Monday Mashup (10/13/14)

October 13, 2014
  • In the latest TERRA! TERRA! TERRA! news, I give you the following from Joshua Katz here

    America’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, revealed the name last week of a top secret, very small Al Qaeda cell operating inside Syria called the Khorasan Group. The revelation by Clapper was the latest in a series of seemingly authorized disclosures of highly sensitive national security information by the Executive Branch.

    Khorasan Group isn’t a name that trips off the tongue. It isn’t sexy. It wasn’t appearing in newspapers and on websites every day. It wasn’t being talked about in Washington — until now. That’s because its name and organization were classified information. The fact that you had, in all likelihood, never heard of Al Qaeda’s Khorasan Group demonstrates the importance of the security placed around any information about this group and confusion in the White House about Al Qaeda.

    As a former Operations Officer for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an Army Ranger, I have risked my own life to provide this level of secure intelligence to our president and other policy makers.

    Katz deserves our thanks and gratitude for his service, but if he’s going to criticize anyone for revealing what a supposedly secret bunch this outfit is (I know there’s nothing funny about terrorism, but the name of this gang sounds like a bunch of people making slipcovers), maybe he ought to blame some of his fellow wingnut media loudmouths too for saying that the group was made up (here); maybe if they’d kept their mouths shut, Clapper wound not have had to say anything (though, based on this, I wonder if this is a smokescreen too).

    Here’s my point to Katz and anyone else who blames Number 44 over this; make up your minds on what the narrative is supposed to be as far as you’re concerned. Either blame the Obama Administration for hyping a new terror threat that wasn’t there OR blame them for revealing sensitive information about these life forms. You can’t do both.

  • Next, I give you the following from WaPo conservative quota hire Jennifer Rubin (here), on Teahadist U.S. Senate embarrassment Mike Lee of Utah…

    (Lee) extolled Abraham Lincoln as the first great anti-poverty president. (“[I]n America’s original war on poverty, government did not give the poor other people’s money. It gave them access to other people. In Lincoln’s era that meant dredging rivers, building canals, and cutting roads. It meant the Homestead Act and land-grant universities. These public goods weren’t designed to make poverty more tolerable – but to make it more temporary. They reduced the time it took to get products to market, increased access to banks and land, and increased the speed at which knowledge could be developed and shared.”

    What Rubin describes above sounds an awful lot to me like spending on infrastructure, and as noted here, Lee introduced a bill to pretty much eliminate federal transportation funding (it even has an acronym that spells TEA – blow that dog whistle a little louder, why dontcha?).

    Lee is also leading a repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act (a perennial target for the Teahadists), the federal law that requires government contractors to pay workers the local prevailing wage (the Act is named for two Republicans, it should be noted, and it was signed into law by Herbert Hoover, a Republican president; I guess that’s typical for a guy who once said that child labor laws were “unconstitutional” here).

    Turning back to the “values” political red meat that the Teahadists love, Lee had no problem with the Supremes as “unelected, politically unaccountable judges” when they decided Hobby Lobby, but that’s what he thinks of them now that they’ve decided to allow rulings on marriage equality to stand (here).

    Oh, and speaking of our 16th president, he also said the following (noted here, tied to labor and the economy in general)…

    “While we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

    And as a commenter here noted (again, quoting Lincoln)…

    “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.
    Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.
    Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

    So what do Lee and the Teahadists have to say about that?

    Cue the sound of crickets (and I don’t think we should need any motivation to vote for Dems in November, but in case we do, Rubin provides it here).

  • Further, someone from The Daily Tucker is (of course) in favor of genetically modified organisms (or GMOs for short) in our food, as noted here (more background is here)…

    I have to admit that I don’t have a ready comeback in response to the data presented in the Daily Tucker post, but I would only present the anti-GMO point of view here, including data on the money spent by food companies to lobby against GMO labeling in California and Washington state, where much of our food is manufactured and/or processed (additional data on the problems already being caused by genetically modified foods is presented here – and if GMOs are supposed to be so damn safe, then please explain this).

    (By the way, to their credit, ice cream makers Ben and Jerry decided to leave GMOs behind, as noted here).

    Another thing…as noted here, there is a correlation between the pro-GMO forces and the climate change deniers and the “anti-vaxers,” which I found to be a bit interesting.

    To conclude on this topic, I give you the following from this Jerry Rogers person at The Daily Tucker…

    Over four dozen pieces of legislation have been introduced in nearly 30 states to require GMO labeling. Three states actually have labeling requirements on the books. These states and the others that will follow suit will end up disrupting the nation’s entire food chain, from farming to supply to retail. Americans will suffer with higher food prices and fewer choices, but for other parts of the world stuck in poverty, the impact will be a devastating loss of human life. The stakes are high.

    Proof? Anywhere in sight??

    The politics of GMOs need to catch up with the science. There is legislation that may be a good first step in doing just that. Introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), the bill would preempt state laws and create national standards for food labeling under the sole authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Putting the issue of labeling under FDA authority will take it out of the hands of the anti-GMO activists. This simple act could reset the national debate over GMOs.

    I’m not totally surprised to read that when you consider this. However, how ridiculous is it that the pro-GMO people want to see federal regulation as opposed to a “patchwork” of state laws, when they favor the states over the feds on practically everything else?

  • Continuing, it looks like someone from The Daily Tucker is back to screech about the ACA (here)…

    Republican attorneys general have been administering the right medicine against this law since it was enacted. Just this week, a federal judge in Oklahoma agreed with Attorney General Scott Pruitt and declared unlawful certain regulations written by the IRS to implement the bloated statute.

    I don’t know what the difference between a “bloated” and a “non-bloated” statute is, and I don’t think this Jessica Medeiros-Garrison person does either. What I do know is that Pruitt and other wing nut AGs for their respective states are basing their opposition to the ACA on some bogus claim that subsidies for Medicaid expansion can only be used for states with state-established health care exchanges, not federal ones, which Media Matters called “a counter intuitive claim that has been widely discredited” here.

    Oh, and it should be noted that the federal judge who ruled in Pruitt’s favor, Ronald A. White, was appointed by George W. Bush (big surprise, I know – here). And as noted here, “to date, nine federal judges have considered this question of whether much of the law should be defunded. Only three — all of whom are Republicans — have agreed that it should be.”

    While doing some assorted Googling for this item, I came across the following on Jessica Medeiros-Garrison here (a lawyer based in Alabama for the record), and it turns out that she was in the middle of a messy divorce from her husband Lee Garrison a year ago; neither one of these individuals embody what I would call exemplary moral character (I merely present a link to the details here; it’s up to you, dear reader, to do the rest if you so choose).

  • Moving on, I give you some of the lowest of the low-hanging fruit here from someone named Michael Schaus who concocted something called “10 Things Liberals Believe That Government Does Well” (he added his categories with snarky little comments, so I think it’s only fair that I should be allowed to reply):

    1. Protecting our freedom

    So who do you think is going to train, feed, house, and maintain all other responsibility for the world’s largest (and most expensive) military (here) – the state of Alabama?

    2. Giving away land to common people

    As noted from here

    The federal government owns 655 million acres of land in the U.S., 29% of the total 2.3 billion acres. It administers its public lands through four agencies: the National Park Service (NPS), which runs the National Park System; the Forest Service (FS), which manages the National Forests; theBureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages public lands; and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which administers the National Wildlife Refuge System. National Monuments are assigned a managing agency at the time of their designation by the President. The Forest Service operates out of the Department of Agriculture, while the other three agencies are in the Department of the Interior.

    So yeah, I would say that the Feds do a good job in this area too.

    3. Educating everyone

    This provides a list of U.S. Department of Education funding as of August 25th of this year (if anyone out there is inclined to sift through all of these numbers and other data, have at it). And despite the Repugs’ war on public education in this country, students from overseas still flock to our universities, so I think the federal government does deserve at least a partial amount of credit for that, seeing as how the federal government subsidizes student loans and all.

    4. Helping us retiring (sic) with dignity

    As noted from here (under “Highlights”)…

    At the end of 2013, the (Operations of the Old Age Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance programs) were providing benefit payments to about 58 million people: 41 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 11 million disabled workers and dependents of disabled workers. During the year, an estimated 163 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes. Total expenditures in 2013 were $823 billion. Total income was $855 billion, which consisted of $752 billion in non-interest income and $103 billion in interest earnings. Asset reserves held in special issue U.S. Treasury securities grew from $2,732 billion at the beginning of the year to $2,764 billion at the end of the year.

    Not too shabby as far as I’m concerned…

    5. Improving public health

    As noted from here

    New York, NY, June 16, 2014—Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall among 11 industrialized countries on measures of health system quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and healthy lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. The other countries included in the study were Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand Norway, Sweden Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. While there is room for improvement in every country, the U.S. stands out for having the highest costs and lowest performance—the U.S. spent $8,508 per person on health care in 2011, compared with $3,406 in the United Kingdom, which ranked first overall.

    The United States’ ranking is dragged down substantially by deficiencies in access to primary care and inequities and inefficiencies in our health care system according to Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally, 2014 Update, by Karen Davis, of the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Kristof Stremikis, of the Pacific Business Group on Health, and Commonwealth Fund researchers Cathy Schoen and David Squires. However, provisions in the Affordable Care Act that have already extended coverage to millions of people in the United States can improve the country’s standing in some areas—particularly access to affordable and timely primary care.

    To hear this Michael Schaus guy, though, “Obamacare” is the reason for our health care ills in this country, not our supposedly glorious private sector (and I think it needs to be pointed out once again that, notwithstanding Medicare/Medicaid and the VA, there is no government-sponsored alternative).

    6. Building our transportation network

    Oh yeah, what is that supposedly awful federal government supposed to do about that?

    Try this for starters (as well as the fact that the best the U.S. House Repugs could do is come up with some lame stopgap measure to keep the Federal Highway Trust Fund solvent, as noted here). So, that supposedly awful Kenyan Muslim socialist responded with this.

    7. Investing in communications

    This Schaus guy has a bit of a point here, but read this McClatchy article to learn about how Motorola pulled all kinds of tricks to try and establish dominance in the broadband market (once again, our glorious private sector at work – and I’m pretty sure Motorola has a lot of corporate “person” company here). So maybe our government would spend these funds more efficiently if it weren’t for the fact that the fund recipients are busy trying to gouge their customers and/or competitors.

    8. Building our energy supply

    Why is that supposed to be the job of the federal government when we give out all kinds of tax breaks to the oil biz, as noted here (though we should be doing the same thing for renewables, but of course we’re not, as noted here.)

    9. Inventing the future (NASA)

    Actually, I think we’ve done OK in NASA funding, all things considered (and fortunately, they still have the resources to do ground-breaking research such as this, which of course should be a “hair on fire” moment for anyone in a political capacity who cares about the future of this planet).

    10. Defeating totalitarianism

    See #1.

    Of course, what else can we expect from Schaus, who (as noted here) used developments in so-called “smart” gun technology to baselessly claim that it was a confiscation scheme on the part of former Obama AG Eric Holder?

  • I also wanted to comment on this story

    Republican Gov. Tom Corbett said Monday (10/6) he supports a bill designed to prevent offenders from causing their victims “mental anguish,” a proposal launched after a Vermont college chose as its commencement speaker a man convicted of killing a police officer.

    Corbett spoke at a Capitol event a day after Mumia Abu-Jamal gave a recorded address to about 20 graduates at Goddard College in Plainfield.

    “Nobody has the right to continually taunt the victims of their violent crimes in the public square,” Corbett said.

    He called the college’s choice of Abu-Jamal “unconscionable.”

    The bill that advanced out of a House committee on Monday would allow a victim to go to court for an injunction against “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effects of the crime on the victim.”

    OK, to begin with, I think allowing Abu-Jamal to give a recorded address to the Goddard graduates was a dumb idea. I don’t care if he’s a graduate of the school or not; someone should have stepped in and disallowed it. As far as I’m concerned, a line needs to be drawn somewhere, and I think doing so right at the feet of a convicted murderer of a Philadelphia police officer is a pretty darn good place (kind of makes me wonder what’s going on with that school anyway, since apparently they don’t give out grades…yeah, that will REALLY prepare graduates for the workforce).

    However, this legislation is equally stupid, if not more so. How exactly does the author of this bill propose to establish the cause of “mental anguish”? Survivor flashbacks to the occurrence of the crime? An inadvertent mention of the crime from a passer-by in the form of an offhand remark? Having to watch an hour of Brian Kilmeade on Fox TV?

    (OK, I’ll stop.)

    Also, what exactly constitutes “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effects of crime on the victim”? By that standard, a candlelight vigil could prompt painful remembrances and thus be subject to penalty under this bill.

    As I said, I’ll definitely grant the point that allowing Abu-Jamal yet another platform for his thoroughly undeserved celebrity is stupid. But concocting some bill that doesn’t pass the legal smell test falls under the heading of two wrongs trying to make a right.

  • Finally, as noted here, it turns out Mikey the Beloved in PA-08 has spent about $200 grand on “franking” for campaign ads telling us how wonderful he supposedly is (including online at Twitter and Google), which apparently is not illegal in any way; as the article tells us, there is a franking limit for Senate campaigns, but not U.S. House ones (and why exactly is that, I wonder?).

    However, even though he’s running online ads, he still doesn’t advertise his Town Hall meetings (has he even had any during this campaign?). And it also doesn’t take into consideration his recent refusal to accept an invitation to a candidate’s forum hosted by the Lin-Park Civic Association and the Bucks County NAACP, even though he was notified about the forum five different times in August and September (his Dem opponent Kevin Strouse had no problem saying Yes).

    With that in mind, I give you the following from the Strouse campaign…

    Bristol, PA – Congressman Fitzpatrick, who missed 35% of his House Financial Services Committee hearings, is misleading his constituents with counter-terrorism theater and grandstanding on issues of national security. Fitzpatrick continues to mislead his constituents despite the fact that the Congressman’s Isolate ISIS Act is a duplicative effort that does nothing to further target ISIS’s financing.

    Executive Order 13324, signed by President Bush in 2001, provides the necessary framework for the Treasury department to sanction terrorist funding. Perhaps if the Congressman showed up to his committee hearings he would understand the mechanisms that have been in place for over 13 years to target terrorist network financing and levy sanctions against complicit groups and individuals.

    Strouse commented, “It’s extremely disappointing that Congressman Fitzpatrick would politicize national security problems that he clearly doesn’t understand. I fought terrorism as an Army Ranger in Iraq and as a CIA officer, so it’s time to set the record straight for the 8th District: Treasury already has the necessary authority to target ISIS’s funding, and has been doing so for quite some time. The issue that we ought to be addressing is that training the Syrian rebels will take much longer than Congressman Fitzpatrick and his colleagues have indicated.”

    The Congressional authorization to train Syrian rebels expires in December. Strouse has previously pointed out how short-sighted this short term authorization is, and has emphasized on multiple occasions that adequately training an army takes longer than 90 days.

    As early as 2008, Treasury was targeting the predecessor to ISIS. In February 2008, pursuant to Executive Order 13324, treasury took action against al Qaida in Iraq (AQI), which is the predecessor to ISIS. Instead of grandstanding on issues that are already addressed under current law, Congressman Fitzpatrick and his colleagues should be addressing the soon to expire authorization to train moderate rebel troops.

    Time is short until the election, so if you are able to help the Kevin Strouse campaign in any capacity at all, please click here.

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    Friday Mashup (4/25/14)

    April 25, 2014
  • Someone named Amber Barno at The Daily Tucker rails as follows here (about a favorite wingnut target)…

    (On 4/16) the New York Times made the audacious choice to publish an article linking military veterans to white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

    Frazier Glenn Miller shot and killed three people at Jewish Community Centers near Kansas City, Missouri earlier this week. He was a former KKK leader and also a former Master Sergeant in the Army who was forced to retire for circulating racist material. That information seemed to be enough for Kathleen Belew, the author of the article, to draw a distinction between veterans, the ‘radical right,’ and their tendency to become an danger to society, and apparently enough for the New York Times to publish it.

    The title of the piece, “Veterans and White Supremacy” and the entire slanderous article are almost as offensive as the picture that accompanied it. It displays a row of soldiers saluting, the way they would to an American flag, while one ‘soldier’ in the middle is posed doing a Nazi salute. It is despicable. It is reckless and it only further contributes to stereotypes that veterans must overcome each and everyday in the civilian world.

    Before I say a word about this, I should note from her bio that Ms. Barno, military advisor for Concerned Veterans for America, is an “Army veteran and former Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.” She deserves my thanks for her service, and she has it.

    With that out of the way, let me add that the “slanderous” and “offensive” article (that I read and consider reasonable, by the way) does indeed contain a graphic like the one Barno cites. However, I believe the graphic makes it plain to a reasonably intelligent adult that a comparatively small percentage of our veterans become homegrown terrorists, and it isn’t anywhere near as incriminating as she suggests.

    And Concerned Veterans for America…why exactly does that ring a bell?

    Oh, I remember now. It’s because the person in charge of CV of A is Pete Hegseth, who used to head up something called Vets for Freedom, which was a PR factory doing its best to influence public opinion to make sure we kept our military in Iraq and Afghanistan (and as Crooks and Liars notes here, this “veterans” group claimed to support deficit reduction, which to me is a strange issue for a veterans group to be associated with – ahhh, can you smell the Astroturf?).

    And as you might expect, CV is A is tied to the shadowy, “dark money” network of Charles and David Koch (here).

    Barno is right to claim that our returning heroes face a variety of issues that demand our attention, though I don’t think she adds much to that discussion here by climbing on a favorite conservative “hobby horse,” if you will (the old gray lady, that is), and giving it a ride for no good reason.

    And speaking of veterans, former U.S. Army Ranger and Democratic candidate in the PA-08 primary Kevin Strouse wrote an Op-Ed that recently appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times (here). In it, he protested yet another ridiculous Paul Ryan budget that voucherizes Medicare (again), cuts Pell Grants (again), cuts SNAP assistance including food stamps (again), and refuses once more to invest in infrastructure spending (I’m paraphrasing because the Guest Opinion is now behind the paper’s utterly laughable pay wall…and to be fair, his primary opponent Shaughnessy Naughton wrote the following here).


    (And as long as I’m on the subject, I’d like to hear something besides roaring silence on the issue of Paul Ryan and his horrendous budgets from the Roman Catholic Church, notwithstanding symbolic yet still important comments on this subject from Pope Francis. I know the Church in the US is primarily “in bed” with the Republican Party, but I just wish they weren’t so damn obvious about it.)

    I think this merits support of Kevin Strouse from filthy, unkempt liberal blogger types such as yours truly, and if you agree, please click here.

    Update 6/18/14: Another inglorious moment involving Hegseth is here (BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI!!!).

  • Next (and continuing with faith matters), I give you this from someone at Fix Noise named Jay Sekulow…

    The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Clemson University a “letter of complaint” detailing (Clemson football coach Dabo) Swinney’s alleged constitutional violations, including such atrocities as the team’s volunteer chaplain writing Bible verses on a whiteboard and the team making available bus transportation to players who wish to attend church.

    In a reasonable constitutional world, this complaint would be ignored by the media and discarded by the university. After all, there’s no evidence that Clemson or Coach Swinney did anything other than expose players to the coach’s religious point of view, a point of view he’s constitutionally entitled to hold and express.

    Players were not compelled to attend church or Bible study, and the university is not paying the volunteer chaplain. So, how could any of these actions “establish” a religion within the meaning of the Establishment Clause (sic).

    In response, I give you the following from here

    Responding to what it says was a complaint sent to it by a member of the public, the FFRF had one of its five staff attorneys investigate the program via open records requests over the constitutionally protected separation between church and state.

    It uncovered a host of issues, from Swinney directly hiring the team chaplain (even Clemson policy says the players should choose), to coaches participating in testimonials and bible studies, to buses being organized to transport the entire team to “Church Day” at a local Baptist Church.

    The letter, in great detail, cites various university policies and case law that are violated by these actions. It’s a thorough letter. And it goes after Swinney, who it claims as a public employee is barred from participating in any official capacity in the religious activities of his players or underlings.

    As a thumbnail, the FFRF says a coach should never discuss religion with a player, let alone stop practice for prayer sessions or sponsor after-hour testimonials. Should a player come to him seeking religious guidance, he should encourage him to seek out the innumerable faith-based groups on a major college campus. Clemson boasts 41 of them, ranging from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to groups and congregations for Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Jews and others. There is even the Secular Student Alliance of Clemson for atheists, agnostics and others.

    “The religious counseling should be outside the athletic department,” (the FFRF’s Annie Laurie) Gaylor said.

    I’ll grant you that there are bigger issues out there to address, and if Swinney is as devout as he appears to be, then he should be commended. However, I also think that he shouldn’t be allowed to proselytize on the job if public money is involved.

    And I think this is all amusing coming from Sekulow anyway, who has no issue with Swinney carrying on as he does, yet somehow was still one of the loudest voices against the so-called “ground zero mosque,” as noted here (Sekulow also supports Hobby Lobby over the so-called “contraception mandate” of the Affordable Care Law, as noted here, basically arguing that religious freedom is conditional for people Sekulow likes, but should be guaranteed regardless for corporations – riiiiight).

  • Further (and returning to The Daily Tucker), I give you this from someone named Mytheos Holt, claiming that …

    The economist Robert Samuelson has pointed out repeatedly that Social Security, far from being insurance against the dangers of old age, which merely gives recipients back what they already paid in. It is, in fact, nothing but “middle class welfare.” Quoting Samuelson:

    Benefits shift; they’re not strictly proportionate to wages but are skewed to favor low-wage earners – a value judgment reflecting who most deserves help; and they aren’t paid from workers’ own “contributions.” But we ignored these realities and encouraged people to think they “earned” benefits and that Social Security is distinct from the larger budget. Politicians, pundits, think-tank experts and journalists engaged in this charade to spare Social Security’s 54 million recipients the discomfort of understanding they’re on welfare.

    Let’s see, “middle-class welfare,” “generational theft” – yep, the dog whistles are at the ready…also, the article claims that lifting the payroll tax cap won’t do anything to keep Social Security solvent (uh, no).

    Here is a more in-depth response from Dean Baker (who knows a thing or two about this stuff), including the following…

    Robert Samuelson is once again calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, ostensibly in the name of generational fairness. Samuelson makes the now common argument that a hugely disproportionate share of government spending goes to these programs that primarily serve the elderly. Of course, using Samuelson logic we should also complain that a hugely disproportionate share of government expenditures go the very wealthy.

    The reason that the wealthy get a disproportionate share of government expenditures is that they bought government bonds which pay interest. The reason that the elderly get a disproportionate share of government benefits is that they paid Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes that were intended to support these programs.

    Samuelson goes on to complain that Social Security has become a “middle-age retirement system,” citing Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute. Samuelson apparently is not familiar with data on life expectancy that shows that workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution have seen relatively small gains in longevity over the last three decades. He is apparently also unfamiliar with Steurele’s calculations on the rate of return that retirees get on their Social Security benefits. For many middle income retirees in the baby boom cohorts it will be less than 1.0 percent and in some cases less than zero, according to Steuerle.

    What is remarkable about Samuelson’s piece is that there is absolutely zero effort to consider any real issues of generational equity in a piece that is ostensibly devoted to the topic. For example, there is no discussion of the fact that the current generation of near retirees experienced an unprecedented period of wage stagnation over their working lifetime. The median hourly wage in 2010 is less than 10 percent higher than it was in 1973.

    By contrast, the Social Security trustees project that average hourly wages will rise by more than 40 percent over the next three decades. While it is possible that income inequality will continue to increase so that these gains again go overwhelmingly to the top, there is no precedent in U.S. history for the level of inequality that this would imply.

    Yes, all of this is obvious. Yes, what we need to do is expand the Social Security entitlement, not do everything we can to kill it. But we need to drive this home every way we can as often as possible (and to help with that, click here).

  • Continuing, I give you the following unintentional bit of hilarity from Irrational Spew Online (here, with the understated claim that, by advocating for renewable energy sources, Chris Hayes, of MSNBC and The Nation, wants to kill 5.7 billion people)…

    There are many more moderate suggestions than Hayes’s on the carbon-cap continuum. But his goofy idea makes clear that all of these involve some diminution in human life: less health, less longevity, fewer opportunities to pursue happiness. At some level that translates into fewer people — a consummation many warmists might devoutly wish, though few would admit that. (As green panics go, overpopulation is long over; global warming is merely on its way out.)

    Hayes is right to equate the battle against fossil fuels with one of history’s greatest moral struggles. He’s just wrong to think he’s on the side of humanity.

    I don’t think Hayes or anyone else who questions our energy consumption should be criticized for it, for the reasons noted here (basically, ignoring other environmental “multipliers” associated with our energy consumption is a rather pin-headed argument to make, and if fewer of those multipliers come from renewables, then what else is there to think about?).

    And overpopulation, as a global threat, is “long over”? Really?

    (Actually, I have a feeling that NRO’s Tim Cavanaugh was referring to this…i.e., 6.8 billion people living as a result of fossil fuels, 1 billion not…don’t have any data to argue with him on that).

    And if Cavanaugh doesn’t want to believe me on the importance of renewables vs. fossil fuels, fine. Read the following from here

    The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is the nation’s largest energy user. In recent years, DoD has launched several initiatives to reduce its fossil Fuel use by improving energy efficiency (i.e., reducing wasted energy) and shifting to renewable energy such as biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar to meet operational and installation needs. Energy efficiency and renewable energy can benefit mission effectiveness, the environment, and the bottom line, as outlined in the following excerpt from a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding between DoD and the Department of Energy (DOE):

    Energy efficiency can serve as a force multiplier, increasing the range and endurance of forces in the field while reducing the number of combat forces diverted to protect energy supply lines, as well as reducing long-term energy costs. DoD is also increasing its use of renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand to improve energy security and operational effectiveness, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in support of U.S. climate change initiatives, and protect the DoD from energy price fluctuations. Solving military challenges through innovation has the potential to yield spin-off technologies that benefit the civilian community as well.

    Which brings me, in a roundabout way I’ll admit, to Hayes’s recent post here. As the moderator of “All In,” I get it that he has the right to have conservatives on his show. But the problem is that all these people do is pollute the information blood stream, if you will, leaving it up to little fish like me in the great, big bloggy ocean, if you will, to speak truth to stoo-pid – mixing my metaphors I guess.

    And I’m not talking about this idiotic “conservative vs. liberal” parlor game that has masqueraded for intelligent political discourse in this country for the last 30 years or so. I’m talking about verifiable truth and reality. When Jennifer Stefano starts foaming at the mouth because she thinks Hayes is trying to talk down to her or something, and Paul Wolfowitz basically tries to argue that liberals are too scared to stand up to terrorists or whatever, guess what? The fact that these people tend to be conservative is irrelevant. What matters is that they are wrong. I would also argue that they know that they are wrong and continue to argue anyway, pushing their talking points regardless. And as far as I’m concerned, when people like Stefano or Wolfowitz do that, then they lose the right to engage in a discussion on a nationally televised program featuring news analysis and political commentary.

    Note to Hayes: See what happens when you try to play fair and square with the wingnuts?

  • Finally, I absolutely have to say something about this item from last week…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Election-year memo to Democratic candidates: Don’t talk about the economic recovery. It’s a political loser.

    So say Democratic strategists in a blunt declaration that such talk skips over “how much trouble people are in, and doesn’t convince them that policymakers really understand or are even focusing on the problems they continue to face.”

    In addition, Stan Greenberg, James Carville and others wrote that in head-to-head polling tests the mere mention of the word “recovery” is trumped by a Republican assertion that the Obama administration has had six years to get the economy moving and its policies haven’t worked.

    Coincidentally or not, Democrats have largely shelved the “R” word.

    God, this makes me want to vomit.

    If the “polling” on the issue of the economy supposedly doesn’t work, then try making the case that the U.S. House Republican “leadership” doesn’t know a damn thing about managing our economy. Worse, they have a vested interest in continued economic hardship since they think that is a winner of an issue for them politically. However, just because that is so doesn’t mean that you roll up your tent, refuse to make a fight, and walk away.

    Because, as noted from here

    As it turns out, (Speaker John) Boehner has decided that every time House Republicans pass a bill that advances House Republican priorities, the party gets to label that a “jobs bill.” The GOP approved more oil drilling? That’s a “jobs bill.” The GOP voted to take away health care benefits from millions of Americans? That’s a “jobs bill,” too. The GOP disapproves of clean-air regulations? “Jobs bill.” The GOP wants more “transparency” in federal spending? “Jobs bill.” Republicans cut food stamps? “Jobs bill.”

    I’m not exaggerating in the slightest; this is all from the list of “jobs bills” the Speaker of the House has pulled together and presented to the public. How many actual jobs would be created if these bills became law? No one knows because Republicans never submitted them for independent economic scrutiny, but GOP leaders are confident the answer is, at a minimum, some.

    How reassuring.

    It’s why the parties so often seem to be talking past one another. For congressional Democrats, jobs bills have to relate to job creation in a meaningful way, then be scored by independent economists to determine how many jobs are likely to be created by the proposed legislation. For congressional Republicans, jobs bills happen to be whatever bills the GOP likes – even anti-abortion bills.

    And as noted here, the following actual jobs-related bills were passed by the House with at-or-near-100-percent opposition from Boehner, Eric Cantor, and his same-party playmates (including Mikey the Beloved, of course)…

  • The American Clean Energy and Security Act
  • The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act
  • Jobs for Main Street Act
  • Small Business Jobs and Credit Act
  • The America COMPETES Act
  • This has led to 49 straight months of private sector job growth (here). And the results would be better if the House decided to get serious on immigration reform (here) and raising the federal minimum wage (here – granted, job growth might be negligible, but it would represent progress, and it would help millions stay in their jobs as opposed to losing them).

    And about Stan Greenberg in particular, I believe the following should be noted from here

    “The Republican focus on Obamacare is backfiring,” says (Greenberg), a top Democratic pollster, who conducted the survey (which found an increasing approval rating for health care reform) with a GOP counterpart. “They’re on the wrong side of the issue.”

    The surprising resurrection of Obamacare is poised to have broad political ramifications come November. During the darkest days of the healthcare.gov rollout last fall, Republicans made what seemed a safe bet that the unpopularity of the law would help deliver another midterm-election romp, just as it did in 2010. The GOP electoral strategy has been supported by millions from the Koch-backed Super PAC Americans for Prosperity, which has been bombarding key Senate swing states with anti-Obama¬care TV ads intended to destroy vulnerable Democratic incumbents like Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina. But so far the impact of these kinds of ads has been modest, registering with voters as both old hat and “overreach,” says Greenberg, the Democratic pollster.

    Public opinion on Obamacare is now shifting. A Pew poll in March found that a 71 percent supermajority either supports Obamacare or wants politicians to “make the law work as well as possible,” compared to just 19 percent of the electorate that wants to see the law fail.

    Though Ted Cruz and the #fullrepeal crowd may still excite the GOP’s Tea Party base, their message is no longer a clear winner among independents in the general election. The House leadership is taking notice. After more than four dozen votes attempting to repeal or roll back Obamacare, the House GOP is scrambling to come up with a policy it could market as a replacement. In a startling admission, GOP House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy acknowledged that the GOP’s old playbook isn’t cutting it anymore. “The country has changed since Obamacare has come in,” he told the Washington Post. “We understand that.”

    House Republicans have learned the hard way that even nibbling around the edges of Obamacare can backfire. In February, the GOP pushed a bill to tweak the mandate that businesses offer health care to all employees working more than 30 hours. Switching to the GOP’s preferred 40-hour standard, it turns out, would add $74 billion to the deficit by 2024 and cause nearly 1 million Americans to lose coverage. That’s the kind of move that would play right into Democratic hands. Says Greenberg, “Democrats do very well when they hit back at Republicans on what people lose.”

    Until recently, Greenberg had been advising Democrats to move beyond Obamacare and turn to bread-and-butter issues like jobs and the minimum wage. “The strongest attack on Republicans,” he says, “is that they’re obsessed with Obamacare instead of critical issues like dealing with the economy.” But his new poll has Greenberg rethinking that counsel. “Until now, this is an issue where the intensity has been on the other side,” he says. But defending Obamacare, he adds, has emerged as “a values argument for our base.” Greenberg now believes Democrats “ought to lean much more strongly” to campaign on the virtues of Obamacare as a means of boosting progressive turnout. “Not apologizing for Obamacare and embracing it actually wins the argument nationally,” he says. “And it produces much more engagement of Democratic voters. That’s a critical thing in off-year elections.”

    So instead of walking around on eggshells, as it were, run an ad leading off with “Obamacare” and tout its successes (kind of like this), then point out that the same people who were wrong about that were entrusted with helping Obama to manage the economy, and they’ve failed on that score too.

    Sure, talk about women’s issues in the workplace (which ultimately are family issues anyway). But give voters a reason to vote for you by pointing out how different you are from the opposition, or else you’ll lose.

    And one more thing – don’t accept political commentary from the AP’s David Espo as gospel (here).


  • Friday Mashup (3/28/14)

    March 28, 2014

    3509780239_688064e98c

  • (Image from satiricalpolitical.com…)

    So, according to Repug Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, it looks like President Obama is granting “de facto amnesty,” or something, to illegal (undocumented – whatever) immigrants here.

    I wonder if that’s why Number 44 is nearing his 2 millionth deportation (here)? And I think this has a typically “inside-out” corporate media headline on the subject that basically tells us that, yes, U.S. House Repugs in particular are being intransigent a-holes on the issue (as with so many other matters of consequence).

  • Also, I really don’t want to waste a lot of time on this, but for some reason, the otherwise highly sensible Chris Hayes decided to grant a forum to Americans for Prosperity’s (and Koch-ette) Jennifer Stefano here, with predictable results (more of Stefano’s nonsense can be accessed at the fifth bullet from here).
  • Next, I realize that I should utterly ignore conservative quota hire Jennifer Rubin of the WaPo, but alas, I cannot totally – I give you the following from here

    I’ve got no problem with third-party money or with billionaires giving money directly to campaigns; neither do most Republicans. But it is Democrats who brought up the Koch complaint and who have been impugning the Koch brothers. In 2010 Democrats attacked the nefarious and non-existent “foreign money” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; now it’s two businessmen.

    See how Rubin is trying to morph the dreaded “conventional wisdom” from “Oh, aren’t the Dems a bunch of crybabies for complaining about waay too much untraceable money in our political campaigns” to “Well, guess what? That money never existed anyway.”?

    Oh, and by the way, she’s wrong in either case. As Think Progress notes here (from October 2010)…

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a large presence in the small, oil-rich country of Bahrain. In 2006, the Chamber created an internal fundraising department called the “U.S.-Bahrain Business Council” (USBBC), an organization to help businesses in Bahrain take advantage of the Chamber’s “network of government and business relationships in the US and worldwide.

    With each of these foreign board members to the USBBC contributing at least $10,000 annually, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raises well over $100,000 a year in money from foreign businesses through its operation in Bahrain.

    Like the USBBC, the (U.S. India Business Council) generates well over $200,000 a year in dues for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from foreign businesses.

    Another foreign chamber, like the Abu Dhabi AmCham, which includes American firms and Esnaad, a subsidiary of the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, claims that it is a “dues paying member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and part of the global network of American Chambers of Commerce.”

    And in an update to the Think Progress post, we learn the following…

    The US Chamber of Commerce has responded to this post in a statement to the Politico’s Ben Smith. The Chamber’s Tita Freeman did not dispute that the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) organization running attack ads receives foreign funds, and simply claimed, “We have a system in place” to prevent foreign funding for the Chamber’s “political activities.”

    Uh huh…

    As far as I’m concerned, the reality of the foreign funds used by the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce for election purposes (unaccounted-for foreign funds, inasmuch as it’s impossible to find out just how much was spent for particular races on behalf of particular candidates) utterly puts the lie as far as I’m concerned to claims such as the one made by Mike Fitzpatrick that the Dems outspent him in the 2010 campaign in which he unseated incumbent U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy. Can someone honestly tell me how much Fitzpatrick received in funding from the “U.S.” Chamber (a figure verified by an independent accounting firm)?

    I’ll have something else to say about Mikey the Beloved later, by the way.

  • Further, did you know that Greg Gutfeld of Fix Noise apparently wrote a book (here)? Why, color me shocked (something called “Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War On You”…as always, Gutfeld and his kind have to invent a conflict with a real or imagined enemy – here)…

    Someone named Kyle Smith at Rupert Murdoch’s Vanity Rag tells us the following…

    Gutfeld finds that cool warps everything. In 2012, for instance, Zuckerberg’s Facebook not only didn’t pay any net federal income tax but was actually due a refund of about $430 million. Why? Because the company (lawfully) deducted the stock options it issues to Facebook employees, many of them now deliriously wealthy because of those options. If Exxon or Koch Industries had managed that, someone might have noticed.

    But because it was Facebook — a company that oozes cool out its pores — it was a one-day story that people forgot about. “If this company were something that actually made something in a factory or a field,” writes Gutfeld, “it would be roundly condemned by every single media hack on the planet.”

    Never mind that companies like Exxon and Koch supply the energy without which Facebook wouldn’t work: They’re not cool.

    Um…unless Exxon and the Kochs have suddenly made a splash in renewables, then that really isn’t true, is it (here)?

    Smith also blames “the left” for a ban of plastic supermarket bags in San Francisco that supposedly caused a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illness – here is a response.

    But wait, there’s more…

    Now a few groovy artisanal types are sounding the alarm about vaccines, with predictably depressing results.

    A year ago, a Florida county saw its first death from whooping cough in decades. The victim, a baby, had parents who decided not to vaccinate.

    Vaccines, DDT, genetically modified foods — all these things are unnatural or impure, hence suspect.

    “Purity is a big thing with the coolerati,” notes Gutfeld. “But, like cool, it exists separate from the notions of good and evil. Pure sugar is delicious. How about pure cocaine? How about pure horses–t?” That depends: Is it locally sourced?

    Isn’t that simply precious?

    Yes, unfortunately, there is definitely a bit of anti-vaccine hysteria out there. But blaming us lefties for it is to assign fault in the wrong place.

    whooping-cough_200px
    And that is because it is very unlikely that you will see Jenny McCarthy, a leading anti-vaccine proponent, appearing on MSNBC any time soon (as noted here, just consider “the usual suspects” once again, the people who hate science generally anyway).

    It looks like Gutfeld is trying to make a name for himself as the Foxies’ latest attack dog in its increasingly futile efforts to gin up phony outrage over whatever real or alleged controversy happens to spring into the depraved mind of Roger Ailes or other culprits. However, I would argue that it’s really hard to sustain a career even in the wingnutosphere by trying to subsist on table scraps from Glenn Beck and Alex Jones (and probably Rusty and Drudge too).

  • Also, I came across this item in which Repug U.S. House Rep Lamar Smith, a particularly notorious climate change denier (at least when it comes to whether or not human activity is to blame), decried $700,000 that the National Science Foundation allegedly spent on a global warming musical (and did I mention that Smith is in charge of the House Science Committee?).

    Maybe this really happened and maybe it didn’t, but here is what I know…I checked the web site for the National Science Foundation (here), and I’ve spent a few minutes trying to locate this award on their site, and I can’t find it.

    And it’s not as if Smith doesn’t already have a history of making incendiary charges, as noted here.

  • Continuing, I give you the following via Rich Lowry, on the whole Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood thing about companies not wanting to provide health care coverage for “conscience” reasons…

    Hobby Lobby is trying to fend off the federal government via the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that Democrats used to support before they realized how inconvenient it would prove to the Obama-era project of running roughshod over moral traditionalists. The act says that government can’t substantially burden someone’s exercise of religion unless there’s a compelling governmental interest at stake and it’s pursued by the least restrictive means.

    I don’t have anything particularly brilliant to add here, but I only wanted to point out that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was originally passed and signed into law in 1996, with the following intended purpose…

    The Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to all religions, but is most pertinent to Native American religions that are burdened by increasing expansion of government projects onto sacred land. In Native American religion the land they worship on is very important. Often the particular ceremonies can only take place in certain locations because these locations have special significance.[5] This, along with peyote use are the main parts of Native American religions that are often left unprotected.

    So, as a pretext for allowing business to pick and choose health care coverage for their employees based on their moral sensibilities, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are seeking protection by citing a law that was originally passed to allow Native Americans to use peyote and mescaline during religious ceremonies.

    So then, I guess drugs are OK, but for conservatives, protection against the dreaded (in their minds, anyway) “lady parts” isn’t.

    Hmmm…

    I think this is going to be another ruling that The Supremes slide under the proverbial door as they’re getting ready to leave Washington, D.C. in a couple of months. However, if they end up ruling on the side of faith instead of existing statute (a 50-50 bet as far as I’m concerned), then employers will be able to offer (or not offer) any health insurance that they want. Which will end up hastening the extinction of the whole “employer-based health insurance” model, which was bound to happen anyway.

    And, by default, that means that anyone seeking coverage will have no choice but to go to an exchange. Which will probably provide better and more affordable coverage, truth be told.

    And 10 years or so from now, the next generation is going to wonder what the fuss was all about. And given that, how many of them will actually vote for Republicans, who are overwhelmingly responsible for the fuss in the first place?

    (And by the way, I thought this was some interesting “food for thought” on this subject.)

  • Finally, I checked into Mikey the Beloved’s U.S. House web page to find out what he’s doing when it comes to Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!, and I found these items…

    Fitzpatrick_Economy_Jobs_0327
    The bottom link tells us that Mikey apparently appeared at a job fair, which is positive; no word, though, on any discussion he may have had with any of the attendees. And in the job fair story, we learn that Mikey has supported 25 “jobs” bills.

    Really?

    Since there’s no further information on these “jobs” bills from his web page, I navigated to the Republican Party web site to try and learn more. And this takes us to the party’s “jobs” page.

    Which contains no actual links to actual jobs bills, of course.

    On the other hand, this tells us of legislative accomplishments by congressional Democrats (and the typical Republican Party obstruction is duly noted).

    The only way this nonsense is going to stop is by voting in a Democratic congressional majority once more. And to help get that done, click here.


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