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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    Spy The Beloved Country – 2013 Edition

    June 19, 2013


    Still catching up on some stuff a bit – the following appeared last week in the Murdoch Street Journal (here)…

    Once again, the tanks-have-rolled left and the black-helicopters right have joined together in howls of protest. They were set off by last week’s revelations that the U.S. government has been collecting data that disclose the fact, but not the content, of electronic communications within the country, as well as some content data outside the U.S. that does not focus on American citizens. Once again, the outrage of the left-right coalition is misdirected.

    Libertarian Republicans and liberal—progressive, if you prefer—Democrats see the specter of George Orwell’s “1984” in what they claim is pervasive and unlawful government spying. These same groups summoned “1984” in 2001 after passage of the Patriot Act, in 2008 after renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and many times in between and since.

    Oh, by the way, the author of this “trust your leaders,” feel-good pabulum on behalf of the “one percent” is Michael Mukasey, former Bushco attorney general. And for Mukasey to blame liberals for invoking “1984” is darkly humorous when you consider that he once said the following from here

    “I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.’ You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.”

    (The end of this post contains a link to a prior post from yours truly where Mukasey definitely supports the Patriot Act, by the way.)

    Continuing…

    Regrettably, those best positioned to defend such surveillance programs are least likely to do so out of obvious security concerns. Without getting into detail here, intelligence agencies, with court authorization, have been collecting data in an effort that is neither pervasive nor unlawful. As to the data culled within the U.S., the purpose is to permit analysts to map relationships between and among Islamist fanatics.

    For example, it would be helpful to know who communicated with the Tsarnaev brothers, who those people were in touch with, and whether there are overlapping circles that would reveal others bent on killing and maiming Americans—sort of a terrorist Venn diagram. Once these relationships are disclosed, information can be developed that would allow a court to give permission to monitor the content of communications.

    In response, this tells us the following (#2 on the list)…

    NSA Deputy Director John Inglis said that 22 NSA officials are authorized to approve requests to query an agency database that contains the cellphone metadata of American citizens. (Metadata includes the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls, the date and time the calls took place, and their duration.) Deputy AG Cole also said that all queries of this database must be documented and can be subject to audits. Cole also said that the NSA does not have to get separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approval for each query; instead, the agency merely has to file a monthly report with the court on how many times the database was queried, and how many of those searches targeted the phone records of Americans.

    This, to me, is another holdover from the rancid Bushco regime. There appears to be, more or less, retroactive judicial review going on here. If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is going to be notified after surveillance has taken place, what the hell is the point of having “judicial review” at all?

    And yes, I know this utterly awful state of affairs was codified into law by a Democratic congress in 2008, one of the most cowardly acts I have ever seen.

    Continuing…

    As to monitoring content abroad, the utility is obvious. At least one conspiracy—headed by Najibullah Zazi and intended to maim and kill New York City subway riders—was disclosed through such monitoring and headed off. Zazi, arrested in 2009, pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

    An opposing point of view on that claim is here, by the way.

    Continuing…

    Because intelligence does not arrive in orderly chronological ranks, and getting useful data is an incremental process that often requires matching information gathered in the past with more current data, storing the information is essential. But, say the critics, information in the hands of “the government” can be misused—just look at the IRS. The IRS, as it happens, has a history of misusing information for political purposes.

    That’s absolutely right, and Mukasey would know, having worked for the administration that was responsible for this.

    Continuing…

    To be sure, there have been transgressions within intelligence agencies, but these have involved the pursuit of an intelligence mission, not a political objective.

    Not according to William Binney, former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program (here), noted from here.

    Continuing…

    Consider also that in a post-9/11 world all of those agencies live in dread of a similar attack. That ghastly prospect itself provides incentive for analysts to focus on the intelligence task at hand and not on political or recreational use of information.

    Translated from Mukasey: Don’t question the NSA spying program, or else the terrorists have already won.

    Continuing…

    Some wallow in the idea that they are being watched, their civil liberties endangered, simply because a handful of electrons they generated were among the vast billions being reviewed in a high-stakes antiterrorism effort. Of course, many are motivated politically or ideologically to oppose robust intelligence-gathering aimed at fending off Islamist terrorism. Criticism from that quarter can be left to lie where it fell.

    Speaking of “endangered civil liberties” (from the Source Watch post noted above)…

    As a judge, in October 2001 Mukasey “dismissed concerns by a 21-year old Jordanian immigrant that he had been beaten while in U.S. custody, leaving bruises that were hidden beneath his orange prison jumpsuit.”[9] “‘As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me,’ said Judge Mukasey.”[10]

    Continuing…

    Nor do these programs violate the law. Start with the Constitution. The applicable provisions lie in two clauses in the Fourth Amendment. The first bars “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The second provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” established by affidavit, and it requires that warrants describe with particularity what or who is to be seized, and from where.

    Notice that the first clause does not forbid warrantless searches, only unreasonable ones.

    Wow, talk about some legalese hair-splitting! In Mukasey’s legally compromised (IMHO) worldview, a “warrantless” search actually isn’t “unreasonable.”

    Continuing…

    And the second simply creates a warrant requirement that is read, with some exceptions, to bar evidence at trial if it is obtained without a valid warrant. The first clause has been read to protect the content of communications in which the speaker has a reasonable expectation of privacy—telephone conversations being an obvious example. It does not protect the fact of communications.

    As far as the “fact” of communications is concerned (here)…

    The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

    At least some of the phone calls and emails were pulled from among the hundreds of millions stored by telecommunications companies as part of an NSA surveillance program. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Thursday night publicly acknowledged what he called “a sensitive intelligence collection program” after its existence was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper.

    Yes, it’s commendable that the mistaken intercepts were reported and the data destroyed (or so the story says), but suppose that didn’t happen? Suppose that, in the data mining process, it was falsely recorded that yours truly called an overseas number to book some travel arrangement (not likely, I’ll admit), but the phone number was transposed by accident, and instead, it was interpreted that I called someone with links to the Muslim Brotherhood instead? What about the “fact” of that communication?

    There’s other stuff I could get into on what Mukasey said, but I think this sums things up. To me, the real takeaway comes from here (turning to Mother Jones once again)…

    The problem is that this kind of indefinite data collection makes abuse far more likely in the future. Someday there will be a different president in the White House, there will be a different head of NSA, and there will be different professionals running the program. What will they do with all that data the next time something happens that makes America crazy for a few years? I don’t know, but I do know that if they don’t have the data in the first place they can’t abuse it.

    the future is what we should be talking about. Even if NSA’s programs haven’t been abused yet, that doesn’t mean they’re okay. Likewise, even if they haven’t produced any great benefits yet, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid and useless. It’s the future that matters.

    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about Mukasey, let’s not forget this little episode, where Dem Congressman Jim Moran said that anyone opposing a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed was “un-American” (worse), but Mukasey responded by saying that Moran should seek counseling from Maj. Nidal Hassan (worst!) – also, here is the link to the post on the Patriot Act I noted above, pointing out that Mukasey supported Section 215 of the Act, which basically invalidates the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

    Despite the whole “nothing to see here, move along” narrative Mukasey is trying to inflict here, I should note that this tells us that a majority of those polled want those knuckleheads in Congress (and I’m thinking mainly, but not totally, of the House when I say that) to do their jobs and hold hearings on the whole surveillance issue (which should have taken place during Bushco, but better late than never I know…and I know doing that in the House is problematic because of the likely Repug grandstanding, but it still needs to happen). I mean, I think that would be the prudent thing to do so if, say, one day, I’m driving to work and I see or hear a drone flying overhead, at least I’ll have some idea of who sent it there and what’s going on with the damn thing (and hopefully that explanation will be the truth).

    The people of this country want answers on this issue in particular. And they deserve them, including me.


    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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