Exelon in their efforts to “break wind” (sorry…too easy).

  • Continuing, I give you another Ron Fournier special from The National Journal (here)…

    White House officials tell me they feel stung by coverage of the inaugural address. Reporters highlighted the president’s left-leaning stances on immigration, gun control, climate change and gay and women’s rights. Obama’s aides argue that he devoted more inaugural address language to the economy, jobs and the deficit than all other issues combined.

    Still, the perception remains that Obama lost focus on the economy — the top issue in the minds of most voters.

    I cannot possibly imagine that I will ever teach a course in journalism, but if I did and I received something like this from a student, I would fail that person (I know it’s been a little while since we visited with Fournier, but he was notorious for stuff like this when he was employed by the AP).

    For you see, Obama’s “left-leaning” stance on immigration is actually quite popular (here), as is his stance on gun control (here). And while he could’ve done more on the climate, consider his Repug opposition in Congress as well as some coal-state Democrats, including Bob Casey, as noted here (and how can his stance be “left-leaning” when he really hasn’t been able to do much about it?). Also, Obama enjoys majority support on the issue of marriage equality (here), and the LGBT community definitely came out, as they say, for him in ’08 here (and as far as I’m concerned, Fourier’s reference to “women’s rights” is just corporate media shorthand for the Repugs’ war on those dreaded lady parts, and to see whether or not that was successful, look at the results of the last election).

    This is part and parcel of how Fournier operates, though; as noted here, he told Karl Rove to “keep up the fight” and continue to ignore subpoenas from Congress; in that same post, I also pointed out that Fournier used the occasion of Dubya commuting Scooter Libby’s sentence to attack the Clintons (???) and also said that a “Democratic interest group” aired a TV ad comparing Dubya to Hitler, which was and remains false. He also claimed here that Obama needed Biden to shore up his “weakness” on foreign policy, a “weakness” shared by almost every single other Presidential candidate who has ever run for the job in the last 20 or so years, with the possible exceptions of Poppy Bush, John Kerry, and “Straight Talk” McCain back when he was an actual maverick.

    Unsubstantiated dreck like this exists for one reason only, and that is to propagate the utterly false narrative that Number 44 is really some sort of a closet liberal who (and you just watch!) is going to totally turn over a new leaf one day and resurrect his ACORN army to take everyone’s guns and start dropping money from helicopters for “the poors” and “the blahs” (and this will happen right about at the time when austerity actually creates full employment).

  • Finally, I would like to recall some items to commemorate the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, as noted here (to begin, I didn’t know he could actually do that – I thought part of the job description is that those guys had to “die with their boots on”…shows what I know).
  • Here, he gave a speech about the prophet Muhammad and Islam in which he referred to “jihad” and “holy war” (oops – the apology came soon thereafter).
  • He defended “intelligent design” here and expressed the hope that he would have a “short papacy” (looks like he’ll get his wish).
  • He said that condoms promoted African AIDS, or words to that effect, here (yes, I know Church teaching on that subject, but particularly in that area of the world, condoms save lives).
  • There was a time when he was putting his foot in his mouth on a regular basis (a compilation is here), though he definitely tightened up his message discipline, as they say.
  • He, at best, tolerated “liberation theology” when he should have embraced it (here).
  • Announced “The Ten Commandments For Drivers” here (“Thou shalt not txt OMG!! while changing lanes eastbound on the PA Turnpike weeknights at 6 PM.”)
  • To be fair, I should note that he spoke out strongly in defense of the environment here (Think Progress notes this and other positive and negative moments with Benedict here).
  • There were times when I wanted to smack my open palm against my forehead while Benedict was pope. And make no mistake that the Catholic Church has taken an ever-harder right turn under his watch. But as a Roman Catholic, it would be fundamentally wrong for me not to acknowledge that, until he steps down, he remains the Vicar of Christ, and as such, I’ll pray for his good health.

    Update: John Patrick Shanley has the guts to actually say what I only thought about here.

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    O’Donnell: “We Spend Too Much On AIDS”

    September 18, 2010

    And that was before this dandy little moment last night…

    It’s all a matter of people’s behavior, you see, and there are no other factors involved (silly to fund prevention programs as far as O’Donnell is concerned, I guess).

    Assuming O’Donnell had a speck of interest in educating herself on this issue, she could start by clicking here (we know she doesn’t, though – as Bill Maher so aptly put it last night, more or less, “Teabaggers are real big on the truth. What they have problems with are the facts”).

    (And ummm, well…I have a feeling Christine’s issues extend beyond politics, as noted at the end here.)

    Update 9/25/10: I also have a feeling that Bill Maher will make sure the O’Donnell gaffes arrive nonstop (here).


    Friday Mashup Part One (6/25/10)

    June 25, 2010

  • 1) I got a kick out of this article about Jeb Bush from Matt Bai in the New York Times recently (though not in a good way, I should note, particularly the following)…

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. — For months now, Jeb Bush has been listening as President Obama blasts his older brother’s administration for the battered economy, budget deficits and even the lax oversight of oil wells.

    “It’s kind of like a kid coming to school saying, ‘The dog ate my homework,’ ” Mr. Bush, this state’s former governor, said over lunch last week at the Biltmore Hotel. “It’s childish. This is what children do until they mature. They don’t accept responsibility.”

    In fact, instead of constantly bashing the 43rd president, Mr. Bush offered, perhaps Mr. Obama could learn something from him, especially when it comes to ignoring the Washington chatter. “This would break his heart, to get advice that applies some of the lessons of leadership my brother learned, because he apparently likes to act like he’s still campaigning, and he likes to blame George’s administration for everything,” Mr. Bush said, dangling a ketchup-soaked French fry. “But he really seems like he’s getting caught up in what people are writing about him.”

    Yeah, it’s a real issue when a sitting president blames his predecessor, isn’t it (here).

  • 2) And speaking of presidents, former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm tells us here that The Sainted Ronnie R “had a profound appreciation for show business stars” (Malcolm’s post has to do with the anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson).

    Well, I can think of at least one show business luminary that Reagan thought little of (besides Gregory Peck, a far better man on many counts), and that would be Rock Hudson (I’ll get to him in a minute).

    As noted here, though, about the epidemic that flourished under Reagan’s watch…

    Although AIDS was first reported in the medical and popular press in 1981, it was only in October 1987 that President Reagan publicly spoke about the epidemic. By the end of that year 59,572 AIDS cases had been reported and 27,909 of those women and men had died. How could this happen? How could Reagan not say anything? Do anything?

    The Reagan administration’s reaction to AIDS is complex and goes far beyond Reagan’s refusal to speak out about the epidemic. A great deal of his power base was born-again Christian Republican conservatives who embraced a reactionary social agenda that included a virulent, demonizing homophobia. In the media, people like Reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell portrayed gay people as diseased sinners and promoted the idea that AIDS was a punishment from God and that the gay rights movement had to be stopped. In the Republican Party, zealous right-wingers, such as Representative William Dannenmeyer (CA) and Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), hammered home this same message. In the Reagan White House, people such as Secretary of Education William Bennett and Gary Bauer, his chief domestic advisor, worked to enact it in the Administration’s policies.

    In practical terms this meant AIDS research was chronically underfunded. When doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Health asked for more funding for their work on AIDS, they were routinely denied it. Between June 1981 and May 1982, the CDC spent less than $1 million on AIDS, but $9 million on Legionnaire’s Disease. At that point over 1,000 of the 2,000 AIDS cases reported resulted in death; there were fewer than 50 deaths from Legionnaire’s Disease. This drastic lack of funding would continue through the Reagan years.

    The story tells us the following repugnant anecdote also…

    When Rock Hudson, a friend and colleague of the Reagan’s, was diagnosed and died in 1985 (one of the 20,740 cases reported that year), Reagan still did not speak out. When family friend William F. Buckley, in a March 18, 1986 New York Times article, called for mandatory testing of HIV and said that HIV+ gay men should have this information forcibly tattooed on their buttocks (and IV drug users on their arms), Reagan said nothing. In 1986 (after five years of complete silence) when Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report calling for AIDS education in schools, Bennett and Bauer did everything possible to undercut and prevent funding for Koop’s too-little too-late initiative. By the end of 1986, 37,061 AIDS cases had been reported; 16,301 people had died.

    The most memorable Reagan AIDS moment was at the 1986 centenary rededication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagan’s were there sitting next to the French Prime Minister and his wife, Francois and Danielle Mitterrand. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners, Hope quipped, “I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesn’t know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.” As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterrands looked appalled. The Reagans were laughing. By the end of 1989, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States—more then 70,000 of them had died.

    Somehow I’m sure that revealing piece of history will be scrubbed from the “Reaganalia” due to inflict this country next February on the 100th anniversary of his birthday (I’ll try to make sure I’ve booked a trip out of the country when that takes place…and yes, I know Bob Hope did a lot for our troops, but he sure as hell should have known better also).

    And I would call this a cautionary local note also; just because we don’t hear much on this issue, it doesn’t mean that HIV/AIDS has gone away by any stretch of the imagination.

  • 3) Finally, I don’t touch on world news the way I used to, but Australian PM Kevin Rudd was ousted this week, replaced by Deputy Julia Gillard (with the wingnuts claiming here that Rudd’s “cap and trade” policy was responsible…Australia has much more severe issues on its continent than we do because of the climate crisis, though we are catching up, sadly).

    This Telegraph article, though, tells us that one of the reasons why Rudd went down was because of “shelving (Australia’s) emissions trading scheme,” which, if those opposing him are right, should have enhanced his position.

    But then again, the climate change deniers have been screaming about alleged conspiracies for years (and one day, school children will read about why the Great Barrier Reef was destroyed and wonder why nobody did anything about it).


  • Friday Mashup (11/27/09)

    November 27, 2009

  • 1) I don’t know if anyone else noticed that the New York Times was able to discover some typos on the menu for the state dinner the White House recently held for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and his wife, Gursharan Kaur (with CNN taking note here).

    However, what would really impress me would be if they weren’t quite so brainless in their feature writing (here), to say nothing of acting as a propaganda conduit for global warming denialists (here).

  • 2) Also, get a load of the latest from U.S. House Minority Leader John “Man Tan” Boehner here…

    At every turn this year, Republicans have offered better, fiscally-responsible solutions to tackle the immediate challenges facing the American people, including an economic recovery plan that would have created twice the jobs at half the cost, a budget that would impose strict caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis, and the only health care bill that would cut the deficit and consistently reduce federal spending on health care over the next two decades.

    When Boehner is referring to “fiscally-responsible solutions,” would he be talking about the budget alternative noted by Nate Silver here (the one with, like, no actual numbers in it)? You know, something containing all the worst ideas from right-wing “think tanks” (here)?

    And when he’s talking about an alternative health care bill, is he referring to the one noted here, with “eight or nine ideas” posted on the RNC web site?

    Yes, busting on Boehner in this way is like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel, but he makes the temptation irresistible when he continues to peddle such obvious nonsense.

  • 3) And finally, former Dubya speechwriter Michael Gerson laments the demise of journalism today in the WaPo (here – hint; as far as Gerson is concerned, it’s the fault of those darned U.S. bloggers who mostly don’t report from war zones and cable TV).

    Oh, and by the way, what exactly are the “lies” of Dan Rather to which Gerson refers, I wonder (here)?

    Such pontifications are actually funny from someone like Gerson, who, as noted here, ignored a speech President Obama gave to evangelicals and then accused Obama of not reaching out to them.

    And as noted here, Gerson said Obama should “come out strongly for policies reducing the number of abortions,” even though did just that. And this tells us how Gerson inflated his role in the development of his former boss’s AIDS initiative in Africa, otherwise known as PEPFAR, which, as I noted here, had strings attached all over the place.

    Oh, and this discusses the phrase “pulling a Gerson” (linked to the post)…

    “Gerson is a ‘planner,’ not a ‘plunger,’” a 2005 National Journal profile noted, “meaning that he makes a meticulous outline, which he consults during the writing process.” This is true, and equal care and intensity went into crafting the Gerson image. Colleagues were not in the outline, nor were the normal standards of discretion in White House speechwriting. People have a way of disappearing in Mike’s stories. The artful shaping of narrative and editing out of inconvenient detail was never confined to the speechwriting. (The phrase pulling a Gerson, as I recently heard it used around the West Wing, does not refer to graceful writing.) And though in (Gerson’s book) Heroic Conservatism (ugh!) Mike has doubtless offered a kind word or two for speechwriting colleagues, no man I have ever encountered was truer to the saying that, in Washington, one should never take friendship personally.

    And as noted here, Dubya and his pals (including Gerson) “came into office determined to tightly control the flow of information,” which is the life blood of any decent journalist (a stretch in Gerson’s case, I know).

    So the next time Gerson decides to go “tut-tut” over the “slow, sad death” of the profession to which he claims to be a member, he ought to take a good, long, hard look at himself in the mirror first before he ever decides again to waste our time with such sickeningly self-righteous drivel.


  • A Simple, If Unpopular, Method To Fight A Deadly Scourge

    November 23, 2009

    The following feature by writer Tina Rosenberg appeared in the Sunday New York Times magazine (about AIDS, and good luck finding many stories on that vitally important topic, by the way)…

    We know that abstinence, sexual fidelity and consistent condom use all prevent the spread of H.I.V. But we do not yet know how to persuade people to act accordingly.

    Then there is another way that H.I.V. infects: by injection with a hypodermic needle previously used by an infected person. Outside Africa, a huge part of the AIDS epidemic involves people who were infected this way. In Russia, 83 percent of infections in which the origin is known come from needle sharing. In Ukraine, the figure is 64 percent; Kazakhstan, 74 percent; Malaysia, 72 percent; Vietnam, 52 percent; China, 44 percent. Shared needles are also the primary transmission route for H.I.V. in parts of Asia. In the United States, needle-sharing directly accounts for more than 25 percent of AIDS cases.

    Drug injectors don’t pass infection only among themselves. Through their sex partners, H.I.V. is spread into the general population. In many countries, the H.I.V. epidemic began among drug injectors. In Russia in 2000, for example, needle-sharing was directly responsible for more than 95 percent of all cases of H.I.V. infection. So virtually all those with H.I.V. in Russia can trace their infection to a shared needle not many generations back. Though it has been scorned as special treatment for a despised population, AIDS prevention for drug users is in fact crucial to preventing a wider epidemic.

    Unlike with sexual transmission, there is a proven solution here: needle-exchange programs, which provide drug injectors with clean needles, usually in return for their used ones. Needle exchange is the cornerstone of an approach known as harm reduction: making drug use less deadly. Clean needles are both tool and lure, a way to introduce drug users to counseling, H.I.V. tests, AIDS treatment and rehabilitation, including access to opioid-substitution therapies like methadone.

    As Rosenberg tells us, “needle exchange is AIDS prevention that works.”

    However, as the Times also tells us here…

    A bill working its way through Congress would lift a ban of more than 20 years on using federal money for needle exchange programs. But the bill would also ban federally financed exchanges from being within 1,000 feet of a school, park, library, college, video arcade or any place children might gather — a provision that would apply to a majority of the country’s approximately 200 exchanges.

    “This 1,000-foot rule is simply instituting the ban in a different form,” said Rebecca Haag, executive director of the AIDS Action Council, an advocacy group based in Washington. “Clearly the intent of this rule is to nullify the lifting of the ban.”

    Under a separate bill, all exchanges in Washington within the 1,000-foot perimeter would be barred from receiving city money as well as federal money.

    And guess which utterly clueless Republican is behind this idea…

    “Let’s protect these kids,” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who introduced the Washington bill. “They don’t need to be playing kickball in the playground and seeing people lined up for needle exchange.”

    OWWWW!!! TEH STUPID!!!! IT BURNS US!!!!!!!

    And of course, in Kingston’s Ward and June Cleaver World, the girls wear hoop skirts, the guys are all rebuilding the engine blocks on their ’57 Chevys, and they both surreptitiously rendezvous at Lookout Point at midnight to watch the submarine races.

    Ugh (somehow I think that, if individuals were to come to a needle-exchange center, not necessarily each one would be highlighted by, say, ground-up glass on the blacktop of basketball courts surrounded by chain-link fences in typically urban settings, on a route traveled by school kids of course).

    As noted here, President Obama proposed an increase in spending to combat AIDS (as has just about every other president in my memory, including Dubya, believe it or not, though with at least one “string” you’ll read about shortly), and Obama has also lifted the idiotic ban his predecessor placed on people with AIDS traveling to this country. However (as noted here), his FY2010 budget proposal retained the decades-old ban on federal funding for syringe exchange (though Congress passed legislation to lift the ban shortly after Obama’s budget was announced, as noted here – that body instituted the original ban in 1988, hence Kingston’s antics in trying to get it passed once more).

    And as the Times Sunday article tells us…

    The administration of George W. Bush made the policy more aggressive, pressuring United Nations agencies to retract their support for needle exchange and excise statements about its efficacy from their literature. (Today, U.N. agencies again recommend that needle exchange be part of H.I.V.-prevention services for drug users.)

    Figures.

    Rosenberg’s article also highlights the effectiveness of needle-exchange programs in Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, among other regions. The biggest enemy to such programs, though, is the stigmatizing of needle users so manifestly on display in Kingston’s grotesquely stupid measure (as Rosenberg states, internationally financed groups can implement effective programs, but only governments can protect the rights of those populations who would stand to benefit, which, ultimately, includes all of us).


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