Friday Mashup (6/7/13)

June 7, 2013

1004_Cover-Who-Stole-the-American-Dream

  • Before I say another word, I have to put in a plug for this terrific book. Writer Hedrick Smith does a great job of explaining exactly how we have come to our current predicament in this country when it comes to the economy primarily, but also when it comes to the climate crisis, our seemingly permanent political-military-industrial surveillance state, and the urgent need for electoral reform, which kind of hovers over most every other problem (made it just about all the way through…I’ll say something else when I finish). He also provides recommendations on what we can do to turn things around (think more civic involvement on every level for starters). We all should read this.
  • Turning to the other stuff, somehow I missed this little item from last week; another stellar moment from our wet noodle PA-08 Republican U.S. House Rep…

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick and his Republican House colleagues have voted 37 times to repeal various portions of the Affordable Care Act.

    Now, a bill he has sponsored along with a Nevada Republican would maintain several consumer protections and access to health insurance coverage in the highly unlikely event Democrats would join in to repeal the health care measure.

    “This bill gives us a practical way to keep the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act while Congress finds a solution to fix the unpopular parts that have many Americans deeply concerned,” Fitzpatrick said Tuesday.

    Fitzpatrick, R-8, has teamed with Joe Heck, R-Nev., an osteopathic physician, to write the Ensuring Quality Health Care for All Americans Act of 2013.

    Well, bless Mikey’s pointed little head (and as noted from here, “unpopular” in this context is code for “Yeah, well, get rid of this stuff and you’ve basically gutted health care reform”)…

    In order to preserve the current system of private health insurance while barring insurance companies from unsavory practices such as denying claims based on pre-existing conditions, every American must buy into the insurance risk pool. Otherwise, sick Americans would only purchase coverage when convenient while forgoing it while they are healthy, creating a vicious cycle that would drive health insurance premiums through the roof and eventually destroy the insurance industry. In turn, hospitals wouldn’t receive compensation for their services, thus bankrupting care providers, too.

    H.R. 2165 would also eliminate the various taxes that fund Obamacare, meaning that poor Americans wouldn’t be able to access an expanded Medicaid pool. Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion is expected to provide basic health coverage to over 21 million low-income Americans by 2022.

    I don’t know where Justin Kevin Strouse, one of two declared Dem opponents against Fitzpatrick for 2014, comes down on the issue of the Affordable Care Act (might be a good idea for him to defend it – just sayin’), but to learn more about him and help his campaign, click here (and by the way, Mikey also voted for this mess).

    And keeping it local (and related to health care), I came across this item also from Mikey’s PR factory…

    A year ago, state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo publicly criticized Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to cut 20 percent from the budget of human services and turn seven line items into one block grant.

    He described the plan as a “disaster” and fought to have a portion of the money restored.

    Today, the Republican chair of the House Human Services Committee again opposes the Republican governor. DiGirolamo has come out in favor of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid eligibility for the working poor.

    “A lot of people might not like Obamacare, but whether you like it or not it’s the law of the land,” said DiGirolamo, who represents Bensalem. “We have to make a decision that’s best for Pennsylvania.”

    DiGirolamo is definitely not one of my favorite people, but I think he’s what was once known as a fairly moderate Republican on a lot of issues; he also knows the political calculus of how strong a voting bloc senior citizens are in PA and in this country overall. For whatever reason exactly, he deserves credit for this.

    But of course, we have to have the full-on insane right-wing screeching over this story too, apparently…

    Jennifer Stefano, state director of Americans for Prosperity, called the Medicaid system “broken,” and said those who receive care through Medicaid “experience worse health outcomes than those who are without coverage at all.”

    One-third of Pennsylvania’s doctors will not accept new Medicaid patients, she said, because of the program’s “convoluted, multi-layered regulations and low compensation rates.”

    She praised Corbett “for not buying into this failed aspect of the president’s health care law.”

    (Typical for the Courier Times not to properly identify AFP with the Koch Brothers, by the way.)

    As you might have guessed, Stefano has attacked Medicaid before, and she was just as wrong then as she is now (here – fifth bullet).

  • Next, did you know that the IRS “scandal” involving former director Douglas Shulman (you know, the ones where the Teahadists were “targeted” when they applied for 501(c)(4) status as “social welfare” organizations that supposedly didn’t engage in political activity) was part of a scheme involving Obama aide Stephanie Cutter to basically ramrod health care into law?

    No – living in the world of reality, I don’t expect that you would (or, as Carol Platt Liebau puts it here)…

    May 2009 – Cutter moves to White House from Treasury Department
    January 2010 – Citizens United is handed down; Democrats are hysterical
    March 2010 – IRS begins targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups
    April 2010 – Cutter assigned to sell health care reform; if meetings with Shulman didn’t occur before, presumably they did so afterwards.

    I’m pretty much speechless as I read that – so I guess Liebau’s none-too-subtle timeline alleges that not only did that Kenyan Muslim Socialist pre-zee-dint seek to target the teabaggers, but he wanted to shove some “big gumint” health care scheme down their throats also (with the willing assistance of Number 44’s army of ACORN volunteers and the New Black Panther Party, I’m sure…I watched a little bit of “The Last Word” last night, and apparently, this is a preview of the new Repug nonsense on attacking the health care law).

    And here’s another shaky pillar in what passes for Liebau’s argument…

    So whether or not the stated purpose of the meetings was about ObamaCare — unless Shulman’s politics are very different from the lefty leanings of his wife — it isn’t hard to imagine Shulman and Cutter exchanging some congruent views.

    That might be true if Shulman shared Cutter’s political worldview, as it were, which is unlikely given that Shulman was an appointee of Former President Nutball, as noted here. Of course, given that there’s no “there” there in Liebau’s charge, you could rightly wonder how much it matters anyway.

    And I think what Liebau is arguing is that, somehow, Power violated the Hatch Act that bans government officials from political activity. I don’t buy that; besides, Power truly has nothing on former Bushie Lurita Doan in that department (here), who basically endured humiliation in the court of public opinion for it, and rightly so, but she avoided jail time or any kind of punitive sanction for it.

    This is typical for Liebau, though, who, as noted here, also alleged with no proof that the Obama Administration once offered a job to former Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff in exchange for dropping out of that election (and based on this, it looks like Romanoff has declared that he will challenge Repug incumbent Mike Coffman in CO-06 for next year).

  • However much I may disagree with Liebau, though, she’s got nothing on Fred Barnes when it comes to “catapulting the propaganda,” as noted here

    Faced with such obstacles (my note: the already-mentioned IRS stuff, the AP/James Rosen stuff and BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI!), the president could focus instead on his own domestic agenda—if he had one. He doesn’t. He’s paying the price for a re-election campaign that was based on attacking his opponent, Mitt Romney, and not much else. In the president’s State of the Union address in February, he endorsed a $9 minimum wage and universal prekindergarten for 4-year-olds, but those proposals lack a popular mandate. If he had campaigned for them last year, they might have better prospects now.

    In response, this recent Gallup poll tells us 71% want an increase in the minimum wage to $9. And while I can’t find approval numbers on pre-k funding, this tells us that we’re a little past that point anyway, unfortunately.

    Continuing with Barnes…

    The exclusion of Republicans from a role in crafting ObamaCare has also backfired. By failing to ensure that the GOP had some influence on the health-care law, the president gave them no reason to support its implementation.

    This tells us the Republican proposals included in the health care bill (don’t know how many were included when the bill was signed into law – I’d be interested in finding out a comparison of Democratic vs. Republican amendments to see which ones got in and which ones didn’t, but I can’t locate that information at the moment. And of course, Barnes really didn’t even try to locate that either, did he?).

    Continuing…

    Then, after the November election, Mr. Obama spurned conciliation. He upped the ante, calling for higher spending, a new economic stimulus and an increase in the debt limit without congressional approval. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell laughed out loud when he heard the proposal.

    And maybe, just maybe, that’s one of the reasons why Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao is currently the most unpopular U.S. Senator in this country, as noted here.

    Oh, and on the subject of “increasing the debt limit without congressional approval,” which would have entailed minting a trillion-dollar debt coin, if you will, by the Treasury, Obama rejected the idea, for the record (yet more Barnes propaganda – a big time Barnes slap-down is here).

  • Continuing on the topic of Obama Administration “scandals,” it looks like Fix Noise is trying to trump up yet another one here

    The former White House adviser and longtime Obama friend nominated Wednesday as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has a history of controversial comments that could haunt her in confirmation — including likening U.S. foreign policies to those of the Nazis.

    In a March 2003 New Republic magazine essay, Samantha Power wrote that American foreign policy needs a “historical reckoning” which would entail “opening the files” and “acknowledging the force of a mantra we have spent the last decade promoting in Guatemala, South Africa, and Yugoslavia.”

    She continued: “Instituting a doctrine of the mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors. When (German Chancellor Willy) Brandt went down on one knee in the Warsaw ghetto, his gesture was gratifying to World War II survivors, but it was also ennobling and cathartic for Germany. Would such an approach be futile for the United States?”

    I read through this entire screed, and I can’t find a single instance of claims by Power that invoke the Nazis. Unless of course someone at this joke of a “news” site saw the name Willy Brandt and automatically made the association (and to find out how incorrect an association that is, all you need to do is read this).

    So what else is supposedly wrong with Power? Well…

    …others say her views on the Middle East spark concerns about her position on Israel. She once suggested the possibility of military intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

    As you read that, keep in mind that Fix Noise and their fellow wingnuts spent much of last year pumping up the presidential candidacy of one Willard Mitt Romney. And in the godawful circumstance of a Romney victory last November, he would have reunited many of the truly bad actors of the fetid Bushco years, particularly on foreign policy, where we heard about nothing but military intervention on Iran, which would have been a cataclysmic mistake (here – a more thorough debunking of the claim that Power supported invading Israel can be found from here).

    I guess the “Foxies” realized that claiming that Obama supposedly didn’t honor our vets on Memorial Day here wasn’t going to fly (here), so it was time to journey down the rabbit hole over something else (and on the matter of politicians and Memorial Day, I wonder why “Senator Honor and Virtue” gets a complete and total pass here from our corporate media for staging his little Syria visit on the day when we honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation?).

  • And as long as we’re on the subject of members of our prior ruling cabal, I give you Michael Hayden, former CIA director (here)…

    In the case of the Associated Press report on a Yemen-based bomb plot, the source had apparently penetrated an al Qaeda network and there were hopes that he could continue to be exploited.

    In the Fox News report on North Korea’s intention to test a nuclear weapon, James Rosen told us not just that the United States judged that Pyongyang would respond to impending sanctions with a test. He pointedly added that a source in North Korea had told us so.

    These kinds of stories get people killed. While at CIA I recounted to a group of news bureau chiefs that, when an agency presence in a denied area had been revealed in the media, two assets had been detained and executed. The CIA site there wrote: “Regret that we cannot address this loss of life with the person who decided to leak our mission to the newspapers.”

    I actually think that’s well said. However, the column also contains this…

    A quick survey of former Bush administration colleagues confirmed my belief that a proposal to sweep up a trove of AP phone records or James Rosen’s e-mails would have had a half-life of about 30 seconds in that administration.

    Really? I’m sure James Risen of the New York Times would disagree – as noted here

    ABC News reported on May 15, 2006, that senior federal law enforcement officials had informed them that the government was tracking the phone numbers of journalists without the journalists’ knowledge as part of an effort to root out the journalists’ confidential sources. . . I was mentioned by name as one of the reporters whose work the government was looking into.

    The only reason why the Bush gang didn’t do the same stuff the Obama DOJ is doing now is because the technology wasn’t available to them (and rest assured that I’m not condoing it either way).

    As noted here, though, Hayden has received a “do-over” from our corporate media on the issue of warrantless surveillance before (maybe all of his military hardware shone too brightly in the klieg lights and distracted anyone practicing actual journalism, or something).

  • Also, someone name Alan Gottlieb opined as follows in the Philadelphia Inquirer (here)…

    The right of self-defense is the oldest human right, and the British experiment with public disarmament failed as miserably as our own gun bans in Chicago and Washington, D.C. The 10-year Clinton ban on so-called assault weapons was just as ineffective against crime.

    As far as I’m concerned, you cannot conclusively make that claim – this tells us the NRA and Wayne LaPierre mischaracterized a study on the 1994 to 2003 assault weapons ban to claim that it was ineffective (shocking for the NRA to wax propagandistic on this, I know)…

    To the contrary, it found some encouraging signs, like an average 40 percent drop in the number of assault weapons used in crimes (some cities saw a drop of over 70 percent) and some benefit from the ban on high-capacity magazines.

    But mostly, the study was inconclusive. Not enough time had passed for the ban’s effect to be fully felt and there were too many loopholes to get a good read on its effect. For instance, the number of high-capacity magazines in the country actually increased during time of the ban because it was still legal to import magazines made in other countries before the law went into effect. Meanwhile, numerous other variables contributed to the drop in crime during that decade, including better policing and the end of the crack epidemic.

    In his testimony, (Cato Institute law professor David) Kopel zeroed in on this passage from the study: ‘We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.’

    By the same token, the study didn’t rule out the ban as a contributor to the drop in crime. Just because something can’t be proven does not mean that the opposite is automatically true.

    This is part and parcel of the death industry’s efforts to hide the consequences of their relentless propagation of weapons of violence in this country (though, as noted here, there is some rather fragmented evidence that stronger gun laws reduce violent crime, though, again, that needs to be studied by an independent body such as the Centers for Disease Control – the only problem is that Congress, acting with craven and thoroughly corrupted stupidity, has denied federal funds for such an endeavor, as noted here).

    And on this subject, the “takeaway” from this Daily Kos post is that 55 percent of those polled think we can pass common-sense gun legislation in this country without interfering with the rights of legitimate sportsmen (even if Gottlieb is likely not one of those included – and not that I think Mr. “We Snookered The Other Side” is playing straight on this issue anyway).

  • Oh, and here is one more item of all the IRS stuff (here)…

    As The Daily Caller has reported, at least five different IRS offices in Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Laguna Niguel and El Monte, California; improperly demanded extensive information from conservative groups applying for tax-exempt nonprofit status between 2010 and 2012. The IRS demanded copies of training materials distributed by conservative groups, as well as personal information on college interns and even the contents of a religious group’s prayers.

    Horrors! The IRS “demanded” information from the Teahadists who were applying for tax-exempt status having to do with a section of the tax code applying to “social welfare” groups that prohibits political activity, even though these groups most definitely engaged in activities that were political, as noted here (with Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson saying that the problem wasn’t that too much information was asked for, but that information was requested only from conservative organizations, apparently…and sorry, but I checked the links and couldn’t substantiate the “prayer” claim either).

    TDC_Kinky_0603
    I really wish The Daily Tucker would just stick to doing what it does best (and I guess the pic above portrays that).

  • 1-29 Podgo catholic 7

  • Finally, I don’t know how many other people besides me noted the recent passing of Father Andrew Greeley (here); I don’t have much to add, but I thought E.J. Dionne of the WaPo penned a nice remembrance here.
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    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.


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