Friday Mashup (12/14/12)

December 14, 2012
  • With all of the ongoing fiscal cliff kabuki going on, it was only a matter of time before deficit scold Judd Gregg made a return appearance, and he did so recently here

    In the parlance of John Wayne, it is a time to stand and deliver.

    “Stand” in this context means “stand up to” Republican and Democrat special interests.

    Both parties have, as part of their core elements, groups that do not wish to govern.

    Rather, they wish to stay in the corners of the ring and shout — artificially firing up their constituencies so that they can mine their followers for contributions and power.

    On the left, this is the cause of big labor and the AARP. On the right, it is the cause of the self-anointed definers of religious purity and the anti-tax cabal.

    These groups do not want action.

    That’s partly true, actually – no deal is better than a crappy one (oh, by the way, the last I checked, there was an “ic” in the name of the political party I support, as noted here).

    Oh, and did you know that Gregg helped kill the long-term care component of the Affordable Care Act, according to Charles Pierce here (and in case you don’t make it all the way to the end of either of the first two linked articles, allow me to point out that, since leaving the Senate, Gregg has taken up a nice cushy gig as an “international advisor” to Goldman Sachs…more on the “vampire squid,” as Matt Taibbi calls it, from here).

    And by the way, I could find no citation of John Wayne ever speaking the line “stand and deliver,” though Lee Marvin used it in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” in which Wayne co-starred (Marvin spoke the line to James Stewart).

  • Also, I know that continuing to pick on the media wing of the Republican Party is a bit of cruel sport at a certain point, but they do bring it upon themselves after all; as noted here, Obama campaign donor and Google ex-CEO Eric Schmidt (described as “creepy”) is attacked for sheltering money in Bermuda to avoid U.S. taxes.

    Didn’t we just finish an election where the nominee of the party Fox supports did the same thing in the Cayman Islands, as noted here?

    Boy, does our corporate media think we’re stoo-pid!

  • Continuing, Mike Moritz opined as follows at the Murdoch Street Journal (here)…

    After a seaside area has been designated as wilderness, when is it considered pristine enough by Washington’s standards? Is it after airplanes have been banned from flying over it? After electricity pylons and telephone cables have been removed, cars and bikers prohibited, the roads torn up? When hikers are forbidden access to trails, and kayakers, sailors and snorkelers banished from the water? When eucalyptus trees and other foreign species are eradicated? Or only after Miwok Indians’ arrowheads have been excavated and placed in a museum?

    Apparently it is none of the above, at least according to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Instead, he seems to think that turning a tiny portion of the lovely coastline of California’s Marin County (part of the National Seashore) into the first marine wilderness in the continental United States also requires destroying a family-run oyster operation that has conducted business in the same spot for eight decades.

    So Mr. Salazar recently ordered the business to close within 90 days—a decision that will spell ruin for the Lunny family, owners of Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm, which supplies 40% of California’s oysters.

    The Lunny family, which has made major improvements to the farm operation it took over in 2004, has been hounded for years by a National Park Service with a vendetta so chilling that any rancher on federal lands should be alarmed. Goaded by a clutch of environmental groups, the Park Service has resorted to tactics that might have come straight from Nixon’s dirty-tricks department. For instance, the Park Service alleged that the farm’s oyster boats disturbed the quiet of the area, but the measurements used were revealed to have been taken in New Jersey—and involved jet skis.

    Who exactly is Mike Moritz? As noted here, he’s a well-heeled venture capitalist with Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park, California; he also is a prominent supporter of President Obama, as Wikipedia tells us (I have a suspicion that there’s more going on here, but that’s all I have for the moment).

    More on this is noted in this story (and it looks like the person handling the litigation here is Dan Epstein of the conservative front group “Cause of Action”).

    To me, though (and based on this), Kevin Lunny took a gamble in 2004 and lost (and I think the whole “noise” thing involving the NJ park rangers is much ado about zilch).

    The bottom line, IMHO according to the Daily Kos post, is as follows (from the comments)…

    (The Point Reyes National Seashore, where Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm is located) was PRESERVED (in 1962 by JFK, and designated a marine wilderness in 1976). That means it’s for the environment and recreation FIRST. Ranching was specified in the enabling language as a compatible use so long as it was consistent with the natural resource values. Mariculture was NOT.

    To me, there’s the potential for a rather dangerous precedent to be set here. If the decision to keep the oyster farm stands, then that means that federal laws and treaties affecting natural resources can be overturned by states in the name of preserving commerce.

    And if that happens, does anyone in this country seriously think the right-wing desecration of the environment will come to a halt over the fate of an oyster bed?

  • Next, I just want to add a little more about the decision of the illustrious governor of the commonwealth of PA, Tom Corbett, to let the feds run the health care exchange instead of the state (here)…

    “Health care reform is too important to be achieved through haphazard planning. Pennsylvania taxpayers and businesses deserve more. They deserve informed decision making and a strong plan that responsibly uses taxpayer dollars,” Corbett said in the press release. “Therefore, I have decided not to pursue a state-based health insurance exchange at this time. It would be irresponsible to put Pennsylvanians on the hook for an unknown amount of money to operate a system under rules that have not been fully written.”

    In response, here is some background on the exchanges, which apparently Corbett had no desire to actually read. It should also be noted that both Michael Leavitt, the HSS Secretary under Dubya (who had issues like everyone else in Bushco, but actually “found the nut” for a change here) said that the states should set up the exchanges (with Repug former Senate Majority Leader – and MD – Bill Frist saying the same thing here…see the Leavitt note). In addition, this tells us that, as employers drop Medicare, more seniors are turning to the exchanges for care.

    Oh, and did I note that Corbett committed PA to running its own exchange here (in November of last year…near the bottom of the article)?

    And when it comes to PA and demagoguery on the health care law, you just know that Mikey the Beloved, our mistake of a U.S. Congressional Rep from PA-08, had to have a say (here…and how funny is it to hear a Teahadist like Mikey complaining about President Obama and his “ideology”)…

    (Fitzpatrick) said the scheduled reduction of about 30 percent in Medicare reimbursement payments to health providers at year’s end and the federal debt limit almost certain to be reached this winter should be part of current fiscal cliff negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

    “Singling out one piece of the puzzle without seeing how all the other pieces can fit together, while politically expedient for some, is reckless and just bad policymaking,” Fitzpatrick said.

    In response, allow me to provide the following from here

    Now it is true that the law envisions reductions in Medicare. And some of that money will help pay for the rest of the law. And there are problems in some places with doctors not being willing to accept Medicare patients. But those two things aren’t actually connected.

    And if THEY aren’t connected on health care, then you’d better believe that the debt limit isn’t either (care for some oranges with your apples and pomegranates, Mikey?). And we are talking about health care here, aren’t we, Mikey?

    Continuing with the NPR story…

    The problem with Medicare pay for doctors actually predates passage of the health law by more than a decade — it’s a preexisting condition, if you will, (Harold Pollack, a professor of public health policy at the University of Chicago) says. “And every year, Congress has to go through the song and dance with something called the doctor fix to prevent Medicare fees from a fairly catastrophic reduction. That has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. Health reform does not cut physician fees.”

    But wait, there’s more (here)…

    (Fitzpatrick), in a statement issued jointly by 11 Republican members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, said Corbett made the right call (on the exchanges).

    “The President’s health care law was passed nearly three years ago and yet the Department of Health and Human Services has yet to issue clear guidance to states…”

    Really, Mikey? Try reading this once more (same link as the one for Corbett).

    There are times when I honestly don’t know how this thoroughly unprincipled liar can bear to look at himself in the mirror.

  • Further, “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction,” as James Wolcott called him, is baaaack to claim, among other things, that Number 44 is going to get rid of the home mortgage interest deduction (here)…

    Such Obama supporters may soon notice that the new federal and state tax rates, the envisioned end to traditional deductions such as those for blue-state high taxes and for mortgage interest, and means testing for most government services are aimed precisely at themselves.

    Meanwhile, Obama’s proposal to get rid of the home mortgage interest deduction “hit a wall of resistance,” as noted here, for earners under $250 K (and may that continue to be the case).

  • Finally (and returning to Fix Noise)…well, it just wouldn’t be the season without more hilarity from this bunch, would it (here)…

    The 2012 White House “Holiday” card spotlights the Obama’s family Portuguese water dog — instead of Christmas.

    The black and white illustration was designed by Iowa artist Larassa Kabel and shows Bo the dog, wearing a scarf, while frolicking in the snow on the South Lawn of a blurred White House.

    The inside of the card reads:”This season, may your home be filled with family, friends, and the joy of the holidays.” The card is signed by the entire First Family — along with Bo’s paw print.

    Vanity Fair deemed this year’s Obama ‘Holiday’ card his best-ever in a posting titled, “Bo Obama: the True Meaning of Christmas.”

    Returning to the world of reality, this tells us the following…

    …White House holiday cards have not included the word ‘Christmas’ during the terms of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. It was not included in the final six years of former President Ronald Reagan’s term. This year’s card (December 2005) does not mark a departure from the practices of recent previous administrations.

    And while we’re on the subject of the alleged “war on Christmas” by The Roger Ailes BS Factory, let’s not forget that we have a case of “physician, heal thyself” as noted here.

    God bless us every one.


  • Who’s In Charge Here?

    August 18, 2010

    We are, and it’s up to us to hold accountable anyone who thinks otherwise.


    Thursday Mashup (4/22/10)

    April 23, 2010
  • 1) Occasionally the Bucks County Courier Times experiences a journalistically lucid moment, and they did so yesterday here in an editorial about departing County Operations Office David Sanko…

    Sanko, an ex-big wig with the GOP, was hired in 2004 at $125,000 a year, not exorbitant for the chief executive of a large organization. But let’s remember that his was – and remains – a government job, which means the benefits are good and holidays plentiful.

    When Sanko resigned five years later, he was earning $140,688. Again, not outrageous. But during that time Sanko also drove a county car, compliments of taxpayers. And, it turns out, he received a sweet retirement deal – also compliments of taxpayers.

    How sweet became clear this week when the county revealed that Sanko received $76,500 – the amount the county deposited into a “457” retirement fund for Sanko over his tenure. Unlike the shrunken 401(k) retirement accounts most people in the private sector have, Sanko did not have to deposit any of his own income into the account, according to the county finance director.

    That’s not how it works for other non-union county workers. Their 457 retirement plans are built on the employees’ own contributions; the county doesn’t throw in a dime. That Sanko’s retirement deal turned the formula upside down made it unique in Bucks County, the finance director said.

    Uniquely generous!

    In fact, when taxpayers file their federal income tax returns next year, they might consider claiming part of Sanko’s retirement as a charitable contribution. Or maybe they should consider it a political contribution.

    Either way, taxpayers’ charity doesn’t end there. The “deferred compensation” Sanko received is just part of his retirement deal. When Sanko reaches 60 he’ll be entitled to pension payments of $18,000 a year – for his five years of service here.

    The editorial points out that Dem Bucks County Supervisor Diane Marseglia has quite rightly said that a deal should not be signed for a new supervisor unless the compensation for this individual is held up for public scrutiny.

    Well, given that Director of Finance and Administration Brian Hessenthaler was promoted yesterday to fill Sanko’s job (supported by all three commissioners, as noted here), I think any hint of controversy has been avoided for the moment at least (Hessenthaler deserves the benefit of the doubt, though I’d be curious to learn more about the other job applicants).

    Oh, and in the story about Hessenthaler’s promotion, we also learn the following…

    Commissioner Jim Cawley said there has been an unfair implication that Sanko’s benefits were concealed, when, in fact, his contract was a public document from the moment he was hired.

    Well, I don’t know where this public document supposedly is. I just spent a few minutes here looking for it, and I’ve come up empty.

    And I’m sure Hessenthaler will represent an improvement over his predecessor, who is recalled not so fondly here.

  • 2) Also, I stumbled across this item in which Fix Noise pokes fun at another Democrat, in this case Harry Reid for not returning a campaign donation from Goldman Sachs (I’m not thrilled about him receiving a donation like that either, though there a lot of corporate malefactors out there besides them; Lloyd Blankfein and his pals are particularly bad, I’ll admit)…

    It’s no secret that politicians constantly travel to Wall Street to raise money from the deep-pocketed financial industry executives. It happens all the time, and the financial crisis didn’t change much. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-CT, recently reiterated that this is a good reason to enact public financing of campaigns!

    I assume that the nameless individual behind this commentary doesn’t fancy the idea of public campaign financing, hence the exclamation point. However, the following should be noted in response (here, from January)…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — About 40 current and former corporate executives have a message for Congress: Quit hitting us up for campaign cash.

    In a letter to Congressional leaders on Friday, the executives urged Congress to approve public financing for House and Senate campaigns. They sent the letter a day after the Supreme Court struck down limits on corporate spending in elections.

    “Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors,” the letter said. “And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the court’s decision, the fund-raising pressure on members of Congress will only increase.”

    The companies represented by the executives who signed the letter include Playboy Enterprises, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, the Seagram’s liquor company, the toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines, Men’s Wearhouse, the Quaker Chemical Corporation, the Brita Products Company, San Diego National Bank, MetLife and Crate and Barrel.

    They sent the letter through Fair Elections Now, a coalition of good-government groups that has long lobbied Congress to pass legislation establishing public campaign financing.

    This also takes you to a site where you can learn more about public campaign financing, including an interactive map to find out what your state has done on this important issue.

    You want to get rid of the Michele Bachmanns, Jim Inhofes, Steve Kings and Louie Gohmerts out there, people? Limit the election cycle to 30 days, keep the corporate money out of it (tough, because a lot of people make a lot of dough out of this stuff, including the broadcast networks), and force these people to run on their accomplishments, or lack thereof (my grand and glorious plan also depends on an informed electorate, though, I realize).

    And if you think they look silly now…

  • 3) Finally, we recently observed the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, but we’re also a week beyond the third anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. And with that in mind, I give you the following USA Today story from last December…

    Administrative buildings began shutting down nearly 90 minutes before the first campuswide alert about the April 2007 shootings that eventually left 32 students and teachers dead.

    According to the report, two unidentified university officials notified their own family members of the first shootings more than an hour before the first alert was issued at 9:26 a.m., April 16.

    Campus trash collection was even canceled 21 minutes before students and teachers were warned.

    One of the two officials also alerted a colleague in Richmond more than 30 minutes before the campuswide alert but cautioned the colleague “to make sure (the information) doesn’t get out” because the university had not made an official announcement.

    The first warning came more than two hours after the first shootings and 14 minutes before Seung Hui Cho continued the rampage in a classroom building where some students were shot at their desks in the most deadly campus shooting in U.S. history.

    “What happened at Virginia Tech is by its very nature inexplicable, and we may never fully understand the tragic events that transpired that terrible day,” (former Governor Tim) Kaine said in a written statement Friday. “However, the Commonwealth has remained committed to providing as accurate a factual narrative as possible.”

    After reading this account, I have a question; why isn’t a grand jury looking into this (I’ve looked around and found no news story on that)?

    Why was campus trash collection, for example, halted before the entire campus was notified that a shooter was on the premises (allegedly)?

    Oh, I forgot – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is too busy suing over health care reform as part of burnishing his conservative bona fides (as noted here) to do the job he was tasked to do by Governor Bob McDonnell (who isn’t far behind him in the winguttery brigade).

    I have no doubt that Virginia Tech is, among other things, a wonderful community of individuals of all kinds of ethnicities, life experiences and skills. And it is a tribute to the talent and resiliency of the school’s students, faculty and other personnel that it has come back from one of the darkest experiences surely that any institution of learning could imagine.

    And that makes it even more of an almost unspeakable travesty that the shootings that very nearly tore it apart have not been investigated as fully as possible as part of every effort to ensure they never occur again.

  • Update 5/25/10: More bang-‘em-up pro-gun antics from McDonnell – somehow, I’m sure he knew what he was doing by allowing the name of the non-existent group here.


    What The World Thinks Of Goldman Sachs

    April 18, 2010

    I’m with Max Keiser on everything here except the bin Laden comparison, and the gentleman from France is right; this needs to be settled through the world financial community, not just here (hat tips to Atrios and Rising Hegemon; OK, cue, the wingnut umbrage over my last observation – five, four, three…).

    Update: And for anyone out there who may think that Keiser is being a bit too harsh, consider this.


    Getting “Religion” With Goldman Sachs

    April 17, 2010

    I would consider this to be akin to driving the moneychangers from the temple, as it were, as opposed to acting in accordance with a deity.

    And leave it to “The Party of No” to do its best to maintain the awful status quo (here).

    (The Dylan Ratigan clip below is from last November, by the way.)


    Our Corporate Media Glosses Over The “Stack Attack”

    February 25, 2010

    This Altenet column tells us the following…

    I have to admit, if Joe Stack had flown his plane into the new headquarters of Goldman Sachs, it would be tempting to label him a hero. His political leanings notwithstanding, his act clearly falls within the FBI definition of a Domestic Terror attack. And while the rope a dope the right wing is playing with this political hot potato as they cajole more Tea Party momentum out of this act is despicable, it is but one more distraction in the false fight between right and left in this country.

    OK, before I say another word, I should state up front that I think it is every bit as repugnant for anyone on my side of the ideological fence to hope that Stack had hit a favorite target of ours as it is for any wingut to feel any kind of sick sense of gratitude over the fact that Stack ended up hitting a right-wing target. I can’t think of a punishment prescribed by a court of law that is appropriate enough for Lloyd Blankfein and his G-S pals, but I certainly don’t recommend a physical attack against them. And this also needs to be pointed out, after all, because two people died in the attack (including Stack) and thirteen were injured.

    And this article tells us how airline pilots have reacted…

    “General aviation is a small community, mostly misunderstood by the general public and more unfortunately, our government,” said one pilot in an e-mail.

    “We are perceived as a bunch of rich people with expensive toys that now can be used to kill people,” he wrote. “Frankly, we’re tired of it.”

    Many pilots are quick to compare the perils posed by any large truck loaded with a bomb – witness the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

    “We saw two people rent a truck and blow up a federal building but no call to require more restrictions on truck rental,” wrote another in a different e-mail.

    I think that’s a silly comparison. In the event that someone goes nuts and decides to employ a transportation vehicle to try and hurt someone, there are a lot more ways to regulate vehicle traffic than there are to regulate aircraft in flight.

    I have some questions about Stack that I’m sure will be answered in future news reports, such as, how many hours of flight time had he accumulated? When was he last certified? Are pilots required to take some kind of a psychological test periodically in an effort to detect and future aberrant behavior? If not, why not?

    Also, as noted here, where are the calls for profiling the individuals of Stack’s race, job occupation, or religious affiliation (yes, I know the answer to those questions, but I believe they must be asked). And this Media Matters post argues that our corporate cousins with initials for names dropped the ball by not linking Stack to the teabaggers; I don’t know that Stack associated directly with that group, but his actions do seem to dovetail with the teabagger boilerplate of anti-government threats.

    We do know this much, however, based on this…

    Stack’s writings suggest he was part of a loosely organized movement that stretches back to at least the 1950s. Some believe the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to levy income taxes, was not legally ratified; it was ratified in 1913.

    Others believe that paying taxes is purely voluntary. Still others believe in fictional loopholes that would exempt large groups of Americans from paying taxes if they were only in on the secret.

    Believers aren’t limited to anti-government militia members living off the land out West. Stack was a 53-year-old software engineer in Austin. Other followers include movie star Wesley Snipes and a decorated police detective in the nation’s capital.

    “They’re fairly prevalent,” said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups. “We’ve had a right wing tax protest movement going back several decades now. They were very hot in the 1990s, but they are very much still out there.”

    The most bitter irony to me, though, is that Stack may actually have had a point in his protest. I hasten to add, though, that he should have sought a remedy through constructive political action instead of a murderous act of terrorism (full disclosure: I do not work as a contractor, and I have a feeling the main culprit here is the depression of wages due to the recession and offshoring, but I cannot imagine how some congressional hearings on this subject in the wake of this story could be a bad thing).

    This tells us that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 ended up encouraging companies to hire computer programmers (Stack’s occupation) instead of retaining them as contractors out of fear that companies wouldn’t withhold tax revenue from these people (less money for the government), though they would work as salaried employees did (with taxes deducted from their paychecks, of course).

    However, as Wikipedia tells us, “A 1991 Treasury Department study found that tax compliance for technology professionals was actually among the highest of all self-employed workers and that Section 1706 would raise no additional tax revenue and could possibly result in losses as self-employed workers did not receive as many tax-free benefits as employees.”

    I skimmed over Stack’s manifesto from The Smoking Gun, and for a guy who plainly was tormented and should have undergone counseling, I should tell you his writing is fairly lucid. Maybe a thoughtful examination of it as part of a wider story on Stack and the forces in this country that espouse anti-government violence would be enlightening to us all, to say nothing of possibly preventing future attacks.


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