Exuent “Dr. McLaughlin’s Gong Show”

August 17, 2016

john-mclaughlin
(The reference in the title comes from a quote by former ABC News reporter/anchor Sam Donaldson, by the way.)

I suppose I should say something about the passage of this guy, not because I have anything particularly brilliant to add, but maybe just to vent ultimately (hey, if I can’t vent at my own blog, where can I do it, right?).

I wouldn’t say that I started to become politically aware thanks to his program – that’s a stretch, I’ll admit. For what it’s worth, I started to learn more and more about the con that was being played out as part of the ruinous conservative ascendancy in this country in the ‘80s under The Sainted Ronne R, and that is when I tried to consume more from newspapers, TV news casts and “opinion” programs (to go back even further, I suppose that the murder of John Lennon made me pay attention to the issue of gun control in a way that I never had before, though I admit that I should have before then).

I guess, in my naiveté, I sought out objective and responsible media as much as I could in response to what I believed was the wholesale abandonment of the middle class as a result of the flight of capital offshore, the craven and disastrously irresponsible codification of the thoroughly not proven mantra of perpetuating crony capitalism and the “ownership society” via something relatively new to that time called “trickle-down economics,” fanning the flames of hostility against unions, minorities, women, and working families overall (which, among other things, spawned the phrase “Reagan Democrat,” something that STILL requires me to suppress a gag reflex after all this time), and the demonization of anyone with a political opinion other than what passed for movement conservative thought.

And with all of that going on, I found myself watching “The McLaughlin Group” starting in the early ‘90s, and probably until later during that decade.

I know it seems quaint to admit now, but I watched that show with the hope of being informed on the issues that actually mattered. What I eventually came to realize, though, was that the intent of that show (intended as far as I’m concerned), first and foremost, was to elevate the “cult of personality” of the Beltway journos who appeared on the program.

Don’t get me wrong – there were some moments of actual substantive discussion. However, it became more and more clear that what mattered above all else was self-promotion.

Oh sure, there were moments when I actually learned a thing or two; I guess the main reason I kept tuning in was to watch Jack Germond, someone more professionally accomplished than everyone else on that panel put together. I give Eleanor Clift points for tolerance and endurance and frequently carrying the banner of the lefties/Democrats and, truth be told, the reality-based community. Morton Kondracke also had some worthwhile input on occasion, though it was obvious that he wanted to be part of the club, and that came through in almost everything he said. And Chris Matthews was pretty much the same thing you see now. And as far as Clarence Page goes, he became another reason to watch after Germond started drifting away from the show.

On the other side, it’s hard to describe how utterly loathsome Pat Buchanan was, again, then as now. Fred Barnes (again, then as now) was nothing but a lickspittle blathering whatever conservative talking points were handed to him before the cameras rolled. Mortimer Zuckerman occasionally crossed over into the realm of common sense, but that never lasted for too long. And I couldn’t keep track of the other assorted right-wing meat sacks who posed for the cameras, dutifully volleying back and forth with the host.

And as for McLaughlin himself, I got it that he realized he was the ringleader of all of this and occasionally had fun with it (which he was entitled to), but after watching that program, I found myself no more informed or educated in the way I thought I needed to be than I was before I started watching. And I guess this had the happily unintended consequence of making me seek out writers like Joe Conason, David Sirota, and in particular The Eternal Molly Ivins in order to find a proverbial clue.

So yeah, I suppose I should give McLaughlin a bit of credit in that he motivated me to seek out better media than what I was consuming at that time in order to learn more about the issues that impacted my life and the lives of those around me and what I should think, say and ultimately do in response. But I think he ended up blowing a golden opportunity, given his profile and that of his show, to practice actual quality journalism for the sake of perpetuating his own peculiar version of a carnival tent show that dovetailed nicely with the emergence of all-out-attack conservative media during the Bill Clinton years (and oh yeah, his show had enough of a profile to get parodied in the movie “Watchmen” as well as earning a nod in “Dave” and other topical films).

I guess there are worse legacies to be had. But I can think of a lot better ones too.

Update 8/18/16: Uh huh – not sure how I forgot about “dark Lord” Robert Novak, but somehow I did…facepalm.

Update 8/20/16: I also forgot about Bob Maynard who appeared on the “lefty” side; aside from being a true pro, I admired the fact that he never lost his cool despite all of the often-idiotic banter on that show.


Friday Mashup (5/9/14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So what is this show about, exactly…

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

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

    In response, I give you the following from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Reuters story also tells us the following…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And as noted from here

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

    OK, so, to review:

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

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

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


  • Monday Mashup (10/7/13 – update)

    October 7, 2013

  • Time to welcome right-wing bloviator Rod Dreher to the party (here, believing that it’s important for him to let everyone know why he left the Catholic Church)…

    What needed changing? Lots. My own brokenness was plain to me, and I was ready to turn from my destructive sins and become a new person. The one thing I didn’t want to do was surrender my sexual liberty, which was my birthright as a young American male. I knew, though, that without fully giving over my will to God, any conversion would be precarious.

    Also, Dreher, says that he rarely heard homilies about LGBT individuals or abortion; I haven’t heard them as much as I used to either, but there are plenty of reminders during the course of a Mass in the general intercessions or announcements after Communion from the Church about their views on those subjects. That being said, though, yesterday was “Respect Life” Sunday, so we got a heaping helping of a homily full of ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!! Oh, and by the way, euthanasia and human cloning are baaaad, and one more thing…ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!!! from Deacon Bob (and even trying to co-opt the fight for civil rights and the fall of Communism, as if those two struggles are of equal importance).

    Returning to Dreher, I just wanted you to keep in mind what he says about “surrender(ing) his sexual liberty” as you consider the following (here)…

    Rod Dreher, commenting on the Iowa State Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, notes that the anti-gay marriage position is being likened to racism and complains that as this mindset takes hold “it will be very hard to be a public Christian”.

    For heaven’s sake. Harder than it was for Christ himself, whose crucifixion we will be commemorating shortly? Harder than for the early Christians who were tossed to lions, not just served with a harrassment (sp) summons from the HR Department?

    So Dreher is defending the anti-gay marriage position of the Church even though he tells us that he’s no longer a member of that Church? “Sexual liberty” for me, but not for thee, I guess (and I don’t know anything about the “harassment summons from the HR Department” stuff).

    And for someone who doesn’t want to affiliate himself with the Church, he certainly has no problem supporting its admittedly narrow-minded position on contraception, as noted here from former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and best-selling author (and now lawyer, apparently) John Grogan (oh, but it’s really John Grogan saying these things and not Dreher – true, but if Dreher didn’t agree, why would he link to Grogan’s commentary? I could be snarky, though, and say that Grogan should apologize for making it possible for me to endure the movie version of “Marley and Me,” but maybe I’d better let that go).

    And get a load of this

    Liberalism, while imposing through state power regimes that declare everyone free to pursue whatever they take to be their own good, deprives most people of the possibility of understanding their lives as a quest for the discovery and achievement of the good…

    So, trying to think like Dreher for a minute (a dangerous exercise I’ll admit), couldn’t you argue that “liberalism,” by making it possible for us all to pursue “our own good,” has helped make it possible for Dreher to achieve the “sexual liberty” he so cherishes?

    I know we’re “deep in the woods” here, so I’ll wrap this up with the following; if Dreher wants to act like a wanton libertine with his private parts, that’s his business. However, that in no way gives him the right to assign any notion of moral behavior to anyone else.

    And as long as I’m in “moral scold” territory, I have to tell you about this from Falafel Man…

    People have a right to take the Bible literally, he said, but in the case of “Killing Jesus,” he was trying to be historically accurate. He never says in the book that Jesus was the Son of God because his book is not intended to be religious.

    “So is this the Gospel according to Bill?” asked “60 Minutes” correspondent Norah O’Donnell.

    “This is best available evidence according to Bill,” O’Reilly responded.

    So, as a Roman Catholic, when given the opportunity to proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God (and yes, I am completely aware that other faiths have different things to say about that, and they should be respected also of course), Bill decides to take a pass because he doesn’t have “the best available evidence,” or something.

    However, this same guy can complain here that “the Judeo-Christian tradition is under attack” and those who think Christianity is a religion are “so stupid, it’s painful” here.

    What a pompous ass.

    Update 10/8/13: There aren’t very many times when I’m ashamed to be a Roman Catholic, bur unfortunately, this is one of them.

  • Next, I haven’t checked in with Former Laura Bush Employee Andrew Malcolm for a little while, so please allow me to do so now here (he who gravitated downward from the LA Times to Investor’s Business Daily; I guess Mad Magazine would be next, as if they’d have him)…

    (Last) Tuesday, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu announced that Israel would not permit development of a nuke by Iran, which has several times vowed to erase Israel from the face of the planet. And, the Israeli added, if necessary, his nation was prepared to go it alone in that preventive endeavor.

    Did Netanyahu’s unusually tough, forthright stance stem from something disappointing that Obama told him during (a) White House photo op?

    My guess would be no, but somehow I’m sure Malcolm will do his best to make it sound like that’s true anyway.

    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about the recent UN speech by “Bibi,” British career diplomat Peter Jenkins flagged about 30 lies from the Israel PM while he spoke (here, and as far as the supposed hostility from Number 44 to our supposedly staunch ally, I give you this).

  • Continuing, former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent opined as follows at Fix Noise here, trying ultimately (and in vain, I think) to argue that President Obama fails some kind of a leadership test because he isn’t like FDR, or something…

    Against the stunning backdrop of the current diplomatic efforts to avoid our use of military force in Syria, I have been reading a superb new book, “Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World” by Michael Fullilove.

    There seems no limit to the interest in World War II, and this book examines the efforts of five envoys President Franklin D. Roosevelt used between late 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland and December,1941 when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, to represent him as he tried to deal the emerging crisis.

    Those envoys, close associates of his, were Sumner Welles, Bill Donovan, Harry Hopkins, Averell Harriman and Wendell Willkie.

    Vincent is correct to say that Fullilove points that out. However, from this New York Times review of the book, we learn that “the only true personal envoy, the only man whom the president fully trusted to speak for him, was Hopkins” (Willkie even ran against Roosevelt for president in 1940). So I would say that Fullilove has a bit to learn on that subject.

    I have to admit that I have a bit of an axe to grind about Vincent ever since his lifetime suspension of Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds (and the Phillies, for a time – more here). Yes, I have a bit of a blind spot because I’ll never forget that catch of Rose’s that led to final out of the 1980 World Series, and I know Vincent’s actions were based upon the rules, but I have not yet seen an epidemic of gambling on baseball because of Rose’s admittedly dumb actions. And I don’t see how that compares to the performance enhancement stuff appearing all over the place in that sport in particular (and somehow, Alex Rodriguez can argue that he still belongs in the game, as noted here).

    Also, while I’m on the subject of “America’s National Pastime,” I have a request for the management of the Philadelphia Phillies that I’m sure will be ignored (now that their season has been over for about the last week or so).

    McCarthy_Wheeler_Matthews
    And that is to fire all three of these guys.

    I don’t spend the time in front of the tube watching the Phillies as much as I used to for a lot of reasons, but when I do, it is absolutely intolerable. All three of the Phillies’ TV announcers (Tommy McCarthy, Gary Matthews, and the thoroughly insufferable Chris Wheeler) should Google the term “dead air” and read up on the concept. And yes, I know the team isn’t riding high at the moment (sports being cyclical and all that), but that has nothing to do with this observation.

    Between the utterly mindless promotions and gabbing about inconsequential nonsense, to say nothing of the thorough non-insight into the actual game (shocking from Matthews, a good former player), I pretty much feel like this when I watch the Phillies on TV…

    McDowell_Eyes
    Simulcast Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen (and Jim Jackson if possible), and let the TV crew do the whole “baseball nostalgia and collectible” circuit instead (maybe Wheeler can spend 5 minutes opining on the Phillie Phanatic to people who actually care…that being said, at least the Phillies aren’t as chaotic as the orange-and-black these days, which, based on this, are turning into a reality TV show IMHO).

    Update 1/9/14: Apparently, Comcast (who recently took over the Phillies broadcasts) was listening based on this (I’m sure McCarthy will follow the lead of whoever is hired to replace Matthews and Wheeler – I have no desire to see these guys, or anyone else, out of work in this climate, and to be fair, Wheeler has put a lot of time in and deserves something. I’m just glad that, whatever it is, a microphone or a TV camera will be nowhere in sight).

  • Finally, I left our “big story,” as it were, for last – to begin, I give you some true comedy from Fred Barnes of the Weakly Standard here

    (House Speaker John Boehner’s) ability to corral Republican votes was in doubt. He had lost 66 GOP members on raising the debt limit in 2011. But the vote on the “fiscal cliff” in late December was worse: 151 of the 233 Republicans, including Cantor and House majority whip Kevin McCarthy, voted against the Boehner-blessed deal. This raised doubts about his future as speaker.

    Now all that has changed. Republicans are united behind him.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Is it my imagination, or does Barnes sound like “Baghdad Bob”?

    Based on this, basically all of the southeastern PA U.S. House delegation now opposes shutting down the government over the continued, ridiculous intransigence of the Teahadists (except this guy, of course).

    And speaking of our delegation, one of Mikey the Beloved’s spokespeople told us here back on 9/17 that a shut down was “off the table” for him (of course, Mikey isn’t the one to make the decision on that – and I wonder if the robocalls noted in the Inky story had anything to do with making up his mind?). Also, I’m sure we’ll never find out why Mikey opposed the measure noted here that would allow our military to get paid in the event of a shutdown (just another reason to support Kevin Strouse, one of the Dems vying for the nomination to run for the PA-08 seat – more on Strouse is here).

    I also wanted to link to this item on the so-called “clean continuing resolution” to fund the government that just about all of this country wants to see passed; Chris Hayes did a pretty good job of pointing out how much the House CR looks like the Ryan budget rejected by the voters last year (and the Senate CR isn’t much better – they both come in under the funding requested by the White House to “keep the lights on”).

    For anyone who still needs to get an understanding of the pain caused by the current shut down, though, I would ask that you read this from here; we’re talking about the following (probably some overlap on this list)…

    Veterans
    Head Start funding
    Welfare recipients (of course)
    Women and infants relying on nutrition programs
    Low-income individuals in need of utility help
    People with disabilities
    Bureau of Land Management operations

    And from here

    Senior citizens in need of food services
    Hundreds of thousands of workers furloughed immediately without pay
    The economy overall (we could lose $10 billon a week)

    And from here

    Flu vaccines
    Death benefits for military families
    Forest fire fighters in California (did I mention that they’re in the dry season?)
    OSHA (they had to halt factory inspections)
    FOIA requests
    Renewable energy permits
    College students
    Data collection from the Bureau of Economic Analysis
    Air monitoring

    And on, and on, and on…

    So let’s give an appropriate ”thank you” to those responsible, shall we?

    Teabagger_100913
    God Bless America.

    Update: Uh, yep (h/t Daily Kos).


  • Friday Mashup (6/7/13)

    June 7, 2013

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  • 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).

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    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.

  • Wednesday Mashup (5/1/13)

    May 1, 2013
  • Let’s start with a Bucks County item, and we need to take a brief trip back in time first.

    As noted here from last month, the Pennsbury Education Association (the union representing the Pennsbury school district employees) requested that the arbiter involved in the negotiations with the PEA and the school board not release the latest proposal figures in the ongoing negotiations.

    Because…

    Revised salary demands from the Pennsbury Education Association were posted on the district’s website…and that has union officials up in arms.

    The figures are part of a report for a state-appointed fact-finder to consider in April, said PEA spokeswoman Lucy Walter.

    “They should have remained confidential so that (fact-finder Lawrence) Coburn could do his work without external interference,” Walter said Wednesday night. “It is a shame that the Pennsbury Board of (School) Directors are so afraid of a fact-finding process that they would seek to sabotage it before it begins.”

    The teachers union asked for the fact-finder March 19 to try to break the long-standing labor dispute with the Pennsbury school board.

    So the PEA asks the fact finder to try and resolve the dispute, which of course the Pennsbury school board didn’t do. And to compound the problem, the board violates the confidentiality of the negotiations.

    So now you’re caught up for this item from a couple of days ago, which tells us the following…

    A fact-finder recommends no pay raises for the first three years of a five-year deal between Pennsbury and its teachers union and raises of less than 1 percent for some teachers the other two years.

    The 20-page recommendation by Lawrence Coburn, the state-appointed fact-finder, aims to end the long-running contract impasse between the district’s school board and the Pennsbury Education Association. He issued the report to the two sides on Monday.

    So basically, the school board refuses to take the initiative and get a mediator, then, when the PEA actually gets that done (and it looks like they’re going to get a “haircut” for their trouble), the board violates the spirit of the negotiations by posting the full fact-finder report online.

    If you guessed that this is another Simon Campbell production, then you win a complimentary “Don’t Tread On Me” decal tattooed on your forehead…

    Campbell defended his posting of the fact-finder report in a press release issued Tuesday morning.

    “This unelected, unaccountable government bureaucrat has no authority to tell any elected official that he or she must not discuss the expenditure of public money with the public prior to casting a contract vote on May 9, 2013,” he said.

    Campbell added in the release: “My personal counsel stands ready to file suit in federal court against opinion-finder Coburn, the unelected, unaccountable regulatory body known as the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, and the teachers union if any such persons believe they have authority that supersedes the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

    Gee, just a bit of a dog whistle to the Teahadists, wouldn’t you say?…

    Board President Allan Weisel, on behalf of the entire governing body, responded to Campbell’s actions.

    “(The board) disavows and regrets the release of the attorney-client privileged communication, confidential district documents and the fact-finder’s report,” Weisel said in a statement posted on Pennsbury’s website. “This release was the action of an individual board member. The school board is committed to abiding by the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in this matter.”

    And in a related matter, this Guest Opinion in today’s Courier Times tells us the following…

    PTO President Amy Waters recently wrote Campbell an email detailing some concerns Edgewood parents have with the changes proposed at their school. He replied with vitriol and condescension, vowing to oppose the PTO’s suggestions simply because the group was too “good at generating noise.” Campbell sounded more like a playground bully rather than a thoughtful leader when he told Waters: “The more aggressive you are in seeking self-interest, the less likely you are to influence me.”

    Campbell has minimized the worries faced by the families who will be required to endure these significant changes. “I have moved several times with my family, including from Switzerland to place a second grader and kindergartner in Pennsbury while in temporary housing,” Campbell wrote. “They survived. We didn’t make a big song and dance about it. We just got on with it.”

    This is no time for superior attitudes or personal attacks. Parents are upset, and rightly so. We need the Pennsbury School Board to approach this difficult problem with a more reasoned, empathetic approach. Simon Campbell should apologize to the Edgewood parents and every other family that will be affected by this redistricting plan. And I hope everybody in the Pennsbury School District will go to the polls on May 21, Primary Election Day, to bring about some much-needed change on the Pennsbury School Board.

    (Full disclosure: I know the author of this fine column and her family…great people.)

    Not that I’m some kind of a genius prognosticator by any means, but I told you here that stuff like this would happen when Campbell and his minions took over the Pennsbury school board (here – last bullet).

    Simon wants a strike, people. And the way things are going, he may very well get it.

    Update 5/10/13: And this is another Campbell disgrace.

  • Moving on to foreign policy stuff, I should bring you this item from Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) columnist Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal here (on the subject of Obama, Syria, and our “friends” in Israel, with Stephens imagining that Number 44 will do absolutely nothing)…

    …As the Assad regime realizes it can use these weapons without international penalty, it will unleash them again. Sooner or later it will figure out that the more widely it uses them, the quicker it can kill enemies at home and deter enemies abroad. A twofer. The administration will go from arguing that it’s too soon to intervene in Syria, to arguing that it’s too late.

    What Israel gets from this is a chemical-weapons free-fire zone on its Syrian border, along with the growing likelihood that the weapons will reach Hezbollah’s hands along its Lebanese border. On the plus side, Israel also gets an arms deal from the administration. But the deal consists of selling Israel stuff it already has or doesn’t particularly need, like aerial tankers and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, while withholding stuff it doesn’t have and dearly needs, like large bunker-busters and the means of delivering them.

    Umm, I hate to break the news to Stephens, but as noted here from September 2011…

    Newsweek is reporting that Israel has received 55 US-made GBU-28 bunker-busting bombs, citing it as evidence that the US-Israeli military relationship is deeper than ever, despite the bad chemistry between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu. The other fruit of that relationship, the journalist Eli Lake reports, is an intriguing cooperative venture between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours to set up a radar array to give early warning of an impending Iranian missile attack.

    But of course, such wankery on Obama just comes with the territory as far as Stephens is concerned, as noted here.

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  • Finally for today, I give you the following from Fred Barnes at The Weakly Standard (here…a little late with this bit of Dubya revisionism, I realize)…

    Bush and Obama are both polarizing figures, but for different reasons. Bush’s policies, particularly on Iraq and terrorism, divided Republicans and Democrats sharply. But Obama goes a step further, constantly slamming Republicans and impugning their motives. Obama personally polarizes. Bush didn’t attack Democrats from the White House.

    Truly people, it is to laugh. To begin, I give you this from November 2007…

    WASHINGTON – With Congress and the White House engaged in a long-running feud over war funds, President George W. Bush criticized Democrats on Saturday for holding up money he requested for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Bush is seeking $196 billion for the wars for the fiscal year beginning October 1. Democrats who control Congress want to attach a troop pullout plan to the funding bill for the war but lack enough votes to pass the measure in the Senate.

    The White House has warned that Bush would veto any bill with such conditions.

    In his weekly radio address, Bush said Congress was “failing to meet its responsibilities to our troops.”

    “For months, Congress has delayed action on supplemental war funding because some in Congress want to make a political statement about the war,” he said, criticizing Democrats for leaving for their Thanksgiving break without approving the war funds.

    A bill passed this week by the House of Representatives would have given Bush about a quarter of the $196 billion he wants for the wars while setting a goal that all U.S. combat soldiers withdraw from Iraq by December 15, 2008.

    Republicans stopped the measure in the Senate.

    And this from February ’08…

    …Mr. Bush reserved his harshest comments for Mr. Obama’s recent statement that he would be willing to meet the new leader of Cuba, Raúl Castro, “without preconditions.” Mr. Obama has made reviving American diplomacy a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda, saying he believes it is “important for the United States not just to talk to its friends but also to talk to its enemies.”

    But Mr. Bush has refused to meet with foreign adversaries like Kim Jong-il of North Korea and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. And at the news conference, he let loose with a spirited monologue when asked what would be lost by doing so.

    “What’s lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs?” Mr. Bush said in reference to Mr. Castro, his voice growing louder as he paced about behind the lectern. “What’s lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners.”

    Mr. Bush went on: “I’m not suggesting there’s never a time to talk, but I’m suggesting now is not the time — not to talk with Raúl Castro. He’s nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island, and imprison people because of their beliefs.”

    And this from May of that year…

    In a lengthy speech intended to promote the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, the president invoked the emotionally volatile imagery of World War II to make the case that talking to extremists was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis.

    “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush said. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

    The Obama campaign issued an angry response to Mr. Bush’s statement. In an e-mail statement to reporters, the senator denounced Mr. Bush for using the 60th anniversary of Israel to “launch a false political attack,” adding, “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.”

    And here is another instance in which Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History criticized Democrats as Nazi appeasers, or something, on the matter of terrorism, which is funny when you realize on whose watch Osama bin Laden was killed and on whose watch OBL got away (one of the many good reasons to see Dubya leave is that he took that idiotic, baiting language with him).

    And by the way, Bush actually said this in February 2004 (too artful, courtesy of his head speechwriter and now WaPo pundit Michael Gerson, to attack Dems by name, but everybody knew who he and Dubya were talking about – the reception was hosted by The Mittster, by the way)…

    Some of our opponents are skeptical that the war on terror is really a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime — a problem to be solved with law enforcement and indictments. Our nation followed that approach after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. The matter was handled in the courts, and thought to be settled. But the terrorists were still training in Afghanistan, plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers.

    …and this may be the ultimate “white is black, up is down” quote…

    It’s the President’s job to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations.

    I rest my case.


  • Friday Mashup (2/15/13)

    February 16, 2013

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  • Never letting dumb stuff like, y’know, facts and actual data get in the way of his talking points (like everyone else in his party apparently), Repug U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster recently engaged in some name-calling of Number 44 after the State of the Union address on Tuesday (here)…

    I think he’s lying about CEOs — they want to invest in a country that has high-speed rail? Really? Tell me what CEO said that, that cares about high-speed rail,” Shuster said when asked for his thoughts on the speech. “Manufacturers want to invest in a country that has roads that are built, they want the infrastructure to be right for the transportation system, but to say one of the reasons they’re going to invest in America and manufacturing plants is because of high-speed rail is crazy.”

    (Ok everybody, feel free to take a break for a few minutes, since we know what’s coming next…catch up on the laundry or the bills, check the kids’ homework, replace the leaky oil pan in your SUV, get a snack or a cup of coffee…I’ll wait.)

    (Oh, I think Shuster has something else to say now, so let’s resume…)

    “This type of incendiary rhetoric is not my style,” Shuster said at a Chamber of Commerce infrastructure summit after apologizing for his remarks. “I do not think the president is a liar.”

    Later, when asked what he thought of the “fix it first” portion of the speech, Shuster threw his hands up and said, “I started off saying what I shouldn’t have said.”

    In response, I give you the following on the matter of the U.S. and infrastructure here, in which we learn (among other things) the following:

    – China spends 7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on its infrastructure. India spends 5 percent. The United States spends less than 2 percent. Engineers think the U.S. will have to spend $2.2 trillion over 5 years to bring the overall grade for infrastructure up to an ‘A.
    – Here’s a sobering statistic: more than 4,400 of the nation’s 85,000 aging dams are considered susceptible to failure, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
    – The investment needed just to maintain the transit system’s current condition and performance is $7,900,000,000 annually over the next five years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). It would take between $12,900,000,000 and $14,500,000,000 annually to maintain and improve conditions and performance–a need of about $72,000,000,000 over the next five years. Federal, state, and local investment averaged just $5,400,000,000 annually in recent years.
    – America is known for its huge highways, but with few exceptions (London among them) American traffic congestion is worse than western Europe’s. Average delays in America’s largest cities exceed those in cities like Berlin and Copenhagen. Americans spend considerably more time commuting than most Europeans; only Hungarians and Romanians take longer to get to work. More time on lower quality roads also makes for a deadlier transport network. With some 15 deaths a year for every 100,000 people, the road fatality rate in America is 60% above the (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) average; 33,000 Americans were killed on roads in 2010.

    And from here (by T. Peter Ruane, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association )…

    Some might wonder: What about that $800 billion stimulus package that was enacted in 2009? Wasn’t that supposed to solve problems such as this? The answer is depressingly simple: Just 6 percent of that money went to transportation infrastructure and states cut their own transportation spending by almost an equivalent amount. It is indeed unfortunate that we haven’t had more of a debate these past four years — a debate over the physical plant of our nation, over the facilities we all rely on for our health and wealth.

    So basically, I don’t know why (aside from stupid, petty partisan politics of course) Shuster or anyone else is quibbling over what President Obama or anyone else has to say about the need to rebuild our country’s infrastructure; money is cheap, and this is the time to spend it and invest in the future.

    I should also point out that “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” as Esquire’s Charles Pierce astutely refers to Politico, called the story an “apology” from Shuster. To yours truly, however, it looked like nothing of the kind.

  • Next, I should note that there’s a reason why economists should be on the Sunday gab fests more often discussing financial matters as opposed to Beltway media talking heads; Fred Barnes of The Weakly Standard attempts to discuss money matters, and hilarity ensues (here)…

    Obama, though, was on-message (during the State of the Union address), just as he was in his inaugural address three weeks ago. He wants to spend more. He wants the government to do more (except overseas). And he isn’t much worried about the possibility of a debt crisis. He leaves it to Republicans to worry about things like the debt-to-GDP ratio.

    In response, I give you the following from Professor Krugman (here)…

    (The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities) goes on to advocate another $1.4 trillion in revenue and/or spending cuts, which would bring the debt ratio at the end of the decade back down to around its current level. But the larger message here is surely that for the next decade, the debt outlook actually doesn’t look all that bad.

    True, there are projected problems further down the road, mainly because of the continuing effects of an aging population. But it still comes as something of a shock to realize that at this point reasonable projections do not, repeat do not, show anything resembling the runaway deficit crisis that is a staple of almost everything you hear, including supposedly objective news reporting.

    So you heard it here first: while you weren’t looking, and the deficit scolds were doing their scolding, the deficit problem (such as it was) was being mostly solved. Can we now start talking about unemployment?

    And where exactly did that $1.4 (or so) trillion come from exactly? As noted here (in a post where Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv now embraces the “sequester,” due to cause the pain he professed to oppose on the campaign trail last year)…

    Days before House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) abandoned negotiations with President Obama to advance his failed Plan B, the White House paired a tax increase on the richest Americans with spending cuts of $1.22 trillion over 10 years, including “adopting a new measure of inflation that slows the growth of government benefits, especially Social Security.” Despite Ryan’s claims, the Democrats’ plan contained: $400 billion in savings “from federal health care programs; $200 billion from other so-called mandatory programs, like farm price supports, not subject to Congress’s annual spending bills; $100 billion from military spending; and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion.”

    Ryan also reiterated that Republicans won’t support additional revenues to turn off the sequester, noting that the American Taxpayer Relief Act — the last minute law that averted the fiscal cliff — included an increase in taxes on couples making more than $450,000 annually and singles making more than $400,000. “The point is, though, the president got his additional revenues. So that’s behind us,” Ryan said on Sunday.

    The comments represent another retreat for Ryan, who backed Mitt Romney’s proposal to raise revenues by eliminating tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest Americans. Those reforms were not included in the American Taxpayer Relief Act and could be part of a package that reforms tax breaks for high-income individuals and corporations, generating “$1 trillion in potential savings over 10 years” — more than enough to replace the sequester.

    But of course, since we’re talking about the Beltway…well, If it isn’t good news for Republicans somehow, then it must be bad news for Democrats, as noted here

    The president mentioned the coming sequester, but Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, told the Senate’s Committee on the Budget, that he can’t score the proposal to replace the sequester because he hasn’t yet seen “a specific proposal.” The sequester was the president’s idea, though he now suggests it came from Congress. The House has proposed targeted spending cuts that protect defense. Those proposals have gone nowhere in the Senate.

    Yes, the sequester did come from Obama, but Congress voted on it and approved it, with “Man Tan” Boehner saying he got “98 percent” of what he wanted in it here (and maybe this tells us why the proposals have “gone nowhere” in the Senate…because of military push-back, that is).

    And while we continue to dither away over this temporary nonsense, our roads continue to crumble, our bridges continue to wear, and our planet continues to melt.

  • Further, The Doughy Pantload is unintentionally hilarious here yet again…”oh, it’s ‘too trite’ to compare Obama to W.E.B. DuBois and the Repugs to Booker T. Washington…but I will anyway”…

    In an earlier era, Dr. Benjamin Carson’s speech before the National Prayer Breakfast last week would have been a really big deal rather than mere fodder for a brief squall on Twitter and cable news.

    Born in crushing poverty to an illiterate single mother dedicated to seeing her children succeed, Carson became the head of the department of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins medical institutions when he was 33. He’s been a black celebrity role model ever since.

    So what’s the deal with Dr. Carson anyway? As Jonah Goldberg tells us…

    Although much of Carson’s speech focused on personal responsibility, he offered two concrete policy ideas. The first is a flat tax. The Bible endorses the idea, Carson explained. Everyone should tithe — give 10 percent — in good times and bad. It doesn’t have to be 10 percent, he conceded. It’s the principles of proportionality and simplicity that matter.

    I don’t know about the Bible, but as far as Utah is concerned, that state passed a flat tax and quickly ran into funding problems, as noted here (and oh yes, what would our lives be like without another conservative lecture on “personal responsibility”?).

    Continuing…

    Critics complain that the poor guy who puts in $1 will be hurt more than the rich guy who puts in $1 billion. But, Carson asks: “Where does it say you’ve got to hurt the [rich] guy? He just put a billion dollars in the pot. We don’t need to hurt him. It’s that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands.”

    Oh, so it’s the fault of that baaad Kenyan Muslim Socialist in the White House that our august captains of industry have to shelter their booty offshore, isn’t it? Uh huh.

    Meanwhile, it looks like the U.S. loses about $280 bil a year in offshore accounts, as noted here, and this tells us what the IRS plans to do about it (have to assume it’s legal unless I know otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t stink to high heaven…and yes, I know about this in a related story, but I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as it was with Romney because, in the latter case, it fit in with a pattern of misbehavior and sanctimony towards the “47 percent” that was truly galling; there’s also a big difference between serving as Treasury Secretary and President of the United States).

  • Finally, I absolutely must say something about the latest from “Chuckles” Krauthammer (here)…

    I find this amazing. First of all, just hearing him say every first grader in America has to be prepared for a high-tech economy, that is a bit early, I think. The other part of this is here we are with $16 trillion in debt, a trillion dollars a year of deficits. We have created already, with under Obama, the biggest entitlement in 50 years. And now he wants to create a new entitlement for preschool for every 4-year-old in the country.

    The worst part of this, this isn’t just any new entitlement. This is an entitlement in an area where we know the $7 billion a year that we spend on Head Start doesn’t make any difference after the third grade. There is a study that HHS has done that showed that. So it’s failure and yet he wants to double down and to make it universal. That’s probably a definition of a liberal.

    Boy, am I sick of defending Head Start against attacks from the wingnutosphere (not attacking the program, I hasten to add).

    As noted here

    …according to Scholastic, “Economists say that the return for every dollar invested in preschool can be anywhere from $2 to $17 when you total the drop in special education, grade repetition, and crime, and add the value of a more productive workforce.” A 2005 study by the University of Texas’ Children’s Learning Institute estimates the return on investment at somewhere between $7 and $8 for every dollar spent, and National Head Start Association study pegs the benefits at $9 returned for every $1 invested in Head Start alone.

    And from here

    At the end of 3rd grade, the most striking sustained subgroup finding was related to children from high risk households. For this subgroup, children in the 3-year old cohort demonstrated sustained cognitive impacts across all the years from pre-K through 3rd grade. At the end of 3rdgrade, the Head Start children from high risk households showed favorable impacts on the ECLS-K Reading Assessment, the WJIII Letter-Word Identification, and the teacher reported reading/language arts skills. This was in contrast to the impacts for children in lower and moderate risk households, for whom there were no impacts. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2012]

    And from the same link above…

    Head Start’s success over the decades has been built on evidence-based practices. The model, informed by programs like the Perry Preschool, an influential project that tracked children for decades, is constantly adapting — using the best available science and teaching techniques to meet the needs of local communities. [Reuters, 12/27/12]

    And from the same link above…

    Four indicators of economic and social success in adulthood are examined. We find that, for whites, participation in Head Start is associated with a significantly increased probability of completing high school and attending college as well as elevated earnings in one’s early twenties. African Americans who participated in Head Start are significantly less likely to have been charged or convicted of a crime. We also find suggestive evidence that African-American males who attended Head Start are more likely than their siblings to have completed high school. Finally, we uncover some evidence of positive spillovers from older children who attended Head Start to their younger siblings, particularly with regard to criminal behavior. [National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2000]

    I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

    Charles Krauthammer is an utterly hacktacular propagandist who will continue to parlay his thoroughly discredited literary dreck in the face of all possible evidence that he is categorically, provably and demonstrably wrong, all for the furtherance of an “ownership society” agenda (them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose, as the song goes) that has been catastrophic for the short, medium and long-term health of our nation.

    That’s probably a definition of a conservative.

    Update 7/9/13: And when it comes to Head Start, maybe “Chuckles” Krauthammer should suck on this (not that he would actually care, I know).


  • Rupert The Pirate “Drills Down” On Teh Stupid

    August 4, 2010

    “Worst Persons” on “Countdown” on Monday (Tom Shales looses what’s left of his mind over Christiane Amanpour’s “In Memoriam” segment on “This Week”…more here, Fred Barnes pretends that he’s not being paid off by the Repugs, which he is, and Rupert Murdoch and one of his lackeys take top honors for trying to promulgate the “message” of Fix Noise all the way down the corporate media food chain to a “mom and pop” station in your town)


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