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.


  • “Hanging Up” The Teabaggers On Net Neutrality

    August 13, 2010

    This post from The Hill tells us the following…

    Tea Party groups are staking out an anti-regulatory position in the fight over net neutrality rules for phone and cable companies.

    A coalition that included 35 Tea Party groups sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday urging the agency not to boost its authority over broadband providers through a controversial process known as reclassification.

    The process could give federal regulators the power to impose net neutrality rules, which would prevent Internet access providers from favoring some content and applications over others.

    The Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation was among the groups that signed the letter. Jamie Radtke, the group’s chairman, said interest in net neutrality is rising in the Tea Party movement.

    I am not surprised in the least to hear that, given their propensity for being on the wrong side of partly-corporate causes (and more’s the pity, I might add).

    As noted here, what “reclassification” means is that the FCC “will seek to reclassify broadband as a transport service, opening up a way for the agency to enforce network neutrality recommendations and implement some aspects of the National Broadband Plan.”

    And as Michigan Law Professor Susan Crawford tells us in the post…

    …the FCC plans to forbear from rate regulation but ensure that the transmission portion — but not Internet applications and content — is subject to basic rules of the road. They still have a lot of work to do to develop the factual record that will support regulatory reclassification of transmission services, but courts will likely defer to their classification if they do their job right. I have every expectation that they will.

    And at that point, things were progressing smoothly – that is, until this from earlier in the week…

    Efforts to protect net neutrality that involve government regulation have always faced one fundamental obstacle: the substantial danger that the regulators will cause more harm than good for the Internet. The worst case scenario would be that, in allowing the FCC to regulate the Internet, we open the door for big business, Hollywood and the indecency police to exert even more influence on the Net than they do now.

    On Monday, Google and Verizon proposed a new legislative framework for net neutrality. Reaction to the proposal has been swift and, for the most part, highly critical. While we agree with many aspects of that criticism, we are interested in the framework’s attempt to grapple with the Trojan Horse problem. The proposed solution: a narrow grant of power to the FCC to enforce neutrality within carefully specified parameters. While this solution is not without its own substantial dangers, we think it deserves to be considered further if Congress decides to legislate.

    From what I can determine, the plan concocted by Google and Verizon features the following pitfalls (here)…

    …the framework also contains two features that trouble many Silicon Valley start-ups and public-interest lobbyists.

    First, it allows for a second layer of vaguely defined digital services in the future, a sort of gated Internet. These digital entities would have to be substantially different from services being offered now, such as 3-D video or medical monitoring, both heavy users of bandwidth.

    Critics call this a first step toward a two-tiered Internet, creating a pay-to-enter private tier of premium services and a public Internet for those who can’t afford it. Might carriers like Verizon concentrate on delivering service to their premium customers and leave the Internet as we know it as a dusty relic that receives little attention or maintenance?

    Google claims it plans to compete only on the open “public Internet,” including keeping its YouTube video service there. That provides some assurance for now, though company policy could change in the future.

    The proposals also only apply to the “wired” Internet, through which most homes and businesses receive service today. The mobile wireless networks – companies such as Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless – would be left free to discriminate – say by offering faster speeds to websites that pay for the privilege, or slowing delivery from sites that compete with the companies’ own offerings.

    Of course, leave it to the crowd wearing those funny hats and carrying their racist signs to interpret Net Neutrality as a government plot to censor the Internet, when in reality it assures a level playing field for all participants, with any “regulation” (or hierarchical content designation anyway) to be done by private entities.

    I think there are two things we can do in response: 1) Learn about the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for anyone who hasn’t done that already (here), and 2) Sign Sen. Al Franken’s petition to support Net Neutrality (here).

    I don’t really care much about the internet habits of the teabaggers, but I care very much about my own and those of a like-minded political view. And I’d like to make sure we don’t see a day when the telcos can roll out their fancy new apps with the exquisite streamlining of a Porsche 911 Carrera, for example, while humble blogger types such as yours truly do what we do with the speed, precision and reliability of a Yugo by comparison.

    Update 8/17/10: What mcjoan sez here…


    Friday Mashup (10/23/09)

    October 23, 2009

  • I happened to come across the following highlighted story at the Fix Noise site…

    Fox_Funny_1
    Oh mah gawd, I thought to myself; I’d better click on this story and read it right away!

    And after I did, I found this (with the very different headline of “Google CEO: Vast Web Changes Coming Within Five Years”).

    And just to make sure, I searched the story for “government” and “screw” and found nothing.

    So just to reiterate, Fox “News” ran a story with an imaginary quote from the story subject in the headline.

    And they actually have the gall to whine when they’re not treated like a reasonably serious news organization (more here – unless they were really trying to criticize this but were too lazy and/or cowardly to do it any other way).

  • Pitts_3885523_200X150

  • And in another somewhat shocking development, I came across the following item from The Hill by none other than U.S. Congressional District PA-16’s very own waste of space, Pancake Joe Pitts himself…

    There is one thing that people across the ideological spectrum can agree on when it comes to the issue of energy—the United States needs to produce far more clean energy from a source that does not rely on the whims of tyrants in far off parts of the world.

    Fortunately, there is a technology out there that produces clean, emission free energy without the need for raw materials imported from unstable countries. Our green energy future is a nuclear future.

    I believe that we need to provide for a regulatory process that will encourage an increase in the production of this clean, alternative energy.

    I don’t think we should charge headlong into developing nuclear reactors as a means of lessening our oil dependency, but I grudgingly admit that nukes should be part of the picture (of course, it doesn’t hurt that Limerick, the site of an existing reactor, is in nearby PA-06, but I guess Jim Gerlach, that district’s rep, is too busy trying to run for governor to sign onto this also).

    However, as I read the text of Pitts’ bill, I came across a little item of concern (the very last section, actually)…

    The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 shall not be used to arbitrarily prevent uranium mining from taking place on Federal lands. The Federal Government shall not collect additional leasing fees, beyond that which are currently applicable, to mine uranium on Federal lands. Any fees collected in association with commercial uranium mining on Federal lands that should be applied for remediation purposes, shall only be applied to the remediation of sites that incurred damage as a result of commercial nuclear activities. Such fees shall not be applied to the remediation of any sites that incurred damage as a result of Government or Government-sponsored activities.

    So basically, Pitts is proposing that the Act not be enforced to “prevent uranium mining,” huh?

    This story from last July tells us the following…

    WASHINGTON – The Interior Department announced Monday it is temporarily barring the filing of new mining claims, including for uranium, on nearly 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon.

    The land is being set aside for two years so the department can study whether it should be permanently withdrawn from mining activity, according to a notice published in the Federal Register online. The notice covers 633,547 acres under the control of the Bureau of Land Management and 360,002 acres in Kaibab National Forest.

    The announcement comes ahead of Tuesday’s congressional hearing on a bill to set aside more than 1 million acres of federal lands north and south of the canyon. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, and environmental groups had been looking to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for temporary protections at the Grand Canyon while the legislation is pending.

    The Interior Department under President George W. Bush was unresponsive to efforts to ban new uranium mining claims. The House Natural Resources Committee invoked a little-used rule to stop any new claims for up to three years, but Interior officials refused to recognize the action and continued to authorize additional mining claims.

    Former Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Rob Arnberger said he would welcome any protection that (Interior Secretary Ken) Salazar offers, but permanent withdrawal is the goal.

    “Are we prepared to allow the landscape to be torn up adjacent to the park, to threaten the hydrological and the natural resources of that park?” Arnberger said. “My answer to that is no. Don’t open it up to exploration.”

    So, if Pitts wants to advocate for more nukes, that’s his right. However, don’t try to play these cowardly and environmentally destructive games in the meantime.

    Given al of this, I guess I shouldn’t complain so much when Pitts regularly votes No, since that’s usually not as detrimental as episodes such as this, when he actually decides to do something but ends up flirting with catastrophe for his (and our) trouble.

  • Malcolm

  • Finally, former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm opined as follows from here…

    Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, who recently taught Americans the federally-approved way to sneeze this season, was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

    She was trying to explain widespread delays in the delivery of the H1N1 vaccine across the country.

    Basically, of course, she said it wasn’t the Obama administration’s fault, that as soon as the vaccines come in, they’re being shipped out immediately by the many thousands of doses.

    You know how everyone talks about Americans not making things anymore, that so many manufacturing jobs, for instance, have been shipped overseas?

    Well, Sebelius was essentially saying the same goes for flu-vaccine-making.

    Four of the world’s five makers are foreign. And we all think we know what that means.

    Huh?

    Members of Congress could have been exploring this subject last winter when their latest automatic pay raises took effect.

    Instead, Wednesday they expressed shock and dismay at the situation now that it’s October and thousands are already falling ill with the H1N1 virus…

    Also, Purdue University researchers reported the late deliveries may not matter because by the end of this year 63% of Americans will be infected anyway. So, too many doses, too late.

    Well, this wasn’t helped one bit by the following, as noted here last April…

    Famously, Maine Senator Collins, the supposedly moderate Republican who demanded cuts in health care spending in exchange for her support of a watered-down version of the stimulus, fumed about the pandemic funding: “Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill? No, we should not.

    Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate’s version of the stimulus measure.

    And as noted here by Dana Milbank at the WaPo (experiencing a welcome moment of clarity, describing how a certain furry red muppet was called upon to make the case for flu preparedness)…

    This reliance on (PR stunts) rather than medicine is not the fault of the Obama administration, which has done about the best it could with limited tools. It’s the result of years of failure to build adequate vaccine-manufacturing capacity in the United States. Too little work on new vaccine technologies means producers of flu shots still rely on the ancient method of making inoculations with chicken eggs. And the anemic public health system will almost surely buckle this fall as flu sufferers flood emergency rooms.

    If there’s any good news, it’s that the government may be jolted into building an adequate vaccine and public health infrastructure before a more severe pandemic comes along with the potential to kill millions of Americans instead of mere thousands. In the meantime, the best the feds can do is try to slow the spread of the germs until the vaccines arrive…

    And just remember which political party favors delay and obstruction on health care reform as you read this, including fighting the creation of the infrastructure Milbank is talking about.

    Which is nothing to sneeze at, if you will, as the number of flu cases rise across this country (it’s a shame that there’s no similar vaccine to stifle pundit idiocy, or else Malcolm would require multiple injections).


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