Friday Mashup (11/30/12)

December 1, 2012
  • To begin, let’s take on the “crazy” right away with Joseph Curl of the formerly Moonie Times (here – a little behind on some of this stuff, I’ll admit)…

    Sure, the president got his minions to drop the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent a couple months before the election (“See? It IS getting better!”). But bam, just like you can be sure that the one relative who drives you nuts will absolutely make it to your house for the holidays, new jobless claims skyrocketed right after Nov. 6, jumping to 439,000 — up 78,000 from the week before the election.

    Oh yes, that Kenyan Muslim socialist pre-zee-zint cooked the unemployment numbers to win the election. Horrors!

    I thought this was a good response to the Ohio/Pennsylvania thing; namely, the state unemployment numbers are a week behind the federal numbers, and the state numbers in question weren’t released until November 10th – the federal Sandy-influenced numbers were released on November 3rd, with New Jersey being the 3rd-highest state in unemployment behind Ohio and PA…a fortuitous break for Obama to be sure, but definitely not an “OMIGOD ANOTHER SCARY MUSLIM BLACK MAN CONSPIRACY!!!” (what matters is whether or not the numbers turn out to be a trend or an aberration, and how much the numbers are attributed to OMIGOD THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF!!!).

    With all of this in mind, Joe Nocera defends the Bureau of Labor Statistics here against the charge (made by Jack Welch and other greed heads) that Obama cooked the numbers (and I thought this was a good response also, with the trend lines providing the key details).

  • Next, this life form at clownhall.com tells us of the supposed “job killing” FDA-required menu labeling guidelines for calories stipulated in Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act (which allegedly requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, including franchises and perhaps some grocery stores, to post calorie information for all products on in-store menu boards).

    I’m not exactly sure how this could be deemed as an issue, since, as noted here, the FDA withdrew food menu guidelines as of January 2011.

  • Continuing, this article from the Murdoch Street Journal tells us the following…

    The former chief executive of Massey Energy Co. said in a rare interview that he has no immediate plans to return to the coal-mining business after a noncompete agreement expires at the end of the year.

    (Don) Blankenship has started a personal website and began posting again on Twitter.

    A controversial figure in the coal industry and West Virginia politics, (Blankenship) has largely kept himself out of the spotlight since retiring from Massey in December 2010, eight months after an explosion—the industry’s worst in 40 years—killed 29 workers at the company’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va.

    In recent weeks, the 62-year-old Mr. Blankenship has launched a red-white-and-blue-themed personal website and began posting again on Twitter, raising speculation that he might be preparing to launch a business venture or even a political campaign.

    Well well now, isn’t that interesting? Imagine the utter nightmare of a Senator Don Blankenship, people.

    In response, there’s a ton of garbage here on Blankenship, including telling us that he considers the science on climate change to be “humorous” (not surprising, given that Blankenship made his fortune in coal) and that mountaintop removal for coal mining is “small afterdamage”; we also learn that Massey disabled the mine methane monitors before the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners, so that the miners could “continue to run coal.”

    And speaking of the disaster, Massey under Blankenship also denied time off to the friends of the victims working at the mines so they could go to the funerals (nice).

    Gosh, the campaign slogan just about writes itself, doesn’t it? Vote for Don Blankenship To Risk An Unnatural Death While The Planet Slowly Suffocates.

    I’ll bet the Teahadists are already planning campaign rallies.

  • Finally, fresh off his victory over Dem Kathy Boockvar in the election a few weeks ago, I give you the following involving our wet noodle Repug PA-08 U.S. House rep (here)…

    Just two days after the November election, members of progressive groups filed into Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s office and called on him to oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of any budget deal.
    On Black Friday, as shoppers lined up at Oxford Valley Mall, many likely saw a 30-foot banner at the Woodbourne Road I-95 overpass, compliments of Pennsylvania Working Families that stated, “Tell Rep. Fitzpatrick: Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts.”

    In the meantime, large labor unions took out radio ads targeting Fitzpatrick and fellow Republican Pat Meehan to renew middle class tax breaks.

    Election? What election?

    Oh, I’m sorry – I forgot to point out that this column was written by Mikey’s designated stenographer Gary Weckselblatt (who apparently believes, like a typical Repug, that election losers ought to sit down and shut up, since their opinion no longer matters, as if it ever did to begin with…oh, and speaking of “what election?,” I give you this).

    Continuing…

    (Fitzpatrick) said Obama’s plan to raise rates on the wealthy “presents American families with false choices that lead to more economic stagnation.”

    He called for a “grand bargain” that resolves not only the expiring tax rates but a fix to avoid the Medicare physician payment cuts and the looming debt ceiling.

    “I will vote for a plan which is bipartisan in nature that does not cost jobs,” he said. “My district demands we consider all the options, and to earn my vote any deal presented to Congress must present a vision for putting middle income families back on the path for stability and prosperity. And it must not cost jobs.”

    Earlier this year, the Senate voted to extend tax breaks for all but the top wage earners. The House voted to keep the rates for all.

    Asked if at the deadline he would support a version of the Senate plan to protect a potential hit to the middle class, Fitzpatrick said “call me then … you’re asking me a theoretical question.”

    What a profile in courage, my fellow prisoners.

    In response, 350 economists called for investment in jobs instead of “austerity” (which Mikey is basically calling for more of) here (including passage of the American Jobs Act, which continues to gather dust due to inaction from Mikey and his Repug pals in the House). And this is actually better evidence than the prior link that raising the top marginal rate would help job growth, not hurt it.

    And in a related story, as they say (concerning the “A” word), Pastor Gerson pontificates as follows here

    America is entering a period of prolonged austerity. The entitlement commitments made by past generations have been rendered untenable by demographics and health cost inflation. The problem is no one’s particular fault…

    Pardon me while I gag.

    For the reality point of view in response, former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett tells us the following here

    Because of the large deficits Mr. Bush bequeathed Mr. Obama – on Jan. 8, 2009, the C.B.O. projected a deficit for the year of $1.3 trillion that didn’t include any Obama policies – Congress was deeply reluctant to enact a stimulus larger than $787 billion, even though President Obama’s economic advisers thought that one at least twice as large was necessary to turn the economy around. The opposition of every Republican to the 2009 stimulus was a major factor in its inadequate size.

    By way of analogy, suppose you go to your doctor with an illness. He correctly diagnoses it and prescribes the right medicine, but for some reason you are given a dosage only half as large as required. The medicine was enough to improve your condition, but not enough to cure you. You remain sick although you feel better and will remain so until you finally get a full dosage of the proper medicine or your body is able to cure itself, which might take years.
    Note that in this analogy the medicine was properly prescribed; only the dosage was wrong. It would be incorrect to blame the medicine because you are still sick.

    The Republican economists nevertheless blame the medicine itself for the failure of the economy to respond to President Obama’s prescription.

    But it was Republican policies during the Bush administration that brought on the sickness and Republicans in Congress who have denied the economy an adequate dosage of the cure. Now they want to implicitly blame President Obama for causing the recession and the failure of stimulus to fix the problem, asserting that fiscal stimulus is per se ineffective.

    There is a word for this: chutzpah.

    I can think of some words myself, but I really do endeavor to keep this a profanity-free zone, so I’ll just let that go for now (and this tells us that the development by “no one’s particular fault,” according to Gerson, is hammering state economies). And for good measure, Professor Krugman chimes in as follows from here

    …the economic doctrine that demands austerity also rationalizes social injustice and cruelty more broadly, and how this recommends it to authority, rings especially true.

    We might add an insight from another 20th-century economist, Michal Kalecki, who wrote a penetrating 1943 essay on the importance to business leaders of the appeal to “confidence.” As long as there are no routes back to full employment except that of somehow restoring business confidence, he pointed out, business lobbies in effect have veto power over government actions: propose doing anything they dislike, such as raising taxes or enhancing workers’ bargaining power, and they can issue dire warnings that this will reduce confidence and plunge the nation into depression. But let monetary and fiscal policy be deployed to fight unemployment, and suddenly business confidence becomes less necessary, and the need to cater to capitalists’ concerns is much reduced.

    And Gerson actually has the utterly contemptible gall to use the words “austerity” and “morality” in the same sentence of his WaPo screed.

    By the way (returning to Mikey), I’m still waiting for The Treason-Alleging Liar to renounce his “no new taxes” pledge to Grover Norquist, who, last I checked, did not reside in Fitzpatrick’s congressional district (maybe Mikey could be spurred on by some of his Repug playmates who’ve found a collective spine on this issue, as noted here).

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    Monday Mashup Part One (10/18/10)

    October 18, 2010

    (Caught a bit of a break with posting today…)

  • 1) The Hill brought us the following item today, including this excerpt…

    Democratic leaders in the House and Senate alleging GOP groups have funneled foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.

    House and Senate Democrats have received about $1.02 million this cycle from such PACs, according to an analysis compiled for The Hill by the Center for Responsive Politics. House and Senate GOP leaders have taken almost $510,000 from PACs on the same list.

    Oh brother – I just knew at some point we were going to get a “story” along the lines of “nyaah, nyaah, both sides are using foreign money in campaigns, so there.”

    Fortunately, Media Matters brings us the reality point of view here (h/t Atrios)…

    See the obvious dots that The Hill is trying to connect? It’s trying to suggest because Democrats have accused GOP-friendly attack groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, of possibly using money foreign donations (sic) to help influence U.S. elections in the form of paying for relentless attacks ads targeting Democrats, that there’s some double standard in play because Democrats have cashed checks from “foreign-affiliated” PACs.

    But of course there’s no comparison between the two. None.

    The questions that continue to swirl around the Chamber revolve around unknown donors who may live in foreign countries giving undisclosed amounts.

    You know what this is starting to remind me of?

    Remember when the Jack Abramoff scandal broke and it was a major you-know-what storm for the Repugs? And then all of a sudden, stories started coming out to the effect of, “yeah, well, Democrats accepted donations from Abramoff clients,” as if that was supposed to even everything up (of course Abramoff’s clients were innocent, but no matter)? And then we kept hearing “well, Abramoff donated to Democrats too, but that just hasn’t come out yet” (and it never did, by the way)?

    Yeah, this whole faux equivalency thing is starting to remind me of that.

  • Update 10/19/10: And speaking of the Chamber, I’m sure this has been going on for years, but kudos to Think Progress for highlighting it now.

  • 2) Also, in light of the miraculous rescue of the 33 Chilean miners last week, this story tells us that mine safety has actually improved across the globe…

    Hopefully no one ever again has to do anything like this,” said Alonso Contreras, a cousin of (rescued miner Carlos) Barrios. “Never again.”

    That’s the sentiment of mine safety experts worldwide who are hoping that the saga will become a lesson for the mining industry, in Chile, the region, and the rest of the world.

    This rescue effort is believed to be the deepest ever and the survivors have been underground longer than anyone who has made it out alive. It’s also one of the most advanced of its kind, and it could help other countries and firms increase their standards moving forward, but first an analysis of what exactly went wrong will need to be undertaken, says Keith Slack, Senior Policy Advisor and Campaign Manager for Extractive Industries at Oxfam America.

    “The situation illustrates the need for stronger regulations and enforcement of existing regulations in the mining sector across Latin America” and the globe, says Mr. Slack.

    In this country, though, the New York Times informed us of the following last spring (here)…

    MONTCOAL, W.Va. — Rescue workers began the precarious task Tuesday of removing explosive methane gas from the coal mine where at least 25 miners died the day before. The mine owner’s dismal safety record, along with several recent evacuations of the mine, left federal officials and miners suggesting that Monday’s explosion might have been preventable.

    In the past two months, miners had been evacuated three times from the Upper Big Branch because of dangerously high methane levels, according to two miners who asked for anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. Representative Nick J. Rahall II, a Democrat whose district includes the mine, said he had received similar reports from miners about recent evacuations at the mine, which as recently as last month was fined at least three times for ventilation problems, according to federal records.

    The Massey Energy Company, the biggest coal mining business in central Appalachia and the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine, has drawn sharp scrutiny and fines from regulators over its safety and environmental record.

    And as noted here, it looks like Massey owner Don Blankenship is going to get a “pass” from the more-appalling-by-the-day Gov. (and Dem Senate candidate) Joe Manchin, who apparently is too busy trying to shoot holes in Democratic-sponsored legislation to do anything about it (and don’t get me started on Manchin’s Repug opponent John Raese, who is too busy at the moment trying to pronounce the names of public figures to care also).

    Of course, instead of ridiculous campaign photo-ops, Manchin could travel to Chile to find out what they did to save their people that we couldn’t do (or at least, he could make an arrangement to do that after November 2nd).

    If I ruled the world…

  • 3) Finally, John Harwood of the Times informed us of the following today (here, about the oh-so-untidy partisanship on display as yet another campaign season winds down to a finish)…

    Across the country, Democrats are scrambling to deflect voters’ unhappiness with the party in power over the sputtering economy. In many cases, that is producing a counterattack of striking ferocity.

    Sometimes that ferocity takes the form of discrediting their rivals’ backgrounds, as in a release by the House Democratic Campaign Committee late last week titled “Breaking News: Allen West (FL-22) Tied to Criminal Organization.” (The campaign of Mr. West, who is challenging Representative Ron Klein of Florida, the Democratic incumbent, said he had no ties to the organization in question, a motorcycle group.)

    Other times it involves linking their opponents’ policy agendas to objects of their constituents’ fear (China’s economic might) or loathing (Wall Street executives). In Michigan, an ad for Representative Mark Schauer, a Democrat, accuses his Republican opponent, Tim Wahlberg, of helping businesses outsource jobs to China during his earlier service in the House. Mr. Wahlberg called the ad “deceptive.”

    Yeah, well, it’s a funny thing about West – the story was also reported by NBC (and Talking Points Memo) here, in addition to the House Democratic Campaign Committee; it tells us the following…

    West has also invited the Outlaws to participate in a campaign bike ride, and asked them to provide him with protection at one event. When asked to distance himself from the Outlaws by one Republican operative, West refused and instead came to the group’s defense.

    And of course West is going to deny the story, by the way.

    As for Tim Wahlberg, he called the ad of his Dem opponent Mark Schauer “deceptive,” but didn’t say it was wrong – as noted here…

    JACKSON – Today the pro-outsourcing group “Americans for Prosperity” launched a $260,000 smear campaign against Congressman Mark Schauer (D-MI) with misleading TV ads that aim to distort Schauer’s record of fighting for Michigan families and businesses.

    “This shadowy group was founded by a billionaire CEO whose company actually won an award for outsourcing American jobs to China,” said Zack Pohl, spokesman for Schauer’s campaign. “Since Tim Walberg has pledged to defend tax loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas, it’s no surprise that his special interest allies are willing to spend whatever it takes to buy this election. Mark Schauer doesn’t work for the special interests – he’s fighting to help our businesses create jobs here, not in China.”

    And by the way, the “billionaire CEO” behind “Americans for Prosperity” is a certain David Koch, who, as noted here, has been spreading his money all over the place this election season on behalf of Repugs, having been freed to do so with impunity by the horrific Citizens United decision from Hangin’ Judge JR and The Supremes.

    I know our corporate media has been pretty much yawning over the story about the Chamber of Commerce quite probably using foreign funds in its political advertising against Dems, as well as the horrific influence of the Koch brothers and their fellow travelers, but I’m still shocked that Harwood managed to miss all of this.

    Maybe he’s been taking hallucinogenic drugs or something.

  • Update 10/19/10: Very much in heroic fashion, Think Progress continues to “connect the dots” the way Harwood and the rest of our corporate media absolutely will not here.


    Pat Toomey, Friend Of The Working Man (And Woman)

    April 27, 2010

    (And I assure you that I’m being ironic.)

    I keep waiting for our corporate media to pick up on this story, namely, that Toomey has received campaign contributions from a certain Don Blankenship; I realize that isn’t illegal, but it says something to me that Toomey apparently has no intention of returning the money.

    However, as noted in the video, this is typical behavior.


    Dirty Stuff Besides The Coal In West VA

    April 6, 2010

    Our prayers and condolences go out to the 25 workers who died in the Massey mine explosion; four others are missing, as CNN tells us here (still seem to be competent when it comes to hard news, as opposed to right-wing editorials, which is encouraging).

    And there are some who ask “isn’t it bad form to go after the owner of Massey while the human tragedy continues to unfold here”?

    Next question…

  • This Daily Kos post, which in no way blames Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli for the disaster, still cites the cozy political connection between the Virginia Repug party and Massey owner Don Blankenship, with Massey having donated $61,000 to Virginia Republicans in 2009 (“and $0 to the Dems”), not to mention $441,463 to Virginia Republicans since 1997 (just $8,250 to Democrats), including $40,000 to Bob McDonnell for Governor and $10,000 to Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General (all perfectly legal I’ll admit, but it still raises questions…Massey is based in Richmond, VA by the way).
  • This tells us more on Massey’s sorry history, having been cited for over 3,000 safety violations since 1995 and $2.2 million in fines (as noted here, In 2002, President George W. Bush “named former Massey Energy official Stanley Suboleski to the MSHA review commission that decides all legal matters under the Federal Mine Act,” and cut 170 positions from MSHA. Bush’s MSHA chief, Dick Stickler, was a former manager of Beth Energy mines, which “incurred injury rates double the national average”).

    (Oh, and by the way, even though Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine where the accident occurred is non-union, the United Mine Workers of America has sent “expert personnel to the area” to assist.)

  • This tells you of the Repug political candidates who have benefited the most from the good graces of Massey’s Don Blankenship, including PA’s own Pat Toomey (and as Devilstower points out, this is “the same Don Blankenship who invented a scandal and funded it to the tune of $3 million to run one state supreme court judge out of office for the crime of siding with workers. The same Blankenship who was photographed cavorting along the French Riveria with another justice while his company had a $77 million case before the court. The same Don Blankenship who regularly condemns the whole idea of environmental protection, saying that global warming does not exist and that asking people to conserve is tantamount to communism. The same Blankenship and the same Massey that last year was convicted of massive and systematic age discrimination.”…also, “the same Blankenship and the same Massey who lost miners a recently as 2006 due to lack of safety equipment. At the end of that case, the widows of the dead men refused to accept the settlement, stating that it was clear that the company executives had placed profit ahead of safety.”)
  • Finally, this tells us that Blankenship was sued by Hugh Caperton, a rival coal operator driven out of business by Blankenship. Caperton then successfully sued Blankenship for $76 million, but instead of paying up, Blankenship manufactured the scandal noted above by Devilstower involving one judge, Warren McGraw.

    (McGraw was accused of casting a vote in favor of allowing a child molester to work in a school district – read the 9/23/04 story from here and you tell me how much of a threat you believe Tony Dean Arbaugh, Jr. really was, a man who was rebuilding his life before it was destroyed by Blankenship…the link also contains a story of Judge McGraw receiving a “national grandparents rights” plaque).

    McGraw lost and was replaced by Blankenship flunky Brent Benjamin, whose court seat had literally been bought by Blankenship. And, predictably, Benjamin later provided the deciding vote in favor of Massey and against Caperton, a move so outrageous that even the Supreme Court of Hangin’ Judge JR said that Benjamin should have recused himself, motioned by Caperton three times during the trial.

  • So when it comes to mining fatalities, ruined judicial careers and destroyed lives, all roads, so to speak, lead back to Don Blankenship, an individual as dark as the deepest depths of his safety-compromised mine.

    Update 4/7/10: What Meteor Blades sez here…

    Update 4/8/10: “Nonsensical” because Blankenship will never have to go into the hole, I guess (here)…

    Update 4/12/10: God, is Blankenship a scumbag (here).

    Update 4/22/10: Ditto


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