Friday Mashup (2/7/14)

February 7, 2014
  • I recently read an Op-Ed in the Bucks County Courier Times that supported a bill from PA Repug State Representative Bryan Cutler that would stop the collection of union dues from pay checks, noted in this story (sorry I don’t have the editorial, but it went behind the Courier Times pay wall…I’ll let you, dear reader, take a minute or two to contemplate the truly uproarious notion of a pay wall for the Bucks County Courier Times before I continue).

    The Pennlive story linked to above, in part, tells us the following…

    At a news conference Monday, (Cutler), R-Lancaster County, said his proposal to end government deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks was common sense. Unions use a portion of dues — about 10 percent — for political ads and lobbying, and members can make voluntary political contributions deducted from their paychecks. Knowing a portion of the money is political, the state shouldn’t touch it, Cutler said.

    “I’m not refuting the group’s rights to engage in this kind of activity,” Cutler said. “What I am questioning is the appropriateness of the government collecting political money.” Not surprisingly, the unions see it differently.

    “What is this really about?” asked David Broderic, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. “I think what this is really about is preventing people from making voluntary payroll deductions and have the effect of silencing the voice of middle-class Pennsylvanians.”

    Here’s the solution for this alleged problem – leave it up to the individual who is allowing the dues to be collected from his or her paycheck to make the decision, since, as noted above, the contribution is voluntary.

    Besides, under this alleged logic from Cutler, we should also pass a law to make sure that employers don’t automatically deduct 401(k) contributions, for example. Where does it end?

    Oh, but he only wants employers to stop deducting union dues, since that’s political, of course. Dues which are voluntary, let’s not forget (and Cutler says he doesn’t care how the dues are used; no word on whether or not his nose grew when he said that).

    And as a point of reference, this tells us that Dem Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri vetoed a similar scheme by Republican legislators (and this tells us more on who is ultimately responsible for this ridiculous legislation – yep, it’s the Kochs and the PA Commonwealth Foundation).

    The wingnuts and their media acolytes, including the oh-so-august-in-their-imaginations Courier Times Editorial Board, know how deeply unpopular PA Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett is, and they’re pulling out all the stops to try and get him re-elected. That’s what this is about, pure and simple (and here is more typical right-wing idiocy on this subject).

  • Next, I give you some true hilarity from former Repug U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (here)…

    When did all these folks on the left become “progressives,” and what does it mean?

    These are questions that deserve a little discussion because we are no longer being governed by various varieties of liberals but rather by folks who call themselves “progressives,” a label that is enthusiastically disseminated by their allies in the press such as The New York Times and NPR.

    These people’s purpose in governing is to redistribute wealth.

    This has been announced in a rather brash, but at least forthright, way by the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. It is also the goal, albeit less explicitly stated, of the tax policies of President Obama.

    The term for this in an earlier era would have been “socialism.” So why not use that word?

    The answer is, obviously, political.

    Obviously.

    Oh, and by the way, I’ve never lived under a socialist form of government, and neither has Gregg (and I sincerely hope I never do). When you hear talk about a “socialist” leader, do you know who is being discussed?

    Adolf-Hitler-572
    This guy, that’s who (Gregg basically admits that later in his column).

    And “word games”? Does Gregg mean the type that he played here, when he referred to “reconciliation,” used to pass health care reform as “arcane,” even though he approved of the process himself prior to that? Or when he referred to health care reform while in the Senate as “socialized medicine” here (an appropriate observation on the recent birthday of The Sainted Ronnie R)? Or, at the time when he was called upon for specifics on deficit reduction, he said that the MSNBC hosts who were apparently impertinent enough (as far as Gregg was concerned) to ask for specifics were “irresponsible” and “duplicitous” here (STILL can’t believe Obama once considered Gregg for commerce secretary)?

    As far as Gregg’s point about not knowing the difference between a liberal and a progressive, the best explanation I’ve seen on that came from David Sirota here, who said, in essence, that a liberal looks for taxpayer funds to achieve a desired goal, while a progressive seeks to do that through legislation or some other means of governmental reform.

    Gregg, as far as I’m concerned, was a waste of space as a U.S. Senator, and he definitely is not proving to be more than that (probably less, on balance) as a pundit.

    Update 2/10/14: How does it feel to be a token, Dr. Carson? (here)

  • Further, OMIGOD! Run for your lives! It’s the “Obamacare” Navigators!! (here)…

    In his State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned fixing a broken health care system. Unfortunately, the president provided no specifics about how to fix errors already experienced during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as securing ethical and well-screened insurance navigators who handle personal information of health insurance enrollees.

    Dropping the ball on consumer protections, the federal government’s inadequate screening and training process for navigators exposes consumers to serious risks of fraud and identity theft.

    Proof? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

    Meanwhile, Dr. Kavita Patel tells us about the navigator selection and training process here

    They’re really just trying to sign people up for health care…. They went through the requisite 20 hours of training … [they] are people who know the health care system, are from nonprofits in the communities, community health centers. And they actually have gone through a longer period of health care training that will help to get people signed up. … A lot of what they are trying to do is just meet the demands, there are so many people asking questions.

    Let’s not forget also that the Affordable Care Act navigators have been baselessly tied to unions and ACORN (an organization which, let’s not forget, no longer exists) among other related falsehoods noted here.

    And of course, this (and this) tell us that ALEC (the author of this Daily Tucker piece belongs to this outfit – yep, Chuck and Dave are at it again!) isn’t exactly an impartial observer on this issue anyway.

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

    Lawmakers are pushing to impose federal standards for protecting the country’s electric grid from attack in the wake of a new report about a sniper assault on a California electrical substation last year that has raised fears the power grid is vulnerable to terrorism.

    The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she and fellow senators plan to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over the electric grid’s reliability, to “set minimum security standards for critical substations.”

    The April 16, 2013 the attack on Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf transmission substation involved snipping AT&T fiber-optic lines to knock out phone and 911 service, and firing shots into a PG&E substation, causing outages. The assault had not been widely publicized until The Wall Street Journal reported new details in a story on Wednesday.

    Actually, Congress was ready to pass something in 2010 called the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act here (maybe not the catchiest acronym, but it gets to the point), which “amends the Federal Power Act to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to issue emergency orders to protect the electricity grid from a cyber-attack, electromagnetic weapon attack, a geomagnetic storm, or a direct physical attack on the bulk-power system or defense critical electric infrastructure.”

    The Act, believe it or not, passed the U.S. House unanimously. However, it died in the U.S. Senate. Why?

    Because Repug U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska killed it, that’s why (here). And as nearly as I can determine, she objected to the regulatory enforcement provisions.

    As noted here from 2011…

    Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to immediately initiate a formal process to address electricity reliability issues raised by the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory agenda.

    In a letter to FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, Murkowski requested the commission provide, within six months, a thorough analysis of the cumulative impact that proposed EPA regulations could have on the reliability of the nation’s power grid. Murkowski mentioned the Utility MACT and Cross State Air Pollution rules specifically as being of concern, and said FERC should conduct its analysis in concert with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Electric Reliability Organization it has certified.

    “The pace and aggressiveness of these environmental regulations should be adjusted to reflect and consider the overall risk to the bulk power system,” Murkowski said, quoting NERC’s 2010 Special Reliability Scenario Assessment. “The regional nature of the nation’s power system does not allow for the seamless transfer of power from any point in the country to any other, which means power outages could occur in a particular region even though excess generation exists elsewhere.”

    And how exactly is that different from what we have right now anyway? Do you know, dear reader, that Texas has its own grid, for example?

    It’s not a bit out of character to see Murkowski objecting to increased regulatory enforcement given her prior related votes as noted here (hooked on fossil fuel donations also, as noted here). However, her “dependency,” if you will, manifest in her opposition to increased regulatory enforcement, has now led us to the point where we’re exposing our vital infrastructure to increased risk of attack, to say nothing of the slow suffocation of this planet as a whole.

  • Finally, I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see conservatives dumping on the grave of the recently deceased Pete Seeger, as Paul Kengor does here

    Seeger’s most disturbing work as a Marxist minstrel was his crooning for “The Almanacs,” which historian Ron Radosh – himself a former red-diaper baby – calls a “communist folk-singing group.” At varying times, “The Almanacs” included Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, and Will Geer, later known as “Grandpa” on TV’s “The Waltons.” Seeger founded the group in 1941.

    The most egregious work by “The Almanacs” was its propaganda for the insidious American Peace Mobilization, which Congress identified as “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States” and “one of the most notorious and blatantly communist fronts ever organized.” Founded in 1940, the objective of the American Peace Mobilization was to keep America out of the war against Hitler. This also meant no Lend-Lease money to Britain.

    Why did the American Peace Mobilization take such a position? It did so because Hitler signed an alliance with Stalin. For American communists, any friend of Stalin was a friend of theirs. They literally swore an oath, formally pledging to a “Soviet America” and to “the triumph of Soviet power in the United States.” They were unflinchingly devout Soviet patriots.

    I’m not going to try and unpackage all of this stuff from Kengor – I’m sure there’s truth scattered amidst the wingnuttery – but I do want to point out something about those who opposed this country’s entry into World War II.

    Kengor’s column doesn’t mention the America First Committee, which also opposed entry into World War II. And who were members of that group, you ask?

    As noted here

    Progressive senators may have helped the Committee, but its most important supporters were a core group of Republican Chicago businessmen. Chief among them was General Robert Wood, CEO of Sears, Roebuck, who had replaced the impossibly young R. Douglas Stuart as president of America First. Wood had served during the First World War as acting Quartermaster General of the army. After joining Marshall Field in the immediate post-war period, he later moved to Sears, Roebuck, eventually becoming president, and finally, in 1939, chairman of the board. Like (progressive Senator Gerald) Nye (of North Dakota), Wood had originally supported some of Roosevelt’s policies, including the AAA, the SEC and Social Security. But he had rebelled against excessive taxation that he believed was undermining capitalism.[22] Other Chicago businessmen, such as meat packers Jay Hormel and Philip Swift, and William J. Grace, head of one of Chicago’s largest investment firms, had never supported the president. All became key Committee members. Colonel Robert J. McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, was the most influential of all. A passionate Roosevelt hater and Anglophobe, his paper became an important disseminator of AFC propaganda.

    Soooo…because Robert Wood, CEO of Sears Roebuck, Jay Hormel, William J. Grace and Robert J. McCormick also opposed entry into World War II, does that make them “unflinchingly devout Soviet patriots” also?

    That’s what happens when you paint with a broad brush, of course – sometimes you splatter people unintentionally (and yeah, I’m aware of that too).

    It’s typically low for Kengor to attack Pete Seeger after the man is dead and can’t defend himself. However, to be fair, I know I take a lot of well-deserved shots at The Sainted Ronnie R and Jesse Helms, for example, and they can’t defend themselves either. Still, though, I think they should be held to a separate standard since they were entrusted to act in the interest of a particular constituency.

    As for Seeger and his world-renowned ability to move people through his craft, I’m sure that, had he pursued a career in public life, he would have enriched himself materially to a greater degree than he did by taking the course he chose.

    28pete-seeger3
    I would argue, though, that Seeger’s gift to all of us, through his music and activism, is greater than any material sum that could ever be amassed by anyone on earth.


  • Wednesday Mashup (8/14/13)

    August 14, 2013
  • Looks like it’s time to rally around the supposedly oh-so-put-upon American Legislative Exchange Council, as the Murdoch Street Journal tells us here

    The campaign to suppress political speech has found its next tactic, using outrage over Trayvon Martin’s killing in Florida as a hammer. (Last) Wednesday, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin sent a letter to corporate and nonprofit supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, asking them to disclose their positions on stand-your-ground legislation that ALEC supported in Florida in 2005.

    ALEC is a group of state legislators from around the country that promotes center-right reform ideas, mostly on economic issues. It has had success spreading those ideas, which has made it a target of liberal activists trying to cut off its funding.

    Like the Repugs did successfully to ACORN, a left-wing advocacy organization which no longer exists, let’s not forget.

    Enter Mr. Durbin. “Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation in 2005 and the present day,” Mr. Durbin writes in the letter to groups and companies that have donated to ALEC.

    Since support for ALEC doesn’t “necessarily mean” that it endorses every position taken by the organization, Mr. Durbin continues, he is “seeking clarification” on whether companies that have “funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.” Oh, and by the way, the letter concludes, he intends to make the responses public at a Congressional hearing in September.

    Translation: If your company engages in political debate or supports conservative groups, he will tie your name to controversies or force you to publicly disclaim positions taken by groups you support. Mr. Durbin knows that if he can drive a wedge between ALEC and its corporate donors, it will help cripple the group’s influence on issues like tax policy and education and remove a significant voice for conservative reform in the states, including Illinois.

    “Conservative reform” being code for gutting clean air and water laws, trying to abolish public school education, disenfranchising poor and minority voters, et cetera…

    The plan also sends up a flare for Mr. Durbin’s allies at agitprop outfits like MoveOn.org, which will then target for public abuse and perhaps boycott the companies whose names Mr. Durbin exposes.

    By the way, isn’t it interesting how the Journal refers to ALEC as a group that “promotes center-right reform ideas” and MoveOn.org is an “agitprop outfit.”

    The strategy was used against Target retail stores in 2010, when MoveOn pushed a boycott because Target donated to a group that in turn donated to a GOP candidate for Minnesota Governor.

    MoveOn “targeted” Target, if you will, because the company did indeed donate $150,000 to a Minnesota politician who opposes gay marriage, but decided not to give a matching amount to pro-gay candidates for balance (here).

    Did Target have a right to do that? Yes. Did MoveOn.org have a right to push its boycott in response? Again, yes.

    To me, it just sounds like democracy in action (which is messy at times, for a reason). Of course, leave it to the Journal to view it as a lefty conspiracy, or something.

    ALEC was targeted last year when former White House aide Van Jones accused the group and its donors of racism during the election-year fight over voter ID laws. Through letters and media smear campaigns…

    Proof?

    …the group succeeded in getting such non-profiles in courage as Coca-Cola, Mars and Kraft to stop donating to ALEC. One result is that ALEC closed its task forces that dealt with non-economic issues.

    That was an effort to minimize the political fallout for members and donors around issues that weren’t ALEC’s core mission, but now Democrats are back for more.

    Oh, so the Journal knows what ALEC’s “core mission” is? Oh, right – “center/right reform ideas”…uh huh. And apparently, that includes widespread lobbying while claiming tax-exempt status, as noted here.

    Mr. Durbin knows that companies making hamburgers or allergy drugs don’t care about stand-your-ground laws. His goal is to scare them with reputational damage by mentioning them in the same breath as Trayvon Martin. This is how the modern left—via the IRS, the Federal Election Commission and now in Congress—tries to stifle political debate.

    Ha and ha (and I would say that writing an editorial like this without noting that the Journal is itself a member of ALEC is an attempt to “stifle political debate” also, as noted here – and of course, lefties were targeted by the IRS too, a fact the Journal choose to ignore).

    Oh, and assuming a bill is ever signed into law containing language directly from an “agitprop outfit” like MoveOn.org (this Michigan “right to work” bill received that treatment, including language that came directly from ALEC), I’m sure the Journal will let me know – yeah, right.

    Update 8/15/13: More here

  • Next, I have a feeling that the other Bush brother is getting a little antsy about all the big media love doled out to fellow Repugs (and potential 2016 presidential candidates) Rand “Fake Ophthalmologist” Paul and Ted “Calgary” Cruz (to say nothing of Governor Bully, of course), and I guess the former FAL guv thought he had to make a splash somehow (here)…

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Wednesday criticized actor Matt Damon, a vocal public-school advocate, for sending his children to private school.

    Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools. Choice ok for Damon, why not everyone else? http://t.co/yHrTbakeIW

    — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 6, 2013

    “I’ll take ‘Desperately Trying To Remain Relevant Somehow’ for 100, Alex!”

    There are a few directions you can go with this, but for now, I’d like to point out the following (here, in which the Daily Kos diarist notes that the “research” in support of school choice is largely bankrolled by the Walton Family, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the usual coterie of right-wing propagandists)…

    School choice may, in fact, hold some promises for reforming education since “choice” is central to human agency and empowerment. But the school choice movement and its advocates are the least likely avenues for us ever realizing what school choice has to offer because the advocates are primarily driven by ideology and funding coming from sources that have intentions that have little to do with universal public education for free and empowered people.

    And the growing evidence that corporate charter schools as the latest choice mechanism are causing harm–in terms of segregation and stratification of student populations–is cause for alarm for all people along the spectrum of school reform and school choice. [5]

    If a school choice advocate sticks to the talking-points script and will not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that out-of-school factors determine student outcomes, that evidence is mounting that choice stratifies schools, and that evidence on how school is delivered (public, private, charter) is mixed and similar among all types of schooling, then that advocate isn’t worth our time and isn’t contributing to a vibrant and open debate that could help move us toward school reform that benefits each student and our larger society.

    And on top of that, this tells us the following…

    Charter school trends vary substantially across different regions of the country. Latinos are under-enrolled in charter schools in some Western states where they comprise the largest share of students. At the same time, a dozen states (including those with high concentrations of Latino students like Arizona and Texas) report that a majority of Latino charter students attend intensely segregated minority schools. Patterns in the West and in a few areas in the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country, also suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools. Finally, in the industrial Midwest, more students enroll in charter schools compared to other regions, and midwestern charter programs display high concentrations of black students.

    Since Brown v. Board of Education, public schools have been compelled to address this disparity. That public schools have been inconsistent in this mission is a conclusion that is not in dispute.

    Charter schools on the other hand, — especially those operated by national Charter Management Organizations like KIPP and National Heritage Academies — tend to reinforce geographic racial patterns in their marketing appeals. On their websites and in their printed materials, these charter chains invariably promote their abilities to educate “underserved” communities and “close achievement gaps,” even though there is no evidence that charters in general are any better at this than traditional public schools. In fact, many of them are worse.

    But beyond all of that, this tells us, among other things, that Jeb Bush is criticizing actor Matt Damon for doing something Bush did himself (oh, and last I checked, Matt Damon isn’t a potential candidate for any government office whatsoever).

    However, I’ll let a professed Jeb Bush supporter get the last word here…

    MS_Kelly_J_Bush_0813
    Actually, no, he isn’t.

  • Continuing, it looks like John Lott is all up in arms (pun intended) over keeping the identity of gun owners a secret (here). Funny, but I didn’t see NRA members being so shy when it came to showing off their hardware at a Starbucks in Newtown, CT recently, as noted here (the place where the Sandy Hook school carnage took place last year, for the benefit of anyone who has somehow forgotten that – to the credit of the Starbucks store, it closed early on Friday, but it should not have had to do that).

    (I suddenly realized that, in accordance with the ALEC editorial earlier, the Murdoch Street Journal would probably try to accuse me now of suppressing the legitimate free speech of the NRA…I have a two-word response, and it isn’t “happy birthday,” or “lock n’ load.”)

    I wonder if Lott is trying to hide the identity of gun owners also because, as determined in a 1994 study noted here, male gun owners were 2 ½ times more likely than non-gun owners to be arrested for non-traffic offenses? And by the way, as noted from the same HuffPo link, a 2012 survey found that most guns used in mass shootings were legally purchased – just an FYI.

    Honestly, though, I think Lott and his pals have nothing to worry about (just whipping up phony outrage as usual). From what I’ve read, Gawker and the New York Journal News took so much flak for publishing the names of New York gun owners that I think the chilling effect of that alone would be enough to prevent anyone else from doing it.

  • Further, I give you Mark Hemingway of The Weakly Standard (here)…

    On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity.

    But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable.

    After Corkins takes a suspiciously long time rummaging through his bag to produce identification, Johnson cannily stands up and walks around the desk to get a closer look at what Corkins is doing. Corkins bolts upright, gun in hand. Without the slightest hesitation, Johnson rushes Corkins, who fires twice. A bullet shatters Johnson’s left forearm. “And I just couldn’t hear anything, my arm just kind of blew back. So at that point I was thinking: ‘I have to get this gun,’ ” Johnson told The Weekly Standard. “That was my sole focus—I have to get this gun—this guy’s gonna kill me and kill everybody here.”

    From there, Johnson somehow manages to push Corkins across the lobby and pin him against the wall with his bad arm. “I just started punching him as hard as I could, until I could feel his grip loosen,” recalled Johnson. Eventually he takes the gun from Corkins with his wounded arm. Before long, Corkins is subdued on the ground. Corkins now admits that it was his intention to shoot everyone in the building. There’s no question Johnson saved a lot of lives.

    Leo Johnson’s actions were heroic, absolutely, and Hemingway’s piece tells us about all of Johnson’s difficulty with rehabilitation and medical bills, as well as caring for his elderly mother and very elderly grandmother (and yes, Corkins is just another cowardly idiot with a gun).

    But if you think all of this is just a setup to take a shot at us lefties, then you win a commemorative Mexican terrorist doll with the face of Repug U.S. House Rep Louie Gohmert (the commemorative model with the face of Steve King has “calves the size of cantaloupes”).

    Continuing…

    There’s a lot that should be said about Johnson’s heroism, starting with the fact that it hasn’t been widely recognized. Over the last few years, thanks to events such as the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the George Zimmerman trial, the media have been subjecting us all to a constant and unavoidable national debate about the nexus of politics and violence. This has been unusually perplexing because the media persist in having this debate even when no connection between politics and violence exists.

    Obama_Baby_Teabagger

    Obama_White_Slavery

    Taxpayer_Obama_Oven


    Really?

    The Family Research Council shooting is one of the few inarguable examples of politically motivated violence in recent years, yet looking back a year later, the incident has garnered comparatively little attention. Corkins openly admits he selected the Family Research Council because the Christian organization is one of the leading opponents of gay marriage in the country. He had Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack because the CEO of the fast-food chain was under fire for publicly supporting a biblical definition of marriage. Corkins said he planned to “smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in [the] faces” of his victims as a political statement. And in case that didn’t make his motivations transparent, right before Corkins shot Leo Johnson, he told him, “I don’t like your politics.”

    Later in the column, Hemingway blames the Southern Poverty Law Center (as if they had anything to do with Corkins and his criminal behavior) for designating the Family Research Council as a “hate group” (with Leo Johnson basically wondering why anyone would do such a thing – making that designation against the FRC, I mean).

    I’ll tell you why – as noted here

    The SPLC gave the Family Research Council the designation due to anti-gay speech from its leaders, which the SPLC says includes calls for gay men and lesbians to be imprisoned.

    Labeling the Family Research Council a hate group puts one of Washington’s most powerful social issues advocates into the company of groups like the Nation of Islam and the now mostly defunct Aryan Nations in the eyes of the SPLC, which tracks 932 active hate groups in the U.S.

    Groups are labeled hate groups by the SPLC — which made a name for itself by using civil lawsuits to severely weaken the KKK and other white supremacist groups — when they “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” according to the group’s website.

    The main offender in the eyes of the SPLC is Peter Sprigg, the FRC’s senior researcher and vocal opponent of the gay rights movement. In May, Sprigg told me that an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would lead to more American servicemen receiving unwelcome same-sex fellatio in their sleep, part of a long line of reasoning from Sprigg suggesting that gay men are more likely to be sex offenders than anyone else.

    SPLC Research Director Heidi Beirich told me the FRC is part of a growing list of what the SPLC calls anti-gay groups masking themselves under the guise of conservatism or Christianity.

    “What this really is is a wholesale defamation attack on gays and lesbians,” Beirich said. “Some of the stuff is just as crude if you compare it to, say, the Klan’s racism. But a lot of it’s a little more sophisticated and they try to make it more scientific even though what they’re pushing are falsehoods.”

    I wish Leo Johnson all the best in his recovery, and he is of course entitled to his opinion no matter how much I may disagree. But to use the horrible attack he endured as an excuse to whitewash the FRC’s bigotry is a whole other level of repulsive that I didn’t think I could ever imagine from the wingnutosphere until now.

  • Finally, it looks like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina (do I need to mention the party?) is shocked, shocked I tell you! to hear Dem Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid tell us that Republicans don’t like Obama because he’s an African American (here)…


    Yeah, don’t you hate it when somebody makes up stuff like that?

    “Instead of engaging in serious debate about the failed policies of this administration – from the ever-increasing burdens created by the national health care reform plan to the tax and spend approach to economic recovery, along with countless others – Democrats are once again trying to hide behind a smokescreen,” the Republican said.

    Added Scott: “Our country deserves more from those in Washington. I hope Senator Reid will realize the offensive nature of his remarks and apologize to those who disagree with the President’s policies because of one thing – they are hurting hardworking American families.”

    (Just as a reminder, this tells us once again that the “jobs” plan from congressional Republicans won’t create actual, y’know, jobs.)

    And when it comes to “hurting hardworking American families,” Scott has a pretty good (which is to say, bad) track record, as noted here

  • Scott attempted to prevent the families of striking workers from receiving food stamps (including kids).
  • He also tried to hurt the NLRB’s ability to go after law-breaking employers.
  • In addition, he also authored a bill that would have stripped the National Labor Relations Board of its ability to penalize companies that illegally move jobs in retaliation for workers exercising their legal rights.
  • Scott also supported a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that determined that immigrant, Native American and LGBT women should be afforded no protections at all, as noted here.
  • Oh, and Scott also helped slash South Carolina’s HIV/AIDS budget and defended billions in subsidies to Big Oil. He also floated the idea of impeaching Obama over the 2011 debt ceiling nonsense (which led to the sequester, let’s not forget, in which “Man Tan” Boehner said he got “98 percent” of everything he wanted). And while he sat on the Charleston (SC) County Council, he wanted to spend an unlimited amount of money to display the Ten Commandments outside of a government building (all of this awfulness is noted here).

    In conclusion, I’d like to point out that I think Harry Reid is wrong. Scott and his pals don’t oppose Obama because he’s black.

    It’s merely because he’s a Democrat.


  • Friday Mashup (6/21/13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This tells us the following from last November…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Continuing…

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

    Consider the following recent activities:

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

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

    Continuing…

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

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

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

    Continuing…

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

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

    Continuing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Education

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

    Health and Human Needs

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

    Environmental and Neighborhood Restoration

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

    Public Safety

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

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

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

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

    The Daily Tucker explains here

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

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

    As noted here from last month…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Friday Mashup (3/1/13)

    March 1, 2013
  • Did you know that conservatives are “leading” on prison “reform”? I mean, the Daily Tucker says it here, so it must be true, right (snark)…

    In conservative states like Texas, Georgia, and South Dakota, conservative policymakers have spearheaded statutory and budgetary reforms that prioritize prison space for violent and dangerous offenders while strengthening cost-effective alternatives that hold nonviolent offenders accountable.

    I have to admit that there’s a smattering of truth in that claim, but as far as I’m concerned, not much.

    To begin, I should point out that you really can’t talk about the state of prisons in this country without talking about the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). And you certainly can’t talk about the state of prisons in Texas without mentioning CCA; as noted here from 2010 about a scheme to privatize prison health care under the banner of “deficit reduction” (sound familiar?)…

    Private prisons are a big business in Texas, where the combination of federal immigration policies and one of the nation’s largest inmate populations has led to a boom in construction over the last two decades. As governor, Perry, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, has supported privatizing everything from public lands to highways, but according to Scott Henson, a criminal-justice watchdog who runs the blog Grits for Breakfast, the governor had remained largely quiet on the prisons issue—until this year.

    That coincided with an influx of campaign contributions from private-prison executives and lobbyists, among them his former top aide, Michael Toomey, a political powerbroker who represents the nation’s largest private corrections contractor…CCA, per its website, “provides health care services to male and female inmates and youthful offenders who are housed in local jails, detention facilities, and correctional institutions around the country.” (Toomey told Mother Jones he had not lobbied Perry’s office or the state Legislature on the prison health care plan; Perry’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.)

    Toomey, who had not contributed directly to any of the governor’s previous gubernatorial campaigns, opened up his wallet for two separate $10,000 donations to Perry two months before Election Day in 2010. Thomas Beasley, the founder of CCA, has given $17,000 to Perry’s campaigns over the last decade. Another private prison firm, the GEO Group, poured $15,000 into Perry’s 2010 reelection effort in 2010 through its eponymous political action committee. Luis Gonzalez, a GEO Group lobbyist, meanwhile, gave $50,000 to Perry’s reelection bid.

    Hmm, I can smell the conflict of interest like some sizzlin’ Texas beef barbecue. Can you?

    Turning to the Peach State, I give you the following (here)…

    For inmates at one Georgia prison, a one minute phone call could cost them five times more than they earn for a day of work.

    The Correction Corporation Of America’s Stewart facility, a private prison in Lumpkin, Georgia, is forcing prisoners to pay five dollars per minute to use the phone, Alternet reports (h/t ThinkProgress). The exorbitant rate would break most people’s budget, but it’s especially costly for inmates that the prison who make just one dollar per day to work at the facility.

    Faced with huge budget shortfalls, states are increasingly relying on privatized prisons to house criminals in their state and the for-profit corporations behind those prisons are coming up with various ways to maximize revenue. The money the Stewart prison is collecting from its 2,000 prisoners to use the phone helped the prison net profits of $35 to $50 million a year, ThinkProgress reports.

    Also, as noted here, what we have in Georgia, among other places, is basically a de facto criminalization of immigration. And turning to South Dakota, this tells us that the inmate population grew from “550 inmates in 1977 to more than 3,600 last year, outpacing the national prison growth rate” (in South Dakota, which comes out to about 500 percent).

    Call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but I wonder if the so-called prison reform movement by conservatives emphasizing decriminalization for non-violent offenses, which apparently is actually accomplishing some good, is also in part a feint so people don’t pay more attention to locking up illegals, which we seem to do in this country in ever-greater numbers, as well as paying attention to what is transpiring from outfits like CCA, aided and abetted by the silence of politicians who could turn over what I’m sure are some pretty unseemly rocks (including the fact that, as noted here, it doesn’t take much to draw a line from CCA back to ALEC and the Kochs – CCA ditched them, but I would argue that they did so because they didn’t need them any more).

    (Oh, and let’s not forget how the supposed “savior” of the Repugs tried to get CCA into “The Sunshine State,” as noted here.)

    Given all of that, I don’t think anyone has a right to crow about how reform-minded we supposedly are in a country where we still incarcerate a higher percentage of our population than any other nation on earth (here).

  • Next (and sticking with Tucker Carlson’s crayon scribble page), someone named Jamie Weinstein brought us the following nonsense here

    Listen to (Minnesota Dem U.S. House Rep Keith) Ellison’s plan to solve our long-term debt problem. He mentions closing tax loopholes and ending certain deductions for large corporations, citing specifically tax breaks for oil companies and special tax deductions for corporate jets. If Congress took Ellison’s advice on these two proposals, America’s deficit would decrease, at the very most, much less than $5 billion dollars a year. Our deficit last year was over $1 trillion. Our total debt is over $16 trillion.

    At best, Ellison is ignorant and/or an idiot.

    (Definitely glad I didn’t watch this clown on “Real Time with Bill Maher” recently; I understand that Maher is, first and foremost, an entertainer, but if he isn’t going to have a conservative who actually makes sense sometimes like David Frum, Rich Galen or Fareed Zakaria, then he really shouldn’t even bother.)

    I don’t know what exactly it says about Weinstein that he bothered to link to “Tiger Beat on the Potomac” for the item about oil industry subsides (worth about $40 billion) and didn’t mention the amount (here). I also don’t know what it says about him that he rather shockingly linked to a Center for American Progress post about closing the corporate jet loophole over 10 years ($3.2 billion) but didn’t provide the details, including how that would fund WIC, Head Start, Special Education, Title 1, and housing vouchers.

    And of course, Weinstein ignores what Prof. Krugman points out here – namely that the Obama Administration has already pursued deficit reduction (with the Budget Control Act and the American Taxpayer Relief Act), and all we need is about $1.2 to $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years to maintain our current debt-to-GDP ratio.

    Ellison has also proposed eliminating the damn sequester already here, along with fellow Dem Rep. Raul Grijalva, which automatically makes these two guys a lot smarter than many of the other horses asses on Capitol Hill (as noted here, Ellison did indeed vote against the Budget Control Act that created the sequester…more on Ellison railing against budget cuts, which really don’t do a hell of a lot to shrink our deficit anyway, here – also, based on this, the case can definitely be made that Obama has cut the deficit by $2.4 trillion already).

    Why Weinstein doesn’t point out any of this is a mystery to me. At best, he is either ignorant and/or an idiot (and speaking of idiots – Hannity, I mean…).

  • Continuing, I came across some true hilarity at clownhall.com here

    Liberals, whose connection with Hispanic America consists of lecturing their nannies about ensuring that little Bayley is raised in a gender neutral environment and doesn’t make toy guns out of his Legos, think all Hispanics are the same.

    In response to the life form named Kurt Schlichter who concocted this dreck, I give you this telling us, among other things, that President Obama is currently faring well with Hispanics.

    But of course it’s the “liberal establishment” that’s being driven by anger and fear.

    Sure it is.

  • Further, I give you the latest in that drama known as “As The Sequester Turns” from that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor (here)…

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday blasted President Obama for touring around the country “scaring people, creating havoc” instead of working on a replacement for the sequester.

    “That’s supposed to be leadership?” Cantor asked on the House floor. “The president says to Americans that their food is going to go un-inspected, and that our borders will be less patrolled and unsafe.

    “His cabinet secretaries are holding press conferences and conducting TV interviews, making false claims about teacher layoffs.”

    I’m not going to bother pointing out once more that Number 44 is fundamentally correct on the impact due to hit us shortly, but instead, I’ll just link to this which lets us know that, as is the case on just about every other subject, Cantor has zero credibility when it comes to talking about the sequester.

    Cantor also said that the House supposedly passed an alternative and said that it’s time for the Senate to do the same – the first item is an utter lie (as noted here), and concerning the second, the Senate Dems offered a replacement, and Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao and his pals did what they do best – again (here).

    (And when it comes to the sequester, let’s not forget this.)

    Update: By the way, to get some idea of the cuts coming from the sequester and how they affect PA (and nationally), click here (thanks to the office of U.S. House Rep Allyson Schwartz).

  • LeBron1_LBJ

  • Finally, please allow me to try and leave my imprint on popular culture again after reading this story.

    This item really isn’t about basketball, but to me, it has more than a little bit to do with trying to equate someone idolized in professional sport with a legendary former President of the United States (yes, Vietnam took off on his watch, but you could argue that, between the two of them, Nixon, at a minimum, presided over at least as many casualties as Lyndon B. Johnson…probably more considering that Nixon escalated the war; being the filthy, unkempt liberal that I am, I tend to equate Number 36 more with The Great Society than anything else).

    36_lbj_1
    So for that reason, LBJ, to me, should be this guy…

    lebron-james-cory-mckee
    …and not this guy.

    And for anyone thinking that I’m making a mountain out of a proverbial molehill, let me point out the conservative apoplexy that would result if a serial killer was ever brought to trial who happened to be named Ronald Reagan: Irrational Spew, The Weakly Standard and others would be making every possible effort to make sure this person was referred to in the press as “Ronald B. Reagan,” “Ronald W.T. Reagan,” “Ronald Cleophus Reagan”…whatever – you see my point.

    Now I promise I won’t bring up this subject again unless and until the day comes when a superstar hockey player arrives from the Canadian junior leagues, holds out for a multi-million dollar contract, acts in a generally boorish way towards fans across the National Hockey League…and his name happens to be Jerry Francis Kinkaid :-).


  • Thursday Mashup (7/12/12)

    July 13, 2012
  • Leave it to a former Bushie to throw cold water all over a good idea (here)…

    High-speed-rail executives from around the world gather in Philadelphia this week, hoping to boost support for bullet trains in the United States, where momentum has been slowed by high costs and political disputes.

    The new national transportation funding act signed by President Obama on Friday contained no money for high-speed rail, although the administration had sought about $8 billion a year. And Republican governors of Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio have spurned federal money for high-speed rail projects, sending the money back to Washington.

    “There’s no federal money, there’s no private money, and states are not in a position to finance it,” said Ken Orski, a transportation adviser to several Republican presidents, including George W. Bush. “The conference in Philadelphia will be high on rhetoric and talk of things going on in Europe and the Middle East . . . but in the domestic situation, their only hope is California.”

    Meanwhile, I give you the following (here)…

    High-speed rail does not exist in the U.S. And the fact that the new congressional budget deal completely eliminated high-speed rail funding for 2011 may lead many to believe it never will. Who can forget the headline-grabbing declarations by governors Rick Scott of Florida, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin that high-speed rail is a no-go in their states? Between their refusal of federal funds, the political posturing on Capitol Hill and the endless debates in the editorial pages of newspapers, it’s easy to get the sense that high-speed rail is dead.

    But while the fast train indeed has been dealt a serious blow, the fact remains that it’s coming: Illinois will spend more than half a billion dollars this year on upgrading existing tracks to accommodate speeds of 110 mph, while California officials plan to break ground next year on the $42 billion Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail link. Notwithstanding the congressional budget cuts, there was still $2 billion up for grabs this year — thanks to Florida. Twenty-four governors — 12 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one Independent — applied for that money. The Federal Railroad Administration dedicated the $2 billion to 15 states and Amtrak in May.

    And from here

    By 2017, the fastest train in America will zip through Central New Jersey at 160 m.p.h…

    In two decades: New York to Philadelphia in 37 minutes. To D.C. or Boston in 94 minutes.

    Does that work for you? I hope so. Particularly since, as noted here, it is vital that our public transportation system do all that it can to connect workers to jobs (and even though I realize high-speed rail may cater to higher earners than many people living in cities, I’m quite sure it will return more “bang for the buck” than building more highways, hastening further sprawl and congestion).


    As that noted philosopher Mongo pointed out in “Blazing Saddles,” “got to do with where choo-choo goes”…

  • Next, leave it to the Murdoch Street Journal to accuse Obama Attorney General Eric Holder of “Jim Crow”-style politics (here)…

    Speaking to the NAACP in Houston on Tuesday, Mr. Holder assailed the Texas law that requires voters to show some identification, using terms redolent of Deep South racism before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them—and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them,” he said. “We call those poll taxes.”

    The nation’s first black Attorney General knows exactly what he is doing by citing the fee that some Southern states used after Reconstruction to disenfranchise blacks. Poll taxes were made illegal by the 24th Amendment in 1964.

    Oh, and as far as the Journal is concerned, that automatically means that no such thing as a real or potential violation of the 24th Amendment could ever occur, right? Would that that were true – this tells us how the IRS under Bushco tried to find out the political affiliation of taxpayers in 2006 (also a violation of the amendment).

    And in response to that paragraph in the Journal editorial about Texas voters being allowed to use their gun permits as acceptable ID for voting (figures), I give you this

    In South Texas, the region with the richest tradition of voter fraud in the state, few election officials believe a new law requiring all voters to have photo identification will do much to curb voting chicanery.

    And that’s because more of a potential for actual fraud exists with mail-in ballots than in-person ballots, with 18 percent of Texas voters lacking proper ID as noted here (I don’t have any numbers on the percentage of mail-in ballots nationally from Democrats versus Republicans, but I would venture to guess that mail-in ballot voters typically are not the ones being targeted by ALEC and the Koch Brothers).

    In conclusion, the Journal tells us the following…

    As for the “poll tax” canard, the law says the Texas Department of Public Safety will issue a free Election Identification Card if requested.

    Umm, OK…of course, the Journal happily discounts the fact that voters most likely to be affected probably don’t know that they’re non-compliant with the law as it currently stands (also caring not to admit that there would be a huge burden put on state workers responsible for mailing out the proper ID to everyone, that is, if the affected voters realized something was wrong – and Heaven forbid that the “yellow rose” state, among all the others with onerous new voter ID laws, would educate in advance those who would be turned away on Election Day).

    The Journal also referred to Holder’s characterization of the Texas Voter ID law (and by extension, laws across the country, including our beloved commonwealth) as “buncombe,” which, I suppose, is French for horse dookey (thanks to the Journal for expanding my word power).

    Update 7/14/12: More here.

  • Finally, did you know that African American voters could actually cost President Obama the election?

    OK, you can stop laughing now.

    No, really, you can stop, OK?

    I mean, Edward Klein of Fix Noise says so here, so he must be right…right?

    And do you know why? Well…

    Many socially conservative church-going blacks are deeply upset with Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage.

    Oh, please.

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

    The expected backlash among blacks to President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage has yet to materialize. And a new Washington Post-ABC survey suggests that black opinion is very quickly moving the other way, with a majority of African Americans now saying they support same-sex marriage.

    Fifty-nine percent of blacks now say they support same-sex marriage, an 18-point jump since the president’s announcement of his own support two weeks ago. Fifty-three percent of Americans now believe that same-sex marriage should be legalized, which also marks a substantial spike since 2006, when just 39 percent of those polled thought it should be legalized.

    And as noted here from Ben Jealous of the NAACP…

    “If you go to the board, you’ll see a lot of religious leaders,” Jealous told The Huffington Post last month. “All of the religious leaders on our board, except for one, were for marriage equality.”

    That one happens to be William Owens, who of course was also quoted at length in Klein’s piece.

    And if anyone thought Obama’s support of gay marriage was going to hurt him among African Americans, the following should be noted from here

    As Gallup itself reported in early May, Romney led Obama among non-Hispanic white voters by 54 to 37 percent, while the president had the support of more than three-quarters of non-white registered voters (77 percent). Obama’s support among African Americans on Gallup’s tracking poll stood at 90 percent.

    Oh, and let it be known that a certain Willard Mitt Romney hasn’t exactly endeared himself to African Americans lately (here and here).

    As noted here, though, Klein has been wanking away with fact-free punditry for some time now, infamously in his tome “The Truth About Hillary” (here). And the Tucson Citizen referred to Klein’s book on Obama called “The Amateur” as “the literary equivalent of a backed up-septic tank.”

    Well then, I’ve suppose we’ve identified Klein’s area of subject matter expertise at long last (buncombe, anyone?).


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