Friday Mashup (2/7/14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The answer is, obviously, political.

    Obviously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Proof? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

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

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

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

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

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As noted here from 2011…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As noted here

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Wednesday Mashup (6/26/13)

    June 26, 2013

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

    As Think Progress points out here

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

    More on this sorry development is here.

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

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

    Really? From here

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

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

    And in Alabama (here)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Heckuva job, conservatives!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And as noted from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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