Tuesday Mashup (6/24/14)

June 24, 2014

semi-automatic

  • John Lott is back, opining on his favorite topic (here)…

    (President) Obama also claimed: “The idea, for example, that we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you are going to buy a weapon you have to go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are so that you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semi-automatic weapon makes no sense.”

    Obama ought to try purchasing a gun himself. He will realize it is not as easy as he thinks to buy a gun. No store in the entire United States can legally sell a semi-automatic gun without conducting a background check. Indeed, That (sic) has been the federal law for two decades now, since 1994.

    Interesting (though not surprising) that Lott has nothing to say about background checks at gun shows – probably because there basically is no such thing for most of the states in this country (take a look at all of the red on the map shown here).

    Also, as noted from here

    …when you compare the United States to nations like Britain and Japan, it becomes clear that firearm ownership contributes to America’s murder problem. The American firearm homicide rate is about 20 times the average among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries (excluding Mexico).

    Harvard researchers Daniel Hemenway and Matthew Miller examined 26 developed countries, and checked whether gun ownership correlated with murder rates. They found that “a highly significant positive correlation between total homicide rates and both proxies for gun availability.” They also didn’t find much evidence that a higher rate of gun murders led to lower rates of other kinds of murder (i.e., stabbings).

    Interestingly, these results tended to hold true even when you exclude the United States and its super-high homicide and gun-ownership rates. “More guns are associated with more homicides across industrialized countries,” Hemenway and Miller conclude.

    Data from inside the United States suggests the same thing. A recent, highly sophisticated study found that, once you control for general crime rates and other confounding factors, “each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership” translated to a 0.9 percent increase in homicides. A meta-analysis — study of studies — found a strong consensus among researchers that access to guns correlated with higher homicide rates in the United States.

    In another screed at Fix Noise (here), Lott complains about that danged “li-bu-ruul media” once again for not reporting that, according to Lott, the trend in this country is that school shootings are going down.

    In response, here is a list from 2012 of school shootings in 36 other countries versus the U.S. – can’t imagine how even a life form as delusional as Lott could think that we have anything to brag about on that front.

    Most recently, Lott launched a cowardly attack against the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America here.

  • Next, I posted a little while ago about the dustup between former Philly Pops artistic director Peter Nero (synonymous with Philly Pops for 33 years, as noted here) and Philly Pops president and chief executive Frank Giordano (who dumped Nero because he supposedly cost too much, even though Giordano ended up with a salary bump to $91K in the bargain as noted here – second bullet).

    Well, it turns out that Nero let a little verbal faux pas slip out recently here, saying that “crooks dressed in $3,000 suits came in who didn’t know a thing about the music business” led to Nero’s departure.

    Please note that Nero did not make personal reference to Giordano above, even though Nero later apologized for his remarks.

    However, Giordano is suing Nero anyway for hurt fee fees, to the tune of $75,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

    Really?

    Giordano is yet another CEO type who managed to finagle his way to a position of influence over an artistic and cultural institution and pick whatever bones remained before it finally dies or very nearly succumbs (see Bill Marrazzo and WHYY, whichever millionaire owns it now and the Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News, etc.). And in this case, yelling “lawsuit” is the act of a desperate, despicable person who, while he seems to know the price of everything, truly knows the value of nothing, as the saying goes.

  • Further, I give you Larry Kudlow, who I admit has been busy lately (here)…

    “Reinvigorating the leadership” is how one senior House staffer described the ascendency of Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who won a first-ballot victory for the position of GOP whip. The staffer went on to portray Scalise as not a member of the Washington establishment. Indeed, Scalise is a former chair of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the conservative caucus in the U.S. House. He has had a meteoric rise, and he is someone to be reckoned with.

    ..

    …make no mistake about it, Steve Scalise is a genuine conservative. He was one of only 15 Republican House members to get a 100 percent voting designation by the American Conservative Union.

    National Review contributor Quin Hillyer put it this way: “Scalise will be the most conservative GOP leadership member since Dick Armey.”

    I’m sure Kudlow is right in those latter two sentences, by the way, which definitely isn’t positive as far as I’m concerned (I should note that the former whip was Kevin McCarthy, who will become majority leader upon Eric Cantor’s primary election loss).

    In response, it should be noted that Scalise is buds with Darth Cheney (here), wants to fully “repeal and replace” “Obamacare” (here…no surprise either I realize), and thinks climate change is a hoax (of course – here). Also (and which is also predictable, I’m sure), Scalise has a bit of a “Koch” problem (here).

    Yep, Not Your Father’s Republican Party continues to march Forward Into The Past (will the last GOP “moderate” to leave please turn out the lights?).

  • Continuing with unhinged U.S. House Republicans, I give you the following from Ed Whitfield (here)…

    In 2009, President Obama traveled to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and announced at the Climate Change Conference that the United States would reduce our CO2 emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

    The president did not consult with the Congress or any other job creating groups, but committed the citizens of America to his arbitrary goals. Acting unilaterally, by regulation and executive orders, has become commonplace with this administration.

    Well, didn’t Dubya act “unilaterally” too here (and correctly, shocking as that sounds), when he “order(ed) EPA to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) from mobile sources, working in coordination with several other federal agencies” after The Supremes ruled that GHGs were indeed a pollutant and subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act (and yes, I’m sure I’ve pointed this out before)?

    And as noted from here, on the positive economic impact of pursuing a common-sense energy agenda de-emphasizing fossil fuels…

    • Climate mitigation investments will have huge economic returns on that investment ranging from energy efficiency reducing total energy bills to new economic activity surrounding the new technologies and businesses seeking to reduce our climate impact.
    • Climate mitigation investments will have huge corollary benefits — such as improved human health (from reduced allergy risks to reduced emergency room visits with asthma attacks to reduced deaths due to fossil fuel pollution), improved visibility at national parks
    • Climate mitigation will reduce the huge risks associated with climate change and will provide an insurance against the potential that climate change implications could be far worse than standard projections suggest (e.g., the risk that the modeling is erring on the too optimistic side).
    Climate mitigation is an investment that will provide huge returns — across a spectrum of economic, social, and environmental fronts.

    It should also be noted that Whitfield and U.S. Senate Dem (and clean energy traitor) Joe Manchin came up with something called H.R. 3826/S. 1905, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act (here). It would repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, authority the agency was accorded under the Clean Air Act, authority affirmed by two decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Of course, as noted here, Whitfield has received about $900,000 in donations from the oil and gas industry, so I would say that this is a handsome return on investment by those cretins, if nothing else.

    One more thing – on the issue of climate, this tells us that we just experienced the hottest May on record…just sayin’.

  • Also, leave it to Matt Bai to find a high-profile Dem who opposes teachers unions (here)…

    So you’re a liberal member of the 1 percent, and you’ve decided to wrest control of the Democratic agenda from change-averse insiders. You want to free the capital from the grip of powerful interest groups. You want to inspire a new set of policies to help America meet the challenges of a fast-transforming economy. Where do you turn for leadership and innovation?

    To the teachers union, of course!

    At least that’s how it seems to have played out at the Democracy Alliance, the group of superrich Democrats who have funneled more than half a billion dollars into liberal groups over the past decade. Earlier this month, the alliance announced that John Stocks, executive director of the National Education Association, would become the chairman of its board.

    The move went largely unnoticed by the Washington media and even most Democrats, who could think of nothing at that moment other than the Memoir That Ate Everything in Its Path. But it tells you something — more than Hillary Clinton’s book does, certainly — about the direction of Democratic politics right now.

    (For the record, let it be known that I don’t give a damn about Hillary Clinton’s memoir. And by the way, CNN, staying with HRC, when it comes to politicians and wealth, how come this is news in 2014, but this wasn’t news in 2000?)

    Bai then uses the recent travesty of Judge Rolf Treu’s ruling on teacher tenure in California (a decision based on a totally made-up claim, as noted here) to attack teachers unions in general.

    Having created this straw man, he then inflicts the following…

    Heed the words of Nick Hanauer, a Seattle-based venture capitalist and school reform advocate, who wrote in a 2012 email that subsequently became public: “It is impossible to escape the painful reality that we Democrats are now on the wrong side of every education reform issue. … There can be no doubt in any reasonable person’s mind that the leadership of our party and most of its elected members are stooges for the teachers union, the ring leaders in all this nonsense.”

    I don’t want to get too “lost in the woods” here, so I’ll try to sum up by saying that Bai opposes the direction taken by the group Democracy Alliance now that John Stocks, executive director of the National Education Association (and someone opposed by Hanauer) will become chairman of the board. Even though, as Bai puts it, “the problem here has nothing to do with Stocks personally, whom I’ve never met, and who has been described to me as a thoughtful and open-minded guy. It also has nothing to do with teachers generally, many of whom are nothing short of heroic, and who are struggling to adapt to the turmoil in their industry, same as the rest of us.”

    Gee, wouldn’t it have been worth Bai’s time to try and reach out to Stocks and get a quote or two for this column?

    Oh sorry, silly me – I forgot that it’s more important for Bai to push the “Dems caught in the grip of a supposedly hopelessly compromised teachers union” narrative in a column full of supposedly high-minded corporate media Beltway puffery than it is to write about real people and real issues.

    And speaking of real people and real issues, I thought this letter was a good response to Hanauer, including the following…

    …you say that it’s not the hard-working, dedicated teachers who are ruining education but rather their nasty, child-hating union. I grew up as an upper middle class white boy in the American South, where all of the white grownups had their favorite Black people—the cook, the person who looked after the kids, the guy who took care of the cattle for a share of the corn crop. But God forbid that one of those favorites be seen gathering on a street corner with Black people from out of town, or at an NAACP meeting, or having coffee with a union representative. At the first hint of any organized activity, our grownups would turn on their favorite Black people faster than a summer squall could dump an inch of rain on the pasture. Suddenly the individuals who had been so tender, wise, and trustworthy were scary, too stupid to know better, and not to be let into the house. Everybody loved the solitary black person, nobody liked it when they started to bunch up and talk crazy.

    That’s kind of the way it is with teachers. Everybody loves a teacher, nobody likes the big, bad teachers’ union. As long as they’re staying after school to give the extra help to the kids who need it or reaching into their own pockets to pay for the supplies that the state doesn’t anymore, teachers are saints. But when they collectively advocate for decent wages, adequate health care, and working conditions that don’t erode by the minute they’re a threat to the moral fabric of the state.

    And as long as I’m on the subject of education, I thought this was a good post about the battle in the Philadelphia school district between public and charter schools (yes, I’m sure there are excesses in public schools, but after just having paid for the education of a parochial school student who recently graduated, I can tell you that that’s hardly a panacea either).

  • Finally, this tells us that we recently observed the 50th anniversary of the disappearance of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three civil rights workers were trying to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi; their bodies were found 44 days later (the incident helped to propel the Civil Rights Act to passage – Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of the crime in 2005).

    And though this event wasn’t as awful as the murders, it was still a defining moment that tried to legitimize, if not actually whitewash, that tragedy (and as noted here, past is definitely prologue from the party of The Sainted Ronnie R when it comes to race).


  • Monday Mashup (5/19/14)

    May 19, 2014

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  • This from about 10 days ago tells us about the 7 U.S. House Republicans named to the BENGHAZI!!! Clown Show Committee.

    So, in no particular order, allow me to introduce them to you…

    Susan Brooks (IN – 05)

    Brooks seems to be a little smarter than some of the other numbskulls here; she’s been operating “below the radar” as far as I can see. All I could find was this item where she criticized the U.S. Senate Dems for supposedly not passing a budget, a popular talking point at the time echoed by Mikey the Beloved among others (more on him later)…in response, I give you this (and by the way…).

    Jim Jordan (OH – 04)

    Supported the shut down? Check. Supported the sequester? Check.

    However, that doesn’t come close to telling Jordan’s story. As head of the Republican Study Committee, he has marshaled forces to oppose anything that looks even remotely like GOP compromise or deal-making with Number 44, being a perpetual thorn in the side of “Man Tan” Boehner, to the point where Jordan even scuttled the deal on the sequester and forced last year’s aforementioned government shut down (which was definitely the electoral “gift that keeps on giving” for the Dems, and even prevented a deal in which President Hopey Changey would have given away the proverbial store). All of this is noted in Tim Dickinson’s excellent Rolling Stone article here.

    Mike Pompeo (KS – 04)

    I already discussed Pompeo here, pointing out that, among other things, he’s utterly bought and paid for by Chuck and Dave Koch.

    Martha Roby (AL – 02)

    I predict (for whatever it’s worth) that, of the 7 Republicans participating in this farce, Roby will be the one who ends up with the most TV “face time” of the bunch and ends up getting talked about the most on the cable “news” channels.

    That’s because, with the departure of “Moon Unit” Bachmann, the Teahadists are looking for a new “lightning rod” to congregate around and practice their faux indignation every chance they get. And had Marsha Blackburn been named to this cluster instead, then she would have solidified her own wingnut bona fides. But she wasn’t.

    And Roby brings her own brand of “crazy, to wit…

  • She didn’t push back against a “birther” calling Obama a “communist despot” here.
  • “Stockholm Syndrome” Roby voted against the Violence Against Women Act here.
  • She introduced bill to eliminate overtime pay here.
  • And as we all know, more gun laws won’t solve the problem (here – removing my tongue from my cheek).
  • Update 10/22/14: Not sure how I forgot about this from Roby, but I did somehow (bullet #4).

    Peter Roskam (IL – 06)

    This guy might end up getting more face time than he deserves too…

  • Here, he basically lied about whether or not he knew former House Speaker Tom DeLay, aka, The Bugman (not a crime I realize, but I think it sends a message).
  • As of 2008, he’s received over $100 grand in oil money and has fought against clean energy, of course (here).
  • Roskam was under investigation for a $750,000 (!) trip to Taiwan in 2011 (also noted here that he failed to report about $103,000 in fundraising expenditures in ’05).
  • Here, Roskam co-introduced a bill to block federal funding of universities “engaging in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars.” (um, let me see here, where is that dictionary? “Free speech”…what exactly is that definition again?). And yes, Dan Lipinski definitely should know better.
  • Lynn Westmoreland (GA – 03)

  • Here, Dem U.S. House Rep John Lewis recently called on Westmoreland to step down since Westmoreland is in charge of the political strategy wing of the party, and Lewis sees a conflict of interest (with all due respect to Rep. Lewis, is there anything involved with this nonsense that isn’t all about “political strategy”?).
  • Here, Westmoreland sponsored a bill to post the Ten Commandments without actually knowing what they are (just say “oops,” and get out, you dweeb).
  • He was perfectly happy over setting up “faux” Democratic candidate web sites, which is a really chicken way to support your own party here.
  • He said a shutdown would be worth it because the government is full of “gangrene” here (real nice).
  • Westmoreland also said that NSA spying foiled 54 terrorist plots here (of course, Westmoreland supposedly couldn’t produce anything to verify that since it’s “classified” – why does this sound like the dinner scene with Angela Lansbury and James Gregory with the ketchup bottle in “The Manchurian Candidate”?).
  • And last but certainly least, I give you the chairman…

    Trey Gowdy (SC – 04)

  • I guess it’s inevitable that I point this out (though Gowdy gets accidental honesty points here).
  • And let’s not forget how Gowdy and company are using BENGHAZI!!! to raise money, despite their faux protestations to the contrary (here).
  • And lest anyone wonder about whether or not they’ll be beating this proverbial dead horse for 2016, I give you this (here).
  • Also, Gowdy is apparently known for theatrics, as noted here (perfect for the Repugs).
  • In conclusion, in the question of whether or not the House should proceed with this, I give you career ambassador Thomas Pickering here (a welcome voice of sanity).

  • Next, I know I mentioned the sequester previously concerning Jim Jordan, but do you know that, according to Tom Coburn and the GAO, the sequester resulted in exactly one layoff (here)?

    Notice there’s no discussion of the difference between a layoff and a furlough, to say nothing of a cut in services needed by millions of people in this country (this provides more information, and a rather lengthy list of agencies that would have been impacted by a prolonged shut down is here…not surprised that the wingnuts are trying to deflect blame on the shutdown considering this).

  • Further, I need to catch up on the latest with our wet noodle PA-08 U.S. House Rep (here)…

    The numbers are eye-popping.

    Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick, R-8, used them and some close-to-home examples Monday afternoon to drive home the importance of reducing the national debt to 150 eighth-graders at Council Rock’s Newtown Middle School.

    The students of social studies teacher Joe Fabrizio are looking at debt and other issues as part of their studies in American history class.

    The federal government debt is $17.5 trillion — which the congressman said is about $55,000 for every one of the 315 million people who live in the United States. The thought of passing on that debt to future generations is very troubling, he told students at the Newtown Township School.

    “Spending money today and then handing it off is like going down to the Goodnoe Ice Cream Bar here in Newtown, buying a bunch of ice cream, and then handing the bill to the person next to you and walking out,” Fitzpatrick said. “You deserve to inherit a country with debt that, if not gone, is manageable and a future that is bright.”

    Gosh, how courageous of Mikey to trumpet his conservative “cred” before a bunch of eighth graders. Talk about the “line of fire”…

    In response, this tells us that the Treasury Department of the Obama Administration will pay down a portion of the national debt this quarter for the first time in six years.

    And for the eleventy zillionth time, the main issue is JOBS! not debt. And Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein wrote a column here last November about the trade deficit, which is the one that truly matters, since easing it would both increase employment ultimately and reduce the budget deficit.

    Also, Mikey recently informed us that he supports something called HR 4438, the American Research and Competitiveness Act, which (shockingly) was also supported by 62 House Democrats. The problem is that this makes a research and development tax credit for business permanent without the “offset” in spending that Mikey’s same-party pals clamor for when we’re talking about SNAP, an unemployment benefits extension, Medicare doctor’s reimbursements, the sequester overall, etc. (here and here).

    One more thing…apparently (based on what I found at his web site), Fitzpatrick wrote a letter to Speaker “Man Tan” Boehner and Dem Leader Nancy Pelosi saying we should have a BENGHAZI!!! committee (again, stunning bravery to side so definitively with the overall consensus). Given that, I wonder if Mikey was one of the 206 Repug U.S. House reps who asked to be on the committee?

    And what does that tell you about who he truly thinks he represents if the answer is Yes?

  • Finally, it needs to be emphasized that tomorrow is primary day in PA, and that means that, if you live in our beloved commonwealth, you need to vote early and often for Allyson Schwartz, running against the crowded Dem field of Tom Wolf, Rob McCord, and Katie McGinty (and running uphill, apparently, which makes it even more critical that Schwartz receive our support). Also, if you live in PA-13, Daylin Leach deserves your support in the primary for Schwartz’s seat.

    Turning to PA-08, I’ve supported Kevin Strouse in the Dem primary all along, for what it’s worth, because I believe that he’s the best Democrat to go up against Mikey the Beloved in the fall.

    I’m not going to tell you that I’ve spent equal amounts of time reading up on both Kevin and his primary opponent Shaughnessy Naughton. I do find much in common with many of their positions, though, which is good. However, it concerns me that Naughton, as nearly as I can tell, was the first to question whether or not Strouse is beholden to gas drilling interests in PA, as well as bringing up family campaign donations that, even if they were somehow illegal (and who knows?), are relatively piddling sums regardless (10 grand here, 10 grand there…). This forced Strouse to play defense kind of late in the game.

    Is there anything inherently wrong with that? No. Politics ain’t beanbag, as somebody said. But let’s just say that it creates a perception for yours truly (along with endorsements for Naughton by the Philadelphia Inquirer – which, as far as I’m concerned, only cares about who they view as the weaker Dem winning the nod to make it easier for Mikey to win another term – and corpora-Dem Ed “Fix The Debt” Rendell…and yes, I would have the same concerns if Strouse received those endorsements).

    To be perfectly honest with you, neither one has thus far run in a way that I would consider to be the way a progressive Democrat should run his or her campaign (again, Leach fits that template to a “T” as far as I’m concerned). Hopefully the winner will do something about that in the general election.

    But I’m sticking with Kevin Strouse since I believe that he’ll do a better job of fighting for the causes that matter (economy/infrastructure, environment, common sense legislation from the U.S. House, etc.). And I hope you do also (to do what you can to help, click here).


  • 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.


  • Tuesday Mashup (3/4/14)

    March 4, 2014
  • This doesn’t matter to our corporate media (hell, they’re his cheerleaders, as we know).

    Neither does this.

    Nor does this.

    Nor this.

    Nope, our dear cousins at the news networks with initials for names (not counting the media wing of the Republican Party, of course) will ALWAYS “ride the tire swing” on behalf of you-know-who, as noted below (“EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JOHN McCAIN!!! WHAT PEARLS OF WISDOM WILL HE EMPART NEXT???).

    Time_McCain_Inhofe
    At this point in his career in public life, the senior Republican U.S. senator from Arizona is nothing but a pitiable shill for the warmongers and the “one percent” (seeing as how we live in the era of angry millionaires). And he will be forever bitter that a Democrat resides in An Oval Office as a result of the 2008 election instead of he and Caribou Barbie (perish the thought).

    And regardless of what he ever says, he will NEVER be called out by the Beltway political-media-industrial complex for it.

    Update 3/6/14: Shocked? Not me.

  • Next, it’s time for a trip through the looking glass again, as noted here

    (Last month), Oregon’s Ellen Rosenblum became the latest AG to abdicate her duty to defend (a state ban on gay marriage). And earlier (in February), a federal judge struck down Virginia’s traditional definition of marriage after Attorney General Mark Herring refused to defend it.

    Herring’s defense of his abdication was typical of these attorneys general. He said he was putting Virginia “on the right side of history.” But the job of an attorney general is law not history, and Herring and the other AGs have failed at that job.

    Herring put himself on the wrong side of the Virginia constitution, which bans same-sex marriage, the wrong side of recent Supreme Court rulings and most importantly, on the wrong side of his sworn duty to defend Virginia’s laws.

    While he was at it, Herring also violated his ethical obligation to zealously represent his clients — the people of Virginia — who enacted the gay marriage ban through a 2006 ballot initiative.

    And by the way, you can include PA’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane on the list of attorneys general choosing not to defend the indefensible (IMHO) DOMA for their state/commonwealth.

    The author of this piece is Curt Levey, and I believe he has a rather interesting interpretation of what laws the Supreme Court should defend and which ones they shouldn’t (don’t worry – I’m being sarcastic). For, as noted here, The Supremes have already ruled against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which predicates the actions of attorneys general like Herring and Kane. Also, Levey tried to argue that the High Court should overturn the Affordable Care Law, and, in the process, ignored the fact that it has to do with interstate commerce (the Court of Hangin’ Judge JR has observed throughout that such a law is covered under the so-called “commerce clause” of the Constitution – if nothing else, this shows that Levey doesn’t truly have the understanding of the law that he claims to have…here).

    As noted here from about four years ago, though, there really is no need to give Curt Levey the time of day at a reputable news site anyway.

  • Further, Repug U.S. Senator Rand “Fake Ophthalmologist” Paul of Kentucky, in pursuit of another way to try and burnish his wingnut bona fides, is opposing Dr. Vivek Murthy’s nomination as the next Surgeon General (here)…

    Citing his work in political advocacy pushing for gun control and Obamacare, (Paul) threatened…to place a hold on President Obama’s Surgeon General Nominee.

    In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Paul explained his objection to Dr. Vivek Murthy, Obama’s choice for the position.

    According to Paul, Murthy’s “primary policy goals” have been pushing stricter gun control laws and Obamacare, and that Murthy refers to “guns as a public health issue on par with heart disease and has diminished the role of mental health in gun violence.”

    I’m not going to deal with Paul’s typically idiotic claim that Dr. Murthy “diminished the role of mental health in gun violence.” Instead, I’ll ask the following question; I wonder if Paul knows that Dr. C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General under The Sainted Ronnie R, thought gun violence was a public health issue also (here)?

    And in defense of Dr. Murthy, I give you the following (here, from Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association)…

    We know that Dr. Murthy values prevention. As a member of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, he is already working to give sound advice that brings together every facet of government — from education and defense to housing and transportation — to ensure health is considered across the full spectrum of national programs and policies.

    He has demonstrated that he is a mature leader of men and women. As co-founder and president of Doctors for America, he brought together 16,000 physicians and medical students to advocate for quality, affordable health care for all. He has also been a leader in HIV prevention and education as president of Visions Worldwide. And finally, we know that Dr. Murthy has the bright mind to take the latest science and turn it into better health outcomes. He is well trained and as an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he’s successfully practiced at some of our nation’s most prestigious health care institutions.

    Dr. Murthy has accomplished much in his 37 years. Because of his young age, however, some might question his readiness for such an important position. However, our nation has been privileged to have had many such successful young health innovators over the years. For example, Dr. Vivien Thomas helped devise the procedure to correct the “blue baby syndrome”; Dr. Robert Jarvik invented one of the first artificial hearts; Dr. Joseph Murray performed the first human kidney transplant; and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi was one of the key discovers of HIV as the virus that causes AIDS.

    These groundbreaking health advancements, which have saved millions of lives, were made possible by four leaders younger than Dr. Murthy. Competence, not age, should be the major criteria for this important position.

    Oh, and by the way, can we please dispense with this fiction that “Dr.” Paul is actually a certified ophthalmologist by a reputable board, OK (here)?

  • Continuing, did you know that “liberals are destroying the planet,” according to Ed Rogers? Why, he says so here, in a column where he posits that there should be a category of individuals who believe or, more precisely, don’t believe in climate change called the “Prudent Rationals” (yep, it gets pretty thick here quickly, if you know what I mean)…

    “The Prudent Rationals” would be comprised of those whose attitudes comport with something like the following: They are generally respectful of the scientific community and are eager to listen to mainstream scientists and researchers. They want to hear from legitimate experts who acknowledge the variables, the uncertainties and, importantly, the mistakes and errors of climate science so far. This group could support a prudent plan to produce measurable benefits, but only if the plan were truly global in scope and the cost seemed to be proportional to the outcome. The “Prudent Rationals” believe it is reasonable to accept that there are consequences for continually pumping gases into the atmosphere. And it seems right that one generation should leave the planet better than they found it for the next generation. But we need to be realistic about technical science and political science. If we can’t act globally to limit these gases, we should be focusing on local pollution, not on plans that unilaterally wreck our economy and impoverish millions – if not billions – for nothing.

    Laurence Lewis of Daily Kos answered all of this idiocy pretty well here, I thought (and for something that is supposed to be nothing more than some dastardly liberal plot, it should be noted that the CIA and the National Academy of the Sciences are going to spend about $630,000 to “study how humans might influence weather patterns, assess the potential dangers of messing with the climate, and investigate possible national security implications of geoengineering attempts” – here, so clearly, the “spooks” believe in the climate crisis, wouldn’t you say?).

    After reading the WaPo column, though (and managing to keep down my lunch in the process), I got a little curious about Ed Rogers, so I decided to do a bit of investigating. And it turns out that, along with former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, he runs the uber-lobbying firm BGR (here). For more information, this tells us more about the lobbying activities of BGR (no big “get” here I know, but I still think it’s interesting to see how wide their footprint is, as it were).

    It should also be noted that Rogers is an old hand when it comes to taking shots at Democrats, trying to impugn then-Senator Barack Obama in his run for the White House in 2006 (here). And after peaking in revenue in ’07, the firm apparently saw a 25 percent drop up to ’10, blaming Obama for it of course, as noted here; however, I’m sure the item below didn’t help with the firm’s revenues either (here)…

    This time around though, (Barbour, the “B” in BGR) is starting his new political and personal business projects at a sensitive moment. The former governor is also trying to put out a political firestorm in Mississippi that was sparked by 215 pardons — including 17 to convicted murders — he issued in his last days in office earlier this month.

    The new GOP governor, Phil Bryant, has indicated he would back a constitutional amendment to limit the pardoning powers of the governor; and the state’s Democratic attorney general, Jim Hood, called Barbour’s sweeping pardons “an absolute tragedy for the victims involved in each of these cases.”

    The high-decibel attacks on Barbour in the Magnolia state have sent shock waves up and down K Street where Ed Rogers, one of his partners at BGR, last week scrambled to contain the fallout.

    According to sources, Rogers urged Barbour to move quickly to tamp down the controversy by giving his own full account of what he did and why he did it, lest it hurt Barbour’s effectiveness and image — and perhaps the firm’s lucrative bottom line.

    But not to worry – I’m sure Rogers will end up just fine; he apparently “landed on his feet” in the manner noted below (here)…

    TRENTON — A Washington lobbyist whose firm represents the Florida company that won the lion’s share of New Jersey’s debris removal work after Hurricane Sandy will host a fundraiser for Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election later this month.

    The event will take place at the Virginia mansion of Ed Rogers, chairman of BGR Group, which lobbies members of Congress on behalf of AshBritt Inc. — a firm that has come under scrutiny because of a lucrative no-bid emergency contract it was awarded in the days after the hurricane.

    The lobbying company was co-founded by Republican Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor who helped shepherd Christie’s career and was one of the people who recommended the state use AshBritt.

    None of what I have cited here is illegal on the part of Rogers and his firm as far as I know. But I wouldn’t complain that anybody is “destroying the planet” if their own activities don’t exactly pass the smell test either.

  • Finally, I haven’t checked up our wet noodle PA-08 U.S. House Rep for a little while, so I need to bring everyone up to date a bit on Mikey the Beloved’s recent adventures (here, with a heaping helping of whining about supposedly “job-crushing” regulations, or something – I was tipped off to this when I received Mikey’s Email newsletter)…

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) delivered letters and copies of the film “Barrel of a Gun” to Senate offices in the nation’s capital Friday in an effort to educate Senators regarding the circumstances and events surrounding the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner by Mumia Abu Jamal. The president’s nominee to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Debo Adegbile, led efforts to recruit attorneys to pervert the justice system after Jamal’s just conviction for his heinous crime.

    Fitzpatrick has ardently opposed the nomination of Adgebile (sic) since its announcement in early January, writing to the president and members of the Senate Judiciary committee and calling the recommendation ‘confounding.’ Prior to the Senate Judiciary’s 10-8 party-line approval of Adegbile’s nomination, Fitzpatrick spoke with Senators and urged them to consider the Adegbile’s involvement with the celebritization of Mumia through his legal representation.

    Even by Mikey’s low standards, this is pretty repulsive stuff (and nice typo, by the way). As noted here

    On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the 75 undersigned organizations, we are writing to indicate our strongest possible support for the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. Mr. Adegbile is a tireless advocate, a skilled litigator, and a well-respected member of the legal community who is extraordinarily qualified for and suited to this position.

    Mr. Adegbile is one of the preeminent civil rights litigators of his generation. He is also a consensus builder. Mr. Adegbile has earned respect and admiration from a bipartisan set of colleagues, lawyers, and leaders, including former Solicitors General Paul Clement and Drew Days, because of his principled and measured approach to issues.

    Throughout his career, Mr. Adegbile has distinguished himself as a highly effective and respected advocate who achieved successes both inside and outside the courtroom. The son of immigrants who worked his way from poverty to the top of the legal profession, Mr. Adegbile is a steadfast voice for equality and opportunity for all Americans. [Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 1/7/14]

    Also, while I will never defend Mumia Abu-Jamal, I think it’s also pretty safe to say that he’s still entitled to a legal defense, and I don’t see how representing Abu-Jamal constitutes a “celebritization (word?) of Mumia through his representation” Besides, as the Media Matters post tells us…

    When he was a partner at Hogan Lovells, the letter (cited above) noted, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. helped represent Florida death row inmate John Ferguson, convicted in the murder of eight people.

    On top of all of this, I thought this was a well-done editorial by the Inky (shocking, I know) about Debo Adegbile, in which the paper accused anyone trying to connect him with Abu-Jamal of “blatant demagoguery” which was quite rightly called “sickening” (Mikey wasn’t mentioned, but Sen. Pat “No Corporate Tax” Toomey was).

    In his newsletter, Fitzpatrick also tells us that about 11 million small business employees will see their premiums increase as a result of the Affordable Care Law. Of course, Fitzpatrick doesn’t tell us that 6 million small business employees will see their premiums drop (as noted here – also, we don’t know what kind of a percentage both of those numbers represent against everyone projected to enroll on the exchanges across the country).

    And in conclusion, Mikey tells us with his typical whining petulance that “Congress makes the laws” here (I don’t know who this Dr. Larry Kawa is, and I don’t care – witness Mikey’s laser-like focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs”) and President Obama has no right to delay implementing the employer mandate in supposed unilateral executive fashion (sarcasm mode off).

    However, as noted here from last August…

    The strategy shifted again last month after the Obama administration announced a one-year delay of the law’s employer mandate. Boehner seized on the move to argue that the White House was giving a break to businesses but not to individuals by delaying only one of the two major mandates. He and Cantor quickly scheduled votes to delay both the employer and individual mandates, and they cheered when more than 20 Democrats voted for each bill.

    So, while Fitzpatrick has called for a delay in implementing the individual mandate (which I ALSO don’t agree with, as noted here), he is having a typical hissy fit by accusing President Obama of trying to make his own law, or something, when in reality, Mikey’s own House congressional “leadership” had scheduled a vote to delay the employer mandate MONTHS AGO!

    With all of this is mind, I would ask that you click here to respond (and I would like to point out the following to the Kevin Strouse campaign – if you expect to have any hope of pulling away enough independent voters in PA-08 from the “trending R” column to win election in November, then you should start pointing out stuff like this instead of me…trying thinking about that before you hit me up again for a campaign donation).


  • Friday Mashup (9/13/13)

    September 13, 2013
  • I give you the following recent column on the whole Syria thing, including this excerpt…

    Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said Monday that Congress would not be debating the use of U.S. military force against Syria if President Obama hadn’t drawn a “red line.”

    “I have no doubt that if the president had not drawn his red line we would not be having this discussion,” Coats said on the Senate floor. “It is the credibility issue that has brought us to this pass and it’s a credibility issue that is [Obama’s] own making.”

    Dan Coats has no room whatsoever to try and talk down to anyone on foreign policy issues (or most anything else when you get right down to it).

    As noted from here concerning the run-up to Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia (at which time Coats was our ambassador to Germany, giving that country the “old Europe” treatment a la Rummy I suppose)…

    “The German Government still says it will not support a war. But its leaders say that war may no longer be avoidable. And the US is twisting their arms hard. The US Ambassador to Berlin, Daniel Coats, has made clear this is a crucial test of Germany’s loyalty to the NATO alliance. The government’s stance has raised “serious doubts” about Germany’s reliability, Mr. Coats said.

    (And on unrelated matters, I think it’s interesting to note that Dubya chose Coats to try and “shepherd,” more or less, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, which of course failed. Also, Coats was one of 46 Senators to oppose the expansion of background checks for gun buyers, both of which are noted here.)

    I also came across this article on Syria and its chemical weapons stockpiles, which of course are indefensible; that being said, it should be noted that, in addition to Syria, Israel and Egypt also didn’t sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (interesting background at the very least); only 8 out of 193 countries are not party to the convention.

    Also, in the matter of Syria, I was wondering what that Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) foreign affairs columnist at the Murdoch Street Journal, none other than Bret Stephens, had to say on the matter (here).

    There’s a lot I could respond to, but partly because I’ve covered this stuff repeatedly in the past along with many others, I’ll stick to a couple of items (and yes, this stuff is completely predictable)…

    In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration’s evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The “dossier” consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as “we assess with high confidence” and “we have a body of information,” and “we have identified one hundred videos.”

    By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (here)…

    It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that “there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared,” that his inspectors had found “indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized,” and that Iraq had “circumvented the restrictions” on the import of missile parts.

    You mean the same Hans Blix who told CNN here that Bushco “chose to ignore” the fact that the case for the Iraq war was “rapidly falling apart”?

    The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn’t shock Democrats that the White House’s “trust us” approach isn’t winning converts. When you’ve spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don’t be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.

    That’s a truly hilarious comment to think about as you read this.

    I’ll tell you what – here is the Media Matters post where I got the CNN link; I’ll let them take a well-earned last shot at “foul sauce” Stephens on this issue.

    Update 1/2/14: A new year, but the same old Stephens wankery here (h/t Atrios)…

  • Next (and sticking with foreign policy), we also recently observed the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, a tragedy that has been politicized beyond all possible reason; here is another example…

    Gregory Hicks is no stranger to regular readers. The State Department official, who was second-in-command to murdered Amb. Chris Stevens in Libya, was one of the star witnesses during the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this past spring. Visibly frustrated by the lack of accountability over last year’s deadly attacks, Hicks appeared on ABC News to share his story. America Rising collected the highlights of his interview with George Stephanopolous, including Hicks’ assertion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assigned Stevens to man the under-protected diplomatic post, despite documented security risks. He also reiterated that he personally and “immediately” informed State brass that the raid was an act of terrorism:

    And yet the White House deliberately trotted out and stuck to false talking points about the nature and cause of the attack for weeks. Internal emails have revealed that the counter-factual narrative was concocted by members of the State Department’s “building leadership,” who wanted to avoid political criticism for their security failures. Two of the players most responsible for perpetrating this fallacious storyline have been rewarded by President Obama with promotions. Hicks also says that he’s been “shunted aside” because of his truth-telling:

    O-kaaaayyyyy

    Meanwhile, from the world of reality, I give you this

    Hicks was not punished for speaking out. (Host of “This Week With George”) Stephanopoulos read from a State Department letter which explained that “The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way” and his departure from Libya “was entirely unrelated to any statements” he made about Benghazi.

    In fact, Hicks’ claim about being punished contradicts his previous testimony about not returning to his assignment in Libya. During his testimony at a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing, Hicks explained that “my family really didn’t want me to go back. … So I voluntarily curtailed” returning to Libya.

    I think the real tragedy of BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI!!! is the fact that we really should have an intelligent investigation into exactly what happened, as opposed to an exercise in trying to score political points. Maybe we could have done a better job of providing an adequate level of embassy security, but if the State Department is going to take a hit, then so should the wretched “leadership” in the U.S. House, which didn’t provide adequate funding for security to begin with, as noted here.

  • Continuing, I thought this was an interesting little historical item…

    A commission looking into the death of former United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold has recommended that the UN reopen its investigation.

    Mr Hammarskjold’s plane was travelling to Congo on a peace mission in 1961 when it crashed in Zambia.
    A UN investigation in 1962 failed to find the cause of the mysterious crash.

    The commission said there were significant new findings, and that the US National Security Agency might hold crucial evidence.

    In a statement, the UN thanked the commission and said the UN secretariat would study its findings closely.

    And as noted here

    In Congo, one issue was who should control the southern province of Katanga, rich in copper, uranium and tin. Belgium, the ex-colonial power, backed a secessionist movement led by Moise Tshombe, as did the UK and US who had mining interests in the region.

    But Mr Hammarskjold from the start backed Congo’s elected central authorities – the Soviet-backed government of prime minister Patrice Lumumba, and later, after Mr Lumumba was deposed and murdered, Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula.

    Mr Hammarskjold wanted to pursue a negotiated solution between Mr Tshombe and the central government, a goal that became even more urgent after UN peacekeepers found themselves outgunned during an aggressive operation to drive foreign mercenaries from Katanga.

    Mr Tshombe was waiting to talk to him in Ndola on the night he died.

    Some 30 years after the crash, in 1992, two men who had served as UN representatives in Katanga just before and just after Hammarskjold’s death – Conor Cruise O’Brien and George Ivan Smith – wrote a letter to the Guardian claiming to have evidence that the plane was shot down accidentally, by mercenaries. In their view, a warning shot intended to divert the plane to alternative talks with industrialists in Katanga, in fact hit the plane and caused it to crash.

    In 1998 South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Desmond Tutu, published eight letters that suggested CIA, MI5 and South African intelligence were involved in sabotage of the aircraft. British officials responded that these were likely to be Soviet forgeries.

    In 2005, the head of UN military information in Congo in 1961, Bjorn Egge, told the Aftenposten newspaper he had noticed a round hole in Hammarskjold’s forehead when he saw the body in the mortuary. It could have been a bullet hole, he said, and it had been mysteriously airbrushed out of official photographs.

    Over the past four years, Swedish aid worker Goran Bjorkdahl has carried out extensive research and British academic Susan Williams published a book on Thursday – Who Killed Hammarskjold? Both conclude that it is likely the plane was brought down.

    So it’s possible that there was some kind of a conspiracy between the U.S. and the UK (and Belgium) to get their hands on the copper, uranium, and tin, and to keep it out of the hands of the then-Soviet Union, and Hammarskjold was in the way (though he had also planned to meet apparently with Tshombe, who was backed by the three countries not including the U.S.S.R. Curious, as is the Ace of Spades card supposedly found in Hammarskjold’s collar when you consider this).

  • Further, I have to say that I honestly don’t understand the right-wing attack on anything whatsoever related to clean or renewable energy, unless of course you just want to chalk it up to funding from oil-based energy interests and nothing more, and I’m sure there’s more than a bit of truth to that.

    I’m thinking of all of this, though, in response to this item

    After only about one month of production, the Obama-backed maker of batteries for the Chevy Volt will delay production again.

    Oh, of course, how stupid of me not to realize that an attack on anything whatsoever to do with clean energy is also an attack on that Kenyan Marxist Socialist pre-zee-dint of ours.

    Continuing…

    Autoblog rep0orts that the South Korea-based LG Chem plant in Holland, Michigan that started making Chevy Volt batteries about one month ago — about a year behind schedule — will pause work for six weeks until the Environmental Protection Agency confirms the registration status of an “unspecified, low-volume ingredient” used in their battery production.

    “We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved,” LG Chem said in a statement. “We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly. In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately six weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA.”

    The Daily Tucker also tells us the following…

    An Energy Department audit found that LG Chem’s workers were paid $842,000 to essentially do nothing, as some played video games, watched movies or played cards. Other workers even took the time to volunteer at charities.

    Of course, far be it for Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page to tell us that we’re talking about 400 workers here, according to this linked story.

    Sooo, while I’m no math whiz, I should point out that $842,000 divided by about 400 workers comes out to about $2,100. And while I’m not a fan of sloth on the job or not doing what you’re paid to do, I should note that that amount probably reflects a small portion of their actual salaries (like to see comparable figures for businesses that actually don’t take government funds).

    Meanwhile, it looks now that the Chevy Volt has set a monthly sales record (here), so I’m sure there’ll be a need for more batteries (as I said, though, attacking hybrids like this is something the wingnutosphere is inclined to do anyway, as noted here).

  • Finally, I didn’t want the week to end without some commentary on the elections in Colorado recently, where state senate head John Morse and state senator Angela Giron were ousted.

    Michael Sargent, Exec. Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, put it this way…

    There’s a reason why Republicans chose recalls instead of waiting for next year’s election: Hand-picked targets, odd timing, and extremely low turnout – made lower by 100-year-old recall rules that gutted early voting – created ideal conditions for the GOP, and because of it, they won two seats they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Right wing groups also ran hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of attack ads, but with help from thousands of grassroots Democrats…we fought back hard. You left it all on the field; so did Sens. Morse and Giron, and so did we.

    I think that’s largely true, particularly in the case of Morse, who lost by only 343 votes. You can’t tell me he would’ve lost a similar campaign in a regular election cycle with early voting (not so sure about Giron, but I probably have to do more research on that).

    For more on this, a Daily Kos post is here, a Media Matters post is here, and an article from The Hill is here. I think these are the following “takeaways”:

  • As Media Matters points out, even though Morse and Giron both lost, their positions on common-sense gun laws remain hugely popular in this country.
  • As the article from The Hill tells us, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz blamed the Republican wins on “voter suppression, pure and simple” (I think that’s most of the argument, but not all of it).
  • As the Daily Kos post tells us, it’s going to be awfully hard for any Democrat to win any election where the turnout rate is 21 percent (and yes, the suppression tactics had a lot to do with that, I’ll admit; the post also tells us that, maybe next time, our side should take some money spent on TV ads and put it into a stronger “ground game” instead).
  • We know that, as the Republican Party gets pulled more and more to the right, their chances of winning the White House get exponentially harder also, a problem totally of their own making (though we can never assume anything – I thought Dubya had no chance against Al Gore in 2000, and he mostly didn’t, but we know what happened). However, the other side of that coin, as it were, is that, in perpetually energizing their base, they remain revved up for the off-year and special elections (even though Dems have won their share of the latter).

    I see a bit of that in the results from Colorado. And I definitely see that in the campaigns in my locality, including Kevin Strouse running for the U.S. House against Mikey the Beloved (here), Allyson Schwartz (assuming she’s the Dem nominee) running against Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett for PA guv (here), and John Lewis and Mark Moffa running for Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County supervisors (here).

    (Oh, and by the way, I have a request for the Strouse campaign; try writing a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed of some type for the Bucks County Courier Times introducing yourself. That rag published that editorial weeks ago saying that they didn’t trust you, or something, and I never saw a response from the campaign. And stop sending me so many Emails about John Boehner – he isn’t the PA-08 rep!).

    We know that all elections are ultimately local, and the Repugs do too. And we need more involvement in the off-year contests if we’re going to effect change for real in this country, whether it’s on any of the vital issues we face.

    I don’t want to hear anyone else ask the question “why can’t we have common-sense gun laws?,” or “why can’t we have more of a commitment in this country to clean energy?,” or “why can’t we have serious infrastructure investment and job creation.” We saw the reason why earlier this week.

    We have to have an answer for the off-year election base energy of the other side, and it doesn’t matter what election we’re talking about. Unless we do, nothing will substantially change.

    That being said, I should note that I think this is pretty cool – this, from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, is a map of everyone in this country who donated on behalf of Morse and Giron.

    There’s still much to do, but that’s a good start.


  • Wednesday Mashup (4/17/13)

    April 17, 2013
    • Someone named Wayne Allyn Root over at Fix Noise opined as follows here

      There are no new jobs. There will be no new jobs. Creating jobs in Obama’s America is like trying to grow healthy plants in a nuclear blast zone. Obama has turned the U.S. economy into a “Hostile Work Environment.” I call it Obamageddon.

      And of course, there are zero citations for anything in this screed, which is totally typical from the media wing of the Republican Party.

      Yes, I’m sure there are smatterings of truth somewhere from Root (and at the very end of his column, he sneaks in a plug for his anti-Obama book, the latest from the right-wing outrage factory), such as payroll taxes going up (an expiration of the payroll tax cut not renewed by Congress, as noted here) and health insurance premiums going up (which has not one damn thing to do with “Obama Care,” since the exchanges aren’t due to go into effect until next year and the individual mandate, creating a whole bunch of new subscribers for the health insurance behemoths in this country, was upheld by The Supremes last year, as noted here).

      The inescapable fact is that the ultimate “power of the purse” in our government rests with the U.S. House, currently run by “Orange Man” Boehner and that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, not Obama. And as noted here, Boehner couldn’t keep his own caucus together to get a deal even on his laughable “Plan B” on the economy, punting the decision back to Obama and the Senate, as Kevin Drum tells us (which ties back to Boehner’s practice of keeping our economy in perpetual crisis, which is bound to drag down job growth, as noted here). And as noted here, Boehner and his pals continue to sit on Obama’s American Jobs Act.

      And I’m tired of hearing about how “austerity” supposedly is the answer to our problems on the economy, including job growth (the latest debunking is here). And do you want to know where deficit reduction has come from so far? As noted here, 70 percent came from cuts in government programs, which are stimulative to one degree or another, and only 30 percent came from increased revenue (and for good measure, this omnibus post from Jon Perr of Daily Kos gives us all kinds of information on who does a better job of managing the economy between Democrats and Republicans).

      But of course this is typical for Root, who called Obama the “Marxist-in-chief” who has “declared war on capitalism” here (really?).

    • Next, Thomas Sowell at clownhall.com tells us the following (here)…

      Amid all the heated, emotional advocacy of gun control, have you ever heard even one person present convincing hard evidence that tighter gun control laws have in fact reduced murders?

      Actually, yes. And here it is, from here

      Last year, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation. But correlations can be suggestive:

      Also, here is more related info:

    • This tells us that states with looser gun laws have higher rates of gun violence.
    • This tells us that gun homicides in Missouri increased by 25 percent after the state repealed its background check law.
    • This tells us that members of law enforcement are more likely to be killed in states with weaker gun laws (as I’ve said I don’t know how many times, why the #@!$ can’t we make the discussion about guns start from the point of view of what works best for the police? And yes, I know the answer.).
    • Gosnell_MM_Pic_0417
      And by the way, I’m going to switch gears here, as it were, and add the following graphic concerning the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell (courtesy of Media Matters…I’m sick of reading and listening to wingnut caterwauling over a supposed “liberal bias” cover up on this truly horrific story, as noted here – truly sickening stuff, and Gosnell could quite rightly IMHO face the death penalty if convicted…more is here).

      Update 4/18/13: If Marsha Blackburn is involved, then the stoo-pid is thick enough to cut with a knife (here).

      From our area, Pancake Joe Pitts, Scott Garrett and Mike Kelly signed; go to Blackburn’s web site if you want to experience this idiocy first hand (the last thing I’m going to do is link to it myself – a good response is here).

    • Continuing, it should be pointed out that, while one of Rupert Murdoch’s highest profile vanity rags is quite rightly getting excoriated for journalistic malpractice while reporting the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon (here), it shouldn’t be forgotten that they also committed another affront to decency here

      Fifty years ago (on 4/16), Martin Luther King Jr. penned one of the most enduring documents of the civil-rights struggle while locked in a jail cell in Birmingham, Ala.

      His Letter From Birmingham Jail was a clarion call for the right to civil disobedience. Though first requested by an editor for The New York Times, it was in the pages of The New York Post that these words would first be printed.

      This week, the Times published a very different kind of prison letter. Yesterday its op-ed pages carried an article titled “Gitmo Is Killing Me.” It was written by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, whom the Times identifies only as “a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.”

      Pity the Times didn’t take a look at its own Web site before publishing. There, under a project called “The Guantanamo Docket,” is a Defense Department memo identifying the Yemeni national as “a member of al Qaeda who served on Osama bin Laden’s security detail.”

      The Post also points out that, as noted from here, Moqbel was indeed labeled as “A HIGH RISK . . . as he is likely to pose a threat to US interests.”

      However, when you read Page 3 of the 10-page “jacket” on Moqbel; you find out the following…

      Detainee traveled to Afghanistan, and stayed at a house in the Wazir Akbar Khan District of Kabul. Detainee left his passport at the house in Kabul before going to the frontlines to fight the Northern Alliance. He fought at the front lines north of Kabul as a fighter in the Sadiq Combat Unit, which consisted of approximately 15 or 16 fighters. Detainee received some pay as a fighter which enabled him to purchase needed items such as food and clothing. Detainee denied knowing (Osama bin Laden). After the US and Coalition bombing campaign initiated in Afghanistan, detainee believed it was too dangerous to be an Arab in Afghanistan; therefore, he fled the front-lines in December 2001 and stopped in Kabul. Detainee continued on to Khowst, AF, where he stayed for two weeks while he attempted to flee from Afghanistan.

      So basically, not only did Moqbel not fight against our troops, he was trying to get the hell out of Afghanistan after we invaded.

      And this guy is labeled “A HIGH RISK”? Am I missing something here? And as The Raw Story points out here, Moqbel was never even charged with a crime.

      Turning to Glenn Greenwald on this, we learn the following here (along with the fact that Moqbel is currently in the midst of a hunger strike to protest conditions in Guantanamo, which, when you learn more about it, is a national shame in and of itself, in particular the painful forced feedings endured by the inmates)…

      Moqbel…is Yemeni. More than half of the remaining 166 detainees at the camp are Yemeni. Dozens of those Yemenis (along with dozens of other detainees) have long ago been cleared for release by the US government on the ground that there is no evidence to believe they are a threat to anyone. A total of 87 of the remaining detainees – roughly half – have been cleared for release, of which 58 are Yemeni. Not even the US government at this point claims they are guilty or pose a threat to anyone.

      The Yemeni government not only is willing to take them, but is now demanding their release, using language notably harsh for a US puppet regime:

      “Even Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who generally enjoys close relations with the United States, has directed rare criticism at the Obama administration.

      “‘We believe that keeping someone in prison for over 10 years without due process is clear-cut tyranny,’ Hadi said in a recent interview broadcast over the Arabic language channel of Russia Today. ‘The United States is fond of talking democracy and human rights. But when we were discussing the prisoner issue with the American attorney general, he had nothing to say.'”

      “Clear-cut tyranny”, says Yemen’s president. But in January, 2010, Obama – not Congress, but Obama – announced a moratorium on the release of any Yemeni detainees, even ones cleared for release. As Amnesty International put it at the beginning of this year:

      “But President Obama adopted the USA’s unilateral and flawed ‘global war’ paradigm and accepted indefinite detentions under this framework.

      “Then, in 2010, his administration announced that it had decided that four dozen of the Guantánamo detainees could neither be prosecuted nor released, but should remain in indefinite military detention without charge or criminal trial. The administration also imposed a moratorium on repatriation of Yemeni detainees. and said that 30 such detainees would be held in ‘conditional’ detention based on ‘current security conditions in Yemen’. This moratorium is still in place.”

      I realize that Obama tried to close Guantanamo, but received push-back from Congress (and Greenwald has some interesting commentary on that also from his post). However, the matter of either charging the Guantanamo prisoners or releasing them to their countries of origin (as much as that is feasible considering whether or not they can return) is worthy of something I once heard referred to as “the fierce urgency of now” as opposed to “the somewhat tepid need to address this matter by whoever follows in office sometime after 2016.”

    • Finally, I should note from here that the Pulitzer Prizes in journalism were recently awarded; the New York Times won 4, including a team reporting award for some of the worker abuses at the Apple Foxconn facility in China. Others went to the Washington Post, the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, FLA, the Denver Post, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.Oh, and Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal won an award for editorial writing.

      OK, I’ll give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor; no doubt that you experienced a convulsion of laughter over that last sentence that sent you falling out of your chair.

      There’s one problem, though – it’s true.

      Yes, really.

      As the story puts it…

      The Pulitzer citation said Stephens’ columns on American foreign policy and politics are incisive and “often enlivened by a contrarian twist.”

      Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot said in a statement, “We’re delighted to see our colleague Bret Stephens recognized for his influential and popular columns on foreign affairs and politics.”

      So, in the spirit of the occasion, here are some examples of Stephens with his “contrarian twist” at work…

    • Here, he lamented the supposed foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration, even though Number 44 had only been sworn into office a month ago.
    • Here, he rather disgustingly compared John Lennon to the former Communist Party strongman who shared most of his last name.
    • Here, he misrepresented the Bush Doctrine and criticized Obama for stepping up a bit on the Darfur crisis, as opposed to Former President Numbskull.
    • Here, he defended “the surge” in Iraq and criticized Obama for not giving Dubya enough credit for it (typical wingnut mythology – any gains experienced as a result had to do more with the so-called “Sunni Awakening” and “Saint Petraeus” handing out bribes like cards from a deck of poker).
    • Here, he criticized other countries for swine flu preparedness (that seems to be a particular sticking point for conservatives for some reason – guess they want unnecessary wholesale casualties to “decrease the surplus population,” as somebody once wrote).
    • Stephens once wrote that “Consistency, principled or foolish, has never been a hobgoblin of the liberal mind.” in a column where he tried to equate the outing of covert U.S. agent Valerie Plame, who made a living tracking loose nukes before Bushco blew her cover, with Eric Holder’s investigation of interrogators who “threatened to kill the children and sexually assault the mother of a key terror suspect,” as noted here (some apples with your oranges, Bret?).
    • Here (as K.O. tells us), he said that those who acknowledged the reality of global warming were “Stalinists” (and why the hell isn’t that man back on the air by now – Keith, I mean?).
    • Here, Stephens decided to look into the future in an effort to try and imagine more scenarios of failure for President Obama.
    • I cannot imagine what persuaded the committee awarding the Pulitzers into such an utterly laughable act as giving an award to this conservative hack (the fourth estate in this country continues to die a slow and inexorable death).

      Cheney
      If Bret Stephens can win a Pulitzer, then Dick Cheney can win the Nobel Peace Prize.

      Update 4/18/13: And as long as I’m discussing the Journal, I should point out that writer Peter Nicholas wrote this “news” story about Obama now choosing to lead, or whatever, in light of the fact that it took him three days to respond to the attempted Christmas plane bombing in 2009 by the guy who nearly blew up his junk instead. That appears to be accurate reporting, though.

      However, I don’t recall reading similar columns from the Journal about Obama’s wretched predecessor now choosing to lead or whatever after he waited six days to respond to the attemped plane attack by would-be show bomber Richard Reid, as noted here (see Myth 3).

      Lather, rinse, repeat…

      Update 4/22/13: And I somehow missed this earlier “gem” from Stephens.

      Update 4/14/17: Stephens recently won a gig as a columnist at The Old Gray Lady, where he no doubt will challenge BoBo as the leading white male practitioner of talking down to women, people of color and LGBTQ gender preferences – I think this is a good column to link to as a rejoinder of sorts (h/t Atrios).


    Friday Mashup (2/1/13)

    February 1, 2013
  • It’s been a little while since I checked in with former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm of Investor’s Business Daily, but, kind of like the dull toothache you experience when you bite down a little too hard on a freezer pop, he has returned, Obama-baiting rhetoric and “Democrat” Party references in tow (here, and as is almost always the case accompanied by polling numbers that don’t come close to telling the whole story)…

    Predictably perhaps, the nation’s economy, which President Obama has vowed to repair even more often than he golfs, earns the least satisfaction from Americans, according to the new Gallup survey. Only one-in-five Americans (20%), presumably among those still employed, are somewhat or very satisfied with the economy. That’s down 27 points since the same 2005 Gallup survey.

    Inquiring minds giving Malcolm more attention than he deserves would be wondering I’m sure why the Dubya loyalist would go back to 2005. Why, that was at the peak of our last economic bubble under Former President Highest Disapproval Rating in Gallup Poll History, of course (you know, so Malcolm could skew the numbers as much as he could).

    And let me note also that, while only 20 percent of this country is satisfied with the economy, Gallup also tells us here that 14 percent approve of our wretched U.S. Congress.

    So with an economic approval of only 20 percent, Obama’s actual approval number would be about that or near Congressional approval if Malcolm were correct to blame Number 44 exclusively, right?

    Uh, no (48 percent, to be exact).

  • Next, Repug U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch tells us here that upgrading our system of background checks in this country prior to approving to gun purchases would lead to a “reduction in liberty,” or something.

    Really?

    To get an idea of why Hatch said that, you need only read this; basically, like all Repugs in Congress, Hatch is worried about saying or doing anything whatsoever that could bite him in the ass from the Limbaugh-Hannity-Drudge faction that was once the fringe, but pretty much calls the shots now in his party (Hatch easily won re-election last year, but the fundraising pretty much never stops any more in the absence of public-money-only campaign financing).

    Hatch also doesn’t want to do anything whatsoever to shut off that flow of dough from the NRA, which has graced him with about $136 grand to date, as noted here.

  • Continuing, I give you the latest from Stu Bykofsky at philly.com on immigration (here)…

    If we fail to get enforcement – not just at the border, but in the workplace – we will “invite” millions more “guests” to arrive illegally, and we will repeat the same drama again.

    That’s a recipe for disaster.

    In response, this tells us that, after about 30-40 years of steadily increasing immigration to this country from Mexico (legal and otherwise), the pace has slowed down. Also, this tells us that PA Repug U.S. House Rep Lou Barletta (who I discussed here) said recently that there basically was no point to pursuing immigration reform for unskilled workers since, well, they’ll just become Democrats anyway (nice guy).

    Think Progress has the nonsense from Barletta and a lot more important stuff on this issue from here (and on the question of Obama and enforcement, the following should be noted from here).

    Update 2/3/13: More “epic fail” from Barletta is here – voters in his district who supported this clown must be so proud (I’m sure Barletta needs special protection from an would-be assailant brandishing a spoon).

  • And speaking of policies from the Obama Administration, I give you this

    Smith & Nephew eliminated nearly 100 jobs in Memphis and Andover, Mass., on Thursday, Jan. 31, as the medical device company cuts expenses in an effort to offset tax hikes included in the Affordable Care Act.

    The Affordable Care Act includes a 2.3 percent medical device tax, which took effect Jan. 1.

    The London-based company, which employs about 1,800 people in Memphis, said the new tax will cost the industry about $30 billion over 10 years.

    “(The tax) has impacted a number of companies across the U.S.,” said Joe Metzger, senior vice president of corporate communications. “Smith & Nephew is not immune from this added expense burden.”

    Smith & Nephew announced in February 2012 that it would reduce its global workforce by 7 percent over the next three years. Several other companies announced similar plans, including Stryker and Medtronic.

    I’m sorry about the Smith & Nephew workers in this country who are now out of a job, of course. However, the company still was able to pursue a deal worth about $782 million in cash last year to acquire Healthpoint Biotherapeutics, a “big name” among bio-pharma companies (here). Didn’t they anticipate what they thought would be the “rainy day” of more medical device taxes to protect their workers?

    And I wonder if a $22 million settlement in a bribery case had anything to do with their sudden financial hardship (here and here)?

  • Finally, with the return of a new Congressional session last month, that marked a return of the old Repug U.S. House wingnut extraordinaire Steve King of Iowa (here, among other idiocies)…

    Mr. Obama’s executive elimination of all work requirements of “welfare to work” violated the 1996 welfare reform work legislation, which was signed by President Clinton. Mr. Obama violated the Constitution by waiving provisions that the law specifically stated could not be waived by the president.

    It should be noted that Politifact had something to say about that urban legend of sorts here when it was uttered by Former Senator Man-On-Dog during the Repug presidential primary last year (just add this to the ever-growing catalog of King wingnuttia, much of which is chronicled here).


  • Wednesday Mashup (1/30/13)

    January 30, 2013

  • I noted previously that I would give Mikey the Beloved, our wet noodle U.S. House rep from PA-08, the benefit of the doubt on the gun proposal he said he was working on because I didn’t know yet what he had in mind.

    Well, now we know (here)…

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick has introduced legislation that requires states to report people with mental health problems to a national database for background checks.

    Hmm, sounds promising…

    The bill, H.R. 329, the Strengthening Background Checks Act, gives incentives to states to add the names of their residents involuntarily committed to mental institutions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

    The NICS checks available records on people who might be disqualified from purchasing firearms. However, it is optional for states to make their records available.

    States that comply will receive part of $125 million in grants for technology upgrades to coordinate with the NICS. States that don’t will have 10 percent withheld from their Byrne JAG grants, which go to support local law enforcement.

    Uh, wait a minute…

    Didn’t the lede paragraph tell us that Fitzpatrick’s bill would “require” states to comply? Well, somewhere between the first and second paragraph, “requires” became “gives incentives.”

    Oh, right, this is another Gary Weckselblatt special. I get it now.

    And Fitzpatrick is proposing about $125 million in grant money to upgrade the NCIS database. That sounds nice until you realize that Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as noted here, claim that about three times that amount of money is really needed.

    It should also be noted that our beloved commonwealth has an atrocious record of compliance when it comes to reporting individuals disqualified from owning firearms into the NCIS database (something like, out of about 51,000 names, only one was entered…sorry, lost the link on that one for now, but I know I read it).

    Mikey’s proposal here is quite literally better than nothing. However, because it is so utterly toothless and underfunded, it really is hard to treat It as anything more than a publicity stunt.

  • Next, we learn the following from Fix Noise (here, alleging that Number 44 abused the Appointments Clause of the Constitution)…

    Sometimes, Barack Obama acts like the Constitution does not apply to him and the Congress is an imaginary being. Friday, the United States Court of Appeals brought the president back to Earth and reminded him that that the Constitution’s Appointments Clause and the U.S. Senate are very much part of reality by voiding three of Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

    The D.C. Circuit ruled that the president could not end-run the confirmation process merely because at the beginning of 2012 the U.S. Senate was meeting every three business days in, what lawyers call, pro forma session.

    In response, I give you the reality-based (for real) community from here

    Mr. Obama had declared that Congress was not really open for business during its one-minute, lights-on-lights-off sessions intended only to thwart him, and he made recess appointments. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said his N.L.R.B. appointments were unconstitutional, buying the argument of Republicans that the Senate was really in session.

    The court even broke with the presidential practice of 150 years by ruling that only vacancies arising during a narrow recess period qualify for recess appointments.

    White House officials said the administration would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but if it is upheld, it will invalidate scores of decisions made by the labor board over the last year.

    Oh, and this ruling would have also applied to about 141 recess appointments made by Obama’s predecessor also (interesting stuff on pro forma decisions from fdl can be accessed here).

    Also, this tells us about Teahadist Judge David Sentelle, the author of this judicial travesty along with Janice Rogers Brown, who once suggested that all labor, business or Wall Street regulation is unconstitutional (yep, we have a couple of “Tenthers” here, meaning folks who wrongly believe the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution means that state law takes precedence over the Feds). Also, this provides more background, and this tells us, among other things, that Sentelle was appointed to the bench by The Sainted Ronnie R (surprised?).

    Oh, and concerning Rogers Brown, this tells us that she tried to rewrite legal protection for employees against sexual harassment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, explicitly contradicting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and several previous court decisions (Lutkewitte v. Gonzales); she also has ruled that the EPA doesn’t have the right to regulate vehicle emissions.

    Perfect for a pair of judges trying to blow smoke, I suppose.

  • Further, I give you “Pastor” Gerson of the WaPo, doing his best to wax propagandistic on the issue of immigration reform here (according to him, the Repugs have been out in front on this issue all along – it’s the Democrats who have been the obstacle…yeah, that’s the ticket).

    See, in Gerson’s world, only Obama is guilty of polarizing words and actions on immigration, as we know (and Gerson actually writes that Obama has “the invincible assumption of his own rightness,” which is a hilarious sentence coming from the former head speechwriter for George W. Bush).

    This is all an exercise to try and puff up the supposed bona fides on immigration of Sen. Marco Rubio, who took a different tack on this as opposed to working with the opposition, shall we say, here (“polariz(ing) this most polarizing of issues,” as Gerson might put it). To be fair, though, I should note that Rubio looks like a statesman compared to that moron Raul Labrador, as noted here (“A speech is not a bill?” Really? There’s a reason why the House is part of the legislative branch, numbskull. It’s because you’re supposed to legislate.)

    To point out who the actual grownup is here, though, this tells us that Obama ordered a halt to the deportation of many young undocumented immigrants in June, but only 1 House rep (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a nut on just about every other issue but sensible here) supported it and 147 of her Repug brethren opposed it. More to the point, though, this tells us that, as of last June, Rubio’s party had done virtually nothing on the issue of immigration, including fighting Obama and the Democrats tooth and nail on the DREAM Act.

    Of course, as noted here, Gerson is no stranger to propagandizing about Number 44 on “values” issues; not being an evangelical, I can’t imagine how Gerson rationalizes his deceit on faith issues concerning those he opposes in the political arena (and it’s probably just as well that I don’t know).

  • And speaking of faith, I came across the following nonsense from Dennis Prager that was too pungent to ignore (here, commenting on President Obama’s second inaugural address)…

    To understand leftism, the most dynamic religion of the last 100 years, you have to understand how the Left thinks. The 2013 inaugural address of President Barack Obama provides one such opportunity. To begin:

    “What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    What American does not resonate to a president’s reaffirming this magnificent statement from our Declaration of Independence?

    But here’s the intellectual sleight of hand: “What makes us exceptional — what makes us American” is indeed the belief that rights come from God.

    And this seminal idea is not mentioned again in the entire inaugural address.

    This was most unfortunate. An inaugural address that would concentrate on the decreasing significance of God in American life — one of the Left’s proudest accomplishments — would address what may well be the single most important development in the last half-century of American life.

    Oh, and by the way, on the subject of God’s decreasing significance – supposedly encouraged by Obama – I should note the following references to God in Obama’s speech after the passage Prager cited (from here)…

    Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.

    ..

    For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

    We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

    My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.

    As noted here, though, Prager is a serial offender on faith matters, particularly when they involve Democrats (and comparing the Qu’ran to Mein Kampf isn’t going to help the wingnuts win the day on this subject by any means).

  • Finally (and concluding the wingnuttery for the moment), I give you the following from here

    Individuals enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces must swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” But what happens when the only crime perpetrated by the “enemy” is supporting and defending the Constitution?

    Such is the dilemma facing future military officers at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — who are being taught to view freedom-loving Americans as violent, racist terrorists-in-waiting. As part of the federal government’s ongoing jihad against common-sense fiscal conservatism and constitutionally limited government, West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) has issued a new report making some dangerously irrational generalizations about the “far-right.”

    Boy, is this rich! To get an understanding of why Bill Wilson of Americans for Limited Government wants the report’s author, Dr. Arie Perliger, to be fired…well, read on (here)…

    Until the attack in Oklahoma, very few people noticed that the previous years (1994–5)had been characterized by a striking rise in the number of violent attacks by American far-right groups. After a relatively quiet 1993 in which the American far-right was almost non-active (only nine attacks), no less than 75 attacks were perpetrated in the following year, with another 30 attacks in the first three months of 1995. What occurred in Oklahoma was not a random, isolated attack but part of a wave of far-right violence which was fueled by specific political and social conditions.

    The consolidated dataset includes information on 4420 violent incidents that occurred between 1990 and 2012 within US borders, and which caused 670 fatalities and injured 3053 people.

    Fourteen of the 21 years covered in this analysis witnessed more attacks than the previous year. Although in the 1990s the average number of attacks per year was 70.1, the average number of attacks per year in the first 11 years of the twenty-first century was 307.5, a rise of more than 400%.

    There’s lots of stuff on ALG here, including the fact that, though it perhaps stops short of physical violence and a “terrorist” label, comes just about to the water’s edge, as you might say (and Mother Jones tells us here that it’s really a pretty straight line stretching from Bill Wilson and ALG right back to Charles and David Koch, which shouldn’t be surprising in the least).

    So, nah, many right-wingers aren’t racists or terrorists. And they don’t traffic in violent words and/or images and racist, misogynist or anti-immigrant threats. Never forget that, all you latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, NPR-listening liberals out there.

    Obama_Baby_Teabagger

    Obama_White_Slavery

    Taxpayer_Obama_Oven

    Not much they don’t.


  • Thursday Mashup (1/24/13)

    January 24, 2013

  • The Bucks County Courier Times decided to give column space to Mikey the Beloved recently; I’m sure you can guess what happened next (here).

    He leads off as follows…

    Each morning, like so many parents across Bucks and Montgomery counties, when I drive my children to school and drop them off, I expect them to spend their day in a safe environment where their biggest concern is a test they have that day.

    OK, we have a problem right away…

    As a member of the U.S. Congress, Mikey spends most of his time during business hours in Washington, D.C. Does he honestly expect us to believe that he is also dropping off his kids each morning also? What, does he have some kind of private air transportation that takes him from Bucks County to the Capitol each morning too?

    Mikey then fills us this column almost entirely with platitudes and self-referential nonsense, as well as stuff he could have easily lifted from other news accounts, before he gets to the following…

    I am focused on effective responses. I am currently working on legislation to strengthen the national background check system and close the loopholes to ensure that dangerous people will not be able to purchase any firearm in any state.

    In addition to the legislation I am currently working to introduce, I have expressed my willingness to examine the president’s proposals and work with him on achieving common-sense reforms that will truly make our communities safer.

    As usual, Mikey is desperately short on specifics, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, for now.

    However, he also tells us the following…

    The president’s solution is to ban every citizen from being able to purchase some guns. I believe a more effective approach will be to ban some citizens from being able to purchase any guns. A study by our own University of Pennsylvania commissioned by the United States Department of Justice, the same type of study President Obama has vowed to fund, has concluded that the firearm controls of the 1990s were not effective.

    I can’t find the study Fitzpatrick is referring to – I’m not alleging that he’s lying, I’m just saying I can’t find it (would have been nice if it had been linked to the Courier Times column, but as I’ve pointed out, we’re talking about the fourth estate freak show here). I couldn’t find the study at Fitzpatrick’s U.S. House web site either.

    I will cede Mikey’s point a bit by saying that it has been hard to quantify the benefits of the 1994 ban (pointed out by David Corn here), but I will say that there is a body of evidence out there that at least can raise some questions one way or the other, as noted here (besides, as noted here, one reason why we don’t have the most reliable data on this is because the NRA fights our efforts to obtain it…nothing but the sound of crickets from Mikey on that one).

    And as far as I’m concerned, the “takeaway” from this is the graph of “Guns per 100 people” in various countries, with a lot of other give-and-take stuff, but to me, what matters is just how many guns there are in this country per citizen, which definitely doesn’t make me happy (“U-S-A! U-S-A!”).

    Yep, this is pretty much nothing but another piece of PR fluff from Mikey’s press service. No doubt he’ll be back with more in about a month or so, so stay tuned.

  • Next, I give you the following from what purports to be an actual news story (here)…

    Obama secured a $787 billion stimulus package, an auto-industry bailout, new Wall Street regulations and health-care legislation that, for the first time, promised insurance coverage for nearly all Americans.

    But the political cost of moving that agenda was steep. The partisanship he had pledged to end only deepened, and many of the independent voters decisive in his election abandoned him.

    In his news conference last week, Obama blamed his reputation for aloofness in Washington on the partisan divide he once pledged to mend.

    Republicans, he said, believe it is politically dangerous to be seen with him given the antipathy many in their deep-red districts feel toward him.

    Even his supporters say he should attempt to change that, using those Republicans who supported the final fiscal cliff deal as an initial call sheet that could also include GOP governors and business leaders and others who may offer help.

    …many supporters say Obama, preoccupied with reelection, has withdrawn from the world over the past year at a dangerous time and must step back in quickly.

    Are you starting to smell the same journalistic trick that I do here, people? Lots of anonymous attribution in support of utterly wankerific talking points?

    It’s Obama’s fault that he failed to “end…partisanship” (as if anyone could do that in Washington, D.C.).

    It’s Obama’s fault that he has a “reputation for aloofness” to the point where Republicans “believe it is politically dangerous to be seen with him,” which “even his supporters” say he should “change” (as if Obama is supposed to be concerned about how his governance affects the electability of Republicans).

    It’s Obama’s fault that “many supporters say” he has “withdrawn from the world” (which, to me, is a pretty serious insinuation that he lacks the capacity for governance, which is not just wrong, but calumnious).

    The author of this steaming pile of dookey, by the way, is Scott Wilson (and of course, since we’re talking about the WaPo as part of Corporate Media Central, the Repugs aren’t criticized at all for their antics… there’s a reminder later that Obama was a community organizer, which is true. He was also a U.S. Senator, which doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as it should).

    And as it turns out, Wilson is a serial offender – here, he took a quote and turned it inside out to give the impression that Obama doesn’t like people (please), and here, he definitely sanitized the wingnuttery also.

    And as noted here

    Additionally, in a May 6 Washington Post article, staff writers Scott Wilson and Robert Barnes wrote that “[a]s White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put it, Obama is looking for ‘somebody who understands how being a judge affects Americans’ everyday lives.’ Congressional conservatives have reacted anxiously to that qualification, fearing that it means a nominee who is more interested in making the law than in interpreting it.” But the Post did not note Obama’s statements indicating that he supports a nominee who “honors our constitutional traditions” and “respects … the appropriate limits of the judicial role.”

    Looks like Wilson and his pals at the Post (and elsewhere) try to provide the openings in the “mainstream” reporting that the wingnuts can enlarge exponentially to propagate their right-wing BS (just thought I should point that out, that’s all).

  • Continuing, it looks like “Blow ‘Em Up” Bolton is at it again (here)…

    The US and Western response to date has been disjointed and with decidedly mixed results. If President Obama doesn’t soon jettison his ideological blinders about the threat of international terrorism, we could see a series of further attacks — not unlike the 1990s series that culminated in the 9/11 strikes.

    It’s typically disingenuous and cowardly (to say nothing of inaccurate) for Bolton to assume some linkage between the Clinton Administration and the ruinous one that followed on the 9/11 attacks…perhaps in terms of facing a threat from the same foe, but that’s all (and speaking of the Clintons, I’m sure there’s no apology in sight from Bolton for this).

    Oh, and while arguing that Obama is allegedly soft on al Qaeda, or something (pretty funny when you consider who got bin Laden in comparison with Bolton’s former boss), Bolton also downplayed the fact that Obama got Anwar al-Awlaki (yes, it’s a slippery slope since Awlaki was an American citizen, but it’s typically preposterous for Bolton to argue that Obama is supposedly soft on al Qaeda and omit this… also particularly disingenuous since Bolton gave Obama credit for it here – of course, Bolton contorted himself to try and find a way to give Dubya props too).

    Here is more on Bolton, including the targets he wanted to go after following Dubya’s pre-emptive war in Iraq (as I once said about Charles Krauthammer, Bolton is awfully generous with the blood of other people’s kids). Also, Bolton makes it sound like a question as to whether or not the Taliban is really in charge in Afghanistan, even though the headline here says it all about the potential for the Taliban to rule in at least parts of Afghanistan as part of a possibly brokered peace deal (regarding Bolton’s claim that Obama’s policies have led to a Taliban resurgence – I don’t think they’ve had to “resurge,” or something, since they’ve been players all along since Bolton’s boss outsourced the Afghan war to Pakistan in the prior decade).

    We all know what a “true believer” Bolton is, people. I just think we need to remind ourselves of that fact from time to time (and let us not forget that, as noted from the article in The Nation, Bolton would have been in a position to actually create further chaos in the world once more instead of mere propaganda had we – gulp! – sworn in Willard Mitt Romney recently instead of President Obama for a second term).

  • Finally, in a thoroughly logical career progression, this tells us that former Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, allegedly a Democrat, will now become a lobbyist for the insurance industry…

    Nelson is joining a public affairs firm and becoming the chief of an insurance commissioners’ group.

    The former senator has been named CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). He will be the group’s chief spokesman and primary advocate in Washington. NAIC is made up of state insurance regulators and helps coordinate their oversight across the country.

    And for the occasion, I thought I’d bring you a sample of what you might call Ben Nelson’s Greatest Hits…

  • This tell us that Nelson was the only Dem senator to vote against confirming Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
  • Along with Max Baucus, Jon Tester and Mark Warner, he voted to block tax legislation that would have punished U.S. firms that export jobs here.
  • Here, Nelson engaged in typically pointless obstruction that delayed jobless benefits.
  • Nelson also blocked financial reform legislation here.
  • Here, he was offered a job within the Dubya White House in order to step aside so it would be easier for Mike Johanns to get elected instead, which ultimately happened anyway (can’t remember too many Democrats so “graced” by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History; the story is a response to the alleged job offer from the Obama Administration to “Admiral Joe” Sestak…I honestly don’t remember what that supposed scandal was all about).
  • It should also be pointed out that Nelson actually has a background in insurance, particularly with NAIC, who are guilty of the following as noted here

    The NAIC’s resolution urged Congress and the White House to gut the only real consumer pricer (sp) protection in the Affordable Care Act. That protection, the “medical loss ratio” rule, requires insurers to spend 80% to 85% of their premium income on health care, and limit overhead, commissions and profit to 15% to 20%. The idea is to get insurers to operate more efficiently and cut bloat to keep premiums down. It’s already working–for instance in Connecticut, where regulators report major insurers filing for premium reductions, not increases.

    Such relief will be over if Congress or the White House do what the NAIC asked–to remove broker sales commissions of a few percent up to 20% of the premium from the overhead percentage. Premiums would shoot up, profits would grow and consumers would pay.

    Consumer advocates are counting on the White House and Congress (at least the Senate) to reject the fake arguments and arm-twisting of the industry, and listen to actual consumers.

    Yep, it sounds like the would-be beneficiary of the “cornhusker kickback,” had it ever come to pass in final legislation for the Affordable Care Act, will be right at home.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh).


  • Wednesday Mashup (1/16/13)

    January 16, 2013
  • This post at The Hill tells us the following…

    In his op-ed of January 9 (“NLRB Targets secret ballot and private employee information”) Fred Wszolek of the right-wing Workplace Fairness Institute claims that, for the past year, the labor board has “focused almost exclusively on rewarding union bosses with decisions that hurt workers and small businesses.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

    In reality, far-right obstructionism from the GOP Congress and anti-union organizations such as the Workplace Fairness Institute has undermined the board’s efforts to protect workers’ rights and restore a modicum of balance to our labor policy.

    Let’s examine the real record of the past two years:

    As Wszolek states, the board has introduced a new rule, supported by a clear majority of its members, to eliminate unnecessary litigation and deliberate delay before employees get to vote in union certification elections. Academic research demonstrates that employers often use delay as a strategy to undermine employees’ free choice. One large “union avoidance” law firm advises employers that “time is on your side” when it comes to (National Labor Relations Board) NLRB elections – the longer employers delay an election, the longer that employees are subjected to an aggressive anti-union campaign and the less likely that they will vote for unionization.

    Instead of permitting this fair and commonsense change to take effect, however, the GOP Congress and anti-union organizations have adopted every conceivable political and legal maneuver to scuttle the new rule. As a result, American workers are still being denied the opportunity for a timely vote.

    And for other “lowlights” on the right-wing “war on workers” in this country, I give you the following:

  • This tells us how Michigan and Repug Governor Rick Snyder snuck “right to work” legislation through the state house without any hearings or debate (a six-day legislative process undid 70 years of worker protections).
  • U.S. House Repugs blocked the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) from implementing new limits on coal dust — a pollutant contributing to a steep rise in cases of black lung among U.S. coal miners (here).
  • This tells us that, without the Repugs’ attack on public sector workers (to say nothing of actually passing the American Jobs Act), unemployment would probably be around 6 percent by now.
  • This tells us how Boehner, Cantor and their pals oppose a jobs bill for veterans (some legislation in this country actually used to pass without all of this nonsense; this is an example).
  • All of these developments by the U.S. House in particular make this totally predictable, by the way.

  • Next, the right wing wouldn’t be doing what they do best unless they were demonizing those less fortunate than they are, as noted here in another attack on Head Start

    Head Start is an $8 billion per year federal preschool program, designed to improve the kindergarten readiness of low-income children. Since its inception in1965, taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on the program.

    But HHS’ latest Head Start Impact Study found taxpayers aren’t getting a good return on this “investment.” According to the congressionally-mandated report, Head Start has little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of its participants. In fact, on a few measures, access to the program actually produced negative effects.

    The HHS’ scientifically-rigorous study tracked 5,000 children who were randomly assigned to either a group receiving Head Start services or a group that did not participate in Head Start. It followed their progression from ages three or four through the end of third grade. The third-grade evaluation is a continuation to HHS’ first-grade study, which followed children through the end of first grade.

    The first-grade evaluation found that any benefits the children may have accrued while in the Head Start program had dissipated by the time they reached first grade.

    Now I am definitely not an expert in education or statistics, but I thought it best to try and make sense of the report that Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation is referencing (from here) to try and verify her claims. And it is true that the study indicated that the effects of math instruction dissipated somewhat once the 3 and 4-year-olds left Head Start and enrolled in public school. However, as far as I’m concerned, that begs the following question: how would the kids have fared if they had received no Head Start instruction at all?

    Besides, the report also tells us the following:

    At the end of the Head Start year, there was strong evidence that the Head Start group demonstrated better skills on the following six child outcomes related to children’s language and literacy development: (1) Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) (vocabulary); (2) Woodcock-Johnson III (WJIII) Letter-Word Identification; (3) WJIII Spelling; (4) WJIII Pre-Academic Skills; (5) Color Identification; and (6) Letter Naming.

    Parents of children in the Head Start group reported that their children had greater emerging literacy skills at the end of Head Start than did parents of children in the control group.

    And as far as “cognitive” impacts go (also from the report)…

    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 3rd grade, 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.

    Oh, and for the record, someone from the American Enterprise Institute also lambasted Head Start in similar terms over a 1998 study here. And as noted here (third bullet), Joe Klein engaged in some typical sock puppetry over Head Start as well, citing an unnamed Obama Administration official who called Head Start a “jobs program” (if this person truly believes that, then he/she should have had the intestinal fortitude to go on the record). And as noted here from about two years ago…

    [T]he Frederick County, Maryland, Board of County Commissioners voted to end the county’s contribution to its Head Start program, cutting overall funding for the program by more than 50 percent. Two of the Republican officials justified their decision to cut Head Start — which provides early childhood education to the children of low-income parents — by saying that women should really be married and home with their kids, thus rendering the program unnecessary…

    Typical for a bunch of troglodytes, I guess (the point of Head Start isn’t to turn poor kids into geniuses, but to give them help so they can compete with children who have better means than they do…and if they somehow do become geniuses, all the better).

  • Further, in case anyone was wondering what former Iraq war cheerleader Michael O’Hanlon was up to, wonder no more (here, in a column in which he basically praises outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton)…

    It is the president, and not Clinton, who bears considerable responsibility for at least two mistakes in the region. Obama raised hopes that his presidency could lead to a better rapport with Iran — hopes dashed by the stolen 2009 Iranian elections. He also sought to get Israel to freeze settlement activity as a precondition for peace talks. That idea was reasonably motivated, but ineffective.

    I must, however, acknowledge Clinton’s shortcomings in at least two policy debates. On Syria, we remain at a loss for what to do. The administration’s caution, while understandable, has become counterproductive in light of the tragedy there. A more forward-leaning U.S. support for the opposition looks warranted.

    Sooo…it’s Obama’s fault that Iran’s 2009 elections were a joke and “Bibi” isn’t going to stop building those damn settlements anytime soon. I guess Number 44 wasn’t “transformative” enough.

    O’Hanlon also tells us the following…

    This is not to say that Clinton was an historic secretary of state. Even an admirer, such as myself, must acknowledge that few big problems were solved on her watch, few big victories achieved. There was no equivalent of success in the Cold War, or Henry A. Kissinger’s work on President Richard M. Nixon’s opening to China. There is not likely to be a Clinton Doctrine to rival George Kennan’s containment policy, or the various doctrines associated with Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

    As noted here, George Kennan (who had more foreign policy knowledge in his fingernail than O’Hanlon has in his whole body) spent some of the last years of his life railing against Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History’s war of choice in Mesopotamia, which O’Hanlon supported at a time when he should have followed Kennan’s example instead (here).

  • Continuing, U.S. House Rep of Kansas Mike Pompeo (R-Koch) propagandizes as follows (here, courtesy of “Tiger Beat On The Potomac” as Esquire’s Charles Pierce calls Politico– funny)…

    …energy prices, most particularly natural gas prices, will not be materially affected by exports at levels that are likely to occur. Natural gas prices are projected to go up regardless of exports. They are already rising from less than $2.00 per million cubic feet earlier this year to $3.50 currently.

    As noted here, though…

    The glut of recent gas production was initially driven not by new technologies or discoveries, but by high prices. In the years from 2005 through 2008, as conventional gas supplies dried up due to depletion, prices for natural gas soared to $13 per million BTU (prices had been in $2 range during the 1990s). It was these high prices that provided an incentive for using expensive technology to drill problematic reservoirs. Companies flocked to the Haynesville shale formation in Texas, bought up mineral rights, and drilled thousands of wells in short order. High per-well decline rates and high production costs were hidden behind a torrent of production—and hype. With new supplies coming on line quickly, gas prices fell below $3 MBTU, less than the actual cost of production in most cases.

    So it sounds basically like the natural gas “bubble” has deflated somewhat and Pompeo is trying to re-inflate it (Gosh, you mean we’re set up for another “bubble to bust” cycle? Color me shocked!).

    This about par for the course with Pompeo…

  • As noted here, he called global warming graduate school-level internships “radical,” even though they were developed under Number 43, not President Hopey Changey.
  • He also opposed tax breaks/subsidies for wind energy companies, even though he has never had a problem with same for Big Oil (here – by the way, as noted here, this country is on a path to energy self-sufficiency partly as a result of production of biofuels).
  • In a non-energy development, he compared Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain here (see, Clapper had what I guess Pompeo would call the temerity to say that Iran hadn’t decided whether or not they want to build a nuke, an assessment shared by our “friends” in Israel).
  • And as noted here, Pompeo is one of the Repugs leading the loudest charge against the EPA and its supposed “job killing” agenda (when someone discovers an actual job that was actually killed by an actual EPA regulation enacted by this administration, let me know, OK?).
  • Pompeo also opposed the creation of a CPSC database that “would allow people to make informed decisions on product safety, having access to injury reports on things like toys, cribs, and strollers” here.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat (too easy I know, but I gotta say it)…

  • Finally, as noted here, the Obama Administration commendably faced up to the issue of guns today, with 23 executive orders and pending legislation that, unfortunately, faces a very real prospect of defeat (but for now, let’s think positive).

    Prior to that, though (as noted here),

    A Texas congressman vowed to try to impeach President Obama if he moves ahead with plans to control guns by executive order and onetime U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese says it is not far-fetched.

    Rep. Steve Stockman, a Republican from the Houston area, called Obama’s plans to skirt Congress and implement some controls administratively “an unconstitutional and unconscionable attack on the very founding principles of this republic.” He also threatened to defund the White House.

    “I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment,” Stockman said.

    Meese, who was the nation’s top law enforcement officer in the Reagan administration, told Newsmax Stockman would have support for such a move – and a good case.

    “It would not be legal. It would not be constitutional,” Meese said. “And, indeed, if he tried to override the Second Amendment in any way, I believe it would be an impeachable offense.

    I think it’s hilarious for Fix Noise or anyone else in the wingnutosphere to obtain the supposed legal counsel of former Reaganite Ed Meese, of all people (I guess Alberto Gonzales was busy).

    As far as Stockman is concerned, Think Progress tells us the following here

    In his first House tenure, Stockman received criticism for his office’s handling of a letter that appeared to be evidence in the Oklahoma City bombings — a note his office was slow to deliver to the FBI and also sent to the National Rifle Association. He also wrote a controversial letter to the Department of Justice objecting to raids of anti-government “citizen militia” groups.

    Last week, Stockman proposed a repeal of all gun-free school zones, claiming that such laws have “placed our children in even greater danger.”

    Yep, don’t have to worry about Stockman’s wingnut bona fides, all right.

    As for Meese, it should be noted that his former boss, The Sainted Ronnie R (who, more and more, wouldn’t stand an electoral chance in his own party were he to run today), understood the need for common-sense gun laws, as noted here (along with the two who followed him in office, as noted here).

    And it’s really funny for a white-collar crook like Meese to give anyone a lecture in the law; as noted here

    Meese’s personal ethical problems stemmed from his involvement in the Wedtech scandal, when he was accused of various financial improprieties (i.e., not reporting lobbying income on his tax returns that, in all probability, would have come from Wedtech, a company that lobbied the Reagan Administration for a $32 million contract to make engines for the Army, despite the Army’s conclusion that Wedtech didn’t have the infrastructure or the capability to do the work). In his public capacity, Meese came under fire in November 1987 for his alleged role in the Iran-Contra affair; he failed to give President Reagan sound legal advice, did not investigate the scandal fully, and may have participated in a cover-up. Several days after this story broke in the press, 3,000 Federal prisoners who had arrived in the U.S. on the Mariel boatlifts from Cuba took 130 other inmates hostages in 2 prisons in protest of a diplomatic accord that would have deported them. (The contention is made) that the same character flaws which were apparent in Meese through the Wedtech and Iran-Contra investigations led to serious mismanagement of the prison riots. Progress toward a resolution of the riots occurred only when Meese began to lose authority as a negotiator.

    Yep, ol’ Eddie sure made a bee line to NSA headquarters when the Iran-Contra scandal broke to make sure the most incriminating documents were shredded the letter of the law was followed.

    In closing, I just want to point out another item from Think Progress; as noted here, the NRA ran an ad in opposition to Obama that mentioned the president and Michelle’s two daughters.

    Wow.

    Sopranos_5556530_Sm1
    In the words of Bill Maher referencing the Valerie Plame scandal, even the mob doesn’t go after your family.


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