Tuesday Mashup (9/16/14)

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

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

    Really?? “Do no harm??”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Continuing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I would say so; as Media Matters notes here

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Thursday Mashup (9/4/14)

    September 4, 2014
  • Since we have a new terrorist threat in the Middle East, that means that it’s time for our corporate media to return to the same babbling idiots for more non-solutions, including Pete Hegseth (here)…

    As any war fighter knows, the enemy always gets a vote on the battlefield. Just because we quit the Iraq war in 2011, doesn’t mean our enemies did.

    Case in point: the rise ISIS — now a self-declared Islamic State — in Iraq and Syria. Last week, it shook the collective American consciousness with its beheading of U.S. journalist and New Hampshire native, James Foley. But that was merely the latest demonstration of their brutal, systematic — and growing — radical Islamic movement.

    While the situation is complex, and blame shared, it is now clear that President Obama’s single-minded rush to remove all U.S. forces from Iraq — while simultaneously botching our (non)-policy in Syria — created the power vacuum these barbaric Islamists have rushed to fill.

    You know, it’s really tedious to keep mentioning over and over and over again that our troops were withdrawn from Mesopotamia at the end of 2011 because of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated under Obama’s ruinous predecessor, which I still believe was the right thing to do (here). And speaking of Number 43, let’s not forget for a second his role in the murderous fiasco in which we currently find ourselves, as noted here.

    And by the way, though Hegseth served for 9 months in Iraq (which is 9 months more than I did, I’ll admit), I don’t know how he can be proclaimed a military genius of sorts since he apparently was supposed to serve for 4 years in ROTC, as noted here

    Naming your Iraqi interpreter “John Kerry” is funny – for you – in Iraq. Reporting that fact to the Family Research Council is not, perhaps, in the best tradition of a non-partisan military. And suggesting in your hometown paper that Senator Durbin “handed our enemies a propaganda victory” is quite clearly inappropriate.

    It is unclear to me how Mr. Hegseth had time to complete…active duty required by his ROTC scholarship. And yet this person had the gall to argue with General Wesley Clark – 34-year veteran who won the Silver Star for Valor for commanding his unit after being shot 4 times – that the Webb amendment would give too much time off to soldiers and ruin unit cohesion. This he knew from his “firsthand experiences” Of course Pete switched units after just a few of his NINE MONTHS in Iraq, so obviously, well, he has no idea that the hell he’s talking about.

    I also give you the following from Hegseth:

  • Here, Hegseth was upset that a BENGHAZI!! suspect wouldn’t be tortured; he also claimed that there was somehow a timing factor involved to help the not-yet-officially-announced presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton (uh huh, sure…).
  • Here, Hegseth also tells us pretty much that he has a problem with women in combat.
  • Hegseth also said here that he believed that “Redskin” was meant as a term of respect (uh, no).
  • This tells us (among other details) that Hegseth’s group, Concerned Veterans for America, has ties to Chuckie and Dave Koch (figures – first bullet).
  • I’ve tried to take it easy actually on Pete Hegseth in the past in deference to his military service. However, I believe that the trail of ooze he has created as a result of his smarmy activities in politics and punditry have made it impossible for me to do that any longer.

  • And keeping with the subject of MOAR WAARRR, I give you the following from Anne Applebaum of the WaPo (here – h/t Atrios)…

    Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.

    In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?

    OK, so Applebaum says that we should prepare for war with Russia because September 2014 really is just like September 1939, dammit! Because one day 75 years in the future some pundit from another galaxy will visit what remains of Earth, find all our hashtags, blog posts and Instagram messages and wonder how we could have been so reckless to not rise up and thwart our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin and his global designs when we had the chance. Am I right?

    It’s interesting to me that Applebaum would have such misty water-colored memories of Poland now, though she didn’t feel that way about the Poles a few years ago, accusing “Allied governments” including that country of “cowardice” when Russia faced off with the country of Georgia a few years ago, as noted here (maybe a little “sock puppetry” on Applebaum’s part on behalf of her husband, who at the time was a Polish foreign minister?).

    (But to answer the question…yes, actually; the thought of war anywhere IS “a hysterical idea.”)

  • Next, in light of the story about the merger between Burger King and Tim Horton’s of Canada as part of BK’s “inversion” scheme, “Chuckles” Krauthammer (also of Jeff Bezos, Inc., where it’s best to keep employees completely in the dark, apparently) has the perfect solution (here)…

    What is maddening is that the problem is so easily solved: tax reform that lowers the accursed corporate rate. Democrats and Republicans agree on this. After the announcement of the latest inversion, Burger King buying Tim Hortons and then moving to Canada, the president himself issued a statement conceding that corporate tax reform — lower the rates, eliminate loopholes — is the best solution to the inversion problem.

    It’s also politically doable. Tax reform has unique bipartisan appeal. Conservatives like it because lowering rates stimulates the economy and eliminating loopholes curbs tax-driven economic decisions that grossly misallocate capital.

    The appeal to liberals is economic fairness. By eliminating loopholes, tax reform levels the playing field. Today, the more powerful companies can afford the expensive lobbyists who create the loopholes and the expensive lawyers who exploit them.

    Of course, even Krauthammer admits that, though the nominal corporate rate is about 35 percent, the effective rate (which any halfway decent corporate accountant should be able to obtain) is about 13 percent.

    I’ll tell you what, though – I’ll go Krauthammer one better; as noted here, Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich proposes that we eliminate the corporate income tax but set capital gains taxes at the same rate as ordinary income.

    As Reich explains…

    “In many cases, depending on the structure of the market, a significant share of the actual burden of paying the corporate income tax is often borne instead by employees in the form of lower wages, or consumers in the form of higher prices.”

    Is such an idea a panacea? No. But if this is the best way to take away “inversion” incentives for “U.S.” corporations while making corporate “persons” behave in a decent manner (in a move which is bound to be economically stimulative, by the way), then at the very least, I think it should be crafted into legislation for a congressional vote.

    I just have one request; please don’t use this as yet another excuse to try to take away the federal home mortgage interest deduction or deductions for state and local taxes again, OK?

    And as long as I’m mentioning the paper formerly run by Katharine Graham, I think this needs to be pointed out as well, unfortunately.

  • Further, it looks like we got us another “big gumint” Obama conspiracy on our hands, and Michael Bastasch of The Daily Tucker is ON IT, PEOPLE!!! (here)…

    Republicans are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of preparing to take control over vast swaths of land under the guise of protecting the country’s water resources. Lawmakers warn this could erode private property rights.

    The EPA has consistently denied they are trying to use the Clean Water Act to expand their regulatory reach, but Republicans say they have a smoking gun that shows the agency is up to something.

    Their proof? The EPA paid private contractors to assemble detailed maps of waterways and wetlands in all 50 states. The EPA maps were made in 2013, shortly after the agency proposed expanding its authority under the Clean Water Act. The maps were kept secret by the agency, but were obtained by Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

    And if you guessed that Repug U.S. House Texas moron (redundant?) Lamar Smith is involved, then you win a free barrel of toxic sludge…

    “These maps show the EPA’s plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country,”(Smith), the science committee’s chairman, wrote in a letter to the EPA demanding more answers on why they have a detailed map of U.S. waterways.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. Determining Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 21, 2014. The public comment period will be open for 182 days and will close on Monday, October 20, 2014.

    And by the way, the rule definition was requested by a rather lengthy list of individuals and agencies, including Repug Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, the New York City DEP, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Clean Water Action, and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), among many, many others.

    So, as nearly as I can determine, the maps were created in concert with the rule definition (40 CFR Parts 110, 112, 116, 117, 122, 230, 232, 300, 302, and 401) published in the Federal Register to clarify recent Supreme Court decisions. That would make sense because that’s the best way to determine the practical impact of the rule (which, as noted above, is still open for public comment – if Smith doesn’t like it, he is more than welcome to voice his opposition).

    But of course, Smith isn’t really so concerned with encouraging a dialogue on science and the environment as he is on trying to muzzle it, as noted here, so I don’t expect an intelligent response from him about the rule or much of anything else, really.

    Couric_Sawyer_Head
    (And keep it classy as always, Tucker, OK?)

  • Continuing, it looks like Louisiana Gov. Bobby (“Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal is desperately trying to remain relevant once more, as noted here

    (Jindal) filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in federal court Wednesday, claiming that the Department of Education has illegally manipulated grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the controversial Common Core standards.

    In the suit, Jindal argues that the Education Department’s $4.3 billion grant program “effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum” in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The suit asks a judge to declare the department’s actions unconstitutional and to keep it from disqualifying states from receiving Race to the Top funds based on a refusal to use Common Core or to participate in one of two state testing consortia tied to the department’s grant program.

    Well, the Teahadists should be amused anyway. As for the actual grownups, though, I give you the following from here

    Louisiana adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and worked toward full implementation by 2014-15. The initiative was on the right track, with Mr. Jindal’s staunch support. The Common Core standards “will raise expectations for every child,” he said in 2012.

    Late last year, as Common Core critics emerged, Mr. Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, began raising “concerns.” “Let’s face it,” he said last month. “Centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education.” Last week, he completed his reversal on the heels of a fundraising visit to South Carolina, saying he wants state officials to develop “Louisiana standards and Louisiana tests for Louisiana students.”

    How are those Louisiana standards working out so far? Louisiana’s fourth-graders rank 49th among the states in math proficiency. Eighth-graders rank 48th. Meanwhile, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., began raising standards in 2010 and now lead the country in reading and math score gains. In 1993, Massachusetts reformed its school system, placing rigorous standards front and center. It is now first in many education rankings.

    So apparently, Jindal didn’t have either the foresight/imagination/basic intelligence/all of the above to realize that Common Core needed modifications at the very least for Louisiana. But since he also saw that he could gain some kind of political traction by switching sides, he decided to adopt his current cowardly position.

    Also, I think the following should be noted about Common Core from here

    Question 1. Where do you think the drive for Common Core standards is coming from?

    Alfie Kohn: I don’t think we have to speculate; the answer is pretty clear: While some educational theorists have long favored national standards — and got nowhere with the idea in the ’90s — the current successful push has come principally from corporate executives, politicians, and testing companies. This time they managed to foster the illusion that because the federal government, per se, isn’t mandating it, they’re not really “national” but just “core” standards, even though all but four states have signed on. It’s rather like the effort to reframe vouchers as “choice.” They’ve also been very shrewd this time about co-opting the education organizations by soliciting their counsel. These groups are so desperate for a “seat at the table” of power that they’ve agreed to confine the discussion to the content of the standards rather than asking whether the whole idea makes sense for children.

    If your question is read more broadly — not just “Who are the players?” but “What’s the ideological underpinning?” — then all you have to do is look at the rhetoric on the Core Standards website, read the defenses published elsewhere, listen to the speeches: This move toward even greater top-down control and uniformity is almost always justified in terms of “competing in the global economy.” It’s not about doing well, but about beating others. And it’s not about intellectual depth and passion for learning, but about dollars and cents.

    And I also give you this

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan dismissed Jindal’s move as purely political.

    “Gov. Jindal was a passionate supporter before he was against it. So this, from that situation, is about politics. It’s not about education,” Duncan said in an interview on CBS This Morning.

    And if you want to find out how well this is really playing with the folks back home, as it were, then I think you should read this.

  • On we go – I took particular interest in this item

    Temple University has become the latest focal point for groups concerned about the spreading wave of campus anti-Semitism and academic-based Holocaust minimizing.

    Temple student Daniel Vessal, a fellow with CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), was drawn into a verbal exchange with anti-Israel activists at the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) table during an official college event on August 20, 2014. Vessal, in his junior year at the Temple University Fox School of Business, studying Management Information Systems and Entrepreneurship, was allegedly called a “kike,” “Zionist pig,” and “baby killer.” He was slapped so hard at the SJP table that he was sent to the hospital. A police investigation and legal action are underway. The assaultive SJP supporter has purportedly apologized, according to a published SJP statement, which states: “I’m sorry for what I did. I admit I lost my temper.”

    With lightning speed, 14 Jewish organizations reacted to the assault, releasing a joint public letter of protest to Temple University. The letter complained:

    A university campus should be the setting for thoughtful discussion and intellectual debate. Such an atmosphere should be encouraged by all responsible student groups. Unfortunately, Students for Justice in Palestine is not such a group. It has a proven track record of intimidation, harassment, and incitement merging into anti-Semitism against Israel and its supporters on campus.

    The swift-response joint letter was spearheaded by StandWithUs, which has become the nation’s pre-eminent campus pro-Israel advocacy group. Additional signatories included Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hasbara Fellowships, Proclaiming Justice to The Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, The Lawfare Project, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

    I do not begrudge any of the Jewish organizations in their response to the alleged attack on Daniel Vessal. There is no place for abusive language and real or implied violence in something that should resemble informed dialogue.

    However, I take personal offense at anyone who would consider my alma mater to be an “anti-Semetic hotspot” (yes, I saw the words of Adjunct Professor Alessio Lerro about how the Jews are allegedly using the Holocaust for political advantage – in the course of vigorous debate, you’re going to hear indefensible language I’ll admit; I have no problem acknowledging that our universities are more or less laboratories of free thought, or should be, even sometimes coming from organizations as the thoroughly disreputable group noted here).

    HuffPo writer Edwin Black does tell us that “More than 137,000 individual donations were made to Temple between 2010 and 2012 alone, according to university records examined. The university’s benefactors include many major gifts from Jewish donors and foundations arising from or controlled by Jewish individuals.” That’s the journalistically responsible thing to note in a piece like this.

    I would add that Temple is also home to The Myer & Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish Life as part of Temple’s College of Liberal Arts, which was founded in May 1990 (here). As the center’s website tells us: “Its mission is simple: Inspiring Inquiry. In collaboration with institutions in Philadelphia and beyond, the Feinstein Center invites the public to join conversations about Jewish culture, politics, history, and identity across time and space.”

    And as noted from here

    Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also acknowledged rising tensions on campuses and in communities.

    “It’s an unfortunate byproduct of a conflict that has gone on too long and should be stopped immediately,” he said. “But no overseas conflict can justify any form of anti-Semitism or intolerant action or speech.”

    If charges arise from this incident at Temple, then so be it. Otherwise, let’s put the intolerant generalizations aside, shall we?

  • Finally, I have to tell you that I came across this truly hilarious item from Hunter at Daily Kos; he’s taking to task a writer at Irrational Spew Online named Armond White who came up with a list of the 20 films that “destroyed art, social unity, and spiritual confidence,” as far as White is concerned.

    Number 20 is Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”; of course, forget for a moment that we’re talking about a towering cinematic achievement about passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, definitely original in that the story proceeds through dialogue and various other plot lines without much in the way of what you would call “action.”

    Also on White’s list is “Wall-E,” which is also not surprising since it features characters imitating American behavior in many ways who have been basically exiled into outer space because the planet they once inhabited is now thoroughly despoiled, though there is a bit of environmental hope at the end. And, as you might have expected, “The Dark Knight” made the list because it “undermine(s) heroism, overturn(s) social mores, and embrace(s) anarchy.”

    (I thought the “Batman” movies by Christopher Nolan were a bit of a nod to the “one percent” since they present their wheeling and dealing as important to the survival of Gotham City, though there are also “Occupy”-related themes, particularly in the last one, where the villain Bane uses them to give Gotham the illusion of hope while the city lives in terror, cut off from everyone else. Basically, I think that’s what makes those movies great art; you can look at them from a couple of different mindsets and create different impressions, with not one better or worse than another.)

    As you might have expected, though, Number One on White’s list is “Good Night and Good Luck” about the faceoff between CBS news legend Edward R. Murrow and communist-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy. I’m not going to get into the history of that encounter here; if you want to read more, feel free to click here.

    In the article about the program “See It Now,” where Murrow stood up to McCarthy and allowed the Wisconsin senator an opportunity for rebuttal, we learn that the broadcast did a good job of cutting McCarthy down to size, as it were. What isn’t as readily obvious is the aftermath to Murrow, the program, and the network. CBS ended up losing sponsors in droves (including Alcoa), the program was cut from an hour to a half-hour, and it was moved from prime time to Sunday afternoons. And oh yeah, the loss of sponsors also led to layoffs in the news division, and Murrow’s “cred” within the corporation was irreparably damaged as a result (all of this is portrayed in the movie).

    The moral? If somehow you are remunerated or rewarded for telling the truth in the face of great opposition, especially of the corporate variety, count your blessings, because that probably won’t happen. A clear conscience and the ability to look yourself in the mirror, though highly satisfying, is probably the only positive outcome you will get.


  • Friday Mashup (5/9/14)

    May 9, 2014
  • This from clownhall.com tells us the following (with the understated headline of “Guns Don’t Cause Gang Violence – Democrats Do”)…

    Between Friday night, and Sunday evening, 28 people had been shot in Rahm Emanuel’s gun control utopia (Chicago). Which, unbelievably, shows an improvement over the previous weekend, which tacked on more than 40 gunshot victims to the city’s climbing statistics. And, heck, with the CPD’s recent scandal surrounding how they classify various crimes, it almost makes you wonder if these numbers are more “ballpark” figures than actual stats.

    I mean, heck, (gun control) hasn’t exactly worked out that well so far, but why not double down? Right? The fact is, the failure of Liberalism has brought the city to its current state of deterioration. The Chicago model of unconstitutional restrictions on keeping and bearing arms has done little more than add fuel to the fire. Politicians, meanwhile, have been more than happy to ignore the easily identifiable, but politically tricky, origins of gang violence, and criminal activity.

    Yeah, well, this is part and parcel of the wingnut caterwauling on guns I realize. However, did you know that the state of Illinois recently passed a concealed carry law, as noted here?

    Well then, isn’t the Michael Schaus post proof, then, that concealed carry leads to more crime?

    And as noted here, the NRA is pushing for a national concealed carry law that would override other more sensible state laws (the party of “state’s rights” strikes again, considering how “simpatico” the NRA is with the “party of Lincoln”). Which is all part and parcel of this (and by the way, Politifact strikes again on the whole “half true” thing – the U.S. has the highest gun casualty rate among “other affluent nations on a per capita basis,” so that settles it as far as I’m concerned).

  • Next, “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction” is back to inflict the following (here)…

    The qualifications of a Tommy “Dude” Vietor or Ben Rhodes that placed them in the Situation Room during Obama-administration crises were not years of distinguished public service, military service, prior elected office, a string of impressive publications, an academic career, previous diplomatic postings, or any of the usual criteria that have placed others at the nerve center of America in times of crisis. Their trajectory was based on yeoman partisan PR work, and largely on being young, hip, and well-connected politically. I don’t think either of these operatives has a particular worldview or competency that would promote the interests of the United States. But they do talk well, know the right people, and are hip. Again, they have no real expertise or even ideology other than that.

    (The “Dude” reference, for the uninitiated, has to do with Vietor pretty much laughing off more BENGHAZI!!! idiocy from Bret Baier of Fix Noise, which I think was definitely the correct response.)

    So a certain V.D. Hanson is criticizing Vietor and Rhodes because of their ascent in the Obama Administration from a background of “yeoman partisan PR work.”

    Well then, let’s take a look at Obama’s ruinous predecessor, as long as Hanson has opened that “can of worms”:

  • Longtime Bushie Karen Hughes was a “communications strategist” who, as a member of the White House Iraq Group, helped to sell Number 43’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Iraq (here).
  • And speaking of the quagmire in Mesopotamia, former PR flak Dan Bartlett once said that his boss “never had a ‘stay the course’ strategy” here (liar).
  • When it comes to PR and marketing, though, I don’t think either Hughes or Bartlett can top Andrew Card, who rose to Chief of Staff and notoriously said here that “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August” in response to the question of why Bushco started beating the drums for war in Iraq in earnest in September 2002.
  • Given this, I would say that, when it comes to “yeoman partisan PR work,” Vietor and Rhodes are chumps by comparison (and speaking of Iraq, more “fun” with Hanson is here).

  • Further, I think it’s time to take a look at some true revisionist wingnuttery on The Sainted Ronnie R, first from Michael Barone here

    Second-term presidents over the last generation have tried, with varying results, to achieve breakthroughs. Ronald Reagan, after cutting tax rates in his first term, called for further cuts combined with elimination of tax preferences that had encrusted the tax code.

    House Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski and Senate Finance chairman Bob Packwood — a Democrat and a Republican — achieved a historic breakthrough with the tax-reform legislation of 1986, thanks in part to intensive coaching from Treasury Secretary James Baker.

    See, the point of Barone’s screed is that Obama isn’t being “bipartisan” enough for his liking, with Barone’s definition of “bipartisan” being, apparently, to get beaten up and let the Republicans do whatever they want (Barone lists other examples of supposed “bipartisanship” that got things done in Washington).

    I guess that, living in the world of reality, it may not be necessary to point out at every opportunity to you, dear reader, that Number 40 raised taxes a dozen times, as noted here. However, since the other side is constantly trying to form reality to their twisted worldview, I believe that I must engage in this exercise.

    And sticking with the decade in which Reagan took up space in An Oval Office, this post from The Daily Tucker discusses a TV program called “The Americans,” which I guess has to do with Soviet-era spies living in this country.

    So what is this show about, exactly…

    In one recent scene, for example, KGB agent Elizabeth goes off on a standard 80s liberal spiel about the Nicaragua war, complete with hypocritical sympathy for Catholic nuns and dissident journalists.

    Well OK then – it looks like this Will Rahn person isn’t a big fan of ‘80s-era political activism in particular.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    I first confronted this pattern while covering Reagan’s hard-line policies toward Central America. The lies started just weeks after Reagan’s 1980 election, when four American churchwomen were raped and murdered by government security forces in rightist-ruled El Salvador.

    On the night of Dec. 2, 1980, two of the women, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, drove a white mini-van to the international airport outside San Salvador. There, they picked up Ita Ford and Maura Clarke who had attended a conference in Nicaragua.

    Leaving the airport, the van turned onto the road that heads into the capital city. At a roadblock, a squad of soldiers stopped the van and took the women into custody. After a phone call apparently to a superior officer, the sergeant in charge said the orders were to kill the women. The soldiers raped them first and then executed the women with high-powered rifles.

    The atrocity was only one of hundreds committed each month by the Salvadoran security forces in a “dirty war” against leftists and their suspected supporters, a conflict that was more mass murder than a war, a butchery that would eventually claim some 70,000 lives. The Dec. 2 atrocity stood out only because Americans were the victims.

    The proper response from U.S. officials would have seemed obvious: to join U.S. Ambassador Robert White in denouncing the brutal rape and murder of four American citizens. But the incoming Reagan foreign policy team didn’t see it that way; Reagan was on the side of the rightist Salvadoran military.

    So, the rape-murder was treated like a public relations problem, best handled by shifting blame onto the victims. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s choice for United Nations ambassador, depicted the victims as “not just nuns. The nuns were political activists – on behalf of the [leftist opposition] Frente.”

    Kirkpatrick’s implication was that it wasn’t all that bad to rape and murder “political activists.”

    And as far as the “Fourth Estate” is concerned (here)…

    To conceal the truth about the war crimes of Central America, Reagan also authorized a systematic program of distorting information and intimidating American journalists.

    Called “public diplomacy” or “perception management,” the project was run by a CIA propaganda veteran, Walter Raymond Jr., who was assigned to the National Security Council staff. The explicit goal of the operation was to manage U.S. “perceptions” of the wars in Central America.

    The project’s key operatives developed propaganda “themes,” selected “hot buttons” to excite the American people, cultivated pliable journalists who would cooperate and bullied reporters who wouldn’t go along.

    The best-known attacks were directed against New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing Salvadoran army massacres of civilians, including the slaughter of more than 800 men, women and children in El Mozote in December 1981.

    But Bonner was not alone. Reagan’s operatives pressured scores of reporters and their editors in an ultimately successful campaign to minimize information about these human rights crimes reaching the American people. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

    The tamed reporters, in turn, gave the administration a far freer hand to pursue its anticommunist operations throughout Central America.

    Despite the tens of thousands of civilian deaths and now-corroborated accounts of massacres and genocide, not a single senior military officer in Central America was held accountable for the bloodshed.

    The U.S. officials who sponsored and encouraged these war crimes not only escaped any legal judgment, but remained highly respected figures in Washington. Reagan has been honored as few recent presidents have.

    The journalists who played along by playing down the atrocities — the likes of Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer — saw their careers skyrocket, while those who told the truth suffered severe consequences.

    And given the BENGHAZI!!! fever currently sweeping the “leadership” of the U.S. House, I think this is a timely article.

  • Continuing, it looks like VA head Eric Shinseki (who, once again, is a huge improvement over his Bushco counterpart) is in hot water, as noted here

    (Reuters) – Two Republican senators on Tuesday joined veterans groups in calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid claims that up to 40 people died while waiting for treatment in the U.S. veterans’ healthcare system.

    Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, said the Veterans Affairs Department needed a “true transformation … from top to bottom.”

    “I ask the secretary to submit his resignation and I ask President (Barack) Obama to accept that resignation,” Moran said on the Senate floor.

    Assistant Senate Republican leader John Cornyn said: “The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our veterans deserve.”

    As noted here, Cornyn voted against a bill to provide $12 billion in medical, educational and job-training benefits for our veterans returning from the wars (to be fair, Moran voted Yes as noted here).

    However, it’s not as if the Kansas senator doesn’t have his own baggage in these matters. He gave conditional-at-best support here to the military sexual assault bill sponsored by Dem Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Moran also voted against the Veterans with Disabilities Act (here), despite the request from former Kansas Sen. (and WWII-disabled vet, of course) Bob Dole that Moran and everyone else in the U.S. Senate support it.

    The Reuters story also tells us the following…

    The American Legion, the biggest U.S. veterans’ group, and Concerned Veterans for America called on Monday for Shinseki, a former Army general twice wounded in Vietnam, to step down.

    I’m not going to take issue with The American Legion, but Concerned Veterans for America…hmmm…

    Oh yeah – as noted here, that’s another “dark money” front group for Chuck and Dave Koch (kind of like “Concerned Women of America” who are apparently trying to torpedo a women’s history museum sponsored by Dem Carolyn Maloney and Repug Marsha Blackburn (!), as noted here, with “Moon Unit” Bachmann opposing it even though the plan is for her to be featured in an exhibit – way too funny).

    Returning to the main topic, I don’t know if Gen. Shinseki should resign as head of the VA or not. However, I think it’s more than a bit hypocritical to blame only him for trying to clean up a mess originated by our prior ruling cabal (which he, among a very select few – and more’s the pity on that – actually stood up to, as noted here).

  • Finally (and speaking of war), I give you former Bushco U.N. rep John “Blow ‘Em Up” Bolton (here, with what you might call some “crackpot history” in concert with his claim that President Obama’s recent far east tour didn’t go well since Obama looked tired, or something)…

    In 1932, Secretary of State Henry Stimson declared his “non-recognition” doctrine regarding Japanese aggression in China and subsequent annexations. Although politically symbolic, Stimson’s high-collared moralisms did nothing to deter further Japanese expansionism.

    Years later, when President Roosevelt finally imposed sanctions that could actually inhibit Japan’s military, the increasing likelihood of war against the Nazis was apparent. Pearl Harbor followed, but one can ask if stronger U.S. Asia policies in the 1930’s might have caused a different result.

    Yes, “one” can ask indeed if “one” were a total moron, I suppose. As noted from here

    In 1933, President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt proposed a Congressional measure that would have granted him the right to consult with other nations to place pressure on aggressors in international conflicts. The bill ran into strong opposition from the leading isolationists in Congress, including progressive politicians such as Senators Hiram Johnson of California, William Borah of Idaho, and Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. In 1935, controversy over U.S. participation in the World Court elicited similar opposition. As tensions rose in Europe over Nazi Germany’s aggressive maneuvers, Congress pushed through a series of Neutrality Acts, which served to prevent American ships and citizens from becoming entangled in outside conflicts. Roosevelt lamented the restrictive nature of the acts, but because he still required Congressional support for his domestic New Deal policies, he reluctantly acquiesced.

    The isolationists were a diverse group, including progressives and conservatives, business owners and peace activists, but because they faced no consistent, organized opposition from internationalists, their ideology triumphed time and again. Roosevelt appeared to accept the strength of the isolationist elements in Congress until 1937. In that year, as the situation in Europe continued to grow worse and the Second Sino-Japanese War began in Asia, the President gave a speech in which he likened international aggression to a disease that other nations must work to “quarantine.” At that time, however, Americans were still not prepared to risk their lives and livelihoods for peace abroad. Even the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 did not suddenly diffuse popular desire to avoid international entanglements. Instead, public opinion shifted from favoring complete neutrality to supporting limited U.S. aid to the Allies short of actual intervention in the war. The surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 served to convince the majority of Americans that the United States should enter the war on the side of the Allies.

    And as noted from here

    By 1940, the (Second Sino-Japanese) war descended into stalemate. The Japanese seemed unable to force victory, nor the Chinese to evict the Japanese from the territory they had conquered. But western intervention in the form of economic sanctions (most importantly oil) against Japan would transform the nature of the war. It was in response to these sanctions that Japan decided to attack America at Pearl Harbor, and so initiate World War II in the Far East.

    OK, so, to review:

  • Sanctions against Japan were probably necessary in hindsight, but to try and make the argument that Roosevelt sought them too late and Pearl Harbor might have been prevented is ridiculous. If anything, if sanctions had been imposed earlier, an attack might have happened earlier (again, not saying that sanctions were wrong) when we would have been less adequately prepared to fight it than we were.
  • As the article states above, there was not enough of a “push back” against the isolationist sentiment Roosevelt faced across the political spectrum at home after World War I. And he needed those same senators opposing military action to support the New Deal.
  • I’m not a bit surprised, however, to find out that Bolton knows nothing about that period of history, given that he finished his column with the following (again, using this totally inaccurate reading to justify another attack on Number 44)…

    In December, 1937, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of all people observed that, “It is always best and safest to count on nothing from the Americans but words.”

    5_fig002
    And the fact that Bolton would say that without a single word of acknowledgment of the price this country paid to defeat the Axis Powers in World War II (particularly repugnant as we approach Memorial Day) tells you how callow and ignorant he truly is.


  • Friday Mashup (2/21/14)

    February 21, 2014
  • Jonah Goldberg, apparently vying for the title of Most Idiotic Pundit in the Universe, inflicts the following while bashing Number 44 overall for a variety of alleged reasons (here)…

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to treat carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” is an outrageous expansion of executive power. But Obama (didn’t) tout that as a bullet point (last week at a Democratic retreat); he let the EPA take the political heat for that decision a while ago.

    So much stoo-pid, so little time – as noted here

    In March 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft rule limiting carbon pollution from new power plants. This standard was promulgated in response to the 2007 Supreme Court ruling requiring the agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act if it found that carbon dioxide emissions endangered public health and the environment. The agency published such a finding in 2009, noting that carbon-pollution-associated climate change will increase the frequency of unusually higher temperatures and heat waves.

    Increased temperatures can increase the risk for formation of ground level ozone or smog. Breathing ozone may lead to shortness of breath and chest pain; increased risk of asthma attacks; increased susceptibility to respiratory infections; need for medical treatment and for hospitalization for people with lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and premature death. Children and senior citizens are most vulnerable to harm from smog.

    The Environmental Protection Agency held several listening sessions while drafting the proposal, held two public hearings on the proposed rule, and extended the comment period to 73 days. Almost 3 million comments were sent to the agency in favor of reducing carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants—a record for an Environmental Protection Agency rule proposal. The agency is now in the midst of finalizing its rule.

    Actually, based on this, the EPA finalized the rule last December 19th; carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology is “decades old,” though apparently it is still a relatively expensive technology (don’t know enough to say whether or not it should be subsidized by the federal government or if it is already, but if it isn’t, why not?).

    Of course, if Goldberg had an inclination towards actual journalism instead of hack punditry, he might be disposed to try and find that out (yes I know – if I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring…).

  • Next, I give you the latest from Repug U.S. Senator John Barrasso via Fix Noise in the “Let’s Bash Number 44” slug fest (here, opining about the fifth anniversary of the stimulus last Monday)…

    President Obama said that he was going to use the money to fund “shovel-ready” construction projects. Many of those projects stalled because of burdensome red tape, and Washington regulations. A couple of years later, the president even joked that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”

    In response, to give you an idea of how many jobs were saved or created the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I would ask that you read the following from here.

    And what have Barrasso and his fellow U.S. Congressional Republican pals done in response (aside from saying that the stimulus “failed” even though they patted themselves on the back for bringing stimulus funds back to their states or congressional districts, as noted here)?

  • Obama’s jobs plan blocked in the Senate in October 2011 (here).
  • A $60 billion infrastructure spending bill was also blocked in the Senate in November 2011 (heregee, ya’ think that would have helped with repairing our roads crumbling from this awful winter? And do you remember this stellar related moment?).
  • Obama’s 2011 American Jobs Act was also blocked in the U.S. House (here).
  • A veterans’ jobs bill was also blocked in the Senate in September 2012 (here).
  • Of course, an extension of unemployment benefits that would create 2 million jobs was also blocked (here).
  • Here’s a more comprehensive list of legislation backed by Obama that has been blocked by Republicans in Congress (and here is another typical Barrasso move).

  • Continuing, I give you the latest from the perpetually angry Brent Bozell (here)…

    Media liberals are howling at the apparent injustice of the “anti-Clinton” Washington Free Beacon website, which has dared to paw through old Hillary Clinton history. The hypocrisy is stunning. Let us recall the avalanche of mean-spirited and sleazy “fair game” the networks assembled for us just a few years ago in the last election cycle.

    Bozell then goes on to list a whole bunch of imagined media slights involving Republicans, which I won’t bother to address here lest this entire subject grow too tiresome than it already is. However, I’m going to say something about this because 1) Without giving away the game too much, I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be dealing with an upcoming presidential election cycle involving Hillary Clinton, and 2) Our wingnut brethren, if Bozell is any indication, have already decided to start dumping on the former First Lady, Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York regardless (it’s ALWAYS good sport for conservatives to dump on the Clintons, which, if nothing else, tells you how pitiable these people truly are).

    Bozell also mentioned something about the Washington Free Beacon (whatever that is). In response, this Media Matters post tells us that the “Free Beacon” relied on a report from a group called OPSEC to attack Hillary Clinton – this tells us more about the group:

    …OPSEC, a right-wing group made up of retired intelligence and Special Forces operatives, has partisan ties and a history of disingenuously attacking the Obama administration. The group “first surfaced during the 2012 presidential campaign,” when they produced a 22-minute film and TV ads accusing President Obama of “seeking political gain from the May 2011 military operation that killed Osama bin Laden.” (PolitiFact rated the claims made in the ads as “false” and “mostly false.”) Key members of the group have current and former affiliations with the Republican Party, and Reuters uncovered that more than a quarter of OPSEC’s 2012 funding was raised by Campaign Solutions, a political consultancy which represents Republican candidates.

    OPSEC’s president, Scott Taylor, has also previously been accused of “shady campaign tactics” in his multiple bids for Republican state office, and as Business Insider noted, the group’s maneuvers reveal they are more interested in attacking President Obama and the Obama administration than promoting any national security interests. According to OpenSecrets, OPSEC spent almost $500,000 in the 2012 election cycle on “electioneering communications” alone.

    Official investigations have found Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration, and the military did everything within their power to rescue the Americans stationed in Benghazi at the time. The official inquiry into the State Department’s role conducted by the independent, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board found that security at Benghazi was inadequate and offered recommendations for State to prevent future attacks, all of which are being implemented, but found Clinton personally blameless.

    Yes, having to counter the nonsense from Bozell and his ilk is time not spent trying to persuade anyone still on the fence at this point why they should vote for a Democrat in the upcoming and all future election cycles. But this is an exercise that must be done, since the “noise machine” will crank up ever louder, immune to facts and reason as always.

  • Further, I have to comment on the following here (staying with clownhall.com, and apparently still in need of an editor)…

    More than half of Americans oppose Obamacare and 56% claim the law is more about bolstering government control than it is about helping individuals gethealth care (sic).

    The millions kicked off their insurance certainly do not find the policy freeing, neither do millennials forced to pay for healthcare feel liberated.

    Obamacare is precisely the type of overbearing government policy that the Founders would have fought against…

    Oh? So the Founding Fathers would have opposed “Obamacare”?

    This tells us about the U.S. Marine Hospital, founded in 1798, under President John Adams (it eventually became our Public Health Service, led by the Surgeon General). And as noted here, the hospital was also supported by Thomas Jefferson, hardly an acolyte of “big gumint.”

    And did I tell you that Benjamin Franklin co-founded the nation’s first public hospital offering free health care, as noted here (which became Pennsylvania Hospital)? Gosh, I didn’t know our founding fathers were such a bunch of damn socialists (removing my tongue from my cheek).

    As long as I’m on this subject, though, I should point out that this tells us that the number of health care repeal votes in the U.S. House under Republican Party “leadership” has now ballooned to 47. And that means that I’ve fallen behind a bit on my count, based on my pledge to highlight a different U.S. House Republican for each repeal vote:

    Here is the tally so far:

    #1 – #31 is here.
    #32 – #40 is here.
    #41 – #42 is here.

    So without any more ado, let’s pick up the count, shall we?

    meadows

    #43 – Mark Meadows (NC – 11)

    As far as I’m concerned, Meadows is infamous for only one act, but it was a real doozy, and that would be last year’s government shut down; as noted here, he was more responsible for it than any other person in the U.S. Congress.

    And just to refresh our memories, these in part were the results:

  • Disadvantaged women and infants relying on nutrition programs, as well as anyone relying on Head Start, individuals with disabilities and people needing heating assistance were all hurt (here).
  • Processing of veterans’ compensation, pension and education benefits was delayed; the shutdown was projected to drain about $10 billion out of our economy (here).
  • Passport applications were delayed as well, and shutting down sites in the U.S. Parks service hurt tourism as well as related businesses relying on tourist dollars, OSHA halted inspections, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission halted investigations of fraudulent trading practices – processing of Pell Grants and student loan assistance was also slowed (here).
  • FEMA ended up furloughing 86 percent of their employees during the height of the hurricane season (here).
  • So yeah, if Mark Meadows does absolutely nothing else of consequence one way or the other for the remainder of his public life, he will always be remembered for the utterly ruinous 2013 government shutdown, as well he should.

    ellmers

    #44 – Renee Ellmers (NC – 02)

    What a prize of an elected official…

  • Speaking of the shut down, Ellmers voted for it of course, but when asked why she wouldn’t donate her salary, said “I need my paycheck” here (as Laura Clawson says, as if Head Start teachers don’t?).
  • Oh, and an unsecured AR-15 rifle was stolen from her home here (smooth move).
  • Here, she introduced a “bill” to provide “rights” to disabled (injured and amputee) veterans that they already have.
  • As noted here, Ellmers introduced a resolution to honor Jesse Helms (ding ding ding! We have a winner in the “Wingnut of the Week” contest!).
  • Also, I’m not the biggest fan of Clay Aiken either, and I know politics ain’t beanbag as somebody once said, but I thought it definitely showed a lack of class on her part to mock his singing here.
  • reid-ribble-oops

    #45 – Reid Ribble (WI – 08)

  • This tells us that a petition with 120,000 signatures was delivered to Ribble’s office telling him not to include Social Security cuts in fiscal discussions last year, which Ribble intended to do regardless of the fact Social Security does not contribute to the federal deficit…remember the whole “chained CPI” thing, which apparently has come around again as an issue as noted here?
  • And speaking of Social Security, he wants anyone relying on that popular federal program to get it in the proverbial neck, as it were, as noted here.
  • In a truly guttural move, Ribble actually scolded Sister Simone Campbell for asking government to help the poor (nice).
  • Here, Ribble ducked out early from a jobs fair to attend a campaign fundraiser (what a swell guy).
  • Ribble said here that government shouldn’t borrow, even though he personally carries a couple of hundred thousand in debt (the latter isn’t a crime, but don’t be so damn two-faced about it).
  • And OF COURSE he’s a member of the “Koch Caucus” (here).
  • SteveStockman

    #46 – Steve Stockman (TX – 36)

    I don’t know if Stockman is the biggest goof ball on this list or not, but if he isn’t, he’s certainly in the top two…

  • There’s lots of stuff on Stockman from this great post – take your pick.
  • He also thinks Ted Nugent is a patriot (here).
  • Stockman invited the rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask noted here to perform in his district (nice).
  • He apparently went missing also (here), but he turned up later (here), thinking the whole “missing” thing was a joke apparently (of course, if you want to read something really funny, take a look at this…wonder if the Teahadists will do the U.S. Senate Democrats another favor?).
  • As noted here, Stockman is also apparently a fan of that show “Duck Dynasty,” along with a lot of others I know (in response, I give you this…anyone who buys into that show is a total rube).
  • Update 3/4/14: HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    Neugebauer

    #47 – Randy Neugebauer (TX – 19)

  • Yes, it’s true – as the picture shows, any discussion of Neugebauer has to begin with his truly infamous episode where he yelled at a U.S. Park Ranger for closing the WWII memorial during the shut down his party initiated (here).
  • He also yelled out “baby killer,” presumably at former Dem U.S. House Rep Bart Stupak, during Stupak’s speech on the House floor at about the same time as the vote for the Affordable Care Law in 2010, which is truly idiotic but particularly in the case of pro-lifer Stupak (here)…and yes, he apologized.
  • Oh, and when asked here, he wouldn’t provide a copy of his birth certificate, even though Neugebauer is a “birther” himself, as noted here (uh oh).
  • Neugebauer was also one of the House Repugs who voted for farm aid (receiving about $4 grand in subsidies) while also voting to cut food stamps (here…also, he’s very definitely a member of the “Koch Caucus” along with Reid Ribble, noted in the link above).
  • So I think that brings the official count up to date; I should also start thinking about a proper commemoration for the eventual 50th repeal vote. Because, knowing this bunch in the House, that vote will surely come.

  • Rep_Holt_Official_Headshot

  • Finally, as long as I’ve devoted so much space to Congressional miscreants, allow me to finish by bidding a fond farewell to a retiring Dem who set, I believe, a sterling example of how Democrats are supposed to advocate for their constituencies and what kind of legislation they are supposed to author and/or support. And that would be Rush Holt of New Jersey (here).

    As noted below (citing what I know is an incomplete list of accomplishments)…

  • He spoke out against the ever-pervasive surveillance state here.
  • On a related note, he sponsored the RESTORE Act in 2007 here (earning the enmity of Joke Line, among others).
  • He was also a visionary on climate change (here).
  • He helped secure $3 million to keep the NJ Technology Center at Ft. Monmouth open (here).
  • He was a staunch defender of Social Security (here).
  • He won congressional approval of a measure to mandate video recording of interrogations (here).
  • Holt once introduced a bill to ensure a paper ballot in elections here (that issue more or less got swept under the rug, but last I checked, it still needed to be addressed).
  • We are truly losing some giants on our side in the House between Holt, Henry Waxman and George Miller. However, it is only right to cycle in new blood, as it were, and to also give thanks for the exemplary precedent set by those who have done their time and have now earned a well-deserved rest, providing the way forward for future heroes on our side, championing future causes for the good of our country. And may we see the day when their hard work comes to joyful fruition for us all.


  • Monday Mashup (10/21/13)

    October 21, 2013
  • From the “road to hell paved with good intentions” department (still in the wake of the shut down misery), I give you this from Brent Budowsky…

    The president and Congress should agree to enact a one-time, limited-duration tax holiday to permit American companies to repatriate foreign-held capital at a tax rate of 12 percent, and use the revenue to finance a large infrastructure rebuild of American roads, bridges, ports and schools.

    This package would include a clean continuing resolution to reopen and fund the government and a clean extension of the debt ceiling, which would both expire Dec. 31, 2014. Larger talks could begin immediately without the blackmail and extortion of repeated threats to shut down the U.S. government or trigger a U.S. default and global financial crash — tactics that are repugnant to the American way and intensely disapproved of by a large majority of the nation.

    I think Budowsky is a pretty bright guy, but if he’s serious about this, then I think he should also come out in support of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, sponsored by Democrats Carl Levin of Michigan in the Senate and Lloyd Doggett of Texas in the House (here). Because, as the Daily Kos post tells us, the Institute for Policy Studies has determined just how bad an idea a “tax holiday” would be, listing the “Top 10 Layoff Leaders” of U.S. firms between 2004 and 2011, all of who benefitted from repatriated millions from 2004-2005.

    As far as I’m concerned, if these malefactors really had any interest in helping our economy grow, they never would have offshored the earnings in the first place.

  • Next (and continuing with the corporate media post-mortem on the events of this week), I give you Howard Kurtz of Fix Noise here

    But the Ted Cruz wing is also getting beat up from the conservative side, as in this New York Times column by Ross Douthat (by the way, the “Kurtz Republicans” headline refers not to me, of course, but to Colonel Kurtz of “Apocalypse Now” fame).

    “There is still something well-nigh-unprecedented about how Republicans have conducted themselves of late,” Douthat writes. “It’s not the scale of their mistake, or the kind of damage that it’s caused, but the fact that their strategy was such self-evident folly, so transparently devoid of any method whatsoever.

    I guess this is a bit of “concern trolling” by Kurtz and Douthat; as noted here, there very definitely was a “method” behind the near-catastrophic antics of “Caribbean Cruz” and his playmates this week.

    And this tells us how the fight was set up by, among others, former Reaganite Ed Meese, who, for a time, was in charge of something called the Conservative Action Project (now run by former Repug congressman David McIntosh)…

    The defunding idea, Mr. Meese said, was “a logical strategy.” The idea drew broad support. Fiscal conservatives like Chris Chocola, the president of the Club for Growth, signed on to the blueprint. So did social and religious conservatives, like the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.

    The document set a target date: March 27, when a continuing resolution allowing the government to function was to expire. Its message was direct: “Conservatives should not approve a C.R. unless it defunds Obamacare.”

    But the March date came and went without a defunding struggle. In the Senate, Mr. Cruz and Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, talked up the defunding idea, but it went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled chamber. In the House, Mr. Boehner wanted to concentrate instead on locking in the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, and Tea Party lawmakers followed his lead. Outside advocates were unhappy but held their fire.

    “We didn’t cause any trouble,” Mr. Chocola said.

    Yet by summer, with an August recess looming and another temporary spending bill expiring at the end of September, the groups were done waiting.

    “I remember talking to reporters at the end of July, and they said, ‘This didn’t go anywhere,’ ” Mr. Needham recalled. “What all of us felt at the time was, this was never going to be a strategy that was going to win inside the Beltway. It was going to be a strategy where, during August, people would go home and hear from their constituents, saying: ‘You pledged to do everything you could to stop Obamacare. Will you defund it?’ ”

    Heritage Action, which has trained 6,000 people it calls sentinels around the country, sent them to open meetings and other events to confront their elected representatives. Its “Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour,” which began in Fayetteville, Ark., on Aug. 19 and ended 10 days later in Wilmington, Del., drew hundreds at every stop.

    The Senate Conservatives Fund, led by Mr. DeMint when he was in the Senate, put up a Web site in July called dontfundobamacare.com and ran television ads featuring Mr. Cruz and Mr. Lee urging people to tell their representatives not to fund the law.

    When Senator Richard M. Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told a reporter that defunding the law was “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” the fund bought a radio ad to attack him. Two other Republican senators up for re-election in 2014, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were also targeted. Both face Tea Party challengers.

    In Washington, Tea Party Patriots, which created the defunding tool kit, set up a Web site, exemptamerica.com, to promote a rally last month showcasing many of the Republicans in Congress whom Democrats — and a number of fellow Republicans — say are most responsible for the shutdown.

    While conservatives believe that the public will back them on defunding, a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority — 57 percent — disapproves of cutting off funding as a way to stop the law.

    Last week, with the health care exchanges open for business and a number of prominent Republicans complaining that the “Defund Obamacare” strategy was politically damaging and pointless, Mr. Needham of Heritage Action said he felt good about what the groups had accomplished.

    “It really was a groundswell,” he said, “that changed Washington from the outside in.”

    There has been a very definite, coordinated, deep-funded apparatus at work on the right to kill the Affordable Care Law, which most certainly constitutes a “method.” And we saw it come to life in truly hideous fruition over the last few weeks.

    And if anyone thinks that these fools and frauds have been chastened in any way (more here)…

    So now that we’ve returned to something approximating a “status quo” in Washington, D.C. (and I STILL can’t believe how the Dems stuck to their guns and routed Boehner and his pals – kudos), I guess that means that it’s time for the Foxies to return to one of their biggest spectator sports, and that is to blame Number 44 for the supposedly out-of-control federal deficit, that is robbing our kids and our grandkids and our grand-grandkids, or whatever (here – of course, not a peep about the environmental state of this planet, rampant income inequality, waste of alternative energy resources, etc.).

    Which means, I suppose, that it’s time for a reminder on how we got into this fiscal mess in the first place (here). And as noted here, we’re paying down the debt faster than anyone anticipated anyway.

    Oh, and also in the matter of the economy, this tells us what the party of Boehner, Cantor, Ryan, McConnell, etc. has wrought, basically killing any hope of a turnaround just to stick it to that Kenyan Muslim Socialist at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    So what remains as the hot new “boom town” in this country? Tyler Cowen gives us a commercial for Texas here (cheap energy, a potential glut of “high-tech skill” jobs, low taxes, micro-houses – ?).

    Well, that may be all well and good, but what does it matter if the whole damn state is running out of water (here)?

    This is of course to be expected from Cowen, who once claimed here that income inequality made the “99 percent” more industrious, or something (second bullet).

  • Continuing, someone named Todd Starnes decries the quite-appropriate designation of the American Family Association as a “hate group” here.

    Want to know why? Check out some of the quotes from here

    “Homosexuality is a poor and dangerous choice, and has been proven to lead to a litany of health hazards to not only the individuals but also society as a whole.”
    –AFA Action Alert, July 20, 2012

    “[Islam] is, in fact, a religion of war, violence, intolerance, and physical persecution of non-Muslims.”
    –Tim Wildmon, March 6, 2012

    “The homosexual movement is a progressive outgrowth of the sexual revolution of the past 40 years and will lead to the normalization of even more deviant behavior.”
    – Don Wildmon, AFA website, 1999 (still posted as of 2011).

    “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.”
    – Bryan Fischer, AFA director of issue analysis for government and public policy, 2010

    Basically, the AFA Is so nuts that they even accused the Foxies of having “gone gay” here.

    I report, you decide (way too damn funny).

  • Further, “Chuckles” Krauthammer of the WaPo basically says that the pro football team for Washington, D.C. should change its nickname because it’s hurtful to a minority group, or something (here).

    I’m not saying that such an argument doesn’t have merit, but I think it’s typically ridiculous for it to come from someone like Krauthammer, who has never been shy about using demeaning language against those with whom he disagrees, to say nothing of propagating outright falsehoods:

  • He called Obama a “narcissist” here (an “evergreen,” I realize).
  • He baselessly (of course) accused the Obama Administration of “lawlessness” in its policy to encourage prosecutors not to seek mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders (here).
  • He also pushed the false claim here that the Obama Administration encouraged government agencies to draft talking points without references to terrorism in the BENGHAZI!!! attacks in order to protect the ongoing investigation (in reality, agencies such as the FBI and CIA made that decision, not the White House).
  • Also, Krauthammer said that the ruinous effect of the sequester were “the most ridiculously hyped Armageddon since the Mayan Calendar” here (spoken like a truly “kept” member of the Beltway political-media-industrial complex).
  • (And this is just for this year – imagine how many links I’d have if I bothered to research, oh, say the last decade of quotes from Krauthammer?)

    By the way, I really don’t have a dog in the fight, as it were, on the question of the Washington Redskins being renamed – the owner of the Washington Bullets basketball team changed the name to Wizards after the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (he and Rabin were friends), so there is a precedent.


    I just think it’s a little funny that there’s such a brouhaha over the Washington pro football team, but I don’t hear a word spoken about the logo of the Cleveland, Ohio professional baseball team.

  • Finally (and sticking with sports, and minority rights) this tells us that last Friday was the 45th anniversary of the removal of Tommie Smith and John Carlos from the 1968 Olympic Games after their “black power” salute.

    And as noted here

    (Today), that frozen, dramatic moment of 1968 resistance is far more likely to be celebrated than criticized. Smith and Carlos are now routinely lauded for their bravery and daring. As ESPN proclaimed bluntly upon giving Smith and Carlos their Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2008, “They were right.”

    No one was saying that in 1968. Amidst the angry denunciations, there was one column, published in the Chicago American newspaper, that was particularly ugly. The journalist responsible has never deigned to comment or explain, let alone apologize, for why he decided upon the words he chose. The writer became an iconic broadcaster who now sits comfortably as the elder statesman of the sports world. He appears in family friendly movies like The Waterboy and Cars 2. His name is Brent Musburger.

    In 1968 Musburger was a restless, ambitious young sports writer looking to make his name. He found his opportunity when Smith and Carlos made their stand. Musburger didn’t see a demonstration. He saw a target.

    “One gets a little tired of having the United States run down by athletes who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their country,” he wrote. Musburger then infamously called Smith and Carlos “a pair of black-skinned stormtroopers.”

    To this day, mention Musburger’s name to John Carlos and he grits his teeth. This is particularly illustrative because Carlos is fond of saying that he has no hate in his heart toward anyone even after all the isolation and criticism he endured. As he is fond of saying, “Bitterness leads to cancer which leads to death and I have too much work to do to have time for any of that.” Name a nemesis of his from 1968, like Jesse Owens or another member of the media and he responds with a smile and recounts how in private, they buried the hatchet. But not Musburger.

    “We are talking about someone who compared us to Nazis. Think about that. Here we are standing up to apartheid and to a man in Avery Brundage who delivered the Olympics to Hitler’s Germany. And here’s Musburger calling us Nazis. That got around. It followed us. It hurt us. It hurt my wife, my kids. I’ve never been able to confront him about why he did this. Every time I’ve been at a function or an event with Brent Musburger and I walk towards him, he heads the other way.”

    The actions of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Olympic Games long ago showed courage and fortitude. They knew full well the consequences of their actions, and they engaged in them anyway. It’s what real men (and women) do.


    And apparently, Brent Musburger, by his failure to owe up to his callow, hurtful words and deeds (for which he should have apologized long ago), doesn’t know a thing about the behavior of real men.


  • Friday Mashup (9/13/13)

    September 13, 2013
  • I give you the following recent column on the whole Syria thing, including this excerpt…

    Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said Monday that Congress would not be debating the use of U.S. military force against Syria if President Obama hadn’t drawn a “red line.”

    “I have no doubt that if the president had not drawn his red line we would not be having this discussion,” Coats said on the Senate floor. “It is the credibility issue that has brought us to this pass and it’s a credibility issue that is [Obama’s] own making.”

    Dan Coats has no room whatsoever to try and talk down to anyone on foreign policy issues (or most anything else when you get right down to it).

    As noted from here concerning the run-up to Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia (at which time Coats was our ambassador to Germany, giving that country the “old Europe” treatment a la Rummy I suppose)…

    “The German Government still says it will not support a war. But its leaders say that war may no longer be avoidable. And the US is twisting their arms hard. The US Ambassador to Berlin, Daniel Coats, has made clear this is a crucial test of Germany’s loyalty to the NATO alliance. The government’s stance has raised “serious doubts” about Germany’s reliability, Mr. Coats said.

    (And on unrelated matters, I think it’s interesting to note that Dubya chose Coats to try and “shepherd,” more or less, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, which of course failed. Also, Coats was one of 46 Senators to oppose the expansion of background checks for gun buyers, both of which are noted here.)

    I also came across this article on Syria and its chemical weapons stockpiles, which of course are indefensible; that being said, it should be noted that, in addition to Syria, Israel and Egypt also didn’t sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (interesting background at the very least); only 8 out of 193 countries are not party to the convention.

    Also, in the matter of Syria, I was wondering what that Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) foreign affairs columnist at the Murdoch Street Journal, none other than Bret Stephens, had to say on the matter (here).

    There’s a lot I could respond to, but partly because I’ve covered this stuff repeatedly in the past along with many others, I’ll stick to a couple of items (and yes, this stuff is completely predictable)…

    In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration’s evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The “dossier” consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as “we assess with high confidence” and “we have a body of information,” and “we have identified one hundred videos.”

    By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (here)…

    It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that “there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared,” that his inspectors had found “indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized,” and that Iraq had “circumvented the restrictions” on the import of missile parts.

    You mean the same Hans Blix who told CNN here that Bushco “chose to ignore” the fact that the case for the Iraq war was “rapidly falling apart”?

    The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn’t shock Democrats that the White House’s “trust us” approach isn’t winning converts. When you’ve spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don’t be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.

    That’s a truly hilarious comment to think about as you read this.

    I’ll tell you what – here is the Media Matters post where I got the CNN link; I’ll let them take a well-earned last shot at “foul sauce” Stephens on this issue.

    Update 1/2/14: A new year, but the same old Stephens wankery here (h/t Atrios)…

  • Next (and sticking with foreign policy), we also recently observed the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, a tragedy that has been politicized beyond all possible reason; here is another example…

    Gregory Hicks is no stranger to regular readers. The State Department official, who was second-in-command to murdered Amb. Chris Stevens in Libya, was one of the star witnesses during the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this past spring. Visibly frustrated by the lack of accountability over last year’s deadly attacks, Hicks appeared on ABC News to share his story. America Rising collected the highlights of his interview with George Stephanopolous, including Hicks’ assertion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assigned Stevens to man the under-protected diplomatic post, despite documented security risks. He also reiterated that he personally and “immediately” informed State brass that the raid was an act of terrorism:

    And yet the White House deliberately trotted out and stuck to false talking points about the nature and cause of the attack for weeks. Internal emails have revealed that the counter-factual narrative was concocted by members of the State Department’s “building leadership,” who wanted to avoid political criticism for their security failures. Two of the players most responsible for perpetrating this fallacious storyline have been rewarded by President Obama with promotions. Hicks also says that he’s been “shunted aside” because of his truth-telling:

    O-kaaaayyyyy

    Meanwhile, from the world of reality, I give you this

    Hicks was not punished for speaking out. (Host of “This Week With George”) Stephanopoulos read from a State Department letter which explained that “The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way” and his departure from Libya “was entirely unrelated to any statements” he made about Benghazi.

    In fact, Hicks’ claim about being punished contradicts his previous testimony about not returning to his assignment in Libya. During his testimony at a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing, Hicks explained that “my family really didn’t want me to go back. … So I voluntarily curtailed” returning to Libya.

    I think the real tragedy of BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI!!! is the fact that we really should have an intelligent investigation into exactly what happened, as opposed to an exercise in trying to score political points. Maybe we could have done a better job of providing an adequate level of embassy security, but if the State Department is going to take a hit, then so should the wretched “leadership” in the U.S. House, which didn’t provide adequate funding for security to begin with, as noted here.

  • Continuing, I thought this was an interesting little historical item…

    A commission looking into the death of former United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold has recommended that the UN reopen its investigation.

    Mr Hammarskjold’s plane was travelling to Congo on a peace mission in 1961 when it crashed in Zambia.
    A UN investigation in 1962 failed to find the cause of the mysterious crash.

    The commission said there were significant new findings, and that the US National Security Agency might hold crucial evidence.

    In a statement, the UN thanked the commission and said the UN secretariat would study its findings closely.

    And as noted here

    In Congo, one issue was who should control the southern province of Katanga, rich in copper, uranium and tin. Belgium, the ex-colonial power, backed a secessionist movement led by Moise Tshombe, as did the UK and US who had mining interests in the region.

    But Mr Hammarskjold from the start backed Congo’s elected central authorities – the Soviet-backed government of prime minister Patrice Lumumba, and later, after Mr Lumumba was deposed and murdered, Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula.

    Mr Hammarskjold wanted to pursue a negotiated solution between Mr Tshombe and the central government, a goal that became even more urgent after UN peacekeepers found themselves outgunned during an aggressive operation to drive foreign mercenaries from Katanga.

    Mr Tshombe was waiting to talk to him in Ndola on the night he died.

    Some 30 years after the crash, in 1992, two men who had served as UN representatives in Katanga just before and just after Hammarskjold’s death – Conor Cruise O’Brien and George Ivan Smith – wrote a letter to the Guardian claiming to have evidence that the plane was shot down accidentally, by mercenaries. In their view, a warning shot intended to divert the plane to alternative talks with industrialists in Katanga, in fact hit the plane and caused it to crash.

    In 1998 South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Desmond Tutu, published eight letters that suggested CIA, MI5 and South African intelligence were involved in sabotage of the aircraft. British officials responded that these were likely to be Soviet forgeries.

    In 2005, the head of UN military information in Congo in 1961, Bjorn Egge, told the Aftenposten newspaper he had noticed a round hole in Hammarskjold’s forehead when he saw the body in the mortuary. It could have been a bullet hole, he said, and it had been mysteriously airbrushed out of official photographs.

    Over the past four years, Swedish aid worker Goran Bjorkdahl has carried out extensive research and British academic Susan Williams published a book on Thursday – Who Killed Hammarskjold? Both conclude that it is likely the plane was brought down.

    So it’s possible that there was some kind of a conspiracy between the U.S. and the UK (and Belgium) to get their hands on the copper, uranium, and tin, and to keep it out of the hands of the then-Soviet Union, and Hammarskjold was in the way (though he had also planned to meet apparently with Tshombe, who was backed by the three countries not including the U.S.S.R. Curious, as is the Ace of Spades card supposedly found in Hammarskjold’s collar when you consider this).

  • Further, I have to say that I honestly don’t understand the right-wing attack on anything whatsoever related to clean or renewable energy, unless of course you just want to chalk it up to funding from oil-based energy interests and nothing more, and I’m sure there’s more than a bit of truth to that.

    I’m thinking of all of this, though, in response to this item

    After only about one month of production, the Obama-backed maker of batteries for the Chevy Volt will delay production again.

    Oh, of course, how stupid of me not to realize that an attack on anything whatsoever to do with clean energy is also an attack on that Kenyan Marxist Socialist pre-zee-dint of ours.

    Continuing…

    Autoblog rep0orts that the South Korea-based LG Chem plant in Holland, Michigan that started making Chevy Volt batteries about one month ago — about a year behind schedule — will pause work for six weeks until the Environmental Protection Agency confirms the registration status of an “unspecified, low-volume ingredient” used in their battery production.

    “We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved,” LG Chem said in a statement. “We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly. In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately six weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA.”

    The Daily Tucker also tells us the following…

    An Energy Department audit found that LG Chem’s workers were paid $842,000 to essentially do nothing, as some played video games, watched movies or played cards. Other workers even took the time to volunteer at charities.

    Of course, far be it for Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page to tell us that we’re talking about 400 workers here, according to this linked story.

    Sooo, while I’m no math whiz, I should point out that $842,000 divided by about 400 workers comes out to about $2,100. And while I’m not a fan of sloth on the job or not doing what you’re paid to do, I should note that that amount probably reflects a small portion of their actual salaries (like to see comparable figures for businesses that actually don’t take government funds).

    Meanwhile, it looks now that the Chevy Volt has set a monthly sales record (here), so I’m sure there’ll be a need for more batteries (as I said, though, attacking hybrids like this is something the wingnutosphere is inclined to do anyway, as noted here).

  • Finally, I didn’t want the week to end without some commentary on the elections in Colorado recently, where state senate head John Morse and state senator Angela Giron were ousted.

    Michael Sargent, Exec. Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, put it this way…

    There’s a reason why Republicans chose recalls instead of waiting for next year’s election: Hand-picked targets, odd timing, and extremely low turnout – made lower by 100-year-old recall rules that gutted early voting – created ideal conditions for the GOP, and because of it, they won two seats they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Right wing groups also ran hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of attack ads, but with help from thousands of grassroots Democrats…we fought back hard. You left it all on the field; so did Sens. Morse and Giron, and so did we.

    I think that’s largely true, particularly in the case of Morse, who lost by only 343 votes. You can’t tell me he would’ve lost a similar campaign in a regular election cycle with early voting (not so sure about Giron, but I probably have to do more research on that).

    For more on this, a Daily Kos post is here, a Media Matters post is here, and an article from The Hill is here. I think these are the following “takeaways”:

  • As Media Matters points out, even though Morse and Giron both lost, their positions on common-sense gun laws remain hugely popular in this country.
  • As the article from The Hill tells us, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz blamed the Republican wins on “voter suppression, pure and simple” (I think that’s most of the argument, but not all of it).
  • As the Daily Kos post tells us, it’s going to be awfully hard for any Democrat to win any election where the turnout rate is 21 percent (and yes, the suppression tactics had a lot to do with that, I’ll admit; the post also tells us that, maybe next time, our side should take some money spent on TV ads and put it into a stronger “ground game” instead).
  • We know that, as the Republican Party gets pulled more and more to the right, their chances of winning the White House get exponentially harder also, a problem totally of their own making (though we can never assume anything – I thought Dubya had no chance against Al Gore in 2000, and he mostly didn’t, but we know what happened). However, the other side of that coin, as it were, is that, in perpetually energizing their base, they remain revved up for the off-year and special elections (even though Dems have won their share of the latter).

    I see a bit of that in the results from Colorado. And I definitely see that in the campaigns in my locality, including Kevin Strouse running for the U.S. House against Mikey the Beloved (here), Allyson Schwartz (assuming she’s the Dem nominee) running against Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett for PA guv (here), and John Lewis and Mark Moffa running for Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County supervisors (here).

    (Oh, and by the way, I have a request for the Strouse campaign; try writing a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed of some type for the Bucks County Courier Times introducing yourself. That rag published that editorial weeks ago saying that they didn’t trust you, or something, and I never saw a response from the campaign. And stop sending me so many Emails about John Boehner – he isn’t the PA-08 rep!).

    We know that all elections are ultimately local, and the Repugs do too. And we need more involvement in the off-year contests if we’re going to effect change for real in this country, whether it’s on any of the vital issues we face.

    I don’t want to hear anyone else ask the question “why can’t we have common-sense gun laws?,” or “why can’t we have more of a commitment in this country to clean energy?,” or “why can’t we have serious infrastructure investment and job creation.” We saw the reason why earlier this week.

    We have to have an answer for the off-year election base energy of the other side, and it doesn’t matter what election we’re talking about. Unless we do, nothing will substantially change.

    That being said, I should note that I think this is pretty cool – this, from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, is a map of everyone in this country who donated on behalf of Morse and Giron.

    There’s still much to do, but that’s a good start.


  • Saturday Mashup (5/18/13)

    May 18, 2013
  • Somebody named Michael Tanner at NRO said here recently that the young will have to subsidize the old and sick on health care reform, or something (with a typically understated right-wing headline, of course)…

    Moreover, (the national) debt might be a bit hard to pay off, since young people are having a very tough time finding a job in Obama’s economy. Overall unemployment in this country may finally be improving — albeit slowly — but unemployment among those under age 30 hovers around 13 percent, nearly twice as high as for the population at large. This is particularly damaging since research shows that workers who are unemployed as young adults lose valuable work experience and opportunities to develop skills. As a result, youth unemployment can lead to lower wages for many years even if young people do find a job. And many young people who are working are in low-paying jobs or jobs unrelated to their college degree.

    To summarize, then, according to Tanner:

  • The debt is making it harder to find jobs (uh, no).
  • Since young people cannot find work, it’s creating an “underclass” of unemployed (yes, but not for the reason Tanner is willing to admit – more here).
  • This is leading to lower wages (see above).
  • It’s almost funny to read this from Tanner without acknowledging the following, as noted here

    A revolution may be on the way for the under-30 set: Thanks to the provisions put in place under the new health care law, the days of needing a job just to get affordable health insurance may be over.

    The shift in how Americans can get health insurance, in some ways a little noticed effect of the sweeping 2010 law that will be in full force by 2014, could be particularly radical for young adults. They are uninsured at higher rates than any other age group and face a job market less likely to provide health benefits than the one their older siblings and parents entered in their 20s.

    “If you want a career that doesn’t tend to be associated with companies that provide health insurance coverage, you’ll have more options,” said Sara Collins, the vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund. “It frees people’s work-life decisions.”

    The model of employer-based health care arose from the days after World War II when there was a huge quantity of good-paying jobs to be filled, but a comparatively small domestic labor pool, and employers believed they had to provide health care through work to attract good employees. Does anyone seriously think those days will ever return? Also, this tells us that naysaying about premiums going up for the young are “overblown” because of cost-control mechanisms built into the law.

    Continuing from Tanner…

    Even HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius admits that “some of the older customers may see a slight decline, and some of the younger ones are going to see a slight increase.” Or, not so slight. According to a survey by the American Action Forum, healthy young people in the individual or small-group insurance markets can look forward to rate increases averaging 169 percent.

    By the way, I should note that the American Action Forum (hmmm, smell the AstroTurf, people!) was founded by former John McCain confidant Douglas Holtz-Eakin, along with former Repug U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (remember how long the recount lasted in the election where he lost to Al Franken?) and former Nixonite Fred Malek, among other Repug “heavy hitters.”

    For the record, here is some more realistic information on likely premium increases under health care reform (and as noted here, Tanner is no stranger to propagandizing on this subject).

  • Next, it’s time for the latest pearls of wisdom from Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) columnist Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal (here).

    In wording that I cannot obtain now verbatim because this latest dreck from Stephens went behind Rupert’s pay wall (heh) faster than I could retrieve all of it, Stephens blames Obama for the deterioration of the Congo. As noted here, though, you can just add that to the massive legacy of problems that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History handed off to Number 44 (and I honestly don’t recall EVER seeing a corporate media compendium of the whole sorry list of “parking lot” items that Former President Nutball swept under the proverbial rug…if roles had been reversed, we’d be hearing about them forever).

    Continuing (I managed to get a couple of excerpts anyway)…

    Yet barring fresh blockbuster revelations the scandal will go nowhere, because so many Americans are as eager as the White House spokesman to forget it ever happened.

    WAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI!!!!!

    Oh, boo-f*cking-hoo, Bret. Sorry that the “99 percent” rabble is blowing off another Repug media circus (and you along with it, I guess) and concentrating on “dumb” stuff instead like our economy, our environment including our planet that continues to melt, national security issues for real, etc.

    Nope, it didn’t work for Stephens, and I don’t think it’s going to work for anyone else either (here).

    Continuing…

    America alone, it seems, suffers the opposite affliction: We remember little, and we remember it poorly. “Does America Need a Foreign Policy?” The question seems odd only because not many people besides Henry Kissinger, nearly 90, can recall that the U.S. has attempted to do without one before—and recall also how the previous attempt ended in September of 1939.

    That’s actually kind of an unintentionally hilarious comment when you consider that FDR was doing his best to help Winston Churchill and Great Britain, but his hands were tied by neutrality laws passed by Republicans and southern-state Democrats in Congress (Roosevelt signed them reluctantly because he needed the support of these people for his domestic agenda, though he did manage to aid Great Britain before December 7, 1941).

    And besides, based on this fairly scholarly takedown of Stephens, it looks like the august Journal pundit misinterpreted Kissinger anyway; though Nixon’s foreign policy guru was one of the most notorious liars in history as far as I’m concerned, he at least knew the limits of American hegemony, something that utterly escapes a triumphalist wingnut like Stephens.

  • Further, did you know that Dem U.S. House Rep Allyson Schwartz would be just an awful candidate to run against PA Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett because ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!!!! (here)…

    For over a decade, Schwartz was the executive director of an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, the Elizabeth Blackwell Women’s Health Center. Under her direction, the clinic — which is now run by Planned Parenthood — provided first-trimester abortions, as evidenced by a lawsuit it was a party to in 1995.

    This matters because the governor of Pennsylvania has the power to enforce — or not enforce — abortion regulations. One of Corbett’s predecessors, the pro-choice Republican Tom Ridge, didn’t enforce laws mandating abortion clinic inspections. That’s part of the reason Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was able to get away with killing as many as several hundred babies that had survived late-term abortions. (This week, Gosnell was convicted of murdering three newborn infants. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter of one patient.) Inspections would have stopped Gosnell and his staff in their tracks, but the facility avoided inspection for 17 years!

    This is the real “war on women.”

    Fortunately, Governor Corbett signed into law abortion clinic regulations in the wake of the grand jury report on Gosnell’s crimes.

    Um, there’s just a teensy weensy bit of an omission here, and that is the fact that the horrors of Gosnell’s clinic were discovered when former PA Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, quite rightly decided to enforce abortion clinic inspections once more in 2010, as noted here.

    In response, I thought this was a pretty detailed post on Congresswoman Schwartz, and what she brings to the table against Corbett. And given the fact that Admiral Joe Sestak has said that he’ll start gearing up for a rematch with Pat Toomey here (which will be a bit more daunting with Toomey’s commendable recent actions on guns, even though he’s utterly awful on everything else – and that “poison pill” in Toomey-Manchin on a federal gun registry is utterly ridiculous)…well, we’ll see if that ends up clearing more of a path for Schwartz to the nomination.

    So who is it in The Daily Tucker who is primarily criticizing Schwartz anyway? “Pro-life” activists Marjorie Dannenfelser and Mike Geer, that’s who.

    I can’t find much on Geer, but as noted here, this tells us that Dannenfelser claimed “victory” on a supposed social issues truce within the Repug Party (meaning, I guess among other things, that her brethren can now go back to caterwauling about “values” pabulum for the other lemmings under the Repug “brand” – this development apparently had something to do with Indiana Repug Governor and former Bushie Mitch Daniels deciding not to run for president in 2012, though Daniels is definitely not a moderate by any means).

    And like a good little wingnut, Dannenfelser twisted herself in metaphorical knots trying to defend the odious Blunt Amendment here (sponsored by the guy responsible for this) in which the Missouri Repug U.S. Senator tried to “grant employers significant discretion in deciding what kind of health care they want to provide workers” (translated, that means employers could refuse to provide coverage for anything whatsoever to do with those dreaded, icky lady parts). And on top of that, Dannenfelser claimed here that Planned Parenthood made $300 million in “profit,” which, in a lucid moment for them, was properly debunked by Politifact (not the same thing as excess revenue over expenses, as pointed out by people who actually know what they’re talking about).

    I realize that I didn’t point out earlier that it is sickeningly disingenuous for The Daily Tucker to try and conflate anything Allyson Schwartz did while running the Elizabeth Blackwell Women’s Health Center with Kermit Gosnell’s chamber of horrors. So please allow me to do so now.

  • Also, it looks like our wet noodle PA-08 rep has been getting a lot of “love” lately from the No Labels crowd, with recent hosannas from the Bucks County Courier Times as well as this item from philly.com…

    Too often, people focus on our differences instead of what brings us together. Yet, despite what we all hear, common ground does exist among lawmakers from opposing parties.

    Although one of us is a Democrat and the other a Republican, we both believe that things can and should get done in Washington. Our constituents sent us to our nation’s capital not to position and posture, but to use common sense and compromise to move our country forward.

    This is why we joined the bipartisan group called No Labels, and are identified with the Problem Solvers caucus. We surely don’t agree on every issue, but we are united in the desire to put partisanship aside and find common ground. There are plenty of areas that we can find to achieve results for the people we represent.

    Oh, by the way, “moderate” Mikey votes with his U.S. House “leadership” about 79 percent of the time (gag me). And Mikey’s new “BFF” Cheri Bustos was rated the 182nd most progressive member of Congress (hmmm); both of those items among others are noted here.

    As far as I’m concerned, though, “No Labels” is another one of these fraud “centrist” groups trying to be bipartisan when, in fact, they’re pretty much bygone-centrist-era Republicans, if that. This tells us that one of their big ideas was “bipartisan seating arrangements” in Congress (really?), and this from Alex Pareene of Salon tells us that another one of their “big ideas” is “No Budget, No Pay” (Again, really? How about “No Passing President Obama’s American Jobs Act And Waging War On Public Sector Employees, To Say Nothing of Climate Change Denial, No Pay” instead? And sorry that’s too big and not catchy enough to fit on a bumper sticker.).

  • Finally (and keeping it local for Bucks County, Lower Makefield in particular), I have a feeling that this will be my last opportunity to comment on the primary election this Tuesday in which Deb Wachspress and Josh Waldorf are running for the Democratic Party nomination to compete in the general election this fall for the Pennsbury School Board. So it’s particularly important that folks in the Pennsbury School District go out and support Deb and Josh on Tuesday.

    Campbell_518c6b248a212_preview-300
    Because every vote for Deb and Josh is a vote against this guy.


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