Wednesday Mashup (11/21/12)

November 22, 2012

  • Yep, Thanksgiving will soon be upon us; one way to tell is that the Bucks County Courier Times ran its full-page ad for the Surplus City Gun Mart (well whaddaya know…a Yugo Zastava AK-47 PAP M70 is on sale for $675! Now here comes another angry comment thread started by a gun owner pissed off at me for not saying whether or not it was a full or semi-automatic).
  • Continuing, it looks like the punditocracy is still licking its collective wounds over the Repug election losses suffered two weeks ago – Ross Douthat opined as follows in the New York Times recently (here)…

    Liberals look at the Obama majority and see a coalition bound together by enlightened values — reason rather than superstition, tolerance rather than bigotry, equality rather than hierarchy. But it’s just as easy to see a coalition created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear.

    Consider the Hispanic vote. Are Democrats winning Hispanics because they put forward a more welcoming face than Republicans do — one more in keeping with America’s tradition of assimilating migrants yearning to breathe free? Yes, up to a point. But they’re also winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.

    Yes, you only need government if you’re “assimilating downward,” according to Douthat.

    Apparently it’s necessary for me to point out that one of our major political parties subjected this country earlier this year to all kinds of fear mongering about the supposed horrors of contraception (and I’ll note that again later), which would definitely help to reduce teen pregnancy (here – sorry to re-inflict “Little Ricky” on everybody again), and that same political party did all it could do to oppose the DREAM Act, which would encourage educational opportunity for Hispanics born of undocumented workers as a condition of citizenship (with the “E” in DREAM standing for “education” – hard to believe that Orrin Hatch was a co-sponsor of the original bill introduced in 2001 with Dick Durbin). And here’s a hint; that party isn’t the Democrats.

    I suppose it’s just “the soft bigotry of low expectations” for Douthat to assume that the only way Hispanics would support the Dems would be if they were getting a handout, but apparently that’s what we have here (with that awful phrase coined by Douthat’s fellow traveler and Bushie Michael Gerson, who, if nothing else, saw the need to reach out to Hispanics for real, albeit for political expediency, in a way Douthat apparently does not).

  • Next, I give you some true hilarity from Michael Barone of Irrational Spew Online (here)…

    Barack Obama attended more than 200 fundraisers for his presidential campaign, but he refrained from raising money for congressional Democrats.

    That proved to be a wise move for him, as were his strategists’ decisions to run heavy ad campaigns against Mitt Romney and to build an even more effective turnout machine in target states.

    But it proved to be less than helpful to his party. Democrats did gain two Senate seats thanks to clueless Republican candidates and Republicans’ failure to produce better turnout.

    But Democrats got beaten badly in races for the U.S. House and state legislatures. That’s clear when you compare the number of House Democrats after this year’s election with the number of House Democrats after 2008.

    In response, allow me to add this, which tells us that the U.S. House Repugs lost eight seats and the Dems picked up eight seats from 2010 until now (incremental progress to be sure, but progress all the same).

    Also, I’ve read some of my lefty brethren, including the folks doing God’s work at Think Progress, decrying the fact that the Repugs gerrymandered congressional districts to favor their party’s incumbents (and as noted here, when you look at net vote totals, the Dems were chosen more than the Repugs, though not by much). I have no doubt that the gerrymandering charge is true, but the Dems aren’t completely innocent on this either, since, as nearly as I can tell, that’s what happened to the gone-and-definitely-not-missed Repug U.S. House Rep Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland (I’m not going to tell you the Dems are perfect, just that the Repugs are better at seizing power and holding onto it by any means necessary).

  • Continuing, Jon Meacham of Time tells us the following; namely, that Number 44 should try to imitate Number 3’s second term (here)…

    At his core, from year to year and age to age, Thomas Jefferson was a politician who sought office and, once in office, tried to solve the problems of his day and set a course for the future within the constraints of his time and place. That he often did so with skill and effectiveness is a tribute to his life and is, I think, the heart of his legacy.

    Far be it for me to criticize a towering intellect like Jefferson, but I will only note the following from here; namely, that Jefferson’s second term wasn’t particularly “ducky.” The biggest thing he did wrong was to try and institute an embargo in an effort to remain neutral in France’s war with Great Britain; the embargo failed, severely hurting the commerce of the northeast states, and by basically entering the Napoleonic Wars on the anti-British side, Jefferson’s actions paved the way to our involvement in the War of 1812.

    Every president in my experience who is elected to a second term faces some kind of travail, either of his own making or not. And believe me when I tell you that I don’t wish that on President Obama, since he has already inherited enough trouble without having to create any more.

  • Further, there are some on my ideological side who have quite rightly taken Charles Lane of the WaPo to task, but I’ve more or less given him a pass. That is, until now; here, he basically says that the income tax deduction for state and local taxes should be eliminated because it benefits “blue” states that “need to live within their means” (see, they have “their expensive urban school systems, bloated pension liabilities and all” – with “urban” being a code for those oh-so-bad Obama voters who “want stuff”).

    Of course, Lane doesn’t even take into account that, regardless of what happens with the budget and the Beltway “fiscal cliff” kabuki, “blue” states will end up paying most of the bill anyway (here). Also, here is an example of “red state socialism” that doesn’t do anything to help our finances either (and Lane, imagining himself as a supposed fiscal guru here, once claimed that cutting the minimum wage was a supposed means to stimulate job growth.

    (I’ll tell you what – I’ll just let Atrios, using that Twitter thingie, have the last word here.)

  • Finally, this Jim Treacher idiot over at The Daily Tucker tells us the following (here)…

    When last we heard from Sandra Fluke, she had parlayed the worldwide fame she earned by being insulted by Rush Limbaugh into a spot on the Obama campaign. Her public appearances have been very successful, with attendance numbers sometimes breaking double digits.

    I was going to try and paraphrase Treacher some more, but I’m not going to bother; putting it as simply as I can, he is criticizing Fluke for her claim that an unintended pregnancy can be a barrier to a career or educational opportunity (which, as noted here, ties into a Guttemacher Institute study that claims the very same thing).

    (Also, though I’m sure Treacher and his fellow wingnuts don’t care, I’m going to provide this link anyway, telling us that the U.N. has declared that contraception is a “human right.”)

    Beyond that, let’s not forget how Fluke ended up in the spotlight; as noted below from here

    Fluke, then a 30-year-old law student at Georgetown, was invited by Democrats to speak at a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the new Administration rules on Conscience Clause exceptions in health care.[20] The exception applies to church organizations themselves, but not to affiliated nonprofit corporations, like hospitals, that do not rely primarily on members of the faith as employees.[21] In addition, another exception was created for religious institutions in which an employee can seek birth control directly from the insurance company instead of the religious-based nonprofit.[22] Democrats requested the committee add Sandra Fluke to the first panel, which was composed of clergy and theologians. Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-California) refused, stating that Fluke lacked expertise, was not a member of the clergy, and her name was not submitted in time.[20][23] Democratic members criticized the decision not to include Fluke since it left that panel with only male members,[24] when the hearing covered contraception coverage.[25]

    So basically, if the Repugs had allowed Fluke to speak at the hearing instead of engaging in a typical hissy fit, then that probably would have been the end of it. But no.

    When I worked on the phones for President Obama and the Democrats a couple of days before the election, I had the opportunity to meet Sandra Fluke; she and Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood stopped by. It was hard for me to recall a more unassuming individual; if anything, she was effusive in her praise of our efforts and tried to downplay her own accomplishments. I made sure to thank her for standing up to Rush Limbaugh and the other blowhards on the right on the contraception issue, and if anything, she was embarrassed by my compliment.

    I started this post writing about Ross Douthat and his column about the Dems and Hispanics. And yes, it’s true that Republican alienation of this very powerful voting bloc had a lot to do with their losses on November 6th.

    But make no mistake that this bunch also lost because of their shameful, despicable words and actions to a hell of a lot of women in this country. And the Sandra Fluke case is Exhibit A on that sorry score.

    And if the Repugs choose to learn absolutely nothing and repeat their grotesque actions two years from now, then they will entirely deserve the electoral losses they will inevitably suffer once again.


  • Wednesday Mashup (12/23/09)

    December 23, 2009

  • 1) The following letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday…

    It hasn’t taken the local Republican smear campaign long to get into high gear. State Rep. Steve Santarsiero has not been in office a full year, but already they’re trying to tear him down. As usual, they have shown themselves to be unconstrained by the facts.

    The latest attack comes from Andy Raffle, the campaign manager of a Republican candidate running against Santarsiero. Raffle claimed, incorrectly, that Santarsiero only takes positions supported by the teachers and trade unions. Raffle is wrong.

    Steve Santarsiero supports an approach to teacher-school district contract impasses that would require each side to submit last best offers to a judge who would then choose one of them at the end of a short cooling off period. The judge’s decision would be binding. But the likelihood is that the judge would never need to decide, since the threat of an adverse decision would be a strong incentive for both sides to reach a fair agreement that would avoid any work stoppage and end the impasse.

    Raffle claims the teachers union supports this idea. It does not, nor do most school boards, which suggest to me that it just might be the fairest approach. Raffle also claims the idea is unconstitutional and would require a constitutional amendment. In my view, he’s wrong again.

    There’s nothing in the constitution that prevents the Legislature from giving the courts this power. To the contrary, the constitution explicitly grants the Legislature the power to determine the court’s jurisdiction. As far as other unions are concerned, Raffle ignores the fact that Santarsiero’s opposition to the proposed Frankford Hospital project does not please area trade unions. Those unions understandably want jobs, especially in these tough times. Santarsiero is sympathetic to those concerns but does not believe that the short term benefits of that work outweigh the long-term impact of a bad idea for our community.

    I believe that most people acknowledge what a good job Santarsiero is doing on behalf of the people of the Yardley-Newtown area. Whether it’s bringing reform to Harrisburg or helping people back home, in less than a year in office, Steve has already made a significant difference.
    No wonder Raffle and his cohorts feel that their only chance is to sling mud. So be it. In the end, the truth will win out.

    Joe Sundeen
    Lower Makefield, PA

    I’m not going to get into all of the wingnuttia in the comment thread to Sundeen’s letter (“in the pocket of the unions” this, “bought into the global warming myth” that, and as always…”ACORN!!”). If anyone chooses to read any of that mess themselves, feel free to do so (and to contact Steve, click here).

  • 2) And speaking of teachers (Steve’s former occupation), I happened to come across the following AEI nonsense here (and I have no clue who the author or Nick Schulz is, by the way)…

    Last week, Nick Schulz asked an interesting question about school districts’ responses to the recession—specifically whether any have decided to cut pay (due to deteriorating budgets) instead of furloughing or laying off staff.

    From what I’ve seen, the answer is not so much. A big part of the explanation is collective bargaining agreements. In order to cut pay, most districts would need to go back to the bargaining table and get their local unions to agree to pay concessions. That hasn’t happened to the extent I expected. One quite stark example comes from Connecticut. The Republican-American newspaper (of Waterbury), quoted the head of the state’s teacher union saying that teachers aren’t responsible for budget troubles, so they shouldn’t be expected to fix them.

    And of course, reading this, you would think that teachers as a whole have emerged pretty much unscathed during the recession due to those baaad collective bargaining agreements.

    The reality, however, is something wholly other; as noted here…

    Bankers, lawyers and journalists have taken pay cuts and gone without raises to stay employed in a tough economy. Now similar givebacks are spreading to education, an industry once deemed to be recession-proof.
    All 95 teachers and five administrators in the Tuckahoe school district in Westchester County agreed to give $1,000 each to next year’s school budget to keep the area’s tax increase below 3 percent. In the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow district, 80 percent of the 500 school employees — including teachers, clerks, custodians and bus drivers — have pledged more than $150,000 from their own pockets to help close a $300,000 budget gap.

    And on Long Island, the 733 teachers in the William Floyd district in Mastic Beach decided to collectively give up $1 million in salary increases next year to help restore 19 teaching positions that were to be eliminated.

    New York State’s powerful teachers’ unions have rarely agreed to reopen contract negotiations in bad economic times, let alone make concessions. But as many school districts presented flat budgets to voters in recent weeks, teachers in at least a dozen suburban areas have opened the door to compromise to save jobs, preserve programs and smaller class sizes, and show support for the towns and villages where many of them have taught generations of families.

    And lest anyone think these troubles are confined to the Empire State, this tells us of teacher positions slashed in the South, this tells us that fewer Florida teachers are seeking board certification due to the economy, and this tells us of a dimming job outlook for teachers in Bozeman, Montana.

    There is good news here, though, in that there appears to be no collective bargaining agreement for right-wing pundits, so these generic AEI wingnuts will have to fend for themselves if either their funding and/or site hit count experiences a significant decline.

  • 3) And finally, concerning a wholly other matter, fellow blogger Antemedius tells us the following here (some appropriate commentary concerning recent “corpocrat” capitulation in Congress, particularly in the matter of health care reform)…

    My concern is with those who can’t keep beating their heads against a brick wall are dropping away in disgust, a disgust I share, by the way, and who would indeed be abandoning the field. My wife and I have filled out our passport applications. What’s needed is a plan for the decent activists who’ve plugged away for years, who’ve haven’t shared the joys of being a party insider.. We can’t just call for nose to the grindstone, stiff upper lip, take (another) one for the team. We need to give them something that they can do that is not contingent on the higher-ups leading it, funding it, legitimizing it.

    We need to give them a stick.

    Thus the Full Court Press.

    The plan:

    The basic concept is simple and flexible. The Committee for a Full Court Press (FCP) (I just made up the name) would agree on the following principles [slightly modified from an 8-principle list]:

  • WPA-style jobs program
  • Medicare for all the uninsured
  • Repeal Hyde Amendment and its ilk
  • U.S. out of Afghanistan
  • The 4 points are offered as a suggestion, and would be decided upon by those initially forming the FCP based upon activist feedback. But once approved, they would ultimately not be negotiable at the local level.

    The bottom line is to have at least one FCP candidate on the primary ballot in every district.

    The FCP activist would pay the required filing fee or gather required signatures or combination thereof to get on the primary ballot. While any FCP candidate could run a full-fledged campaign with the intent to win the seat, a minimal candidate could:

  • Ask the other candidates if they will actively support the FCP points and say so in writing.
  • If they sign, the FCP candidate could simply endorse that candidate, or the best of those candidates (if such is the case) and campaign actively for their endorsee or not as the FCP candidate sees fit.
  • If that candidate betrays the points, the FCP candidate would have the option of campaigning more aggressively.
  • If no other candidate supports the FCP points, the FCP candidate could, at a minimum, talk to the local press and/or appear at candidate nights if any group sponsors them.
  • Nothing in the plan precludes running a full-blast campaign to win. It’s just not contingent on that.

    Tactically, that’s it. That’s the plan. This requires some money and some effort, and ballot requirements vary from state to state, but is within practical range. The main requirement after getting on the primary ballot is a willingness to make some phone calls and show up. If the FCP candidate wanted to do more and could do more, that would be excellent. But not required.

    Such is the stuff of change for real – let’s all do what we can to make it happen.


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